Title: Sorry Charlie
Summary: Wilson makes a new friend. House is tickled pink. Or some other color.
Rating: PG for language only
Original Title: Green (http://deelaundry.livejournal.com/4171.html)
Original Author: Dee Laundry
Pairing: House/Wilson friendship, with special guest appearance by Evil Nurse Brenda
Disclaimer: House, Wilson, Brenda, and the rest of the House MD characters aren’t Dee Laundry’s and they’re not mine, either. This was my first remix, and the original was sooo good, so I haven’t changed all that much.
Note: Posting in two parts for length.
Special thanks to my beta:plotbunny
It was an unusually warm Tuesday in late March. Wilson wasn’t in his office, but I’d heard rumors that he actually had another friend. So I looked to see if he was having lunch outside. He was a third of the way through his sandwich, chicken salad if he was running true to form, and halfway through a re-telling of a silly Outer Limits episode (killer bugs in the Arctic) when I approached with the sun behind me to throw a long shadow across the table. Perfect effect if I do say so myself.
“Isn’t this a cozy scene?” I asked lightly.
He looked up and almost jumped at how close I was standing. “House.” A small piece of chicken fell from his sandwich, and he juggled awkwardly, trying to catch it. The blond man sitting across from him laughed lightly. “How’s it going?”
I ignored him and said “Guess you forgot we had lunch plans. I was going to tell you how I managed to finish in Gunstar Super Heroes.”
“Oh, damn, I’m sorry. I had two new patients and one whose remission stopped remitting” Wilson apologized lamely –the blond laughed again; what an idiot– “and I got caught up in everything. When Charlie here stopped by to ask about lunch, it was the first moment I’d had to breathe since this morning, and I just, um, forgot.” I glared at him but he pushed on. “By the way, have you met Charlie Lutz? He’s the new orthopedist here, started a couple of months ago.”
Charlie gave me a quick wave. “Hey. So, you’re Dr. House? Your reputation, of course, precedes you, but I don’t think we’ve met in person.” He pushed back his chair slightly and gestured toward a third seat at the table. “Look, I’m sorry I took Jimmy away from you, but why don’t you join us?”
“Right. Like I’m sharing my Game Boy secrets with you.”
“House!” A flush rose up Wilson’s neck. “Haven’t I taught you any manners?”
“I’m not the one who stood up a friend to have lunch with a stranger.” I glared at him once more, then turned on my heel and left. I knew how my blue-eyed glare affected him and allowed myself a little smile.
I was almost out of earshot when I heard Charlie laugh again. “Some parts of that reputation are definitely true. Man, are you ever in the doghouse!”
“It’s fine. It’ll blow over.” Wilson sighed gently and resumed eating his sandwich.
After lunch, he must have spent fifteen minutes looking for me, finally finding me where he should have looked first, sitting in Coma Guy’s room.
“There you are.”
“Do you mind? You’re interrupting my lunch date. He’s not much of a conversationalist, but at least he’s there when he’s supposed to be.” I took a vicious bite from my Reuben and turned on the ice.
“I said I was sorry. Don’t be a baby, and give me a chip.” He leaned over, but I quickly snatched the bag away.
“Nothing doing. Go get one from Putz.”
“What is up with you? Are you mad because I stood you up, or are you mad because I was having lunch with someone else?”
I set my jaw and stared deliberately at the TV, maybe overdoing it a tad.
“You are mad because I was with someone else. You know, unlike you, I do like people. Getting to know them is interesting. Conversation with them pleases me.” He was overexplaining, a sure sign that he felt guilty. But it wasn’t enough.
“I looked up your Dr. Lutz. He’s an idiot.”
“He’s not an idiot, which you’d know if you’d talk to him. And anyway, even idiots can be fun.”
I had to ask. “Are you saying I’m not fun?”
“I’m saying you’re an idiot. Give me a damn chip.” That one earned him a chip. Just one. He took the second seat by Coma Guy’s bed.
We watched TV together for a minute, before I started again. “So Chester isn’t an idiot?”
“The name’s Charlie.”
“His med school’s a no-name, but his last hospital wasn’t half bad. When did you meet him?” Maybe if I knew more it would help with my campaign.
“I don’t know, a month ago maybe.”
“Do you work with him a lot?”
“Here and there. He’s been seeing a lot of large tumors lately, for some reason, and we end up getting called in on most of them.”
“Was today your first lunch?” I teased.
He put on his best confused look and asked sarcastically, “Why do I feel like I’m getting grilled by my wife? Oh, that’s right, because I am.”
Nice one. My mouth twitched involuntarily but I didn’t reply. He continued, “Well, because you have to know everything, here it is: we met about a month ago when he referred a patient with bone cancer. Nasty case, caught very late, secondary to lung cancer. That patient’s already dead. We’ve had coffee once and lunch twice. We talk about patient care, office politics, sports, and TV shows. His turn-ons include –”
“That’s enough. I don’t need a life history.” Sometimes Wilson is a pain.
“You apparently do.” He sighed and settled himself further down in his chair. “Charlie’s a good guy. Give him a chance, and you’ll find out for yourself.”
“Yeah.” I grabbed my cane and rose. Didn’t he know me? “Gotta go. I got a page.”
Perplexed, Wilson replied, “No, you didn’t. I was sitting right here.”
“It was a super secret page. Like the Bat signal, only significantly less visible.”
“Ooookay. See you.” He rolled his eyes as I walked out the door. But I knew that he’d stay to clean up the lunch mess I had left behind.
I had the start of an idea in my head. I just had to work out the details. I walked past the diagnostics conference room, ignoring the looks I was getting from Cameron, Chase and Foreman. The patient could wait. I had more important things to do.
Wilson and Lutz walked by outside, chatting away. It looked like the orthopedist was telling a story, using his hands as he seemed to always do, and Wilson laughed, fueling my plans. This was gonna be good!
Just a few days later the perfect opportunity presented itself. Lutz knocked on my door and actually waited for me to tell him he could come in. He really was a putz.
“Dr. House, you know Jimmy pretty well, don’t you? I mean you two have been friends for a long time” he began tentatively. I gave him space to put his foot in it. Hey, he came to me. “Well, you see it’s like this. He’s been really good about being available for consults, and, well, this week he went out of his way to help me. I want to show my appreciation some way. Maybe get him a little something, ya know?”
This was perfect. Now what could I advise him to get? “What did you have in mind?” I asked innocently.
“Well, that’s the thing. I know some things about him, things he likes, but you know him so much better. I want it to be something that really is meaningful to him.”
I chuckled to myself knowing that I was about to find out how gullible this guy was. “Well, there are some things that Wilson may not have told you.” I hesitated just long enough to get his interest. “No, I shouldn’t say. He’ll have to confide in you himself.”
“You can’t leave it like that!” he insisted.
“Well…” I looked around to pretend I didn’t want anyone else to hear. Actually, I didn’t, so it wasn’t so hard to pretend. “I guess he never told you about his lingerie. I guess it’s what they call a fetish.”
“Yeah. The kind of stuff you get at Victoria’s Secret or Fredericks. You know.” I winked at him.
“But what does he do with it?” Lutz was besides himself.
“Wears it, of course.”
“You think I should buy him some? I…I couldn’t do that! I mean, I wouldn’t…I couldn’t…”
“You could always go with a gift certificate” I suggested, trying really hard to keep from laughing out loud.
“Maybe.” He seemed to think that over. “What if he asks me why? I mean, I can’t tell him I know, can I?”
“Just tell him it’s for him to get something for his girlfriend” I said.
“His girlfriend? He has a girlfriend?” This seemed to astonish him even more than the lingerie.
I shrugged. “Wilson always has a girlfriend.”
Lutz walked away and I could see I’d given him tons to think about. Once he was gone, I couldn’t hold it in any more, and laughed harder than I had in years.
It was only a couple of days later when Wilson barged into my office. And he talks about my manners!
“House, what did you tell Charlie?” he demanded.
“Who says I told him anything?”
“He seems to think that either I have a girlfriend or that I wear women’s underwear.”
Wilson shook his head so vigorously I thought it might spin off. “Just stay away from him!” he spat out. Then he turned on his heels and barged back out.
Guess my first salvo drew some blood. So what could I do for an encore?
Early on Wednesday, I ran into Charlie in line for coffee in the cafeteria. Although I’d finally convinced him that I wasn’t a cross-dresser, he gave me a strange look, but then said ‘hello’, and smiled. “Hey, the funniest thing happened to me this morning. I got to my parking space here at the hospital and overnight, it had been turned into a handicapped spot. It’s really strange, too, because the spot’s way on the other side from the elevators. I can’t imagine a handicapped person actually wanting to park there.” He shrugged with one shoulder. Was he that clueless? “You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you? Well, whatever, for the good of society, it’s fine. It was a pain trying to find an unreserved space, though.”
I was beginning to wonder whether he was too nice, if there is such a thing. Why was he being so accepting of this? Didn’t he realize it was House playing another of his games? I brought my hand to the back of my neck and twisted it briefly. “Yeah, the weirdest things happen in that garage from time to time.” I faced Charlie directly and gave a quick reassuring smile. “You don’t think I had anything to do with it, do you? It was probably a mistake. I’ll talk to Cuddy, and see if I can get it switched back.”
Charlie paid for both our coffees and passed one to me. “Don’t put yourself out. I didn’t mean to complain. It was funny, that’s all.”
“Yep, very funny.” I shook my head, tilted the coffee cup in farewell and headed to Cuddy’s office.
She was intent on paperwork, but her assistant waved me in anyway. Just jump in and swim, I thought, It’s not like you haven’t done this countless times before. I launched into the story. “House, as a kind of prank, seems to have put up signs designating someone’s assigned parking spot as a handicapped space. Can you get Maintenance to fix it?”
“Jerk!” I didn’t know who she was calling a jerk, but supposed it was House. She dropped her pen on her desk. “Like his parking space isn’t already great.” Frowning, she reached for the phone. “I’ll call him in here.”
“No!” I stopped her and gave her my most winning smile. “It’s just a little prank. I’ll make sure he doesn’t do it again.”
“If I had a nickel for every time you’ve had to say that to me over the years…” She exhaled forcefully and shook her head. “But you do usually get him to stop, so I’ll trust you.” She hit the intercom button. “Please get me Maintenance.”
“Thanks.” I let myself out.
I stopped by House’s office a few minutes before noon. “Want to get lunch?”
“Sure.” House started to rise. “Wait. You’re not going to change your mind in the ten seconds it takes me to walk to the door, are you?”
“Good.” House brushed past on his way out of the office.
I fell into step behind him. “Parking space. Cute. Don’t do it again.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” was all that House said, but his eyes indicated something else entirely.
Thursday morning, Charlie caught me in the hall as I was walking with House. “Hey, I got my space back. Thanks for that.”
“Yeah, it was just a mix-up.” I cast a sidelong glance at House, whose nonchalance could not be more fake even if accompanied by an off-key whistle. Which, come to think of it, he was doing.
“Can you grab lunch with me today?” Charlie proposed “I want to get your opinion on some test results.”
“Great,” Charlie said. “And nice to see you again – House?” I turned to see where he was looking, and House was gone.
Charlie laughed in amazement. “How can a guy with a cane move so quietly?”
“Hmm,” I replied. I’d wondered that for longer than I cared to remember.
During a late afternoon break one day, Charlie told me that the orthopedics department had become a very interesting place to be over the next week.
“So, early in the week, Steve comes into the lounge to take a break, and he can’t get the remote to change channels. He takes out the batteries, puts them back in, that’s not it. He switches the batteries with some in a different device, doesn’t work. Turns out someone locked out the channels. The only one we could get was the one that shows Spanish soap operas all day.”
“Really.” I bit back a sigh. “That’s funny.” But Charlie wasn’t laughing.
“Then, I think it was yesterday, the magazine shows up. It’s addressed to the head of our department, but her secretary won’t touch it. Could hardly get the mail guy to put it down, though.”
“What was it?”
“FHM. You know, one of those ‘it’s not porn ‘cause we’re wearing underwear’ ones. It was pretty gross; I don’t blame Jane for not touching it. Lara was livid that the subscription was in her name. And the title was on the label.” He pushed off the bench, still shaking his head. “Interesting times. Wonder what’s next. See ya.”
I was packing up to go when Wilson stopped by the office.
“Interesting things are happening over in the orthopedics department” he tossed out.
“Is that so?” I spotted my iPod under a magazine and shoved it in my bag. “Bones seem kind of boring to me. Your really cool stuff tends to happen in the organs and soft tissues.” I threw the bag over my shoulder and grabbed my cane. “Going away for the weekend; you’ll have to fend for yourself. See you Monday.” I nodded, waved and left him standing there, hands on his hips.
Monday afternoon, I had clinic duty. Why is it that I don’t just assign these hours to someone on my staff? I wondered as I opened the door to the clinic. That thought echoed when I saw the afternoon roster, and I groaned. There were three doctors this shift: Charlie, House and me.
I was mentally reviewing the schedules of my staff and trying to sneak back out the door when I ran headlong into Charlie.
“Whoa, there,” Charlie said, and put a hand out to steady me. “Oh, hi Jimmy, you on clinic duty, too?”
I took a step back and nodded amiably. “Yep.” Maybe House won’t show, I thought, but the gods were not smiling, and Cuddy escorted House in only twenty minutes late.
“Now,” she said, talking as if to a child, “you don’t have to be shy. I’m sure you’ll know someone on the playground. Look, here’s your friend Jimmy. Why don’t you two go on the swings together?”
House opened his mouth to retort, but she cut him off just as Charlie joined us. “And here’s Dr. Lutz. He’s our clinic star, you know. Highest per-shift productivity of any doctor and still manages to get patient compliments reported to me all the time.” Her look at House was pointed. “Compliments. You know, those things on the opposite side of the ledger from what you get?” One last glare and she was gone.
Charlie ducked his head and picked up the next patient chart. I watched in surprise as House snatched the file from Charlie’s hand and headed to Exam One.
It was the busiest clinic shift I’d ever seen. Cuddy had stoked House’s competitive fires, and he was on a tear.
“Seriously? You’re actually treating this many patients?” I whispered to House in a rare moment when we were both at the check-in desk.
“Can’t talk; saving lives. Jose Mendez?” He called. In a flurry of white – where the hell had House gotten a lab coat? – House was gone again.
We were 30 minutes from shift end, with no major dustups, when the shoe dropped: Charlie caught a complex case. “Crap,” I muttered under my breath, as Charlie pulled me in for a consult. For a millisecond, I hoped that maybe we could keep this from House, but it was no use. House had smelled the challenge from three exam rooms away.
To call the ensuing discussion between House and Charlie “heated” would be to call the center of the sun “heated.” At two minutes in, I escorted the patient to a different exam room. Returning to House and Charlie, I could hear their raised voices through the wall. I steeled himself and opened the door.
“If you would look at the films the patient brought…” Charlie was saying.
House brought his fingers to his face and propped his eyelids open comically wide, then turned to the film on the view box. I stifled a chuckle, but Charlie was not amused.
“Just look at the femur.”
“Ooh, the orthopedist thinks it’s a bone problem. Shocking!”
“I didn’t say it was a bone problem ” snapped Charlie. “The femur gives you a clue that…”
“Guys,” I interrupted. “I think we need to keep our voices down. Patient confidentiality, right?”
The glares I got from House and Charlie were identical. Twinsies popped into my head, and I had to purposefully force the ends of my mouth down to avoid smiling.
The tone temporarily became more civil, but the argument continued unabated. House called Charlie an idiot three times, but Charlie stood his ground. At five minutes in, I gave up on trying to control the volume and had the patient moved to an exam room farther away. Eight minutes, and the only point of agreement was on admitting the patient, so I went ahead and asked Brenda, the nurse at the desk, to do that.
“What ward?” she asked in her always-bored voice.
“Pick one; just make sure we can find him later.”
Cuddy hit the clinic about halfway through minute twelve. I’d stepped into the waiting room to rest my ears and saw her come in. The number of patients waiting had dropped by half; the ones that were left had solemn faces and huge eyes.
“I don’t even want to know what it is,” Cuddy began, “but it ends now.” She strode into the exam room like a gladiator into the coliseum. Charlie shut up immediately; House required a few light jabs with her sword.
When she had everyone’s full attention, she wasted no time. “I left a legal meeting for this. I don’t have time to review the facts of the case. Dr. Wilson, do you know all the relevant information?”
Wait, what did I do? I wasn’t the guilty party here. I was trapped. I wished I was invisible, but since I wasn’t I had to answer. “Yes.”
“Were you here for all of the, ahem, discussion?” she asked.
“Yes.” When captured, give only your name, rank and serial number.
She stared at me. In my desire to escape, I had a fleeting thought: Hands on your hips really IS kind of girly. But then she pounced with the question I’d been dreading. “Then what is your medical opinion?”
Lutz was clearly peeved by the whole thing. I wouldn’t touch an analysis of House’s expression with a ten-foot pole. In fact, like an eclipse, I couldn’t even look at it head-on lest I scar my retinas. The floor sure was interesting, though.
I finally spoke, my voice surprisingly clear and loud. “I think Dr. Lutz’s analysis is on track.” I knew I was doomed as I said it.
“We have a conclusion.” She snatched the x-ray from the view box, stuck it in the patient’s file, and thrust the file into Lutz’s hands. “Dr. Lutz, your patient. Go get him admitted.”
“But Mom!” House wailed, then shut up when he realized it wouldn’t get him anywhere.
I caught Lutz’s gaze. “He’s already getting processed for admission. Brenda will know where he is.” Lutz nodded and left the room. House’s back was turned; he was facing the empty view box. Cuddy glanced at him, then at me, but said nothing before she left. She didn’t have to.
Things I could say flipped through my mind like the flashcards I’d used for Intro to Anatomy. I twisted my neck to the ease the tension in the levator scapula, and the flashcards stopped on ‘I’m sorry’. I shoved the cards in my mental knapsack and sat on it. This is ridiculous, I decided. We’re grown men, professionals, and House has to know that he’s not right 100 percent of the time. He can’t expect me to back him up on everything, if my medical judgment –
House’s voice cut through my thoughts: “Stop debating yourself and be useful.” He had finally moved; he was leaning against the exam table, staring at his hands.
House looked at me, and for once I couldn’t read what was in his eyes.
“Be useful. Get me the next patient.”
I guess I was relieved beyond all reason that House had let me go, and, embarrassed, I fled out of the room. In my haste, I stumbled against the intake desk and the words spilled out haphazardly. “House. One. Patient. Complaints?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure the patient will make a complaint,” Brenda replied. “Maybe more than one.”
“No.” I took a second to breathe deeply, and then continued in a hurried whisper. “House is in Exam Room One and needs his next patient. The people in the waiting room, what are their complaints?”
“Besides the noise?” I had to acknowledge her quip with a nod before she’d continue. “Next in line is that woman. Her baby has what sounds like croup.”
“No babies.” House didn’t mind babies, but their parents were another matter. “Oh, and nothing that might require injections or stitching.” Not today.
She gestured to a cheerleader type with sad eyes and, dear God, I hadn’t known anyone but Cameron wore vests like that. “That girl might have PID.”
“Nothing that requires an internal exam, and absolutely no teenage girls.” Inspiration! “Anybody been a jerk while they’re waiting?”
Brenda smiled a happy smile. “Allergy Asshole. He was bitching from the minute he walked in the door. He has hay fever, and his regular doctor’s in the South of France. He needs this cleared up immediately, because he’s having dinner with the chairman of the board of his company tonight.”Like I give a crap was left unsaid. “He’s in the gray suit over there.”
“Perfect. Send him in to House.”
She held the file back. “You’ll take the baby and the girl?”
“Absolutely. Exam Three, send in the baby, then the girl.”
My step was a little lighter as I walked away from the counter.
“Mrs. Roberts, you’re with Dr. Wilson in Exam Room Three,” Brenda called behind me. “Mr. Farthington,” – her voice had changed, and the sickly sweetness cooled my blood – “Dr. House will see you in Exam Room One.”
The next patient turned out to be the kind that makes me avoid clinic duty at all costs. I was sure that Wilson had hand-picked him for me. But I managed to dispose of him by tuning out his whining.
Over the next few days, things were surprisingly normal. I hooked up an Xbox to the oncology lounge TV and proceeded to thrash Wilson at Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Wilson was otherwise busy with an oncology staff meeting, two actual consults with me, a fake clinic consult that engendered a lively debate on silicon vs. saline implants, a coffee and a lunch with Charlie, and, fortunately, no patient deaths.
Then I heard that Lutz was giving a talk at the next Lecture Series, the one that Cuddy was forcing me to attend. I put up a good fight, but in the end agreed to be there. Time for another foray.
The first speaker was Brown, a total idiot, much worse than Charlie, but I was saving my best for him. I started making faces the moment Lutz began to speak. When rolling my eyes didn’t get any reaction, I made a sound, sorta like a snake. That did the trick.
I was in my office, finishing some charting, when Charlie came in.
“You missed Lecture Series today,” Charlie commented as he fell into a chair heavily.
“Yeah, sorry about that. I had planned to come, but at the last minute I had to mediate an argument between two of our nurses. They’re both good; I can’t afford to lose either of them, so I had to go through some rather extensive negotiations to get them working together again. Anyway, it was your first peer lecture here, right? How’d it go?”
“You will never believe this,” Charlie said, leaning forward. “I can barely believe it. House was there, and he hissed at me! Actual hissing! I really don’t like him casting aspersions on my work.”
I put down his pen and sat back in his chair. “That’s probably not what he meant.” I was sorry I hadn’t been there. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone actually hiss.
“He did it three times. That’s exactly what he meant. Dr. Brown spoke before me, and his study was truly bad. His controls aren’t rigorous enough, and his analytic techniques are at least two decades old. Plus his grammar sucks. I heard House doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and if so, that was the lecture he should have hissed. But not a sound. He didn’t even correct Brown when he misquoted his own work during Q and A.”
Charlie was restless, shifting. “Is it because of that argument in the Clinic? The patient happened to remind me of a case I’d just read about, and that’s how I hit on the diagnosis. It wasn’t any great genius.” I’d never seen him so upset. So he did have his limits of niceness.
“House is… House. He’s the head of Diagnostics; surely you can see how he wouldn’t like getting outmaneuvered.”
“Outmaneuvered?” Charlie exploded out of the chair and began to pace. “How is doing what’s best for the patient outmaneuvering him? And, crap, I forgot he was a damn department head. Yeah, critique from a department head, based in reality or not, looks really good for me.”
I shifted into my soothing, sympathetic persona without even thinking about it. “Charlie, it’s fine. Like I said, House is House. His opinion’s respected, but the staff certainly know his personality, too.” I leaned forward to catch Charlie’s eye. “Is your research solid?”
Charlie stopped pacing. “Yes.”
Charlie let out a short laugh. “Not to brag or anything, but yes.”
“Has Lara read it? What does she think?”
“She said I should do the lecture to get peer input, and then it’d be ready to submit.”
“Then you’re fine.” I smiled reassuringly and got a smile from Charlie in return. “Look, I’ll talk to House. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I’ll get him to lay off. And if there is a warranted critique anywhere in there, I’ll let you know that, too.”
Charlie nodded. “Thanks. Strange day. Strange guy.” He headed for the door but turned back to Wilson from the doorway. “I’m glad you’re friends with him.”
I’d turned back to my charting but looked up at that last comment. “Why?”
“Better you than me. Bye.”
Wilson caught me at the hospital front desk at five minutes to five. “Hey, I need to talk with you about something.”
I was zipping up my jacket, on the way out. I looked over his shoulder, then focused on him. “Can it wait? Chase said Cuddy’s looking for me, so I’m trying to get out –”
“House!” Cuddy’s voice rang sharply across the lobby. “My office, now.”
I felt my shoulders sink in resignation, and I said softly, “Damn, I was almost out too.” I grabbed Wilson by the arm and began dragging him back across the lobby. “I’m bringing Wilson as a witness! And also as a chaperone, so don’t you try anything! Or were you in the mood for a threesome?”
“You could leave me out of this,” said Wilson as he tried to pull his arm back. “I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with me.”
“You never know,” I replied, and tightened my grip. “Besides, you cost me valuable time in the race out the door. You owe me.”
“I owe you?” Wilson started to protest, but we were already at Cuddy’s office.
Cuddy’s eyes blazed, but she seemed mildly disconcerted to see Wilson standing there too. “You were serious about the witness?” Not waiting for a reply, she focused on me again and continued, “Fine. What happened at the Lecture Series today?”
“Lecture Series? There were only two of them today. Can you really call two of anything a series?” I had switched my cane to my left hand, and was flipping my right hand up and back and then down repeatedly, one finger held straight. Wilson’s eyes were riveted on my imaginary yo-yo.
“Enough,” Cuddy replied
“I thought you’d be pleased. First lectures I’ve attended all year, and I did it just because you asked me to. Didn’t even get to drop Clinic hours.” My hand went back; my fingers splayed and held, and then came together again.
“Right,” barked Cuddy. I stopped walking the dog, and Wilson snapped back to attention. “I send you in to give Dr. Brown a kick in his goddamn pants, and you end up heaping your contempt on Dr. Lutz. Lutz’s article is a good piece of work. They’re sending it to JAMA, for heaven’s sake.”
“Wait. You just said to go to the lectures. Why didn’t you tell me you wanted me to cut down Brown’s work?”
Cuddy’s impatience radiated from her. “He’s putting out articles that are shit, and it’s making this hospital look bad. The other senior doctors hint to him, but they won’t directly confront him about this. I’ve met with him three times but even being the Dean of Medicine, what could a ‘young lady’ really know about medical research? Brown hates you, but you have a penis, so I thought maybe he’d listen to you.
“But instead of helping the hospital out by using your scorn for good instead of evil, you chose to unjustly disparage a decent piece of research, for your own bizarre personal reasons.”
I thought through what she said. How could I use it to my advantage? “Who told you what I did during the lectures? Did Lutz come and whine?”
“I haven’t seen Dr. Lutz all day. I have had visits from several of the other attendings; they do report to me, you know.”
Cuddy leaned over her desk; I noticed Wilson glance toward the ceiling to avoid staring down her cleavage but I enjoyed the view.
“Look,” Cuddy continued, “if you don’t care about the hospital, think about this: acting this way makes you look stupid. You look like a fool who can’t tell good research from bad. You and I both know that’s not the kind of reputation you want.”
I stiffened, and my eyes involuntarily began to shift around the room. She had a point. That really hit too close to home. “There are some valid concerns with some of what Lutz said” I tried.
Her point made, Cuddy’s posture relaxed a bit. She pushed back from the desk, which allowed Wilson to bring his gaze back from the ceiling, and then sat in her chair.
“I’m sure there could be something. So, you are going to actually read Dr. Lutz’s article and provide an honest written critique” she ordered.
I shifted my cane from hand to hand. “Fine, but it’ll take time. I need two hours off Clinic duty.” I knew I could get something out of this.
“One hour off, and you’ll use that hour in a sit-down with Dr. Brown, telling him what you really think of his work.”
The smile on my face was pure satisfaction. It wasn’t every day a Cuddy-sanctioned idiot-disemboweling presented itself. I nodded and left without a goodbye. This was going to be so much fun!
I lingered for another minute after House left. “Did anybody take House’s criticism, as it were, seriously?”
Cuddy replied pensively, “A few might have. It really has been a long time since House attended the Lecture Series, so with a rare appearance, it might carry a little weight. But Dr. Lutz is backed up by his department head, so even if anyone else did, I don’t take it seriously.” She gave it another moment’s thought. “You know what I’ll do? I’ll start a rumor House had a fever today and was delusional. People will have no problem believing that.”
I laughed, and Cuddy smiled.
“Go home, Dr. Wilson. Have a nice evening.”
The next several days passed quietly. House’s critique of Charlie’s article had been well-reasoned and fair. His suggestions for tightening the introduction had actually improved it considerably, to everyone’s satisfaction. I think Charlie even sent him a thank-you note.
Dr. Brown began avoiding not just the diagnostics department but that entire wing, but no one lost sleep over that. Reports were that House gave it to him with both barrels and he was still reeling.
Between appointments one day, I headed to Charlie’s office.
“Got a minute?”
“Just a couple, then I have surgery, but come on in.” Charlie waved me to a chair.
“I wanted to see how things are going in orthopedics lately.” I hadn’t heard about any new practical jokes.
“Well, I told you about those couple of new cases.”
I crossed my legs and smiled. “No, I mean entertainment-wise. Any new magazine subscriptions?”
It took Charlie a second to catch on. Sometimes he was a little slow on the uptake. Unlike House.
“Oh, like that FHM, you mean.” Charlie rolled his eyes. “I still don’t know why House did that to Lara, but oh well. I certainly have firsthand experience that if you get on his bad side, anything can happen.”
I laughed briefly. If Charlie thought House had been targeting the department head, who was I to disabuse him of the notion.
“There’s only been one thing,” continued Charlie. “Not sure if this is even a prank, but House did have a dozen pizzas delivered to us at lunch yesterday, out of the blue.” He shrugged. “I don’t know how he knew we liked anchovies and hot peppers. We ate them, and Jane got Carl in bookkeeping to re-classify the charges to House’s department. No harm, no foul.”
Maybe he wasn’t so clueless, but I guess I blanched because he looked at me with a curious expression. I had to tell him, “He’s got it rigged so that any food charged to his department is billed to me.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Charlie was all over himself with apologies.
“That’s OK. You couldn’t know.”
“Well, I’d like to make it up to you. A friend of mine had something come up, and he gave me two tickets he didn’t need to a Princeton game. College hoops, not Big Ten or anything, but should still be fun. Do you want to go?”
“Sure! Sounds good. When is it?”
My face fell. “Oh. I already have dinner plans Friday with, ah, someone.”
“House, I presume? Well, you definitely can’t break that date.” Charlie chuckled. “It’s OK; you and I’ll make it another time.” After a quick check of the clock, he continued, “Hey, surgery time. I’ll catch you later, alright?” He popped me on the arm as he left. I shook my head and followed him out.