Dr-House.com Fanfiction

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by Betz88

He was so tired!

It had been a long, frustrating week, and now at its conclusion he knew he was about at the end of his rope. He’d closed the vertical blinds at the opposite end of his office a half hour before and now sat with his back turned toward his desk, feet propped on the long shelf behind it, long legs stretched out to the limits of comfort. He reclined with his head dipped forward, chin nearly touching his chest in an attempt to stretch the muscles at the back of his neck. It was working a little, but he still felt as though twenty pound weights were pressing down on both shoulder blades. He tried rolling his head in a counter-clockwise movement, but the tension was there regardless. He leaned back until his hairline rested on the backrest of his chair and let his eyes close gradually. His back hurt like hell and a stab of pain radiated from his left hip up into his ass cheek. That, however, was way beyond his control; just one more symptom of events in his life that were rapidly turning him into an old man long before his time.

He turned his head toward the wall and tried to shut out the turmoil of images that still crowded their way into his ceaselessly churning mind. Behind closed lids a pastel burst of fireworks cascaded up and out, and he could almost imagine a fanfare of trumpets as the week’s parade of clinic patients marched through single-file. His brow furrowed, lips pursing, and he lifted a hand to his forehead where another niggle of pain announced a headache beginning to form.

Behind him he heard the snick of his office door as it opened, then the chink of it closing again and soft footfalls crossing the expanse of carpet toward his desk. He perceived a pause of indecision as his visitor considered the wisdom of intruding upon his solitude. Then he caught the faint waft of Canoe rising into his olfactory senses. The upward turn at the corners of his mouth was so insignificant as to be unnoticeable to anyone else, but to Wilson, it was a welcome mat to his friend’s inner sanctum.

“Hey …”

The word was soft, non-intrusive, and yet infused with gentle questioning that left no doubt in his mind that his friend was, as usual, concerned.

“Hey, yourself! Finished for the day?” He opened his eyes and inclined his head the other way.

Wilson was in street clothes. “Yeah. You?”

Gregory House closed both hands gingerly around his thigh and hefted his right leg down from the bookcase, then followed it with the left one and swung around to face the man who’d walked up behind him. Squinting, he nodded.

“God, I hope so! I chased the kids out a half hour ago and buttoned things up so I could just sit here awhile and let all the week’s crap run out my ears. It was giving me a headache.”

“Did it work?”

He wrinkled his nose. “Ehhh …”

“You look tired, House!”

“Thanks. Appreciate the observation.”

“You know what I mean …” Wilson perched on the edge of the desk and looked down at the other man skeptically. “Still have the pain in your other hip?”

House sighed. “Not nearly as much as you being a pain in my ass!”

Wilson crunched a face before he replied. “Don’t know why I didn’t see that one coming.”

“You just don’t get up early enough in the morning to beat me at my own game. Anyhow, you still headed to Ohio for the weekend?”

Wilson’s chin dropped. “Guess not,” he said. “We had … words … last night. Julie said she was going without me.”

“And you waited until now to say anything? What’s up with that?”

“I didn’t want to bother you with my problems. You had enough of your own this week.”

“Yeah, well, shit happens. Two hours from now none of it will make any difference after we step out the door of this place.” House pushed back his jacket cuff and stared at his watch. “And that’ll happen in exactly … seven minutes.” He paused for a moment, scanning the area around his chair.

Wilson could not determine if the tight scowl on the other man’s face resulted from impatience or discomfort. He leaned down to his left and scooped the expensive cane off the floor. “Is this what you’re looking for?” He asked softly. “It slid down beneath the desk.” He extended his hand and House reached for the handle. Wilson did not let go immediately. “Want to do a pizza and a six pack? Your place, my treat.”

House grasped the cane without answering, but Wilson held tight, ignoring the brief spark of anger, which emanated from the weary blue eyes. “Come on, Wilson. You can’t spend your whole freakin’ life hanging out with me. Don’t you have anything better to do with your time? For instance, going home and fixing it up with Julie. The last thing I need is you moping around like a lovesick puppy at my place while I sprawl on the couch in my underwear watching football games and getting wasted. You don’t need to baby sit me. I’m fine. Go make nice with your wife and go to Ohio to visit your in-laws. I’ll see you Monday.”

Wilson frowned and released his grip on the cane. Wearily he rose from his perch atop the edge of the desk and turned toward the door. “It’s not that simple.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” House made no move to get up. He nestled his chin into the crook of the cane’s handle and stared up warily at Wilson’s averted face.

“Last night she told me she was filing for divorce. There’s … somebody else.” The words were quietly spoken, and final.

The silence between them stretched almost to awkwardness. Finally House lurched to his feet with a clumsy heave and planted the cane firmly on the floor in front of him. “I’m sorry, Wilson. That sucks.” He took a half-step forward and faltered, reaching out to Wilson’s shoulder for balance, breath hitching in his throat as Wilson steadied him gently and then drew back before offering anything further. House’s eyes darted away, mortified. “If you still want to pick up the pizza and the beer, I’ll meet you at my place. Right now I need to get home. I’ll leave the door unlocked.”

Simply stated: take-it-or-leave-it!

Wilson’s nod was lost deep within the covering motion of his body as he turned to head across the room again. “Thanks. See you later, then.” He pulled the door open and moved into the corridor, purposely ignoring a conflict of priorities as he hurried away to pick up his car and drive to the beer distributor’s take-out store. Most days he would have hung back, assisted House with preparations to pack things up and get ready to leave his office. But today the warning sparks emanating from the too-bright eyes told him this was not one of those days, and he knew House well enough to know when not to offer too much help. When Gregg was battling pain like this, his opposition to any offer of assistance was usually at its most determined. Wilson recognized the signs and knew his friend needed to work through his difficulties alone. He did not trust himself to remain there and be witness to House’s misery as he struggled to make his own way out of the building, walk to his car and drive the short distance home. So Wilson had given one of his “suit yourself” shrugs and left quietly, gritting his teeth in exasperation.

James pulled the baby blue Avalon off the street and parked under the overhang as close as he could get to the distributor’s loading bay. He fished out his cell phone and called the nearest Domino’s Pizza delivery. He got out of the car, walked inside, bought a case of Coors Light and a case of Samuel Adams and watched the cute girl with a handcart load them into the car’s trunk. He paid with a credit card and exited to the loading bay again. He tipped the girl with the handcart and left her red-faced in the wake of one of his “wonder boy” smiles. He got back in the car and continued toward House’s apartment.

Wilson’s thoughts turned purposely away from worries about his obstinate friend and shifted randomly backward to replay snatches of the fight with Julie the night before. The sad truth was that another marriage was about to go down the drain. Julie had once liked House, or at least pretended to and ignored his crap, but that had gone south in a hurry a year or so after they were married. In turning on House, she had soon turned on him as well. What the hell was the matter with him? Not every flaw in their relationship could be blamed on his choice of friends. What chink in his personality planted an iron barrier between his sense of masculinity and every woman he’d ever fallen in love with? Even as he asked it of himself, he was aware of the answer. He was incapable of fidelity.

James considered his continued willingness to put up with the angry, sullen presence of Gregory House, and his own unquenchable thirst for punishing himself with the bite of that sharp tongue. It didn’t make sense. Why did he return over and over and submit himself as House’s whipping boy, enduring the other man’s insults and abuse? Did his assumed obligation of being needed by this crippled misanthrope further fuel Julie’s determination to live her life separate from her husband? Or was it merely her sense of isolation in the face of his demanding profession and philandering ways? Wilson was uncertain, but he was beginning to believe he was as “damaged” as Gregg, since sooner or later House seemed to alienate every woman Wilson had ever cared for. The man was not, however, responsible for any of Wilson’s failed marriages.

Was he? Was he??

Wilson drove the Avalon into the underground garage at 321 East Side Drive and pulled into the reserved parking space next to Gregg’s “handicap” stall. The specially equipped Envoy was not there. Wilson wondered why his friend hadn’t arrived yet. Gregg said he needed to get home, and Wilson had seen the barely contained pain of his movements while still at the hospital. House certainly had plenty of time to get there ahead of him, change into sweats and be lounging in the big chair in front of the TV.

James lugged the two cases of beer to House’s apartment, fumbled with his keys and let himself in. He shrugged out of his suit coat and tossed it over the back of the couch. He loosened his tie and flung it in the same general direction, glancing at his watch worriedly as he hitched his shirt sleeves to his elbows. So where was Gregg? Should he let himself get into a tizzy about it? Why the hell was he so pointedly worried about the man … again?


%%%%%


Gregg, meanwhile, lingered in his office, balance equalized between his right hand on the cane and the left one still on the surface of his desk, watching Wilson disappear stiffly down the corridor. He waited for the elevator door to ping and the annoying attack of vertigo to ease before he attempted to take another step. All around him the room was spinning, all color losing definition, and his world turning monochrome. He closed his eyes, lowered his head and hung on. It had been a hell of a week, and he could not remember when last he had been so completely wiped out by the end of it. Clinic duties had worn him to a frazzle and his invalided leg had been throbbing insistently for days. Even the wheeled stools in the exam rooms, put there exclusively for his convenience, had given no respite. It had been all he could do just to keep his concentration one step ahead of the pain.

On top of that, three people with life-threatening illnesses had kept him and his team in a constant state of flux all week, constantly running from labs to treatment rooms, X-Ray, MRI, and two of the three available surgical theatres on the third floor. House had remained at the hospital two nights in a row, too sore to attempt the drive home and too stubborn to admit it. Instead he tossed restlessly on the couch in Wilson’s office, rising hourly to monitor an elderly man with runaway blood pressure that spiked through the roof. The old fellow was spending his last hours on Earth under Dr. House’s care, and House intended to make his exit from life as painless as possible. Toward morning on Thursday, Gregg lowered himself into the visitor’s chair at Mr. Matthews’ bedside and stayed there stubbornly while his entire body screamed with abuse.

In addition, the team had to contend with a teenage girl who, in her delirium, woke up close to midnight Thursday with screaming fits, bouncing off the walls and pulling out IVs and catheter to land unconscious in the corridor outside her room. The kids got her sedated, reattached and calmed down. Cameron and Chase remained at her side for an hour after that, while Foreman moved on wearily to still another critical case.

An indigent pregnant woman whose fetus, Foreman had discovered, was developing outside her womb, came in by police ambulance during the wee hours while the attending was busy elsewhere and Chase and Cameron were thinking of trying to get out of there. She was comatose and bleeding internally, and he could not, in good conscience, leave her. Thursday night, Dr. House once again found himself keeping vigil beside Mr. Matthews’ deathbed.

By daylight Friday, the woman, her unborn child, and the old man had died in spite of every measure taken in order to prevent it, and House’s young team was dispirited and silent. There was nothing they could have done to make it otherwise in either case. The teenager had finally leveled out by Thursday midnight, but she was still in guarded condition by quitting time Friday.

The morning following Matthews’ death, a bone-deep ache had forged a strangle hold on the hip of House’s healthy leg, and by early afternoon, that leg hurt almost as much as the weaker one. He pulled a cloak of frigid-faced privacy about himself and allowed no vulnerability to show in his expression. His team believed it was his obstinate way of grieving privately for the patients they’d lost, and he let them think it. None of them protested or asked questions when he sent them home, spent and exhausted, an hour early on Friday evening. Not Chase. Not even Cameron. They departed separately in solemn and reflective silence and did not look back. He holed up in his office and closed the blinds against prying eyes.

Now, Friday night, the only thing House still had to contend with in that regard was James Wilson. He would gladly have given Wilson the brush-off under other circumstances and gone home to collapse and tough out the weekend alone, except that now Wilson was in his own excruciating pain. His friend was going down for the third time, and he owed the man so much! Even he, in his own guarded misery and need for isolation and privacy, could not turn his back on a drowning man!

He was so tired!

He struggled to even his ragged breathing and stood there, every muscle pinging, waiting for the “bubbles in the wine” that threatened his tenuous balance, to stop popping over his head and restore his sense of control and equilibrium. By the time he felt able to move again, he was wondering if he had somehow begun to take root to the spot.

It took all of House’s remaining energy to shoulder his briefcase, trudge in stone-faced determination to the Envoy and drive home, even with the simple-to-use hand controls. He drove carefully, obeying speed limits and traffic signals, fighting the soreness spreading through his back and buttocks, and the spike of headache at his temples. He was not sure he was up for pizza or beer, or the guarded conversation with Wilson that was sure to follow. He was not even sure if he had the energy to shower, change into sweats and moccasins and drop wearily onto the couch. If only he could be free of the relentless pain for just a little while!

The baby blue Avalon was parked in the Gateway Complex’s underground garage when House pulled in and shut off the motor. James was already there, and there would soon be hell to pay. He activated the dismounting platform, but lingered before hauling himself out onto it to glide to ground level, deciding to leave his briefcase on the floor of the back seat. He did not have the inclination to carry it to the elevator, or the strength. He reached into his jacket pocket and extracted his bottle of Vicodin, fumbled it open and took two of them; recapped it and put it back. He sighed heavily, leaning his aching head against the backs of his hands at the top of the steering wheel and closed his eyes while the bitter pills dissolved in his mouth. His exhaustion was complete and the inability to concentrate was quickly overtaking him. He felt like a drunken bum coming off a three-day bender, and he was not sure if he could even summon the energy to walk to the elevator and ride up to his apartment.

He waited for the pills to begin shoring him up.


%%%%%


Wilson tried twice to reach House on his cell phone, but was unsuccessful. Gregg must have shut his own off. Dominoes had not yet arrived with the pizza, so he iced part of the beer, returned to the building’s elevator and went back to garage level. He saw the Envoy with its platform deployed as soon as the doors pinged open. House sat behind the wheel with his head bent forward on his hands and Wilson blanched, hurrying forward to pull the driver’s side door open.

“House? You okay?”

House did not move, merely opened his eyes a slit to peer sideways in Wilson’s direction. Wilson heard him hitch a breath and was relieved that he seemed to be functional. He placed his right hand gently on House’s forearm near the elbow and gave it a squeeze. “I just put the beer on ice and was going to go back to the hospital to check on you. I called your cell phone, but it wouldn’t … did you turn the damned thing off?”

House nodded, recognizing in Wilson’s nervous chatter the need to know whether he was indeed all right. His visions of “hell-to-pay” disappeared beneath the other man’s obvious concern. He sat back in the seat with a groan and allowed his hands to drop to his lap before letting another tiny smile worry the corners of his mouth. “Yeah,” he looked down and across, caressing the worried brown eyes with his own exasperated glare. “I did. Gonna make somethin’ of it?”

Behind them, a small sedan with a plastic “Domino’s” sign strapped to its roof pulled into a parking space a few car-lengths down. A young man in blue jeans and long shaggy hair removed a large padded keep-warm sleeve from the back seat and began to walk in the direction of the elevator.

Wilson gave House’s arm a last gentle squeeze and beckoned the kid over. “Large pepperoni and mushroom for Dr. House?” He asked, reaching to his back pocket for his wallet.

The boy nodded, looking at his order pad. “Yep. Pizza and bread sticks.” He pulled out the boxes and extended them to him. “Thirteen bucks, Dr. House.”

Wilson handed over a twenty and accepted both boxes. “Keep the change.”

Shaggy Hair grinned. “Thanks!” He trotted back to the little car, got in, slammed the door and screeched away in a cloud of exhaust fumes.

“Damn thing stinks! Probably needs a head gasket!” House grumbled, wrinkling his nose.

“What?” Wilson frowned for a moment, then shook his head and smiled. “Diagnosing old cars too, Doctor? Expanding on your specialty …”

Gregg snorted at his friend’s attempt at humor. “If you don’t back up and let me out of here, I’m going to diagnose your butt as being ‘kicked’.”

Wilson stepped back a fraction. “What incoming miracle makes you think you can lift your foot that high?” Warily, he watched as House began to work his way onto the platform, dragging the bad leg clumsily across the floorboards.

“Niice!”

House stood still for a moment before closing the door and deactivating the platform. He then turned slowly, switching the cane to his right hand and began to walk with effort ahead of Wilson toward the elevator. His shoulders curled forward as though heavy laden, and his movements were stiff and guardedly controlled. Wilson followed him wordlessly as he moved at less than half his normal pace, and they entered the enclosure. House punched the button for the first level.

“You move like you’re walking on eggs,” Wilson observed nonchalantly. “Want to hit the shower before we eat?” He waited, half expecting a smart remark. “I can always heat this stuff in the nuke …”

“Yeah. Think I will.”

Wilson followed him closely as he stumbled through the door of the apartment.



%%%%%


House took a long time in the bathroom, and when he finally emerged in a grey sweat suit and moccasins with no socks, Wilson heaved a sigh of relief that the man was still upright. He was pale, and with his overgrown stubble and the damp hair all disheveled and spikey, the look of homeless emaciation was nearly complete. Wilson hitched a breath just looking at him. It had been awhile since he’d seen Gregg looking so pained and uncomfortable. It sent chills down his spine. House’s cane, as he struggled to walk slowly from the bedroom to the couch, seemed desperately inadequate for the difficulty of his labored gait. Wilson knew Gregg should be using crutches, but any suggestion of that nature would certainly send threats of mayhem echoing off the walls. When House finally eased down onto the big leather couch, Wilson rose and went to the kitchen where he’d kept the pizza and bread sticks warm in the oven.

Gregg settled himself gingerly at the head end of the couch and watched his best friend disappear into the kitchen. A few rude comments vied with one another for first opportunity to slip past his barbed tongue, but he voiced none of them. Wilson did not deserve any crude teasing from him tonight, or snide remarks about his manly prowess or lack thereof in his marriage skills. Gregg knew he owed the man a sympathetic ear, and Wilson needed someone who was willing to listen to his doubts and fears and not dispense scorn or ridicule in return. House hung his head as he listened to the banging around in the other room. His body pained him too much to concentrate for more than a few moments. He wondered if he might be coming down with something more than the usual aches from overexertion.

Wilson appeared in the living room doorway a few minutes later with a large wooden cutting board upon which he had arranged two paper plates containing two pizza slices each, a bowl of bread sticks and two glasses of dark, satisfying Samuel Adams beer. House raised his eyebrows and wrinkled his nose. “What’s the occasion?”

Wilson grinned, obviously grateful to not have to ward off some caustic remark. “What occasion?” He thought for a moment and shrugged. “Maybe we can just celebrate the fact that you made it all the way from your office to your couch without falling on your face or driving your damned car up a telephone pole somewhere.”

The blue eyes came up, right eyebrow on the rise. “We should have made a bet on it,” House replied, and bit down on his lip to shut off anything else he might have said that would have spoiled the moment. “Thanks. This smells good.”

Wilson frowned. “You scare me when you’re nice,” he said. “I’ve been in full body armor all afternoon, and you haven’t taken a single pot shot. You must really be feeling like hell … or else I’m about to get both barrels for letting my guard down. Am I missing something?”

“You aren’t missing anything. I really do feel like hell! This has been a week I’d rather try to forget … but I guess you would too, wouldn’t you?” House schooled his face to an expression of sympathetic concentration, looking Wilson in the eye, determined for a change not to make this conversation about him! The breakdown of James’s marriage deserved more than a passing shrug from the man who was supposedly his best friend. If Wilson needed to talk, then he needed to listen! He took a bite of pizza and chewed it slowly. Even the movement of his jaws accentuated the pain in his head, and it almost wasn’t worth the effort. He looked away, finally.

Wilson studied his friend with worried eyes, munching on his own pizza slice and appraising House’s demeanor with a mixture of sorrow and regret. “You got that right,” he finally replied. “It’s not that I didn’t see it coming, really, because it’s been working up a head of steam for a long time. But I still feel as though I’ve been pole-axed.”

“You mean you already knew she was going to start a divorce?”

“Well, not exactly … but let’s just say that I wasn’t surprised when the declaration finally arrived! I guess I woke up at last and fell out of love with love. You thought the marriage might have been a bust from the start, didn’t you?” The gentle brown eyes were pleading.

Gregg hesitated. He believed he’d been very clever in keeping his doubts about Julie from rubbing off on Wilson. Maybe he wasn’t as clever as he’d believed! “What do you mean?” Then he noticed that James had that calculating look on his face that he used to good advantage from time to time. House had always known the man was much more than just a pretty face. He was a human chasm whose dark, murky waters ran very deep, and some of his closely guarded secrets were at least as obscure as House’s own. House squinted across to study Wilson’s expression, and was a little disconcerted to see James looking at him in return with a shrewd and serious sort of contemplation. He repeated his question. “What do you mean?”

Wilson averted his eyes for an instant and then looked back, considering; wavering between excuses and truth. “Well, for one thing, you already guessed she wasn’t pregnant when she talked me into marrying her, didn’t you?”

House blinked with surprise. How the hell had Wilson known? He’d never said a word, but here it was, out in the open like a bolt from the blue. “Unhh … what makes you say that?”

“You keep answering my questions with questions, House. Every time you do that, you’re hiding something!” James wasn’t angry, just confirming a long-held suspicion. House could see it in his face, and if his back didn’t hurt so badly at the moment, he might have squirmed. Wilson smiled wryly and continued. “Actually, you knew I was thinking about marrying Debbie instead, but when I ended up with Julie, you still didn’t seem all that surprised. That tells me you were the first one she told that she was pregnant. For awhile you fell for it the same as I did. I’ve thought about it a lot over the years.”

“Yeah, she did tell me first, and I believed her for awhile, like you said, but at the time my thinking was a little … screwed.” House shrugged. “Then I began to suspect it was a lie, but if I’d ratted her out to you, you wouldn’t have believed me anyhow. Squealing to your best friend about the girl he’s going to marry is never a good idea. Later on, I decided she really was in love with you, and maybe a little desperate … scared you’d dump her and marry Debbie. If your marriage had worked out, it wouldn’t have made any difference, and the only thing my confession would have done was make you suspicious. Besides, it was none of my business.”

“Since when did that ever bother you?”

“Never! Well, not anymore. But it was different then, Wilson. A lot of shit was going down, and a lot of things were different in that respect. A lot of things were screwed up, and I was a total mess.”

“And you’re not now?” Wilson inquired softly.

House ignored him and continued. “We were still just a couple of doctors busting our asses to make a difference and get noticed in a famous hospital … trying to earn tenure and find our places in the system. “Then the ‘boom’ got lowered and my leg went south. You were worrying your ass off about me. I was starting to bog down your whole life by being a brand-new cripple, still in rehab, whose girlfriend had just walked out on him!”

House paused again and looked his friend in the eyes. Wilson was hanging on every word. “Julie was a nice girl, and I hoped she was the right one for you after your first two stupid marriages that lasted about ten minutes each.” House’s expression became distant; a little vacant, a little marred by the old bitterness, and more than just a little uncomfortable and much too clouded with pain. Wilson saw that House was regretting this conversation, but couldn’t seem to veer it away from its chosen path. Gregg stumbled on. “I couldn’t get my head to fit around the damn pain I was experiencing … and I didn’t even try at first. I just struck out like a wild man at everyone who came near me …”

Wilson scowled. “You worried me a lot in those days, Gregg. God knows, you still do! But you’re my friend, and I knew I had to wait you out. It was an easy decision on my part. One of the easiest decisions I ever made in my life … and the one that’s always made the most sense.”

House stared across, brow furrowing, right eyebrow slightly on the rise again. The feeling of alarm skittered down his spine, and it hurt. Wilson was watching him closely with an expression he couldn’t quite decipher. He deflected the look the only way he knew how. He took another bite of pizza, chewed, washed it down with the rest of the Samuel Adams. “You and Julie loved each other once. What happened?”

Wilson’s expression shifted with the abrupt change of subject. “I don’t know. Life, I guess. My job. We grew apart. It happens. You knew she wasn’t pregnant. Tell me how you knew.” The question kept coming back to haunt them.

House sighed and averted his eyes yet again. What would he reveal if he met Wilson’s gaze full-on? He wasn’t sure, and his head told him it would be disastrous to chance finding out. Where was this conversation going? “You really need to know about that after all this time?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, you win. You won’t be satisfied until I tell you.

“When you and Julie started dating while you were still going out with Debbie, I was a little confused. I figured Debbie would be the third ‘Mrs. Wilson’. Then one night you and Julie picked me up at rehab and the three of us went out for dinner. I was still on crutches and pretty damn miserable, remember?”

“Yeah …I do.”

“You went to pay for dinner afterward, and Julie and I waited outside. I was hurting, and needed to get out of there. Julie stuck to me like glue while I dragged my ass out to the parking lot. She stood there right beside me in case I got dizzy … ‘til I breathed in some fresh air and started to feel a little better. We talked awhile and she asked me if I wanted a cigarette. I said ‘yes’. When she got the pack out of her purse, I saw that she had one of those purse-sized plastic tampon cases that women carry around with them. I never gave it another thought until the night you told me she said she was pregnant. She’d told me a couple days before that on one of the evenings you two visited me in rehab. I guess she needed us to keep our stories straight. She was pretty set on marrying you.

“Then, later on, I wondered why the hell she would bother keeping tampons in her purse if she was pregnant. I decided she thought she was going to lose out to Debbie if she didn’t figure out a way to change your mind real fast … so that’s why she told us both there was going to be a baby. A couple days later, the two of you were engaged. A week after you eloped, she miraculously got her period. It made sense at the time, and I just let the whole thing drop. End of story.”

James smiled. House had never told him about any of this before. “And you didn’t say anything because you thought the marriage might actually work out?”

“I hoped it would. You deserved a break. You stuck with me all those months when I could barely move … when I couldn’t walk and didn’t want to try. You took my anger and my crap and you hung in there. You spent more time at my place than you did at home, and Julie never said a word about it. She was a lot more decent than I ever thought she would be. I guess I hoped it would work out for both of you. I still pick on you more than you deserve, but you’re my friend. If I can’t pick on you, I may as well be dead.
Everybody, especially you, has a right to be happy, Wilson.”

“Everybody … except Gregory House?” Wilson’s voice had a dare in it, but House caught the implication.

The blue eyes snapped up and across like two icy daggers, finally drilling into Wilson’s gaze head-on. “Are you trying to turn this around and make it about me?”

“Maybe I am … maybe not. It’s just as much about you as it is about me!” There was a return to polite defiance in the statement.

“How do you figure?”

“You’re a part of me, House! I can’t be me without you. Why can’t you see that?”

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard!”

“Deny it then! You can’t!”

House was silent for a moment, eyes darting away into the distance as they always did when he experienced discomfort or had no immediate answer. He worried the first two fingers of his right hand around and around the lip of the Samuel Adams beer bottle. Something stirred within his chest and then shifted quickly down to his belly; something he couldn’t name and was afraid to take a guess about; something foreign and disturbingly pleasant. He tensed, and the pain in his legs and back radiated upward. When Wilson’s hand closed over his own at the top of the bottle, House’s breath hitched sharply. “What’s this for?” The fear of what might be coming edged closer.

Wilson did not withdraw. If anything, his grasp became firmer, more insistent as his long fingers curled gently around his friend’s hand. “Nothing! It’s not for anything! I just wanted you to know that you’ve blown your ‘bastard’ reputation forever, and nothing you’ll ever say to me again will convince me that you don’t give a damn about people!”

House snorted derisively, peering down at the manner in which his fingers were being imprisoned within Wilson’s grasp. “Let go, dammit!” He pulled himself free and the empty beer bottle hit the carpet with a solid “clunk”. The soreness in his lower extremities closed in with an iron grasp and he grunted in pain. He could not meet Wilson’s eyes, and the sting of embarrassment rattled his consciousness as though he’d been hit on the head with an errant brick. He could feel the painful shock of sudden movement throughout his aching body, and another hiss of breached control escaped between his teeth.

He was so tired.

“House?” James was on his knees beside the couch in a heartbeat. “What’s wrong? What are you trying to hide from me this time?” His hands were reaching out again, grazing Gregg’s forearm with a feather touch, fingers arched in question and seeking permission to return to some measure of intimacy.

Even the thought of Wilson’s touch on his wrist caused shivers of fear to prickle along House’s skin, making him feel like a startled deer caught in the headlights, instilling the need for fight-or-flight which he had never experienced before in his entire life. He froze in the act of searching the other man’s kind face, for one panicked instant becoming lost in the depths of those eyes. “Wilson! Stop it! What’s got into you?” He pushed the searching hands away and started to swing his legs off the couch. The need to extricate his presence from the situation was almost overpowering.

Gregg’s crippled leg and lower back seized up at the sudden unguarded movement. The pain threw him further forward into the action already begun, and before he could stop himself he’d slid sharply onto his knees on the floor and into Wilson’s waiting arms. He gasped at the assault on the bad leg which could not support the full weight of his body. It folded at the hip, sending lightning bolts of agony into his back. He went over onto his injured side, dragging Wilson with him, letting out a howl that came up from deep in his throat. His leg and back muscles went into spasm, and for a moment he could not get his breath. He laid gasping, gulping air in great draughts until he felt the shock of an open hand coming down hard between his shoulder blades. The air expelled all at once and he was able to ride out the rest of it, cocooned gently within Wilson’s strong embrace until the violent spasms subsided. Then Wilson’s hands were straightening his body with gentle manipulations, knowing he could not do it for himself, removing his shoes, lifting both his feet up over the edge of the couch until his back was flat on the floor, the backs of his legs resting on the cushions.

Then it was all academic.

When he was able to breathe again with some modicum of returning comfort, Wilson was sitting at his side, grinning like a sappy, beautiful oaf, fingers sifting carefully through his messy hair, gazing at him with an intense expression of … what? He frowned, and Wilson’s fingers slipped downward to smooth the deep, puzzled furrows away from his forehead. House stared upward in wonder, and a faint whiff of Canoe whispered into his senses. He let the frown melt into the hint of a smile instead. Why had he not noticed before how caring was this face looking down?

A fleeting thought turned backward to the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Julie Wilson, thanking her indeed for the priceless gift she had left behind unknowing, and finally acknowledging that her legacy to him was the exquisite bounty of the shining dark eyes he was no longer afraid to meet with his own.

“Wilson?”

“What?”

“Whatever was the matter with my back got jarred loose when I fell off the couch. Even my leg doesn’t hurt as much. Thanks.”

“Sure. You’re welcome. I’m very happy that you’re feeling better.”

“What were we talking about before we were so rudely interrupted?”

“I’m not sure. Something about it being a hell of a week and we’re both glad it’s over, and I was crying over Julie leaving me, and you were being so nice about it, I thought I didn’t know you anymore, and … you know what?”

“What?”

“I’m really glad Julie wasn’t pregnant!”

“Me too. I’m so damned tired. Thank God it’s Friday!

%%%%%End %%%%%

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