House was making his way to the cafeteria to meet Wilson, popping a Vicodin as he did so. As he looked up, he was stopped in his tracts. Kate was standing in front of him, and he was startled for a moment to see her in the flesh this time as opposed to through a webcam. She was smiling her usual knowing smile and stepped in front of House, her blue eyes sparkling with mischief.
"Nice to meet you, Dr. House…kind of," Kate said, holding out her hand.
"Aren't the formalities a little ridiculous considering I've seen you naked?" House replied, looking at her closely.
Kate raised an eyebrow.
"It was a medical exam, doctor," she said, emphasizing the last word pointedly, "and I'm still waiting for that striptease of your soul you promised me."
"Does it have to be my soul I expose?" he quipped, playing along with Kate's banter.
Kate's smile remained, but her face softened.
"Yeah," she said quietly, looking into House's eyes. "What do you say to a session? My office, five o' clock?"
That knocked House's mental footing off-kilter completely. He was staring at Kate now, disbelieving.
"Are you serious?" he said.
"Yeah," Kate said, nodding, "I just got back from the South Pole about a week ago. I was going to look you up, actually."
"To get me into therapy?" House said, incredulous.
"That, and to thank you."
House stared at his shoes suddenly. Gratitude always made him uncomfortable, and he avoided it whenever he could.
"Sean and I have been seeing each other ever since you helped me."
House ignored the pang of jealousy which rose within him, and he simply looked back at Kate.
"Glad I could help," he said flatly.
Kate smiled at House, and raised a questioning eyebrow.
"So, five o' clock?"
House had almost forgotten Kate's offer.
"Thanks, but I'm not exactly the couch-and-cry guy."
Kate shook her head.
"That's not what this is about, House. I could see just from the few minutes we talked-"
"That I'm messed up? Miserable? Self-destructive?"
"Lonely," Kate interrupted, her voice taking on an unmistakable sadness.
House did not reply, but simply stared.
"You've built such strong defenses no one can get to really know you," Kate spoke into the silence, "even your best friend has to work like hell to get through them. I'm impressed, actually. Being an oncologist and Gregory House's best friend is two full-time jobs."
"Right, you've gotten to know me by seeing what kind of books I have," House said sarcastically.
"You're right," Kate said, "I don't know enough to make a decision about you. Hence the session."
Before House could reply, Wilson came to stand between House and Kate.
"Kate," he said, smiling warmly at her, "how have you been?"
"Better since I learned I didn't have cancer," she replied, smiling back at Wilson.
"I bet," he said, "would you like to join us for lunch?"
"Thanks, but I have a patient," she said. Turning back to House, she looked into his eyes once more.
"Think about it, okay?"
With that, Kate made her way past House and Wilson, waving at them both.
"Think about what?" Wilson asked as they made their way to the cafeteria.
"Big surprise, the therapist wants me to go to therapy," House replied.
"Oh, god," Wilson said, his eyes taking on a faraway look, "my kingdom for a House in therapy."
"My friend, I wouldn't want a therapist who would have me as a patient," House said sardonically, watching the end of his cane as he spun it in his hand.
"Wait, wait, wait," Wilson said, "she wants to be your therapist?"
"And she thinks I'm crazy."
"House," Wilson said, his voice serious now, "you have to do this."
"Wilson wants House to go to therapy. Oh my god, let me call CNN, this is shocking!"
"She's braved the frozen wilderness of the South Pole, House," Wilson said, "she may actually be good enough to help you."
"Mommy, Jimmy's being mean to me," House said, pitching his voice into a child's whine.
"She's good, House, and you like her-"
"Yeah, and that's really good for the patient-therapist relationship."
"You're not going to go after someone else's girlfriend, I know that much about you,"
Wilson said. Wilson was silent for a moment, looking into House's eyes.
"So you are considering going to therapy," Wilson said, his voice triumphant.
House did not reply.
"You don't have to tell me if you go, House," Wilson said quietly, "you don't have to tell me anything you talk about. Just go," Wilson said, his brown eyes holding House's gaze.
House simply continued looking at his friend, but was silent for several long moments. Finally, however, House broke the silence.
"So, are we eating or what?"
Wilson nodded, but as the two made their way to the cafeteria there was a knowing smile on the oncologist's face.
It was ten minutes past five and Kate was just finishing putting her last case files away when House strolled into her office, without knocking, and came to stand in front of her desk. For several moments the older man simply stared at her, his blue eyes moving over her face in his searching way. Finally, however, he broke the silence.
"If anyone asks, we're having an illicit and highly inappropriate relationship which involves anything except talking."
"Noted. Have a seat," she said, indicating the chair in front of her desk.
House sat, suddenly feeling vaguely like a man on death row.