"Just when I thought there were no places left in this hospital where you could hide from Cuddy."
House looked up from his Us Weekly. "She's ovulating," he said, turning the page. "She won't come near this place. Oh, the cleverness of me!"
Wilson winced, glancing around at the sleeping infants. "That's a bit harsh, don't you think?"
"How long have you known me?"
Flicking his eyes back to a blurb about Britney Spears's rehab roulette, House sank down a little further in the gliding chair. "I need one of these in my office," he said, pushing off with his left foot and rocking back and forth a little. "Why don't I have one of these?"
"Because you're not going to be nursing anytime soon?" Wilson leaned against the wall. "Why are you here, anyway? I thought you'd done all your hours for the week?"
"Donor." House scowled. "Close encounter of the kissing ass kind." He turned the page and feigned interest in the dress Beyoncé wore to the Oscars. "Not interested."
Wilson eyed him. "Money for the hospital is a good thing," he said. "I know you got that memo."
"Got it, read it, and turned it into a jaunty paper hat." House looked up at Wilson. "She doesn't need me to make the hospital look good. If anything, her chances increase the further away I am from any potential sugardaddy."
"That's probably true," said Wilson. "But then again, most of the donors who want to give us money only hear about us because of you. It's a double-edged sword."
House snorted. "And Cuddy wields it like Captain Hook." He flipped ahead in the magazine. "Poor Reese Witherspoon. If only she'd return my calls, I'd make it all better."
Wilson shook his head. "She's not Captain Hook," he said. "Wanting you to do your job doesn't make her evil-"
"No, it doesn't," said House. "Wanting me to grow up, however, does. It makes her the embodiment of everything scary about adulthood."
"Last time I checked, men pushing fifty qualified as adults."
House smirked at him. "As the poet said, age ain't nothin' but a number, Jimmy."
Tossing the magazine aside, House got up, got his cane under him. He surveyed the minefield of sleeping babies surrounding them. "You think if these kids had any choice in the matter, they'd choose adulthood? I call bullshit." He pointed at one. "That boy'll probably end up an accountant in a cube farm in Passaic. And that girl'll be pushed into law school when all she really wants to do is dance."
"There is this thing called free will, you know," said Wilson. "Maybe he'll want to be an accountant."
"Then he's an idiot," said House. "Nobody wants to do what they end up doing. They think they do, but it's really just putting off the inevitable."
House looked at him. Wilson shivered.
"Wow," he said, after a moment. "What a healthy outlook you have on life. We're born, we live a little, we're miserable, and then we die. No wonder you're a regular ray of fucking sunshine."
"Touched a nerve, did I?" House eyed him. "Did you always want to be an oncologist? Even from when you were an itty, bitty widdle boy?"
Wilson hesitated. "No," he said, with a sigh. "I wanted to be a cowboy."
"Jew-standard pipe dream," said House. "Anything else?"
"Archaeologist," said Wilson. "Veterinarian. Hong Kong Fooey." He laughed without mirth. "Oncology just... happened. My uncle died, and I kept thinking about how I wished I could have prevented it."
House looked at him. "Hong Kong Fooey could have stopped cancer," he said quietly.
Wilson shook his head. "Oncologists can't even stop cancer, House."
Behind them, a baby began to cry. A nurse bustled in, gave the two of them an odd look, and went about comforting the child. House watched intently.
"There's no shame in doing what you have to do," said Wilson. "Sometimes it's what you need to do, to get by."
House sniffed. "What you want and what you need should be the same thing," he said. Wilson considered this, and nodded.
"Spoken like the true embodiment of youth."
They left the nursery together, Wilson tailoring his gait to match House's, which was faster than it had any right to be. It was late, the odds were that Cuddy's meeting with the donor was long over, and House was safe to emerge from hiding.
"I hope we got the money," said House.
"Who was it for?"
House stopped at the elevator and pressed the button with his cane. "Pediatrics."
Wilson blinked. "That's an oddly caring sentiment, considering you hate children."
"I don't hate them," said House. The elevator arrived and they boarded. Wilson pushed the button for the fourth floor. "They start out fine. What I hate is what we do to them."
"What you believe Cuddy does to you," said Wilson. "Forces you into your responsibilities."
House looked at the ceiling. "She makes me forget how to fly."
That gave Wilson more pause than the comment about Pediatrics. He stared at House, trying to read him, but there's nothing to see; House's expression was blank, if a bit tired. The doors opened to their floor and they stepped out together, their stride somehow in unison.
"So," said Wilson. "The answer is obvious."
"Yes." Wilson barely managed to keep from smirking. "You need a happy thought."
House reached into his pocket and made it rattle. "I have three weeks' worth of happy thoughts in here."
Wilson winced. "They don't count. You need something without a shelf life, that doesn't hold you hostage." He paused. "Captain Hook wasn't his worst enemy, you know." He looked at House. "Pan's worst enemy was time. And yours is running out."
They stopped outside of House's office, or rather House stopped and looked at Wilson as if he'd suddenly lapsed into fluent Turkish. "Do you spend your weekends in the Hallmark stores rifling through the Shoebox Greetings for your sentiments? Because that was lame, even for you."
"Maybe so," said Wilson. "But the lame sentiments are usually always true."
House scowled. "Pan never grew up, though," he said. "He remained young forever."
"No." Wilson looked suddenly sad. "Pan was left behind."
With that, Wilson turned away and went into his own office, leaving House in the hallway, leaning heavily on his cane.
The next morning, Wilson arrived at work to find a note on his desk.
Pizza tonight, Wendy-lady.
Resting on top of the note was a small, silver thimble.