Chase looked up from the chart he had just been signing, to see Foreman approaching the clinic counter.
"Hey…" He eyed the other man expectantly.
"I heard House was going home tomorrow…"
Chase replied with a somewhat wry smile. "Yeah. Dr Malloy finally gave up the fight…"
Foreman nodded pensively, the look on his face unreadable. "They discontinued the TPN?"
Frowning slightly at the other man's sudden interest, Chase finally replied with a small nod. "Yeah."
"Wilson still staying at his place?"
Chase's frown deepened, his tone – by now – long-suffering. "As far as I know: Yes. – Why?"
Just a shrug. "No reason. I'm just asking…"
Chase smirked slightly at that. "You worried about him?" Tone a mixture of surprised, amused, and incredulous.
Foreman just rolled his eyes in response. "Yeah, sure. Been having sleepless nights over him…"
Chase's eyes still held amusement, but the look on his face was suddenly mild.
"He's doing better... He'll be fine."
"I think it's the rotator cuff."
Abandoning the coffee machine for now, House slowly turned around to face the conference table, where Kutner was currently munching on a spoonful of drenched cereal. He eyed the younger man warily. "Are you actually talking to me, or are you just practicing medical speech with random sentences again..."
Not at all intimidated by his boss's tone or the warning glare he shot him, Kutner used his spoon to casually gesture into the general direction of House's right arm. "Your shoulder. I think it's most likely rotator cuff damage."
"My shoulder… is fine." As if to demonstrate, House forced himself to reach up for the sugar with his right hand, trying to hide a wince when a sharp pain instantly reminded him that his shoulder was very obviously disagreeing with his assessment.
"Oh, please…" Forgetting all about his meal for now, Kutner leaned back in the chair, still gesturing indiscriminately with his spoon. "When's the last time you actually used the upper half of that white board. A year ago?" Not really a question. "Why wouldn't you write on the upper half, unless you can't lift your arm high enough…"
"Maybe to give Taub a chance to see what I'm writing, too…?"
The younger man smirked slightly at that, even though he was clearly unconvinced by House's reasoning. "You do remember my specialty, right? – You should get an MRI to see if it's a tear or if it's just some inflammation…"
House pulled his face into a sarcastic grimace. "I'll be sure to make an appointment right away…" With that he simply turned towards the coffee machine again.
Kutner – as always undeterred by House's moods – was still frowning at his boss's back. "Why wouldn't you wanna do something, when you're obviously hurt?"
House abruptly turned around again at that, fixing Kutner with an annoyed glare. "I'm not hurt…!"
The younger man nodded patiently. "Does that mean you already had someone look at it?"
This time, House rolled his eyes in apparent frustration, voice now rising in volume. "It's not an injury! – There's nothing to be done…"
Kutner replied with a small shrug. "There might be pain you can't do much about. – Pain from a rotator cuff injury, there's plenty of things you can do about that…"
Staring at the younger man for a long moment, House finally just nodded once, before abruptly turning towards his office, coffee suddenly forgotten...
"You wanna come over for Christmas dinner?" Chase asked casually apropos of nothing, while continuing to pick at his cafeteria salad.
House raised an eyebrow at the unexpected question. "'Over' as in… to you and Cameron?!"
Chase just shrugged one shoulder. "Sure. Cam's sister will be there, too. – She's very… un-Cameron-like though." Another shrug. "I think you'll like her."
When House continued to stare at him incredulously, he quickly added: "You can bring Wilson if you want…"
House suddenly exhaled sharply in what sounded like a pained half-laugh, shaking his head slightly. "Just in case you didn't notice… I'm fine now. There's no need to babysit me…"
Chase's expression didn't change at all; he simply nodded, tone casual. "I know! And that's not what I'm doing... – It's just a dinner invitation, House. Some people actually do stuff like that around this time of the year. – You know… the whole 'family, friends, peace on earth' thing..."
House was still eyeing him dubiously, before simply refocusing his attention on his sandwich.
When he had finished eating, he slowly pushed himself to his feet, reaching out to place his empty tray on top of Chase's.
Throwing the younger man a last short glance, he finally declared: "I'll bring the booze. God knows we'll probably need it… – But don't expect to see me dancing around your Christmas tree."
Smiling slightly at the image, Chase immediately shook his head. "No Christmas tree dancing. Promise."
"And I won't be nice," House added warningly, already turning towards the elevators.
Chase's smirk widened. "Of course not… Where would be the fun in that?"
"I wanna try getting back on the Vicodin."
Cuddy raised an eyebrow at the unexpected announcement, her expression an odd mixture of surprised, pleased, and concerned.
"Uh, okay…" Tone slightly questioning.
House had been prepared for her hesitation, but he still wasn't able to look at her directly when he forced out an explanation. "Leg's been feeling better lately, despite the cold. Think I don't need the Oxy anymore… No reason to deal with all the side effects, if I can just avoid them."
She still seemed somewhat skeptical, but a small smile started to show on her face. "Great! Good. So… You want me to write you a script now?"
Just a nod.
"Do you want me to keep writing for you…?" Now that Wilson is back; and has been for a while…
When she wordlessly held out the script a minute later, House shot her a brief glance.
"This doesn't mean it was all in my head last year; it just means that the PT's working…" He sounded almost a little defensive.
Cuddy immediately shook her head. "I wasn't going to suggest anything like it!"
When he reached out to take the script, she quickly placed her free hand on top of his, effectively preventing any further movement.
He hesitantly met her gaze.
Smiling slightly, Cuddy's expression suddenly softened considerably. "I'm glad you're feeling better, House…"
Hesitating for a long moment, he finally replied with a very small nod. "Yeah… Me too."
House – as usual – barged into the other man's office without even thinking of somehow announcing his presence beforehand...
"Take tomorrow off – we're going on a road trip!"
Wilson almost would have smiled at his friend's enthusiasm. It had been a while, since he had last seen the other man this energetic. Between the stronger medication, the pain, and the lingering weakness he'd still been experiencing due to the dramatic weight loss he had suffered, House had almost always been at least tired, if not exhausted. Over the last few months, he had slowly started to visibly regain some of his strength, but this was the first time he seemed to be practically bursting with energy again.
"House… I can't just take the day off! Some of us actually do have patients, you know?"
"Yeah, but you don't. At least not tomorrow…"
The look he gave him was innocent enough. A bit too innocent actually…
Wilson barely managed to suppress a moan. "House... What have you done?"
As if on cue, the older man handed him a calendar sheet. "Been re-appointing your appointments! You have a long weekend waiting for you... And so do your patients!" He finished with an exuberant shrug. "Everyone's happy!"
Wilson couldn't help but roll his eyes at that. "More like you're happy... – And you can't just – "
"Can. And did!" He was actually smiling openly by now.
That was when Wilson finally broke. "Okay, so…" He replied with the resigned sigh he knew was expected of him, even though he was secretly just glad to see his friend like that, happy to be part of whatever had brought on the mood. "I'm sure I'll regret asking, but where are we going?"
"Not telling. But pack a bathing suit…" House grinned evilly. "This is gonna be fun!"
With that he turned around and left the room as abruptly as he'd come.
Only now allowing the smile that had been threatening to show all along to settle on his face, Wilson slowly shook his head.
Then he chuckled, before turning towards his paperwork again, still smiling broadly.
"I'm so gonna regret this, but… Thank God for fun."
THE END :)
A/N: I know, I know... This was as 'fluffy' as I ever get, but I just couldn't help myself. :) BTW... Can any of you wonderful native speakers help me out a bit and explain to me what the term "to put someone on retainer" actually means? My dictionary tells me confusing things...
Anyway... THANK YOU ALL SO VERY MUCH FOR READING AND FOR ALL YOUR WONDERFUL COMMENTS!! -- See you soon! :)