Red is the color of the sky out over the Pacific Ocean, the sun sinking deeper and deeper into the dark blue water.
"Red sky at night is a sailor's delight," Mom says. She smiles and holds out a towel. Greg runs into her arms, his skin beginning to turn cold as the heat of the day seeps away.
"Red sky in morning, sailors take warning," Dad says. He drops onto the blanket next to Mom, watches as birds make their way through the twilight. Three gulls drop out of the sky to land on the beach nearby, and begin squabbling over something left behind on the sand by some other family.
Mom wraps the towel around Greg, holds him close to her. He can smell coconut from the oil she'd spread over her arms and legs. Dad has an arm around Mom, pulls them both close and Greg can smell the salt water on Dad's skin.
"I wish you didn't have to go so soon," Mom says softly. "You've only been home for a week."
"It won't be for long," Dad says. "You know that."
"I know. I just wish tomorrow morning wouldn't get here so early."
"It's not here yet."
Mom leans back against Dad's shoulder and Greg curls in next to her. He stares out across the water as the colors deepen, then fade into black.
Red is the color of the embers deep at the base of the fire as Greg pokes at them with the end of the shovel.
"Be careful, honey," Mom says. "Don't burn yourself."
"Don't worry," Dad says. "He knows what he's doing." But a moment later he takes the shovel from Greg's hands. "Let me do that."
Greg stands there empty handed, watching as Dad widens the opening between two pine logs. "Like this," Dad says, but doesn't give the shovel back to Greg. Instead he picks up the sticks that Greg had gathered and throws all but two of them onto the fire.
"Too crooked," he says, or "too thin," or "too short."
Greg stands behind him, watches at the fire consumes each one.
"Don't be so picky, John," Mom says. "We're just roasting marshmallows, not cooking a luau."
She opens the plastic bag of marshmallows and holds it open to Greg. "Here," she says, "make one for me, won't you?"
He takes one out, puts it on one of the sticks, and then crouches next to the fire, ignoring the heat on his arms and face so he can place it above the orange and red coals.
"You're going to burn it," Dad says, and pulls Greg's arm back a little. The marshmallow falls off the end of the stick into the flames.
Greg turns to Mom, his stick empty.
"Don't worry," she says, and holds open the bag. "We've got plenty more where that one came from."
Greg reaches in for another one, then pushes the marshmallow further down onto the stick, kneels next to the fire, and watches as the white turns golden brown.
Red is the color of the blood seeping down Mike's leg, marking the spot halfway between his knee and ankle where white bone has pushed its way through skin.
Mike isn't screaming anymore. Instead he breathes in huge, deep gulps, his fingers clenched around rocks at the foot of the boulder where he'd been climbing just a few minutes earlier.
Greg stares at Mike's leg, the way it's turned so his foot is at the wrong angle, the way he can see the lump of another bone near the skin, not quite pushing through. It's as if someone has taken a puzzle apart, and forced the pieces into the wrong places.
He reaches one hand toward Mike's leg.
"Don't," Mike groans, his eyes only half open, but watching Greg's hand.
"You're bleeding," Greg says. "I should put something on it."
"Don't touch it," Mike says. Greg doesn't know what else he should do, but he pulls his hand back.
"I'll get help." He stands, takes a step back toward the trail that leads to the parking lot.
"Don't leave me," Mike says. His voice is half an octave higher than normal.
Greg shakes his head. "I have to," he says. He takes another step away, then stops, turns back, leans down toward Mike. "I'll be back," he says. "I promise."
Red is the color of Lisa Cuddy's lipstick, standing out in sharp contrast to her pale skin. Her lips are the most vibrant thing in the dim light of an Ann Arbor winter morning, the sky and the buildings nothing more than shades of gray.
"You're an idiot," she says, but follows House through the glass door and into the tiny restaurant.
There are only a half-dozen tables and booths, everything covered with formica and vinyl. House slides into one at the back of the room. He takes a menu -- brown paper stained with coffee rings and the remains of someone's strawberry jam -- and hands it to her.
"Don't judge a book by its cover," he says.
"Or a diner by its health code violations?"
House hasn't slept for thirty-six hours. He only has twelve hours until his next shift. He should be home, sleeping, but Cuddy had been standing outside the lounge when he walked out. The bright red of her lips caught his eye, made him slow down. Made him stop. She said she was hungry, but the cafeteria wouldn't open for another hour.
He'd led the way out the door and across four blocks. The Fleetwood was always open, and somehow he wasn't tired anymore.
She smiles when the waitress brings two cups of coffee and takes a sip of hers, leaving a smudge of red on the thick white mug.
House orders the hippie hash, and tells Cuddy to do the same. She pauses, her eyes studying his.
"Trust me," he says.
Red is the color high on Stacy's cheeks, her skin flushed as she lies with her head on House's chest. He pushes his fingers through her hair, feeling the shape of her skull, seeing the way that the tips of her ears have turned red and watching the color slowly fade.
"This is nice," she says.
"Not as nice as it was two minutes ago."
She laughs for a moment and he can feel her breath on his skin.
It's hot out, midsummer, the air conditioner is on the fritz and humid air hangs thick in the bedroom. They're lying on top of the sheets while the ceiling fan moves in lazy circles above them.
"I should take a shower," Stacy says, but she doesn't move.
"Were you going someplace?" House moves his fingers from her parietal bone to the temporal bone, moving back down toward her ear. The skin is just a light pink now, almost back to normal.
"It's a beautiful day," she says, "it'd be a shame to waste it."
"Who says we're going to waste it?" He rolls onto his side letting his arm slide down to support her head. He can feel the slight breeze from the ceiling fan along the length of his back, his legs as he turns to look down at her.
She smiles, reaches up to pull him down. "Like I said, it'd be a shame to waste such a perfect day."
Red is the color of Wilson's tie, hanging loose around his neck. He tucks the end of it between two buttons on his shirt before he reaches for the pad thai.
"Just take it off," House says.
Wilson just shrugs. "It doesn't bug me."
"Well it bugs me. You're not at work. There are no patients here you have to impress."
Wilson ignores him, digs his chopsticks down into the noodles and chicken.
He's probably afraid he'll lose it, House thinks. Julie gave it to him and he doesn't want to piss her off by having to admit that he left it here.
House ignores the game -- the Yankees will win whether he watches it or not. "Where are you supposed to be?"
Wilson looks at him. "What?"
"Obviously, Julie thinks you're working late or have a patient. You lose your tie here, she's going to figure out that she can't trust you."
"She knows I'm here," Wilson says. "I don't have to lie to her just to hang out and watch the game." He grabs more noodles between the chopsticks, raises them to his mouth. "And even if I did lie to her in the first place, if I lost the tie, I'd just lie again and told her I left it at the office and I'll get it later."
"Only one thing wrong with that plan," House says. "You're a lousy liar."
Wilson glances over at him and raises his eyebrows, but doesn't say anything, just chews and swallows.
House picks up his own carton of red curry with beef. He sits back on the couch where he can see the game, but also study Wilson. Maybe he didn't lie to Julie -- yet -- but he's not telling the truth either. The tie means something. He just hasn't figured out what it is yet.
Red is the color on House's fingers when he takes them away from his head, sticky with blood.
Red is the color of the night sky as the lights from the ambulance, police and fire vehicles bounce against the brick buildings.
Red is the color of the water beneath his head.
Red is the color of Cuddy's shoes just before he pukes on them.
Red is the color he sees when he closes his eyes.
Red is the color that means something. He knows it means something. And he's going to find out what it is.
He has to.