If you haven't read my other fic, "Home," you'll want to do that before starting this, considering it's the sequel. (I felt bad for leaving Wilson hanging in the first one. And I let House off the hook way too easily.) I don't own the show or the characters. I also don't own any MLB teams, which is fine, though I would love to cut down the Yankees payroll and dismember the Evil Empire. How I digress. Reviews are appreciated!
"Dr. Wilson." Cuddy handed the oncologist a stack of files that could have jolted the Richter scale. "I need you to take a look at these." She looked at the typically prompt doctor, skeptically. "You're a week behind."
"And suddenly cancer has taken over the world."
Wilson turned to find House approaching them both, noticeably limping as usual. He faltered for an instant, but House wasn't looking directly at him anyway. Fourteen days after he moved out, the least Wilson expected was eye contact, but he wasn't even getting that, much less serious conversation. The older man nodded at Dr. Cuddy.
"I have a patient in Room Two for clinic duty."
Cuddy was sarcastically impressed. "Congratulations, House."
"No. She's yours. Anyone who's convinced there's a medical reason why their hair is turning purple isn't my problem."
Wilson blinked. "Is it turning purple?"
"Yes," House replied, eyes widening and brows rising with his mock-serious look. "And if we don't do something soon, she'll be a grape in an hour."
Cuddy frowned and shook her head, watching as he hobbled off. "Glad to see he's in a good mood."
Wilson hadn't exactly known what to expect in the days after he kissed House that evening. Maybe some disgruntled protests, a degrading scoff, anything but this abrasive apathy. Nothing. House acted as if Wilson were a complete black hole in the center of the hospital, one that should be avoided at all costs with the risk of getting too near, being sucked into it, having oneself torn apart to the nuclear core.
The oncologist saw the kiss objectively now, and it embarrassed him. It was a photograph in Wilson's mind, blistered by the intensity of the moment, contorted and made into something it wasn't and could never be.
It was a haunting freeze-frame of a mistake.
He lugged the files to his office, perusing their pages as he went along. 43-year old female, ovarian cancer. A 15-year-old field hockey player with leukemia. Some suspicious looking blotches on brain scans, liver scans, heart scans, lung scans that he should take a look at. The silky, skeletal structure of the images seemed ghostly and distant. He sighed.
And walked straight into Cameron.
"Hey. We need you for the white board."
Wilson glanced up at her, slightly puzzled. He'd just seen House, and obviously he hadn't mentioned anything.
Cameron caught the look but remained seamlessly deadpan. "House just asked me to tell you."
The oncologist sighed. If House insisted on sending messengers to avoid speaking to him in person, their friendship was going to become one stressful marathon for the ducklings.
"Welcome to the ball game, Dr. Wilson. You missed a stirring seventh inning stretch, but you're just in time to catch the action in the bottom of the ninth."
Typical House. He looked deceptively tall today, the sleek cut of his black suit dramatically long against the sharp cobalt of his shirt underneath. Wilson averted his eyes from the other man's, whose orbs were a swollen shade of blue. Hair frazzled. Unshaven.
Wilson's skin prickled, recalling how the roughness burned on his face again.
House waited for Wilson to take a seat at the table with Cameron, Chase, and Foreman, but as usual, the oncologist favored to stand. Unsteadily, for a moment, but he did stand.
A slightly muted noise emanated from the corner of the room—the TV was turned to FOX, featuring the major league baseball match-up at noon.
Wilson cleared his throat, nodding at the television. "Who's playing?"
House tapped the white board impatiently with the erasable marker. "Up here. We don't watch TV while we're trying to work. It's unprofessional."
"Ah, yes. How silly of me." Wilson risked a smile, but it fell passed House's acknowledgement.
"Foreman, give him the lineup."
Wilson accepted the scan from the neurologist. A quick glance showed nothing noteworthy. It seemed to be a blandly normal head scan. He began to say as much, but House was already barging ahead in the brainstorming session.
"The patient's team is down two runs with one out to go. She's got a man on first and second, and her best hitter is up to bat." House scribbled something on the board; Wilson read the words silently as he went along.
1st base: Twitching in the arms
2nd base: Lack of eye control
"The first one nailed a single down center field," House explained wryly as he downed a Vicodin. "The other reached base on an error."
"The patient's symptoms are your winning runs?"
"Only her potential winning runs. They're still stuck standing in the infield and waiting for the batter to come through."
Cameron rubbed her temples slightly. Chase and Foreman exchanged amused shrugs.
"And what's happening with the batter?" Wilson prompted.
"Nothing much, unfortunately. We've thrown him a curve ball—"
"And a change-up—"
"And he hasn't bitten on any of them."
Wilson's mind raced to keep up with him. "What's the count?"
"0-3." House narrowed his eyes, concentrating on the board. He sighed. "We gotta make him swing."
"Doesn't look like cancer," murmured Wilson.
"How about we try taking her off the endorphins?" Cameron broke in. "That might not solve everything, but indirectly it could—"
Frustrated, House spread his arms. "You can't bunt with only one out left!"
Cameron flushed, annoyed. "And you can't use sports analogies for medicine," she retorted.
"Maybe you should watch a little more ESPN instead of wasting all that time studying," House snipped. "Now. Where were we?"
"What if we pulled the pitcher?" Wilson suggested suddenly. "We could give the batter a different look."
"Meaning…?" Foreman prompted.
"It obviously looks neurological. But Foreman's used up everything he has. Cameron's still sitting in the bullpen."
"In English?" Cameron interrupted.
"Check for immunity weaknesses. If the scans didn't show any growths, maybe it isn't as bad as the symptoms want us to believe."
"They're taking a lead off of second base…" House mused.
"Yes. But not quite stealing. The symptoms could be bluffing to distract the pitcher."
"They're making us throw what the batter isn't even looking for." House nodded, turning to Cameron. "So. What's in the strike zone?"
Cameron looked like she was ready to strangle someone. "I have no idea what you're talking about—"
"Sheesh, relax. Get some Cracker Jacks or something," House muttered. He threw Wilson a glance, which was returned with a smile and stifled laugh.
"We could hang a banana bag and see if the electrolytes balanced out," Chase offered.
"Simple, and yet incredibly tempting to swing at," House reasoned. "All right. Do it. We should know in a half hour if it's working."
"Swing, batter, batter," Wilson said offhandedly as he watched the interns file out of the room. House was whirling his cane, eyes running over the list of symptoms and suggestions.
He didn't say anything.
"House…" Wilson paused. "It was obvious it wasn't cancer."
The Vicodin rattled as House unearthed it again from his pocket. "People miss things."
"Right. But you usually don't need any assistance seeing and overlooking what will help you."
"Touché." House mockingly waved the cane as if it were a sword. Wilson risked another smile, and actually got one in return.
"So. Why did you want me here?"
"You've been avoiding me."
"I've been avoiding you?"
"Yes. Under the guise that I've been the evasive one."
"That's a lie."
"I brought up meeting for lunch on Monday. You said you didn't like cafeteria food."
"That's a sudden occurrence. You could've come with me anyway. And I invited you over for dinner yesterday, too."
"I had a lot of work."
"Obviously. Considering you're a week behind."
Wilson paused, guilt spreading across his skin like a bad suntan. It had been so much easier to claim House was the one keeping him at arm's distance. It was almost relieving to go back to his own apartment, away from House, and not have to worry about the next moment he'd have an impulse to kiss him again.
Like now. Now would be a very bad time for that impulse to jumpstart some irrational action.
The younger man froze as House brushed by him, the black sleeve of his open suit running against Wilson's white overcoat like a late evening shadow. Hobbling toward the TV, House snatched the remote from one of the chairs. He turned the volume up, then announced critically,
"Mets and Phillies. The diagnosis doesn't look good."
Wilson's arm tingled erratically from where House had inadvertently touched him. "Phillies are going to get killed," he managed.
"Ah, well." He flipped to another station, vainly searching for a substitute game. His eyes roamed the scrolling bottom line on ESPN. "Looks like Beantown plays tonight. Classic rivalry with the Yankees. Wanna come over?"
The words reached Wilson's ears in corrugated streams. It all seemed surreal and detached. House was asking him over? The same House who could've cared less a mere two weeks ago? He waited, expecting some artificially coy remark to negate the offer.
"I know, Boston's pitching sucks, but…"
"Sure." Wilson loathed his voice for cracking. He had to stop that. "Sounds good. Seven o'clock?"
"Yeah." House had returned to studying the TV, which struck Wilson as interesting, given that it was only another boring insurance commercial. "Bring beer or something. I'll order out."
"Chinese?" The words came tentatively. House's reaction was quick, brittle.
"I hate that stuff."