"Look at that," House said. "I'm in hell."
James peeked around the corner. "Wow."
The waiting room of the clinic was full--full--standing room only with young mothers and their babies. There was a whole row of eight chairs occupied by nursing women. "What's going on?" James asked.
"Panic. Hysteria. Someone found poison in their baby food. The boyfriend did it," House said.
"That's right--I heard about that on the news. I thought they didn't know what happened yet?"
"The boyfriend always does it, or the older sibling, or whatever. Look at this mess. I'm surrounded by naked, heaving bosoms and I'm miserable. Forget it--today's the day. I'm making a break for it," House said. He started down the hall.
James cut around him like a sheepdog. House wrangler, that was him. House tried a baleful stare and James returned it. House feinted left with his cane; James cut right, straightening his arm against the wall to block him.
House wrinkled his nose. James offered his pocket square.
House whirled. "Bring me your babies!" he cried. James grinned and returned to his floor.
House paged him an hour later. James headed down to Exam Room One, wondering what had taken him so long.
"Take a look at this kid," House said, presenting James with a baby as soon as he walked through the door.
James looked. It was a baby boy, about eight months old, maybe a little more. Caucasian. Two teeth. No hair. Not crying. Perfect, pink health. "Okay?"
"Ever seen a healthier kid?"
Aha. That was his game. "Not offhand. Definitely not here."
"Are you sure?" asked the mother. She had a thin look about her and ragged nails.
"If you'd like a fourth opinion, I could call in the entire pediatrics team. They won't be busy--lazy lot, all of them. Thank you, Dr. Wilson," House said. He picked up the phone.
Fourth opinion? On second thought, he didn't need to ask. He only called James first when someone was interestingly naked. "Dr. House, can I speak to you outside for a minute?" James handed the baby back to his harried mother and herded House outside the room.
House looked out the window longingly. "If we left now, we could make Philly by dark."
"I know Dr. Cuddy can't fire you," James said.
"Cheesesteaks," House said.
"But she can make you suffer."
"Lucky me, I'm prepared." House rattled the Vicodin in his pocket. "We can steal the horses at the Main Street saloon, load up our six-shooters, and ride for the setting sun."
James rolled his eyes. "What are you going to do with all these babies, Sundance?"
"You thought I was kidding about calling Pediatrics?" House limped toward the phone.
"It's what they want. Customer service. I live to please." House stopped and glared at the horde in the waiting room. "All right. Let's try some triage. Your baby is fine. Get lost," he said, leaning on his cane over the nearest woman.
"Your baby is fine. Your baby is fine. Your baby is fine! Shoo, shoo!" House said, limping down the row. James followed him, trying to keep his doctor face on. "Both your babies are fine. Your baby is fine."
"No, I'm here for me, not my baby!"
"You're fine too. Your baby is fine. Your baby..." House stopped and looked at a fussy, red-faced toddler. "Your baby has chicken pox," House said.
"I knew it," the woman said.
House covered his face with his free hand and limped for the door. "Chicken pox is no big deal," James said to the woman.
"Well, yeah, I just wanted to be sure."
James followed House, who was leaving... yeah, he'd left the building and was standing out on the front walk staring west. "Escaping on foot?" James asked. "You won't make it past the dogs."
"Butch, the next time I say, 'Let's go someplace like Philly,' let's go someplace like Philly," House said.
James stood beside him and hooked his thumbs into his pockets. "Don't make me lasso you."
"You're circumcised. You don't have the reach. Chicken pox has a two-week incubation period. Two weeks from now, every baby in that room is going to be back in here." House lifted his head and smiled up at the sky. "I'm in hell."
James looked back at the door and saw Dr. Cuddy on an intercept course. "Right here with you, Sundance."
"Philly ho!" House started walking.
James crossed his arms and waited for House to turn around, until he realized that he wasn't going to.
"Hey! Wait up."
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