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By Auditrix

 

PG-13 (language; drug references)

Inspired by a teaser for the upcoming episode “Detox

The knock at the door sounded again, and Dr Lisa Cuddy looked up from her desk.   Through the Venetian blinds, she could see Dr James Wilson.  She smiled and nodded, and he let himself in.

He closed the door behind him.  Her smile spread from “polite” to “lovely” as she stood up.  Wilson held her gaze as his own bemused smile appeared.  Without breaking eye contact, he reached behind him and picked up the shaft that opened and closed the blinds.  He lifted his eyebrows. Cuddy, almost imperceptibly, shook her head.  He shrugged, dropped the shaft, walked past the couch, and took the seat in front of her desk.

She walked over to the credenza.  “Coffee?”

“I’d love some.”

She opened the carafe and filled two cups.  The aroma of the freshly brewed coffee filled the room.  Wilson smiled as she handed him his coffee.  It was in a real cup, not a paper cup with a paper belt, and the real cup sat on a real saucer next to two Pepperidge Farm cookies from her private stash.

He dunked a cookie into his coffee and took a bite.  “If this were about grant money or something like that, you’d be taking me to lunch, so I’m guessing this isn’t about anything good.”

“Didn’t you make this appointment?”  She pulled a chair next to her desk and sat down.

“No, you did.  But if you hadn’t, I think I would have.”  He took another bite. “For the cookies and coffee, if nothing else.”  He finished the cookie and put the cup down on the saucer.  “It’s Greg, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry.  But yes, it is.”  She stared at the ceiling and groaned.  “Damn it!  I have so much to do, and I waste so much time dealing with him.   And you, too!  You’re a department head, and yet you spend all this time being his – oh, I don’t know, caretaker, baby sitter, interpreter.  It’s ludicrous.”

Wilson just looked at his coffee cup.   Finally, he raised his eyes to meet hers.  “I know.  I know Greg is difficult.  I know he’s a jerk.  I know he’s self-centered and immature.  I also know he’s a good doctor and that he’s done a lot of good for this hospital.  And I really appreciate all your help.  I know it’s hard to play the bad cop all the time.  But you’re helping him -- and helping me -- more than you know.”

“You keep saying that, but I don’t see it.  And remember, I’m not in this to help anyone.  I’m just trying to help run the division.”

“I know, but really, you have!  I don’t know whether it was pity or laziness or what, but Andersson would have been content to let him lock himself in a closet and just send someone by to slide food under the door once a week.”  And the occasional bottle of Vicodin, he thought.  “It wasn’t doing right for the division, and it wasn’t doing right by Greg.  I did what I could, but I can only push so hard.”

“Judging from the mess Andersson left me, I would say it was laziness,” Cuddy said.  “House wasn’t the only train wreck he left me.  It took me a month just to get the records into piles, much less start sifting through them.  I still can’t believe he let him sit on that money for so long.”

“It would have broken Dr Nussbaum’s heart.  That Diagnostic Medicine project was so near and dear to him, and he really thought Greg was the right guy for the job.  He would have been so disappointed if he had known how long it took Greg just to start hiring.”  Wilson took another sip.  “But like I said, you didn’t invite me here to talk about money.”

“No.  I asked you here to talk about House’s habit.   There was Vicodin missing from the clinic pharmacy last night.”

Wilson’s stomach dropped.  Oh shit.

Cuddy saw the expression on Wilson’s face.  “Oh, no, no.  I’m not saying I think he took it.  Please, it was Monday.  He was nowhere near the clinic.  And besides, don’t you write for him?”

Wilson nodded, but his thoughts were racing.  Greg, damn you, if you’re not being straight with me – 

Cuddy’s voice broke in.  “No.  House didn’t steal the Vicodin.  He’s not that stupid.  You’re the only friend he’s got, and if he was going to choose Vicodin over your friendship he would have done it a long time ago.  It was the new pharmacy tech – she was going to resell it.  No, my point is that if we’ve got one thief we might have more, and House is too careless.  Last Friday he left his jacket draped over the chair again while he went to the bathroom.  Anyone could have just helped themselves.”

Wilson just nodded.  He didn’t tell her that he’d had this conversation with House just the night before.   He’d gone home with House and, as usual, when they walked through the door House had headed straight for a bottle that he’d left on the piano, before he’d even taken off his coat.  It was still on the piano – sitting on top of a note from his cleaning lady.    House started to try to make a joke of it, but he hadn’t gotten very far – no matter which way he took it, it wasn’t going to be funny.

Cuddy gave Wilson a long look.  “Are you sure he’s not just addicted?”

Wilson’s expression grew cold.  “We don’t need to be discussing that.”  Did she have to go there?  Again?  What did she think he was going to say?  If she didn’t understand that he wasn’t going to gossip about a friend, surely she must remember that whole doctor-patient relationship thing.

But Cuddy had already started going over her own let’s-fix-House plan.  “What about a pain management program?  We’ve got one right here; he could go as an outpatient.  There’s one at Hopkins, he could go there.  There’s one in Philly, he could go there.  I don’t care where he goes, he could go to one in, I don’t know, Colorado or something!”

Colorado.  Oh, yeah, Greg would really go for that, Wilson thought.  He could look out the window and watch all the skiers, and think about the skis he’d used to own. And then he could slip and fall on the ice and break his shoulder or his hip!  That would really help him kick the habit!  Wilson knew Cuddy meant well, but he really hated it when she started on this tangent, and he could see why the topic angered Greg so much.  Greg had tried the program in Philly, years ago, but had checked out early.  Wilson could still remember the unbearable tension in the car as he’d driven Greg home.  He’d pushed the seat all the way back so Greg could stretch out his leg, and Greg rode the whole way in silence, twisted towards the window, his hand knotted in his hair, his mouth pinched, his eyes focused on something Wilson couldn’t see.  He’d never told Wilson what happened, but Wilson had never forgotten the fury and humiliation that shrouded Greg’s eyes that horrible afternoon.

He also really hated thinking over this whole Vicodin question.  He honestly believed House needed the Vicodin, but he also thought House could stand to taper back – for the sake of his liver, if nothing else.  And Cuddy was right – House was getting too complacent.  He had to be more careful with his narcs.

Cuddy was still yakking about inpatient programs and interventions and the mind-body connection and back to interventions and free-floating complaints about babysitting House and how it was like dealing with a kindergartener, she might as well just put up a damn chart with red and blue stars, when she stopped short.  “That’s it!  Positive reinforcement!”

Wilson looked at her.  This didn’t sound good.

She leaned back with a smile of triumph.  “What does House want that only I can give him?  To get out of clinic duty, of course.  I will make him a deal, and I’ll make it on Thursday:  If he cuts back on the Vicodin, I’ll let him off clinic duty for a couple of weeks.”

Wilson thought about it.  “This... this could work.“

“Will you work with me?”

Bad cop, good cop.  It had been a fruitful arrangement so far.  He thought for a moment.  “Sure.  But you’ll have to define ‘cut back,’ maybe let him set the terms. “  He grinned.  “Don’t do it when I’m around, he might suspect something.  And whatever you do, give him an out – don’t put him on the spot.” 

“How could I forget?”  She glanced towards the door.  “Now, what kind of wager are you and I going to place?”

“I’m not betting against Greg,” Wilson said.  “Not this time.”  He leaned forward.  “And I’m not betting against you.”

 “Well, if House pulls this off, he gets a couple of weeks off clinic duty.  You’ll have the satisfaction of seeing him a little cleaner, and you’ll undoubtedly win some money from Foreman as well.  What’s in this bet for me?”

“A department head who doesn’t leave his narcotics lying around.”

“That’s not winning.  That’s what I’m supposed to have already.”

Wilson leaned forward.  Their knees were almost touching.  “You’ll have my gratitude.”

“I like that.  But you’ve already given that to me.”

Wilson gave her his most charming smile.  “If you pull this off, I’ll wear that green tie again.”

She laughed.  “Perfect!  That color really does look so nice on you. And that was such a good save you came up with the last time.”

He smiled again as their eyes locked.  Part of him was still worried about this bet idea, but another part of him was thinking about the green tie.  And as long as it was just “cutting back”…

They jumped as Cuddy’s phone buzzed and her admin assistant announced a call.  “Just a moment, Gina,” Cuddy called.

Wilson checked his watch and jumped again.  “I need to get going.”

Cuddy chuckled and dropped her voice to a whisper.  “Life as a double agent.  It must be busy.”

“Busy, yes.  But never boring.  And the snacks are good.  I’ll see you later, Lisa.”  He furtively squeezed her knee before he stood to leave.   Cuddy’s warm smile cooled back down to polite as she walked him to the door.  But her eyes twinkled as she said good-bye.

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