When he sees the lazy sod stretched out in an armchair, playing one of those fiddly videogames that are supposed to be for kids, Cal loses it once and for all.
It's been a while since he really smashed something, and the shattering collapse of the glass door is just as satisfying as he had hoped. The paperweight he stole from the office down the corridor survives without a scratch, so he doesn't have to feel too bad.
Sending Dr. Smug Bastard scurrying across the room is just the icing on the bloody cake.
"Oi! Haven't you heard it's rude to ignore calls and emails? Or are you too good for mere humans like the rest of us?"
Cal observes himself on a bad day looking back at him; the rough stubble and wrinkled clothes a lot like what happens when there's no Zoe or lately, no Gillian, to keep him in line.
"You going to answer me or what, mate?"
He doesn't need to be an expert to see the prolonged flash of contempt that comes hurtling back towards him, since there's nothing fleeting about it.
"I'm not your 'mate'. And I don't see patients without an appointment, no matter how many fixtures and fittings they destroy. At least the door won't hit you on the ass on your way out."
Funny, this guy seems to have mistaken Cal for the kind of person who walks away from a fight. If it weren't for the fact of Emily, pale and crying in that hospital bed downstairs, he might almost enjoy showing him how wrong he is.
Damn, he'd forgotten that Gillian would be hot on his heels. He'd stalked off the minute that head doctor woman had offered her 'sincere apologies' that Dr. House wouldn't be taking any new patients at the moment. Now he's standing in the midst of shattered class and feels distinctly like he's in for the bollocking of the year.
"I was coming to tell you that Zoe just arrived, and she's not at all happy that you transported Emily to another state without asking her."
Gillian's voice is in its ultra-smooth mode, all red wine and chocolate, giving him the full shrink treatment by the looks of it.
"But then I walk into what looks like a bar brawl and think maybe there are some other issues we should discuss first. Dr. House, I presume?"
The sleazy grin on House's face doesn't escape Cal, and he feels that familiar roar of protectiveness gathering in his chest. All he needs is the slightest provocation and he'll deck this idiot, supposed world-class genius or not. Anyone messes with Foster and it's justifiable assault in his eyes, and it always has been. He owes Alec a knuckle sandwich too he remembers, as his fists tighten reflexively.
"It's alright, love. Doctor House here was just saying that he wants to come and diagnose Emily. You know, before his other leg mysteriously stops working."
Cal watches Gillian taking in the sight of their newest acquaintance, the slight wrinkling of her nose for a split-second telling him she doesn't forgive the scruffiness she sometimes allows in Cal. This geezer can turn on the charm all he likes, he'll get nowhere with Gillian, and that somehow makes things a little more bearable.
Emily. Sick with no good reason why. Downstairs.
Not willing to wait any longer, chastened by his own distraction, Cal takes House roughly by the elbow and directs him towards what once was a door.
"I don't know what they teach you limey bastards, but here in the New World we don't manhandle cripples."
There's no real venom in the words though, and when House shrugs off Cal's directing grip, he stays in motion towards the lifts. Foster follows in their wake, the impatient clicking of her heels belies her own concern for Emily (and possibly to prevent Cal running up any more criminal damages).
With some more minor griping, they're back in Emily's overly bland hospital room. The pastels and muted decorations are as offensive to Cal as the sickly green walls with peeling paint that he associates with home. Although he'd sell a kidney to give Emily everything she needs, it still bothers him that equally loving parents can't provide their own kids with the same. It feels a lot like guilt, and he knows that Gillian would probably confirm it should he ever voice thoughts like these aloud.
Even House's own bloody colleagues are stunned to see him there. That woman, allegedly his boss, regards him suspiciously. Clearly his reputation isn't far off the mark.
Still, Dr. Cuddy isn't a bad looking woman, and Cal would bet she's a formidable sight if you pushed her buttons. Not that he has time to consider his own libido today, not with a sick daughter and a furious ex-wife demanding his attention.
Speaking of whom, Zoe turns her full attention on him as Dr. House begins a reluctant examination of Emily. Just seeing the poor kid there, IV trailing from her arm and her skin whiter than the sheets she's lying on, breaks his heart.
When not making him completely, irrationally furious, of course.
Zoe glares at Gillian, who excuses herself and leaves along with Dr. Cuddy. The two women seem to have struck up a friendship of sorts in the past couple of days, which makes him nervous for no reason he can think of.
He draws Zoe into a placating hug, but she's rigid in the embrace, clearly still enraged at having to relocate to New Jersey with absolutely no notice.
"I'm sorry, love. Those quacks weren't doing anything to help, and everyone says this clown is the best. Had to do something, you know?"
Zoe pulls away, his words clearly not placating her.
"You couldn't have a discussion with me? Couldn't say 'Hey Zoe, this guy might be able to help'. You don't think I want to do everything possible too?"
There are tears threatening to spill, and not for the first time, he feels like a complete moron. He honestly tries not to get blinkered, to consider other people at times like this, but the minute there's something he can do, it's always full steam ahead.
Zoe knows that though, and no matter how much it frustrates her, she'll forgive him soon enough.
House sticks his oar in at that point, with all the maturity and tact that Cal has come to expect.
"You know it's rude to talk about somebody, even a genius, as though he's not in the room. And your kid is on drugs."
Cal feels the fist forming before he can stop himself, but Emily's cry of "No! I'm not" grabs his attention first. There's panic in her voice, still that of a kid who's scared and needs her parents.
"Mom, Dad, you know I'm not taking drugs. Look at me, Dad. For once, read me, I'm asking you to. You'll know I'm not lying."
That makes House laugh, for some reason.
"Oh yes, Daddy's little parlour trick. Shame he can't read a micro-diagnosis in your eyebrows."
Cal is stunned momentarily, since this guy didn't seem to know his name ten minutes ago.
"Yes, I have mastered the complicated art of Googling someone. Try not to be too amazed, it just makes me embarrassed."
Zoe steps in to protest on their behalf.
"There's no way Emily is taking drugs. I know lots of parents are in denial, but believe me, we would know."
House rolls his eyes at her, though not before giving her a once over that puts Cal's teeth on edge.
"I didn't say she knew she was taking them. But the drugs making her sick are in her system whether you deny it or not. I'll get some lackeys to do the bloodwork and reveal the thrilling answer at the top of the hour. It'll be just like TV."
Normally he would fight, demand a clearer answer, but all Cal can feel is relief that finally someone is going to make his little girl better. Even if it is this chancer. Zoe picks up the slack, as she so often did for him when they were married.
"She'll be okay? You're sure?"
Twirling his cane with an expression that's supposed to convey boredom (but Cal can see the pride instead), House nods as though explaining something to particularly stupid toddlers.
"Full recovery. Unless the nurses get her smoking crack between now and getting discharged in a couple of days."
With that, Cal feels the tension in his shoulders release for the first time in days. He thinks he might see some sparkle back in Em's eyes after nothing but fear and sadness for too long. Zoe has already gathered her up in a hug, and for a moment the fights and the past don't exist at all. It's lovely, really, until reality intrudes and he settles for a quick kiss on each of their cheeks.
"Better tell Foster the news before she gets the CDC up here. Too many government contacts, that one."
They smile back at him, Em with a knowing that betrays her years, and Zoe with something approaching resignation. For better or worse, Gillian is as much a part of this family now as anyone.
By the time he leaves in search of her, House is already limping away along the corridor. Cal considers shouting some sort of thanks, but since curing people is his job and not a favour, he thinks better of it.
The relief and joy on Gillian's face makes him glad that he sought her out so quickly; only now does it seem real to him. She takes him in her arms with practiced ease, they've become so much more affectionate lately and he's really starting to like that. Her mouth is just by his ear when she speaks.
"So, are we skipping town now? Or are you going to stick around and pay for the door?"
He presses a swift kiss to her temple as he laughs.