Summary: House, Foreman and Chase on the basketball court.
Disclaimer: Don't own. Just rent, with option to buy.
Out the window of his office, House could see the two men shooting hoops in the asphalt basketball court the staff sometimes used to blow off steam in during breaks and after hours. Foreman was teaching Chase to shoot. Chase had clearly never held a basketball before.
The next time he saw them was from the parking lot, on his way home. He paused and installed himself on a bench to watch, crouched on on the sidelines, chin propped on his cane. He watched Foreman's moves: they were good, he had obviously played a lot. And he was showing off for the Australian. House found his body, despite himself, responding phsycially, leaning to the left to help Foreman with a hard shot from the right, leaning in just a bit when he was caught off balance under the hoop. It was funny how, once a body had learned a skill it never forgot it, no matter what insults it had suffered in the meantime.
The two hadn't seen House, and he was about to leave when a loose ball skittered over to the bench. House retrieved it in one hand as Chase scrambled after it. He flipped the ball to Chase, who noticed him for the first time.
"Thanks," he said, standing awkwardly with the ball in his hands, not knowing what to do next. House decided to relieve his embarrassment.
"Yanks can't do soccer, and Brits can't do basketball. Give it up. Besides, Foreman's teaching you all wrong. He shoots like a girl."
"Right," said Chase, and then bounced the ball once or twice and returned to the foul line. House could see Foreman asking about the exchange. Foreman shot him a dirty look. They went back to playing, and House lingered. A moment later Foreman chased a loose ball over to his bench. Chase was right behind him. Foreman glared at House, panting a bit from the exertion. House smiled at him.
"I shoot like a girl?" Foreman, all attitude. The guy had no sense of humor.
"Yeah. And you're teaching the kid all wrong. Less wrist, more finger roll."
Chase spoke up. "You play basketball? Played." He corrected himself too quickly.
"Starting guard. NCAA Sweet Sixteen two years running."
Foreman took the bait. "Okay then. Let's see what you can do. Best of 10." He tossed the ball to House, who caught it one-handed.
"Name your distance," said House.
"Loser buys drinks."
"Fine," said Foreman.
"And you chase the rebounds," added House.
House limped to the foul line. The ball felt good in his hand, as if he had never stopped playing. He spun it on a forefinger, then tossed it to Foreman.
"I like to go last." Handing his cane to Chase he removed his jacket and shirt, until he was standing in his T-shirt.
Foreman gave him a look, but said nothing and with a show of nonchalance, made the shot. It slipped through the chain net with a metallic swish. He chased the loose ball, and tossed it back to House. House positioned himself for the free throw, fully aware that although he'd played pick up basketball at the Y every week up until the leg surgery, he'd not done this once in the last six years. His leg wouldn't matter, though, as he didn't need to move, just needed to brace his weight as evenly as possible, facing the basket four-square. His right leg was good enough for that, he thought-for a short while, anyway.
House felt Chase and Foreman looking at him, and the air felt charged with all sorts of unspoken questions and assumptions. House tried to brush away the thoughts-if I blow this I'll triple the sympathy factor, esp. between two underlings I can't afford to let feel sorry for me. If I sink it-well he hadn't even thought of that. That might just double the sympathy factor: ex-athlete-turned-cripple sort of thing. He had to be sure to goad Foreman hard enough that there was no question of pity playing any kind of role.
He took a breath and let the present slip away, he was back in the school gym. Bounced the ball once, twice, as he always had, and again-once, twice--the rhythm of the move as important as the routine. Then, in one motion, set, dipped-the right leg held--and rolled the ball off his fingers. It hit the rim twice on its way in-not pretty, but it counted. And for a moment-just for that one fleeting moment-he allowed himself to pretend his leg was whole again.
Chase gave him a smile, and Foreman ran after the loose ball.
"This is part of my strategy," confided House to Chase, watching Foreman run. "Wear him down chasing balls."
They traded shot for shot, each one dropping. House razzed Foreman with each shot, critiquing his style, reminding him it was bad politics to beat one's boss, trying to get under his skin. Foreman's shots grew a little more ragged with each try, House's a little more graceful.
But very soon the pressure of standing, his right leg unassisted, even for such a short period of time, began to make itself felt. House could feel his right quad-or what was left of it--starting to tremble with the strain and, looking down, could even see the leg shaking. It grew worse with every passing moment, and he was aware that Chase and Foreman, standing behind him as he shot, must notice it too. But he matched Foreman shot for shot. And at last they were down to the final throw.
Foreman took the foul line.
"You see," said House in a loud stage whisper to Chase, "the pressure's gotta to get to him. Black ghetto guy losing to a white guy from the suburbs. A gimp at that. How humiliating is that?"
Chase grinned, but Foreman made a show of ignoring him. He tossed the ball casually at the hoop. It clanged off the rim and shot off to the side.
"Ooops," said House. "Looks like drinks are on you. I hear DeMillo's is good."
"Not yet," said Foreman. "You still have to shoot." While he was collecting the ball, Chase turned to House.
"Who'd you play for? What college?"
House shrugged. "Never played in college. Oh, you mean that NCAA bullshit? I was just messing with Foreman. High school varsity. Second string. But he doesn't need to know that. It would hurt his pride." And then, as Foreman tossed him the ball, he gave Chase a wink. Turned to shoot, bounced it once, twice, and then again, once, twice. Shot. Missed completely. He made a disappointed face.
"A tie. Darn. A bad day for white pride."
"Yeah. Looks like drinks are going to be on you, Chase, " said Foreman, and clapped his arm around the Australian.
Just then Chase's pager went off. "Whoa," he said, checking it. "Patient is crashing."
"Break's over," said House. "You go. Don't wait for me." The two doctors took off, jogging for the hospital entrance around the corner. House reached carefully down to pick up his clothes, balancing on his good leg. He pulled on the shirt, buttoning it thoughtfully as he pondered their latest case. Everything had stabilized, there was no reason things should be going south. He slid his jacket on and looked around for his cane.
In that moment, the last remnants of pleasure from the basketball game evaporated. The cane was nowhere to be seen. He had handed it to Chase at the start of the contest, and Chase must have walked off with it, unawares. Both Chase and Foreman, by this point, were long gone. He took an experimental step on his right leg and felt it start to buckle under him. There was no way he could walk gracefully off the court. He was planted here, like a tree. An extremely visible tree, in center court, in full sight of the whole wing of the hospital. That, in fact, there was Cuddy's corner office, and up there, Wilson's, and his own.
House gazed up at the sky and considered his options. There was crawling. And there was shouting for help. Neither one of those was acceptable. That left only the option of standing here until...until what? Until Foreman or Chase noticed what had happened. He pulled out his cell phone and punched in some numbers. Then he calculated his odds of making it to the sidelines where the bench beckoned to him from what looked like miles away. If he locked his knee and put only the smallest pressure on the leg, if he took very small steps, maybe he could make it. On the other hand, he might equally well fall flat on his face, and be unable to get up.
In the elevator to the third floor, Foreman's pager went off. He glanced down.
"It's House," he said to Chase.
"What's he want?"
"It says, 'Forget something?' What does he mean?" They looked at each other blankly, and then both seemed to notice the cane in Chase's hand at the same instant.
"Shit," said Foreman.
"Damn," said Chase. "Damn. Damn!" They looked at each other. Finally Foreman spoke, just as the elevator arrived at the third floor.
"I'll take it. You go check on the patient." Chase gave him a look of enormous gratitude, handed over the cane, and punched the Lobby button for him as he got off.
As the elevator crept downward, Foreman had a long time to ponder just how mobile House might be without the cane. He'd seen him stand and even limp a few steps without it. Probably he was cool. Probably he could get along fine. On the other hand, House'd already been standing for a long time, during their hoop contest, and by the time it was over, his bad leg had a visible tremor. Shit.
Foreman waited till he was out the front door before he broke into a run, and then slowed as he rounded the corner to the basketball court. He didn't want House to see him running. "Be cool," he told himself.
House was standing exactly where they'd left him, hands in pockets, all his weight on his left leg, staring at the ground. Just waiting. From the corner of his eye Foreman noticed a couple of passersby who had stopped to watch the curious sight-a man standing in the middle of a basketball court, motionless. "Don't offer to help or shit," said Foreman to himself, angry on Dr. House's behalf. For a moment he had a taste of what it must be like to be House. He walked over and thrust the cane forward, into House's line of vision.
"Hey," he said. He tried to think of something witty to say, something to defuse the awkwardness of the moment, the kind of thing that House was so good at, but nothing came.
"Sorry, Dr. House. Chase just...uh...forgot..." God that was lame.
"Chase is a dead man." He took the cane with a tight smile, and limped slowly over to the bench, where he lowered himself to the seat, trying not to grunt with relief. Foreman watched him and struggled for a moment over having to break one of the cardinal rules for Living with House, the rule that forbade any offers of help. But he didn't really have a choice.
"So...you're good now?" he asked hesitantly "You need a hand or any--"
"No, I'm good. Go deal with the patient." He sounded clipped and tired. Foreman turned silently to go. Suddenly House called him back.
"I still say you shoot like a girl." Foreman grinned. "But a very tall African American girl. So, you know, it could be worse."
Foreman hesitated. "So, rematch tomorrow?"
"Only if we make Chase be ball boy."
"And buy the drinks."