With some difficulty, House ducked Alvy in the dining hall, though his bipolar roommate was the closest to a human equivalent to Julie Wilson's barky dog that House had ever seen.As he limped by, he heard the phrase "thinks he's stupid," and congratulated the unseen bearer of the sentiment on his apparent discernment. As the overheard chat between doctor and social worker went on, House heard "Mount Olympus" "wood nymphs" and an impressive display of graphic sexual acts. Oh, House thought, he thinks he's *Cupid*.
The blonde social worker argued with Cupid. "Now, Mr. Hale...we've talked about your sitting on the tables...is that appropriate use of hospital furniture?"
House rolled his eyes. The minor deity appeared not to notice. "Hey, I'm Trevor Hale...I'm inappropriate. Not half as much as if I had her spread-eagled on top of it...you know what I mean?"
"Greg House...doctor, addict, and master manipulator." The men shook hands.
"Hey, that's cool...I've worked with brainy guys before. And might I add that's a nice metaphor you've got there."
"That's what she said."
"Funny...I like it. And the ladies do too. Unless your interests lie elsewhere..."
"They definitely do not."
"Really? Because I may not look like it in yet another cuckoo's nest,, but I've been at this for a long time, and you do sort of give off a bi vibe...of course, who doesn't when the right centaur comes along...this culture over-politicizes Eros...it's horrible." He bounded off the table.
"You don't seem to have a problem with it."
"I go back thousands of years...it gives you mad perspective as well as more fig-leaved tchotchkes than you can shake a stick at, doc. But there's nothing between me and Honeypants, MSW except a mutual migraine, I swear. If you've lost the on-ramp to passion, she's not even looking at the same map. But I do like to screw with her in the non-naked sense...now, it's much more fun to be crazy in Chicago."
"I know this one...it has something to do with that baseball team that loses all the time, right?"
"Hey, ease up on the Cubbies. But, no, even though half their hitters had romantic setbacks last year, baseball is only part of it...part of it is my last doctor, Claire She was dark and lovely, and a total pain in my ass."
"I might know the type."
"Then you feel my pain."
"I didn't say that. Do I look like Oprah? Or Bill Clinton?"
"A little, around the eyes...I'm just fucking with you."
"I never would have guessed." House replied, voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Well, you know, look where we are. I figure my worst problem isn't over-exposition."
House shrugged. "I have to go make a spleen in crafts. When I get back, we can talk about how your devotion to a losing franchise isn't rational and, that, statistically, you'd be happier as a Yankee fan."
"Argh...moneyball?! I'd rather die first. That is, if I could die, being immortal. And when are you medical types going to learn that being happy isn't measured by statistics?"
"You really can't die?"
"No. I'm a god. Like 'Deus ex machina' without the machina. You're a genius; keep up." Trevor's tone was elaborately patient.
"Bummer. Because if you can't die, where's your incentive to do things. Like stop eating jello in your bathrobe and..."
"Well, you know what the poet said 'Only God can make a spleen' And, you know, right this minute, it's kind of hard to tell you busted ass at Johns Hopkins."
"Stop reading my file. You know, I could report you for that."
"You wouldn't though, I can tell."
"I might." House gave Trevor the kind of blue-eyed stare that made his team pee their collective pants and even Wilson hem and haw and shuffle his feet. Trevor Hale remained irritatingly unfazed and even laughed, a short, sharp, car-salesman chuckle that House could swear he felt in his injured leg, rather than just hearing it. "Most people find me fearsome, not amusing, you know."
"But you wouldn't. Because you think the authorities here are idiots too. And you've just proven my point. I'm not 'people', my man."
"Yeah, but I think you're deluded. But you're more fun than Alvy and you can tell me where to get a decent Reuben sandwich in Chicago."
"I can work with that. See you after your spleen."
• * A few weeks later
House feels that he is beginning to retrieve the grip he lost, although the boredom might kill him before the hallucination even gets her panties on. Wilson sends him several crossword puzzle books to pass the time, but with Hale's help on the classical-mythology portion and his own grasp of science and the collective works of Pink Floyd, the grocery-checkout books hardly last for more than a day. The social worker takes an indifferent view of House's progress after viewing his craft-table scale model of a peptic ulcer, but Nolan lays an epic smack-down upon her, like one of House's own, but more Shakespearean.
House brings Nolan the glazed clay ulcer as a gift."They aren't usually this red in the flesh, of course."
Nolan takes it all in stride. "That's okay…maybe it perforated." He rearranged it on his desk, trying to see the best in it. "You know, this thing really is disgusting."
"But you are doing healthy things in spite of yourself…I'm pleased at the way you're reaching out to Mr. Hale."
House shrugs, faintly embarrassed."Real crazy people are funny."
"I've noticed." Nolan reached in his desk and handed House a neatly folded copy of the New York Times. "Here…you guys try a real puzzle."
Meanwhile, in another part of Princeton, Claire Allen switched off "Countdown" and tried to concentrate on selecting a section of her book to read. She felt virtuous about watching Keith's first two segments, but "Oddball", in addition to being ridiculous, made Keith get all snarky and roguish, and made her think of things she would rather not. Like the fact she had met her true love, saved him from a chemical lobotomy, risked her license to be with him, and the sex? Sucked.
They had turned to each other with both love and need that first night. Claire's hormones were off the charts in tribute to her own daring and the fact that she was in a hotel room with someone that used to be a patient. She braced for a mind-bending orgasm, but she got:
"I lost it. I am so, so, sorry, Claire. Zeus, that greedy, petty, bastard, has decided that robbing me of all my other gifts is not sufficient. No, that power-tripping chariot jockey has decided to go after the one thing that might make being in this vulnerable human body tolerable."
Despite her crushing disappointment, Claire had to smile at how much of a human male Trevor was being. "It's okay, Trevor. Sometimes it takes a few times, that's all."
"Don't you dare be a shrink right now, Claire Allen. It has *never* taken me 'a few times'. Ever."
Claire still wishes she hadn't made that skeptical face. But, of course, she had, and in her own imagination, Masters and Johnson and the great Alfred Kinsey himself made it with her. "Never?"
"Did I stutter? No, never ever. Trust me on this one. Not with the wood nymphs and not even with the satyrs or centaurs. Even though they liked, you know, different positions and you'd think that'd be intimidating, what with the whole 'hung like a horse' thing. Which was no joke, by the way."
Claire remembers how she'd sat up in bed, shaking her head, as if to clear it. "Ok," she said. "I think we're getting off-track here."
Disappointment and sexual frustration had made Trevor sulky. "Only you could make a cheap hotel room feel like your office, Claire."
"Ok, then…humor me for a minute. I think it's the least you can do, am I right?"
He laughed a mirthless laugh. "I knew that wasn't really okay."
"If you're still hot, I could…" He stuck his tongue out at her and waggled it around. "I've had goddesses tell me I've got skills."
Claire laughed, in spite of herself.
Claire cleared her throat. "Um, be that as it may, I think first we need to evaluate…why this particular encounter, for the sake of argument, 'invited Zeus' punishment."
"How about an oral exam, Dr. Allen?"
"I think the moment has passed, don't you?"
"You must really be hot if I want you after I've seen you make fingerquotes…Humans. All life is, is a series of moments. At least till some celestial old fart gets a vendetta against you. Then, all bets are off. But, don't turn down pleasure, Claire, you do that so much it makes me sad."
"I don't. Not really." But now she knew he was completely right, for all the good it did her.
"Liar…then why are you as pink as a begonia blossom at the thought of a little prime tongue action…fine, consider it part of my community service."
"Ok, but we have to talk about your issues with intimacy eventually…"
"If you still want to after I've been in the Delta of Venus for five minutes, fine. I'll let you have charts, graphs, quotes from dead guys, the whole Claire Allen Boredom Megillah. I'll be stunned if you want to."
"I hardly think five minutes is enough to…ooh."
Years later, in a hotel room in Princeton, Claire had to admit that all the sexual contact she got that night was not bad. She just told herself it was to take the sting out of what happened next…the languid waking-up in an empty hotel bed. Finding a note in Trevor's strangely European handwriting "Now, the moment is passed. P.S. You are beautiful when you come.
As final words go, she supposes they aren't bad, but she feels the lack of closure strongly. She has tried to track him down over the years, and has developed an obsession with those "Missed Connections" columns in those alternative weeklies, those ads where people pour their hearts out to the hottie they shared an epic bus ride with, or a moment in an elevator, some tiny thread that makes them think things were possible. Even though it's been years, whenever she comes to a new city, she browses Missed Connections just in case. This time, she had no trouble following up her Trevor book. She sighs. What kind of masochist thought up the book tour anyway? She wished she could just give up and go home. If she did that with her next book, the Missed Connections book(currently just notes on a yellow legal pad) it would look like a savvy marketing strategy. But for Ordinary Cupid, it would look like neurotic self-sabotage. But she was only supposed to spend a few more days on the East Coast,and then she would be back in Chicago in time to tape her first Oprah episode. In some ways, it was everything she wanted, and yet? She'd lost interest. She turns off the hotel TV rather than face repeats, or, especially, this week's Bravo Movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy"
• * * *
Trevor thinks he knows the narrative Claire wrote in her head the morning she woke up without him: selfish, deluded, man-boy, so consumed with sexual vanity that he gave up the best thing that ever happened to him.The book came out Valentine's 2000, pretty much guaranteeing a shitty start to his new millennium, but he supposed expecting to be excited about one of those more than once was like losing your virginity twice.
He never read the whole book, but he went often to the closest box bookstore to have long, intense conversations with her promotional poster."You don't understand," he told it. "My god betrayed me…not that I didn't deserve it…they were emphatic. No humans. And I do have a mission here…nobody'd trust a love god that got all pouty and emotional and smoking French cigarettes, right?"
He had to admit that his personal pain had been good for his work, though. Since 2000, he'd gotten especially good at providing second chances for established couples, including several politicians who'd succumbed to the myriad weaknesses of their profession and wanted a road back.
9/11 made everything harder. Well, okay, not *everything*…the occasional drunken grope with a dark-haired woman with full lips and glasses told him that Mt. Olympus still had a vendetta against not-so-little Trevor.
For a god like Trevor, the towers coming down weren't The Moment When Everything Changed, but they did make his top fifty. His timing in heading East could have been better, but he treasures that week because it was the last time he heard her voice…he called her after the second plane when down in the field, even though she was nowhere near the place and he had no reason to think she would be. He noted, with almost Claire-like detachment, the wetness in the corners of his eyes…he felt almost human that day. Her voice on the other end twisted his heart so badly, he couldn't say anything, for the first time in about a hundred years. "Hello, who is this?" she'd asked, sounding freaked, which Trevor barely noticed in his ecstasy of relief that De Mouy hadn't "discovered what's important" and made his way back in Claire's bed after covering the carnage.
He hasn't made fun of a match for hesitating since. And so it might have stayed, his working his way from college town to college town, matching up couples, half-assedly tending bar at an assortment of gradually less Irish, more corporate, bars, if he hadn't been picked up hosting naked revels in a park in Princeton, and ended up in the booby hatch at the same time as Dr. Demento McCane.
He supposed it all started with a football question. A really tough football question, right there in ink on the pages of the New York Times. "Argh, c'mon…we know this. We are failures as American men if we don't know this."
"First," House said, balefully, "speak for yourself. Second, does calling yourself a man mean I'll be talking to your ghost next week? Not that I'm complaining as much as wondering how you'll pull it off." House went on reading the other sections of the paper, finally turning , in boredom, to the style section. "Is this your girl?"
"I'll look in a minute," Trevor said, focusing on the puzzle so he wouldn't dare hope. "Too bad I don't have 'net privileges yet."
"Even if you did, it's too late in the day…somebody at Mayfield does something to the mouse I haven't seen in ten years of diagnostics. I go in the morning and swipe some rubbing alcohol from the nurses' station. Anyway, forget that puzzle…I'm more interested in the puzzle about Trevor and The Love Guru."
"Don't call her that."
"I didn't…they did. 'Love guru' Claire Allen" Bleah. Although it looks like she has a nice rack, though, and that she (and they) will be at the Barnes & Noble nearest our particular nuthouse."
"She'll never see me," Trevor said, "But they're real, and they're spectacular."
"You see, that's where people go wrong telling me things…the fact that it'll be awkward for you, doesn't matter to me…Either way, it's better than sitting around in the day room watching teenaged troglodytes fighting over cell phones on those judge shows, right?"
"I reluctantly second that emotion, my good man. So, let's go, huh?"
"Yeah, let me just jump the fence…and you *have* noticed your wings are missing, right? Much tighter ass than the wrapping paper would lead me to expect, though."
"Don't even get me started on that, and see, toldja. You're bi."
"Yes. Absolutely. Cause noticing you don't look like a pudgy baby is absolutely the first step to busting a move to "I Will Survive," at Club Babylon…oh, like it's my fault Queer as Folk and The L Word used to be on the same channel."
"Whatever gets you through the night. And people don't 'bust moves' anymore."
"I'm pretty sure…don't beat yourself up over it. My level of cool is totally an occupational hazard of working with the young and horny. Also godlike omnipotence…"
"I think they make a pill for that." House shot back, as he made his deliberate way to the pay phone in the lobby.
When he reached it, he showed his customary disregard for pleasantries."Cuddy, it's me…don't hang up."
The chief of medicine counted to ten and sighed. "No, House. No, I won't loan you money. No, I won't bake you a kugel with a file in it. No, I won't get you a medical discharge because of newly developed chronic hemorrhoids…"
"See what I did there? Because being here is such a pain in my ass."
"An absolutely hilarious bit of medical fraud…just because I won't do it doesn't mean I don't get it." But he noticed that her tone softened a bit.
Trevor noticed that the doctor seemed alive in a way House's insults barely hinted at. "Lisa, please."
"Bingo," Trevor whispered, under his breath, and smiled with satisfaction.
"Ok, Greg…what?" Cuddy replied. "That takes me back."
"Well, what would you say if I told you there was a…colloquium here in town that I wanted a day pass for?"
"Honestly? I'd assume that global warming was happening much faster than predicted and that I should quit my job to work with Al Gore. Why?"
"I need your help, Lisa."
"You know, things might have gone better between us all along if you admitted it more often. I'll talk to Nolan…I'm really impressed that you asked, instead of demanding. It shows emotional growth."
"Talk dirty to me."
"Ok, maybe you still have a way to go."
They hung up. Trevor, amused, said "You went begging-ass-bitch on her, didn't you?"
House, pointedly, said nothing.
"Listen, doc, I can appreciate that. And some of the hard-driving ones kind of dig it, too…they find it gender-bending and I know that Claire found the thought of rescuing me hot as hell…"
"Then, go by yourself…you're pretty pathetic now."
"Ouch, I'm wounded for actual seconds, here, *Greg*. And you know Nolan's got us on the nutjob buddy system, and in terms of conversational benefits, it's either you or Alvy Mounds."
"You know…sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't?"
"Oh, come now. Alvy's Almond Joy, all the way."
* * *
After even the controlled chaos of Mayfield, the bookstore was almost too bright and filled with people and choices. House felt as if he was detoxing all over again as high-pitched girlish screeching broke out. He winced.
A bookstore employee brought him a glass of water. "Fricking Twi-hards…they're always like that."
"I'll take care of it," Trevor said, jumping off the table again.
"No, wait," the clerk said "I mean, at least they buy books."
"Books that are solidly anti-Eros. Excuse me for taking it personally." The clerk looked at him blankly. "Because I'm Eros?"
"What is that, Greek?"
"Yeah, I guess you could say that."
"I'm Jeff. I'm just American."
"You are a gentleman and a scholar, Jeff. Don't sell yourself short."
"We're here for the Allen reading…we do have the right day, right?" House asked, wondering if this was how it felt to be Wilson.
"Yeah, she's just running a bit late…she'll be here."
House started to say something, but, much like a rubbernecker at a car accident, he stayed riveted to the spot as Hale moved aside the standee of the vampire and said:
"Ladies, before I return you to the so-lucrative world of repression and chaste hair stroking, I feel a professional responsibility to tell you this. Right now, as you sit here ,you, just by being female, are in possession of the energy to transform the planet. You are the only ones with an organ designed for pure pleasure…I'm totally jealous. Because it means that you can(Trevor noted the average age of the crowd) ride your bike much longer than your boyfriend can, and still be ready to go, uh, riding again. That's power, ladies, whether you have anyone to ride with regularly or not. Don't give it away to some schmuck who can't think of any other use for being immortal but to repeat the twelfth grade. Oh, I'm sorry, Bella, I'd love to have transcendent bliss with you, but I've gotta go to study hall…who does that? I'm sure he has reasons, but to be honest, I was reading this looking for dirty bits anyway, and, much like King Sparklebutt here, I wound up confused and dejected."
The crowd emitted a buzz as if someone dipped a beehive in estrogen, but he continued. tapping the cover of a paperback of Twilight for emphasis.
"Love isn't supposed to hurt this much without the careful selection and application of a safe word.And one other thing, sex is fun. Yeah, it's also the instrument of human reproduction, bonding between couples and Prozac in a private part, but it's also one hell of a thrill. Although sometimes it takes a few times to get it right…I have this on good authority."
Trevor went around to the crowd passing out business cards. He whispered something in a Twi-Mom's ear and House heard the smack as she slapped his face.Somehow House was shocked when his new friend came back with an angry red handprint marking his cheek. He supposed that being exposed to Hale's delusion day after day had infected him with it in a tiny way. House barely heard anyone approaching before Trevor, in a soft voice House had never heard, said "You changed your hair."
"Trevor?" Claire felt shy and foolish; all the brilliant words she pictured at this moment completely fleeing her highlighted head.
"What happened to your face?"
"Nothing…just warming them up for you…tough room. Although I've got to say, I was halfway counting on your creature of habit self to be almost the same as I left it."
"Well, it has been ten years…and it's just highlights. Although there are a few other changes too. I try to ride my bike a few times a week." She winked.
"I…didn't mean for you to hear that."
"No need to apologize this time. I agree with you. Those books set up an unhealthy gender-role dynamic."
Claire's reading went better than any she'd done in years, although it was hard not to pause every few sentences and catch Trevor's eye. She thought he looked sad, but the fact of being in his presence again cancelled out whatever petty pleasure she could have taken from that.
She was just about to come to the question-and-answer period and she lifted her eyes to Trevor's corner just in time to see him bend and topple like a sapling in a flash flood. Trevor's friend with the cane moved faster than Claire would have thought possible. "I'm a doctor," he barked. "Call for an ambulance…Princeton-Plainsboro. Go!"
Nobody had ordered her around that much since graduate school at least, but thinking of Trevor being pale and, worse, silent, on the bookstore floor, Claire did as she was bid.
* * *
House was surprised when Cuddy herself met the ambulance. "House!"
"Yeah…who were you expecting, McDreamy?"
"Well, truth be told, I thought you would be the unconscious patient…what with the detox, and…everything else…I felt like it would be better…for the hospital, you know…if I handled it personally."
"I will say that Mayfield's booby hatch is not as fun as that place on the interstate that Thirteen goes to."
"Dude, I'm afraid that your fun wagon needs shocks." Trevor blurted, from the back.
"You're supposed to be unconscious," House turned to Cuddy. "He had an irregular heartbeat and LOC. I know that I haven't practiced in some time, but my judgment's not that far off."
"These things happen," Cuddy shrugged. (Since she'd become a mother, she'd found herself shrugging more. Life could make less sense than the scientific method could ever prepare one for.) "His electrolytes might be off or something."
"You know," Trevor said, "I paid enough attention to Hippocrates that I should know this isn't sexy,but the way you say it…"
"Did you say Hippocrates? Just in case, have Foreman do a neuro work-up too."
"Oh, dear lady, if only it would be that simple…but in this world, alas, the course of true nuts never did run smooth…"
"I'm guessing that confused frown means Dr. House didn't tell you we're, in an existential sense at least, rap buddies."
Claire Allen parked illegally to find herself in the ambulance bay. Claire-bear seemed to have discovered her inner rebel since he'd left. "I'm Doctor Claire Allen and I demand to know where you're taking him!"
"Yes, Dr. Allen," Cuddy said. "I like your work…we're just doing a work-up on Mr.Hale…wait, are you the one from "Ordinary Cupid"?
"The very same," Trevor said. "My only problem is that I'm too modest. Look, I'll make a deal with you. I'll submit to any test you've got, as long as you and my man Greg here do it personally. No fair offloading me on some minion."
Just when he thought there was no connection between his old life and his new one, besides the whole whacko thing, he saw it: Claire's famed "What the *Fuck* are you doing?" face.
"We're going to need a moment,"Claire told Cuddy, her professional veneer back in place so fast that a less godlike being might have missed the fear (and, was that love?) on her face.
"Of course," Cuddy said. "But please don't hesitate too long…these kind of heart events are unpredictable."
* * *
"Oh, God," the psychologist said. "Trevor…you've had an event. Trevor, you have to tell them everything you can."
"Event? No, I timed it so it was just a minor happening, Claire-bear. Pinky swear…huh, I'm a poet, and I don't know it and my feet are…of course, you're in a fine position to know that's a myth, aren't you, sweetcheeks?"
"Not that," She shook her head. "About your life…your medical history."
"Ok, I was born in an olive grove outside Mount Olympus, where, until I got my bow and arrows it was well-established that I didn't play well with others…it was only an early knack for matching mortals that saved me from a youth spent wholly playing with myself, um, *by* myself…damn English grammar."
"OK, I can tell I'm beating a dead horse, here."
"They needed you in Troy, Claire."
"Whatever…am I to understand you intentionally threw off your heart rhythm? Assuming you could, what for?"
"They're specialists, Claire…way too smart for the thermometer against the lightbulb trick."
"Oh, right…matching the doctors. Why didn't I think of that?"
"Because they aren't your couple 94, that's why…don't look at me that way. Eros took a real beating in the Bush years. Some of my people…needed tune-ups. Dave and Madeline had a baby…took a wrong turn at first though…she had wicked post-partum, but now, Dave and she and little Jessica Claire(You like?) are doing just fine in the City of The Big Shoulders…"
"Yes," Claire told him, moved that even though he could be facing his own health crisis, his thoughts were of others. "I like it a lot." The literature would have her believe that deluded people were trapped in a bunker of selfishness and paranoia, but that never seemed like Trevor Hale.
But still…he couldn't be…He couldn't be. He was just acting like a kid, that's all. Extending his fantasy of godlike powers like any kid does when they think they can blow and make traffic lights turn colors. "Claire," Trevor told her. "You've got a little something…to your left."
Claire dabbed at her face. "Your other left. Don't worry, I've got it."
He touched her face and it felt like her own heart skipped a few beats.
"Eyelash…" he said, with that suggestive little tone in his voice. "Make a wish,"
"It'll be okay, Trevor," she said, and took his hand.
"If that's a clue to what your wish is, I'd better get checked out…make sure my heart can take it."
He floated for the first time since he had wings.
* * *
House dispensed with the usual whiteboard after the team just repeated one diagnosis of dementia and drug withdrawal after another. He got frustrated and sent them to get their hands dirty in the clinic, although he kept Foreman around to do neurological testing after Hale aced three separate EKGs and greeted two separate stress tests with jokes about Cuddy wanting to "get him all sweaty."
"Don't steal my material," House complained. "This case is hard enough without that."
"You're telling me," Hale replied. "How can you stand to pull that woman's pigtails for twenty years…pull the pin already. It's not like she hasn't seen everything you have to offer."
"How do you know that?"
"Nurse Brenda really likes me. Or she really hates you…she's kind of an emotional cavalcade."
And then there was the night House was blockaded by the good shrink, Allen. Her dark eyes were shadowed and she'd licked off all her lipstick when she'd caught him locking up the office for the night."Dr. House…"
"The one and only."
He could feel her gearing up, marshalling her courage as if he were some oracle at Delphi instead of an asshole doctor with a game leg. Her need was so strong that House felt bowled over by it as well as grateful that Wilson was in Baltimore for a seminar. Wilson would want to sire Claire Allen's child if he saw her at that moment.
"I need you to tell me something and I want you to give it to me straight…I'm not sure you understand that I'm all Trevor has."
She blushed firmly. "No, I mean, that I never fully considered the possibility that Trevor's, uh, predicament might be organic."
"Let me see if I can find what you're really asking, shall we? While you and your inner schoolgirl struggle to find the right words. I think you're hoping that I'll find a tiny, almond-shaped, but ultimately covered by insurance, tumor in his Greek-god lobe or something, remove it, and then your biggest problem will be admitting you're slumming with a bartender."
"I am a clinician,Dr. House," Dr. Allen continued. "You don't have to put it *quite* so simply. And I'm not slumming. No matter what."
"You're a psychotherapist. You're lucky I didn't use puppets and ask you if he touched you in your special place. But, yes, while I've got him here, I am looking. Especially since his heart is fine, as far as I can tell. Although I'm sure you can guess it's hardly my favorite organ."
"You seem bitter," she said. "But as much as my professional pride hates to admit it, you're funny. I can see why Trevor likes you."
"What will you do?" House asked her,"if NotReallyCupid decides he doesn't need a Psyche?"
He wounded her; he could see the flash of hurt in her brown eyes. But it was to her credit that she didn't sputter or blame. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
She lifted her chin and said "Make sure he's all right. That's all."
* * *
The next day Foreman came to House and Cuddy as House deviled the chief of medicine in her office.
"It's not neurological, either," Foreman told them. "Or at least nothing came up on the tests yet. His intelligence test came back two points higher than mine and his reflexes are so good he kicked the expat doctors' asses at darts.He says he isn't hearing voices and you know that's a diagnostic marker in a lot of neurological conditions."
"That's it," House retorted. "He must be divine then. You certainly couldn't account for that with racially-biased testing or because Chase sucks at darts."
"As much as humanly possible," Foreman argued. "I accounted for that. And Dr. Singh in Radiology has won trophies at darts."
"Just when you think he couldn't get any cuddlier," House rubbed his chin. "Look, Foreman, let Dr. Cuddy and me do a little…consulting over lunch and come back in twenty minutes."
"Thirty-five minutes," Cuddy said, and she saw with a smile that both male doctors were surprised. "House, I've struggled for years to get you to stop making those jokes about me, and this probably says something sad about me, but for right now I'd settle for making your gutter metaphors more physiologically accurate."
"You guys aren't supposed to be crazier than the patient." Foreman said. "I have to meet Dr. Hadley for lunch…he can't be all that omniscient. He said she's wrong for me."
"Should you tell him or should I?"
"House, I'm a single mother that has to work with you…don't you think I have enough problems?"
"So, to get all the awkward personal stuff out of the way in one conversation, were you really worried about me, or just the hospital?"
"I'm still a doctor, House." Cuddy said. "And still a woman. Even if I'm not the awestruck freshman you met at Michigan."
"Awestruck, huh?" House dropped a dictionary on his hand. He grunted as it made contact.
"What was that about?"
"Just checking…this is exactly the sort of thing I would hallucinate about."
"No, really…why do you think I went to all those extra Bio tutorials?" A soft,nostalgic smile lit up Cuddy's face. "I never had any trouble with Bio….but I had a tutor who knew everything, and had eyes like Paul Newman. What would you do?"
"Nothing special, but I never wanted Paul Newman. And now I've got a cane like Piper Laurie."
"I think she had one leg, but it's been a while since I've seen that one."
"Whatever…she rode the short bus somehow or other, didn't she?" House walked around her desk, and somehow his deliberate movements showed Cuddy just how much was different between them. She had to toughen up again.
"Ah, Greg, this was almost too easy…all that poring over casenotes together…it takes everything I have not to take your tie off your neck and tie it around the doorknob in case your team comes by. But I'm not a girl now, I'm a woman…A mother. And you've been through so much..as much as I still think about it…"
* * *
At that moment, a seemingly sedated Trevor startled Claire by shouting out in his sleep "It's too early!"
Claire stepped right in to calm and comfort, marveling at how much easier it could be without the professional mask to hide behind. She could touch him without wondering how close was too close, and she held him and it felt right enough that it cancelled out her doubts about being a sort of Dr. Joyce Brothers of the modern era instead of in private practice. "Shhh…Trevor, it's okay. Being in the hospital has thrown off your sense of time…it does that to every…"
She was unprepared when moments later, he looked at her and his eyes were as clear and bright as if he just started a shift at Taggerty's. "Message from on High, lovemuffin. Let's blow this popsicle stand…prophetic dreams aren't just for vampire slayers anymore."
"Never call me lovemuffin again…and…vampires? Have you experienced a shift in your delusion?"
He shook his head sadly. "How *do* you make it through the day being so culturally deprived? I was a real shit to leave you like that. And, darling, if you hate being 'lovemuffin', take it up with the Big Guy…he's the one who made you good enough to eat."
He laughed at the crimson color that flooded her cheeks. "And, how can you still do that? After all these years of(he put on a nerdy voice) 'Dr Allen, for years I've had this dream about my mother and a Doberman…is this normal?' But I do have a sort of confession, though. I had thought that I lost that particular aspect of my powers…I mean, I would be really crazy if I thought that time with the mushrooms in Berkeley meant anything…or that time after the peyote at the pow-wow in South Dakota….I might not have been at full god-strength either night, but I didn't care very much."
"I understand that you experimented since we've seen each other last, Trevor. What does that have to do with your desire to leave the hospital?"
"First of all, put your eyeballs back in your head. You don't get it, do you? What you mortals call expanded consciousness is no more experimental for me than when you put on that sweatshirt from Northwestern and your bunny slippers and make cocoa…it's what I know, it's what I like…it makes me feel at home.The wildest trip is like The Dick Van Dyke Show for you…where was I?"
"Prophetic dreams," Claire supplied. "And I didn't know you knew about that…"
"Claire, I'm omniscient and obsessed with you…why wouldn't I? I think I'm in… well, the home office says that Dr. Cuddy's affections are to be otherwise engaged through the spring at least…sometimes Zeus likes people to pass his dumb tests before he clears the field…well, you know about that, and I jumped the gun on Doctors In Love…so there's no need to ape a heart condition now."
"Actually, Trevor, I'm glad to hear that you are beginning to acknowledge your own limitations in this area. But you're not cleared to leave yet."
He waved the thought away. "Pfft…who needs to get cleared? I'll leave AMA. Or as I like to think about it, Anticipating Medical Ass."
"Can we go back to "lovemuffin"? Claire asked. "Suddenly, I'm becoming fond of it. As long as you don't use it in front of people."
"You've got it, My Own Private Lovemuffin. Timing is everything, which is why,if I sincerely believe that his cane should be hanging over her bedpost overnight, I can't be too eager.If I overshoot, it could turn them against the idea for all time. Which is a mistake the lady herself almost made in college…Dr. Cuddy used to be an impetuous slip of a thing. But hearteningly adventurous…for a while I followed her romantic career with a bit more than professional interest. But then she bought into the whole professional-track thing and got all Arbeit Macht Frei on me. Although that's just between us…there's a golem in Bensonhurst that threatened to kick my ass if I ever joked about that again. But I'm sure you can relate, right?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." Claire teased.
"Of course not, dearest."
"I have changed since you've seen me last. They offered me the chance to be on Oprah, but I'm thinking of blowing it off."
"Lovemuffin, tell me you're kidding."
"No, I mean, I can't leave you…"
"We can go together. But you can't blow off Oprah. She's a special pet of my mother's."
"Okay," Claire said, in that humoring voice he loathed.
"My mother…Venus. She is a goddess, Claire. Even if she is a shallow, self-indulgent one. Life is just better if you stay on her good side. Which is why I tried to match two movie stars after having taken mescaline for the first time…who knew Tom Cruise was so hard on furniture?"
"So you're saying…"
"Yes, TomKat was totally my fault. Don't ask me any more about it…it's like…" He paused, trying to think of a mortal equivalent. "It's like getting caught picking your nose on a security camera times about a billion. Or at least it would be for someone like you. That's one good thing about being thought crazy, Claire. Picking and scratching are totally copacetic if you don't make it a team sport."
Claire made a face. "I can't tell you much I've missed your imagery, Trevor."
"I'm horrible, but you love me anyway, right, Claire-bear?" Trevor continued, seeming to reflect. "Yeah, it's amazing the hold your mother can still have. I'm in an absolute other plane of existence, attempting to navigate life in a mortal form, but still…my mother snaps her fingers and I come running. Why is that?"
"You can't expect me to analyze your relationship with Venus, Trevor."
"I don't know why not…unless it's some reverse snobbery on your part…what if I was a Kennedy freaking out about nogging eggs with Ethel? You'd talk to me about that, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, but Ethel Kennedy is a human woman, Trevor. It's a very different thing."
"Nuh uh. We have just as much screwing around as they do."
"Well, I can't argue with you there…ok, what will it take to earn my way out of this conversation?"
"Just a few hours on a plane…one hour on Oprah, and maybe another hour for…afternoon delight?"
"By my count, it wouldn't be afternoon by then."
"It would be at Champ's house…he's on Pacific Time now."
"How's he doing anyway?"
"Last time I was in Chicago, he introduced me to Vince Vaughn…I guess being the Black Guy is okay if you get to work with the right kind of freaks."
Claire asked. "Vince Vaughn isn't nice? Because he seems like he would be. In a blue-collar sort of way." She sounded disappointed.
"I'm sure, if I were a mortal man in your tax bracket, that would be a brilliant save, Lovemuffin. But the fact is, Mr. Vaughn would be a prime candidate for your services."
"Because he didn't believe you were Cupid?"
"No, dearest, I went there with my Clark Kent specs firmly in place…I've learned that much since we met…he didn't believe I was Trevor Hale. Mr. Vaughn is very upset with his agent, whom I apparently resemble, and he hugs like a Sumo wrestler…I had the bruises for a month."
"Wow. I guess I need to take my own advice about idealizing people."
"It's okay, I like knowing you have fantasies."
"I still think we should take it slowly."
"Yeah, who rushes in after one measly decade?"