Foreman snorted. Taub and Hadley merely stared at their pamphlets in silent horror.
"She can't mean all of us surely," Chase insisted.
"And Wilson too." House twirled his cane overhead while spinning his chair in the opposite direction. His pamphlet was untouched on the table.
"What did Wilson do?" Taub asked.
"But she can't mean all of us," Chase repeated. "I didn't do anything wrong."
House stopped twirling just long enough to give him a pointed look.
"And while we're all gone, no one is allowed to get sick. Is that it?"
"Apparently the hospital has other doctors."
"Why Wilson?" Taub asked again.
"We're the crack diagnostics team. Who else at this hospital can fill all of our shoes?" Chase was starting to look even paler than usual.
"Apparently there are other hospitals."
"No, really, what did Wilson do?"
Hadley tried to wave Taub off. "Just let it go."
"But she can't actually force us--" Chase tried again.
House stopped twirling altogether and pointed his cane at Taub.
"Wilson," he began, then stopped and shook off what appeared to be a momentary dizzy spell. "Wilson, and this really is the best part, Wilson called me 'a lying, backstabbing, manipulative, fucking ass.'"
The crack diagnostics team was silent. Hadley glared at her pamphlet. Several seconds passed before she said, "But you are a lying, backstabbing, manipulative, fucking ass."
"In front of a nun!" House beamed. "It was awesome!"
"Did he know she was a nun?" Foreman asked.
"She was in a full body cast." House shrugged. "Also, I might have told him she didn't speak English."
"Okay, short version," Chase snapped. "This is your fault."
House nodded and smirked. "Most things are generally. I wonder why that is."
"Because ... you're a lying, backstabbing, manipulative, fucking ass?" Taub suggested.
"We all have to go and it's your fault." Chase faced House's general direction, but his eyes were unfocused or possibly he was staring at a spot in the center of House's brain.
"Haven't we done worse things before than use the F word in front of a nun?" Hadley asked still glaring at her pamphlet. "I mean, this seems extreme."
"Well, yes," House agreed. "That ’yes’ is to all of you, by the way. And," he continued, pointing at Hadley, "that is why all of you have to go. The nun--"
House seemed to be fighting the urge to giggle.
"--was the great niece of one of the hospital's largest donors--and I assume by largest that Cuddy was referring to his wallet and not his pants size or--"
House tipped his cane in the air and waggled his eyebrows in what he probably thought was a suggestive manner.
"--and he in turn had what I understand to be a very lengthy chat with Cuddy about our whole team and this workshop retreat place that he also sponsors because apparently--"
"Could you possibly complete one sentence before you begin another?" Foreman tapped his pamphlet against the table impatiently.
"Well, apparently, when you're stuck in a full body cast, there's not much else to do but eavesdrop."
Hadley bit her lip and glanced guiltily at Foreman.
"Oh, are we suddenly remembering things we may have said or done in front of a harmless looking young woman in a body cast?"
Taub frowned at House. "Why are you enjoying this? This is going to be hell for you." He opened the pamphlet carefully. "'Always remember that there is no I in team,'" he quoted.
House visibly shuddered.
"'Through interactive professionally facilitated sessions, we foster a shared experience. Our high performance team programs provide a range of skills-based and experiential team building programs that build strong, trust-oriented teams. If you want to energize your people and inspire them to collaborate and bond in new ways--"
"Stop, stop, stop! No more!" House cringed, eyes tight, and very slowly peeked one eye open. "Tell me you just made that up."
"You didn't even read the pamphlet?!" Hadley asked. "How could you agree to this if you didn't even read the pamphlet?!"
House glanced warily at the pamphlet on the table in front of him and then back at his team. "But there's free food, right?"
* * *
"You see?" Wilson waved impatiently at the line of people between them and the check-in desk.
"There's a line? They expect us to line up for this?"
"If you'd actually been ready instead of--"
"There was a Starbucks about five miles back. We could go have a latte and come back when the line clears."
"It was closer to ten miles back,” Wilson insisted, “and the solution to being late is not making us even more late."
"What do you mean the shuttle left without us?!" There was the briefest of moments when Wilson appeared to contemplate House's new powers of ventriloquy and then they both turned toward an obnoxious voice at the front of the line.
"The sign-in time was clearly announced as 2pm and it's 2:15 now," the clerk cheerfully explained.
"Fifteen minutes late and you abandon us in this godforsaken wasteland?!"
Even House paused to glance at the well-appointed lobby. "Well ... we are over five miles from the nearest Starbucks. I suppose that technically counts."
"It's okay," the clerk added. "They knew there were a few stragglers so they'll come back as soon as they've dropped everyone else off at the cabin."
"We'll miss the introduction circle," a woman next to Obnoxious Guy whined. "We'll be at a disadvantage on the first trust challenge. We were supposed to kick ass this year and now we're starting at a disadvantage."
House and Wilson blinked at each other.
"Did she say 'cabin'?" House asked.
"Did she say 'the' cabin?" Wilson asked.
Several others in line ahead of them picked up on their concern and a general murmur began to build.
"My husband and I were expressly promised a private luxury suite!" one woman called out from mid-line.
Another clerk quickly jumped in to quell the rising panic. "No, no, the group cabin is for the corporate teamwork building workshop weekend. The couples romance building workshop participants will be in the poolside suites."
There was a collective sigh -- a collective sigh, with two notable hold-outs.
"She said 'the group cabin'," House and Wilson repeated.
"So," House called out to the teamwork builders who had moved off to sulk on the lobby couches. "It sounds like you've done this before. Just out of curiosity, what's this teamwork thing like?"
There were six of them in their group, but the four who had not yet spoken gave no indication of ever speaking. One curled up in the farthest chair and immediately stuck her nose in a book. The other three seemed to cower before the dominant two.
"Because that teamwork thing is really working for you," Wilson muttered under his breath.
House elbowed him, but it was unnecessary. The teamwork builders gladly detailed last year's event for them in excruciating detail as they gradually worked their way to the front of the line.
"Hello! Welcome to Rainlight!" the clerk chirped. "Name?"
"House, Gregory and Wilson, James."
"Oh! More stragglers for the teamwork weekend!"
"Of course you just assume that because we're both men, we're not a real couple," House snarled.
"Greg." Wilson started to say something and allowed himself to be distracted by a red brochure on the counter.
The clerk blanched and read the computer screen again. "The reservation--"
"Is wrong also, I assume." House glowered.
"Greg." Wilson didn't look up from the two brochures in his hand, glancing between the red brochure and the green one he'd pulled out of his bag.
The clerk hesitated. "It ... says ... Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital teamwork building ... "
"We are both employed at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, yes, in completely different departments. Just because--"
"Greg!" Wilson snapped.
"They're denying our civil rights!"
"For the love of--"
"I...I'm sorry...I" the clerk stuttered.
“Well, you should be!”
"Greg!" Wilson slapped the counter. "Are you listening to yourself! This is exactly why Cuddy sent us to a couple's weekend in the first place."
House tried to look contrite while fighting back a smirk and turned his back on the clerk when he realized he was failing.
"I'm sure this was a perfectly honest and understandable mistake. Our employer sends us on an interpersonal relationship retreat the same weekend that she sends another team on a work-related teamwork workshop, they're bound to think we're part of the same group. But can you be polite and just ask them to fix the reservation? No, you have to make a scene. Everywhere we go you make a scene. I swear--" Wilson stepped away from the counter pulling House with him. Glancing back at the clerk to judge the distance, he added, "I swear, Greg, sometimes I really wonder why I married you."
"Don't apologize to me."
House took a deep sigh and turned back to the clerk. "I am sorry. I recognize that this is neither your fault nor an oppressive conspiracy against our love."
"I am so sorry," the clerk insisted as she quickly typed in the computer. "You have our deepest apologies. I'm upgrading you to a suite near the pool. Would you prefer first floor?" She tried not to look at House's cane. "Or ... the second floor has a lovely view from the balcony...?"
"First floor near the pool would be perfect. Thank you."
The clerk breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. She rang the bell for the bellhop with perhaps more vigor than merited, but otherwise seemed to be regaining her composure.
As they followed the bellhop to their suite, House nudged Wilson. "Thank you, but why?"
Wilson handed House the red pamphlet.
* * *
"House, where are you?"
Foreman's voice crackled faintly over the cellphone and House had to concentrate to hear the words, which he wasn't willing to do as he was reading the red pamphlet again. The green one had drawings of leaves and trees on the front and a ring of trees seemed to be holding branches in a cozy teamwork-y kind of way. The red one had interlocked hearts and two stick figures seemed to be snuggling although how snuggly you could get if you were a stick, House didn't know. He pulled the cellphone away from his ear to check it for the time.
"We have fifteen minutes until the wine-n-cheese meet-n-greet."
"I didn't pack for this," Wilson muttered. "The pamphlet said 'hiking' and..." He waved vaguely as he pawed through the clothing in his suitcase. "What do you think 'treetop harness' means anyway?"
"Can you hear me now?" Foreman crackled.
"I don't even have a jacket or a tie. Will you talk to him already?"
"What do you possibly need a tie for? And it says here 'moonlit stroll.' That's sort of a hike. And tomorrow there's a talk about 'physical expressions of intimacy.' You know that means sex so maybe you'll still get your harness."
"House, can you hear me?"
"House, where are you? The last group just hiked in and they said we have everyone now, which we obviously do not."
"Hiked in? I thought there was a shuttle?"
"The cabin is about a mile back off of the drive."
"Well, obviously even Cuddy can't expect me to hike into the wilderness."
"It's a graded path. House, we've got a guy here in a wheelchair. You can't use your cane as an excuse."
"Damned paraplegics always showing off." He threw a shoe at Wilson. "What you're wearing is fine. And we've got thirteen minutes until the wine and cheese."
"What about Thirteen? House, I'm having trouble hearing you. They're jamming cellphones in the cabin to avoid 'distractions' and I had to hike out away from the cabin and there's a brook here and it's--"
"Babbling? Very quaint. What I said was Wilson and I are at the other workshop in another building. We won't be joining you. We have special issues to work out here. Much more important than hiking. Sorry. And we have twelve minutes to get to the opening meeting." He mouthed the word 'cheese' at Wilson and flipped the suitcase closed.
"What? Cuddy sent us to work on our teamwork. We can't do that if you're not here. Did you read the pamphlet yet? 'There's no I in team,' remember?"
"Well, then obviously I don't need to be there."
"Love and kisses to the whole team." He tossed the cellphone on the bed and picked up his cane. He grabbed Wilson by the sweater sleeve and tugged him toward the door. "Let's go. They're probably setting up the cheeses already."
"You could at least do him the courtesy of hanging up on him. Foreman is persistent. Who knows how long he'll be talking to empty air."
"It'll give him the chance to work on his communication skills," House said as he tugged the door closed behind them.
"That's really not how that works at all. Fortunately we have a talk on communication scheduled after the wine and cheese. Maybe they'll define the word for you."
In the dark empty room behind them, Foreman's small tinny voice called out.
"Can you hear me now?"
* * *
"Greg, get your hand off my ass." Wilson didn't look up from the spread of food as he filled his plate with fruit and cheese.
"Drop it. No one is buying the cutesy act. It's condescending to everyone here to even pretend. Okay? So, drop it. You earn zero points for conning anyone into believing we're a happy couple, so why even try?"
Several couples nearby stole glances in their direction and House smiled at them awkwardly. "James, darling--"
"Let's be emphatically clear on this, Greg. No matter how many times you call me 'honey' or 'darling' or try to play all snuggly in public, you are not getting laid tonight."
Some of the eavesdroppers edged away from them while others seemed to be paying even closer attention now.
"In fact," Wilson continued, raising his voice, "let's be completely clear on this. You are not getting laid this weekend by anyone." He waved a toothpick of gouda in a circle to encompass the whole room. "Anyone."
"Don't think for a minute I didn't see that look between you and the CPA."
A woman in an ankle-length skirt strode purposefully across the room towards them. Her long gray hair was neatly woven into a thick braid down her back. A nametag pinned to her shawl identified her as "Edda" and "Facilitator".
"Hello! It's Greg and James, do I have that right?"
"Yes, Edda, hello again." Wilson gently kicked House in the ankle when it was apparent that he wasn't going to say anything. "Say hello, Greg. It's polite."
"Hello. Lovely cheese."
"I'm so glad you're enjoying it. You know," she added confidentially, "I couldn't help but overhear ... and I just wanted to reassure you that you are not the only couple here with difficulties. Many couples come here to strengthen an already strong bond, but most chose to attend this retreat due to issues that they need help resolving. Because of this, we do ask that everyone be aware of the fact that many of your fellow participants can be particularly sensitive to comments that might provoke jealousy or other insecurities."
Without actually looking in their direction, she managed to roll her eyes significantly towards a woman who was sitting in a nearby corner cutting an apple into improbably small pieces with an almost vicious thoroughness.
"That," House whispered, leaning in to Wilson's ear, "is the CPA's wife."
"Ah. Oh. I am sorry."
"It's quite all right. This is the first day and our sessions haven't even formally begun. It's understandable if we haven't all had time to detoxify our energies from the outside world yet."
House leaned in closer, this time in a genuine whisper. "And I was almost starting to like her."
"The important thing that I wanted both of you to realize right away is that you are in a safe space here and there is no need for defensive language or behavior. We don't want anyone to feel like they have to pretend to be anything they aren't."
"We really appreciate that," House said, holding his hand to his chest. "And, James, I want you to know I have honestly never loved you more than I do now."
Edda nodded brightly. "That's the spirit."
"Lovely sentiment," Wilson agreed. "You're still not getting laid."
He stole a orange slice off of House's plate and walked away.
* * *
"It's just allergies. Give him 25mg of diphenhydramine." House pulled a pillow over his face to block the light as Wilson opened the curtain.
Chase's annoying accent continued in his ear. "I really think this could be something serious."
"Wilson? Why are you trying to kill me?" His voice was muffled slightly by the pillow.
"The last time I checked, you weren't a vampire. Sunlight will not kill you."
"It'll serve you right when I start to sparkle."
Chase continued without acknowledging the interruption. "Dr. House, I believe this case would be of interest to you. The subject is exhibiting...."
"Wait, he's there with you now?" House perked up at the smell of subterfuge. "You're trying to convince this guy he has some horrid rare disease just to get out of your teamwork weekend?"
"House." Wilson stole the pillow and then whapped him on the head with it. "We have an 8:30 seminar on emotional vulnerability. If you don't get up now, you'll miss the breakfast buffet."
"No, you can go and stand in line at the buffet and do an 8:30 emotionally vulnerable seminar. I'm going to the 9 o'clock pedicure and breakfast tea where they bring you the food."
"Oh, drop it, Chase. It's allergies. I'm sure one of your team leaders is packing diphenhydramine. They've got to see a lot of this kind of thing this season."
A grating voice broke through the background noise. "What?! What is it? I have insurance!"
"House," Wilson held a piece of paper in front of Houses' face. "The pedicures are for the women. The men are supposed to learn about emotional vulnerability."
"That's sexist. I'm getting a pedicure."
"Dammit , House!" Chase whined. "They're talking about paintball wars later! Can't you at least pretend the man is dying?"
"So, you're willing in essence to officially announce to everyone that you are the de facto wife in this relationship?" Wilson smirked.
"We could both get pedicures."
Wilson glanced at the day's itinerary again. "I'm in."
Chase sighed in defeat. “C'mon, we'll go see if Skye has any Benedr--”
House glanced at the disconnected cell. “You know, the boy is smarter than he looks.”
* * * * *
“Wait.” House's voice dropped an octave and he narrowed his eyes.
Edda sensed trouble immediately and tensed. “Remember, the purpose here is to learn and grow from shared knowledge and accept feedback without resistant...”
House waved her off and focused on Wilson. “You actually mean that.”
Wilson shrugged, “Yeah.”
“You're not just saying that to be a dick. You believe that.”
Edda nodded and smiled nervously at the whole group. “It's very important to be honest. Don't hold back out of fear or embarrassment. We've heard it all here. But also don't overstate or exaggerate a problem to win an argument and absolutely no lies within the circle of honesty.”
Wilson crossed his heart, “By the Circle of Honesty, I swear I believe it.”
“How could you possibly think I'm bad in bed?!” House sputtered.
“Constructive feedback!” Edda whimpered.
“Well, let's see. For starters, you are the most selfish person I know.”
“But observant! Detail oriented! Good with my hands!”
“Only when it serves your own interests. If it doesn't interest you, you are oblivious.”
“It's called being single-minded and goal-oriented. These are good things in bed.”
“For another, you don't listen to constructive feedback.”
Edda nodded and tried to dive back in. “Being adaptable to constructive feedback is important in all areas of a relationship.”
House sputtered, but Wilson continued, “And, by your own admission, you prefer to have sex with prostitutes so you don't have to concern yourself with another human being's emotional needs.”
House bit his lip and finally shrugged. “Okay, you've got me there.”
“Okay,” Edda chirped with artificial brightness, “I think it's break time. Can I get anyone tea?”
* * * * *
"What do you mean Wilson isn't there?" Taub asked.
"I mean Wilson is somewhere else. That's what 'not here' generally means."
"So ... you're not building teamwork skills with your team and you're not building teamwork skills with Wilson ... so for you, this weekend is all about ... ?"
"Oh, I'm making lots of new friends." House raised his margarita and smiled at the couple across the pool. "Lovely weather for a soak in the hot tub, isn't it? Are you sure you don't want to join me?"
The couple smiled nervously and firmly shook their heads no. "Maybe after James comes back," the woman replied.
"There's a hot tub? Seriously?"
"I thought Foreman said you didn't get cell phone reception in the cabin."
"We're not in the cabin,” Taub explained. “We're having a trust challenge."
"I don't think those two words really go together."
"Tell me about it."
"Is a trust challenge anything like an honesty exercise? We had one of those earlier and it didn't quite--" House paused and listened intently to the cell phone. "Was that Chase girlie screaming? If the answer is yes, I want details ... and video if possible."
"Chase isn't really fond of heights and Thirteen keeps rocking the safety lines."
“I'm in a tree."
"You're in a hot tub and I'm in a tree."
"Is there a harness involved?"
"There in fact is."
"You'll have to tell Wilson all about it when he gets back."
"He drove into town to do some shopping. He's got this hangup about not having packed appropriately for the weekend. Edda gave him directions to a store where he could pick up swim suits."
"You're in a hot tub naked, aren't you?"
"I in fact am."
"Thank you. You've just made me grateful that I'm in a tree."
* * *
“You steal my lunch at work! You erase important phone messages!”
“You sawed half-way through my cane as a prank. I could have broken my neck!”
“What?!” It turned out that Edda had not, as she previously claimed, “heard it all.”
“Don't forget you showing up with that tranny hooker!”
“You deliberately destroyed my $12,000 guitar!”
Edda fluttered helplessly. “Perhaps we could discuss the underlying feelings leading to...”
“You convinced everyone at work that I was in a porn film!”
“You were in a porn film!”
“That wasn't me! Just the face, not the ... the ... You know that wasn't me!”
“You drugged me!”
“You drugged me first!”
“You slipped me uppers just before I had to do a breast exam! I could be in jail right now!”
“You were methodically slipping prescription anti-depressants into my coffee without telling me. Do you know the potential drug reactions that could have caused?”
“Oh, dear, now even I know that's not a safe thing to do,” Edda agreed, and for the first time House paid attention to her.
House stared into Edda's eyes and the entire room grew still with the, well, weirdness of it. Edda smiled brightly...again, which didn't seem terribly useful as a survival technique. An ancient holdover from the reptilian brain, a reflex to bare your fangs when threatened perhaps.
“Are you on any medications?” House asked.
“Excuse me?” Edda sputtered.
“Something that might explain nystagmus.”
“Or,” Wilson interrupted. “You know what else causes eye twitches? Being in the same room with you! Leave her alone.”
Houses nodded slowly, “Point.” He glanced around the room of wide-eyed and very mute couples. “Okay, so, um, someone else's turn.”
* * *
"There should be a cell tower immediately west of you,” House said. “Your signal only cuts out when you move east of the rocks. Form a line west of the ridge and you should all be able to stay in contact with each other."
Hadley was unconvinced. "Are you sure? We're in the middle of nowhere here."
"There's a big housing development just over the lake. Trust me, they have cell reception. You should be able to see the tower from there."
"I don't see a tower," she insisted.
"It's ... 'aesthetically camouflaged,'" House read off the web page.
"It's supposed to look like a tree,” he explained.
"What do you think?" Wilson asked, holding up two magazines. "Are you a steak-with-lime man or chicken-in-brandy?"
"What does this have to do with the project at hand?" House asked.
"Am I interrupting?" Hadley asked.
"We're working on a collage visually expressing our love and appreciation," House explained.
"We?" Wilson scoffed, taking the scissors to the page with the steak.
"What?" Hadley's voice was suddenly clear. "Oh, my God! I found it! It looks like a Lego tree! Aesthetic my ass."
"And our love is like a steak, how?" House leaned beyond his laptop and finally gave Wilson's collage his attention. "And ... linguini?"
"It's supposed to be a visual representation of reasons we love each other," Wilson explained, wiping paste off his fingers. "You can cook ... and ... so far that's all I've got."
House shrugged. "Works for me." Turning back to his computer he flipped browser windows. "Okay, just get everyone on the same side of the ridge-line and then there's a bridge to your north. You can coordinate and then cut around and surprise them."
"Awesome!" Hadley chirped. “Out!"
House pocketed his cell phone and picked up a discarded food magazine. "Ooo, waffles. You have to include waffles."
"When have you ever made me waffles?" Wilson asked
"Buy me a wafflemaker and I'll make waffles."
"I might actually hold you to that."
"So,” Wilson asked, “were you using Google Earth to help them cheat at paintball?"
"Yes. Was that wrong?"
"Yes. Also, technically teamwork."
"Don't tell Cuddy."
"You have one week to provide waffles or I'm ratting you out."
* * *
Wilson dragged all of their luggage to the lobby while House wandered off in search of their last free continental breakfast.
A few of the perkier couples were hugging new friends goodbye as a shuttle unloaded its bedraggled teams onto the pavement in front. Taub wandered into the lobby looking a bit like a shipwreck survivor and someone pointed him in the direction of the coffee.
Wilson stopped short of the exit and dashed over to where Edda was shaking hands with the departing participants. “If I could just have a quick word?” he asked, motioning her away from the crowd. “Look, Greg actually does have a knack for these things. I don't want to scare you. There are dozens of perfectly innocuous causes for involuntary eye twitches, but it also could be something more serious. Please schedule a full physical checkup with your doctor soon, okay?”
“Um ... okay.” Edda looked understandably nervous. “Look, there's something I wanted to talk to you about as well.”
Chase wandered in looking forlorn and blinked vacantly before slowly trudging in their direction.
House returned with two cups of coffee and handed one to Wilson. “Fab weekend, Edda! We'll miss you lots!”
Wilson switched coffee cups with House and prompted Edda, “You wanted to talk to us?”
Edda stared at the coffee cups and it seemed to firm up her resolve. “Yes. Yes, there is. You know I firmly believe that if two people have love and trust and respect for one another that they can conquer anything. ”
House drank from his cup after a moment and Wilson silently switched them back. Edda nodded to herself. “But without the trust and respect, sometimes love isn't enough.”
“I'm sorry,” House asked, “what are you saying?”
Taub wandered up with a danish and coffee. With a group beginning to close in, Edda leaned forward and blurted out, “Sometimes divorce really is the best option.”
Wilson laughed into his coffee and covered it with a cough.
“But!” House suddenly drew himself up in indignation and then without warning hugged Chase and Taub into his sides. “But what about the children?!”
“I ... I ... I'm sorry!” Edda fled across the lobby to another couple.
Hadley bounced in with Foreman at that moment. Foreman looked more relaxed than he had a right to be.
“Word,” Taub whispered. “Never challenge her to a round of Nerf-bats. The woman is vicious.”
Hadley and Foreman surveyed the situation. House was still hugging Taub and Chase to his sides. Taub was nibbling his danish without obvious concern. Chase was nervously eying House's coffee, currently too-close-for-comfort at nipple level. Wilson was still giggling.
“Um, what's going on?” Foreman asked.
“I believe according to tradition,” Taub said, “Wilson is going to take us all out for ice cream and reassure us he still loves us.”
Hadley shrugged. “Cool!”
Chase rolled his eyes in an obvious shoot-me-now expression. “Strawberry, please.”