Because someone has to take Cuddy down a peg...

"Do you do these things to annoy me or just because you're a jerk?" Cuddy gripped her head as she stalked through the corridors of Princeton-Plainsboro. Her frustration was evident in the frantic clickclickclick of her designer heels. The eternal reason for her frustration limped beside her.

House stopped to consider. "Let's see...both? Either, depending on my mood?" He leaned against the nearest wall. "This is a conundrum, Dr. Cuddy, that I feel I could best ponder in the comfort of my office where, incidentally, I should be diagnosing my patient."

She tugged his arm and propelled him into the Pediatrics wing. "You recklessly accuse a hospital benefactress of poisoning her Down's Syndrome son. No proof but your colossal ego-"

House frowned comically. "Is 'ego' a code word for penis? Because if so, Wilson's been talking about me again."

"House, goddammit-"

"Step-son, incidentally," he said mildly. "Widowed husband dragged a retarded kid into his new marriage then had the bad manners to die, leaving his new wife saddled with this kid. Kid shows signs of heavy metal poisoning. Easy way for Mommy to get rid of a burden, don't you think? I put two and two together. Sorry, it's a doctor thing."

Cuddy stopped and spun to face him. "Right, so you thought you'd grab the step-mother's purse and search it, barking accusations in front of everyone in earshot?"

House rolled his eyes. "Nobody was in earshot. Unless you count Chase, Foreman, and Cameron." He paused. "Oh, and the nursing staff. And maybe Dr. Wayne, but what she was doing hanging around pediatrics-"

"She's a pediatrician., which entitles her to hang around Pediatrics."

"And I'm a diagnostician, which entitles me to hang around the Diagnostics department, but it doesn't look like my mean old Auntie Lisa's gonna let me."

"Auntie Lisa" gritted her teeth. "House, here's what's going to happen: you are going to apologize to Mrs. Campbell for violating her rights as a human being and then you're going to do an extra two hours of clinic duty."

She pushed him into the first room on the right. A small child lay in the bed. His pale, still face bore the distinctive stamp of Down's Syndrome. In the visitor's chair was a middle-aged woman stroking his hand, pale herself from too many nights sitting in sleepless vigil be her child's side.

"Mrs. Campbell?" Cuddy pasted her professional smile to her face as they entered the room. "I'm Dr. Cuddy, Dean of Medicine here. Dr. House has something he'd like to say to you."

House sighed. Here it comes, he thought, the apology, the misplaced anger from Mommy Dearest-second verse, same as the first. He leaned on his cane and sighed. "I might have been out of line this morning."

Cuddy glared at him. "What Dr. House means is that he's sorry for the incident this morning."

The woman in the chair turned glassy eyes to them. "Excuse me, sorry for what? It was a good thought and something he had to rule out. He was doing his job." She smiled tiredly at House.

Cuddy's mouth fell open. "Well, that's kind of you to say, but-"

"What I don't understand is why you're wasting his time dragging him down here for bullshit apologies when he should be trying to find out what's wrong with Brandon." She leveled a finger at Cuddy. "You've covered your ass, now why don't you go back to pushing your papers and let Dr. House save my son?" Mrs. Campbell turned back to the hospital bed and her silent vigil, taking her son's hand once again.

House smiled angelically at the speechless Cuddy and clasped Mrs. Campbell's shoulder. "Mrs. Campbell-Bonnie-I couldn't agree more," he said expansively. "I'm going to find out what's wrong and we'll fix Brandon up."

She turned her face up in a grateful smile and patted the hand on her shoulder.

Cuddy gave the other woman's back a frozen PR smile, spun, and left the room, House on her heels.

"Uh oh," he said conversationally. "Auntie Lisa can't be mean to me anymore or my new friend will bite."