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Paper Whiteboards
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By Marisol

Paper Whiteboards
By Marisol

Paper Whiteboards

 

The usual bar, Friday night.  The drinks of choice are lying on the table in various states of drunkenness.  Their owners are in similar states.

 

House weighs a second glass of now-watered down scotch in his hand, glaring, daring someone to mention “alcohol”, “drugs”, and “liver” in the same sentence.  No one does.

 

“You’d think I’d have girls falling over me!” Chase exclaims.  Cameron and Foreman laugh.  “I mean, come on!  I’ve got nice hair, the Australian accent--“

 

“And you’re modest, too,” Cameron points out.

 

“Hey.  It’s got to help some, right?”

 

House continues to stare at his glass.  “People who bring out their accents as an attribute obviously have nothing to offer.”

 

Foreman snorts.  “Right, because you care about this so much.”

 

“No, not really.  But when you’re not happy, it makes me unhappy—“

 

“You’re always unhappy—“

 

“And if Chase not getting any ass is making him unhappy, I may as well offer my two cents on the matter.”

 

“Charmed, I’m sure,” Chase mutters.  Cameron smiles into her drink

 

“So.  Differential diagnosis, people.  What’s Chase’s problem?”  Chase turns, House notices, a quite charming shade of pink.  Undaunted, he takes out a pen and starts writing down “Robert Chase” on a small bar napkin.

 

Chase looks over.  “What are you doing?”

 

“I need a white board for a patient, don’t I?”

 

 

“Hello, you’ve reached the residence of Dr. Robert Chase.  I’m at work, and can’t come to the phone right now.  If it’s urgent, you can page me at 555-1928, extension 1001.  If it’s not too terribly important, leave a message after the tone.  Thank you.”

 

*beep*

 

“Robert, it’s Michelle.  You didn’t call at all last week.  What h h appened?  I mean, we were going out almost every single day, and then you just started ignoring my calls, or something.  Please let me know what’s going on.”

 

*beep*

 

“Dr. Chase, it’s Jennifer, from the bar last night.  I was wondering if we could meet up again?  I was getting very involved in your story; it’s too bad that your beeper went off and you had to run to the hospital.  Does that happen a lot?”

 

*beep*

 

“Robert, Liz here.  Just wanted to say thanks for ditching me when your colleagues showed up last night. Met a great guy who’s sweet and not attached at the hip to his job half the time.”

 

*beep*

 

“Chase, it’s Sarah.  What the hell is up with your phone message…”

 

 

 

“Why are you picking on me?” Chase asks.

 

“Well, it doesn’t have to be just you.  I’m an equal-opportunity picker.”  House takes another napkin, and writes on the top “Allison Cameron”.

 

“Uncomfortable about sex,” Chase points out immediately with a smirk.  Cameron giggles in response.  Foreman notices exactly how far gone Cameron is, and mutters to himself a quick, “Brilliant.” 

 

Aloud Foreman says, “Dr. House thinks she has some big tragic secret.”

 

Cameron blanches, House looks at Foreman in surprise.  “You mean she hasn’t told you yet?”

 

“Told me what?”  Foreman looks to Chase, who gestures that he has no idea what’s going on, either.  House turns his gaze to Cameron.

 

“Cameron’s keeping secrets from the rest of the class.  I wonder what else she’s hiding.”

 

Cameron, turning a strange shade of – well, House couldn’t quite classify that color – gets up from the table and makes a quick exodus to the restroom.

 

Chase shakes his head.  “Poor girl, can’t hold her drink.”

 

“No, it’s not that.”  Foreman points an accusatory finger at House.  “What did you do to her?”

 

“Well, I thought I was going to bring up a past relationship worthy of a Lifetime movie, but clearly,” he looks at the closed door of the women’s room, “there’s something else going on.  Something bigger.”

 

 

Lisa Cuddy was pissed.  She had cleared her schedule, shuffled her plans, and restrung her racket, only to discover that her partner for the afternoon had an “urgent” meeting in the city and was unable to make their “engagement”.

 

Fuck him.  She could stay in her office and mope.

 

Well, maybe not mope.  After House came into her office three times and made comments about her darling tennis shoes, the menacing position of her racket by the door, and her dedication to the hospital, staying here on a Friday afternoon… perhaps a scream was more in order.

 

The door to her office opened.  Cuddy didn’t even bother to look up.  “Dr. House, I am not in the mood to even breathe the same air as you, so if you would kindly –“

 

“Dr. Cuddy?”  Cuddy glanced up to see a hesitant Cameron in the doorway.  Her anger collapsed.

 

“Dr. Cameron, I’m sorry.  Please come in, have a seat.”  Cuddy rearranged the papers on her desk so Cameron could set down the charts she brought with her.  “Dr. House has been bothering me all day, and I just can’t take any more of it.”

 

“He does seem to be in an especially good mood today,” Cameron mused.  “What happened?”

 

“Oh, my tennis partner cancelled, meaning I have no reason not to stay here all day.  House finds it amusing that, for once, I have as little of a social life as he does.”  Cuddy smiled, a bitter smile. 

 

An awkward silence descended on the room.  Cameron looked at the windows, Cuddy, the desk.. ..  She noticed a tennis ball on the desk and began to toss it between her hands.  Cuddy noticed the practiced movement.  Her smile warmed.  “Hey, do you play?”

 

“Tennis?  Oh, not for some time.  I was on my high school tennis team --”

 

“Good enough for me.  Want to play a couple of games?  I’ve got an extra racket, and we can swing by your place, get some better clothes --”

 

“I can’t.”  Cameron pointed to the folders on Cuddy’s desk.  “I’m on clinic duty.”

 

Cuddy’s smile widened.  “If I say you don’t have clinic duty, you don’t have clinic duty.  Oh he’ll love this one.”

 

Cameron frowned.  “You’re not just using me to get back at Dr. House, are you?”

 

“Of course not!”  Cuddy began to pack up her desk.  “Let me just page House and tell him he has emergency clinic duty and we’ll be ready to go…”

 

--

 

Tennis matches turned into shopping expeditions, which turned into movie nights, which turned into dinners and, finally, late nights and frantic touches and whispered words that neither of them exactly meant.

 

The first night, Cameron broke down crying.  Cuddy held her, whispered comforting words that she didn’t know how to say and listened to Cameron’s life story.  How her husband died, and how she had never quite gotten over him, and that she had never dated since college….  Cuddy thought Cameron was the most broken person she had ever met, and she had met Gregory House.

 

But she assured her that everything was all right, and it didn’t have to mean anything, and the crisis was averted.  Cuddy was very good at averting crises. 

 

And so their arrangement went on.  Neither of them really thought about it, unless they were alone together.

 

Until Cameron got an inkling that House had figured them out.  Then she panicked.

 

 

“Now, Foreman.”  House begins to write his name on a new napkin.

 

“Stop.”  House’s hand pauses at Foreman’s protest.  “There’s nothing to diagnose.  I was seeing the drug rep, she kept asking me questions about you, and I was uncomfortable about it.”

 

“You have one misguided sense of ethics.  Sleeping with the drug rep is no problem, but when you realize that the drug rep is sleeping with you to get to your boss, whoa, better take a step back.  Do you always want to be the one doing the manipulating, Eric?”

 

“Ye – No!  I mean, that’s not fair!”  House gives his best “oh dear, am I making you uncomfortable?” grin.  Foreman barrels on.  “Hold on, how come you get to make uninformed diagnoses on all of us, but we can’t return the favor?”

 

“Well, first of all, I don’t know if I’d call my decisions uninformed, and second of all,” House knocks back the rest of his drink, “I have no life for you all to diagnose.”

 

Chase wants to respond, but is interrupted by Cameron.  Her eyes are red, and she is fumbling to put her cell back in her pocket, but she smiles as she sits down.  No one says a word.  She takes a sip of her now-warm drink and calmly asks, “So, who are we making miserable now?”

 

“House,” Foreman says quickly, before House can interject anything to turn the conversation back on someone else. 

 

Chase grins and begins to write “Gregory House” on a napkin.  “Care to start?”

 

“I will,” House says, sitting back and twirling his own pen.  “My initials can also spell General Hospital, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, gimpy hooker…”

 

Chase talks over him.  “Always comments on his lack of a personal or social life.”

 

“Cuddy thinks he’s miserable,” Foreman adds.

 

“He talks about Wilson in his sleep,” Cameron comments.

 

The table goes silent.

 

 

Wilson loved everybody.  It was one of those undeniable truths of life.  Wilson had a giant heart, and everybody in the world occupied some part of it.  Now, determining what part belonged to what person -- that was the challenge.

 

It was a challenge that Wilson was bad at solving.  Girlfriends, wives… they loved and they left.  Wilson was pretty sure he wasn’t committing any crimes, it was just that nothing felt right.  Something was wrong.  So when, one day, House suggested that the thing that was wrong was the gender of the significant other, Wilson thought he might be on to something.

 

It took him six weeks to realize that the man that House was thinking of was none other than House himself.

 

And so it began.  Nights of takeout at House’s apartment became nights of takeout at Wilson’s house, which simply became nights at Wilson’s.

 

For a few months, Wilson was happy.  Life with House was new and exciting.  But after a while, Wilson realized that something was still missing.

 

He tried not to let on.  House, for once, seemed content with life.  If House was content, well, it was obviously something on his end.  So he fell into an uneasy role – try to make House happy, and try to assure House that he was happy, too.

 

Wilson must have been good at deceiving House, because House didn’t have a clue that he was wishing House was someone else.

 

 

The silence, although overwhelming, ends quickly.  Surprisingly, it is Foreman who recovers first.

 

“How do you know that?”

 

Cameron shrugs.  “I went into House’s office to get a journal, House was sleeping in his chair, I overheard.”

 

“I don’t think that proves anything,” Foreman says.  “House is the kind of person who could write the great American novel in his sleep.”

 

Chase smirks.  “Wilson is the new Ishmael?”

 

“No.”  House taps his head knowingly.  “He’s more of a Bartleby.”

 

“That’s not my point,” Foreman tries to explain.  “Your brain – it doesn’t stop.  Look, you’re trying to diagnose us in a bar.  You probably diagnose Wilson while sleeping.”

 

House thinks about it.  “Odd.  Don’t remember it.  Let’s try it.”  He tries to grab another napkin, but three hands stop him.

 

“No,” Chase says firmly.  “I think we’ve all had quite enough.  We could talk for hours, and get everybody very upset and drunk, but it would accomplish nothing.”

 

“What else are you going to do?” House asks.

 

“I’m going to talk to that girl over there that’s been making eyes at me.  Excuse me.”  Chase gets up and walks off.  Cameron smiles and begins to toy with her beeper.

 

“Is that it?  Are we done for the night?”  Foreman stares at his empty glass.  “I should call a cab.”

 

“Give me a minute,” Cameron says, still playing with her beeper.  “Fun’s not quite over yet.”  She finishes punching in a code and sends it.  House looks at her, a question plain on his face.  She smiles, and repeats, “Give me a minute.”

 

Foreman sighs.  “Might as well get another drink.”  He signals to the bartender, who brings him another glass.

 

Chase comes back and sits heavily, moments after the drink arrives.  Cameron asks sweetly, “No luck?”

 

Chase glares at her and waves his beeper in front of her face.  “No, thanks to you.”

 

“I thought she would be impressed.  She’d see you were a doctor and all --”

 

“Yeah, and then she found out I was having drinks with my boss, and yet another girl leaves thinking I’m married to my job.”  He stuffs the device into his pocket savagely.  “You knew exactly what you were doing, Cameron.”

 

“Ah, but how do you know?  Is this part of my diagnosis?”

 

“NO.”  Foreman says forcefully.  “We are not mentioning that word any more.”

 

House looks at Foreman gently.  “It’s past someone’s bedtime.  He’s cranky.”

 

“Maybe.”  Foreman reaches for his cell and begins to dial a cab.  “But I’m out, because I have to work tomorrow.”

 

“And we don’t?”  Chase finishes his drink and stands up.  “It’s probably best if we all call it a night.”

 

“Yeah.”  Cameron stands as well.  “Are you coming, Dr. House?”

 

House is busy making a paper airplane with one of the napkins.  He absentmindly waves the three of them on.  As they turn their backs to him, he raises his head and watches them leave.  Cameron is wobbling slightly as she walks – Chase was right when he said she couldn’t drink.  Chase is watching her to make sure she makes it out all right, and Foreman is already outside.  

 

When they all leave, House takes the napkin with his name on it and begins to write.  Just because his team couldn’t figure out a diagnosis didn’t mean that there wasn’t one to be found.  And House likes a challenge

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