Taub never raised his head from his book-a reference volume he'd plucked from the shelf to pass the time until House graced all of them with his presence-when Foreman and Thirteen passed through the conference room after their arrival on Monday morning. He wasn't interested in getting caught in the crossfire of their breakup drama. With House lurking in wait to jab at their buttons, Taub figured it was unavoidable, but it was best not to encourage it; he'd enjoy the silence as long as he could.

It didn't last long.

"They're still together," Kutner said, out of nowhere, and sat down beside Taub, stirring half-and-half into his coffee like he was trying to recreate the Garofalo whirlpool.

Taub kept his head bowed, trying to ignore the way Kutner's bouncing leg-and body-shook the entire table.

"Don't you want to know who?"

Kutner must have believed Taub was an idiot if Kutner thought he couldn't connect those dots. "I don't care."

"Foreman and Thirteen."

If Taub hadn't already known who he was talking about, he would have had to ask Kutner to repeat himself. The word had jumbled together in a rush of air to sound more like 'Foremananthirteen'. Taub caught a glimpse of Kutner long enough to see him turn and peek at Foreman and Thirteen as they walked away and wondered if Kutner thought of himself as a secret agent on a reconnaissance mission. He returned his gaze to his book before Kutner turned his attention away from the corridor.

He considered Kutner's proclamation, though he wasn't interested in the news so much as his own sanity. Taub wanted to believe that Foreman and Thirteen had broken up. The alternative still left him tasked with keeping Kutner on his leash, which apparently involved fielding-shooting down-questions centered on topics besides medicine. Useless debates that reiterated Kutner's perpetual, shameless attempts to retain his carefree youth for which Taub had neither the time nor the interest. Babylon Five versus Deep Space Nine. 'Old school' Star Wars versus the digitally remastered versions. Kutner once tried to lure him into a discussion about the medical plausibility of mutating DNA in order to produce real-life X-men, but Taub killed that train of thought as soon as Kutner uttered the word 'X-gene'. Taub had heard gossip about Kutner's parents, months ago, but it wasn't his business and, frankly, dear, he didn't give a damn, but he guessed that Kutner's fixation on things better suited for awkward Comicon hopefuls was a subconscious security blanket. A comfort, but a juvenile and pathetic one, and Taub wished that Kutner would stop trying to lob the blanket over his head and suffocate him with it.

Raising his head again, Taub offered Kutner a tired glance. "You want to believe they're still together because you want to believe that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny will invite you to their chocolate castle."

"I believe it because it's true," Kutner said, quirking his eyebrows and grinning, seemingly unfazed. Or clueless. Kutner raised his pencil to rub it across his upper lip, pressing his lips together and looking as though he might burst. Taub almost wished he would. "Foreman smells like Thirteen's soap."

Taub lowered his chin and peered up at Kutner from just below the edges of his eyelids. He'd rather not consider the ways that Kutner came to possess this knowledge, but he doubted it was because Kutner had an especially acute sense of smell. Kutner didn't seem to have an especially acute sense of anything. "Yeah, I forgot to sniff all my colleagues this morning, but I'll try to catch Foreman on the next pass."

"Fifty bucks."


"Fifty bucks that they're still together." Kutner thrust out his hand to seal the wager with a shake.

Taub kept his stare level. He hesitated to encourage Kutner's useless pastimes, but this was a great opportunity for a quick fifty, not to mention a free pass to screw with a few heads. Letting himself grin, Taub shook Kutner's hand. "A hundred, and, if I win, you're not allowed to speak to me outside of the differentials for a week."


When Taub withdrew his hand, he lowered his head again, smirking at the pages of his book. He was going to have one hell of a good week.