Okay, I know I have two other stories in the works but ... here's another!
House had been manipulated into a 'working vacation' and rode in the back seat of the car, listening to his iPod and playing his video game. He hadn't wanted to come at all but Cuddy had insisted, even going so far as to put his whole team on a two week enforced vacation. Something was up, he knew it. He glanced up as he felt the car slow down after turning off the main highway and was surprised to see they were on a narrow two lane road, winding up into the mountains.
"This is where the conference is?" House said, startling both Cuddy and Wilson who had thought he'd fallen asleep. "Who the hell schedules a conference in the middle of nowhere?"
"It's a very nice retreat," Wilson countered, sidestepping the question. "Lots of amenities even you might enjoy."
"Yeah, right," House answered, exasperated but he lapsed back into silence and his game. When they finally arrived at the retreat, he climbed stiffly out of the car and walked around to loosen up his muscles while Wilson wrangled their luggage out of the trunk. His first clue that something was really off was the circle of cabins that greeted them instead of a hotel. Wilson led House to one of the cabins while Cuddy headed toward another.
The inside of the cabin was comfortable but sparsely furnished. There was no phone and no TV in the room much to House's great dismay.
"Wilson, what the hell is going on?" he demanded, standing still in the center of the cabin while Wilson put their luggage by the beds. Spying a folder labeled 'Itinerary' on the desk, he snatched it up and rifled through it, looking more and more incredulous as he did.
"You dragged me up here for some touchy-feely team building seminar? Are you serious? Do I look like a team player to you? And you didn't even let me bring my team!" he added in an aggravated tone of voice.
"No, you aren't a team player, that's the whole purpose of this weekend. To try to drum a little bit of team into you. And no, we didn't bring your team for two reasons; one, they are already a team that works well with each other and two, you'd use them to get out of participating and taking this seriously," Wilson answered in an equally aggravated tone.
"House, the board of trustees is ready to get rid of you, tenured or not. They have enough votes to revoke your tenure. Mine and Cuddy's lobbying for you isn't enough now that you came down so hard on that donor's family when you handled their case. The only thing that delayed the vote was this retreat and your mandatory attendance and participation. So you need to decide whether you want to man up for a three day team building retreat, which we both know you can do if you want to, or you can decide to give up your job. Your choice," Wilson said sharply and headed into the bathroom to freshen up and get changed.
House snorted derisively and plopped down onto one of the beds. He hated the whole concept of these team building exercises. If it weren't for the threat of losing his tenure which would make it simple to get fired, he wouldn't bother to stay. But despite his complaints, he wanted this job. He knew he'd never get the freedom to run his department largely the way he chose anywhere else. He no longer believed Cuddy's assertion that no one else would hire him but it would mean completely starting over and involve more ass kissing than he had in him now. He'd gotten a letter from a lawyer about an inheritance from Rowan Chase, which had completely stunned him, but there were plenty of conditions attached to it, one of which was to keep Chase on his team. Not a problem for him but it could be one if he had to look for another hospital willing to take the risk of hiring House. Or taking on the responsibility and expense of opening a private practice with practicing credentials at a hospital.
With a deep sigh he fixed Wilson with a glare when he emerged from the bathroom. "This totally sucks and you're going to pay for tricking me into this. And I'm not doing the 'trust fall' with anyone because you know I don't trust any of you to catch me. Who else is coming to this weekend's fun festivities?" he asked sarcastically.
Wilson reeled off several names, most of which made House groan in disbelief. "Are you kidding me? Those jerks would just as soon see me fired and I sure as hell don't want to spend a weekend playing nice with them."
"Well, too bad," Wilson answered shortly. "Play nice or start working on your resume. I told you, it's your choice."
"Geez are you on the rag this week or what?" House grumbled, heading into the bathroom himself for a hot shower to loosen his leg up.
The first time the group was getting together was half an hour before dinner that evening. House delayed leaving for the meeting until the last possible moment, hoping to wiggle out of the exercise but Wilson refused to play the game and left on time, leaving House behind. He considered not going at all but he couldn't be sure that he might actually lose tenure and therefore his job. Finally he heaved himself up and made his way to the eating hall where the rest of the group was already gathered. One of the facilitators nodded a greeting when he entered the hall, handing him a name badge. Someone was already speaking and he made his way to the only empty seat. Unfortunately it was not at Wilson or Cuddy's table but with Simmons, ER dept. head, Ann Parks, pediatrics dept. head and Blackburn, psychiatric dept. head. He held back a grimace as he took his seat at the table, keeping his eyes on the speaker and avoiding eye contact with any of the others. He glanced down briefly and realized that far from being coincidental, he'd been assigned this seat. This was going to be a long weekend. Parks had an intense dislike for House, Simmons was 50/50 on any given day, depending on whether diagnostics was trolling for patients or refusing a potential referral by ER. Blackburn he didn't really know. They'd met a couple of times, mostly through a neurology consult but through Foreman.
"We'll be kicking off the weekend with a getting acquainted activity," the speaker was saying. "Each person at the table will introduce themselves to their table mates, who will be your partners for the weekend, but from the perspective of your best friend. There are cards at each plate with the prompts for you to share with each other. Dinner will start serving in ten minutes which should allow everyone the chance to introduce themselves."
House pulled in a deep bracing breath and picked up the index card to glance over the questions, as did the others. Simmons was the first to start.
"I would like to introduce Joseph Simmons. Joe likes action movies, Italian food and stock car racing. On his day off, he usually meets up with his friends for tennis or racquetball. Some of his dislikes are opera and bowling. His pet peeves are having carts packed differently by each shift and people who leave shopping carts in parking spaces on rainy days. The funniest thing that ever happened to Joe was when the entire ER shift wore glasses with fake mustaches on his birthday last year."
"I would like to introduce Ann Parks. Ann likes country music, roller coasters, and football. On her day off, she usually takes 20 km bike rides. Some of her dislikes are boxing, Thai food and horseracing. Her pet peeve is things that are overly flowery. The funniest thing that ever happened to Ann was when her college roommates wrapped everything in her dorm room with baby dinosaur wrapping paper."
House smirked just a bit at the others introductions but it was now his turn from the direction they were going around the table. He kept his eyes on the index card while he spoke. "I'd like to introduce Greg House. House likes jazz and blues music, Chinese takeout and sports of any kind. On his day off, he usually reads medical journals and plays the piano. Some of his dislikes are working the clinic and chick flicks. His pet peeve is anyone messing with things in his office and especially on his desk. The funniest thing that ever happened to House was when an elderly patient wrote him a love poem."
Each of his tablemates smiled at the love poem incident, Simmons outright laughed. He'd been there when Wilson read the poem aloud at the nurses' station.
Blackburn chuckled and picked up his index card. "I'd like to introduce Cyrus Blackburn. Cyrus likes instrumental music, both mystical and big band style, a great steak and seafood place, and a game of football or rugby. On his day off, Cyrus enjoys working out in the gym and pickup games as well as bowling, darts or cards. Some of his dislikes are beer of any kind and deliberately taking advantage of another person. One of Cyrus' pet peeves is wrinkled, run down clothing. The funniest thing that ever happened to Cyrus was getting a gorilla singing telegram for his birthday."
As everyone was finishing up the wait staff began to serve dinner and soon the room had a low hum of conversation and light laughter. House sat silent at his table, picking at the food on his plate as the other three talked about the ice breaker exercise they'd just completed. All three were teasing out more information about each other and adding some more details. Simmons and Parks shared several stories about their personal lives and some work stories with Blackburn, who replied in kind, but he kept glancing over at House. He didn't like how easily the other two excluded the man nor the way House determinedly kept his eyes fixed on his plate and ignored them right back. That wasn't what this whole weekend was supposed to be about.
"So, House, was that love poem a case of unrequited love? Did you turn the poor lady down?" Blackburn asked at a pause in Simmons and Parks conversation.
House looked up sharply, sweeping his eyes around the table at the other two doctors before settling back on Blackburn. "Yeah, well I find syphilis induced brain damage a poor foundation for a relationship," he answered bluntly.
"Ugh," Parks said with distaste. "You get off on being a jerk, everybody knows that, so you have no basis to even know what a good foundation for a relationship would be."
"That's because everybody lies," House snapped back, eyes flashing angrily.
Parks shook her head and turned back to Simmons to resume their conversation. Blackburn sighed and shook his head. That did exactly the opposite of what he had hoped would happen. Since Simmons seemed to have had a pleasant memory of the event, he'd hoped to draw House out just a bit. Now he was behind an even higher wall. Cyrus had heard the rumors that House was on the verge of losing tenure, this event being a mandatory condition to keeping his job. If House and Parks continued firing shots at each other all weekend, House would be fired and diagnostics closed. Well, Cyrus didn't plan on spending a miserable weekend watching these two tear each other down. He'd have to try to convince Simmons to help him defuse the war or none of them would get any benefit out of this.
The first course dishes were removed and the entrée served but what little appetite House had had was now gone. He was simmering just below boil at being forced into this, tricked by Wilson and Cuddy, and denied even his own team to share the misery with. Now he had to spend a weekend with bitchy Parks. He pushed the plate aside and sat back in his chair, pulling out his vicodin bottle and downing another pill. One of the wait staff noticed his untouched plate and came around, offering a couple of different choices.
"Are you planning to starve yourself this weekend?" Wilson's voice asked from just behind him, having come around to check on him.
"Go back to your assigned seat before the dragon lady gives you detention," House snapped, shooting Wilson a murderous glance.
"Just eat the dinner, you like what they're serving. Stop being such a child," Wilson said with a sigh, causing House to stiffen in anger. Cyrus was aghast at how Wilson was treating House; public humiliation was rarely an effective means to correct behavior.
"Dr. Wilson, you should return to your table," Cyrus said, meeting Wilson's surprised look with a fixed glare. "Now, if you please," he added when Wilson hesitated. With a huff of indignation and a final glare at House, Wilson turned on heel and went back to his seat.
"I hadn't expected to see such inappropriate behavior from Dr Wilson," Cyrus said with deliberate casualness.
"From Dr Wilson?" Parks said, clearly holding House in the wrong.
"Yes, from Dr Wilson. If he was truly concerned for your welfare, Dr House, he would not have belittled you publicly. I find such behavior offensive and crude."
House regarded Cyrus curiously, finding it odd that anyone would side with him against Wilson. He glanced up at the other two and not surprisingly, Parks was unmoved. Simmons, however, looked thoughtful about the whole situation.
"Did the ride exacerbate your pain?" Cyrus asked a couple of minutes later.
House looked up at him, analyzing his motive in asking before finally nodding. "Long rides always do."
"Do you need Compazine in addition to your Vicodin?"
House stilled completely, unable to voice an answer. After a minute he looked down at his hands and nodded. He didn't think anyone would have noticed. Wilson wouldn't have. Apparently, Cyrus had as a hand slid across a bubble package that House recognized as Compazine. He left it sitting there untouched for a couple of minutes, waiting for the lecture that should follow. Nothing happened. Cautiously, House peeked up at Cyrus who was simply eating dinner as were Parks and Simmons. Another minute passed before House picked up the pack, took one of the pills and put the rest into his pocket.
As the entrée course dishes were picked up, the wait staff again asked if they could bring him something else to eat. The meds had kicked in and he was a little hungry, so he asked if they could slice some of the steak and make a sandwich of it for him. They readily agreed and quickly brought it back to him along with a small bowl of applesauce as they served the dessert course.
Cyrus watched him through dessert, pleased to see him eat most of the sandwich and the applesauce. It completely floored him that Wilson, of all people, had not given him an anti-nausea med, choosing instead to berate him as stubborn. Cyrus had no doubt that House was stubborn, but he'd seen his grimace at the food. If Wilson had bothered to look, he would have seen it too.
After dessert had been cleared away, the master of ceremonies took the stage again to lay out the plan for the rest of the weekend but House paid no attention to her. He stared at his hands, resting crossed on the table, and pondered the mystery of Dr. Cyrus Blackburn, moving only when everyone began to stand up.
"Enjoy your evening, Dr House," Cyrus said with a friendly nod. "See you at breakfast," he added and headed away with Simmons. Parks was already gone, not that House cared. He got to his feet and left the dining hall, limping down to sit on a bench by the lake to think and avoid any lectures or ranting from Wilson. If he was lucky, maybe he could stay out here until Wilson fell asleep.