They meet in a strip club on the edge of town, tucked between two ancient casinos whose fronts are crumbling just as fast as their lights are glittering. The place is called Betty's, and it was the last place they were all together before everything went south.
"And by south, you don't mean Mexico." House says as soon as Wilson reminds him, tips back another drink. "Although I wouldn't mind if everything had gone to Mexico. You order a tequila there, that's the real deal." A stripper in a gold bikini approaches, leans over him. "How is the tequila in this joint, babe?"
"I don't drink on my shifts." She climbs into his lap, winking over his shoulder at Wilson. "You boys want a dance?"
Wilson enthusiastically shakes his head. "No distractions, please. We're having a business meeting."
She raises an eyebrow. "In a strip club?"
"My thoughts exactly. Apparently the Hilton isn't seedy enough." He glares over at House, who slides a twenty into her gold strap.
"Ignore him." House leans back in his seat. "What's your name, kid?"
"Tawny." She slides over him and starts a lapdance. Wilson rubs his temples and nurses his drink. House grins.
"Of course it is. Tell me, Tawny. What would you do if your ex showed up here and tried to rob the place?"
"I'd probably kill him."
House clicked his tongue. "That seems a little drastic."
"I always bring my gun to work. He'd be asking for it." She licks the side of his neck. "My ex is a real bastard, trust me. He used to tell me not to strip anymore."
"The audacity!" House turns to Wilson, gesturing with exaggeration. "Keeping all the wealth for himself! Begging his girlfriend to stop whoring herself out. Selfish, selfish man."
Wilson rolls his eyes. "Yes, how unreasonable."
"Alright, Tawny. Riddle me this. He may be a bastard, but do you still love him?"
"I wouldn't kill him if I didn't hate him. But I mostly hate him because I still love him." She pauses in her gyrating. "Sugar, do you really want me to talk about my ex while I give you a lapdance?"
"So if this ex were to redeem himself in your eyes, what would he have to do?"
"I don't know. Buy me a car, or a diamond, or something. And not run off with some cheap bitch like he did last time. Learn from what happened, and treat me right."
Wilson leans across the table. "So you're saying he shouldn't repeat past mistakes?"
House shoves him back. "That's not what she said. She said he should buy her something expensive."
"You never listen."
"I listen selectively. Very different from not listening."
Across the room, two men have entered the club. They peer across the ineffective strobe lights to House and Wilson's table. The blonde raises a hand in acknowledgement.
"Right on time." House pushes the girl off of him. "Thanks for the answers, Tawny. Try not to blow your ex away if he turns up."
"Chase and Foreman," Wilson pops open his briefcase. "Always the first ones."
"We shared a cab." Chase slides into the booth across from them. The Australian's hair has grown out, but his white Tom Ford suit is impeccable. House had found him in a bar in Copenhagen, his rental car's trunk full of stolen paintings. He is the finest con man of his generation, but he had a soft spot for art dealing and fixer-upper girls.
"That's not the only thing you two shared." House's mouth twitches into a half-smile. "Speaking of which, is 13 going to be gracing us with her presence?"
Foreman raises an eyebrow. "She's got a job in Bangkok. Probably won't be back until February at the earliest." Foreman is, in many ways that House would never admit but which Wilson was all to quick to point out, very similar to the head of this job. He's grown ruthless, calculating, and was prone to Machiavellian practices. He os also an incredible safe cracker and could assemble a bomb in about two minutes, so House had kept him around. He'd busted him out of juvenile in Baltimore when he was 17, and Foreman owed him.
"Too bad. Could have used her." House slides a gin and tonic across the table. "So. How was your summer?"
Chase slumps in his seat, avoiding eye contact. "I got a divorce."
House wags a finger over his drink. "This is why I always say that you should never get involved with another criminal."
"That sage advice probably would have come in handy when you attended my wedding."
"I didn't have much choice in attendance, did I? I was hiding out from the Italian police, a Roman church seemed pretty ideal."
"You were also invited."
"It's sweet that you think I would have come of my own admission. Foreman?"
"Good, that's what I like to hear." House looks up at the next guest arriving. "Hide your wives, kids."
"That's very funny." Taub is a former Caltech professor whose career had taken a sudden spin when he'd been accused of hacking into the government's private sector. The charges were lifted when not enough evidence was found, but everyone at the table knew he was guilty. He also had a weakness for married women, or women who were not his wife. "How was jail?"
"Fine, considering jail can't cheat on me." House winks. "Double-edged sword, huh?"
Foreman lets out a laugh. "You've got to be kidding on me. Your wife, Taub? Really?"
Taub turns red, fumbling with his jacket. "Like you're all in perfect relationships. How'd the divorce go, Chase?"
Chase snorts into his drink. "How the hell did you hear about that?"
"I've been tracking all of your records online. After the last job, one of my credit cards went missing. I was curious as to which one of you thieves was responsible."
House pretends to look shocked. "I'm insulted that you'd think I could ever do such a thing!" Behind him, Wilson rolls his eyes.
"Are you sure it's not your cheating wife?" Foreman is still attempting to stifle his laughter.
"Um, boys." Wilson taps his glass with a swizzle stick, biting his lips. "Order?"
House's grin returns. "Let's stop picking on Don Juan over here. Time to get down to business."
Foreman snorts. "Business, right."
House ignores him, raises his glass. "Never doubt me, padawan. I just got us a five million dollar heist."