Chapter 23

House checked in and took the elevator up to his room. 208, on the far end of the hallway.

He tossed his luggage on the floor, and stretched out on the large bed.

He watched TV for a while, then ordered room service, and quickly checked the schedule for the next day.

The first lecture he was ordered to attend (and Cuddy would check) was at 9 am, and then he had to speak at 2:15.

He set the alarm, and went to sleep.

The next morning he woke up, showered, arranged for a cab to pick him up, and made his way downstairs to get some breakfast.

After waffles with maple syrup he took a cab, and managed to not fall asleep during a 2-hour-long talk about what could pretty much be summed up as 'the importance of doing paperwork for running an efficient clinic'. As he was walking out of the conference room he took an extra Vicodin, and was enjoying mental images of Cuddy slipping in the shower – especially the shower part - when a voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Greg...? Greg!"

House turned around, looking in the direction of the sound and saw a tall man in jeans and a T-shirt approach.

Short cut black hair with gray streaks."

"Hey, how have you been?", the man stretched his hand out to him.

House fumbled with the cane and shook it. "Matt?"

The man broadly smiled and nodded.

"Yeah, man it's great to see you! What's it been, at least 20 year right? You've gotten old!"

He gave House a teasing punch in the shoulder that was almost hard enough to knock him off balance.

Matthew Witten. Years ago in med school they were on several sports teams together.

They had gotten along really well.

"Still playing uh?", Matt nodded at his leg, "what did you do, pull a muscle?"

"Yeah, something like that", House replied. "I thought you dropped out in your third year? What are you doing here?"

Matt shrugged.

"Yeah, took a 2 year break, tried something else, but well – didn't work out. So I went back to college to become a pharmacist. Well, that didn't last either, but the partial medical and pharmacological knowledge did make me the perfect pharmaceutical rep."

House made a face.

"Yeah, I know, but it's actually really interesting. Good money too." Matt laughed.

"I'm here to promote Rufinamide, which just got approved by the FDA for Lennox-Gastaut. You're working in Jersey, right?"

House nodded. "I'm not buying your pills though."

"We'll see, maybe I can talk you into that later. Have you had lunch yet?"

House shook his head.

"Let's go, I'm buying. There's this great little place on 5th street."

House hesitated.

Matt noticed, "Fresh air, good food. Come on. it's only a few blocks away."

House nodded an OK.

The weather was pretty great, considering it was Seattle, and House had to admit he enjoyed the slight breeze, and the company. They talked about work, Matt was very pleased to hear that he got his own department with 4 employees. "I always knew you were gonna be great!"

He was sad to hear about Stacey leaving – but didn't ask about the details - and eager to talk about his own life (wife, 3 kids, good job with a lot of freedom). He was also very eager to try to get House to get his hospital to buy the Rufinamide from him, to House's not-so-mild annoyance.

At the little place on 5th they got some takeaway Indian food in small cartons, then they walked back again. Matt started to eat some of his food, but when he noticed House didn't (cane, food, no free hand to eat and walk) he casually closed the carton again, and motioned to a picnic table alongside a small concrete square a bit further away, where a bunch of teenagers were shooting hoops.

"Let's sit over there."

The food indeed was very good, and they ate and watched the kids for a while. Then Matt collected the empty boxes and walked to the trash bin, while House mindlessly rubbed his leg for a while. He watched Matt who picked up an overthrown ball, talked with a few of the kids, and motioned in House's direction. They laughed, and even from that distance it was obvious they didn't believe whatever it was that Matt was telling them.

Matt walked back to House and grumbled.

"He called me gramps!" "I told him we could beat them. Best out of ten throws, five each, only three pointers, you in?"

House's face clouded over a little, he instinctively moved his hand to his leg.

"Come on man, I'll get you some free Tylenol after...Don't tell me you've turned into a big wuss."

"He's in!" he shouted back over his shoulder, then turned back to House. "Well?"

House grumbled, he'd forgotten how Matt always talked everyone into doing what he wanted them to do. And where with pretty much everyone else that would have only been incredibly annoying, with Matt people just..smiled and caved.

"If we win, I'll stop bugging you about the Rufinamide as well."

House rolled his eyes, grabbed his cane and followed Matt onto the court.

One of the kids started, and scored. Matt scored, another kid scored. And then it was House's turn. He handed his cane to Matt and positioned himself. It felt strange, being on a basketball court again, holding the ball. Knowing he wouldn't really play now, knowing he wouldn't really play ever again. But when House scored his first shot, it also just a little bit felt like he still belonged there.

In the end they didn't win though. House scored 4 out of 5, Matt missed 2. The kids made 9 out of 10.

House limped a few steps towards Matt to get his cane back.

"Can we get 3 extra throws for playing while injured?" Matt tried.

" No way man! He's better than you are!"

"Should've known better than to think we could beat them on their own turf", Matt grinned at House, knowing the kids respect for them had gone up from the moment both he and House scored one, and being happy with that outcome.

The kids went back to their game, and House and Matt started to walk back to the conference rooms. House was not as fast as he'd liked to, and Matt had to slow down his pace. Shooting hoops involved bending both knees and pushing off a little. Even if you didn't really jump up, you were asking for quite a bit of power from your upper legs.

He had done most of the work with his good leg, but his body also remembered how it really should be done, and reflex or muscle memory had caused him to wince a few times.

He had used his leg in a way it hadn't been used again after the infarction, and it was throwing a little hissy fit in protest.

"So, since we lost..", Matt started after they crossed the street.

"Would you stop about the damned Rufinamide already?!" House snapped a little.

Matt stopped walking and looked at House.

"You know, I was kidding earlier about the Tylenol, but I really have some free samples in my car if you need some...?"

House reached into his pocket and shook 2 pills into his palm, swallowed them dry, and rattled the bottle in Matt's direction. "I've got my own, thanks."

Matt looked at the label – occupational habit.

"Vicodin?! Gee, that's a bit much for a pulled muscle don't you think..?"

House shrugged. "They removed some dead muscle a few years ago. Call me when you are trying to sell any anti-nerve damage drugs." House started walking again, and Matt followed. It was a while before he spoke.

"Sorry man, I didn't know."

House shrugged again.

Matt kept looking at him sideways, studying his face, noticing a well hidden wince every time he put his foot down.

"You're in pain..."

"Stop staring".

"Will that help?"


Matt changed the subject and they arrived back at the conference center with House grinning at one of Matt's stories.

There were 6 steps leading up to the entrance with no railings for House to hold on to, and Matt instinctively stretched out his hand a bit when he saw House struggling.

House glared at him and lifted his cane, "I will hit you."

Matt grinned, "You have changed, and yet you haven't."

Inside, House checked his watch.

"I'd better go and find out where room 62A is, I'm supposed to give a talk in 30 minutes."

"I've got a meeting with a client", Matt said, " I don't think I'll be finished before you leave for the hotel, and then for the airport. You leave at 2:15, right?"

House nodded.

Matt grabbed a business card and a pen, and wrote his phone number on the back before handing the card to House.

"See you later then. Call me when you're in the area, we'll grab a drink. Shoot some hoops again... maybe...if you like."

"Sure." House searched a few pockets and finally came up with a card which he handed Matt.

"Good luck with the drugs...if you sell them all you won't bug me about them ever again."

They shook hands and patted each other on the back.

Matt smiled and raised his hand in a goodbye, as House limped off.

"Be well, House."