Title: Dear God, I Don't Believe In You
Rating: R for language and general unhappiness...woe is me.
Summary: When what starts out as a trip to a seminar goes wrong, House must figure out how to play hero outside of the hospital, and it's harder than it looks in the middle of nowhere. Takes place season 3.
Pairing: House/Wilson/Cuddy/Chase friendship
Chapter 1: Where To Begin
He considered for a moment how this all got started.
That is, how it came to be that his body was clumped up against the door of an old Land Rover as James Wilson unconsciously hogged the back seat with his thunder thighs. And while Wilson did not actually possess thunderous thighs, it was hard to think otherwise while he had his legs spread at nearly 180 degrees before him. The car was only built for about 160 degrees of thigh spreading.
It was snowing, so naturally Cuddy was driving, a need for control visibly clogging her pores. Every so often she would turn up the radio slightly, as if he wouldn’t notice that the almost inaudible tune of “Piano Man” had swelled to the volume of a rock concert in less than two minutes.
He looked over at Wilson, who was obviously having a hard time not singing along to Billy Joel’s nostalgic ballad, and then up at Chase, who, slouched over in the front seat, was either asleep or dead.
House didn’t really care which.
He was perched over a book. It had a sleeve for Angels and Demons on the cover, but was actually the fifth Harry Potter book. He was pretty sure they didn’t notice.
House wasn’t actually reading, however, but rather restating the question in his mind as his eyes repeatedly skimmed over the same sentences on the page. Seriously…how did I get here?
He’d come into work hung over, but that was a more typical occurrence than he liked to admit. No, the unusual part was that Cuddy didn’t have a case for him.
Now, such a thing probably should have been a red flag, as in, “House, get out now or she’ll start negotiating!” but somewhere in between the front door and his head telling him to ‘sit down before he fell down,’ he must have surrendered his guard.
Because the thing about Lisa Cuddy is that a negotiation was never negotiable. She’d threaten him, blackmail him into doing his job, and he did it—usually because he had nothing else to do…plus the fact that blackmailing her about blackmailing him seemed slightly hypocritical.
So now House remembered, smiling at this great accomplishment, that this had all begun with a proper noun, a bag of pretzels, and two gift cards.
House didn’t answer. He also didn’t take off his sunglasses even though he was inside. So, Wilson moved closer.
“House!” he said.
House winced at the grating pitch, turning to face the offender. “Morning, Melanie,” he said.
Wilson gave a look over his shoulder, insuring that his best friend was simply insane, and not talking to some woman behind him. “What?”
House smiled dumbly. “I’ve decided I’m going to start calling you by your middle name.”
Wilson squinted. “My middle name is not—“
“Shhh, it’s okay. I won’t tell anyone.”
Wilson squinted even more, to the point where House wondered if the man could even see at all. After a few moments of this, Wilson seemed to recall his original mission. “Cuddy wants us in her office.”
“My my, she’s starting early today.”
But the apparent sexual innuendo was lost on Wilson, who gave a simple head nod in the direction of her office and said, “Come on.”
House sighed and followed him, dragging his feet more than usual, which, on a cripple, looks rather silly, really.
He caught sight of her red blazer and took a Vicodin to calm himself down.
“You do know you’re supposed to wear shirts under those things, right?”
House took off his sunglasses, looking as if a blind raccoon had applied eye shadow to his lower lids.
Cuddy rolled her eyes and straightened the suit out, revealing a lacy white tank top that just about let you see the bottom of the Grand Canyon. House thought about taking another Vicodin.
“Melanie here said you wanted to see us. And by ‘see ‘I mean of course, film a sex tape that’ll get a million hits online in less than a day.”
Cuddy shot a glance towards Wilson. Wilson returned an especially annoyed “don’t ask” expression.
Cuddy looked at House, then Wilson. “I have a proposition for you two.”
“No,” said House. “Well, this was easy.” And he began to walk out of the office.
Wilson, however, flung a hand on his shoulder and whirled him around to face Cuddy once more. He gave the more appropriate response, which was, “What is it?”
Cuddy tapped her nails on her desk, thinking of how to phrase this proposition in a way that wouldn’t have them both out the door by the time she said ‘help.’
“They just opened up a new wing at the hospital over in White Haven, and they added an oncology department, a diagnostics department, and a physical therapy center.” She spoke fast so that neither of them had an opportunity to interrupt or ask questions. “We’re helping them get it all off the ground by having a little seminar of sorts tomorrow night, and while I don’t need you two to speak, I need you guys there for a meet and greet afterwards.”
She made the mistake of pausing, and the questions flowed in as if Moses had just released the Red Sea.
Wilson, surprisingly, was first. “Wait, how long has the hospital been open?”
“About 10 years,” said Cuddy.
“And they’re just now getting an oncology department? And a physical therapy center?”
Cuddy reluctantly elaborated. “Well, they’re right next to the Big Creek Ski Resort. They’ve been mostly setting broken bones there for the past ten years.”
House scratched his chin pensively, “Hmm, there’s a reason I don’t go to ski resorts, I just can’t recall what it is at the moment…” He began twirling his cane to hit the point home. Cuddy’s exasperated expression told him it worked.
He stopped and let the cane fall back down to his side. “Why the Hell would we be helping them anyways?”
Even Wilson seemed interested in hearing the answer to that one.
Cuddy spluttered around the beginnings of an answer but was unable to find one justifiable by House’s standards.
“Uh-oh,” House mocked, “it’s review time. Need a few extra hours of community service there, administrator?”
She tossed her hands up defensively. “Look at it this way, what’s good for the hospital is good for you two. Helping out other hospitals makes our hospital look good. It makes you look good.”
She knew what House would say before he said it.
“I already look too good as it is.”
Wilson suppressed a laugh as he looked upon House’s face. The bags under his eyes made him look like a heroin addict...which wasn’t that much of a stretch, to tell the truth.
House continued, his voice growing whinier by each passing syllable. “And what makes you think that I’ll meet these people without, oh, I dunno, also reminding them that their life is meaningless that they’re better to just off themselves now before I really start insulting them.”
Cuddy sighed and sat down. “You two are the most respected doctors at this hospital. I want them to know our reputation.”
She fought the urge to cock an eyebrow as Wilson said the words she’d anticipated to come out of House’s mouth.
“They can know our reputation without us being there,” he said.
Cuddy was a little stunned that until that moment, she’d never really noticed how similar House and Wilson actually were. I mean, she’d assumed there was a reason Wilson stuck around, but she never thought of it as actual compatibility.
“It shows…dedication,” she said. She knew dedication was the wrong word, but she was too flustered by his comment to give a response with intelligence.
House leaned forward a bit and said, “Where is this place?”
“White Haven, the Pocono mountains.”
She watched as House whispered to Wilson, “Looks like your wish has come true, Melanie,” and Wilson chuckled slightly.
It was like watching the mating rituals of some undiscovered African rodent. They even have inside jokes, she mused.
House placed his cane down forcefully on her desk as a flurry of papers blew off and drifted to the floor. “I want…two months off clinic duty.”
“No,” she said, a haughty grin now introducing itself to her cheeks.
“Then I’m not going,” said House, words soaked in finality.
“That’s too bad,” she said. Her smile was firmly in place. “Who will I give this 500 dollar gift card to Peter’s Guitar Emporium to?”
She spoke the words Peter’s, guitar, and emporium so dramatically, not only did they seem like their own sentence. Each word was its own paragraph.
And there, brandished in her left hand, was such a gift card.
House’s mouthed dropped open in a reaction not unlike one you’d expect from a 13 year-old girl who’d just seen Orlando Bloom.
He reached out to touch it, prompting Cuddy to quickly smack his hand away and hold the card a little higher.
“It’s yours, IF you will go, not complain in the car, and behave yourself while you’re there.”
“We’re taking a car?” he asked incredulously.
“It’s just five hours, House. They don’t have an airport.”
“FIVE HOURS!” And the teenage girl comparison was growing more realistic by the second, “with a cripple and Signor Barf Bag over there?” he said, pointing to Wilson.
“House, you can get out and stretch you leg every once in a while. It’s not like we’re transporting convicts.”
“Says you,” he said.
Cuddy rolled her eyes. “Look, do you want the card or not?”
House eyed the ground, weighing his options. “I’ll go.”
“For the card, four hours off clinic duty, and a bag of pretzels.”
Cuddy growled as if this wasn’t her expectation all along. “Fine,” she said. “Wilson, you coming?”
Wilson twiddled his thumbs nervously, obviously waiting for the same kind of deal House just got.
Cuddy chuckled silently at his reaction. “I’ll give you a 100 dollar gift card to Pottery Barn.”
“Done,” he said, with the kind of enthusiasm that would never be forgiven by House.
Cuddy stood up and brushed off her skirt. House’s eyes stared long after she had stopped.
And then House looked up. He smiled devilishly—as in, at that moment it was conceivable that he really was the devil.
“Cuddy, can I bring a friend?”
“House, you ARE NOT bringing a hooker to a—“
“No no, I mean, I’ll bring one of my fellows. The old folks hospital gets their good manners and my good looks and reputation. It’s a win-win.”
Cuddy looked incredibly skeptical.
House, however, drove on. “Think of those poor cancer kids. I mean, Wilson can only tell so many uplifting jokes.” He frowned with mock sympathy. “Would you like to spend your last Christmas with Scrooge?”
She shook her head. “Fine,” she said. “We’ll leave tomorrow morning.”
He walked out of her office and over to the elevator, followed closely by Wilson. His headache was subsiding now, the tribal pounding in his ears being replaced by imaginings of the riffs he’d soon be picking out on his new guitar.
“Who are you going to bring?” asked Wilson as the elevator doors closed.
House thought a moment, considering which combinations would shake up the diagnostics department the most.
“Well, Cameron will be too annoying, so she’s out. That leaves Foreman and Chase.”
“Which one do you think would be better at this sort of thing?”
“It’s not who’s better...it’s who’ll be more pissed that I didn’t choose them.”
Wilson didn’t say anything. He thought about giving a little sigh to that comment, but was afraid he’d exceed his “exasperated sigh quota” before lunchtime.
So instead, he played along. “Who’s liable to be more jealous?”
“Chase,” said House, “but Foreman’s got a bigger ego.”
House then considered that neither one of them would actually want to go on this trip, and that his choice would have to depend simply on which one would be more ‘shocked’ at playing benchwarmer. The answer to which was most certainly Foreman.
His rickety gait looked almost confident as he walked down the hallway, poking his head in the conference room.
“Chase,” he said, “we’re going on a road trip tomorrow.”
He pulled his head back and began to head towards his office, excited to watch the speculation on what had just happened devour the psyches of his three fellows when he stopped, turned around, and popped his face in again.
“Oh yeah, we’re taking your car.”
And that was it. A stupid gift card for a stupid road trip. And now, as House put his book down on his lap and stared absently out the window, he didn’t even want the guitar anymore.
Because this was about as close to Hell as House could imagine, and they weren’t even two hours in yet. He had to admit, however, that such a thought was slightly comforting, as is the mindset when you believe that things can’t possibly get any worse.
But of course, they always can.
And they usually do.