He came barreling in without knocking as usual, opened his mouth to start yelling then stopped. He'd noticed it.
He peered down at her desk. "What's that for?"
"What does it look like?"
"I can see what it looks like. The question is: what's it doing there and why does it have my name on it?"
"Waiting for what?"
"The right time."
"You wouldn't," he said looking down at her.
"Try me," she calling his bluff.
Then she smiled. "So what did you want to see me about?" She asked innocently.
Every time after that he would give it an uneasy glance here and there. She was pleased. As a deterrent it seemed to be working.
He didn't remember this balcony from before. That must have been the Ketamine messing with him, but by gee it was fun. Grapes, spitballs, paper airplanes aimed at Nurse Brenda's head – the world was his oyster.
Then he had the greatest idea in the world. Better than those little packets with the dippie cheese and the crackers in the same packet. They were good, but this was inspired: Gravity plus water plus administrator.
He knew Cuddy was around there somewhere. Shesh – some days you couldn't miss her outfits (when had she visited Bavaria?) and this one was particularly spectacular – a racey low cut pink number. He waited, poised, like an eagle searching for his prey. Today he would find out if it really was an under wire…
He saw a shock of pink and poured. Whoo hoo – wet T-shirt competition time.
Bullseye, he thought. Shock and awesomeness of his awesomeness. But his heart leapt as he realised the target was not the intended victim, but friendly fire. A little old lady was looking up at him in amazement.
Uh, oh… time to bail. He needed an escape plan. He instinctively made for the stairs. He stopped. He looked at them and then at his cane. He'd forgotten that once again steps were a thing of the past. He'd remembered running up them not two months ago. Leaving big fat Wilson breathing his dust. Because he, House, could run again. 24 steps. It may as well as been Mount Everest now.
By then it was too late. He heard the cries: "The guy with the bucket," yelled one. Damn, first rule – ditch the evidence. And the security guards grabbing him. Cuddy's furious commands: "Him, my office – now, and make sure he stays there." But even as he was dragged away he couldn't stop thinking about the stairs.
They had been sitting there, on Cuddy's couch, all three of them, for a good half hour now.
"Hey guys, think you can let go of my collar now?" he tried.
"Thought not," he said and went back to staring at the yellow bucket on the table in front of him.
When Cuddy and the other woman entered Cuddy's office the two security guards stood up and therefore House, trapped between them, did so also.
The little old lady he had doused seemed no worse for wear. In fact she looked quite good in scrubs he thought – better than she had in that pink number. Better not mention that he thought. This is apology time. He should look penitent.
Cuddy did the introductions.
"This is Mrs Wetherington, as in the Wetherington Wing," she said pointedly.
Oh shit – that Mrs Wetherington.
"Hi, Mrs Wetherington, I'm Doctor House." He tried to move forward, but he was held immobile so ended up merely extending a hand.
Cuddy nodded to the security guards. "It's okay. I have him from here." They cast wary glances, but followed her instructions.
"We'll be outside," said one, casting a menacing glance at House. She was sure one of them cuffed him surreptitiously on the back of the head as he left.
They stood there, the yellow bucket between them, the smoking gun. Or in this case – the still wet bucket.
"Well," said Cuddy.
"I'm sorry Mrs Wetherington. You just got caught in the cross fire," he said at last. "I was playing a stupid prank on Cuddy… ah Doctor Cuddy… I just wanted to see if she would melt like the Wicked Witch of the West like everyone says."
"House," yelled Cuddy, but Mrs Wetherington just smiled.
"Is this the one you were telling me about dear," she said to Cuddy.
What 'one' thought House.
Cuddy sighed resignedly. "Yes, this is the one."
Mrs Wetherington turned to House and smiled. "Well then my dear – plan B into action."
"Plan B," said House uncertainly.
The two women smiled evilly at him.
House was stomping through the clinic, his left hand firmly planted under his right armpit. Wilson could practically see the little cartoon thundercloud above his head. Patients and nurses alike scattered before him. He considered finding out what happened, but wisely decided to wait a while – and to be on the safe side also bring food before poking the limping bear.
Ten minutes later he gingerly opened the door to House's office and peered inside, waggling a packet of chips.
"That isn't going to help," came the reply from the dark 'House likes to brood here' corner.
"So what happened? I got most of it from security. They were delighted for the chance to manhandle you by the way," he said as he came in and sat down opposite House.
"She whapped me with a ruler," he whined pathetically.
Wilson did a double take, then laughed. "You were asking for it, weren't you?" He gestured. "Come on – give it here."
"Maybe?" Said House, but put out his hand. "Can I sue her?"
"Cough… fun bags… cough," he said as he inspected House's left palm. "If you fight dirty, she gets to fight dirty."
House looked a bit dejected. "Oh yeah."
"It just seems a little red. In my medical opinion you will be fine." He paused. "How many did you get anyway?"
House put his hand under his armpit again. "Six - of the best. And Jesus – her tennis must be fantastic nowadays, what with that arm. They stung," he said miserably.
Wilson snorted. "So now she doesn't thrash you at tennis anymore, she just thrashes you."
House glared daggers at him. "She never thrashed me at tennis. Her backhand sucked, but I have to admit it might be getting better."
"Well it was your fault. You took advantage of the balcony."
"Only because it looked so tempting." House sighed. "But that isn't the worse part. I have to take my two weeks annual leave and I have to volunteer to do them in the clinic."
House looked desperately at Wilson. "All day, every day." He looked as if he was going to cry.
Wilson winced. "Ouch. You shouldn't have got caught."
"I tried to run away."
"I'm sure you did."
"But there were stairs."
It was a simple statement, but it said so much.
Stairs. They both knew what that meant. In their own ways both men hated them with a passion.
They sat there for a while. Wilson staring out the window and House looking down at his feet.
Eventually Wilson said. "I would say pizza and beer, but that would be clichéd."
House raised his head. "I like clichéd."
They both smiled, then House grimaced again and wiggled the hand under his armpit.
"You uncaring bastard," but House was laughing too.
"Next time, don't pour a bucket of water on some rich hospital benefactor octogenarian huh?" Wilson looked at him in hope. "Do it for me?"
House looked at him intently. "You know me," he said deadpan. He smirked. "Fat chance."