It was all Cuddy's fault, of course. He knew that on a conscious level, the level on which he knew that puppies were cute and that Chase would be significantly less attractive without his Aussie-boy accent, but a deeper, hidden part of him knew that he had something to do with it, too. His reputation as the uncontrollable genius, his constant worrying of Cuddy's nerves, the way he inspired lawsuit after lawsuit with his so-called obsession with exposing marital affairs... It was no wonder Cuddy had been so quick to volunteer him for the hospital's stupid 'doctor exchange.' Getting him out of her hair for a month was a sure-fire way to restock the mental artillery in time for his return a month later, and as much as House resented being shipped off to Japan with only two day's notice, he knew that he was looking forward to battling a renewed Cuddy upon his return.
But House would never admit that to himself, either.
Sendai Hospital was a solid looking building, much like all the other Japanese buildings he had seen from the window of the taxi that had picked him up at the airport. White walls, a flat roof many stories above his head, frequent but small windows to let in lightyes, House decided, the hospital was as austerely Japanese as he had expected. It was a simple place, a straight rectangle not unlike an office building but definitely not like Princeton Plainesborough with all of its wings and side doors and marble tile. House hated it on sight. The architecture was not nearly interesting enough.
The doctor waiting for him at the hospital's ambulance port, however, he did like, at least at first. The man was tall for a Japanese guy, though he was not as tall as House, and he wore frameless glasses beneath his graying hair. Impeccable scrubs, shiny shoes, and a white lab coat ironed to perfection seemed to say Please do not offend my Japanese sensibilities or else I will karate chop you into next Wednesday. House made a mental note not to piss him off... at least until he figured out what color belt he was. House hit his limit at green.
"Welcome," the doctor said when House stepped out of the cab. "This is Sendai Hospital, and I am Doctor Momokura." He bowed from the waist. "I have been expecting you. It is an honor to meet you, Doctor House."
"You speak English?" House asked without returning the bow. He wasn't too surprised, come to think of it. The doctor's voice was deep, pleasant, and touched by the small hesitation of an accent that made each word he spoke sound measured, calculated, and as dangerous as an asp coated in satin.
"Yes," said Momokura as he straightened. "I have found the skill to be useful when negotiating with American pharmaceutical companies." His narrow black eyes betrayed little emotion, and with a sinking feeling House realized that this doctor would not be nearly as fun to tease as Cuddy. Insults would roll off Momokura like rain even as Momokura subtly fought back, and the man obviously had a backbone as unbendable as steel.
This month is going to be boring,House thought, and as he paid the cabby he resolved to find someoneanyoneto lessen that feeling.
What was waiting for him at Sendai Hospital was not, however, what House had had in mind.
Momokura gave him a tour first, of course, and had one of the orderlies take House's suitcases off somewhere. House didn't like being separated from his things, or the way the burly orderly was eyeing his luggage like it might be worth more than his hourly wage, but Momokura's intimidating eyes didn't allow House to complain. Not yet, at any rate.
The hospital was arranged by floor. On the first floor you had the ER and the ICU, which House thought was a weird place for them but Momokura, upon seeing the American's incredulous expression, explained that non-emergency patients parked in a garage behind the building and came in through a separate set of doors. From there they could take a staircase or elevator to the second floor which, Momokura said, housed the equivalent of Plainesborough's dreaded clinic. Above the clinic were four more floors: surgery, testing facilities, and the labs and the offices of different departments. The intensive care and long-term patients were on the top floor.
Momokura's office was on the bottom floor, right down among the hubbub of the ER. House could hear people barking orders through the office's thin walls. His bags had been set atop the large wooden desk that took up most of the tiny room's floor space, and Momokura bade him take a seat in the only threadbare chair other than the one behind the desk, which Momokura took himself.
"A relationship grounded in honesty can stretch as tall as the oldest oak," Momokura said as House got settled. The look in his eye promised nothing good despite his quotation of such a peaceful adage. "May I be bold?"
"Only if you don't mind me being a jerk," House said cheerfully. He spun his cane in one hand as he lounged in his cramped seat, one leg crossed over the other in defiance.
Momokura raised an eyebrow at House's impolite posture, the first display of emotion he'd shown all day.
"Oh, don't give me that look!" House said, feigning being hurt and shocked at once. "I'm fragile, you know. It's part of a cripple's skill-set."
"You have quite a reputation, House-san," Momokura deadpanned. He acted like he hadn't heard House speak. "In fact, it is such a reputation that is has reached even my ears, all the way across the sea."
"What can I say? People just love me."
"Not according to your reputation." Momokura inclined his head to just the right angle; his glasses caught the glare of the overhead lights, obscuring his eyes completely. "You are crass, and you do not respect authority. And in this hospital, there is no place for that. I will not allow you to bend rules. You will find that Japan is much more strict than your homeland. Tread carefully."
House showed his teeth, but no one could call the look a smile. "Like an elephant through a china shopor is mixing Asians like mixing metaphors here? Sorry. My bad."
Momokura was less than amused, but he did not acknowledge House's insubordination and said: "I have a sickness I wish you to diagnose."
"Oh don't worry, that thing you don't have is called a personality."
Momokura went still, and House realized that he had said too much.
"I want you here," said Momokura, taking off his glasses, "because you are a brilliant man. But there are other brilliant men, many of whom have tried and failed to cure my patient. If you do not think you can help me and are acting this way in hopes you will be dismissed, then you may go. I will find someone else with the ability."
House paused, pride stinging.
Then: "What's wrong with your patient?"
House looked over Minamino Shiori's file with clenched teeth. Her symptomsones typical of a wasting illnesshad not responded to any of the dozens of treatments she'd been subjected to. The charts sad she was clean of cancer, clean of viruses, clean of autoimmune disorders
Still, though. She was, without a doubt, dying.
The worst part? House had no idea what was wrong with her. The pictures, the charts, the notes... all of them in broken English, all of them useless. He didn't even have a team to bounce ideas off of.
Against his better judgment, he decided to see his patient for himself.