Once Upon a Build-A-Bear
46th and Fifth Avenue
Manhattan, New York
"If you were going to drag me to a Build-A-Bear workshop, I'm sure we could have gone to one in New Jersey," House said as he and Wilson walked down 46th street. "Don't they have one in every mall or something?"
"Still better than a two-hour drive into the City. My distaste for the Lincoln Tunnel grows exponentially with every visit."
"At least we found a parking spot a block away. It could have been worse," Wilson offered. "Besides, this is apparently the biggest Build-A-Bear Workshop they have. More selection."
This did nothing to assuage House, of course. He scowled. "Only you would care enough about some cancer kiddie to go out of your way to make some bear for her. Isn't she dying anyway?"
Wilson pursed his lips. "Hopefully not."
House sidestepped a wad of gum and took a moment to look up. It was an oddly cool Monday evening in August, rain threatening the City for another round despite the lack of humidity. The streets were just as packed as ever: in the approaching distance, he could see tourists and natives alike walking along, the natives at a slightly faster, more annoyed pace than the tourists who would stop every few feet to ask whether or not that pizzeria served Real New York City Pizza. House was about as disillusioned about the City as the people who lived there, despite having never lived there. He wondered if Wilson felt the same way after years of med school at Columbia. He also wondered which drunken University employee managed to put "Oncolgy" on Wilson's diploma, how many people other than the two of them actually noticed, and why Wilson hadn't changed it, years later.
"Wasn't your bear custom-made anyway?" House asked as they turned onto Fifth Avenue. "An old patient of yours, right?"
"Yeah, but I don't think she'll care. I think she just liked the idea of Dr. Bear," Wilson explained. "She'll be just as surprised." He stopped in front of the entrance. "Here it is."
"I can tell." House looked at the hordes of children and adults filing in and out of the store, joining the tourists and suits. The odd teenager walked out as well, laughing in childish amusement. "The bright colors and 'Build-A-Bear Workshop' sign clued me in."
"You always were the smart one. Coming, Sherlock?" Wilson asked, stepping forward into the cacophony of Kidz Bop and children begging their parents for all of the pointless accessories.
"Unfortunately," was the only thing House could come up with, so he silently stepped into the air conditioning, hoping that no small children decided to come up to him. Kids loved him unconditionally, despite how much he scowled at them. It wasn't that he disliked kids, exactly, he just preferred avoiding them.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the best place to avoid kids. Thankfully he was in New York City, the land of "Stay The Hell Away From Me." Hopefully this very same principle was encoded on the little runts' genes. Or maybe they taught it in school. "Leave me alone!" the schoolchildren repeat to their teachers. They could get tested on pronunciation, annunciation, attitude, and hand gestures. Maybe they taught it at those international schools scattered around the Upper East Side, too. "Laisse moi tranquille!"
Now sufficiently satisfied with the mental image of small children wearing berets flipping people off, he followed Wilson towards the line of stuffed animal selection. There were definitely too many choices. Some of them weren't even bears.
"Is this called Build-A-Shrek workshop?" House asked as Wilson reached for a fuzzy brown bear. "I'm confused now. When did they change the name?"
"Last month, at about the same time that they changed the name to Harry Potter and the Rock Made by the Old Guy. Settled the entire Philosopher versus Sorcerer debate." Wilson frowned, reaching for a second bear. "Which one do you think is cuter?"
"You aren't seriously asking me that."
"I am." He held the two brown bears in front of House's face. "Well?"
House rolled his eyes, not even bothering to look at them. "I don't know, the one on the right?"
Wilson looked at the bear in question. "Bearemy?"
"Oh God, they have names now?"
"He's cute. He's also more expensive," Wilson mused.
"You Jew. I thought you were doing this for some sick cancer girl." House grinned. "Besides, he has your eyebrows. And he looks more like the one in your office."
"Well ... I guess ... which one is cuddlier?"
House could have left after being asked that question. He really could. But for some reason he stayed. "No straight man can answer that question without outing himself. Or ask it in the first place."
"Then you'll be the first to find out." Wilson frowned. "I'm having trouble, that's all. Bearemy looks like the one in my office, I know, but the Milk Chocolate Cub is slimmer. I like that."
"Milk Chocolate Cub? Are you sure you're not making a Foreman bear?" House asked. "No, sorry, that's Dark Chocolate. What were you saying?"
Wilson rolled his eyes. "Just answer the question."
House rolled his eyes and snatched the two bears from Wilson's grip. Come to think of it, the Milk Chocolate Cub was a little softer. And the color of his fur, oddly, reminded him of Wilson. Bearemy's looked a bit more like Wilson's hair, but the Milk Chocolate Cub...
"Bearemy's got his name on his foot," House answered in lieu of saying that the Milk Chocolate Cub was cuddlier. "Maybe the kid won't mind the marketing, but really, who wants the bear's name on his foot?"
"I could give him shoes," Wilson said, shrugging.
"Nah, just buy the Milk Chocolate one or something. This is taking too long, anyway." House tapped his cane impatiently and looked around at the brightly colored walls. When he did look back at Wilson, the other man had an interesting smirk on his face. "What?"
"Do you want to make one too?" Wilson asked.
House scowled. "What, are you crazy?"
"Come on. My treat. You looked at peace with those two bears next to you. Maybe you need something to snuggle up to at night besides just hookers." The smirk never faded from Wilson's face as he tossed House an unstuffed bear. "Try Curly."
He liked the idea, despite himself. "Here's a deal, then," House said, wanting to make this more interesting. "I'll make one of myself. But you have to make one of yourself."
Wilson's mouth opened and shut. "But—House, this isn't a game, it's ... it's for a sick girl!" he protested. "Besides, what incentive do I have to make one of myself?"
"Besides being graced with my glorious image in Teddy Bear form? I'll be really obnoxious until we leave."
"As if you weren't going to already." But the corner of Wilson's mouth was twisted slightly—House had already won. He figured that Wilson liked the idea as well, despite himself. "Fine." He reached for an unstuffed Milk Chocolate Cub, and House noticed that the one he had chosen was kind of cute in a youthful, lopsided way, just like Wilson himself. Or something. And the rich brown fur kind of reminded him of Wilson's eyes.
...that was, by far, the weirdest thing he had ever said, ever. This ... place, in all its fluffiness, must have been getting to him.
"Shouldn't I get a bear that's blue, like my eyes?" House asked.
It made more sense in context of his previous thoughts, but Wilson hadn't heard any of that. He raised an eyebrow. "Since when do you match color fur to eye color?" Wilson shook his head. "Nah. Besides, this one is kind of coarse, like you. Too bad they don't have Five O'Clock Shadow Teddy."
"Yeah, yeah." Besides, the only blue bear in sight was horrifically fluffy. It was called Blue Cuddles Teddy. Oh God no.
"Found your Foreman bear, by the way," Wilson added, throwing a black teddy bear at House, who smirked as he caught it.
"And I'd say that the Koala is good for Chase. But we're not making my entire team. That's just weird."
"Too bad, because I see a suit over there that Cuddy might wear."
"No way. That is nowhere near slutty enough for Cuddy." House laughed as they moved towards the end of the line, which only had two other girls and what was probably their babysitter.
One of the little girls, a short seven-ish-year-old with curly red hair, immediately looked up at House. "Aren't you a little old to be here?" she asked in a sickeningly cute voice. Her friend, a slightly taller brunette, stared on with large, bright eyes.
House ignored Wilson's snicker and glared right back down at the first girl. "Aren't you a little short?" he retorted.
Of course, the girl's smile didn't fade. "We have the same Teddy," she noticed, pointing at House's unstuffed bear and then her own. "What are you gonna to make him wear?"
House was surprised to discover that he was actually giving the question serious thought. "Something awesome," he decided. "Totally badass."
"Mine is gonna to be a princess," the little girl continued, oblivious to the profanity that House had just uttered. "Maybe Ariel, 'cause she's got red hair, like me."
Before the conversation could continue, the line moved and the two girls were brought forward to stuff their bears. The babysitter eyed House and Wilson warily as they moved forward, untrusting.
"Yeah, well, she should have been watching more before," House muttered.
Wilson watched the two girls leave with an amused look on his face. "The other girl had the same bear as me," he mused. "Kind of funny, don't you think?"
"You're just bitter because you're good with kids despite yourself."
House glared at Wilson. "And you're just jealous because they like me more than they like you."
Wilson shrugged. "Why should I be jealous? Clearly they see you as a kindred spirit."
"...are you calling me childish? Is that what you're doing? Oh, you're so clever, Wilson. I saw what you did there. I saw."
Finally it was their turn, and Wilson egged House to stuff his bear first. It was a fairly interesting process: put your foot on the pedal (Cripple? It's a little hard); choose a heart (But it's you, House. You don't have a heart); make a wish (Yeah, I wish I didn't have to do this); give it a kiss (how about I kiss your ass instead?). The bear was sewn up and House found himself staring at what was apparently the Teddy Bear version of himself.
"Let's head downstairs to choose the clothing," Wilson offered when his own bear was done. "It's probably quieter."
House shrugged. "You head down. Don't feel like waiting for an elevator."
"You sure?" Wilson tilted his head slightly, and oddly enough it looked like Teddy Wilson did too. "It probably won't take long."
"It'll be faster if we do it separately. It I have to hear one more Kidz Bop song, I'm going to scream."
"Try going to Pediatric Oncology someday," Wilson said, sighing as he walked towards the stairs. "It's all you hear."
"Showing your true colors now, Wilson?" House asked, although by that point Wilson had already turned away.
Just as well: House was pretty sure that Wilson would choose a suit for Teddy Wilson, which was total crap since Wilson had taken to the sweater vest lately. He would probably have to convince Wilson to buy the sweater vest instead.
The sweater vest was actually the first thing he spotted once he reached the tall racks of clothing, so immediately grabbed that and a blue striped button-up shirt that was right next to it.
"What would I wear?" House asked himself as he looked around. Jeans, of course, so he grabbed the first pair of jeans he could find. None of the shirts would be good, except for maybe that Harley Davidson one...
Then he found this bitchin' Harley Davidson leather jacket, and immediately knew that this was what Teddy House wanted. It was black, of course, with several decorative zippers and Harley Davidson logos on the right breast and back. It was perfect, in a bite-sized, oddly adorable kind of way.
Two minutes must have passed and he was already getting bored of this. He grabbed the Harley Davidson jacket and the first not-girly shirt he saw, which ended up being a plain blue tee. He opting not to buy shoes because this was a money-sucking waste of time as it was, albeit an amusing one. House regretted sending Wilson downstairs by himself when he could have just as easily kept the other man there and suggested glittery dresses for Teddy Wilson.
He was laughing at the collection of New York City-themed clothing when Wilson appeared again, holding a fully dressed Teddy Wilson. A striped blue collar and blue sweater vest poked out under the crisp white lab coat, so House discreetly put aside the ones that he was holding with a smirk on his face.
"Oh look, he looks just like you." House would have added that he was glad Wilson chose the sweater vest for his Teddy persona, but he couldn't find a way to put it that wouldn't come across as somewhat obsessive.
"Aren't you going to dress yours?" Wilson asked, pointing at Teddy House and the bundle of clothes, all carelessly tucked under House's arms. "And that's a cute jacket."
"What, do we have to?"
"It's ... kind of the point."
"You're having fun here," House said as they walked over to one of the little changing stations. "You wish that these existed when you were a kid, don't you."
Wilson shrugged. "Well, the toys have been getting exponentially cooler. I wish I were ten so I could play Guitar Hero with the rest of my friends. But age has never stopped you, so why should it stop me?"
"You're just jealous because I can play 'Jordan' on Expert and get 98."
"Wasn't 'Freebird' supposed to be the ultimate song of the game?"
"Please." House snorted. "I can think of five other songs in the game that are harder than 'Freebird.'"
"You'd think that the man who can actually play guitar would avoid that series like the plague." Wilson shook his head. "Can you hurry this up so we can go? It's getting late."
"Fine. And I'm a non-discriminating rocker. I rock where, when, and how I please." House dropped his stuff on the little dressing table. "Yes, this includes rocking out at work."
"Yes, I noticed." Wilson put his stuff down next to the table and began looking around some of the aisles of tiny clothing, admiring the craftsmanship. "They have things here they didn't have downstairs."
"I'm sure. And I notice you left Teddy Wilson on the dressing table. Does he want to watch the changing process? Because that's just weird. Secret voyeur fantasies, Wilson?" he added, particularly loudly.
"Oh, grow up, will you?" Wilson hissed, snatching Teddy Wilson with red-faced indignation before stalking off. House honestly hadn't cared about who was watching Teddy House change. He practically lived for Wilson's self-righteous flustered face.
When House was done dressing Teddy House, Wilson reappeared and shoved a miniature pair of aviators into House's hand. "Complete the look," Wilson explained, still a little bit huffy from before.
House grinned and put them on Teddy House. "Sweet." He turned to Wilson. "Maybe you should get glasses for Teddy Wilson."
Wilson raised an eyebrow. "I ... don't wear glasses, House."
"Oh please. I see you squint when you drive. It's only a matter of time."
"Thanks." Wilson rolled his eyes. "Come on, let's get out of here. And I'm going to save us the embarrassment at the register and tell you now: you're not allowed to get Teddy House a passport and stamp that he's been to Teddy Cuddy's bedroom."
"Damn. You had to beat me to it, didn't you?" House quickly pocketed a pair of glasses for Teddy Wilson. For the future.
House fell asleep on the drive back to Princeton, the two bears in his lap, cheek to cheek.
"Wilson. You've got to see this."
Wilson rolled his eyes and looked back down at his newspaper, away from the intrusion that had just appeared in the doorframe. "I get fifteen minutes to myself today and you just have to show up," he remarked bitterly.
"Then you should have locked the door," House answered, holding his gaze. "You're just wasting time."
Wilson sighed and stood. "Next time I'll just have Jean stop you at the door if you don't have an appointment," he said, joining House at the door. He was oddly curious, despite the warning signs telling him to run away and skip town. No: the state. Maybe the country, depending on how ridiculous House's plan was.
He hadn't expected an Internet Explorer window open to the Build-A-Bear website.
"Still?" he asked a little louder than he had expected. "My God, when did we even go, anyway?"
"A month ago?" House offered. "But look, see, here? It's a Corvette. Like mine. We should get it."
"No way." Wilson shook his head. "First of all, that is way too expensive for something I'll never use."
"Thirty bucks? God, Wilson, is alimony really killing you that much? Besides, I'll be using it."
"That's just the thing." Wilson put his hands on his hips and glared at House. "Two weeks ago I couldn't find Teddy Wilson anymore. Funny, because I had brought him to the office to give to Valerie."
"Such a shame." House shrugged and looked aside.
"I had to run to the nearest mall and quickly make a Dr. Bear before Valerie's appointment. I didn't eat lunch because of that."
"And if you had just given her the Dr. Bear that you already had in your office, you would have saved time and money."
"No, that would have broken Mona's heart!" Wilson protested.
"What you mean she's still alive?" When met with Wilson's glare, House recoiled. "Geez, I was kidding."
"So when am I getting Teddy Wilson back, House?"
"I don't know." House minimized that window to reveal a different one. "It may not be the Repsol, but it's close enough," he said, gesturing to the plush motorcycle.
"You want both?" Wilson asked, deadpan.
"Teddy House needs a bike to go with that sweet leather jacket. He also needs a two-seater to pick up the ladies."
"That's great. I want Teddy Wilson back."
They met eyes for a moment before House shrugged. "I don't know where he is," he said, looking away.
He was still looking away when Wilson stalked out of the room in frustration.
A little over a month later, Wilson walked back into his office to find House standing in front of his desk, startled by the opening door. He quickly hid his hand behind his back and attempted to look innocent.
"Yeah, because you definitely aren't up to something," Wilson said, pinching the bridge of his nose lightly.
"Why are you doing that?" House asked, pointing at the hand pinching the nose with the butt of his cane. "I haven't done anything yet to deserve that."
"I have a feeling you will. How did you get in here anyway?"
"Of course." Wilson walked towards his desk and fluidly sat in his chair. House adjusted accordingly, still hiding his free hand behind his back. "What are you hiding?"
"It's not your prescription pad this time," House promised.
"And how can I be sure you're not ... I don't know, crossing your fingers behind your back? If you haven't done anything wrong, then you have no reason to hide whatever that is."
"Can't you just trust me?" House asked, his voice almost sincere.
"To be honest? I can't." Wilson leaned back in his chair. "You know, past events considered and all."
House snorted in exasperation. "I dose your coffee once and this is how you treat me?" He attempted to stare down Wilson, but the other man had the advantage of being comfortably seated. He looked down.
"House—" Wilson started.
"It was going to be a surprise." House tossed Wilson a plain, white envelope from behind his back and turned away resignedly. "You just had to ruin it by being suspicious, didn't you?"
Wilson felt his chest ache in guilt, despite knowing that he had done nothing wrong. At least House had attempted to do something genuinely nice. Come to think of it, last time that had happened, Wilson had lied about a conference to go get dinner with Stacy. "Do you ... want to stay while I open it?" Wilson asked, which was his way of apologizing.
House looked back over his shoulder from his spot in front of the door. "Nope," he answered plainly. He didn't seem upset. He briskly opened the door and headed outside, and Wilson could just barely see Jean start from House suddenly appearing out of Wilson's office. You'd think she would have gotten used to it by now.
Wilson looked at the envelope, which was blank aside from a hastily scribbled "Wilson" on the front. He pulled out a small knife and gingerly opened the envelope before pulling out several photographs and a letter.
He nearly burst out laughing.
There must have been five or so pictures of Teddy House and Teddy Wilson in various places.
The first was—oh God—the two bears in that plush Corvette from the Build-A-Bear website. Teddy House was driving, of course, wearing his aviators, and Teddy Wilson in the passenger seat wearing a pair of glasses. He laughed, especially considering that he had gone for an eye exam the previous week and had been told that he didn't need glasses just yet.
The second was of Teddy House on the plush motorcycle—House really outdid himself there, didn't he? Teddy Wilson sat on the side looking ready to leap forward and grab Teddy House if something went wrong. Wilson felt himself nodding in agreement.
The third was of the two bears at the beach both reclined on a towel, again in glasses. This was particularly impressive, considering how much House hated the beach.
The thought of House picking up these pictures at a CVS suddenly entered his mind, and he laughed even harder.
The fourth was of the two bears in front of a post card for Las Vegas, their arms raised in a high-five. Subtle. House had only been pushing for a Vegas vacation for the past six years. Maybe it was about time Wilson agreed.
The last one was of the two bears sitting on the couch in House's living room, a bowl of popcorn, a remote, and the Monty Python's Flying Circus box set. Scribbled on the back of the picture was: "Tonight?"
Wilson stared at the picture, surprised that House did this and not surprised that the gesture had touched and amused him. He sat smiling for two whole minutes before remembering the letter. He picked it up from his desk and read:
Teddy House and I had a really good time in Vegas—I actually won a few thousand bucks! Teddy House, of course, won more than me, but that's because he's a better gambler.
Teddy House has been pushing me to learn how to drive the motorcycle, too. Says that if I learn and see how much fun it is, maybe I'll be less uptight about it. It's still a screaming metal deathtrap, but I think I might indulge him. He did do a lot of the driving on the road trip to Vegas, so it's the least I can do.
I did also drag him to the beach a few weeks ago, too, so really, I owe him. I think he had fun, though. Don't tell him I told you that.
Anyway, it's good to be home. Teddy House and I are just going to kick back and relax. See you soon, hopefully?
Wilson immediately stood, picking up the letter and pictures. Stepping out of his office, he told Jean to tell his next patient that he was going to be a few minutes late because he needed to run a quick errand.
The errand led him around the corner and into the Diagnostics office, where House and his team were finishing up a differential. All four briefly looked up to see who was entering before continuing with the conversation.
"Oh, and when you're done doing all of your tests, do an LP," House instructed. His face was showing the usual brand of patient-and-team related annoyance. "I guarantee you'll find your answer there."
The three Fellows sighed in annoyance and stood. As they left, they each smiled politely at Wilson in greeting.
As soon as the door shut, House spoke: "They're smart, but sometimes they're idiots."
"Was that a veiled compliment, House?" Wilson asked sardonically. "My God, maybe you do like them."
House shrugged in annoyance and stood, walking towards his office. Wilson silently followed, falling into the usual routine.
"So," Wilson said after they both sat. "That was an unusual way to invite me over for a movie night."
"TV night," House corrected.
"You get what I'm saying. By the way, I only have a few minutes before my next patient arrives."
"So say what you need to say quickly," House said, leaning back in his chair nonchalantly.
Wilson shook his head. "It was ... cute. I didn't expect it." He smiled. "I don't really know what to say."
"You are a woman," House offered. "I figured you'd like something adorable. Besides, you were wondering where Teddy Wilson had gone."
"Not ... actively, but yeah." He chose to ignore the assault on his masculinity. He had kind of earned it after dragging House to Build-A-Bear in the first place. A delayed, but appropriate revenge. "So does this mean I'm ever going to see Teddy Wilson again?"
"Why, do you miss him?" House asked sarcastically.
"My bank account misses the money I spent on him and his replacement for the little girl. The least I can do to appease the Banking Gods is to actually keep one of them." Wilson shrugged. "Although I guess I'll see him when I come over tonight, right?"
House smirked. "Maybe. No promises. The Banking Gods are just as angry that I bought the Corvette and motorcycle."
"You brought that upon yourself." He stood. "What time are Teddy House and Teddy Wilson expecting me, then?"
"7:30. Bring beer. By the way, we're watching as much of it as possible before we pass out either from drunkenness or exhaustion."
"That sounds fun." Maybe it came out a little sarcastically, but Wilson was looking forward to it more than he could say. It was going to be the most fun he would have in a while: staying up late and crashing on House's couch beat going back to the hotel room any day. "Thank God it's Friday, anyway."
"We would have done the same thing even if today were Monday. Go. You'll miss your patient," House added, reaching for his iPod.
Wilson nodded and walked towards the door. He passed through the doorway before spinning around and poking inside for one final question: "Hey House?"
"Hm?" House answered, pausing his music.
"How long were you planning that, anyway? Is this going to be a regular form of communication for us?" Wilson asked.
House didn't answer at first. Finally he shrugged. "I don't know. It was a spur of the moment thing."
Wilson smiled. "Right. 7:30, then."