Gale Boetticher, Dr. Gale Boetticher, Dean of Medicine that is, is simultaneously sorting through paperwork – what was that procedure pediatrics needed? Or was it Orthopedics that had made the request earlier? – and reading a collection of Walt Whitman poetry (propped open on his desk with the help of large crystals that had taken on a new life as de facto paperweights) when the door opens and Drs. House and Wilson walk in.
“Patient’s cured,” House announces without preamble, “It was sarcoidosis.” Boetticher nods.
“Good job, Dr. House,” he replies.
“We’re getting out of here and getting drunk,” House continues. “Do you want to come with us?”
“We’d like to get to know you,” Wilson adds, or explains, or clarifies. Or contradicts.
“Get to know me?” Boetticher echoes, slowly getting up from his desk and placing the files in an orderly pile.
“Yeah,” House replies, then looks over at Wilson. “Geez, I know I’m bad with social cues, but…” Wilson shoots him a look.
“Sorry. Dr. House, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is not quite the master of tact. Do you still want to come out with us?” Boetticher shrugs, tries not to sound too eager.
The bar they choose is a classy affair – much less of a drive than the places House and Wilson normally go.
Best not to scare off their new Dean right away.
They get a marble table with some weird kind of table decoration, made out of a glass vase and some fake fire that appears to have a plastic seashell interwoven into it.
“So, Dr. Boetticher,” Wilson begins, and s flushed Boetticher cuts him off.
“What kind of name is Gale, anyway?” House asks. “Isn’t it a girl’s name?”
“Spelled G-A-I-L, yes it is,” Boetticher replies evenly, “With an L-E, it’s a male name.”
“I see,” Wilson replies, giving House a warning glance, hoping House wasn’t going to spend the entire night making fun of Gale’s name; the Dean might seem sweet, but with enough goading and enough alcohol, a bar brawl can always be brewing. “So, you said you came here from New Mexico? What was that like?”
“It was… different,” Gale tells him. “It’s so open… so… It’s beautiful, really. I loved it.”
“Why’d you leave, then?” House asks, suddenly intrigued.
“I left because…” Gale starts. I left because a man with a gun told me it was get out of town or get shot in the head. A frightened twenty-something kid with wide eyes and desperate… “Because the job opportunities just died up. And it was time for a change, anyway.”
“Why Princeton-Plainsboro?” House continues.
“I heard you guys were the best,” Gale replies, unable to keep the almost girly gush out of his voice.
“Well, you heard right – well, maybe not PPTH, but me,” House brags, and Wilson rolls his eyes.
“No ego on him, is there?” the oncologist teases. He looks over at House and the eyes meet a moment, there’s a spark through the air from one to the other and then back again, before they look away and refocus on their guest and boss.
“Why should there be?” House jokes, a bit uncomfortably.
“What do you think of the hospital so far?” Wilson asks, changing the subject.
“It’s a big change,” Boetticher says, “And a huge challenge. I like it. But I’m still a little overwhelmed. How do you like being back, Dr. House?”
“It’s the same as it was before I left,” House replies, waving over a server and saying, just as he nears the table. “Just my ass is a little looser.” Boetticher flushes and the sever colors, while Wilson acts as if he wants to act as if he doesn’t know House. “I’d like a shot of bourbon, please,” he adds in a matter-of-fact voice.
“I’ll have a scotch,” Wilson says, with a bewildered look at House. “What about you, Gale?”
“A Malibu and Coke,” the Dean orders.
“What a girly drink.”
“I am your boss, you know,” Boetticher points out, and House shrugs.
“And this is before the liquor,” Wilson chimes in dryly. House does not reply, having moved his gaze over to a shapely red-haired waitress. “House, no,” Wilson says in the same tone of voice one uses to tell a dog to heel.
“What?” House fires back.
“I just don’t feel like, given the circumstances, a relationship is a good thing for you now,” Wilson explains, trying to sound diplomatic instead of chastising.
“Who said anything about a relationship?”
“Aren’t you a little old for random bouts of casual sex?”
“Not until I’ve been divorced three times,” House retorts.
Gale looks back and forth between them and mumbles, “I hate tennis.” The two realize they have completely neglected their guest, in favor of bickering amongst themselves.
“Do you think you can still put up with us?” Wilson inquires with a sheepish smile.
Compared to the last business I was mired up in, Gale thinks, this is cake. Outwardly, he simply replies, “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”