Chase had just finished the crossword puzzle when he saw movement from House's office. He looked up to see Wilson enter from the hallway and cross the room in a few steps.
"Dr. Wilson's here," he announced.
Cameron glanced up from the journal she was studying. Foreman continued with the charts he was updating. "So tomorrow are you going to announce sunrise?"
Wilson pushed open the connecting door and leaned into the conference room.
"He went to pick up some films from radiology," Cameron said.
"Someone talk him into a new case?"
"They're trying, but he hasn't committed to it yet," she said.
"Which probably means no," Foreman muttered.
"Should we tell him you're looking for him?" Cameron ignored Foreman's comment.
"I'll wait here for a bit, see if he shows up," Wilson said, nodding back toward House's office. "Thanks." The door closed behind him.
Foreman set aside the chart he was working on and looked into House's office, staring at Wilson's back while Wilson stood staring out the window.
"OK, so I've been here almost a year," he said. "In that time, I've seen House bitch about work, bitch about people, bitch about lab tests, bitch about ethics..."
"And your point is?" Chase looked up from the paper where he'd switched from the crossword to the Sudoku.
"My point is, he bitches about everything and everyone, and Dr. Wilson never complains about anything."
"So?" Chase asked.
"So how the hell did those two ever get to be friends?"
Wilson glanced over his shoulder when he heard the door open and saw House walk with a file.
"Get lost on the way to your office?" House crossed the room and set the papers on his desk.
"Just taking a break," Wilson said. He leaned back against the bookshelf as House reached into a jar on the table and removed a pill bottle from inside it.
"Sure, and my office is far more entertaining than the oncology lounge." He took a single Vicodin, then settled into his chair. "Why settle for TiVo and a flat-screen TV when you can get crappy reception on a set that predates 'Melrose Place?'"
Wilson ignored him. He ran his fingers over the spines of the books lining the shelf. He'd seen them a thousand times before -- in this office, in House's old office or cracked open on House's desk.
"It must be something else you find entertaining then," House said. He looked up and nodded toward a man passing by in the hall. "Coronary artery disease."
Wilson studied the man without moving from his spot: Mid to late-60s, loose sweat pants, new tennis shoes, a t-shirt stretched over the swell of abdominal fat; standard stress test wear. "Too easy," he said. "Find yourself another sucker for this round of 'pick-a-diagnosis' or another patient."
Wilson stepped back to the window. He pushed aside two of the blinds and looked out into the afternoon light. "God, this is ..."
"Yeah, yeah, depressing," House interrupted. "You always say that. Might I suggest you stop looking out the window if it's that bad?"
"Fine." Wilson let the blinds fall back into place, the light dancing across the floor as they bounced against each other. He walked around House's desk to plop down in a chair and picked up the ball from the corner of the desk, turning it over in his hands. "Want to play hooky?"
"Isn't that my line?"
Wilson just shrugged. "It's a nice day," he said. "We could, I don't know, grab lunch at the deli down by the river. A long lunch."
House put down his pen. "Is this just about those letters you've got to write, or is something else eating at you?"
Wilson slouched further down in the chair, allowing his head to fall back between his shoulders. "A very long lunch. Extraordinarily long. Like maybe five or six days."
House picked up the pen again. "Every year you do this," he said. "You're not telling anyone they're dying, just that you're not offering them an oncology fellowship here."
"I hate turning good people down."
"Yes, it's a burden we all must bear, being so good and nice and that people actually beg us to hire them. No, wait, that's just you." House wrote a few more notes before pulling out the MRI studies from radiology. "Don't worry. They'll still like you even after they get their rejection letters. They'll probably even send you a thank you note just for considering them."
House pushed himself up from the chair and limped over to the light board. He snapped it on and placed a film on it. "You going to tell me what's really bugging you, or not?" He took a quick look before pulling it back off and snapping off the light.
"Everything's fine," Wilson said. "You know me, everything's perfect, everyone's happy."
"God, and everyone tells me I should lighten up on the sarcasm."
House sat back in his chair. He put the film back in its envelope, but this time didn't grab for another file or his pen, and instead observed Wilson.
"I thought I might come by Saturday, watch the game," Wilson said.
"Inviting yourself over? I'm pretty sure Miss Manners wouldn't approve." Wilson just shrugged in response. "Julie have some new project for you?"
"Not really." Wilson finally pushed himself up a little in the chair. "She said we should go out to dinner, see a movie."
"What chick flick she trying to drag you to?"
"Not a chick flick," Wilson said.
Wilson didn't say anything, just stared up at the ceiling.
"C'mon give," House said. "You know I'll find out sooner or later."
Wilson murmured something.
"You heard me."
"Oh, I'm not sure."
Wilson looked at House. "'Murderball'," he said, enunciating very clearly.
"'Murderball,'" House confirmed. "Ah yes, the life affirming story of cripples, learning to thrive and love life despite their disabilities. I can see why she'd want you to see it." He seemed to consider the possibility. "She should take Cameron."
"I'm sure Cameron's already seen it."
House glanced over at the conference room to see the three younger doctors looking back at him. They looked away as he stood and walked over to the door, pushing it open. "Hey! Am I the only one working here?"
Wilson heard a mumble of responses and saw Foreman turn back to his charting, while Chase left claiming he needed to check on a patient and Cameron found something to do on the computer.
"You enjoyed that, didn't you," Wilson said, watching the action in the other room.
"Sometimes it's good to be the king," House said as the conference room door closed. He turned his attention back on Wilson. "So what you need is an excuse to get out of the house on Saturday."
"I don't need to make excuses," Wilson said.
"But it's easier if you have one," House noted. "Go ahead. Feel free to use me. Hell, she'll blame me anyway."
"No she won't. She'll blame me."
"'James you should learn to stand up for yourself,'" House said in what Wilson had to admit was a close facsimile of his wife's words, if not her actual voice. "'Why do you always let him push you around?' See? It all filters down sooner or later."
"I think you give yourself too much credit for my crappy marriage decisions."
"And you give yourself too much," House said. "If you're going to invite yourself over on Saturday, you'd better plan on paying for the pizza."
"And bring beer. None of that domestic swill either."
"God you're picky." Wilson turned in his chair when he realized House was headed out the door. "Where you going?"
"Lunch. The deli. You're driving. "
Wilson followed House down the hallway, but then headed into the stairway. "I've got to stop at my office for my keys -- unless you want me to drive the 'Vette?"
"Well I would, but she's the jealous type," House said. "She says she doesn't like anybody but me behind the wheel."
"You do realize it's just a machine, right?"
"Shhh. She might hear you." House said as the elevator door opened. He stepped inside. "I'll meet you outside the garage. Don't take too long."
Wilson walked quickly toward his office, doing his best to look busy enough to fend off any unwanted conversations. He made it inside and shed his lab coat, grabbing the keys from his desk. His assistant stopped him before he could leave, though, passing on some messages and a reminder that he needed to get his letters out in the mail by the end of the week.
She offered to send the "standard reply," but Wilson turned her down. Bad enough they were being told they weren't getting their first choice. No reason to top off that disappointment with a form letter.
Wilson remembered the rejection he'd gotten in the mail from his first choice for residency. Two paragraphs and no real information as to why he'd been turned down. Only a terse "thank you" for his interest and a brief wish for the best in his career. He'd been devastated at the time that the school where he'd earned his M.D. didn't want him as a doctor. Now he couldn't imagine being anywhere else but where he was. PPTH and the connections he made here had made him the doctor he was -- and the person he was.
If he'd stayed in Baltimore, Wilson mused as he unlocked his car door, he might never have been drawn toward oncology. Without PPTH, he might never have met House. He might never have learned how much further he could push himself and his understanding of medicine. Wilson tried to imagine what that other life would have been, but could only come up with the barest outline: The ghost of a future that never was.
Wilson drove down the ramp and waved his key card at the reader to open the gate, blinking at the bright sunlight as he pulled away from the building. He rounded the corner of the old building to where House usually waited just off the delivery entrance.
There was no one there when he pulled up to the curb, but then Wilson glanced around and spotted House standing a few yards away on the rough grass. House was turned away from him. If he'd heard Wilson drive up, he didn't acknowledge it.
Wilson turned on the hazard lights and walked over to House. From where he was standing, Wilson could look across the landscaping past the old fieldhouse, and to the empty track beyond. It was the same view he could see from his office window.
"Ever wonder what happened to Chilton?" House asked without turning toward Wilson.
"Um ... Chilton?"
"Resident who started the same time you did. Dumb as a brick with an ego five times too big for his talent to back up."
"Can't say as I've thought of him in years. I think he moved somewhere out west to work as a GP, but I couldn't say for certain. Why?"
House shrugged. "No reason, I guess. Just thinking about chaos and all that crap, about how things happen sometimes that we really don't seem to have much control over."
"I thought you didn't believe in fate."
"I don't believe things are preordained, no," House said. "But every day, things happen to us that we have no control over: someone's late for work and runs a stop sign, which causes an accident that backs up traffic, which makes you late for work. Or someone buys the last blueberry muffin which causes the next guy in line at Starbuck's to buy an almond croissant, and only after taking a bite discovers a latent allergy to nuts which results in a severe reaction which brings him to the clinic for treatment just as you thought you'd seen your last patient."
"Or your friend gets all philosophical when all you want is a corned beef sandwich, thus forcing you to suffer hunger pangs," Wilson said. "Let's go."
"My point is this," House said, turning away from the track to look at Wilson. "Most of the time things happen to us that turn our lives into a giant pile of crap -- heck, some people deal with more crap than they deserve. But sometimes, there's a one-in-a-million chance something good can happen."
Wilson studied House for a moment as the older man turned away again. Across the field, a runner appeared on the far side of the track moving steadily along the surface: dark shorts, long legs, a white t-shirt. He watched House as House watched the runner round the end of the track.
"You're weirding me out, House, you feeling all right?"
"Fine," House said with an exaggerated eye roll. He began walking to the car. "I'm just savoring life's rich banquet." House's voice twisted the upbeat words onto their opposite edge.
"Ah, now there's the sarcasm master I've studied with for so long," Wilson said. "You had me worried there for a moment."
"I keep telling you that you worry too much, Wilson." House stepped down off the curb to open the car door and settle himself in the passenger seat.
"I don't worry about everything," Wilson said. He turned the ignition and put the car in gear, turning out onto the driveway. "Just the important things."