Foreman toes off his sandals and leaves them near his folding chair as he sets off for a walk across the sand. Siesta Beach stretches ahead-a long, narrow white strip. Its unnatural, unique brilliance strikes Foreman, the sunlight-direct and reflected-forcing him to squint, even behind the frames of his sunglasses. Fine grains of sand stick to his feet, between his toes. The ground looks as though it's covered in snow, not sand, but heat seeps into the soles of his feet. Before long, Foreman crisscrosses the breadth of the beach to step across the tide-soaked ground-wet and cool, studier, easier to navigate. His attention shifts from the ocean to the palm trees, overlooking clusters of beach-goers, and Foreman suddenly stumbles over an outstretched foot.
He rights himself as the edge of the tide laps gently at his feet. He swipes his sunglasses off his face. "I'm sorry. Excuse-" Foreman cuts himself off, wishing he didn't automatically apologize and beating down the frustration swelling in his chest.
House, wearing nothing but a pair of long, solid blue swimming trunks, grins up at him from a low beach chair. One hand holds a half-empty hurricane glass, beads of condensation trickling over his fingers, while the other twirls the headphones of his iPod. Water shines on House's feet and ankles-probably the reach of a higher tide-and a fresh tan bronzes House's skin.
"House, what the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm a doctor," House says, as if he were personally wounded. "There's an important medical conference this weekend."
"Your name wasn't on the roster." Foreman tells himself that, if the check-in volunteer never searched through half of the log in order to find the 'F's, he never would have known.
Raising his glass, House smirks around his straw. He peers at Foreman over the top of his sunglasses. "Vacation."
"Yeah." Foreman bobs his head-a subconscious mimic of the swimmers in the ocean. "Right. A vacation. That sounds like you. I attend a conference in Sarasota, and you take your first vacation in years. Makes sense."
"Vacation hours aren't going to use themselves. Did you know not all of them carry over?" House hoists his glass for another sip, nosing his miniature paper umbrella to the side until impatience causes a deep crease between his brows, and he plucks it from the glass.
As the umbrella sails through the air and drifts onto the sand, Foreman crosses his arms and blinks. He catches the smell of House's piña colada and surreptitiously inhales a full breath of air. Foreman identifies the subtle scent of House's sunscreen, rum, and pineapple overlapped by the stronger one of salt water-a strange sensory combination to circle around House. Foreman spies a soft cooler, the top already opened. When he steps forward to reach inside, he finds it empty. "Pacing yourself," Foreman says, sarcasm as heavy as the humidity. "Good. Wouldn't want you to rush."
"I'm on vacation," House says, as if it's a solid defense. "Finished the beer about an hour ago. I've moved on to Tropical Sunset Passion." House nudges his glasses to the tip of his nose to offer Foreman an exaggerated wink.
"Like your flowery shorts. Going to wear those during your presentation?"
Foreman shrugs. "Too bad you're not registered." Sliding his glasses back onto his face, Foreman hurdles House's legs and heads toward his own beach chair, leaving House to his drink and unstoppable curiosity.