Disclaimer: I own a house; I own "House" on dvd; I love the film "My Life As a House." As for the show and its characters, they belong to their creator, David Shore, and the Fox network.
A/N: I have planned this as a situation comedy in three parts. This is part one and the beginning of part two. The rest will follow in the second chapter, and it should then be complete.
Thanks to betas Timbereads and Nikita34 for reading it and providing comments, and to Tiflissa and Houseluvr for helping me think up possible titles. Tiflissa gets credit for "A Master of Disguise."
Oh yeah: If you read it, please consider taking the nano second it requires to review it! Thanks.
"You want attention,
You try my patience,
With the best intentions
You are nothing but a nuisance."
-- From Busy Bodies by Elvis Costello
"The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."
-- From Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
Part 1: Busybodies
Drs. House and Wilson stood side by side in the hospital's cafeteria line holding trays and perusing the day's lunch choices.
A deep-dish pizza was featured under the glass case next to Irish stew with soda bread, pork cutlets adorned by sweet and sour sauce, the ever-present salad bar, and the perennial Rueben, New Jersey style.
House eyed the Rueben with the kind of enthusiasm he reserved for Hollywood starlets. "My precious," he said, ogling the sandwich. When he got no reaction from Wilson, he glanced over at him. "Almost makes me believe in God. Corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, swirled rye bread."
Wilson set his tray down, folded his arms across his chest, and looked at the baggy eyed, beard-shadowed face of the country's premiere diagnostician. "House, you're obsessed – with a sandwich. Try something new, why don't you. Your Rueben consumption has become a ritual. It's unhealthy, and frankly, tiresome."
House raised a brow at his friend and aped a yawn. Did the guy ever give amateur psychology a rest? Nope. When it came to Wilson, no detail of House's life was too small to pick up and stick under a microscope.
Massaging his temples, House said, "Your daily ritual is to spew chunks from the Dummy's Guide to Psychoanalysis as if it's tattooed on your chest. Do you read it in the mirror each morning while shaving? Must mean you have to wax your pecs."
Wilson's face stiffened like meringue. House noticed it; jumped on it. "Don't you think you're a little young for Botox injections? Cuddy, on the other hand - "
Ignoring House, Wilson pulled out his wallet and inventoried his cash. One, no, two twenties meant that he had enough to cover his meal and House's Rueben, plus a little extra in case House went on a rampage and Wilson was stuck placating a nurse, orderly, or worse, a clinic patient.
House took advantage of the oncologist's distraction. He stuck his thumbs in his ears, wiggled his fingers and made a face at his friend behind his back. A group of scrubs-clad surgeons laughed.
"What's so funny?" Wilson asked, turning around.
House pilfered a bill from Wilson's wallet, and then jammed his hands in his pockets. He shrugged. "Green scrubs just gave blue scrubs a wedgie."
Wilson rolled his eyes. "You do know that technically, you're a grown up, don't you?"
"He did it! It wasn't me, mommy!"
Holding his index finger to his lips, Wilson said, "Shhh. If you're a very good boy, I'll buy you a brand new yo-yo and renew your subscription to Soap Opera Digest. I hear they're devoting an issue to Tristan Rogers." (As House's only friend, being a good sport was a part of the job description.)
He winced, as House eyeballed the hospital accountant's latest trophy wife. Her breasts bulged from a tiny spandex tube top and her legs extended about a mile from her curvy hips, ending in stilettos.
"Gimmee," House said of the bodacious young woman. "Mommy, I want one. I want one right now."
"Oh, stop being so childish," Wilson snapped. "Shut up and order. That is, if you can utter anything besides 'goo goo, gah gah.'"
"Let me guess. You read another article on the Peter Pan Syndrome, and you think that I have it." House snapped his fingers at the deli worker, pointed at the Rueben, then at himself.
"I don't need to read a thing to know that," Wilson said, peering at the potassium and sodium listings on the stew entrée. After weighing his options, he asked Kelly, the attractive redhead who worked The Grill's lunch line, for the salad bar and a slice of pizza, and then said, "Thanks."
He frowned as he watched Kelly slap sliced pickles on House's Rueben. Wilson wasn't sure if she did it out of spite – nobody would blame her for it if she did – or if it was an absent-minded mistake.
It didn't matter one way or the other. House was irate.
Wilson watched as the blood rushed to his friend's face.
Oh, God, he thought. Was today going to be the day when House went ballistic, lost whatever self-restraint and civility he had left and dove over the edge into full-blown psychosis? Greg had been … expressing his anger a lot recently. There was the time last week when Wilson noticed House's eyelid twitching, and commented on it. It turned out that a gnat had gotten stuck between the eyeball and lid, but how was Wilson supposed to know that? He had worried that House was stroking out. At any rate, House had let him have it. And just a few days ago, House had freaked out when Wilson suggested that the red stripe on his motorcycle jacket meant that House was once again ready to pursue romance. It was just an observation.
Clearly, House was fucked up. Wilson accepted that as a fact of his life – of their lives. And if House's untreated issues crashed his hard drive, Wilson intended to be there to pick up the pieces.
House left his place in line and crossed behind the deli counter until he towered over Kelly. Her fair skin had a comely smattering of freckles that her tangerine lip-gloss accentuated, Wilson noticed, absently fingering his green tie.
House leaned in and yelled into her face.
"Is this 'Groundhog Day,' and is my name Bill Murray? Because I could have sworn that the same thing happened to me when I tried to get a decent Rueben sandwich yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. I thought people at Princeton were supposed to be smart. Are you one of my former patients? Did I have a brain surgeon remove your frontal lobe? Did Wilson miss a mammoth tumor that's been cutting off the blood supply to your itty-bitty Silly Putty of a cerebellum?"
Kelly bit her lip; tears welled in her pretty brown eyes. Wilson observed this and sighed. He would have to take her out for lunch to help her work through her feelings about House's verbal abuse.
People needed to talk about their feelings – at least, that was how Wilson dealt with the issues in his own life. Of course, House never listened to him, which was why he, Wilson, paid a therapist, or sought a heart to heart with House's immunologist, Dr. Allison Cameron.
Wilson put his hand on House's shoulder, and drew him away from Kelly, and back into the lunch queue. "Please," he said to the girl. "Humor him. I'm afraid he's himself again today."
As Wilson paid at the cash register, he glanced down at his friend's plate. The pickles had been removed from the sandwich, of course, but almost out of sight, a stray slice of the offending greenery poked from beneath the toasted bread. He sighed. Hopefully, they would be seated before House noticed. Hopefully, House would fling it at someone he didn't like, which meant anyone within range. Wilson was up to providing damage control, but he didn't want to mop up the floor when House's head exploded.
"Look, House. They're pickles, not little green men from Mars."
House slapped a hand on his knee. "Of course you're going to take her side. She's pretty. She looks a little like your first wife. She had it in for me, too."
"That sounded … paranoid."
The two men brought their trays over to a table. Wilson smiled at a pair of nurses sharing a piece of cheesecake across the cafeteria. He frowned when he saw the cashier take a tearful Kelly by the arm and lead her out of the room.
"You made her cry. I don't know what your problem is, but,"
"It's simple. I hate pickles. Not really a problem. Your problem is that you make my problems your problems. You see problems where none exist. You want to know what my problem is?" House pointed at his bum leg. "That's my problem. Otherwise, my life works for me."
Wilson was undaunted. He was used to House's methods of deflection, and how the man avoided acknowledging his feelings as if feelings were leprous and contagious.
A case in point was the way House had undermined his recent dinner engagement with Cameron, a woman he showed every sign of liking, despite protests to the contrary. Wilson had resisted the urge to bring up what had happened with Cameron for as long as he could.
Now it was time to confront the issue head on.
He cleared his throat. "House, we have to talk." Wilson watched a series of microexpressions pass across House's face.
Inwardly, House groaned. He rubbed his eyes and blinked. Sometimes these "sessions" with Wilson reminded him of anal probes. Despite his years of therapy, Wilson had failed to learn boundaries. He never knew when to leave well enough alone. Still, Wilson was his amigo, and if it meant so much to him to dissect House's every move, well, then House was willing to give the man a little latitude – especially if he could amuse himself while doing so.
"Okay, Jimmy." he said. "What's wrong with you? Hey, I can answer that. You're … miserable," House said, mimicking Wilson.
"Leave … me out of it. We're talking about you," Wilson sputtered.
"You're talking about me. But, I can talk about me, too. 'I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me,'" House said, with a hint of a smile tilting the corners of his mouth ever so slightly.
"Cameron told me how you sabotaged your date," Wilson said, playing what he considered to be his ace card.
House took a bite of his sandwich, nonplussed. "Hope you billed her for the psychotherapy." Sotto voce, he added, "She's damaged. It could get costly."
"House, I was there, remember? You dressed up. You combed your hair. You made reservations at a nice restaurant. You bought her a corsage. You made an effort to be a normal human being going out on an ordinary date. But you couldn't resist, could you," Wilson stated, rhetorically.
"Wouldn't want to deny you the opportunity to help me help you help me. Couldn't resist what?"
"Ruining it. Throwing it all away, and for what? So you could solve her like the clue to a crossword? You tried to impress her by showing her you're smart enough to see through her. She already knew that. You might as well have brought her to a strip club, since you … stripped her."
"Take a breath. Don't want you to hyperventilate at my expense. And I only wish I'd stripped her."
"You…. Shush. House, you're pathetic. You're a wretched, dismal, pitiable excuse for a human being. You're a classic self-handicapper," Wilson said.
"Less psychology. More Us Weekly. You'll be happier."
"Oh, that's right. I forgot. You're the poster boy for the great state of happiness," said Wilson, rolling his eyes.
"I'm not the one shouting, and I can sing the Partridge Family theme song." House narrowed his eyes at his friend. "You, on the other hand, you're … testy. Little Jimmy and the Twins not getting any?"
Wilson put his fork down. "Leave my sex life out of it."
House raised his voice a few decibels. "You have a sex life? I'm all ears. Does it have to do with your wife? Or did you join a circle jerk chain?"
"This from the man who could have had that." Wilson jerked his elbow toward a table where Cameron sat alone reading Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams" and picking at a salad. Her mahogany hair was pulled back off her face, revealing her natural beauty and innate kindness.
"She's a she, not a that," House said, wagging his index finger at his friend. "Try and be more sensitive."
"Don't … lecture me. I'm the king of altruistic helping when it comes to you. A well-adjusted man wouldn't have to drive away a beautiful, and in your vernacular, fuckable woman just because she likes you. A mature adult might try to find out things you have in common, besides being damaged. She asked you how you felt about her, not what you thought. She asked you about your feelings."
"Do you ever treat your patients for cancer? Or just the way dying makes them feel? Right now, I feel like I've died and gone to hell." House located his prescription bottle and uncapped it, tossing back Vicodin as if they were Tic Tacs. His leg ached, but his head was killing him. He looked away from Wilson, glanced down at the remnants of the Rueben strewn across his plate, saw the tiny pickle sphere and flicked it away with a grimace.
"Have you always been this miserable?" House heard Wilson ask. He sounded genuinely curious.
"Have you always been this nosy? Because I don't remember your puppy dog need to sniff my crotch back when we were in college. If you're going to naval gaze, could you clean the lint out of my belly button while you're there?"
"You know," Wilson said slowly. "That muscle death didn't end with your right leg, House. You're … stricken with emotional necrosis."
House stood up, and grabbed his cane. Looking down on Wilson, he stated, "And you're an addict. Either that or a masochist."
"You do realize you're the one on drugs. What am I addicted to?" Wilson asked. He rose to his feet, and stacked the two lunch trays neatly, one on top of the other.
"You pick. Besides marrying, I'd say either pain, or interfering in my life."
"'I'm in pain' is your refrain, not mine."
"It's my pain." House's exasperation could be heard throughout the cafeteria. "You're addicted to my pain. You humor me for playing video games and watching soap operas, but the minutia of my life is your entertainment. It's what distracts you from your own pathos."
The two men stood looking at each other for a moment in silence. House was wearing his "I know the score" face. Wilson looked like he was about to protest.
He never had the chance. Lisa Cuddy, dressed in form-fitting pants and a low-cut blouse that peeked out from under a structured tweed jacket headed toward House with the aim of a missile.
"She's fast, and she's furious," House said as Cuddy made a beeline for their table.
"She's not Stacy," Cuddy said, without preamble. "She's not gonna love you and leave you when your next body part explodes."
"She means Cameron," Wilson said helpfully.
"Yeah. I got that," House replied.
Cuddy took a gold credit card from the pocket of her white coat and threw it at House. She took one step closer to her star doctor. "Buy yourself some therapy before you end up in the psych ward. Or go and get yourself laid."
"Hard choice," House said with a smirk. Then he noticed his neurologist and intensivist heading his way.
"What up, dawg?" House greeted Foreman, and launched a one-liner at the man. "Look, Snoop. Better up your SPF. Some doctors believe that tanning causes cancer." He turned to the Australian and fingered a lock of Chase's coiffed blonde hair. "Been to the salon for another blow out, I see."
"Give it a rest, Dr. Feel Bad. R-E-S-P-E-C-T ain't whatcha gonna get from me," Foreman said, doing his best gangsta imitation. It wasn't very good. He pointed a finger at House's chest. "You. Need. Help."
"What I need is a case," House said under his breath. He would settle for case of Jameson's, or a case of the medical variety.
"At least get yourself an eye examination and a brain scan - psychotherapy goes without saying," Chase added. "She's right under your nose. How can you miss the fact that Cameron is drop dead gorgeous, has brains, possesses a backbone, and she likes you? You're crazy. Certifiable."
The underlings moved off toward the lunch line. As House and Wilson exited The Grill and headed for the elevator, Cameron passed by.
"Hi. How are you two feeling today? – Actually, don't answer that," Cameron said, "I know how you feel about discussing your feelings." She walked away before either man could respond.
As he and Wilson arrived at his office door, House turned to his friend. "What does it take to get all of you busybodies to back the hell off and stop interfering in my life?"
Wilson made as if he was going to come in, but House barred the entrance with his cane. "Leave me alone."
"But I," Wilson began.
"Go away. Shoo. You have plenty of patients who are in pain. Like a bridge over troubled waters, why don't you go and ease it for them."
With one backward glance, Wilson headed toward the oncology department.
House pushed open the door to his office, and made for his Aeron chair. He sank into its ergonomic perfection as if he had found a new best friend.
Leaning back and placing his hands behind his head, House considered his colleagues and minions. He supposed he should be grateful. At least he would never have to pay for therapy. Some people would see that as a glass half full kind of a thing. Not him.
He had found that free psychoanalysis was a perk of working at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital -- if you wanted to be figured out. If you preferred to remain an enigma, or at the very least be left alone, it became a liability.
When it came to psychology, House was old school. It wasn't in the same ball field as science. It wasn't rational. Often, the theories of therapists were barely reasonable. And the terminology was insufferable. Most Americans couldn't finish a thought or sentence without using words like obsess, or fixate, or psychobabble.
This seemed especially true of the meddling doctors at PPTH.
For a man who shunned the company of others when he could avoid it, the diagnostician had somehow managed to surround himself with colleagues and a medical team who had an overdeveloped interest in his well-being.
It bordered on obsession.
Wilson, especially, had fixated on House's idiosyncrasies; his perfectly legitimate use of pain medication, and his solitary habits.
Recently, Wilson had possessed the nerve to swipe his iPod and download more than a dozen songs dealing with one of the oncologist's favorite themes: feelings. When House got the device back, he was appalled to hear crap like "Feelings, nothing more than feelings," "More Than a Feeling," "I've Got a Feeling," and "Feel Like Making Love." This treacle replaced stuff like "Back in Black," which House privately thought of as Foreman's theme song, The Who's "My Wife," which House liked to call "My Wives," and associated it with Wilson's ill-fated marriages, and The Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me," which he linked with Cameron.
Naturally, House had reacted to Wilson's skullduggery. He'd screamed at Wilson in front of his favorite nurse, and later, he'd snuck a laxative in Wilson's chocolate pudding.
Not long after, Wilson had the temerity to inquire after House's father when he knew full well that House hated him. When House had screamed for what Wilson had deemed was long enough, Wilson had offered up this nugget of advice.
"House, you're becoming predictable … boring. I think you're even starting to tax Cameron, and she's stoic. Someday soon, no one's going to care about your antics. They'll start to see you as tedious instead of eccentric. Your shtick is becoming…old hat. Eventually, you'll get your wish. Everyone will leave you alone. How will you amuse yourself, without all of us to pick apart and piece together again?"
Boring? Predictable? The ultimate insults from House's point of view. The irony was that Wilson, et. al., drove him to behave this way. Quite simply, they were driving him crazy.
It had come down to this: House couldn't walk into the head or limp toward the elevator without Cuddy, Wilson, Cameron, Chase or Foreman cornering him with their synopsis of everything they perceived was wrong with him.
Even his patients persisted in diagnosing him.
What did a guy have to do to convince interlopers that he didn't need to be fixed? That being in pain didn't make him broken. That in his case, all the pieces fit, all were present and accounted for. And in his own, solitary way, he was enjoying his life.
House scratched his chin and thought about it.
Perhaps the only way to get all of them off his back and out of his affairs was to behave in the one way they would never expect: like an ordinary human being.
A smile tickled the corners of his mouth as he began to plan.
Part 2: A Master of Disguise
Dr. Allison Cameron parked her Camry in the hospital lot at 7:15. From the passenger side, she retrieved manila folders with rough drafts of her most recent articles. Wilson had promised to read them and provide feedback; House refused to help on the premise that reading was work.
A few recent copies of Psychology Today were stacked on the seat. Cameron grabbed them, hoping to peruse the latest psychobabble if she could squeeze in a lunch break. The new issue featured a story that she'd earmarked, called "Reinvent Yourself: You Can Change Your Personality." It sounded promising. She locked up the ecru automobile. Her brother, an investment banker who lived in Hyde Park, had given it to her when he'd upgraded to a Beamer.
Turning toward the entrance to the hospital, Cameron did a double take. Either she was hallucinating, or her boss's motorcycle was haphazardly parked in the handicapped spot. She glanced at her watch to confirm that it was before 8 a.m. It was.
Weird, she thought. Maybe he'd spent the evening with a hooker and left his ride overnight. Her pager hadn't gone off during the night so there couldn't be a new case.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee greeted her as she pushed open the door to House's office. A man in a white physician's
coat sat in House's chair. In front of him on House's desk were stacks of letters that he was sorting, signing, recycling.
"Um, hello?" Cameron said, setting her stuff down on the table she shared with Foreman and Chase.
Swiveling in the seat, a man with a warm smile and eyes the color of the Indian Ocean stood to welcome her.
"Cameron," he said, his eyes flicking over her small frame. "Good morning. Let me pour you some coffee."
It was House – House, as she'd never seen him before. Under the lab coat he wore a blue button-down dress shirt and a tweed jacket. A red and blue striped tie was knotted around his neck. Tailored trousers and Italian shoes completed the get up.
The smile was what really did her in. That and the fact that he'd remembered to hand her a packet of Sweet 'n' Low with her coffee.
She took a sip, and narrowed her eyes at House. Did the man have a twin? No. That only happened on the soaps he watched. She raised the red coffee mug at him. "You made this?"
"Ground the beans. Poured the filtered water. Turned on the machine. It was a cinch. Like it?"
"I...love it." Cameron looked up at the man masquerading as her boss. She reached out her hand and touched his face. "You…shaved."
He caught her wrist in his hand, and lowered it to her side.
"You…touched me. You infiltrated my private purple circle."
"My personal space. No, Cameron, it's all right. Come here," House said, as she started to walk away. Tentatively, she returned to stand before him. He took her hand and raised it his face, brushed her fingers against his smooth skin. "Satisfied?"
Cameron's circulation increased as her heart rate accelerated. Was that a trick question?
"Thanks. It feels nice. You…look good. But let me do the mail."
"Leave it. I know you've been trying to finish that paper on African sleeping sickness. Go ahead. Sit at my desk. I'm going to head down to the clinic and make sure Nurse Brenda isn't short staffed. I'll finish the mail after the clinic closes. Page me if we get a case."
House squeezed her shoulder as he headed out the door. Cameron slowly walked over to his desk, and sat. Just then, House popped his head back into the room.
"By the way, how are you feeling today?" He asked, and walked over to take a good look at her. Cameron's eyes widened, and she blinked.
"Um, I feel fine, thanks. How are you?"
"Not bad. It's a nice day, isn't it? Lilacs blooming, the cloying smell of spring flowers in the air. Look. Cameron, I'm sorry I was such a difficult date the other night. Maybe," House hesitated here. "Perhaps we could … try again. Get a hot dog at the Nathan's chain."
Cameron considered this. She had felt his face and he wasn't feverish.
"Is this a ploy to get me to do clinic duty for you?"
House leaned closer to her face, and cupped her chin in his hand. "Sometimes I'm an idiot," he said. "You wanted to know my … feelings about you. I never answered. I'd like to. How about tonight? Eight o clock?"
Stunned, Cameron nodded her ascent. As House limped away, she smelled a hint of Hugo Boss.
What had come over the man she had come to know as a royal pain in the ass?
She had always liked him just the way he was.
A/N: This is my first stab at lighthearted House. I plan on posting the rest of it soon. About that little blue button: if you liked the story so far, please push it, and add your two cents! Reviews are appreciated. Thanks.