A new story, but same disclaimers apply. I don't own anything but the artist guy.

# # #

The lobby of the pediatrics wing was crowded with hospital employees and contributors that evening. Princeton-Plainsboro's board of directors had commissioned a sculpture piece as part of the wing's renovations, and tonight was to be the official unveiling.

Cuddy worked the crowd, charming contributors, patients' families, and employees alike as she scanned the event for one employee in particular. When she had spoken to Wilson earlier in the day, she had obtained a nearly iron-clad guarantee that both he and House would be in attendance. As the evening wore on, with still no sign of either of them, she couldn't help but feel a bit unnerved.

Finally she spotted a pair of tall men, one with brown hair, one with graying hair and a cane. Both men were dressed in their tuxedos, as the event required, and Cuddy breathed a heavy sigh of relief. She excused herself from her conversation and made her way over to them.

"Where have you two been?" She huffed in exasperation. "You nearly missed the unveiling."

"God forbid." House muttered, thumping his cane on the floor.

Wilson threw his friend a warning look before turning to Cuddy. "Entirely my fault this time."

"Yeah." House intoned. "You wouldn't believe how long it took him to pick his clothes." He placed his hand on his hip to mock Wilson. "'Black or black, House? I simply can't decide.'"

Cuddy glared at House while Wilson rolled his eyes. "No matter. At least you're here now." There was a round of applause, and Cuddy quickly rushed off to take her spot to make her speech.

"Good evening, and I'd like to thank everyone for their attendance this evening." Cuddy began.

House stood near the back of the crowd with Wilson, nudging him as Cuddy spoke. "Did you see the twins tonight? One of their better showings, I'd say."

"Shh." Wilson scolded him. "Try to behave yourself tonight, just this once."

"Spoilsport." House muttered, tapping his cane on the ground as Cuddy finished speaking, giving the floor to the head of pediatrics. She proceeded to express her gratitude to the contributors who had made this sculpture possible, and to the artist who gave his time and talent to the project.

After what seemed like an impossibly long list of speakers, the sculpture was finally unveiled, and the crowd swarmed over the large piece. It was quite impressive, clearly the centerpiece of the renovated lobby. The piece featured four children in different poses and different expressions.

With Wilson's encouragement, House limped toward the piece to inspect it closer. The detail of the children was impressive, right down to their facial expressions. The artist must have been a student of human anatomy, because each child was perfectly proportioned, every detail exact and precise. House reached out to touch the sculpture, the stone cool under his hand.

"It's granite." A gentle male voice startled House, causing him to pull away. "No, no, please. I want people to touch my work. You appreciate it more that way."

"I was done looking anyway." House responded, studying the man who had snuck up on him. "So, you're the artist, huh? Odd that they didn't mention you by name."

The young man shrugged indifferently. "Pieces like this I do for the common good. It feels kind of self-serving to put my name on it. Besides, I like observing other peoples' reactions. You wouldn't believe what I hear when people don't realize the artist is right behind them."

"I'll bet." House turned around to make his way to the bar. "Well, got to go. There's a bourbon with my name on it somewhere."

"All right, then." The young man stuck his hand out for House to shake. "It was nice to talk to you."

"Right." House reluctantly shook his hand and disappeared into the crowd. It was only then the young artist realized that he had never gotten the other man's opinion on his piece. Not that it mattered particularly, but it would be nice to know what the older, rather handsome man thought of his work.

"Excuse me." House turned around to see the artist behind him again. "I don't believe we were properly introduced." He stuck his hand out again. "Alexander Foster. Most people call me Alex."

House switched his cane to his left hand and grasped Alex's hand. The older man had a firm grip, he noted, with long fingers and a network of veins that snaked their way across the back of his hand. "Doctor Gregory House. Most people just call me House." He fixed Alex with a sharp look. "Why the hell are you following me?"

Alex shrugged and released House's hand. "It occurred to me that I never found out what you thought of the sculpture."

House threw Alex a skeptical look. "Thought other people's opinions didn't matter. Common good and all that."

Alex chuckled a little and ran his hand through his dark auburn hair. "I just said I didn't put my name on this piece. I never said I didn't want to hear what people think of it."

House took a long drink of his bourbon before answering. "I guess I'll go take another look at it."

The initial crowd had dispersed by now, leaving just a few people chatting idly around the piece. House took the time to carefully study the sculpture, his initial observation about the anatomical detail proved correct as he noted that each child was of a different race.

While House studied the art piece, Alex studied House. The man was physically fascinating, his facial expressions constantly changing as he smoothed an elegant hand over each part of the sculpture, occasionally nodding when he spotted something especially interesting.

Alex was especially curious about the limp, wondering what injury could cause House to rely on the cane for support. Despite the injury, he still seemed to carry an athletic build, and even though House cut a handsome figure in that tuxedo, Alex couldn't help but wonder what the man looked like under that.

He shook off the thought as House stepped back from the piece, leaning on his cane as he tilted his head to the side, still studying. Alex got the impression that House was a student of many subjects, and that just added to the fascination.

Finally House turned and limped back to Alex, and it was only then that he noticed the other man's brilliant blue eyes. They were a startling contrast to the rest of his face, which seemed like a rough-hewn sculpture of its own, outlined by the carefully controlled scruff that covered his jaw.

Alex held his breath, waiting for House's opinion. The other man studied him much as he had studied the sculpture, and Alex couldn't help but feel a bit uncomfortable under his gaze. "So...?"

House tilted his head from side to side, clearly still processing. "Interesting. You've obviously studied human anatomy, and you've probably done a good deal of traveling. There's no way you could have gotten the detail as precise as you did otherwise."

Alex was impressed. House was remarkably astute. "So is that your way of saying you like it?"

"Sure." House shrugged. "But...this isn't like your usual work. You don't do children much."

"How did you know?" Alex gave House a puzzled look.

"Some of the proportions are just a little off. Most people probably wouldn't notice but..."

"But you did." Alex interrupted with a slight smile. "You're right. I don't sculpt children unless I'm commissioned to do so."

"Thought so." House nodded firmly. "You do men?"

Alex nearly choked on his wine. "Excuse me?!"

"As sculpture." House didn't miss a beat. "You sculpt men. What did you think I was talking about?"

Alex could feel the heat rising to his cheeks. "The art. Of course." He took another quick sip of his wine. "Yes, I do. Men, that is."

House smirked as he took another sip of his bourbon. "Figured that. Why else would you follow me around like a lost puppy? Although...I think I know of someone who would be a better match for you..."

"Have you ever modeled, Doctor House?" The wheels were turning in Alex's head.

It was House's turn to choke on his drink. "Uh, no. Dammit, I'm a doctor, not a model."

"You should consider it." Alex pulled out his wallet and extracted a business card. "You've got a great face. I'd love to sculpt you."

House frowned as he scanned the card. "Does that line work on anyone?"

"Doctor House, I'm not hitting on you." Alex laughed. "I'm not offering to show you my etchings. You've just got a face that's made for sculpting, that's all."

The frown seemed to disappear from House's face, leaving a thoughtful expression in its wake. At least he was thinking about it. That was good. "I suppose I should make the rounds, schmooze a few contributors. They paid for the thing, after all." Alex stuck his hand out one more time to House. "I enjoyed talking to you. You're a very interesting man, Doctor House."

"Right." House shook the young man's hand and watched him disappear into the crowd. The entire exchange baffled him. Why the hell would Alex choose him as a model or...whatever he was really after. There were other men here who were far better looking and probably much closer to his sexual orientation than House was.

A shadow suddenly appeared beside him in the form of Wilson. "Who was that?"

"That was the artist." House handed Wilson the man's business card. "He said he wants me to 'model' for him, whatever the hell that means."

"Huh. Interesting." Wilson looked over the card before handing it back to House.

"What's that supposed to mean?" House scowled as he took back the card and tucked it in his wallet.

"Nothing." Wilson's eyebrows shot up. "Just never thought of you as the modeling type, that's all."

House rolled his eyes and threw back the last of his bourbon. "Well, I think it's time for me to bail. Wouldn't want to wear out my welcome. Have fun."

"Uh, you're forgetting something." Wilson pulled out his keys and dangled them in front of him.

"Right." House sighed heavily. "Guess I'll go get another drink and see what kind of trouble I can manage to stir up."

Wilson watched his friend limp away, shaking his head as he did so. This night was turning out to be more interesting than either of them planned on. He just hoped House wouldn't make it too interesting.

# # #

You know what to do. Read and review.