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By Ambra
 

Dr. Wilson walked down the hallway toward the clinic. He wasn't looking forward
to the conversation he was about to have. He approached the nurses station,
looking nervously around.
"Is Dr. House here?" he asked
"Exam room 1," the nurse replied without looking up.
"Is he with a patient?" If he is, thought Wilson, I can delay this a little
longer. The nurse shot her eyes towards Wilson, then to the clock on the wall.
Wilson glanced up and nodded.
"Thanks," he mumbled half-heartedly, heading towards the room. Knocking
lightly, he turned the knob before getting a response. Dr. House sat in a chair
at he far end of the room, hunched over the portable TV he clutched in his hands. Absorbed in an episode of his daily soap opera, he barely noticed as Wilson closed the door behind him.
"House, I..."
House cut Wilson off with a raised finger. "Shh...Angela's about to find
out who the father of her baby is." House's spine stiffened as the climatic
moment approached accompanied by a muffled crescendo of music which faded to the sounds of a commercial.
"Damn!" House cursed, "I hate when they do that!" He looked up at Wilson,
standing with his hands in his coat pockets, looking like a schoolboy with a bad
report card.
"What? Did Cuddy send you in here to take away my TV? I'm on my lunch
hour. I do get one of those you know. So what if I choose to take it during my
clinic time."
"As far as I know, Cuddy has no knowledge of your lunch hour activities."
"Good. Now, if you don't mind, the commercials are almost over." House
lowered his gaze back to the tiny screen. Wilson took a deep breath. This was
going to be harder than he thought.
"I have a favor to ask," he finally pushed out.
"You want to take over my clinc hours? How generous of you!" House said
without looking up.
"No. Julie has a friend coming in from out-of-town. We're going out to eat
and..."
House cut him off. "Unless you're asking me to stop by and feed your cat,
the answer is no."
Wilson prepared himself for the next offensive. He'd run through every
scenerio in his mind before he'd walked into work that morning so House's
initial refusal didn't surprise him. Taking a deep breath, he charged into the
fray once again.
"House, it's just dinner. Karen was going to bring her boyfriend, but they
just broke up and Julie just doesn't want her to feel like a third wheel."
"So she's on the rebound. Well, that sounds like loads of fun. No thanks."
House's concentration sank deeper into the trials and tribulations of the soap
opera characters.
"Oh, come on. It's not like you have anything planned. Besides, I already
promised Julie you'd be there."
House fixed his eyes on Wilson. "Ever heard that old saying about writing
checks your ass can't cash? Better go tell Julie you're overdrawn." Glancing
back down at the TV, he continued, "Besides, Julie doesn't want me there to make her friend comfortable. If that was true, I'd be the last person she'd pick. She wants me there to keep you from being too friendly with poor Karen."
Wilson raised his eyebrows. "What?" he asked genuinely shocked. This wasn't
a scenerio he'd planned on.
"Now don't play innocent," House said, the start of a smirk curlng the
corner of his lips. He loved to read his friend, especially the pages that
Wilson thought were hidden. "You know the last thing Julie wants is you between
her and another attractive woman. Karen is attractive, isn't she?"
"Well, yes," Wilson answered, his face beginning to blush.
"And an emotionally needy woman at that. Of course, you'd see it only as
being kind, offering a shoulder to cry on. Julie, however,will see it a bit
differently." House hoped the illumination of Wilson's weakness for beautiful
but fragile women would make the young doctor drop his request. Those hopes were dashed as Wilson took another deep breath, ready to once more go into the
breach.
"What difference does it make? It's only for a couple of hours and who knows, you might actually enjoy yourself."
House rolled his eyes. Wilson was being annoyingly persistant. "Besides the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing you a favor, what's in it for me?"
"A free meal at Chez la sur. I had to call six months in advance to get reservations. Not the type of place you'd take yourself--or a date for that matter."
"Are you saying I'm cheap?" House shot back.
"I'm saying your not given to treating yourself," Wilson recovered before the perceived insult could finish settling.
House sighed. Wilson was being uncharacteristically stubborn. Julie must have really put the fear of God into him.
"Fine. What time is this extravaganza?"
"8 o'clock tonight. Want us to pick you up?"
"No, I'll take a cab, which you will reimburse me for, by the way."
"Fine. See you then." Wilson opened the door. Finally, House thought as he
turned back to the pressing issues of his fictional friends.
"Oh, and don't forget to wear a coat and tie. Chez la sur has a dress code."
"Great," grumbled House at Wilson's retreating form, "this is going to be just great."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
House fidgeted in the back of the cab. These vehicles never had enough room
for his legs even before his infarction. Now the ache in his right thigh begged
to be stretched out. He rubbed the top of his leg trying to get the pain to
subside. Finally, they pulled up in front of Chez la sur. House paid the cabbie
while simultaneously stepping out of the taxi. As he approached the door, he
glanced down at his watch: 8:06. Good. Fashionably but not impolitely late.
"Where have you been?" asked Wilson as House entered the door. Obviously he
didn't agree with House's time ettiquette.
"Sorry, but it does take me a little longer to get around these days," House said, lifting his cane slightly.
"You know how Julie is about punctuality. She was afraid you'd decided to
stand us up," Wilson said, leading House towards their table.
"Boy, you must have really been turning on the charm for poor, dear Karen
for Julie to be anxious after just six minutes. Give it a rest." House couldn't
help giving his friend this last jab as they neared the table, too near for Wilson to make a discreet reply.
"Karen, I'd like you to meet my friend and collegue, Dr. Greg House." Wilson motioned to a dark-haired woman sitting beside Julie. Karen stood and greeted House. "Nice to meet you, Greg."
Not bad, thought House. Slim but with just enough curves to add shape to
the deep blue cocktail dress she wore. Her face, oval with a slightly pointed
chin, had minimal make-up, just enough to accentuate her dark eyes and high
cheekbones. This might not be a total waste of time after all, thought House as
he took his seat beside Karen.
"So you work with James at the hospital?" Karen asked. She even seemed
genuinely interested.
"Yes, but in different departments. I'm head of diagnostic medicine,"
answered House, pleased to have someone new to tell his title.
"Karen's an advertizing consultant in San Diego," Julie interjected, afraid
the conversation would lag.
"Really. What brings you to New Jersey?" asked House.
"Potential clients," Karen said as she picked up her menu. She wiped the
glossy film on the inside with her linen napkin. House raised his brow
quizically. Must have some crumbs on it, he thought. He began scanning his own
menu, looking for a sufficiently pricey entree to put a dent in Wilson's credit
card statement.
"This Maine lobster tail looks delicious," he said, glancing over the top
of his menu to see Wilson's reaction, but his collegue wouldn't meet his gaze.
"Yes, it does sound good," said Karen. A co-conspirator, thought House. He
could almost hear Wilson's chest tightening as the bill ran up.
"And what's dinner without wine?" asked House.
"Why not champagne," Wilson blurted semi-sarcastically, glaring at House.
As House's mouth turned into that all too familiar devious smile, Wilson
immediately regretted his outburst.
"You're right. This is a special occasion after all. Right Julie?" Wilson
can't say no to his wife on this, House thought.
"Well, I guess it is. Karen and I haven't seen each other in about ten
years, " Julie said, her face brightening.
"Then that settles it. Champagne it is. If that's alright with you,
Wilson." House enjoyed watching his friend squirm.
"Of course," said Wilson with fake enthusiasm.
The waiter approached the table as Wilson closed his menu, resigned to the
fact that his credit card was going to be close to maxed this month.
"Good evening. My name is Michael and I'll be your waiter tonight. Can I
get you anything to drink?"
House watched with barely masked glee as Wilson ordered the best champagne
on the menu followed by four orders of the Maine lobster tail. House was taking
a look at the dessert menu when Karen's voice shook him from his reverie at
Wilson's financial state.
"Excuse me, Michael. Can I get a new napkin? This one's dirty." Geez, a
dirty menu and a dirty napkin? House began to wonder about hte sanitary
conditions at this high-class resturant. He glanced over at Karen; she was
busily lining up her silverware with the bottoms level, evenly spaced. A nervous
habit? He hoped she wasn't having second thoughts about the extravangances
piling up on the bill.
"Here's your new napkin, m'am," said Michael.
"Thank you," said Karen, taking the napkin from the waiter. House expected
her to put it in ther lap, but instead, she began vigorously rubbing the
utensils, then carefully positioning them back in perfect alignment.
"Is there something wrong with your silverware?" asked House.
"Just making sure it's clean. Can't be too careful," answered Karen without
taking her eyes off the task at hand. That's when House noticed it--she was
rubbing the utensils in sets of three. Rub rub rub. Pause. Rub rub rub. Pause.
He looked over at Wilson, who seemed as baffled as House
The waiter appeared with the champagne; he finished pouring just as Karen
finished her task.
"Excuse me, Michael. Could I get another napkin?" The young waiter looked
genuinely puzzled as he dutifully took the five-minutes-old napkin to the
kitchen.
"A toast," said Wilson, doing his best to break the tension, "to good
friends, new and old." The group clinked glasses and began to sip the champagne.
House watched Karen out of the corner of his eye. Sip sip sip...again with the
set of three.
"Excuse me," said House, grabbing his cane and rising form his chair, "I'll
be right back."
"I'll come with you," said Wilson, jumping up and joining House before he
could object. Wilson followed House to the bar at the far side of the resturant.
"Scotch on the rocks, " House barked over the din of the other patrons.
"You're having a scotch," asked Wilson.
"Yeah, but don't worry. I'll be sure to put it on your tab," said House,
leaning against the edge of the bar. Damn, did his leg hurt! He reached into his
pocket, fumbling for his ever present Vicodin.
"We've got champagne at the table," Wilson pointed it out.
"I've never really cared much for champagne," said House, still searching
his pockets. Where the hell is it?
"So you had me order champagne, just to run up the tab?" Wilson already
knew the answer to that one.
"And to impress the ladies. Well, your wife anyway. I think Karen's too
busy rubbing invisible specks off the silverware and having the waiter fetch
napkins everytime he walks by to really notice the bubbly."
"She does appear to be a bit of a neat freak," said Wilson.
"She has OCD. Damn it! I forgot my pills in my other jacket! This is what
happens when I do people favors."
"Just as well. Somehow I don't think champagne, scotch, and Vicodin are a
recipe for continued lucidity."
House took a swig of his scotch. "Exactly. If I have to watch her
ritualistically pick through her dinner, I want to be as unlucid as possible."
"It's not that bad. Besides, you don't know she has OCD. Maybe they're just
little quirks," said Wilson.
"Not that bad? She's doing everything in threes, even drinking her
champagne in three sip increments! You don't think that's a little annoying?"
House gulped the rest of his scotch.
"Just don't pay attention to it," advised Wilson. "You don't have to
observe every little detail about everyone, you know."
"She's sitting beside me, Wilson. It's kind of hard to ignore. And the
waiter thinks she's my date. I'm going to be the one getting the dirty looks
when she cleans them out of napkins!" House grabbed his cane and followed Wilson back to their table just as Michael arrived with their meals.
"This looks delicious," Karen exclaimed as House sat back down beside her.
"Is everything ok, Greg?"
"Fine, just fine. Let's dig in." Yeah, the sooner we finish eating the
sooner I can go home, take my Vicodin, and begin forgetting this night House
popped a piece of lobster tail into his mouth. At least the food was good.
Excellent in fact. Maybe Wilson was right. Maybe he should just ignore Karen's
little "quirks" and just enjoy the meal.
Tap tap tap. Pause. Tap tap tap. Pause.
House clenched his jaw in mid-chew. Now what? He glanced over as the next
series of taps began and saw that after cutting off each piece of meat, Karen
tapped her knife three times on her plate. House closed his eyes for a moment
then looked at Wilson, who'd also noticed this new "quirk."
Tap tap tap. Pause. Tap tap tap. Pause. Sip sip sip. Pause.
Then the unthinkable: her napkin slipped to the floor.
"Oh, Michael," Karen called to their waiter, busy at another table, "Could
you get me a new napkin?"
House gulped down his champagne and put his glass down just in time to see
Wilson do the same.
"More champagne?" asked Wilson, filling House's already profered glass,
then his own.
Thirty minutes, another glass of champagne, and innumerable three-set taps
and sips later, dinner was finally over. Wilson glanced at the bill, his
eyebrows raising involuntarily as he noticed the amount. House thought he even
saw a bit of color drain from his friend's face.
They stood outside while the valet brought Wilson's car around and hailed a
cab for House. Almost home, he thought, almost home.
"Here, let me fix this for you," said Karen, suddenly grabbing the knot on
House's tie and straightening it. House recoiled slightly, wrapping his fingers
tighter around his cane, not for balance, but to fight the urge to push Karen
out of his personal space.
"Car's here," said Julie, climbing into the driver's seat. Wilson slumped
into the front seat, his eyes down to avoid the icy stare he knew House was
giving him. Karen finally released House's tie, evidently satisfied that it was
as straight as it could possibly be.
"It was a pleasure meeting you, Greg. Here's my card. If you're ever in San
Diego, look me up."
"Thanks," House said, sticking the card in the pocket where his Vicodin
should have been. He opened the car door for Karen and gave her a noncommital
smile as he closed it behind her.
"And I'll see you at work tomorrow, Wilson," House said to the slouching
figure in the front seat. Wilson waved his hand weakly as Julie pulled away.
"Your taxi, sir," said the valet, holding open the door of the cab that had
pulled in as Wilson's car left. House climbed in, gave the driver his address,
stretched out his aching leg as far as he could, and. closing his eyes, counted
down the miles back to his home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wilson walked past the clinic's nurse's station. He didn't bother to stop to
ask where House was this time. Opening the door to exam room 1, he saw House in the same position he'd been in the day before. House glanced up momentarily, just to make sure it wasn't Cuddy coming in to check on him. He noticed, Wilson's eyes were as bloodshot as his own.
"That's why I don't like champagne. It gives you one hell of a hangover."
House blinked his eyes a few times in an effort to get them to focus.
Wilson walked over behind House, watching the little TV over his shoulder.
"So who's the father of Angela's baby?" he asked, even though he couldn't
care less.
"Some guy she met in a bar. Or maybe it was his evil twin." House leaned
his elbow against the exam table and rested his head in his hand. The image on
the screen flickered for a moment as the TV momentarily struggled to get it's
signal back.
"Julie took Karen to the airport this morning. She wanted me to tell you
again how much she enjoyed meeting you." Wilson rubbed his eyes as they focused on the TV.
"So did Julie notice her friends 'quirks'" asked House.
"Yeah. In fact she's known about them since the two were in college
together. She just 'forgot' to mention it to me."
House glanced over his shoulder at Wilson. He's telling the truth, House
decided, and turned back to his program.
"You have to admit it wasn't all bad," said Wilson. "You did get a very
nice dinner and drinks out of it. I'll be walking with a cane myself by the time
I get my credit card paid off."
House shrugged. "It's the price you pay when you ask me to do a favor."

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