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					“Ma'am?" I turned my head to the man sitting next to me. He was looking at the item I had in my hand.

"What is that?"

"Do you want to look at it?" I smiled at him and slid it over.

"You know, I've been here before. They have one guy there that..." but the rest of his words were drowned
out by the loudspeaker. The flight attendant was starting the pre-flight drill...

“Welcome to Flight 325, nonstop from New York to London…” I tuned the flight attendant out right there. I
have bigger worries…like the events of the past 3 months. I have tried all I can not to allow any distractions
in my life…they only get me in trouble. I should‟ve known better than to let it happen this time…

After all, my life has been going fine. I pay my bills, I travel all over the world at a job I absolutely
love…everything has been going fine. Personal relationships have only brought me pain.

Well, ok, there is the fact that the last boyfriend I‟ve had was 3 years ago…and, ok, maybe he did run off with
my ex-best friend/roommate. All right, maybe they are married with a baby on the way (as my mother has so
conveniently reminded me just last week, “Darling, they were kissing in front of the frozen peas. What could
that mean?” Beats me.) I do actually have another man in my life…George, my Bassett Hound. He‟ll never
leave me. He is the only man I‟ve ever needed, or so I thought…until I met HIM.

Sorry…I‟ve probably got you incredibly confused. Let me go back 3 months…you‟ll soon understand. It all
began with a phone call.
******
RING RING! RING RING!

I ran to my desk and caught the phone on the last ring. “Wellington Photographers. Haley Wellington
speaking.”

   “Ms Wellington? My name is Dr. Lisa Cuddy, Dean of Medicine at the Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
in New Jersey. A friend of mine referred me to you. Katie Jackson? You shot her wedding a couple months
ago.”

  I plopped down in my chair and moved my hair out of my eyes. “Yes. I remember. You were the maid of
honor, weren‟t you?”

  A heavy silence was ended by a sigh. “Yes. You were the only photographer there. You work alone, don‟t
you?”

  “Not any longer. My brother-in-law Derrick works for me now. We are SO busy.”

  “Oh,” her voice fell. “So you are completely booked up then?”

  I opened by overflowing day planner. “Actually,” I said, as I flipped the pages. I saw that I had about 2
straight weeks open coming up. “Right now, I have 2 weeks open, the only time I‟ve had open in 6 months. I
would be happy to help. What do you need? Wedding? Shower? Anniversary? Birthday? Bar Mitzvah?”

  “Calendar shoot.”

   I stared at the phone for a minute then asked, “Excuse me? Calendar shoot? But you work at a hospital,
right?”
  An exasperated sigh filled the receiver. “Sounds crazy, I know, but the board decided to make and sell a
“Doctors of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital” calendar as a fundraiser to build a new cancer
wing.”

  I had to hold back a laugh. “You mean,” choking, “like a swimsuit calendar?” I could hear the smile on the
other end of the phone.

  “That‟s optional.” I couldn‟t hold the laughter anymore…I started giggling and couldn‟t stop.

  “Let‟s hope they‟ll be wearing more than just a stethoscope.”

  “Well, they have certain guidelines they have…” Dr. Cuddy was interrupted by a SLAM of a door, then a
gruff voice ask, “What‟s this I hear about posing for some calendar? If you haven‟t noticed, I have a bum
leg.”

   “Excuse me, Ms. Wellington,” the phone was muffled, but not enough that I couldn‟t hear what was being
said…”House, you will be in the calendar. I‟ll give you a month off clinic duty.” “Six months off wouldn‟t be
enough to make me pose for some calendar. You can‟t make me.” “Oh, yes I can. Don‟t forget that I know
about you and Debbie from Accounting in the 4th floor broom closet. Do you really want me to tell Wilson?”
Silence. “Good. You better start lifting weights…you are Dr. July.”

  My mouth hung open. It was blackmail!

   “Oh, fine,” the resigned voice of “House” (?) rang out. “But if we get swarms of giggling, hormonal
teenaged and middle-aged women, all demanding a piece of Stud Muffin here, you‟ll just have to deal with it!”
BANG! The door slammed shut.
*****
  I couldn‟t hold it any longer. I laughed so hard I fell on the floor. After I stopped laughing, Dr. Cuddy said,
“Sorry about that. I will have to warn you: that lovely interruption was Dr. House. Even though he‟s the best
doctor we have, he‟s the biggest problem we have as well. Everyone else is sane. You shouldn‟t have any
problems.”

  “We got interrupted before you explained the clothing guidelines. What are they?”

   “Our theme will be our doctors on their day off…what do they like? Are they real people? What do they do?
If they want to do a swimsuit shot, we will tell them that 5 year olds will be looking at the calendar, not just
auto mechanics and truck drivers.”

  “Couldn‟t we do two different kinds of calendars? The PG rated version, then a PG-13 rated one?”

   Dr. Cuddy thought about it. “I don‟t see why not. They could have different themes. We can brainstorm
later. Will you do it?”

  I was intrigued…I‟d never shot for a calendar before. It would definitely be different…and could be a lot of
fun. “I‟ll do it.”

  “Wonderful! When can you start?”

  “I‟ll come next Monday to tour the hospital, talk with everyone who will be in the calendar. Then, the week
after that, I can work for 2 weeks straight. If we need more time after that, I‟ll see what I can work out.”

  “Ok, just fax me the contract and I‟ll be in touch.” After Dr. Cuddy gave me the fax number, we hung up,
and I was still sitting on the floor.
  Knock Knock! Derrick opened the door and, seeing me on the floor, asked, “What‟s up?”

  I smiled, and started giggling. He patiently waited until I was finished, then I said, “We have a new job…a
pin-up calendar! Get this…for a HOSPITAL! It‟s called “The Doctors of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching
Hospital”.

 “Where‟s that?”

 “New Jersey. We will be up there next Monday.”

 Derrick came over and, helping me off the ground, said, “Dana talked to your mom today. She said she saw
Paul and Gina in the frozen foods section…and something about frozen peas?”

  That stopped my laughing. I sighed and fell into my chair. “Yeah, she told me. I‟m fine…I just need work
to keep me busy. I don‟t need those kind of distractions.”

  He studied me, a look of complete unbelief on his face. Kneeling by the chair, Derrick said, “Haley, you are
the only family my wife has, which makes you very important to me. You can‟t keep living your life like
this…shutting out any possibility of a personal life. George is a great companion, but don‟t you want kids?”

  I began shuffling papers on my desk, which told Derrick that the discussion was over. “We‟ve got a lot to
do, so let‟s get moving. We‟re going to New Jersey.”
*****
  Walking into the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, I was slightly taken aback by the niceness of the
interior. „Not like any hospital I‟d ever been in,‟ I thought. Right ahead of me was a nurse‟s station. Seeing a
dark-haired, severe-looking woman in scrubs, I asked, “Excuse me? Can you tell me where I can find Dr. Lisa
Cuddy?”

  The woman opened her mouth to answer, but a vaguely familiar gruff voice from behind me said, “She‟s
getting her latest round of breast enhancements. She won‟t be back for awhile.” Turning around I saw the
biggest pair of crystalline blue eyes in existence. Momentarily shocked, I held his gaze for a few moments,
then let it roam over his appearance. What I saw made me smile: At least 6 foot, mussed hair, wrinkled sport
coat over wrinkled oxford over (surprise) wrinkled t-shirt, cane, wrinkled jeans and Nike Shox. The 5 o‟clock
shadow looked like 5 o‟clock – last week.

  Sizing me up as well, he smirked as he said, “So, since when are we holding interviews for that new buffalo
wing joint downtown? I‟m sure they could use a new serving wench.”

  I smiled. I‟ve dealt with his kind before. “Derrick, look! Snow White‟s long-lost missing dwarf – Irritating!”

  Derrick snickered behind me, the dark-haired nurse coughed and Irritating (with the beautiful blue eyes)
squinted his. Someone cleared their throat behind me. I turned and saw Dr. Cuddy, wearing a fitted navy
skirt suit & low-cut blouse. Her heals made her about 4 inches taller than me.

  “Haley?" She stuck out her hand. “Good to see you again."

  Shaking her hand, I said, “Nice to meet you. Do you prefer Dr. Cuddy or Lisa? This is my brother-in-law
Derrick, who works with me.”

  “Are you the new hospital‟s interior decorator? You know, I think my office is too…BLAH!” Waving his left
hand and taping his right on his chin, he became animated. “I‟m thinking window treatments, carpet, billiard
table, maybe even a fountain, right in the middle. What do you think?”

  “Haley‟s the calendar photographer.” At this, Irritating‟s face contorted in, well, irritation.
  I pointed to Irritating. “Are you going to be in it?”

  “Not if I can help it.”

   “That would probably be best. After all, nobody really wants to look at an old guy when planning vacations
in a warm climate, now do they?” I turned to Cuddy, but felt a jab in my arm. Turning back to Irritating, I
asked, “What do you want, Irritating?”
*****
   “Well,” Irritating wiggled his eyebrows, “I‟m the only Doc here who can drive a motorcycle. Gotta have
a model on a motorcycle. Besides, what I can do on one could drive a woman wild. I‟ll be your Dr. July.”

   I barely caught the muttered, “More like drive a woman to drink,” from Dr. Cuddy behind me. I smirked,
than pulled out my notebook. “Dr. Cuddy gave me the names of everyone who will be in the calendar.” I
flipped to the page with the names on it. “I have a…Doctor Greg House as Dr. July.” I turned to Dr. Cuddy.

  “Is Dr. House cute?”

  “Is Doctor House cute?” Irritating parroted back to me. I turned to him, just in time to see him pose like
the Fonz, combing his hair back and adjusting his jacket. He turned to the dark-haired nurse. “Don‟t you
think I‟m cute, Brenda?” Brenda just rolled her eyes and went back to work. “Dr. Greg House, or, to you and
the rest of the human race, Dr. July, Stud Muffin Extraordinaire.”

  I rolled my eyes, picked up my bag, and faced him. “Ok, Dr. Muffin, I‟ll try and control myself. I don‟t know
how I‟ll be able to keep my hands off. I don‟t know how all these women can do it.” I walked around him
and trailed after Dr. Cuddy, with Derrick snickering and Brenda coughing again.

 Just as we got to her office, Dr. Cuddy turned to Dr. House. “House,” she said. “Get your team together.
You will be meeting with Haley in 30 minutes. Bring Dr. Wilson as well.”

 I looked over my shoulder and saw the baby blues studying me, a look of deep concentration in his eyes. I
winked and watched, with a grin, as his eyes went from concentration to surprise to challenge, all in a
moment. „Let the games begin,‟ I muttered under my breath.
*****
 Stepping into Dr. Cuddy's office, she immediately apologized. "I'm sorry about Dr. House. I have to warn
you...he's a piece of work."

 I sat on the couch as pulled out my notebook. "I can handle him...just play his game right back to him.
Now, I've made a list of everyone who will be in the calendar and what month they will appear." My list was...

       January: Dr. Kenneth Baylor

       February: Dr. Janet Kiley-Simpson

       March: Dr. Eric Foreman

       April:    Dr. Alison Cameron

       May:     Dr. Robert Chase

       June:    Dr. Lisa Cuddy

       July:    Dr. Greg House
       August: Dr. Monica Feldman

       September: Dr. James Wilson

       October:     Dr. Stephanie Johnson

       November: Dr. Billy Markson

       December: Dr. Taylor Miller-Frederickson

 "This looks great!" Dr. Cuddy said. "What do you need from me?"

 "I will need to meet individually with each doctor. We need to know what to expect from each other. We
will brainstorm, find out what "look" each doctor wants, then I will offer suggestions. After I've spoken with
each doctor, you will have to schedule me, since they are working doctors."

  For the next 30 minutes, we ironed out the basics, and by the time we heard the knock at the door, we
were talking about Katie's wedding. At the knock, I looked up to see a handsome group of doctors, one
female and three male and, of course, Dr. House.

  I introduced myself, explained what we were trying to achieve, and asked the beautiful female doctor, Dr.
Cameron, "Can I start with you?"

 "Sure," she smiled faintly, then looked back at the others. I saw her look linger a bit on Dr. House, but he
was too busy fidgetting with his cane to notice.

  "Dr. House?" he looked up. "What should I call you? I've got many names for you already...Dr.
House...Irritating...Dr. Stud Muffin Extraordinaire." Turning to the others, who were laughing behind their
hands, "Actually, Irritating was the only one I came up with on my own. What do you usually call him?"

  The handsome oncologist, Dr. Wilson, smiled and said, "House."

  "You can call me...Dr. July. That is the only name I will respond it." The look of challenge from earlier
returned.

  "Ok, Jules it is. You're next."

  The doctors shuffled out as Dr. Cameron sat down. I did look up in time to see House regard me with a
quick look of awe, then be dragged out by Dr. Wilson, whose smile I lingered on. 'He's hot!' I thought. 'Need
to pay more attention to him.'

  "Ok, Dr. Cameron. Which do you prefer...Dr. Cameron, Cameron or Alison?"

  "Alison, actually."

  "Ok, Alison. Let's begin."
*****
“Ok, Alison, have you ever done anything like this before?” Opening my notebook, I flipped to the page of
questions I had ready.

 “No. What an odd idea for a fundraiser, but I am game.”

  “What do you do after work? Do you have hobbies, are you involved in sports?”
   “I like reading, running, bicycling, swimming, rock climbing. But my first love is being a doctor and helping
people. I think that everyone deserves someone to be nice to them, someone to help them when they need
it.”

  I smiled. “When you first heard you were going to be in a calendar, how did you visualize yourself?”

   She thought a minute, playing with her long dark hair. “Well, not knowing what the theme would be, I
really wanted people to see me as the doctor I am…a doctor that tries to make their current condition better.
I want to make people more comfortable, make their experience at the hospital, no matter how serious, a
better one. We have a patient here who‟s been in a coma for 2 years. When no one‟s around, I like to go and
talk to him, make his experience better. They can hear you, you know.”

  My mind started racing, visualizing the picture. “How about a candid shot of you, sitting by this coma
patient‟s bed, talking about your day. I am going for candid; I don‟t want it to look posed. Did you know we
are also doing a sexier, more intimate themed calendar, for our older demographics? What are your thoughts
about this?”

  Alison suddenly became uncomfortable. I backpedaled a bit. “I‟m sorry. I didn‟t try to make you feel
uncomfortable. You know, I usually shoot candidly. This is my first official „posed‟ project, though I‟ve done a
lot of it, in my spare time. I want you to have a good experience, something you can look back on and feel
happy you are helping the hospital. What would you feel comfortable doing? You don‟t necessarily have to do
the sexier calendar.”

  She thought again, then a slightly wicked smile spread over her face. “My colleagues don‟t take me very
seriously. I want them to see me as a woman, not just a “childish, idealistic” doctor.” Her smile increased,
and I could see a plan formulating. “No one here knows, but I play the electric guitar. I could pose with my
guitar wearing my favorite black halter dress, like the girls in the Robert Palmer music video “Addicted to
Love”, hair slicked back, red lipstick. I could be in an all-white room, with one window, and someone could be
looking in with a shocked look on their face.”

  I sat, with a slightly shocked look on my face. After all, Dr. Alison Cameron is gorgeous, but it sounded like
she had a lot of repressed issues she needed to deal with. Clearing my throat, I asked, “Have you given this
scenario much thought?”

  She looked down, embarrassed. Then I remembered the look she gave Dr. House, and, smiling slightly,
asked, “Is this a message to Dr. House? You‟ve got a thing for him, don‟t you?”

  Alison‟s blush told me everything.

  I just had to know…“Why? I just met the guy today, and he‟s obnoxious to the power of 10. Maybe I just
don‟t know him.”

  She smiled slightly, then, looking up with a resolute look, said, “These are the photos I want. Can we do
them?”

  „What really happens in this hospital?‟ I thought, watching her watch me. I looked down, and, finishing my
notes, I said, “Sure. I‟m glad you know what you want. Of course, you will get a say in your photos, and if
you like them, I can put together a bound photobook for you. Well, that should be it. Do you have any
questions?” I closed the notebook and stood up, Alison standing up as well.

  She smiled, sizing me up. “When do we start shooting?”
  “I am told Dr. Cuddy will have the schedule. She‟ll be in touch.” I stuck my hand out, and she shook it,
with a slight challenge in her eye. „What is going on? Is she always so guarded and prickly?‟ I thought as I
studied that look.

  “I‟ll be ready.” Smiling, she turned on her heel and nearly ran into House, who was determinedly walking
through Cuddy‟s front door. “House,” Alison acknowledged him with a blush, then rushed out the door.

  “What did you do to her?” House pointed his cane at me on “you”, then towards Alison‟s retreating form on
“her”.

  “Me?" my voice reached the next higher octave, pointing to myself. "She doesn‟t even know me. Besides, is
this how you greet all new people?" pointing to him, "No wonder everyone‟s grumpy around you. Come in,
have a seat, Jules.”

   He regarded me with skeptical eyes, but followed me into the office and sat down opposite me. I pulled out
my notebook, turned to his page, and, after a few moments of silence, I looked up to find him watching me.
It was a look of challenge, mixed with „Mhmmm…what can I shock her with?‟

   Mentally shaking my head, I sighed and asked, “Ready?”
*****
  “Before we start, I think I should give you my vitals,” House smiled, counting them off his left hand. “I‟m
6‟2” tall, a trim 200 pounds. I love Chinese food and I hate vegetables. My hobbies include playing the piano,
taking care of Steve McQueen, playing chess and stating the obvious, at which I‟m competitive by nature.”
Studying my chest, he blurted out, matter-of-factly, “You know, that t-shirt isn‟t tight enough. You‟ve got
great fun-bags…why hide them.”

   „Don‟t let him get to you…he‟ll win. Play along,‟ My internal pep-rally was becoming bigger and more
frequent by the moment. „He loves the challenge. Look at those eyes…don‟t give him anything.‟ The smile I
flashed told him he wasn‟t bothering me, though, secretly, I was happy he liked my “fun bags”. „Haley,
distraction. Can‟t afford any distractions,‟ my personal cheerleading squad kept yelling in my ear.

  “Isn‟t Steve McQueen dead?” I asked dumbly. I needed to throw in a bit of SAW (Stupid American
Woman) to throw him off. “Loved him in „Bullitt‟ and, especially, „The Thomas Crown Affair‟.”

   He didn‟t take the bait. “Nope, he lives in a cage at my apartment…he‟s my rat. His cage sits on my
piano, and he‟s a songwriter. He writes the music, I the lyrics. He‟s very talented…he will be going places.”

   “Charming,” I said dryly. “Somehow, I had a feeling you‟d have a pet rat. Anyway, I won‟t even ask if
you‟ve done something like this, because I think I‟ve seen you before…GQ? New England Journal of Medicine?
America‟s Most Wanted poster? I‟m thinking the America‟s Most Wanted poster.”

   “Oh, Snap!” he sarcastically complimented me. “But I‟m very photogenic. I think my left side‟s my best
one.”

   “Ok, Jules, what do you expect from the photo shoot?”

   “A month off clinic duty…”

   “And Wilson never finding out about Debbie in the broom closet?”

    His head snapped up in attention. The “How the h*** did you know that?” look made me laugh. “Heard
the entire conversation. I was on the phone when you barged in. Look,” I leaned over. The action was
intended for two reasons: one, to get his attention; and two, so he could have a better look at the ‟bags. I
got both reactions, and I smiled saucily. “I don‟t care why you do what you do or why you act the way you
do. I‟m just here to shoot a calendar. Now, we can get along and I‟ll be gone quick, or we can continue this
lovely repartee as long as you want, and this personal h*** of yours will just be prolonged. Your choice. I
get paid no matter what you do.” I sat back and looked at him.

    We stared each other down for a few minutes then House sighed. His voice changed to a serious tone.
He leaned over as well, saying, “With all due respect, I don‟t want to do this, and I intend to make this as hard
as it possibly can be. I‟m a doctor, I‟m important, I make people all better. This is taking me away from the
puzzles that are patients.”

    “Ok, I understand that. But the sooner we finish, the sooner you can go brood in a dark room with your
piano and your rat. Let‟s finish, ok?”

   Regarding me, he said, “No. I‟ve never done this. With this leg, I try to avoid photos.”

   Looking at the leg, I asked, “I hope you don‟t mind me asking: What happened?”

  His look turned dark as he said, “War wound.” „That‟s not it,‟ I concluded, but decided to keep that to
myself.

   “Well, from that handy listing you gave me, I think I have some ideas for photos. Now, you have say in
what goes in. BUT, should I have any trouble from you, and time-out doesn‟t work, I‟m calling the teacher.
Got it?”

    His mouth quirked as he gave a short nod. “Good.” I looked away from him, out the window. I couldn‟t
think, staring into those blue eyes. “For our “tamer” calendar, I imagine you, playing piano to Steve as he is
exercising on his wheel. The setting will be a den or library. Since I‟m assuming the hospital doesn‟t have
one, where else could we shoot that?” Looking back at House, I saw him in deep concentration. “Well…” he
started, then stopped.

   “What?” I prompted.

    “My piano sits in my library at home.” He looked back into my eyes and gave me an ornery, quirked
eyebrow look. “Want to go back to my place?” For the first time since I met him, I showed my surprise. His
grin increased. Quickly composing myself, I looked down at my notebook. Picking up the pen I had laid on it,
I placed the capped end in my mouth and began to chew on it. I slowly, and discreetly, crossed my skirted
legs, careful not to reveal anything, but blatant enough to tell House exactly what I was doing. I watched him
the entire time, and saw a couple beads of sweat form on his forehead. I just watched him for a few beats
then, smiling, I removed the pen, uncrossed my legs, and, once again, leaned over to him. In a low, husky
voice, I answered, “As appealing as that sounds, I would rather have the job of cleaning the bedpans in this
hospital.”

    The result was like a bucket of ice water. He smiled. He knew the game I was playing…after all, he was
the pro. “Do you want your shot or not?”

    I sighed and gave in. “Fine. But I better bring my guy George to keep an eye on you. Any funny business,
he‟ll be on you like a tick on a dog.” „No need to tell him that George is my Bassett Hound…the look on his
face will be priceless,‟ I thought as my mouth smiled at the delicious thought. I could tell he was going to
mistaken my smile for something it wasn‟t so I rushed on. “Now, for the sexier calendar, I want you on your
motorcycle, white shirt, jeans, sunglasses.”

   “I knew you wanted to see the Stud Muffin in all his glory. What about shirtless?”

   At this, I rolled my eyes. “Boy, you really are full of it, aren‟t you? But if that‟s what it‟ll take for you to
pose, fine. I‟ll have to clear it with Dr. Cuddy, of course.”
    “Of course. She‟s been dying to see me half-naked, ever since that one night stand 10 years ago.” My
mouth dropped. Rubbing his hand over his chest, he said, “I will do it, shirtless, and with one other
stipulation.”

   I was starting to get really tired of these stipulations, and I really wanted to get him out the door, but I
knew I had to give in. “What would that be?” I asked with a sigh.

   He grinned as he got up off the couch. He started walking towards to door.

    “Wait, I‟m not finished. Where are you going? And what‟s the last stipulation?” I was more curious than
anything. I was also annoyed. After all, he walked away from me! But I knew I had to follow him in order to
get what I wanted, so I got up as well and started walking towards him. He turned around and I stopped
about 3 feet from him. Eyes making one last perusal of my body, he leaned down and whispered, “That you
are on the motorcycle with me, wearing a halter top, hot pants, and spike heels.” Before I could answer, the
door shut with a BANG and I was left with my mouth hung open, in genuine shock.
*****
   All I could do was shut my mouth and blink my eyes. „Did he just say what I thought he said?‟ I asked
myself. Shaking my head, I tried to sort out the man that is Dr. House…and my mind got too jumbled.

    GRRR! RUMBLE! I jumped as the sound filled the empty room, and my stomach clenched from the
protest. Of course, I forgot to each breakfast and I‟m starving. What time is it? ‟12:30!‟ I exclaimed.
Where‟s Derrick? He cut out just before Alison arrived. I guess I‟ll just find Dr. Cuddy…maybe she‟ll steer me
to the cafeteria…or maybe she knows where Derrick went.

    I grabbed my notebook, jacket and purse. There are decisions you make in your life that, as soon as you
begin following through with them, you instantly regret making that choice. I made one of those decisions:
walking, balancing my notebook, putting on my jacket and carrying my purse. I was so engrossed in my failed
attempt to do all at the same time that, once I stepped out of Dr. Cuddy‟s office, I tripped over my feet and
right into the arms of Dr. Wilson! We both crashed to the floor, with me on top, straddling him, effectively
pinning him to the floor. So embarrassed, I didn‟t move for a few seconds, just laid my forehead on his chest.
I felt his hand on my back, hesitantly soothing me. I knew then it was ok, but I couldn‟t make my body move.
I was actually liking this! „Boy, I need a man,‟ I berated myself for being so pathetic.

    A flash of what we must‟ve looked like went through my mind, and I started shaking. “Haley?” his soft
voice only increased my shaking. I lifted my head and my giggling continued, intensified. Immediately, Dr.
Wilson‟s beautiful brown eyes lightened and he started laughing. We laid there, laughing, until Dr. Wilson
choked out, “Are you ok?”

    “Yes. I‟m so…so…” I broke into giggles again. Calming down, I took a peek around us. We had drawn
quite the crowd. Among the onlookers stood a long pair of legs and a cane. I lifted my eyes to his – and saw
amusement mixed with a hint of pain. My eyes told him of my confusion, so I figured it was time to get up.
Quickly and modestly, I got up (didn‟t want to flash everyone since I was wearing a skirt), grabbed my
scattered belongings, and started running to the bathroom, humiliation spilling over my face.

   I had only taken about three steps when I felt a hand grab mine. I stopped, but didn‟t immediately turn
around. Releasing my hand, I sighed and turned to find Drs. Wilson and House behind me. “Dr. Wilson,” I
began, staring down at my hands. “I am sorry. I wasn‟t paying attention. I…”

   „Why am I acting stupid in front of Dr. Wilson? How come I can handle dysfunctional Dr. House but not
charming Dr. Wilson? What‟s that say about me?‟ so many questions popped in my mind my head began to
hurt.
     Mentally shaking them off, I was just in time to hear House say, “She was distracted by me – I‟ve given
her something to dream about tonight.” I opened my mouth to snark back, when Dr. Wilson asked, “Have you
had lunch yet?” He smiled at me, and I couldn‟t help but break into a silly grin. “Here,” Dr. Wilson took my
notebook, purse, and coat, and steered me toward the elevator. “Let me buy you lunch. It‟s not the best, but
it‟s not bad.”

   As Dr. Wilson and I walked to the elevator, we heard a step-step-thump behind us. Dr. Wilson pushed the
button and I turned to find House right behind me. I glanced at Dr. Wilson and his eyes were closed in
obvious exasperation. His eyes were still closed when he asked, “House? Don‟t you have a patient?”

    “I have a sudden hankerin‟ for a Reuben,” he smiled, looking straight at the closed elevator doors, but I
knew he was listening. The elevator still hadn‟t arrived, so I had enough time to turn around and say, “Jules,
you probably didn‟t expect to see me on top of Dr. Wilson. For a moment there, I thought you were jealous.
There‟s more of me to go around, you know. I can crash into you if you‟d like. Do you want to do it right
here, right now? Or should I make an appointment to see you? After all, you are a doctor. That is your
thing...appointments.”

   DING! The elevator opened to an empty cab. Dr. Wilson and I went inside and turned around to see
House standing there, holding the door open with his cane. “Jules? Why does she call you Jules?” Dr.
Wilson‟s grin was wavering on laughter. I saved House the trouble of answering.

    “Because when we first met, he insisted I call him Dr. July or Dr. Stud Muffin, Extraordinaire. I couldn‟t
stomach the second one, unless I could call him Dr. Muffin. I guess I could call you Muffie, couldn‟t I?” The
elevator began beeping…it was time to get in or stay out.

   “Are you coming?” Dr. Wilson asked.

   House walked in, staring at me, and only stopped when I was against the back of the elevator wall. His
eyes roamed my face then settled on my lips. He leaned as far as he could without touching me, his left arm
holding the wall above me, his right leaning on his cane. I involuntarily shivered at his hot breath on my lips,
but immediately went rigid when he asked in a husky voice, “You want me, don‟t you?”

   „He‟s not going to let this game go, is he? He‟s really good…‟ I thought as I looked at his lips again.

     I knew what I had to do to keep the game going, but I had to quickly think of something to help me pull it
off…a picture of a thick, juicy hamburger popped in my mind (Hey, I‟m hungry! I hadn‟t eaten remember?).
Still looking into his eyes, I slowly licked my lips. His brilliant blue eyes darkened as the distinctive look of lust
entered my eyes (not for him…for those fries that go with the burger!). I slowly smiled and leaned forward,
our lips barely inches apart. I whispered, my breath quickened, “I want…” his eyes darkened even further.
“…lunch. I‟m hungry.” Ducking under his arm, I moved to stand beside Dr. Wilson. “What floor is the
cafeteria on?” I asked him.

    “Six. I already pushed the button.” I knew that Wilson heard the whole thing. I discreetly looked over
and saw him laughing softly. I quickly looked over my shoulder and saw House watching me, a look of awe
on his face. Was that a genuine smile? My goodness, it was! I think he was proud of me. For the second
time that day, I winked at the man, which told him, “I‟ve got your number. I can handle you.” His smile
turned evil as he winked back: “Just wait...I‟ve only just begun.”
*****
   When we got to the cafeteria, I picked up a tray and got in line, with House right behind me, then Wilson.
House turned to him. “So, Dr. Wilson,” sarcastically emphasizing Dr. Wilson, in an especially loud tone so
everyone could hear, “Are you gonna pose with your smoking jacket, vodka, and “Come Hither” look for the
sexy calendar?”

   I couldn‟t help but giggle…it was funny! Ok, you had to be there…
    Dr. Wilson shot me an exasperated look, then said, “Actually, I was thinking of wearing jeans, leather
chaps, cowboy boots, cowboy hat and an apron, cooking and posing provocatively with a leg of lamb. What
do you think, Haley?” I coughed to hide my surprise and laughter. Before I could speak, House said, “Oh, I‟m
sure Haley can‟t wait for that. In fact, she can be the one to tie the apron on you. Those can get awfully
tricky.” I moved quickly ahead in the line. I didn‟t want them to see my blush. Before the boys could catch
up, I quickly paid and found a table for two…I really wanted to talk to Dr. Wilson…

     You know, with a cane, House sure can move quickly. He sat down across from me, which made a
frustrated Dr. Wilson steal a chair from the table beside us. I decided to bait House. “Well, if you are a good
boy, I will do what you requested for your sexy shot. In fact,” I leaned over and crooked my finger. He
suspiciously leaned over and I whispered, “I might wear even less.”

   I sat back and saw him gulp. Now, for being as obsessed as he is to play his game, he was still a man, a
man with definite…needs. I decided that the only way I could possibly win this game was to feed off this. I'm
not a doctor, and I had a feeling I couldn't possibly match wits with him even if I was.

   A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Besides, baiting could be even more fun than reeling them in. He
opened his mouth to say something, but I looked up to see Alison and two other doctors (I think Dr. Foreman
and Dr. Chase, the one with the girly hair) walk up behind House.

    “House,” Dr. Foreman said, eyeing our eating arrangements with a smirk. “Mrs. Johnson‟s white cell count
is down and she went into cardiac arrest. She‟s stable, but you‟re needed upstairs.”

   Sighing loudly and dramatically, he looked at me and I, waiting with a quirked eyebrow, said, “My, my.
Aren‟t you important. Go make her all better.” He smirked, then, grabbing his sandwich, said in a rather loud
tone, “I‟ll see you tonight at my apartment, 10 o‟clock? Bring your favorite hot pants and go-go boots, I‟ll
have the Marvin Gaye CD. Wilson, you‟ll need to vacate the premises. Our meeting is for ADULTS ONLY.” I
blew out the soda I almost got to swallow and shot House daggers over the napkin I was using to wipe my
mouth. His eyes read, “See? What did I tell you? I‟m better than you.”

   My mind quickly worked, formulating a plan. I knew that what I did had to do something really
unexpected. I slowly slinked out of my chair and walked up to House, who, by this time, was standing up,
preparing to leave. I placed my body between the table and House. Settling my hands on his waist, I leaned
up, blew in his ear, and said, “Ok, Jules. This means war.”

    I smiled, turned around, and sat back down in my seat. Picking up my hamburger, I spoke to House but
looked at the food: “I‟ll be there…with bells on. Oh, I know you'll like it! See you later, Jules.” I took a bite
as if nothing happened. For a few moments, it was dead silent around the table. I wiped my mouth and
looked up to find each of the younger doctors staring in amazement; Dr. Wilson‟s mouth open; and House
with a completely blank look on his face. “Don‟t forget about Mrs. Johnson.”

    That broke the trance, and every doctor, except Dr. Wilson, left in a hurry. Even House looked like he was
running from a burning building. Sighing, I looked at Dr. Wilson and asked, “Was that too much? I don‟t
know what‟s gotten into me. Maybe I‟m a repressed human being who feels the need to express everything
she wasn‟t ever able to at House. But this game he‟s playing, I love throwing it back in his face, giving him a
taste of his medicine, so to speak. I love playing this game, because he‟s squirming. I‟ve only known him,
what,” I looked at my watch. It was 1:02. “three hours. By the way, how am I doing?”

    Dr. Wilson smiled faintly, took a drink of his soda, and commented, “I am very impressed. You have
managed to match, snark for snark, with a man who has spent a great amount of his life snarking and biting
at others. Now, for once in his life, he has competition. I‟ve never seen a performance like that. You have
definitely won his respect, at least. I wouldn‟t be surprised if, by the end of this shoot, he asks you out.”
    For the second time in 5 minutes, I spit out my soda. “Excuse me? I have no interest in that basket case.
Dr. Wilson, I can tell you two are best friends. Why? How can you stand it?”

   He looked thoughtful for a moment. “First of all, call me James. Second, years ago, he saved my life. I
was just out of residency, and I was in a terrible automobile accident. Greg was the attending at the time,
and he took drastic measures to save my life. Now, I am the only friend he has.”

   “You mean you are his friend out of obligation?”

    “Actually, no. We developed a friendship that, despite how messed up we both are, has managed to stay
strong. I think it‟s the degree of accountability we hold each other at.”

    “You‟ve only known me for three hours. Why are all of you guys so open with me? That doesn‟t happen a
lot.” I munched on French fry.

   He smiled. “Because you aren‟t part of the hospital circle. We spend so much time with each other in this
hospital, it‟s nice to talk with someone else from the real world.”

   Taking my notebook, I opened it and asked, “Do you have a moment? We can talk about the photo
shoot.”

     He pushed his tray away and leaned back, studying me. “Sure. What would you like to know?”
*****
  “I have several questions I‟m asking of everyone. James, have you ever done anything like this before?”

   “Nope, but since it‟s a fundraiser for a new cancer wing, I‟m all for it.”

   Making notes, I kept asking questions. “What do you expect from your experience?”

   “I want people to see a different side of me. I can be fun, I have a sense of humor. But people don‟t
know that. I seem a bit stuffy, aren‟t I?” He fidgeted in his seat, pulling on the knot in his tie.

   I smiled crookedly. “Yes. Would you like me to help you?”

   “Lord knows I‟ve had enough women helping me. I am in the middle of divorcing my third wife.” Bells
went off in my head…third divorce? Is that bad...or good?

    “It seems that you feel misunderstood. At the risk of sounding like a psychologist, which I‟m obviously
not, I need to know how you really want to be seen as so I can find the right theme for you.”

   “Honestly, I‟ve always wanted to be carefree. I am so button-up and conservative a lot of ways. It seems
marriage isn't one of them...I want to look spontaneous, but in control as well.”

    Shaking my head, I knew we had a problem. But I also knew that small steps are what build the
foundation, or, in this case, make the sexiest calendar photo. At that moment, I saw House looking around the
cafeteria.

   “James, House at 10:00.” We both looked and House saw us. Making his way over, I asked, “Boy, this
guy really gets around. He's everywhere all the time. Is he always like this?”

   “One thing you should know about House: he hates patients but loves diagnosing. He will avoid clinic duty
whenever possible. So I would get used to seeing him around.”
    House swaggered up. He seemed disappointed not to catch us in a passionate embrace. He had to think
quickly. He commented, “Well, if it isn‟t Ms. Vogue herself? Got any make-up tips?”

   I studied him. “You know, you could actually wear pink. Wait, I‟ve got some pink lipstick in my purse.
James, you hold the mirror. He can watch the process.”

   James quickly smiled, then asked House, “What are you doing here? We are discussing the photo shoot.”

    “I don‟t want to go back to class, teacher,” House whined. “The mean old Dr. Cuddy slaps my hands with
a ruler.”

   James got up and, standing behind my chair, said, “Come on, Haley. Let‟s get away from the big, bad Dr.
House. We‟ll go someplace quiet…where he can‟t find us necking.”

   “Who's Dr. House? The only big, bad Dr. I‟ve heard about is Jules.” I looked up and pointed at House.
“Oh, yeah! That‟s you! My bad.”

   I stood up as James reached for my tray. House got to it first. “I‟ll take your tray.” I was momentarily
stunned…was House being polite? I quickly checked out the window, but the world hadn‟t come to an end.
Then I looked down at my tray…I hadn‟t eaten all my food.

     “Jules, you scared me there. I thought, for a minute, you were being polite. When I realized the world
hadn‟t ended, I forgot I hadn‟t eaten all my food. If you wanted it, just ask. Or did you get that far in
finishing school?” I walked away, following James, leaving House speechless and eating our dust.

   We walked for a few moments and, not seeing him behind us, James said, “Follow me. I know a spot that
even House doesn‟t know about.” Keeping an eye behind us, he took me to an alcove behind the Neonatal
ward. Only the muffled cries of the babies reminded us where we were. Settling down, I took out my
notebook.

   He let out an angry HUFF! Startled, I looked up to see a visibly angry James Wilson. “He doesn‟t help my
image at all,” James ran determined fingers through his thick brown hair. “Do you know how many times a
day I get asked why I‟m friends with the resident ogre? I know they don‟t understand House. I don‟t think
House understands House. But he‟s my friend, and I defend him. I have to be the nice one, the one in
control, to make up for the Mad Scientist. One day, I would like to get away with what House does, just
ONCE.” I silently watched him. I had a feeling he hadn‟t been this open with anyone in a long time, and it
was building up.

  “Ok,” I gently asked. “With this said, what could you do to make up for that?”

   He thought a minute. “I just want to be myself. I don‟t want to play a role.”

   “Run with that…what do you like to do? What are your hobbies?”

    “I love to cook. I like Monster Truck Rallies, watching movies, bicycling. But I‟ve always wanted to learn
Bull-Riding. Ever since I was twelve, and my dad took me to the local bull-riding championships, I thought it
would be thrilling to ride one, just for a few seconds.”

    I looked up in complete surprise. Dr. James Wilson – bull-rider? „Now THAT would be sexy!‟ I thought, my
brain visualizing him in those tight jeans and spurs.

   “I have some ideas…let me run them by you. Then you can decide what you want to do. You have
complete control over the pictures you choose…you decide what you like and what you don‟t.
    How about your first photo be you in the kitchen, a nice candle-lit dining room table in the background.
The picture will be candid, so you won‟t have to pose. The „sexier‟ picture will be of you, on a mechanical
bull.”

   I saw the wheels turning in his head. “I like it, but I can just hear the comments from House when he
sees it…” I put a hand on his arm. “This is your decision, but remember: this is about YOU, not about what
anyone else thinks or says. YOU have to be ready to say, “I don‟t care what others think of me. This is who I
am.” YOU have to be ready to defend yourself.” I didn‟t say anything else, I just sat quietly, making some
notes. After five minutes, I looked up and saw, for the first time in the whole 4 hours I‟d known him, a
genuine smile on his face, a smile of excitement, a smile of joy.

   “I‟m gonna do it.”

    I smiled broadly. “That would be SO GREAT! I can arrange for the shoot. However, I want to reassure
you that neither I nor Dr. Cuddy will be releasing any information. If you want others to know what you are
doing, it‟s up to you. What a great surprise! I‟m so happy for you, taking that step!” He smiled shyly. I
looked at my watch. “Oh, no! I have to meet with Dr. Cuddy in about 5 minutes. I need to go. Can you
direct me back?”

    He stood up as well, took my arm and wrapped it around his. “I‟ll do better than that…I‟ll escort you
myself.”
*****
  When James and I arrived at Dr. Cuddy‟s office, I said, “Thank you for sharing with me. It really helps. It
will make the photo shoot much easier. If you ever need to bend a pair of ears, mine are very flexible.”

   “Actually, I should be thanking you. I need to get upstairs. I‟ll see you later. What, um, I mean, what are
you doing tonight?”

   I knew he was asking me out. “Probably go back to my hotel room. Why?”

   James shifted feet and shyly asked, “Do you want to go out for dinner? I mean, you have to eat, and I
know this great place.”

    “Yes, that would be nice. Here, let me give you the name of my hotel.” Opening my notebook, I quickly
scribbled the name and address, then looked up and smiled at his dimpled face. “I probably won‟t be done
until about 5:30 or 6:00.”

   “How about meeting me in the lobby at around 7:30?”

    “Sure. I‟ll see you then.” I watched as he walked away. A deep sigh left my lips as I turned to Dr.
Cuddy‟s office. Judging by the look on her face and her body language, the phone conversation she was
having wasn‟t going so well. Seeing me, she flashed a smile and waved me in. I sat on her couch and caught
the tail end of her conversation. “House, I don‟t have time for this. I have a meeting.” Pause. “If you have a
problem with Haley, take it up with her. I‟m not playing referee. Go cure your patient.” Slamming the phone
down, she stood up, walked to the chair in front of me, sat down, removed her shoes, and sighed.

   She rubbed her eyes and ran her hands through her hair. “I‟m sorry about that.”

   “Did I do anything wrong?” I asked, a worried look on my face.

    “No. House is upset because he doesn‟t want you asking questions of his team. Claims you are too big of
a distraction to everyone else. Personally, I think you‟ve gotten under his skin and he can‟t stand it. He has a
control issue, but it‟s a mind control thing. I‟ve never seen him this upset, though. However, I‟m staying out
of it. House needs this…maybe you can finally break him. And I love to see him squirm. By the way, what
have you done?”

    “For starters, I‟m calling him Jules, short for Dr. July. I don‟t know if he likes it, but I absolutely LOVE IT!
Got a few minutes? I‟ll tell you everything else.” With animated hand gestures, I told her everything, from
the elevator incident to the lunch affair. By the time we were done, we were both laughing so hard, my sides
hurt and she had fallen to the floor. Sighing, she smiled and said, “You are my new hero. Keep it up…I‟m
proud of you!”

   “Well,” I said, picking up my day planner and notebook. “I really need to get started. I need to interview
you, Dr. Foreman and Dr. Chase by today. By the way, where is Derrick?”

    “He went back to the hotel. Said he needed to call your sister. I have an appointment with him at 4:00
for a tour of the hospital and possible areas to shoot at. What does your time frame look like?”

    I flipped a page in my notebook. “Ok, I should have all interviews done by tomorrow. On Wednesday, I
will need to return to Chicago, because I have projects coming up. But I will be able to arrange props,
locations, costumes (if needed), etc. from Chicago. However, I can‟t start shooting until two weeks from
today. Will that be a problem?”

   Dr. Cuddy got up from the floor and walked to her desk, picked up her calendar and walked back to the
chair. “Hold on,” she said as she flipped through her calendar. “It would work out great, in fact. But
remember that the doctors are at least on call 24/7. How do you plan to work around that?”

    “I thought about that. Dana, my sister, has become quite a good photographer, and will be able cover any
projects that I can‟t do because of shooting here. So, thankfully, I can cover myself pretty well. I am totally
flexible…but I do have one stipulation.”

   “Sure…what do you need?”

   “I have to bring George with me.”

   Her puzzled look made me smile. “That shouldn‟t be a problem…but whose George?”

    I grinned even bigger. “My Bassett Hound. He comes to most of my shoots, and he is usually a big hit.
But since it‟s a hospital, I'll have to work something out, since he can‟t really come in. I will also need a place
where he can stay as well. The poor guy has separation issues. But don't tell Jules about George. I led him
to believe that George was my boyfriend. Do you think House would be willing to dog sit?”

    Dr. Cuddy laughed. "Oh, that's great! The look in his eyes will be priceless when he finds out George is a
dog! I doubt if he'll dog sit, especially since you didn't tell him George is a dog. But I'll see if I can find a
place that takes pets. We'll work something out. Meanwhile, I have several ideas for my shoot.” Dr. Cuddy
said.

   Turning to the “Dr. Lisa Cuddy” page in my notebook, I said, “I have some questions I‟d like to ask,
though. What do you expect from this project?”

    “As an administrator,” Dr. Cuddy began, “I want to see this project as successful – completed on time and
to sell very well for our cancer wing. As a woman, I want to let my hair down. I want to be carefree.”

   “What do you mean by carefree? What attitude, deed or look will make you feel carefree?” My question
was followed by a long, awkward silence, which told me a lot. “You‟ve never allowed yourself to be carefree,
have you? You‟ve made others: the patients, the hospital, the doctors, especially Doctor House, more
important than yourself. You don‟t give much thought to yourself, because, if you do, you leave your
baby…this hospital…vulnerable. You, as a mother hen, need a vacation, or, at least, a chance to be carefree.
Just think,” I leaned forward in my seat, emphasizing think with my hands waving in the air, “this is your
moment to forget about the hospital, about whatever you wish was different in your life. This is a moment
just for you. Are you prepared for that?”

   Dr. Cuddy‟s eyes grew huge, like a kid in a candy store. She looked at her hands and mumbled, “I‟ve
never thought about myself.”

   “Now, with this in mind, what have you always wanted to do? What have you desired that no one else
knows about? What do you like to do?”

   “I love my father‟s vintage 1965 Mustang convertible. For the first calendar, I want to be in his
convertible, driving, my hair whipping in the breeze.”

   I clapped my hands excitedly (hey, I get excited sometimes and do girly things…can‟t help it!) and
squealed, “What a great idea! That would definitely be carefree.”

   Dr. Cuddy walked to her desk, opened a desk drawer, pulled out a catalog, and sat back down. “I‟ve been
eyeing this dress for 3 months.” I looked and my breath caught in my throat. It was one of the most
beautiful dresses I had ever seen.

   “That dress is wonderful! That would look great on you. But what does this have to do with being
carefree?” I asked, a puzzled look on my face.

    “I know what I want my sexy picture to be. I want to walk a catwalk. I‟ve always wanted to be a model,
but never had enough confidence…to my parents, it was always my brain over my looks, and I never dared
cross my father. But I don‟t even think about admitting to this weakness, though. Can you imagine what
House would do if he found out? Well, I guess that would irrelevant if I take the picture…he‟ll find out
anyway. But this is why I add femininity and sexuality to my role as Dean of Medicine.” She paused. “This
won‟t leave this office, will it?”

    “I‟m not a gossip. I‟m here to do a job. If that means helping the clients, even better. So, I can have you
walking the catwalk. We can bring in extras, you know, people off the street or something, to make it look
real. Real props, the works. What do you say?”

    Smiling, she held out her hand. I shook it. “Deal.”

   KNOCK KNOCK. We looked at the door and waved Derrick in. “Well, are you ready for your tour?” Dr.
Cuddy asked. Derrick nodded and smiled when he saw we were excited. “Good meeting, uh?”

   “Very good. This calendar will be great!” I squealed.

   “I need to meet with Dr. Chase or Dr. Foreman. How can I get ahold of them?”

    “Unfortunately,” Dr. Cuddy said, “The only way would be to do to Diagnostics. You know that Dr. House
is their boss, don‟t you?”

   „Didn‟t I know it,‟ I sighed to myself. “I‟ll be fine. Just tell me which floor diagnostics is on.”

   “Four. Good luck,” Dr. Cuddy sarcastically commented.

   “Yeah, I‟m gonna need it.” I walked out the door and headed to the elevator.
*****
  “Ding!” the elevator stopped on the 4th floor. Quickly gathering my wits, I sighed and walked through the
open doors. Seeing a nurse‟s station up ahead, I walked up and asked, “Where can I find diagnostics?” After
receiving a look for sympathy from the overworked nurse, she pointed me to the last door on the left. I
quietly walked to the department. The partially closed blinds allowed me to see in without being seen.

    What I saw rather fascinated me…the three younger doctors, gathered around a whiteboard with words
like “Gastroenteritis” and “Nausea” written on it. Leaning against the wall, in the far background, was their
scruffy mentor, playing with a yo-yo and looking rather bored.

    „Mmmm, I‟ve got to get House‟s attention. Could make it easier to get my interviews,‟ I reasoned.
Remembering the much smaller tank top I had underneath my t-shirt, I saw the ladies‟ room across the hall.
Quickly ducking in, I saw no one around. I removed my t-shirt and hiked up my pencil-straight skirt just a few
inches, enough to catch their eyes, but not give away my obvious manipulation. I removed my hair claw and
let my red hair spill around my shoulders, tousling my hair. „Something‟s missing…lipstick.‟ I searched my bag
and, finding the perfect shade, I finished my transformation. With one last perusal, I was ready to go.
Nonchalantly walking out of the ladies‟ room and, crossing the hall, I took a deep breath for confidence. I
boldly walked in.

    “Oh, so this is where Jules works. I thought he made a living following people, being obnoxious and
stating the obvious.” I looked around. Once the shock of seeing me wore off, each doctor‟s countenance
changed. I saw the shock mixed with amusement from Dr. Foreman; I couldn‟t see Dr. Chase‟s eyes because
he was staring at my breasts; and Alison‟s looked bordered on disgust, presumably for interrupting their work.
When I got to House, I barely caught the perusal of his eyes over my form, the veiled look of interest in his
eyes.

   When he looked up, he saw that I caught him. He quickly backpedaled. “Why are you here? Can‟t you
see we all have a job to do?” House‟s annoyed voice echoed through the stunned silence.

    “Well, I have a job to do, too. It‟s my turn to talk to your boys.” I looked at Chase, who had the decency
to stop looking at my breasts. I pointed to him. “You‟re cute. It‟s your turn.”

   “No, you can‟t have them. They‟re my duckies.”

    “Now, didn‟t your mother teach you to share your toys with the other children? That‟s not nice. It‟s my
turn to play. I‟ll make sure I return them the way I found them…but I might have to play rough.” I heard the
muffled laughter from the boys, and I snuck a peek at Alison. I saw her smile and felt better. „I don‟t
understand why she has been hostile to me from the beginning. Hostile clients are the worst to work with.
I‟m going to have to talk to her. We need to come to an understanding before the shoot.‟

   “But I get to play with them for awhile. You had her all morning,” House whined as he pointed to Alison.
Both of us rolled our eyes.

   I decided to whine back. “But I like playing with GI Joes. They have moveable arms and legs. And you
have some good-looking toys.”

   I slowly got out of my chair, bending over a little to flash a bit of cleavage. It wasn‟t lost to any of the
male doctors…in fact, Dr. Chase craned his neck for a look. „His neck is gonna hurt tonight, that‟s quite an
angle,‟ I thought. I stepped up to House and momentarily studied his face, which was plastered with a blank
but alert face. „What a fun game of „Flinch‟. I was always good at this game.‟ I decided to turn on the
charm. I smiled brightly and eagerly, then quietly asked, “Please? I won‟t be long, I promise.”

    I caught the quick look of surrender, then the gruff, “Fine. The patient‟s stable and we can‟t do anything
until tonight. You can have them.”
   “Thank you,” and flashed him a sincere smile, the first one since we‟ve met. His eyes sparkled. I knew he
saw the sincerity, but…oh, DANG IT! OH MY, GOSH! I just put myself in a position I‟ve been trying to
avoid…he will try to exploit that sincerity. „BAD HALEY!‟ I mentally screamed. Careful not to let anything be
read on my face, I smiled and winked. „I‟ve never winked so much in my life…keep this up, I won‟t be able to
open my eye,‟ I mentally grumbled.

   At this point in the game, I knew I had to tell him that my white flag wasn‟t ready to be flown.
Desperation does amazing things for people…I needed something, fast. Grudgingly, I turned to the old
standby…my feminine wiles. (Hey, I made a major boo-boo just now…I‟ve gotta save face!)

   Leaning forward, I whispered, “When would you like me to model my biker attire?” The only way I could
describe his smile was, well, wolfish. “Soon, very, very soon.” I chuckled.

   Turning around, I addressed Chase, who, along with the other “duckies”, had completely lost looks in their
eyes. “Come on, Dr. Chase. I‟ll take you to my lair and we‟ll get to know each other.” His eyebrows raised in
what I could only describe as “contented surrender”.

    Smiling brilliantly, I took Dr. Chase‟s arm and we walked out: his head up high, silly grin on his face; me
with an exaggerated sashay motion that I knew House wouldn‟t miss. Keeping my head down, we got to the
door. As we walked out, I turned to House. He was staring at my butt, which, I have to say, has been
looking very firm lately. I chuckled and we continued out the door, to the elevator.

   Once we got on, I turned to Dr. Chase. “I don‟t know this hospital. Where can we go to talk privately?”

     Apparently, Dr. Chase‟s smile was glued there, because it hadn‟t moved an inch. „Whoa, Ken,‟ I thought,
irritation building in me. „I don‟t want my eyes clawed out by Barbie. Cool the jets.‟

    “The roof.” He answered and pressed the button. „Oh, brother. I hope Junior here doesn‟t get the wrong
idea.‟
*****
   As Dr. Chase and I were walking to the exit, I heard running foot steps behind me. Looking back, I saw
Alison running to us.

   “Chase, House says that you need to go draw some blood from Mr. Riviera. He looks kinda mad.”

   I sighed. „The guy‟s not cooperating. He's backing out.‟ “Alison,” I asked as Chase walked away. She
had started to follow him back. She turned around and looked at me. “Yeah?”

    “Can I talk to you for a moment? Let‟s go to the ladies‟ room.” We backtracked to the bathroom and
walked in. Finding no one, I pointed to a couch situated in the corner, beside the sinks. We both sat down
and, before I began, I pulled the t-shirt out of my purse and slipped it over my head. That bathroom was
cold! “Did I do anything wrong? I‟m sensing I made you mad somehow. Whatever it was, it wasn‟t meant to
hurt anyone.”

   Alison sighed and looked at her hands. Carefully watching her, I sensed she was upset…but not
necessarily at me. When she looked up, she bore a defeated look. She sighed. “No, you didn‟t do anything
wrong.” Unfortunately for her, I read everything on her face, all she was trying to hide.

   “It has to do with House, doesn‟t it?” her startled face confirmed my suspicions. “You not only like him,
you love him, don‟t you?” She bowed her head, then nodded. “How did you know?”

   “That first meeting this morning. I saw the way you were looking at him.”
    “Yea, and he knows I love him. In fact, I made him go out with me, as a stipulation for returning back to
work. To make a long story short, I quit to save the team. House practically begged me to come back, but
the only way I would return was if I agreed to go out with him.”

   “Why?”

    “To this day, I‟m not completely sure. I think it‟s because I have a need to fix everyone. I don‟t like to see
anyone unhappy. It‟s a control issue. I think that‟s why I became a doctor. But, at what first was a desire to
fix him, I realized that I love him damaged. I wouldn‟t change a thing about him. I‟ve also finally begun to
see that you can‟t change people…but they can change. They have to allow the change, and you can‟t force it
on them.”

   “How did the date go?”

    “Very badly.” Her hands fidgeted. I could see she was worried about what I thought of her. Honestly,
this entire hospital was so turned around, my head was spinning. How much more of these insane people
must I deal with? But I had a feeling that Alison Cameron‟s love for Dr. House was the least of this hospital‟s
concerns.

    “Were you threatened by the actions I‟ve taken with Dr. House?” I knew I was getting warmer, because
her face was getting redder. She slowly nodded. “Listen, Alison, the only thing I really know about the man,
since I‟ve known him only about 6 hours, is that he‟s obnoxious. He‟s rude. Apparently, he‟s a brilliant doctor,
or he wouldn‟t have the run of this hospital. I am playing a game…it‟s a defense mechanism for me, a
manipulation to get what I need, which are the best photos for this calendar shoot. I don‟t want something
like your love for Gregory House to get in the way of what you might think may be going on. But I knew,
from the very first words out of his mouth, that Dr. House would be the bane of my current existence.” She
snickered, and I began to see relief flood her face.

    “However,” I continued, and I knew I had to tread lightly. “I won‟t pretend to know a lot about
relationships. In fact, I am the last person to give you advice about dating, since we‟ve only met this morning.
But I think that, since I can see he doesn‟t harbor those types of feelings for you, maybe you should consider
moving on. You are young. You‟re beautiful. You have a great job. I bet there are tons of guys, here at the
hospital alone, who would love to go out with you. You never know. Dr. Gregory House might be the key to
your happiness…but he very well may not be, either. Just don‟t waste your time pining for a dream that may
or may not happen.”

   “What about you? Was there ever a guy you couldn‟t have?”

    I shifted in my seat, then crossed my legs. “Yes, two actually. I‟m 30 years old, but I met my first love
about 10 years ago. He was 10 years older than me, a soon-to-be lifelong military man. He was stationed in
Sydney, Australia, at the time. I was visiting an aunt there over college spring break. It was love at first
sight, for me anyway. We wrote letters, talked on the phone. I was mad for him. But six months into the
relationship, I discovered he was married…with a baby on the way! I ended it, right then and there. It was
the hardest thing for me to do, at the time anyway.

    Then, six years ago, I met Paul. I didn‟t like him at all…at first. We were next-door neighbors at the
apartment complex I was living at. It took about 3 months, but we fell in love, or at least, I did. We decided
to keep separate apartments, because it gave us a bit of freedom, me, to have my friends over, him, to have
his buddies over. At the time, my best friend Gina was my roommate. The arrangement worked out great,
and we dated for 3 years. I was ready to marry him after six months, but then things kept coming up, and
the wedding date kept getting moved. Anyway, I decided to take a half-day off work, unexpectedly. Things
were slow and my projects were completed. At the time, I didn‟t have my own business, but I had a lot of
freedom, because of the nature of the business.
    I came home and noticed Gina‟s car in the parking lot. Quite unusual, since she worked full-time as well. I
went inside the apartment…and found Gina in bed with Paul. I ran, screaming from the apartment. Boy, that
was a bloody mess. It took six months for me to get out of that situation…and they got married two weeks
after that. I was completely devastated, so I moved across the country, from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago.
My sister Dana and Derrick, who you met earlier, lived there. They knew I always wanted to have my own
photography studio, so they helped me get started and get clients set up.

   Now, two years later, I have a successful business. I feel proud of myself…but I had to take the next step
and remove myself from that situation. Unfortunately, my mother feels inclined to give me progress reports
on the status of Paul and Gina, and their impending baby, apparently due in 2 weeks.” I saw the sympathy in
her face, which comforted me. I knew I had done the right thing.

    Looking at my watch, I was amazed at the time. “I‟ve got to interview Drs. Chase and Foreman today.” I
smiled at her and saw that we had come to an understanding. “Can you help me? House isn‟t going to let me
have my way, not without a fight. Can you, discreetly, ask Dr. Chase to meet me somewhere? Show me how
to get there, then have him meet me there. Please?”

   Alison smiled, stood up and said, “Of course. How about by the nurse‟s station, around the corner? House
never goes by there. I‟ll have him meet you there in 5 minutes. I‟ll lie, the best way I know how.” „Uh-oh,‟ I
thought. „She doesn‟t look like a liar. I hope this works.‟

   “Thank you. And thank you for talking this out with me.”

    “Your welcome. And I will do whatever I can to make it better.” She walked out of the bathroom and I
sneaked out after her. I hid behind the ficus tree growing near the nurse‟s station, and waited for Dr. Chase
to arrive.
*****
   Waiting inconspicuously behind the ficus tree, I was starting to get bored. I almost left when I heard two
very familiar voices. My ears perked up at what I thought was James‟ voice say, “So, what do you think of Ms.
Haley Wellington?”

       The other gruff voice answered, “She‟s a royal pain in the butt. What‟s with the winking? And the
sashaying? And the amazing set of breasts that she flashed me? What‟s she trying to accomplish?”

       I heard James smile. “I think she‟s trying to get under your skin…and I think she‟s succeeded.”

       “Don‟t be ridiculous,” came the mumbled reply.

       “That‟s good, because Haley and I have a date tonight.”

       My mouth dropped open. „How dare he tell House that?‟ I looked through the leaves and saw them
standing about 30 feet away, turned from me but not enough I couldn‟t see their faces. James‟ face bore a
smirk; House‟s had a look of shock and…something I couldn‟t describe. A look bordering on…jealousy,
perhaps? „Nah,” I reasoned. „Couldn‟t be.‟

      “A date?” House asked. “Boy, you work awfully fast. When should I rent a tux for the wedding…next
week? Remember…I get to kiss the bride.”

       “Admit it – this is bothering you. Why is she such a big deal? Why are you making this so difficult?”

        House‟s voice went to it‟s usual sarcasm. “Stop, too many questions. Brain overload.” House sighed.
I saw him look around, then, lowering his voice, he said, “I don‟t know what it is with this girl. I mean, she‟s
not attractive like Cuddy or Cameron, but I can‟t get her out of my mind, and I‟ve only known her 9 hours!
She turns me on, and I‟ve never had this kind of reaction with any other woman. Even Stacy never made me
feel like this. When we fight, I want her even more. Maybe it‟s because I‟ve been without a woman for too
long…maybe everyone‟s right: maybe I am unstable. Nah…I‟m just special…” House turned and started to
walk away, when James asked, “Do you want to come to dinner with us?” House stopped, turned around and,
I assumed, smirked. He was too far away, but I heard it in his voice as he said, “Well, if you insist.”

       “I‟ll pick you up. I‟m picking Haley up at 7:30.” I barely saw the brief nod of House‟s head, and
walked away, with James walking in the opposite direction. Moments later, before I even had a chance to
compute what happened, Dr. Chase appeared.

       “Ms. Wellington?” He quietly asked, one eye open for me, the other for House.

       “Dr. Chase. Quick, let‟s go someplace before your illustrious leader arrives and breaks up our party.”
He smiled at this and said, “The roof. Follow me.”

       Once we reached the roof, I located two chairs and we sat down. Sighing, I leaned back and crossed
my legs. Catching Dr. Chase‟s quick look at them, I needed to get his mind off my limbs. “So, did Alison lie to
get you away from House?”

        Chase smiled. “Yes, she did. Surprisingly, she was quite convincing. I didn‟t know she had it in her.
She said there was an emergency in the clinic, and that they needed my help, said it was an illness that I
specialized in med school. It was brilliant. House won‟t go anywhere near the clinic, and I think he was happy
they didn‟t ask for him.”

       I laughed. “And he didn‟t suspect anything?”

      “Nope. Nobody could‟ve imagined Dr. Cameron could have a lying bone in her body. But I guess she
does. Amazing what you learn about people by working with them.”

       “Ok, Dr. Chase. I just have a few questions for you. When you learned about the calendar shoot,
what did you first think?”

      He sat down beside me. “Well, I thought it was kind of an odd fundraiser for a hospital. But, then I
thought it could be fun.”

       “What do you expect from it? Is there anything you want people to learn about you?”

       “Yes…defiance. Defiance of my father and of House.” His voice was so forceful I looked up and saw
found his face contorted in anger.

       “Is everything alright?” He didn‟t seem to hear me. “My entire life, I‟ve done exactly what I‟ve been
expected to. My father, who died last year, left my alcoholic mother & myself when I was 15. I WAS ONLY
15! I couldn‟t take care of myself, much less my mother. But she had no one…and I let her down. I wasn‟t a
good enough son, I failed her. Several years later, she drank herself to death.” He chuckled bitterly. Rising,
he began pacing, and my eyes welled with tears as I followed the path he was taking.

       “Since I was 18 when she died, I needed to do something. I knew my father, who, by this time, had
moved all the way across Australia, always wanted me to be a doctor. After all, I‟ve heard it since I was 5
years old: „Five generations of Chase men have been doctors. Don‟t let the family down.‟ Sheesh,” he blew
out a sarcastic breath. “Secretly, I‟d wanted to join a rock band, but I knew that wasn‟t rebellious enough. I
knew my father‟s position on Catholicism, so I did something I knew would make him mad…I joined the
Catholic Seminary.”
        My mouth dropped open. “You were studying to become a priest? Wow…if I were Catholic and about
15 years younger, confession would probably be more fun with you as my priest.” He smiled that confident
smile I saw earlier. Rolling my eyes in a very exaggerated manner, I tried to return to the story.

       „Man, „ I thought as I rubbed my head from the headache I was beginning to get. „All this eye rolling.
I‟ve never met a bigger group of either insane or narcissistic people in my life. My eyes are gonna roll out of
my head if this continues.‟

       “How did you end up leaving the seminary?”

      “Guilt trip. Two years of „You‟re tearing up the family‟ and „Don‟t be so selfish‟, written in letters and
mentioned in the very occasional phone calls with him. I became the doctor my father always wanted.”

      “You said he died last year. If you didn‟t want to become a doctor, why are you still doing it? He‟s
gone…you can do whatever you want.”

       “Because I‟ve actually grown to love being a doctor, even though I deal with House. House has taught
me never to take anything personally. He‟s the smartest doctor I‟ve ever known, and it really is a privilege to
work for him.”

       I didn‟t quite know what to say about that last comment, so I said, “You said you wanted to show
defiance. Do you want it in both pictures or just one? Dr. Chase, what activities do you enjoy? What makes
you happy?”

        Dr. Chase stopped had stopped pacing by now and stood behind the empty chair, leaning forward.
“Call me Robert. Dr. Chase is too stuffy; Chase is too impersonal; and I hate Bob or Bobby. I want my sexy
picture to be the once of defiance…I want to be a lifeguard, the “Baywatch” look and everything.”

        I snorted, trying to contain the laughter. “Well, I‟ll see what I can do. Unfortunately, I don‟t know
Pamela Anderson or David Hasselhoff, but I‟m sure I can find some well-endowed women to pose as fellow
lifeguards. What do you want to be doing in the scene?”

       Robert smiled mischievously. “I want to be running out of the water, with my damsel in distress in my
arms, and a flock of shocked and adoring onlookers on each side.”

       I couldn‟t contain the laughter. “That‟s…that‟s…that‟s certainly different. And who do you want to play
your damsel? Alison? Brenda the Nurse?”

       “You.”

       That shut me up immediately. “Me? Why me?”

       “At first, it was so I could see you in a bikini.” I sent him a death glare. “Then, after thinking about
your performance in our office earlier, I thought it would be an incredible chink in the armor of Dr. House. It
would get him upset. I don‟t know what you‟ve done to him, but I‟ve never seen him this cranky…which is
happy for him, though he‟d never admit it…in the almost 3 years I‟ve known him.”

       I smiled. „This would help me a lot, mmmm…‟ I thought. “Ok,” I told him. “I‟ll do it. But how would
being a lifeguard defy your father?”

       “He thought that they were a useless lot, even though they save lives. He thought that all they wanted
to do was sit around and gawk at the tiny bikinis, which is mostly true. He always told me to never become
one. Well, I‟m gonna do it now.”
      “Ok, we‟ve got the sexy picture. What about the tame (air quotation marks here) picture? Is there
something you like doing that you don‟t mind your co-workers knowing about?”

      He finally sat down, after standing during that entire speech. “I like to noodle around on my bongo
drums. How about a shot of me playing the bongos, minus any fruity hat or cheesy garb, of course.”

       I smiled and, since I hadn't had a girly moment all afternoon, I clapped my hands excitedly. “You
could be playing the bongos to my Bassett Hound, George. He likes to howl at any drums, but it would make
a great picture. What do you think?”

       “Perfect! What a great idea!”

        I closed my notebook and stood up. “I think that‟s it. Got a question for you…do you have any idea of
how to get me a meeting with Dr. Foreman?” I looked at my watch. “YIKES!” I yelled. “I‟ve got to get this
interview done now.” We started running down the steps, Robert running to keep up with me. “Robert,” I
asked as we opened the stairwell door, and I looked both ways, hoping to not run into House. “I‟ll go back to
hiding behind the ficus tree. You tell Foreman where to meet me.”

        We arrived at that infamous tree and, just before Robert turned to leave, I gave him a quick peck on
the cheek. “That was for being so honest with me…when I could see it was hard. Thank you for trusting me
as a friend.”

       He smiled rather bashfully, then turned on his heel and left.
*****
    I stood behind that dang tree for, like, 30 seconds, then decided I had enough. I looked at my watch.
„5:15. This better be quick, or I won‟t have time for my date, well, date plus House.‟ I found a nearby seat,
crossed my legs, leaned back and closed my eyes.

      I was finally able to digest what I overheard. As a woman playing a mind game, I loved to hear that
House was suffering. I was influencing my opponent, which would ultimately make a difference on the
outcome.

       As a woman, I was flattered. The ability to control a man without a touch was one of the greatest
power trips a woman could have – and these are extremely rare.

        As a woman who hadn‟t had a boyfriend in 3 years (only my man George, so noble, so happy, so
floppy-eared and wonderful), I was turned on by House‟s awareness of me. „Doesn‟t mean anything,‟ I told
myself. „If he falls for you, it would be time to leave. Remember, NO DISTRACTIONS!…yeah, yeah, yeah,
who are you kidding? Admit it…the cane is hot…the blue eyes are sexy…and the way that man wears jeans!
Puts all other men to shame! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!‟ I was quickly losing the mental argument I had
with myself. „Admit it, girl…you want him just as much as he wants you. Now, what are you gonna do about
it?‟

        I had to stop thinking…I didn‟t like the results. Besides, the rumbling in my stomach and a hunger
headache were rapidly forming. I was beginning to feel faint…and I started to fan myself. I was so busy I
didn‟t notice Dr. Foreman until he was standing over me and asking, “Ms. Wellington? Are you ok? You look
pale. Do you feel faint?”

       “Yes,” I weakly answered. “I‟m a bit weak. I didn‟t get to finish my lunch, and I‟m having a hunger
headache.” I could barely open my eyes, but I couldn‟t miss the look of concern on his face. He helped me
up, and walked me to the elevator.
        “We‟re going to the cafeteria. You need to eat, and I‟m going to buy you a snack. You wouldn‟t want
to faint on your big date tonight.” I managed to turn my head and see the smirk on his face. DING! We got
on and I leaned on him. “What were you thinking, not eating?”

         “I was too busy avoiding House so I could actually get my work done.” The elevator opened and,
though it was dinnertime, he found a table in the corner. “I‟ll be right back.” Dr. Foreman said as he left to
get in line.

       As I waited, I could barely hear the conversation at the next table. “What do you think of this calendar
they are doing?” a man‟s voice asked.

       “I think it‟s kinda cool. I‟m upset they didn‟t ask me. Of course, since Diagnostics is Cuddy‟s favorite
department, they were asked,” another man said.

     “Yeah, what‟s really her relationship with Dr. House? Do you think they dated before coming here?” a
woman asked.

        “For all we know, they have a love child that‟s raising ostriches in Peru. Who knows and who cares?”
the first male voice asked.

        Managing a smile, I looked up to see Dr. Foreman with a tray that held a blueberry muffin, a banana,
and a glass of iced tea. I smiled and said, “Thank you. I‟m sorry about this. But it gets time consuming
trying to do your job and dodging a maniac doctor at the same time.” He smiled as I took a few bites, then I
asked, “Dr. Foreman? How did you know about the date?”

        “About forty-five minutes ago, House came grumbling back into the office, where he found me by
myself. Said something about how Wilson asked you to dinner, but it was the rather appalled look on his face
that intrigued me. He turned to me and said, “I got myself invited as well. See how she likes that.” Still
confused, I just shook my head, then House wet his finger and gave himself a point in the air. Ms. Wellington,
what have you done to him?”

       I sighed, took a bite of muffin, chewed thoughtfully and then washed it down with a big gulp of iced
tea. “Why is everyone asking me that? I swear, every single person on your team has asked me that, plus
Dr. Cuddy and James. He‟s acting obnoxious…I thought that was normal for him.”

         “Not this obnoxious…he‟s actually beginning listening to us and occasionally even agreeing with us. I
feel like I‟m in the Twilight Zone.” He gave a full body shiver.

        “Look, Dr. Foreman, House is part of my headache. Can we change the subject? In fact, let‟s get
started. Is that ok?”

      “Sure. Please, call me Eric. But, I have to tell you, it‟s awfully amusing what you are doing to him. I
wish we had thought of something like this sooner. Just be careful. I‟ve seen him crash hard. If something
happens…it will not only destroy him, but the entire department as well. What would you like to know?”

       Momentarily thrown off, I asked, “What did you think about the calendar when you first heard of it?”

       “Honestly?”

       “Please.”

       “I thought they were nuts, and anyone connected to it would have to be crazy as well, no offense.”

       “None taken. Why do you feel this way?”
       Eric paused, weighing his words. I could see that Eric Foreman was a thinker. “It seems a very
undignified way to raise money for a hospital. I mean, aren‟t there certain standards we are to go by? I also
know it‟s quite a privilege to be asked. So, I guess I am getting better about feeling better about it.”

       I chuckled. “Interesting way of stating that. Now that you are in the calendar, what do you expect
from either the calendar, the shoot or both?”

        Eric‟s face turned thoughtful. “Mmmm…” he thought for awhile, then deliberately said, “I want to have
fun, you know, show people what I enjoy doing. I think my colleagues see me as uptight. But if they saw I
that I enjoy salsa dancing, they might change their minds.”

       I was rather speechless. “Salsa dancing? You? Do you salsa a lot?”

       “I try to go once or twice a week, around my work schedule.”

       “I think that‟s great, but would you be able to survive if House found out?”

       Eric held his hands up in surrender. “I honestly don‟t care. I‟ve learned to not take most of what he
says personally. Besides, what do you think of a guy that salsa dances?”

       “Honestly? It‟s pretty awesome. Not many men want to be caught dead dancing.”

       “Exactly. Besides, my partner is hot. I think they‟ll be jealous of me.”

       I rolled my eyes and said, “Alright, if you are ok with it, so am I. What about the photo for the first,
tame calendar?”

       Eric tapped his chin with his forefinger in concentration and then I saw the light bulb over his head
come on as a slow smile covered his face. “I did do summer stock of Shakespeare in college, and I really
enjoyed that. You can have me on a stage, wearing the costume of Macbeth, with a sword on my hip.”

         “Mmm…ok,” my jaw felt like it was coming unhinged, it kept falling open. „Eric Foreman is a man of
surprises,‟ I observed as I pushed my mouth open. “Well, that should just about do it. Dr. Cuddy will be in
touch about shooting schedules, costume fittings, etc. Unfortunately, I‟m going back to Chicago the day after
tomorrow, and won‟t be back two weeks from today. If you should change your mind, let Dr. Cuddy know
and I‟ll change the arrangements.” I looked at my watch and my mouth dropped AGAIN! “Oh my! It‟s 6:00!
I have to get back to Dr. Cuddy‟s office. Can you give me directions?”

        We got up to leave, and, just before we parted ways at the cafeteria‟s exit, Eric smiled and said, “Good
luck tonight. You are gonna need it.” He turned and went the opposite direction I was, and I ran to catch the
open elevator.
*****
    I got off the elevator at the first floor. When I arrived at Dr. Cuddy‟s office, I found Derrick talking with
House. „Oh, no,‟ I groaned. „Not again. Doesn‟t House have anything to do?‟ I watched silently from outside.
Derrick‟s face was contorted in an angry scowl. „This doesn‟t look pretty. I think this has gone too far.‟

       I rushed in, just in time to hear Derrick say, “No way, the Bears have a better defensive line. You‟re
nuts.” I sighed and looked at the ceiling. „This is what I was worried about?‟

       “What‟s going on? And don‟t you ever work?” I pointed to House.

      “We were comparing the New York Jets to the Chicago Bears, and I‟m afraid Derrick get upset.” Dr.
Cuddy apologetically explained.
        “Well,” I said, standing between the two men and facing Dr. Cuddy, “as good as both teams are, they
don‟t hold a candle to New England. Come on, 50% more sacks than anyone in the league.” I blew a breath
and waved my hand, telling them they were nuts and I was right. I missed the looks on everyone‟s faces:
Derrick‟s, “Pretty cool, ain‟t she?”; Dr. Cuddy‟s, “You go, girl!”; and House‟s “You‟ve got to be kidding…sports
too?”.

       “What do you know about football?” House asked, irritated.

      “Well, Gregory,” his eyebrows lifted at the sound of his given name, “I think there‟s a lot you don‟t
know about me. Keep it up and you‟ll never find out.” His look of challenge returned. I ignored it.

        “Dr. Cuddy,” I began, moving to stand in front of her desk. “I finished my scheduled interviews. I
have six more planned for tomorrow, then I fly back Wednesday morning.”

       “How did they go?”

       I turned to House, who wore a look of “Tell on me and I‟ll make your life a living he**”. I slowly
smiled, then turned back to Dr. Cuddy. “Very insightful. In fact, I was even asked to be in a couple of them.
I mean, I‟m flattered, but I just don‟t know if I should.”

        “Why not? Too ugly?” House‟s taunting voice quickly followed. I briefly looked at Dr. Cuddy, whose
eyes began to storm in anger. I then looked at Derrick, whose fists, I noticed, were balled up in barely
restrained rage. Finally, I slowly, methodically turned to House. His eyes were completely blank, but I saw
the wheels turning in his brain.

       „That's probably Steve McQueen up there, running laps on his wheel.‟

       I saw that House was defending himself. I knew how he truly felt…but he didn‟t know I knew, and I
wasn‟t about to leak that information, either.

        Turning to Dr. Cuddy, I directed my next comment to House, while still looking at Dr. Cuddy. “No
Jules. I just don‟t usually appear in my client‟s projects. I am merely the photographer. But due to budget
restraints, I could make an exception, for this project. If that‟s ok with you, Dr. Cuddy.”

        Dr. Cuddy looked relieved that I wasn‟t going to claw House‟s eyes out. “Sure, whatever you need.”
„Darn,‟ I thought. „I should‟ve asked for something much better. Probably happy I'm not assaulting House.‟

       “Thank you. Dr. Cuddy, can I call you Lisa? It‟s much easier.”

       “Absolutely.”

       “Lisa, can I have a word with you in private?”

       “Sure.” I turned and gave Derrick a reassuring smile. He smiled back, glared a challenge to House,
before he proceeded out of the office. I turned to House.

       „Mind trick time!‟ I thought with a silent giggle.

       I smiled seductively and then slowly slinked over to him. Standing a foot away, I watched his face go
from blank to questioning to stormy in a matter of seconds. Crooking my finger, I motioned him to lean down.
When he was inches away, I quietly said, “You know, I was thinking about my wardrobe for your motorcycle
shot. I really don‟t think a halter top, spike heels and hot pants would really be appropriate, do you?” I
studied his face and again, it was blank. But I saw the brilliant blue eyes cloud over, which told me he was
upset. Before he could say anything, I lowered by voice even further and said, “I was thinking of wearing a
bikini.”

         I stepped back. His mouth dropped for a quick second, then closed. Clearing his throat, he still
croaked, “That probably would be better. It would be more appropriate for the shot. Alright, I concede,” but
there wasn‟t one hint of concession in his voice as he smirked and hobbled out of the door. „Is there a spring
in his step?‟ I wondered. I shook my head to clear that incredibly stupid thought from it.

        “Haley,” Lisa said. “You‟d probably better hurry if you want to make your date.”

        I threw my hands up and growled in frustration. “Is nothing sacred in this hospital? How did you find
out?”

        “Dr. Wilson,” Lisa smiled. “He told me House invited himself. Did you know this?”

        “Yep,” I moved to the wall and leaned against it. “What have I done?‟

        “I was just gonna ask that. What have you done to House? I‟ve never seen him act like this.”

       “Well, that seems to be the $64,000 question. Look, I can handle him. He's just like a dog that bites
the ankles of the mail carrier. I‟ve got to go, but what time does House usually get in?”

        “Around 10:00.”

        “Alright, I‟ll be here at 8:00. We need to discuss what I have so far.”

        “8:00 it is. Oh, and Derrick knows about your date. He‟s not happy.” Lisa smirked. “Good luck
tonight. You are gonna need it.”

         “ARRGGHHH! How the he** did he find out? Oh, let me guess: before I got down here, House was
telling him what he wants to do to me tonight, uh? „I‟m going to make Haley glad she‟s a woman‟ or „Good
thing she‟s an adult…the things I could do to her…‟ and he probably roared like a lion in heat. Just to taunt
him.” I ran my hands through my hair, picked up my belongings, and huffed out the office.

        The only person I saw when I stepped out was Derrick. We left the hospital in silence and, once we
got in the rental car and buckled up, Derrick turned to me from behind the steering wheel and asked, “Do you
know what you are doing?”

       “At first I did. You know, I felt sorry for James, that‟s why I agreed to dinner, so he could have
someone to talk to. Now, we‟re saddled with his psychotic friend. Good thing I‟m a black belt in karate. I can
handle myself.” Derrick studied me, uncertainly at first, then sighed and started the car. We drove about
1,000 feet, to the first stoplight, and as we waited for the light to change, we heard a TAP TAP TAP on my
window. Shrieking as I nearly jumped off the seat (thank goodness for seat belts!), I turned to see House, on
a motorcycle, tapping on the window! I rolled it down.

        “Hey, good lookin‟! Oh, and hello Haley.” I sighed and began to roll up the window. House stuck his
hand to stop it. “Hey, baby, where you going? Are you going to go get pretty? I heard you‟ve got a date
tonight.”

        “Yeah, I heard that, too. I‟m just sorry that you won‟t be there…oh, wait a minute? You will be there!
I can‟t wait, big stuff. We are going to have FUN tonight. Listen, I‟d really love to stay and talk dirty to you,
but I have a date to get ready for. Bye-bye.” I closed the window and Derrick pulled through the green light.

        By the time we got to the hotel, I only had an hour to get ready.
*****
   At 7:30 the next morning, I shuffled into the hospital, yawning. Making my way to Lisa‟s office, I found
her working. I knocked and she looked up. She waved me inside. I shuffled in and collapsed on her couch.

      “Haley,” Lisa said, studying my face with a rather amused look. “Dr. Wilson already called me and said
he would be out today. He gave me an extremely abbreviated version of last night‟s events, but I‟m dying to
know. What happened?”

         “Can we go to the cafeteria? I‟m starving and I need coffee.”

         “Sure, you look terrible. I‟ll treat.”

       “Gee, thanks,” I sarcastically agreed, dragging myself off the couch. When we reached the cafeteria,
there were very few people around. After making it through the food line fairly quickly, we found a table in
the corner, me with a large coffee, bagel and cream cheese, Lisa with an herb tea, banana and whole-wheat
toast. Settling down, I spread cream cheese on my bagel and added cream and sugar to my coffee.

       “Ok,” I began, taking a bite of my bagel and chewing thoughtfully. “Do you want the short, short
version, the abridged version or the uncut, full-length, book-on-tape version?”

         “The uncut, full-length, book-on-tape version.”

         Sipping on my coffee, I sighed. “I was afraid you‟d say that. Parts are rather fuzzy, but I‟ll do the best
I can.

         When Derrick and I got back to the hotel, I only had an hour to get ready, but I looked great. I had
this white cotton eye-lit lace, spaghetti-strapped camisole, a short, white matching eye-lit lace skirt and white
flip-flop heels. I must say, I looked pretty stunning…”

OUR SCENE DISSOLVES INTO A MOVIE-STYLE FLASHBACK SEQUENCE, COMPLETE WITH HAZY
EDGES AND A FAINT, SLIGHTLY MELODRAMIC RECORD PLAYING IN THE BACKGROUND…

        By 7:30, I was rushing out of the hotel room. I quickly knocked on Derrick and Dana‟s room, which
was directly across from mine. Dana hugged me, then whispered, “Good luck…Derrick says you are gonna
need it.” I squeezed her tighter, then took off down the hall to the elevator. Arriving in the lobby, I was able
to see the guys before they saw me.

        James‟ appearance didn‟t surprise me; he looked exactly as how I pictured he would: simple blue suit,
rather sedate blue striped tie and nice French shoes (I don‟t know fashion, but I do know shoes. My favorites
are Prada.)

       It was House I was shocked at. „Wow,‟ I thought as I studied him. „he does own pants other than
jeans; he does own a tie; and he does own a razor. What a nice looking…WAIT! Razor? WHAT THE…HE
SHAVED!?!?‟ My mouth dropped. I shook my head in wonder and just stood there, mouth opened, drool
running down my chin. I gulped…

         “WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! WAIT!” a muffled female voice broke through the flashback haze.

RECORD SUDDENLY SCREECHES TO A STOP…HAZE INSTANTLY DISSOLVES… WE ARE SLAMMED
BACK TO THE CAFETERIA, THE NEXT MORNING…

        “Whoa! Did you just say that House SHAVED?” Lisa asked, the toast hanging precariously from the
tips of her fingers.
       “Yep.”

       PLOP. Down went both her toast and her jaw. But her eyebrows went the opposite direction. “I‟ve
known him 15 years, and he‟s shaved probably twice during that entire time. He knows you, what, 10 hours,
and you‟ve got him shaving? How do you do it? The only thing I can think of is that you secretly own the
patent to Love Potion No. 9 and the men do whatever you want them to.”

         “Seriously,” I held my hands up in surrender. “I‟ve never mentioned anything about his scruff to him.
In fact, I do like his scruff, but he looks great with or without. Though, if it were me, I‟d make him keep the
scruff.”

        Lisa‟s eyes went wide and she picked her toast up off her plate, where, fortunately, it had fallen. “I
think, for once in my life, I am completely speechless. Go on.”

HAZE RETURNS…RECORD BEGINS AGAIN…WE ARE BACK IN THE HOTEL LOBBY

      My mouth dropped. I shook my head in wonder and just stood there, mouth opened, drool running
down my chin. I gulped…

        I gulped as I tried to straighten out the image in my brain…is this really the annoying doctor who, on
first meeting me, told me that Lisa was away getting breast enhancements? Doesn‟t look like it. I pinched
myself. “Ouch!” I softly shrieked. Nope, not dreaming. „Ok, girl, you can do this,‟ I gave myself the
customary pep talk reserved for only two occasions: 1. when it‟s a blind date and you hate everything about
the person; 2. when it‟s a blind date and you love everything about the person, especially what that man has
ice blue eyes…a tall, lean body…a cane that…

        “Haley!” I heard James exclaim, breaking me out of my drool-filled hormonal daze. I flashed him a big
smile, then walked calmly across the lobby, as if I expected them to look the way they did. I snuck a peek at
House. He didn‟t see my eyes because he was too busy staring at the ‟bags. „Nothing ever changes,‟ I
thought with a mental eye roll. „Just because the jerk cleans up nicely, doesn‟t mean he has changed.‟ When
I got about 5 feet from them, I heard House say, “Where did you get that outfit?”

       “Why? You like?” I twirled slowly around, shaking my hips and ruffling my hair. I heard James snort.

        “It‟s ok, if form follows function. Kinda boring, though. I mean, it looks like you rolled out of bed, and,
not finding any clothes, wrapped yourself with the bed sheet. You weren‟t alone, were you? You were with
George, right? Did you even tell him you had a date with us?” I mentally did a double take. „George? Oh,‟ I
snickered. „That‟s right. I never told him who George really is, did I? Hehehehe.‟

       “So, Mr. Blackwell, what do you suggest I should‟ve worn?”

       House tapped his finger to his chin in obvious concentration. “I like how the shirt emphasizes the
‟bags. The style is great…just make it red and see-through.” James coughed in an obvious attempt to get
House to stop.

       I studied him for a minute, and the look of defiance on his face told me he was fighting something,
what, I didn‟t know. I smiled, then lifted a corner of my camisole just enough to reveal a tiny sliver of skin.
His eyes didn‟t miss the subtle movement, and I didn‟t miss the subtle darkening of his blue eyes. “You know,
you are right…this outfit is kind of BLAH.”

(READER, IT WASN‟T BLAH…IT WAS AWESOME…BUT WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM A MAN WHO DOESN‟T
UTILIZE AN IRON?)

MUFFLED FEMALE LAUGHTER HEARD THROUGH THE HAZE… (LISA) BACK TO LOBBY
“Besides, if any of the maids in this hotel see me in this outfit, they‟d probably think I‟m trying to steal it from
the hotel. Maybe it's not a good idea to wear this. However, we are a little late, so if I took it off right here
and now, we‟ll still be able to get to the restaurant. I‟m sure the restaurant doesn‟t have a specific dress code,
and I bet they encourage the wearing of undergarments. Here, James,” I gave him my purse to hold and
grabbed hold of the bottom of the shirt, preparing to pull it over my head.

         “NO!” James practically yelled, and I jumped in surprise. “I mean, I‟m sure the maids probably won‟t
even notice. But you are right…we probably better get going.” I put my hands down to my sides, and had to
hide the smile I couldn‟t help but have. James handed me my purse, and, with a sweeping gesture, he said,
“After you.” Before proceeding forward, I peered over my shoulder. House was watching with a mischievous
glint in his eye. „Probably wanted me to humiliate myself by stripping in the lobby.‟

       We walked to the parking lot and found a silver Mercedes Benz sports car. “Nice ride,” I whistled,
peering at the sleek lines.

      “Thanks,” James beamed as he unlocked the doors with a BEEP! James got in the driver‟s seat, but
House and I just stood side by side, looking at each other.

       “Do I need to call shot gun?” I asked with a look of challenge.

       House smiled and shook his head. “Nope…one game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

       “Are you serious?” I rubbed my eyes and ran my hand through my hair in frustration.

       “Absolutely…and no best out of three, either.” His eyes told me he was serious. Shaking my head, I
held my right hand, palmed, on my left. He did the same and, never taking our eyes off each other, I beat
him with a rock breaking scissors.

       “Yes!” I pumped my arm, opened the car door, got in and crossed my long legs. Looking up, I noticed
House still standing there, only this time he was staring at my legs. I reached over, grabbed the car handle
and slammed it shut in his face.

       I heard his chuckle as he got in, sitting behind me. The moment he sat down, he braced his legs
against the back of the seat, and started pushing the seat.

        „Oh, no,‟ I moaned. „It‟s going to be a long night.‟
*****
    The pushing of the seat lasted for about 4 blocks. „Ok, time to stop,‟ and I snaked my right hand around
the seat, placing it on his leg. „Wow,‟ I thought as I left my hand on his leg. „what a well-formed calf muscle.
It‟s so…‟

       “STOP! STOP! RIGHT THERE!” an urgent female voice screamed.

BACK TO THE CAFETERIA…

       I looked at Lisa and she wore a look of complete disgust. “I know that you and House have the hots
for each other, everyone knows it. But I don‟t want to know. I reserve the right to say STOP at any time.”

       “Me? The hots for House? Ok, I admit, I find him incredibly sexy. But how can I possibly consider a
future with that jerk? Anyway, Lisa, do you really want the long, long version? This could take quite awhile.”

       “I‟m beginning to realize that. Ok, I don‟t want to know personal things. I just want to know why
Wilson didn‟t come in today and why you look like, well, something George dragged in.”
       “Well, the night was long, but I will avoid little details. But let me finish this. It‟s actually fairly
important to the story.”

         Lisa sighed. “Alright, but hurry up. I‟m dying to know what caused James, who never misses work, to
call in sick. By the way, if we don‟t see House today, don‟t be surprised.”

        “That might work out great…then I can get the rest of my interviews.” I chuckled.

HAZE RETURNS…RECORD BEGINS AGAIN…BACK TO THE BENZ

      „what a well-formed calf muscle. It‟s so…STOP! Haley Cassandra Wellington, have you gone mental?
The guy belongs in an institution for the criminally obnoxious! DISTRACTIONS Haley! You have a job to
do…don‟t let him ruin it!‟ My hand quickly moved from his leg, as if it were burnt.

        “Did you enjoy that?” he asked in a suggestive tone.

        “Enjoy what?” James asked, having missed the entire event.

       “Well, Miss Cosmopolitan here was feeling me up. It was good for me…was it good for you?” House
snarked.

        “Jules, you‟ve ruined me for other men. I will never look at another man the same. How dare you
play with a girl‟s affections like that? By the way, how long have you waited to use that line on me?” I
snarked back. „Dang it,‟ I clutched my head. „Not a stress headache…not now!‟ “Thanks, Jules, I‟ve now got
a headache…and I can‟t find my aspirin!” I riffled through my purse, but came up empty.

      He rattled a pill bottle from the backseat. “I‟ve got Vicodin…come on, little girl, just one little pill won‟t
hurt…you‟ll feel all better real soon.”

        “Here,” James reached into his arm console and removed an aspirin bottle. I nodded thanks and dry
swallowed two. The car went quiet…for about 3 more blocks. Then, “99 bottles of beer on the wall! 99
bottles of beer…” screeched through the car from the backseat.

      I groaned out loud and tried to tune him out, with no such luck. “How much farther?” I yelled, over the
baboon in the backseat, to James.

        He quirked a smile and said, “10 more miles.”

        By the time we reached the restaurant, he‟d gotten down to 75 bottles of beer, and I thought I would
need that many bottles just to dull the thumping of the headache. Unfortunately, because of the unusually big
crowd, we were forced to park in the far corner and hoof it over to the door. By the time we reached the
door, I had talk myself out of kicking that cane out from under House at least five times.

MUFFLED FEMALE LAUGHING…(LISA AGAIN!)

RECORD SCREECHES TO A STOP…HAZE INSTANTLY DISSOLVES… WE ARE BACK TO THE
CAFETERIA, THE NEXT MORNING…

        Lisa was doubled over, laughing hysterically. Well, by this time, the cafeteria was quickly starting to fill
up, and other doctors were looking at her, apparently surprised she even knew how to laugh. She started
crying, and I looked at her, surprised.
        “Thanks for the support. But, Lisa, that was only the beginning. The dinner was fairly tame, except
for the peeping waiter, who seemed to find more to look at down my camisole than the menu. More than
once, I looked up at him to ask about different items on the menu, and his mouth was open, he was leaning
over, and I thought his drool would end up in my cleavage. I mean, I‟m not that well-endowed, but it was
getting ridiculous.”

       “What were the boys doing during this?”

         “Well, James looked embarrassed, of course. Come to think of it, he always looks embarrassed. But
House…House was eating it up! He didn‟t say a word, but it was like his eyes were telling the waiter,
“Describe what you see,” as if the waiter were looking into an alligator tank. I finally got up and, after getting
the waiter to remove his eyes from my chest, I looked him squarely in the eye. Walking around him, I
marched to the hostess and got us another waiter. When I returned, House looked like his mother took away
his favorite toy. I threw him a look that said, “Suck it up.” Apparently he got the message, because he zipped
his lip. After that, James and I made small talk through the rest of the meal while House brooded.”

       “Was that it? Sounds interesting, but that can‟t be it.”

       “You are right…it wasn‟t. It got interesting after that.”

HAZE RETURNS…RECORD BEGINS AGAIN…BACK TO THE RESTAURANT…

      “Will you boys decide who‟s paying? Besides, what‟s the fuss?” I sighed loudly, hoping they would get
the message.

      “Yeah, House, you never want to pay. What‟s up with that?” James wore an irritated look.
“Remember, technically, this was my date with Haley. So, you should pay for your part, and I‟ll pay for Haley
and myself.” I watched House. He looked upset!

       “Fine,” he mumbled, then gave me a look of defeat. „I‟m not even gonna ask,‟ I reasoned with myself.
„I am beyond trying to figure that man out.‟

       Unfortunately, by the time we left, I didn‟t think we‟d ever be accepted back. To them, the
Troublesome Trio finally left the building…and good riddance!

        The boys were still grumbling as we left, and I was too busy trying to ignore them that none of us paid
attention to our surroundings. Before we realized it, we were walking to the far corner of a poorly lit parking
lot. I began to get goose bumps, so I turned around to look behind me. What I saw made me freeze in my
tracks…two men, both carrying guns, both looking really mean, and both eyeing me like I was a KC strip
steak.

       “H..oo..use, James,” I weakly groaned. They had continued walking, without realizing I had stopped.
The adrenaline finally kicked in. “HOUSE! JAMES!” I shrieked. I heard them stop and turn around.

       “Good evening folks. My, my, my,” one of them, apparently the leader, moseyed over to me, his evil,
hungry eyes surveying me. “What do we have here? Lookie here, it‟s a prize filly, right in our midst.” The
other one suddenly yelled, “Where you going, Grandpa? Back to where you were. Our business is with her.”

       I slowly turned to look at House and James. James was completely still, a blank look on his face.
House, however, was watching the men with a fierce look. I could see that he had caveman, survival designs
on the men, the same designs a man has when skinning a bear. He then looked over at me, with a promise
that we‟ll get out of it. I turned back, just in time to see the man walk closer…
*****
   I watched them as they approached, slow and stealth-like. The man holding the gun at me looked about
my age. He was 6‟1”, white with dark brown curly hair, an athletic build and an ugly scar that ran from under
his left eye down to the very edge of his lip. The other man, which I could only assume was his stooge, was
about 5‟8”, heavier, but by no means fat. He was white with dirty blond hair, and a mean-looking mole on his
right cheek. The only courage he seemed to have he was holding in his right hand. I assumed his courage
was completely loaded.

        Moving my eyes from Bad Guy #2 (short stooge) to Bad Guy #1 (tall leader), I looked him square in
the eye…and what I saw gave me a cold chill. I didn‟t see crazed eyes of a druggie. His eyes were cool, calm,
calculating, and he had only one thing on his mind…to take what he wanted, no matter how he did it. And he
wanted something from me.

        Stopping about 3 feet from me, #1 moved his gun to my head and barked, “Strip. Everything off.
NOW.”

        Without so much as battling an eyelash, I slowly removed my top, leaving me in my strapless bra.
Tossing it aside, I continued to stare at Thug #1. He broke eye contact to look at my chest. I saw an evil,
predatory look fill his eyes. For a split second, I was completely terrified. Just as I began to internally panic, I
saw his guard beginning to drop. Terror forgotten, my adrenaline began to pump, and I saw my moment. If I
didn‟t act now, it would be too late.

       With lightning speed, I swung my arm up and chopped the gun out of Bad Guy #1‟s hand. Spinning, I
placed a kick to his stomach. He doubled over in pain and, as he was moaning, Bad Guy #2 briefly stared,
stunned. This was all the time House needed: lifting his cane, he crashed it down on the man‟s hand, sending
the gun skidding across the parking lot. House sent another cane blow, this time across the head, which sent
the man to the ground, yelping in pain.

        Meanwhile, James still hadn‟t moved. “James! Call 9-1-1!” I yelled. This woke him and he dialed the
number. Bad Guy #1 began to stand up, regaining his breath. Not wasting any time, I high-kicked his face,
sending him reeling backwards but still standing. Before he could say, “What happened?”, I ran behind him,
grabbed his arms and twisted them behind his back, sending him face down to the ground, writhing in pain. I
straddled his neck and wrapped my legs around his arms, pinning him to the ground. No matter how he
twisted, he couldn‟t break free. Leaning over the back of his head, I held the ground with my hands. Looking
up, I saw Bad Guy #2 taking off, out of the parking lot. Before I could yell at him, James took off, chasing the
man.

       Breathing a quick sigh of relief, I looked up and saw House kneeling beside me, a genuine look of
concern and awe in his eyes. “Haley?” he asked. “Are you ok?”

       Momentarily surprised as his use of my given name, I looked down at the perp. He was looking up,
and I could tell he was trying to figure a way out of this. I took one hand and smashed his face against the
concrete. His anguished moan made me feel sorry for him…for about 30 seconds, and then he began to spew
words that made even House blush.

        “Shut up,” I said, voice completely in control. “Mr. Bad Guy, you've got some nerve, waving guns
around like that. You really are big and bad, aren‟t you? You got your butt kicked by a girl! Oh, they‟ll love
that at the precinct.” I savored the sarcastic words. „Just like an Angelina Jolie movie!‟ I thought, rather
proud of myself, but not cocky, since I was too busy being scared stiff.

       Looking at House, I said, “House, I am fine. I think I may cry, but I‟m fine. I know you probably can‟t
handle any of that mushy stuff, so when I do cry, just turn your head.” I looked around and saw the parking
lot was still empty. “We made quite a commotion. Where‟s the crowd?”

        “They‟ll show up when the cops get here. Where did you learn those moves?”
       “I‟m a black belt in karate.”

        “Figures,” he mumbled, but his tone was filled with awe. The police showed up at that moment. I
guess I was so intent on the bad guy, I didn't hear their sirens coming. Looking up, I saw the cops quickly
leave their cars with guns drawn, but as soon as they saw a bra-clad woman pinning a much bigger guy and a
guy with a cane kneeling nearby, they probably figured it was handled, because they quickly holstered their
weapons. I heard footsteps, but couldn‟t see anyone until the owner of the footsteps was standing almost
directly on top of us. A tall, very good-looking officer smiled, puzzled, and then asked, “Would someone mind
telling me what is going on? And you can get off the man now. We have it covered.”

       I tried, but I couldn‟t move. I had him in such a death grip, they had to pry me off. Once they stood
me up and handcuffed Bad Guy #1, House gave me my shirt. It finally registered to me that he hadn‟t stared
at my breasts; he hadn‟t made some obscene or obnoxious remark about my lack of apparel. Smiling
gratefully at him, I slipped it on, then slipped to the ground. I finally allowed myself to cry, to let it all out.
Bringing my legs to my chest, I hugged them to myself and just sobbed racking sobs, rocking. Everyone
must‟ve sensed I needed to be left alone, because they let me go on for the full five minutes before I stopped.

       Head still bowed, I unfolded my body. Before I could wipe my face, I felt someone tap my shoulder.
Looking up, House handed me a napkin, presumably from the restaurant. I looked up at him. He smiled, and
then offered me his hand. I stood and wiped the tears, and my mascara, with the napkin. Looking around, I
saw the people milling about, whispering behind their hands. “Well,” I muttered to House under my breath,
“we got our crowd.”

        Officer Hotstuff came back over to where we were standing. “Ms. Wellington, my name is Officer
Hoffman. I‟m sorry, but we are going to have to go back to the precinct. There‟s too many people here, and
we need to get your statement. Is that ok?” I nodded weakly, but when I started to walk, I was too weak.
House offered me his cane, and I giggled…and giggled…and couldn‟t stop! Hotsuff, I mean Hoffman, was
staring at me oddly, and I could barely hear House say, “Officer, either she's stressed or she's looney. I'm
guessing stressed.”

       By the time the laughing subsided, I could walk on my own. Hotstuff directed us to a waiting car.
During this time, I completely forgot about James. Before we got to the car, I stopped, turned to House and
asked, “Where‟s James?”

       “Over here,” he said from the other side of the cop car. "Hop in. I‟ll tell you what a hero I am.” I
could see his head was inflated, but I was so grateful he was back that I just didn‟t care. I heard House
mutter, “Oh, brother. We‟ll never live this one down.”

      “Officer Hot…Hoffman,” „Whew,‟ I breathed in relief. „Caught myself, just in time.‟ “Where did you find
James?”

       “We found him, running alongside the road, yelling and throwing rocks at a man who seemed to be
running for his life. Once we stopped both of them, he told us about the situation and directed us here.”

        I got in the backseat of the car and then hugged James, who was sitting at my right. House slipped
inside, leaving me sandwiched in the middle. Since I hugged James, I felt I had to hug House, too. „Is it
really an obligation for you?‟ I asked myself. I tried to make the hug quick but he wouldn't let me go.
“Jules?” I asked, rather embarrassed. “You can stop.”

       House jumped. “Oh, sorry,” he muttered, turning to look out the window.

       “STOP! STOP! STOP!” the female voice broke through the flashback.
RECORD SCREECHES TO A STOP…HAZE INSTANTLY DISSOLVES… WE ARE BACK TO THE
CAFETERIA, THE NEXT MORNING…

       “You were almost assaulted? At gunpoint! Are you alright?” Lisa asked, complete amazement and
concern. “And House was a nice guy? What‟s with that?”

        “You know, I think, perhaps, there are moments that House actually knows when to keep his mouth
shut. But Lisa,” I said, leaning over the table. “That‟s definitely not the end of the night…that was just the tip
of the iceberg. It kept going downhill from there.”

       “How could it get any worse?” Lisa asked and then looked at her watch. It was 9:00!

       “It‟s 9:00! Am I keeping you from anything?”

       “Yeah,” she said with a look of disappointment and irritation. “The rest of this story. Continue.”

       “Well, it got even worse…but, on the flipside, I think I have a date with Officer Hotstuff.”
*****
    “How do you do this?” Lisa asked, complete amazement written all over her face. “I have the hardest time
finding dates. You, on the other hand, just show up and men want to marry you.”

       “I don‟t know. Seriously, it‟s not like this in Chicago. Anyway, do you want the rest of the story?”

       Lisa sighed. “Of course. I‟m on pins and needles.”

HAZE RETURNS…RECORD BEGINS AGAIN…BACK TO THE COP CAR…

       So there I was, squashed in the backseat, between House and James. I wasn‟t complaining, mind you.
Before I could come up with a witty comment about our situation, Officer Hotstuff
(„HOFFMAN…HOFFMAN…IT‟S HOFFMAN, HALEY‟) got into the passenger seat and a very junior officer got
behind the wheel. As we pulled away, House leaned forward and asked Officer Hotstuff, “Are you sure Junior
here can drive? Does he even have a license?”

        Hottie smiled. “Jackson really isn‟t a cop. He‟s actually a crossing guard we found in the DMV line this
morning. Unfortunately, we are all out of uniforms, but the local adult shop had this uniform, Velcro pants
and all. He just has to be careful about bending over, or his pants will fall off.” I started giggling, then seeing
the smirk on House‟s face, I couldn‟t hold back. I laughed so hard my sides hurt. Calming down, I sat back in
the seat and stared straight ahead. This peace lasted for about 4 blocks, then I felt a TAP, TAP, TAP, TAP on
my left leg. Looking down, House was tapping my leg with his. Closing my eyes and pinching the bridge of
my nose, I got fed up and made a fatal mistake…I placed my hand on his knee to make him stop.

       Realizing my mistake, I tried to remove my hand, but his hand clasped mine to his leg. I looked over
and narrowed my eyes.

       “You‟ve wanted me since we‟ve met, haven‟t you?”

       With my palm still on his knee, I gently massaged it, using the magic fingers method I learned in a
massage parlor. (Actually, that‟s wrong. It was a DVD called “Kneading Bread Dough for Dummies”. The
technique is still the same. The massage parlor sounded cooler. But I digress.) I heard his breath catch and
I leaned over, motioning for him to lean down. When my lips were mere inches from his ear, I whispered,
“You know it, big boy. Maybe later you can show me how to use a stethoscope. You might even help me find
Nemo.”
       In a poor attempt to cover his obvious, well, interest, he coughed loudly and leaned forward. “How
much further to the precinct?” he asked in a strained voice. “The Soap Network is playing a marathon of the
24 best General Hospital episodes ever, as voted by the viewers.”

       “And I‟m sure you stuffed the ballot box,” James observed with a snicker. Before I could comment, I
heard a very loud POP! POP! POP! And the back window completely shattered. Before ducking, I saw a black
truck whiz around us, firing shots into the air. Then our car veered into the ditch.

       “What was that?” I asked, holding my head down with my hands.

       “Our back window was shot out.” Officer Obvious stated (aka Officer Hottie).

       “Well, aren‟t you going to pursue or something? They do that all the time in LA,” House asked.

       “No, protocol states that…” Junior began.

       With a loud HUFF!, House opened his door, grabbed my hand, pulled me out, opened Junior‟s door,
yanked him out, pushed me beside Hottie and shut the door. Adjusting his seat and mirrors, he just barely
gave Junior enough time to close the door, then he took off with a “WHOO HOOO! Too bad Cops isn‟t taping
us. I‟ve always wanted to be on TV.”

       It took me several seconds to process what was going on…

       I was in the backseat…the window was shot out…I was ducking…House was pulling me out of the
car…I‟m now in the front seat and House is driving the cop car at 100 miles an hour…

“YOU GOT INTO A HIGH SPEED CHASE?”

BACK TO THE CAFETERIA…

       “AND HOUSE WAS DRIVING!” Lisa‟s voice was incredulous…and her mouth was hanging open. “Are
you serious? You‟ve got to be making this up.”

        “Yeah, there‟s no place I‟d rather be than stuck in a police car with Mr. Sunshine,” I sarcastically
commented. “For Pete‟s sake, the Encyclopedia Britannica will need to re-write their entry for “The World‟s
Longest Day”: all they need is a picture of me taking down that bad guy. Sheesh. It‟s one thing to be almost
attacked. It‟s one thing to be involved in a high-speed chase. It‟s a completely different bucket of clams
when you are almost attacked, then caught in a high-speed chase with Captain Insano driving, and him
sticking you in the front seat with him. I have yet to figure that one out.”

       “I have some idea why he‟d do that, but you‟ll learn that on your own.”

BACK TO THE CHASE…

        “Car 2527 to Dispatch. We are in police pursuit, chasing a…” I tuned the officer out and concentrated
on House‟s driving. We caught the truck and were on their tail. Things were as fine as they could possibly be,
until House turned on the sirens. “Oh, yeah!” he yelled.

       “House, this isn‟t the Daytona 500. People could get hurt. The officer is radioing for back up. When
they come, we are going to the police station. I want to go home…and I have no more interest in your
stethoscope.”
        “Listen, little girl, you might want to hold onto my arm for support. After all, you don‟t have a seat
belt,” and he purposely veered the car to the left suddenly, so I would fall on him. I sat back in a huff,
crossing my arms over my chest. I felt so powerless…and I wanted to strangle House.

        House turned the vehicle back to the left, to get side-by-side with the perp‟s car. We saw there were a
driver and his passenger. The driver looked over, saw us, pulled out a rifle, which looked sawed-off, and
aimed at the cop car. House released the gas, and we fell behind, just out of the target of the gun. He
moved back behind the truck.

       “We‟ve got to do something…quick. Ok, MacGyver, get us out of this mess.” I said to House.

       “Do you have a loudspeaker on this car?” House asked Hottie.

       “Yep.”

       “Give me the mike.”

        He held the mike up to his hand and pressed the button. “Hello, bad guys and their really big
weapons! I‟m Doctor Gregory House. No, I‟m not a cop…I am an insane doctor with a really big cane.
        In the interest of saving time and avoiding a really nasty car accident, I suggest you pull over and
make nice with the cops here in the car with me. They have just as big of weapons, and something that looks
like…well…hand grenades. I don‟t know, I‟ve never actually held one, but they are the ones with the pins
inside, right? Oops…this one no longer has one. Do you guys want to hold it for me? Here, I‟ll toss it to
you…” House grabbed a cell phone off the floor and waved it out the window. The perp‟s car immediately
slowed down and pulled over to the side.

        I sat there, speechless, as House pulled the cop car behind the completely amazed. Officers Hottie and
Junior jumped out of the car, waving their guns at the perps. “Put your hands where I can see them!”

       “How did you do that?” I asked House, and all he did was smirk at me.

        “You really do learn a lot at Military camp,” House smiled, then picked up the handset to the radio. I
didn‟t know what he was planning to do, so I grabbed it out of his hand and decided to call Dispatch. Finding
the frequency, I spoke into the mike, “Dispatch, this is car 2527, Haley Wellington speaking. The officers have
subdued the fugitives that we were chasing. We need back up at the corner of…” I leaned over House to
read the street signs. “Olive and 47th. And bring a butterfly net for our driver, Dr. Gregory House. He‟s lost
his mind.”

        Putting down the mike, I turned around to Wilson. “How are you doing?” He was watching out the
window, completely fascinated by the whole scene. “That was awesome!” He yelled, pumping his fists in the
air. “I haven‟t had this much fun since Julie‟s dad was chased around his neighborhood by his neighbor‟s
amorous poodle.”

        I moved to the passenger‟s side door, got out, went to the side of the road…and threw up. This was
all becoming way too much for me. And I felt I was losing my mind.

“HAHAHAHAHAHA!” Lisa was laughing again!

BACK TO THE CAFETERIA…

      “Hand grenades…amorous poodles…oh my gosh!” She held her sides as the laughter spilled out. “No
wonder Wilson couldn‟t come in today. All the excitement must‟ve been too much for him.”
        “Well, by that time it was 2:00 in the morning, and we still hadn‟t made it to the police station. To
make a really long story short, we got to the precinct and filed reports for both incidents. We left by 3:30 and
Officer Hotstuff dropped me off at our car. When the boys left the vehicle, the officer asked me out! He was
too cute to say no, so I told him I was only in town until Wednesday morning, but that I was returning to work
on a big project. He gave me his card and told me to call him.”

       “See what I mean? All the guys.”

        “Well, before I go on the date, I‟ll introduce him to you. You guys might hit it off. Anyway, just when
we thought the night was over, about 3 blocks from the hotel, the car gets a flat! And guess who the only one
that can change it is? Me! So, after changing the tire, we arrived at my hotel. No goodbye kiss, no hug…I
thanked them for dinner, then said, „I was going to say that we should do it again, but I don‟t want a repeat of
tonight.‟
        I started to walk inside, but House stopped me. „See you tomorrow, okay?‟ „Ok,‟ I agreed, confused
by his odd behavior. But I was tired, so I just agreed, then ran to my room. I was trying to run from any
other bad thing that could happen that night.”

         Lisa shook her head. “Well, I just don't know what to say. I'm, well, completely speechless. I will
need time to digest what I've heard.” Lisa looked at her watch. Standing up, she gathered her breakfast
trash and waited for me to do the same. Walking to the trash bin, she said, “Let‟s go back to my office. We
need to discuss what you‟ve got for the calendar. Oh, and by the way,” Lisa smiled at me as we left the
cafeteria and walked to the elevator, “When are you gonna tell House about George? Because I want to be
there to see the look on his face.”

       “I‟ll call you,” the elevator doors opened and we stepped on.

   We stepped off the elevator and headed toward Lisa‟s office. She shut the blinds and told her secretary
that she wasn‟t to be bothered. Sitting down, I said, “Well, yesterday, I got half of my interviews, but it
wasn‟t easy. The other half I have to do today. I need to go over with you what I have so far…

       Dr. Greg House:

              1st calendar: House playing piano to Steve McQueen in a library/study
                   setting.
              2nd calendar: House on motorcycle…with a female model.”

I paused… “Guess who is the model?” Silence. “That‟s right…me”.

“Oh, Haley,” Lisa moaned and rubbed her eyes. “How? Why?”

“It was one of two stipulations he gave me, in order for him to do any calendar.”

“What‟s the other?”

   I sighed. “That I pose wearing a halter top, hot pants and spike heels. But this has changed. I upped the
ante:” I hesitated here, then said, “I told him I‟d wear a bikini.”

       “Listen,” Lisa said, leaning forward. “I don‟t know what kind of sexual mind games you are playing,
but I have a hospital to run, and I don‟t want you to interfere with House‟s job. He‟s an awfully moody guy.
However, I have noticed he‟s nicer to everyone when you are around. Perhaps I should be grateful to you.
You know, he didn‟t make one nurse cry yesterday. That‟s progress. Anyway, continue.”

       “Dr. James Wilson:
               1st calendar: cooking dinner, a candle-lit table behind him.
               2nd calendar: riding a mechanical bull.”

“OH MY GOSH! THAT IS SO FUNNY! WILSON, A BULL-RIDER? HAHAHAHA!”

               “Dr. Robert Chase:

               1st calendar: playing the bongos to my basset hound George.
               2nd calendar: Baywatch-type lifeguard saving someone.”

“Oh, and let me guess…that would be you in a bikini?” Lisa asked.

        I smiled and pointed to my nose, and Lisa shook her head in disbelief.

        “Dr. Alison Cameron:

               1st calendar: tender scene with her and coma guy.
               2nd calendar: playing electric guitar in an all-white room, with an
               onlooker peering through a window, a shocked expression on his face…I‟m
               thinking House, but I need to discuss that with her.”

        “Dr. Eric Foreman:

               1st calendar: a Shakespearian Actor on stage
               2nd calendar: a salsa dancer

        “Dr. Lisa Cuddy:

               1st calendar: glamour shot in the „Stang
               2nd calendar: glamour girl on the catwalk.”

        “That‟s it so far. When I return to Chicago, I will complete an extensive schedule of wardrobe, props,
locations, shooting, etc. I will send it to you and I will need your final approval. I will need it by this end of
this week so I can get ready. Will that work?”

       “Absolutely. Now, who do you have left?” Lisa asked and I gave her the listing. “Let me call these
doctors and set you up.” She looked at her watch. “It‟s 11:00. How about you take a break – go for a stroll,
get lunch. Come back at 1:00. I‟ll have your interviews set up then.”

        “Great…can you direct me to the coma guy? I need to get some things off my chest.”

        Lisa smiled. “Third floor…ask the nurse for directions.”

*****
       I arrived on the third floor and found the nurse‟s station. After getting directions, I located the coma
guy. I peeked in the door. Not seeing anyone, I sat in a nearby chair.

        “Hi,” I said. “Did you know that you are a popular guy? And you‟ve got quite a female following. You
don‟t mind, though, do you? I bet you‟ve heard everything from the latest Cosmo tips to the best way to
remove lipstick from your husband‟s collar. Now, that person has problems.” I chuckled. „What a great
listener!‟ I thought.
       “Anyway, I‟m only a visitor to New Jersey, you know. I‟m here to shoot pictures for the hospital‟s
calendars and, let me tell you, I‟ve never met a more dysfunctional group of people in my life. Have you ever
heard of Dr. House?” I could‟ve sworn I saw the coma guy flinch at that, but it must‟ve been my imagination.

         “But I‟ve learned a lot about relationships, and I realized that real life can be similar to a soap opera.
For instance, one young, beautiful doctor has a thing for her older, insane mentor, but he doesn‟t want her
like that; one is a doctor only because his father wanted him to be one, etc. And I thought my life was
difficult.
         You know what? I‟m truly happy right now. I have George. Oh, wonderful, caring, sweet George.
He‟s there for me, more than any other man has ever been. I love him, and there will never be another like
him. He helped me through my breakup with Paul…boy, that was difficult, especially after everything I went
through with Mike. Do you want to hear about it?” He didn‟t object, so I dived right in. It was noon when I
finished.

       “I‟m sorry…I‟m just chatting your ear off, aren‟t I? I‟d better go…and thank you for listening.” I patted
his hand and then walked out the door. Tired of the elevator, I walked upstairs to the cafeteria.

       I got in line and reached for a tray. Pulling out a twenty, I smoothed my tank top when I heard from
the person behind me, “Look! It‟s the Karate Kid! Where Miyagi?”

       I closed my eyes, then plastered on a smile and turned around. “Jules! Sleep well?” I studied him. “I
guess you didn‟t. You look terrible. Rough night?”

      He smirked. “Nah. There‟s nothing to foiling an attack and being caught in a high-speed chase. It
happens to me all the time.”

        “Explains why the cops didn‟t get upset at your driving.” I picked up a salad and a BLT sandwich.
Adding a Coke, I paid and found the last empty table in the room. Unfortunately, House found me and
plopped down in the seat across from me. I sighed and said, “You‟re pretty presumptuous to just sit there,
like you have every right.”

       He looked around then whined. “You wouldn‟t kick a cripple from the last table would you?”

       “Perhaps I would.”

       His eyes narrowed as he watched me. “But I‟m feeling awfully generous today. Besides, my mother
always said to respect my elders.” I commented, biting into my sandwich. I grabbed the Coke and took a
swig.

       House‟s face turned into a smirk. “Good advice. How did you sleep last night?”

       “Like a log. But I was in at 7:30 this morning, so if I bite your head off, don‟t take it personally.”

       “Why so early?”

       “Because I‟ve got to get my interviews done today. I leave tomorrow to go back to Chicago. If I don‟t
leave when scheduled, I could lose a huge account and I can‟t afford to do that.” I watched him as I poured
salad dressing. I saw understanding, mixed with…something else, something I thought I recognized but
couldn‟t deal with at that moment.

       “I bet George misses you.” House bitterly spat out the word “George”.
        “I hope so. I miss him so much. He‟s the best. I‟ll never find another like him.” I smiled and then
sighed in contentment, all the while still gauging House‟s reaction. I got what I wanted. He was drumming
his fingers on the table, and I thought I saw steam come out of his ears.

       “What? Are you alright?” I asked innocently.

        Picking up his practically untouched tray of food, House stood up. “Everything‟s just peachy-keen. See
you later.” Distractedly, he threw his lunch away and made for the exit like the building was on fire.

        I felt a conscious stab at my heart. I wasn‟t trying to hurt him, but if he didn‟t care, he wouldn‟t act
like that. Needing to take my mind off him, I pulled my cell phone out of my back pocket and dialed Derrick,
who stayed behind in the hotel with Dana. “Derrick? Hey. Listen. Would you do me a favor today? Locate a
phone book and research all local companies that could provide props & wardrobe, as well as location
shoots…Yep. Make a list, then start calling. And hook up the portable fax machine, just in case they could fax
us the information. Great. Thanks Derrick. You‟re a peach. Bye.” I slapped the phone shut and, having lost
my appetite, decided to go for a walk.

         I walked out the door and began roaming the commons area. 'What a gorgeous day!' A few minutes
later, I found a shade tree that hid me from the rest of the world. I closed my eyes, leaned back and listened
to the world go by. A few moments later, I heard a gruff voice say, “I heard her talking to the coma guy. It
seems this “George” is “the one”. What a great guy he sounds like.” My eyes popped open and I peeked
around, in time to see House sit on a bench not five feet away, with his back to me. I drew myself closer to
the tree, away from his sight. „I wonder who he‟s talking to,‟ I thought.

       “No, I‟m not jealous. I met the girl yesterday.” Pause.

         “Ok, obviously, she isn‟t a girl. She‟s a woman…who is much too young for me.” Pause. I could hear
the agitation growing in his voice. “OK!” he yelled into the phone, then quickly softened. “Do you want me
to finally admit it? Ok! I do want her! Ok! I am jealous! Ok! I think I could even marry her.” Pause.

        “I know I never got to that point with Stacy…but this is different. Ok, Jimmy, are you happy I‟ve
spilled my guts and now look like a blabbering fool? I‟m just glad she can‟t hear me…” I stifled my nervous
giggles. Pause.

       “But what do I do about George? I don‟t know…”

       “House!” the call was interrupted by an Australian accented voice coming from the opposite direction.

       “Got to go, Jimmy. The Ducklings are quacking.” He slapped his phone shut and then asked, “What is
it?”

       “Mrs. Johnson has lapsed into a coma, and we don‟t know why.”

       I made myself as small as I could and House grumbled, “Perfect.” I heard their voices get softer as
they walked away.

        Sighing with relief, I didn‟t want to digest what I just heard. „Just get to Lisa‟s office and get the
interviews done.” I stood up and almost ran back to the hospital.
*****
        Five hours later, I left the last doctor‟s office. „Finally – all finished!‟ I decided to check up on the
Diagnostic team, to see if they had any questions.

       I got to their door and saw the ducklings, House and Lisa huddled around a whiteboard, seemingly in a
heated discussion. I knocked and walked in. Everyone looked at the door. When they saw me, each bore a
different expression: Lisa smiled; Alison looked uncomfortable; Chase grinned like a 15-year-old whose new
Playboy Magazine had just arrived; Foreman looked blasé; but House, he looked distant and almost angry at
me. „Trudge lightly,‟ I warned myself.

        “Hi everyone. I wanted to check in, to see if anyone had any questions. I leave for Chicago early
tomorrow morning and I won‟t be back until Monday the 23rd. Shooting will begin that week. If you have
any special requests, you can ask me tonight. I‟ll be in the hospital for” I looked at my watch “another hour.
If you think of anything later, please let Lisa know and she will pass it on to me.” House looked like he was
about to comment, when all three ducklings‟ pagers went off. They turned to each other with a panicked look
and ran out the office.

       “Well, I guess I‟ll hear from them later. What about you guys?”

      “I‟m sure you are anxious to get back to George. You probably miss him.” House turned around,
presumably to hide the look on his face. I glanced at Lisa, who was trying extremely hard not to laugh.

      Clearing her throat, she said, “I don‟t have anything. I‟ll, um, meet you downstairs.” With a
backwards glance at House, she left.

      House‟s back was still to me, so I went around and stood in front of him. He kept his head bowed,
though I saw how he came to attention when I came closer. “Thank you,” I whispered.

       He looked up, startled. Seeing my eyes („Dang it! Here come the waterworks!‟ I scolded myself.)
begin to well with tears, his face softened but he said, “Ah, man. Didn‟t we already have this discussion about
crying? And that I don‟t like it?”

        I could barely smile, but I wanted him to know how grateful I was for what he did last night. “I never
properly thanked you for what you did last night, even though you did act completely insane. I know it saved
our lives.” Studying the softness of his blue eyes, I placed a hand on his cheek. Leaning up, I placed a soft
kiss on his other one.

        I stepped away. “Thank you. Well, I guess I‟ll see you in a couple of weeks.” He stood there,
watching me uncertainly. I took three steps around him, but he grabbed my arm. With barely enough time to
register what was happening, House pulled me to him. A quick look at my surprised eyes, his eyes traveled to
my lips before kissing me. I was startled, but that didn‟t last long. I leaned into him and enjoyed the kiss,
which wasn‟t very passionate or particularly hot. It certainly wasn‟t chaste, but it was a kiss full of
longing…and respect. House was the one to break it.

      “A going away present – something to remember me by until you return.” House‟s look was
completely blank as he turned away from me – an obvious dismissal.

       “Goodbye, House,” I murmured as I high-tailed it out of there.
*****
Two weeks later…
       Derrick, Dana, George (in a brand new blue collar) and I pulled up in front of Princeton-Plainsboro
Teaching Hospital. I sighed nervously. “Let‟s go, troops.”

        I opened the door for George, then I snapped a leash on him. He looked up at me and his adorable
brown eyes said, “You know that‟s not necessary. I‟ll go wherever you want.” Bending down, I rubbed behind
his ears and his tail wagged excitedly. “I know, boy. I know.”

       I stood up and asked Dana, “Do you have all the finalized schedules? All contracts?”
        Dana gave me a hug. “Calm down,” she whispered. “You‟ve been uptight since you left House.” I
didn‟t even try to deny it. “Let‟s go.”

       Walking into the hospital, we headed straight for Lisa‟s office. Outside the door we could see her
working. I knocked and her face beamed when she looked up. Waving us in, she greeted me with a hug.

        “It‟s so good to see you again! I‟m so glad you are here. House has been absolutely unbearable since
you left. Last Monday, he made 5 nurses cry…his record is 3.” I chuckled, and Lisa added, “But I can‟t wait to
start!”

        “I can‟t either.” I stepped aside so Derrick and Dana could come in. “Lisa, this is Dana, my sister. She
will be helping us.” Lisa shook her hand. “And this,” coaxing George ahead of me, “is George.” He looked up
at me when he heard his name.

       Lisa‟s face crumbled as she bent to rub his ears. “Aw, no wonder you love him so. He‟s wonderful!”
She cooed to him and he just lapped it up, just like the spoiled boy he is.

      “Do you want me to call Diagnostics?” Lisa asked as she straightened up. “I‟m sure they‟ll love to meet
George.”

       I smiled. “Please. Just don‟t tell them George is here. House probably wouldn‟t come.”

        We all get situated as we waited for the group to show up. I wrapped George‟s leash around the leg of
the table that sat between the two winged arm chairs and leaned against the wall while Dana and Derrick sat
on the sofa. I looked up when I heard the door open. In trooped the ducklings, Wilson and House. When
House spotted me, for the smallest moment, I saw his face light up, then go back to blank. „You can‟t hide it
from me, mister.‟ I smiled at him.

       “Haley! Long time no see!” James came over and gave me a hug.

      “Hi, guys. Everyone, this is Dana, my sister. She will be helping us.” Everyone greeted her, but no
one saw George, because he was obscured by the furniture. “I hope you don‟t mind. I brought my Bassett
Hound with me.” I unraveled George‟s leash and brought him forward, so everyone could meet him.

       “AW!” Alison‟s face melted as she bent beside him. He looked up, gave her his signature look, and
Alison melted into a puddle, right there in the office. That dog loved every moment, too.

        “A dog! What are you doing, bringing a dog?” House scoffed as he looked at George. The dog heard
his voice, looked up at him, bounded over in his adorably slow way and jumped up on him, his paws on his
legs, his tail wagging excitedly and tongue hanging out. I looked over at Lisa, and she was laughing so hard,
not only at the action, but at the irony of the whole thing.

       “ACCHHH!” House yelled.

        “Aw, what‟s your name sweetie pie?” Alison pulled George off House and he licked her face, leaving
her giggling. House turned away from the mushy scene, making a “gagging” motion with his mouth and
finger.

       I looked at Lisa, at Alison and then at House. “George.”

       James snorted: he looked surprised, confused and extremely amused; Lisa laughed even harder; and
House, well, he quickly turned back around to me, but it took him a few moments to compute this new
information. He looked at me, then at George, then back at me, and I saw a myriad of emotions cross his
face as his mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. The first emotion I could discern was confusion;
then surprise; then hurt (presumably at being lied to, or, the very least, misled); then realization (perhaps that
I‟m not seeing a man named George); and finally happiness, bordering on joy.

        Stiffly, he leaned over and rubbed George‟s ears. That dog howled softly, which I had never seen him
do.

       “House, for some reason, that dog loves you. I don‟t quite know why,” I commented, watching the
whole scene with amusement and amazement.

        “So, his name is George, huh?” he looked up, a flirtatious grin on his face.

      “Yep,” I said matter-of-factly. “George: the best one I could ever have. My whole life, my loyal man.
No one could ever replace him.”

        James snorted again, but then had to leave the office. I faintly heard the “HAHAHAHAHA” outside the
office. I hid my giggle then glanced at Lisa. She was too busy doubled over in laughter.

       I quickly composed myself. “Ok, guys, if anyone would like to dog sit, I know George would love the
company. Alison, could you hold him for me?” She nodded and I handed the leash to her. “Thanks.” I
walked over to Dana, where she handed me the stack of schedules with a highly-amused look on her face.

        “I have schedules for everyone: any necessary costume fittings, locations, etc. It will take about two
days for each person, but please be prepared for possible re-shoots. I have also rented the local theater
troupe‟s stage for the next two weeks. This is where we will go for shots that we can‟t get, either on location
or in the hospital. Since we only have it for two weeks, we will do those shots first, so you probably won‟t go
two days in a row. Please see your schedules.”

         The door opened and I smiled at James, who walked back in. “Here is your schedule. Most of you are
using your own clothing and/or props, so this won‟t apply to you. But the theater troupe has a wide array of
both clothing and props, so you might find what you need there. If you can't, please contact me and I will
arrange it. As you can see, we won‟t start until Wednesday, but you can bring your items to the theater, since
I will have a key by the end of today, and we‟ll store the stuff. If you have any schedule changes, please see
me immediately. Ok, that‟s it. Does anyone have any questions?”

       No one said anything, so I asked to Alison, “Could I talk to you? As a matter of fact, it‟s time for
George‟s walk. Want to walk with me?” She nodded while the rest of the group left the room. As Alison and
I headed to the door, I was stopped by a hand on my arm. I looked over and saw House.

      “Can I meet you outside?” I asked Alison. She looked from me to House, then nodded and led a
happy George out of the office. I looked over at Lisa, who was watching the scene with amusement. “Can we
borrow your office for a minute?”

        “Sure,” she choked out as she hid her smile and left the room.

       I turned back to face House, who was watching with a dumb look in his eye. I crossed my arms. “Did
you need something? You know, stand there any longer with that dumb expression, people are gonna talk
about you.”

        House came closer and looked down at me. “People already talk about me. So… that was George,
huh?”

        “Yes.”

        “George is your dog.”
       “Very good, Captain Obvious. How could you tell? The four legs? The tail? The droopy ears?” House
smirked. “Besides, what do you care? Were you jealous or something?”

       House scoffed. “Don‟t be ridiculous.”

       “Then why do you care?” I repeated. Silence. „Ok, he‟s not going to answer that.‟ “Listen, are you
going to make this difficult? I have a job to do, then a life back in Chicago. I don‟t have time to dilly dally
around.”

       He looked at his cane then muttered, “No, I‟ll be a good boy.”

      “Good, because if you‟re bad,” I began, lowering my voice two octaves, “Do you know what happens to
bad boys? They get spanked.”

       House‟s lip curled in a sneer. “Really?”

       I smiled, then turned on my heel and walked to the door. I suddenly stopped, turned back around and
looked at House, who was regarding me with a predatory challenge in his eyes. “But I don‟t spank.”

       He chuckled, and as I walked out the door, he shouted, “The he** you don‟t.”
*****
   I walked out of the office and found Alison standing by the nurse‟s station, surrounded by a bevy of Bassett
Hound admirers. I smiled as I approached. “He‟s quite the playboy, isn‟t he?” At the sound of my voice,
George looked up at me, but when he heard the STEP, STEP, THUMP behind me, George pulled on his leash
towards House.

       “Wow,” I said, absolutely amazed, watching how George concentrated on House. “George loves you.
He only acts this way around me. Isn‟t that weird?” I asked, looking first at Alison, who wore a highly
amused smile, then at House, who was intrigued. He was watching me with a “What do you think this
means?” look.

      I leered at him and said, “It means,” and, taking the leash from Alison, I held it out to House, who
made absolutely no effort to take it. “that you get to dog-sit for awhile.”

       House‟s face quickly changed from intrigued to “You‟ve got to be kidding me.” He frowned and said,
“You‟ve got to be kidding me.”

        “Nope,” I saw that he wasn‟t going to budge, so I slipped the leash loop around my wrist and slowly
walked closer, until I stood about three feet from him. Never taking my eyes off his rapidly darkening ones, I
slowly ran my hands through my hair, licked my lips and adjusted my baby-doll blouse. Running a finger
along the rather low-cut baby-doll blouse, I flashed him a pleading smile, then whispered, “Please?”

        I saw his defenses crumble but he maintained his composure. Sneaking a peek down my blouse
(„Figures. Nothing changes.‟), he sighed then leered right back. “Alright,” exclaiming with an overly irritated
HUFF. “I‟ll take Prince George here for a walk while you girls catch up on the latest gossip. Don‟t be too long,
ok?”

       “Ok, DAD,” emphasizing DAD. “We were only going to talk about you, that‟s all. Could take all
afternoon. It‟s probably a good thing you have no idea what people say about you.” House sneered at this.
Handing House the leash, bent down, gave George a hug who, with huge, sorrowful eyes, gave me a kiss, and
I stood up.

       “Got a kiss for Greggy too?” House leaned in, wiggling his eyebrows.
       I ignored him, saying “Thank you.” Turning to Alison, I asked, “Can we take a walk? I gotta talk to
you.” Alison nodded, then walked to the front doors. I took two steps to follow, then felt a hand on my arm.
I stopped and, taking a moment to close my eyes and collect my thoughts, I opened them. Plastering a smile
on my face, I turned to House. “Yes? Do you need something? You seem to have an unhealthy obsession
with my arm…either that or you are admiring my biceps.”

       “Actually, Jimmy and I placed bets on what we thought you could bench press. Judging from the size,
I‟m going to guess 150. Am I right?”

       “More like 190.”

         He briefly watched me with that irritatingly analytical gaze of his (For some reason, I was finding him
irritating that day…could it be the fact that he is irritating? Or could it be the hormones? Or could it be the
blue t-shirt, sky-blue oxford shirt and dark-gray sport blazer he was wearing? It made his eyes the color of
bluebells in spring. Dang it, concentrate Haley…), then asked, “George is still a dog, right?” (See what I
mean by irritating?) At this, George looked up at us at the mention of his name.

        “You know, House, I know that you are a great medical detective and you powers of deduction are
amazing, but we‟ve been over this. What are you doing? And why are you being such an idiot? The more you
ask, the more you look like a complete moron.”

       He lowered his voice. “Why did you lead me to believe that George was a guy?”

       “Well, House, George is a guy. He‟s a male.”

         He rolled his eyes then leaned in closer. We were only about 3 feet apart, and chills ran up my spine,
but I was proud of myself…you wouldn‟t have known it by the look on my face. “Do you know how amazingly
infuriating you are? Why didn‟t you tell me George was a dog?”

        “Well,” I crossed my arms over my chest, pushing my breasts up (MUCH better than a Wonderbra!)
This movement wasn‟t lost to House, who took another peek down my blouse. Ignoring it (again), “it‟s
simple: it never came up. But more importantly, I did it because it was fun. Screwing with your head, just
like you screw with people. Not much fun, is it, House?”

       We were still standing close together as he studied me, his blue eyes roaming my face. The chills
returned and I let it slip how he was affecting me. Of course, he caught it and smirked. “Am I getting to you?
Am I? You‟re as turned on as I am right now, aren‟t you?”

       Keeping my arms crossed, I trailed a finger lightly over my collarbone. I licked my lips and watched as
his eyes turned dusky. “Even more than you, House.” I said, sarcastically. “In fact, let‟s just drop right down
on the floor and go for it.” Rolling my eyes, I removed my arms from my chest and rested my hands on my
hips. That, effectively, ruined the moment. “Seriously, why are you bringing this up…again? Is it because I
messed with your head? Or is it because you were…jealous?” I watched him for a minute, but he was as
good an actor as I am. Shaking my head, I walked around him and met Alison outside.
 *****
       “I‟m sorry about that. House is so irritating.”

      Alison smiled at this. “I think he wrote the book on irritation. I was curious: why did you name your
dog George?”

       I chuckled. “One day, about 2 weeks before I got George, I saw a British TV show on cable. It was
one of the funniest shows I‟ve ever seen. There was a character named George, Prince of Wales, Prince
Regent, based on King George of England‟s son. The actor was incredibly cute; he reminded me of a Great
Dane or a Labrador Retriever puppy. Tall and thin with long arms and legs. But he had the most incredible,
huge blue eyes. He was so funny. When I first met George, the Bassett Hound, I thought about that actor.
That‟s why I named him George.”

       “I love British TV!” Alison exclaimed. “Do you remember the show and the actor?”

       “The show was „Blackadder The Third‟ and the actor was Hugh Laurie.”

       “The guy that played Bertie Wooster on “Jeeves and Wooster”? Yeah! He‟s so funny, and really cute!”

         I nodded. “Don‟t think I‟m crazy, but when I first met House, I was struck by how much he reminded
me of Hugh Laurie. He‟s tall and athletic built, just like Hugh. But it was his eyes that struck me. They are
just like Hugh‟s! What do you think?”

      We kept walking as Alison thought about it. “You know, you are right. Wow! That‟s so cool.” Alison
paused. “You said you needed to speak to me. What‟s up?”

        “It‟s about your picture for the second calendar, the PG-13 calendar. I‟ve got you scheduled to be the
very first photo taken, which will be on Wednesday morning at the theater. I thought we would build on wall,
which will be at the right on stage, with the window in it. I will have white material or curtains hanging in the
background, to give the room a sort of MTV-video feel, you know? They did that look a lot in the eighties.
But I thought if I bring in a wind machine or a huge fan, we‟d let your hair blow all around you. That would
certainly be more dramatic and shocking. What do you think?”

      Alison thought about it. “You know,” she started slowly, “that‟s a good idea. I like that better. But, I
do have a question for you. Who were you thinking should be in the window?”

       I studied her and realized that she had someone in mind, but she wanted my opinion. “House. Isn‟t
he the reason you chose this picture?”

       “At first, mainly, yes. But now I see it probably won‟t make him see me the way I want him to. So it
stopped being about him. It‟s about me and showing the world who I really am.”

       I was confused by her words. “What do you mean, it won‟t matter?”

         “Look, I‟ve seen the way he looks at you. And the way you fight! I‟m bracing myself, wondering when
you‟ll finally tear each other‟s clothes off, but preferably, not in front of us. Let me ask you a question: how
do you feel about him?”

        I took a few steps then reasoned with myself about the truth. „Well, why deny what everyone already
sees?‟ “I‟ve never had feelings like this before. Sure, I was attracted to Mike, but he was my first love, so it
was in a girlish way. With Paul, it was a comfortable, gradual feeling. With House, I either want to strangle
him or rip his clothes off. But at this moment, I wouldn‟t say no if he asked me out, but I can‟t see a future. I
don‟t know if I could live with that obnoxiousness. Besides, it‟s a distraction. And I know what happened to
me in the past…that‟s why I keep telling myself, “No distractions. You can‟t handle getting hurt again.” I just
can‟t let that happen again.”

       Alison considered my words then said, “I want House in the shot.”

        “Good, because I can‟t wait to see the look on his face when he sees you. It will be classic…and make
a great picture! And, leave it up to me…I‟ll get him to come. I‟ll recruit James to help.” I grinned evilly and
Alison laughed. We walked for a few minutes in silence then, as we got to the front door of the hospital, I
asked Alison, “Why don‟t you go out with James? You‟d make a cute couple.”
      Alison gave me an odd look. “James? As in Wilson? He‟s a great friend, but I can‟t get involved with
James. I don‟t know, it would just be too awkward, I think. Haley, was there anything else you needed from
me?”

      “Nope,” I said as we walked through the doors and back to Lisa‟s office. “I won‟t be around tomorrow,
so meet me at the theater at 9:30 a.m. Be ready…it should be terrific fun!”

       Alison giggled then walked away, and I walked through the office doors.
*****
   Lisa wasn‟t in her office, so I picked up my bag and purse. I needed to find George and leave, because I
had work to do. „Try Diagnostics‟, I thought. The office was empty except for two lone figures…and what I
saw shocked me.

        Sitting in a recliner, with his legs propped on an ottoman, was House, fast asleep, drool running down
his chin. That didn‟t shock me as much as who was with him…George was also on the ottoman, laying on his
right side with his paws propped up on House‟s legs, head sprawled next to his paws (still on House‟s legs),
ears fanned out. George must‟ve been dreaming, because his back legs were kicking and he was grunting. I
looked back at House, and he was snoring softly.

        Never without my camera, I decided I might need to blackmail him down the road. As quietly as I
could, I removed my camera from my bag and took a couple shots. But I didn‟t need to worry…both were
dead to the world. As much as I wanted the sweet moment to continue, I knew it was important I get out of
Dodge. „How would House wake someone up…I got it!‟ Pulling out George‟s favorite squeaky ball, I held it 6
inches from House‟s ear and squeaked away. His eyes popped open and, with amazing agility, leaped from
the chair. With equal amazement, George was still on the ottoman, though a bit frightened by the sudden
noise and the movement of House‟s legs.

       “Wha…what? What?” he looked around, sleepy eyes barely focusing. But I soon saw that George was
ok, because he maneuvered himself off the ottoman. Once he saw the ball, he thought it was playtime and
gave a deep “ROLF!” staring up at me with pleading eyes. I gave him the toy and turned back to House.

       “I‟m sorry, am I disturbing your beauty sleep?” I innocently asked. House rubbed his eyes and
growled at me.

         “Well, it looks like I gave the toy to the wrong male. George, give your toy to House, before he bites
you.” I grabbed George‟s leash and led him out the door. Walking toward the elevator, I heard House‟s
distinctive walk behind me. I got the elevator, pushed the button and turned to him.

       “House, I need to go. I‟ve got a lot of work to do, and I don‟t have time to flirt with you. Please,” I
pleaded, almost to the point of begging. For the first time, I let him see my vulnerability (it was time to be
honest with him…he was beginning to wear me out, all this following me around).

       “Ok,” he said, resignation filling his eyes. I turned away, back to the elevator, but I felt my hand being
tugged and, before I knew it, I was in House‟s arms. He was kissing me. My mind quickly registered the
softness of his mouth and the tickle of his whiskers. Moaning, I threaded my fingers through his hair. The
kiss was very different from the first one…in fact, I‟d never been kissed like this before. It was sweet; it was
slobbery (remember, he was drooling in his sleep); and it conjured up images in my mind that were usually
only found in romance novels („Haley, more TV, less reading,‟ I chastised myself).

        I don‟t know how long the kiss lasted, but it came to a screeching halt with a tap to my shoulder, a tug
on George‟s leash and a clearing of the throat. Reluctantly, I pulled away but, embarrassed, didn‟t look into
House‟s eyes. Instead, I turned around to find what looked to be the entire floor standing around, watching
us like we were lab rats or something. Some were amused, some thought it was cute („Aw, isn‟t that sweet?‟ I
heard an older lady ask another older lady) and the rest were shocked, perhaps at seeing House kissing
someone.

        It was Wilson who tapped my shoulder. He was wearing an amused look. “Keep this up, House, and
you‟ll be in the MATERNITY ward.”

       “Hardy har har,” House exaggerated. “Very funny. Ok, people, nothing left to see here.” He turned to
me, but found me facing the other direction, my face the color of my red hair. I realized at that moment that
I had missed the elevator because I was playing tongue hockey with Dr. Kildare. I sighed and pressed the
button again.

       “Did I just answer your jealousy question?” he quietly asked. I turned to him and finally saw an
honest, sincere look in his eyes.

          I smiled. “Hey, I won‟t tell anyone you are human and I won‟t hold it against you. So I‟ll see you
later?”

        DING! The elevator finally arrived, to my unbounded relief. I led George into the empty car and
turned to see House still standing there, holding the doors open with his cane. I saw a perplexing earnestness
in his eyes as he stated, “Have dinner with me.”

        I did not make one facial movement as I pressed the close button, still looking into House‟s eyes. “Bye
House. And I‟ll be ready for your photos.” And the elevator closed.
*****
   At 9:20 Wednesday morning, the theater stage was set. I was ready for my first photo…Alison and her
electric guitar.

       It was an exhausting day and a half, just trying to get designers and builders coordinated, props
arranged, costumes found, errands run. But I got enough done to get me through the next two weeks…and I
was excited!

        Now, as Derrick and I waited for Alison to appear, I realized that there was a big drawback to the next
two weeks…I wouldn‟t get to mess with House. None of his photos required the theater; both were location
shots. And the photo of House, shirtless, on his motorcycle, wasn‟t until the very last day of shooting due to
location constrictions („Oh, why did I agree to do the shot in a bikini? I hate bikinis. Ok, nothing but water
and celery for the next two weeks‟).

        Shaking my head, I put these thoughts aside and concentrated on the task at hand. I was very proud
of my work on the stage. I draped filmy white material from the rafters and covered the floor with a heavier
white material. I wanted the stage to have an airy, a free, a light feeling. The softness and transparency of
the material will help create this feeling. I strategically placed wind machines around the stage. I had my
wall, with an open, cut-out portion to simulate a window, but it didn‟t look like a window all by itself. I added
a curtain rod and the palest of pink, gauzy, virtually transparent curtains that would flutter when the wind
machines were on. The pink helped give the room the slightest of feminine touches.

        Since we needed to capture the surprised look on House‟s face, both Derrick and I were taking the
pictures. I knew we only had one opportunity, and I couldn‟t ruin it. This one chance was also why my plan
to get House to the theater, without any hint of what was happening, was critical. I knew I had to recruit
James so, earlier that morning I snuck in the hospital and found James‟ office. After explaining what I needed
and how it needed to be done, I asked, “So, will you help me?”

        “Absolutely,” James smiled. “I can‟t wait to see the look on his face when he sees sweet, innocent
Alison as something completely different. It should be interesting…and I wonder what she‟ll be wearing?”
        I stood up to leave, but then said, “Come to the theater at about 9:30. I‟ll explain what the next step
is then.”

       “Gotcha.”

       So, here we are, and just as I was about to call Alison to the stage, she walked in, carrying her guitar
case. She was wearing a short, skin-tight black halter dress, no panty hose and 5-inch stiletto heels. Her hair
was down and mussed, and she wore heavy dark eye makeup and red lipstick.

        Derrick and I stared at her then at each other. “Alison? Is that really you? You look so…so…different.
House is going to flip when he sees you!” I exclaimed. I felt a pang of jealousy…I‟m not nearly as pretty as
Alison and she‟s got a better body than mine...why wouldn‟t all the guys want her…including House?
Resolving to push those thoughts out of my head, I returned to the task at hand.

       Alison gave us a triumphant laugh. “So, you think it will work, huh?” she asked.

        “Yep. I brought both the video and the CD of “Addicted to Love”. Do we need to play either one, to
set the scene?”

       Alison had gone offstage to remove her guitar and leave the case, so she didn‟t answer me until she
came back out. “Let‟s play the video, so I can study the movements. But, when House comes, I only want to
be playing. When is he coming, by the way?”

         I looked at my watch. “Well, James is supposed to be here at 9:30 and he‟ll call House at around 9:45,
to tell him to get over here as quickly as possible, but he won‟t tell House the reason. I told James to tell
House that I needed to discuss his photo shoot.”

(Reader, this isn’t the full truth. I actually told James to tell House that I was trying to decide on
an outfit for his motorcycle shot and that I needed his opinion. However, I didn’t want everyone
else to know I would be in his shot, but I figured that James probably knew anyway, since House
tells him everything. I definitely didn’t tell James it was a bikini. I am so bad about taunting
House, aren’t I? Hehehehe.)

       At 9:30 on the nose, I heard the theater‟s front door close and I turned to the back of the auditorium.
I saw James striding down the aisle, and when he got halfway down, he stopped and stared. “Alison? Is that
you?” he asked with a completely thunder-struck look on his face.

       “Yes,” she said, rather matter-of-factly.

        “Wow! You look so…different. Very…different. You look, um, great.” I studied his face as he slowly
finished the trek to the stage, and what I saw left me dumbstruck. Mixed with the shock of seeing Alison, I
saw something…else. It wasn‟t a look of lust, though there was a bit of that. No, it was a look I‟ve only seen
people who are deeply in love give each other. Derrick looks at Dana this way all the time.

        I smiled slightly then turned to Alison. “Will you excuse us for a minute?” She nodded. I walked off
the stage, grabbed James by the arm and steered him toward the exit, even though he kept looking back at
Alison. I shut the auditorium door and pulled him aside. “Are you alright?” He gave me an absolutely
speechless look.

       “Are you sure that‟s our Cameron?” he croaked out.

       “How long James? How long have you had these feelings for Alison?”
        He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. “Since a little before Julie left, about six months. I
never thought of Cameron that way before, never. But one night, after a particularly stressful day with House,
we decided to get a bite to eat, you know, just as colleagues. What I found in her, I hadn‟t seen in a long,
long time, something I‟ve been searching for, something I once had but was forced to give up. But then Julie
left me and things have been crazy, and I‟ve had to hide it. Now, it seems I won‟t be able to.”

       “Why did you ask me out, then?”

        “Because I wanted someone to talk to and you are a great listener. I am lonely, and I can‟t talk about
this to House. Listen, I‟m sorry about the date. I‟m sorry for allowing House to come and I‟m sorry for the
entire night.” He stared blankly at his wringing hands.

        “Don‟t apologize…in fact, in its own way it was kind of – fun. Granted, I never want another night like
that, but it had its own charm.” I looked at my watch. “James, I need you to call House in 15 minutes then
let me know you‟ve called him. Here‟s my number,” I pulled my card out of my back jeans pocket. “When he
gets here, use this back door.” I took him outside and around, to the back of the building. I used my key,
then propped it open with a nearby rock. “This door leads directly backstage. Meet him in the parking lot and
tell him this back door is the only door open. Lead him in so he‟ll walk by the window. The music playing will
get him curious, especially since the song is “Addicted to Love.”, so he‟ll definitely look through the window.
Quickly get out of the way, and I‟ll have my shot. Let me know when you have called him, so we‟ll get Alison
in position. Got it?”

       James nodded and I kissed his cheek. “Thank you…and apology accepted.”

        Leaving him by the back door, I walked back onstage, where Alison was watching the music video and
imitating the movements. “Are you ready?” I asked, grabbing my camera. She nodded, turned off the TV
and, with a guitar in hand, stepped into the “room” onstage. As she tuned her guitar, I decided to snap some
photos, up close and far away. Once she finished, I moved to the edge of the stage and studied angles,
taking some basic head shots and set shots.

        “Ok, Alison, something to remember while we are shooting is: visualize yourself on stage, with a bunch
of adoring fans below you, screaming, “AL-I-SON! AL-I-SON!” How would you look if you did that?” She
began playing and I was amazed at her talent. „She‟s very good!‟ I looked over at Derrick and he was
watching her, amazed for the second time. Wasting no more time, I began shooting. Before I knew it, my
cell phone rang.

       “Yeah? You did? Thanks, James.” Snapping my cell phone shut, I said, “He‟s called House and, from
what James said, is going to break the law getting here. So, I figure we probably have 10 minutes to get
ready. Derrick, can you stand at the window and tell me when the view is right? Thanks.”

        Derrick moved and stood behind the window, and I positioned Alison about 6 feet from the window.
After a few adjustments, we got her at the correct angle, where House could easily recognize who she was
and what she was doing. I grabbed some masking tape and marked the spot. Then, starting the wind
machines, I positioned them so the background wafted all around her, but her hair only blew slowly, not wildly
around her.

       Satisfied everything was set, I went to my mark and crouched down, for a view from the floor. Derrick
stood up straight from his mark.

       “Great guys! Alison, start playing and don‟t stop, even if you have to play the song over and over.
But, remember, you are trying to seduce the audience through looks and gestures…it‟s a total visual
seduction. You need to surprise both House and the people who buy this calendar. You know House…what
would it take to shock him?”
       With a tiny, determined smile on her face, she began playing, moving her hips and her head, to the
beat and sensuality of the music. Then she surprised both Derrick and I when she asked, “Do you really think
James likes me?”

       Thankfully, I didn‟t have to answer because I heard my cell phone ring. “He‟s here.”

       “Ok, Alison, House is here. We are going to keep going like he‟s not, and never was, here. For the
purpose of this shoot, he‟s an innocent bystander looking in your bedroom window. While creepy, it‟s the look
we are going for. Ready? Go.”

       “Funny,” Alison commented. “knowing House, it‟s be something he‟d do.”

        I chuckled then heard a gruff “If she wanted to see me, why did she have you call me? And why are
you here, anyway?” I couldn‟t hear James‟ answer, but I did hear House snark back, “sounds like she‟s put on
a bit of mood music. Where is she, anyway?”

       “Over here.” And, suddenly, House appeared in the window. He immediately saw Alison and I heard
both his cane and his jaw hit the ground. I barely stifled my laughter and we caught the scene perfectly.
“Cameron? Is that you? What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?”

       “I‟m baking a cake, House. What does it look like I‟m doing?” Alison snarked back, without missing a
note of the song. I couldn‟t hold back any longer. I fell to the floor, laughing until my side hurt. Fortunately,
Derrick kept shooting.

       House finally noticed I was there. He snarled as he asked, “This was your idea, wasn‟t it? Did George
put you up to this?”

        I laughed even harder, until I began crying. Wiping my eyes and calming down, I looked at House.
“Aw, poor Greggy-poo. Life is so unfair to him, isn‟t it?” Shaking my head, I turned to Alison. “you can stop
if you want.”

       “Nah, I‟m almost done with the song.” I looked back at House, whose look at Alison held a new-found
respect – but nothing else. I released my mental breath, the one I had been holding since we agreed to have
House in the picture. I saw it didn‟t change his feelings for Alison, except that he probably respected her
more.

        When Alison finished, I hung the camera around my neck and clapped. Everyone soon joined in, and
Alison smiled and bowed. I looked at the boys: Derrick was unloading the camera; James stood, mesmerized
by the transformation, and House was still snarling at me.

       I walked over to the window and leaned against it. “Well, poor old Dr. Gregory House hasn‟t dropped
dead from shock, so I‟ll assume he‟ll live.” His face changed from a snarl to a sneer.

       “Whose idea was this?”

       “Well, George did have a lot of helpful suggestions, but this one was a mutual decision between Alison
and I.” He was still upset, so I asked, “Jules, what are you mad at now?”

       He leaned forward and lowered his voice so only I could hear him. “I was really looking forward to
seeing you in your biker, um, attire. Now I‟m gonna have to take a cold shower.”

       I smiled. “Better invest in a sprinkler system…your „biker photo‟ isn‟t scheduled until the very last day
of shooting, another few weeks.”
       He moaned then saw I was serious. “You are serious, aren‟t you? What a tease.”

        I turned and, as I was walking to Alison, I told House, “That‟s all we need from you today. Thank you
for being such a good trooper. I think I might have a lollypop in my backpack for good boys like yourself.”

       I heard him “Humph” behind me and exit the building, with James following.

      “Thank you Alison! That was absolutely perfect! I will have the photos developed this afternoon, so if
you want to meet later to go over them, just let me know.”

       Alison giggled and pumped her hand in victory. “YES! That felt awesome! I need to do something like
this more often. And we really got House good, didn‟t we?”

       “Yes we did Alison,” and, as she walked off the stage, I yelled, “Yes, I do think he likes you.”
*****
  By 3:00 that day, I had all of Alison‟s pictures developed. I smiled as I sifted through them. „There are
some great shots, with and without House. I might see if I could use some of these for my portfolio. Derrick
keeps pushing me to have an exhibit, or the very least, a show, of my work. After this job, I might just do
that.‟ I thought as I got to the end of the stack.

        Near the bottom was a particularly candid picture Derrick had shot. James was watching Alison with a
pathetically love-struck expression, his eyes glistening, mouth open. He looked like he was ready to do
anything she asked of him. I put this picture aside. „Maybe I‟ll redevelop it, crop House out and give it to
James with a Post-It note on the back, suggesting he ask her out.‟ I thought with a matchmaker‟s smile.

        „Speaking of matchmaker, maybe I could set Lisa up with Officer Hotstuff. He‟s about her age, and I
think they‟d make a cute couple. In fact,‟ my mind began to race and I began to get excited. „I‟ll ask him to
be part of Lisa‟s convertible picture. Oooh, he can be the cop that pulls her over…oh, this will be GREAT!
SSQQQUUUUEEEE!‟ I squealed.

         I straightened the stack of photos and zipped them into my portfolio. „Maybe I should head to the
hospital to talk with Alison. After all, she does have a final say in her photos.‟ I told myself. However, by the
time I was steering my rental car on the road to the hospital, my heart was making me doubt my intentions.
„It‟s not about House, it‟s not about House,‟ my brain was saying, but my heart was telling me otherwise.
„Who‟s kidding who here? He is the reason. He is, to you, what Vicoden is to him – a need, an addition. So,
the question becomes, “Haley, when it‟s time for you to leave, will you be able to stop your addiction cold
turkey?”‟

       “I don‟t know,” I said out loud, to nobody. I usually talk out these life decisions out with George, but
he was with Dana at the hotel. Sighing, I pulled into the hospital parking lot and found a close spot. Locking
the door with a BEEP, I toted my purse, camera and portfolio to the building. „It‟s probably safer to avoid
House right now, so I‟ll meet Alison in Lisa‟s office.‟

        When I got to the office, I sighed when I saw who was there: Lisa, Alison and House. „I can‟t avoid
the guy if I tried.‟ Hoping they didn‟t see me, I quietly walked past. „Maybe I‟ll go back to that ficus tree.
They‟ll never find me there, and we were starting to become friends. Yeah, I‟ll go say hi to the tree.‟

        I almost got to the elevators, when I heard a door burst open. “Haley? You can come in.” Lisa called
to me. I braced myself and turned around. Walking back, I stopped her before she could go back inside.
Quietly I asked, “Could you get rid of House? I‟m trying to avoid him, to get my work done. But he‟s always
around.”
       Lisa smiled. “I‟ll see what I can do, but first, we need to talk about this morning‟s photo shoot. House
is upset and claims you used him. Personally,” Lisa lowered her voice to a whisper, “I‟m sure whatever it was,
was fine. I‟m on your side, but I would like for you to explain it.”

        “Ok.” I followed Lisa inside and found House sitting on one side of the room, Alison on the other,
glaring at each other. When House saw me, he straightened up, snarled, pointed and exclaimed, “AND YOU!
IT‟S ALL YOUR FAULT!”

       “And hello to you, too. George sends his love and says thank you for the company during his
afternoon nap on Monday. By the way, he wants his squeaky toy back.” House snarled again, but shot me a
“Whoa Momma! I love it when you talk dirty to me” look.

        Standing away from everyone, I wanted to show them the only side I was on was my own. “Lisa told
me to describe the photo shoot.” For five minutes, I explained everything (strategically leaving out, of course,
the Alison/James discussion and the whole biker wardrobe thing).

        When I had finished, Lisa looked relieved. Turning to House, she said, “This is what you are
complaining about? It would seem the only “wrong” (air quotations here) done to you was that you were out
of the loop, which was the whole point. My verdict? SUCK IT UP, HOUSE. Besides,” she looked from House
to me and back to House, “this looks like it goes way beyond the photo shoot. You discuss your problems
later.”

      “Alison,” I moved to sit on the couch next to her. I pulled out my portfolio and said, “I have your pics
done. Do you want to see them?” Her face lit up at this. “Of course!”

       I pulled them out and began arranging them. Lisa came over to sit beside Alison, and House moved to
stand behind us, his face on my left side. I felt his hot breath on my ear, and I coughed. „Just ignore it. It‟s
House…being House. Don‟t stoop…no matter how perfect that feels.‟ Mentally shaking my head, I turned
back to the task at hand.

       “Right now, just narrow the field down to the pictures you want in the calendar. Later, we‟ll decide
which ones will go in a photo book I am doing, which will include photos from everyone‟s shoot and some
candid behind-the-scenes shots. My suggestion would be to take them several at a time. Put the ones you
are considering in a pile. Don‟t worry about the order.”

       “Ok,” she said as I spread six photos on the coffee table. I handed her the rest and sat back, watching
the process. „I love this process,‟ I smiled to myself as I watched the concentration on both female doctor‟s
faces. „It‟s interesting to see…what‟s that?‟ I thought as I felt my hair ruffle. I turned my eyes to see House‟s
hand in my unbound, shoulder-length wavy hair, his eyes not on the photos but on my face. I quickly averted
my eyes to look over at the girls, but they were too busy to notice anything.

        “Alison?” I stood up with an amazing amount of composure. “I need to use the restroom. You girls
continue.” But they didn‟t hear me. Grabbing my purse and avoiding House, I walked out of the office. As
soon as I was clear from their view, I raced to the stairs and sat on the fourth step. I bent over and held my
head in my hands, trying furiously to compose myself, but it didn‟t help when I heard the STEP-STEP-THUMP.
I sighed, closed my eyes and whispered, “Look up, girl. You can do this.” I obeyed and looked up, meeting a
pair of sky blue eyes that mocked me with a “Am I getting to you?” look on his face.

       “Jules, what are you doing?” I asked as I stood on the first step, which brought me almost at eye-level
with him. He smirked then brought his hand back to my hair. I saw the intent concentration on each strand
he touched and I involuntarily shivered. He then looked into my eyes and said, “I have a problem.”

        I smirked. “Jules, you are a man of many, MANY problems.”
        “Very funny.” He released my hair and let out a sigh. Moving to a nearby chair, he fell in it with a
HUFF. I moved over to sit in the seat next to his. He started again. “This new problem is one I‟ve never had
before, at least not like this. It happened a couple weeks ago; now I can‟t eat, I can‟t sleep without thinking
about it. My mind isn‟t on my work, and this problem is acting much differently than my other problems. This
problem seems to actually be HELPING my other ones. I‟m not taking as much Vicodin anymore; I‟m in a
happier mood. I haven‟t even made a nurse cry in a couple of days, and I don‟t know if I like it. In fact, I
haven‟t had to refill my prescription since it started. There is a temporary remedy for the problem, and I
really, REALLY want it. It would make me SO happy. But I have a feeling it would only complicate my dealing
with the problem, and, pretty soon, the problem‟s going to need some kind of permanent solution. So, do you
have a solution?”

       Well, reader, it‟s a good thing I knew immediately what (or who) was the problem. Otherwise, this
would‟ve been a really confusing conversation. Since I assumed (given my overhearing the two conversations
House had with James) I was the problem, I also assumed that the “temporary remedy” was sex and the
“permanent solution” was marriage. But, of course, I never gave my hand away.

       “Hmmm…sounds like you do have a problem. Have you discussed this with anyone?”

        “Yes, and they told me that, with this problem, the permanent solution is the only answer, or risk
losing the problem forever. Well, I really thought about losing the problem forever, since I‟ve already had this
type of problem before. It lasted five years and left when my leg happened. The problem is now with
someone else…permanently. But, the more this new problem hangs around, the more I want it to
stay…permanently. I'm just not ready yet to stay with the problem permanently…I just really, REALLY want
the temporary remedy. What should I do?”

    "Have you tried to solve the problem with the temporary remedy?"

    He shook his head. "I don't want it to be all about that...and that is not like me. See what I mean? This
problem is turning not just my world, but ME, upside down. I'm actually thinking of the problem above
myself. Besides, I don't think the problem is ready for the temporary remedy yet. What should I do?"

        “Well, I‟m not your psychiatrist, so I can‟t analyze your head…in fact, I‟m not sure anyone can do that.
But let me tell you, this problem thing must be going around, because I have a little problem of my own.”

       “Really? What is it?” House watched me, almost excited.

       “So, you are happy I have problems? Does that make you feel better?”

       “Yeah…sane people are so…boring.”

        I rolled my eyes. “Ok, my problem is I‟m greedy. I saw something I want, like I‟ve never wanted
something before, but I can‟t afford to have it.” My face was the epitome of composure, though every cell in
my body was going nutso. “At first, I didn‟t want it. It was loud, made funny noises, never acted as the
directions said. I loved manipulating it, playing with it, and it played right back, without missing a beat. It‟s
provided me with loads of fun…but it‟s not mine. It costs too much to have and I was fine with that. I could
walk away from it…at first.
        But it grew on me. Pretty soon, I wanted it for myself; however, it didn‟t come with a loyalty
guarantee: I have no idea if this truly does not belong to anyone. I also don‟t know if it will always stay with
me…if it won‟t get lost and end up with someone else, someone new, someone better. Right now, the costs
don‟t outweigh the risks.
        That‟s why I‟m backing away from it. I‟m leaving it where I saw it. I‟ve already had two...and they
were both bad. I found out the first belonged to someone else. The other was stolen by my best friend…I
caught her with it. I removed myself completely from that situation and ended up with a new life. I‟m
happy…I‟m not sure I even need it…but I want it. I keep thinking that I'll be happier with it, but right now, I
can't take that step. What do you think I should do?”

       House was silent for awhile but his eyes never left mine. He opened his mouth to say something when
I heard Lisa say, “We‟re finished. Can we show you what we‟ve picked out?”

         I quickly looked at House, who made no effort to move. Picking up my purse, I got up. “I guess we
both have problems. What should we do about it?” and, with that question hanging in the air, I followed Lisa
back to her office.
*****
   The next day flew, as I was busy at the theater with Dr. Janet Kiley-Simpson, then making preparations for
the photo shoot the next day. Janet always wanted to be a professional ballerina, but a knee injury prevented
her from going pro so she went to medical school instead. I set up a mini dance studio, complete with wood
floors, large floor-to-ceiling mirrors, lights and a dance bar.

       With this shoot completed by 11:00 a.m., I sent Derrick to the studio to develop the pictures.
Meanwhile, the rental company dismantled the set and assembled a Romeo & Juliet-like balcony, which went
against the back of the stage. Potted plants and dirt covered the stage, and the transformation of the stage,
from a modern-day dance studio to 16th century England, was complete. Smiling to myself, I was amazed at
the ease of the photo shoot, props and set design included („Sets can be such a bear,‟ I thought)

        By 5:00 that night I was ready to go to the hospital to see Janet. But I thought ahead…I called before
leaving.

       “Hey Alison? This is Haley…I‟m great. Listen is House still there? I have to come to the hospital, but I
don‟t want to run into him…he just left? When will he be back? Ok, I‟ll be there. I‟ll see ya. Thanks!”
Slapping my phone shut, I raced to the hospital.

       After meeting with Janet, I got on the elevator and pushed the button for the Diagnostics floor. Taking
a deep breath as the elevator doors opened, I peeked my head out and didn‟t see the person I was avoiding.
Creeping down the hall, I came upon the department, only to find Alison and Eric sitting around the large
square table deep in thought. I didn‟t see House in the adjoining office, so I knew I was safe…for a while
anyway.

       I walked through the doors and asked, “Alison? Did everything turn out ok after I left last night?”

       “Oh, yes. His fight wasn‟t with me. Besides, whatever you said to him seemed to work, because he‟s
back to his old snarky self, only…” Alison paused and looked at Eric.

       “What?” I prompted.

        Eric shook his head. “He‟s actually starting to be polite. I don‟t know what you said or did, but we‟ve
entered The Twilight Zone again. He is more focused on the patients and us. For a while there, he was so
distracted, he didn‟t know if he was going up or down. Seems now he‟s got a purpose.”

       I stuck my head out the door, checking both ends of the hallway. “When do you expect him back?”

       Alison checked her watch. “Well, they‟ve been gone an hour, so I would say any minute, but…” RING!
“Excuse me.” She pulled her black RAZR phone from her pocket. “Cameron. House? Did you find anything?”
Pause. “When are you coming back?” Pause. “Ok, ok. Bye.” She slapped her phone shut and turned to me.
“They will be here in five minutes. I suggest you leave…now.”

       “Ok, but Eric, I just wanted to remind you about your Shakespeare photo tomorrow. Be at the theater
at 10:00 a.m. Do you have any questions? Concerns? Cookie preference?”
       “Nope…nope…chocolate chip. I‟ll see you there. Oh! And I have my old summer stock costume from
when I played in Hamlet, so I‟m alright on wardrobe. I‟ll see you tomorrow.”

        “Bye!” I yelled as I ran to the stairs. Just as I got to the landing before the last flight of stairs, I heard
House yelling at Chase: “Did you check the sink? Under the sink?” and the elevator closed, muffling any
response. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, I ran out of the hospital, got in the rental car and burned rubber
outta there.
*****
        By 9:45 the next morning, I was ready to go and waiting for Eric. I took a moment to think about
what House told me. „It is a bit early in the relationship to even think about something permanent…but I don‟t
want just the temporary remedy, either. At this point, it‟s all or nothing. Which is why I won‟t start
anything…period.‟ I paused.

       „But at least he finds me sexy.‟ I giggled at this. „When was the last time I giggled…do I giggle? I
know I SQQUUEEE and clap my hands, but do I giggle? Maybe I haven‟t giggled in so long I don‟t remember.
House makes me giggle.‟ The realization stopped me in my tracks.

        “HOUSE MAKES ME GIGGLE?” I asked nobody, since I was alone in the theater. My face temporarily
took on a look of horror. “How many woman have had that infamous privilege? Haley, you are a rational,
sensible human being, but I think you‟ve reached absolute insanity. Either that or you‟ve been alone for too
long.” A mental image of the insane Dr. House limping around, snarking at patients and leaving nurses crying
in his wake, flooded my mind and gave me a full-body shiver. “That‟s it…the last nail in my insanity coffin.”

        Shaking my head, I needed to put those thoughts away. BANG! The door at the back of the
auditorium opened, sparing me from any more painful and depressing thoughts. I turned and saw Eric
striding forth, carrying a garment bag. ”I hope I‟m not late. House made every excuse to keep me there. I
heard him mutter under his breath, „Let‟s see how she likes this.‟ You better do something…quick.”

      I rubbed my eyes. “You said he was ok yesterday. Did he get up on the wrong side of the doggie bed
or something? Eric, it‟s way too early to deal with this right now, but what do you suggest I do?”

       “Go out with him…sleep with him…just bring him back to his miserable self.” Eric finally reached the
edge of the stage and walked up the steps.

         “NO.” I yelled, making Eric jump. Lowering my voice, I said, “Sorry. Sleeping with him will only make
the situation much worse, not to mention weirder.” I paused and saw the frustration in Eric‟s face. I raised
my hands in frustration. “Fine…I will have dinner with him…ONLY dinner. And it will be on my own terms.”
Relief filled his face and he said, “I‟m going backstage to change. Did you bring chocolate chip cookies?”

       “Of course. They are outside the dressing rooms, along with soda.”

       Five minutes later, after kicking myself in the butt for being an ignoramus (idiot, boob, dimwit, readers
you choose…You people know, as well as I do, that a date with House isn‟t the smartest idea. But I guess I
must keep telling myself, “Haley, you are doing it for the ducklings…doing it for the children…for the
younglings.”) Eric walked onstage. Honestly, folks, I had to keep from laughing. He had the 16th century
English wardrobe, complete with tights. But I was too distracted by…the TIGHTS! I had to watch where my
eyes went. „It‟s a good thing I decided to shoot standing up, not on the floor.‟

      Finally controlling my silent laughter, I said, “Since I‟m not familiar with theater lingo, just strike a pose
or something…make me believe I am watching you recite Shakespeare.”

       “Ok,” he said and, facing the fake balcony, posed and started reciting. He had me convinced and I
began snapping away. After a few moments, he stopped reciting and changed his stance, pulling out a sword
and holding it like he was ready to fight someone offstage. “Do you want me to continue reciting?” he asked
as he parried and moved like a trained swordsman.

       “Not necessarily, but are you trained in fencing?” I asked, slightly in awe of the fluid movements.

       “No, actually, I loved Errol Flynn movies growing up and I studied his movements, using a fly swatter
as my sword. It was fun…I used to swat my brother all the time.”

       I chuckled. “Why did you become a doctor?”

         “At first it was because I wanted to prove my father wrong. I always felt he had very little faith in me,
just expected me to run with the wrong crowd. But when I did well in school, then got full rides to college
and Johns Hopkins, I knew I proved him wrong. At that time, being a doctor became a privilege, but that was
during the idealistic early residency times. Then, at times, it‟s almost a burden. I want to make patients well,
but is it for them or for me? I find myself asking this question a lot.”

        He put down the sword, turned towards me but looked up, into the balcony, holding his arm up as if he
was telling that balcony he was talking to them. Kneeling, I did get some great shots, but he didn‟t say
another word. I knew that was all I could get from him at this time. So, I smiled and, standing up, hung my
camera around my neck. “Ok, Eric. That should be it. That was great…and, see, it was harmless, wasn‟t it?
Your pictures will be ready tonight, and I will call again before I come. I want to catch you without House
interfering. If you don‟t like any of the pictures, I will have to schedule a re-shoot, but I seriously doubt that
will happen. You are very photogenic.”

        He smiled. “So, that‟s it?” I nodded. “Ok, I will be at the hospital until about 8:00. I‟ll give you my
cell phone number. Just call me directly when the pictures are done.” I pulled my shooting schedule out of
my pocket, handed him the pen I dropped on the ground, and he wrote it down.

       “Thanks Haley. And, for everyone‟s sake, I hope the dinner works out.”

       “Me, too. Thank you, Eric,” and, with that, he exited offstage. I was left to wonder what
happened…and who Dr. Eric Foreman really was. „He‟s got one more photo…I‟ll get it out of him at that time.‟
*****
    After Eric left, I dialed Derrick, asking him to come to the theater to supervise the set-up for the next
photo. I began cleaning and, by the time I was done, both Derrick and the rental company had arrived.

       “Ok, guys,” I said, gathering the men together. “Derrick has a diagram of how the stage needs to be.
Follow me, I‟ll briefly describe what needs to be done.” I led them to the stage, where only the fake balcony
remained. “The stage is, in total, 300 feet across. The catwalk is 150 feet long, 6 feet wide, with two sets of
steps at one end. We need to set up the catwalk from stage left, facing stage right, and rows of chairs will be
placed on both sides of the catwalk and on the end. There needs to be plenty of room for Derrick and I to
work, but we need as many chairs as we can comfortably fit.”

       I looked at my watch. It was 11:15. “Ok, the theater group should be here any minute to help with
rearranging the curtains and the lighting. Derrick,” I walked to stage left and pointed at the curtains. Just as
I was about to continue, the door at the back of the auditorium banged shut. “Here they are.”

       I walked to the end of the stage and saw 4 men striding down the aisle. After introductions were
made, I said, “I was about to explain what needs to be done. Come on,” and led the men to stage left.

        “Ok, this is what we need.” I briefed the men on the stage setup then walked back to stage left. “We
need to hide these levers, pulleys and ropes. So, my thought was to drape a curtain against this wall so they
will be hidden. Then the catwalk will be placed against the curtained wall. The two sets of steps will be about
3 feet from the wall then I want to hang a curtain on each side of the catwalk, hiding the steps. I realize that
in order to do this, we need to change the directions of the curtains…from vertical to horizontal. Guys, is this
possible? If you can make it work, I‟ll treat everyone to a beer.”

       After studying the ceiling and conversing for a few minutes, one of the guys said, “Yep. We can do it.”

        “Awesome! You guys are the best. Derrick,” he walked over to me. “I have a ton of errands to do
before tomorrow‟s shoot. Can you supervise? Then, when they are done, can you lock up and develop the
pictures from this morning‟s shoot? I‟ve had a great idea, but I can‟t do it without your help. Oh, and one
other thing: how was Dana feeling this morning?”

        “Of course I‟ll develop them. Dana is feeling much better. She doesn‟t look so bad. I really wish she‟d
go to the doctor, but you know how she is with doctors. What do you have in mind?”

        “I‟m gonna need her this afternoon, so she won‟t be at the hotel when you get finished. Don‟t
worry…I‟ll need to explain later. See ya!” I gave him a hug then grabbed my purse and ran to the theater‟s
office. Locating the phonebook, I found the numbers I needed and made some calls. A half an hour later, I
locked up and ran to the rental car. I managed to close the door and dial the number at the same time. Dana
picked up on the third ring. “Hello?” her voice was full of energy.

        “Hey Dana. Sudden change of plans. I‟ve decided to change Lisa‟s one-person runway model shot to
a mini fashion show to include women from the hospital. I‟ve made arrangements with Neiman Marcus for
clothing, accessories and make-up. I‟ve also made arrangements with a local salon for hair styling. What do
you think? Do you want to help?” I had to hold the phone away from my ear, as my sister was
“SSSQQQQUUUEEEIIINNNGGG!”

       “Ok, I‟ll take that as a yes,” I commented when she‟d calmed down.

       “Meet me outside the hotel.”

       I disconnected and called Lisa‟s number. “Dr. Cuddy.”

       “Lisa? It‟s Haley. Listen how does your schedule look this afternoon?”

       “Actually for once it‟s open. Why?”

      I quickly explained my plan and once again held the phone away from my ear as she
“SSSSSQQQQEEEEEEDDDD”. I allowed her to finish. “What a great idea! What do you need from me?”

       “Round up 7 other women. I‟m picking Dana up right now. We‟ll be there in 15 minutes.” I slapped
my phone shut and pulled up to the hotel‟s front door. Dana excitedly jumped in the car. “Oh, this will be so
cool! Let‟s go!” and I was pummeled with questions until we got to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, Dana
and I were sitting in Lisa‟s office with seven other women: Lisa; Alison; Julie (a nurse from OB/GYN); Melissa
(a doctor from NICU); Janis, the HR manager; Darby, the receptionist; and Kathleen, a candy striper. My
brow furrowed as I only counted the seven. “That‟s only seven. Where‟s number eight?”

       “You, Haley,” Lisa said, smiling.

       “Me?” I pointed to myself in astonishment. “Why me? I can‟t be in it. It‟s my job to shoot it.”

       “Haley,” Lisa began in a “Don‟t you dare argue with me” tone. “I really want you in it. For once, have
fun. You think of all of us…think of yourself. Besides,” Lisa leaned forward so only I could hear her, “how do
you think House will respond when he sees you? He‟ll FLIP.”
        I sighed, shook my head, threw my hands up in surrender and said, “Fine. I‟ll do it. But if I fall off the
stage, it‟s your fault.” The girls gave a cheer and I smiled. “Ok,” I looked at my watch. “it‟s 1:00. We have
an hour to get to Neiman Marcus. How long does it take to get there?”

       Lisa spoke up immediately. “About 10 minutes, so let‟s meet back here at 1:30.” She turned to the
other women. “Tell your supervisors I‟ve given you the afternoon off. If they want to know why, have them
call me. Haley, I‟m a regular at Neiman Marcus. They will go out of their way to help us, trust me.” The
women left for their respective departments, leaving only Lisa, Alison, Dana and myself in the office.

       I pulled out my cell phone and a business card. “If you ladies will excuse me, I have a phone call to
make.” I smiled, walked out of the office, out the front door and leaned against the hospital wall, about 6 feet
from the door. I opened my phone and dialed the number on the card.

       “Hello, Officer Hoffman speaking.”

       “Officer Hoffman? This is Haley Wellington.”

       I could hear the smile in his voice. “Ms. Wellington! It‟s been a long time. I thought you didn‟t want
to have anything to do with me.” I smiled at this.

       “Don‟t be silly, Officer Hoffman, I was in town on a short business trip, then went back home. Now I‟m
back on an extended project and I wanted to get back in touch with you. I did want to ask a favor of you.”

       “Please, call me Tony. Have you agreed to go out with me?”

       I paused and sighed. “Listen I don‟t think, I mean…”

       Tony interrupted. “It‟s the guy with the cane, isn‟t it? Dr. what‟s his name?”

       “House?”

       “Yeah,” he sighed. “I knew from the moment he shoved you in the front seat between us.”

       “You did?” I asked, puzzled. I still hadn‟t understood why that happened. “What do you mean?”

     He didn‟t answer me. “You folks are celebrities here at the precinct. Hand grenades…Cops TV
show…you know, I‟ll do you a favor if you do one for me.”

       “And what would that be?”

       “Come to the precinct and tell the guys I‟m not lying…tell them the story. They really want to hear it.”

        I laughed. “Ok, I‟ll do it. Now it‟s my turn. Ok, I‟m a photographer and my assignment here in New
Jersey is to photo shoot two calendars as a fundraiser for the Oncology department. One of the photos is of
the Dean of Medicine walking the catwalk in a fashion show, and I need „audience members‟. I thought about
you. It would greatly help me. The show will only be about a half an hour, at the Princeton Players Theater
Company. You‟ll get a chance to see beautiful women in girly clothes…what do you say? And, by the way,
please call me Haley. I feel old when you say „Ms. Wellington‟.”

       He laughed. “Ok, it‟s a deal. What time is it at?”

       “I‟m thinking 2:30, but I will have to call you back when I confirm.”

       “Great. Can I bring a few guys from the precinct?” Tony asked.
         Before I could answer, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a set of long legs and a cane. Looking up, I
was greeted with a set of brilliant blue eyes, studying me intently. I smiled into the phone, my eyes never
leaving his. “Perhaps,” I purred. “Tony, I‟ve got to go, but I‟ll see you tomorrow, ok?” I paused and smiled
flirtatiously. “Ok. Bye.” I almost whispered that last part. Keeping my eyes on his, I slapped my phone shut
and stepped a bit closer to him. “Hi. What‟s up?”

       House pointed his cane to the phone. “Who was that?”

       I looked down at my phone. “Tony?” I waved my hand in a dismissive gesture and looked out onto
the parking lot. “Tony‟s just my husband. He‟s calling to schedule a conjugal visit. They only let me see him
every few weeks.” I shook my head in a pitiful fashion. “Jail sucks.”

      I looked back and saw House smiling at me. Never taking his eyes off mine, he moved forward
towards me, not stopping until my back was against the building.

       “Does Tony know you are having my baby?” he whispered, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

        “Actually,” my eyes teased his. “I don‟t think this is your baby. I think its James‟. Or is it Chase‟s?” I
tapped my finger to my chin. Once again, I raised my hands in surrender and shook my head. I returned my
eyes to his and they were smirking as much as his mouth. He leaned even further in and, trailing his
forefinger along my jaw line, he licked his bottom lip. I shivered then decided to put a stop to this delicious
nonsense. Placing a hand on his muscled chest, I lightly pushed him away. I looked at my watch and saw it
was 1:30.

       “Have to go, House. Important girl things to do. I‟m sure I‟ll see you later.” I started walking away,
then turned back.

       “Do you want to have dinner with me?” I asked as calmly as if I were asking for directions.

       Confusion filled his face. “What?”

       I ignored his stupid question. “Tomorrow night, 7:30? Let‟s meet here. Ok? Bye House.” I walked
past the nurse‟s station and just before I got to Lisa‟s office, I heard the STEP-STEP-THUMP behind me.

       “And wear red silk thong panties. They're my favorite.” He yelled, making sure the entire hospital
heard even though he was only six feet away from me.

        The hospital went silent. I still faced away from House, but I could see the girls inside the office and
knew they heard what he said. I grinned and turned around. House stood there, studying me with that smug
look of challenge. “That‟s too bad.” I yelled back. “I don‟t usually wear panties, but I can this time, if you
want.” I watched his eyes storm over, his face fill with longing and his mouth open, then close. I winked
seductively, turned on my heel and walked into Lisa‟s office, leaving behind a crowd of applauding people.
*****
   I walked into the office and exclaimed, “Come on girls! Let‟s go shopping!” Smiling innocently, I looked at
the stunned faces of the women around me. “What?” I asked.

       “Haley! I can‟t believe you said that, right in front of the entire hospital!” Dana exclaimed. “You
always were feisty, but this is ridiculous!”

      “Haley! You‟ve got that man eating out of the palm of your hand…and you don‟t even know it, do
you?” Lisa said, awe in her voice.

       “Wow – I‟m, well, I‟m speechless.” Alison said, smiling.
       “Are we just going to stand here or are we going shopping?” I asked, clapping my hands in
excitement. “YEAH!” everyone yelled. Everyone trooped to a waiting 15-passenger van. When we got to
Neiman Marcus, I went straight to the Customer Relations desk and asked for Deborah, the woman who
helped me on the phone. A smiling, pretty brunette showed up a moment later.

        “Haley?” I smiled and extended my hand. She shook it and then saw Lisa. She smiled wider and said,
“Lisa! It‟s nice to see you again. How are you?”

      “I‟m great Deborah. Can you give Haley all the help she needs? This fashion show is benefiting our
new Oncology wing.”

       “Absolutely. Well, girls, are you ready?” We nodded. “What‟s your theme?”

        I looked at the girls. “Well, I was thinking there would be two different themes. The first would be a
fun & flirty theme, like we are going to spend the afternoon shopping on Rodeo Drive, Madison Avenue or 5th
Avenue. Attitude…that‟s what we need. The other would definitely be Evening Wear, whether it be gowns,
dresses, skirts or suits. What do you girls think?”

       “Awesome!” rang a chorus of affirmatives.

       Deborah nodded. “Great. I‟ve arranged for a private suite so you won‟t be bothered. You have free
reign over the entire store. Yolanda, Kathy, Janey and Barbara will help as well, unless they are needed for
other departments. Follow me,” and we were led to the second floor, where she opened a door to reveal a
large waiting room, complete with mirrors, couches, tables and 4 changing rooms. “This is the biggest we
have, so you‟ll either have to take turns or just change in the waiting area, if you don‟t mind changing in front
of each other. Would you like drinks and snacks?”

        We agreed and she left. “Ok. Let‟s go girls!” I cheered on the troops and we swarmed the store like
a swarm of bees. It only took me an hour to find both outfits…and they looked great on the hangers…but
how would they look on me? „I hate this part of clothes shopping,‟ I moaned to myself. „I find an outfit I
absolutely LOVE, but because I‟m either so short waisted or have too long of legs, they don‟t fit properly.
Don‟t get your hopes up, Haley,‟ I warned myself. Nevertheless, I squealed with delight and ran back to the
suite. Finding an empty changing room, minutes later I stepped out in the flirty outfit. I went to the bank of
full-length mirrors…and gasped at what I saw. „You never wear clothes like this! Haley, you really should
more often!‟ I smiled at my reflection.

        I was wearing a white lined halter top with very thin spaghetti straps that tied behind my neck. The
halter reached just to my waist; the back was completely open from the neck to the waist and three sets of
spaghetti straps at the waist tied the back together. The front, beginning underneath the bust line, was
embroidered with pink and red flowers. I also wore very short, cuffed, pocket-less white denim shorts. The
front was flat, no pleats, and pink buttons held the cuffs up on the sides. I completed the outfit with hoops, a
simple pink beaded necklace and pink satin ballet slippers.

        “Haley, is that you?” Dana watched in complete amazement as I pranced around the dressing room. I
needed to make sure my boobs stayed in the shirt…that would be embarrassing if they didn‟t. “You look
absolutely gorgeous…and talk about flirty! House will be drooling in his seat. YES…that outfit is a MUST.” I
started walking back to the dressing room, then stopped and turned back to Dana. I walked back to her and
stood closely so that no one could hear me but Dana.

       “Dana, how do you know about House and my, um, relationship, if you can even call it that?”

       Dana rolled her eyes. “Honey, the ENTIRE HOSPITAL knows about it. I know you don‟t want to make
anything of this, but I think I should warn you. It‟s probably your snarky remarks that are turning him on, and
that should tell you he‟s a gluten for punishment. Don‟t lead him on then hurt him because you aren‟t
emotionally ready for a relationship.”

        I took offense to that one – at first. “Not emotionally ready?” I thought about it. “You might be
right…I think I‟m just PHYSICALLY ready for it, and as much as I WANT House, to get involved with him would
be idiotic.” Before she could say anything, the rest of the girls came with their selections and stopped when
they saw me…”Haley? What a great outfit! How much is it?” Looking at the price tags, we saw that the
clothes alone cost $350, they shook their heads. “I was going to tell you to buy them, but don‟t spend that
much!” Lisa commented quietly. I nodded and went back to my dressing room.

        Ten minutes later, I was ready to exit, but stopped to take a look. I had on a very short (mid-thigh)
length empire-waist royal blue dress. The top layer was a delicate, gauzy material with a silk underskirt, which
seemed pointless because it did nothing to fix the translucency of the dress. My bust was scarcely covered by
the material and held up by, once again, spaghetti straps. But the tight fit of the bodice held the breasts in
place („Haley 2, Wonderbra 0. Who needs it? I make my own support!‟) The dress, from the bust to the
waist, was covered by metallic silver beading in a swirling action. High slits on each side of the already short
dress made it seem almost like a slip to go under the dress versus being the dress. The fullness of the skirts
left nothing up to the imagination. Nestled in my cleavage was a simple star pendent necklace, and on my
feet were 3 inch silver ankle strap sandals with one lone strap running across my toes. I had also found a
silver chained head wrap I would interweave into my upswept curly hair.

        I decided I needed everyone‟s opinion about the dress, since the dress was awfully short. “Dana?” I
called. Moments later… “Yes Haley?” “Is everyone there?” “I think so. Why?” “I need everyone‟s opinion
about my dress.” “Ok, I‟ll get everyone out.”

       I heard her knocking on the doors and getting everyone together. “Haley needs everyone‟s opinion on
her dress…why Haley?” she asked me.

       “Because it‟s awfully short. I just want to know what you guys think of it.”

       “Ok. Come on out.” Alison said.

        I walked out and over to the mirrors. I stood in front of them and looked at myself. I didn‟t hear a
single word, so I turned around to everyone. They just stared at me, a look of awe and amazement filling
their faces. “Well, what do you think?”

       “I think I hate you,” Darby said, staring at me.

         “Oh, Haley,” Dana whispered, walking around me. “That dress was MADE for you. You‟ve GOT to buy
it.” I looked down at the tag and said, “Ok. You got $1,000? Girls, I need to know if it‟s appropriate for the
HOSPITAL fashion show.”

       “Appropriate? It was meant to be in a fashion show…with you wearing it.” Kathleen commented.

       “Ok, thanks. I‟ll do it. Ok, I‟m done.” Ten minutes later I was changed and carefully zipped my
choices in the awaiting garment bags the salespeople brought. I plopped down beside Dana and helped the
other girls get finished.

       At 4:30 we were finally done and called for Deborah. “What do we do tomorrow?” I asked.

       Deborah looked at the numerous garment bags, shopping bags and other items. She sighed and
smiled. “Did you ladies find everything you needed?”

       “Yes,” everyone agreed, nodding enthusiastically.
       “Good,” Deborah started then paused. “Are you going to need help tomorrow?”

       “I could definitely use it.”

       “Well, tomorrow is my day off and I was wondering if I could help backstage.”

       Well, I almost hugged that woman, right then and there. My face fell in relief, my shoulders sagged
and I plopped down in the nearest chair. Looking up, I sighed with grateful relief. “Are you serious?
ABSOLUTELY! We would LOVE to have you there!”

        “Alright,” she started as she began picking up bags and we all followed her lead. “Just pick me up
here, at the store, at 12:00 noon, when you pick up the clothes. You girls got me excited! I can‟t wait to see
how it turns out.” We helped her carry the bags to the Customer Relations office then wished her goodbye.

         Walking out to the car, I was completely dumbstruck, but absolutely happy at the same time. “Girls,
this will be the COOLEST thing! And, guess what? Dana here was a runway model in high school. Dana, will
you be able to train us in the proper runway movements and walking?”

        Dana smiled. “Sure.” She looked at her watch. “It‟s 5:00 and don‟t we need to go to the hairstylist?
Just to confirm tomorrow?”

        “Yes. We should be back at the hospital by about 6:00. Let‟s do this, ladies. Let‟s meet at the theater
at 8:00 tonight, after everyone‟s had dinner and rested a bit. We‟ll practice and if we need more tomorrow,
let‟s meet back at the theater at 10:00 a.m. If, after tonight, you feel comfortable, you don‟t need to come
early. Just make sure you show up at the theater NO LATER THAN 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. Deal?” Everyone
agreed and, after the visit with the hairstylists (2 were scheduled at the theater the next day), we arrived back
at PPTH a little after 6:00. After parting ways, Dana and I headed back to the hotel for a quick dinner before
practice that night.
*****
    Since no one needed practice earlier that next morning, Dana, Deborah and I arrived at the theater at
12:30 with the clothing. Derrick‟s rental car was already there, along with several service-type vehicles. “Do
you think they are checking the lights and music?” I asked Dana.

       “Probably.”

       When everyone arrived at 1:00, I was so ready for it to begin. I was so nervous; I just kept chattering
nonsense and clucking to everyone like a mother hen. “Dana? I‟m going to need your help. Could you and
Deborah make sure that everyone has what they need? I need to run interference when House and James
get here. They think we are having a meeting…and when he finds out what‟s really going on, there‟s a good
chance he‟s going to bolt. I‟ve got to keep him here.” Since I didn‟t want the boys knowing I was in the
fashion show, I wouldn‟t change until after I talked to them.

       “Sure. Derrick has everything set up and we‟ve already found our locations. There‟s nothing left to do
before the show starts anyway.”

       “Oh! Also, please make sure that Ralph knows where to stand, and that Randy and Bill have all the
music they need.”

        “Haley! Calm down…deep breaths. It‟s going to be great. Everyone is helping out…wasn‟t it was nice
of Dr. Ralph Minning to play MC for our show, and the guys from the theater group to help with music and
lighting? See…it‟s coming together just fine. Besides, you‟ve got enough to think about, figuring out a way to
keep your dress down and not mooning someone by mistake.”
       “Very funny. But thanks for the pep talk.”

       By 2:00, people started arriving. I was standing just offstage, hiding from everyone, when I heard the
back auditorium door burst open and a gruff voice ask, “What does she want to meet us here for?” I peeked
around the curtain and saw James and House striding through the doors, with the male ducklings following
behind. Once they saw the guests milling around a catwalk, they stopped dead in their tracks.

       “What‟s this all about? That woman…she‟s lied to me again. Why does she keep tricking me?” House
gruffed.

       “Because you are an incredibly stubborn man,” I said as I walked up the aisle toward them. “It‟s the
only way I could get you here, other than telling you I was wrestling another woman in a vat of pudding. But
I‟m not into that sort of thing.” I ignored the snorts of laughter.

      “Now that I would‟ve come here for,” House snarked back. “But I wouldn‟t have believed you. It‟s not
Monday night…and the women only wrestle at the arena on 12th.”

       I rolled my eyes. “Long story short…Lisa‟s calendar photo is as a runway model. We are having a
fashion show. We needed bodies in the chairs. Got it?” They nodded. “Good. Now, take a seat, shut up and
enjoy the show. I won‟t be out here…Derrick and Dana are shooting the show. I‟m helping backstage.”

       I proceeded to walk toward the stage when I heard James ask, “So you won‟t be out here with us?” I
turned around.

       “Awww, dry your eyes. I know it‟s not going to be easy without me to hold your hands and get you
through it, but all of you are big boys…you can deal with it.” I turned on my heel and went backstage. I
heard House grumbling, “I can‟t believe she tricked me.” I just shook my head.

        The show was going to begin in 10 minutes and I was the only one still not ready. Deborah sat me in
front of Monica the hairstylist and Jackie the make-up artist. By the time the music began and Ralph
announced, “Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to the first annual Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital‟s
Fashion Show to benefit the new Wagner Oncology Wing!” all I needed to do was change. By the time I was
ready, it was Alison‟s turn.

        I stood at the side of the runway steps, where I had a great view of both the crowd and the model
without being seen. I gave Alison the thumbs up sign and watched her take the stage after Darby exited amid
applause. She looked great in a strapless mint green sheer silk top that tied just under her bust line and
flared open to reveal a pale yellow silk undershirt. She also wore white cotton sailor pants with mint green
buttons that constituted the fly. She rounded out the picture with a light green beaded necklace, matching
earrings and bracelet and white platform wedges. I peeked out at the crowd and had a bird‟s eye view of
House and James. The moment James saw Alison, he sat up straighter in his chair and I saw his Adam‟s apple
bobbing up and down. I also briefly caught the expression on Alison‟s face, one of pleasure. „She probably
saw his reaction…‟

        Since Lisa was next, she got ready beside me. Alison exited with that same smile on her face; I gave
Lisa a smile and she took the stage. I watched her walk away in a tight light-blue sarong-style capelet top
with black mid-calf Capri pants. The cuffs of the capris had blue jeweled beads cascading down. Hoops, a
silver diamond necklace and tiny sequined flip-flops rounded out the look. I skimmed the crowd and was
delighted to see Officer Hotstuff sitting several rows behind House. His attention peeked the moment she
took the stage. I grinned. My plan was working. But since I was next, I was too busy psyching myself up to
pay any more attention. Lisa exited opposite from me and I took the steps, striking a pose at the back of the
runway.
        Out of the corner of my eye I saw James grin and nudge House, who was staring at something in front
of him. House‟s face contorted with irritation and he turned to James. Following the direction of his pointing
finger, House saw me for the first time…and his face went completely blank. Grinning suggestively, I ignored
them and worked the runway, sashaying playfully and turning. Almost through my walk back, I stopped in
front of the guys, facing away from them. I posed and flirted with the crowd, then model-turned to the other
side. My eyes skimmed everyone except House, whom I saved for last. When I finally did see him, he was
jerking his good leg nervously and studying my legs, perhaps looking for a way to see up my shorts. Walking
to the back of the runway, I turned, struck another pose and started my final pass. I turned at the end of the
runway, winked at the crowd, laughed heartily and as I passed by heard a loud catcall whistle, which produced
a lot of laughs. I stopped, turned toward House. He was grinning mischievously, which told me he was the
one who whistled. I blew him a kiss, which brought even more laughs and applause. I turned back and
walked off the stage, leaving behind the enthusiastic crowd.

        I took no time to digest what happened up there, because I figured I had about 10 minutes to get the
perfect hair and makeup. Pulling my dress over my head, I got to the steps just as Alison was coming off and
Lisa was going on. Alison wore a red ruffled dress that hugged her tiny waist. Cap sleeves and a sweetheart
neckline gave her dress a “little girl” look. Her ensemble was complete with a black onyx pendent necklace,
black onyx earrings and 3-inch black patent leather closed-heel strapped heels.

        Lisa stepped on the runway in a straight-line magenta satin sleeveless gown that flared as it skimmed
her black velvet heels. The deep v-neckline was scalloped and the dress was completely open in the back,
from neck to waist. The attire was complimented by a black silk beaded shawl and a silver hoop pendent. I
took a quick peek at Officer Hotstuff and he was clearly interested, not just in her walk but in her bare back as
well. I smiled, hoping he would prefer Lisa over me. With a final smile, Lisa walked off the runway…and I
psyched myself once more. „Haley, this dress is very important…not just to you but to the morale of the
Diagnostics Team. If this doesn‟t work, those poor doctors are going to be in misery. DON‟T BLOW IT.‟

       I posed then began walking, this time completely ignoring House. I walked like the crowd loved me, all
the while making sure I didn‟t reveal too much when I twirled. At the end of my second pass, I turned and
posed. It was at this time I let my gaze fall on House…and what I saw surprised me. House was
FURIOUS…clearly at me! Though I couldn‟t hear with the music blaring, I think he was growling at me! The
death glare he was shooting me caused my mouth to drop, then, closing it quickly, I smiled brilliantly for the
crowd and left the stage, more confused than ever.

        „He‟s mad at me…and I have no idea why.‟
*****
        Walking backstage I changed and, by the time I was done, the fashion show was over and people were
milling about onstage. When I emerged, I found Lisa and Officer Hotstuff chatting by the runway.

        “Tony!” I gave him a hug. “Thank you for coming. So, what‟s going on?”

        “Lisa was just telling me about the calendar shoot.”

      “Yes. Haley, how do you know Officer Hoffman?” Lisa asked, intrigued. „I can‟t believe she wouldn‟t
know who Officer Hotstuff is…she should‟ve figured that one out pretty quickly.‟

       “Lisa, Officer Hoffman was the nice policeman that Dr. House, Dr. Wilson and I rode along with on the
high-speed chase. Don‟t you remember me telling you that story?”

        Lisa‟s eyes opened with surprise and her mouth dropped. “You mean he is Officer Hot…”

        “YES…” I cut her off before she could say “Hotstuff”. “This is Officer Tony Hoffman. But I see I‟ve
interrupted your conversation…excuse me.” I left Lisa with her mouth still hanging open and Tony beginning
to laugh.
       I then saw James talking with Alison, who looked rather comfortable flirting with him. “Alison, you
looked magnificent! But then, you always do. I‟m so jealous!”

        She smiled and gave me a hug. I was rather surprised, definitely not expecting a hug from her.
“That‟s for your advice and for being such a genuinely nice person. You‟ve helped me, more than you can
know. Now I‟ve decided to make a few changes, you know, out with the old, in with the new. Starting today:
Dr. Wilson, will you go out with me tomorrow night?”

        My surprised face in no way matched the shock written all over his face. “Um...um…” he stammered
then cleared his throat. “Dr. Alison Cameron, I would be honored to go on a date with you.” I left then,
because I was pretty much forgotten about at that point.

       I walked off the stage and headed for the back of the auditorium. Just before I reached the door, I
was jerked into a dark corner and pressed against the wall. There was just enough light to make out House‟s
face, but I really didn‟t need it because the rapidity and heat of his breath told me all I needed to know.

       “What the he** were you wearing up there? You looked so...so…feminine. And in front of all those
men.” He was waving his hands and making snarling faces like he was disgusted. Honestly, in the dim light,
he looked rather frightening.

       I gave him a look of, “What have you been smoking?” Shaking the surprise away, I exclaimed, “That
would seem to make sense, given that I am a woman. Or haven‟t you noticed? Naturally, since there are only
two human genders, the odds are very good that a MAN would be at a fashion show. You are a doctor: I
thought you already knew that?” I paused, quite thoroughly confused by his comments. ”Besides, why do
you care? You aren‟t my husband. You aren‟t even my boyfriend,” emphasizing “boyfriend”.

       “No…” he exhaled slowly. “I‟m not.” I waited for him to continue but he didn‟t.

       “House, what do you want?”

       I heard a deep sigh though still couldn‟t see him. “I want you to wear that dress on our date tonight.”

       I was struck dumb. „He wants me to wear a dress that, just seconds before, he was angry that I was
wearing? Has he popped one too many Vicodin?‟

       “Jules,” (I only revert to „Jules‟ when I‟m either very angry or extremely annoyed at him…and right
then I was...well…not very happy) “have you popped one too many Vicodin? Just a few seconds ago you
were angry I was wearing it.” (Uh-oh. This isn‟t good. I never say what I think, because it‟s usually not nice.
But there. I did it.)

        He didn‟t answer me. I sighed and decided not to try and figure him out. “I can‟t possibly afford that
outfit. The dress alone costs $1000. I don‟t have that kind of money to spend on something I‟ll probably
wear only once. Let me go. I‟ve got work to do. I‟ll see you at 7:30 at the hospital, ok?”

        I started to move around him but he abruptly flattened me against the wall, this time leaning his entire
body against me. I gasped. After all, he did startle me with his abruptness. I also felt something I‟d never
felt with anyone, not with Paul and definitely not with Mike. I felt…security, like House would never let
anything happen to me. That‟s when I really thought I‟d lost it…I actually admitted to myself, „I feel safe with
House‟. Before I could give myself the “You are absolutely NUTS” speech, I felt the burn of his chin and upper
lip as he crushed his lips against mine. All thoughts of striving to be normal and possible expulsion to looney
bins flew out the window as I surrendered to his expert hands moving over my shoulders and arms, settling
on my waist.
        “Mmm…” I moaned and lifted my hands to his hair and face, tracing the contours of his jaw and chin.
Just as quickly as the kiss began it ceased and House moved away from me. He smirked.

       I then saw the twinkle in his eyes and I knew...he had found a weakness, a hole in my defenses…and
he was going to try and exploit it in the future. „Is that why he‟s always looking for opportunities to kiss me?
SHAME ON HIM FOR BEING SUCH A GREAT KISSER,‟ I berated myself. „If he was a lousy kisser he wouldn‟t
have been able to get to me.‟ I needed to form a plan…and quickly, certainly before tonight.

      I braced for the inevitable snark that would follow, but I heard James‟ voice instead ask, “Has anybody
seen House? He‟s probably napping on the floor, between the seats. Can someone turn on the lights?”

       House immediately moved further away and, just before he left he whispered, grinning, “7:30, hospital
entrance. Do you ride motorcycles?” „He probably thinks he‟s got the upper hand. Just watch out, buster.
You ain‟t seen NOTHIN‟ yet.‟

         “I love them. I‟ve ridden them my entire life. Why?”

        “Because we are taking my bike.” The lights came up and I saw his face. A bit of the kiss remained in
his eyes…along with something like love, but it was too fleeting to be certain. „What are you thinking? You
just reasoned he couldn‟t possibly love you, that it‟s all a game. You‟ve really lost it, Haley. You actually
WANT him to love you, don‟t you? WHY CAN‟T YOU FIND A NICE NORMAL MAN? Maybe YOU should consider
Vicodin.‟

        I looked around House and saw James striding up the aisle with a spring in his step and a silly grin on
his face. When he got to where House and I were standing, James asked him, “Are you ready to go?”

       House looked at me then at James. “Yep,” and, with that, he left. James looked from House to me
and back then asked incredulously, “What happened between you two?”

         “He kissed me.”

      “I figured that much from the smeared lipstick and goofy looks on your faces. But what‟s really going
on? House is acting – so – anti-House. He didn‟t even act this way with Stacy.”

         “Did he tell you about our date?”

         “Yep. Good comeback on the red panty comment, by the way. Wish I was there when that went
down.”

        I smiled, but I was still pre-occupied about this whole dress issue. “James, House pulled me into the
corner to tell me how upset he was that I wore that dress in the fashion show, in front of other men. What
does he care? We aren‟t involved. After I clarified that point, he said he wanted me to wear it on our date
tonight. I told him I couldn‟t possible afford it. But why would he freak out about wearing it in one public
place, a fashion show, but not another, like on our date? I don‟t think I‟ll ever figure him out.”

        James‟ mouth opened then closed in shock. “I can‟t believe it. I just can‟t believe it,” he paused, then
started again. “That man was actually jealous!” he laughed in amazement. “For once, he isn‟t acting like a
child whose mad because another little boy is eyeing his favorite toy. His response is actually a grown-up one.
Don‟t you see? He is jealous because the dress made you attractive to other men. Believe me, you did look
really hot up there and I saw the responses you got from the men in the audience. He wanted to be the only
one you got pretty for. Haley,” he began but was interrupted with “Jimmy? Are you coming or not?” the
above-mentioned subject voiced his current miserable situation to the entire theater from the building‟s front
doors. “Whatever she‟s telling you, don‟t believe it.”
       James rolled his eyes and started walking to the voice.

        “Oh, and James?” I quietly asked. He turned around. “Good luck on your date tomorrow night.” He
grinned like a Cheshire cat and walked away.
*****
        Walking back up the aisle, the only people left in the building were Derrick, Dana and myself. “How
did it go?” I asked.

       “Great! The show went off without a hitch and I think we got some great pictures. Dana and I are
going to develop them tonight while you are on your date.”

      “Come on…you don‟t have to do that.” I looked at my watch. It was 5:00. “I have 2½ hours before
my date. Why don‟t you let me do it?”

       Dana shook her head no. “Nope. We insist. You look like you‟ve been hit by a Mack truck. You need
rest. Go home, play with George, get some sleep. You‟re gonna need it before your date.”

       I sighed and nodded. I didn‟t have the energy to disagree. “Ok – let‟s go.”

        Twenty minutes later I dragged myself into my hotel room where I found George asleep in his kennel.
“George? Wake up – it‟s Mommy.” At the sound of my voice his eyes popped open and his tail thumped
against the walls of the kennel. I smiled and let him out. He instantly jumped up on my legs and I picked him
up, bringing him to the bed. He stood on the bed, watching me remove my shoes and lay down. Soon, with
George‟s head resting on my back, I fell asleep.

        An hour later I was awakened by a knock. George lifted his head and gave me a look of “How dare
they disturb my beauty sleep?” I guffawed and shook my head at his silliness. “Silly boy.” I quickly rubbed
his ears and went to the door. Opening it I found Dana standing there with a garment bag and a plain black
shopping bag.

       “Dana, what‟s this?”

        “Special delivery.” Her smile was wide and goofy, but since I was still groggy from sleeping I didn‟t
digest that. She walked in and headed for the closet, where she hung up the bags. “Open them.”

       I watched her and my suspicion finally overcame my sleepiness. “What‟s going on? What is this?”

       “Just open it.”

        I unzipped the garment bag and gasped. “MY DRESS!” I SSSQQQUUUEEEDDD. As I fingered the
delicately expensive material I asked Dana, “Is Deborah letting me borrow it tonight?”

       Dana handed me a card. Confused, I opened it and read:

                              Haley,
                              This dress comes to you courtesy of a secret admirer
                              who enjoyed the fashion show. He told me not to tell you
                              but I don‟t listen to GRUFF maniac doctors. I understand
                              you have a date with him…Good luck! I enjoyed working
                              with you and hope to see you soon! Regards, Deborah

      My mouth dropped – my head got dizzy – and I fainted, right there, in front of the closet, George and
Dana. The next thing I remember a wet, sandpapery tongue was bathing my face and a familiar female voice
was saying, as she shook my shoulder, “Haley? Are you alright? Haley?” I moaned as I moved my head
away from George.

       “Yes,” I slowly slurred, holding my head, which was rapidly developing a headache. “What happened?”

       “You fainted after seeing the gift House gave you.” Dana slowly helped me up and handed me the
card. I quickly re-read it and shook my head, wondering what the world was coming to.

       “Dana…pinch me. I need to know if this is real, a dream or a really interesting nightmare.” She
pinched me and I yelped. “Yep...it‟s real. Dana, how am I supposed to react to this? When did you get this
anyway?”

        “Deborah just brought it. She told me that while you were talking with James, House approached her
and asked to buy the entire outfit, accessories included. She did the credit card transaction over the phone
but needed to finalize the purchase in-store. She said she was on her way home and wanted to drop it off.
That‟s all I know, and I imagine you aren‟t supposed to know any of it.”

        The light bulb went off in my head – FINALLY! “Dana, I think he‟s up to something. The House I‟ve
come to know, and have been warned about, doesn‟t spend this much on a gift, especially a gift of women‟s
clothing and ESPECIALLY for a woman who has problems committing. And he wants to take his motorcycle
tonight. If he thinks I‟m going to wear a $1000 dress on the back of a motorcycle, with my arms around
him…on a motorcycle…with my arms around him…on a motorcycle…”(sorry readers, I was stuck on the whole
motorcycle/my arms around him thing…just like a broken record)

       Dana‟s eyes went wide and she knocked her hand upside my head, which dislodged the broken record.
“ARE YOU NUTS? He could be a deranged, homicidal murderer, for all we know. He could be Jack the
Ripper.”

        “What am I going to do? If I act suspicious, he might take it back and I LOVE THIS DRESS! Besides,
he maybe a lot of things, maniacal included, but he‟s not a killer. You‟ve been watching too many movies. He
won‟t try to kill me…he‟s seen my karate in action. And I pack a mean canister of pepper spray. I don‟t know
what he‟s up to, but I intend to find out, and accusations aren‟t the way to find out.” I looked at my watch…it
was 6:30!

        “AAKKK! It‟s 6:30! I‟ve got to get ready…can you help me? Please?” Dana sighed and nodded.
“Thank you!” I took the fastest shower in history and was ready about 40 minutes later. Grabbing my purse,
laden down with pepper spray, I ran out of the hotel and arrived at the hospital with about 5 minutes to spare.
I didn‟t see anyone at the entrance, so I walked inside and found a seat in the nearest corner. I hadn‟t been
there 30 seconds when I heard voices coming down the hall. Fortunately I was obscured by another ficus tree
(„what is it with me and potted plants?‟).

        “You were absolutely furious that she wore that dress, but you bought it for her anyway? You do
realize that, since she now owns it, she will wear it when you aren‟t around, don‟t you? Man, what‟s the deal
with you? I am constantly checking out the window to see if the world has come to an end. Do you even
know what she‟s doing to you?” James asked.

       STEP-STEP-THUMP. STEP-STEP-THUMP. “What about you and Cameron? You‟ve got a thing for one
of my duckies, don‟t you? Personally, I would‟ve picked Chase. He‟s got better hair.”

       “There you go, avoiding the issue, which means you don‟t want to talk about it, which means she‟s
more than just getting to you. How did this whole thing start? I jumped in the middle of it and have now just
come up for air. Did she say something to you when you first met?”
        I heard them stop walking. Through the branches of the tree I saw the guys facing one another, with
House tapping his cane on the ground. “If you want to know what was said, go ask Haley. I‟m sure she‟ll be
more than happy to gossip with you. Look, the reason I bought the dress was so she‟d wear it on the date
tonight, which, may I remind you, was HER IDEA. I guess I finally wore her down…can‟t resist the Gregster‟s
charm, could she?”

         “Wait a minute,” James‟ mouth dropped open, then closed. He pointed to House. “the reason you got
mad is because it‟s perfectly alright FOR YOU to oogle her and treat her like a plaything, but when it comes to
anyone else, she‟s completely off limits. You wanted her to get pretty just for you. This logic might work, say,
if you are an ACTUAL couple, but you aren‟t. You have no claim on her…and you can‟t act like you do. Haley
is different; I think she‟s your real chance for happiness and if you continue this runaround, you will lose her.”

        I could see that James took a moment to consider House then said, “You think she‟s stringing you
along, don‟t you? You probably think she wore that outfit to tease you then drop you like Stacy did. SHE‟S
NOT STACY. She sees you at your worst…and for some odd reason I think she wants you. Maybe she‟s not
right in the head…she probably should have it examined.” (I rolled my eyes at this, but since I was
considering the same thing myself I guess I couldn‟t get mad).

        “Jimmy, this conversation has been most stimulating, but it‟s time for me to meet my future love slave.
If she sees you here it‟s gonna cramp my style…I‟ve got an image to protect. So, goodbye Jimmy.” James
shook his head and headed for the elevators and House walked out the door towards an orange Honda
motorcycle several hundred yards, parked in a handicap spot.

*****
    Once I noticed the coast was clear, I stood up and straightened my dress. Rolling my back and neck, I
attempted to loosen up. Taking a deep breath, I walked out the door and, at the CLIP CLOP of my heels,
House turned around. When he saw me, he gave me an extremely long, meticulous look, beginning at my
eyes and working his way down, taking extra time to study certain parts. When his eyes finally reached my
face, he saw my smirk. “Do I pass inspection?”

       Smirking himself he walked closer to me. He shook his head and made a twirling motion with his
hand. “Not yet – turn around.” I shook my head and twirled, not caring if I flashed him or not. I stopped
with my back to him. Just as I was about to face him, I felt the light touch of his fingertips tracing patterns
along my exposed back. I involuntarily shivered then turned to face him.

       I couldn‟t look at his eyes so I looked at his bike. “Is this one yours?”

       “Yep.”

        I ran my hand over the leather seats. “This looks like a Honda CBR1000RR. You‟ve even got Repsol
colors. Impressive. My friend‟s husband has one of these – good bikes. I have a Honda RC51. Corners like
its on rails.”

       I heard his voice perk up. “You drive a 51? Not bad. Somehow I can‟t picture you on a bike. How
long have you been riding?

       “Since I was 13. I was a tomboy growing up and I followed the guys in the neighborhood. They
taught me how to fix and ride bikes. In fact, I learned to ride a bike before I learned to drive a car.” I walked
around and studied it. “Did you have an accident?” I pointed to the dented side.

       “Not my fault…that tree walked right out in front of me.”
        I chuckled as I finished my inspection. I was standing to one side of the bike and House was on the
other, facing me. He leaned over, placed his hands on the seat and whispered “Do you want to drive?”
„Funny… the House I know doesn‟t like sharing his toys with other children.‟

      I knew I should say no because it would mean he‟d be behind me…with his hands going who knows
where…his hard chest against me…

       “Sure. Got another helmet?” I asked.

       “Yep. Right here,” he said as he handed it to me, then got on the backseat and fastened his cane in
the hook on the side. Eyeing me suggestively, he patted the front seat.

       “I think I should warn you,” I began before making a move. “If your hands go anywhere they
shouldn‟t, I will do something you‟ll regret. Got it?”

       He nodded with a challenging grin on his face. „I guess I‟ll have to take that answer.‟ I thought.
Hiking up my skirt I lifted my leg and sat as far up front as I could. Before I could even start the bike, I felt
an arm snake around me. With a firmness I wasn‟t prepared for, I was nestled between his legs. I closed my
eyes and took a deep breath. He was making it hard to breathe…and think. Just as I lifted the helmet to my
head, he whispered in my ear, “Ready to see what this baby can do?” I was momentarily surprised by his
candor…until I realized he was talking about the bike and not, um, something else.

       “I suppose you are talking about the bike, right?” I grinned over my shoulder. He immediately
understood, because his eyes perceptibly darkened.

        “Yes I meant the bike, but as long as we are on the subject…” he began but I started the bike before
he could finish. His body shook with the laughter that was drowned by the engine. Pulling into traffic, it didn‟t
take long for his hands to begin roaming, settling on my abdomen and lightly drawing circles. Ignoring the
fireworks going off in my stomach, I elbowed him. With an OOOF, his arms moved back up around my
stomach.

        I expertly weaved through traffic and we arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes later. Finding a
close spot, I set the kickstand, turned off the engine and removed my helmet. I knew I had to wait for him to
dismount before I could get off, so I quietly sat there and tried to ignore the proximity of his body to
mine…but to no avail. I felt every single part of him: hands, which, during the journey, had come to rest on
the seat between my legs, fingers millimeters from my skin; his muscular legs surrounding mine; his hard
chest pressing into my back. I felt him move behind me and I hoped he was getting off…alas, he was just
removing his helmet and we stayed there a few moments longer.

       “If I had known you didn‟t want to get off we could‟ve stopped at that burger joint down the road that
serves you at your car. House, get off. I‟m hungry.”

        I felt him dismount and I discretely swung off. Snapping my helmet on the bike, I took my purse out
of the storage compartment and waited for House to remove his cane from the cool holder on the side. “After
you,” he directed me. I knew he wanted to watch me walk, so I twirled and walked into the restaurant like I
was back on the runway.

        When the matre‟d saw us he smiled. The smile grew when he saw my dress and I heard a low growl
from House. Smiling brilliantly at the attractive guy, he directed us to our table. “Does this meet to your
satisfaction?” He asked, staring at me. I smiled again and nodded. As House sat, his scowl grew. “Awfully
friendly tonight, aren‟t you?”

       “People smile at me I smile back. You might try it sometime.” I commented.
       “You know, men don‟t like teases.”

       “Who am I teasing? He smiled; I smiled back. What‟s the harm?”

       He sighed and picked up his menu. “Never mind.” I picked mine up and studied it, then realized I
hadn‟t noticed what he was wearing. Peeking around I saw an ironed white shirt, navy sports jacket, red tie
and navy slacks. „He didn‟t shave this time,‟ and my heart twitched with disappointment, though the scruff
was becoming. I quickly returned to my menu and was so engrossed by the choices I didn‟t hear the waitress
approach and, when she said, “Good evening. I‟ll be your server tonight.” I jumped, startled. I looked over
at House but, for some reason, he was hiding behind his menu. I looked at the waitress and saw a strange
look on her face as well.

       “Dr. House? Is that you?”

       The menu came down and he looked up with a poorly disguised look of mortification. „Is it even
possible for House to be mortified?‟

       He forced a smile then said, “Hello Paula. I didn‟t expect to see you working here. How are you?”

       She also looked uncomfortable but smiled anyway. “Well, I met someone who made an honest woman
of me. We got married several weeks ago.” She flashed the diamond and I nodded in approval.

        “Congratulations. Do you two know each other?” I asked innocently, pointing from one to the other. I
was rather taken aback when Paula‟s face went pale. I quickly changed the subject. “I would like an iced
tea,” I smiled at her.

       “Make that two,” House quickly added. Paula spun on her heel and hastily retreated. “Paula and
I…are very well acquainted.”

       “I could see that. Did you two date or something?”

         He paused then slowly said, “Well, I guess some people would call it that, but a more appropriate term
would be „paid companion‟.” No more explanation was needed. Right away my stomach tightened. The room
seemed to be spinning and I was glad to be sitting down.
 *****
         “Um, alright. Ok,” I had to cough to cover my discomfort. „House and a hooker? Are you really
surprised Haley? He probably gets lonely…but if he does, he should get a dog. George is a wonderful
companion. Besides, he doesn't care what you think. If he did, would he have admitted it in the first place?
Or, if he did care about you he probably wants to get a reaction from you. AAKKK!‟ I mentally screamed.
'Stop it Haley! You'll analyze something to death.' I was still thinking about it when Paula returned with our
drinks.

       “Have you decided?” Paula seemed to have recovered, because she wasn‟t embarrassed. „How can I
be nice to her? She was paid to sleep with House.‟ I wanted to scratch her eyes out…

        Plastering a smile I avoided House and acted like Paula was the most wonderful human being on the
planet. “Yes…I‟ll have the grilled salmon with the dill potatoes and mixed vegetables. I‟m saving room for
dessert.”

       “And I‟ll have the steak, medium-well.” She left and I finally looked at House. Unfortunately, I was
unable to read his expression…except for the slight smile tugging at his lips.
       “What are you smiling at?” I lowered my voice, trying to make it sound much less angry than it really
was. Eyeing the breadbasket in front of me („rolls make wonderful projectiles.‟), I would be ready for anything
he dished out. Unfortunately, my voice was quivering, so he knew I was mad.

       “Why are you angry? Is it because I ordered steak instead of the diet plate? I don‟t have to watch
what I eat. I‟m naturally athletic. I‟m also very bendy and limber. Would you care to find out?” He wiggled
his eyebrows, his mouth contorted in an evil grin. „He‟s acting like this whole hooker thing doesn‟t mean
anything…which, to him, probably doesn‟t.‟ This infuriated me even more, but I attempted to control my
anger.

        I lowered my voice to a whisper. “I‟m sure PAULA knows just how limber you are. But she came with
no strings attached, right? After all, when you PAY someone for a service, they mean nothing to you.”

       “Why do you care? We aren‟t involved.” He paused and studied me. “You‟re jealous, aren‟t you?
Want a piece of the Gregster? You certainly aren‟t the only one. Take a number and wait in line toots. There
are women swarming me wherever I go.” He sat back with a smirk on his face and a “You can‟t touch me”
challenge in his eyes.

        I rolled my eyes. “They‟re probably hookers you owe money to. But you are right…we aren‟t involved.
With that said, why do you care if I wear this dress at all? Or flirt with other men? Calling me a tease…you‟re
really a piece of work. And yelling at me for looking “feminine”? That‟s the dumbest thing I‟ve ever heard.” I
sipped my tea and watched him. His smirk got bigger. „He‟s liking this,‟ I thought. „I‟ve got to turn up the
heat.‟

       I smirked right back then, waiting until his mouth was full of liquid, I said without batting an eyelash,
“Too bad you won‟t be able to show me those moves. I‟ve decided the next time I have sex will be when I
get married.” I was rained on by spewed iced tea, which was followed by the inevitable coughing and the look
of absolute, genuine shock bordering on disgust. I shot him a dirty look as I attempted to clean my
EXPENSIVE dress. ('Have men no sense of decorum? Spitting on a designer dress.' I mentally shook my
head.)

       “Do you mean” he looked around and lowered his voice to the whisper the neighbors use when talking
about the neighborhood tramp. “ABSTINENCE?” spitting the word like it was a sour lemon.

       I began clapping. “Look! The Gregster has learned a new word! And such a difficult word for men to
comprehend too. I‟m so proud of him.” I wiped a fake tear from my eye. “I always said, “One day Greggy-
poo will be somebody…and just look.” “ I sighed then smirked at his death glare. “Boy, are you rotten fun.”

        Before he could say anything, Paula arrived with our meals and we began eating. I chewed on my
salmon thoughtfully then picked another strategic time, halfway through him chewing his steak, to say, “In
order to “have me” (lay down fork, insert air quotes here), you‟ve got to make me Mrs. Haley House…sounds
kinda odd, doesn‟t it? Mmm…maybe I‟ll just keep my last name, for the sake of the business. But the children
will be Houses for sure.”

       It worked…he choked on his food. After taking a gulp of his tea, he wiped his mouth, dropped his fork
and held his hands up defensively. “WHOA WOMAN WHOA! Are you trying to kill me? I can just see the
headline now..."Jersey's Most Beloved Doctor Chokes To Death On Date With Beautiful Psychopath". And
what's this crap about marriage...and children?" He made a horrified face. "When did this date become a
nightmare?” he squinted at me. “Are you sure your name‟s not Carrie?”

        I waved him off and continued. “Now, I do live in Chicago and my business is based there. I guess I
could move out here. I wonder…” but was cut off by a roll bouncing off my forehead. “OWWW!” It didn‟t
really hurt…I was just mad he used my weapon first!
       “Haley, are you drunk? Did you steal my Vicodin? A bit of something from the pharmacy today? What
are you talking about?”

        I chewed my potatoes very slowly then put my fork down. “I just thought that if anything personal
should happen between us you go in with your eyes wide open. Look,” I leaned over and my face turned
serious as my eyes roamed his face. “I don‟t know what you have in mind for us…even if there is something
rational in that brain of yours, I thought you should know where I stand. Honestly? I would love nothing
more than to push you onto this table and get to know you better.”

          His eyebrows quirked at this. “You know, we‟ve never been properly introduced, have we?”

       Sighing, I pinched the bridge of my nose. “But I‟ve been lied to and deceived. I might not know what
I‟m doing, but what I do know is I can‟t afford that type of relationship until the guy and I are ready for the
“permanent solution” (air quotes here).” I smirked when he winced. „Hate having your words thrown back at
you, huh big boy? I LOVE watching you squirm.'

       I concentrated on my plate and we ate in silence. Paula returned and, seeing my empty plate, asked,
“Ready for dessert?” Unfortunately, I had lost my sweet tooth and shook my head no. “Thank you, but I‟ll
pass…I‟m not hungry for dessert.” I looked at House and suddenly realized I meant more than just dessert…I
could put him on the back burner...I needed to put him on the back burner. That way if I needed to let him
go I could.

          It seemed he got the drift, because he sighed. “So, does that mean we should spend some time
apart?”

        “Yes, House, it does. But I will pose however you want for your pictures. Maybe it‟s a good thing they
aren‟t for another few weeks…it‟ll give us time to work things out apart.” I watched and he suddenly got
angry. Good thing Paula showed up then with the check.

        House passed her his credit card and five minutes later we left the restaurant without a word spoken
between us. Needless to say he didn‟t let me drive back to the hospital and he didn‟t seem happy with me
perched behind him. (No matter what I just told him, I was doing just fine behind him…my arms around his
flat stomach…fingers massaging his abdomen. If he noticed he didn‟t let on.)

        We pulled up to the hospital and he parked beside my rental car. He set the kickstand. I got off; he
turned the engine off, removed his helmet and took mine, which was outstretched to him. I smiled sadly then
whispered, “I‟m sorry, House.” I turned to the car. Just as I was opening the driver‟s door, the door slammed
shut. I turned around and House leaned fully against me. His eyes held a pleading, an honest sorrow that
was swimming in the sky blue eyes. With a sigh, he captured my mouth and kissed me. This kiss was
indescribable: a mixture of regret; the hint of future loneliness; desire; and the salty taste of tears. When we
parted, I realized the tears belonged to both of us. He pulled a few inches away from me and said, with his
usual snark, “Tell anyone I cried and you‟ll get better acquainted with my cane.”

          I smiled and wiped his cheek. “Deal.”

          “Goodbye Haley Wellington. Don‟t forget about me.”

        “Goodbye Dr. Gregory House. Don‟t you forget about me.” I smiled sadly then got in the car. Just
before I shut the door, I could‟ve sworn I heard House say, “Never…for as long as I live.” I pulled out of that
parking lot, looking in my rearview mirror. I saw the hunch of his shoulders…and wondered if I was doing the
right thing.
*****
   I woke up the next morning feeling like I‟d been hit by a dump truck. Deciding to take the day off, I
shrugged on a robe and knocked on Dana‟s door. She answered, wearing a robe and pajamas.
       “Morning.” She studied my face. “Is something wrong? You look like you got hit by a dump truck.”

       I winced. “Just peachy. Is Derrick awake?”

       She continued her appraisal but nodded yes. “Derrick?”

       He came out of the bathroom wearing shorts and a t-shirt, wiping his face with a hand towel.

       “Morning. You look terrible. Something wrong?”

       I rolled my eyes but held my tongue. “Can you shoot today‟s photo? It‟s Dr. Kenneth Baylor –
bartender shot. The set for tomorrow‟s shot will arrive at 1:00: a thatched shack front, palm trees, coconuts,
sand, umbrellas, beach chairs for Dr. Chase‟s photo. Tomorrow morning a pet store is bringing parrots. It
should be an easy set-up.”

       Derrick watched me with concern then said, “Sure. Is everything ok? How did last night go?” I looked
at Dana who was standing behind Derrick. Her eyebrows went up when I didn‟t immediately answer. Still
looking skeptical, she said, “Spend the day with George. I know he misses you and you‟ve been so
preoccupied you haven‟t even taken him to your shoots, and that‟s not like you. Do you want to go
downstairs for breakfast?” I nodded.

       When we got there, no one was around. After grabbing a bagel, an apple and some orange juice from
the continental breakfast bar, I found a secluded table in a corner. Dana joined me with toast and some
coffee. Once I finished slathering strawberry cream cheese on the bagel I took a bite and chewed as Dana
asked, “What happened last night?”

       I swallowed and sipped my orange juice. “Short or long version?”

       “Short.”

        “Ok, well, let‟s see. House let me drive his motorcycle to the restaurant. Found out our waitress was a
hooker that he‟s been, um, friendly with …more than once. I told him that if he wanted to sleep with me he
had to marry me, which totally bugged him out. I implied that we needed some time away from each other,
which he understood but didn‟t like. The rest of the evening was strained and uncomfortable. By the time we
arrived at the hospital he was mad at me but not too mad to kiss me goodnight. I came back here and went
to bed.”

        I saw that Dana was digesting my words. “Well, look on the bright side: at least you weren‟t attacked
on this date.” I laughed weakly, but she shook her head in frustration.

        “What‟s really going on here?” she asked as she took another bite of toast and studied me. “You‟re in
love with the guy, aren‟t you?” I slowly nodded and she sighed.

        “I know you‟ve been hurt too many times for someone as wonderful and thoughtful as you. But you‟ve
got to stop doing this.”

       “Doing what?” I played dumb, but I knew exactly what she was talking about.

       “You know EXACTLY what I‟m talking about. You build up walls against anything you can‟t control. It‟s
a defense that‟s keeping you from the wonderful things you deserve. With men the only way you can cope is
to keep them at arm‟s length, even string them along. But it‟s wrong because you aren‟t like that. You are
completely opposite of that.
       Just because you have a history of falling for complete morons doesn‟t mean the same will happen
with psychotic doctors.” She paused. “Besides, who says you have to give him your heart? Couldn‟t you just
have a nice dinner with a hot guy without being so serious? Why can‟t you just flirt and be all girly with him,
the way men love women? Men don‟t like prickly women.”

       “If you are right, why can‟t I avoid House, even if I try? Why does he invade every single part of my
brain and my soul?”

       “Because you want to sleep with him in the worst way and you are very tempted to give in to that.
However, you know that once that bridge has been crossed there‟s no going back for you. Once you‟ve slept
with a guy, you give your whole heart, your whole being, to the guy. I see what you are doing…with House,
you are trying to avoid that bridge all together.”

       “What‟s so wrong with that? At least I won‟t get hurt.”

      “But don‟t you see? If you completely avoid him you could devastatingly hurt any chance with him.
Do you really want to risk it?”

        I didn‟t know what to do, so I finished my orange juice and got up. “I‟m going to take your advice and
treat George to some Mommy/Bassett bonding. I‟ve got to go.” I got up and heard Dana‟s parting words:
“Talk to him…don‟t avoid him.”

         I arrived at my door and found George asleep on the bed. Sitting down beside him I stroked his back
and his ears. He gave me a doggie smile and licked my face, kissing me. I laughed and said, “Ok Mr. George.
We are going to the park.” His ears perked up because park means hunting for furry little creatures. I was
still laughing as I went into the bathroom.

       An hour later we pulled into the parking lot of Bradshaw Park, which was only about a half mile from
the hospital. Since it was the only park I knew about I had to settle for this one, though I knew otherwise. I
needed, no, I WANTED, to talk to House. 'Perhaps I'll swing by there.'

        Opening the door, George gingerly jumped out and looked up at me, wagging his tail. I bent down,
snapped the leash on his collar and asked, “Do you want to see Dr. House today?” I‟m not lying: that dog‟s
ears actually perked up and he danced in a circle. „Maybe it‟s a good thing he likes House, because I'm NOT
getting rid of him for anyone.'

        I started around the walking path with George in tow…literally. That dog needed to smell everything,
howl at every bird, say hello to every dog. "Been inside too much…I haven‟t taken you for your walks. I‟m
sorry big guy." He gave me a look of forgiveness and continued on.

         We walked for a good 30 minutes, my thoughts wandering from subject to subject. It felt so good to
think, to let my brain exercise. I was so intent on my thoughts that it took a fierce tug on the leash to bring
me back to reality. I looked down and saw George intently tugging on his leash then looking up at me. He
again looked ahead of him as if to say, “Look over there…aren‟t you proud of me?” I followed his gaze and
saw that we were in the parking lot of the hospital. I gasped, but before I could pull him the other way, he
took off across the parking lot with me hanging on for dear life. I had no idea that dog was so strong,
because George pulled me right through the entrance of the hospital and right up to Lisa‟s office.

       Before I went in to talk to Lisa, I bent over, trying to catch my breath.

     “You know I‟ve never actually seen a mole right there before. Mmm…very interesting. If you want, I
could take a look at that.” I quickly stood up and turned around to see House standing there, smirking as he
was checking out my butt. Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten that I was wearing short running shorts,
so I guess I had no reason to get upset.
       I smiled. “Ok…I really should have it checked, shouldn‟t I? You know, I also have this huge
brown thing on my chest...what could it be? What do you think?” I looked down my low-cut t-shirt and
House leaned in for a closer look. I closed my shirt before he could see anything. “Doc, help! Its HUGE! You
know, I have no idea what other things I could have growing on my body...and I haven't been for my physical
in awhile…maybe I should have one. Can you squeeze me in?”

    "I thought you didn't want me to see you naked." he snarked, partly amused by my declaration, partly
angry. 'He probably thinks I'm stringing him along...and I probably am.'

    "Oh, I never said that. You're far from the truth actually," his eyebrows arched in curiousity. "Besides,
you are a doctor and this is a medical issue. Can't you find time for a quick exam?" I batted my eyelashes as
Dana suggested.

        His eyes darkened but he never lost his humor. “I don‟t know…I‟ve got lots of other woman who need
„checking out‟ as well. They swarm me, just begging for me to examine them. But I‟m sure I could make time
for one more patient. You seem to be a very special case and I really think, as the diagnostian, I should be
the one to look.”

        “Yep...you are probably right. Ok, I‟ll keep that in mind. Anyway, George and I were walking in
Bradshaw Park, which is the only park I know of around here and, before I knew it, George was pulling me
into the hospital.”

        He stood there, regarding me for a bit, trying to give no indication of what happened last night, but I
could see it: the hurt in his eyes. I also saw the determination of a man struggling with his desires versus
rationality, which I found extremely surprising. From all indication, Dr. Gregory House was the most rational
person on the face of the earth. „Perhaps it doesn‟t extend to his heart,‟ I thought. But my thoughts and his
contemplation was interrupted by an extremely excited Bassett Hound jumping up on him. Not saying a word,
he bent down and scratched George behind his ears, eliciting a quiet howl of ecstasy from House‟s four-legged
admirer. “Why aren‟t you working?” he suddenly asked.

       “I needed a day off.”

       He continued playing with George for a bit then with an awkward quietness he whispered, “I thought
we weren‟t going to see each other for awhile.” He looked up in that analytical/hopeful way of his, the look I
received when he stated he wanted me to pose on his bike with him. I sighed and ran my fingers through my
wild hair.

        “I did want to talk to you about that, but I don‟t know where to start…do you have any new patients?”
I quickly changed the subject, which provoked a snort from the handsome man in front of me.

       “Avoidance…I thought that was my specialty.” He seemed to let it go, because he next asked, “What
do you want to know?”

        I mentally sighed with relief. “Well, I want to know what makes you the best doctor in the hospital, or
so I‟ve heard.”

       “Who told you that?”

       I smiled. “I‟ve heard it everywhere, though everyone was rather upset to admit it. When I asked why
they were upset, I got a lot of people saying things like, „If only he weren‟t such a jerk.‟ I also heard a lot of
other words I won‟t mention.”
        He gave me a proud grin, then lowered his head and squished his toe into the linoleum. “Aw, shucks,
I‟m flattered. That makes me feel…needed.” I rolled my eyes, but became alarmed when he walked away.

       “Hey,” I yelled. “Where are you going?”

        “Are you coming or not?” He pressed the up button at the elevator. “You can bring George too.” We
rushed over, barely making the elevator. Following House off on the right floor, House, George and I stopped
in front of a patient‟s room whose blinds were open.

       “Is that dog glued at your hip or something? You seem to take him wherever you go.” House asked
as he pointed to George, who looked up at him with adoring eyes.

       “Would you prefer that something, or someone, else be glued to my hip?” I coyly asked, but, before
House could answer, the door of the patient‟s room burst open. I could hear beeping and mechanical
whirring, then the voice of Alison screaming, “CRASH CART!”

       House, George and I watched as the “ducklings” worked on the patient. I couldn‟t see what they were
doing, because the doctors obscured my view. In only a manner of moments, they had stabilized the patient,
of whom I finally had a good view of. I studied the patient and my mouth dropped.

         Suddenly my heart raced, my head began spinning and I saw stars. The last thing I heard before I hit
the floor was “Haley? Are you alright?” I fainted right at House‟s feet.
*****
   „Is it raining?‟ I thought as I felt water drops on my face. Breaking through the haze in my head I felt my
arm being shaken and someone saying, “She‟s waking.” My eyes slowly opened and there I was, lying in the
hallway, on the floor with a pillow under my head and legs slightly elevated. Alison, Robert, Eric and House
stood over me with looks of concern. I felt pressure on my middle and looked down to find George lying
perpendicular to me, head on my abdomen and eyes full of concern. I smiled faintly and weakly scratched
behind his ears to reassure him I was ok.

        “Will someone help me off the floor…it‟s cold.” Robert and Eric gently lifted and helped me to the
waiting room only a few hundred yards away. Sitting down, Alison handed me a cup of water from the cooler
in the waiting room. She stepped back, still holding George‟s leash. George…what a guy. He slowly,
tentatively approached and laid his front paws on my knee, begging admittance to my lap. Chuckling, I bent
to pick him up but House beat me and laid him on my lap. I gave him a look of surprise. “Thank you.”

       He smiled briefly then his face became serious. “What was that all about?”

       Wiping my face, I sighed then began rubbing George‟s soft fur. “What‟s your patient‟s name?”

       “Michael Cardwell.” Eric asked with confusion. “Why…do you know him?”

       “Alison, remember our conversation in the bathroom a few weeks ago?” She nodded. “Well, that‟s
Mike.” Her eyes got huge and her mouth dropped.

       “Mike…as in the guy you met in Australia?”

       “The very same…the married Marine with the pregnant wife.” I buried my face in my hands. “My first
love. I was so young, so in love, so stupid…too stupid not to realize until 6 months after we started dating he
was even married. Probably figured there was a lot of him to go around, if you know what I mean. I bet I
wasn‟t his first, or last for that matter, affair.” I spat out bitterly.
       The bitterness soon melted into grief and my shoulders began shaking. Ten years of anger and pain
poured out in quiet wailing, rocking and sobs. I didn‟t even notice the strong arms engulfing me until I began
hiccupping, which led to a panic attack.

       “I…I…I can‟t breathe,” I gasped.

        “Deep breaths…breathe…that‟s it,” the quiet male voice instructed and I finally realized House was
holding me, which only seemed to make the attacks worse. The mixture of rocking, hand soothing my back,
quiet “shhhh”s and his general presence eased my grief to only quiet tears. I pulled away and looked up to
find only Alison standing there, who gave me a hug and a handful of tissues. I smiled gratefully and wiped
away the tears. I then looked at House who was still sitting beside me. His face contorted in anger.

        “How could any man cheat on his pregnant wife? That is one level of horrible.” His voiced rose in
anger. “The next level of horrible is to deceive you like that.” He looked down at me then stalked off, leaving
us in shock.

       “Wow…I never expected House to say something like that.” I said, watching him leave. Shaking my
head I turned to Alison. “Alison, what happened to Mike?”

       She sat down and reached over to scratch George‟s ears. “He came in 4 days ago after suffering from
a heart attack. Unfortunately, we have no idea what‟s wrong with him. He‟s slipped into a coma and his
blood pressure keeps fluctuating. Haley,” she sighed. “His wife has been here every day, keeping vigil.”

        “As she should be. Listen, Alison, please don‟t let House do anything we‟ll ALL regret. And keep me
posted on his recovery. I need to have a heart-to-heart with Lt. Michael Cardwell, though it‟s ten years too
late. Just one other thing: does he live in this area?”

       “No. As a matter of fact, he and his wife were visiting friends in the area when he was brought in.
Rather ironic, isn‟t it? That you should run into him here, of all places, while away from home on business.”

        “Yep.” I quietly agreed. “But I really need to speak to House. Mike is NOT to know that I am here.
He‟ll probably have another heart attack when he sees me.” I put George on the floor and stood up. Alison
grabbed his leash. “Let me watch him. You need to do this alone.”

       I smiled and gratefully agreed. I bent down and looked at George, who gave me a questioning look.
“George, you be a good boy for Alison.” He wagged his tail, then his attention was diverted someplace else. I
chuckled. “Thank you.” She smiled then took off for the elevators.

        I stood up, took a deep breath and headed in the direction of House‟s departure. It didn‟t take me
long to find him in his office, throwing an oversized gray and red tennis ball against the wall. Before I went in
I checked my watch. It was 11:00. „Mmm…time for lunch.‟ I pulled open the glass door and strolled in. He
caught the ball and turned to me. Studying me with that famous aggravatingly sexy analytical look he threw
the ball at me, which I easily caught one-handed.

       Eyebrows rising he asked, “So you play sports, too, don‟t you?”

        I shrugged. “A little bit of this, a little bit of that. I did make it through college on a softball
scholarship.” I heard a snort of laughter. “Listen, House, I haven‟t eaten yet. Want to grab something in the
cafeteria? I think it‟s time for our little, um, discussion.” He hesitated. “I‟ll buy.” He perked up at this and
smiled.

      “Sure…now you‟re talking. I hear it‟s meatloaf day. Those lunch ladies make a mean meatloaf
sandwich.”
*****
        Once we‟d gone through the cafeteria line House selected a table in a corner, away from everyone
else.

       “Haley,” he bit into his sandwich and asked, matter-of-factly, “why are you here? I thought you said
everything last night: the only way I‟ll get to see you naked is if we got married, or some sort of idiocy like
that.”

        “Is that all you got from last night‟s conversation?”

        “That and something about our children and their last names, though I tuned you out at the word” he
looked around and lowered his voice to a whisper: “abstinence. Then I picked you back up when you said we
needed to spend time apart. I remember THAT vividly, though I hardly believed it.” He waved his hand in
disbelief.

       I threw a French fry at him as my mouth dropped open. “Are you serious?” He nodded. “Sheesh, for
being such a brilliant doctor you really are an idiot.”

        “What?” He looked genuinely confused.

      “When I used that word,” Lowering my voice, I leaned over and whispered, “ABSTINENCE”, which
made him wince. “Why do you think I said it? You didn‟t believe me, did you?”

       He sat back, chewed his sandwich thoughtfully then sipped his soda. “NNNaaahhhh…I thought you
were simply acting like the coy vixen you really are. I know you were joking and found you wickedly funny.”

       I didn‟t believe him. After all, he got mad in the restaurant. “You were upset; you weren‟t laughing.
What‟s up with that?”

        He looked shocked. “Me? I wasn‟t upset: I was heated because you toyed with my male needs so
cruelly, so brazenly. Hasn‟t anyone ever told you never to toy with a man like that? I thought you
heartless…but when I cooled down I realized you really can‟t help it; that‟s just the way you are. You‟re a
cupcake, a dame, a tomato.”

      “Huh? A tomato? A cupcake? Jules, this isn‟t the 1930‟s. You‟re watching too many film noirs…you
saw Laura again, didn‟t you?” I shook my head in amazed amusement.

        “Listen, doll,” I rolled my eyes in annoyance. “You‟ve got a great sense of humor. I bet the real
reason you came back is because you‟ve tried to stay away from me…you tossed and turned all night…but you
just can‟t control yourself…you‟ve got to see me naked. Which is why you suggested the examination.” His
mouth opened in glee (YES, READERS, GLEE.) “That‟s why you‟re here! OH GOODY!” He imitated a teenage
girl by squealing and clapping his hands. “This is so kewl…I get to see you NAKED!” He stood up and acted
like he was going to make an announcement, presumably to tell the world about his unbelievably incorrect
assumption.

        “If you don‟t sit your butt down this instant, I will make you intimately acquainted with your cane…and
don‟t think I can‟t…or won‟t.” I hissed, choking in anger.

       He looked down and smirked. “Empty threat little girl. I have a very intimate knowledge of my cane
thank you very much.”

      I gave a full body shiver and said, “Thank you Jules. That was MORE than I needed to know. Ok, Dr.
Stud Muffin Extraordinaire” (I got a huge grin for that) “let‟s just assume I want to see you naked…let‟s also
assume I was correct about the abstinence part. Would you please sit down?”
       He face fell a millimeter but he sat.

    “I came back out of politeness, thinking I was too severe, too extreme. I clearly see I wasn‟t. I felt I had
to explain myself but I have further proof of why you should never mix business with pleasure, especially with
psychotic narcissistic three-legged men.” I watched his face, then had a thought: what if he really WAS upset
but would never admit it? What if this is all an act…just another way to protect himself? What if he does have
deeper feelings…and is just as afraid as I am?

        I also realized that talking with him wasn‟t going to make him confront whatever feelings he‟s trying to
suppress…somehow I doubted House didn‟t quite fit in with a support group or even one-on-one
consultations. He‟s a man of action…and actions are required. I decided, right then and there, I would stop
trying to talk to him.

      „I won‟t talk about it, unless he mentions it himself, but I definitely won‟t be holding my breath.
Coming back was probably wrong…but if I hadn‟t returned, I would never have known what was really going
on. He‟s nothing but a stubborn child who won‟t take a lecture…therefore discipline is in order…GEORGE! He
seems to be jealous of that dog…let‟s throw them together.‟

        I began gathering up my trash, a signal to him lunch was over. I sighed and turned on the vulnerable
female act. “Dr. House, I think you are right. I think about you all the time…with, but usually without,
clothing. You know what could do it for me, what could make submit to your every whim and dream?”

       He suspiciously watched me…I knew he didn‟t believe me but I also saw curiosity. “What?”

         I stood up, walked to his side of the table and leaned over until I was several inches from him. I
instinctually looked at his mouth and it curved in a “SEE WHAT I MEAN?” sneer. I wasn‟t about to let him win,
so I licked my lips and looked into his eyes…and they looked back at me with alarm. I saw the blue becoming
stormy…no matter what he said, what he thought, I still had it...I could control him and that‟s what I set out
to prove. I laid my hand on his shoulder and began to massage it.

      “Dr. House, I really need you to dog sit for me this afternoon. I‟m just swamped and I don‟t want
George to be all alone.” His eyes calmed very quickly and he crossed him arms, his mouth curving in an
“OVER MY DEAD BODY” smile.

       “Over my dead body,” he replied, his mouth quirking higher. I sighed and hung my head.

        “Oh, poor George. I don‟t know what could happen to him…and he‟s so important to me. Anyone
that‟s a friend of my George is a friend of mine. You know, there was this one guy I met at the dog park. He
was so nice to George and I. And was that man gorgeous! Perfect athletic body; long, lean legs; biceps like
rocks, triceps that made me want to…”

      House quickly stood up and held up a hand in irritation. “Ok, I get it, I get it. George is special to
you.” He sighed resignedly and looked at his watch. “I‟ll watch George. It‟s about time for General Hospital
anyway. What time will you be back?”

      It was my turn to look at my watch. “About 5:00. I have pictures to develop and I‟ll be back with
them.” Before I picked up my tray, I gave him a sincere smile. “Thank you…this really does mean a lot to
me.”

       With tray in hand I walked away but didn‟t get far when I heard him yell, “And wear something see-
through when you return…it's the only way I‟ll get to see your breasts.”
       I continued on like I hadn‟t heard him, walking out of the cafeteria. It was then I realized I forgot to
mention Mike to him. „I‟ll bring it up when I return. I wonder how George and House will be?‟ I thought as I
went looking for Alison and George.
*****
       I found Alison in the pediatric wing where Mr. George Wellington was the life of the party.

        “Hello Alison. George is quite a hit, isn‟t he?” I smiled as I watched George play with some of the
children. “Thanks for watching him. I‟ve got a dog sitter for the afternoon and you might be surprised who it
is.”

       “Oh, let me guess…House, right?”

       “Yep.”

       She shook her head. “I don‟t understand the power you have over him. What did you say to him?”

       “I told him his chances of sleeping with me could greatly increase if he dog sat for me.” I saw her
mouth drop but not before it quirked in a smile. “I know, I know. That‟s bad, but it‟s about time he got
manipulated for a change. I‟d better take George to House before he changes his mind. I think they‟re going
to watch General Hospital together.”

       Alison smiled and retrieved George from the children, much to their dismay. When he saw me he gave
his most winning doggie grin and jumped on my legs. Scratching behind his ears I whispered, “Whose my
good boy? Whose my good boy?” He quietly howled and I laughed.

       “He‟s so sweet! He‟s so cute!” chorused the children.

        “Say bye George.” I encouraged but he just wagged his tail and led the way out the door, dragging
me along, followed by an amused Alison. It was almost as if he knew exactly where we were headed. As
Alison pressed the up button on the elevator, I asked, “So, how was your date with James?”

       Alison smiled and blushed. “It was wonderful. He‟s the sweetest man I‟ve ever known. When he
picked me up he brought me pink tulips, which are so unconventional for a first date but absolutely perfect.
We went to dinner and a movie and when he brought me home he only kissed my cheek. We‟ve got a date
tomorrow night.” I smiled, thrilled for her.

       “I‟m so happy for you…both of you. You deserve all the happiness in the world and I hope you find it
with each other.”

       DING! The elevator opened and we found James in the elevator car, alone. I looked over and Alison
smiled brilliantly at him. “Hello, Dr. Wilson.” I quickly looked at James, who had the „Cat who got in the
cream‟ express. “Hello, Dr. Cameron.” He looked at me and beamed. “Haley! Good to see you!” I smiled
and led George onto the elevator. He saw James and smiled his doggie smile. “ROLF!” James laughed and
bent down, giving him a scratch behind the ears. “Hello George. Keeping Haley out of trouble?” George just
wagged his tail and pranced in place.

        The elevator opened and George and I exited, leaving Alison and James alone. I quickly waved but I
don‟t think they saw me…they were making moon-eyes at each other. I felt a sudden tug on the leash and,
looking down, I saw George‟s intent stare. Following his eyes I saw House talking animatedly with Lisa. As
we silently crept forward, I heard Lisa sigh and say, “House, you‟ve got to do your clinic hours today. If not,
I‟m barring Haley from the hospital.” Unfortunately, I was unable to see the look on his face but I did hear
the overly-dramatic exasperated “Fine”. I waited a few moments then raised my voice. “George, slow down!
I know how much you love House…we all do…he‟s such a swell guy. But we‟re almost there!” I urged George
forward and he pulled like he was tracking something.
       I looked over at the nurse‟s station just in time to see them shaking their heads and staring at me as if
I were popping one too many Vicodins myself. I smirked at them and then turned to Lisa and House, who
must‟ve thought that seeing a woman being dragged through a hospital by a Bassett Hound was funny, since
they were laughing. “Hello Haley,” Lisa chuckled. “Whose walking who here?” she looked down at George
and, at his adorable doggie grin, her face crumbled and she melted to the floor, fawning all over that dog.

       “Well, if it isn‟t the paparazzi stalking me. I‟m surprised he doesn‟t have a tiny camera hanging from
his neck.” House snarked as he watched Lisa and George.

       “He left it at home.”

       “Will you have my pictures ready soon?” Lisa asked.

       “I should have them by this afternoon. I‟ve also got Dr. Baylor‟s pictures to develop but I‟ll have them
ready by about 5:00 tonight. Will you be here around 6:00?”

      “Yes. I…” Lisa‟s pager went off. Her face fell as she read it. “I‟ve got to go. I‟ll see you tonight?” I
nodded and she took off down the hall.

       I turned to House and handed him George‟s leash. He looked down at George and snarked, in the
sappiest voice I‟d ever heard, “Aww. There‟s the little ankle biter. Is he ready for some fun in the hospital?”

       “House,” I began with a warning in my voice.

       He ignored me and asked, “Does he ride? We could go cruisin‟ for chicks. Does he have a preference:
Poodles? Dachshunds?”

       I laid my hand over my heart and sighed dreamily. “Aw…that would be so sweet, you and George on
your bike! How adorable! Unfortunately I left his riding helmet and goggles at home in Chicago.”

       House crinkled his face in a disgusted look. “Adorable?!? Nix that idea. George, I think we‟ll reek
havoc around here, what do you say?” George barked and wagged his tail.

       “Now, you boys be good for Mommy. Remember what happens to naughty boys?”

        “Yeah…but OUR Mommy only threatens punishment.” House answered with a hint of bitterness.
“Next time you want to use that threat, actually follow through with it.” And, with that, he turned and led
George down the hall. I left…and that last comment stayed with me.
*****
MEANWHILE, IN HOUSE’S OFFICE…

       “Well, George, here we are.” House looked at his watch and perked up. “Right on time…General
Hospital is on!” He wheeled out a television and plopped down in his easy chair, propping his feet on the
matching ottoman. George jumped up and settled on the ottoman, nestling his head on House‟s legs.

        The theme music began and House rubbed his hands together excitedly. “George, we‟re supposed to
find out if Shay is having Blake‟s baby. Personally I think its Dr. Jackson. After all, they were caught, naked,
in the janitor‟s closet by Nurse Tammy, who then ran away crying. Even I didn‟t know Tammy had the hots
for Dr. Jackson. Now THAT was a plot twist. OH! And maybe Evan will wake up from his coma today. He‟s
been out since last February and he‟ll be happy to know his twin girls survived the plane crash.” George‟s tail
went THUMP, THUMP, THUMP against the ottoman as he watched House‟s increasingly animated play-by-play
commentary.
(READER, THAT DOG HAS THE MOST UNCANNY ABILITY TO FOLLOW A CONVERSATION…AND EVEN HE GOT
INTO THAT SHOW. I GUESS I TAUGHT HIM WELL…HE‟S SUFFERED THROUGH ENOUGH OF MY
SSSQQQUUUEEEIIINNNGGG SESSIONS.)

       Throughout the show, House would yell suggestions at the television and George would offer
suggestions right back. “Nurse Tammy, he doesn‟t want you! He wants Shay! Get over it!” at which George
thumped his tail and barked the affirmative.

        “Jackie, the guy‟s a loser. Dump him!” House yelled at the TV, but George didn‟t agree and listed his
head, flapping his ears. Whining, he told House that Jackie should stay with him. “I can‟t believe you‟d say
that! He cheated on her with the new Drug Rep!” House just shook his head as George continued to disagree
with him. By the end of the show, George was thoroughly amused by House‟s antics…and anxious for the
next day‟s episode!

        “See, I KNEW the baby was Dr. Jackson‟s! I‟m a real doctor after all…I know these things! But who
knew that Rachael was Evan‟s biological sister, put up for adoption at 3 weeks old? Good thing she turned
him down when he asked her on that date, before he fell into a coma…how could you explain THAT at the
family reunion?” he shook his head and met George‟s wide-eyed agreement.

        House looked at his watch. “Buddy, I‟ve got to do clinic duty. Hey…want to help?” George wagged his
tail and said, “ROLF!” “Come on…let‟s go freak out the clinic patients.”
*****
        House and George arrived at the clinic‟s front desk. Looking at his watch, House grabbed a file and
said to the attending nurse, “2:00. Dr. House and Dr. George Wellington checking in.”

        The nurse‟s face held a question as she looked around for a Dr. George Wellington, whom she‟d never
heard of. When she saw House holding a leash, she bent over the desk. Seeing George‟s adorable face and
big, pleading brown eyes, she melted for a split second before saying, “You can‟t bring a dog in here.”

        House stepped back with an appalled look. Hand over chest, his mouth opened. “I‟m appalled! Are
you calling the new doctor a dog? You‟ve got some nerve. You‟re lucky…I don‟t think he heard you.” She
opened her mouth to say something but House had already escorted George to exam room one and shut the
door.

        As House closed the door he turned to find a teenager sitting on the bed, his fist stuck in his mouth.
House rolled his eyes in barely contained laughter. “Let me guess…did a really hot babe ask you if you could
stick your fist in your mouth?” The boy looked down and his face turned red, clearly embarrassed. He slowly
nodded yes.

       House looked down at George and could‟ve sworn that dog was laughing. He couldn‟t contain it any
more…House began laughing. “Um…” after he‟d calmed down, he opened the folder. “Sam. Thank you for
the entertainment. You‟ve even got Dr. George here laughing.” Sam looked down and saw George watching
him with a doggie grin. At this, Sam burst into tears.

       House wiped his face and sighed. “Aww, man. Stop crying…STOP CRYING!” House raised his voice
and Sam leaned back, clearly scared. “Thank you. The way I see it, you‟ve got three options. One: saw off
your hand and leave it in your mouth.” Sam‟s eyes went wide and he vehemently shook his head no. “No?
Ok. Two: you could just leave your entire arm in that position. Number 1 and Number 2 will, at least, leave
you with never being accused of having Foot-In-Mouth disease. It‟s a good thing…it‟s a bugger to try and
cure. Believe me…” House leaned closer and poor Sam leaned further back, growing more scared by the
second. “Don‟t tell anyone, but I have a nasty case of it myself.” Sam‟s eyes filled with humor, but he didn‟t
seem to like option number 2.
       “The last option would be to have me pull it out. If I can‟t get it out, I will have to operate, cut your
mouth open. Now, you must choose behind Door #1, Door #2 or Door #3. I‟ll give you ten seconds.” House
looked at his watch and began humming the theme song to Jeopardy.

       “Ok, Sam, which will it be…Door #1, Door #2 or Door #3?” Sam held up 3 fingers with his other hand.

       “Ok.” House laid the folder down and grabbed hold of Sam‟s elbow. “Ready? On three:
one…two…three!” he yanked and the hand popped out. House shook his head. “Damn. I was looking
forward to sharpening my best scalpel. Oh, well. Anyway,” House looked back and saw Sam practically
running out of the room. House yelled back to him, “Fine…don‟t thank me. Forget the Christmas Card I was
going to send you this year.” He shook his head again and looked down at George, who was watching the
whole interchange with amazement. “He didn‟t even thank me. That‟s gratitude for you…teenagers these
days. Sheesh. Ok, George, one down,” he looked at his watch. “1 hour, 40 minutes and 30 seconds to go.”

        He grabbed George‟s leash and peaked out the door. Seeing the nurses busy, he rushed to the nurse‟s
station and grabbed the next file, reading as he went to Exam Room Two. He opened the door to find a
woman sitting on the bed, waiting patiently.

       “Hello,” House re-opened the file. “Mrs. Simpson. What seems to be the problem?”

        “WHAT? I CAN‟T HEAR ANYTHING!” She screamed, causing both House and George to jump back,
startled. George whined and flapped his ears, clearly upset. House reached down to calm him.

      “George, wait over here,” House tied George‟s leash to the chair in the corner, then went to the sink
and washed his hands, all the while Mrs. Simpson‟s eyes followed him.

       “DOC CAN YOU HELP ME?”

       “YES, IF YOU‟LL STOP SCREAMING!” He grabbed a notebook from the counter and took out a pen,
handing them to her. “HERE…WRITE DOWN WHAT HAPPENED.”

       She nodded and began scribbling. “This morning my 2-year-old son and I laid down for a nap. 2
hours later I woke up and couldn‟t hear.”

       House nodded and looked in her ear with his light. He jumped back, startled. He looked again and
shook his head. He walked around and looked in her other ear, with the same reaction. Looking back at her,
he grabbed her notepad. “Did you wake up?” she shook her head when she read his note. His mouth
dropped then closed again. “Was your son in the room when you woke up?” She shook her head again after
reading.

        Turning around, House opened a drawer and extracted a long pair of tweezers. Mrs. Simpson‟s eyes
went wide and George whined, his eyes as wide as Mrs. Simpson‟s. “HOLD STILL!” He yelled as he reached
inside her left ear and gently began pulling. Mrs. Simpson began whimpering which only increased as he
pulled harder. With one final tug the object popped out. He held it up for her examination…at which her
mouth dropped open. It was a very small, very thin tampon. He went to the other side and extracted another
tampon. “Doctor, thank you so much! I can hear!”

         “You know how it is…just remove the tampons and you‟ll be just fine.” He finished his examination
and began writing a prescription. “I‟m prescribing an antibiotic because your ear canals are infected. I also
want you to make an appointment to have your hearing checked. I didn‟t see any damage, but you should
still have it checked.”

        “Doctor, I feel so embarrassed, but I didn‟t feel anything…just pressure. I thought I had a sinus
infection and just couldn‟t hear anything.” She gratefully smiled at him.
        “Don‟t you think he‟s a little young to be thinking about women and sex? Or are you starting sex
education early, so you don‟t forget when they get older? That‟s very ingenious thinking, but don‟t you think
he‟s a bit young to understand the differences between men and women? Personally, I loved sex education
and it seems he appreciates the differences as well, so there‟s hope for him yet.” He smirked as she glared at
him. “You‟re done.”

        She left, still glaring at House, who was making faces behind her back and George encouraging him
with doggie grins. “Ok, George, you are diagnosing this next patient. I hope it‟s a good one.” Untying the
leash, he led George out of the lobby, which looked full. Sighing, House grabbed the next file, opened it, bent
down and showed it to George, who gave his opinion by slobbering on it. Chuckling, House stood up and
turned to the waiting room.

       “Hello everyone! You are in luck…we have a visiting doctor. Unfortunately, he doesn't speak a word of
English, so please bear with us. Everyone…say hello to Dr. George Wellington.” And led the Bassett Hound so
everyone could see him.

       “But…but…that‟s a dog!” GASP! “Aww…isn‟t he sweet?” were some of the reactions.

       “Lady, it‟s not very nice to call the doctor a dog, just because he‟s thick around the middle and wasn't
blessed with looks. How would you like it if I called you a dog, just because you aren't Cindy Crawford...no
where near it, as a matter of fact.” The woman gasped and turned with a HUFF, walking out of the clinic.
House shook his head and led Dr. Wellington back to Exam Room One, where they encountered a set of 17-
year-old twin girls. Outside the door House could hear, “I‟m outta here…” and feet thumping to the exit.

       One of the twin girls was in a hospital gown sitting on the bed. “I‟m Doctor House. What seems to be
the problem?” but he didn‟t get an answer, because they were both staring at George. He gave them a
doggie grin and their apprehension melted into a gale of female giggles and “Aww…what a cute dog!”

       House sighed and shook his head. “Why must I have to tell EVERYONE that Dr. George Wellington is a
doctor, not a dog! Now, ladies, what‟s going on?” They looked back at him and their giggles immediately
ceased, replaced with anxiety and fright. House pointed to the girl on the bed. “Which one are you…”
Opening the folder, he scanned it for names. “Molly or Moira?”

       “Molly.” She quietly said, obviously frightened and embarrassed.

       “Ok, Molly, what‟s wrong?”

       She burst into tears and House looked over at Moira, clearly confused. “What did I do?”

       “She‟s embarrassed.” Moira lowered her voice. “Her boyfriend decided to give her a homemade tatoo
on her butt. Unfortunately, he misspelled the name AND she has a nasty infection."

        House tilted his head in a curious fashion. "Can I see it?"

        Moira sighed and turned over, opening her gown in the back. There, all red, bloodied and puss-ridden,
was a crude tattoo, supposedly in the shape of a flower with the name "MOLDY" across the bottom of it.
House couldn't contain it anymore...he started laughing, which only intensified the poor girl's weeping.

        House calmed down and sighed. "I'm sorry...it just seems so fitting, since you have blood and puss
coming out of it." He shook his head and, snapping on a pair of gloves, began to carefully clean the area. He
administered a tetanus and an antibiotic shot. "I've cleaned you up...but you really should make an
appointment to have that removed. As long as it's on the skin, it's going to continue to infect your body.
        I've given you a tetanus shot, which should help. I'm writing you a prescription for several
medications. PLEASE make sure to use them all up, even if the area is looking better. I will have the nurse
research some doctors for you to visit to have the tattoo taken care of. In the meantime, you are ready to go."

      House grabbed George‟s leash and escorted him out of Exam Room One, leaving the girl to get
changed.

        The rest of the afternoon flew by, with House and Dr. Wellington bouncing ideas off each other and
the patients so confused they couldn‟t wait to leave, and by 5:00 p.m., they dragged themselves to House‟s
office, where they found me waiting patiently in the recliner. George lumbered over to me, where I could
clearly see he was beat.

        “What have you boys been doing all afternoon?” I asked as I scratched behind George‟s ears.

       “Oh, Mommy, we had so much fun! We got to play with a bunch of other children on the playground,
then, at recess..." House began in a baby tone.

       I smirked then my face turned serious. “No matter if you think I‟m serious or not, I really mean it
when I say I appreciate this. You are much closer to the cheese than you realize.”

        He narrowed his eyes, watching me. “Oh, I love mazes. Just ask Steve. We race each other at that
cornfield maze outside town. Of course, that smart little guy does always manage to get hidden in the tall
cornstalks, but that‟s another story.”

       I got up and led George to the door, where House stopped me. “Are you going home? I thought you
had pictures to show off?”

        “I finished much earlier than expected, so I‟ve already done the show and tell portion of the night.
Listen, House, I know that we probably won‟t be seeing each other for awhile, but if you need anything,
anything at all, please call me.” I took a card out of my back pocket and gave it to him. He took it, looked at
it then stuffed it in his jacket pocket.

       “I, um, I mean, well…” House began, then stopped, shaking his head in frustration. I was amazed…it
wasn‟t every day you see the great Dr. Gregory House without words.

        “Yes?” I prompted him.

      “Nothing, nothing.” He gave up and walked around me, sitting at his desk. I began walking to the
door when I heard faintly, “Call me to say hi.”

       I turned back around to him and smiled. “Sure. Will you be able to dog sit again?” He nodded faintly.
I looked down at George. “Say bye George.” But his eyelids were drooping, so I knew it was time to go.

       With a hesitant mouth and a breaking heart, I whispered, “Goodbye House.” When he turned away
from me, I knew it was time to leave and, turning on my heel, I walked out the glass doors. I had a feeling it
would be several weeks before I had any contact with House again.
*****
         The next morning, George and I arrived at the theater by 9:00 a.m., to find Derrick already there, making some
equipment adjustments. Since Robert was set to arrive at 10:00, I put the finishing touches on the stage, including
spreading sand, setting up beach chairs, re-arranging the palm trees, distributing straw hats, etc. Together with the fake
island shack and bright lighting, it was a very good fake island scene. I even put on a Jimmy Buffett CD so we‟d be in the
island mood.

    The parrots arrived at 9:30 and there was relative peace…for all of 5 seconds. Then one began screeching, “You‟re a
butthead! You‟re a butthead!” Trying very hard not to laugh I lost it when the other answered back, “You‟re momma
was a snow blower!” After all, it‟s my favorite line from Short Circuit. One of the bird handlers blew a shrill little horn
and everyone stopped dead in their tracks, including the birds.

    “Thank you.” Derrick sighed gratefully and we went back to work in relative peace. By 10:00, George, Derrick,
Jackson and Tiffany (the bird handlers) and I were sitting on the edge of the stage, talking.

    “Jackson, where did your parrots learn their phrases?” I asked.

    Jackson smiled. “Well, our pet shop not only purchases birds but we also rescue birds from dangerous home
situations. These birds were rescued six months ago and are still reciting what they‟d heard from their previous homes.
They aren‟t even the most amusing birds…we have a male and a female that could pass for George Burns and Gracie
Allen. They are a riot, but they don‟t handle new environments very well, so they stay at the pet shop.” We talked about
the calendar until Robert arrived.

    When he did, he was wearing baggy surf shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, flip-flops, a huge straw hat and carrying his
bongos. He had even put sunscreen on his nose to complete the “island” look. I had to turn away to keep from laughing
at him. „How am I supposed to shoot this without laughing?‟ I thought. I snuck a peek at everyone else and they were
having the same problem I had. Even George was excited…well, he gets excited whenever he sees someone coming.
But he was wearing his doggie grin.

     “Hello, Dr. Chase,” Derrick said, coughing as he was attempting to hold back his laughter. “I see you came dressed
for the occasion.”

    Robert broke into a goofy grin. “Of course.” His Australian accent was punctuated when he smiled. His grin got
goofier when he saw me. “Hi Haley. How are you?”

    I managed to keep a straight face. “I‟m cool, MON.” I couldn‟t hold it any longer and doubled over, laughing
hysterically. This caused everyone else to start roaring, even Robert. After the laughter died down, I wiped the tears
from my eyes and smiled, waving my hand. “Come on up.”

     I had set a stool in the middle of the scene, which gave him enough room to play. I had also set up a beach chair
across from the stool. Leading George to the chair he happily jumped up and sat down. I pulled out a small straw hat
and put it on him, tying the strings under his snout. He gave me a “Do I really have to wear this?” look and I smiled.
“Yes, George, but it‟s just for a little bit. If you‟re a good boy, I‟ve got treats!” At the word “treats” George stood up,
placing his front paws on an arm of the chair and wagged his tail. “But only if you are a good boy” I added with a slight
warning tone. George calmed down. I opened a beach umbrella and propped it behind the chair. I then set a margarita
in the cup holder in the arm of the chair, at which George took one lick of the salty glass rim and gave a full-body shiver
then whined in disgust.

     “George, margaritas aren‟t for Bassets. That‟s what you get.” I gently scolded the ornery codger.

    “Robert, do you want a margarita?” He smiled and nodded. I mixed one and set it by his stool. “What are you going
to play for us?” I asked.

      “Well, I was going to do some Bob Marley and some Beach Boys, but I hear Jimmy Buffett playing in the background.
Since you‟ve got margaritas, I thought I‟d begin with “Margaritaville”. Whatcha say?” I agreed and grabbed my camera.
Derrick stood on the other side of the stage, out of my camera range. I turned back to them and saw that George was
still shaking his head in disgust. I sighed and retrieved him a dish of water, which he lapped gratefully. Once he was
finished I removed the dish and moved it offstage.

   “Ready George?” Robert asked the dog, at which Robert was rewarded with a doggie smirk. “Ok, here we go.” And
Robert began. For a few moments I was absolutely stunned…that boy had rhythm! Remembering I wasn‟t there for a
concert, I began snapping photos, moving at one side, Derrick at the other.

    Meanwhile, I noticed that George had rhythm too. He watched Robert‟s hands, mesmerized, his tail thumping the
chair in time to the music. I shook my head in wonder and, once he‟d finished, I stood up and clapped. Derrick and the
bird handlers joined me; the parrots bobbed their heads in agreement, adding, “You‟re a butthead!” and “You‟re momma
was a snow blower!” to the applause; and George howled happily, as if to say “MORE! MORE!”
    Robert began again, this time with “Surfin‟ USA” by the Beach Boys. “Robert, where did you learn to play?” I asked
in awe. He smiled and, never missing a beat of the song, said, “When I was in med school, my college flat mate was
dating a music major. She was one of the only girl drummers at the entire college and she gave me, um, private lessons.
We ended up getting really close. I guess you could say I stole him from my flat mate…he wasn‟t very happy and I
moved out. Unfortunately, we only dated for about a year, but I did get free bongo lessons out of it, so it wasn‟t all bad,
was it?” I just rolled my eyes at this.

     “Oh, brother,” I said, still snapping away. “I bet you‟re pretty proud of yourself, taking that girl from your roommate,
like you'd just scored a prize. Always a competition with you men. Sheesh.”

    “Actually, I felt pretty bad about it.”

    I was silent as he finished and began another song, but I was too deep in thought to pay attention to which one it
was. “How do you feel about Alison?” and the bongos momentarily stopped. I put my camera down and watched his
face go from shock to confusion to denial to resignation.

    “You like her, don‟t you?” I asked as he began again. He lowered his rapidly reddening face and nodded.

    “I‟ve seen the way you look at her. Was there something between you at one time?”

     This time he did stop and look up at me. “You know, you ask a lot of questions,” and I began to squirm. He sighed
then nodded again. “A little while ago, Alison was potentially exposed to HIV. As a result, she thought she had it and
took a bunch of drugs, which caused her to get high. That night, I went by her place and we ended up having sex, some
of the best I‟ve ever had. Now, I want to be friends with her, but I also want so much more as well. I also know that,
once you step over that line, whether you are high or not, it‟s very difficult to go back to just being friends. I don‟t
know…I‟m just so confused. Do you know what I mean?”

    I nodded. “Yes, I know what you mean. However, think about the welfare of your team, the patients, even yourself.
What if you became an item then broke up? Could you really work together without any problems? That‟s why I make it
a point never to date any of my co-workers. Of course, that doesn‟t really matter, since I‟m the boss and could just fire
the guy if we broke up.” Robert laughed. “Anyway, we‟re on the islands…let‟s think happy thoughts!” and George
seconded my motion by barking.

    Robert ended his song and switched to…The Bee Gees?!?! “Robert, are you really playing “Night Fever”?” I didn‟t
quite know what to think.

    He smirked and he started singing along…very badly, I might add. “Yep… 'Night Fever, Night Fever…We know how to
do it. Gimme that night fever, night fever. We know how to show it‟.”

   Not only did he sing badly, but he set off a chain reaction: George whined in rapidly-increasing pitch (in pain I‟m
guessing); Derrick was cringing; and the birds…well, THE BIRDS WERE SINGING ALONG AS WELL! 'And that sweet city
woman, She moves through the light, Controlling my mind and my soul. When you reach out for me, Yeah, and the feelin
is bright, Then I get night fever, night fever. We know how to do it. Gimme that night fever, night fever. We know how
to show it.‟ They screeched, IN SYNCH!

    “I‟m sorry!” Tiffany yelled over the commotion. “I forgot to mention NEVER play that song…it‟s the one song both
the birds know…apparently both places they came from were Bee Gees fanatics. Don‟t worry…I have the magic horn.”
And, once she blew it, the commotion stopped, except for Robert. He, of course, kept playing on.

    “Robert, if you don‟t stop playing in 5 seconds so help me I will…” I screeched and, with a smile, Robert stopped
playing.

    “Everyone, I do believe we have all the photos we needed. Jackson, Tiffany, I know you‟ve got to head back, but
thank you for bringing the birds.” They smiled with relief and walked offstage with the birds, where their cages were
located.

    Thought I was still rather upset with him, I gave Robert a hug. “You are a great guy…though that little stunt you just
pulled isn‟t helping your cause.” I whispered to him and he squeezed me, clearly enjoying the pain he was causing. I
stepped away and looked down at George, who was watching everything with a “Is it time for lunch?” look in his eyes,
painful bongo session clearly forgotten.

    “Ok, ok, ok, George, we‟ll go for lunch.” I looked back up at Robert. “Care to join us? I think I‟ll treat him to
tacos…he just loves them!” George stuck his tongue out and drooled and we laughed.

    “Sure. Let me get changed…and you can tell me all about this extraordinary dog of yours.”

    “Great! You go change and I‟ll help Derrick clean everything up.” Robert left and I tied George backstage, which he
didn‟t like at all. He whined and whimpered, but I just ignored him. Thirty minutes later, the stage was cleaned and
ready for the next day‟s photo. However, the scenery wasn‟t coming until the next day, so we just left everything.
“Derrick, you can take the rest of the day off. Do something fun with Dana…you deserve it. I‟ll close up and develop the
pictures.”

    Derrick gave me a grateful look, handed me his film and took off, clearly wanting to put the last 45 minutes behind
him. I met Robert at the front door, arms laden with cameras, equipment, film and Bassett Hound. Robert helped me to
the car then we left for lunch.
*****
    At 5:00 that night, I waited for Robert at the agreed-upon meeting spot: the roof. When he arrived, I spread out my
portfolio in front of him and we poured over the pictures, pointing, laughing and remembering how much fun the shoot
was.

    “I can‟t believe you played that Bee Gee‟s song…and that the parrots knew all the words!” I cackled, holding my
stomach because it hurt from laughing.

    “Well, what can I say? I thought it would make George laugh…and it did.” Robert shrugged as if it were nothing,
then burst out laughing. It took much longer to decide on the photo than normal...an hour later, he decided upon a
rather humorous picture of the parrots‟ heads bobbing; George‟s hindquarters moving to the music; and Robert smiling at
him, highly amused, as he banged on his bongos.

    After our laughter died down, Robert asked point blank: “What are your designs on House?”

    I sat back, rather shocked. Once his words sunk in, I took a very Houseian approach: “He‟s really a contestant for
the new reality show: Boy, Your Outfit Sucks…You Need a Makeover, though he doesn‟t know it yet. He‟s secretly being
videotaped. What do you think he‟d look best in: a pink beret or a blue leisure suit?”

    Robert shook his head. “Both would look very…interesting. But you can‟t pull that trick on me. House uses that
scheme all the time; I‟m wise to your game, lady.” Robert watched me in serious contemplation. “You want him but,
just like him, you are pushing away. Both your dates are hot news around this hospital, especially when you refused to
sleep with him. Now people don‟t look at House the same and you‟ve become somewhat of a celebrity; the nurses
especially look up to you. I‟m sure if you ever needed to be admitted, you‟d have a very devoted following. What
everyone doesn‟t understand is why you‟d want to sleep with House in the first place. There are so many other sane men
around. I don‟t get it…first Cameron now you. House must have some invisible magic babe magnet.”

     I smiled. “Are you calling me a babe? I‟m flattered. I bet you are just saying that so I would still agree to wear that
bikini for your lifeguard photo, am I right?”

    Robert turned serious, fervently shaking his head. I was surprised at the quick change of attitude. “I mean it…you
are very attractive. Why do you doubt that?”

    I didn‟t answer right away…I walked to the edge of the roof and leaned over, looking at the world below. I quietly
answered, “Because I was physically abused as a child. My father was a drunk who beat up his entire family, not just
with the nearest hard object but also with words. He would call me a b**ch, tell me how ugly I was and how I would
never amount to anything, as he beat the crap out of me with a baseball bat. There were a couple of times I landed in
the hospital.”

    Robert‟s face held the indignation of a person disgusted with the injustice of the world. “It sounds like it happened
repeatedly. If he beat you so badly, why wasn‟t anything done?”
    I sighed, my face completely expressionless. “Because he was the sheriff of the small Idaho town I grew up in, not
to mention the president of the school board and volunteer firefighter. He was never home but when he was he was
drunk half the time. I guess we just wanted to see him, no matter how badly he treated us. After all, he was our father
and we loved him, like children often do: innocently. For the longest time, I actually thought everyone‟s fathers beat
them up. I didn‟t see anything wrong with it and, to this day, I really don‟t know why he did what he did. I think he was
sick and felt like he needed to give so much to us he lost himself in the bottom of a bottle.”

    Robert sighed and, just before he could say anything, the squeaking of the roof door startled us. We looked over and
saw House standing there with a completely blank look on his face, just staring at us. “There you are DR. CHASE. We
couldn‟t find you and everyone thought you were on the polo fields, but I said, „No. Dr. Chase is a dedicated, caring
doctor. There‟s no way he‟d skip out while our patient is having problems.‟ Well, you aren‟t playing polo, but you are
playing a game, aren‟t you?”

     I rolled my eyes and, picking up my portfolio, I started towards the door. House was still in the doorway. “Upset we
took your special spot, the one you bring all your hookers to?” House glared at me but I ignored him and turned to
Robert. “Thanks for the talk. If you need anything, please let me know. Oh, and by the way,” I crooked my finger,
indicating to him to come over. When he was about 6 feet from us, I asked, rather loudly, “What color bikini do you want
me to wear for your next photo?” I saw Robert smile, but I didn‟t give him the chance to answer. Scurrying around
House I smiled when his eyes narrowed and I headed down the stairs.

    The next few days were hectic, so I didn‟t see any of the diagnostic team. Dr. Billy Markson‟s picture as a DJ was a
very easy picture to shoot, since there was hardly any scenery. The picture was fun, because Dr. Billy Markson was a
hunk… so sexy with those earphones!

   “What made you become a doctor, instead of a DJ? You would‟ve made a great DJ!” I commented as I snapped
away.

   “Well, I was a DJ in college, to get myself through medical school, but I LOVE being a doctor. I wouldn‟t give up
medicine for anything.”

    On Thursday, we brought part of the Shakespeare background back for Dr. Monica Feldman, who was an Opera
Singer for her photo. Her talent completely blew me away.

    “I was trained to sing but, at 18, I developed tumors on my vocal chords and I knew I could never sing at
professional caliber. But, if I hadn‟t developed the tumors, I never would‟ve had a desire to become a doctor. I wanted
to know how those tumors developed. Now, I‟m an obstetrician and I love working with children.”

   Friday finally came around and so too did Dr. Stephanie Johnson‟s photo. Since she requested her photo as a
Rockette, I hired some girls from the local dance school to be a chorus line behind her. I got some spectacular photos.

     Every day I had the photos developed and, every night, I went to the hospital. Occasionally I would stop in to see
Lisa, but, as I currently had an overwhelming desire to ignore House, I usually just snuck in and out. But that Friday I
was walking to the hospital entrance to leave when I saw the entire diagnostics team, plus Lisa and James, huddled
inside Lisa‟s office. I looked around and didn‟t see anyone around, so I walked through her first set of doors and cracked
the second set open just a hair. Everyone was faced Lisa, so no one except her saw me. She momentarily looked up,
gave me a look of “Surprised to see you but I want you to hear this” and continued as if nothing were amiss. Apparently,
it was about me, because the first words I heard were House‟s: “That dame‟s got to go!”

    “Why? What has Haley done?” Alison asked, anger lacing her words.

    “Dame? What is this, 1940?” Eric asked, completely bewildered by House‟s word choice.

    “She‟s a nuisance…and that dog of hers. Who does she think she is, coming here like she runs the place?”

     “Good Lord, House, give it a rest. I think you‟re just upset because you can‟t manipulate her.” James said from his
position beside Alison. “Let‟s just assume, for a minute, Haley doesn‟t mean a thing to you. What was the purpose of
the meeting?” James watched House look away and anywhere except him. “What if that‟s not it? Are you deliberately
trying to screw up this calendar project because she, for once in a long time, has made you feel something…good
perhaps? And with no complications, like Stacy had?”
    House rolled his eyes and said, in his snarkiest voice, “Ok, Dr. Phil, that‟s it. I‟m in touch with my true feelings…I
need her because I have an Oedipus complex and when I see her, I really want to sleep with my mother. But I don‟t
want her because I know it‟s bad to sleep with my mother and I don‟t want to think about it. Either way, I‟m in
hell…Jimmy you‟ve diagnosed it. Why, you should have your own talk show!”

     “House, shut up! She‟s the best thing to happen to this hospital in a long time and if we have any problems with the
calendar, you will find out what will happen.” Lisa raised her voice, making me jump. “Wilson‟s got a point. You weren‟t
this moon-eyed when Stacy was here. You must have it bad.” This caused the ducklings to laugh.

    “House, even I know you want her.” Eric‟s voice changed. “Homey, you just need to get your thing on! Are you
going to let a little thing like abstinence ruin your chances? House, we all know she shot you down…must be a blow to
your ego! Do you need some tips? Has your age diminished your capacity?” Eric snickered.

    House opened his mouth to say something, probably derogatory, when I decided to jump into the conversation.

    “Jules, you can be James‟ first guest on his talk show, since they‟ve probably thrown you off every respectable talk
show.” Everyone turned to look at me and immediately their faces reddened. I smiled. “Hello calendar boys and girls! I
thought my ears were burning. Is it the daily meeting of the “Haley Wellington Fan Club”? What…no screaming fans?
No rending of garments? No fainting at the sight of me? I‟m shocked…I‟m hurt.”

   “See what I mean…she‟s everywhere. And she has the gall to interrupt our conversation.” House pointed his cane to
me as he narrowed his eyes. But the telltale reddening of his neck told me he had the decency to be embarrassed.

    “Oh yeah, like you‟ve never interrupted anyone else‟s conversations…you are a perfect gentleman.” Lisa sarcastically
quipped, which elicited laughter.

    “Hardy har har. Very funny people.” House turned back to me. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

   I held up my portfolio and smirked. “I am going over today‟s pictures. If you don‟t like it, that‟s too bad. You‟ll just
have to bite the bullet and deal with it. It‟s part of my job and, unlike you, I am actually doing my job.”

    He just watched me. “I meant what are you doing at the door?”

    I looked him straight in the eye. I dropped my smirk and said, “What if I told you it was because I relented and have
decided I want you to take me…tonight? What would you say?”

    He smirked. “I don‟t know if I want to now.”

    I put my smirk back on. “Even if I wore an apron and pearls, just like momma used to?” I heard stifled giggles and
chortles under the disguise of coughing. I watched as his smirk took on a new dimension…reluctant admiration. “I am
leaving, by the way. So you can continue your conversation.” I turned to Eric. “Oh, and Eric?”

    He raised his embarrassed head, trying to contain his laughter. “Yes?”

    “Be at the theater by 10:00 tomorrow for your last picture.”

    “Got it.”

    “Thanks. Goodbye everyone. This meeting of the “Haley Wellington Fan Club” is now adjourned.” I pointed to
House. “You can take the resident pit bull back to his cage.” With that, I walked out, thoroughly confused as to what
actually happened back there.
*****
    The next day I arrived at the theater at 9:00 with George in tow. Needless to say, I was so happy this was the final
day of shooting in the theater even if was Saturday morning. I was ready to start shooting on location and, as for
George, he didn‟t care where we were going as long as people gave him attention.

     „This should be interesting,‟ I thought as I tied George backstage and put my equipment on a nearby chair. I had a
surprise in store for Eric…both Robert and Alison were coming to help with music: Robert on bongos, Alison on guitar. I
also hired a 3-piece percussion band to help. Since Eric was scheduled for 10:00, I knew I had to be ready, so I decided
on a very simple motif: solid, colorful silk banners hung from the rafters, transforming the normally dark and dreary stage
into a colorful kaleidoscope. I got my wind machines back, which fluttered the banners in a cool effect. For a final fun,
fiesta flair, I added colorful lights from the ceiling and on the stage floor.

    At 9:45, Alison and Chase showed up, each carrying their respective instruments, followed by the percussion band.
As they were tuning backstage, I heard the door at the back of the auditorium open and turned to see Eric…and Lisa!
Both were dressed in dance clothing! Eric wore a shimmery, royal blue, long-sleeved shirt, black pants and black dance
shoes; Lisa wore a bright red, short, ruffled Spanish dress, open at the back and flared at the bottom, and red dance
shoes. My mouth dropped and I watched as they strode to the edge of the stage, each beaming from ear to ear.

    “Wha…wha…is Lisa your partner?!?!” I finally asked through my surprise, which prompted both to laugh.

    “Yep. Lisa was the one who told me about her dance class and I reluctantly joined. Now, it‟s a great way to get
exercise…and I met my girlfriend there.” I looked at Lisa, but Eric stopped any thought I had dead in its tracks by rolling
his eyes and emphatically shaking his head. “No, it‟s not Cuddy. Jackie has a partner already and we decided not to
change, since it‟s just as hard to break in a new partner, as it is to break in new shoes. Besides, that would leave Cuddy
without a partner and, well, since she is my boss, I really can‟t do that. Jackie‟s supposed to be here at 10:00.” I smiled
as he walked away to the steps that led up to the stage.

    Lisa looked at me and smiled. “Hotstuff is coming too. He told me to remind you that you, House and Wilson need
to go down to the precinct and tell the guys about your high-speed adventure. It‟s part of some deal you two made.”
Lisa shook her head.

    “You call him „Hotstuff‟?” Lisa nodded. “Do you call him that to his face?”

    Lisa smiled. “Yep. In fact, I told him it was you who coined that name.” She laughed as my face turned red.

    “Lisa, I can‟t believe you told him!” I lowered my voice. “What did he say?”

    “He was flattered. At first, he was interested in you, thought you were pretty cute as well. Said he discovered real
quick he didn‟t have a chance because he saw the way you and House were together. Haley, I‟m so happy with Tony.
He‟s an amazing man. I just wanted to thank you for introducing us and if there is anything we can do for you, just let
me know.”

   I smiled thoughtfully then my look turned serious. “Perhaps there is something you both can do. Let‟s meet after the
shoot…I‟ll take you and Tony out for lunch.”

    Lisa smiled and nodded. “Great. Well, let‟s get this…” but she was interrupted by a rather loud commotion in the
back. Lisa and I looked at each other in bewilderment, then, as I was standing up to go investigate, I saw Eric coming
out from behind stage with an embarrassed look on his face, and Alison and Robert following him with grins on their
faces.

    “Why are they here?” Eric asked as he pointed to the other two ducklings.

   I put on my innocent little girl face and tried to keep from laughing at the whole scene. “I needed some musicians
and they agreed. I‟m sorry…I didn‟t think it would be a problem. I can ask them to leave if you want.”

    Eric sighed and shook his head no. “They are already here, so what difference does it make?”

    Alison was choking as she attempted to stifle her laughter. “Oh, come on Foreman. Relax. We were bound to find
out…I‟m just glad it was here and not the televised World Dance-Off, Salsa division.” Alison and Robert couldn‟t contain
their laughter anymore and the entire stage bounced with laughter as Lisa and I joined in. However, neither Alison nor
Robert had noticed Lisa yet, who was hanging out in the background behind Alison and Robert.

    “Ha Ha Ha. Very funny. Haley,” Eric started but, since I was doubled-over with laughter, I held up my index finger,
asking him to wait for my laughter to dissipate. Once calm, I stood up and smiled. “Yes Eric?” I asked sweetly, which
only caused everyone else to snicker in laughter.
    “Can we just get started?” He asked and I nodded. Eric looked around Alison and Robert and motioned to Lisa, who
was still standing behind them. “I don‟t believe everyone has met my partner, Lisa.” Alison and Robert turned around.
Their smiles dropped as they looked at Lisa.

    “Cuddy?!?!?” They both exclaimed at the same time. “You…you…yo…whoa!” Robert exclaimed, mouth hanging
open. “You are Foreman‟s partner?! How? When? How?” Alison seemed to be having trouble forming complete
thoughts.

   “Who were you expecting, House?” Cuddy snarked and I giggled at the mental image of Foreman and House, salsa
dancing. Then I got disturbed and did a full-body shiver, along with everyone else.

    “Hardly,” Robert said. He changed the subject. “Let‟s get going. I‟ve got plans today.”

    Alison rolled her eyes. “Doing what, hot date with a pre-med student? Are you going to show her how to “play
doctor”?”

     “Children, children. If we can‟t play nice, we aren‟t going to play at all.” I mockingly scolded the ducklings. “We‟ve
got pictures to take, so let‟s get to it…Eric, Lisa,” I motioned for the band to join us on stage. They were listening to the
entire conversation with amusement. “this is Morty, Pauly and Sammy. They round out the band. Are we all ready?
Eric, do you want George in your picture? He would be absolutely adorable.”

    “George is here!?! Where?” Alison squealed.

     “Why not? The more the merrier,” Eric sarcastically said but I knew he wouldn‟t mind George. I smiled and went
backstage, where I untied the excited Bassett Hound. He gave me a look of “I can‟t believe you left me back here when
all the excitement is out there!” “I‟m sorry boy. But you needed to make a grand entrance, like the royalty you are!” He
placated me with his infamous doggie smile, so I knew all was well.

     I led him onstage and when everyone saw him they either went “AWWW” or “What an outfit!”. George was wearing
a tiny mariachi outfit, complete with tiny guitar strapped to his back. Funny…he didn‟t seem to mind this outfit. He
looked right at home, as a matter of fact. His big brown eyes told everyone, “Ok, let‟s get this show on the road!”

     “Ok, Eric, Lisa, I need you right in the middle of the stage here. Alison, Robert and guys, I need you behind them.
George will be right beside the band. In fact…” I brought out a small riser for him to stand on, then tied his leash to a
riser leg so he would stay put.

    Everyone took their places and Eric asked, “Ready?” Everyone nodded and George wagged his tail. I had attached
some maracas to his collar, so every time he moved he added rhythm to the already brilliant musical score. I grabbed
my camera, checked the mechanics and wound the film. Just as I was about to call ACTION, the door at the back of the
auditorium opened and Hotstuff, accompanied by a tall, beautiful, leggy blond walked down the aisle. Both Eric and Lisa
smiled brilliantly and waved. I smiled and waved them over and everyone on stage (except for the 3 guys in the band
and George, of course) walked to the edge of the stage.

    “Hi Tony!” I exclaimed, smiling. He smiled back and said, “Hi Ms. Wellington. Did Lisa remind you of our
agreement?”

   “Yes…and I‟ll have to devise a way to get the guys down to the precinct. But have no fear…we‟ll be there to tell the
whole sordid tale.”

    “And this is Jackie,” Eric smiled to her from the stage. After a round of introductions of both Hotstuff and Jackie, I
said, “Ok, places everyone! We‟ve got a photo to shoot!”

     Once the band started, both impressed me with their splendid dancing. They moved fluidly and gracefully, with the
chemistry between them pretty intense. At one point, I snuck a peek at the other ducklings and saw that, while they still
continued playing, they were completely dumbfounded. Combine the dancing with the music, the lighting and the
fluttering rainbow of banners it was really a sight to see. George was just as into this photo as he was the bongos and
his body moved to the rhythm of the music as he shifted his attention from the band to the dancers and back again.
     After 5 songs, many dance steps and just as many photos later we were finished. “You two must be exhausted!” I
told the two dancers. “You two were like Fred and Ginger up there…so wonderful! How long have you led this double
life?” I asked.

    “Two years,” Lisa said.

    “A year,” Eric said as he tried to catch his breath.

   “Well,” I was still in awe as I tucked away the used film, screwed the lens cap on the camera and tucked it in my bag.
“That was really awesome. You know, that gives me an idea. What do you folks think about making a “How To Salsa
Dance” video to be sold in addition to the calendar? That could make you lots more money.”

    “NO!” both Lisa and Eric shouted, as if I couldn‟t get it with a serious NO.

    I held my hands up. “Ok, ok. I‟m just checking. Alright everyone, that‟s it for today. Thank you Morty, Sammy and
Pauly. You did magnificent!” I clapped and everyone joined in…even George howled with appreciation and they
graciously bowed.

    “Thank you Alison and Robert…you guys are so talented!” I clapped for them as well. “Lisa, I did want to talk to
you. Do you want to get changed and I‟ll clear the stage?” Lisa nodded and headed backstage.

   Thirty minutes later Lisa was changed, the stage was clear and only Lisa, Hotstuff, George and myself remained.
“Can we drop George off at my hotel? Most restaurants probably wouldn‟t want a dog, no matter how cute and
wonderful he was, in the building.”

    “Sure. We‟ll take my car.” Hotstuff said and grabbed George‟s leash, leading the way out.

    “Lisa,” I held her back so we could talk without Hotstuff listening in. “This is what I need from both of you…”

    Monday morning I was woken by a phone call from Lisa.

   “Haley? It‟s Lisa. Listen, can you get down to the hospital as soon as possible? Something‟s up.” I suddenly
became alert and sat up in bed.

    “What‟s wrong? Is it with the calendar?” I rubbed my groggy eyes.

    “No, no, nothing like that. But I‟d rather not talk about it over the phone. Just come on down here.”

    “Ok…you woke me up. I need to get showered and dressed. I‟ll get there as soon as I can.”

    Forty-five minutes later I pulled out of the parking lot and made the hospital in record time. I walked straight to
Lisa‟s office, where I saw Wilson, House and 2 uniformed officers talking with Lisa. “What‟s going on?” I asked as I
walked through the door. Everyone turned to me, at which time House passed me a death glare.

    House thumped his cane impatiently. “What took you so long? Getting a pedicure?”

    “I‟m sorry…am I taking you away from something? Your yo-yo? Gameboy? iPOD?” House raised an eyebrow. “If
you must know, I was in the middle of outrageous sex with a guy half your age and twice your looks.” I watched his
face…he first regarded me with a look of disbelief then he smirked.

    “No you weren‟t.”

     I crossed my arms. “Actually, you are right. But I really was naked…I sleep in the nude.” His eyebrows shot up with
this and I turned to Lisa. “I really am sorry I‟m late.” Lisa waved it off and I turned to the uniformed officers, who were
watching the entire House/Haley exchange with fascination. “What‟s going on?”

   Lisa sighed. “You, House and Wilson need to go back down to the precinct. They need another report from the high
speed chase incident, but they won‟t say why.”
   House rolled his eyes and pointed to me but looked at Lisa. “If she would just sleep with the officer in charge we
wouldn‟t have this problem.”

    My mouth dropped and threw my hands up in the air. “Great, he‟s willing to pimp me out to the cops. Is that how
you treat Cameron?” I asked House, which made him slowly turn to me and, for the first time, I saw genuine anger
coming from him.

     “Angry? Like you have a right to be angry. You bring all this on yourself. You‟re a selfish manipulative b****rd.” I
turned to the officers. “Let‟s go.” We filed out of the office, me first, then Wilson (with a “You go girl” smirk); then th e
officers (who were watching me with a look of pride); and finally House, who caught up with me and held me back, until
everyone else passed us. He looked at me and grimaced. “Is that how you really see me…as a selfish manipulative
b****rd?”

    I watched his face and saw how earnest it was. “Yes.”

    His face lit up and he grinned. “Thanks! That means a lot!”

    I huffed in anger and walked to the squad car, shaking my head in unbelief. Unfortunately, I was scrunched in the
back of the squad car again, between Wilson and House, who kept putting his hand on my knee and I kept removing it.

    Three-fourths of the way to the precinct an urgent call came over the police scanner: “Hostage situation at 12th and
Elm, the Bank of the East. All available cars needed.” The officer driving turned to the other officer and said, “We‟d
better go.” The passenger alerted the dispatcher and the driving, while turning the car around, hit the sirens and lights.

    “Oh, no, not again!” I moaned and covered my face with my hands.

   “ALL RIGHT!” House pumped his hand in the air and leaned over to me. “I‟m also good in police negotiations.”
Somehow, I believed him…I don‟t know why.

    “THIS IS GREAT!” James exclaimed as he eagerly leaned forward and looked through the front window then looked
at me. “We should take you everywhere – how do you do it? Every time we go somewhere we get into dramatic and
interesting circumstances. I seem to have the most fun when you are around. WHOO HOO!” James shouted.

    House snarked, “OUTSIDE the bedroom, you mean.”

     “THAT you will never know.” James snarked back but before House could respond we pulled up to the bank, which
was surrounded by barricades and about 10 different police cars, not to mention the news crews yards away. The
officers were so eager to get on the scene they neglected to warn us to stay in the car, so we jumped out, hiding beh ind
the police cars. It was eerily quiet (except for the police and news choppers flying above), but from what little
conversation we could hear the negotiations weren‟t going well and they were at a stalemate.

    “What are we going to do?” I whispered from behind the protection of James and House. I was too afraid to speak
any louder.

    “Wait, I guess. Can‟t do anything else.” James whispered back as he held my shoulders.

    “The h*** we can‟t,” House whispered and began to remove his arm from my waist, but I stopped him. He gave me
a quizzical look.

    “What do you think you are doing?” I asked him, shocked yet not shocked at the same time.

    “I‟m going to make tea. You want some?” he snarked as he rolled his eyes and again began to move away. “I‟m
going to reason with them.”

    “REASON?!?” James loudly whispered. “House reason? That‟s not possible.”

     “OH SHUT UP!” House loudly whispered as he slowly limped, since he was without his cane, unnoticed, to an open
police car. He locked himself inside, grabbed the microphone and began speaking, allowing his words to be heard in a 5-
block radius, not to mention the whole city.
*****
   “Greetings bad guys in the bank! My name is Dr. Gregory House.” He began and looked over at me. My mouth hung
open and I mouthed “GET OUT OF THERE…PLEASE!” then sat back and cringed, waiting to hear what he‟d say.

   “Somebody get that guy out of the car!” an officer, the one that looked to be in charge, yelled to anyone within
hearing distance.

   House continued. “If you bad guys don‟t mind, there are normal people here with normal lives. Have you boys ever
considered therapy?”

   I looked over at James who wore a “Am I really hearing this?” expression. Then I got an idea. Standing up, I said to
James, “James, wait here.”

     “Wha…” he began but I left before he could finish. Since House and the bank distracted everyone, I was able to
sneak over to another open police car, shut the doors, locked them and grab the microphone. “House, shut your mouth.
You‟re just talking to hear yourself talk.” I could see everyone turn towards me then I looked towards the bank. Three
masked men with guns were looking out the window; their hostages were huddled together, looking out another window.
Both hostages and bad guys were clearly flabbergasted at the unfolding events. “I see there are 3 of you bad guys with
really big guns…and about 10 hostages. Don‟t you know that things are about to get really ugly here if you don‟t
cooperate?” I asked over the microphone.

    “How did SHE get a microphone? You officers need to secure your cars!” the exasperated officer in charge barked at
everyone, but no one was listening because House chose THAT MOMENT to get on the horn.

    “Ms. Wellington, you are just upset because you know you want to sleep with me but you‟re too much of a
Puritan…won‟t sleep with me unless we get married. If anyone deserves to commit a crime it‟s me!” House bellyached
over the loudspeaker. “The way this woman leads me on...it‟s like waving a t-bone steak in front of a pit bull…and she
expects me to RESPECT her for it! Boy, are YOU delusional!”

     “Yeah, everyone at the hospital feels REAL sorry for you. Besides, I‟m sure the judge would give a Vicodin -addicted,
selfish, manipulative b****rd leniency for robbing a bank because of his RAGING HORMONES. Bad guys, do you really
want to end up like the doctor here, lonely, bitter, and addicted to pills and soap operas? In this pathetic doctor‟s case,
the judge would have to look deep, deep, DEEP (major exaggeration here) down inside to find some good. I bet he
could find it…after all, even Darth Vader had good in him, so I guess there‟s hope for Dr. House.” I said, totally
exasperated and completely humiliated he would mention something that personal in front of the entire city.

    “I AM YOUR FATHER!” came his response that, despite the seriousness of the situation, caused people to chuckle
nervously. I once again looked at the bank and saw the bad guys conversing and waving their guns in the air, every so
often looking out the window at the officers. Just as I was about to say something, the bank doors opened and all ten
hostages were released.

    As a group walked by my police car, I opened the window and asked, “Why did they let you go?”

    A handsome young man said, “One of them said he hoped it would shut you two up.”

     Just as I was about to comment, I looked over and saw a figure, dressed from head to toe in a black bomb squad
protective suit, carrying a flamethrower, walking towards the bank. The figure stopped about 12 feet from the entrance.
“SHUT UP YOU TWO! THIS ISN‟T A PARTYLINE. LET ME HANDLE THIS!” another voice rang out over the loud speaker.
It came from the man in the suit…

    “JIMMY! What the h*** are you doing?” House‟s obviously shocked voice came over the loudspeaker.

   “Handling the situation,” he stated as he walked toward the entrance of the bank. “Ok, bad guys, come out with
your hands up!” I looked inside the bank and saw, even with the ski masks on, the astonishment on the faces of the bad
guys…but they were too stupid to do what they were told.

    “I said, come out with your hands up!” no response. “Fine…if you won‟t cooperate…” and, with that, James ignited
the flamethrower but it was too far away to do any damage. The bad guys were frozen in their spots.
    “Again James!” I encouraged over the loudspeaker. James moved about six feet forward and ignited the flames
again, but it still didn‟t do anything to encourage the bad guys out of the bank.

     “Bad guys,” House came on again. “I would like you to meet James, the man with the flamethrower. He just got
fired from the post office this morning and he‟s not in a good mood. If you wish to…” but he was cut short when all
three bad guys walked out with their hands, and weapons, up.

     “WE GIVE! WE GIVE! Just take us out of this circus!” the obvious ringleader pleaded as swarms of SWAT team
members who, just several seconds before, watched the entire affair with fascination and a bit of humor took them down.
I glanced at the news reporters, but they, along with their camera operators, just stood there, mouths open in utter
amazement.

    “Well, House, I think we made the national nightly news. How did I sound?” I asked.

    “Completely smart…and absolutely obnoxious. Now I‟m completely turned on. See that everyone? See what she‟s
doing to me?”

    “SHUT UP YOU TWO! It might be better, for the entire city, if you just had sex. So…GET A ROOM!” James
exclaimed, clearly frustrated.

    I heard a knock on the window and looked up to see Officer Hotstuff…and he didn‟t look too happy. „Uh-oh,‟ I
thought and dragged myself out of the car.
*****
  When I stepped out of the squad car, Hotstuff (why can‟t I call him by his name, Tony or Hoffman?) was still frowning
and I didn‟t see any way of changing the situation, only by saying, “House started it.”

    “I know he did…but you didn‟t finish it.” He looked at me sternly and I didn‟t know what to do…other than cry. So
that‟s what I did.

   “Oh my…Ms. Wellington I‟m…” Hotstuff was obviously uncomfortable, but he did the only thing a good officer would
do…he held me until I finished.

    “Don‟t coddle her…it‟ll only encourage her.” We both heard the gruff voice of House and turned around, where we
found him frowning at our little scene. Embarrassed, I stepped away from Hotstuff. “She‟ll keep doing it because she‟ll
know a handsome officer will be there to comfort her. Just stop it.” I suddenly became angry and did the first thing I
could think of…I slapped House across the face then walked off to cool down. Meanwhile…

   Hotstuff looked at House. “You deserved that, you know. Why do you hate Ms. Wellington? What did she do to
you?” Hotstuff narrowed his eyes at House.

    House narrowed his right back. “I don‟t hate her…not at all. I think I love her.” He snapped. “But did you happen
to hear the entire conversation we just had?”

   “Is this really all about sex?” House squirmed uncomfortably and Hotstuff studied him. “It‟s not, is it? It‟s about a
beautiful woman beating you at your own game…and as much as you hate it, you love it because she‟s not some „stupid‟
woman. She‟s got brains behind that beauty.” House rolled his eyes but didn‟t deny it. Realization dawned on Hotstuff
and his eyes went wide.

     “You knew, from the very beginning, that you wanted to sleep with her. You probably even made sure she knew it,
flaunted it in her face. But you never intended for any more than that. Now, this woman has you over a barrel. You‟ve
never been in this situation because you‟ve always gotten your way, haven‟t you? Now it‟s become more than a
hormonal thing. You respect the woman, as much as you can anyway. And, even if you do want to marry her, that
would still mean you were giving in, which would require admitting defeat…and you couldn‟t stand that. You are willing
to risk all chance for happiness because you don‟t want to lose this game…and that‟s all this is, isn‟t it? A very cruel
game in which both players lose if you don‟t choose to be happy and marry her. It‟s really very sad.” House was
watching Hotstuff the entire time…and amazed he knew all that.

    A moment later, House smiled and asked, “You‟ve been talking to Cuddy, haven‟t you?”
     Instead of addressing House‟s comment, Hotstuff turned to the officers milling around: “Everyone, gather round. I‟d
like you to meet two of the Troublesome Trio: Dr. Gregory House and Ms. Haley Wellington. This is the gang infamous
for the „Hand Grenade High Speed Chase‟.”

    A rumble of surprise and awe went through the crowd. “Really? Tell us about the chase!”

    Sitting in a nearby squad car, I could see House‟s face fill with pride. “Let me tell you, as much as you‟d like to think
it was all three of us, it was actually all me.”

     I shook my head. Looking down, I found House‟s cane and realized I was in the squad car we came in. I started
twirling, thinking about what actually happened during that busy hour. “Is this seat taken?” I looked over and saw Mr.
Flamethrower standing at the door. I smiled and shook my head. He sat down and studied me. I put the cane down,
turned my body to him and slapped him full on the face. “OWWW!” he yelped, holding his cheek, watching me with a
look of shock. “Why did you do that?”

   “YOU COULD‟VE KILLED YOURSELF! WHY DID YOU DO THAT? AND HOW DID YOU KNOW HOW TO USE A
FLAMETHROWER?” I yelled at him, not knowing what else to do.

    Giving his cheek one last soothing rub, he continued watching me. “Actually I was winging it. I‟ve never handled
one of those before today. Besides, well, someone had to shut both of you up so we could get the bad guys out of the
bank. At least you got the hostages out…and now your love life, which I wouldn‟t even call it that…is being broadcasted
over the national news. Bet this wasn‟t what you were expecting when you got the phone call this morning.”

     I looked down and shook my head. “James, I knew we would be going to the police station today because I had
made a deal with Officer Hoffman: if he would be at the fashion show, then I would get all three of us down to the
station and regale the officers with the details of the high speed chase. Seems we‟re legends down there.”

   “So the „filing a new report‟ was a ruse to get us down to the precinct?” I nodded. “Wow…it worked. But you
seemed genuinely surprised when you got to the hospital this morning. What‟s with that?”

     “I didn‟t realize Lisa would surprise me in that way. She made it sound like there was an emergency.” I stopped
talking and we were silent for a moment. “James, what are you going to tell Alison?”

     James sighed heavily. “I don‟t know. Things are so great between us…and we just started getting, um…” he paused
and looked at me. I encouraged him with my eyes…but I knew what he was going to say. I just wanted to hear him say
it. “…intimate. She‟s going to FLIP when she hears…”

     RING RING! James‟ cell phone interrupted our conversation. He pulled it out and, when he read the caller ID, sighed
and closed his eyes. Plastering on a smile, he answered. “Hi Alison…yes that was us…it‟s on CNN? Fox News? MSNBC?
MTV News?…wow! Yes that was me…” James held the phone away from his ear and I could hear Alison yelling. For five
minutes, he periodically broke into her ranting with, “Honey, I‟m ok.” “Nobody was hurt.” “No, House did NOT put me
up to that.” Grinning at that, I decided to exit the car and, grabbing House‟s cane, I stood against the car and began
twirling his cane like a baton.

   “You are pretty good at that. Let me guess: were you a band majorette in high school?” I looked over and saw
House limping over to my side, watching me as I threw the cane up and caught it one handed.

    “Yep. I had the short majorette uniform and everything. I must say, I looked pretty good…and I think I still have
the outfit somewhere.” I continued twirling for a moment, no one saying a word. “House, be honest with me: what were
you and Officer Hoffman discussing back there?” I stopped twirling and turned to House, who was watching his cane in
my hand.

    “Give me back my cane.”

    “Not until you answer me.”

    “Aww, do I have to?” he whined, five-year-old style. “Can‟t you just stay blissfully ignorant?”
     The side of my mouth quirked in a grin. “Never mind…I‟ve got a pretty good idea.” And, handing him the cane, I
turned back to the car. I peeked inside, where James had apparently calmed Alison down, because he didn‟t have to yell
in the phone. “James? Can I speak to Alison a moment?”

   James turned to me and, with a dumb look on his face, nodded, handing me the phone. “Alison? It‟s Haley.”
Looking at House, he was watching me with a curious look. I stuck my tongue out at him and walked away, leaving
House asking in mock astonishment, “Did you see what she did James! She‟s got some nerve.”

   “Haley? Are you all right? You‟re little situation is all over the news…and I‟m sorry about you and House. Talking
about airing dirty laundry. But you‟re sure you‟re ok?”

    “I‟m fine. I‟m just asking if you‟ll be ready for your photo? It‟s today, in the Coma patient‟s room, at 3:00. Are you
up to it?”

    “Absolutely. Now I have something to tell him. His name is Roger, by the way. „Coma patient‟ or „Coma guy‟ seems
so impersonal.”

    I smiled. “All right.” I turned around and saw Hotstuff walking to the car. “Alison, I‟ve got to let you go. We‟re
FINALLY going to the precinct, like originally planned. Time to fill out a police report. See you at 3:00.” I slapped the
phone shut and walked back to the police car, stepping up to the closest backseat door. I looked inside and, seeing both
guys sitting inside, I sighed. Unfortunately, House was sitting on the side I was standing at and I couldn‟t get in. “House,
get out. I‟ve got to get in.”

    House just studied me and shook his head. “Nope. You‟ve got to crawl over me…and don‟t go around. James won‟t
get out either. Afraid I might do something?” he wiggled his eyebrows and I rolled my eyes.

   “Ok, here I come…” I stepped inside, my butt facing him and, just as I was to sit down, he pinched it, making me
squeal and fall in the seat between both guys, who were both attempting to contain their laughter.

    “Oh, welcome to h***,” I muttered as we pulled away.
*****
   Three hours later, Hotstuff pulled up to the hospital‟s front entrance. “Well, lady and gentlemen, it‟s been
interesting…and to think, you signed autographs for the guys at the station. You folks are celebrities…what are you
going to do?”

    “I‟m going to DISNEY WORLD!” House snarked as he stepped out of the car.

    “I‟m going back to the hotel and get ready for my next photo shoot.” I said as I got out. I stepped up to Hotstuff‟s
window, leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Thanks for not pressing charges.” I whispered. He smiled and shrugged.
“You folks handled the situation…just in a way we cops DON‟T prefer.” I smiled and turned to House, who was waiting
by the hospital doors, watching our entire exchange. I smirked then walked to him. When I got to his side, I stood up
on tiptoes and pecked his mouth, which completely surprised him. “What was that for?” he groused at me.

    I shrugged. “Looked like you needed a kiss…but you don‟t deserve it. You‟re still a selfish, manipulative b****rd.
But, then, even selfish, manipulative b****rds need love.” I turned from him and waited for James. I giggled as I
watched him bounce out of the car.

    “What about you Dr. Wilson?” Hotstuff asked him before pulling out of the parking lot.

    “I think I need some liquor.” James turned to House. “Got any?”

   “Of course. The bar‟s open. What about you Haley? I bet you don‟t drink, do you? Against Girl Scout regulations,
huh?” House raised his eyebrow in a “Let‟s see how you explain that one?” look.

    I grinned. “Sorry to burst your bubble but I don‟t drink. I never did.” I turned and took a step to walk into the
hospital when I heard House ask quietly, “It‟s because of your father, isn‟t it?” I stopped and slowly turned around.
House‟s face was bowed low as he watched the cane he was bouncing go up and down against the hard pavement of the
sidewalk. From what I could see, there wasn‟t arrogance or mocking written on the face he was so desperate to hide
from me: it was sympathy, perhaps even righteous anger. Not quite knowing how to handle this situation, I looked at
James, who, along with Hotstuff, was watching the scene with curiosity. I finally returned my gaze to House, who hadn‟t
moved.

     “You heard me that night on the roof, didn‟t you?” I asked just loud enough for all three to hear. House didn‟t de ny
it so it was probably true. “You heard me tell Robert about my drunk of a father, the man who beat me senseless, the
man I could never bear to disappoint.” I lifted my hands in defeat and chuckled ironically, attempting to hold the hot,
hateful tears at bay. ('WHY AM I EVEN CRYING? I DIDN'T CRY WHEN I WAS TALKING WITH ROBERT. IS IT BECAUSE
IT'S HOUSE? AND WHAT'S PROMPTING ALL THESE RANDOM THOUGHTS?!? I HAVEN'T HAD THESE RANDOM
THOUGHTS IN AWHILE...I KIND OF MISS THEM. MAKES ME THINK OF THE TIME...') I gave myself a mental head slap
to release the idiot controlling my brain waves and returned to the task at hand.

     “Turns out, my father never cared enough about me to be disappointed in the first place.” I tilted my head suddenly,
as if my father were slapping me all over again.

    “The irony is…I loved him and still do. He was my father even if he took practice swings at us. I guess that‟s why
I‟m drawn to selfish men,” I looked at House then, who regarded me with an almost irritated curiosity. “Perhaps one of
only a handful of explanations as to why I love you, House…and I do. Your incredible blue eyes help.” I turned back
around and walked to Lisa‟s office, successfully ending the conversation and keeping my tears in my eyes, all at the same
time.

    After an interesting chat with Lisa, I left the hospital, happy to have successfully avoided House. Rushing home, I
replayed that entire conversation in my mind, resulting in a wet steering wheel and blurry eyes when I reached the hotel
parking lot. I took a few moments to collect myself, but the tears kept coming. „You can‟t stay in this car…you‟ve got a
job to do. NO DISTRACTIONS, REMEMBER?‟ Funny...I had forgotten what I swore I'd never forget...NO DISTRACTIONS!
NO DISTRACTIONS!

    "Which is why I'm a blubbering mess!" I muttered into the empty car.

    The mental pep talk worked and I staggered out the car, towards the entrance. I was so busy concentrating on my
tears I failed to notice the lone figure leaning against the wall next to my door…and I tripped headlong into the hard
body.

     “OOF!” the body grunted. His hands caught me around the waist, holding me up. „I‟d know those hands
anywhere…I feel them every night in my dreams…‟ I shivered as I quickly thought of what those hands were capable of…
“Hey…watch where you‟re going!” that gruff voice that infiltrated deep into my nightly sleep caused my stomach to
flip…and my thoughts to crash back to earth. I straightened up but didn‟t step out of his embrace, which, a ccompanied
by the tears, made me as limp as a wet noodle. Breathing deeply, I wiped my eyes and sighed.

    “House, what do you want…to go for a round of verbal boxing?” my voice quivered. “We could. You'd probably win
that...I‟d just kick your butt if we ever physically fought.” „Step away from McDreamy.'

  'MCDREAMY?!?! What the h*** was that? Somehow I must be thinking about McDonalds or something. Anyway,
what an odd nickname.' I shook my head to clear it of all those ridiculous thoughts.

   I reluctantly stepped out of his embrace and shot him an exasperated “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” look.

    He leaned against the wall and gave me an apologetic look. “Did you mean to compare me with your father?” he
quietly asked, seemingly scared to hear the answer.

    “Yes,” came my quiet but reluctant answer.

   “You know I would NEVER hit you…or anyone. Funny…people are always hitting ME. I haven‟t the faintest idea
why.” He shook his head in absolute confusion.

    I sniffed but didn‟t say anything. House offered me his shirt sleeve but I declined. 'How cute is that?'

   “I know. But you are as driven as he was; you have your job, he had that whole town. He had his own personal
inner demons; you have your leg. While he used alcohol to cure his pain, you use Vicodin. Unfortunately, when the
alcohol stopped working, he stopped being a father…come to think of it, he never was a father…just the man who
brought home the bacon.
    He wanted to be everything to everyone. You‟re like that: you want to be the one, the only one, with all the
answers. You want to solve the medical problems by yourself, only, once they are solved, you don‟t want the glory; you
turn into a turtle and go inside yourself. While I think humility is extremely sexy, I think you are just being a coward, too
afraid to face life, too afraid to live it. You, Dr. Gregory House, act like an enigma but I've got your number.” I looked at
my watch. “House, I‟ve gotta take a shower and get ready. I‟m going back to the hospital for Alison‟s photo.”

    During my speech, House hadn‟t taken his eyes off me: he was digesting all I was saying. “How about I wait here for
you and…” he paused then looked down the hall. “…and you can drive the bike back. What do you say?” I literally took
a step back in surprise. For all the unpleasant things I just said, he didn‟t leave in a huff…very intriguing.

   “Um, ok. Do you want to wait inside, visit with George? I know he misses you. Just the other day he was telling me
how much he misses General Hospital.”

    House leaned forward, leaving only about six inches between us. “You mean, while you are in the
bathroom…all…naked…and…wet…and…naked?” he whispered but he sounded rather, um, nervous.

    “Yes House, that is how you take a shower…without clothes. Is that going to be a problem for you?”

    “Nope, nope.” He quickly recovered. “I‟ve seen my share of naked, wet women.”

    “I‟m sure you have. Come on.”

*****
    I ushered House into the room. “Sit down, watch TV with George.” I looked at my watch and saw it was 1:55 p.m.
“You‟re in luck…General Hospital starts in five minutes.”

    “ROLF! ROLF!” George was barking from his kennel on the other side of the room.

     “Ok, ok, I‟m coming boy.” I opened his kennel and he jumped on me, obviously happy to see me. After receiving a
kiss and a tummy rub, he looked around my legs and saw House. Baying happily he bounded over to House (George was
just so cute…huge ears flapping, eyes wide, mouth open, tongue hanging out. Life doesn‟t get any better than that, does
it?) who was sitting on the bed with the remote control.

    “Hey George! Come on up…General Hospital‟s on! A lot has happened since we last watched together.” George
pulled himself up on the bed and laid his head on House‟s good leg. House stroked his ears as he searched for the
appropriate channel. I shook my head in amusement…and my heart leapt with joy. It never failed to amaze me how my
favorite man (George) took to the man who had stolen my heart (House). Still thinking about George and House, I
began my shower.

    Turning off the water, I rubbed the water out of my eyes and opened the shower curtain…and finally realized I had
become so distracted I forgot my clothes! “Oh no,” I muttered under my breath. I knew I had to go out there…where
House was…wearing only a tiny hotel towel. „You‟ve gotta get dressed and you can‟t ask him to hand you
clothes…though you wouldn‟t mind him touching your underwear…STOP IT HALEY! Get a grip! You‟ll just have to go out
there.‟ I coached myself.

    “At least George won‟t make a scene,” I muttered. I took a deep breath and, securing the towel as best as possible,
walked out of the bathroom, shoulder-length hair dripping water everywhere. Unfortunately, I chose a commercial to
make my exit and House unglued his eyes from the TV. When he saw what I was wearing, his eyes darkened noticeably
to a deep ocean blue. His eyes traveled over my body, stopping at strategic parts. He even moved his head around,
attempting to get a better view. I rolled my eyes at his complete lack of decorum.

   “Typical man,” I announced as I crossed my arms in front of my chest. Unfortunately that did nothing but hike the
towel up, alluding to the possibility of even more. House, never one to miss a detail, tilted his head in an attempt to get
another look, his right eyebrow hitting the ceiling.

    “Not bad Ms. Wellington. If you wanted me to look at that mole, all you had to do was say so but this will work too.”
He rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
    I rolled my eyes. “Not gonna happen buster. I forgot my clothes. I could tell you to turn around, but I know you
won‟t, so you‟d better get a good look.” I rushed to the bureau, withdrew my undergarments, and grabbed a sundress
from the closet.

    Just as I walked by House on my way back to the bathroom, his cane shot out in front of me, stopping me in my
tracks. I looked down at him and saw his regarding look: an odd mixture of confusion and ease (See what I mean…the
guy‟s an enigma.) He slowly stood up never taking his eyes off my face. Out of the corner of my right eye I saw
movement: his fingers took hold of a wet red curl, smoothing it between his rough fingers, causing my scalp to tingle.
My breath caught as he moved his left hand into the wet mass of hair, slowly rubbing my scalp, turning my knees to Jell-
O. Leaning closer, he inhaled the clean, sweet scent of my newly washed hair. “Mmmm…” I softly sighed involuntarily.

    “You know I‟d never hurt you, don‟t you?” he asked in a soft pleading tone. No earthly device could have torn my
eyes from those endless pools of pleading blue. Before I could respond George interrupted with a “ROLF! ROLF!” House
sighed and closed his eyes, then turned his head but left his hand in my hair. We both saw George stretched up, his
paws on the TV and his head turned to us, as if to say, “Look. The commercial is over.” House looked back at me.
VERY RELUCTANTLY he released me and stepped back, never removing his eyes. I hugged the towel closer, perhaps for
security, and scrambled into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. I collapsed on the floor and started shaking, his
touch still burned into my scalp and his breath still warm on my face. Once composed I clothed myself and left, walking
out just as the soap‟s credits were rolling across the screen.

    Still unable to deal with what just happened, I ignored House and grabbed my cell phone off the hall table. “Alison?
Hey, it‟s Haley. Listen, with everything that happened this morning, I‟m going to be about a half an hour late. Is that ok
with you?”

    “Sure. Is everything ok?”

    “No, not really. Later.”

  She seemed to understand because she said, “Alright. I‟ll see you soon.” I slapped my phone shut and took a
moment to compose myself. Plastering on a robotic smile I turned to House.

    “Ready? I need to grab my camera and a couple of hand lights. Will they be able to fit on the cycle?” I fluttered
around, trying to calm my anxious system.

    “Of course.”

    After gathering my equipment, I knelt beside George, who was regarding us with a confused gaze. “Yes, boy, we are
leaving. I‟m sorry…maybe Uncle Greggy can come back soon.” I gave George a thorough rubdown, then moved away so
House could say goodbye.

    “Bye buddy. I‟ll definitely see you later.” He leaned over and whispered something I couldn‟t hear, then led George
to his kennel and locked it. Standing up, he smirked at me. “Love that dress…you can see right through it.”

    I leered back. “Is that your idea of winning friends and influencing people? Keep working on it. Great effort
though.” I made a sweeping motion toward the door as if to say “After you.”; the gloating smirk he gave me said,
“Nah…I‟d much rather follow you.” I crossed my arms and tapped my foot in impatience. Shaking his head in triumph
(presumably because he THOUGHT got to me) he limped ahead of me and I followed, locking the door behind me.

         When we got to the parking lot, I found room for my equipment in the saddlebags. He tossed me a helmet and
waited until I mounted the bike to settle on himself. He wrapped his arms around me and placed his hands between my
legs, resting them on the seat just as he did on our last date. The only difference is that now I was INCREDIBLY close to
relenting and letting him take me to his place…to get better acquainted. But he didn‟t know this and I wasn‟t about to
tell him…what he doesn‟t know won‟t hurt him, right?

    Just as I started the bike, his thumbs found my thighs and began drawing circles in a soft caressing motion. I sighed,
took a deep breath (thereby depleting all the oxygen I had in my helmet…that was why I was lightheaded, right?) and we
were off.
*****
FLASHBACK FIVE MINUTES: House leaned over and whispered to George, “Pretty soon I won‟t be Uncle Greggy. Since
Haley is Mommy, I will soon be Daddy. Count on it buddy.” He led George to his kennel and locked it.
*****
     By the time we arrived at the hospital I was a nervous wreck…my legs tingled from his contact…my head swam from
lightheadedness…my nerves were on edge. Not the condition you want to be in when going in to work. Finding enough
brainpower to put a cohesive thought together, I parked and, setting the kickstand, I turned off the bike. Removing the
helmet I shook out my hair in a very supermodelist move to relieve helmet hair. I looked behind me and noticed House
was still on the bike, though his helmet was off. He was just staring at me.

    “House, the ride has come to a complete stop. You may unfasten your seatbelt and dangle your hands over the side.
Loose objects don‟t have to be secured.” I snarked in an effort to get his attention. It didn‟t work. “HELLO! EARTH TO
DR. HOUSE!”

   “OH! Sorry!” House snapped out of his trance. “I was having a sexually explicit impure thought about you…on a
beach…with nothing but…”

   “STOP!” I exclaimed as I got off the bike and turned to see his leering gaze. Rolling my eyes I bent down and
removed my equipment and purse from the saddlebags. “Dr. House, it‟s been interesting but, unfortunately, I‟m going to
have to cut this extremely enlightening conversation short. I do have a job to do.”

    I tossed him the motorcycle keys and walked away, leaving behind a dramatically loud, quite exasperated sigh
emitting from the bike‟s general direction. Entering the hospital, I hit the button on the elevator and went straight for the
Diagnostics conference room in search of Alison. I found her there in a heated discussion with James.

    „Oh, great‟ I thought as I stood outside the conference room. „this picture should be an absolute blast.‟

    “I can‟t believe you‟d put yourself in that kind of danger!” Alison yelled at James, though it was muffled to everyone
outside the conference room. “I don‟t know what I‟d do if I lost you!”

   Deciding to interrupt, I pushed the door open and smiled that the lovers. “Hello everyone! Alison, are you ready for
your photo?”

    Alison smiled weakly at me then turned to James. “Please…please be careful. I love you, you know.” James‟ eyes
went wide and his mouth dropped as Alison turned to me. “Let‟s go. I haven‟t said hi to Roger in awhile. I‟ve got a lot
to catch him up on.” And, with that, we walked out of the conference room and jumped on the elevator, before James
could so much as blink.
*****
    As the elevator doors closed, Alison turned to me. Tears streamed down her cheeks and I enfolded her in a
comforting hug. “Alison? Are you ok?” She shook her head no.

    “I love him, Haley, and I can‟t bear to see him in a situation that could get him hurt. Granted, when he is the hero,
he is INCREDIBLY sexy. Oh, what do I do?”

    “Alison,” I patted her back in an attempt to make her feel better. “I‟m not Dear Abby. I can‟t tell you how to
proceed in your relationship. But what I can tell you is yelling probably isn‟t the best approach to dealing with your man.
You can‟t hold them back from doing anything…you just have to trust him. He does love you and he does know you
care…especially since you just told him how you felt. Just take each day as it comes. Don‟t spend too much time looking
ahead, because each day is a gift. Trust me.”

    DING! Just as the elevator stopped at our destination, she stepped away from me with a weak smile. The doors
opened to find Alison wiping her tears and me patting her arm like the person who really couldn‟t do anything else to
help. Holding her head high, she led us to Roger‟s room. As I began setting up lights and opening windows, Alison
pulled up a chair beside Roger‟s bed.

    “Good afternoon Roger! Well, we had some excitement around here today. My friend Haley, the photographer doing
the calendar, Dr. House and Dr. Wilson were all involved in a bank hostage standoff and they got the hostages and the
bank robbers out of the bank! I saw everything on CNN…it was rather exciting, but I was so anxious for them.”
    Alison turned to me and smiled, but continued her conversation with Roger. “Roger, this is my friend Haley. She is
doing the hospital calendar: The Doctors of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. She hasn‟t been here long but she is
already part of our family.”

    I smiled and, putting down my light meter, I walked over to his bedside. Looking down at the peaceful face of the
man who was probably in his middle sixties, I smiled wider. “Hello Roger. It‟s wonderful to finally meet you. I‟ve heard
such nice things about you.” I stepped away and finished my preparations. It didn‟t take very long since the room was
already rather bright and cheery. “Ok, Alison, I‟m ready. Just act like I‟m not here.”

     I began snapping pictures and Alison began her discussion. “Roger, I just don‟t know what to do. I love this guy and
I think he loves me back but he‟s got this friend that is completely obnoxious, who gets him in the oddest of situations. I
used to like his friend but he loves someone else.” Alison briefly looked up at me and I knew she was referring to me. I
smirked and rolled my eyes, then walked to the other side of the room for another angle.

    “Anyway, the only problem I see is that he‟s been divorced 3 times. He‟s a wonderful man but I don‟t know if I
should be concerned. I mean, what could cause a man to cheat on ALL THREE wives?” Alison didn‟t see my mouth drop.
„He cheated on ALL THREE wives?‟ I asked myself. „He just doesn‟t seem like the type of guy to do that. It doesn‟t
change what I think about him, probably because I‟m not dating him. But, still, wow.‟

     “I can‟t control how I feel. James is…amazing. He‟s romantic, funny, sexy. And when we‟re alone…he‟s so gentle,
loving. He seems to know EXACTLY how to please me.” „Of course he‟d know…he‟s had a lot of experience pleasing
women…‟ I thought rather bitterly. „Why does this upset me?‟ I asked myself, rather surprised. „It could be because I‟ve
always been a romantic…you know, one man for every woman, that I was created for one special man out there. Could
House be that one man for me??? Mmm…‟ I decided to stop thinking before I completely botch up what I was being
paid to do.

   “Maybe I should just take it slow…what do you think?” I heard Alison ask Roger but, of course, not receiving an
answer, she nodded her head anyway. “We can keep going how we are…maybe we‟ll be able to work out why he‟s doing
what he‟s doing.”

    By this time I had snapped dozens of photos and knew we were covered. After all, if we don‟t get the picture we
need, we can always re-shoot, right? At this point, I thought he probably wasn‟t going anywhere, so I felt pretty
confident that a re-shoot wouldn‟t be too hard.

    I put down my camera and began winding the film. My head was bowed but I opened my mouth to tell Alison we
were finished, when I was interrupted by a faint “So you like Dr. Wilson now instead of Dr. House? What happened?”
from the bed.

    My head popped up and my mouth dropped…Roger woke up! “OH MY GOSH!” Alison shrieked with happiness and
confusion. “Roger! You‟re awake!” Alison stood up and began checking his vitals. Without looking at me, Alison barked,
“Go get some nurses and call Cuddy. She‟s his attending. She needs to be here.” I nodded and, quickly laying down my
camera, I ran out to the nurse‟s station. “Roger! He‟s awake!” I was so excited my words came out in short
exclamations.

   The nurses stared at me like I had just declared the sky was falling but, given my quite insistent face, came running
anyway. When they saw that, indeed, he was awake, they began working in amazed intensity. I grabbed the nearest
phone and asked the remaining nurse for Lisa‟s extension.

    “This is Dr. Cuddy.”

    “Lisa! It‟s Haley! Roger just woke from his coma!”

    “Are you serious?” Lisa‟s voice held a bit of urgency mixed with disbelief.

     “Of course I‟m serious! I wouldn‟t joke about this! Just come up to his room!” I slammed the phone back down and
ran back into the room, where they stopped working because, apparently, Roger was in excellent shape for just coming
out a 2-year coma. Roger was smiling at Alison, who turned to me when I came back in. “Roger, this is Haley. Haley,
this is Roger.”
    Roger weakly smiled. “House was right…she is a fox. No wonder he‟s in love with her.” My mouth dropped as I
looked at Alison, who was just as surprised. Before anyone could comment, Lisa came running in the room.

    “Roger! You are awake! How are you?” Lisa examined Roger for a few minutes then stepped back, jaw dropped,
eyes wide, amazement and confusion written all over her face. “What happened? I can‟t find any reason, so far, why
you woke up right now.”

   He smiled again. “It could be because every doctor in this hospital talks to me. I think my mind just couldn‟t hold
anymore. Lately it‟s been mostly about Haley.” Everyone looked at me. My mouth dropped in shock and confusion.

    “ME?!?!!? I haven‟t been here very long and this is the first time we‟ve met. Why me?”

    “Because, in case you haven‟t noticed, you have become a fixture at this place.” Lisa smiled then moved back into
doctor mode. “Ok, everyone, let‟s get him an MRI and run the necessary tests. Tomorrow we‟re having a party and
everyone‟s invited!”

   I backed out of the room so they could get Roger to the testing floor. Alison came to me and said, “Look, Haley.
You can bring coma patients back! You really must have a touch!”

    I rolled my eyes at that nonsense. “Yeah, right. Listen, will you be available around 8:00 tonight?? The photos will
be ready by then. I can‟t do it tomorrow, since I‟m shooting two photos here at the hospital. Or is 8:00 too late??”

    Alison shook her head. “Nope. James has to work late, so I was going to work late tonight. I better go, but I‟ll see
you then, ok?”

    I nodded and watched Alison run after the group with Roger. „Whoa…was it me? Do I have a touch?‟ I rolled my
eyes at my nonsense. “Of course not Haley. Get a grip.” And, shaking my head in wonderment, I took off down the
opposite direction. I sure had a lot to digest.
*****
    The next morning I dragged myself into the hospital. It had been a late night: first the meeting with Alison about the
pictures, then a meeting I wasn‟t prepared for. It all started after Alison and I finished our meeting, at around 9:00
p.m…

    “Thank you for coming by this late. I really appreciate it. I know you probably miss George. I would too if I had
such a great man in my life!” Alison smiled as we sat looking at the portfolio in the Diagnostics conference room.

     “But you do, Alison. James is great…he‟s just not perfect. There‟s no perfect person…just people with flaws we are
willing to live with.” I put the pictures away in my portfolio. “It‟s been a LONG day. First the bank situation, then Roger
wakes up. That was totally awesome!” I exclaimed.

    “It‟s about to get even longer,” another voice interrupted our conversation. We both turned to see House and Lisa
standing at the doorway, each with distressing looks on their faces. It was Lisa who spoke. “We are getting ready to
discharge Michael Cardwell tonight…and House informed me of your connection to him.”

     My face fell and I looked down at my hands. “I‟ve got to see him tonight, don‟t I?” I softly asked. Everyone was
silent for a few minutes then House said, “No…you never have to see him. Why are you going to? Do you have
something to prove?”

    I slowly looked up. “Yes. I need to prove to myself I won‟t take the crap that arrogant, mindless jerks dish out.” I
stood up and held myself tall. “Where is he?”

    “I‟ll show you.” House eyed me, then turned to the door.

    “NO!” I shouted, perhaps too loudly. Everyone jumped from my sudden outburst and House turned, surprised at my
reaction. I calmed and turned to Lisa. “Lisa, please show me to his room. House, you stay away.”

    “Are you sure?” Lisa asked, uncertainty written all over her face.
     “Absolutely.” I marched out the door, past Alison, who was watching me with pity; and past House, who had turned
his face from everyone. I walked to the elevator, but stopped when I heard the clip-clop of Lisa‟s heels and a “Stop!” as
she got to me.

    “He‟s on this floor. Follow me.” I took a deep breath then followed Lisa, wringing my hands as I went.
*****
    When we arrived outside his room I was relieved to see his blinds drawn. “Do you want me to come in with you?”
Lisa asked in a “Are you sure you really want to do this?” tone.

    “No, I‟ll be fine.” I answered in an “I don‟t have a choice: I have to do this” resigned tone. “But you might want to
keep a medical team on call. He could have a heart attack from seeing me, if he even remembers me.” Lisa gave me a
quick hug that surprised me then walked away. I took a deep breath, plastered on a fake smile then walked inside.

   He was sitting in bed, reading a magazine. When he heard someone walk in he asked, without looking up, “Abby,
baby, is that you?”

    “No Michael.” He looked up and, for five solid minutes, didn‟t recognize me. “Can I help you?” It was at that
moment I knew everything I needed to know: I hadn‟t been special to him (though I should‟ve already realized
it…thinking I may have been was perhaps just foolish thinking as a way to justify my broken heart.); I was, quite
possibly, just one of a string of mistresses (though, of course, I hadn‟t known it); and I was a fool: a stupid, naive fool. I
also realized that this closure thing really sucked.

    “You don‟t remember me, do you?” I fought to keep those angry, hurt, stupid, foolish tears from falling by pulling
myself tall, keeping my head high and balling my fists so tightly I thought I felt blood running from the nails digging in
the skin.

   Those few minutes of staring each other down were the longest in that longest day in my life. Realization finally
dawned and his jaw went slack. “Haley?!? Haley Wellington?!? What on earth are you doing here??”

    “I could ask you the same thing. I heard you were sick so I came by.”

    “How did you hear I was sick? I thought you lived on the West Coast.” He was studying me, watching my eyes, my
face, my every movement. I could see he was conscious of me and his previous attraction for me began to resurface. I
also knew it wouldn‟t work because I could only look on him with disgust. It was quite a change from the nervous
schoolgirl just a few minutes prior.

     “I‟m working on a project here for the hospital. I‟m a photographer.” I knew I couldn‟t let him see his effect on me
(that I wanted to be as far away from him as possible) so instead of standing way across the room I moved closer to
stand beside his bed. The closer I studied him, the quicker the memories and feelings came rushing back. I
remembered the feel of his dark curls when I ran my fingers through his hair; the strong arms that held me; those hands
that, for the first time, made me feel loved…and made me a woman. At that time I became nauseous: I just didn‟t
realize, at 20 years old, he was such a player. And, looking back, it was so obvious!

    Mentally shaking my head loose of those memories (while trying to subdue my approaching lunch) I looked him in
the eyes and asked, point blank, “So was it exciting, seeing other women while your pregnant wife was at home?”

   His wickedly charming smile fell away and he blanched…for only a few fleeting seconds. Then that appealing,
masculine, sexy man who could catch any woman he wanted (and usually did) quickly re-emerged. “Is that what this is
about?” he laughed arrogantly. “How could you possibly think I‟d stay with you? I can have any woman I want…and
usually do. But we did have fun, didn‟t we?”

    By that time I was seething. “Obviously it was so fun you had to use your minuscule brain to recall it…or me for th at
matter. I‟m surprised you don‟t have a headache.” Shaking my head in disgust, I continued. “If you really are God‟s gift
to women, as you seem to claim, why are you even married? Doesn‟t that cramp your style?”

    He smirked deeper and my lunch crept upwards, closer and closer to my mouth. “I married for her money. Besides,
I‟m a military man and gone a lot. What she doesn‟t know won‟t hurt her, right? She still doesn‟t know.” He laughed
triumphantly.
   In an effort to restrain myself from physically attacking him, I snapped back, “Is that the standard line you give all
your girlfriends?”

    His smile dropped, replaced with a look of irritation. He rolled his eyes. “I don‟t believe it…another moody,
possessive female. Sheesh. It‟s your fault you‟re upset …I was just enjoying myself. If you don‟t like that, that‟s just too
bad. Get a life.” He returned to his magazine, convinced he‟d beaten the “moody, possessive female”.

    That was the last straw…I made a conscious effort to strangle the living daylights out of him. So, as I was about to
lunge for his throat I heard a voice behind me, “Sweetheart, there you are!” I turned and saw House leaning against the
doorframe. His stance suggested curiosity but the blatant hatred in his eyes as he looked at Michael suggested he saw,
and heard, everything that occurred from the moment I walked into that room.

   “I was looking all over for you! What‟s going on?” he stepped further into the room and gathered me in his arms. I
knew then I was safe and the situation would be okay…House‟s arms always had that effect on me, along with the added
queasiness to my already nauseous belly. Unfortunately, my mind chose that next moment to take a tailspin and the
neurons in my brain weren‟t connecting. If I had to speak at that moment it would come out as a blubbering mess.

   But now, for some reason, since House was there my attitude toward Michael changed. In fact, I felt stronger and
was able to bring myself out of my physical, and moral, disgust. I had the world‟s greatest insulter in my corner. I felt
motivated…

    “You are involved with Dr. House, my doctor?”

   I looked over at Michael and saw the amazed look. I turned in House‟s arms so he was hugging me from behind. My
neurons quickly reconnected. “Surprised? I don‟t know why you should be.” I stroked House‟s arms as he nuzzled my
neck. “Did you think you spoiled me for other men that I would never be in a real relationship? Aren‟t you full of crap.”

    (Meanwhile, reader, my nerve endings were standing up; my breath was barely normal; and my neck was tingling
from his rough chin. If Michael hadn‟t been there, I would‟ve been in Heaven.)

    I watched Michael as the arrogant façade dropped and disgust filled his face. “Nah…I just thought that House could
do better than you, a scarred, ugly piece of crap.” I knew, at that point, Michael was grasping at straws, a futile attempt
to preserve his manhood, so I didn‟t take it personally. Taking mudslinging from a low-life like Michael was making you
even lower than the mudslinger.

    What he didn‟t realize was he made a serious mistake: I heard the sharp intake of breath from House. This usually
wasn‟t a sign for those on the receiving end. I felt his lips leave my neck and he stood straight up. Moving around me,
he approached the bed, fire blazing from his eyes. He opened his mouth to say something when I interjected:

    “Greg, honey, it‟s best not to kill him. I don‟t want to bring our baby to prison to visit Daddy because Daddy killed a
low-life piece of scum like Michael Cardwell.” House stopped and, turning to me, nodded, his eyes resting on my flat
stomach. He was as good an actor as I was!

    Michael‟s eyes went wide and his mouth went slack. “You‟re knocked up?”

   “House, I think you‟ve got competition for the title of Captain Obvious. Of course…that‟s one result of having sex.
How many of your girlfriends have you impregnated?”

    Michael narrowed his eyes but didn‟t say anything. Deciding I‟d had enough of this discussion, I walked to House.
“Let‟s go to dinner. Baby‟s hungry.” House‟s mouth quirked in obvious admiration for my acting abilities. He nodded
then walked over to me and took my hand, lacing his fingers through mine. We made our way to the door when I
suddenly turned to Michael who obviously wasn‟t happy his arrogance hadn‟t ruled the day.

    “Oh, and Michael? Great talking with you. I would say we should do this again but I never want to see you again.
Oh! And if your wife somehow manages to find out about your, um, indiscretions, then I‟m apologizing right now. I‟m
sorry.” Smirking I walked out the door with a grinning House, leaving a swearing Michael behind in his hospital bed.

    As we walked down the hall, House said, “Haley, I‟ve never been so turned on in my life. Want to go back to my
place and we can play Doctor?”
   I didn‟t say anything until we stopped at the elevator. “House, as appealing as that sounds” (and I really, REALLY
had a difficult time saying no) “I can‟t…and you know it. But thank you for your help. I probably would‟ve committed
homicide right there in the hospital.” I reached up and kissed him full on the mouth.

    When the elevator opened I stepped away then got on. But I couldn‟t look at House because, just before the
elevator closed the enormity of what just happened hit me and I burst into tears, sinking to the ground. The last thing I
heard was House‟s voice calling my name…
*****
    When that elevator stopped on the first floor I wasted no time skid addling out of that place. My tears were, at any
rate, tamed a bit by the time I reached for the door of the rental car. All I wanted to do was get as far away from that
hospital as possible…which made the realization of my forgotten purse back in Diagnostics all the more painful.

    “AAARRRGGGHHHH!” Uh-oh, my pirate-yell…that was never a good sign. I knew I was either going to yell or weep.
So, instead of deciding on a third option, I chose to weep: moving to the hood of the car, I sat down, choosing to forego
the rending of garments, figuring that crying was probably enough.

   “Haley? Are you alright?” I looked up and, through the haze of my tears, saw Dr. Eric Foreman standing there with a
concerned look.

    HICCUP! “Do (hiccup) I (hiccup) look ok (hiccup)?” and cried some more in frustration at my complete inability to
form a coherent sentence. When I had calmed once again, I looked up to see his right eyebrow touching the moon (it
was a full-moon that night…no wonder that day was horrific!). I gave him a pleading look. “I‟m sorry Eric. Today was
just the longest, worst day in my life. I don‟t suppose you heard all the gory details?”

    “Yes I did…and I can see why you are crying. But I‟m impressed about Roger…should I bring you around to all the
other patients?”

    I rolled my eyes. “Ok, wise acre, are you finished?” But I smiled weakly. I knew he was just trying to cheer me up.

    “That‟s not why you are crying now is it?” He studied my tear-stained face. “Did something just happen?”

     “I had a chat with your patient, Michael Cardwell.” I watched Eric sit on the bumper next to me, a resigned look on
his face as he nodded with understanding. I then grabbed his lab coated-arm and wiped my nose since I had no sleeves.
He rolled his eyes in faux exasperation but just shook his head, which greatly surprised me. I was expecting a snarky
word in retort or an “Oh, man!” But he didn‟t say a word. Maybe Dr. Eric Foreman has a side he‟s afraid to show.
Mmm…

    Anyway, I continued my explanation, sounding much better sans mucus. “It was quite enlightening. I learned he is
nothing but a player…and that I‟m the world‟s foremost expert on idiocy. Michael learned I‟ve moved on…so much so I‟m
with House and having his baby.”

    Eric‟s eyes went wide in amazement and confusion. “Wha…huh? Say that again.”

     I gave Eric back his arm, then sighed as I vehemently shook my head and turned away from him. A perplexed and
slightly peeved expression filled my eyes as I scanned the parking lot, trying to gather my words and thoughts. “No, not
really. At the point in our conversation where I was prepared to strangle Michael, House walks in and calls me
„Sweetheart‟.

    Eric‟s forehead furrowed in confusion. “He called you „Sweetheart‟? I didn‟t realize the man knew that word.”

    “Well, I think he was trying to rescue me.”

    “House isn‟t the rescuing type. Generally he isn‟t into “saving people”; he strives to decipher the medical mystery,
and the side effect is that the patient, in most cases, lives. Typically he doesn‟t see people, which is rather unfortunate
since it only affirms his life‟s viewpoint of “Everybody lies so don‟t trust anyone.” He doesn‟t give people the chance to
prove that viewpoint wrong; it‟s really quite sad because the man hasn‟t actually lived.”

    “Nevertheless, he went against my wishes, spying on me and listening to the entire conversation.”
    “Now THAT sounds like him.” Eric sniggered.

    “I was upset because he can‟t seem to mind his own business. However, at that moment, I was never more relieved
as well. Now that I had an ally, I decided to have a bit of fun with Michael, you know, rub salt into Michael‟s wounded
pride. I casually dropped a phrase about carrying House‟s baby. I couldn‟t tell if House was flattered or just impressed
by my acting abilities. I think it was the latter but, just in case some nasty rumor starts, that‟s what really happened.”

     Hearing a chortle from Eric‟s general direction I turned to find him laughing at me! I narrowed my eyes and snorted
in disgust.

    “Here I go, pouring my guts out to you and you find this funny!”

    Eric‟s face rapidly turned somber as he fervidly shook his head no. “No I don‟t find it funny. I was just wishing I had
seen your face when House showed up and his face when you mentioned the baby.”

    “If I hadn‟t been so mad and morally disgusted I might‟ve thought it funny. But you know what gets me the most? I
was dumb enough to fall for such an obvious scum ball. Oh, Eric, I just feel like a stupid, naive fool.” I turned to look at
him. The only expression I saw was distain for Michael and compassion for me. “Want to know the worst part? I really
do care what House thinks and that‟s exactly how he‟ll see me: a stupid, naïve fool.”
*****
    Eric didn‟t say anything for a bit before slowly taking my hand in an obvious gesture of friendship and compassion.
“Haley, I don‟t think he feels that way. In fact, I think, for the first time in his life, he found someone he would like to
take care of...and it scares the living crap out of him because it‟s in direct violation of what we just discussed.” I shot him
a look of horror, which resulted in a chuckle from Eric.

   “Haley, you are a very smart woman. I have a feeling Michael must be a very smooth operator. He seems to know
how to juggle his lying, his women and his…never mind.” I snorted in amusement…and thankfulness for this man who
came to my rescue. Dr. Eric Foreman really was a puzzle; not at all like the rumors of how stern and unfeeling I had
been hearing. He was so much like House…but I could see he was willing to conform where House wasn‟t.

    “House is very…complicated. He‟s also incredibly simple, which only contributes to him being a pain in the butt. Did
you know his old, MARRIED girlfriend came back to work at the hospital for a short period of time? Now THAT was
interesting…”

    “Is it the infamous Stacy Warner?” Eric nodded. “Yep. I‟ve heard about her. Why did you bring her up?”

    “Only to say this: he never reacted to her like he does to you. You‟ve got a hold on him…and please don‟t let go.
You have managed to keep him somewhat sane…and the rest of us thank you from the very bottoms of our hearts.”
Before I could comment I heard the distinctive STEP-STEP-THUMP that could only belong to the subject of our
conversation. I sighed.

    “Hello House! You were listening again, weren‟t you?” I asked, which caused the STEP-STEP-THUMP to abruptly
stop. Both Eric and I turned to see House standing there, his eyes evaluating the situation with an unfamiliar look of…is
that protection…or jealousy?

    “Good evening children! Are we stargazing?” He looked at me. “How‟s the baby?”

   I heard Eric begin to chuckle quietly. I smiled. “Just wonderful. So well-behaved, unlike his FATHER (heavy
emphasis here).” This caused poor Eric to bust a gut; House to grin; and me to shake my head at the absurdity of the
comment.

   “Why are you still here? I thought you were going home to cry your little eyes out. You women…always crying,
especially around me. What‟s up with that?” House asked.

    “I couldn‟t possibly understand why women cry whenever you‟re around. The only thing I can think of: your
cologne.”
    “What? You aren‟t a Degree deodorant type of gal?” House posed in a cheesy supermodel sort of way, after which
he held up his arm to discreetly smell his pit.

    “Nah…I‟m a Ralph Lauren type of gal.” I pushed myself off the hood of the rental car. “Back to your original
question: I‟m still here because I ran out the door in that annoyingly weepy emotional woman way, forgetting my purse.
I can‟t leave without my keys. So, if you‟ll excuse me…” but I didn‟t finish because House pulled out my portfolio and
purse from behind his back.

    “You mean these? Oh, and you‟ve got a mess at the bottom of your purse. That Snicker‟s bar melted and your birth
control pills got all sticky. And how much water do you have to use to have a bill THAT high??”

     My mouth dropped in frustration as I grabbed my purse from his hand. “I don‟t have birth control pills!” I opened
my handbag and saw that, indeed, my Snicker‟s bar (can‟t leave home without it!) had melted…all over my water bill! I
looked up to see the triumph on his face…and I was torn between slapping it right off and the totally irrational urge to
kiss him.

     “You looked through my purse! You probably tried on all the lipsticks didn‟t you? And why did you say there were
birth control pills in there?”

      “I was miffed because you are probably the only woman in the entire universe who doesn‟t have anything personal in
her purse. I had to embarrass you somehow…but there really isn‟t much I can embarrass you with, is there?” House
wiggled his eyebrows, which educed a snort of “Oh, give me a break!” from me. I looked around but saw that Eric had
left.

    I raised my hands in disbelief. “Unbelievable. Father Goose scared away his own gosling. Why am I surprised?” I
turned away from House and walked to the driver‟s door. “House, I‟ve got two photos to shoot tomorrow. I‟d love to
stay and chat but I‟m tired.”

   “Haley?” the quiet entreaty stopped my hastening footsteps. I looked up and saw, in the moonlight, earnest
concentration as he regarded me; the beautiful blue orbs the color of a clear lake in the moonlight. “You are nowhere
near stupid or naïve. I think he‟s the scum of the earth and should‟ve recognized the jewel in front of him.”

     I dropped my purse at this simple compliment…one of only a few he‟s probably ever given. My mouth opened then
closed, not quite sure what to do. Before I could muster a real response, he hastily muttered, “Good night, Haley.” And,
with that, he limped away, leaving me staring back in utter disbelief.
*****
    I didn‟t sleep that night, tossing and turning, thinking about the events of that day. My mind kept going back to the
moments with House. By 2:00 a.m. I‟d made a decision: I wanted to be with House and I was going to tell him. Soon.
Confident of my decision I attempted sleep…but it never came. The decision only made me anxious: would I physica lly
be good enough for him? Would I constantly be compared to the others? If I didn‟t measure up would he leave me like
the others left me? I finally gave up on sleep and, pulling on my bathrobe, I left my room in search of the hotel vending
machines…and a Snickers bar.

    By 9:00 that morning, I hadn‟t received one wink of sleep; but somehow found myself dragging my sleep-deprived
body into the hospital, where the first person I saw was Lisa. She took one look at me and asked, “Fun night? Meth -
induced sex with a co-worker?”

    I narrowed my eyes and snarled, “What the hell are you talking about?”

    Lisa took a step back, holding her hands up defensively. After a moment she just shook her head. “Never mind.
How did things go last night?” Her eyes filled with compassion when my demeanor changed to resignation. “I‟m so
sorry. Besides, I already know.”

    “Then why did you ask??”

    “Because I needed to gauge your mood and I just got my answer.”

    My brow furrowed in confusion then I yawned. “How did you know what happened??”
     Lisa sighed. “I was working late last night and saw you run out of here, crying. A moment later I saw House blow
past, hot on your heels. When anyone cries around here House is usually in the equation somewhere so I didn‟t think
much of it; then he stopped by my office, I assume after you left. I was surprised, since his patient was being
discharged; there wasn‟t another patient; and he only talks to me when there‟s a patient.” Her voice took on a sad tone
and she looked down at her hands. “Lately that seems the only time we ever talk. We used to talk all the time.”
Looking up at me, she took my elbow and guided me to a nearby bench, where we sat down. “I‟ve never seen that man
this affected…even when Stacy was here. We talked for awhile then he left. But I haven‟t seen him yet this morning so I
don‟t know if he got any sleep either. Why are you here? Why didn‟t you just take the day off?”

    “I‟ve got two photos scheduled for today. Besides, tomorrow is the only day I have in the bar for James‟ bull riding
picture and I need to keep these pictures on schedule.” I hesitated for a moment and stretched my neck and arms then
asked, “By the way…what did he say?”

    “Well, he said quite a bit in confidence…things that would be better coming from him. But he did ask me if I knew of
a place to find a female purebred Bassett Hound puppy.”

    My heart flipped at the thought of his gift of a female Bassett. „Don‟t think too much on it,‟ I thought, clearing my
mind of such an absurd notion. „Too romantic…House doesn‟t seem the romantic type.‟ The thought of a beautiful
Bassett puppy with a big pink bow around her neck, leading House to me was, well, just an incredibly sexy, wonderful,
amazing thought. „Yeah, and I just won the $400 million lottery last night!‟ I sarcastically reminded myself.

   I reached over and squeezed her hand in gratitude. “Thank for being such a great friend. You‟ve been nothing but
wonderful since I started this project. Do you have time for lunch today?”

    “Sure! Meet me at my office by noon?”

   “Alright,” I slowly, tiredly, stood up. “I‟m gonna get something stronger than coffee…I‟m thinking Mountain Dew.”
She snickered as I dragged my sorry butt to the elevator.

     That morning flew. The first picture, Dr. Taylor Miller-Frederickson, was at 9:30 in the children‟s cancer wing
playroom. It was quite a sweet picture: Dr. Miller-Frederickson, surrounded by children listening intently as she read
stories from Dr. Seuss. Every dear little face, their ages ranging from around 4 years to 10 years, watched us with
anticipation, trepidation at the suspenseful parts, laughter and just pure joy. They were so happy to have visitors…my
heart broke and I knew then, though I, myself, had no children, the joy and amazement of parenting. That constant
TICK TICK TICK of the biological clock, which lately had been silent, suddenly amplified 100 times. After the shoot was
complete, it was still only about 10:30 so we visited with the children for awhile.

    Ten minutes later, the crowd had dispersed and I went about the task of putting my camera away. “You‟re George‟s
Mommy, aren‟t you?” A small, rather weak voice broke through the monotony of my task and I turned to find a little girl
of no more than 6 or 7 years, who looked very tired. I could see, while her body was young, her soul was old; she‟d
been though more than a lot of 50-year-olds had.

    “How do you know George?” I asked, surprised. She didn‟t look familiar.

    “Dr. Allie brought him by. She said his Mommy was here taking pictures. Is he here today?” Her face brightened,
anticipation written all over that precious face.

    “Sweetie, what‟s your name?” I asked, my heart opening to this young lady.

    “Gracie Mullins.”

   “Well, Gracie, he‟s not here today but I‟ll bring him by in a few days and you will be the first one to see George.
What do you say?”

    “YEEAAAA!” Gracie‟s eyes brightened and she started clapping, jumping in place. My face broke into a huge smile as
I bent down and wrapped her in a bear hug.
   “OK, children! Time for our field trip! The bus to the National History Museum will be here in about 15 minutes. If
your parents are riding with you, they will meet you at the front entrance.” A woman‟s voice interrupted our
conversation. Gracie smiled.

    “We get to see the dinosaurs! That‟s SO COOL! I‟ve waited all week! Bye!” Gracie stepped out of my arms and ran
to catch up with the other kids leaving the playroom. At the doorway she turned back and shouted, “I can‟t wait to see
George!” and waved goodbye.

    My heart was in my throat. „I hope my children are this wonderful!‟ Standing, I slung the camera bag over my
shoulder. My mind went back to the child‟s illness and the injustice of such a suffering. “No sense in getting mad…gotta
make her happy. George will be here every day if it means her happiness!” I smiled, satisfied with my resolution, and
began my trek to Lisa‟s office as a woman with her head up high and an excited, determined smile on her face.
*****
    Lunch with Lisa was very nice because, though we ate in the cafeteria, House didn‟t spy on us. In fact, he had no
idea we were there…and I had a birds-eye view of him. He was eating with the ducklings. I leaned over my turkey salad
sandwich, pasta salad and double-chocolate brownie, and asked Lisa, “Why is House eating with the kids?” as I nodded
around the potted fern that blocked their view of us.

   “He is?!?” Lisa exclaimed and peeked through the fern. “And it looks like a rather pleasant conversation…something
must be wrong. Think we should crash their party?!?”

    “Speaking of parties…when is Roger‟s?” I asked.

    “Tomorrow night, after James‟ photo. Ok, so, how is this photo going to play out?” Lisa leaned over, excitement and
anticipation written all over her face.

    I smiled conspiratorially toward Lisa and leaned over. “Ok. Everyone: House, the ducklings and you, will arrive about
10 minutes before James. Since it is a Country-Western bar, everyone will be wearing Western wear, including Stetsons.
I have given James a guideline as to what he can wear, but he‟s got final say. Whatever it is, it will sure be different than
what he normally wears.”

    Lisa smiled. “I can‟t WAIT to see this…this will probably be an image I won‟t soon get out of my mind.”

    “AND you‟ll be able to hang it on your wall for posterity.”

    Lisa laughed. “Does he know we will be there?”

    I shook my head. “Nope…but I need people to fill in the crowd. Hopefully, since the bar will be dark and everyon e
on the outer fringes, he won‟t know it‟s you guys…until after the shoot.”

    Lisa shook her head and crunched thoughtfully on her salad. “Bull riding. Now THAT is something I‟d never guess
Wilson would be interested in.”

    “Well, that‟s been the point from the very beginning…I encouraged everyone to do something no one knew they
either liked or wanted to do. I haven‟t told House or the others yet.” I peeked around the fern again and saw them still
eating and talking. “I‟m going over there. Wanna come?”

   Lisa grinned and nodded. “Oh, yeah. I wouldn‟t miss the looks on their faces for the world. But I‟m pretty sure that
Cameron already knows. They‟re pretty intimate.”

     I smiled. “So I‟ve heard.” We both got up and walked to the table. Creeping behind House, who was too engrossed
in his soda straw to pay any attention, I waved to the others then placed a finger against my lips. They all smiled when
they saw me.

   “Hello everyone!” I greeted rather loudly, right behind House‟s ear, which caused him to jump slightly in surprise.
“How are we today?”

     “Great.” “Wonderful.” “Super.” Were the ducklings responses. I looked at Eric, whose limber eyebrow touched the
ceiling in a “How are you…really?” look. I winked and gave him the “Ok” sign. He smiled.
    “Babe, we‟re rockin‟ and rollin‟.” House gloated, turning in his seat and looking up at me. His eyes took longer than
the usual time to roam over my body, so I decided to help him along…I posed like a Victoria‟s Secret supermodel.

    “Does this help you get a better look House?” I asked, causing everyone else to snigger.

    He shook his head. “Nope…you know what you have to do…” his eyebrows lifted and danced suggestively.

    Ignoring him I said, “I came over because James‟ photo is tomorrow and I need people to fill in the crowd. Will you
be available?” I looked at Alison and she was smiling. “You were already going to be there, weren‟t you?” I asked her
and she nodded.

    “What‟s the photo?” Robert asked. I heard House slurp from his cup.

    “James riding a mechanical bull.”

     WHISH! Poor Alison was bathed in a soda bath…House spit the contents of his mouth onto her! I had to turn my
head to keep from laughing at House‟s surprised face as he choked and wiped his mouth, leaving poor Alison to clean the
sticky mess from her face.

    “Apologize to Alison. She didn‟t deserve that!” I thumped House on the head and instructed him in a very
authoritative tone, which caused the ducklings, Alison included, to snort in laughter.

    “I‟m sorry Cameron…it was either that or me choking to death. Which would you prefer?” he looked around at
us…and no one spoke up immediately. House smirked and stood up. “I can feel the love people. Thanks very much.”
He started to leave but I reached under his jacket and grabbed his back jeans pocket. He stopped and his face contorted
in confusion. “Wha…” he looked behind him and, seeing it was me with my hand in his pocket, the confusion drifted
away and he smiled suggestively. “Hey, baby. Do you want your sugardaddy?”

    “You know it. Right here right now. Children, Mommy and Daddy are busy…go outside and play.” I commanded
very sarcastically. Robert, who‟s face kept getting redder by the moment, finally lost it and he doubled over in laughte r.

    “House, I stopped you because I needed to make sure all of you were going to be there.” House sighed but nodded,
along with the rest of the crowd. “And no band t-shirts…everyone needs to be in Western wear.”

    House turned to me in horror. “You mean…Stetsons and boots and buckles, oh my!”

    I nodded. “Yep. Since I had a feeling you don‟t own any of those articles, everyone is to meet me at Doc Bronc‟s
Western Wear on 8th Street at 6:30 tonight. They have graciously allowed us to borrow some clothes especially for this
picture.” The look on my face told everyone there would be no discussion…and they all agreed.

   “Ok…I‟ll see everyone there! Oh, and House? I LOVE tight-fitting jeans…and you‟ve got the build. Don‟t let me
down.” I winked as I walked back to my table.
*****
   Lisa came back to the table, shaking her head as I picked up my trash. “I LOVE the banter between you and
House…and I‟ve heard reports he‟s actually become a lot easier to work with. Can I contribute that to you?”

   I shrugged. “I guess so.” I looked at my watch. “Listen, I‟ve gotta go. I have my next picture to shoot. But…I
have no idea where Doc Bronc‟s is. Can I hitch a ride with you?”

    “Absolutely! I know where it‟s at…I pass it all the time coming into work. Meet me at my office at, what, 6:00??”

   “Will do. See you then!” I said as I walked to the trash bin. As I was disposing, I felt a sharp THWACK! on my butt.
“OUCH!” I squealed and turned to see House‟s cane, which I saw was the culprit.

    “What do you want?” I asked, rubbing my butt. I decided not to give him the satisfaction of waiting for his answer,
so I started walking away. STEP-STEP-THUMP. STEP-STEP-THUMP. “Unlike you, I have to be someplace…go back to
your Gameboy.”
   “Haley! Haley!” he shouted and stopped beside me when I got to the elevator. “Are you serious about the Western
wear?” I pressed the up button.

    “No House…today is the official “Western Wear April Fool‟s Day”…I just got you.”

    “No, I mean, did you mean what you said about the tight jeans?”

   At this I was surprised...from his daily apparel I could see he didn‟t give a crap about what he wore. Why now? “Yes
House I did.”

    He smirked. “That means you‟ve been checking me out, doesn‟t it?” Thank God that elevator opened when it did…or
I would‟ve grabbed that cane and beaten the crap out of him, right then and there.

    “Goodbye House…” I walked inside, pressed the button to the 6th floor and turned around to find him standing
there, regarding me with a triumphant look. I rolled my eyes.

    “Do you have a ride? I thought I heard you say you didn‟t know where it‟s at.”

    “I‟m riding with Lisa.”

    “Wanna drive the bike back?”

    I didn‟t say anything until the elevator doors were almost closed… “YES!” I smiled and the doors shut with a
resounding BANG.

   The next picture I had to shoot was of Dr. Stephanie Johnson, who, when I arrived at her office, was dressed as a
candy striper. “Dr. Johnson,” I said, extending my hand as I walked in. “Where do you want this picture?”

    “In the clinic.”

    When we got to the clinic, the very first thing I heard was: “House! You made ANOTHER patient cry? You are WAY
past your quota.” (Obviously I haven't made THAT big of an impression...he's still hard to work with.) It was Lisa.
Fortunately, the voices were coming from an exam room so House didn‟t see me come in. I looked over at Dr. Johnson
and she rolled her eyes in disgust. She leaned down (she was almost 6 feet tall, much taller than myself) and whispered,
“I‟m amazed that Dr. House can get away with what he does. Any other place, he‟d be out on his tail within an hour.”

    Since I wasn‟t in the mood to talk about “Dr. House”, I just shrugged. Locating the candy striper‟s cart, Dr. Johnson
walked the cart into the full clinic waiting room and started her candy striper duties as I clicked away. I was amazed at
how a doctor, who has so much more seniority than a candy striper, could be a very impressive candy striper. She
handed out magazines and asked questions. It was nice to see a doctor willing to do those sorts of things.

   I snapped away for about a half an hour, with intermittent distractions from House, who was either making faces at
me or shouting completely inappropriate things to me from across the waiting room.

    “Ok, Dr. Johnson that should be it. Are you available this afternoon to look at the photos?” She nodded.

    “How about 5:00? That will give me enough time to get to my studio and process the photos. Your office?” She
nodded again and smiled.

    She left as I wound my film, removed it from the camera and tucked it away in the camera bag. I also tucked the
camera away and, zipping the bag, I slung it on my shoulder. I didn‟t look up as I turned around…and bumped straight
into House. “So now you are following me? You know, that‟s exactly what Ted Bundy did before he murdered all those
women…he followed them.”

    “Yes…except there‟s one difference between Ted and me…I have a cane and he didn‟t.”

    I walked around him toward the door of the clinic and, of course, just like George, he followed me, right out through
the hospital‟s front doors. I finally stopped and turned to him. “You know, you are acting just like George does at
mealtime…he follows me around until I feed him. Is that what you want? Do you want me to feed you?”
    He didn‟t say a word…just sized me up. “House, I don‟t have a lot of time since I have to develop pictures. But I
want you to think about something…let me know soon. I was up thinking all last night, thinking about the day, the
night…about what you did for me with Michael.” I saw him get uncomfortable with this. He didn‟t want
gratitude…maybe he was thinking he did what he had to? Who can read House?

    “I have decided that I want to sleep with you. If you don‟t want the commitment…ok…I do but I want you even
more. Do you still want me?” at that last question, he turned away from me to study the parking lot. When I didn‟t get
a response a few moments later I sighed and shook my head. “I‟ll see you tonight, ok? You will be there at 6:30?”

    He nodded but I saw how distracted he was so I just left, leaving him with his thoughts.

    I started coaching myself back to the car. “I hope he knows what I‟m willing to do here…putting my heart on the line
again. Unfortunately, I‟ve reached the „There‟s no going back‟ zone. I love him…and I will continue to love him…no
matter what happens. I want to be with him, even more than I wanted Paul or Mike. Am I doing the right thing?” I
didn‟t have an answer as I continued to my rental car.
*****
    By 6:00 that night, George and I blew through Lisa‟s office door. Unfortunately we interrupted Lisa and Hotstuff, who
were engaged in some heavy tongue hockey. Embarrassed I began stuttering: “I‟ sorry…I was supposed to meet Lisa
here at 6:00…I‟ll just leave now…” George and I turned to walk out the door when I heard, “No, Haley, come back. I‟m
sorry…I should‟ve been watching the time.”

   George and I slowly turned back to see Lisa‟s red face as she straightened her jacket and Hotstuff as he was wiping
away the lipstick from his mouth. I grinned and looked down at George, who gave me a Basset smile…he knew what
was happening. After all, George is brilliant, isn‟t he?

    “Haley, if you don‟t mind,” Lisa began again, sounding much more together than moments earlier, “I thought
Hotstuff” my face reddened at this and I chanced a look at him, who was watching me with a knowing grin, “could be
part of the crowd at the bar tomorrow. In face, he‟s recruited some guys from the force as well. Is that ok?”

   I smiled. “Absolutely, the more the merrier. In fact, that‟s perfect: if we have a barroom brawl, at least we won‟t
have to call the police. How many are there?”

    “Four guys and three girls. I thought we should mix it up a bit.”

    “And how did you persuade them to do this?”

     Hotstuff shrugged and smiled. “I told them they would be meeting the „Hand Grenade Police Chase‟ Gang.” I rolled
my eyes at the absurdity of this but, since I was grateful for the extras, I didn‟t push it. “By the way, which bar will it be
at?”

    “The Tin Pan Alley. Have you heard of it?”

    Hotstuff nodded. “Yes. It‟s a fairly quiet bar…not too many D&D calls.”

    I looked at my watch. “We‟ve got to go. We‟re meeting everyone else there. Are your cop buddies here as well?”

    “At the front door.”

    “Good. They‟ll need to be fitted for Western Wear as well. Can we meet you there? There‟s something I need to
discuss with Lisa in private.”

    “Sure.” He leaned over and kissed Lisa; gave George a good scratch behind the ears, eliciting a howl of joy; and he
gave me a peck on the cheek. “I‟ll see you there.” All three of us turned and watched him leave: Lisa and I admiring his
walk-away and George yanking on his leash, begging to go after him. „Why not?‟ I reasoned.

    “Tony!” He turned at his name. “You‟ve made a new friend with George. Can I entrust him with you? He wants to
ride with you.”
    Tony‟s face brightened, displaying all his teeth. “Absolutely!” he walked to me and I handed him George‟s leash,
which brought a howl of excitement and George jumped on Hotstuff‟s legs. “Come on George. Let‟s go.” Lisa and I
smiled at the poignancy of the moment. We followed George and Hotstuff toward the front doors, where we spotted a
group of people milling around. When Hotstuff greeted them I realized they were the cops, just out of uniform.

    When we got to Lisa‟s car, I sank in the leather seat and whistled at the expensive car. “Nice ride.”

    “Thanks. Ok, what is it you wanted to discuss?”

    As Lisa pulled into traffic I took a moment to search for the right words. “I told House I was ready to sleep with
him.” She didn‟t say a word for a few moments. “Well, what do you think? You know House better than I do. Do you
think I did the right thing?”

    “Is that it, exactly?”

    “Well, not all of it. I told him that, if he didn‟t want the commitment, ok; that I did but I wanted him even more.”

    Lisa was silent again. “What was his reaction when you told him?”

     “He became distracted and turned away from me. I think he was thinking, digesting what I had said. When I said
I‟d see him later, he nodded, letting me know he heard me but didn‟t look at me.”

    “Oh, boy,” Lisa muttered under her breath. I looked at her and saw a rather shocked look on her face.

    “What‟s „Oh boy‟ mean? Is that good or bad?”

     She just stared straight ahead. I could see she was digesting what I told her. Finally, as she made a right turn, she
said, “One great quality of House is he isn‟t afraid to look you in the eye to tell you anything…especially when he‟s
insulting you. I know you‟ve noticed this. When he‟s either distracted or embarrassed, which he doesn‟t get a whole lot,
he looks away from you, concentrating either on a mystery or covering his embarrassment. You are quite a mystery to
him…did you know that? He‟s trying to solve that mystery…and it‟s driving him insane. You are driving him insane…and
that‟s made him want you more.
     But now you‟ve thrown him a curve ball and his glove wasn‟t up to catch it. You knocked him in the eye…and he was
trying to save face. But you know the man‟s a glutton for pain and insanity, so what you did could go two ways: either
he pushes you away or I will have to pick a dress for the wedding.”

    Though it was a nice thought, I didn‟t want to let myself think it. By that time we had stopped at the left turn signal,
just before reaching the parking lot. Lisa said, “Look,” and pointed to the parking lot. There, in the half-full parking lot,
was House, pulling off his helmet. He got off the bike and stood up. Dang…did that man look HOT: jeans, a white
undershirt, motorcycle boots („That‟s a change from the sneakers‟), leather jacket and sunglasses. House chose, at that
moment, to look in our direction. He lowered his glasses…sized me up…then turned on his heel, snubbing me!

    “Did you see that??” I pointed to where House was limping to the store…and I was livid.

    “OH MY! This is much worse than I thought…honey, he‟s got it bad.”

   My face twisted in horror as I studied her. “How do you figure? How can anyone POSSIBLY understand what he
does?”

     Lisa sighed and turned off the engine and we sat for a few minutes. “You‟ve just changed the equation: you‟ve put
sex back in. He‟s never pressured you for sex, has he?” I shook my head. “And he won‟t. While he is a narcissistic pain
in the, well, you know where, he won‟t ever make you do something you don‟t want to. I won‟t say anymore, but you‟ve
got to keep reminding him of who you are…and be overly amorous. However, don‟t be surprised is, tonight, his response
is a big fat NO.”

    “Be overly amorous…I can do that.” I exited the car and walked to the entrance, leaving a snickering Lisa behind.
„This is gonna get good.‟ I snarked to myself.
*****
    When I got inside, I saw that everyone was there, just waiting for me to appear. “Good evening everyone! I‟m so
glad you could come.” I looked over at House, who was watching me…waiting for me to mess up so he could snark
about it. I just smiled sweetly. “Good evening Dr. House. How are you this fine night?”

    “Peachy keen Ms. Wellington. And you?” He gave me a tight-lipped very fake smile. Before I could comment, a
short, balding, rather pudgy man with round red cheeks came to greet me. I shook his extended hand.

    “Miss Wellington? I‟m Dan, the manager here at Doc Bronc‟s. I see you‟ve got quite a crowd…are you folks ready?”

    “Oh, just delighted, right down to our spurs. I can‟t wait to go ropin‟ dem calves and, afterwards, we‟ll go ridin‟ down
by the crick.” That snarky voice, with its exaggerated twang, really outdid his usual mayhem. I looked over to see him
watching me, gauging my response.

    I smiled then and, as I was moving to meet up with the horrified Manager Dan, I grabbed House‟s butt, squeezed
and snarked back, “Oh! Then you‟ll see me bathing at that crick...all naked and wet.” I continued on past, smiling at the
snorts and howls of laughter I received.

     Since there were a total of 14 (which counted George) who needed clothing, it was an organized chaos, all of which I
stood back to watch, all the while barely containing my laughter. At one time, I saw House as he walked out of the fitting
room, to get a closer look at himself in the three-way mirror: he wore a pair of dark blue Wranglers, a black Roper
insignia polo shirt, a black Stetson and black Roper boots. I nearly lost my breath: that outfit fit him like a glove and
didn‟t leave much to the imagination.

    „I wonder what he‟ll do if I snuck into his dressing room?‟ So…that‟s just what I did, sitting on the chair in the corner.

    Pretty soon he limped back and, just as he was unbuttoning his pants, I said, “I really like that outfit.”

    “AAAAAHHHHH!” he shouted and slammed up against the wall of the dressing room. Clearly I had startled him. He
looked down at me and, whipping off his hat, he stepped over to me, leaning over in an attempt to look really really
mean. All it did was make me even hotter.

    “Woman, what are you doing in my dressing room?”

      I stood up, flashing him my “Please don‟t be mad at me” look. It worked because he calmed, though his eyes were
still a dark blue from anger. “I just wanted some privacy so I could ask you about my question.” I turned on my little girl
lost tone of voice. “You‟ve been really mean to me since this morning and I thought you wouldn‟t want me driving your
bike.” Seeing this little girl lost approach wasn‟t working, I dropped it and flashed him a very truthful “I really want to
know look” as I asked “Have you given my question some thought?”

    He must‟ve seen the honesty because, as he leaned against the wall, watching me, he slowly shook his head no.

    “Is that “No I don‟t want you driving my bike?” or “No, I won‟t sleep with you?” ?”

      “No…it‟s not that I won‟t sleep with you…it‟s that I can‟t sleep with you.” I watched his eyes, for a fleeting moment,
fill with regret before going back to the steely blue of resolution.

    Since I knew it wasn‟t a physical thing that made him unable to have sex with me I knew I just had to take that
answer, though my quivering lip didn‟t obey quite so quickly. In any case, I just nodded. “Ok.” I turned to walk out the
dressing room then stopped. Turning on my brilliant smile: “Can I still drive your bike?” He grinned and winked.

     Two hours later, everyone had an outfit. I wasn‟t even looking but I was just as tired as they were. “Ok, cowpokes,”
I started as I rounded up the posse. “Let‟s meet here at 12:00. The photo is at 1:30 at the Tin Pan Alley. If something
comes up and you can‟t make it please call my cell phone.” I looked around for George, but found him with House, who
was saying hi, the only way a man can to a dog: he was rubbing his belly.

   “George, it‟s time to go home.” I said as I came over to the scene. George started whining…he didn‟t want to leave
House.

    “Aw, Moooommmm!” House whined. “Just ten more minutes.”
    “Well, then, I‟m riding with Lisa. Besides, she‟s gotta be the one to take him back to the hospital…unless someone
else can. He can‟t ride on the motorcycle.” House stood up at this and, looking around, found Alison standing by the
door, talking with Eric.

     “Cameron, can you take George back to the hospital? I‟m giving Haley a lift back.” Alison looked over at me, giving
me a “I hope it all works out” smile then nodded. “Of course I‟ll take George back. I love him. So, I‟ll see you two back
at the hospital?”

     House, never taking his brilliant blue orbs off mine, nodded slowly. I smiled and proceeded to the door. „I think
we‟ve got a problem.‟ I thought, trying to figure out what to do next.
*****
     “Here,” House said, tossing me a helmet. I caught it easily and, straddling the bike, I situated myself on the seat,
settling the helmet on my head. House secured his cane on the bike then sat down behind me but kept his upper
extremities to himself.

    I sighed. “House,” I began in a very exasperated tone. “There‟s no way you are riding this bike without holding on
to me. You‟ll get killed and I‟m the one everyone will blame.” He still didn‟t do anything so I started another thread of
conversation. “Why are you treating me like this?”

    “Like what?”

    “Like a piece of dog caca. Did I do anything wrong?”

    I felt House shift on the bike. “ „Did I do anything wrong?‟ she asks innocently. Did you do anything wrong? Of
course you did…you threw yourself at me, that‟s what you did.” House huffed behind me. I knew we weren‟t going
anywhere so I got off the bike and turned around, whipping off my helmet in a very supermodelist way. I must say, I
was very proud of myself, my helmet hair blowing provocatively in the wind. Dang…I should‟ve been in movies! I placed
my hands on my hips and stared at him, daring him to look away…but he was a pro at this game. We probably stood
there five minutes before I sighed and looked away.

      “I DID NOT throw myself at you…if anything you were teasing me, baiting me, wanting me to sleep with you. Now
that I will you are treating me like I‟ve done something wrong. What gives?”

     House continued to watch me, his blue orbs taking in all my movements; I could see he was thinking, processing.
Finally his eyes brightened and his mouth took on a smirk, the one that said „Ow, I think I got her‟. “You know…you are
so sexy when you get mad. Maybe I should make you mad all the time.” This was my cue the conversation was over. I
narrowed my eyes and put my helmet on, my signal we were leaving. I straddled the bike and started the engine.
House gave in and put his arms around me, hugging me in a vise lock. Once we got on the road the lock loosened and I
felt his hands begin to roam, stealing my breath.

     His hands were actually gripping my inner thighs by the time we reached the hospital and, again, the neurons refused
to connect. Fortunately I was wearing jeans so I didn‟t lose complete consciousness…though I was really, REALLY close.
As soon as we stopped, he whipped off his helmet but still stayed seated. I turned off the bike and also removed my
helmet. Just as I was moving to get up, he pressed against me and muttered, his hot breath on my neck, “I meant what
I said: I want to sleep with you; I just can‟t.” This declaration, of course, caused me to freeze in my seat, the last
remaining functioning neurons freezing in place as well. Before he got up he nuzzled my neck and kissed my earlobe.
Then, taking the cane from the caneholder, he placed his helmet on the bike‟s handlebar and limped away as fast as he
could. I was tempted to yell “‟FRAIDY CAT!” as he left but figured it probably wouldn‟t help my cause.

    Quickly locating George where he stood with Alison outside Lisa‟s office, I thanked her and left, wondering how the
rest of this entire calendar shoot would play out.
*****
    The next day I met everyone at Doc Bronc‟s at about 12:00…even House was on time. Pointing to him I exclaimed in
an overly-dramatic tone, “How did you get here on time?” he gave me an “Aren‟t you funny?” smirk then walked away.

    “I had a feeling he wouldn‟t have been here on time, if at all: he hates you telling him what to do. That‟s why I made
him ride with me. I did know he wouldn‟t have missed seeing Wilson on a bucking bronco, albeit a fake one, for
anything.” Lisa said as she came up behind me. “Today he‟s really being a much bigger pain in the tuckus than usual.
Within a 2-hour clinic period, he made 3 nurses cry, 6 adult patients cry and a little boy, who got tired of House‟s railing
on him in front of the entire waiting room, poked him in the eye. Needless to say, the little boy was applauded for that
one.”

    I rolled my eyes and chuckled, then became introspective. “Last night I asked him what his problem was…of course
he ignored the issue. His first photo is coming up in a few days; I just don‟t know what I‟m going to do if he keeps this
up.” I rubbed my throbbing temples and Lisa gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

     “I bet it won‟t be long…even House has his threshold for pain, even self-inflicted, like he‟s doing. His pride will run
out and he‟ll do something neither of us will expect.” I sighed and decided to trust Lisa since she knew him better than I
did. I went looking for George‟s outfit. Though he‟s not going to be in the picture I knew he had to have an outfit
anyway. Fortunately Doc Bronc‟s had a pet department, which included dog and cat sized Stetsons, handkerchiefs,
bandanas…even tiny boots and spurs. While I believed that George should get in on the Western Wear action, I drew the
line at paw-sized Roper boots. I had finally decided on a white Stetson hat and a red bandana, which made George look
so smart. Smiling at my guy, I took a seat to wait for the rest of the crowd to get ready. George had the same idea; he
pawed at the seat beside me and, chuckling, I picked him up, plucking him down on the seat beside me where he settled,
happily viewing the world from a much higher vantage point.

     By 12:45 everyone was ready and we headed over to the Tin Pan Alley, about 20 minutes away. I quickly walked
inside and found Charlie, the owner. He was a weather-beaten, kinda rough-looking man. As soon as I asked, “Are you
Charlie? I‟m Haley Wellington, Wellington Photographers.” And extended my hand, the man opened his mouth,
displaying a fine set of pearly whites. “Howdy ma‟am. It‟s nice to meet you.”

    I turned on the charm. “It‟s wonderful you are letting us use your place. I will make sure that Tin Pan Alley is given
credit to the photo.”

     “That‟s right nice of you, ma‟am. Just make yourselves at home.” Not only did the guy provide us with
refreshments, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, he also provided extras for us. Instead of just a crowd of 14 (including
George) there were about 20 others, most of whom I learned were family and friends of Charlie. Charlie was a nice guy ,
easy to get along with… „Unlike some people‟ I groused to myself, thinking of the infamous Dr. Gregory House, who, by
this time, had started up a game of pool with the cops.

    “If I win, I get to drive a cop car for an hour, lights blazing, sirens blaring…and I get the winnings. If you win, I‟ll
double the winnings, since I‟m pretty sure you don‟t want a free MRI or EKG. But, if you do, I can offer you the lovely
Dr. Cameron over there. She‟s awfully pretty and gives GREAT MRIs. If you prefer a male, Dr. Chase makes a lumbar
puncture feel like a walk in the park.” I saw the horrified looks of the aforementioned doctors‟ faces, which elicited
chuckles from the cops. They agreed on these terms and I watched, impressed, as House broke the ball formation,
causing the colorful balls to scatter in an impressive array of colors.

    Just before joining Derrick and Dana, who had arrived before I did to set up cameras and test lights and angles, I
sauntered over to House and said, “When this photo shoot is over I challenge you to one game of pool.” House turned
and, even with the low lighting, he saw the challenge in my eyes. I saw that, no matter how upset he was with me he
couldn‟t resist a challenge from me so, smiling like he knew something I didn‟t he nodded. “Fine. What are your terms?”

   “You want them now?!?!” I asked, admittedly unprepared for that. I was hoping he‟d wait until I could come up with
something clever.

    “Yes,” he smirked even wider. „Oh, he sure is enjoying this,‟ I thought. And, for the first time, I began regretting
that bet.

    “Ok…give me your terms…right in front of all these witnesses, then I‟ll give you mine.” I said, crossing my arms and
smirking myself.

    “Fine.” He casually put his pool cue down and, turning fully to me, said, “If I win I will grant you one
request…anything you would like that I‟m financially or physically” he lifted his eyebrows at this “able to do OTHER THAN
sex.” I was rather surprised to hear this. I would‟ve thought he‟d want something rather grotesque or kinky or weird or
just plain stupid.
    “Fine. If I win we have sex on the day of my choosing, at the place of my choice, doing what I want to do. Deal?”
By now he had a haughty, outright „She will not beat me‟ attitude. We shook hands and I watched he turn back to the
table, his butt looking amazing in those Wranglers. Unfortunately what he didn‟t know was that, while in college, I used
to play in a few of the best pool halls of Chicago and I‟d beaten some of the best. I ignored the whistles and stares from
everyone who‟d heard that bet and went over to Derrick and Dana to help them finish. We were done by about 1:20
p.m.

    “Are you sure you should‟ve done that?” Dana asked as I was studying the mechanical bull.

    “No. But it‟s too late. If I back out now it would be much worse.” I ended the conversation by walking away,
leaving Dana to sigh out loud. Just then I heard a roar and turned to find House cheering, holding up his winnings, the
cops shaking their heads in amazement. He looked around until he spotted me then lifted his eyebrows in challenge, as if
to say „Do you REALLY want to run with The Big Dog?‟ . I shot him a „OH YEAH‟ look and turned away.

    “Wilson‟s here,” Eric, the lookout, announced.

    “Ok, doctors, blend into the darkness. Alison, since you are supposed to be here, just sit at the bar, nonchalantly.
Everyone else, look like bar patrons.” I was amazed how quickly everyone took their places and, by the time James
opened the bar door, the bar was abuzz with un-staged activity (at least that‟s would it appeared).
*****
    James sauntered in and, I admit, my breath was stolen. Not tall and impressive like House (though he looked very
VERY nice in that black polo shirt, which I made him tuck in, and Wranglers), James was impressive in his own way. He
wore a white t-shirt, which hugged his arms and chest; once dark-blue Wranglers, faded in all the right places; dark gray
boots; and a worn gray Stetson. I was sitting behind Alison at the bar and, when he came in, her breath caught, her
eyes roaming, taking in the exact areas I was watching. I felt uncomfortable, since James wasn‟t mine to gape at, but
dang it, that man was HOT!

     Much to my surprise, he began greeting the bar patrons closest to him (thankfully not our doctors). They were
slapping him on the back and saying, “Hey Jimbo! Great to see ya again!” “Jimmy! How‟s doctorin‟?” and “Whoa!
There‟s our Urban Cowboy!” He was gracious and greeted everyone warmly, his dimples flashing; until he stopped…he
had seen Alison. When he saw her, who was wearing a snug pair of Wranglers and a light blue sleeveless silk shirt that
tied at the navel, his eyes danced with joy. He surveyed her attire and his eyes narrowed, lingering at certain areas.
“Allie! You look so beautiful!”

  “You don‟t look so bad yourself, cowboy,” she muttered, having finally regained her breath. I gave them a few
moments to gawk then I interrupted.

    “James!” I jumped off the barstool and gave him a hug then stepped away. “WOW! You look HOT!” I teased him,
which he smiled at. Taking Alison‟s hand, he led us to the bull, located in the back of the bar. Charlie came out and
shook James‟ hand.

    “Hi Uncle Charlie.” James grinned and Charlie chuckled.

    “Charlie‟s your uncle?” Alison and I exclaimed at the same time.

    “Yep. Actually he‟s my mother‟s long-lost half-brother. Two days after I mentioned the bull-riding to you, Haley,
Mom called me and told me about Charlie. I met him and learned he owned this bar. I told him about wanting to learn
and he taught me. I must be a quick study, because over these last few weeks I quickly became the „Tin Pan Alley‟s
Reigning Bull Rider‟.” He pointed to a plaque in the wall with his picture and title. I stared, stunned. I heard Alison gasp
in amazement.

    We leaned over to get a closer look. For once in my life, I can truly say I‟ve been knocked off my feet in surprise:
House chose that moment to make his appearance…by knocking into me to get a closer look at the plaque! “OOF!” I
exclaimed as I hit the floor.

    “HALEY! Are you all right?” At that moment, my well-formed plan of keeping the Doctors of Princeton-Plainsboro
Teaching Hospital a secret from James came to an abrupt end as those doctors all rushed to my aid, leaving House as the
only one not trying to help me…he was too busy reading the plaque. Leave it to House to muck everything up.
    Still ignoring the commotion he caused, he continued to study the plaque as he commented, “Why, Jimmy! This is
mighty impressive! How ever did you find the time, between work, your mistresses and dinners with me? And why didn‟t
you tell me?”

    “Why indeed?” James snarked back, eyebrow tweaking to the sky. He helped me up. “Are you ok?”

   “I‟m fine. It‟s not everyday you get physically get bowled over by House.” I lifted pleading eyes to James. “Are you
upset? It was my idea to have them here. I needed more people to fill in the crowd.”

    James smiled. “Nope. These past few weeks have toughened me up…and House isn‟t going to get to me. Besides
I‟m proud of my title. Are you ready?”

    I nodded. As I walked past House, I kicked his cane out from under him, giving him a taste of his own medicine. I
heard a growl but kept walking, going to retrieve George and my camera from where I left them. I led the dog, which
was immensely fascinated by all the people, over to House who was watching me, though not with an angry
expression…more of a proud expression.

      I handed George‟s leash to House. George saw the exchange and, seeing that House is his second favorite person
(still trying to figure that one out), George got excited, smiling his winning doggie grin. “Do me a favor: hold George for
me.” I commanded, smiling when he gave me a look of „I really don‟t want to but he‟s not giving me any choice‟. I
smiled sweetly at him and walked away.

    I had seen, while I was away, James put a glove on his left hand and chaps over his jeans. “Ok, Charlie, let‟s get
Bronco Bill going!” I announced as I wound my camera. James smiled, kissed Alison and stepped up to the bull, climbing
up on the saddle.

    “You mean he was the one who chased that suspect, throwing rocks? That‟s HIM?!?!” I looked behind me and saw
one of the female cops pointing to James as she was talking to Tony, an incredulous, and very impressed, look on her
face. I stifled a snicker. „I guess looks can be deceiving,‟ I concluded silently and turned back to the bull. James was
straddling the bull, his gloved hand holding the rope tied around the upper-middle portion of the bull. I was rather
mesmerized by the striking form he painted, the hazy background giving a more sensual, romanticized look.

    “Ready,” he said and an upbeat country song began. The bull slowly went back and forth, up and down, turning
around. Derrick and Dana began clicking away but I just stood, still mesmerized, watching this gorgeous, slightly uptight
doctor transform into a sexy, adventurous bull-rider. His gyrating hips and the chords of muscle in the forearm that was
holding the bull were simply amazing. He bobbed up and down, never losing his concentration, never losing his Stetson.
The entire room was quiet except for the music. Everyone was as enthralled as I was.

    My reverie was suddenly broken by a sharp poke in the small of my back. I turned to see House‟s cane. My eyes
traveled the length of the cane, up to its owner, who was watching me with a frown.

    “Aren‟t you supposed to be taking pictures?”

    “Oh…right. Sorry…I was preoccupied by that amazing specimen of a man up there. Forgive me.” I lifted my camera
and began shooting, House quietly quipping, “He‟s really quite boring. I‟m much more exciting.” Then I heard the STEP-
STEP-THUMP of him walking away, which happened during the first song change. I had no time to react, because the
next song began and the bull was sped up.

     As my camera clicked I watched him…and a newfound respect for him and his abilities settled over me. He stayed on
that bull through three songs and three different speeds. When the last song ended and the bull stopped, he stepped
off, a little dizzy but none the worst for wear, and the entire bar broke into applause. I looked across the room and
watched House. I could see surprise, admiration…and sadness, which I suddenly understood. As James proudly stepped
away from the bull and into the arms of his girlfriend, I backed up slowly and quietly, standing beside him and George,
who was watching the bull with fascination…and a bit of anxiety.

    “Jimmy‟s quite the guy, isn‟t he? He can do it all.” House retorted with a tinge of sadness.

    “Yes, he‟s quite impressive…but I didn‟t lead you along and I DID NOT throw myself at you.”
    “Yes you did,” he said through stubborn reluctance, which only told me he didn‟t believe his own words.

   “Stop grasping at straws. I didn‟t lead you on and you know it. You‟re upset and you‟re jealous. If we can‟t talk
about this we‟ll settle it at the pool table,” and, with that, I put my camera down. I walked over to the pool table House
was using earlier and began racking the balls. I then grabbed a cue and chalked up. I felt the presence of another
human beside me and a hand reached in front of me to the chalk which I just vacated.
*****
   “Ok, House, you know the terms…what will you do if I win?”

    “You won‟t win,” avoidance…that‟s interesting.

    “Who breaks?” I asked as I leaned my jeaned hip against the table.

    “Flip a coin…Jimmy, come here.” James and Alison sauntered over, where House handed Alison George‟s leash.

    “What‟s going on?” James asked.

    “Got a quarter? You flip, Cameron calls the result: heads Haley breaks, tails I break.”

    “What‟s going on?” James repeated his question.

     “Honey, just flip – I‟ll tell you once they start,” Alison urged and, with that, James flipped and both of them called it:
tails.

    “Oh, goody. Now get ready for a royal butt whipping,” House snarked as he lifted his cue and broke, scattering
colorful orbs across the green felt. Since he sunk a solid I was stripes. For the next fifteen minutes we took turns sinking
our colors until I was down to two stripes, him two solid and the eight ball.

    I took a shot hitting my yellow stripe with a curve that left the spectators (everyone…no one had left) whistling and
whispering “How did she do that?” I looked up to find that haughty look wiped completely from House‟s face, only to be
replaced with „Oh, no, what have I done?‟, further evidenced by beads of sweat on his forehead and upper lip. I must
say, he did a fantastic job of keeping a straight face, not an easy thing to do.

     He sunk his red solid in an equally impressive move. I sank my last one but he missed on his next turn, leaving just
his stripe, the cue ball and the eight ball. Unfortunately, the resulting formation made me gasp: and House smirk. In an
exact straight line were the following balls: cue ball, six inches in front of his green solid, then a foot behind, the eight. I
studied the table and the only conclusion I had was to jump his solid and hit the eight with enough velocity to get it in
the pocket but keep the cue ball on the table. I was conscious of his growing mockery and felt his hot breath,
metaphorically speaking, on my neck.

    “Are you sure you don‟t want to just forfeit? I‟m sure everyone here will understand.” I ignored that…what he didn‟t
know was I had seen the jump shot successfully done…and the one who did it had given me a few pointers.
Unfortunately, the few times I had tried it I was unsuccessful. Now I had no choice…it had to do it. So, gathering my
courage, I took a deep breath and pointed to the pocket the eight ball was directly in front of.

    I looked into House‟s eyes and declared, “Eight ball, left corner pocket.” He laughed incredulously.

   “You think you can make that WITHOUT hitting my ball?” he shook his head and I knew he was trying to decide on
what I could do for him.

    I slowly leaned across the table and, settling my hands in the position I was taught, I closed my eyes briefly and took
a deep breath, which did settle my nervous heart. I opened my eyes and quickly scanned the room…it was completely
devoid of noise…and people who were breathing. Even George was holding his breath. I looked at Dana who smiled and
gently nodded her head once. She knew I could do it. I grinned slightly then let my pool cue go…

    Time stood still as that cue ball jumped his solid, without touching it, hit the eight ball, sending it straight to the
pocket…but my cue ball was still rolling…rolling…rolling…and I looked away. I couldn‟t bear to watch it go in.
    I couldn‟t gauge from the cheering crowd if I had won, so I peeked…and that cue ball was perched on the edge, just
enough it wouldn‟t teeter in. I gripped the table and snuck a peek over at House. What I saw made me even more
confused…
*****
  …or love-struck? Perhaps scared? Angry? Passionate? Constipated?

    My brain must've suffered irrevocable damage when all those neurons stopped working. For the life of me, I couldn‟t
put the correct name to what I read on House‟s face, so my hormones (not emotions...I'm working on pure hormones
here) were going through a myriad of different feelings...all of which left my head spinning.

     His eyes were moving, studying, absorbing the mayhem and revelry of the spectators, but I couldn‟t decipher what
was happening in that genius brain. His jaw was clenching and unclenching and he was looking everywhere but me. I
finally summoned enough courage and sidestepped over to him.

    “House?” He didn‟t acknowledge my presence physically, but I did see his eyes momentarily light up. “House…are
you there?”

   He finally turned to me and, excluding the eyes, he was still completely stone-faced. He leaned forward, looked
down my low-cut sleeveless blouse and said, in a very matter-of-fact tone, “Just so you know: I need a lot of foreplay
and I expect cuddling afterwards.” He then winked, as if to say „Ok, let the games begin...‟

   Now I really was confused…he‟s worse than a PMS-ing woman. First he‟s hot: practically chasing me around the
hospital; then he‟s cold: pushing me away; now he‟s hot again. Is it the genius or what? I chose not to psychoanalyze
him…I‟m sure more than one person‟s tried and failed.

    Deciding that playing his game was a whole lot more fun than resisting, I smiled provocatively and, placing a hand on
his upper arm (which was WONDERFULLY ripped) I lightly squeezed then ran it up and down. Softly I muttered, “I‟ve
never had any complaints before.” He tilted his head in an amazingly sexy way and smirked, then strode away. I had no
time to react because I was congratulated and slapped on the back by the crowd, whom I‟d completely forgotten had
existed…I was in the „House Zone‟. „Why should I be surprised that House didn‟t congratulate me? All that male
pride…can‟t stand to be beaten by a woman. I‟ll give him the best night he‟s ever had…and I bet he‟s had a lot of those
nights.‟ I decided.

    After everyone had their turn, Lisa said, as she was holding Hotstuff‟s hand, “We gotta get back to Doc Bronc's to
return the clothes. Roger‟s party is in an hour. Haley, he wanted both you and House there…House, that is a MUST.”

    “I‟ll go only if you cancel the stripper you hired and make Haley take her place,” House snarked from the back.

    I rolled my eyes but played along. “Sorry I can‟t…my „Naughty Nurse‟ stripper‟s outfit is at the cleaners.”

    “That‟s ok…you can borrow Cuddy‟s. Hers is crisp and clean…she doesn‟t get a chance to use it a lot.” House quickly
retorted. Lisa glared at him, then walked out, dragging a snickering Hotstuff with her. I grabbed George‟s leash, my
camera bag and sent an air kiss to House, who caught it in a very melodramatic way then stuck it on his mouth. „What is
that lunatic up to? I definitely know something is up…and I‟m gonna find out what before our night.‟ I reasoned. I
turned around and walked to the exit, where I met Charlie. I quickly thanked him and kissed his cheek at which he found
amusing, then George and I made our way out the door, George looking forward to the car ride…and I attempting to
calm my churning stomach.

     Could I really handle a night with House?
*****
     As I drove home I tried to replay everything that had happened up to that point: the initial phone call from Lisa; my
arrival; the separate meetings with each doctor; the disco parrots (which I still chuckle at); the various romances. My
efforts were continually sabotaged by thoughts of a certain man…whose voice haunted me…whose hands thrilled
me…whose mouth…NEVER MIND.

    I turned on the radio to block out any thoughts of him…and the song that was playing was “Insensitive” by Jann
Arden. “I like this song,” I muttered and turned up the volume. However I had conveniently forgotten the words and
what they meant. So, as the song continued it haunted me, destroying any chance of forgetting Dr. Gregory House:
„How do you block the sound of a voice you‟d know anywhere?‟ The song was hitting too close to home: I was aching to
change the channel but couldn‟t:… „You might have some advice to give on how to be insensitive‟. I sure could relate to
insensitive: “He‟s a poster child for The Society of Insensitivity, if there is such a society,” I groused aloud. „How do you
numb your skin after the warmest touch? How to you slow your blood after the body rush?‟ I felt his hands on me, his
warm breath on my cheek, the sensation of my heart bursting from my chest at his closeness.

     We stopped at a red light and I turned to George who seemed to sense my discomfort. His huge brown eyes held
understanding…and he knew how to react. From his prostrate position he belly-crawled across the front seat and laid his
head on my lap. My eyes began to tear but I managed a giggle when George howled, low and soothingly. “Thanks big
guy,” I said and stroked his ears. „I‟m one of the chose few who went ahead and fell for you. I‟m out of vogue, I‟m out
of touch, I fell too fast I feel too much…Insensitive.‟ I almost ran the car into the ditch at this one...it described our
relationship perfect. 'Oh, boy,' I thought.

    Don‟t ask me how I managed to arrive at the hospital, force of habit I reckon. Or, perhaps, the car just drove itself.
Either way, there I was, in the parking lot, supposedly going to a happy, festive time when, in actuality, I wanted to crawl
into bed with a pint of Chocolate Mint ice cream and my “Thorn Birds” DVD, tissues close at hand.

     “Well George, here we are,” I announced – then realized that George probably couldn‟t go to the party. Then I
remembered Gracie Mullins. “George, let‟s go see Grace,” I proclaimed and I led the big guy out of the car, heading
straight for the Pediatric Cancer wing.

    “What room is Gracie Mullins?” I asked the nurse at the first nurse‟s station I came across.

    “Room 4293.”

    I smiled. “Thank you,” and we found the room fairly quickly. The door was wide open and I peeked in. It was a
private room and I saw Gracie sitting on her bed, an older woman and a young adult of about 18 facing her, laughing. I
decided to surprise George onto Gracie so I tied his leash to a chair just outside the room, lifting him to sit in the chair.
He looked at with me a question in his eyes.

    “It‟s ok boy. It‟s just for a bit. I‟m gonna surprise someone wonderful with your adorable presence. Now stay,” I
said and George plopped down on the seat, placing his head on his paws. “Good boy. Mommy loves you.” His tail
thumped at this and I rubbed his ears.

    I knocked and all three turned to see me standing there. Gracie recognized me immediately and her face lit up.
“Haley!” she jumped off the bed and ran to me, throwing herself in my arms I hugged her and, after releasing her, I
looked up to see the two female with questions in their eyes. I smiled and held out my hand.

    “Haley Wellington. I‟m shooting a calendar layout for the hospital to raise funds for the new Oncology wing.”

   The mother‟s face brightened. “The photographer? Oh, yeah! Gracie‟s told me about you…mostly about your dog,
George.” She chuckled and warmly took my extended hand. “I‟m Miriam Mullins, Gracie‟s mum.” When she said mum I
heard a very slight British accent.

    “When is George coming to visit me?” Gracie asked with a hopeful look in her eyes. I smiled at everyone then
quickly stepped outside the room, untied George, set him on the ground and led him into the room.

    “He‟s anxious to see you,” I smiled as Gracie‟s face lit up. She fell to her knees and giggled when George placed his
paws on her chest, licking her face. We laughed at the wonderful scene and the other girl grabbed a digital camera from
the nightstand, taking several photos of the frolicking pair. She put down the camera and smiled at me.

    “I‟m Maggie Mullins, Gracie‟s sister. She‟s told us over and over about how wonderful George is.” She smiled bigger
as we continued to watch the dog and her sister. “How did she meet George?”

     “Well, I wasn‟t around. Dr. Alison Cameron, whom Gracie calls “Dr. Allie”, was watching George and brought him
down here. I only met Gracie yesterday when I was taking a picture for the calendar. In fact, Gracie just might be in
that picture.” I looked at my watch and then down at Gracie, who was rubbing George‟s belly and getting quite a
satisfied howl in response, “Gracie, it‟s time for George‟s walk. Do you want to take him?”
    Her face lit up. “OH YES! YES! YES!” she began jumping up and down then turned to her mother and sister.
“PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE? Can I take George for a walk? Pretty pretty please?” her mother smiled and nodded. “Of
course. As a matter of fact, it‟s a lovely day…why don‟t we all go for a walk. Haley, can you join us?”

   I smiled. “I wouldn‟t miss it.” So, we were off, taking rounds around the courtyard, Maggie and Gracie walking
George ahead of Miriam and myself. Miriam turned to me as we strolled, a sad smile on her face.

   “Gracie‟s been here for 2 years…she‟s only 7 years old. Diagnosed with leukemia when she was 5, she has grown up
knowing hospitals. She‟s made great progress over the last year and a half and, 6 months ago, the cancer went into
remission.”

    “That‟s a relief…she‟s a wonderful girl.” I looked over at her mother who still had a very sad look in her eye. “If
she‟s in remission, why are you sad?”

   “Because she‟s taken a turn for the worst: last Friday the doctors informed us the cancer is back…and there‟s nothing
we can do for her. They gave us 3 months, tops.” I stopped at these words and began to tear up. Miriam approached
me and gave me a hug. She knew the drill…which didn‟t make this any easier.

    “So, what do you do?” I was amazed how fast this little girl made a home in my heart.

    “Well, we haven‟t given up…we do all the treatments and everything we can…but we know that our time could be
very limited. That‟s why we are enjoying everything we do…and when you showed up with George today you just made
a huge impact. You and George are exactly what that little girl needs…” Miriam began walking again and I followed. We
stared at the two girls who were giggling and enjoying their time with George.

   I looked at my watch. “Listen, Miriam, it‟s been wonderful meeting you. I‟ve been invited to a party. A patient who‟s
been in a coma has woken up…and I was there when he did. He invited me to his party but I don‟t think I can take
George. Will Gracie be able to watch him for me? It‟ll only be a couple of hours.”

   Miriam smiled and shook her head. “Absolutely. We were going to be here until this evening anyway and I KNOW
Gracie will LOVE George keeping her company. GRACIE! MAGGIE!” The girls turned at their mother‟s call, then led
George back to where we were standing. “Haley has to leave for a couple of hours but she wants you to watch George.
Can you handle that?”

    Gracie turned to me, her eyes a brilliant green, her smile as big as a rainbow…and just as pretty. “Yes, I can handle
it! Oh, thank you!” She gave me a hug and I fought the tears that suddenly welled again in my eyes.

    “So, I‟ll meet you at your room in a few hours? Oh, and I may have some other dog-sitting opportunities coming up.
Are you available?”

    “OH YES! I promise…I won‟t let you down.” She hugged me and I squeezed, wishing I could make her whole again.

    “I know.” I looked at my watch. “Yikes! I‟m gonna be late if I don‟t go now! I‟ll see you later, ok?”

    “BYE!” everyone yelled back. I hurried to the party but my mind wasn‟t on festive thoughts…it centered on how I
could make this little girl‟s time the best I possibly could.
*****
    I raced to Lisa‟s office, where I found Lisa and Hotstuff making out again. This time I tried to leave without saying a
word but I wasn‟t watching where I was turning and my shoulder cracked against the doorframe.

    “OUCH!” I yelped. I heard them ending the kiss. Embarrassed, I left my back to them as I muttered, “I‟m so sorry.
I have the worst timing don‟t I? I guess I just know when to interrupt at the most inopportune times. Forgive me,” I
asked.

     I heard a male chuckle. “Ms. Wellington, it‟s fine. Really. Lisa and I should probably get a room anyway.” I gasped
at the impertinent phrase and turned in time to see Lisa slapping him across the arm, her face reddening in
embarrassment. He smirked at me. “Sounds like you and House will be getting a room soon yourselves.” I covered my
face with my hands to hide my humiliation.
    “Haley, you won fair and square. That was an amazing game, especially that jump ball. Is there anything you can‟t
do?” Hotstuff asked as he enveloped Lisa in a hug which she gratefully took. I moved my hands and looked up.

    “Sure there‟s a lot I can‟t do. For starters, right now I can‟t avoid you two lip-locking…or running into doorframes.
Lisa, we‟ve got to get to the party don‟t we?”

   “Of course,” she turned and, leaning up, gave Hotstuff a full kiss on the mouth. “Bye sweetie. I‟ll see you tonight?”
He nodded and, stopping beside me, gave me a peck on the cheek. “Bye Haley.”

    “Goodbye Officer HOTSTUFF (emphasizing Hotstuff).” He shook his head and, standing a bit straighter with his head
held high, exited the office.

    “His ego goes up every time we call him that doesn‟t it?” I asked a laughing Lisa. She nodded.

    “Let‟s go see Roger,” she said, leading the way to the elevators.

*****
   As we approached the room we heard lots of voices. The room was filled with mostly nurses, but there were doctors
and some non-hospital personnel. When Roger saw us his face lit up.

    “Dr. Cuddy! Haley! I was wondering when you‟d get here. Come in, come in. I‟d like to introduce my family to
you,” and I met his wife, three children and 12 grandchildren. I discretely looked around for House but didn‟t see him.

    I politely excused myself and took a seat in a far corner, content to observe. I watched people…and I could see
which nurse was interested in which doctor; which doctor was sleeping with which nurse; and who hated who. Five
minutes later House, the ducklings and James walked in, and the mood level of the room took a slight, but decidedly,
turn for the worst. „I guess that‟s House‟s effect on everybody,‟ I thought. I watched him…he was obviously
uncomfortable in this party setting, mentally formulating a plan to bail. I saw, within the first minute of arrival, that he‟d
looked at the door 5 different times.

    “Haley!” Alison exclaimed and she began walking to where I was sitting. I smiled and waved…and noticed House
suddenly jerk around, looking for me. His eyes met mine and he just stood there, watching me. Just then Alison arrived
and I had no time to react, positively or negatively. She sat down beside me. “I didn‟t get a chance to congratulate you
on that amazing victory. For once I truly saw House skunked…and for once he didn‟t act like a baby about it. In fact, I‟d
say he was…” and she lowered her voice “actually happy, though I don‟t know what he‟s like when he‟s happy – he‟s
never been happy since I‟ve been here. There‟s a first time for everything I guess. Listen,” she leaned further toward
me and lowered her voice to a whisper, “James has been telling me about what‟s going on between you and House.
House tells him everything…and James passes it on to me. I know House has been like a water tap: warm on, cold on,
warm on again.”

     I looked up and found House…who had taken a seat across the room…which just happened to have a perfect view of
Alison and myself. I smiled like a 6th grader with a crush and raised my hand, moving my fingers in a flirty little wave.
He just stuck his tongue out…then flashed me his sexy smirk. My breath caught…and Alison had to shake me out of my
trance. “Sorry Alison. You were saying?”

   She rolled her eyes but her tiny grin told me she wasn‟t mad. “I think I know why he‟s civil again. House is a man
who looks for anyone to blame if something goes wrong. You may‟ve given him the perfect out.”

    I looked at her, confusion clearly on my face. “What do you mean?”

     “What I mean is that, if something goes wrong, if this relationship doesn‟t work out, he can blame you. He‟ll just say,
“I had to sleep with her. She won the bet.” I think that‟s the real root of what‟s happening here. He wants everything
good in life, he wants to have you…but he wants to be able to blame someone else if it doesn‟t work out.” The proverbial
light bulb above my head finally lit. I knew what was happening…and what had to be done.

    “So, Alison, all I need to do is convince him not to give up his chance with „us‟ in order to save himself. Oh, yeah,
that‟s going to be easy. Do you happen to have any suggestions?”
   Alison thought about it for a minute. “He hates it when we take anything too seriously, when we give an ything too
much thought. Treat the entire matter lightly. See what he does next.”

    “Thanks. I‟ll do that.” I looked around and saw that some of the people were starting to get bored. A brilliant idea
flashed in my brain.
*****
   “I‟ve got a brilliant idea! It‟s about time someone livened up this party. Do you have a karaoke machine around
here?” I suggested mischievously. Alison laughed then grew serious.

    “That‟s EXACTLY what we need! Hey, Cuddy, come here!” Alison spoke up, causing Lisa to turn around and walk
over to us.

    “What‟s up?” Lisa asked, intrigued by the excited looks on our faces.

    “Haley thinks we need a karaoke machine. Do you know where we can get one?” Alison asked, excitement etching
across her face. Lisa broke into a smile and nodded.

    “I‟ll be right back.”

   Ten minutes later she returned with the machine. I was standing by Roger‟s bed, talking with him and his wife, Jean.
“Roger, do you like karaoke?” I asked with a glint in my eye. Jean smiled and Roger was confused. “I‟m not quite sure
what it is. Jean, what is it?”

    “It‟s a machine that displays song lyrics and people sing the lyrics with the music. It‟s quite fun…why do you ask?”
Jean turned to me.

    “Because Dr. Cuddy has brought the machine in. And I know just how to get this party started!” I said a truly
wicked smile on my face…and a great plan in my brain. I walked over to Lisa. “Lisa, I want House and I to be the first.
I have THE PERFECT song.”

    Lisa looked rather horror-stricken. “Are you sure? House might not want to.”

    “I‟m sure.” Lisa sighed and nodded. “Ok…good luck in getting him to co-operate.” I turned to James, who was
standing with House. I curled my finger to him, indicating him to follow me. He looked at me with a “What? Me?”
expression, confusion on his face. I nodded. He moved to follow but House stopped him with his cane.

    “What‟s this all about?” He studied both of us. I smiled.

    “Pardon us, House. I was going to take him to another room and make a man out of him.” People chuckled all
around me and House narrowed his eyes. I rolled mine and, when James reached me, I grabbed his hand, pulling him
out of the room. With my eye on House (whose look never wavered from us) through the glass wall of the room, I told
him of my plan. His face burst forth a sexy dimpled smile, an evil look coming from those brown eyes.

    “I can‟t do this without you. Will you help me?” I asked, entreaty in my eyes.

   “Of course I will. I want to see House as embarrassed as possible. And, by the way, great song choice!” He
squeezed my arm and we went back in. Lisa nodded to me and I stepped up to the karaoke machine. Turning it on, I
thumped the mike to get everyone‟s attention.

    “Excuse me? Everyone? Hi. My name is Haley Wellington. I am a photographer here on assignment. I wanted to
thank Roger here for his invitation.” I lifted my punch cup. “I also want to offer a toast to Roger…may he have many
more happy years…and may he never be in this hospital again! I mean that in the best way, Roger!” Everyone laughed
and toasted, saying “Here here!” I put my cup down and smiled. “Now, we‟ve got to get this party going…and that‟s
why the karaoke machine is here.”

    I pulled out a cassette and placed it in the player. Straightening up I turned to House. “But I can‟t do this
alone…House, I need your assistance. This song requires two people.”

    His eyes got wide, almost with fright. “Me? Are you kidding me? What are you putting in that punch?”
    “Of course I mean it. What are you…chicken?”

   Beside House, James started making clucking noises then he began baiting him. “He‟s turning a bit yellow, isn‟t he?
Almost like a chicken? CLUCK. CLUCK. CLUCK.” House‟s face was turning red and he was looking down…either he was
embarrassed or very, VERY mad. He suddenly looked up and smiled a challenge in his eyes.

   “Fine. I‟ll do it.” I was rather taken aback. „That was WAY too easy,‟ I thought. I was counting on taking
Operation: Karaoke to step 2: James betting that House didn‟t have the guts. I narrowed my eyes at House but all he did
was stare at me as he limped forward.

    “Ok…here are the words,” I flashed the words on the karaoke screen…and I saw House visibly go pale.

     “We‟re singing THAT????” He asked, horrified. He looked at me, saw my “I‟m absolutely serious…boy you really are
chicken” look and straightened up. “Fine. The things I do for…” he began, muttering, but stopped. I decided not to
speculate on what he meant. I pressed play and the music started.
*****
     I began: “They say we‟re young and we won‟t don‟t know, we won‟t find out until we grow”. I immediately heard
chuckles from the ducklings and laughter from Lisa and James. They knew where this was going. House narrowed h is
eyes at everyone but, to back out now would make him look like a wimp so he held his head high and sang, “Well I don‟t
know if all that‟s true cause you got me, and baby I got you.” The entire room erupted into laughter and we were both
really starting to get into the song… “babe, I got you babe I got you babe” We looked at each other and saw that the
other was genuinely smiling. We were enjoying this.

    I smiled at him, beginning to feel what the song was about. “They say our love wont pay the rent before its earned,
our moneys all been spent” He winked at me and sang, “I guess that‟s so, we don‟t have a pot but at least I‟m sure of all
the things we got”.

    We kept going and the crowd was watching us in awe. Perhaps it was because no one else would do the song;
perhaps it was because we actually sang in tune (a first for me). I didn‟t know…and I didn‟t care. House: “I got you to
hold my hand”; Me: “I got you to understand”; House: “I got you to walk with me” (he made a silly face at this, causing
everyone to laugh); Me: “I got you to talk with me”; House: “I got you to kiss goodnight”; Me: “I got you to hold me
tight”; House: “I got you, I wont let go”; Me: “I got you to love me so”.

   When we finished the entire room erupted in applause. House grabbed my hand and we bowed, several times.
Roger even took a rose out of one of his many bouquets on his nightstand and threw it at me, which I caught. I smiled
knowingly at House, at which he leaned over and, whispering in my ear, said, “I‟m going to get you for that: you won‟t
know when, you won‟t know where, you won‟t know how. But you aren‟t safe, little girl.”

    “Oh, really? Is the bad, bad wolf gonna come and hurt me?” I fluttered my long eyelashes in an exaggerated
motion, at which he rolled his eyes at me. But he did something totally unexpected…he looped his arm around my waist,
pulled me to him and kissed me…hard. And in front of all those people. Fortunately his kiss drowned out the “AHHHHs”
from the crowd.

    We parted. “That wasn‟t payback…that was just a TASTE of what I‟m going to do to you. You embarrassed
me…now I embarrassed you. Granted, I did have fun…was your embarrassment fun?” House breathlessly asked, still
holding me close to him, his heart beating fast beneath my touch.

    I winked and replied, just as breathlessly, “It was ok. But you gotta do better than that…”

     And he did…he SO did…
*****
         “AHEM!” I vaguely heard a throat clearing and moaned. Still kissing House I didn‟t want to let him go…it felt
right…it felt good. He moaned in response to my moan then loosened his grip. Sighing I slowly backed away and almost
tripped over the karaoke machine.

    I couldn‟t look at anyone so I fled to the ladies room. I wasn‟t sad: I was humiliated. However it wasn‟t humiliation
causing the racing heart; the tightening stomach; the lightheadedness; the fluttering throughout my body. I hunkered
over the sink and turned on the tap, splashing water over my face. I could‟ve sworn I heard that distinctive STEP-STEP-
THUMP…but it stopped so I guess I was hearing things.

     “What are you doing in here?” a gruff voice asked. I shrieked and turned around, dripping water in my wake. He
rolled his eyes and, limping to the paper towel dispenser tore off two and handed them to me. I wiped my face, makeup
included, and stood up straight, avoiding his probing eyes. Not only was House in the ladies room he was also looking at
me without makeup. Talking about feeling vulnerable. Without my makeup I‟m white and pasty. No one should see
that, much less House. Think of all the useful material he now had.

    “Haley,” he said but I didn‟t look at him. “Haley, look at me!” He repeated my name with such force I finally did look
up, fear overtaking me. For a moment the old fear my father instilled came through and I took a step back. House
immediately recognized what was happened and his face instantly softened. “I‟m sorry Haley. I didn‟t mean to yell at
you.” I nodded, willing my body to relax but still keeping my guard up. I looked away from him down to his Nike Shox.

      He took a step forward and I stepped back. His eyes registered what I did and, smirking, he took another step
forward and I stepped back. The sink hit the small of my back, causing me to yelp in pain, but I still couldn‟t look
up…but the hot breath on my forehead told me he was only inches away. I sucked in a breath when I felt a rough hand
trailing my down-turned face. I finally looked up and saw him studying my face, his fingers leaving a trail behind his
eyes.

    “I didn‟t realize you had freckles,” he murmured, his words bouncing off my forehead, leaving a shiver down my
spine. His fingers continued over the bridge of my nose and my cheekbones, down the side of my neck. I‟m surprised I
didn‟t drop from lack of oxygen…I certainly couldn‟t breathe. His next words turned my legs to jelly and I leaned back
against the sink:

    “I like them.”

   I watched his eyes…and what I saw made my heart dance. He had the look of a man who discovered something
new and exciting…about the woman he loved, treasured.

    “Haven‟t you ever seen freckles before?” I asked in an effort to clear the thickening air around us. “I am a redhead.
Freckles come with light skin.” He didn‟t acknowledge; his hands roamed, explored, as if he‟d never seen what he was
looking at before, which was my freckled shoulders and upper arms.

   “House, what are you doing here, in the ladies room?” He shrugged, still intent on my arms, his light touches
drawing circles and a deep ache to my heart.

    “I wanted to be alone with you. We‟ve got a lot to discuss.”

    “Yes, House, we do. But what if a LADY has to, say, use the ladies room? Are you just going to stay here while…”
but I couldn‟t finish my sentence…he was kissing my shoulder. „You can handle this,‟ the mental pep talk I attempted
was a whisper compared to the scream my hormones were emitting, thought I did manage to say, rather snarkily,
“Wow…you‟re certainly hot today. Yesterday you were cold.” He stopped and, slowly, removed his lips from my
shoulder, which felt the departure very keenly.

   He stepped back and looked at me. Thank goodness I‟d gotten my snark face on in time. I watched him watch
me…and I had a distinct feeling he wanted me to think he was trying to manipulate me, for what reason I have no idea.
However, I decided to play along. Perhaps he wants people to think that…why I have no idea.
*****
   “House, what do you want? What‟s going on?” I asked, crossing my arms in front of me. His eyes narrowed at this.

     “Please unclench. I hate it when people do that. Cameron does it all the time.” I sighed and removed my hands,
letting them fall to my side. “What do I want? You ask me what I want?” He looked into my eyes and I saw a conflict,
an internal tug of war for his security and happiness. “I want to be free to love without second guessing the intentions of
the person. Free, that‟s really what I want. I‟m in bondage.”

    “To your leg?” he nodded and sighed, turning away from me. I made no effort to stop him. “You‟re also in bondage
to your inner demons…and to that brilliance that makes you a great doctor.” He nodded again. I didn‟t say anything
else…just observed. „Perhaps he really isn‟t trying to manipulate me…perhaps he‟s just trying to open up to me and
doesn‟t know how to do it. Let it happen Haley. You both need it.‟ I told myself.

     House continued. “I‟ve always been so hard on myself. It started with my father, a career military man. I couldn‟t
do anything right. I made my bed wrong; I played basketball wrong. My mother, bless her…she just let it happen. She
was afraid of him: not that he‟d hurt her, but a reverent fear. He‟s a very imposing figure. I set out to prove there is
ONE thing, JUST ONE THING, I could do right…and medicine was that one thing. Perhaps the only thing.” His voice was
very quiet and I saw him thinking back, remembering a time long, long ago.
     “When I met Stacy, I was so happy. I thought I finally got that right too. We were so passionate, so aggressive
together; it truly was a battle of wills. And I was so turned on by her; but for some reason I couldn‟t make the
commitment of marriage. Stacy wanted it; talked about it. Fear can keep you from what you want, and I feared
marriage. Still do, though not like I did back then. I just convinced myself we were fine; tried to convince her we were
fine.” He turned back to me, and the intensity of his voice increased, almost like he was trying to convince me of
something. He began pacing, limping. I still leaned against the sink, wholly entranced by this side of House. It was
almost as if he needed to get out…things I‟m guessing only one other person knew the full extent-of…James.
     “Then the leg happened. I was mad at myself: did you know I diagnosed myself? The doctors couldn‟t find what
was wrong; it took me THREE DAYS to discover the infarction. I‟m a world-class diagnostician…I should‟ve discovered it
sooner. By the time it was discovered, the damage was done. The doctors went in and took out the blood clot but I was
in excruciating pain. Stacy was so supportive, staying at my bedside, trying to help me.
     There were several options about what should be done. The extreme was to cut off the leg…but I just couldn‟t. Call
it vanity; I wanted both my legs, even if one was crippled. The middle ground was to go in and take out the dead
muscle. I didn‟t want to do that…I was hoping the pain would go away. It didn‟t. I was delirious and, in my delirium, I
asked to be put in a coma so I could sleep through the pain, which they did immediately.” He stopped pacing and turned
to me. “Stacy was my medical proxy and, while I was under, Stacy had the doctors remove the muscle, which left me in
my current condition. I look back on it and, now, years later, it was probably the best thing to do, given I wouldn‟t let
them take my leg. I probably should‟ve just had them cut off the leg. Shortly thereafter I, pretty much, drove Stacy
away. I‟m not a very good patient.”

     He was watching me, waiting for some response. I had none, other than, “Why are you still hiding behind your leg?
It‟s no one‟s fault; it happens. You aren‟t a bad person. How many people can diagnose what‟s wrong with them?”

     “The leg changed from vanity to the cross I chose to bear. I figured it was a lot easier to bear the cross than remove
it. It became familiar. It also allows me to be the doctor I‟ve become. I get more freedom to diagnose my patients. I‟m
not much of a conformist.”

    I smiled. “So I noticed.” He smiled at this and we held each other‟s gazes, just smiling and silently flirting. I knew,
then, our relationship changed. It moved forward, perhaps even closer to a commitment. I slowly moved forward, still
smiling. I placed my hand on his hip, looping my thumb in a belt loop. He didn‟t do anything but stare…though I heard
the hitch in his breath. Encouraged I placed my palm on his cheek, lightly caressing a gray patch of stubble, just off the
right side of his chin. My eyes moved to his lips, which he was licking. I leaned up and lightly, gently, whispered a kiss
across his lips. I felt his urgency to deepen the kiss but stepped away, still looking at his lips. My eyes looked up and I
saw his cloudy eyes, much like a clouding sky before a summer storm.

    “Thank you for telling me Greg,” I whispered, his eyes clouding even further at the use of his given name. “It truly
means a lot to me.” He must‟ve seen the truth in my eyes because he shifted, almost like someone removed a heavy
weight from his shoulders. He stood up straighter.

    “You‟re much more than just a bet to me,” he whispered. “I‟ve only ever loved two women…the first left me. The
second…I don‟t want to drive her away but I‟m scared…and I‟ve never admitted that, to anyone,” he paused and smiled a
sad smile, “not even to Wilson. I do want to be happy…with her…with you…I don‟t know what to do. I don‟t want to be
hurt again.” I barely caught that last sentence but, when I did, my eyes opened wide at his honesty.

     “You‟ve got to trust me. Just let it happen, don‟t force anything.” I smiled then began walking around House to exit
the ladies room. He stopped me and I saw, in his eyes, his desire to trust me…but I knew it wouldn‟t be easy. I silently
replied that I knew…and that I would be patient, at least as long as I was in town. Then I had my life back in Chicago.
He needed to decide…quick. He grabbed me but, instead of kissing me, hugged me, as if for comfort. I squeezed back,
stepped out of his arms and walked out, heading back to the party.
     When I returned to Roger‟s room James and Alison were singing “The Sign” from Ace of Base. I looked at my watch.
„Yikes! It‟s been 2½ hours! I need to pick up George!‟ Once they were finished I clapped then, going to Roger I said,
“I‟ve got to go. My dog is being dog-sat and I need to pick him up, then I‟ve got some pictures to develop. Can I come
by tomorrow, perhaps get some photos of you and your family?”

    Roger‟s smile was huge and warm. “Sure! They will be here around noon. Thanks for coming by!” I smiled and
kissed his cheek. I waved goodbye to everyone then I turned to the doorway. House was standing there watching me.

   “Let me walk you to the elevator,” he whispered when I got to him. My look of surprise must‟ve surprised him,
because he asked, “What?”

    “Nothing,” I said and smiled as we walked to the elevator. He pressed the down button and turned to me.

    “Will you be around tomorrow?”

    “Yes,” I stated, fidgeting like I was standing beside a movie star or someone like that.

    “Will you have lunch with me?” I looked into his hopeful eyes.

   “It will be late…or very early. I have a noon meeting with Roger and his family, then a photo to take at 1:30. How
about 11?”

    “Sure. Come by the office.” DING! The elevator opened and I got on, turning just in time to see his beautiful eyes
glowing, a sincere smile on his face, before the doors closed.
*****
        I reclaimed George and drove back to the hotel. After showering, changing and locking George in his crate
(which he vehemently protested and I almost cried…I hate locking him up!) I left for the studio to process James‟ photos.
An hour later, as I hung the last photo to dry, my mind wandered to tomorrow‟s lunch…then my lack of a suitable outfit.
For some reason I felt this was a REAL first date…and you can‟t wear rags on a first date, can you? „I‟m going shopping,‟
I thought. With a confident nod, I looked at my watch and, seeing it was 6:00, I knew I had to rush. After the fastest
cleanup job I‟ve ever done, I hopped in the car and drove to Neiman Marcus. I parked and, when I got inside, I located
Deborah.

        “Haley! It‟s good to see you again!” We hugged. “What are you doing here?”

        “Well I have a lunch date tomorrow and I don‟t have a thing to wear. Can you help me?”

       Her face brightened at the prospect. “Let me guess…is it that scruffy guy with the cane?” I nodded as my eyes
widened in shock.

        “How did you know?”

      “I had a feeling about him. I saw the way he was looking at you. Besides, it‟s not everyday a guy spends that
much money on a dress. He‟s got an angle…and he‟s angling for you.”

        I smiled. “We‟ll see. Can you help me?”

        “Of course. What‟s your price range? Look?”

        “Definitely casual. I already have a dressy outfit.”

         She chuckled. “So you do. Come on.” For the next hour we combed through the racks. I don‟t think I‟ve ever
tried on so many clothes. I finally decided on a spaghetti-strap magenta top. The top layer was filmy and very see-
through but the coordinating silk under layer kept the top moderately decent. I also chose a white, short, non-pleated
tennis skirt. The most adorable white heeled sandals, silver starred earrings and matching pendant necklace rounded out
the look. I stepped out of the dressing room and, when she saw me, her eyes widened and she gasped. “Wow-you look
great!”

        I smiled. “So you think he‟ll like it?”
        “OH YEAH.”

        “Great…because this is going to cost me a fortune.”
*****
         The next morning I arrived at the hospital by 10:30. I took several deep breaths in an effort to control my racing
heart and fluttering stomach. I stepped out of the car and walked, with my head held high, to the entrance. Though
intent on my mission I could see, out of the corner of my eye, male doctors, orderlies and nurses watching me. I even
got a few whistles that I ignored, though I tried to hide my smile. What girl wouldn‟t want to have men whistle at her,
especially when she feels good about herself? I walked into the hospital, straight to the elevators, deciding to bypass
Lisa‟s office. I pressed the up button and got on an empty elevator car.

          DING! The elevator door opened on my requested floor…and I found myself face to face with James and House.
I first looked at James whose eyes skimmed over my body, his eyebrows raised in appreciation. I then turned to
House…but he was too busy looking at my breasts. James saw the exchange, smirked and got on the elevator, saying,
“I‟ll catch you later.”

       “Yeah…later…” House mumbled, clearly distracted. I crossed my arms over my chest, which broke his trance.
He scowled then looked up, finally discovering that my eyes were ABOVE my chest. Funny…as a doctor you‟d think he‟d
know these things.

        “Nice to see you‟ve discovered where my eyes really are…much higher than you thought, huh?”

       He smirked, his eyes roaming my face. “That is a great top…really makes us doctors appreciate our profession.”
He motioned his arm in front of him, silently saying “After you.” I knew he just wanted to watch me walk away so I
exaggerated my sashay. He must‟ve been overly exaggerating where his eyes were because everyone in that hall was
watching us with their mouths dropped. I couldn‟t make him stop so I just shook my head.

          When we got to his office I saw both the office and the conference room were devoid of ducklings. He turned to
me and tried to pull me into his arms but I didn‟t let him. He scowled. “What‟s up? I showered…I promise I did.” But I
was ignoring him: I noticed his wardrobe for the first time. He wore his usual sport coat and his t-shirt showed through
the first few unbuttoned buttons at his neck, as usual…but his oxford shirt was…IRONED! And tucked in. His jeans
weren‟t wrinkled. His eyes followed where mine were…and he smiled.

       I pointed to him. “You ironed your shirt?” I looked into his face…and reached over to touch his chin. He hadn‟t
completely shaved but the stubble was much shorter. I knew it was a good sign that he‟d cleaned up. I looked into his
eyes and smiled, which caused him to smile wider. “What are you waiting for…aren‟t you going to kiss me?”

          “Bossy aren‟t we?” But he didn‟t protest as he took my mouth with his, causing us to moan at the same time. I
felt his hands roam further down my back, down…down…down…I stopped them and pulled away.

        “Not yet,” I whispered. He groaned. I looked at my watch. “It‟s 10:45. Want a really, REALLY early lunch?”

        “Sure.” He coughed, trying to control his response.

        “Where are we going?”

        He limped to his desk, where he pulled out a picnic basket. “We‟re going for a picnic.”

        My mouth dropped in surprise and I watched him approach me, a proud look on his face. Once he reached me I
took the picnic basket from him, much to his protesting. “You can‟t carry the basket, use your cane AND hold my hand at
the same time,” I scolded him. He complied, though not without some grumbling. As we walked to the elevators, I
remarked, “I didn‟t know you cooked.”

        He hid his face, which told me two things: 1. Either he didn‟t want to admit he cooked or 2. He didn‟t cook. I
had a feeling I knew the answer. Before I could comment he said, “There are lots of things you don‟t know about me.”
We stepped onto the elevator and turned to face the doors.
        Just as they were closing I remarked, “Did you thank James? I‟m sure he worked hard to get this together.” He
closed his eyes and hung his head as the doors slapped shut.
*****
        We walked out of the hospital and I turned my face to the sunshine, savoring the sunshine on my face and bare
arms. Since I had no idea what he had in mind I just followed. I wasn‟t surprised when he headed to Bradshaw Park,
right next to the hospital. It was a gorgeous day as we walked, hand in hand. I relished the big, strong, rough hand that
engulfed mine, the long fingers entwined with mine. The closer to the park we got the more butterflies that flittered in
my stomach. He directed us to a crop of trees, off to one corner, away from the mothers with their children in strollers,
the young adults with Frisbee-catching dogs, the speed walkers and runners.

        We stopped at a surprisingly quiet, secluded spot. He let go of my hand, took the picnic basket and removed a
blanket. Placing the picnic basket on the ground, he spread out the blanket. The whole scene was so amazing and
wonderful…I had a hard time keeping the tears in my eyes. I sat, as modestly as possible in such a short skirt, and
began emptying the contents of the basket on the blanket while he removed his sport coat and sat on the blanket,
leaning against the tree.

        “Fried chicken…potato salad…baked beans…rolls. Oh, even apple pie! You are such a great cook House!” I
commented, my words dripping with syrup. I heard his embarrassed smile and looked to see his neck reddening.
Leaning over, though I didn‟t have to go far since he was sitting very close, I kissed his cheek. He turned his head, a bit
surprised. “House, I don‟t care if you didn‟t make the food. This is so wonderful. Thank you.” His eyes brightened by
this and he sat back against the tree, a bit of pride in his carriage.

        “Now, feed me woman.”

        “Don‟t push it buster. You‟re old enough to feed yourself. But I will make your plate.” I pulled out paper
products: utensils, plates, napkins and bottled water. Dipping out the food, we were munching quietly five minutes later.

        “House…”

        He swallowed his bite and said, “Call me Greg.”

        I smiled through my potato salad. “Greg…” I sneaked a peek and saw him hiding a very pleased smile. “You
said your dad was in the military. Did you get to travel?”

        He was silent for a moment. “Why do you ask?”

         “Because I never went anywhere growing up. The first time I ever traveled was when I went to college in
Chicago. I had to get away from that life. Dana had moved there as soon as she was old enough and I stayed with her.
I do travel but it‟s for work. I want to see the world.”

         He sighed. He didn‟t seem too thrilled to talk about it. “Yes. Every three years we were someplace new. Egypt,
Hawaii, England, Spain. Unfortunately I never got to make lasting friendships. Kinda explains my anti-social behavior,
doesn‟t it?” I snickered, munching on my beans. “I did enjoy Spain. Met lots of beautiful senoritas. Great food. Rich
history.”

        “Is there someplace you wish to go?”

        He thought a moment. “Though I give Chase crap, I would like to visit Australia.”

          My face brightened. “Me too. New Zealand as well.” I finished my plate and sat against the tree, my shoulder
against his. He moved away and I looked over, wondering what he was doing. He scooted to the ground and, turning
slightly, laid down and placed his head on my lap. He was looking up at me, his eyes asking permission. I gave it to him
by running my right hand through his hair. He lay there, silently, basking in the attention of my hand…and I felt, perhaps
for the first time in my life, complete peace. It was such an odd feeling…

       “I‟m worried about Jimmy,” his quiet voice broke through my thoughts. I looked down and saw him watching
something in the distance. I began rubbing his scalp and his eyes closed in relaxation.

        “Why? He seems happy. I think Alison is great for him.”
        Greg sighed. “Because, before each wife, he was always happy, each woman seemed great for him…but it didn‟t
take long for him to stray.” He spit out the word „stray‟, like it was something bad in his mouth. Once again I was
surprised.

        “What, you don‟t approve of his infidelity?”

        “Of course not. How could you think I did?” He finally looked up at me, a genuine look of confusion on his face.

       “Well,” I stopped my hand, leaving it in his hair. “I would‟ve thought it was „macho‟ to have any woman he
wanted.”

        “Again, there‟s a lot you don‟t know about me.”

        “I‟d like to change that,” I murmured, beginning the scalp massage again and he sighed with contentment. I
looked at my watch. It was 11:30.

        “Why me?” Came his quiet question. He opened his eyes and looked at me. I studied them but didn‟t answer.
Never taking his eyes from mine he sat up, placed his hand on the other side of my crossed legs and leaned into me,
leaving only about 6 inches from me.

        “I guess I could ask you the same question.”

        He smiled. “I asked first.”

        My smile quirked. “Honestly, I don‟t know. But what first caught me was the snarking back and forth.
Truthfully,” I leaned forward and whispered against his slightly parted lips, “I get turned on by it. You are so sexy when
we banter.” I moved and filled in the remaining space between us. I felt his hand in my hair. He finally pulled away.

          “And you have a very sexy brain. I love smart women,” he breathed, then kissed me again and, placing my
hands on both cheeks, I pulled him with me, until we were leaning against the tree, his right arm still supporting his body
and his left hand pulling my spaghetti strap down. He pulled away and placed a kiss on my bare right shoulder,
producing a shiver down my spine; when he lightly blew on the spot he kissed my entire body turned to overcooked
cabbage. His lips began moving down, kissing my breastbone, then further, further down. I couldn‟t breath; couldn‟t
think, much less couldn‟t form the word “STOP”. Before he went any further I heard RING, RING. RING, RING. It was
his cell phone…and I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew we couldn‟t go at it in a public park; besides the first time needed
to be…not under a tree. He swore under his breath and against my chest, then, sitting up, his eyes filled with apologies.
I smiled weakly, then pulled away and began to clean up.

       “HOUSE!” he gruffed into the phone. I was surprised he could make himself sound that restrained because his
chest was heaving and his eyes were rather cloudy. He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Did you do an LP?”

         I ignored his conversation and continued cleaning, gathering the trash. I found a trash barrel a little ways off
and, when I returned, House was standing up, slapping his phone shut. He bent down and picked up the blanket, then
folded it and placed it in the basket. He was still leaned over the basket when I approached and placed my hand on his
back. He quickly stood up, basket in hand.

        “I‟m sorry…the patient‟s got to have emergency surgery. I…” but he didn‟t finish. I walked over to underneath
the tree and picked up his coat.

        “Is it anyone I know? Not another ex-boyfriend?” He smirked.

        “Nope…Norma Evans, 50 year old grandmother.”

       “Nah…don‟t know a Norma. Greg,” I began and, stepping over to him, laid my hand lightly against his cheek.
“Make me a promise.”
          He nodded. “When it‟s time for us to be alone…make it very clear to everyone you are unreachable…and leave
your phone at work.” He gave me a lopsided grin then offered his hand, which I took happily. With a bit of regret we
walked back to the hospital.
*****
          When we got to the hospital‟s front entrance I stopped Greg. “Greg, I had a wonderful time. Was that our first
official date?”

        He smiled. “I think so…at least the first date I didn‟t deliberately try to sabotage.”

        “About that. Why did you?”

         He sighed and looked at our entwined fingers. “I was scared…still am.” He didn‟t make any effort to say more
so I just let it go.

        “Greg, I‟m taking pictures for Roger and his family, then I have Dr. Billy Markson‟s photo at 1:30. Can you watch
George for me? I will run home, after meeting with Roger, and get him. He really likes you, you know.” I gave him a
pleading, hopeful look.

        He stood a bit straighter, that proud look in his eyes and demeanor. “He does like me, doesn‟t he?” Then his
mouth twisted into an evil grin. “I‟ve got clinic duty this afternoon and George is a good doctor…sure, I‟ll watch him. But
let me ask you something: don‟t you think it‟s odd he likes me?” His eyes, the color of that day‟s sky, glistene d
mischievously.

        “Yes…and no. I‟ve just never seen him take to someone so quickly. Are you sure you didn‟t have treats in your
pockets that day you met him?”

        “Yeah…I keep a spare steak in my pocket for emergencies.” I rolled my eyes and turned toward the parking lot.
He grabbed my wrist and, in front of that busy entrance, pulled me to him, kissing me. When we parted he murmured
against my lips, “I want you more than I‟ve ever wanted anyone. How long are you going to make me wait?”

        “Is the GREAT Dr. Gregory House begging for sex?” I breathed.

        “Oh yeah.”

        I leaned in for one final kiss then pulled away. I winked then sashayed away, leaving House groaning in my
wake. „Thank goodness I left my camera in my car…I definitely wasn‟t ready to answer that question.‟
*****
        At noon I arrived at Roger‟s room, where I found, standing around Roger‟s bed, Jean; all three of his kids; some
other adults (whom I assumed were the spouses of the children); and all twelve of the grandkids.

        “Hi Haley! I‟m so glad to see you!” Roger‟s face lit up when he saw me. I smiled and, walking to his bedside,
leaned over, kissing his cheek. I gave Jean a hug.

        “How are you doing today? I bet all the nurses are spoiling you, aren‟t they?”

         “He‟s quite the hit. They bring him homemade brownies, cookies; flowers; candy. He‟s the most popular guy on
this floor.” Jean said, smiling proudly.

        “Kids, this is Haley Wellington.” Roger proudly introduced me.

       “Ah!” “Nice to meet you!” “She‟s pretty!” “I love your outfit!” came the chorus of greetings from the children
and grandchildren. Jean took a few moments to introduce everyone and my head was spinning when she finished.

        “You‟re the lady who woke him up, aren‟t you?” I looked down at Jacob, Roger‟s 7-year-old grandson.

        “Me? Did I wake you up?” I looked at Roger in confusion and he chuckled.

        “Yes, I do believe you did. After all, you were the first voice I heard as I was waking up.”
         We had quite a lovely visit. I took many pictures and, promising to develop them as soon as I possible, I begged
leave. “I‟ve got another photo to take for the calendar.” I kissed Roger goodbye, hugged Jean and waved to everyone.
*****
         I quickly arrived back at my hotel room. George must‟ve heard my key because I heard his baying as I walked
in. I found him standing on my bed, his tail wagging, his tongue hanging out, his eyes bright with excitement. “There‟s
my boy!” I cooed and sat on the bed. He licked my face and, settling his paws on my shoulders, gave me a doggie hug.

        “I love you too boy. But you are no longer the only guy in my life.” He paused and gave me a look of doggie
confusion. “I love House. How are you with that?” At House‟s name he perked up and, with his paws still on my
shoulders, his tail wagged harder; his ears perked up; and he softly bayed in happiness. I laughed with relief. “I guess
you are just fine with that, huh?” I moved George off me and, standing up, retrieved his leash from the hall table. This
only made him more excited because he LOVED going for walks, car rides, whatever. After snapping his leash on I led
him outside, back to the car.

         I placed him in the front seat and, with his paws on the open window frame he hung his head out the window,
his ears brushing the door. I started the car then drove off, George‟s ears flapping in the window, a doggie smile on his
cute mug. Man, I love that guy.
*****
         I parked the car and, opening the door for my four-legged best friend, leaned over to snap the leash back on. He
trotted beside me, ears flapping with each step, tongue lolling. As soon as we reached the hospital entrance, George
bayed at two nurses standing by the door. They turned and looked down. I‟ve never seen people melt as fast as they do
when they see George. He‟s definitely a chick magnet.

       “Oh, what a wonderful Basset!” One of the nurses cooed as she knelt beside him, reaching over to stroke his
ears. She was gone when he looked up and shot her a “Do you love me?” look. “AWWWW!” Both nurses sighed at the
same time and I‟ve never seen a happier male, human or not. I felt really horrible, having to cut this love-fest short, but
I needed to get upstairs. I had to meet Dr. Markson at 1:30.

         “I‟m sorry,” I apologized, still gently pulling on George‟s leash. He could be so stubborn sometimes…he was
getting too much attention and he didn‟t want to leave. “I‟ve got to go. Say goodbye to the nice ladies George.” George
finally decided to behave and said “ROLF! ROLF!” “AAWWW!” I knew if I didn‟t get him moving RIGHT NOW he‟d
change his mind and stay. I tugged once more and he came, happily trotting his bouncy trot. We managed to catch the
elevator and pressed the up button…but George mesmerized the people in the elevator! After much coaxing and tugging,
I got him moving down the hall towards House‟s office, asking as we went along, “What‟s up with you today George?
You are such a flirt!” He then shot me a “I‟m pretty hot stuff…didn‟t you know that?” I rolled my eyes and muttered,
“Men.”

       When we arrived at House‟s office the doctor was in a meeting with the ducklings. I stood there a moment, just
watching House work…the concentration on his face…the way the lines around his eyes deepened with every thought.

        “You know he hasn‟t taken any Vicodin today,” I heard a quiet smooth voice in my ear.

         “He hasn‟t? Is that what he told you?” I asked, turning to James. He nodded, an impressed look on his face. I
opened my mouth to say something when George said, “ROLF! ROLF!” I looked down and saw him staring intently ahead
of him. I looked up and saw House and the ducklings standing at the conference room door. Alison saw George and,
smiling, bent down to stroke his ears…and she wasn‟t refused the opportunity.

        House watched her and rolled his eyes. “See, Cameron, THIS is why we don‟t keep a pet in the classroom. You‟ll
take better care of the pet than the patients.” The male ducklings chuckled behind their boss‟s back; James and I shook
our heads; and Alison completely ignored him. „Good for you Alison,‟ I mentally cheered her.

       “Greg, nobody likes the school bully. Go pick on someone your own size,” I snarked playfully at him. He looked
at me and, seeing the twinkle in my eye and my smirk he playfully narrowed his eyes.

        “I‟d win…I kick AND I bite.”

         “Yes, you do bite,” I slipped out before realizing what I said. My eyes widened and I covered my mouth in
mortification. This slip brought all the ducklings into convulsions of laughter; James turned to hide his reddening face
(only from trying to hold in his laughter); and House tilted his head, as if in a challenge. The ducklings were still laughing
and James couldn‟t say anything. Seeing that House wasn‟t upset, amused in fact, I finally recovered, then grinned,
accepting his challenge. “Well, you only nibble.” I heard another round of laughter taking over the ducks and James
finally burst, probably couldn‟t hold his breath anymore.

        House‟s mouth quirked, his eyes roaming my face. “I never kiss and tell,” he flung back in mock indignation.

       “Well, here‟s George,” I handed him the leash, our fingers lightly caressing during the exchange. My eyes
popped up to his and I saw he was as affected as I was.

        “AHEM!” James cleared his throat and we snapped out of it. “House…”

        “What? Jealous that George prefers me to you? See?” We all looked down and saw that George had, indeed,
placed his paws on House‟s legs, looking up at him in adoration.

       “You‟re effect on animals is amazing. You make “The Crocodile Hunter” look like Darth Vader,” James
deadpanned, causing another round of laughter.

        I coughed then smiled sweetly at House. “Thank you.”

       He took the leash and leered at me (yes, LEERED). “And what will YOU do for ME??” My mouth momentarily
dropped open, though I shouldn‟t have been surprised to hear that.

        Recovering, I said, “Well, I really can‟t say…there are children present.” I smiled and walked to the elevators,
leaving a chorus of “OHHHH”s in my wake. „Let him chew on THAT one,‟ I snarked to myself, grinning with satisfaction
as I pressed the up button. „Time to meet Dr. Markson…and ALL THOSE YUMMY FIREFIGHTERS.‟

*****

       I located Dr. Billy Markson‟s office and knocked. At his “Come in!” I opened the door and found him completing
paperwork.

       He looked up and, seeing who it was, grinned broadly, displaying all his teeth. „Oh man, I forgot…this guy could
charm the coat off an Eskimo,‟ I thought but plastered on a smile, remembering the last photo we had. Did I fail to
mention he hit on me? Yep…I kindly turned him down. Fortunately he let it drop. However, if he forgets and tries
something else I‟ll introduce him PERSONALLY to my karate moves.

       “Ms. Wellington! Nice to see you again!” Dr. Markson was tall, around 6‟, well built, around 40. He had
matching brown hair and brown eyes and was extremely tan. “It‟s time for the photo, isn‟t it?”

        With my smile still plastered on I nodded. He took off his doctor‟s coat and, grabbing his keys, motioned me
toward the door, giving me a sweeping “After you,” bow. I hurried out the door in front of him.
*****
MEANWHILE, BACK IN DIAGNOSTICS…

       “Well, boy,” House looked down at George, who gave him a regarding look, “it‟s me and you.” George howled in
excitement.

        “What about Norma?” Robert asked.

        “When‟s the surgery?”

        “Fifteen minutes. It‟s a four hour procedure.” Eric volunteered.

       “Fine…George and I have clinic duty. Call me if something goes wrong, like, if the cafeteria is serving mystery
stew again or if the pharmacy runs out of Vicodin or, say, if the patient dies. Otherwise, we‟re busy.” House led George
down the hall, James bringing up the rear.

        “So I take it all went well in Haleyville?” James asked as they arrived at the elevator, House pressing the down
button with his cane.
        “Jimmy, did she say she was with Markson today?”

        “Yes. Why?”

        “According to the nurses, the man‟s got the hands of an octopus.”

       “House, I have a feeling you have nothing to worry about. Remember our dinner? She kicked those guy‟s butts.
She can handle it.” DING! The elevator opened and all three men walked in.

        “I suppose…” House murmured, taking out his Vicodin, causing James to sigh.

        “You‟re worried aren‟t you? Otherwise you wouldn‟t pull out the Vicodin. You were doing so well today.”

        House turned to James. “Do you know how many days it took to build Rome?”

        “Avoidance…deflecting the subject by asking pointless questions. Surprise, surprise.”

        “I don‟t know either but what I do know is that Rome wasn‟t built in a day.”

        “But it did go well with Haley, didn‟t it?”

        House gave James one of his short nods and James smiled. “I love her…and I need her. I‟ve never needed
anything.”

        “Actually, House, there are MANY things you need, just nothing you‟ve ever admitted to. Have you ever thought
that she could be THE ONE, even more so than Stacy?”

        DING! The elevator doors opened to one and House said, “I know…and it scares me. Come on George…let‟s go
freak out the clinic patients.” All three exited but James stopped them from going any further.

        “What has this girl done to you? You are actually admitting weakness? Wow…she‟s good.” He put his hand on
House‟s forehead. “No temperature. Maybe she‟s got “the gift”. I‟ll need her to teach me.”

      House rolled his eyes. “Maybe I‟m turning soft in my old age…maybe it‟s something they‟ve put in the water.
Who knows? Think it‟s a conspiracy? Think we should call Mulder and Scully?”

        James shook his head. “Fine…just trust her. You have to learn. Too bad they don‟t have a “Hooked on Trusting
People” like they have “Hooked on Phonics”. You could use it.” James turned on his heel and walked away. House stuck
his tongue at his retreating form.

        House walked up to the nurse‟s station then checked his watch. “1:30. Dr. House and Dr. George Wellington
checking in.” He looked at the nurse, only to find the same nurse from the last time George was with House then rolled
his eyes. “Remember he doesn‟t speak English so be nice to him.”

        Her face brightened. “George is here?!?” He answered with a “ROLF! ROLF!” The nurse stood up, went around
the nurse‟s desk and knelt beside George, scratching his ears. “There he is,” her voice raised several octaves (which
seemed impossible since her voice was normally borderline squeaky mouse anyway).

        “How‟s the adowable wittle gwuy towday? Oh, yes, ywou awe sow sweet,” she cooed and House almost gagged
as he rwubbed, I mean rubbed, his eyes…the first sign of him losing patience.

        “Who‟s our first patient?”

        “Exam Room 3. A minor burn,” the nurse‟s voice went back to it‟s squeaky normal as she stood up then handed
him the file.

         “Ok…come on George,” House and George headed to the room and opened the door. His eyebrows raised at the
sight in front of him…a woman of about 45, lying on her stomach on the exam table, a hospital sheet covering her bum.
        “I‟m Doctor House and this is Dr. George Wellington. He‟s from out of town and doesn‟t speak English so be
nice,” House warned as he walked closer, trying to size up the situation before he had to actually examine her.

       She looked down and, when she saw it was a dog, raised her eyebrows. “But it‟s a dog!” Her heavy New York
accent made it rather difficult for House to understand her. He opened her file: Laura Bartell, 45, from The Bronx, New
York.

       “It says here you‟re from da Bronx. I thought you were from Boston,” adding an accent to Boston. She
narrowed her eyes at him.

        “Aren‟t you a riot. Can you help me?”

        He continued to read the file. “It says here you got burned on your bum…doesn‟t say how. Care to explain?”

       She lowered her head in embarrassment before gathering the courage to say, “I couldn‟t tell the nurse how. I
was too embarrassed.”

        “But you‟re from New York. I didn‟t realize you folks had the ability to be embarrassed. I thought that part of
the brain was choked by all the car fumes.”

       “ZING! Wow, Doc, you are just full of em‟.” Laura looked at his cane. “Ever hear the one about the doctor who
once had a cane; then he met and insulted a girl from da Bronx. Suddenly the cane disappeared…care to know where it
went?”

       He smirked at this then tied George to the spare chair in the room. He scrubbed then applied latex gloves to his
hands. Leaving his cane with George he limped to the patient and removed the covering. “Nice bum. It‟s not everyday
that women your age have such a great gluteus maximus. Tell me: Do you use the Butt Master?”

         “Nope…the Butt Master 3000.” He turned to get her chart and she looked at his butt. She smirked as she said,
“Looks like you don‟t use it…you really should. It‟ll help your yoghurt butt.”

        House made a face then suddenly went serious. “How did you do it?” Laura sighed.

        “Curling iron.”

       His mouth dropped, then closed. He was momentarily speechless. “I thought the hair you curl was on your
head. I don‟t see any hair on your butt…unless you were trying to curl…”

       She rolled her eyes. “We‟re here for an overnight business trip. I was curling my hair, ON MY HEAD, at the hotel
when my husband called me, needing something. I set the curling iron on the closed toilet seat, since the entire sink was
covered. For some reason I forgot the curling iron was on the seat and I sat on it. That‟s what happened.”

       House was trying very, VERY hard not to laugh. “Oh, good. I thought it was something REALLY stupid.” She
covered her face with her hands.

        “Can you just give me something for it please?” She moaned the words muffled by her hands.

       He walked to the cabinet over the sink and pulled out the necessary treatment items. After applying the
medicine and bandaging the area, he snapped off his gloves. “All done. Just take some aspirin…but I‟ll give you an anti-
inflammatory in case aspirin doesn‟t work. And you‟ll want to avoid sitting for a few days.”

        Laura looked up at him as he threw his gloves away then made some notations in her chart. “Thanks doc.”

       “No, THANK YOU. You‟ve just given me my laugh for the day.” He snarked as he walked out, George following
behind. The last thing he heard was her growling as he shut the door.

        “George…this should be a good day.” He smiled at the dog who smirked back.
*****
LET’S JOIN HALEY AND THE DOCTOR… (Sounds like a 60s teen movie, doesn’t it?? And sometimes I do
refer to myself in the third person…only when I’m feeling rather detached…)

         We arrived at the fire station in ten minutes. Fortunately Markson wasn‟t in a grabby mood so we made it to the
station, at least, without incident. What I saw would make any woman‟s day: five tan, very buff, VERY ripped men,
shirtless, wearing either shorts or blue firefighter‟s uniform trousers. I gulped as we parked. Stepping out I grabbed my
equipment and turned around to see the firefighters evaluating their visitors.

          Markson and I walked toward the men…and the view kept getting better and better. Clearing my throat I asked
the first stud muffin (this time the “stud muffin” in question REALLY WAS a stud muffin) I encountered: “Is Captain
Frasier here?”

       Stud Muffin #1 smiled…and my breath left. “Come on.” He turned and I had an amazing view of him, um, bum.
„Dang…I LOVE MY JOB.‟ Markson and I followed him inside the station and knocked on a door. “Come in!” SM #1
opened the door and, smiling at me, turned and left. I walked in and saw a mature man of about 55 sitting behind the
desk. His salt-and-pepper hair was neatly combed and his tan accentuated the lines around his eyes…when he smiled I
saw the lines were laugh lines. „This is a very happy man.‟

        I held my hand out as Captain Frasier stood up. “Captain, I‟m Haley Wellington. We spoke some weeks ago
about a photo shoot for Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.”

        His eyes and mouth smiled at me, then he shook my hand. “Of course, of course. Have a seat.”

         I turned to Markson, who was standing a bit behind me. “Captain, this is Dr. Billy Markson, the subject of the
shoot.” The men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries then we sat. “Captain, we won‟t take too much of your time.
I just need to get some pictures. Will this be a problem?”

       Captain Frasier smiled. “Absolutely not…that‟s why I chose today to wash the fire trucks.” He turned to
Markson. “Is there any equipment you will need? Uniform, hard hat, belt?”

        “Well, I was thinking I could wash the trucks with the guys. How about a pair of uniform pants?”

        “We can do that. Let me take you outside, introduce you both to the guys then we‟ll get you ready. How‟s
that?” The Captain stood up and, walking around his desk, ushered us out the door. Someone must‟ve rounded all the
troops because there were now about 10 firefighters standing outside. „Probably curious about what‟s going on,‟ I
thought.

         “Guys, this is Haley Wellington and Dr. Billy Markson. They are shooting a photo for a fundraiser calendar for
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Dr. Markson will be helping you wash the trucks and Haley will take the pictures.
I‟ve gotta get Dr. Markson set up but introduce yourselves.” And, with that, he took Dr. Markson inside.

        “Hello gentlemen. We won‟t be here long but I really appreciate your co-operation. The calendar is a fundraiser
for a new Oncology wing at the hospital.”

        Stud Muffin #1 came up to me. “I‟m Casey Jackson. Let me introduce you to everyone,” He placed a warm, wet
hand on my back and ushered me around. When we reached the last firefighter, Daniel Maxwell, Daniel looked at me
curiously.

        “Have you been in the news recently?”

        I looked surprised. “Why?”

        He was watching me…then something seemed to dawn on him. “YES! I knew I recognized that name. Weren‟t
you involved in that bank negotiation a bit ago? You were fighting with some guy over the loudspeaker…then another
guy got the robbers out of the bank by threatening with a flame thrower?”

        I hung my head. “Yep…that was me.”

        “That was pretty impressive. The first guy on the loudspeaker…um…Dr….”
        “House,” I volunteered.

        “Yes!” He grinned at me. “You two seem to enjoy fighting.”

        “Well we aren‟t doing so much of that now.”

        His face changed back to curiosity. “Why?”

        “Well…” but I didn‟t finish because my cell phone started ringing. I have this really cool theme set as my
ringtone… “Teardrop” by Massive Attack. I looked down, saw it was the hospital, and looked back to the guys. “Sorry,
guys, I gotta take this.” I walked a few steps away and flipped the phone open.

        “This is Haley.”

        “What are you wearing?” I rolled my eyes…take a WILD GUESS who it was…

        I took a few more steps away…this was one conversation I didn‟t want the firefighters to hear. “I‟m standing on
the corner of 15th and Elm, wearing a cat suit, meowing at people.”

       I heard the gruff chuckle…and my chest tightened with pride. “I could dress as a mouse and you can chase me
around my desk.”

         “Ohh, as tempting as that sounds, I‟m just gonna have to pass.” I looked up and saw the guys were going back
to their work, though a couple was still watching me. “What did you need?”

        Pause. “Um…I just wanted to know what you were doing right now.”

         For some odd reason I was actually touched…he sounded kinda jealous. “Would you be upset if I told you I just
got off the top of the fire engine…I was getting to know some of the firefighters REALLY well.”

        Another pause and a cough. “Really? And how was it?”

        “Pretty good…though I hear it‟s much better with doctors. Something about having great hands…and the size of
their hands corresponding to the size of…OH! And I get to slide down their big, shiny pole!” I smirked because I knew
what response I would get…at least I thought I knew.

        No response. „He really is jealous! Maybe I went too far…‟

        “Sheesh, Jules (Uh, oh…I reverted back to the nickname I use when I‟m really, REALLY upset with him). I‟m only
joking! We just got here…I haven‟t started shooting yet. Do you really think, after all I‟ve been through, not having sex
for almost 4 years and fighting you off, I would succumb to the charms of a pretty boy? If that were the case I could‟ve
jumped Chase a long time ago!” I heard a nervous, almost relieved sigh.

        “It‟s the cane isn‟t it?” He sighed melodramatically. “I‟ve spoiled you for other men.”

         I looked up again and saw, in horror that my entire conversation had been heard. I smiled nervously at the
smiling faces. “I‟ve gotta go. I‟ve got a picture of wet firefighters of take.”

        “We could have a party of our own tonight,” he suggested teasingly.

        I gulped…because that was tempting. “We‟ll see…as long as you‟ve been a good boy.” I paused. “I love you.”

         “I love you too.” I flipped the phone shut and saw, at once, the disappointed looks on their faces. I walked
closer to the group and smiled at Daniel.

        “That was Dr. House, Daniel. That‟s why we don‟t fight.” He grinned knowingly. “Ok, guys, we got a pictu re to
shoot. Just wash the truck as if I‟m not here.” I put down my camera bag and pulled out the camera. It was ready to
snap and go.
*****
BACK IN THE CLINIC…

        House slapped his phone shut with a grin. „Of course she‟s joking…‟ he told himself, though he found himself
doubting…and he didn‟t know why. Before he could overanalyze the situation, like he usually does, Nurse Brenda said,
“Come on Doctor. That‟s just your first patient. You have 2 more hours…and a patient in Exam Room 1.” She smirked
with glee as she handed him the patient‟s file.

         “Aren‟t you just a little ray of sunshine? Isn‟t she George?” House looked down and George shook his body. “I‟ll
take that as a yes.” House opened the folder and skimmed the contents but couldn‟t find the ailment. „This could be
interesting…patient is probably too embarrassed to admit they‟re idiots. I would be, too, if I were an idiot…which I‟m
not.‟

        House and George walked into Exam Room One and found a teenager, about 16 years old, wearing shorts. Her
legs were red and irritated. “Hello I‟m Dr. House. This is Dr. George Wellington. He‟s observing today. He‟s from out of
town and, unfortunately, doesn‟t speak a word of English. Please be nice to him.”

       She looked down at George and George gave her his winning doggie smile. The pained expression she wore
when they walked in dissolved into “Aww…a Basset! Dogs can become doctors now? Wow!”

        House‟s eyes rolled in partial disbelief and partial frustration at the lack of quality education from the public
school district. It was such a prime opportunity and House wasn‟t one to let this go. “Yep. Dr. Wellington has performed
brain surgery. You should see him work.” He studied her expression…and shook his head at her look of growing awe.
„This goes far beyond the public school system…maybe we should do a PET scan, see if there‟s an actual brain there,‟ he
thought…but decided to hold his tongue…for now. „What‟s Haley doing to me? I‟ve never held my tongue before.‟

        “So, what seems to be the trouble…” (he opened the file) “Jamie?”

        “Dr. House,” Jamie started then stopped. Her expression changed to embarrassment. “I am too embarrassed to
say.”

         “It says here your legs are irritated. Can I examine them?” Jamie nodded. House tied George to the spare
chair, snapped on some latex gloves and began looking at the legs. He saw they were irritated…it looked like by
something hot. But he found a foreign substance on her legs that he couldn‟t identify…and it smelt like apples.
„Interesting,‟ he thought.

        “How did this happen?”

        Jamie covered her eyes and began whimpering. House rolled his eyes. „That‟s all I need…a crying teenage girl.‟

        “Jamie,” House said as soothingly as he could, which was amazingly soothe. “I‟m a doctor…I‟ve seen just about
everything. Why is it embarrassing?”

        “Because I think I did something wrong. It didn‟t work and my legs are red.” House sighed in impatience and
Jamie removed her hands. She sighed. “I was trying to wax my legs so I got some wax…but it didn‟t work.”

        “Did you follow the instructions that came on the box? Did you heat the wax, apply it and use a strip to peel it
off?”

       “Box? Strips? What are you talking about? It didn‟t have any of that. It was just the wax. I melted the wax
and applied it…but then it turned hard.”

        By now House was thoroughly confused. He decided to ask more basic questions. “Where did you buy the
wax?”

       She lay there and thought a minute. “Well, I wanted my first wax experience to mean something so I went with
more expensive wax. Yankee Candle, Mackintosh Apple scent.”
       House stood there, not quite knowing what to do…so he just tilted his head in a very “What Planet Is SHE From?”
tone. “RUH?” House and Jamie looked down to George who‟d also tilted his head at Jamie, confusion in his eyes. “Dr.
House, what do I do?”

       He slowly limped to the cabinet, still shaking his head in disbelief. “Well,” he started as he pulled out some
ointment and a plastic scrapper. When he turned to her his eyes were wide, still unable to comprehend what this girl was
doing…or how she‟d make it through life. “First off, you do not use candle wax to shave your legs. Did you know there
are wax kits in the drug store?”

        Her eyes went wide with amazement. “Really? Wow. I didn‟t know that.”

        “I will show you how to apply this cream. Are you following me?” Jamie nodded suddenly intent. House spoke
slowly. “First, remove the wax by gently scraping with this plastic tool. See what I‟m doing?” He slowly, ca refully
scraped off a patch of wax. “Then, open the cap of the cream tube. See?” He removed the cap and placed on the table
beside her. “Next, squeeze a portion on your fingers and gently rub into area.” He did as he instructed. She nodded,
soaking up this useful information. “That‟s it. You will need to apply to all areas where you put wax on your legs. Can
you do that?”

        She nodded, determination on her face.

        “Ok. I will leave the tube and scraper here. If you have any questions please ask your mother. Do you have all
those instructions?”

        She looked at him, determined to get the process right. “Yes, I do. And thank you.”

        Still not quite knowing what to do, he removed his gloves, grabbed Jamie‟s chart and George‟s leash, and walked
out the door, possibly to get as far away from Jamie as possible. “Wouldn‟t want her intelligence rubbing off on me,” he
mumbled to George who seconded that motion with a howl.

          When he approached the nurse‟s station he found James leaning against the desk, reading a patient‟s file.
“Jimmy!” House called as he walked to James‟ side. “Haley called me. Apparently she‟s shooting Markson at a
firestation…said there are half-naked wet firefighters there…and that she gets to slide down their big shiny pole.”

       James turned to his friend and studied his profile. He recognized the worry lines around his eyes…but he thought
he saw new lines forming. “Are you jealous? You are, aren‟t you? Of her or them?”

        “Nope…the pole.”

        “You don‟t know what to do, do you?” James asked and received confirmation when House closed his eyes.
“Here, people would normally insert the phrase “Trust her House” into the conversation but since you still don‟t quite
know what it means I won‟t say it. The way she‟s been devoted to George I don‟t see her as cheating. Besides, the look
she had in her eyes earlier when she gave you George should‟ve been your first clue Sherlock. She‟s different.” James‟
cell phone rang and his eyebrow lifted.

        “What? Who is it?” House asked, suddenly intrigued. James‟ eyebrow lifts usually meant something big.

       “It‟s Julie. I should take this…I try to stay on good terms with my ex‟s.” James walked away, flipping open the
phone. “Hello?”
*****
       “James? It‟s Haley.” James turned and watched House lead George to Exam Room Three, then close the door.

       Sighing with relief James finally answered me. “Haley? What‟s up? And what have you done to House? He‟s
worked up about your conversation.”

       I closed my eyes and sighed. I called a break from the photos…House acted so strange (even for him) that I
needed to talk to James. “How bad is it?”

       “He thinks you‟ll be unfaithful, which everyone knows is a crock of bull. I think he even knows it but he‟s
scared…and so untrusting.”
        “I had a feeling that was it. Listen, I‟m gonna cash in the bet tonight. Do you boys have anything planned for
tonight?” I could hear James‟ grin over the phone.

       “Nope. His patient is still in surgery but I will arrange for him to leave early tonight…I will steal his cell phone
and no one will contact him tonight. In fact, call me when the shoot is over and we‟ll go over the details.”

      I sighed with relief. “Thanks James. We both have a great friend in you. I‟ll call you and you‟ll help me surprise
him…well, you won‟t be there but you know what I mean.”

         He chuckled. “I got it. Talk to ya later.” He slapped the phone shut and scurried out the door before House
could leave the exam room.
*****
    I slapped my phone shut and, with butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of tonight, I decided to rush things along
and we were done with the pictures in 10 minutes.

    “Thanks guys! And I will make sure you get free copies of the calendar,” I said as I packed away my camera.

    “No,” Casey (SM#1) said, shaking his head. “The calendar is for a great cause and I wouldn‟t take mine for free. I‟ll
buy it.” And the others agreed.

   I smiled. “That‟s very good of all of you.” I shook everyone‟s hand and stepped away from the crowd, flipping open
my phone, dialing James‟ cell.

    “Hi Haley. Done already?”

   “Yep. I sorta sped things along. Meet me in the parking lot. We‟re coming back to the hospital in about 10
minutes.”

    “Will do. Bye.”

   “Bye.” I shut my phone in time to see Markson walking to me. His skin was a bit red but I knew it would quickly tan.
“Ready?” I asked him.

     “Let‟s go.” Ten minutes later we pulled into the hospital‟s parking lot. I found James leaning against a tree, waiting
for me. I was so intent on looking for him I failed to see Markson‟s hand until it rested on my thigh. I looked down at
the hand then back at him. By now he‟d parked the car and was almost leering at me. „On House it‟s almost cute…on
this guy it‟s skuzzy and just plain wrong.‟

    Through clenched teeth I breathed “Please remove your hand.”

    “Aw, come on Haley. You looked so good today. I bet you dressed for me, didn‟t you?” He began messaging my
thigh, which only made me angrier…and more disgusted.

    “Dr. Markson I wouldn‟t suggest you going to Vegas on that bet. You‟ll lose.” I tried to remove his hand but he was
too strong. Out of the corner of my eye I saw James through the passenger side mirror, walking towards us, his eyes on
the car. He knew where I was and which vehicle I was in. I rolled down the window and spoke rather loudly, “I said, let
go of my leg.” „James, please hear that!‟ I prayed.

    Markson laughed and said, “And what are you, a woman, going to do about it?”

     “You didn‟t know she has a black belt in karate, did you?” James voiced filtered through the car and I sighed with
relief. I turned my eyes to Markson who had noticeably went pale but he still hadn‟t released his hand. Finally I grabbed
his wrist and twisted…not causing damage, just pain. Markson yelped and withdrew his hand quickly.

    “Thank you, Dr. Markson, for your cooperation with the picture.” He grumbled in response, rather surprised I didn‟t
accept his overture. „He‟s so smug. Probably not mad about the wrist…he‟s mad I didn‟t want him. What a toad.‟ I
thought as I quickly jumped out of the car and James took my arm. We walked a bit without a word between us then,
leading me to a bench far from the entrance (and far from running into Markson again) we sat.
    “Are you alright??” James asked, a worried tone in his voice.

     I smiled and nodded. “I‟m ok. Just a bit shaken but he‟s so arrogant he doesn‟t have the chops to actually do
anything. Just…don‟t tell Greg. PLEASE? I know you talk about everything but I deal with Markson‟s kind all the time in
this line of work. In face it was one of the reasons I took up karate.” My eyes pleaded with him and he nodded.

    “I wouldn‟t dare tell him something like this. He‟d shoot the messenger than shoot Markson.” We both chuckled
then I sighed. I pulled out a small notebook I always kept in my camera bag and a pen from my purse.

   “Ok, James, you are going to have to help me. I don‟t even know what his favorite foods are.” And, for the next 20
minutes, James gave me some tips about his friend while I made notes. “Do you have a key to his apartment?”

    “Yep. I didn‟t return it after I moved out.”

    “You two were roommates?”

    “Briefly, after Julie kicked me out. Being House‟s roommate was, in essence, an experience, to say the least.”

    I chuckled and he pulled out his key ring, slipping off the key and handing it to me. “What‟s his address? I‟m gonna
need directions.” He took the notebook and wrote the necessary information. Then James pulled a cell phone from his
lab coat.

   “I‟ve got his cell phone.” At that moment I could‟ve kissed James. I did my signature “gleeful Haley clap” then said,
“When I does House normally leave at night?”

    “Usually around five but I‟ll delay him until six. Why don‟t I call you when he leaves?”

    “That would be perfect! James I can‟t tell you how much this help me…us.”

   “Haley, if you are, um, successful tonight, you will have the support of a very grateful hospital behind you.” He said
and I hugged him tightly.

    “Thank you,” I mumbled into his shoulder then pulled away and looked at my watch. 2:20. “I‟ve gotta get back to
the hotel. I‟ve got a lot to do…and not much time to do it in.”

    “Good luck Haley…for ALL our sakes.” James kissed my cheek then got up. I sat for a moment to control the
butterflies in my stomach; the nervous fidgeting of my hands; and the wild beating of my heart. Once I was settled I
gathered my belongings and walked to the hospital entrance.
*****
    When I got to the clinic I saw House and George at the nurse‟s station. George suddenly looked over at me, as if he
sensed I was there. Tugging on his leash he bayed. I smiled and watched as House looked down at George then up to
where George was looking. His face broke into a smile, at which I smiled back. Never taking my eyes from his, which
were glued to mine, I came to stand beside the two men I loved more than life itself.

    George jumped on my legs and I finally broke eye contact from House, laughing at George‟s exuberance. “My
goodness, George, you act like we‟ve been apart for a very long time. Did Uncle Greggy treat you good?” I asked as I
knelt and scratched his ears and belly.

   “Of course. I was the perfect gentleman.” I looked up to see him smiling and wiggling his eyebrows. I slowly stood
and smirked then held out my hand, a silent request for the leash. He handed it to me with a wink.

    “Call me tonight, but not before 7:00.” I said, looping the leash around my wrist. “I‟m working the rest of the
afternoon.”

    “Sure,” he said as I began to leave but his hand grabbed my wrist. I turned to see him regarding me earnestly.
“I‟m…um…sorry about the phone call.” I waited for him to say something more but nothing came. I moved forward and
kissed him lightly on the lips.
    “I know,” I murmured against his lips.

    “I love you,” he whispered back.

    “I love you, too,” I breathed before kissing him again and turning back to the exit. “Talk to you tonight?”

    “Yep,” his response hit my back as I walked out, grinning because I knew something he didn‟t know. „Honey,‟ I
thought. „we are going to do a LOT more than just talk tonight.‟
*****
    It was 2:30 when I left the clinic. After arriving back at the hotel I knocked on Dana‟s door who answered on the
second knock.

    “Hey. I‟ve got a couple favors to ask. Will Derrick be available to process my film from today?”

    “Sure…is everything ok?” Derrick asked, coming up behind Dana.

   “Which leads me to my next question: can you watch George all night? I probably won‟t be back tonight. Do you
have my extra key, for George‟s food, toys, etc.?” Both were watching me with confusion…then Dana‟s face filled with
understanding…and concern.

    “Is tonight THE NIGHT?!?” I nodded. “Are you sure you‟re ready? It‟s been a long time for you…and Dr. Kildare
looks far from being emotionally ready for anything.”

    I shook my head. “I don‟t know…but I guess I‟ll find out.” I handed Dana George‟s leash and Derrick my camera
bag. Dana hugged and whispered, “I want details…DETAILS!” Derrick also squeezed me and said, “Remember we‟re
always here for you.” I smiled and nodded, then knelt beside George who was watching a group of kids down the hall.

    “George,” I began and he swung his head back to me. “You be a good boy and I‟ll see you tomorrow…hopefully.”
He bayed goodbye then proceeded to jump on Derrick‟s legs. I chuckled nervously, waved and went across the hall to
my room. I hurriedly gathered clothes, toiletries, my dress, perfume and, in the back of my underwear drawer, I pulled
out a small bundled, wrapped in tissue. Once the tissue was pulled back I fingered the delicate lace of the pink silk
panties and matching bra. „You need to treat yourself,‟ I thought that day I purchased it on sale at Bergdorf‟s. I was on
a photo assignment in New York and, during a break, I went shopping. The bra and panty set were a steal at
$100…regular price was $500. “I‟ll save these for special occasions,” I convinced myself…and I have. That was 3 years
ago. I haven‟t worn them yet.

     “Today‟s a special occasion, isn‟t it?” I asked myself then nodded as I wrapped the underwear back up and placed it
in the overnight bag with the other things. Making one last check I grabbed my belongings, shut the door with a
confident THUD and walked to my car. After a whirlwind trip to the mall and the grocery store, I arrived at House‟s
apartment by 4:00. Before I got out of the car I called James.

    “Hello?” his greeting sounded rather stiff and formal.

    “James, it‟s Haley. Are you alright?”

    “Yeah, sure.”

    “Is Greg with you?”

    “Yep.”

    “Ok…I‟ll make this quick: can you stall him until about 6:30? I‟m running a bit late.”

     “Of course, Julie.” He emphasized Julie loudly. I chuckled. “I will do that.” „Not real subtle, is he? Good thing he
isn‟t a spy. Sheesh.‟

    “Thanks James. Tell Greg „Julie‟ says hi.”

    “No good…not a good idea.”
    “Ok. Thanks James…and bye.”

    “Bye Julie.” CLICK.

    I shook my head, then exited the car and began gathering sacks. After the groceries were settled I began organizing
the ingredients needed for tonight‟s dinner of KC Strip steaks; green salad; new potatoes with dill, garlic and onions; and
chocolate cake. I got the cake in the oven, set the potatoes to bowl and decided to look around his apartment…definitely
the ideal bachelor pad, though his kitchen had some nice appliances, which didn‟t look used. He also didn‟t have any
REAL food…Ramon noodles, canned soup, peanut butter. I found the bedroom and put my belongings away, taking a
moment to survey the surroundings and decided I liked what I saw before settling myself in the bathroom. I noticed
there weren‟t enough towels in the bathroom so, after locating the tiny linen closet in the hall I found what I needed…I
also found some things I weren‟t looking for. Underneath some bed sheets („I‟d better change those,‟ I thought) I found
a lovely light gray linen tablecloth. I also found some royal blue linen placemats and napkins. “He‟s not the type to
entertain…I wonder why he has these.” I mumbled to myself but decided to make use of them. They smelled rather
musty so I popped them in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet and began my other tasks.

   By 6:15 all my tasks were done except the steaks, which were marinating in the refrigerator. I decided to take a
shower. I was out and ready by 6:45…but no call from James. Worried I picked up the phone and dialed.

    “Hi Allie.” Code again.

    “Is Greg still there?”

    “Yes but I‟m in the parking lot.”

    “So both of you are leaving?”

    “Yep. I was going to call you.” And, in the background, I heard the sound of an engine starting and revving. It was
the bike. I smiled.

    “Ok, James, I get it. He‟s leaving now, right?” The bike‟s engine grew softer.

    “Haley he‟s in a good mood. He‟ll be home in 10 minutes.”

    “Thanks James.”
*****
      I disconnected the call, turned off the phone and slapped it shut, then scurried around the kitchen, trying to get my
mind off of what was to come. I just finished icing the cake when I heard the sound of an engine outside. I took the
steaks out of the refrigerator and set them on the counter just before the sound of a key entered the apartment door‟s
lock.

    “What the…?”

    I walked out of the kitchen and into the living room. He was looking around, dumbfounded, but when he saw
movement he turned. He noticed THE dress (which other one would there be…) and his scowl lifted, eyes dancing. He
smirked.

    “I‟m gonna get lucky tonight, aren‟t I?”

     I shrugged my shoulders and he limped over to me, still wearing his jacket and backpack, stopping about 3 feet
away. My eyes skimmed his face and I took the backpack, placing it on the sofa. I grabbed the lapels of his leather
jacket and, standing on tiptoes, I placed my lips inches from his. “Do you like steak?” I whispered. He didn‟t
answer…just stared at my lips. I pushed his jacket down, off his shoulders, and laid it beside the backpack. “Dinner‟s
almost ready,” I murmured then attempted to pull away but gasped as his arms snaked around my waist and pulled me
to him. His head descended and took my mouth full with his, kissing me with abandon. I moaned, giving myself to the
kiss as my hands roamed his chest, stopping at his biceps while his hands settled on my lower back. I felt his fingers
slowly inch up the filmy material, then his fingers caressing my outer thighs. I pulled away, attempting to focus my haze -
filled eyes…but he was still near, making any kind of focus nearly impossible. I heard his ragged breathing and, once I
regained sight, I looked up to see his eyes closed.

   “I‟m, um…” he stopped and coughed. “I‟m gonna get cleaned up.” With that, he stepped away and went to the
bedroom. I sighed and returned to the kitchen, only to be surprised a minute later by the sound of the shower running.

     Twenty minutes later the steaks were done…and Greg re-appeared at the kitchen door, wearing a light blue polo shirt
that hugged his arms and abs, (I had no idea he owned a polo shirt!) and clean, what looked to be new, blue jeans. I
almost melted right there. He grinned and stepped closer, only to be stopped by a platter of steaks. “Could you carry
this for me?” I asked sweetly. He groaned and rolled his eyes but complied. He stopped at the table and I lit the
candles, giving the dark room a romantic glow.

    “This is nice. Did you do all this yourself…JULIE?” He asked, giving me a sly grin. My eyes widened.

    “How did you know?”

    House rolled his eyes again. “I can read him like a book.” He started spooning food on his plate. “And what‟s with
the candles? Are you a pyro or something?”

    “I was just setting the mood.”

    “I‟ve been in the mood since I met you. Candles aren‟t necessary.”

   “Oh, but they are SO romantic.” Once our plates were full, I settled my napkin in my lap and picked up my fork. “So
what made you think you were getting lucky tonight?”

    “That dress…it‟s your “DO ME” dress.”

    “That YOU paid for. What if I wore it for, say, Chase?”

    “Nah…with him it doesn‟t take a sexy dress. Just wear a kangaroo costume.” I choked on my mouthful of steak.

   “That‟s quite an impertinent thing to say.” I said once I‟d recovered, trying to hold back my laughter. “Do you hate
him or something?”

    “Of course not,” he said as he chewed on his potatoes. “If I don‟t ride him he‟ll stay the pretty boy he is.”

    “Is that what your dad did to you…ride you?”

     He looked up at me, trying to see if I had an angle. When he saw I was serious he sighed and took a drink of water.
“Yes. I guess I‟m just used to it.” He became serious and went back to his food. This started a rather uncomfortable
silence and I was about to break it when I heard a quiet “Do you dance Haley?”

    I was rather taken aback by the question. “No. I‟m no good. I can slow dance though. You?”

    He was concentrating on cutting his steak as he said, “Not anymore with my leg. I used to be pretty good.”

    “Can you still slow dance?”

   “I don‟t know…I‟ve never had the need.” He went back to cutting and I knew another uncomfortable silence was
coming up so I stood up, placing the napkin on the table. Greg looked up at me, surprised. “Where are you going?”

    I went to his stereo and began looking through his CDs, which were jazz, until I found one I knew had slow soft
numbers. I popped it into the player, filling the room with romantic tunes that dissolved the tension. I stood up and
walked back to the table, standing beside his chair. Offering my hand, I said, “Dance with me.” A sudden look of fear
crossed his face, leading me to see how scared he was…because of his leg. I leaned close and murmured, “I don‟t care
about the leg.” He laid down his napkin and, standing up, he took my hand. I led him to the area between the fireplace
and the couch. But he didn‟t do anything…just stood there. I gently took his arms and wound them around my waist,
locking them behind me. I raised my arms and settled my hands on his neck, winding my hands into his soft locks, all
the while never losing eye contact. He slowly began to move, taking me with him. I knew it was a bit difficult for him.
“Lean on me,” I whispered and we continued. We moved as one with the music, his chin on my shoulder, his hands on
my waist.

    “Tell me about your father,” he whispered and I momentarily froze.

    “Why? Because I made that comment about yours?”

    “No.” He firmly said. “Because I want to heal you.”

      His hand moved up and down my back, as if to encourage me. I was rather amazed by such a confession, but I was
stalling, concentrating on our rhythm. I finally told him what really went on…and he continued to hold me, encourage
me. When I was done we had stopped moving…just held each other.

     I finally lifted my head to look into his eyes…I couldn‟t look in them during my explanation: I was too ashamed.
What I saw was nothing but thankfulness for my honesty. I then watched his head bend down, taking my mouth. The
gentle kiss turned to a much hungrier one, the musky scent of his aftershave on his face and the taste of steak on his lips
leaving my brain thoughtless. The hunger, the urgency of his kiss made me gasp but I quickly returned it. He backed
me to the wall beside the hall entrance, his hands creeping up my dress until his fingertips skimmed the silk panties. We
moaned together and I moved my lips away, kissing his neck, his ear, behind his ear. His hand continued up, laying his
flat palm against my stomach.

   “Haley,” he whispered suddenly, a noticeable tinge of pain in his tone. I stopped kissing, suddenly concerned. His
hand was still under my dress but his eyes were closed, his face contorted. “My leg…” he moaned breathlessly.

    “I‟m sorry…did I hurt you?”

    He quietly swore under his breath. “No. My leg is the one hurting me. Wait,” he turned to his jacket, still laying on
the sofa and pulled out two Vicodin, dry swallowing them. I moved to the table and extinguished the candles then
returned to where Greg was standing, holding his hand out for me to take. I took it and he slowly led me to the
bedroom...
*****
        Greg sat on the edge of the bed as I lit the candles. “Give me a minute for the Vicodin to kick in.”

         “Alright. I‟ll freshen up. Just take it easy and I‟ll be right back.” I smiled then came to stand in front of him. His
hands settled on my waist, his fingers spanning the circumference. I ran my hands through his graying hair then kissed
his head. He buried his face in my abdomen and lightly kissed it causing me to shiver. I reluctantly stepped away,
grabbed my overnight bag then went to the bathroom, shutting the door. I re-touched my makeup and pulled off my
dress, revealing only my panties. Out of the overnight bag I pulled out the matching bra and a royal blue silk robe. I
slipped these articles on before leaving the bathroom to head for the kitchen, where I wrapped the food, which had gone
cold, and placed in the semi-empty fridge, leaving the dishes for later.

        When I returned to the bedroom I found House under the quilt, naked from the waist up. He was watching the
door for my return. The flickering candles of the bedroom were the only lights in the apartment; the mood was
quiet…and romantic. It was this flickering light, as reflected in House‟s eyes, that made my belly tighten, and warm, at
the same time.

        “How‟s your leg?” I asked quietly as I stood in the doorway.

        “Ok. But it‟ll feel a lot better when I knew what‟s under that silk robe,” he remarked, his eyes boring holes in the
robe.

         “You‟re a doctor…don‟t you already know? Sorta spoils the surprise,” I snarked back as I slowly, ever so slowly,
pulled the belt of the robe but carefully held the robe closed. I watched how his eyes caught every movement…and,
judging from his uncomfortable fidgeting I was doing something right. “Greg,” I implored and his eyes reluctantly left my
belt to settle on my face. I slowly moved closer to the bed, closer so he could see my eyes. I was about six feet from
him and I knew he could see my expression. “It‟s been a long time…I mean, since I‟ve had…” but I couldn‟t finish my
sentence, my face reddening.
        “I know, Haley. I know,” he softly answered…and somehow this normally insensitive jerk understood and took
my feelings into consideration.

          I managed a weak smile then took several more steps forward as my hands moved to the lapels of the robe.
With my eyes never leaving his (though his focused back to the robe) I slowly, carefully slid the robe off, allowing the silk
to fall from my shoulders and pool around my feet. I heard his breath catch as his eyes roamed, taking in this new
dimension of our rather bizarre relationship. He was fidgeting again…that nervous, uncomfortable teenage boy-whose-
just-discovered-sex fidget. I sat on the bed and House finally looked into my eyes. What I saw there made my heart
melt…and my body ache for him: true gratitude…and lust. I lunged forward, capturing his mouth and kissed him
long…slow…his hands moved to my back, where they began working the bra clasps…

        That night my heart joined with his in a fog of passion…and our souls became as one, perhaps fully for the firs t
time in either of our lives. For me…well…I knew I was a goner. This love left the previous behind and I knew I was
his…forever.

          No matter what happened.
*****
        Much later we lay in each other‟s arms, the fog of passion and love still hung thick over us. My head on his
shoulder; his hand in my hair; my fingers drawing lightly on his chest; his left leg wrapped around my left leg. Who was
purring? House? Me? Or both?

         “How are you?” He whispered, his hand massaging my scalp. I smiled against his shoulder then lifted my body
with my right arm so I could look down on him. He was watching me, a smile on his face, still visible in the dim
candlelight. His right hand moved to trace the contours of my face since his left had moved to my back, lightly rubbing.

          I closed my eyes at the wonderful sensations his hands were creating. “Umm…very well. And you, my love
slave?”

          He chuckled. “Baby, you should come with a warning: MAYBE HAZARDOUS TO MEN OVER 40.”

          “Actually, I‟ve got that tattooed on my butt.”

        He shook his head. “Nope…I didn‟t see it. Found that mole, though. It looks fine…but there is this one thing…”
his hand moved but I stopped him, giggling. He smiled again, this time a bit sad. “I‟m sorry the first time was a
little…awkward. The leg is such a buzz kill.”

      I nodded, knowing that, in this case it was wiser not to say anything. We quietly enjoyed each other for a few
moments when the rumble of House‟s stomach broke the silence.

        “Hungry? Did I wear you out?” I asked as I rolled away and covered my naked form with the quilt as I tried to
hide my giggling. He looked over at me and, seeing my failed attempt at giggle-concealment, narrowed his eyes, which I
felt more than saw.

        “Are you laughing at me…in my hour of need?” House asked, his narrowed eyes changing to the puppy-dog
expression. I rolled my eyes in mock indignation.

          “Aw…poor baby. Would chocolate cake with chocolate icing make it all better?”

        “I guess.” But from the way he hopped out of bed I knew that the chocolate cake would make everything all
better. He slipped his jeans on and handed me my robe, watching me put it on.

         “You know, Dr. House, in this dying candlelight, you don‟t look half bad. I guess it‟s just the daylight…maybe you
shouldn‟t go out in public during the day.” I smiled as I saw his eyes narrow again; those piercing blue orbs watching me
slide off the bed and secure the silk robe. Once my feet touched the ground he grabbed me and started tickling me,
leaving me cackling (I‟M VERY TICKLISH) on the bed. Once I caught my breath I sighed, still sitting on the bed. I looked
up at him and, grabbing his hands, threaded them in mine. Contemplating how his fingers felt against mine (VERY
RIGHT) I turned serious for a moment. “Greg, I‟m sorry for all the giggling. I don‟t want to sound like a stupid young
girl…but I haven‟t laughed in a very long time. Thank you.” I looked up and saw his eyes shining in the candlelight.
        “I wasn‟t thinking that at all; I haven‟t made anyone giggle in a long time…and it felt right.” I smiled and brought
his hands to my lips, kissing the long fingers that, only a short time before did things that…well, I won‟t mention. He
tugged on my hands, lifting me up. We walked to the kitchen, where I cut the cake.

        Afterwards we moved to the piano and he turned on the lamp beside the piano. My breath caught: he made
quite a picture. His lean body, clad only in jeans, was so sexy; his hair mussed; his long, lean fingers caressed the keys
before pressing them; a bit of chocolate on the side of his mouth. I smiled then sat beside him on the bench. I licked
the chocolate from his mouth. “Mmm…” I purred then kissed his mouth, the rich chocolate still thick on his lips and
tongue. “Mmmm…” I continued moaning involuntarily, his hands pulling me closer, his tongue exploring mine. His hands
moved to my hair…and I pushed in closer…

        “SQUEAK! SQUEAK!” The squeaking sound, so unexpected, made me jump away, freaked out. Once I‟d calmed,
I looked at House curiously, who pointed, with a smirk, to the cage on top of the piano. Well, I was so intent on House I
missed it…though I wouldn‟t have normally. “That‟s Steve McQueen.” He was running on his wheel, his little nose and
long whiskers twitching.

        “Any requests?” House asked, his fingers still caressing the keys.

         “Nope…just play.” He began playing a slow, quiet classical piece…and I was glued to my seat. I closed my eyes
and tears welled at the genius of the composition…and the brilliance of the player. When the last note was cast I smiled
and opened my eyes. “That was wonderful.” I wiped a tear from my eye. He grinned then began a slow, soft, haunting
tune. It sounded so familiar but I couldn‟t quite place it…until House began singing, giving the song a powerful
huskiness: “You are so beautiful…to me. You are so beautiful…to me. Can‟t you see? You‟re everything I hoped
for…You‟re everything I need. You are so beautiful…to me.” I wrapped my arm around his waist and laid my head on
his right shoulder, attempting to calm the crashing waves of tears that threatened to spill.

        Once he finished I placed my left hand on his right, squeezing. “That was so beautiful.” I whispered. With my
right hand I began to tap out “Heart and Soul”. I played until I reached the “Until you held me tight…and stole a kiss in
the night,” then he joined, playing the two-handed accompaniment. I continued tapping as I murmured, “This is as much
piano as I can play. My aunt once taught me this but we didn‟t have a piano at home so I didn‟t get lessons. I don‟t
think my father would‟ve paid for them if we had a piano.” I smiled sadly then stopped. We sat for a few beats in silence
then I asked, “What do you expect from us Greg?” I was still staring at the keys, but I felt him shift, bringing his right
arm around me and pulling me closer. He sighed and ran his left hand over the keys, but didn‟t answer me. I looked up
and saw how deep in thought he was.

         “I‟m sorry. I should know better not to ask such questions after sex. Forgive me,” I stood up and moved in front
of House, between him and the piano. He leaned forward and grabbed my waist, bringing my abdomen to his face, his
hands resting on my lower back. „He‟s got a thing for my tummy,‟ I thought. „Could it be symbolic of something?‟ Not
that I was complaining, mind you. I whispered endearments in his hair as I threaded my fingers through the soft locks. I
then felt his hand move…seconds later the belt came undone and the robe opened, revealing my nakedness and I was
exposed, my flaws clearly visible by the lamp. Once again he buried his face against my abdomen…and I felt him begin
to shake. Soon his tears wet my skin. Not quite sure what to do I whispered, “I know I‟m not Angelina Jolie but I didn‟t
realize I was THAT bad.”

         He shook his head vigorously, his next words muffled as he spoke against me. “No…you aren‟t. You‟re different,
so different than anyone I‟ve ever met. Why you‟d want an old, crippled guy like me is truly a mystery.”

        “An anomaly perhaps? Did you once say you love anomalies? Is that why you love me: I‟m an anomaly?”

          He nodded. “At first…that‟s what attracted me to you. Now you are so much more…” but he didn‟t finish. I took
his face in both my hands, tilted it toward me and I leaned down, kissing him slowly, as if I were answering his questions.
Still kissing me he stood, enveloping me in his arms; then, breaking the kiss, he took my hand, turned down the three -
way lamp and led me back to the bedroom.
*****
          The next morning I woke around 6:30 since we, um, went to bed rather early. I wasn‟t in his arms but House
had an arm slung around my waist. I carefully kissed his mouth then got up and headed to the shower.

        He was still asleep when I finished so I crept into the living room and cleared the table. An hour later, the dinner
dishes were in the dishwasher; the living room was clean; coffee was made; and bacon and eggs were frying. STEP-
STEP-THUMP. I looked up from the frying pan to find one of the sweetest sights: House, in his jeans; no shirt (which, by
itself was pretty amazing); tousled hair; and sleepy eyes.

       “Good morning,” I smiled. He yawned then stepped behind me, pressed himself against me and hugged me to
him. He looked over my shoulder.

        “Wow. I haven‟t eaten this good in a long time.”

        “I noticed. I‟m glad I purchased bacon, eggs and OJ yesterday or you wouldn‟t have breakfast.” I handed him a
piece of bacon from the plate beside the stove.

        “Has anyone ever said you look great in an apron? A bit like June Cleaver,” he sleepily said as he munched on
his bacon. I looked down at the "Kiss The Cook" apron I was wearing, I turned around, rolled my eyes, grabbed a
wooden spoon from the counter and whacked him upside the head.

        “This is 2006, not 1956. I don‟t own pearls; June would have a heart attack if she saw my apartment; and you‟d
be incorrigible, shouting out orders: “Bring me my shoes!”; “Where‟s my Gameboy?”; “Wax my cane!”.”

       “I didn‟t mean the housewife thing, though I think you‟ve given me a few ideas. What I meant was the apron.
You should wear that…and nothing else.”

        I smirked. “You‟d like that, wouldn‟t you?”

        He smiled then lowered his head. “Oh, yeah.” He whispered then kissed me and I sighed, relishing the taste of
bacon on his lips and tongue. Before the eggs could burn (and before things went any further) House‟s phone rang. He
sighed, ending the kiss and stepped away, giving me a rueful smile. He limped into the living room, saw the caller ID
than answered: “Joe‟s Naughty Shop. The Naughtiest shop in town, specializing in all things naughty. Bubba speaking.
How may I help you?” He winked at me and I covered my mouth to stifle my laughter.

         “Hello Dr. Wilson. Need another blow-up date? She popped last night, didn‟t she?” I was trying very, VERY hard
not to lose it…and I barely succeeded. Pause… “A new patient? You know you can‟t give CPR to blow-up dolls, which you
should‟ve learned after the last time you tried..” I finally lost it…giggling until my side hurt. How I managed to turn off
the stove and move the eggs from the hot burner is beyond me…I couldn‟t tell you. “Ok. I‟ll be there as soon as I get
the hooker to leave. It might be hard: she wants to watch The New Yankee Workshop with me.” Pause then a smile.
“Yep. I‟ll tell Hooker Haley hello.” CLICK.

        “Hooker Haley? How many Haleys do you know?”

        “There‟s so many,” he said as he came back into the kitchen. “Jimmy says hi. Listen,” he began, his tone taking
on a semi-serious lilt. “How about a date tonight? Dinner and a movie? We can get the dullest movie playing and neck
in the back row. What do you say?”

       I shrugged then stopped. “Wait a minute…I think I have a date with Robert tonight. We were gonna do the
same thing. Should I cancel?” I smiled mischievously.

        “If you are gonna two-time me at least choose someone I don‟t know. It‟s that British accent, isn‟t it?”

         “It‟s got a nice Australian lilt to it, doesn‟t it? Of course I‟ll go out with you tonight. Just call me on my cell. I‟ve
got Dr. Janet Kiley-Simpson‟s picture today but it‟s not until noon. Race car driver. Ohh, that means more hot guys in
tight uniforms. YES!” I pumped my hand in the air. At this he rolled his eyes. “Oh, and tomorrow is your piano picture
with Steve McQueen.”

        “Steve and I will be ready with bells on our feet. Speaking of bells on our feet…do you happen to know how to
belly dance?” I whacked him again with the wooden spoon and, after quickly kissing me goodbye he took off toward the
bedroom, his laughter following his footsteps.
*****
   By 8:30 that morning we went our separate ways, House kissing me goodbye. When I got to the hotel I dumped my
belongings in my room then went across the hall to Dana‟s room, where she answered on the second knock.
    “Please tell me it went well, please tell me it went well,” were the first words out of her mouth. “I would guess yes,
judging from that goofy grin on your face. I need to know for sure.”

    I stepped inside and looked around. “Where are Derrick and George?”

    “Taking a walk. They just left 5 minutes ago so they won‟t be back for another hour, at least. Fess up.” I smiled
then went to their bed, plopping down on my stomach, turning so my head was at the foot and my feet were at the
head. Dana laid beside me, just like when we were kids, and I spilled the beans. Dana was silent throughout the entire
narrative, only saying “Wow” when I had finished.

    “Yeah,” I replied, my chin in my hand, propped on the bed.

    “Wow,” she repeated, staring into space.

    “Yeah,” I repeated back, turning to face her.

    “Derrick doesn‟t do any of that for me,” she looked back at me, then repeated “Wow”. We were silent for a bit, the
only sounds were my bare feet hitting the headboard and the car noises outside the window. Dana suddenly looked at
me again. “I had no idea a miserable SOB like House could be like that.”

     I chuckled then nodded. “He‟s tortured, haunted by things I doubt I‟ll ever know or if he‟ll even understand. He‟s
tried to be something he‟s not…satisfied, contented…so much so he‟s lost sight of what‟s made him ignore the real issues.
He‟s running from something.” I suddenly turned thoughtful and looked at Dana. “Do you think he‟s, like, some sort of
murderer or something?”

    Dana gave me a “You‟ve got to be kidding” look. “Haley, he may be a lot of things but he‟s not a murder. If
anything he‟d have been the victim a long time ago. I‟m rather surprised someone hasn‟t tried to kill HIM by now.” Dana
shook her head. “But I will agree he‟s running from something. For Pete‟s sake the guy wears RUNNING shoes all the
time. Need a bigger clue Sherlock?” I turned away, grabbed a pillow and hit her upside the head, making us giggle. A
short silence filled the room. “What are you going to do about House? We got back to Chicago soon…our lives. Are you
prepared for a long-distance relationship?” She studied me. “You aren‟t, are you? You want 100% with him, don‟t you?”

    “I don‟t want a long-distance relationship. If he asked me I would marry him…the only question being “How quickly
can we get this done?” He‟s afraid of permanent commitment…in our case marriage. I don‟t know why “forever” scares
him.” I stood up and began pacing the floor.

    “Haley I don‟t know what to tell you. I do know he feels for you what you feel for him…he has for awhile now.” I
stopped and looked at her, puzzled. She sighed and confessed, “While you‟ve been working, House…he‟s come over a
few times and the three of us have talked. He is an arrogant SOB…an arrogant SOB in love. And it scares the living crap
out of him.” I was trying to picture Dana, Derrick and House having a pleasant chat…seemed rather odd. Just then the
door opened, revealing Derrick and George.

    His nose perked and his head lifted. When he saw me he howled with joy and tugged on his leash. “There‟s my boy!
Did you miss Mommy? Were you good for Uncle Derrick and Auntie Dana?” Derrick chuckled as he unsnapped the leash,
releasing the determined George. He ran his waddle-run and jumped on my legs. I laughed as I fell to the floor,
accepting his doggie kisses. I scratched his belly then looked up and met the amused expression of Derrick. “Thank you
for watching George. I appreciate it.”

   “How did it go?” He was eyeing me in that protective big-brother way I‟d grown accustomed to. I smiled brilliantly
and he chuckled. “I guess I got my answer.”

    “Derrick, can you shoot the race car photo today? I‟ve got a friend in the Pediatric Oncology wing I need to see.” I
stood up and rubbed my forehead, the worry lines showing. “Her leukemia, which was in remission, has come back and
she‟s only 7 years old. She fell in love with George and he‟s been such a comfort to her. I don‟t know…I get the feeling
she won‟t be around very long and I want her to spend as much time with George as possible.”

   “Of course. It would be fun to shoot anyway.” He turned to his wife. “Do you want to come with me honey?” Dana
wasn‟t watching her husband…she was watching me. “No, if that‟s ok, I‟d like to meet Haley‟s friend. Haley?”
     My face brightened. “Of course! I haven‟t spent much time with you lately. Besides you will love Gracie, I just know
it. She‟s such a wonderful child…and her mother is such a strong woman.”

   Dana turned to the clock on the bed stand. “It‟s 10:00. Let me change and we‟ll leave about 10:30. Is that ok?” I
nodded and approached Derrick, taking the leash and snapping it on George.

    “Derrick, thank you for handling those photos yesterday. I don‟t know what I‟d do without the two of you. With
Mom in the nursing home in Oregon I don‟t have anyone else. I regret having to put her there, but with the Alzheimer‟s
there‟s nothing else I could do.” Derrick enfolded me in his arms and held me a moment, all the while Dana scurrying
around us, trying to get ready.

    “Haley, your shoulders are so strong…you‟ve held so much burden. Gertrude doesn‟t recognize you anymore, which
only makes the situation worse. But you aren‟t alone…you know we‟d do anything for you.” He pulled away and studied
my face. “What‟s wrong? Is it House?”

     “It has to do with him. I keep seeing, in my mind‟s eye, a beautiful platter, covered in rich, fancy foods. It‟s in front
of me and the closer my hands get to taking it the further back it moves. It‟s not a game…the person on the other side
of the platter sincerely wants to give it to me but something keeps making them move it away. That‟s how I feel about
our relationship. We are so close…we could be happy together. I want to be with him but something is making him take
that platter back…and I don‟t know what it is. I wish I did but, knowing him, he wouldn‟t believe me if I told him we
could work it out. To a certain extent he‟s got The Martyr Syndrome.” I stepped away from his arms and smiled sadly.
“Maybe I‟m reading too much into it…maybe I‟m just gun shy…maybe…oh, I don‟t know. I don‟t want to think about it
right now.”

    Dana walked out of the bathroom then and I said, “Meet me at my room when you‟re ready.” I gave Derrick a
“Thank You” look, then led George out the door.
*****
    At 11:00 we arrived at the hospital and parked. Dana led George as we walked in and, as we passed Lisa‟s half-
opened door, we heard voices arguing. “House, I know you had sex last night…you‟ve still got to do clinic duty. And
don‟t try to weasel out of it by claiming you‟re hormonal.”

     “What makes you think I‟d do something that appalling? How could you possibly believe I‟d ever lie to my boss? And
what makes you think I had sex last night? Did Jimmy come down here and complain I wouldn‟t help him with his
inflatable date? I can‟t believe he‟d make up such atrocities against me.”

    “House, what are you talking about?”

    “Oops…I wasn‟t supposed to say anything.”

    HUFF. “Of course you had sex: you‟re practically dancing; your shirt is ironed; your hair is combed; and you are
actually GIGGLING. You‟ve either had sex or you‟ve been dipping into the nitrous oxide again, after I specifically told you
not to.” I looked at Dana who was having a difficult time keeping a straight face. I looked around the hospital lobby and
saw two reactions: surprise (the patients) and laughter (the hospital personnel). We continued listening.

     “Cuddy, I‟m too hormonal to do clinic duty.” WHINY, PATHETIC TONE from House; HUFF again from Lisa. “If I go in
there now I‟ll probably grab the patient‟s breasts and say something lewd and inappropriate. Then you‟ll be slapped with
huge lawsuits. Do you really want that? I‟m having a hard enough time right now not grabbing those funbags, which, by
the way, are looking awfully perky today.” PREGNANT PAUSE. “Someone else is getting lucky, isn‟t she? Is a certain
police officer “copping” a feel?”

    SIGH. “If I promise to bring Haley in for a conjugal visit will you PLEASE do clinic duty?”

   ESTATIC HALEY-TYPE CLAPPING. “Oh, thank you Warden! Are you sure you don‟t want to watch?” At that
comment I knew I needed to break up the conversation. I motioned for Dana to join me and we moved to the doorway,
where we saw House smirking at a reddening Lisa. I cleared my throat and they both turned.

    “Haley! Dana! Hi!” Lisa greeted us, a strong hint of relief in her tone.

    House smirked gleefully at me. “The warden promised a conjugal visit. Are you ready?” He wiggled his eyebrows.
    I gave him a blank, confused look. “What are you talking about? We haven‟t had sex…perhaps you‟ve got me
confused with Hooker Haley.” He playfully narrowed his eyes. “Dr. House, may I speak with you a moment?” He
seemed surprised by the “Dr. House” but nodded, following me out the door and down the hall, to the closest empty
patient room. I pointed to the bed. “Sit.” He sat. “What do you think you‟re doing?” I tried to modulate my voice from
the “exasperated lover whose love life is being spread around the hospital” to “quiet-but-don‟t-make-me-mad
schoolmarm” tone.

    “What do you mean?”

    “What do I mean? You might as well wear a sandwich board sign that reads: „I had sex with Haley Wellington last
night and this is what we did:‟. Never one for subtly, were you?” I finally sat beside him and he looked at me.

    “What? Are you ashamed of what we did last night?”

   “No. I just don‟t want it broadcasted to the entire world.” I looked at my hands. “I don‟t want to be seen as
another conquest…I‟ve been there already.”

   He didn‟t say anything so I looked back up at him. Sincerity came through his eyes as he said, “But you aren‟t just
another conquest. I‟m sorry: I didn‟t mean to make you feel like that. I‟ve never been good with words.”

    “Now there‟s where you have it wrong: you‟ve always been good with words…just not the right ones.” I smiled. “It‟s
ok. We‟ll work through it and, before you know it, you will actually giving people compliments.”

    Hope came in his eyes. “Really? I‟ll be just like everyone else?” His tone was so sarcastic I knew he didn‟t mean
it…but his blue eyes were so adorable when he said it I just let it pass. He grabbed me around the waist and kissed me,
making me sigh against his lips. “What are you doing here? I thought you were shooting handsome race car drivers,”
he whispered.

    “Dana, George and I are visiting my new friend in the Pediatric Oncology wing: Gracie Mullins. Derrick is shooting the
race car photo.” I saw House‟s change in demeanor when I mentioned my new friend: from happiness to almost worry.
“Greg? What is it?”

   “Haley, are you sure you want to do that? Make friends with a girl whose cancer is out of remission and could die
soon?”

    “How do you know about Gracie?”

   House sighed. “Wilson‟s told me you‟ve been up there to see her, spending time with her family. Why would you
want to risk getting hurt, when you know she‟s going away?”

    For some reason a light bulb went off in my head…but at that point I couldn‟t put the pieces together.

    “Greg, taking chances are a part of life. It‟s difficult, but if you don‟t you‟ll never know if the risk was worth it.
Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn‟t. These few visits I‟ve had with Gracie have touched my life in ways I couldn‟t possible
imagine. Knowing her has given me a bit more peace.” I could see he didn‟t quite believe me but I decided to let it
go...for the time being anyway. I then slid off the bed. “We‟d better get back before Lisa thinks I took you up on that
“conjugal visit” offer, though it does sound very tempting.” I smiled and then giggled when his face lit up. I giggled
louder as I walked out, my pace quickening when I heard him growl and start to follow me.
*****
    Dana, George and I arrived in the Pediatric Oncology win ten minutes later. Stepping to her doorway we saw Gracie,
Miriam, Maggie and an older gentleman. Maggie was the first to see us. “Haley!” She smiled and gave me a hug, then
stepped away, only to be greeted, rather affectionately, by George. Everyone laughed at his antics.

    “Everyone, this is my sister Dana. She and her husband work with me. This is Gracie; Maggie; Miriam and…” I
looked at the gentleman.

    “This is my husband, Frank, Gracie‟s father.” I smiled and nodded, who nodded back.
    “GEORGE! HALEY!” Gracie softly exclaimed, slowly sliding from the bed. I immediately noticed how tired she was.
She had little energy and was moving very slowly. She came to me and grabbed me around the middle. I kissed her
head and she dropped to her knees beside George who, sensing her change of behavior, apprehensively licked her hand.
When she began giggling, he seemed to calm though continued to watch her, almost protectively. Dana and I came
further into the room, where Miriam greeted me with a hug and found chairs for both Dana and I.

    “How are you today?” I asked though my queasy stomach told me that what was coming wasn‟t going to be good.

    Miriam smiled tiredly and her voice lowered, carefully watching Gracie as she played with George. “I am so glad
you‟re here. We needed to see a friendly face.” She sighed. “Dr. Wilson just told us the cancer is progressing rapidly,
much faster than previously thought.” She paused. “They‟ve given us a few weeks.” I gasped and covered my mouth as
the tears welled. I watched each family member…three of the four looked tired but determined to keep fighting, to stay
the course. The fourth, though busy with George, had such an air of peace I was left breathless. I looked at Dana and
knew those five short minutes she knew Gracie were enough to seal her in Dana‟s heart. She took my hand to comfort
me.

    “Frank, Miriam…I…I don‟t know what to say. How did Gracie take the news?”

    “Amazingly well. The first words out of her mouth were “Do I get to see Jesus?”. I didn‟t know what to say.” Frank
was battling the tears. I looked at Maggie…and her face, though pale from exhaustion, were lit from the love and
determination in her eyes…determination to either keep Gracie alive or make her last days the best they could be.

    Maggie smiled weakly at me. “She was the one comforting US.”

   “Mom?” We all looked to the source of the weak inquiry. “Can we take George for a walk? I promise to wear my
mask.”

    Miriam studied her youngest child. “Are you feeling up to a walk?”

   She nodded emphatically. “And I just want Haley and Maggie to come with me. Is that ok?” Her expression was
hopeful. Miriam smiled at her expression.

    “That‟s ok with me. Let‟s ask Dr. Wilson first.” Frank said. I got up.

    “Let me.” I volunteered…though it wasn‟t just to help. I needed a moment away from that room. It had become
hard to breathe…the weight of the situation hung thick in the room. I found James talking with a mother down the hall.
He gave me a surprised look.

   “Haley! What are you doing here?” When he saw my distressed look he placed his hand on my shoulder. “What‟s
wrong?”

   “I‟m just visiting my friend, Gracie Mullins,” James‟ eyes filled with understanding. “Frank wants to know if it‟s ok for
Gracie to go for a walk. Tell me, James, does she really have only a couple of weeks?”

    He nodded sadly. “We can‟t figure out why but the leukemia has come back with a vengeance. We will contin ue to
treat it but soon we‟ll just stop all treatment. Right now, the best thing for her is to enjoy life, as much as possible.”

    “I know. For some reason I had the feeling I needed to bring George…and Dana…here to see her. We were just
going to take George for a walk. I would ask you to come but she‟s only requested me and her sister to join her.” He
smirked at this preferential treatment.

    “George will be wonderful for her right now. She needs as much fun and positive influence as she can get.”

     “I told House where I was going and he almost gave me garlic and a wooden cross, as if I were going someplace sac
religious. What‟s up with that?”

    James just shook his head. “Unfortunately, House is House. That‟s a bit of a cop-out, I know, but there‟s no other
way to put it. He‟s always been leery about commitment…frankly I‟m rather surprised he‟s been my friend this long. I
think he‟s got a fear of abandonment. I don‟t know why…he‟s never opened that part of his life to me though he has let
something slip that he lost someone near and very dear to him. That‟s why he‟s trying to warn you away from Gracie:
the more attached you get the greater the hurt when she leaves. What did you tell him?”

    “I basically told him if you don‟t take the risk of the relationship there‟s a very good chance you‟ll miss out on
something that could be the best thing in your life. James, I gotta get back. Thanks for the talk and I‟m gonna bring
George to the hospital as much as possible.” He gave me a hug then I went back to Gracie‟s room.
*****
    Gracie, George, Maggie and I slowly walked around the courtyard, carefully monitoring Gracie, who didn‟t seem to
have a care in the world. She was with her friends; she was walking George; and she was soaking up the warm
sunshine. My heart swelled with compassion; heartache…and complete admiration for this young lady. Meanwhile,
George was taking it easy also…his usual exuberance was gone. His ears were perked; his snout attentive. What more
could anyone want from a four-legged best friend?

    “Haley?” Gracie‟s soft voice broke through our silent walk.

    “What sweetie?”

    “Does George ever get lonely?”

    I was rather surprised by her question. “Oh, I think so. Don‟t you ever get lonely?”

    She nodded thoughtfully. “Do you think he would like another dog-friend?”

   I smiled. “I‟m sure he would. When we‟re home I take him to the dog park all the time. He sees different kinds of
dogs there.”

    “We have a Beagle but she‟s at home.”

    “What‟s her name?‟

    “Sally, short for Salamander.”

    I chuckled. “Salamander? That‟s an unusual name for a dog. Why Salamander?”

     Gracie giggled softly. “Because I really wanted one but Mom doesn‟t like lizards. I told her that a salamander isn‟t a
lizard but she said they looked like them. I also wanted a snake and a frog but she said no too.”

    I laughed full-bellied at that. “I don‟t blame her. I don‟t like snakes either. Frogs I‟m ok with. Salamanders…I don‟t
know. I‟ve never had a lizard before but I don‟t like their tongues.” I looked at Maggie who was trying to contain her
laughter. I stopped walking and, turning to Maggie, stomped my foot dramatically. “Fine…go ahead, laugh at me. While
you‟re at it I hate spiders and roaches.”

     Maggie shivered. “I hate spiders and roaches too.” We continued walking for awhile. I discovered that Maggie was
18; just graduated from high school; working part-time; and was just accepted to Princeton. “I‟m still working on
scholarships and grants. I play the piano and I just got a partial music scholarship. I really want to be in the medical
field, but I don‟t know what I want to do.”

    “Have you considered working here?”

    She looked thoughtful. “Perhaps…I don‟t know.”

    “Haley? I really want George to have another dog-friend. I KNOW! A girl Bassett so she‟d have George Juniors!
That would be so cool!” She squealed and my heart sighed…then broke because I realized she probably wouldn‟t be
around if there were “George Juniors”.

    “We‟ll see,” I said as cheerfully as I could muster, then we returned to Oncology.
*****
    It really was a very lovely afternoon. Dana and I ate lunch with the Mullins then I took Dana and George back to the
hotel. After quickly showering and changing, it was 5:00 and I decided to surprise House at work.
    When I got to his office I found the team working…they obviously had a patient because their omnipresent
whiteboard was full of word like “nausea”, “headaches”, “high blood pressure”. After watching outside for a minute I
pushed the clear door open. Everyone turned to look at me.

    “Hi! I‟m sorry if I‟m interrupting…I can come back.”

    “Nope, not at all,” Alison smiled and waved me in further. The rest of the goslings greeted me then I turned to
Father Goose, who was looking at me with a dumb grin on his face, the adorably cute kind George gets when he‟s happy
to see you. “We‟re just brainstorming. House,” Alison turned back to her Fearless Leader, who still hadn‟t taken his eyes
from me, “We‟ll go run those tests.”

   “Ok,” he said, still watching me and sounding distracted. The goslings shook their heads as they left the room and
House came to me. “Hey,” he whispered before he took me in his arms.

   “Hey yourself,” I whispered then sighed when his soft lips teased mine. After an amazing kiss I pulled away from him
and smiled. “Are we doing something tonight?”

   He smirked. “Of course. Want to take the bike up the coast for some seafood? I know this great seafood place
about an hour from here.”

    “That sounds wonderful. I dressed for the occasion,” I motioned to the short pink crepe skirt and matching pink
camisole Dana lent me. His hands slid over the filmy, paper-thin material, thumbs rubbing here, fingertips caressing
there. My breath caught.

    “I noticed.” He pulled away and limped to his desk, removing his belongings. “I need to get cleaned up. Follow me
to my apartment?” I smiled and nodded as he took my hand and directed me out the door.
*****
   I parked the car outside House‟s apartment building and met him at the door. “Such a slowpoke,” House muttered
affectionately.

    “Traffic. Mardi Gras. I got sidetracked by all those naked people in the streets.” I grinned, following House inside.
Crossing the threshold, he closed the door, then pinned me to the closed door and held me, his warm breath caressing
my face as he watched me. Finally catching my breath I barely whispered, “Are you sure you want to go?”

    He smirked. “Yep…I‟m hungry. I‟m gonna take a shower…care to join me?” He pressed himself closer to me and
kissed my ear. I don‟t know where I found the effort (probably from shear will) to push him away but I gave us a few
inches of space.

     “Nope. We‟ll have more time later. Go get handsome.” He kissed me once more then took off, with a certain spring
in his limp, towards the bathroom and I settled on the couch. Flipping channels I found one of my all-time favorites:
Sense and Sensibility. I hadn‟t seen it since coming to PPTH and, as I watched, there was one guy that reminded me of
House: that stern Mr. Palmer. Same eyes…same hands…mhmm…

    “Chick flick, huh?” I turned to see House standing in the doorway, fully dressed, his wet hair leaving drops on his
oxford shirt. I stood up and came to him. I reached up and ran my hands through his hair, whispering, “You ready?” He
nodded and, wrapping his arm around my waist, he brought me closer to him.

   “There‟s a small bed and breakfast close to the restaurant. Let‟s stay there tonight and come back tomorrow
morning. What do you say to that?”

    “Sounds great. Just let me call Dana.” I stepped away and pulled my cell phone from my purse on the leather sofa.

    “Are you sure you should be doing this? The more you‟re with him the more it will hurt when he leaves,” Dana said.

     I looked over at House who was flipping channels, his legs sprawled on the couch…but his ears were perked up (just
like George‟s!) so I knew he was listening. I quickly thumped him on the head for his ease-dropping and walked to the
bathroom, shutting the door behind me. “We don‟t know if that will even happen. Besides, I can‟t help it…I…I have to
be with him. Don‟t you understand?”
    Dana sighed loudly. “Yes, Haley, I do understand. I still feel that way with Derrick. But everything is so uncertain
between you two…so just be careful. I love you and don‟t want to see you as you were after Paul left.” I sighed and
said, “I love you too. And thanks for watching George.”

    “You‟re welcome. I‟ll see you tomorrow.”

    “Bye.” I snapped the phone shut and walked back to the living room.

    House was still sitting on the couch, watching a cooking show. “She‟s worried, isn‟t she?”

    I was rather surprised at his deductive reasoning. “Yep.”

    “Good…she should be.” I gave him a confused look.

    “Why? Because she‟s my sister and she‟s looking out for me?”

    “No…because it‟s me you‟re talking about. I‟m not exactly Mr. Congeniality…I have problems.”

     I came to stand in front of him. Dramatically laying my hand on my heart in a “That‟s a complete shocker!” gesture,
I said, “NO! Really? I thought you were the most together doctor in that hospital! How did that nasty rumor of you
being a narcissistic SOB get started?” He didn‟t say anything so I continued. “I know enough when to take you seriously
and when to let you finish your snarkfest. Look, can we just go? I don‟t want to think about your problems right now.”

    He just shook his head then stood up and regarded me for a moment. “Do me a favor: don‟t believe everything you
hear about me. There‟s a lot that no one knows about me.” I looked down at my hands for a moment then, looking
back up I gave him a sincere apologetic look.

     “I‟m sorry. It‟s easy to believe things when you aren‟t given anything to dispute it. However,” I lowered my voice,
“last night went A LONG way to disputing those rumors. Do me a favor: give me a chance to learn about YOU, not that
obnoxious jerk you hide behind. I might like what I find…and I hope you like what you find in me. Now, come on, lover
boy…I‟ve got a big appetite…and in more ways than one.” His regarding look changed to a menacing sneer. He chased
me out of the apartment, increasing speed at my giggles.

     When we reached the bike he threw me a helmet and, just before I put it on, he said, “Wait. Put this on.” Taking off
his buttery-soft gray leather riding jacket, he held it so I could slip it on. I brought the collar to my nose and inhaled the
unique House scent. Giving him a huge grin I slipped on my helmet and climbed on behind him, locking my hands
around his flat stomach.
*****
     We reached the restaurant at about seven and, after a wonderful dinner that included shrimp, lobster, candles, a very
intimate table and whispered talk we left: House‟s arm snuggly around my waist; my body firmly next to his; our heads
together, talking in low whispers; eyes only for each other.

    Ten minutes later we pulled in front of the bed and breakfast and approached the check-in desk. “Reservation for
Mr. and Mrs. House,” he told the older lady behind the desk. I looked at him in complete bewilderment…which,
fortunately, went completely unnoticed by the lady. She seemed distracted by House…probably his eyes, which were
dancing. „When did he have time to make a reservation?‟ I thought.

    She handed House the key. “Room 215: our most romantic room, made up per your request.” She led the way and I
whispered, “What‟s going on?” but he didn‟t answer me. All three of us stopped in front of a corner room in a very quiet
part of the rather small inn. “Here it is,” she said. “Have a nice evening. Breakfast is from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.” She
smiled and walked away, but not before giving House one last perusal, which caused my eyes to roll. “That older lady
was checking you out,” I mentioned rather surprised.

    He smirked. “Surprised? I‟m a babe magnet.” I huffed then he unlocked the door and turned on the light. What I
saw made me gasp and cover my mouth: red, pink, lavender and coral rose petals littered the room: on the bed, chairs,
floor. Three vases of the same colored roses adorned the various tables. I took a moment to drink in the sight then I
swallowed hard and turned to House, who was watching me with an anxious look. My expression turned to one of
complete and unwavering adoration.
    “Oh, Greg, this is so beautiful. When…how…? I don‟t quite know what to say.” I continued to look around the
room, bending to pick up a coral petal and rubbing it gently between my fingers, marveling at the velvety perfection of
the petal.

     “Mmm…a rather uncommon problem among females: sudden loss of the ability to speak. Quite an anomaly: me
likee. Diagnosis?”

    “Well, before you can diagnose, aren‟t you going to examine the patient first? And, to get the proper diagnosis, isn‟t
the patient supposed to be completely naked? Or what do you think?”

    He nodded in a very doctorly manner. “Of course but I‟ve heard there‟s this small clinic in France who‟s discovered
that the only way a doctor can properly exam a patient is for the doctor to get naked as well. What do YOU think?”

    “Well,” I began, stepping closer to House and lightly touching his face with my fingertips. “Whatever we have to do
to get the proper diagnosis. I wanna be well, doc.” His arms wrapped around me, pulling me close. I watched his
tongue lick his lips then we came together: tongues dancing; hearts racing; hands exploring and de-clothing; souls
speaking and understanding. He guided me to the bed and we fell, scattering the rose petals. We lay there, side by side,
and House took a beautiful lavender petal between two fingers then lightly guided it over my entire naked body. As he
continued my heart drifted to our special place…the sole place where our hearts were true to one another…the one place
where our souls were united…
*****
    Tickle…my nose itches. I touch it…gruff deep chuckle. Tickle again, I touch nose again, deep chuckle again. I open
my eyes to find House looking down at me, leaning his right arm on the bed over me, his left holding the red teasing
petal.

   “Well, hello to you too,” I snarked playfully as I ran a hand over his chest then turned on my right side to face him.
“How‟s your leg?”

    His expression pained over. “It‟s aching.”

    “Did you bring your Vicodin?” He nodded and pointed to the pants on the other side of the bed. “Did you take any?”
He shook his head and I sighed. I sat up, in all my naked glory, and crawled over House‟s waist. I reached the
pants…but my bum was up in the air.

    “OUCH!” I squealed when he swatted it. I quickly dug out the pain medication and, sitting up, handed it to him. As
he opened the bottle I brought my hand down to his injured leg. He immediately tensed.

    “What are you doing?” he asked, suddenly very serious.

   “Let me massage your leg.” He shook his head no. “I don‟t care what it looks like, if that‟s what you‟re worried
about.” He sighed and quickly nodded yes, giving me consent. “I hope you aren‟t in pain from me.”

    “Well, you are a little rough…just the way I like it.” Smirking at the cheekiness of this statement, I slowly, carefully
began kneading his thigh, studying it as I worked the tense limb. Contrary to what he thought, it wasn‟t repulsive: it
gave me a greater understanding of the Dr. Gregory House I knew…and loved. To him, the scar was a visual reminder of
how flawed he is. My heart welled with compassion…but I knew I‟d never tell him this…at least not yet. I knew he had
to know it was no big deal to me…and, honestly, it wasn‟t. His eyes closed and his jaw clenched as I continued to w ork
the damaged area. “Am I hurting you?” I asked, watching his face instead of the leg. His eyes opened as he shook his
head no…but I could see he would always hurt, and not always physically. I knew I couldn‟t take away the pain…but I
would do what I could. I heard a gentle sigh and he laid back down, his face finally filling with something very close to
peace. I ended the massage by lightly kissing the scar then blowing on it, causing him to shudder. I lay back down with
my head on his shoulder.

    I grinned. “You really are sexy…you know that don‟t you?”

    He didn‟t answer right away. “Oh, I don‟t know. I‟ve never thought that.”
    “You‟ve never thought anything good about yourself, have you?” came my quiet answer. I ran a fingertip along his
whiskers. “Why do you hide behind a beard? And don‟t tell me you‟re too lazy to shave. You aren‟t.”

     He only shrugged and I gave up. You‟d think he‟d be more open after sex, right? This night he was a clam. I knew
allowing me to massage his leg was taking a huge step and I was truly grateful…but something else was causing him to
clam up…and I didn‟t know why.
*****
    We left at 7:30 the next morning and, stepping off the bike in front of his apartment an hour later, I removed my
helmet and waited for him to dismount.

           “Thank you for such an amazing night. When did you make the reservation?”

           “Just before I showered last night. I figured you‟d agree with me.”

         I smirked and crossed my arms over my chest, not caring how much he hated that gesture, watching him as he
finished stowing the helmets away. “You‟ve got a lot of nerve supposing what I‟d say. Or am I really that transparent?”

        “That outfit certainly is,” He snarked, turning to me. I rolled my eyes and held the leather jacket open so we
both could look at the outfit that, I‟d admit, was rather flimsy. He came to me and placed his flattened hands against my
stomach. My breath caught as I felt him slide them underneath the jacket and caress the small of my back. We just held
each other, neither willing to let the other part ways quite yet. I‟ll admit: the smell of his neck was an intoxicating
mixture of musk, soap and the slightest tinge of sex.

    Feathering whisper kisses on his neck I muttered: “Don‟t forget: you‟re piano picture is tonight. Meet you here about
6:00?”

    “Sure…we‟ll order in.” He replied against my hair. My scalp shivered as he ran a hand through my hair. “Do you like
Chinese?”

       “Yep. George and I love Chicken Lo-Mein, though he doesn‟t like General Tso‟s Chicken or Hot and Sour Soup, like I
do.”

       House rolled his eyes. “George eats Chinese food?”

       “Yeah, why not?”

       “He‟s really like your boyfriend, isn‟t he?”

       I watched him critically. “I thought you were my boyfriend…or am I just your newest plaything?”

       “Well, you are fun to squeeze…”

     I snorted. “At least George doesn‟t talk back. You know, when you think about it, having a boyfriend isn‟t much
different than having a pet, really. You men can be just as needy and helpless as pets. In your case, you‟re a bit cuter
than George…but not by much.” I smiled sweetly, at which House narrow his eyes playfully.

    He grinned evilly at me. “Can George do this?” Leaning down, he whispered something in my ear that caused my
eyes to widen; my heart to race; my breath to quicken; and my temperature rise a good 5 degrees. I leaned away and
met his victory-gleaming baby blues…he was hoping he‟d won the “How much can I shock her?” game. He had but there
was no way he‟d know that.

    “No…we haven‟t gotten that far in his training,” I snarked back. “He‟s only sitting and retrieving, which is more than
I can say for you.” He snorted in mock indignation. I smiled. “I don‟t intend to train him in any of THAT, mind you; you,
on the other hand, seem trained in…that…thing…and I‟d love to see how well your training went.”

   His eyes darkened. “Well, while we‟re at it we should also do this…” he leaned in again and this suggestion was even
more…interesting…than the last thing he said. This time I made no effort to hide my shock…and I was rewarded with a
huge triumphant grin. I knew this could go on forever so I stepped back, out of his arms.
    “Tonight. 6:00. Have some tunes picked and wear your cleanest t-shirt. You‟re gonna be a pin-up.” I leaned
forward, kissed him quickly and started walking away.

     “I won‟t wear the red teddy again. It‟s degrading…I wanna wear the blue one!” He yelled, extra loudly, at my back,
with no regard to the pedestrians walking around us. I turned and saw some of them cross the busy street to get away
from House, while others just stared at him, like he‟d grown an extra head. Shaking my head I yelled back, “But you
have such great legs…and the red is so sexy on you. Fine…have it your way!” I yelled back. I turned back around and
walked away, smiling to myself at the hearty laughter coming from his direction.
*****
     “Ok, George, here we are. Ready to see Uncle Greggy?” I was answered by an enthusiastic “ROLF!”; an energetic
wagging of his tail; and a huge doggie smile. “That‟s right…you don‟t talk back; you aren‟t a selfish jerk. But George, I
love him.” He tilted his head as if to ask, “How can you not like Uncle Greggy? He‟s a lot of fun!”. “I agree George. He
is A LOT of fun.” George, my camera, supplies and I exited the rental car. „Thank God I found a spot right in front of his
door,‟ I sighed with relief. His bike was parked under his first-floor apartment and the lights were on. I could even
faintly hear piano playing. I knocked on the door.

    “IT‟S OPEN!” came the reply. I turned the knob and led George in. We found House sitting at the piano; food and
candles on the table; even a bowl of Chicken Lo-Mein on the floor near the table, just waiting for George, who smelt it
immediately and informed me of this information by baying happily and pulling on his leash. Barely able to keep a grip
on that Doggie Hoover‟s leash, I sighed with exasperation. “Greg, could you put that food up? I can barely hold him
back.” I dropped my camera and supplies on the floor and, just as House was leaning over, reaching for the bowl,
George‟s leash snapped (he‟s a very strong fella). He propelled towards House…leaving no time for him to react.

    CRASH! Dog, human and food landed in a heap on the floor. On the way down House spilt Lo-Mein all over
himself…and, once House settled face up on the floor, George helped himself to the Lo-Mein…by eating it off of House
and floor, pink doggie tongue licking his face and shirt. I couldn‟t help it…barely containing my laughter I grabbed my
camera and started taking photos. I heard irritated growling…and saw it wasn‟t my dog. I gave him an apologetic
look…and it helped but only about 75%.

    “Don‟t you feed this dog? He‟s not only eating the food he‟s eating ME!” House gasped, then began laughing
because, as George was eating, he was tickling House…whom I didn‟t realize was ticklish. I put the camera down and
knelt beside the two most important males in my life.

    “Aww…you are just so cute lying there. You know, I‟m jealous…I wish I could be eating off you.” That took care of
the remaining 25%…his eyes darkened with desire. “But not so fast lover boy…we‟ve got a photo to shoot. Besides, I‟m
hungry. Let‟s eat.” I turned to George, who was licking his chops. “BAD GEORGE! BAD! You know that you have to
ASK people before leaping on them, much less eating off them.” George looked at me then bowed his head in an
adorable apologetic gesture. My heart melted and I sighed. “I know you‟re sorry but that was still bad. No more Lo-
Mein for you. You‟ve had your dinner.” I grabbed his collar and dragged him away from House, who was wiping doggie
slobber from his face.

    House limped into his bedroom to change and I set George on the leather sofa. “Don‟t move boy.” He looked at me
with his sad eyes and I broke down. “I‟m sorry. Mommy still loves you.” His expression changed to hope but he knew
he needed to obey me. Fortunately I didn‟t need to clean the floor because George had licked it clean so I wen t back
towards the bedroom and found House washing in the open bathroom. I leaned against the doorframe, watching him
scrub his face.

    “I want those pictures,” he growled…but a smile covered his face, as he looked at me in the shaving mirror.

   “What are you willing to do for those pictures?” I asked suggestively then came behind his naked back and lightly
drew shapes on it.

    “Mmm…I‟ll get back to you on that one.” He murmured then dried his face. He picked up a blue t-shirt and slipped it
on. “Jealous, huh? What are you partial to?”

    “Whip cream, chocolate syrup, peanut butter.”

    “Peanut butter?!? That‟s a new one…why peanut butter?”
    “Easy…requires more licking.” I giggled as he emitted a low growl then chased me back to the living room.
*****
    After a lovely dinner, sans any more Lo-Mein disasters, we were ready to start shooting. In my most professional
voice I asked, “How do you want the scene to look? Lighting, surroundings, props?” We prepared the living room: re-
arranging furniture, setting up props, arranging the lighting. I must say, it was a cool look: the piano was pushed toward
the big bay window. I halfway opened the blinds so the viewer would know it was night. A tall Halogen floor lamp was
placed about four feet away from the piano, just giving enough light for the ambiance. I was still concerned about the
picture having enough light so I turned his ceiling tract lighting on low. House positioned Steve McQueen‟s cage so that
Steve was running his wheel, facing House. “Do you want George in your picture?”

   House sat on the bench and studied Steve for a moment. “How about just Steve and myself for some pictures; then
George and I for some pictures; then Steve, George and I for the rest. What do you say?”

    “Whatever you‟d like. It‟s your picture.” I grabbed my camera, made sure I had plenty of pictures remaining, then
asked, “What are you gonna play?”

    “A variety of things. Do you want me to just play the piano?”

    “Well,” I began, studying the scene. “What I have in mind is sort of like an old movie I absolutely love: The Awful
Truth, with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Have you ever seen that movie?” He shook his head. “Well, in a nutshell, it‟s
about a divorcing couple who share custody of their dog. Their dog is awesome: it‟s the dog they used in The Thin Man.
Anyway, there‟s a scene where Cary Grant is playing piano and singing to this dog who‟s howling right along with him. I
thought you could sing and play to Steve and/or George. We could even take Steve out of his cage. What do you think?”

    He was digesting what I was saying. “Ok. Let‟s try that.” He opened Steve‟s cage and set him on top of the cage.
Instead of trying to escape, Steve laid down and watched House.

    “Wow…that‟s amazing. I thought for sure he‟d try to make a break for it.”

    “Nah…he hates heights. I tried to put him on my shoulder but he freaks out. This is the only way to get him to stay
in one place. Isn‟t that funny? A rat that hates heights, but, there you have it.” He started pressing keys. “Do you have
any requests?”

    I shook my head. “You just play whatever.”

    He nodded then began. I didn‟t recognize the tune but started snapping photos. It wasn‟t until he started singing
that I recognized it…and I rolled my eyes. “Cellophane flowers of yellow and green, towering over your head. Look for
the girl with the sun in her eyes, and she‟s gone. Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Follow her down to a bridge by a
fountain where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies, everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers, that grow so
incredibly high.”

    “Why am I not surprised you‟d choose that Beatles‟ song? Is that your favorite?” I asked when he‟d finished. CLICK,
CLICK. I kept snapping away, catching his sly look through the lens.

    “I am quite partial to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. It‟s a brilliant song.”

     “Uh huh...why am I not surprised?” He quickly switched to Beethoven‟s 5th Symphony. His range was amazing and
I felt honored for such an opportunity as this.

    “Ok. I‟m ready for George now,” he said as he ended the beautiful piece.

     I put down my camera and turned to George, who was watching all the action from the sofa. “Come on, boy. It‟s
your turn.” He stood up on the sofa, wagging his tail. I picked him up and carried him to the piano, setting him on top.
“Is it ok if he‟s on top? Or where do you want him?” House moved Steve to a nearby table, and then, limping back,
picked up George and set him on the piano bench. “Stay boy,” House gently commanded George, who gave him a „Yes,
master, I‟ll do anything you say,‟ look of adoration.

    “Why can‟t you look at me like that?” House teased me.
    “I do, baby. I do.” I replied. I picked up my camera and started shooting, just as House began singing: “You shake
my nerves and you rattle my brains, too much love drives a man insane; you broke my will, oh what a thrill; Goodness
gracious great balls of fire!” At great balls of fire!, George howled happily. I doubled over in laughter. House
continued, really getting into the song…but I couldn‟t shoot because every time House sang great balls of fire! George
howled. Alas I totally missed that photo opportunity and, once they‟d stopped and I finally caught my breath, I said,
“Can we do that again? I totally missed that. I was too busy laughing.”

     House rolled his eyes but started again…this time with more energy. It spread to George and myself; even Steve
started running faster on his wheel. I finally started snapping and George, on cue, continued to howl at great balls of
fire!. We had so much fun that House played the song a total of four times. Unfortunately it left me incapacitated on the
rug, unable to breathe from laughing so hard. I heard the piano bench move and felt a presence beside me, since my
eyes were closed: “Do you need mouth-to-mouth?” House asked. I nodded…and his healing powers cured me! He
helped me up.

    “Ok, how do you want George and Steve?” I asked, my heart still racing from House‟s medical procedure.

   “How about George on the piano bench and Steve on the keyboard with me? He‟s actually quite musical you know;
we play duets all the time.”

    I rolled my eyes but I was curious about this musical rat. “This I‟ve gotta see.”

    House grinned, then set the scene, placing George beside him and Steve on the keys. He began playing “Heart and
Soul”…and I smiled. House and Steve were actually very good…though Steve wasn‟t as musically talented as House. I
got some great pictures…and Steve gave us a rousing finish. I clapped and House bowed; George howled; and Steve
squeaked. I giggled then, waiting until all the animals were settled, I set my camera down and wrapped my arms around
House‟s neck.

    “Greg…you are amazing, you know that?” He nodded with a twinkle in his eye.

    “You‟re not so bad yourself.” He eyed me. “You know, you‟re looking a little flushed. Do you need mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation again?” I nodded and, once again, he cured me.
*****
    After the pictures were taken and the animals situated, House and I settled on the sofa: him sprawled across the
length (which just barely accommodated his long legs); me comfortably positioned between his legs, lying against his
chest with my head beneath his chin; a beautiful old quilt thrown over us. I sighed with contentment as he caressed our
entwined fingers with his thumb. „He seems much more relaxed than last night,‟ I thought. As House clicked on the
television, Lethal Weapon 4 entered the living room...and it was the scene in the dentist‟s office. (For all you Lethal
Weapon fans, you‟ve gotta love that scene.)

     “Oh, my favorite part!” I squeed as we watched Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci and Chris Rock getting high on
nitrous oxide.

     “Nitrous oxide really can make you that giddy…I‟ve done it many times myself.” House commented against my hair.
I just shook my head. “So, um, you like Mel Gibson?” My face wrinkled in confusion and I turned my head to look at
him. He was still watching television. „Could House be jealous? Is this why he clammed up last night?‟ I needed to
know for sure.

     “Oh, yeah. He‟s got a great body...lots of money...and one amazing set of eyes,” I felt him squirm behind me. He
was silent for a moment then said, “You know you could have any guy you want.” He might as well have said, “What are
you doing with a cripple like me?” He wasn‟t jealous...he was insecure. He was afraid to try new things because the risk
of losing was too great.

    “You‟re clamming up again…exactly what you did last night. We had such an amazing night. Did I do something
wrong? Say something wrong? Am I a bad kisser?” Still watching me, his eyes clouded with confusion as he shook his
head no. “Greg, why are you with me? You really could have your share of women. You have an amazing body; you
have great eyes; and your brain is even hotter than your body. I‟m not normal…I‟m far from it. Just ask poor George.
He‟s taken enough of my crap to last anyone a lifetime…but he‟s forgiven me. That‟s why I keep him around.”

    He smiled sadly. “I‟m damaged.”
    “Well, physician, heal thyself. You make others well…why can‟t you make yourself well? Or don‟t you want to be
well?” He looked away. “You don‟t want to heal, do you? Why?”

    House didn‟t answer immediately but I gave him a few moments. “I had a twin sister.”

    I leaned away, rather surprised. “Alison told me you had no siblings.”

    He shook his head. “Nobody here knows about Stephanie.”

    “Why?”

   He sighed. “Because I killed her.”
*****
   My mouth dropped, wondering if my ears had deceived me. He was watching my eyes, gauging my expression.
“What do you mean, you killed her?”

    “I mean I killed her.”

   “I got that the first time. I mean, what happened?” He continued watching me, pleading with his eyes for me to
understand…then begging, silently, not to have him explain it. My eyebrow raised and I moved away, leaning back on
my knees. He shifted then sighed heavily.

     “I‟ve never told anyone this…not even Stacy. I don‟t know why I‟m telling you.” He paused then face-palmed,
rubbing his eyes. He shifted his gaze to a location beyond my right shoulder…his eyes clouding with long-buried
memories and feelings. “For our sixteenth birthday our parents bought us a used car. We were so excited: I was sixteen
and finally had wheels (every guy‟s dream at that age); and Steph had transportation to the mall. We had a schedule:
we took turns driving the car everyday to school and whatever we wanted to do after school and on weekends. Steph
and I were each other‟s best friends…we were as close as fraternal twins could get. We handled our differences the best
we could, and we got along great…usually.
     Anyway, about 6 months after turning sixteen we had an argument about who would get the car. This troubled the
entire family, since we rarely argued. I wanted to take my girlfriend to the movies; Steph‟s friend was coming from out
of town and she wanted to the car. Since it was my turn, I got the car. I don‟t know, maybe I should‟ve been the bigger
person…I should‟ve given in and let her have it…but I had plans. See, my girlfriend and I had decided to finally have sex
that night. We compromised: Stephanie and I would pick up our passengers then I‟d drop Steph and her friend at the
mall and go on to the movies with my girlfriend.” House paused and I saw his eyes shimmering…
     We were on our way to pick up my girlfriend; it was just Steph and I in the car. Both of us were testy from the fight
earlier and began saying nasty things to each other…” House paused again and my heart ached from the croak in his
throat. I laid a flat palm against his face, trying to comfort him. “I was the only one wearing a seatbelt. I told her to put
it on but she snapped back, “You aren‟t Mom! Don‟t tell me what to do!” That only made the situation worse and, before
we knew it, I was speeding…very, very fast. I was just so angry and hotheaded, and I wasn‟t paying attention to my
speed. I can‟t tell you what happened next, because I don‟t quite remember, but somehow we veered into a ditch and
the car flipped three times. To this day I‟m thankful it was a deserted stretch of road outside town and no one else was
around. Steph…she…she was ejected through the windshield and died when she hit the ground. I was very battered and
bruised…broken left leg, right shoulder, lacerations.”

    I stared at him, tears spilling down my cheeks. House began crying and I‟d never see a man cry so much. I guess
30 years of pent-up anger and resentment would do that. He began rocking like a young, wounded child. Getting up, I
ran to the bathroom to retrieve the tissues and a damp cloth. When I returned the tears had eased a bit but his hands
covered his face. I gently removed them to wipe away the tears with the cloth.

    “WHY?” He yelled, practically screaming. “Why did I kill her?” There was so much anger, so much rage, so much
hurt in those words that I took a step back. He was so mad at himself…at those agonizing memories. “She was
(HICCUP) my best friend…she knew all (HICCUP) my secrets. We understood each other (HICCUP) like no one else.” I
waited for him to continue but he just covered his face again and started taking deep breaths, which soothed the
hiccupping. I stepped closer and bent down in front of him, once again taking his hands from his face but, this time,
placing them between mine. Finally he continued: “Why love someone when all they do is leave you?”

    „Good question,‟ I thought. „Perhaps because it‟s just what people do.‟
     “First Stephanie…then my parents pulled even further away…then Stacy. Loving seems such a wasted effort.” He
paused. “You know, to this day my father blames me for her death…his precious daughter,” he spat out the last words,
as if they were venomous. “He always called her that. Our family‟s never really talked about it. It‟s just easier for
everyone to deal if nothing is said, I suppose. I learned that from an early age…perhaps I never learned proper
communication habits.”

    I cleared my throat then sat on the edge of the sofa. I began: “No one spoke about my father…ever. Even after he
died, all the secrets, all the pain, was covered up. Now it‟s too late. My mother has Alzheimer‟s and doesn‟t even know
me anymore.” I snorted with aversion. “Now I‟ll never know why she stood by and let him beat Dana and I. It may
seem easier at the time to ignore it rather than deal with it, but let me tell you something: its worse when you CAN‟T deal
with it...ever.” I looked down at our hands, which we‟d involuntarily wound together in mutual need. I finally understood
why House pushed people away: in his mind, if you don‟t get too close it won‟t hurt when (which usually happens) they
leave.

    I didn‟t want that to be true here…I wanted him to know its ok to trust…and love…again.

    I did know I couldn‟t say or do anything about trusting me; he needed to be the one to discover this on his own. I
just hoped it would be lickety-split…I was going back to Chicago soon.

      “Greg, before you completely disagree with what I have to say please let me finish.” He nodded. “YOU DID NOT
KILL YOUR SISTER. Ok? It was an accident. My father? He killed himself and that family by drinking…THAT was not an
accident. Were you drinking?” He shook his head. “You probably shouldn‟t have argued while you were driving but
we‟ve all done it. I‟ve done it…usually arguing with George.” He smiled weakly at this. “Did you get in trouble?” He
shook his head again. “They ruled it an accident, didn‟t they?” He nodded. “I know that what I have to say will not take
away your pain; it won‟t bring Stephanie back; it won‟t even change the way you think of yourself. I didn‟t know
Stephanie and I won‟t pretend to know what she‟d want for you. But I do know this: anyone whose truly loved wouldn‟t
want the other person to live the rest of their life torturing themselves over what was truly an accident…especially since
it‟s come and gone long ago. Greg,” I smoothed the hair from his forehead, “no matter how you feel about yourself, I
loved you before you told me this. How do I feel now?” He looked at me with expectation mixed with dread.

    “Now…I love you even more because you felt you could tell me. That‟s a first step to trusting…and I trust you. You
are a good man and, deep inside that crusty exterior is a man so smart, so amazingly talented…I feel privileged to know
you.”

     He leaned over and kissed me, taking me in his arms. I was enveloped in a wave of relief…mixed with the salt of his
tears. It was a feeling I‟d never experienced; a feeling that originated from the small seed of trust; from a man who‟d
told me his deepest secret, and knew I wasn‟t going to betray him.

    But I also saw there was something else I couldn‟t tell him…that he needed to learn to FIGHT for love…not just either
lay down and take the pain or run from it all together. He needed to see that love was worth the risk of getting burned,
that this risk is what makes love so great. Deep down I had the feeling he would learn…I just hoped I would be the
result.

    “How are you doing?” I asked as I lightly trailed a finger down his neck. He sighed.

     “Better.” He paused. “Haley, I know I can have any woman I want.” I snorted and narrowed my eyes. Despite his
playful look I knew he was trying to salvage some of his pride after that whole crying scene. He laughed as I began to
pull away. “But I will never want another…no matter what happens.” There was that phrase again…no matter what
happens. What do you suppose it could mean?

     His eyes became serious but, not wanting to think of a future without Dr. Gregory House I closed my eyes and placed
a finger on his lips, which he kissed. He whispered, “Are you tired?”

     I opened my eyes and saw…something in those beautiful blue orbs I couldn‟t name but never expected to see. When
I think of the proper word I‟ll let you know. I nodded and he smiled. “Let‟s go to bed.”
*****
    That night we didn‟t make love; we didn‟t even get naked. I borrowed a t-shirt and shorts; he wore pajamas…and
we just held each other, my back against his chest, my right hand massaging his damaged thigh. I listened as he told me
about his family.

    “Miss Pingus is a great guy. You really should meet him sometime.” I stopped massaging and sat up, looking down
at him, completely confused.

    “Excuse me? Miss Pingus is a male? Care to explain?”

     His laughing eyes were watching me look down on him. “Miss Pingus is my cousin John. We are the same age and
lived, briefly, about 2 blocks from each other, when we were about 15. That summer we were 15 he still hadn‟t rea ched
puberty. I felt so bad for him: his voice was still high and squeaky; he was gawky, kind of like a large breed puppy. He
also had this unusual ping-pong fetish, no, I take that back, OBSESSION, and would challenge anyone to play.
Unfortunately the guy couldn‟t grasp the face that he SUCKED at ping-pong.
     Anyway, his youngest sister (he‟s the oldest of 5 children) was about two at the time. Somehow, she had associated
John and ping-pong…and started calling him “Pingus”. Stephanie, being a sneaky, witty but overall very nice gal,
wouldn‟t let him forget that his voice hadn‟t changed, so she began calling him “MISS Pingus”. Justine, the two-year-old,
caught that as well and began calling him “Miss Pingus”. Justine, to this day, can charm a starlet out of liposuction so
John kept it. He couldn‟t correct her…and that‟s what we call him.
     Ironically, three months after this incident, he shot up a good foot and really filled out. Now, he‟s 6‟5”; a lieutenant
in the Navy; and happily married with five kids. Go figure.”

    I laughed and shook my head in bewilderment. “You have a fairly normal family…which doesn‟t explain you. Were
you the mutated gene or something?”

    He growled low and pulled me down to the bed beside him, fitting me comfortably against his chest…where I
belonged. And that‟s where I fell asleep…listening to the beat of my beloved‟s heart.
*****
    The next morning George and I arrived at PPTH at 10:00. Seeing that Lisa was alone and working at her desk, I
knocked on the door. When she looked up she smiled and waved me in. George greeted her with a happy “ROLF!”, at
which Lisa laughed and scratched behind his ears, then gave me a hug and offered me a seat.

    “I‟m sorry, Lisa, that I haven‟t had much of a chance to talk with you. I just haven‟t seen you around.”

    Lisa‟s face was…glowing, positively glowing. She looked so radiant and happy. „I bet Hotstuff and Lisa are gonna get
married.‟ I thought. “Haley, I have some awesome news. I haven‟t had a chance to tell anyone else, just Tony, since I
found out about it early this morning and you‟re the first one I‟ve seen. Haley…I‟m pregnant.”

    My mouth dropped in momentary surprise then I squealed and jumped up, grabbing Lisa in a hug. “Oh my gosh!
That is so wonderful! I can see it‟s a good thing. Oh Lisa!” I hugged her again then we giggled like schoolgirls. “What
did Tony say?” Lisa giggled even harder.

    “Well, he was surprised at first. Then he got excited. Oh, Haley, it was so amazing…he just kept repeating, “I‟m
gonna be a dad…I‟m gonna be a dad.” It‟s the last thing he said as I hung up the phone. I‟ve always wanted children.
As a matter of fact, I had begun fertility treatments a little over three months ago and was looking into sperm
donors…when you introduced me to Tony.”

    “Have you informed Tony about the sperm donor idea?‟

    “Yes and, while a little uncomfortable with the idea he was starting to get used to it. He was even giving me the
injections. Well, I‟m going to stop the medicine because it really is MUCH BETTER trying the old-fashioned way, don‟t
you think?”

    I chuckled and nodded emphatically. “Yes it is.”

    “Speaking of that…how is everything going with House?”

    I sighed and sat back down. “It‟s wonderful…except I‟m discovering things about him that I never thought were
possible in a human being. Most people wouldn‟t stay with him…but I love him more; I can‟t help it. I know I‟m not the
one to fix him…you know, I don‟t even want him fixed. I love him just the way he is, damaged and all that.” Lisa was
watching me with a gleam in her eye and we sat down again.

    “For a long time I wanted to have a relationship with him but we never even got close. Perhaps because we have a
history: we both went to Michigan…did you know that?” I shook my head, rather surprised. “He was already a legend
when I began my undergrad studies. We didn‟t see much of each other until I started my medical studies. He worked at
the hospital I was doing practical studies at. We used to have lunch, talk; but I never got real close to him…he always
keeps people at a distance.” „Not always‟, I thought with a bit of pride…and my heart swelled with love for that man.

    Lisa kept watching me…and her face broke into a smile. “Haley, you‟ve been such a great person for him, especially
these past few days. He comes in WHISTLING. I never knew the man whistled.” Her mouth dropped when I revealed
the goofy smile I was trying so hard to hide. “OH MY GOSH! You two did it, didn‟t you? You cashed in the bet.” Her
mouth broke into another wicked smile. “How was it?”

    I put on my best sarcastically astonished face. “What kind of girl do you think I am? Do you really think I‟d tell you
he was the best I‟d ever had?” I then broke into giggles…unable to continue the charade. “Oh, Lisa. I never thought a
man like Greg could make me so happy…but he has.”

    “What are you going to do in a week and a half, when the shoot is over?”

    I sighed. “I haven‟t wanted to think about that. I don‟t know…the decision is up to him. I can see a war within
him…I think his heart‟s telling him to commit, but his brain is telling him to run away. After all it‟s worked for him in the
past.” I got up and began pacing, which was actually quite a funny scene because George was intently watching me, his
Bassett head following my every move, like he was watching a tennis match. “I do know this…I can‟t say anything to
him. He‟s got to listen to his heart, perhaps for the first time in his life. From what I understand of Greg‟s relationship
with Stacy, it was very passionate, very hormonally driven. I don‟t get that between us. Sure, we love being
together…and we can‟t get enough of each other, but I know it‟s much more than that, for both of us.”

    I paused and decided to switch subjects. “Be prepared Lisa…you‟re going to get asked this a lot: are you going to
get married?”

   Lisa looked at the floor. “I want to. I‟ve wanted to marry Tony Hoffman ever since our third date. Did I tell you
about that?”

    I shook my head and crossed my leg under me. “Well,” she began, sitting back and getting a fanciful gleam in her
eyes. “It was only a week after we met. I‟m a HUGE baseball fan, and there‟s a Triple A team close by that I absolutely
love. Well, the game was scheduled for 3:00 (this was a Saturday) but he was going to pick me up at 12:00 for lunch.
He picks me up…and drives me to the ball field. Now, I‟m completely stumped about where he‟s going, since the game
didn‟t start for a while yet. He had arranged for a picnic lunch to be brought out on the field, in the middle of the grass
behind second plate. It was romantic…and wonderful…and extremely thoughtful. Then we stayed for the workout and
the game, and went to a small pub nearby afterwards for drinks. The day was wonderful…and so was the night. That
was our first time together…one word: YOWZAS!”

    I giggled then she joined me. It was so nice to have another female to giggle with…and we kept going until we
heard “ROLF! ROLF!”. We turned to the glass doors and saw Greg and James standing there with quizzical looks. We
motioned them in and Greg, in a stage voice, exaggeratedly said to James, “Uh-oh. My girlfriend is laughing with the Evil
Witch. Do you think I should dump her?”

   “Nah…you might need her at a pool hall sometime to bail you out of trouble. But, if you do dump Haley, I‟m sure
Chase wouldn‟t mind his chance with her.” James said in his wonderful matter-of-fact tone. I giggled and watched the
Greg‟s face go from mock dismay to a bit of contention.

    I smiled at them. “I wouldn‟t mind seeing what the Aussie can do. I hear they‟re very nimble. You know, I bet Mel
Gibson can be a tiger…” I purred back, causing everyone but Greg to snicker...he just shot me a knowing look that told
me he caught my drift. I could see he was impressed by my quickness, though that contentious look was still there.

     “Just ask Cameron…she‟ll give you the skinny,” Greg snarked back. This changed the mood of the conversation from
light banter to James shooting flaming arrows at Greg. After all, this was his woman Greg was dissin‟. I knew
something had to be done to break up this tension so I smiled and stood up, coming to stand in front of Greg. The
contention left his face as he watched me.

    “Nope. I‟ll just find out for myself…is Robbie working today?” I asked sweetly, giving him my most innocent look
and fluttering my eyelashes. He narrowed his eyes, which to the untrained eye could mean trouble; I knew that look,
had seen it during our secret moments. I recognized the subtle gleam of excitement in his sky blue eyes, which were
rapidly changing to royal blue…it‟s a good thing we had company. Can‟t very well jump your boyfriend in front of his
boss, can you?

   “See what I was telling you, Jimmy? She‟s insatiable…she‟s an animal. Done worn me out, that‟s what she‟s done.
Now she‟s movin‟ on to younger blood.” This time my pulse was racing, my eyes were misting over…and Greg‟s smile
was rapidly turning to a sneer.

    “Cuddy, you got some ice in here? The lovebirds are getting overheated,” James‟ remark brought me back to normal.

    “Boys, what do you want?” I turned my head to hide my snicker at Lisa‟s question. Instead of the male humans
answering, George bayed then came over to the guys. He gave them a look of, “What? You forgot about me!” then
jumped on Greg‟s legs. Greg reached down and scratched behind his ears, eliciting a bay of happiness from the four-
legged Casanova.

   “Mom, I wanna run this test that could save Mr. Stewart‟s life but Jimmy says no. I‟m older…I was here first. I
should get to do it!” Greg stomped his foot like a three year old and waved a medical folder. James rolled his eyes.

    “Haley, I‟ll talk to you later. It‟s time to police the playground,” Lisa said in an exasperated sigh. I smiled and picked
up George‟s leash…but he didn‟t want to leave. He‟d planted himself squarely at Greg‟s feet…and he wasn‟t budging.

    “George, come! Get up!” He looked over at me and basically told me, “Nope. Not gonna do it.”

    “Ok, fine George. We won‟t go see Gracie today.” His ears and head perked at that and he jumped up, much faster
than I thought a Basset could. We ambled to the door then I turned to Greg. I saw he was still watching me…but it was
my butt he was concentrating on. “Oh, and Greg: got time for a quickie today?”

   His mouth curved into a smile; Lisa covered her mouth in amazement; and James shook his head. “Sure…” Greg
began, taking a long look up and down me. “I know this great broom closet on the…”

    “Nope…I meant lunch. Got time for a quickie lunch?” Winking, I smiled and turned toward the door, leaving behind
laughter.
*****
    George and I headed for Pediatric Oncology but found Gracie‟s room empty. Puzzled we located a nearby nurse:

    “Excuse me…where is Gracie Mullins?”

    The nurse suddenly turned serious. “She‟s been moved to the ICU.”

    I gasped. “Is her family there?”

    “Her mother is but your dog won‟t be able to go in. Hospital policy.”

    I nodded. “I understand. Can you direct me there?” She smiled sadly and pointed down the hallway.

    George and I took off and found Miriam sitting in the hallway, holding a cup of coffee and a wadded tissue.

    “Miriam!” I said as we approached. She looked up and a bit of relief washed over her when she saw me.

    “Haley! I‟m so glad to see you. Gracie lapsed into a coma earlier this morning. Dr. Wilson, um, doesn‟t give her
much longer.” The tears welled in my eyes as I embraced her. She was shaking so I began rocking her, running a
soothing hand across her back. She began wailing…and I knew they were tears that had been long buried…perhaps from
the day Gracie was diagnosed two years previous. We just stood there and rocked, me crying my silent tears, Miriam
more vocal. She suddenly pulled away from me and plopped back in the chair. I sat beside her.
    “I‟m sorry…I guess I really needed to do that.” Miriam smiled sheepishly through her tears.

    “You never need to apologize for tears.” I smiled weakly. “Do you need anything?”

    She shook her head. “Nope.” We sat silently for a moment then she said, “You know, before you showed up, I was
thinking about when I got pregnant with Gracie.
    She was such a surprise. We‟d already had Maggie, who was a wonderful daughter. We loved her but we wanted
more children. We tried and tried but I couldn‟t get pregnant. After about three years of fertility treatments, tests and
procedures, we got so discouraged. We decided to stop trying and see what happens.
    When Maggie was ten I had a vicious bout with what I thought was heartburn or indigestion. Come to find out I was
pregnant, and the uncomfortable feelings only typified the entire pregnancy: I was violently sick; I was uncomfortable;
even the labor was much harder than I had with Maggie. Being pregnant with Gracie was 100 times harder than being
pregnant with Maggie. At the time, I didn‟t understand why…maybe it was in preparation for events to come, I don‟t
know.
    But the moment that little baby girl was placed in my arms I knew there was something amazing and wonderful
about her. From the second she opened her eyes, those soft eyes, she had everyone wrapped around her finger. And
when she smiled at you! You were a goner…” Miriam‟s voice tapered off, filling with emotion. She was looking at a spot
on the floor in front of her, allowing herself to be bathed with wave after wave of emotion and memories.

    She smiled proudly as she continued. “The first time Maggie came to see Gracie…I‟ll never forget it. Maggie was so
curious…so inquisitive…but so protective and so proud of Gracie. The moment I placed Gracie in Maggie‟s arms, Maggie
said, “Mom, you‟ll see: I‟ll be the best big sister Gracie will ever have. I promise.” Well, what more could a mother want?
There was an instant connection there…” her voice drifted off again. I grabbed her hand and held it between mine,
hoping she‟d receive some of my strength.

    “What was Gracie like…before she got ill?”

    “Exactly as she is now. That child hasn‟t changed one bit. Sure, she‟s had her moments…and Gracie can be
incredibly stubborn. But her name truly fits her.”

    “How did your family react when you first go the news?”

    Miriam sat back and thought for a bit. I looked down at George, who was intently watching Miriam. He could sense
something was wrong. His look switched to me and, as if sensing he needed permission, looked back at Miriam. I knew
he wanted to help so I lifted the big boy to my lap and he set his head in Miriam‟s lap, placing a paw on her clasped
hands. She looked down at his big, wet, sorrowful brown eyes then at me.

     “He‟s a bit of a flirt, isn‟t he?” Miriam asked as one side of her mouth tilted up. Miriam took one more look at George,
then at me…then started giggling! It became contagious and spread to me…and we were giggling, which switched to
full-bellied laughter, for a good five minutes. We sighed and sat back in reflection. “Gracie‟s an interesting mixture of
adult and child…she‟s got a child-like curiosity, since she is still a child, but she‟s much more mature for her age. For
example, when we first started going to Dr. Wilson, who has always been her doctor, and he was running all his tests,
Gracie turned to me and said, “It really hurts. I don‟t want to be here.” I answered her, “I know Sweetie but Dr. Wilson
need to find out what‟s wrong.” She sat there and thought about it for a minute…then this four, almost five -year-old,
slowly nodded and said, “Ok, Mommy. I‟ll be a good girl and sit real still and when they poke me with those long sharp
needles I won‟t cry or nothin‟. I‟ll be real brave.” And she did exactly what she said. She‟s always been brave…and it‟s
her bravery that‟s kept us strong.”

    The three of us sat there for another ten minutes, just talking, when Miriam‟s cell phone rang. “Hi sweetheart…no
change but Haley and George are here.” She looked over and smiled at me. “Yes, they are wonderful…Sure, I‟d love to
go. Ten minutes? I‟ll see you then…I love you too, Frank.”

   “Frank‟s coming to pick me up. He says we need some time alone together...and he‟s right. Frank‟s coming in about
10 minutes. Do you…do you want to see her before Frank comes?”

    I nodded. “Will you watch George? The nurse said he can‟t come in.”

    “Sure.”
*****

  When I walked in, my stomach churned...this wasn't the Gracie I was used to seeing. She had tubes everywhere,
monitors everywhere...my breath caught. I watched this beautiful little girl sleep...the peaceful countenance was truly
deceiving, masking the fact that she was dying.

   "Hi Gracie, it's Haley," I began, taking her hand. "George is outside with your Mommy. I'm sorry he can't come in." I
paused and looked at her face. Tears ran down my cheeks as I lightly touched her face, wondering why this had to
happen to her. "George thinks about you...he loves you." My throat constricted. "I love you Gracie...did you know that?
You have the uncanny ability to getting into people's hearts and you wouldn't want to disappoint them by leaving, would
you?"

    I jumped when a hand touched my back...and found Greg standing there, eyes filled with compassion. "Come
on...let's go." He took my hand and led me to the hallway where I found Miriam, Frank, Lisa, James and George standing
around. Miriam was the first to see us emerge and, when she saw the look on my face, she came over and enfolded me
in a hug, which only made me start crying.

    SNIFF, SNIFF. "I told her (SNIFF) that she didn't want (HICCUP) to disappoint everyone (SNIFF, HICCUP) by leaving
us." Miriam rubbed my back as my body contorted in sobs.

   "Shh...I know, I know..." Miriam muttered as she rocked me. I was suddenly turned lose and enveloped in very
familiar, very strong arms.

    "Baby I'm here. Shh..." that voice soothed me as I slowly calmed. I wrapped my arms around his neck and threaded
fingers through his soft hair. With on last sniff I looked up and Greg kissed my forehead. "Let's get you out of here," he
suggested and I nodded.

   "I'll watch George," Lisa graciously volunteered, taking George's leash from where it was hanging off the chairs. He'd
been watching the entire exchange with wide eyes. I looked at Miriam who was standing by Frank.

   "Miriam, Frank, you need some time alone. Go take it. Gracie's in wonderful hands." I reassured them.

    "Yes...I'll stick close by until either you or Maggie comes back," James said as he placed a comforting hand on
Miriam's shoulder. Miriam smiled then turned to Frank. "Let's go." They left and Lisa, after giving me a hug, led a
reluctant George out of the ICU waiting room. I turned to James and hugged him as well.

    "James, Alison is fortunate to have you as a boyfriend...Gracie's fortunate to have you as a doctor...and we're
fortunate to have you as a friend. Thank you." I squeezed him then stepped back. James shuffled his feet in an almost
embarrassed fashion then took off to Gracie's room. I turned back to Greg and latched onto his lapels, leaning my head
against his chin. He kissed my forehead. "Are you busy today?" I quietly asked him as his arms went around me. He
shook his head and quietly answered, "No."

   "I sent Derrick to take the picture for today. I wasn't in the mood to photo a doctor, in a bikini, as a boxing ring girl.
You know, the ones that hold the round number signs. Funny...he almost jumped a the chance." Greg chuckled lightly.

   "What do you want to do?"

   "Just get me as far away from this place as possible. I just feel like running away. Let's take the bike up the
coast...perhaps to that restaurant. I need to be with you." I placed my palms on his face and kissed him hungrily,
possessively...and desperately. Calmly nodding he moved his hands to mine and kissed my palms. "Let's go."

    I insisted on driving…I needed to feel his arms around me. The afternoon was wonderful: quiet conversation; stolen
kisses; no thought of what PPTH held. After a few hours we wound up in a quiet nook on the beach, holding each other.
His hands were caressing my abdomen under my shirt as I sat between his legs. We were listening to the waves
crashing on the shore and I was momentarily oblivious to the world…he was nibbling on my ear. “Greg, have you ever
thought about being a father?” I asked and the nibbling suddenly stopped. I gave him a moment but he still hadn‟t
answered so I turned my head and saw his gaze was out at the ocean.
    “At one time perhaps.”

    “And now?”

   “Now? I don‟t know. Haley, you are the marrying kind…I‟m not.” He paused then a startled look filled his eyes.
“Why…are you pregnant?”

    “Nope. I just wanted to know, that‟s all. Greg, I…um, the photo shoot will be over soon. Then…then I have to go
back. My business, my apartment…my life is in Chicago.”

   He stiffened behind me. “Let‟s not talk about it.” I moved away from him and turned around. I was gripping the
beach, sand filtering through my fingers.

    “Dr. Gregory House, we‟ve got to talk about it. We can‟t just ignore it, not after all we‟ve been through. Greg,” my
face softened and he looked at me. I saw the war playing out on his face, the indecision and the fear. “I want to be with
you, more than I‟ve ever wanted anything. But I can‟t just pick up and move here on an uncertainty…and I won‟t.” He
continued to watch me. “I‟m not going to tell you what to do, I‟m not going to beg like some pathetic schoolgirl. The
decision‟s yours.” I stood up and began walking down the beach, tears welling in my eyes. I was suddenly afraid…very
afraid.

    I didn‟t get very far…Greg caught up with me. “Haley…Haley stop.” I halted and he placed hands on my upper
arms, turning me to him. “Haley, I know. I just…I don‟t know. But can‟t we make the most of the time we do have?”
His blue eyes were pleading with mine…his mouth was moving in a nervous twitch…a muscle was tightening in his cheek .
I decided right then and there not to bring it up again. I knew the only time to discuss it would be later…I just hoped it
wouldn‟t be too late.

   “Greg, I‟m sorry. It‟s just this whole thing with Gracie.” His hands moved from my upper arms and slowly, carefully
spanned his long, lean fingers around my waist. He moved closer, his hot breath caressing my face.

    “Do you want me to look at her file? You said the cancer came back after only six months in remission. That‟s not
unusual…but the rapid progression is. Wilson‟s her doctor, right?” I nodded, my eyes wide with amazement. “He‟s a
great doctor…and not wrong a lot. But I will give it a look. Will that make you feel better?” I watched his face and I
knew that last comment wasn‟t said to placate me. I could see how he hated watching me in pain…and my heart
swelled.

    “Oh, Greg, that would be wonderful. If there‟s any way this family doesn‟t have to lost their daughter…well, I will be
grateful.” My eyes moistened, shining with love and gratitude for this man. He moved in and kissed me slow,
methodically…determinedly. I moved away and he smiled, leaning his forehead against mine.

   “Haley, we need to get back; if we‟re too late Attila the Hun will cook and eat George.” I leaned my head back, then
shook it and clicked my tongue as I moved my hands up his arms and laid them flat on his chest.

    “Now, why do you call Lisa such horrid names?” I asked with a grin. He wet his lips and kissed me again, his hands
roaming. I suddenly forgot my asked question as I gave into his lips…stamping out a strange foreboding feeling in my
stomach…
*****

   Arriving at PPTH around 5:00 p.m., we didn‟t find Lisa in her office so we went to Diagnostics. The blinds were drawn
and we could hear faint yelling, cheering…and howling?!? We gave each other a questioning glance before Greg pushed
open the door…

   and found Lisa and Alison arm wrestling at the conference room table! Eric, Robert, James, Hotstuff and George were
crowded around the two women, waving 1s, 5s, 10s and 20s as they cheered on the competitors. I stared open-
mouthed in amazement and a bit of disgust…Greg look dismayed but I think it was because they had started without
him. The whiteboard, which was usually covered with medical terms, held the tally of current bets.

   “What‟s going on here?” I had to yell over the din in the conference room. George was the only male human and/or
canine that even acknowledged I‟d said something. He howled, lumbered off his chair and greeted me with a “Isn‟t it
cool what they‟re doing?” expression. I bent down, took George‟s head in my hands, looked him straight in the eye and
moaned, “George! What have they done to you?” He just wagged his tail and turned back to the action. I looked up
and found that Greg had joined in on the betting, exchanging money with the ducklings. I rolled my eyes and turned my
attention to the ladies. They looked deadlocked…both straining but neither getting anywhere.

   Finally, after about 5 more minutes of deadlock, Lisa, through gritted teeth, said to Alison, “Let‟s call a draw.” Alison
nodded and they both stopped, much to the groaning crowd‟s dismay.

    “How did this whole thing start?” I asked the women as they sat back in their chairs, breathing hard.

     James spoke up first as he came to stand behind Alison‟s chair to rub her shoulders. “Cameron told me she was the
reigning arm wrestler in her sorority, and it got dropped in casual conversation this afternoon. Cuddy, Tony and George
were talking by and Chase pulled them in here to inform them of this tidbit of information. One thing led to another and
this is how you found us.”

     “Fascinating,” I said as I felt the ire rise inside. “And what about little Gracie Mullins? Did you leave before her
family came back?” I couldn‟t help it…I was furious that a little girl was fighting for her life and her doctor was here,
placing bets on an arm wrestling contest. James cleared his throat but at least had the decency to look a tad bit
embarrassed before saying, “Her sister Maggie showed up before I left. I wasn‟t going to leave until someone came
back.”

    I sighed and gave him an apologetic look. “I‟m sorry. I‟m just really worried about her.”

    James smiled. “I know.”

    “It‟s a draw…that means no one wins and all the money is still on the table.” Greg said, looking very disappointed.

    “They‟re tired…they can‟t go another round. I say two of us face off,” Robert said, a giddy little smile on his face.

     “Me likee,” Greg said…and I knew he was up to something. He had that mischievous glint in his eyes. “How about
Chase arm wrestle…Haley.” He grinned as he looked at me. I narrowed my eyes at him and he winked, blowing me a
kiss.

    “You're hardly Don King, Jules...you can‟t just volunteer me for something like this.” (Uh, oh. I was really mad...I
used my irritated-at-Greg nickname, Jules.) He stepped back involuntarily at this reference...he knew he was in trouble.

     “No, I think it‟s an EXCELLENT idea,” Robert said, standing up and cracking his knuckles. “Or can‟t you arm
wrestle?” I looked around the room, my mouth open
in disgust. I just couldn‟t believe it…everyone was grinning, urging me on. Greg was wearing a very arrogant
look...which only made me madder.

      “Fine, Robert, I‟ll do it.” He grinned and took the seat Alison had vacated. I walked by Greg, stopped and
murmured so only he could hear, “Jules, you are
sleeping alone tonight.” The arrogant grin faded when he saw how serious I was. I continued on past him and, before
sitting in the chair, I rolled my shoulders and stretched my arms. As I took my seat I asked, “So, how are the odds?”

     “They‟re pretty even…but Chase is quickly gaining some more support.” Hotstuff said as he hugged Lisa from
behind.

    “Oh, let me guess: are my breasts holding me back? Is it because I‟m a woman?”

    “From where I‟m standing your breasts are looking just fine,” Greg snarked.

   “I guess you won‟t find out tonight, will you?” I snarked back, eliciting a round of “whoas” from the crowd. I sat
down across from Robert and placed my right elbow on the table. Robert did the same and we joined hands. He gave
me such an arrogant look that the adrenaline already coursing through my veins just kicked up a notch.

    "What are the rules, Mr. King?" I looked at Greg, my eyebrow raised.
    "Ok," he cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable with my attitude, "only one arm on the table at all times...the other
arm must be kept behind your back. Elbows must always be touching the table. Since Hoffman is the cop he will make
sure all rules are enforced. Cool?"

    Hotstuff shrugged. "Sure."

    "A takedown will be when the loser's back of the hand is completely touching the table. Is everyone clear?"

    "No...I need you to draw me a diagram," I retorted, rolling my eyes at Greg. "Of course we get it. Can we just get
on with it already?" I gripped Robert's hand; smiled sweetly; placed my feet flat on the floor, several feet apart; placed
my arm behind my back and looked Robert squarely in the eye. For a moment I thought there was a flash of fear in his
eyes but it disappeared just as quickly as it came.

   When Robert was ready and Hotstuff made sure we weren't breaking the rules, Greg said, "Ready...set...go!" And we
began, with Robert off to an early lead.

     'For a skinny, white, pretty boy, Robert's stronger than I imagined,' I thought as I gritted my teeth and surged
forward, surprising both him and the audience with my sudden strength. I pushed his arm back to even and a little
further, all the while never taking my eyes off of Robert's...and with each passing moment his eyes went from
arrogance...to surprise...to worry. It was at this weak worry moment I made my move...with one big push I took his
hand down.

   The ladies cheered and the men were stunned. I looked at Robert and he kept looking from his hand on the table to
me and back to his hand, his eyes wide with amazement.

   "I'm sorry Robert...I believe I failed to mention that I not only played pool but also arm wrestled in college. Yep, I
was the reigning woman's arm wrestling champ three years in a row." The women giggled and the men groaned.

    "That settles it," James said. "I'm never betting against Haley on ANYTHING!" I grinned and finally looked at Greg.
His eyes were filled wiht admiration...and a bit of excitement.

    "Well boys and girls," I got up and held my hand out to Robert, who took it, still amazed he'd lost to a girl. "I'm
going to see Gracie." I reached for George's leash. "James, can you come with me?" I smiled again and he nodded. I
passed Greg but he stopped me.

    "Is there anything you CAN'T do?" he asked, his eyes gleaming with astonishment, excitement...and perhaps a tinge
of sadness.

    "I don't know...you tell me."

    He studied me...then a sly grin spread his face. "Nope...there isn't anything you can't do. You are perfect just the
way you are." His arms went around me and he tried to kiss me but I put my hand on his mouth. I knew what he was
doing...and just rolled my eyes...again.

   "You're still in the doghouse Jules. Don't think that begging for sex will get you any." I pulled away and began
walking to the door, leaving behind his snickering colleagues.

    "So, does this mean I really have to sleep alone tonight?" I turned back around and tilted my head in a thoughtful
pose, wondering if he was as pig-headed as he appeared.

    "It's gonna take more than just your blue eyes and amazing body to make up with me."

    He then had the gall to stand there and stick out his bottom lip...he was pouting! "Save it Jules...I don't respond to
pouting." With that, I turned on my heel and met James at the door. "Let's go." The three of us left, leaving behind a
very quiet Diagnostics conference room.
    "Haley, you are truly amazing. If House were smart he'd marry you right now."

    I smiled sadly and we got on the elevator. "Well, unfortunately, Greg isn't smart all the time, is he?" and the doors
closed.

*****

   My visit to the ICU didn't produce much new information: Gracie's condition remained the same; Maggie was still
there; and James was right: it was ok for him to leave, even if it was to go watch his girlfriend arm wrestle their boss. I
sat with Gracie and Maggie for about an hour, periodically going out to the waiting room to check on George. When it
was time to leave for the night, I hugged Maggie and kissed Gracie's forehead...and found Greg sitting with James and
George in the waiting room. Fortunately they hadn't seen me so I ducked into the shadows and leaned against the wall
to listen to their conversation.

   I did see Greg holding a medical file, his head bent over as he studied it. "This history is very interesting. You don't
have a problem with me looking over her file?"

   James studied him, probably wondering why Greg was suddenly interested in what seemed to be a clear-cut case of
cancer that has come out of remission...and why Greg had asked him so nicely in the first place. "I don't mind...but
what's your angle?" James' mouth dropped open. "This is for Haley, isn't it? You're doing this for sex, aren't you?"

    Greg rolled his eyes but the corner of his mouth tipped up. "She asked me to review it, ok? Besides, she's been
pretty bummed about this whole situation...such a killjoy on our sex life. I've got needs you know." He continued
reading the file. "Something about this whole case doesn't feel right...I don't think it's a clear-cut case of cancer coming
out of remission. There's something that's made it come out...or it's something that looks like cancer on all the tests.
Either way, I want to find out."

    "Well, Haley must be pretty amazing if you are willing to do this," James commented as he scratched behind George's
ears. "Plays pool; arm wrestles; rides motorcycles; blackbelt in karate. Why haven't you two eloped?"

   Greg shot James a sideways glance. "If she's so great why don't you marry her?"

   "I would but there's a small problem: she loves you."

   "Yeah...doesn't that sound a bit odd? Almost like she's not quite right in the head." I could practically hear James
face-palming.

   "I've told you before that she might be your one chance at happiness. I was wrong: she's your ONLY chance." I
heard George's soft baying and watched while my heart flipped: George was laying on the chair next to Greg with his
head on Greg's left thigh. My eyes looked up at Greg's face and what I saw made my breath catch: the look of a man in
torment, torn within himself.

    "What if I committed...and it doesn't work out?" There was a short pause that ended when James said, "I don't know
House. Gambling with your life isn't as much fun as gambling with your patient's, is it?" Greg's silence answered James'
question. "What's the result when you gamble, House?" Greg nodded, not verbalizing what they both already knew.
"House, you won't know until you try. It would be nice to know the future but we don't. For once, don't be afraid...just
go for it. What have you got to lose?"

   "Nothing...and everything." He left it at that and they were quiet for a few moments. I took that time to compose
myself, then emerged from the waiting room as if I hadn't heard a thing.

   "Well," I said as I reached all three males. "I'm going back to the hotel. I've got a lot to do before your picture
tomorrow, James." I smiled at him and his face lit up.

    "That's tomorrow, isn't it?" I nodded and said, "Lisa said we could use her house...unless you know of some other
kitchen you want in your picture."
   "Actually," James looked at Greg. "Let's use House's kitchen." We turned to Greg and he gave me an innocent look.
"House," James began. "can we use your kitchen tomorrow for the picture?"

    Greg never took his eyes off mine as he stood up and leaned into me: "If you'll stay with me tonight you can use the
kitchen tomorrow." Somehow I knew that would be part of it...but it didn't stop me from narrowing my eyes at him.

   "Oh, you're a shrewd one, aren't you?" I murmured then sighed dramatically. "Fine...but only for James. I still
haven't forgiven you for that whole arm wrestling thing." I scolded Greg, leaving James laughing beside us.

    "I'll make it up to you...I promise." he wiggled his eyebrows. I turned to James, who was still watching everything
with a great deal of amusement.

    "James, meet me at Greg's at 4:00 p.m. Will Alison be in the photo?" James nodded. "Ok. Tomorrow we'll discuss
how you want the picture to go. Also, please bring over the groceries you'll need...I'm gonna have you really cooking,
instead of just pretending. And be prepared to make plenty, since I'm sure Greg will be lurking around. Alright...I'll see
you tomorrow at 4:00." I kissed James then said, "Thank you for everything you're doing for Gracie and her family."

   "It's my patient and her family...I do what I have to do for them." James gave Greg a look then disappeared down
the hall. I looked at Greg and folded my arms across my chest. "Looks like you got your way...you're awfully good at
that." I glared at him and he swallowed loudly.

   "Meet me at my apartment." I nodded then left, wondering, for the 1000th time, what I was doing.

*****

  The next morning George and I showed up at the Pediatric ICU to find Miriam and Maggie sitting outside, ringing their
hands and nervously looking around.

   "Miriam! Maggie! Is something wrong?" I asked as I embraced Miriam then Maggie.

   Maggie shook her head no and I exhaled the breath I had been holding with a WHOOSH! “No…but there‟s this
grumpy guy with a cane examining her.”

    I looked at her in surprise then looked at Miriam who nodded as well. “Yes…Dr. House has been in there, taking
blood, examining her. He was barking at Dr. Wilson.”

    “Ok. Will you watch George? I was going to leave him at the hotel but I thought he‟d be such a help to you folks.”

     Maggie smiled and reached down to scratch behind George‟s ears. He gave her such a cute, wet-brown eyed look
that Maggie‟s face fell with an “AWW!”. “I‟m glad you brought him…he‟s such a comfort.” I smiled then stepped
cautiously over to the door of Gracie‟s room. I found Greg yelling at James as he examined Gracie: “You should be
checking her protein levels!” Just then James saw me and narrowed his eyes in a “What have you done to House?” look.
I left the doorway and stood against the wall.

     James walked out and stood beside me, out of the view of anyone in the room. With a low growl James asked,
“What in the name of Dr. Gregory House happened last night? He hasn‟t acted this moody and obnoxious since Stacy
left.”

    I gave him a sideways glance before saying, “Well, I slept over…and Greg slept on the couch.”

    His eyes widened. "Did you just say you kicked Greg OUT OF HIS OWN BED?!?"

    I nodded. "Well, he didn't say I had to sleep with him...just that I had to stay with him. We were both fully clothed
and slept in separate rooms." I looked at him with a pitiful expression. "Do you think that was too much?"
    "Jimmy, this doll SNORES! I could hear her all the way from THE LIVING ROOM!" an irritated, gruff voice made me
jump as he emphasized "the living room". I looked over and saw Greg glaring at me...his eyes had dark circles under
them and he was walking stiffly, leaning heavily on his cane.

    "Looks like you got little sleep last night." I remarked.

    "Yeah, no thanks to you."

      "I would've talked to you this morning but you were gone when I woke up. The couch isn't very comfortable, is it?"
I eyed him...and my heart crumpled with compassion...and guilt. (FOLKS, I'M REALLY A SOFTIE, AREN'T I?) I suddenly
had an idea about how to make it up to him...but it would be a surprise...and it would be later. Right now there was a
little girl we needed to help. Greg was still glaring at me when I asked, "What are you doing here anyway? Run out of
patients? Reached the final level of "Super Mario Brothers 25" on your Gameboy?"

      He made a "Aren't you funny?" expression by growling at me and bobbing his head. "I told you I'd examine the
file...and now I'm examining the patient. Look, what do you want?"

     "Well, I came here to see about Gracie but, since you're here...can I talk to you in private?" I asked, giving him a
truly apologetic look. He studied me then nodded, his face keeping the hard edge...but I caught the brief softening of his
eyes. James nodded and walked back inside the room.

    "Greg, I'm sorry about last night. It was very wrong of me...but I was upset. I don't like to be put on the spot like
that, which seems to be your specialty. I just went too far." I looked down at my hands.

      "Haley, I'm even more convinced there's something else going on with Gracie," 'He was avoiding the issue...classic
House.' I thought. "I don't quite understand the coma...though leukemia can do almost anything. Still, I'm taking Gracie
upstairs close to Diagnostics so we can monitor her." Greg paused. "Does this mean you'll be around the hospital?" I
looked up from my hands and saw a hopeful expression. 'He is human...and he can act like a man in love. I knew
it...this is his way of beginning to forgive me.' I thought with a mental smile.

    "Yep, I'll be around...for the short time I remain in Jersey." His eyes clouded over and I saw I had, perhaps, brought
up the wrong subject. I cleared my throat. "When will you move her?"

    "As soon as possible. I'm sending these vials of blood upstairs and I'll have the kids run the tests. How long will you
be around?" I looked at my watch. It was 10:00.

    "Probably until around 3, then I'll head over to your place. Can I let myself in? I still have the key James gave
me...from that night." He was eyeing me, a tiny grin tickling his lips. He enjoyed that night as well.

    "Yep. Do you want to have lunch?" he asked. I nodded then, hesitantly, moved forward to kiss him...and he didn't
recoil, which was a good sign. I pulled away and smiled. He walked back inside where I heard him declare, "Jimmy!
Gracie's moving upstairs."

    I heard James gasp. "But...wha...what are you doing?"

     "I told you she's going upstairs...or are you going to chain yourself to her bed in protest? I never thought you were
one of THEM people, you know, bed-huggers. Tree-hugging is far more effective. Now move." CREAK, SQUEAK,
CREAK...the bed emerged from the room with James trailing helplessly behind. I quickly ran to Miriam and Maggie to
inform them of the situation.

    "Oh, and Haley?" I turned and saw Greg as he was pushing Gracie to the elevators. "Haley, Gracie is in a frail
condition...George won't be able to visit until her situation is more stable."

    I gave him a sad smile. "Ok."
*****

Moving Gracie to Diagnostics was the best thing for everyone...the family felt closer to the action; I was closer to Greg
(sigh. I know...it's bad. I can't be away form him though.); and the doctors had better access to the patient. For the
next few hours her room as a constant stream of people: the ducklings, going back and forth, performing various tests;
Miriam, Maggie and I talking to her and with each other. At one point I asked for a radio. "Gracie probably wants to
listen to music...what does she like?" I asked Maggie.

    "She likes all kinds...but she's a big Carrie Underwood fan. Loves her new song "Jesus Take The Wheel". She also
likes N*Sync and Faith Hill." We located her favorite music and had it playing, non-stop. Maggie even ran home and
picked up some of her favorite things, so her room would be cozier.

    While the family was sitting with Gracie, I sat in on one of the doctor's brainstorming sessions. I must say, I was
enormously impressed by the genius in the room...and mystified by how attractive Greg was when he was seriously
thinking about medicine.

   The conversation ranged from the serious: "What could cause a seven year old to lapse in a coma?" and "What did
her previous lumbar puncture reveal?" to the ridiculous: "Chase, that lame-brained comment has GOT to be the result of
that pointy head...perfect for dunce hats." and "How many times have I told you children I'M the only one who writes on
the whiteboard."

   After the session was over, Father Goose sent the goslings off on errands and I stood up and turned to James, who
was just standing up as well. I quietly pulled him aside and began whispering. Whatever I said made his eyes light up
and his mouth curl in a smile. I glanced quickly at Greg and he was stopped at mid erase-swipe, watching us. James
whispered something and I left.

MEANWHILE...

    James picked up his papers from the conference room table. "Jimmy, what did Haley say to you?" James looked up
and saw the "I've got to know what's going on" expression on his friend's face.

    He shrugged nonchalantly. "Haley wanted to know if we'd seen the new nurse on the fifth floor. I told her no and
Haley said she was a looker...made the comment "You'd need big doors to have knockers that size." I told her we'd take
a gander. Come with?"

    Greg's eyes widened with anticipation...then narrowed with suspicion. His mouth tilted up. "Jimmy, I don't think
Haley even knows that kind of language. You're a lousy liar, you know that? Besides, aren't you dating Cameron?"

       "Well, it never hurts to look now because, once you are married, you aren't allowed to look."

     Greg tilted his head. "Actually you've got that wrong. When you're dating you aren't allowed ANYTHING, touching or
looking at someone else. When you're married it's "LOOKEE NO TOUCHEE". With Dr. James Wilson none of the rules
apply. Marriage is the only time you "LOOKEE AND TOUCHEE". You aren't going to tell me what's really going on, are
you?"

       James crossed his arms. "Are we going or not?"

    "Of course we are." Greg and James headed upstairs. They walked down a rather quiet hall when, suddenly, an arm
flew out of nowhere and pulled Greg...into a broom closet?!? The door slammed shut and locked. Before he could
respond I slammed him against the closet door and kissed him. After a moment he pulled away and, in the dim light
from the lone bulb hanging down, gave me an odd, but rather excited, look. "What's going on?"

    "Have time for a quickie?" I asked, running my hands under his shirt, along his waistline. His eyebrow went up then
he looked at his watch. "It's 1:00. A little late for lunch but I think we have time for a quick sandwich..."

    I smiled as my words were thrown back at me. "No, I mean a quickie..." I began unbuttoning his jeans. "I wanted
to make up for last night...and I wanted it to be a surprise."

       He grinned then inched my t-shirt up and over my head. "I LOVE surprises. Well, I suppose a few minutes would be
ok."

       "Will that be enough time?" I nibbled on his ear.
   He chuckled. "Doubt it." I shivered as his fingers inched around my back...
 *****

    By 2:30 I was sitting at Alison‟s desk in the conference room, confirming appointments, deliveries and such for
Robert‟s lifeguard picture the following day. I sighed heavily because I remembered he wanted me in a bikini. „Well, it is
his picture,‟ I thought with dread. „Why did I agree with it? Could it be because I was flattered he asked me…and that
he wanted to see me in a bikini? Oh, dear…I wonder how Greg will take it…‟ Mentally shaking my head I finished my
calls and looked up to see James standing there, a relieved look on his face.

    “So, I understand your mission was completed…and rather successfully I should say.” His dimples shown as he
smiled.

   I shook my head at the sheer nonsense of our conversation. “Why does everyone care if my mission was successful
anyway? Geez…this place is beginning to feel like General Hospital.”

   “Haley, as you‟ve probably noticed, House is a very moody, very driven, very tortured man. His inner demons keep
him going. Since you came along those demons haven‟t controlled him. He‟s actually becoming more human.
Unfortunately for you, we‟ve come to depend on your “influence” over him…you make him easier to work with.” He eyed
me. “No pressure, huh?”

    I smiled slightly. “Can I ask you a question?” He nodded. “Ok…how do you feel about Greg taking over your
patient?”

     He looked thoughtful for a moment then shook his head. “Well, as a doctor, I want the patients well, whether I fix
them or not.” He paused then sighed and sat in the recliner sitting by the doorway. I stood up, came around the desk
and sat on the ottoman a few feet from the recliner.
     “As a man…it‟s a tough pill to swallow. I have my pride after all. It‟s especially difficult when you‟re House‟s friend
because…I don‟t know. It‟s awkward. I‟ve always been the one responsible for House, ever since we met that first time.
Now…it‟s almost as if the tables are turned.
     Keeping him out of trouble is as a full-time job as my actual paying one. I admit…I‟ve resented him for a lot and for
a long time. You know, when Alison started dating me, I thought I was the second string boyfriend, you know: “she can‟t
make it with her first choice so she goes for the best friend” sort of thing. I‟ve even talked about it with her and we both
realize that even though we are, in different way, a victim of the “Dr. Gregory House Virus”, we are ok with it. We‟ve
moved on…we don‟t count on House to fill those relationship gaps because we‟ve found each other. Alison, in fact, didn‟t
think any worse of me for how I felt about our relationship.”

     James paused again. “As for Gracie…I‟ve gone over everything in my head, time after time, trying to find someth ing,
anything. I‟ve studied, and re-studied, the x-rays; the lumbar punctures; the blood cultures. I don‟t know what it could
be: it all points to the cancer just coming out of remission. But I think House is right…it‟s got to be something that looks
like cancer or something that‟s making the cancer come back. I just haven‟t seen anything.” He ran his hand through his
hair.

    “Well, we all need a fresh pair of eyes when we‟re looking for something. Having Greg look at Gracie could be the
best thing.” I paused. “Have you discussed with her family this “change in ranks”, so to speak?”

    He nodded and his shoulders drooped. “I‟ve talked to Miriam and she has been nothing but supportive. She‟s also at
the end of her rope and ready to do whatever needs to be done. We‟ve talked many times and she knows how tricky
cancer can be.”

    “James, you are an excellent doctor and I know Gracie‟s family appreciates all you are doing for them. It‟s a difficult
time right now because anything can happen…and everyone is upset, tense about the situation. I feel like I‟ve,
potentially, stirred up a hornet‟s nest by asking Greg to review her case. I just want her well, that‟s all.”

    “Haley, I‟m glad this is happening, really I am. I just don‟t want to face the fact that I might have failed.” He looked
down at his hands and I leaned forward, placing a hand on those hands. He looked up and smiled. “But, if we are doing
the right thing and we discover we can save her life, you will have a whole slew of people grateful to you.” I smiled back
then looked at my watch. It was five „til 3:00. I stood up and headed for Greg‟s desk, where I left my purse.

    “I‟m heading over to Greg‟s to get ready for your photo shoot. Is Alison coming with you or me?”
    “You.” A female voice came from the doorway. I looked up to see Alison with her lab coat slung around her arm,
looking at me. “If that‟s ok with you, Haley?”

   I smiled. “Absolutely. It‟ll give us a chance for a bit of girl talk…and you can help me get ready. James,” I turned to
him, who was watching Alison with a private little smile. “James,” I repeated louder and he finally too his eyes from her
and looked at me. I rolled mine. “Gee whiz, you two are just as bad as Greg and I, not to mention Lisa and Tony.”

    “Speaking of Cuddy,” Alison said, coming in further and giving James a kiss before sitting on his lap. “Did you know
she was pregnant?”

    James‟ mouth dropped. “Really? When did you find out?”

    “She told me this morning.”

    I nodded. “I was the first person she saw after she found out so she told me yesterday. I didn‟t know if I could say
anything so I didn‟t. Does…” I paused then asked, with a sly smile, “does Greg know?”

    Alison shrugged. “I don‟t know…but when he does find out he‟s gonna tease her to no end.” She shook her head.

     “James, you are going shopping before coming over to Greg‟s, right?” He nodded. “Good…he has no food, as usual.
We‟ll see you around 4:00?” he nodded again then gave Alison another kiss before releasing her and we left.
*****
     Alison and I let ourselves in Greg‟s apartment. I went from room to room, surveying what needed to be done. We
finally decided to clean the living room and kitchen then set up the table for the dinner.

    “Alison, I have to work with music…otherwise I can‟t get motivated. Is that ok with you?” I asked as I headed to the
stereo.

    “Sure…do you like oldies? 70s and 80s?” she yelled from the kitchen.

    “My favorites, actually.” I turned the FM dial and find an oldies station. The songs were good, of course, which
helped my cleaning process. I was dusting the bookshelves when “Lowrider” by War came on.

     “This song is cool!” Alison said as she came into the living room, holding a broom. I nodded and turned it up. I
began swinging the feather duster around, singing with the deep lyrics and dancing to the music. Alison soon followed…
“Take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip and see…” Alison‟s, War‟s and my voices blended together. We didn‟t
sound too bad. My hips moved in time with the rhythm and Alison was using the broom as a microphone. “Take a little
trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me…” We looked at each other and, with huge smiles on our faces, sang the
“Da Da Da Da Da Da Da…Da Da Da Da Da” with the harmony, giggling when we finished.

     “We don‟t sound too bad, do we Alison?” I held my stomach as I calmed down, then went back to dusting and
fluffing the leather sofa (is it even possible to fluff a leather sofa? Mmm…).

    “We should start a karaoke club…you and House are good together…James, unfortunately, can‟t hold a tune.” Alison
smiled as she began setting the table in the living room. “Are we going to have four place settings?”

    I nodded. “Yeah…gotta let Greg eat. It is his apartment.”

   Over the course of the next fifteen minutes, we got a lot of work done…but still got distracted when several other
songs came on that got us moving: “I‟m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters; “Dancing Queen” by ABBA; and “Piece of My
Heart” by Janis Joplin. But it wasn‟t until the next song that we really put on a production: “You Sexy Thing” by Hot
Chocolate.

    When the song began, Alison turned to me and we smiled at each other then quickly stood in the middle of the room,
facing away from the door, looking at the fireplace. This time we were each sans household cleaning apparatuses…

    As the music started I moved my hips in time with the catchy music. I then began waving my arms in a cross
between “The Macarena” and “The Funky Chicken”. She was laughing but imitated my arm movements… “I believe in
miracles, where you from? You sexy thing…I believe in miracles, since you came along, you sexy thing…” I was trying so
hard to keep from laughing…which only made it worse. As the song progressed we really got into it, moving all around
the room, singing to the windows, the piano, even to Steve McQueen who used the music opportunity to run faster on his
little wheel. He didn‟t seem to give us the time of day…just kept on running in his wheel. „Probably sees all kinds of
strange goings ons around here,‟ I thought as I continued to move around the room. At the end of the song Alison and I
met in the middle, again facing away from the door. “Kiss me baby, you sexy thing, you sexy thing…touch me baby, you
sexy thing, you sexy thing…” we sang right and, at the ending, I yelled, “Big finish!” We turned and posed…me in a very
70s disco-John Travolta-“Stayin‟ Alive” pose; Alison in more of an early 90‟s Vanilla-Ice-white-gangster pose…

     And it wasn‟t until the music stopped that we noticed we weren‟t alone. Standing in the doorway, each holding bags
of groceries, were Greg and James; their mouths were hanging out in absolute disbelief. I looked sideways at
Alison…and we just lost it, giggling until we hit the ground. When we‟d finally finished I asked them, “How long have you
boys been standing there?”

     Greg was watching me stand up…his smirk wider than his face. “Since your wild arm movements at the second
course of “I believe in miracles, where you from? You sexy thing, you sexy thing you.” I must admit, it was rather…sexy.
It looks like we‟ve interrupted something. Are you practicing for a Broadway audition?”

    I smirked myself. “Actually, we heard there‟s an off-Broadway version of “The Full Monty” that‟s holding auditions.
We were just working up the nerve to remove our clothing…and we figured that, since that song worked for the guys in
the movie, we‟d give it a try ourselves.” I heard Alison snort behind me. I turned to her and she looked rather mortified
by that suggestion…and a little mystified as well.

   James smiled wider. “Well, good luck,” James said, smiling at Alison. “If you get it I want front row seats.” I rolled
my eyes.

    Greg chuckled and gave me a knowing glance. “Actually if you stripped in front of others you can test your
confidence level." Greg turned to James. "We could be their guinea pigs, right Jimmy?” I looked at James and he
nodded almost too eagerly.

    “NO!” Alison and I shrieked in unison. I came forward and picked up a couple of the bags from the guys. “Let‟s get
going. What‟s for dinner James?” I brushed past Greg as I went to the kitchen…and all he could do was shake his head
in wonder.

    I set the groceries on the butcher‟s block table in the middle of the kitchen and opened the fridge, putting cheese and
milk away. “We‟re having chicken parmesan with angel hair pasta; garlic bread; salad; and cheesecake,” James called
from the living room. My head was in the refrigerator when I felt someone behind me. I looked over my shoulder and
found Greg standing there, holding a carton of eggs and some packages of cream cheese. I took them from him and
shivered when his arm went around my waist...and my stomach chose that moment to grumble with hunger.

    “You‟re hungry, aren‟t you?” He asked as he nuzzled my neck. I knew this “hunger” had a double meaning. I
stepped away from both him and the refrigerator then turned around.

    “My, my. Is sex all you have on the brain?”

    He tilted his head in a thoughtful look…then shook it. “No…I think about food; sex; monster trucks; sex; medicine;
sex; motorcycles and…” he left it at that.

    “Sex?” I asked as I moved around him to put the sacks away. I called out to James, “Is that all the groceries?” He
brought the rest in, then shooed Greg and I out… “I need room to work.” He said. We shrugged and left…
*****
    As James began dinner I set up my camera; Alison stood by, watching James in fascination; and Greg sat at the
piano, playing “St. Elmo‟s Fire.” I found myself singing along with his playing and I was almost ready to begin when I
asked, “Ok, James, this is YOUR picture. How do you want this to play out?”

    James stopped cutting the chicken and thought for a minute. “I‟m not quite sure…how about some candid shots of
dinner preparations then some with Alison helping me?”
    “What about your clothes?” I asked, pointing to his shirt, tie and apron. “Do you really want to cook in a tie?” he
looked down and shrugged. “Does Greg have something you could borrow? I mean, besides his spare straight jacket?”

    “HA!” came Greg‟s reaction from the piano. I winked over my shoulder as I stood in the doorway.

    “I guess it‟s not very feasible to cook in a shirt and tie…or a straight jacket either, right?” James asked as he washed
his hands.

    “I‟ll go look…I‟m dying to rifle through Greg‟s drawers anyway.”

    “Babe, you‟ve already been in my drawers,” Greg snarked as he stood up.

    “Ha. Very funny,” I said as I headed for his bedroom. I opened the closet and found a bunch of band t-shirts and
wrinkled oxfords. “You don‟t believe in an iron, do you?” I asked when I felt him behind me. I continued to thumb
through the clothing…and pulled out a white lab coat. “Strange for you to have this in your closet. Are you friends with
a doctor or something?”

    “Or something…” he said as he took the coat…and two pictures fluttered to the ground. Both were of females; both
were dark-haired and beautiful. I picked them up and studied their faces…then looked up to see Greg studying the
pictures as well, a sad expression suddenly flooding his face. I went back to looking at the photos and Greg cleared his
throat.

    “This one…” he began softly, pointing to the picture in my left hand, “…is Stacy.” I took a moment to study the
woman he‟d devoted so much of his life to. She was absolutely beautiful: dark hair, brown eyes; flawless skin. She had
a beautiful smile and perfect white teeth. I suddenly felt inadequate and, to cover my sudden distress, cleared my throat
and asked, “And the other one?” It was a black and white photo of a teenage girl with very similar facial structure as
Greg. She was standing in front of a 1970 Buick, smiling beautifully, tiny crinkles in the corners of her eyes. I knew who
it was…but Greg needed to tell me.

   “Stephanie, three months before she died. That was the car.” His sister was absolutely gorgeous…and she looked
undeniably happy.

     “They are both absolutely stunning.” I paused then looked at Stacy‟s photo again. “And Stacy‟s quite a looker. No
wonder you dated her.” I turned and handed him the photos, not quite able to meet his eyes as the self-apprehension
grew. I grabbed the lab coat, stuffed it back in the closet and finally found a light-brown polo shirt. I yanked it out and
left Greg still holding the photos. I somehow plastered a smile on my face on the trip back to the kitchen…only to find it
didn‟t matter: Alison and James were making out on the butcher-block table in the middle of the kitchen. Alison was
sitting on the table with her legs around his waist and James was leaning into her, hands on the table beside her. Rolling
my eyes I cleared my throat, quickly separating the reddening lovebirds. I smiled wider than came into the kitchen,
holding the shirt in front of me. “Here try this one,” he nodded and took practically ran from the kitchen to the bedroom
to change.

    I stepped closer to Alison and lowered my voice. “So, how are things with the Boy Wonder Oncologist?” Judging by
the expression on her face no words were necessary…everything seemed muy, muy bueno.

    MEANWHILE…

    James walked into the bedroom to find Greg still standing at the closet, holding the picture of Stacy but staring into
space. “House? Are you alright??”

    Greg shrugged. “Did Haley go back out there?”

    James nodded and held up the shirt. He walked over to the picture. “Why are you holding Stacy‟s picture?”

    “Haley found my lab coat and it fell out when she pulled it out. I forgot I even had that picture.”

    “Well, that‟s not surprising. It‟s been A LONG TIME since you‟ve actually worn that coat. How did she respond to the
picture?”
    Greg looked at him, a puzzled expression on his face. “She left as quickly as possible and wouldn‟t look at me.”

    “Stacy is beautiful…and women do have the tendency to get jealous of their boyfriend‟s ex-girlfriends.” James
paused. “But Haley doesn‟t seem the jealous type. Maybe she compared herself to Stacy and felt she didn‟t measure
up.”

    Greg‟s eyes went from James to the picture and back again. “Haley doesn‟t have anything to worry about.”

    James shrugged and threw the shirt on the bed, then began loosening his tie. “Maybe you should tell her that…but
actions speak louder than words.”

    “What do you suggest?”

    “She‟s smart…she‟d suspect something if you acted out of character. My suggestion would be to never let her forget
how you feel about her.” James said as he slipped off his dress shirt and undershirt then pulled on the polo. It fit him
perfectly and hugged his chest, giving him a much younger, much sexier look. “I‟ve got to get dinner on. Come on.”

   “Jimmy, just give me one minute…” and Greg headed off to the bathroom.
*****
   When the boys returned I did a double take. Not only did James look INCREDIBLY sexy in that form-fitting polo…but
Greg had combed his hair and…shaved?!? My eyebrow stood up as he walked to me, carefully examining my expression.

     “What‟s up? You aren‟t in this photo,” I inquired, watching his eyes trail over my face. When he stood in front of me
I raised my hand and lightly caressed his clean face. “Mmm…very nice,” I purred and his eyes darkened.

    He rubbed the other cheek and shrugged. “It was starting to get itchy. Besides, I kiss much better without the
whiskers,” he said and leaned in for a kiss but I moved away. If he kissed me now I couldn‟t be responsible for the
spectacle I would create. His eyes filled with hurt so I whispered, “If you kiss me now I can‟t be responsible for what the
others would see.” I wiggled my eyebrows and he grinned evilly.

    “Well, they could learn something,” he said and I smiled but picked up my camera.

   “Ok, Mr. GQ…it‟s time for your close-up,” I said but Mr. GQ was talking quietly with Alison, who was running her
hands over his chest and practically drooling. I cleared my throat loudly but it didn‟t do any good. “Greg, can you help
me?”

   “Sure…” he raised his voice. “Jimmy, Julie‟s here…and she claims she‟s pregnant with your baby!” James gasped
and stepped away from Alison, turning to Greg with a crazed look on his face.”

    “Wha…what did you say?”

     Greg smiled and looked at me. “There you go.” I nodded thanks and said, “James, may we proceed with the
photograph?”
*****
     We attempted to peel the lovebirds apart but to no avail. Alison and James were inseparable…not that I could blame
Alison: James was just so cute with a paring knife in his hand…slicing veggies and stirring the pasta…not to mention the
fact that he made men who wear aprons even MORE sexy.

     “You know James,” I said as I was snapping pictures of him stirring the spaghetti sauce, “that apron really looks
great on you.” I looked over my camera at him…and his face was reddening but his dimples were showing. He had on
the most adorable white lacy number…one of those half-aprons with the lace-lined pocket. “Greg, you might consider
trying it on yourself.”

    “I‟ll wear one…only when the pharmaceutical companies stop making Vicodin. That‟s when I‟ll be just crazy enough.”

     “That‟s too bad…I would really like to see you in a frilly apron,” I said as I continued snapping pictures. I really got
an insight into our “Boy Wonder Oncologist”…not only is he a great cook but he‟s completely, positively in love with Dr.
Alison Cameron. I had to turn my head a couple of times from the nauseating scenes they had…
    “Allie, have a taste of my spaghetti sauce!” “Jimmy...” …and DON‟T get me started on the cooing…it was like sitting
behind newlyweds in the "Tunnel of Love" ride. GAG!

    Thankfully the meal was done quickly; I finally had my pictures; and it was time to leave for the night. After Alison
and James left I turned to Greg. “Thank you for the use of your apartment. That means a lot to me.” I couldn‟t resist
touching his smooth face. “I‟ve got to get back to the hotel. I think George misses me, especially since you BANNED
(heavy emphasis on banned) him from the hospital.”

    He shook his head. “I know…I‟m a slave driver aren‟t I?” He gathered me in his arms and whispered, “I love you
Haley.”

      “I love you too. I‟m glad we have this time together…” I began but he silenced me with his mouth on mine, as if he
still couldn‟t face my leaving. I sighed then pulled away but stayed in the circle of his arms. “It‟s late…and I hav e a big
day tomorrow. It‟s Robert‟s photo.”

    “So, what‟s that kangaroo going to do…ride a pogo stick? Unicycle?”

    “Lifeguard saving a drowning victim Baywatch-style, only classier.”

     He snickered. “Figures. Who…a little old lady? Nah…he likes much younger woman. Perhaps a 13-year-old whose
inflatable yellow ring duckie life preserver deflates? ”

    “Me…wearing a bikini.”

    I saw his jaw tighten at this. “Oh really? And whose idea was this?”

    “His.” His eyes flashed and I felt his hands tighten. “Greg, it‟s my job. I have to do it.”

    “No you don‟t…and you won‟t.” At this I stepped away.

   “Excuse me? Are you telling me what to do?” We stared each other down and my voice rose about 3 octaves.
“Why? Is it because I‟m in a bikini? Is it because it‟s with Robert?” Greg didn‟t do anything…just looked away. “It‟s
because I‟m in a bikini with Robert, right?” His blazing blue eyes returned to me. “At least I won‟t be naked. Maybe you
should be glad I‟m not.” Greg narrowed his eyes at me.

   I knew I had to do something so I said, “Look, if I do this I will make it up to you tomorrow by…” I whispered
something in his ear and his eyes widened and jaw dropped. The fire left his eyes and he capitulated.

    “Ok, fine…but only because you promised that. But I want to be there…” My eyes widened in shock.

    “You can‟t be serious.”

    “Very…someone‟s got to be there to make sure the wombat keeps his hands off you.”

    “He‟s carrying me from the water…he has to touch me.” I crossed my arms and his eyes narrowed even further.
“Besides, how are you going to make sure he behaves…stick a hidden camera in my bikini top?” His eyebrow rose at
this…and I could see his wheels turning. This time my eyes narrowed. “NO! And you will NOT ride Robert any more
than usual because of this.”

    He was still looking at me in open defiance. “Fine…but…that…thing had better be worth it.” I turned to leave when
he grabbed my hand and pulled me back to him. I just stared at him…and his defiance slowly melted away as he gave
me a look of surrender. “Chase is younger…and better looking…and has better hair than me.”

    I smiled weakly. “Not to mention more of it.” I squealed as he began tickling me. “Ok…truce!” I gasped then,
taking a few deep breaths I said, “If I wanted him I would‟ve gone after him from the very beginning. Besides, he
doesn‟t have a cane...” I growled and he growled back...but I slipped out of his grasp and flounced out, smiling to
myself.
*****
    The next morning I showed up at the hospital to find Miriam sitting with Gracie…who‟d apparently taken a turn for
the worst the previous night. I went next door and found the gang sitting at the table…and Greg pacing, a worried
expression on his face.

   “How could this happen?” he asked when I walked in. “Jimmy, what were her symptoms when she was re-
admitted?”

    “She was tired, sluggish; she‟d begun to lose weight; and she had an upset stomach. Then, about a week ago, her
eyesight had begun to fail, rather rapidly. She then lapsed into her coma.” James said, scratching his head and looking
at an imaginary something on the ceiling. Greg stopped pacing and looked at James.

    “Did you say her eyesight was failing? How?”

    “Blurring…” James watched Greg…and he could see the wheels in Greg‟s head turning.

    Greg turned to me as I stood at the doorway. “Has Miriam told you what Gracie was doing prior to getting sick
again?” I shook my head. “Is she still with Gracie?” I nodded. “Come on boys and girls.” We went next door.

   “Miriam,” I sat down next to her and she looked at me with teary eyes. “We need to ask you some questions.” She
nodded and I turned to Greg, nodding my head.

    “Miriam, what was Gracie doing before she got sick?”

    Miriam sniffled then sat back in her chair. “Well,” she began, her mind clearly working. “Dr. Wilson said she was
doing just fine and could play outside. She‟s got this wonderful sandbox in the back. The lid is shaped like a princess
castle and Gracie loves to play in it.”

    Greg looked at Miriam with a start. “Miriam, we will need to search your home and your yard but we can‟t do it
without your permission. May we?” Miriam nodded mutely and I heard sharp intakes of breath. Looking at the
ducklings, I saw them staring at Greg with mouths open in absolute amazement. Greg looked at their expressions and
shrugged, holding his hands up at his sides. “What?”

    “You NEVER ask permission…you just make us go.” Robert said.

    “Well, this is different. Besides, I‟m beginning to think I‟m teaching you children bad habits.” Greg looked at Eric.
“Foreman, take Cameron to the home…check inside and out.”

    “What are you thinking?” James asked.

    “I won‟t say until I get more information.” Greg made a shooing gesture to Alison and Eric but stopped them before
they got too far. “And if any of the neighbors give you a hard time, tell them you are with the FBI…friends of Fox Mulder
and there‟s been an alien sighting at the Mullins' residence. They won‟t bother you.” The ducklings rolled their eyes as
they took off down the hallway.
*****

  I turned to Robert. "We need to leave now to get to Uncle Sam's Water Adventure on time. Are you ready?"

    Robert grinned like a schoolboy with a new toy truck. "Oh, yeah. Are you ready...with your bikini?" I smiled then
looked at Greg who was narrowing his eyes at his junior. Robert ignored the look and smirked wider. "Excuse me,
House. I have a date with your girlfriend."

   "Actually, Robert, Greg is coming with us." Robert's face fell at this...but Greg's lit up at Robert's disappointment.

   "Yep...I'm coming to make sure you don't damage the merchandise."

    "Gee, thanks Greg...nothing like being compared to an inanimate object." I rolled my eyes and stepped up to Robert.
I threaded my arm around his and smiled sweetly. "Ready to go Robbie?" He grinned and, looking at Greg, gave him a
shrug just before we took off down the hall.
   "You grin now...but I'VE seen her naked." Greg shouted at our retreating forms. I stopped and turned around.

    "Are you coming or are you going to brood in your office?" I asked. He made a face, twirled his cane then limped
into his office, grabbing his backpack.

    "I wouldn't miss this for the world." he said as he left his office and followed behind Robert and I. Just to rub salt
into the wound I exaggerated the wiggle of my hips and tossed my hair, openly flirting with Robert, who seemed to enjoy
the entire scene. It wasn't until we got to the elevator that I discovered how Greg really felt about it...and he used a
swift THWACK of his cane against my backside to let me know. I shrieked then glared at Greg who leaned over and
whispered in my ear, "Just what do you think you're doing?"

    I leaned back to whisper, "Trying to show you how stupid you are being...it's just a photograph. Besides, I've been
half-naked in public before."

   "Not while you've been dating me..." he snarled. "I don't want people ogling my girlfriend."

    "From what I understand, you like to rubberneck yourself...and let's not forget about Paula." I leaned away from his
ear and stood straight up. I looked at Robert whose face revealed his effort in trying not to laugh...and failing miserably.
For the rest of the elevator ride I thought about this game...and that's what this was: a game between two lovers who
were masters of manipulating each other. It was a battle of wills...who would triumph? And who would have to repair
their wounded pride? Both Greg and I were very smart which only meant we needed to raise the bar on the quality of
our snarkiness and manipulations.

   Needless to say, Dr. Gregory House stewed and pouted in the backseat of Robert's car, his snarky remarks never
ending. When we finally arrived at the water park, I got out of the car and looked around the parking lot, deciding not to
pay any attention to Greg's temper tantrum.

   "What are you looking for?" Robert asked as he pulled a bag from the trunk.

   "Derrick and Dana. They are meeting us here in about..." I looked at my watch. "...now, as a matter of fact."

   "HERE WE ARE!" We turned and saw them coming towards us, lugging photography equipment. I hugged them then
Derrick asked, "What's on the agenda bosslady?"

   "Ok," I began walking, my entourage behind me. "We only have 1 hour at the wave pool so it's gonna be tight. But
the pictures need to be melodramatic lifeguard-saves-drowning-victim...think a big, extravagant silent movie with big
sweeping hand gestures, lots of onlookers and flair."

   "Chase, just think Cuddy when she's yelling at me," Greg snarked and I just rolled my eyes.

   "For good measure and, well, because I just love them, the parrots have returned. They might not belong in the shot
but I think we'll all get a kick out of them." Robert smiled and pumped his fist. "ALL RIGHT!"

   "Parrots?!? What parrots?!?" Greg asked, looking at me quizzically.

    I stopped and smiled. "Honey, they're your kind of birds...they make the wisecracks you say seem like sayings out of
a Hallmark card. Oh, I can't wait to see this," I winked at him then continued walking. We quickly located the manager
who, rather enthusiastically (Why? He must REALLY love his theme park...) directed us to the wave pool. It was already
set up for our photo shoot: beach chairs, beach balls...even sand placed at one end of the pool. People were milling
around in bathing suits and other summer attire. After a quick conference Derrick, Dana and I walked around, locating
the best shots and light placement. After about 15 minutes they were set and the parrots finally arrived...
*****

   Jackson and Tiffany, the handlers from last time, brought the parrots back. After we exchanged greetings, the parrots
must've recognized Robert because, when they saw him they both started singing, "Night fever, night fever...we know
how to do it..." ...and the look on Greg's face was priceless: a mixture of "What the BLEEP is going on?" with "How do
they know that song?" and a bit of "They aren't half bad."
   A high-pitched whistle tore through the serenade, making all cringe and the birds cease their singing. "Thank you," I
smiled and Jackson said, "No problem. I love the whistle!"

   The birds were studying Greg...then the bright red one squawked, "PEG LEG! PEG LEG! PEG LEG!" as it bobbed up
and down on Jackson's shoulder. Greg eyed him curiously.

     "PUCKER UP ME HEARTIES!" the other one squawked from its perch on Tiffany's shoulder. Greg's mouth tilted into a
full smile then he squawked back, "YO HO, YO HO, A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR ME!" I covered my mouth to hold my
chuckle...but it became futile when those birds flew from their perches...and settled on Greg's shoulders! I lost it, right
then and there...as did all the spectators.

   "Derrick...Dana...a picture...quick!" They whipped out their cameras and immortalized that scene...which will forever
be burned in my mind. The handlers finally managed to separate the birds from the beast (Animals really seem to love
Greg, don't they??) and settled them down. "Ok," I said, holding my aching sides. "Let's put the birds in the
background, perhaps on a couple of beach chairs, FAR AWAY from their new buddy, Pirate Greg. Ok...I think the scene is
almost set. I need to go change." I grabbed my big purse and started toward the cabana located by the snack hut
nearbby. I locked the door and just as I was pulling down my shorts I heard a THUD against the door.

   "Greg, what do you want?" I asked as I hung the shorts over the top of the cabana door, knowing that would drive
Greg bonkers. They suddenly disappeared. "Put the shorts back up there."

    "No," he whined like a five-year-old whose best friend was leaving forever. "Do you HAVE to wear a bikini? Can't it
be a tasteful one piece? Or, better yet, didn't your Great Grandmother have a nice suit from when she was your age?" I
rolled my eyes and removed my shirt, hanging it over the top of the door, which only made the whining louder and more
pathetic.

    "Greg, I'm slipping off my bra." GROAN. "Oh, and there go the panties." MOAN, WHINE. "I'm completely naked
now. What are you going to do about it?" The door thumped and rattled...I think he threw himself against it. I ignored
it and took the bathing suit out of the purse...and, much to Greg's soon-to-be chagrin, I had chosen a hunter green string
bikini in which the top tied behind my neck and at the back; the bottoms tied on each hip. Five minutes later I was
ready. After fluffing my hair and studying myself in the full-length mirror I realized with a start that all was
quiet...perhaps too quiet. I got on my knees and looked out...he wasn't standing there anymore, at least not in front of
the cabana. I stuffed the remainder of my clothing in the bag and, taking a deep breath, I cracked open the door. No
Greg in sight. Sighing, I walked out, my head held high.
*****

  When I returned to the wave pool, all conversation ceased and everyone stared at me...except those darned birds.

   "BAYWATCH! BAYWATCH!" the bright red one (whom I'm thinkin' is the trouble maker of the two) chirped, bobbing
up and down on a yellow and green-striped beach chair.

   "BIG BAZOOKAS!" the other croaked. My face reddened as the rest of the crowd went wild but still trying to hide their
laughter at the apparently politically-incorrect parrots. Just to make sure I looked down and my suit was on properly.

    When the crowd died down I looked at Robert who, I must say, looked mighty fine in his designer swim trunks...then
I noticed he was staring at my breasts...just like those birds. "Wow..." he said, still coming towards me, his mouth
grinning almost too eagerly, his eyes still on my breasts.

    "Robert, my eyes are up here," I said, using two fingers to point them out. I then leaned forward. "If your hands go
anywhere they shouldn't, just remember I'm a black belt in karate." Robert blanched then backed down. I scanned
the crowd...then finally met Greg's face. His eyes were blazing with anger...mixed with a healthy dose of desire. I
moved toward him and he stood straighter...and his eyes were also glued on my breasts...but I didn't mind so much with
him. "Greg, can I speak with you for a moment?" He nodded at my breasts and we stepped away, standing off to the
side. "I told Robert that I know karate...I don't think he'll try anything." I watched him...and I'd never seen that much
emotion on his face. "Are you alright?"
    "I'm angry because you are wearing that!" He spat the word out as his eyes devoured me, "but I can't stay mad at
you because you are wearing that. You look even better in the daylight than the nighttime, which I didn't even think was
possible." He skimmed a finger lightly over my shoulder; down my arm; at my waist then to the straps of the bottoms,
inching fingers under the straps. I shivered and closed my eyes, leaning into him. "Do you really need to take this
picture? Couldn't we just call a five-minute break and find a secluded beach chair..." his fingers skimmed my flat
stomach. For a brief few moments I seriously considered it...but reality reared its ugly head and I somehow managed to
step back.

   "It's time to start. After work we'll do...that...thing...I mentioned yesterday." His face lit up like a starving artist's
who's just been told they were getting their own art show. I turned and walked back. "Ok, Derrick, Dana, let's get this
show on the road."
*****

  Over the next half hour we took the photos...which was a lot easier said than done.

   First pose was with me in the wave pool, dramatically flailing my arms as I shrieked for help...which, normally,
would've went off without a hitch except those flippin' parrots kept making me double over with laughter by squawking,
"SHE'S TAKIN' ON WATER!" and "MAN OVERBOARD!" Finally we were able to move on to Robert pretending to rescue
me...

    "Robert, when you reach me grab me by the waist and drag me in." I said as I stood on my knees in the shallow
water. Again, normally a fairly easy shot except that every time Robert went to "rescue me" he would get all prima
donna on us and say things like, "Excuse me, Derrick...are you getting my best side? You know that my right side's the
best." and "This chlorine is RUINING my hair! Oh, Monica will have a FIT!" The problem was resolved when Dana,
through clenched teeth, shouted, "Well, DR CHASE, the longer you are in that pool the worst the problems will be. Now,
can we hurry up and get the picture?" I think it was the flaming daggers shooting out of her eyes that convinced him to
hurry up.

    The last pose (which I should say I was all too glad to see), involved Robert carrying me on shore, amidst a crowd of
shocked and grateful onlookers, as I held my hand to my forehead in a dramatic pose. Another easy thing, right?
WRONG! The first problem was Robert had practically NO experience carrying women...so I was being half-dragged,
half-carried onto shore. It also didn't help to have the birds chanting, "WHAT A WUSS!" This only made matters
worse...and Robert very angry.

   "Just ignore them...they're birds for Pete's sake."

   "WE'RE BIRDS! WE'RE BIRDS!"

   "Parrot stew anyone?" Robert retorted under his breath and I giggled, relieved to finally have something to giggle
about. But...our problems weren't over yet. Once he was shown the proper technique for carrying a distressed woman,
the other problem was...you guessed it...Greg. He decided at the end, when we were SO CLOSE to finishing the shoot,
that he needed to put his two cents in...about EVERYTHING!

   "Where's your hands? Can I make sure your hands are holding her in the APPROPRIATE places?"

    "You still aren't carrying her right...here, watch." He grabbed me and held me which, I must say, normally I wouldn't
have complained about but I was hot (the sun was out in full force and my fair skin was bakin' like a squashed frog in the
Florida sunshine); tired; and cranky.

   "Chase, you should walk in the middle of this crowd...they're here to congratulate you." That last comment just sent
me over the edge.

     "Robert, put me down." He obeyed and I turned my glare at Greg. "Jules, if you have ONE MORE COMMENT so help
me I will use that cane against you. You hear me?" His eyes widened with surprise...and a bit of excitement. He was
liking me yelling at him!
   He saluted and said, "Yes ma'am!" I narrowed my eyes...and he had the decency to wipe the smug look from his
eyes and back off. We FINALLY finished and I was so relieved...at least I thought we finished.

    Just as Derrick said, "Ok, that's it!" Robert set me on my feet, then grinned like a 13-year-old boy who'd just been
told he was going to play "Spin The Bottle" with the hottest girl in school, and said, "I think we aren't quite done.
Wouldn't it look more convincing if I performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on you. After all, it's gotta look like I'm
saving your life." I crossed my arms in front of me, narrowing my eyes at him.

   "You've got to be kidding. If I wanted your lips anywhere near mine, I would've just kissed you myself. Anyway,
Greg would brain you with his cane, not to mention humiliate you at the hospital. Is kissing me REALLY worth all that?"

   "Well, you've never been kissed by me...you might think different." He leaned toward me but I was quick: I karate
chopped him on the back of the neck, sending him to the ground, yelping in pain.

   "MIYAGI! MIYAGI!"

   "JACKIE CHAN! CHOP! CHOP!"

   I heard Greg laughing in the distance. "That's my girl," he said and I looked up into his proud smile...and my utter
annoyance with him melted away as the rest of the crowd dissolved into laughter. I smiled at him.
*****

   Once I had wrestled my shorts away from Greg and got dressed again, the three of us headed back to the hospital. I
was cranky, tired and a bit surprised...the sunscreen I had applied did it's thing...and a bit more! Hey? Is that an
ACTUAL tan? Well, if you could call it a tan. I think, for the first time in my life, this fair-skinned redhead is actually
tanned. Wow...life really can surprise you, can't it? Anyway, I digress...Robert was upset with us...not to mention a bit
sore from my karate move. And Greg? Greg was positively GIDDY...talk about a change of mood. I think it was the
karate chop that did it.

    I'm sorry...I'm just rambling here (must've been the heat). Anyway, the three of us headed back to Diagnostics. I
needed to know what was happening with Gracie and if they'd found anything. When we got there we discovered Eric,
Alison, Lisa and James sitting around the table, waiting for us to show up.

    "Who let Attila in?" Greg asked the moment we walked in. Attila...excuse me, LISA...put her hands on her hips and
glared at Greg. "Oh, that's right...the prego hormones are kicking in. I need to be more careful around Mommy," Greg
added and Lisa's mouth dropped open as she looked around.

   "Who told House I was pregnant?" We looked at each other...and finally James sighed.

   "Oh, all right. It was me."

    Alison glared at him. "And after I TOLD YOU to keep it quiet!" She narrowed her eyes at James and he ducked his
head in shame. Lisa sarcastically said, "Thank you, thank you." as she turned on the death glare, which made James
shrink even further.

    With a smirk Greg twirled his cane as he limped to the whiteboard. Grabbing the marker he began writing Gracie's
symptoms on the board: TIRED; SLUGGISH; WEIGHT LOSS; UPSET STOMACH; BLURRY VISION; COMA. He turned to
Eric. "What did you find?"

     "The home was clean. I saw no signs of pets or insects inside; the family uses hypo-allergenic sheets and
pillowcases; they have air purifiers in each room. Outside we found the sandbox, but the lid was on it."

    Alison nodded, apparently having tampered down her anger with James. "The neighborhood seemed to be pretty
clear of animals. We didn't hear dogs barking and saw only a few squirrels."
   "What about the cat?" Eric asked her and she nodded. He turned back to House, whose head was tilted in his
adorable "I'm So Smart" head tilt. I could see the wheels turning. Eric continued. "We did see a long-haired tabby in
the neighbor's yard."

   "Is Gracie's family here?" Eric nodded. "Go get them."

    The family came in and I, still standing by the door, embraced them then led them inside, showing them to the extra
chairs at the conference table. I stood by Miriam and placed my hand on her shoulder. She looked up at me, smiled
sadly, then asked, with a curious look on her face, "You smell like coconuts and chlorine...and I can see you've gotten
some sun. Have you been swimming?" My mouth tilted up as my look went from her, to Robert (who was still glaring at
me) and finally to Greg, whose head was bend down but whose blue eyes were blazing into mine. I could see the humor
radiating from the edges, making them seem darker. I winked at him.

   "Yep. A photo shoot today."

   "That's good my dear. I've been so worried about you. You've been working much too hard and worrying about our
Gracie. I'm so glad you got out...and I'm glad you're back." Miriam patted my hand still sitting on her shoulder.

   "For the short time I'm here," I said, this time not looking at Greg...but I heard him clear his throat so I didn't say
another word.

   "Miriam, does your neighbor have a cat? A long-haired tabby?" She looked rather surprised at his question...but,
seeing the seriousness in his blue eyes she nodded.

    "That's Walter. He's the Campbell's housecat. Gracie usually goes next door to visit Walter but lately he's been
getting out and coming over. Why? What's going on?"

   Greg nodded. "How often has Gracie been playing in the sandbox?"

   "Well, since Dr. Wilson said six months ago that Gracie's cancer was in remission and could do just about anything,
we bought her that sandbox about a month before she got sick again."

   "Is there a possibility you kept the lid off, even for a short period of time?"

    Miriam sat back and thought a moment, her face lowered in thought. A small voice said, "Yes." We all looked past
Miriam and at Maggie, who was watching her mother with a guilty expression on her face. "Yes. Once Gracie was
playing in the sandbox and I called her in for lunch, since Mom was on the phone. Mom has always told us to make sure
the sandbox was closed, since you never know what could get into it. But, I forgot that day and we went in for lunch. It
wasn't until after lunch, when Gracie went back out to play, that I realized my mistake. After that, I made sure it was
always closed when not in use." She looked at the doctors around her. "It's my fault she's sick, isn't it?" The poor girl
burst into tears, her whole body moving with the sobs. Her mother enfolded Maggie in her arms, rocking her. "Baby, it's
ok. It was an accident...it's not your fault. Shh."
*****

    "Sandboxes are like giant litter boxes to housecats." Greg stopped then looked off into the distance. "I guess I'm a
housecat...I'm House and I purr like a tomcat...just ask Haley." Everyone except Greg looked at me with expressions
ranging from shock to quiet laughter. I rolled my eyes, picked up a pen from the conference room table and threw it at
his head, hitting it dead center. He turned to me, made a face, growled and turned back to the whiteboard. Above all
the symptoms he wrote in big, bold letters: TOXOPLASMOSIS.

    "Toxoplasmosis an illness from a parasite that can be found in undercooked meat...or in a cat's bowels. Humans can
get this parasite either by ingesting said undercooked meat or if they come into contact with the feces of an infected cat.
My guess would be that, since Walter is an indoor cat, he easily picked up the parasite once he went outside and, seeing
the sandbox, decided it was poopie time. Gracie probably didn't even realize Walter had used her sandbox to get away
from the world and read "The Kitty Tribune" which, as any cat knows, is the only proper place to read a newspaper." He
looked around and, when he saw his snarky comment didn't have the impact he was going for (he probably thought the
delivery was all wrong), Greg rolled his eyes. "Always so serious. Anyway, usually, the parasites don't say long in the
cat...typically it's excreted pretty quickly when the animal defecates."

   He paused for a few moments, perhaps in order to let his genius sink in. "It's perfect...it explains everything, even
the blurry vision, which is where the parasite sometimes settles. In rare cases, patients lapse into a coma. Given
Gracie's weakened immune system from the cancer she was susceptible to these more severe symptoms. It was her
compromised immune system that told us there was something wrong. A lot of times healthy people get it and never
even know it: the body's healthy immune system fights the parasitic invaders."

    "But wouldn't the toxoplasmosis show up in her routine blood panels?" Alison asked, almost completely convinced of
this diagnosis.

   Greg shrugged. "Yes, most of the time. But, again, given her weakened immune system, the body wasn't producing
enough antibodies to fight off the infection."

   "Which can give us false negatives in the blood work," Robert said, running a hand through his chlorinated hair. Greg
nodded.

   "Robert, your hair is looking a bit green. You might need to have MONICA take a look at that." I snarked and Greg
smirked. Robert just ducked his head in embarrassment and, though everyone else was clueless, they snickered at his
embarrassment. I think everyone was just so relieved that Greg had discovered what was wrong with our beloved Gracie
the bit of comic relief really did help, though may've seemed inappropriate at the time.

   Once everyone had calmed down Alison asked, "So...how do we confirm?"

    "Get a CT and a MRI. You should see it now." The duckies, James and Lisa got up to leave but Greg stopped
Robert. "Go take a shower. You smell like a swimming pool." Robert nodded and headed in the opposite direction. I
looked down at Miriam and Maggie, who were still holding each other but their eyes filled with hope.

   "So, what does this mean? Will she live?" Maggie asked as her mother rubbed her shoulders to soothe her.

   Greg moved over to the table and sat across from the family, nodding. "Yes...there's a very good chance of survival,
especially since we caught it fairly early. We will give her Pyrimethamine and Sulfadiazine. These drugs stop the
production of the acid that makes the parasites reproduce. This should kill the parasites...for the most part."

   "What do you mean, for the most part?" Miriam asked, leaning forward, her hands clutched in front of her.

    "A lot of people don't even show symptoms of the parasites. However, because Gracie does, there are different
stages of the progression. Fortunately, like I said, I believe we caught it in time to prevent death. But she had blurry
vision before the coma so the parasites have reached her eyes. Now, when this happens there could be some retinal
scarring...and, along with the scarring, there's also a chance that the parasites will just go dormant."

   "Go dormant?" I asked...I was rather confused.

    "Yes. We stop the reproduction of the parasites and, thus, killing them all around her body, but the ones that cause
the scarring (if we find any) could just lie dormant...and cause an infection down the line. However, we will give her
antibiotics and steroid tablets to stop whatever damage there is. But, if there is any damage, the medicine isn't going to
cure it. It will just stop it from progressing further." Greg paused and, seeing our worried faces, sighed. "Remember,
these are all COULDs and IFs...it doesn't mean it will happen. I just need to give you all the information. Right now,
since she's in a coma, we don't know the extent of scarring...if there is any."

   "What about her coma?" Miriam asked.

   Greg looked at me then back at the women. "Comas are very tricky...they have minds of their own. Once the tests
come back we'll begin the treatment. This may bring her out of her coma; she might just wake up on her own. I don't
know."
    Miriam and Maggie nodded. "Ok." Miriam said, accepting this. "And what would be the result of the scarred
retinas?"

    "It could range from squinting to cataracts to the extreme...loss of eyesight." The women gasped and I held a bit
tighter to Miriam's shoulder. "Remember, that's the extreme...and we will do EVERYTHING possible to make sure that
doesn't happen. Do you understand?"

   Maggie nodded again, her face shining with hope despite the news they just receieved. "How long will she need to be
on the medication?"

    "Anywhere from three to six weeks. She'll be here for awhile and we'll monitor her, as well as her leukemia. I must
apologize, on behalf of all my colleagues here." I looked at him with surprise...Greg, apologizing?!? ON BEHALF OF HIS
COLLEAGUES?!? WHAT THE... He saw my surprise. "It wasn't until I heard all the symptoms and had her surroundings
investigated that I was able to diagnose her. This information, taken separately, doesn't mean anything. But, put
together, it showed me what was wrong with your girl."

   Miriam stood up and turned to me. "Haley...she's going to be all right." She hugged me and then hugged Maggie.

    "We'll let you know as soon as the tests come back." His gaze turned from them to me but my eyes were filling with
tears as I watched mother and daughter be filled with hope...for the first time in days.

    I finally turned to Greg. My eyes filled with confusion...and questions: Why did he give this good news himself? Why
didn't he have one of his lackies do it? And why is he being so...so...NICE about it?

   He was watching me and silently answered all my questions: "I DID IT FOR YOU."

   Not quite knowing what to do I mouthed, "I LOVE YOU." He winked and mouthed back, "I KNOW."
*****

  After a major eyeroll, I turned to the women who were paying Greg and I absolutely no attention. "How long will the
tests be?" Miriam asked Greg when she and Maggie finally pulled apart.

   He looked at this watch. "Probably about a half an hour to an hour. Go, take a walk or go to the cafeteria. All we
can do is wait." With short nods, Miriam and Maggie hugged me then, giggling, took off out the door.

    "Finally," I whispered and, turning, came towards him. "Greg, that was the SEXIEST thing I've ever seen. My, my,
my..." I shook my head and clicked my tongue as I looked at him hungrily. He took my hand, pulled me closer and
kissed me long, hard and slowly. Pulling only millimeters away he whispered against my lips, "What have you done to me
woman? That is not House. I wanted to give them hope." He paused and stared into my eyes, then tilted his head. "I
think it was that little green number you wore earlier."

    "Well," I closed the millimeter gap and licked his bottom lip, making him groan and move closer for a full taste...but I
wouldn't let him as I moved away, making him groan even more. "You definitely earned that...thing...plus a little bit of
this," leaning upwards I whispered his extra special bonus...and, closing his eyes, he moved forward to capture my lips
when I barely heard the door open and a feminine voice say, "House, I...oh, excuse me..." I pulled away and turned in
his arms to see Alison standing there, a rather embarrassed looked on her face.

   "I'm sorry to interrupt...I can come back," Alison was looking at the floor, her face red but her mouth trying to hide
her laugh.

    "No Alison. It's ok. I can leave." I said and stepped away from Greg. I turned back to him and found him narrowing
his eyes at his duckie, clearly upset for being interrupted.

   "Actually, I do need to talk to you. Can I meet you by the nurse's station?" She asked and I nodded, surprised at her
request. I turned to Greg. "So, can I come over tonight?"

   "If you don't I'll come to your hotel, hog-tie you and drag you back to my lair tied to the end of my motorcycle."
    I smirked. "As romantic as being dragged by caveman on a motorcycle sounds, I'll come by at 7. OK?" He nodded
and I turned but he stopped me, pulling me back when he grabbed my hand. After his full kiss I left, dazed...it had to be
the combination of the great news about Gracie; the amazing side of Greg I just saw; the kiss; and the smell that's
uniquely him. I think my hormones were in overdrive...yeah, that must be it. Greg will do that to you.
*****
    A few minutes later Alison returned. "Wow...I've never seen House do that. I've been trying, for the few short years
I've been here, to get him to care about his patients. He spends a few weeks with you and BAM! He's Mr. Nightengale."
I looked at her face and saw absolutely no resentment...but a tinge of jealousy, maybe.

    "I'm sorry...from all the reports I'd heard he was a misanthropic jerk who couldn't give a rat's tail for anyone. I'm just
as surprised as you are. Believe me, I've never had this affect on people...I'm perhaps wondering if it's really
happening."

    Alison smiled. "Yes it is...and you've made our working environment so much easier. Sure, House is House but he's a
kinder, gentler House which I didn't know was possible." We laughed then, looking around, she said, "I do need to speak
with you. There's a sofa in the ladies' restroom." We stepped inside and I was reminded of our first real conversation
that look place in the ladies' room as well.

    After checking to make sure we were alone, we sat down. "So, this is getting to be the "watercooler" for women,
huh? The place where some serious discussions take place." I said as I folded my leg under me. "Just out of
curiosity...why aren't you working on Gracie's tests?"

    Alison shrugged. "Because Chase showed up and they didn't need me. Please, don't get me wrong. Gracie's become
very close to me but I felt I really needed to talk with you." She paused and gave me a pleading look. "Please don't
think me wrong."

    "I don't, just as long as Gracie gets the attention she needs and deserves. She's become almost a daughter to me, in
just the short amount of time we've known each other." I looked at her. "What's going on? How are you and James?"

   At this she gave me a huge moon-eyed look. "It's absolutely wonderful. I never thought I could feel like this. You
know I was married, right?"

   I nodded. "I had heard very briefly about your first husband. Died of cancer, didn't he?"

   She nodded. "Yep. I didn't love him like I do Robert...and I feel guilty. Should I?"

   I shook my head. "No, not at all. I truly believe there are different kinds of love between a man and a woman. You,
perhaps, felt more of an obligatory love toward your first husband. I think you are experiencing your first passionate,
romantic, 16-year-old-with-a-crush-feeling love. Am I right?" She giggled gleefully then nodded.

   "Are we that obvious?"

   "Well, not at work. Now, James' photo on the other hand...I felt like it was Valentine's Day in high school...lovey-
doveyness, cooing. May I be blunt?" She nodded. "I wanted to throw up. Greg and I aren't like that at all."

   "How are you two?"

    I opened my mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. "We...are probably very close to red-hot Spanish lovers
after a long time apart. Honestly, I still don't know what I'm doing. I've never felt so much passion...and so much
love...for another human being. You know what really surprises me?" She leaned forward for the juicy secret. "That
someone like Greg can be like that. I guess it just shows you: you can never judge a book by its cover. We all have
issues." I looked down and a wave of melancholy suddenly came over me. "I just hope he comes to terms with it before
I have to leave."

    We sat in silence for a few moments. "Haley, I haven't told James something that I've known about for a few days. I
feel guilty, you know? I mean, we tell each other everything. I know more than I need to about his ex-wives...like what
kind of toothpaste they use, the brand of shower gel..." Alison was rambling.
   "Spit it out. What's going on?"

   "Haley...I'm pregnant."
*****

  Needless to say I was absolutely speechless. My mouth dropped open. "Really?" I asked and she nodded
enthusiastically. "SQUEE!" I exclaimed and hugged her. When I pulled away I asked, "When did you take the test?"

   "Yesterday at home and this morning to make sure."

   "How do you feel about it?" I asked, watching her face for any sign of her true feelings. She beamed.

     "Oh, Haley, I'm so excited. I've always wanted to have children. You know, James and I have discussed how we feel
about them. He wants them..." she paused then looked down at her hands again, her demeanor turning serious again.
"...I just don't think he wanted them this soon." She paused again and looked at me. "James has brought up marriage."

   It was my turn for the jaw to drop. "Already?!? That seems awfully soon."

    "We have known each other for a few years...and we've gotten into such a routine to where we spend every night
together: he's either over at my place or I'm at his. We've learned each other's little bugaboos, irritations, quirks. He has
this grooming regiment that rivals most model's. I love to tease him about it and he's so good-natured, but he still has
it. But overall...I think he will be happy about the baby." She smiled with awe in her eyes as she continued to watch an
invisible something on the wall across from us. "Wow...first Cuddy now me. You know," she turned to me and her
mouth quirked up. "There's just something about you that, when people get to know you, they suddenly become
pregnant. Are you putting something in the water?"

    I rolled my eyes. "Yeah...I've noticed. You'd think I was some fertility statue or something. I probably should come
with a warning: 'Caution: Haley is a Fertility Statue.' Sheesh. I think Dana is immune to it...they've been trying but
nothing yet. She's probably got the antibodies to fight off my 'fertility vibes'." I shook my head and Alison giggled. I
smiled. "Well, this day just keeps getting better and better. The cherry on the sundae would be if Gracie wakes up."

    BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Alison's pager went off. She shifted to read the face...and gasped. "You aren't going to believe
this..."

    My heart began racing...did something go wrong with the procedures? Is everything ok? I just wanted my Gracie
safe. "Is something wrong?" I watched as her mouth dropped open and she looked at me. "Gracie's awake." (Talk
about wierd, huh?) We got up and walked out of the bathroom. "How do you do that Haley?" She asked but all I could
do was shrug.
*****
    When we arrived at Gracie's room she was awake and Greg was examining her eyes. "What did the CT and MRI
show?" I asked, watching him work.

   "It is toxoplasmosis," Greg said. "we've started her on the Pyrimethamine and Sulfadiazine. I really can't see much
here but we'll use our fancy equipment to see more. I will start her on the antibiotics and the steroids just in case."

   "Haley? Is that you?" a weak voice asked and I smiled.

    "Yes sweetie. How ya doin'? Boy I've sure missed you...but George has missed you even more, I believe. I know he
thinks about you."

   "George..." she said weakly. "Is he here?"

    "No. Your doctors said he couldn't come until you were feeling better. See? Now you have a reason to get
better...wouldn't want to disappoint George, would you?"
   She shook her head. "No. I miss him. I will get better, ok? I promise." then she turned to her mother, who was
beaming with joy. "Mommy...I'm thirsty. Can I have some water?" Miriam looked at Greg who nodded and continued to
examine her. As she got the water, Greg asked Gracie, "Can you see anything?"

   She nodded. "Just a little. Everything is blurry."

    Greg watched her. "Do you remember just before you slept?" She nodded again. "Ok. Could you see as much then
as you can now?" She tilted her head and I could see her mental wheels turning, trying to remember.

    "Yes...and I can see more." Greg stood up straight and tilted his head, this time his mind working. His eyes
continued to glance over her face then he turned to Eric. "Give her antibiotics and steroids, then check her eyes." Greg
turned to Miriam and snapped off his rubber examination gloves. "Miriam, it will be awhile before we know if the
medicine is working." She nodded then turned back to Gracie.

   "Gracie, honey, is there anything you want Mommy to get for you?"

   "I want some candy." A collective chuckle emitted from the group.

   "Ok Peanut. I'll be right back." Miriam laid a hand on my shoulder as she past me. Everyone except Greg and I filed
out of the room.

   "Haley?" I went to her bedside and enveloped her in a hug.

   "Yes honey?"

   "Haley, I had a dream about you."

   I glanced at Greg. I could see his mind was still trying to process the change in her eyesight. I turned back to her.
"Oh, you did?" she nodded. "Tell me about it."

   "You never left New Jersey. You stayed here always. And I got to play with George whenever I wanted. And it was
always fun. I don't want you to go." My eyes teared and I looked at Greg again...who was watching me this time.

   "Baby, I would love to stay for always but it's not my decision."

   "Who's de...de...deci..." she was having trouble with the word.

   "Decision."

    "Who's decision is it?" I heard Greg sigh then limp heavily out, leaving me with my tears. I leaned forward and
kissed her forehead.

   "I'll be back later to see you, ok? I've got to go back to work. Is there something you need?"

   "I need George but I know he can't come."

   "The sooner you get better the sooner you can see him. Deal?"

   "Deal. I love you Haley." She hugged me.

   I hugged her back, letting tears flow. "I love you too baby doll." I turned on my heel and left her room. 'Seems the
one person who doesn't want me to stay is the only person for whom I would stay.' I thought as I marched to his office.
*****

 When I got to the door it was standing open. I could see James and Greg in the conference room: James pouring some
coffee and Greg sitting at the conference room table with his back to the door, facing the whiteboard. James saw me at
the door but, giving me a barely perceptible shake of the head, warned me to be quiet and not come in. He then stood
beside the whiteboard, holding his coffee with his right hand.

   "What in the name of Vicodin are you doing?" James asked as he watched Greg bounce an oversized red-and-gray
tennis ball against the whiteboard. Miraculously the board didn't fall over.

   "Well, Jimmy, right now I am bouncing this oversized red-and-gray tennis ball against the whiteboard. Shall I
demonstrate?" THUMP. THUMP.

    "The brilliant Dr. Gregory House strikes again," James snarked back. "No...what are you doing with Haley?" Greg
turned to James and threw the ball straight at his head, which James caught with his left hand. I could almost hear Greg
thinking, 'Did he just catch that one-handed?'

   "I'm doing what any red-blooded American male would do when they love a beautiful woman...I'm givin' her a free
course on Anatomy, if you know what I mean." He wiggled his eyebrows.

   "So you love her, huh? Well, I must say, for all your medical genius you can be a real doofus, you know that?"
Greg's head tilted back in a surprised gesture. "Haley leaves in a week and a half. What are you going to do about it?"

   "Geez, this is 'Gang up on House' day isn't it? First I get it from the kid then from you."

   "I know...I was in the doorway."

   "Oh, spyin' on me too, huh? Well, some friend you are."

    James gave one of his "Did he REALLY just say that?" hand gestures and rolled his eyes. I could see he wasn't
even gonna get started on that one. He put down his coffee but kept the ball. "I must be an idiot to try and convince
the King of Avoidance to actually face what's in front of him. Pardon me...some of that foolish idealism is seeping
through." He began pacing but I could see Greg was actually listening to him, his eyes following his movements.

    "Look, House, right at this moment, I care more about Haley than I do you. If you want to screw up your life,
fine...you're even better at that than at medicine. But don't destroy Haley on the road to self-destruction." James started
toward the door but Greg grabbed the tail of James' jacket, pulling him to an abrupt halt. James shot me a look and the
tears on my face told him how grateful I was for his words. He gave me a barely perceptible nod and I smiled.

   Greg sighed and face palmed. "There is something I need to tell you...something I've never told anyone except
Haley."

   James gave him a confused look. "Do you really want to tell me or are you just humoring me?"

    "I do want to tell you...maybe you can help me." James nodded and sat down. For the next 10 minutes, he told
James about Stephanie and I could see, by the end, realization had dawned. James was nodding and Greg was looking
at his hands.

   "Well, that certainly explains a lot," James began. "And I'm very sorry about your sister. However..." I could almost
see Greg's eyes roll and I heard his sigh. "you didn't kill her and she didn't abandon you. It was an accident, plain and
simple." He watched Greg. "What did Haley say when you told her?"

   "Everything you just said."

   "See? You are incredibly lucky to have someone like Haley. I don't know why she'd want someone like you, though."
He paused. "You've let the death of your sister dictate ALL of your relationships. Don't you think it's time to stop?"

   Greg stood up and limped to the whiteboard. He erased Gracie's symptoms still listed on the board and wrote HALEY
WELLINGTON at the top. I decided to leave...I really didn't want to see my possible future debated on a whiteboard.
*****
   I went back to the hotel, where I took a shower and visited with George, taking him on a much needed walk. "Well,
George," I said as we returned to our hotel room. "I think Gracie's going to be ok. What do you say to that?" He looked
up at me, gave me an adorable doggie grin and bayed happily. "Yep...I'm excited too. I'll see when you can go see her,
ok?" His response was a vigorous tail wag. "That's my boy," I laughed. Just then my cell phone rang.

   "Aren't you coming over?" I looked at my watch. 5:30.

   "It's only 5:30. I thought we agreed 7:00?" I asked as I removed George's leash.

   "I changed my mind. I want to see you earlier." I smiled.

   "Ok. I just took George for a walk. I'm going to bring him over."

   Pause. "Really? Why?"

   "Because he misses you. He told me."

   A brief chuckle. "Oh, he told you Dr. Doolittle?"

   "Actually, Dr. Doolilttle's my uncle...I've heard some pretty wild stuff, let me tell you. Hold on..." I put down the
phone and pulled off my t-shirt. "Ok, I'm back."

   "What was that?"

   "Oh, you know, my other boyfriend showed up and I'm taking off my clothes for him. He says hi, by the way."

   "Well, tell him you've gotta make it quick...you have someplace else to go." I smiled.

    "Ok..." I paused and yelled, "Chase, button up. I'm outta here." I heard Greg's gruff chuckle over the phone. "I'll
be there soon...oh, and Greg? If you are ordering in, let's get something other than Chinese, ok?"

   "Deal." CLICK.

    I looked down at George. "We're going to Greg's. Excited?" I swear, that dog's eyes lit up and he danced around in
place. "I'll take that as a yes."
*****

   The next morning I made Derrick and Dana photograph Dr. Kenneth Baylor's picture: a surfer scene back at the
wavepool. I had too much work to do; besides, I couldn't handle another day in the sun. I was beginning to wilt.
Anyway, after an amazing night of...that...thing...(don't forget the bonus for VERY good behavior) George and I were
back in my hotel room, getting ready for the day.

    "Well, Mr. George Wellington," I said as I gathered my photography equipment together. "I've got to develop
yesterday's pictures, then work on the layouts for the printer. As soon as Greg's last picture is taken, the day after
tomorrow, I've got to get the layouts to the printer. They prefer CD but I like to make a paper copy just in case. You
just never know George," I looked at him and he silently agreed. "Yep, I've got a lot to do today partner...I just don't
want to leave you by yourself. The only place I can take you is to Greg for clinic duty." WOOF! WOOF! I looked down
again and I could see, from the happy grin, he was A-OK with the arrangement. I rubbed behind his ears and his tail
wagged in time.

   I pulled my cell phone out of my back pocket and dialed. "House," came the gruff greeting.

   "So, what are you wearing?" I asked in my lowest, most "purringest" (it's not even a word...I know...but, hey, that's
the only way to describe it) voice I could manage. Although I think it came out sounding like I was belching.

   PAUSE. "I'm actually wearing the metal bikini Princess Leia wore in Return of the Jedi."
   I grinned. "Oh, really? Do you carry a really big light saber as well?"

   "Baby," his voice became lower and huskier. "I think you missed your calling."

   "Oh? And what might that be?"

   "Telephone Information Operator. What city? You might want to dump the belching though...not cool."

   I laughed. "So, um, how are you doing this morning?"

   "You wore me out woman. That...thing...was quiet intense enough...but your special bonus? You forget I'm twice
your age."

    "Well, when I suggested playing "Grand Theft Auto" on PS2 you should've known it was a competitive, high-action
activity. Just watching it will make you tired."

   "I know...but the strip poker, as my special bonus...that really did it. I must say...I finally found something at which
you're absolutely miserable at: poker. You didn't keep your clothes on long."

   "You could teach me how to play poker." I smiled as I continued preparing for the day, sorting out little jars of film.

    He paused and I could hear his wheels turning. "No way. I love beating you at strip poker. I must say: you've got
quite the talent for removing your clothes. Are you sure you haven't done it as a profession?"

   I rolled my eyes and gave George a doggie treat, at which he gave me a happy WOOF! "Ah-ha! Sounds like George
agrees with me." Greg's smug tone reverberated over the phone.

   "Greg, do you have clinic duty?"

     "Avoidance...you might as well have said yes. Believe me...I'm an expert at avoidance." he paused. "Yes I have
clinic duty and you want me to take George, right?"

   "Yes. I've got calendar layouts to work on and I don't want to leave him by himself."

   HUGE GRUFF SIGH. "PLEASE?" I asked as sweetly as possible. "Tonight we can play poker..." I could hear him
come very close to relenting..."...and I'll wear 'the dress'."

   That did it. "Ok. Fine. I'll watch George. That is truly evil, very underhanded..." he paused and his voice went
huskier. "...me likee. But just remember, this old man can only take so much."

   "Really? Last night you didn't seem old...not by a long shot."

     He chuckled, clearly happy I'd stroked his ego. "I've got clinic at 10:00. Meet me at the nurse's station inside the
clinic."

   "Ok. I'll see you then. Bye, Methuselah," I chuckled.

   "Goodbye Embryo." CLICK.

    I looked down at George who was watching the entire exchange with curiosity. "You're going to see Uncle Greggie.
How about that?" He barked and danced in place. "I know just how you feel buddy." I quickly changed into the outfit I
wore on our first official date (magenta spaghetti-strap top, short white tennis skirt and white Converse All-Stars) and
finally finished getting ready.
*****

"Good morning Nurse Previn," I smiled at the dark-haired nurse I met my first day. She looked up and smiled.
   "Hello Miss Wellington. What brings you here today?"

   I looked down at George who looked at me with a "Where's Uncle Greggie?" expression. I just shook my head at him
then answered, "George and Dr. House have clinic duty."

   "Ah," she said, shaking her head. "I've heard about those clinic sessions. Very interesting."

   I opened my mouth to answer when rough fingers caressed my exposed back above the shirt. 'I know that touch,' I
thought as I turned and saw the smile on his face as he looked at my attire. He leaned over and whispered in my ear,
"Do you wear that when you strip?"

   I rolled my eyes. "How do you think I could afford it? And good morning to you too." I paused but eyed him. "Does
that mean you like the outfit?"

    "OH YEAH," he sneered as he pulled me closer. WOOF! WOOF! I snickered when George broke the moment. Greg
sighed and looked at George who was watching him with absolute adoration. "Are you ready buddy?"

   WOOF! WOOF! "Afterwards we'll watch 'General Hospital'."

   WOOF! WOOF! George wagged his tail excitedly.

   "Greg? May I suggest someplace other than your office? I, um, don't want Gracie to know George is here since she
can't see him yet...it would break her heart. Please?"

   Greg shrugged. "Ok...oh! I've got the BEST location...Oncology lounge. They've got TiVO now!"

   I handed him George's leash. "What time should I come back?"

    "I'll meet you out front at 3:30." I nodded then leaned forward for a kiss. When he didn't respond I gave him a
curious look.

    "I've got a reputation to protect." he whispered. My eyebrow went up and I looked around. Hospital personnel and
patients were doing their best to pretend they weren't watching...but they really sucked at it. I turned back to Greg,
grabbed his face and kissed him, tongue and all. I was aware of the cheering and whistling...until I felt his arms go
around me and his response to the kiss.

   I suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder and heard a clearing of the throat. I pulled away and saw Lisa watching with an
eyebrow raised and a smile on her face. "As much as it pains me to break up this happy scene House does have clinic
duty. Exam Room One." she handed him a medical folder and turned on her heel.

   "Thank you Attila," he shouted back but she continued back to her office.

   "Greg, be careful...she's pregnant." I whispered. "The hormones alone will kill you."

   He sighed. "I know...and Wilson told me Cameron's pregnant too."

   I feigned surprise. "Really?! Wow. How did he, I mean, how did he sound when he told you?"

     "He was practically dancing, he was so excited. 'Alison and I are having a baby, Alison and I are having a baby!' was
all he said. And he kept repeating it like one of those demented toy dolls that repeats everything when you pull the
string. What am I going to do? Two hormonally crazed women in close proximity to me."

    "For starters, I would practice being nice...Just a suggestion, if you value your manhood," I said then kissed his cheek
and said goodbye to George. "You be good for Uncle Greggie, ok?" He wagged his tail as if to say, "Yes Mommy." I
looked back at Greg. "Ok-you boys go make people well."
   Greg winked then led George into Exam Room One, closing the door. I headed to Lisa's office.
*****
   "Lisa," I said as I knocked on the door. She smiled and waved me in. She hugged me and we sat down. "Lisa, I just
wanted to come in and confirm details about tomorrow's photo shoot."

   "Ok," she said and we talked for about 10 minutes, going over location, props, etc.

   "Today I'm making phone calls to confirm everything. Well, that's just about it. Hotstuff will be there, right?" she
smiled and nodded. I put away my notebook and turned back to her. "How's everything, you know, with Tony, the
baby?" Her eyes took on a dreamy quality.

    "Absolutely wonderful. Tony is...so much more than I could've possibly imagined. And he's SO excited about the
baby. In fact," she pulled out her left hand to reveal one big honkin' rock. "he proposed." I made a dramatic gesture of
shielding my eyes from the glare of the rock. I then squealed and jumped out of my seat to hug her again.

   "OH MY GOSH! That's wonderful! Have you made any plans yet? Set a date?"

  "Actually, we were thinking in about two months...October. And...we'd like to hire you to shoot the wedding." My
mouth dropped.

   "I'd love to...hopefully I'll still be around here. If not...I'll still come out and do it. It's not my decision though."

   Lisa turned silent and watched me. "House still hasn't asked you to stay, has he?" I shook my head. "Someone
should talk to him."

    I shook my head again. "Nope, not a good idea. I overheard a conversation between James and Greg. James was
trying to talk Greg into taking some action but he used his old friend...avoidance...to skirt around the issue. Oh, Lisa," I
said and looked at my hands. "I'm only here for another week and a half. I don't know what's going on. I just know
that I want to stay here...and he hasn't said a word."

   Lisa didn't say anything as she continued to watch me with a distressed look. "Lisa, I need to ask a favor of you. I
need some information and you are the only one who can help me." I leaned in further and told her what I needed.

   Her eyebrow raised and she sat back. "Are you sure?"

   I nodded. "I need to know...and don't tell anyone about this. Please."

   She nodded. "Fine. I'll see what I can do."
*****

   Greg and George walked into Exam Room One. "Hello..." he studied a young girl of about 12. She was thin with long
brown hair, blue eyes...and black something all around her mouth. "Ok..." he muttered as he gave George one of his,
"OH NO...NOT ANOTHER WEIRDO" look.

   "Doctor, I need help." she whined.

   "Well, that's pretty obvious..." he looked down at her chart. "...Danielle Childress."

   She finally noticed George and pointed to him. "Is that a dog?"

    "Now, Danielle, that's not very nice to call our new doctor a dog! How would you like it? You certainly are heartless
for someone so young. She's heartless, isn't she?" He said to George who gave him a short bark. "See...he doesn't
appreciate it. His name is Dr. George Wellington and he's from another country who doesn't speak a word of English."
He read the chart and his head tilted in a "HUH?" expression. "It says here your mouth is all black. How did it get that
way?"
   Danielle looked down at George then back at Greg. "I don't have any idea. It's been happening gradually, over
several months."

   "And you are NOW just visiting our fine establishment? Sheesh...took you long enough." He snapped on some
examination gloves and reached for a tongue depressor and penlight. "Open wide...say ah."

   "AHHH!" Danielle's entire mouth was covered in black...and he smelt a sweet aroma.

   "Well, you are right...your mouth is black. And it smells sweet. Have you been brushing your teeth?" she nodded,
her eyes wide with astonishment at such a question. "Ok...have you been sucking on any black ballpoint pens?" She
shook her head. "Drinking motor oil?" Head shake. "Copier toner? Black paint?" Head shakes to all those.

   He stood up and regarded her. "It smells sweet. Have you been eating anything dark with sugar?"

   Danielle thought for a moment. "Nothing but Oreos." Greg rolled his eyes and face palmed.

   "Is that all you've been eating?"

   She nodded. "My friend Hannah and I have been in a contest to see who can eat the most Oreos. Currently I'm
winning with over 13,224.5 Oreos."

   Greg's eyes widened. "13 thousand, two-hundred twenty-four POINT five? What's with the point five?"

   She shrugged. "I was in the shower and half of it dissolved down the drain."

    "Oh brother," he muttered and looked at George. "She's got to be kidding me." he looked back at her. "You've got
to be kidding me. Danielle, this is what's made your mouth black...the dye from the cookies. Have you been drinking
milk?"

   She shook her head. "I don't like milk."

    His eyes widened. "What is wrong with our children these days? Don't you know that Oreos are ONLY to be eaten
with milk?" He pulled out his prescription pad and scribbled something then tore it off and handed it to her. "You can
read can't you?" She suddenly looked frightened and nodded. "Good. Now, read to me what that says."

   "24 ounces of milk every day." She looked back at him. "This is it? Just milk?"

   "Yep. It will clean your mouth...not to mention strength your bones and maybe, just maybe, allow those brain cells to
reproduce. Oh, and lay off the Oreos. They are stunting your growth...in more ways than one." He snapped off the
examination gloves, threw them away, grabbed George's leash and walked out the door.
*****

  For the next half hour Lisa and I discussed what I would need in order to get what I requested. "I'll let you know
when I have everything." I smiled then left.

   Arriving at the lab I developed the pictures from Robert's lifeguard shoot. As they were drying I laid out the photos
each doctor chose for both calendars...and my heart lurched. I remembered the strange/interesting events of the past
weeks: police chase; dates from hell; hostage standoff; insane (but funny) parrots. I also remembered the great times:
meeting Gracie and her parents; the meeting and waking (was it me?) of Roger; all the times I've had with Greg. I've
had more happen in the last few months than people have in five years...and I would NEVER trade any of those
experiences. I laid out the pages, twenty-four total. Three pictures were missing...just two more full days before my job
was almost over. After House's last picture, which was the last picture to shoot, I was staying in Jersey for another week,
working with the local printer on proofs and the final draft. Once it's finalized...my work was done.

    I stopped at House's picture. He'd chosen a particularly funny one with George and Steve McQueen. I smiled as I
lightly traced the rough chin, the fingers on the piano's keyboard. I remembered that night and began laughing...which
quickly turned to tears, tears that flowed no matter how I tried to stop them. For five straight minutes I sobbed as
images of life without Dr. Gregory House filtered through my brain: not seeing his scruffy face everyday; not feeling his
arms around me; not matching snark-for-snark with him. I cried for a life I CRAVED, a life so close I could almost touch
it, a life's decision not in my hands.

   "THIS IS SO HARD!" I screamed through my tears, anger taking over. At that point I was happy George was with
Greg and I was by myself. I got up and walked around. "WHY? After I promised myself, time and again, 'You can't get
involved, you can't get hurt again,' WHY did I have to fall for the likes of...GREG?!? I know...it's insane. I mean, the
guy is the walking reason for sexual harassment, office politics and other seminars. Now that you've given him
EVERYTHING you are at HIS mercy. Does he even know it? Probably." READERS, DON'T BE ALARMED BY
MY ONE-SIDED CONVERSATION. I ACTUALLY DO IT QUITE A BIT.

   "OH, if ONLY he'd say, 'Stay with me' I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'd start my business here. It sounds old-fashioned, I
know, but I've never wanted anything like I want a life with Greg. I will do what needs to be done. But he's got to make
the choice, on his own. He can't feel pressured...otherwise life would be a living hell. He'd feel trapped and I don't want
that." I continued to talk to myself as I paced.
*****
   MEANWHILE, BACK AT PPTH...

   Greg and George walked into Exam Room 2, where they found a bald, middle-aged man holding a...toupee? Greg
stopped, tilted his head and asked, "Is that your hair or is it a rat?"

   "My hair," the man said, looking down at the fuzzball.

   "Why isn't it on your head?"

   "It's glued to my hand."

   Greg's mouth opened, then closed again. "Why? So you won't forget it?"

   The man shook his head and sighed. "I was building a model airplane. I bent over and the toupee fell off. I picked it
up and I must've had glue on my hands because I can't get it off."

   Greg turned and grinned at George, who...rolled his eyes?!?! Greg snorted with laughter but quickly composed
himself and turned back to the patient. "Ok. Well, we need to use a solution that will weaken the glue...but it'll ruin the
rug. Do you have a spare?"

   The man looked embarrassed. "Yes."

   "Good." Greg opened the cabinet and, rubbing solution on the man's hand, removed the toupee. "Go...be free...and
dream of Rogaine." Greg left with George...and the patient heard laughing even before the door was shut.
*****

   After my little crying jag I got a surprising amount of work done. This allowed me to arrive at the hospital a bit before
3:30, where I found Lisa working in her office. "Hi Lisa." I walked inside. She looked up and smiled, then picked up
some papers from the corner of her desk. "Haley, here is the information you asked for...and a bit more." Her eyebrow
went up as she handed me the stapled papers. I read the top sheet...and my mouth dropped, along with my body, into a
nearby chair. I looked at Lisa who was watching me. "Is this correct?"

    She nodded. "I double-checked." I read everything and looked back at her. "What will you do?" The look I gave her
told her all she needed to know. I folded the papers and stuffed them into my purse.

   I looked back at her as she gave me a weak smile. "Please keep this confidential," I asked and she nodded. I walked
out but didn't see Greg or George anywhere so I stepped outside to digest what I'd learned. It was quiet surprising...I
took some deep breaths to calm my nerves. 'Well,' I thought as I leaned against the outside of the hospital, 'this
changes things, doesn't it?' I was so lost in thought I hadn't heard Greg until George barked. Mentally pinching myself
I smiled broadly. "There's my guys!" I exclaimed, somehow managing to push aside what I had learned. "How was
General Hospital?"

   "Oncology has a great lounge. Oh, and Jackson is having an affair with the hospital administrator, Angel."

  I rolled my eyes and reached for George's leash. "I don't watch General Hospital, so I don't have the faintest idea
what you're talking about."

    "Are you coming over tonight to entertain me?" Greg pulled out a deck of cards from his blazer pocket and wiggled
his eyebrows.

   "It's all about you, isn't it?" I asked.

   Greg looked up to the sky and sighed exasperatedly, then shrugged. "Fine...what can I do for you...so you'll entertain
me tonight?"

    I shook my head and sighed. "That's right Greg...your thoughtful, generous nature is coming right through.
Wow...I'm just bowled over by your selflessness." He reached over to tickle me but I was too quick, giggling as I pulled
away. I calmed and said, "Actually, I was wondering if you and I could have dinner with Derrick and Dana." Greg looked
rather uncomfortable all of the sudden.

   "Oh, I don't know. They wouldn't want to have dinner with me."

   "Why not? From what I've heard you three have gotten rather chummy these past few weeks."

    His look went from uncomfortable to surprised very quickly. "Did they tell you that?" I nodded. He sighed and
leaned against the wall of the hospital. "I wanted...I wanted to learn more about you." He paused and looked kind of
like what he was about to say was embarrassing. "They're good people."

   "I know...and I don't mind you talking to them about me. In fact," I moved a bit closer and lowered my voice. "It's
very sweet."

   "SWEET!!??" he spat out the word. "BLECH, BLECH" and he accompanied the retching noises with the finger-in-
mouth gagging motion. I rolled my eyes and turned to leave but he stopped me, grabbing my hand. "Fine...dinner with
the family."

   "And dessert at your place?" I asked VERY suggestively. His beautiful blue eyes narrowed.

   "As long as it's dessert for two: no more, no less," he murmured, pulling me close and mixing his mouth with mine.

    WOOF! WOOF! I pulled away and looked at George, who was watching us...who then started growling at Greg! I
looked at Greg who was watching George. "What?" Greg held his hands up defensively. George must've had a sudden
change of heart because he jumped onto Greg's legs. He scratched George behind the ears and all seemed forgiven.
"Growling isn't nice buddy," he said.

   "It's because you said D-E-S-S-E-R-T and N-O in the same sentence. He loves D-E-S-S-E-R-T."

   Greg nodded, understanding. "Yep...when people don't want me to know something they spell it as well. Hard for
me to keep up, you know." I gave him a good swift knock upside the head. "Hey, watch the merchandise lady. You
break it, you pay for it."

    "Just for that...you can watch George for ten more minutes while I visit Gracie. I just want to peek inside." He
sighed and held his hand out for the leash, which I gratefully returned to him. "Just for being such a GOOD BOY you get
an extra special D-E-S-S-E-R-T tonight." It was Greg's turn to growl as I headed to the elevators.
*****
    After a short visit, which was absolutely wonderful because Gracie was rapidly responding to the treatment and could
see much clearer, I returned downstairs to discover Lisa and Greg arguing, Lisa's office door opened enough for the
entire lobby to hear their confrontation...and people were sniggering at what was happening...

   "House, you're just going to have to deal with it. Cameron is part of your team, I'm your boss...and we're pregnant.
Just suck it up."

   "So, I guess I should be careful about calling you MOMMY from now on...it's taking on a whole new meaning and we
wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea, now would we?" Greg snarked back. I coulnd't see anything but I heard a
pregnant pause (I'M SORRY...I JUST COULDN'T HELP THAT ONE) I guessed she was glaring at him. "Ok, fine...I'll just
put in for a 9-month sabbatical."

    HAPPY FEMALE LAUGH. "Ok...you can go visit Dr. Sebastian Charles in Africa. I'm sure he could use another doctor
at his clinic."

    MALE GROWLING. "GRRR...fine. I'll deal with it. You women, I swear..." STEP-STEP-THUMP. STEP-STEP-THUMP.
I saw Greg step out of Lisa's office to a lobby full of people who were whispering and giggling behind their hands. Greg
stopped, turned to them (his back to me) and yelled, "Hello people! I'm Dr. Gregory House. Many of you didn't know,
until now, that Attila the Hun in there is pregnant,"(I looked at Lisa's office and watched her staring out the door at him,
her mouth wide open, eyes blazing)"...but I've also just learned that my only female employee has become impregnated
by my best friend. How is a guy supposed to catch a break? Doesn't anyone feel sorry for me?" Several male
hands lifted and I rolled my eyes. 'Ok, it's time for a Haley intervention,' I thought.

    I came forward to stand behind Greg. "You'll have to excuse him, folks. He's just learned that Angelina Jolie and
Brad Pitt are an item and Angelina is, therefore, no longer available. He's terribly out of sorts right now. Please excuse
us," I turned to Greg, who was narrowing his eyes at me. "Come on, Doctor. I'll drive you home." We started toward
the entrance when I heard Lisa whisper, "God bless you." I smiled and Greg scowled. I looked behind me and saw
George sitting, watching us. "Come on, George!" He still sat there so we stopped and turned around fully. "Come on,
boy. If you come I'll give you a TREAT." This got him moving...very slowly but he still ambled our way and I grabbed
the leash. I then lead the Dynamic Duo out to my car.
*****

   I put George in the backseat and turned to Greg. "So much for sticking by your boyfriend," he grumbled, scuffing
his toes on the asphalt.

   "When your boyfriend is acting like a ROYAL PAIN IN THE BUTT it's fun to humiliate him." I smiled sweetly but he
continued to grumble so I backed him against the car...and the grumbling stopped. "Admit it...you like me around
dontcha?" He watched me without attempting to deny it, which was a lot better than avoidance. I knew right then he
wanted me to stay but I didn't know what was taking him so long to say anything...pride, the risk, taking a chance: they
are AWFULLY big restraints. I pulled away. "Tonight, 7:00. Wear the sky blue shirt...it looks great on you." I winked
then reached for the door handle.

    "I still can't believe you did that back there. Have you no loyalty? No honor? Fine...I'll wear the stupid shirt, I'll go to
this stupid dinner. And you'll feed me your stupid dessert..." HOWL FROM BACKSEAT; EYE ROLL FROM ME. "...but don't
think I'll complain about it: I'll ENJOY it. Happy now?" He stuck out his bottom lip in a pout and crossed his arms.

   "No one's making you enjoy yourself. If you want to have a bad time that's fine by me." I opened the door but Greg
stopped me and leaned forward for a kiss.

    He smirked against my lips then pulled millimeters away, rubbing his lips against mine. I turned to limp spaghetti at
that point. "You are so feisty...kiss me, I love it." he whispered and I obliged. He moaned into my mouth and pulled me
closer. Finally, having run out of breath, I pulled away and sighed.

   I quickly composed myself. "Seven o'clock. Toodles." I said as I got in the car and drove off.
*****
   "How would you like to have dinner with Greg and I tonight?" I asked my relatives when George and I returned to
the hotel. Each loved one's mouth opened in surprise.
   "Oooookay," Derrick drew out slowly, an eyebrow raised to the sky.

   Dana's eyebrows also lifted and she crossed her arms in front of her. "Ok, what's going on?"

   I shrugged. "Nothing." I knew by her "Yeah, right" expression I didn't have her fooled. I sighed. "Ok. I'm trying to
manipulate him into asking me to stay. Maybe, if he spent time with us, he'll decide that he can't let me go and we'll live
happily ever after."

   Dana rubbed her eyes, walked over, grabbed my shoulders and gently started to shake me. "YOU NEED TO STOP
THIS! If he wants you to stay...wonderful. If he doesn't want you to stay you need to accept it. Besides, you look like a
pathetic, whiny wimp...and that's not the Haley we know. Please, for the sake of George...for the sake of PPTH...for the
sake of yourself...PLEASE STOP THIS!"

    "Come with me, both of you. I need to show you something." We went across the hall to my room and I pulled out
the information I got from Lisa. "This morning I had Lisa assist me in obtaining some information. I probably could've
gotten it myself but I knew it held more weight coming from Lisa." I handed her the papers. After reading the first few
sentences Dana's mouth dropped then she looked at me. I nodded and she continued to read.

   "Dana, honey, what is it?" But Dana couldn't say anything so she just gave him the papers. His reaction was one of
shock as well.

    "What are you going to do?" Dana asked, watching my face and I gave her the same look I gave Lisa. "Despite all
the MANY ramifications of this...you are risking your heart for Greg? What if he finds out that you know this information
BEFORE you leave?"

    I shrugged. "I don't know, but I do know this: this is just the icing on the cake, the stamp on the letter. Having this
information seals Greg forever in my heart and with me it's all or nothing. Oh, Dana, you know me: I don't leap without
110% of the information known. And I will tell him I have this knowledge...he has to know, preferably after he asks me
to stay, if he asks me at all."

   Silence. "And if he doesn't ask you?" Derrick asked, carefully watching me.

   I shrugged again. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. So, will you PLEASE come to dinner tonight?" They
agreed. "He's meeting us here at 7:00."
*****

The next morning I shuffled into the hospital and went to Lisa's office, where I found Lisa and Hotstuff looking through
wedding invitation books. Now, either they were waiting for picture time or Hotstuff is a very considerate fiancee. I'm
leaning towards the former. Lisa looked up and, after taking one look at me, her eyes went wide. "Oh no. What
happened?"

   I smiled weakly. "Well, Derrick, Dana, Greg and I went out to dinner last night..." Lisa immediately moaned and
Hotstuff smiled.

   "What did House do this time?" Lisa asked.

   "Police chase? Hostage stand-off? Run-in with crazed attackers?" Hotstuff crossed his arms over his chest and sat
back with a "Oh, this should be good" grin.

   "Ok...do you want the short, the semi-abridged or the full-novel version?" I asked and Lisa looked at her watch.

   "I'd love the full-novel, but we don't have much time so you better give me the semi-abridged."

   "It started out innocently enough..."
FADE OUT: SLOW BACKGROUND MUSIC; HAZY EDGES [Oh, what am I doing? You've been here, done this before.
Therefore, I will just give you cue words and you can imagine what I'm saying: FADE OUT (HAZY EDGES, BACKGROUND
MUSIC, THE WORKS); FADE IN (REAL LIFE). Cool? Ok, here we go...]

    We were sitting at a table at Chez A La Mode (that's the name...I swear!) enjoying our appetizers and drinks when
Greg became, well, typical Houseian...he looked up from his menu and yelled, "WAITER!" then began snapping his fingers
like he was calling for a dog. I cringed and sank a bit lower in my seat. I looked across at Dana and I noticed she was
inching down in her seat as well. The nearest waiter turned from helping the table he was at and gave Greg a death
stare at which Greg just ignored.

    "Got any steak here? I want man food...not these girly frog legs." Greg yelled, making the other diners stop their
chewing to see what all the ruckus was about. By now I was inching even faster under the table, trying to
distance myself from this crazy situation.

   "Yeah: where's the fried chicken?" Derrick asked and his wife glared at him.

    "SHUT UP DERRICK!" she hissed but it didn't do any good: Greg was quite an instigator and once he got someone
going he kept them going...poor Derrick just didn't have a chance...he became his follower. Why, you ask yourself?
That's a good question. Perhaps Derrick needed a male to bond with at that moment and acting like a total horse's
behind was the way to do it. Beats me.

    Greg nodded in agreement. "Exactly...we want steak." The waiter's face went from death stare to "Is that a duck's
head growing out of your head?" look. Greg rolled his eyes. "STEAK? Do you French people know what steaks are?
Fine..." Greg got up and started limping around the rather shocked waiter, "...if you want something done you've got to
do it yourself. Out of my way Garcon!"

   An entire restaurant watched as Greg, with his follower Derrick closely behind, invaded the kitchen.

   "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! GET OUT! NOW!" a loud, deep voice bellowed from behind the kitchen's swinging
doors.

   "You got any steak?"

   "I SAID LEAVE!"

    "Actually, no you didn't. You screamed it. And you didn't say leave, you said go." ANGRY HUFF, PRESUMABLY FROM
IRRATE COOK. "Must you wave around that cleaver? Is this really any way to treat a cripple? You ought to be ashamed
of yourself. It's people like you that cause random violence: no compassion, no sympathy for those less fortunate."
ANOTHER ANGRY HUFF, STOMPING FOOTSTEPS.

    The next thing we knew the kitchen doors burst open and a rather rotund man in all white, wearing a tall chef's hat, a
red face and bulging eyes came stomping out. In all honesty, he looked rather...frightening, which only made this crazy
situation even worse. "I QUIT!" he yelled and threw his chef's hat on the ground.

   "HAHAHAHA!" Feminine laughter broke through the haze...

FADE IN...

   "You mean, House and Derrick walked into that kitchen to make themselves steaks?" Lisa asked, trying very hard to
contain her laughter.

   "Well, it wasn't funny...it was downright humilating." I looked at Hotstuff, whose face was turning red.

   "Oh, go ahead, laugh it up buddy," and, at this, Hotstuff let out one wail of a laugh. I just rolled my eyes. "Just
wait...it kept getting better and better..."
FADE OUT...

   "So, you want a steak too?"

   "Yep...slide me a piece of da Porter bro." That was...DERRICK? Where on earth did he learn that? My eyes widened
and I looked at his wife who gave me a "Did you just hear what I heard?" look. "Where did he learn to speak Jive?" I
asked her. "Well, his favorite movie IS Airplane!" Dana said.

   "OH!" I nodded in understanding. We then noticed the entire restaurant had stopped eating...and it was dead quiet,
everyone just as intent on hearing the ruckus Greg and Derrick were making as we were. We returned our attention to
the commotion in the kitchen.

   SZZZZ....."Hear that Derrick? The beautiful melody of a primo side of beef on the grill...it's rather...hormonally
exciting don't you think?" I rolled my eyes at Greg's graphic depiction of a grilling steak.

   "OH YEAH!" came Derrick's shout of ecstasy. Then a short pause. "Greg, are you sure you should be spraying that
aerosol can this close to the gas gr..." but just before my brother-in-law could finish his words we heard (and felt) a
BOOM! which rocked the entire restaurant!

   "OH MY GOSH!" I screamed then took off toward the kitchen with Dana hot on my heels. When we burst in we
found the boys unharmed (rather shocking, isn't it?) but the steaks were on fire.

    "What the...?" I couldn't finish my sentence because the sprinklers just kicked in, raining water on an entire building
of people. I took a moment to collect myself then, with a chastising tone, snarked, "Well, congratulations Dr. House!
You just made it rain INSIDE!"

   SNORT! SNORT!

FADE IN...

   SNORT! CACKLE! SNORT! "House started a kitchen fire and made the sprinklers go off! OH MY GOSH!" Lisa was
cackling, and snorting, while holding her stomach. I sighed and rubbed my eyes. For some reason, I didn't find this
funny. I looked over at Hotstuff...and tears were streaming down his face as he was laughing so hard you couldn't even
hear him.

   "Thank you everyone for being so serious. Come on...this is serious!" I gave them a few moments to calm
down...but took one look at me and started up again!

   "Fasten your seatbelts folks...the night wasn't over yet..."
*****

FADE OUT...

     After being thrown out of the restaurant with a promise of being sued, we dripped all the way to the car. Fortunately
I found some blankets in the trunk (I don't know where they were from but they were just there...perfect for covering the
seats). We draped them over the seats and we sloshed down, spraying water everywhere. Dana sighed loudly ("My
sentiments EXACTLY" I thought) and Derrick drove away, with Greg in the front and us women in the back. The moment
we hit the road Greg started in with the "I'm hungry. I didn't get my steak. I need food!" whining. I ignored him...at
first. However, once he'd recruited Derrick, AGAIN, in his fiendish plan to be the world's biggest pains in the butt I
decided to put a stop to it.

    "For the love of all that is good and right in this world, SHUT UP ABOUT THE FOOD! You don't deserve to eat, not
after that scene back there. How can you THINK of food at a time like this?!?" I chastised, desperately wishing I had a
fly swatter to hit him with...they sting!

  "AWWW, MOM! My tummy is growling!" Greg whined, which was even more annoying than the previous hunger
moans. He paused then asked, "So, does this mean you're mad?" He turned around, sound my glare, and nodded.
"Ok...I get that. Does that mean no sex tonight?" I lost it and, opening the window, screamed at the top of my lungs,
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

   "I guess that means no sex tonight," Greg turned to Derrick who gave him a "Bro, I pity you," look.

   "Don't think you're getting any either, Derrick," Dana hissed from the backseat and I gave her a high-five. The car
slowed to stop at a red light in an empty intersection.

    I finally calmed down enough to say, "Jules, you are worse than an three-year-old throwing a temper tantrum in a toy
store. I'm NEVER taking you out in public again." I huffed and crossed my arms, then turned back to the window.

    "Normally that would be very appealling but you said no sex. How fun is that?" But I didn't hear him because I was
staring at something just outside my window. "Haley did you hear me?"

   "Uh...Gr...Da...Der..." All I could do was croak the beginnings of their names. We were still stopped at the light and
Derrick and Dana were looking at me...but I was still staring out the window.

    Greg turned over his left shoulder and his face held a very concerned look. "What is it baby?" All I could do was
silently open my mouth and point...

FADE IN...

  I looked at Lisa and Hotstuff who, at this point, had stopped laughing and were watching me very intently. "Well?
What did you see?" Hotstuff asked, concern lines dotting his forehead.

   "I couldn't believe what we were looking at..."

*****

FADE OUT...

    Greg turned his head and what he saw made his face turn white: standing about 10 feet from us, underneath a street
light, was a man wearing a vest...a vest with a bomb on it! He was also waving a semi-automatic machine gun at a
woman who was clearly his hostage, yelling at anyone within listening distance: "MY LIFE SUCKS! MY LIFE SUCKS! I
WANT TO END IT ALL!" (etc., etc.)

   "We've got to do something!" I said when I'd found my voice. "He's going to blow himself, that woman and
everyone in a 50 foot radius up!"

   "Are you sure? It looks more like 75 feet," Dana said, leaning towards the window.

   Greg looked at Dana, then at me. "How do you two know that? Did you make bombs or something?"

   I sighed and wiped my eyes. "The neighborhood bully was a genius at bomb making. In order to stay alive we got to
know bombs." I studied it. "It looks real. What should we do?" I started to pull out my phone but Greg sighed,
stopping my actions.

    "Oh, for Heaven's sake! It'll take forever for them and the Bomb Squad to get here." Greg opened his door. "I'm
going out there. I can talk some sense into him." And, with that, Greg limped to the guy...

   FEMININE GASP...

FADE IN...
   I looked up from staring at the desk to see the shocked looks on their faces. "How on earth did you manage to
stumble onto THAT scene?" Lisa asked, shaking her head in amazement. "Whenever you're with House you two get into
the worst situations!"

   "You're telling me..."

   "Wait a minute?!?" Hotstuff exclaimed. "You mean to tell me you guys were part of that? I heard about it this
morning but there weren't any names." He shrugged. "Why should I be surprised? I should've thought of House the
minute I heard about it."

   I chuckled weakly. "Well, I supposed that Greg and Disaster belong together."

    "Don't tell me he talked him down? HOUSE?!? This is the guy who's infamous for giving THE SAME PATIENT two
strokes. TWO! Well, what happened?" Lisa asked, moving closer to the edge of her seat.

   "Well..."

FADE OUT...

   "GREG! Get your butt back here!" I yelled but he ignored me and limped to the guy who, by this time, had noticed
the uninvited guests, both in the car and the limping one coming towards him.

   "STAY BACK! I'LL DO IT! I'LL BLOW HER, YOU, THEM ( pointed gun at us) AND MYSELF UP! I SWEAR I'LL DO IT!"

   "Hey man? What are you doing?" Greg asked, waving his cane. I moaned and hid my face. "Man, this isn't cool."
Greg said.

   "STAY BACK!" the man's face was beading with sweat, his face flushed, his grip tighter on the woman. I could see
her shaking, her eyes wide with fear as the man used her as a shield between himself and Greg.

    "Why aren't you calling the police?" Dana asked me. I was suddenly reminded of the gravity of our situation and
pulled out the phone, dialing 9-1-1.

    "9-1-1. What's your emergency?" An efficient female voice answered immediately. My voice shook as I explained
the situation, warning her that I was from out of town and didn't know street signs. "Ok, we'll get someone over there.
Remain calm and don't get too close." CLICK. I slapped my phone shut and handed it to Dana. "I'm going out there."
(thereby effectively IGNORING everything the dispatcher told me to do.)

   "WHAT!?!" Dana grabbed my arm as I reached for the door handle. "Don't go...you could get hurt."

    "I can't just sit here. Besides, someone will have to make nice with the psycho bomber when psycho doctor starts
talking to him." I opened the door and strolled over very quietly. The mad bomber turned to me.

   "WHO ARE YOU?!? DOES THIS LOOK LIKE A PARTY?" he yelled at me, causing me to flinch.

   "Well, you are yelling at everyone. I thought you were advertising," I said matter-of-factly when, in reality, I was
shaking like a virgin on Prom night.

   Greg turned and, when he saw me, his eyes narrowed. "Get back to the car."

    Suddenly my nervousness was gone and I shook my head. "No...you can't be here alone. Someone's got to pick up
after you."

   "NO. I don't want you out here. I can do this."
   I crossed my arms. "Oh really? Like the time you TRIED to talk those robbers out of the bank? It took your best
buddy with a flame thrower to do it."

   Greg rolled his eyes and face palmed. "He didn't give me enough time. I had a brilliant plan but he butted in."
Unbeknownst to the two of us who were much too busy bickering, the mad bomber and his hostage were watching the
two of us like they were court side at Wimbledon.

   "From what I recall, I butted in. You were being simply obnoxious. Unless, of course, it was your plan to yell and
snark at the bad guys. Well, it worked...with a little help from the FLAME THROWER." I emphasized, leaning into him
and yelling. "They might've left, eventually, when they got tired of listening to our sideshow act: Abbott and Costello
meet Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, with you being Riggs of course. Sheesh...we're a couple of freaks, you
know that? Wherever we go we run into screwups like this." I pointed to the mad bomber who was just staring at us,
wide-eyed.

   "You mean, you two are the ones who foiled that bank robbery several weeks ago? The ones where the robbers were
brought out by the flame thrower?"

   "Oh, you've heard of us?" Greg asked, a smile on his face. "Do you want an autograph?"

   WHOA, WHOA, WHOA! a faint male voice broke through the flashback.

FADE IN...

Hotstuff held up his hands in a "STOP!" gesture. "You mean, you two argued right in front of that psycho?" he asked.

   "Yep. It was rather...interesting yet slightly exhilerating."

   Lisa gave me a concerned look. "Are you sure you should be doing dangerous things like that? I mean, too much
excitement could be harmful to the baby. Besides, what if you'd gotten shot? Or hurt from the explosion?"

   Hotstuff's face contorted in confusion. "What? You mean, Haley is pregnant?"

   I nodded. "Several weeks."

   "And House is the father?" Hotstuff asked, almost afraid to know there was a potential House Jr. running around.

   I rolled my eyes. "Of course he's the father. Does it scare you as much as it scares me?"

   "It does scare me...but probably for different reasons." He paused. "Does he know he's about to be a father?" I
shook my head and his eyes widened. "Are you going to tell him?"

   I looked down at my hands. "I don't think so. I mean, I want him to want ME to stay, not out of some noble
gesture. If he asks me to stay...great. If not...I can raise this baby on my own, without his knowledge."

   Lisa was watching me. "Are you sure?"

   I nodded. "Well, I practically raised myself so I can take care of it. Do you want to hear the rest of the story or not?"

   Not quite sure of what to say but knowing they weren't going to get anywhere, they nodded. "By then the cops
showed up..."

FADE OUT...

The squad cars noisily pulled up to the scene. "Those blasted sirens! How can anyone think with those things blaring!"
Greg held his ears.
   Mad bomber nodded. "Here I am, trying to conduct a perfectly insane crime and they go and interrupt it for me..."

   What?

FADE IN...

   "Don't tell me mad bomber actually said that." Lisa gave me a "Oh, you've got to be kidding me" expression.

   I smiled. "Ok. I'm sorry...that's not what really happened..."

FADE OUT...

  Mad bomber held his hostage tighter. "NO, I DON'T WANT AN AUTOGRAPH AND I WANT THOSE COPS OUT OF
HERE!" He yelled as he put the gun to her head, causing her to squeal with fright.

   "Do you really want to do this?" I asked and held up my hands as if to defend myself because I suddenly became
very, VERY nervous.

   He looked around, fidgetting and eyes darting every which way. "You can't give me what I really want."

    "What do you really want?" Greg asked, suddenly all warm and sensitive. I turned to him and looked at him as if
he'd grown an extra head. He looked at me and, whispering out of the corner of his mouth, said, "Hey...if we keep him
talking the police can take him down," and subtly glanced at the cops creeping up behind the mad bomber.

   "I just want peace. I want to get away from all the voices telling me what to do, telling me what a loser I am, telling
me how my life is going down the toilet."

   "What's your name?" Greg asked gently.

   "Sullivan."

   "Ma'am?" He turned to the woman who was watching the whole scene with intrigue...and a bit of anxiety.

   "Antoinette." she whispered, too afraid to say very much.

   "Sullivan, do you really want to hurt her? Will she give you peace?" Greg asked.

   "I just want to be heard...no one was listening." He was calming down...perhaps he really was just a confused and
hurt man.

    I took a tiny step forward which wasn't lost to Sullivan...but he didn't seem any more nervous. "We're listening now.
Sullivan, my name is Haley and this is Greg, my boyfriend." I pointed to him. "See, I understand what it's like to be
alone, hurting and feeling or being mistreated. My drunken father abused my sister and I, mentally and physically. I
have a terrible self-image. Why else would I have taken up with Snark-Bait over here?" I heard a indignatious
"HARUMPH" beside me.

     I think I was starting to get through to him because he tilted his head in a "good point" gesture. "Everyone's life is
difficult. Greg can't decide whether to let me stay or make me go back home. See, I'm only here to work and I met him
on the job, only a few months ago. Now, I've gone and fallen for the arrogant jerk but he can't seem to accept me.
There's a possibility I have to go home and I'm so upset about it I could puke right on your shoes. Do you really want
that?"

   Sullivan's eyes were wide as saucers as he slowly shook his head. "You know what would make me feel better?" I
asked. He shook his head again. "If you release Antoinette. Then we can help you. Can you do that?"
   Sullivan studied us then slowly nodded, releasing his hostage. She was grabbed from behind by a member of the
SWAT team and taken to safety. "Now, Sullivan, can you let this nice woman over here come and help you? She will
help you, I promise." I pointed to a psychologist brought in, presumably when they heard the suspect was holding a
hostage, wearing a hot vest and holding a gun.

   "Will she listen to me?" Sullivan asked hopefully. I nodded and, with a resigned look he sighed and nodded, then
removed the jacket slowly and laid it down. At that point he was taken down by SWAT and carried away and the bomb
squad came in to defuse the vest.

   When the lieutenant in charge came over he took one look at Greg and sighed. "Oh for Pete's sake it's you again."

   "Well, we handled the situation, didn't we?"

    The lieutenant pointed to me. "No, SHE handled the situation. YOU are a walking disaster." He rolled his eyes,
turned to his officers and said, "Let's go boys. One more run in with Dr. Gregory House and I'll need Prozac." The scene
cleared remarkably fast and Greg and I were left staring at each other.

  "Snark-bait...impressive. Did you mean that whole thing about the self-image and it being the reason you're with
me?"

  I shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. Let's go...I'm hungry." We started back to the car. "You know," I began, "That
whole 'caring thing' back there was very hot. You might try it more often."

   He grinned. "Does that mean we get to stay in tonight?"

   "Perhaps," I said slowly.

   "And does that mean we get to...?" He didn't have to complete the sentence...I knew what he meant.

   "Let's eat...then we'll see..."

FADE IN...

    "Wow...you actually talked the guy out of blowing everyone up?" Lisa asked, sitting back in her chair with an amazed
look on her face. I nodded. "That is so cool. I think you missed your calling...hostage negotiator."

    I chuckled. "Actually...I'm beginning to think that the funny/annoying team of Greg and Haley would make a GREAT
crime-fighting duo. What do you think...big "H"s on the capes? Spandex?"

   Lisa began laughing. "House...in Spandex?!? Now THERE'S a visual!" We all laughed and I looked at my watch.

   "OH! We've got to go. If you want more details I'll tell you on the way..." I said, standing up and gathering my
materials.

   "NAH...I have a feeling I know what happened next," Hotstuff said with a smirk on his face.
*****

As Lisa, Hotstuff and I were riding in her father‟s vintage Ford Mustang convertible to the photo shoot location, she
turned to me, as I was in the back. “Haley, is there something going on?”

   I eyed her curiously. “What do you mean?”

   “You seem rather blasé about this normally exciting news, having a baby. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?”

    I sat back, sighed and thought back to when Greg and I first got together. The more I considered it the more I
realized there had been, in the back of my mind, the thought of “What would you do if you got pregnant?” Perhaps I
had been too selfish and I wanted my time with Greg; perhaps I just couldn‟t deal with that thought. Either way, at the
beginning I didn‟t want to face it because I was already dealing with the whole “leaving Greg” thing to begin with. So I
let myself get immersed in work and swept further off-shore by the “Greg Love Wave” (which, Reader, I have to say
is quite amazing and wonderful and sexy and…). After all, if you avoid a subject long enough it will just go away,
right?

   And now I am pregnant; therefore I can‟t avoid it any longer.

   So…back to the original question: “Is it a good thing…or is it a bad thing?”

    I finally looked up at Lisa who was still watching me. “It‟s neither…” I paused and she looked puzzled. “…it‟s
a wonderful thing.” She smiled and her face fell with relief. “Lisa, I‟ve wanted to be a mother since I was four years old.
Sounds kind of young, right? Well, the older I got the more I wanted children…and the more determined I was that they
were NOT going to be raised in a home like mine.” I looked down at my hands then up at Lisa again. “You know, I‟d
always wondered why it never happened with Paul, especially after I had heard that Gina was pregnant. When I heard
that I was absolutely livid. It only made an already humiliating situation even more so and it took me quite awhile to get
over that. Then, when I heard the news yesterday…that I was pregnant with Greg‟s baby…I was surprised...but also
humbled. For some reason I had never gotten pregnant before, even after being in such a long-term relationship (and,
believe me, there were many times I could‟ve.). I think I was destined to have ONLY Dr. Gregory House‟s
children…which makes me very happy.”

   “Are you sure we‟re talking about the same Greg here? The one that makes patients cry?” Lisa asked, clearly not
convinced.

    “Oh, there are things you don‟t know about him, things he didn‟t know about himself, that I see. He really is a very
caring, loving man…and I feel absolutely blessed to know him. Besides, when he does act like, well, HOUSE, I just put
him back in his place. No complaints yet.”

   "You are serious, aren't you?"

   "Absolutely. And, if Greg doesn't want to have anything to do with this baby, I can't force him to be a part of
something he doesn't want to be. Whatever happens, I'm keeping the baby."

   "But he does need to know. As a man, he's entitled to know if he has a child out there, somewhere." Hotstuff said as
we stopped at a light.

   "I know you're right...but I don't want to face him right now. I don't know how to tell him. "Greg, honey, tonight I
don't feel like strip poker because I'm really tired. Oh, by the way, I'm having your baby. How do you feel about that?"
Oh, I don't know how to say it...and how will Greg react?."

   Lisa concentrated on my face for a bit then looked at Hotstuff. He gave her a nod then turned back at me. "I know
you'll make the right decision...and you'll find the right time and words. But, whatever you decide to do, you have our
support."

     "Thank you." I smiled weakly then, noticing our surroundings for the first time, pointed to an exit. "Turn off here.
It's a deserted, scenic road that would be perfect for your picture."
*****
     The pictures really did turn out great: the first one (I decided, all of the sudden, to have two pictures, side by side, for
her month.) has the point-of-view of a bystander, standing several feet behind the entire scene, looking into the side
mirror on the driver's side door. In the mirror is Lisa, her hair pulled back in a scarf and wearing Audrey Hepburn-style
sunglasses, smiling at the hunky officer who had his butt against the car, writing her a speeding ticket.

   The next picture was taken from the front of the car as Hotstuff was leaning against the doorframe, flirting with Lisa.
Their chemistry was magnetic...and you could see the love just shining from them. It was amazing...and so special.

   At that moment I got a queasy feeling (it wasn't morning sickness because I hadn't had any of that yet; besides, it
was an ominous-queasy feeling, not a "I feel like I'm going to puke" feeling) about Greg and I...I couldn't put it into
words but the queasiness suddenly settled into a peace. I knew then that the baby and I would be ok...even if it meant
being without Greg. I would be alright...but I wasn't holding out hope. I wasn't going to stop fighting for him or our tiny
family.
*****

We got back to the hospital and I went to Diagnostics. They obviously didn't have a patient because the ducklings (Can I
call Alison a duckling anymore? I mean, she is pregnant...wow, that's awkward) were sitting around the conference
table: Robert was working on a crossword; Alison was reading the mail; and Eric was reading a medical journal.

   I walked in and smiled. "Hi! Where's The Fearless Leader?"

   Eric chuckled. "Probably searching for brainfood in the cafeteria with Wilson."

   I shook my head. "Well, Greg will have to keep looking...there's not enough food in the world to cure him." I heard a
snort from Robert; another chuckle from Eric; and a giggle from Alison.

    "But I really love pizza! It's gots all them food groups!" I heard the snarky remark behind me. I winked at Eric and
turned around to find Greg bouncing his cane on the ground, giving me a sneer.

    "More vegetables, less pizza." I said, watching as he came closer and stood about 2 feet from me. His eyes
darkened, which usually means I did something he really liked. I lowered my voice to a whisper. "I hear peanut butter is
excellent brain food." I heard his sharp intake of breath and his eyes dilated. "Do you want me to bring some over
tonight?"

   "Chunky or creamy?" he asked, his eyes watching my lips.

    "Extra, extra creamy," I murmured, drawling out the "creamy" and I swear I saw beads of sweat break out on his
forehead. I winked. "I'll bring pizza...and dessert. 6:30 ok?" He nodded. I stepped back and turned to the duckies,
who were watching the entire scene with a look of complete amazement. They sure are enjoying our little show, aren't
they? Probably not used to seeing their boss like this...they should get used to it.

    "Well, I'm going to visit Gracie next door." I looked at Greg who was still watching me. "6:30..." I leaned in closer
and whispered, "...be ready, Stud-Muffin Extraordinaire." He gave me a sly grin and I turned on my heel. Just as I
reached the door, Greg said, "Do you still have that lace teddy I bought you? Maybe you could model it for me...I've still
got the furry handcuffs." I looked over my shoulder and saw the satisifed look on his face. I rolled my eyes and walked
out. Always got to have the last word, doesn't he? And he's got to zing me, right in front of his juniors.
*****
    I went next door and saw Gracie's family sitting beside the bed. Gracie was the first to see me. "HALEY!" She
shouted with a huge smile on her face. Her family turned and, when they saw me, swarmed me, giving me hugs and
ushering me in.

   "Wow...what a greeting. I should come over more often." I said, earning a smile from everyone. I reached over and
gave Gracie a hug. "You saw me. Does this mean you're feeling better?"

   Gracie nodded enthusiastically. "The doctors say I am doing good. I feel good."

   Miriam nodded. "They are amazed by her progress. Just in these past few days her vision is almost completely
normal and she's responding well to treatments. In fact, if everything continues on this track we can take her home next
week."

   "And I will get to see George. Oh I miss him."

   "He misses you too. I'll talk with Dr. House and make sure you can visit him before I leave."

   "You are still leaving?" Gracie wimpered. I looked at her family, who each wore a sad, but understanding,
expression. I then looked back at Gracie...and my heart broke at the look on her face.
   "Looks like it. But I will visit as much as I can while I'm still here. I don't leave until the end of next week. And I'll
make trips out here to visit you. We'll talk on the phone, email, instant message. You will always be my friend Gracie."
Tears started rolling down my cheeks as I looked around. "All of you mean so much to me. You've given me so much,
more than I could ever hope to give you."

   Maggie shook her head. "Nope...you helped give us Gracie back. We are forever in your debt." I silently eyed the
family then, turning back to Gracie, I sat on her bed.

   "So, tell me Gracie-Lou, how's the food?" I asked and everyone laughed...our sadness momentarily forgotten.

   She made a face. "Its gross. I want a cheeseburger with French Fries...and I miss Dr. Pepper."

   I smiled. "I will run downstairs to the cafeteria and pick you up some food. How does that sound?"

     Gracie's face lit up. "Really?" I nodded and looked at Miriam. She smiled and nodded. "Good. I'm hungry anyway.
I'll be right back, ok?" She nodded and held her arms up for another hug. I squeezed her then left for the food.
*****
     After a wonderfully long visit, where we played Barbies, watched Baby's Day Out ("That baby is SO CUTE! But I don't
like those bad guys.") and played Chutes and Ladders. When our game ended I looked at my watch and started...it was
5:00!

   "Sweetie, it's time for me to go but I'll be back tomorrow, ok? I promise."

   Gracie's face fell but she nodded. "Ok."

   "Do you want me to bring anything tomorrow?"

   Miriam nodded. "Yes...could you bring some chips? We're going to have a picnic, right here in Gracie's room. Won't
that be fun?"

   Gracie's face lit up. "Really?" She clapped her hands and cheered. "I love picnics!"

   I smiled. "I do too. I have one more photo tomorrow, around 2:00, but I'll be here about 10:30, ok?" I left, hugging
everyone goodbye and whispering to Gracie, "You hang in there, ok?" She nodded then smiled.
*****

By 6:30 I had taken a shower; changed; played a little bit with George (who really misses the hospital); picked up a pizza
and dessert (which included peanut butter); and was banging on Greg's door. "Open up! My hands are full!" I yelled.

    A few moments later the door flung open and Greg stood there in a pair of khaki shorts; no shirt, but his chest and
hair were wet, water driplets falling along his forehead. My breath caught at the picture...I thought about dumping the
pizza and going straight for the peanut butter but figured, "All in good time, Haley; all in good time." Then I thought,
"You know, peanut butter on top of the green peppers, onions, sausage and olives sounds kinda yummy." Darn these
pregnancy hormones!

   I sighed in happiness. "My, my. What's the occasion?" I handed him the pizza and leaned forward for a kiss.

   "You caught me just as I was toweling off. The last time I answered the door in just my towel, old Mrs. Schumacher
was on the other side of the door. She had my newspaper by mistake. Needless to say, it took my special supply of
smelling salts to revive her. She kept swooning, "Gary Cooper, Gary Cooper" when she awoke. From that day on I
vowed never to overwhelm my guests with my beefcake." I looked at him incredulously.

   "Yeah, right. You're making that up."

    He shrugged then pulled me closer. I rested a hand on his slightly wet chest. "Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Cut me
a bit of slack, ok?"
    I smiled then kissed him again. Pulling away I murmured against his lips, "Beefcake, huh? More like lambchop." He
growled and pulled me closer. The intensity of his embrace made me gasp. I dropped my purse and sack. He dropped
the pizza and, shutting the door behind me, pressed me against the door. He reached under my shirt and ran a hand
along my currently flat stomach. I moaned as his lips were nibbling on my ear and his hand moved lower, caressing the
skin above my low-rider shorts. Whipping off my shirt his hands moved higher as he moved us to the bedroom, dinner
momentarily forgotten.
*****
    Afterwards we laid together, snuggling, my hand in his hair, his hand rubbing my tummy. We were speaking in
low tones, talking about anything under the sun. He turned to me and, watching me carefully, sat up, his hand still on
my stomach.

   "What do you want to do in your life?"

   I watched him, momentarily confused as to where he was going with this. "Why do you ask?" he looked down away,
watching a painting on the far wall but not really paying much attention.

    "Ok, let me re-phrase. Everyone has things they want to do with their lives. What haven't you done and why haven't
you done it?" I grabbed the bedsheet and, tucking it around me, I sat up and leaned against the headboard. It was my
turn to stare off into space as I thought.

   "Well, I've always wanted to have children." At the word "children" he turned a curious look at me.

   "Why haven't you had them?"

   I sighed. "Well, I wasn't with Mike enough to make it feasible; and it just never happened with Paul. I look back on it
and I'm glad it didn't happen with Paul. I wonder why, with as many times as we were, um, together, it never
happened. Maybe I wasn't meant to have children with him; perhaps someone else was meant to be their daddy." I
paused and looked at him nonchalantly. "Oh, and I've always wanted to learn to fly a helicopter but I never had the
money for lessons. What about you...do you want children?" You guessed it, readers...I was testing him.

    He shrugged and looked at me. "Yes...I mean, I do like children." I was rather surprised and that surprise must've
shown on my face because he laughed ruefully. "What? Surprised I like children? I am too, I guess. Stacy never
wanted children, said they interfered with our careers. At the time I was ok with that. Now I wonder if it's too late. I'm
almost 50 years old, dragging along a bum leg. I don't think I have neither the strength nor the energy to keep up with
kids." He paused. "A helicopter, huh? Why am I not surprised?"

   I playfully narrowed my eyes. "Just what do you mean by that, buster?"

   "You're perfect...I'm not. You can do anything...this leg reminds me I can't."

   I rolled my eyes. "Oh please. I am SO not perfect and you know it. Besides, you just gave me a very pleasant
reminder of how old you AREN'T." I leaned in closer and took his lips with mine. "You are a tiger..." He began growling
and I giggled as he pounced, pinning me down...
*****
   Much, much later we munched on the pizza and discussed tomorrow's picture. "It will be on your motorcycle, at this
wonderful mansion I located. There's a huge lake and Dana should get some excellent shots." I picked up some extra
toppings left in the box and munched away.

   "I haven't noticed, until now, what an absolute pig you are." He was watching me eat, shaking his head.

   "A pig? What do you mean? Am I sloppy?"

   "No...you had half this pizza. You eat EVERYTHING. I don't know how you manage it, either. You've got the perfect
body."
    "I do NOT eat everything. I was hungry...I need it to build up my strength. You left me tired. Not bad Methuselah,"
I snarked. Making an exaggerated older-person's groaning sound, he reached around me, picked up the remote control
then began tickling me. Gasping for breath I said, "TRUCE! TRUCE!"

   "Methuselah. Not bad, not bad." He grumbled then, hauling me in his arms, we settled back to watch tv...which is
how we woke up the next morning.
*****

The next morning I woke up stiff from sleeping on the couch. My head was against the back of the couch and I felt
pressure on my stomach. I rubbed my eyes and looked down to find House's head on my tummy, his hand lying next to
it, gently rubbing. I smiled, my heart swelling. I placed a hand in his hair, stroking it and thinking how perfect it would
be to stay like this...forever.

   I felt him stir, moan, and then a hand immediately went to his right thigh to rub the pain away. "Morning," I
whispered and his head lifted. While sleep clouded his eyes; his breath reeked; and his hair was pointing in all directions,
to me he was the most gorgeous sight I'd ever seen. (Darn those hormones!)

   "Morning," he mumbled and groaned as he swung his leg over the side of the couch. I looked at the clock...7:30.

   "Do you want some breakfast?" I asked then moaned as my stiff neck barked at me. "OUCH!"

    "Here...let me," he leaned over and his rough hands turned to silk as he gently massaged my neck. "OH..." I became
like putty in his hands. "That feels wonderful," I moaned. He leaned further forward, kissed my neck and whispered, his
hot breath caressing my nerve endings, "You aren't so bad yourself." I leaned away and smiled, but I could see he was
gritting his teeth and holding his leg again.

    "Here..." I reached over and began rubbing the thigh. His eyes closed and he fell against the couch, relaxing as my
fingers worked the stiff limb. "That's good," he said a few moments later. I got up and slowly patted to the kitchen.

    "Ok...we've got bread...jam...a couple of eggs that" I looked at the expiration date and crinkled my nose. "...whew!
Need to be pitched. Don't you keep any fresh food around here?" I asked then sighed and threw my hands in the air. I
walked out of the kitchen to find Greg missing...but he wasn't very far: I heard him grumbling in the bathroom: "It's too
early...I don't usually get up until 8:30."

    "Aw, poor baby," I whined as I stood behind him, watching him wash his face. "Life sucks, doesn't it?" he growled
but I hugged him from behind, pressing myself against him. "I'm having lunch with Gracie and her family. I told them
I'd be there at 10:30 this morning and we need to be at the mansion by 2:00, at which we've only got a half an hour to
shoot your photos so please be on time. I will probably just meet you there, unless you want to come with me back to
the hotel. I need to coordinate with Dana and pick up a few things. I've, uh, got a special bikini for this photo." I
stepped away and went into his bedroom to change back into my clothes since I was wearing one of his band t-shirts and
a loose pair of running shorts.

   By the time I re-emerged Greg was done in the bathroom. "So, I'll see you later?" he asked, following me to the
door. I nodded and turned the door handle, opening the door to leave but he slammed it shut, startling me. "Next
Saturday's your last day here?"

    I nodded. "Yep. I have a photo shoot in London on Tuesday of that following week, so I'm leaving Sunday
afternoon. Then I'm heading back to Chicago." I watched him as I stood against the closed door but saw absolutely no
indication of...anything. Tears threatened so I knew it was time to go. "I'll probably see you at the hospital...but if I
don't, I'll meet you at the mansion at 2:00."

    He nodded briefly. "2:00." I turned and opened the door again but, once again, he slammed it shut. Grabbing my
hand he pulled me to him. Holding me he just stared...his eyes taking in every feature. When they reached my mouth,
my lips parted involuntarily and, with a sigh, he kissed me - rough, urgently, almost desperately - as if to seal the
sensation in his memory. Then, just as quickly as it started, he stepped away and limped to his bedroom. In a daze that
quickly turned to tears I left. I'd just witnessed a man at war with himself. I knew he was fighting something...and I
knew I couldn't help him.
*****
   MEANWHILE...

   After I had left Greg sat down on the bed, picked up the phone, dialed some numbers and got a "Hello?"

   "Is Haley pregnant?" he asked. SILENCE ON THE OTHER END. "She is, isn't she?"

   FEMININE SIGH. "What gives you that idea?"

   "I overheard it of course. I can't seem to get information any other way. Is she Cuddy?"

   "When did you overhear?"

    "I was outside your door, preparing to barge in, planning to interrupt whatever you were doing, when I heard her
talking with you and Hoffman. Naturally, whenever Haley's involved, I have to listen in so I wasn't about to interrupt.
Now, for the last time, is Haley pregnant?"

   "YES!" Lisa screamed. Once she'd calmed Lisa asked, "You mean you've known...and you haven't flaunted this
knowledge to the rest of the world?"

   Greg sneered into the phone. "Are you completely incapable of thinking me a rational human being?"

   "Well...yeah. You have yet to display those rational qualities. Once you do then I'll think about it." PAUSE. "Now
you know for sure, how do you feel about it?"

   Greg sat back against the headboard. "I don't know yet. I was still working through our possible future together but
now...I just don't know." Greg sighed as if he carried the earth on his shoulders. "Do you think she would've told me
herself?"

    FEMININE SIGH. "Honestly I don't know. She's waiting for you to make a move, to show her you want her to stay at
least. For Heaven's sake, she doesn't even know that. She's not pressuring you at all and she doesn't want you to do
the "honorable" thing if it means you doing something you don't want to. You've got a completely selfless woman there
House. Don't screw this one up. Lord knows you don't deserve her."

   Greg let those words sink in and, perhaps for the first time in his life, he was genuinely touched by the sacrifice of
another, namely me. "Cuddy..."
*****

I arrived at Gracie's room by 10:30, after a quick stop at the hotel and the nearest grocery store (hey, I promised I'd
bring the chips, right?). I also managed to talk myself out of crying five times and then proceeded to yell at Greg for his
stupidity ten times, alternating crying and yelling, of course. (These hormones can be killers, right?) This actually helped
because, by the time I arrived at the hospital I was relatively calm.

    When I arrived at the room I found a blanket spread out on the floor and Gracie, Miriam and Maggie were sitting on
it. "Gracie-Lou! You're out of bed!" I exclaimed joyfully, walking into the room.

   "Haley!" she yelled and, though not getting up, she held her arms up for a hug. I bent down and scooped her into
my arms. "What kind of chips did you bring?"

   I laughed and shook my head. "Barbecue. Oh, my Gracie-Lou, you are looking so much better!"

    Gracie giggled against me then pulled away from my hug. "Gracie-Lou? I like that. Can that be our special
nickname?" she asked with laughing, shining eyes. I smiled and my heart swelled...and the mommy hormones were
turned up a notch.
    "I would be honored." I smiled and looked at Miriam whose eyes were filled with happy tears. Maggie was smiling,
too, as she was pulling out sandwiches and other things from the picnic basket on the blanket. "Where's Frank?" I
asked.

  "He went downstairs to get some drinks, he'll be back soon. I told him a Coke was ok with you. Is that all right?"
Maggie asked as she handed me a turkey club sandwich.

   "That sounds perfect." I opened the chips and we all spread out our food, waiting for Frank to return.

   "Haley?" Maggie asked.

   "Yes?"

   "You know how I've been thinking about going into medicine?"

   "Yes?" I repeated.

   "Well, I'm going to do it: I want to be a respiratory therapist, perhaps do some general training under Dr. House."

    "Oh Maggie! That's wonderful news!" I hugged her and we giggled. Frank returned just then and, after our
greetings, we began eating. Just then I heard a THUMP-THUMP and we all turned to see Greg standing there, watching
us.

    "A party, huh?" he was eyeing the food. I looked at Miriam and I could see she knew what he was lookin' at. With a
grin and a sigh she held up a sandwich.

   "Would you care for a sandwich?"

    "Oh, if you insist. I don't want to intrude..." he complied though the smile on his face told it all. I shook my head and
smiled, then moved over to make more room for him on the blanket. He sat down and pulled me between his legs. I
sighed and settled against his chest.

   Gracie put down her sandwich and turned to me. "Haley, when will I get to visit George?"

   "I don't know honey..."

     "Gracie, you are doing much better," Greg began. "Haley, you can bring him in tomorrow." My mouth dropped and I
turned around. He was looking at his sandwich. Still turned, I leaned up and whispered in his ear, "You are doing a good
thing here." He shrugged it off but I saw his mouth tweak into a smile. We continued eating but Gracie, who was just a
little bundle of energy, asked, "Can we play Monopoly?"

   "I get the racecar!" Greg said, almost excitedly.

   "Aren't you supposed to be working?" I asked.

     "I worked for 30 minutes and boy, am I tired! I deserve an hour break." I rolled my eyes and, after we'd
finished, helped clear away the lunch. Awhile later, the game was still going (after all, Monopoly can go on forever)...and
Gracie just put another house on Boardwalk. I groaned and looked at my measly $50 in cash.

    "Gracie-Lou, I'm dead meat. I'm going out, with dignity." I put the money back in "the bank" and looked at my
watch. It was 12:45. "Gracie, honey, I've got to go. I have a photo to shoot at 2:00 but it takes half an hour to get
there. Hopefully I can come back tonight. I will definitely bring George tomorrow." her face fell at my declaration of
leaving her.

   "Do you really have to go?"
   I nodded. "I really have to go. If you promise to be good I'll bring over a chocolate cake and some more Dr.
Pepper. How does that sound?" Her face lit up with this and she nodded.

   "I'll be good, I promise."

   "That's my girl. Now," I stood up and knelt beside her, "give me a hug Gracie-Lou." She happily threw herself in my
arms. I hugged the rest of her family and turned to leave but noticed that Greg had left already. I waved goodbye and
went next door to find him sitting at his desk, watching for me. I leaned against the doorframe.

   "Is something going on? You're acting strange all of the sudden," I said, "and strange for you is REALLY strange to
the rest of us."

   He smirked then shrugged. "I've been thinking."

   "Uh-oh. Don't strain yourself."

     He made a "Aren't you brilliantly funny?" look. "Ever since I met you I've forgotten a lot of what makes me
miserable." He looked down at the big tennis ball he was holding. "I'm not sure I like it. Being miserable is all I know;
it's comfortable, familiar." With that, he clammed up and didn't say anymore...and his look told me he wasn't going to
either.

    I just watched him and I saw the war waging. I knew there was nothing I could do about it so I turned to leave but
was stopped with a "HALEY!" I didn't turn around but heard the STEP-STEP-THUMP of my beloved. I felt the heat of his
body behind me, his hot breath on my neck. "No matter what happens, Haley, you are the best thing that's ever
happened to me." I craned my neck and saw the earnestness of the expression. "I love you Haley," his blue eyes
pleaded just as much as his tone.

   I closed my eyes and leaned back into him. "I love you too. You are also the best thing that's happened to me.
Greg, there's...something...I need to tell you." I hesitated...perhaps too long because he turned me around, his arms still
around me, but I couldn't look at him.

   "Look at me Haley," he said firmly and I looked up, fear gleaming in my eyes. "Don't say anything now..." he pressed
me firmer against him. "...we've got to go."

   I exhaled the breath I didn't realize I was holding and nodded, following him out the door.
*****

We left the hospital together, taking Greg's bike, stopping at the hotel. I changed then met Greg and Dana in the lobby.
Dana was going to follow the bike and Greg, at least he claimed, knew where the mansion was. At precisely 2:00 we
pulled through the gates and I directed him to the pond where I had scouted out.

   Greg and I dismounted then I went over schematics and lighting with Dana. After she had a pretty good idea of what
I meant I walked over to Greg. "Ok," I began. "what do you want the picture to look like?"

   "Well," he said as he removed he shirt; socks and running shoes. "I'll be on the bike and you'll be in front of me...in
the bikini, as you promised." I was momentarily distracted by his lack of shirt. My heart beat a bit quicker but I quickly
recovered.

    "Ok...you mean, like this one?" I asked as I removed the sundress. His eyes turned dusky at the sight of me in the
royal blue string bikini...very similar configuration to the forest green number I wore for Robert's picture...only there was
a bit less of it.

    I looked over at Dana and both her eyebrows went up. "Are you two ready?" she asked, clearing her throat. I
nodded and turned to Greg whom, I could see, was checking me out. He pointed to the bike. "You get on first...I'll be
right behind you." I nodded, my heart speeding the way it always does when Greg's arms are around me. I settled on
the bike, trying to ignore the slight breeze whipping off the pond. Greg wrapped one arm around me, pulling me closer
to. I wound my left arm around him, behind me, and gripped the seatback. He pulled me even closer and leaned my
head on his left shoulder, then shifted all his weight on his left leg. His hand settled on the seat between my legs. Very
quietly he said, "I like your taste in swimsuits but should you be wearing this in a photograph, where lots and lots of
testosterone-driven men will see you and ogle you?" I whispered, "But I thought this was what you wanted?" "It is...and
it isn't." "Greg, honey, it's a bit too late to do anything about it so please can we just take the pictures? For Pete's sake
you aren't the one wearing the darned thing." he sighed. "Fine." but I just knew if we weren't taking pictures he would
be pouting. I rolled my eyes.

   He looked at Dana. "How's this?" His words were steady but I felt the ever increasing beat of his heart and the raspy
breath against my hair.

   I didn't hear anything from Dana...at first. I lifted my head and found her staring at us, her mouth open. "What?" I
croaked. It was hard to breathe.

    "Nothing," she coughed. "Are you ready?" I tilted my head to look to the left and Greg looked at the camera. The
pictures later showed he was grinning like a Cheshire cat who got the mouse...with a bit of jealous, obnoxious boyfriend
thrown in. Dana clicked for a few minutes, getting shot after shot, occasionally having us move our heads or re-position
our hands. Honestly, from where I was sitting, it didn't seem like long at all...I was concentrating on other things...

   "Ok, that's good. Let's try another pose. Haley, why don't you get on behind him." I nodded and he, reluctantly, let
me off. I snaked around behind him, curling my legs around his. I wrapped my arms around him and turned my head
away from the camera, since Greg was the subject, not me. He grabbed the handlebars and looked straight ahead. We
held this pose for another few minutes, then Dana said, "Great. Now, for this last one, let's see that chemistry between
you two."

   I got off and put my hands on my hips. "Ok." I said and I got back on the bike, in front of him, only this time I faced
him, my back to the handlebars. I straddled him and looked up, letting him see my feelings for him. He gasped but
moving a hand to my face, cupped it with his long, rough fingers, caressing my cheek, burying them in my hair. I sighed
and closed my eyes, nuzzling his fingers with my cheek.

   "That's absolutely perfect!" Dana said and clicked her camera, capturing the moment. But neither of us noticed...we
were too busy with each other. He leaned down and kissed me, devouring me, as if to settle something in his mind...but
when we parted I could see he looked even more confused. Flustered, he turned away from me and looked at Dana. "Is
that it?"

   Dana nodded, not noticing his sudden change in attitude. "Yep...we got some great photos."

   I leaned back and saw that he was suddenly jumpy and that he wouldn't look me in the eye. "Greg?" he gestured
me to get off the bike, which I did. "Greg, did I do something wrong?"

    He shook his head, still not meeting my gaze, and got off the bike, limping to where he put his clothes. "Look, Haley,
I've got to, um, go. Yeah, that's it...there's stuff to do at the hospital. I'll see you around." I watched him dress with
wide eyes, stopping him before he could get back on the bike.

    "Greg, talk to me, look at me. What's going on?" but my pleas went unheeded as he started the bike and took off,
leaving me watching him with mouth open; eyes wide; and tears welling. I turned to Dana. "What just happened?"

   "I don't know...I've never known a man to leave a moment LIKE THAT that quickly. I thought for a moment there, if
I wasn't here, you two would've just gone for it."

   I nodded. "Me too. Come one, Dana, we've got to get to him, I've got to find out what's happening." I picked up my
dress and, as I was sliding it over my head, Dana said, "That's not a good idea."

   "What do you mean, it's not a good idea?"

   "You already know you're not going to be able to talk Dr. Gregory House into doing ANYTHING. He's got to do it
himself. I think that running after him would only make things worse. Give him time...you're here one more week. He
needs space."
    I knew she was right...but things were going so well. Dejected, I nodded and we packed up, driving back to the
motel.
*****
    When I got back I took a shower and took George out for a long walk. I returned an hour later and decided to try
and locate Greg, figuring that an hour was enough time and space. I called his apartment; his cell; Wilson's apartment. I
finally decided to go to the hospital and talk to Lisa. I walked into her office and, the moment she saw me and the frantic
look on my face, her own face fell.

   "Lisa, there's something wrong with Greg: he just stormed away from our photo shoot. He wouldn't look me in the
eye, he wouldn't tell me what was wrong. It looked like he was running...from me. I tried to call him on both his cell
and his home but got no answer. Do you know where he is? I really need to talk to him, find out what's going on."

   She stood up behind her desk and offered me a chair, which I flopped into. "Haley, Greg came in and asked me for a
week off. He said he needed to get away, to think, to try and straighten things out." She opened her desk drawer and
pulled out a cell phone. "He gave me his cell phone to keep, said he didn't need it. Before I could stop him, much less
find out what was really happening, he fled out my door and right out of the hospital. My guess would be he hasn't even
talked to Wilson, which means...I don't know. But all we can do it wait. We can't file a missing person's report, since he
isn't missing. When you are dealing with adults, if they leave by choice, there's nothing that can be done...and he most
certainly left by choice. Haley, there's nothing we can do."

   I burst into tears and just sobbed. "He's running from me, I just know it."

    Lisa came around the desk and sat beside me, then put her arm around me. "Haley, Greg is confused, he's lived his
entire life in a state of misery. Now, he's been offered a way out...and he doesn't know what to do. Greg will turn up...I
just hope it's in time." This only made me cry more. All I could do was sob...and pray that he'd decide to come back to
me.
*****

Once the sobbing had subsided, Lisa said gently, "Haley, I want to get you started on your prenatal visits. Instead of
focusing on House, try to think about the baby you are carrying. Did you know that my specialty is OB/GYN?" I shook
my head. "I want to get everything started so that, if you have to return to Chicago, at least you're on track for your
pregnancy care. Now, I'll need to take a medical history, determine the due date, take blood, give you an exam, the
works. Once this is all done I will put you on a schedule of prenatal visits, etc. We are going to make you so ready for
this child that nothing will be a surprise. How's that?"

   I wiped away the residual tears and smiled, the excitement growing. "That sounds great...and I wouldn't trust mine,
nor my baby's health, to anyone but you." We stood up, she took my arm and we went to the OB/GYN wing.
*****
   After the intense session of poking, prodding and tests, she made an appointment for the next day: "I'll have the
results of the tests by then." As I was leaving I asked, "Would you like to have dinner with Dana and I? I really need
some support right now."

    She nodded, seemingly happy that I'd invited her. "That would be great. I was going to be lonely tonight: Tony was
going to a ballgame with Derrick...and Wilson!?! Can you believe that? Hard to imagine Wilson going to a baseball
game!" I laughed with her.

    "Well, let's call Alison to join us. We can talk baby talk while we're eating chocolate and crying into our virgin pina
coladas, which is how I drink them anyway."

   Lisa laughed harder. "Brilliant idea...I'll call her right now. Oh, and I got a visit from Dana earlier today. She might
have something she needs to tell you." Lisa clapped her lips shut with this and I left, more confused than anything.
When I got back to the hotel, I went straight to Dana's room.

   "Dana, I invited Lisa to have dinner with us. Alison might be joining us. Is that ok?" I asked, watching for an
answer. Dana lit up.

   "Of course it is."
   "Lisa also said you paid her a visit today. Is everything ok?" Concern showed on my face as I asked, almost afraid of
the answer. Dana's face took on a dreamy quality and she smiled goofily.

   "Everything's wonderful...I'm going to have a baby." My mouth dropped and I squealed, jumping in place.

   "OH MY GOSH! That's absolutely WONDERFUL! And you two have been trying for so long. What did Derrick say?"

   "I had just enough time to talk to him this afternoon...and he is absolutely DELIGHTED! Haley, I had no idea you
were so good at spreading the "fertility" touch. And, all this time, I thought I was immune to it."

    "Nah...the "touch" has mutated and your resistance couldn't fight it off...Oh, this is just WONDERFUL! Let's go get
really, really stuffed with all kinds of junk we shouldn't be eating...like CHOCOLATE!" I opened my phone and called
Lisa. "Hey! Can Alison come?"

   "Yep. Meet us here in about 30 minutes."

    "Ok. See you then." I snapped my phone shut. With all the baby excitement I forgot to tell Dana about what I'd
learn of Greg...and it suddenly came crashing down on me. My face fell when I thought about him.

   Dana had been watching me and a concerned look came over her when she saw my expression. "Honey, what is it?"

   "With all the wonderful baby news I forgot to tell you: Greg asked for a week off work, left his cell phone with Lisa
and just took off. No one knows where he went. From what we know he's had no contact with anyone. Oh, Dana, I
know I shouldn't think about it, but it keeps creeping up, no matter what I do. You have to help me through this." Dana
enfolded me in her arms and I began crying...I'd cried so much that day I was surprised I had any tears left...but there
they were.

     "Haley, you were so excited about the baby. Why don't we just focus on that...and getting the calendar done.
There's nothing that can be done about Greg...you said so yourself. Even if he was here you know you can't make him
do anything. We need to get through this...and we will. We've got babies coming and we need to support one another."
She tipped my head up and looked at me in the eyes. "I know you can do this. Let's forget about Greg tonight...and
let's have a good Mommy-to-Be's night out, ok?"

     I smiled and, flinging away the tears, nodded. "Ok. We need to meet the girls at the hospital in about 25 minutes, so
let's get going."
*****

We picked up the girls and headed to Chili's, where we got a corner table. Alison had no idea that either Dana or I were
pregnant and, after the SQUEEING subsided, we had a wonderfully loud time...we were threatened with being thrown
out, we were so rowdy (well, as rowdy as four sober women could get!).

   Finally, towards the end of the night, Alison asked, "So, how did House take the news you are pregnant?"

   A PREGNANT SILENCE ENSUED. (hey, I just can't help it...it really was a pregnant silence!) "I haven't told him yet."

   Her eyes went wide. "What do you mean, you haven't told him yet?"

   "Just what I said: I haven't told him yet. He left before I had the chance. I tried to tell him, once, but I didn't get the
opportunity. Now that he's gone...I don't know what's going to happen." No one said anything: there wasn't anything
that could be said.

    Finally, Lisa cleared her throat, took a big gulp of her virgin Pina Colada, and said, "Well, I'm not going to let House's
misery spoil this night...and you shouldn't either Haley. A toast:" she raised her glass and we followed, "to four
friends...all pregnant at the same time. May our hormones be tempered; may our bodies look great; and may our baby
shower gifts be plentiful."
    "Here, Here!" we said and chinked glasses.
*****
    The next few days flew by...between visiting Gracie; finishing the pictures; finishing the layouts; and the countless
trips to the printers. I didn't have time to think about Greg...only about once an hour. I'd grow melancholy and, when
tears threaten, I'd place a hand on my abdomen and remember the tiny life I had inside me...then I could go on.

    On that Thursday before I had to leave, I was at the hospital, visiting Gracie. I left her in charge of George and
strolled over to James' office, where I found the door open and James on the phone. He looked up and, seeing me, said,
"I've got to go...call me later." Pause. "Yes. Bye." He put the receiver in its cradle and stood up, a smile on his face.
"Haley! Come in." He walked around to the front of his desk and greeted me with a hug. "To what do I owe this
pleasure, MOMMY?" He smirked and I blushed.

   "So, Alison told you, huh?"

   "And Cuddy. I'm so happy for you...but..." he hesitated and I knew what he was going to ask.

   "No, I haven't told Greg. He left before I had the chance." I sighed and sat down. James sat on his desk, looking
down on with me concern. "It's been all I've thought about and I don't want to talk about it anymore. Besides, that's not
why I'm here. I just wanted to talk with you, find out how everything was on your baby front." His face lit up and his
eyes took on a dreamy quality.

    "It's absolutely wonderful. Alison is already glowing...she's so beautiful. I, um, I need your advice on something and
I'm glad you stopped by. Otherwise I would've had to hunt you down...you've become so elusive." he stood up, shut the
office door, then went around to the middle desk drawer, pulling something out. Coming back to stand in front of me, he
handed me a box...the perfect size for a ring. I gasped and looked at him. "May I?" I asked.

    "I wish you would." I opened the outer box to find a burgundy velvet box. I opened it to find a one-carat solitaire
diamond and four smaller diamonds (each, what looked to be, a 1/4 karat each) surrounding the solitaire, two on each
side. I lost my breath...the ring stole it from me.

    "That is perhaps the most gorgeous ring I've ever seen...but I just can't accept it. I know you like me and I like you
but...I just can't marry you: I don't like you in that way, though you are really cute. Alison would just be heartbroken."

   James rolled his eyes. "Smart alleck." I took the ring out of the box and fingered it.

   "It is gorgeous...I can't think of a more beautiful object for a beautiful occasion. When are you going to ask her?"

    "Tonight...and this feels right. There's something different from this time than all the previous ones. I know, I
know...that sounds like a lot of bologna...and I won't try and convince you otherwise. I just know I want to be with her
for the rest of my life...and perhaps have more children."

   I smiled, stood up and hugged him. "Well, she is very fortunate: it's not everyday you find an
Oncologist/Bullrider/Chef/Best Friend of the World's Biggest Heel. I wish you all the best." I handed the ring back to him
and turned to leave.

   "Haley?" I turned back to him. "It will all work out."

   I smiled sadly. "I hope you're right."
*****

The days kept chugging along...and still no sign of Greg. Finally, it was Saturday morning and time to pack. With a
heavy heart I began throwing things in the suitcases, tears rolling down my face. George was such a comfort...he sat on
the bed and watched me, whining softly as if to say "Oh my human. I hate to see you in pain. I can't do anything but
whine. Please accept that with my love." Before the waterworks were turned all the way up I heard a knocking at the
door.
   Wiping away my tears I opened the door to find Alison standing there. I smiled sadly and, taking one close look at
me, she opened her arms and hugged me, rubbing my back. "SHH...it's ok. It's ok..." she murmured and I bawled, right
there in the hotel hallway. After a few moments I stopped and moved away. "See? This is why I came over...I knew
you needed some support. I'm here to take you out...but first we need to stop at the hospital and pick up Cuddy. Is that
ok with you?"

   My face brightened and I nodded. "I'd love to go. What about Dana?"

   "I talked to her earlier and she's going to meet us there. She and Derrick went out this morning. So, are you ready?"

   "Just let me make sure the four-legged Mr. over here is situated." She chuckled and I got George settled. I left
everything the way it was and I followed Alison out of the hotel.

   When we arrived at the hospital Alison led me to the cafeteria. "Why are we going here? Isn't Lisa in her office?"
but she ignored me and, when we got there, we opened the door...and an entire crowd of people yelled, "SURPRISE!" I
was knocked back from the suddenness of their surprise...then I saw the "GOOD LUCK HALEY" banner along the
wall...and I burst into tears.

    "Oh, Haley! I'm sorry!" "Is she ok?" "Well, she'd probably be better if HOUSE didn't leave like the yellow-belly he
really is." were some of the concerned words coming from the roomful of people. Dana, Lisa and Alison flanked me and
comforted me.

   "There, there." Lisa said and gave me a hug. I calmed as quickly as I could and smiled.

    Once I found my voice I said, "Oh, this is absolutely lovely!" I moved away from the girls and moved inside,
summoning up the courage...and my outdoor voice. "Thank you SO MUCH for your generosity, not only today but during
the entire photo shoot. Dana, Derrick and I thank you from the bottoms of our hearts. And," I turned to Lisa but spoke
to everyone, "The printer gave me a finished copy of the calendar. It looks amazing. Thank you everyone."

   The room broke into applause as I turned back to the girls. "I'm ok now. These pregnancy hormones...they'll get you
every time!"

   Lisa sighed and nodded. "I know...just ask Tony. I bit his head off over bread! Can you believe it?" She sighed and
shook her head.

   "Haley!" A tiny voice wailed and I turned around to see Gracie, in a wheelchair, and her family. I smiled and ran
over, hugging her.

   "Gracie-Lou! I didn't expect to see you here! I thought you went home already?"

   "We did but Dr. Cuddy invited us to this surprise going-away party. We couldn't miss it." Maggie said and she
hugged me tightly...and I could feel her tense...then she began crying.

   "Oh, please don't cry!" I said then pulled away from her and hugged Miriam and even Frank. I knelt beside Gracie's
chair. "Just in case I don't get to talk to you again today, I will come over early tomorrow and you can say your
goodbyes to both George and I. Our flight's at 10:00 a.m. and I should be there around 8:00, so I'll swing by your
house 7:00 a.m. I know it's early but will that be ok?"

   "Yes," Gracie said sadly so I hugged her again.

    "Haley! Haley, come over here! I've got some great news!" Alison motioned me over from where she was standing
with a crowd of nurses and other people. I waved goodbye to Gracie's family and hugged her again, then walked over to
the crowd. "James proposed yesterday...and I said yes!" I joined in the surprised "OH MY GOSH!" and "REALLY?"
reactions but I knew it would happen.

   "Where's your ring?" a nurse asked. Surprised to hear that I looked at her left hand...and saw that the nurse was
absolutely right: she wasn't wearing a ring.
    "It's at the jeweler's. I wanted to wear it when I told you but I just couldn't hold it in. Besides, I wanted Haley here
when I made the announcement. It's getting re-sized."
*****
    It really was a lovely party: I got little mementos of my time at PPTH and lots of pictures...not to mention food! Hey,
I know I mention food a lot...but I'm pregnant! I've never been so hungry! I even got to spend a bit more time with
Gracie, who didn't want to let me go, and her family. It was a tearful goodbye as they left early: Gracie needed to get
home.

   Finally, as the party was dispersing, Tony, Lisa, James, Alison, Dana, Derrick, Robert and Eric all stayed behind.
Robert said, "I think we should have a farewell dinner, tonight. We should all get dressed up and go downtown to Ruth's
Chris Steakhouse, you know, have one final meal."

   I just stared at him. "Wow...that's a very nice place. Are you sure?"

   "Robert, that's a great idea...and the hospital's paying for it. What does everyone think?" Lisa asked, clearly making
an executive decision. The men, seeing that they don't have to pay, were all for it...the women were less enthusiastic,
because of the cost, but we all decided, "Oh, what the hey!"

   "Great! Why don't we meet here at 6:00? I'll make the reservations," Lisa said. We disbanded, with Dana and
Derrick taking us back to the hotel.
*****
   By the time I needed to begin getting ready I had packed up everything; took George for a walk; and took a nap. I
met Dana and Derrick in the hallway, and we left for the hospital. When the group was together, we made one very
good-looking group...I even wore Greg's dress again, only this time it wasn't as much fun because he wasn't going to be
there to see me in it.

    "Lisa, here's the final copy of the calendar. I wanted you to see it." I handed her the calendar and everyone, except
for Derrick and Dana, crowded around it. "OH!" "AHH!" "WOW...Alison, I didn't know you played guitar!" "I didn't know
that Dr. Feldman had that great of a body!" We all turned to Eric who had the decency to look embarrassed, clearly not
realizing he'd said that out loud.

    "Ok, everyone, I'm taking Lisa, Derrick and Dana in my car. I'll meet everyone there, ok? Tony, can you ride
with someone else? I need to talk with them." Lisa smiled sweetly at her fiance, who nodded and kissed her goodbye.
"Ok, gang, let's go." When we got to her car and everyone was buckled in, Lisa turned to us before starting the car. "I
just wanted to let you guys know there's a huge bonus for each of you. You three have done something this hospital has
attempted but never succeeded at: you've brought all different departments together. All the departments are
communicating, better than we could've ever imagined." She turned to me. "And Haley, you, most of all...you've done
something that's NEVER been done before...you've made House happy. I know him and I know his relationship with
Stacy. He has something with you he never had with her: he TRUSTS you, more than he's ever trusted anyone. I know
it doesn't look like that, what with the heel skipping town but I've known House for many years. You are the BEST thing
this hospital could've ever asked for, and these bonuses," she opened her purse and pulled out envelopes, giving each of
us one, "are the LEAST we could do for you for a job well done." I opened my envelope...and my mouth dropped.
$10,000!

   "Are you sure?" I asked, still eyeing the check, making sure it was real I think.

   "Absolutely. Now, I'm ready for dinner. Shall we go?" And, with that, we left.
*****

The next morning I grumbled as the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. Stumbling in the bathroom I turned on the shower,
preparing to wash away the tears I'd cried myself to sleep with.
*****
   An hour later, with my rental car completely packed (Dana and Derrick weren't going to London...they were going
back to Chicago for a long rest) I pulled into the Mullins' driveway. I was just helping George out of the car when the
house door opened and Gracie, moving as quickly as she could, met me and enveloped me in a hug. "HALEY!" she
wailed, burying her face in my stomach. "I don't want you to go!"

   I felt a tear fall down my cheek as I held her tight. "I know, pumpkin, but I have to."
    She squeezed me and continued wailing..."NO! You can stay here, at our house, and have your baby. I can babysit
for you! PLEASE (SNIFFLE) DON'T (COUGH) GO! (HICCUP)" I couldn't hold back the tears...and I began sobbing. I felt
an arm around my shoulders and saw, through the haze of my tears, Miriam watching me, tears also in her eyes.
Squishing Gracie between us, I grabbed Miriam and we cried together. George blended into the background...he knew to
leave us alone, at least for a bit.

    After a few moments Miriam pulled away and smiled weakly. "I think we should go inside...if we stand out here any
longer, in this state, the neighbors will get concerned. Come on," She took my hand and led me inside, Gracie still
clutched to my mid-section and George right behind us.

    We settled in the living room, where Maggie and Frank joined us. After a few moments of awkward silence, Gracie,
whom I had pulled on my lap, cheered up a bit. "Oh, Haley! I almost forgot! I made a present for you!" She scooted
off my lap and went into the kitchen, returning moments later with a crudely-wrapped box. She stood in front of me and
handed it to me. "I wrapped it myself. These are my most favorite stickers." The package, wrapped in newspaper, was
covered with various Disney character stickers...and it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.

   "Oh, Gracie-Lou, this is beautiful!" and she beamed at my compliment. With a happy smile I carefully removed the
paper then I opened the box...and found a necklace. It was made entirely of tiny strung seed beads, of every color
imaginable, in no particular color order. In the middle was a charm that said, "I LOVE YOU". The moment I read it I
began crying.

    Sniffling, I calmed and smiled at Miriam. "Pardon the Mommy hormones...still trying to get used to it." She nodded.
I turned to Gracie, who was still waiting for my response...and all I could do was grab her for another hug. "Gracie-Lou,
this is the most beautiful gift you could've ever given me." I slipped it over my head. "I will wear it ALWAYS." She
hugged me tighter then, leaving my lap, grabbed George and sat on the ground, rocking him and saying, "Oh, my
Georgie! Oh, my Georgie!" Suddenly I had a brilliant idea and, not wanting to suggest it to Gracie just yet, I leaned to
Miriam, who was sitting beside me, and whispered in her ear. When I'd finished, her face lit up and she beamed, then
nodded. She went over to Frank and told him, who also had the same reaction, nodding to me. I smiled then looked
down at Gracie.

   "Gracie-Lou? Can you do me a HUGE favor? I mean, really, really HUGE?"

   Gracie looked up from where she was playing with George and, seeing the steady seriousness on my face nodded.
"Yes."

   "Good...it's very, very important that you help me. While I'm in London, can you watch George for me? That way,
when I'm done there, I can come back and see you and pick up George. How does that sound?"

   Gracie's small could've lit an entire small town. "REALLY?!! Can I?" she looked at her parents who happily nodded.
"YEAH! George! You get to stay here boy! How does that sound?" He looked at her and, knowing something good was
happening, barked...but he wouldn't realize until a bit later that he wasn't going home just yet. I smiled then stood up.

    "I'm going out to the car to get his things. I'll be right back." Frank immediately stood up and followed me outside,
helping me carry the things in. We settled George and, by the time we were done, it was time for me to leave. I turned
to Gracie. "Gracie-Lou, it's time for me to leave." My eyes welled with tears for the 50th time that morning (I was still
surprised I had any tears left...I'd been crying all week) and I knelt in front of her. "But I'll be back to pick up George."

    Once again, Gracie began wailing, "PLEASE DON'T GO!" and latched onto me. After a few moments I pried her off of
me (though I wasn't happy about it) and, after a few more hugs and lots more tears, I started to my car...then I heard
a very familiar baying coming from the house. I turned around and saw George standing at the glass door...it was his
turn to protest. WOLF! WOLF! It was an unhappy bark, a "Where do you think you're going?" bark. I strode to the door
and opened it, where he took two steps out, looked up at me, and bayed unhappily. I sank to the ground, grabbed him
in my arms and whispered promises: promises that I'd return soon; promises that he'll have fun with Gracie; promises
that things would return to what they were before Jersey. He wasn't happy but he stopped barking...he knew it had to
be, but just temporarily. I set him back and, waving one last goodbye to everyone (who was huddled together,
comforting the wailing Gracie), I started the car and left for the airport...leaving behind what remained of the heart Greg
took with him when he left.
*****
“Welcome to Flight 325, nonstop from New York to London…” I tuned the flight attendant out right
there.

   So, here we are everyone...what a journey. Who knew I'd come to Jersey to shoot a calendar and leave
pregnant...and the baby's daddy go AWOL. Life really can throw you a curve, can't it?

     I returned to the present just in time to hear the captain come on the PA system: "Excuse me, ladies and gentleman.
Due to a major screw-up with the baggage, we will be de-boarding. Unfortunately, we don't know how long the delay
will be. Please wait for instructions from your flight attendants. Thank you for your patience." The coach section where
I was sitting (The price of going to London on first-class is OUTRAGEOUS! You'd fly coach, too...) was riddled with a
collective "GROAN!" and everyone began stirring in their seats.

    The flight attendant came back on the PA system: "The staircase has arrived and we will be de-boarding row by row.
Please don't rush, please don't push. We aren't in a hurry and everything is ok. Please make sure you have your carry-
ons with you." Everyone stood at their seats and, since we were in the middle of our section, we had to wait a bit. I
pulled out my carry-on duffel bag from the top compartment then looked over at the gentleman beside me. He smiled
and handed back the calendar.

   "That's a very impressive calendar. I noticed you were in several of the pictures. Do you work there?" I shook my
head.

   "Nope...I'm the head photographer. I took most of the pictures."

   He nodded, clearly impressed. "Well, young lady," he handed me his card. "I'm very impressed. I hire independent
photographers to work for me...and I like your work. Call me...we'll set up a meeting." I smiled and nodded, then
tucked the card into my pocketbook.

    It was finally our turn and we filed off, walking back to the terminal. The terminal's waiting room was abuzz with
news of our delay but I didn't feel like sitting so I walked to the door that lead out of the waiting room. I was stopped by
an airline official. "May I check your boarding pass?" I pulled it out and showed it to her. Her look was completely
devoid of expression. "Please have your boarding pass ready when you return. Your bag will be scanned again once you
return."

   "Where are the restrooms?"

   "Turn left...down the hall, the third door on the right."

   "Thank you." I smiled and wearily walked down the hall. I found the bathrooms deserted so I used the facilities then
washed my face, mentally preparing myself for the long flight. Sighing one more time, I walked out the bathroom
doors...and what I saw stopped me in my tracks...
*****

"Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing? Nah...it's probably just a mirage." I thought...but, just to make sure, I rubbed my
eyes. The image was still there! Standing six feet away was...

   Dr. Gregory House.

    He was leaning on his cane while holding a bag in his right hand...and in his left it looked to be a...leash? I followed
the leash to what was at the end...a Basset Hound, a pink satin ribbon tied around her (I assumed, since the ribbon was
pink, it was a she) neck!

   Needless to say, my heart, my stomach, my mind was a jumble of nerves but I didn't want to sound desperate...or
needy...or upset...or just about anything other than cool and calm. So, taking about three steps forward, I calmly laid my
baggage down, stood up straight and crossed my arms, arching my eyebrow. (READER, I DON'T KNOW HOW I DID
THIS...IT TOOK EVERY OUNCE OF SELF-CONTROL I HAD TO REMAIN THIS CALM.)
    "Hello Jules. Long time no see." Those simple words told Greg everything I needed to say...that I was upset he
left...and, "Where the HELL have you been?". He didn't say anything but I saw something different about him...he looked
to be, almost, at peace. The lines which normally criss-crossed his face seemed...smoother. Now, either he was taking
advantage of the latest Botox craze...or he was a changed man. I was certainly hoping it was the latter.

    "Hello Haley." He didn't say anything else...but the pleading in his eyes begged for me to let him explain. I couldn't
stay mad...the eyebrow dropped, the arms fell to my side. I heard a WHOOSH!...he'd been holding his breath! My heart
raced faster.

   "Where the HELL have you been?" I asked, my voice wavering. My self-control left the minute he let out that
WHOOSH!. "And why are you here now?"
*****

He fidgetted then started thumping his cane against the linoleum. "I, uh..." he face palmed. "Ok, do you want the short-
short version; the medium version; or the War and Peace version?"

   "Medium is fine."

    He nodded. "That day, after the photoshoot, when we were together, I saw my life flash before my eyes, so fast I my
mind was whirling, swirling together. The only thing is...it was what my life was and the different versions of how it could
be, with and without you. I couldn't breathe...I couldn't think...I couldn't make sense of anything. I...just...panicked."
He sighed and looked around. Pointing to a bench against the way, he asked, "Can we sit down?" I nodded and picked
up my duffel bag and purse, following him and that adorably clumsy Basset...who had the most gorgeous shades of tan
and white I'd ever seen. The poor thing kept tripping over her ears. I had to keep from laughing.

   He sat about six inches from me. "Before you continue," I said, looking into his eyes, "who is that?" I pointed to the
dog.

   "Well, she doesn't have a name..." he began, then held out the leash. I took it and intentionally caressed his fingers
during the exchange...just to let him know I wasn't COMPLETELY mad at him. I knew I could never be that. I heard his
sharp intake of breath and looked at him. His eyes were watching me...so full of hope, wonder. He coughed. "...but my
man George needs a companion..."

    I smiled and looked down at her. She looked up, gave me the most adorable doggie grin (Even cuter than
George's...hard to believe, huh? She'll have George eating right out of her...paw.) and my heart melted. "Mmm...she
looks like a Gretta. What do you think?"

    He looked at her and, giving her one of his incredibly endearing head tilts, studied her. It wasn't until she turned
on one of her winning smiles that I could see Dr. Gregory House melt...if that was possible. 'Wow,' I thought. 'He
certainly IS different.' "Sounds like a good choice."

   I bent down and lifted Gretta onto my lap...and she immediately gave me a doggie kiss. "Oh, that's my girl!" I cooed
then turned to Greg. "Ok, so you panicked..."

    "So I panicked. I left...not telling anyone where I was going. I had to think...and I've done some of my best thinking
while riding my bike. So I drove...and drove...until I, inexplicably, wound up at my parent's house. You know my
relationship with my parents." I nodded and scooted closer, laying a hand on his wounded thigh, trying to give him some
of my strength. He sighed. "I did something I'd never done before...I cried in front of my parents. I spilled everything
about Stephanie's death...and what it's done to me. I told them how I was suffering over and over and over again and,
for once, they actually listened."

   "Oh, Greg, that's absolutely wonderful. What happened next?"

    "I saw another miracle...my father CRIED. I didn't even know the guy had tear ducts...and here I am, a doctor. I
just never thought it was possible for him to cry. He actually apologized for what happened and how he treated me. We
spent a few days together, then I left."
   "Where did you go next?"

   He paused and looked at his hands...and I could see a bit of guilt on his face. "I came back here...on Tuesday
morning."
*****

There was absolute silence for a few moments then he looked up to see me watching him. I was so furious...my face
was probably red. I couldn't help it...he came back and HE DIDN'T TELL ME!

   Willing myself to stay calm I very cooly, calculatingly asked, "Why did you come back without telling me? Did you not
want to see me?"

    I saw his face change. "I, um..." he began and I could see he was trying to choose his words wisely. Smart man, I
thought, still absolutely livid. "During my visit with my parents, I told them about you: how we met, what you are doing
here...how, um, close we've become. I told them I loved you but was afraid...afraid of getting hurt. And I'm admitting it
to you now, finally: I'm afraid of being hurt." He paused then looked at his hands again.

    "Anyway, my father, being the military man he is, said, "When I was in WW2, I was TERRIFIED before every battle. I
almost went AWOL a couple of times. Did you know that?" Haley, I was absolutely blown away by that confession. My
entire life my father's been this rock-solid, nothing-ever-phased-him kind of guy. It's strained our relationship.
    But when I heard he wasn't so tough, it did make it easier to deal because I realized that I don't have to be like my
father: I am capable of getting better, I am capable of being happy. I was afraid of trying, since I'm not like him at all.
    He then said something very interesting..."But do you know what kept me going? Your mother. If something
happened to Haley, right at this moment, would you be able to march into battle?" Haley, I knew then I couldn't do it: I
couldn't overcome my fear, my pride, my self-loathing without you. I knew I couldn't go through LIFE without you.
That's why I came back." he paused.

   "Then my father said, "Besides, you are about to become a father. You've got responsibilities." "

    My mouth dropped and I felt like crying. Uh, oh, I thought. He knows...but how?

   Greg smiled. "I overheard your conversation with Cuddy and Hoffman...and Cuddy later confirmed. I knew about the
baby when we had the baby conversation the last time we were together. It wasn't the baby that made me bolt...strange
enough. I am thrilled about it. There were a couple of times, in the past, where there had been pregnancy scares...and
I was just that...TERRIFIED. But having a baby with you seems...right somehow. I'm ok with it."

   I started crying and Greg rolled his eyes. "Oh brother. Nine months of this blabbering hormonal crap. Not only will I
have to take it from Cameron and Cuddy, but you too, huh?"

     I stopped crying and narrowed my watery eyes at him. "Listen here, buster. What makes you think you have to take
it at all? What makes you think you can come back here and sweet-talk me? You left, then came back AND YOU DIDN'T
TELL ME?!? WHAT'S GOING ON? WHY DID YOU COME BACK EARLY?"

   "You really want to know?" I nodded. "Fine, I'll tell you..."
*****

"You know me, Haley...I like to make a big, dramatic scene. I needed to be in town to make my plan work.

    First, I wanted to woo you with something most unusual...and I decided on Gretta. So, with a bit of help from
Gracie's sister, Maggie, she located a Basset Hound rescue...and I picked her up on Thursday.

    Next, I needed something to convince you I was serious...so..." Greg reached over and brought the bag to his lap.
He pulled out a box. "I picked this up for you." I looked into his eyes...and my anger subsided. Actually, it was cut in
half when he used the word "woo" but this box made the rest disappear. You know, I never even imagined that Greg
knew the word "woo". I guess we all learn something new, right?
   Anyway, I took the small black box and untied the white satin bow. I pulled out the velvety box and opened it...then
gasped. I was absolutely speechless...it was the ring James showed me! I looked at him in confusion. "Bu...James...he,
um, showed me this ring, said he was proposing to Alison."

    Greg nodded. "When I got back on Tuesday, I called Wilson. I needed him to help me with my plan. He told me he
was proposing to Cameron...and that's when I came up with the idea of him showing you your ring under the guise that
it was for Cameron. I needed to know if you liked it..." he watched my face, my eyes mesmerized with the shiny bling-
bling. "...I think you do."

    "It's the most gorgeous ring I've ever seen..." I started, but he took it out of my hands and, plucking it out of the
box, he knelt, the best way he could. My eyes went wide with amazement. "...but you aren't romantic. You don't like
this mushy stuff. You don't have to do that."

   Greg shrugged. "It's...not so bad...as long as you have the right girl...and I have the best."

    "WHAAA!" I let out a cry as close to Lucy Ricardo from I Love Lucy as I could get. He instantly tried to calm me
down...and he looked over his shoulder at the growing numbers of people watching our little melodrama. "Oh, geez," he
muttered and face palmed. "Haley, baby, please calm down. We've got a crowd." I calmed to a sniffle and looked up to
see that, indeed, we did have a crowd...including the gentleman from the seat beside me. Finally deciding to ignore the
onlookers, he looked up at me...I'm still holding Gretta, mind you...and asked, with all the sincerity I knew was there but,
for some reason, was always long-buried, "Haley Wellington, I love you. I want to marry you...and have more children.
Will you marry me?" His eyes darkened to a royal blue...and how could I refuse?

   "Dr. Gregory House...Yes...I will marry you." the crowd erupted into cheering as he slowly came forward, removed
the dog from my lap, pulled me to him, and kissed me like a thirsty man taking his first drink.

   I pulled away and smiled, caressing his face, running my hands through his hair. "Darling," I whispered. "is there
anything else involved in this elaborate plan of yours? Does it include the baggage on my flight to London?"

   He pulled away and moved to sit on the bench beside me. There was a twinkle in his eye..."Perhaps...and perhaps
there's more..."
*****

"Next, I needed to have the perfect circumstances to make my sudden appearance. I know half the guys that work for
this airline...a freak meningitis outbreak several years ago made them my patients. As a result, they all owed me
favors...and I decided to cash them in. The Captain, who is also my neighbor, went along with the charade...in fact,
they're standing right over there." He pointed to my right...and I saw a group of airline employees watching us with
smiles on their faces. I finger-waved and said, "Hello boys." Greg and the guys grunted at this...but they had smiles on
their faces.

   "Ok, now I had the ring; the dog; the flight hold-up. There's only two things left...the first is right here." He pulled
out two envelopes and handed them to me.

   "Airline tickets to...VEGAS!?! Whatever for?"

   He shrugged then said, nonchalantly, "I thought we could gamble; go shopping; get married."

    My eyes widened. "Wh...married?!? Now?? What about my sister? The other doctors? I couldn't get married
without, at least, my sister there."

    "We will be there, Haley," I turned and saw Dana, Derrick and the rest of the doctors standing there with grins on
their faces...and airline tickets in their hands. "Greg told us on Friday what was going on...and none of us wanted to miss
a weekend in Vegas. Besides, we had to see you get married by Elvis."

   I narrowed my eyes at her. "You mean, you've known about this and you DIDN'T TELL ME? Your own sister? That
was pretty sly, wasn't it? Besides, what about the shoot in London? We can't give up that engagement."
   "Actually..." Dana said, shrugging. "I got a phone call on Thursday saying the party was postponed for two days.
Derrick and I will go shoot it, and we don't need to be there until Wednesday. Gives us enough time to gamble a bit and
see you get married. There's absolutely nothing to stop you from saying no, is there?"

    I shrugged though, secretly, I was absolutely thrilled. "I guess, since the tickets are bought...and everyone's here," I
looked down, "with luggage, we might as well do it." I looked at the tickets...the flight was scheduled for another hour.
"Greg," I began and he turned to me, taking me in his arms. I leaned closer to his ear. "I want to have our honeymoon
nights AWAY from the crowd...is that possible?" he pulled away and gave me a sly grin...apparently he'd already thought
of that. "Honeymoon suite, MGM Grand." I whistled.

   "That must've been difficult...short notice and everything." I said then, studying him, I rolled my eyes. "Oh, let me
guess: you know a guy whose second cousin bowls with the brother of the gardener of the manager of the hotel?"

   Greg winked. "Something like that." He held up a finger in a 'A-ha!' gesture. "OH! Here's the last reason I came
back early." He pulled out a set of keys and dropped them in my hands. I looked at them, then back at him.

   "What are these?"

   "Keys...you know: they unlock doors that are locked, to keep others out." I rolled my eyes.

   "Thank you, Inspector Clouseau. I never would've gotten that one. What are the keys to...what do they unlock?"

   "Oh! Why didn't you just say that? They unlock the new house I'm looking at. After all, we need room for the baby
and my apartment is too small. When we get back, we'll go look at it. I know they don't usually give you the keys if
you're just looking at the house but, see, the realtor and I go back a long way..."

   I held up my hand...he didn't need to explain anything. Man, Greg seems to know everyone, doesn't he? Despite
that last part, I was still blown-away and my mouth involuntarily dropped when I saw how serious he was. I leaned
forward, placed my hands (though still holding the keys) against his face and brought him to me, my mouth telling his
mouth how happy he's made me. We kept kissing and kissing until...

   "AHEM!" a deep, masculine cough rattled our kiss and we pulled apart to find the Captain of the flight to London
watching us. "So, I take it she's not going, is she?" Everyone looked at me.

   "Nope...not going."

   "Good...I've got a bird to get in the air. Good luck kids...and Greg? We'll go to a Monster Truck Rally sometime, ok?"

   Greg grinned. "Absolutely, Ted...and thank you." He saluted us then took off. A baggage handler brought over my
luggage and then took off as well, following his captain. Greg turned to me. "Are you ready?"

   I nodded. "Yes I'm ready...for whatever happens."

                           THE END....

				
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