Title: Of a Thursday
Author: Sy Dedalus
Rating: T, TV-14, PG-13
Pairing: House/Stacy (only cause it's canon--not going anywhere with it), House/Wilson strong friendship
Spoilers: "Three Stories"
Warnings: WIP
Summary: House meets blood clot, or a fill-in for the infarction. It'll be heavy on the hurt/comfort and angst I think.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: This fic is in its infancy obviously and its direction/detail may depend largely on next week's season finale. I don't plan to focus too much on Stacy. I'm expecting my usual emphasis on House/Wilson interaction but that, of course, will depend on what next week does or does not tell us.

The original character in this chapter will most likely not return (no one likes a playah hatah). This won't be an OC fic. :) Thanks to Aud for tossing the thinking ball with me on the episode, and I apologize if my golf terminology is off. It's been a good while since I set foot on the links. Also, spelling, typos, grammar--sorry. I'll already be late for work as it is. ;)

Prologue: The Ninth Hole

He had been lining up his shot when it happened. No, wait. He'd been lining up his shot when he felt it start. Thinking back now with the cold, undiluted gaze of hindsight, he could remember that it had started when he'd been lining up his shot. He'd felt it. And then, in the backswing, it had struck.

A sudden rush of pain, horrible, but looking back on it now, it had felt like nothing compared with what was to come.

He must have cried out. He remembered watching the ball dink along a short ways from the tee. He had managed to hit it, but only barely before he dropped the club and fell forward. Nate had caught him.

"House, what—!"

He hadn't blacked out. He remembered that he hadn't actually blacked out. Nate Tandell, a former colleague in neurology, had caught him before he fell over and stained his ridiculous plaid pants on the fresh-cut grass. They'd been playing a short round of nine in preparation for a full eighteen that weekend against Wilson and that other guy—what was his name?—Roger something from cardiac. Roger was married to one of James' cousins—one of his real cousins—and he was an all-right guy but not the first person House would've chosen to be exiled on a deserted island with out of the regular foursome. He wouldn't have chosen Nate either. It just so happened that James as on-call and as good as James was, House had to play against him or it would be an unfair match. Nate and Roger were both only so-so when it came to golf.

But Nate was the one who saw it happen first. Wilson said he was there. Sure. He was. Before and after and part of the during. But not when it started.

Nate had eased him on to the tee, the newly-shorn grass. He could still feel it beneath his hands even now: bleeding chlorophyll from having been mown that morning. Nate's hands on him, then Nate hovering around him, breath smelling of sardines from lunch.

"What is it?"

"My leg," he'd said, or something like it. "I don't know—" Pain cut him off.

"Stay here, I'll get help."

"No," he got out. "It's okay." And he meant it. It did feel better. The shock of pain had knocked him over—that was all. He picked up the 3-wood and used it to get to his knees.

Nate stood by helplessly; he only knew House so well and in truth, he thought House was an arrogant bastard. He tolerated House because House had such an impeccable reputation and because he was angling to co-author an article with him. He knew the man was a genius, but, well, geniuses could be real pricks. He'd thought House had meant it—that something was wrong—but this was House and he'd seen the man do less to get out of obligations before. But if House didn't want to play the last hole—and it was only a par four—then why didn't he fake a page or something less dramatic? Nate saw pain in his eyes. This was real.

But by the time he'd made that connection, House was getting to his feet and testing out his right leg.

Nate regarded him curiously.

"It's okay," House breathed, "I must have pulled something. But I think I'm done for the day." The pain had become manageable. He didn't like people seeing him weak, especially his colleagues, so he tried to walk steadily and resisted the urge to use the wood for support as he made his way to the cart. "The last hole is yours. Sorry. I'll ice it tonight and we'll cream 'em on Saturday."

Nate's face betrayed disgust for a moment before he nodded, collected House's tee, and went to pick up the ball. House always had treated him little better than a caddy and he felt anger as he walked toward the small white ball in the afternoon sunlight.

House was pale and sweaty, his head tilted back, and both hands unconsciously gripping his right quad when Nate returned.

"Want me to call Stacy?" he asked as he returned his club to the bag and added House's tee and ball to his own supply. If he was going to be made to fetch them, he sure as hell wasn't going to return them.

"Nah," House said. "She's in the middle of a big case right now." He paused. "But could you drop me off at the hospital?"

"It's that bad?" Nate asked skeptically as he gassed the golf cart and steered it onto the path toward the clubhouse. He knew House could play people too and he hated being played. That's why he was divorced. "If it's just a pulled muscle…"

"I don't know," House said, trying not to let fear creep into his voice. His brain had been racing, spinning possible diagnoses as soon as he was in the cart. He'd had plenty of pulled muscles in his time and this wasn't what it felt like. But still. It was possible to pull a muscle in the backswing and James had been deriding him for the way he twisted his right foot when he pulled the club back for years, and he wasolder now, pushing forty. But that twinge he'd felt right before when he was lining up the shot—that twinge made him think it might be something else. He pushed the thought away and concentrated on the present. "It really hurts."

Nate looked away so House wouldn't see the annoyance on his face. What a prima donna—as though he didn't already get enough attention and wasn't dating the unbelievably foxy Stacy from legal. Nate didn't understand what she saw in a bastard like House, not when he was around: a respected neurologist on the tenure-track who was neither crazy nor a workaholic. He resented House's arm candy like he resented the free reign House had over the hospital, taking only the cases he wanted to take, showing up only when he wanted to show up, and that boob McAllister overlooked it. So what if House was there late most days, if he sometimes juggled more cases than most doctors would even consider taking; he was just a showboat and that entitled him to nothing, least of all a free pass to skip out on what had been a solid practice round. Nate already had fifty bucks riding on the outcome of this match and if they lost to Wilson and that jackass from cardiac, he'd demand they switch partners. Wilson was better than House any day of the week and not just because of his golf game.

They were at the clubhouse.

"I'll be in the car," House said, carefully getting out of the cart and testing the weight he could put in his right side.

Nate grunted a reply and went in to return the cart. Now he'd have to lug both bags to the car and hope House didn't get a bug up his ass and take off and maroon him. He wouldn't put it past the man. That smug grin, the way he always got what he wanted and things always worked out for him. He thought he could walk all over everybody all the time. Nate gritted his teeth as he voided his score card. House would spoil the first afternoon he'd gotten off in a month. He didn't notice on the ride in or in the air conditioning of the clubhouse that House had never let go of the 3-wood.

House found that he had to rely on it more and more as he crossed the parking lot in his spikes, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch on the blacktop. The sun was baking. Never get sick in July, he thought. He didn't relish the thought of being in the incapable, wet-eared green hands of an intern fresh out of school with more book smarts than experience. He'd probably draw a kid who was on his twenty-fourth hour of a thirty-six hour shift. But to be perfectly honest, he was in too much pain to care.

He unlocked his car from the passenger's side and sank into the seat, club clenched in his hand. He tried to breathe against the pain and tossed the club into the backseat. Part of his brain recoiled at the thought of Tandell driving his car—his brand new, expensive car with the V-8 that scorched his blood on a zero to sixty run and hugged turns like they were born to cling to its tires and finely-tuned suspension. The leather interior was making sweat stick to his back and the pain in his leg wasn't lessening like it should if it was muscular.

What was wrong with him?

He reached over and turned the key in the ignition, blasting the air conditioning and hitting the power locks so Tandell wouldn't bitch about having to carry his bag and open the trunk himself.

Trying to ignore the pain, he bent over and untied his spikes, slipping them off. Maybe Tandell wasn't an idiot and would hand him his shoes from the trunk. And he'd better not be such an idiot that he'd try to drive with his own spikes on. Not on House's new accelerator he wasn't.

He slid the seat back as he felt the trunk being opened. He was taller than Tandell. The car bounced when Tandell put the two golf bags in and the extra weight that followed told him Tandell was sitting on his bumper while he took his spikes off. Bastard.

Nate finished tying his shoes and stood. He hesitated for half a second before he took House's shoes out of the trunk and slammed it shut. He wasn't prepared for what he saw when he opened the driver's side door to get in: House sprawled out, ashen, shaking, eyes closed, both hands on his right leg. Nate was beginning to think this wasn't a show, but he said nothing as he got in and adjusted the seat and mirrors to his height. The hospital was only ten minutes away. If something really was wrong…

The radio belted out 80's metal between them as they rode, neither saying a word. Nate was an adult contemporaries man and this crap House considered music was just more noise grating on his already irritated nerves.

House hadn't said anything and he didn't look any worse, so Nate by-passed the E.R. entrance and drove into the parking garage. Damn House and his good parking spot. He killed the engine and opened the door, not caring that House hadn't opened his eyes yet.

House instinctively held out his hand for the keys. The pain had nearly tripled during the ride but he didn't want Nate knowing that. The man drove like a sixteen year old who'd flunked driver's ed twice for running over too many cones and hitting the old woman with the baby carriage at the crosswalk so hard her cardboard head flew off. He was amazed that his car was still in one piece.

Nate dropped the keys into House's outstretched hand and popped the trunk to retrieve his bag and shoes. House had the car door open by then and was struggling to get out.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Yeah," House said. He had both legs flat on the parking garage floor and was resting a moment before he tried to stand. He looked at Tandell with his best 'I'm fine, kindly fuck off' face and said, "See you Saturday."

Tandell grunted and turned toward his car. A totally wasted afternoon. He'd better win that fifty bucks or House was going to owe him big time.

To be continued.