House leaned back. “And so worth it. Did you see
the look on that delivery guy’s face.”
Some time later they were sitting on the front steps of
the little House, finishing off the last of the pizza.
“So why are you in prison if you aren’t a
“Ever had someone, someone who meant so much to
you that you would do anything for them?”
Tim looked down at the dirt. “Yeah, my mum. She
works so hard and she never gets mad – even when I do dumb stuff.”
“Well there is this guy…”
“A guy,” said Tim spluttering on his pizza.
House rolled his eyes. “No – it is not like
that. For God’s sake.”
Tim sighed. “I like guys,” he said quietly.
“Well, good for you. I like tits and arse, but I
don’t go on about it. Actually I do – so good for you,” said House offhandedly. “But this is my story,
not yours. So I get to do all the angsting.”
He eyed his slice of pizza thoughtfully before continuing.
“There is this guy, and some other people, and I do what I have to do to make sure they are safe.”
“So you are in jail because you want these people
to be safe?” confirmed Tim.
“It sounds weird.”
House took a bite of his pizza. “Weird doesn’t
even begin to describe it, but that is life Tim my boy.”
They looked up as they heard the distant wail of sirens
in the background. House smiled grimly. “That’s my ride.”
Wilson watched sadly as House was practically carried
into the courtroom by two troopers. He felt sick as he looked at the irons on his friend. How could we do this to people,
he thought. There were heavy chains around his ankles and waist, and his hands were cuffed behind him. He was left that way
throughout the entire trial – chained and defeated. He looked pale and thin in his striped uniform. His clothes hung
on him like a coat on a hanger. He sat in the dock staring down at the table, dwarfed by the troopers on either side of him.
Throughout the trial he never moved. Never even gave any signal he knew what was happening to him. He never looked around.
Never knew Wilson was sitting there, watching him, his heart aching at seeing House like this.
What Wilson couldn’t see were the bruises underneath
the uniform that ran down the length of his body.
He had told the boy to go inside. He didn’t want
him to see this, but Tim had watched from the window as the man who he had come to think of as OK was hurt.
When the squad cars had arrived House had been standing
in the yard, arms out as if crucified. It did no good. The next few minutes had passed in a blur of screaming men and pain
as he was violently forced to the ground and cuffed.
His head was wrenched back and someone sprayed mace into
his face. He tried to writhe, but the knee in the centre of his back held him down. A boot thudded into his side, knocking
the breath from him.
He faintly heard laughter, then the voice of his section
officer. “Leave him boys. We’ll take care of him when we get him back to the prison.” Then he was picked
up like a sack of flour and thrown in the back of the van for the ride back to Hell. He lay on the floor of the van, feeling
the deputies’ feet resting on his back, and wondered if it was worth praying to God at this point.
Nightsticks hurt he thought absently. He lay splayed out
on the floor where they had dumped him, too exhausted to even move his head, gently drooling blood and mucus onto the concrete.
He did a quick inventory. He was still blind from the mace, but that didn’t matter, as one of his eyes was closed shut
and the punishment cell was pitch black anyway. So, in an absurd way, that was a plus. But the rest of him had been pummeled
something but good. He’d be peeing blood for a month. He struggled to find something to count as a plus. Eventually
he decided it was good because at least it took the pain away from the leg. But he knew he didn’t believe his lie.
A little bit more of him had died that day. He could tell.
He could feel his tears dripping down his face. But on the plus side, they would wash the mace out of his eyes. See –
there is always a bright side young Gregory. You just have to find it.
Eventually he drifted off into an exhausted sleep, waking
up only once with a vague dream memory of being slapped by a woman with exceptional breasts. Strangely enough that had hurt
more than anything.
“There are some people who should never be allowed
to darken society’s doorstep ever again. I am just glad there is never any chance you will ever be released,”
said the judge pompously. “Do you have anything to say before I pass sentence?”
House just continued to stare down at the table. His lawyer
quickly stood up and mumbled a sentence or two about how his client was sorry.
“Ridiculous as it is, I have to sentence you. Five
years for the escape attempt and two years for aggravated assault and a further five for resisting arrest.”
House mentally snorted as he hung between the troopers
for sentencing. Did the judge really believe he sounded credible? Oooo – the officers had done a good job of saying
how scared they were of the cripple with the plastic pipe. So now he was not only a murderer, but also a vicious violent dangerous
escapee robber. All he’d wanted to be was a doctor. Maybe I should look at it like a second career? he thought stupidly.
I could get business cards made up: Gregory House, V.V.D.E.R. BA - Murd.
House was brought back to the present as the judge continued.
His next words chilled him to the bone. “I can only hope your governor takes the appropriate steps to ensure you are
securely confined and imposes suitable punitive measures.”
It was so simple it was elegant. They made him walk. All
day, every day. He had to walk. It was delightfully ironic that something so basic could be such an effective form of torture.
The days became a never ending cycle of pain. He followed
the lines… 27 painful steps, made all the more difficult by the heavy leg irons he now constantly wore – now there
was no escape from the chains - turn left, another 27 steps, turn left, another 27 steps, turn left, another 27 steps: again
and again and again until his leg would go and he would collapse face down in the dirt, gasping for the air he needed as he
desperately tried to pick himself up again before they noticed and came for him.
But they always came. At first he would thrash pitifully,
plead with them that if they gave him a little time he could still walk and not to put him in the box, but then after a while
he didn’t care.
He would just lie on the ground and wait for them to carry
him away and stuff him into the little tin box head first like a piece of meat, leaving him to lie there, his leg curled awkwardly,
with the heat infusing his lungs. His thigh throbbing in time with his head as his tears made tracks through the dust on his
If there was one thing he could do, only one thing. It
would be to die. He wanted it, ached for it, dreamed about it. ‘The rest is silence’ kept ringing in his ears.
Hamlet had it right. Not screaming, not pain… silence. But he never considered it. There was Horatio to think of.
That lawyer was clever. Every time he didn’t think
it couldn’t get worse the little bastard would top himself. Now his only sanctuary was the too few blessed hours in
his dark little cell. His home. After all the shouting and screaming had died down it was as close to silent as it got. He
would lie on his bunk and unbeknownst to him dream of happier times filled with Vicodin, scotch and Jewish mammas who wore
lab coasts: until the giant steaming angry beast would wake up again and it was time for the nightmare of pain to begin again.
“No visitors today thanks,” mouthed House
silently into the corner as the little observation port opened, casting a dim light into the cell and signaling a new day.
Just one day with no one hitting him, screaming at him or spitting on him would be nice. Today he was just plain tired. Too
tired to even be afraid. What could they do to him that hadn’t been done before? He couldn’t think of much.
He couldn’t stop them. He couldn’t fight back.
The man with the cane couldn’t run, couldn’t escape. If he was going to get hurt he was going to get hurt. You
took it up the ass: it was just a part of the wonderful life of Greg House.
But all his resolve left him as the cell door opened.
He didn’t like that door. When it opened it meant pain. And it had been opened too many times. He automatically cringed
in anticipation and began to move – one arm covering his eyes and the other groping blindly for the chain to pull himself
up. Too long in the dark and his retinas couldn’t take the change in light. Down here in the bowels of the prison, reserved
for those special people who weren’t even good enough to live amongst felons, murderers and crack addicts, all you got
was the observation window in the door during the day. During the night you had to imagine flowing meadows and green fields
because you couldn’t see jack shit.
How long had he been here? Oh God, he suddenly realized
he didn’t remember. He didn’t know which day or even which month it was. All he knew was he wasn’t getting
out of this cell. He was here for life – that’s what they’d said. Sitting rotting in a dark corner, chains
on his legs, chains on his wrists, even chained to the fucking wall.
One cell was supposedly as good as another. Prison life
was a never-ending cycle of chains, bars, hard eyed men with big boots and clanging doors. A very angular life he decided.
But he really didn’t like this cell. It was dark and it was cold. At least before there had been things to see. He never
would have thought he would miss the sight of Fat Boy. He wondered if he’d had that heart attack yet.
He remembered a quote about something being long periods
of monotony followed by sheer bursts of terror. Was that about war or life?
Stand up House; stand up now, thought desperately. Now
is not the time to be philosophical you idiot. He tried to rise, but a feeling of light-headedness came over him and he fell
back down into the corner, despair threatening to choke him as he curled up instinctively, waiting for the inevitable blow.
But nothing happened. After a moment he squinted into
the light in confusion, then stopped in amazement. It wasn’t Boot Boy or any of the other guards. The man standing in
his cell had a suit on – with a dog collar.
He laughed silently. A bloody priest. He slumped down
into the corner in relief. Go away Padre, he thought to himself. He didn’t need saving. He was already in Hell. And
hoping God botherers weren’t as ready with their fists as guards he turned his face back to the corner of the cell.
But the priest came over to his corner. Eventually House
turned to look at the intruder into his space. He saw the man eyeing him warily.
Eventually the man spoke. “Hello, Gregory,”
It was something about the way he said it that made House
start. He thought he was gutted inside, but fear began to pound through his veins and he shrank back into the corner. He knew
who this man was. This was his nemesis. This was ‘the client’: the man responsible for the pitiful state of his
Then suddenly all the fear and pain were wiped away as
he clicked into diagnostic mode as his curiosity took over.
He wanted to know why.
He had to swallow a few times before he could speak. He
was unused to speaking. Not allowed to talk down here.
“It’s you,” he said quietly. “You
are not a priest. You are the one who did this to me.”
He narrowed his eyes, his brain working at full speed.
“You had to come and see me, didn’t you? You had to make a personal appearance. You wanted to see my pain first
hand. The video recordings weren’t enough.”
He took a deep breath in as he remembered all those nights
in the factory. “What, am I - next to Lost season two in your video library? Do you sit there and ask yourself –
mmm – do I feel like MASH today or shall I watch Greg House being tortured?”
“So now you have come for the live show.”
House continued viciously, his voice harsh. He didn’t realise tears had begun streaming down his face. He didn’t
realise that maybe he hadn’t given up on himself after all. Anger was bubbling to the surface.
“Do you have favourite episodes? Remember the one
where they strung me up and put the high-pressure hose on me all night in the middle of winter. That one must have been a
highlight. Or what about the one where they flogged me? Or the first time they…” he trailed off. Unable to say
“Do you have House marathons? Back to back House
episodes,” he said sarcastically. “Do you eat popcorn while you watch?” he spat viciously.
The priest said nothing. He merely slid down the wall
and sat next to House. Even though there was nothing threatening in this gesture House felt suddenly very afraid. Actually
talking about all those times had brought back bad memories he had tried to suppress. Finally he was meeting his tormenter
face to face and, considering what he had endured before he wondered what would happen now. Was he about to die? Was that
the final episode? No spin offs for House.
“So what do you want to know,” he said desperately,
suddenly gasping for breath. “You took everything from me. You destroyed everything: my work, my support, my life. You
hurt me, again and again and again – until I wanted to die. But you wouldn’t let me do that. You blackmailed me
with the one person you knew I would do anything for to keep safe. Then you made me drive him away - the only person who has
ever truly cared a damn about me. Then you killed an innocent woman and sent me here to rot; and presumably die in pain, misery
and loneliness,” he said as he jangled his chains and gestured around the little cell.
“Do you feel better now?” asked House.
The man thought for a moment.
“Well at least one of us is happy.”
The priest closed his eyes as he rested his head against
the cell wall. He seemed creepily content, a beatific smile on his face. He seemed content not to say anything more. Eventually
House had to break his reverie. He had to know why.
“Would you mind answering one question?” he
asked conversationally, knowing this might be his only chance.
“And what’s that?” said the priest with
his eyes still closed.
“Any particular reason why or were you just bored.
Are you sure you have the right guy?” He snorted with bitter laughter. “I really think I would have remembered
pissing you off so badly you would do all this and I’d really hate for this all to have been some giant misunderstanding.”
This provoked a reaction. The man turned his head to House
and bored into him with his gaze. “My name is Robert Thompson and you killed my only daughter. I am exacting God’s
revenge. An eye for an eye.”
He leaned in close to House. “That is why I make
you suffer. That is why Ms Cameron had to die.”
“Oh crap, not this again,” said House almost
to himself. “When will people realise death is a natural part of life.” House was starting to get angry. “The
Bible was wrong. An eye for an eye doesn’t make things better. It just means you keep poking until both of you are blind.
Then you stumble around a bit and fall into the nearest well.”
But Thompson laughed softly. “You think you are
a god. Do you feel like a god now Gregory. You are not God. Only God has the power to take life,” he hissed. “Your
job was to save it. Your job was to save my daughter.”
House sighed. He tried to run his hands through his hair
before realizing with his prison haircut this was impossible.
“Look you moron. Let me put it in a way you might
understand. God created all life on Earth right. They say if you do what God does enough times you become God. Doctors are
gods. We play with life and death every day. But we are fallible gods,” he said.
“We haven’t had as much practice as the big
guy up there,” he said pointing a thumb to the roof. “We can get it wrong and people die. And remember that God
created death too.” He looked at the priest, willing him to understand. House couldn’t say sorry because he wasn’t
sorry. He did his best for patients in the only way he knew how. “Sometimes people just die,” he said softly.
But Thompson didn’t seem to hear him. He just leaned
in closer. “You know something Greg; you are right. It should be up to God. He should make you should burn in hell for
all eternity.” The priest shook his head and House realized this guy was mad as a meat axe.
“But I just couldn’t be sure,” Thompson
continued. “I am weak. There was a tiny part of me that wasn’t sure of my faith. So I decided to create your own
personal hell while you were still alive. Did I do a good job?”
House gave up and smiled sadly at him. “A very good
Thompson leaned back against the cell wall. “Maybe
that makes me God.”
“Oh my God.” Cuddy her eyes wide, had her
hand over her mouth. Wilson was just staring into space. Both were in complete shock.
Millionaire business man Robert Thompson was dead. Shot
dead in a car park. No one mourned his death. He was found over twenty four hours later, face down in the dusty ash felt.
The police suspected organized crime. They had been monitoring his activities for some time. They obtained a warrant and sent
in a team to search his house to confirm their suspicions.
It had been a junior agent who had stumbled across them.
She had been assigned the dreary job of checking through his movie room, while all the more senior agents were rifling through
Thompson’s office. She was listlessly going through the DVDs when she noticed an entire shelf of movies entitles Greg
House. Puzzled, she stopped. She vaguely remembered a case a few years back about a Doctor sentenced for murder called House.
Why would Thompson have DVDs labeled House? Intrigued she selected one at random and put it into the player. They found her
hours later, still staring at the television, tears running down her face; in her hands was the contract.
The enormity of what House had done begun to sink in.
Wilson looked at the contract in disbelief. It was signed in blood. He could smell it. His eye was caught by his own name:
James Wilson, then he saw Lisa’s name and the word ‘terminate’.
That was what he had been hiding, protecting, all this
time: their lives.
“D… does he know,” stammered Wilson.
Then realizing how stupid he sounded he tried to clarify. “I mean about Thompson’s death?”
The detective nodded slowly. We brought him up here yesterday.
We thought he wouldn’t be safe in the jail.
“Why not?” asked Wilson.
“Have we been through all the records of the people
Thompson paid off?” Jones asked as she walked into her boss’s office.
“Jesus no – have you seen how many there are?”
“Then we need to go through them right now. I think
we have a bigger problem. He just asked me the date,” she said.
“So?” replied the older man impatiently.
“He asked me what year it was.”
She continued. “He didn’t even know who the
Caffrey’s eyes widened in realization. “Do
you mean that if Thompson set up all that other bullshit and the murder…” he trailed off in shock. “What
did he arrange for him in prison?”
“Do you mean he’s here… now? Can I see
him?” asked Wilson.
“Tomorrow. He’s up in the hospital now, but
I think you should. He doesn’t seem to believe it is true that Thompson’s dead and he doesn’t trust us much,”
said the detective.
Wilson sat nervously at the table, staring at the empty
bolted down chair on the other side of the cold filthy depressing interview room. God this place was horrid. Was this what
Greg had endured the last few years.
The first thing he noticed was the limp. House could barely
walk. He nearly twisted sideways with each step as he leaned on his cane… cane? It looked like a couple of bits of plastic
PVC piping stuck together. And to his dismay he saw it was attached to House’s wrist with a handcuff and a chain.
House looked up when he entered the room and faltered.
Wilson noticed a fading black eye before he quickly lowered his gaze, keeping his head down as the officers helped him to
his seat and bolted his leg irons to the floor. It sickened James to see House like this. But of course he was Gregory House:
for the moment - the cripple convicted of a murder so savage that he had to be caged and chained like an animal.
They sat there. Not looking at each other. Not saying
anything. Wilson didn’t even begin to know how to talk about this. Eventually he decided to stick to the tied and true.
He broke the silence in the usual way.
“I like the new cane. Very stylish.”
House eyed the pathetic plastic pipe chained to his wrist.
“Yeah,” he said softly. Both men remembering that day in the office when Wilson had broken House’s cane
and wishing they hadn’t.
James motioned to the bruise. “Who’d you piss
House looked startled for a moment as if unsure what Wilson
was referring to, until realization dawned. “Oh this… This is a must have prison accessory,” he said slowly,
as if unused to forming sentences. His voice was raspy and dry.
He gave a small smile that did not reach his eyes. “The
doors I have to walk into to stay fashionable,” he trailed off, aware at the feebleness of the attempted joke. Wilson
watched House shift uncomfortably and noticed the pain behind his words.
Wilson had seen the hospital report of the scan they had
just done on him. He had seen some of the videos too, but he would never tell Greg that. He knew House and he had seen the
things he had gone through. He would never want anyone to see him like that.
So many broken bones. So many bruises on him even now
– old and new. Some of his fingers had been broken three times each. The burns… and there were even scars from
a whip across his back. All those so-called ‘falls’ were now explained. All those sick days. He felt sick himself.
What had House been going through – alone, unable to ask anyone to help him?
It explained so much. When House had gone to prison Wilson
had received a letter saying everything in House’s apartment was his – including Steve. Although not wanting to
he had gone over to the apartment. It was still a shambles, abandoned. He had walked through the dark cool rooms, trying to
imagine House’s life. Everything – the TV, kitchen, and the bed – was a forgotten mess.
Only the piano was clear. And slap bang in the middle
of the shiny black surface of the piano was Wilson’s key. He knew it was his because Greg had scratched a W into it
with Julie’s best kitchen knife and broken the tip off it. Fueled by beer they’d laughed at the time, but he’d
got yelled at by Julie. Greg House was a bad influence, she’d said. He was a troublemaker and uncaring selfish bastard.
How wrong had she been, he thought now?
He had picked up the key and looked at it thoughtfully,
turning it round in his hands.
In the bathroom he had found enough medical supplies for
a MASH unit. He had been bewildered then, but now he understood.
The silence fell again, broken only by the soft tinkling
of House’s leg irons as he shifted his bad leg. It stretched on. Wilson stared at his hands. He noticed they were shaking
He was surprised when House was the first to speak.
“Jimmy,” he said softly.
At this Wilson looked up sharply and was about to reply.
This was the last thing he had expected. And there was that ‘Jimmy’ again. But then he noticed House’s hands
were shaking too and he stopped. Little Jimmy Wilson, the boy wonder oncologist, had always noticed things about House.
House could tell everything about everyone just by looking
at them, but Wilson was the only one who could do it back to House. To him House was a walking talking open book. House had
only to limp into his office and Wilson could tell everything from how much pain he was in and how bad a case was going to
what new mischief House had inflicted on Cuddy.
Wilson was also the only one who could give it back to
House in other ways. Everyone always looked at him as the gormlessly cute and caring cancer doctor, but House was the only
person Wilson trusted enough to let know that underneath he was a cynical son of a bitch. Wilson was the only one who could
make Greg laugh.
But now Wilson just looked at him, his mouth agape in
disbelief. After everything House had suffered, he didn’t give a damn about himself and the first thing that came out
of his mouth was an apology for him.
Wilson knew exactly why House was sorry. He was sorry
for having to push Wilson away, he was sorry for not telling him, he was sorry he had caused all this, he was sorry Wilson
had suffered for being a friend of Greg House.
The rest of the world might know of Doctor Gregory House
as a nasty vicious selfish son a bitch. But in a tit for tat arrangement only little Jimmy Wilson, boy wonder oncologist,
had been trusted to know the truth about House.
Which is why he always forgave his strange grumpy scratchy
Wilson smiled. “You’re an ass.”
At this House looked up at him quizzically for a few moments,
his rumpled face creasing with confusion then relief. “Yeah,” he said tiredly, but he smiled thinly back.
But inwardly House was barely holding on. Daring to breathe
again after so long holding his breath. Wilson was killing him. Looking at him with his clichéd big puppy dog eyes. House
could have just fallen into them and drowned. But time and time again it had been beaten into him that there was no hope.
No happy ending in this situation. You just had to keep coping with the pain and the loneliness, not to struggle when they
held you down, to thank them after they hurt you even though you wanted to kill them. You just coped… just. And it was
hard to think differently.
Even dead Thompson probably held every card in the pack
and he didn’t even know which game they were playing. Was this just another move in Thompson’s game? From the
first minute this game had begun he had been a pawn. Helpless and unable to do anything else but be pushed around by the chess
master. He was sure there was a hat trick or a full house just out there waiting for him.
Oh fuck. He was mixing his metaphors. He was just so afraid.
So afraid for Wilson. He couldn’t stand another Cameron. And not Wilson… he do anything. Visit Thompson in Hell
and dance the Charleston, but not Wilson. Pushing Wilson away - that had been the worst pain of all.
It had been manageable before. At first he’d used
anger and stubbornness, but after a while he just shut down and went numb.
But now Wilson was sitting in front of him: big and comforting
and safe. A reminder of all the things he hadn’t allowed himself to miss in prison. House wanted to reach out and touch
him, to reassure himself that he hadn’t descended into madness. That he wasn’t still back in his cell dreaming
in the dark. That everything had been, and would be – worth it.
Wilson saw House begin to shake. He saw everything. He
saw Greg about to snap. He came around the table and giving the officers his ‘its ok, I’m a doctor’ look,
knelt down and took Greg by the arms.
“It’s ok Greg,” he said earnestly as
he looked into the older man’s eyes. “You did good. Everyone is safe now.”
He could see that Greg desperately wanted to believe him.
House looked at him with big trusting little boy eyes that said ‘please mommy, tell me the monsters aren’t real.’
Wilson smiled reassuringly. “They caught everyone
House. There is no one left to hurt anyone.”
At this House slowly lowered his head to Wilson’s
chest and Wilson reached round and hugged House close to him. My God, thought Wilson, there is nothing to him but skin and
bone. He could feel House’s backbone and ribs through the thin materiel of his uniform. Imagined him shivering, alone
through long winter nights, with no hope that it would ever get better.
But at this, the first tender human touch in so long,
House melted against Wilson and let Wilson’s warm strong presence comfort him. Wilson heard Greg’s handcuffs rattle
as he reached out as far as the chains would let him and grabbed a handful of Wilson’s shirt near his belly, pulling
it out of his waistband.
“You did good,” Wilson repeated. “But
you are still an ass.”
“Yeah,” agreed House. He twisted the fabric
between his fingers. No one could see it, which was the way he liked it, but this time there was a real smile on his lips.
Wilson was real.
Many people forgot that Gregory House could actually smile.
But not his friend James Wilson - because he was the only one who made it happen.
Wilson sighed and looked at his watch. Cuddy was due in
a few minutes and they were running late. He caught House as he aimlessly wandered past, shoved him onto the bed and began
to vigorously towel House’s wet hair.
The doorbell rang. “Get dressed properly,”
he said sternly as he gave a final flourish.
Cuddy smiled when James answered the door.
James smiled back. “Hi Lisa. We are running a little
behind. You know what House is like. Never on time.”
Lisa smiled thinly. Wilson was always so polite. Pretending
everything was OK. But everyone had seen – graphically – what had happened that day.
She never wanted to see something like that happen to
someone she cared about again. The day of his official pardon, finally free of its burden, the mind of Gregory House had broken.
Wilson brought Cuddy a drink and they sat on the sofa.
The three of them were going out tonight – and it was going to be strained. But they had to do it because Wilson wanted
as much normalcy as possible.
House wandered out, making a beeline for the kitchen.
Cuddy could think the only word that described him since the second trial was ‘deranged’. Actually that was a
pretty good word to describe him before. But now he really looked deranged. His clothing was hanging off him in what House
would have called ‘concentration camp chic’ and his hair was sticking up left right and centre. His walk was off,
not so much for the limp, but because he didn’t realise there were no leg irons any more and still compensated after
wearing them for so long. That made her furious. How could a supposedly humane society possibly justify putting a cripple
in leg irons?
And of course, he wasn’t all there.
But Wilson didn’t see a strange limping scarecrow,
he only saw his friend.
“Hey,” he said softly. Greg got jumpy if you
got too loud around him. Silence meant safety. Noise meant pain. And now, finally, after taking everything so bravely the
fear was bubbling to the surface.
A couple of times Wilson had got frustrated; lost his
temper and Greg had bolted. The first time was okay, as he couldn’t get away in the apartment because Wilson kept the
door locked. But the second time had been in a shopping centre.
It always amazed Wilson, but House was remarkably fast
when he wanted to be. Trying to explain you are trying to track down a big limping scared crippled guy who wasn’t firing
on all cylinders to some security rent-a-cop at the mall was not an easy task.
They’d finally found him five hours later, hiding
behind a dumpster on the fifth floor of the parking lot. The look on House’s face when he had seen Wilson was one of
sheer relief. House had practically crash tackled him in an attempt to get hold of him – touching him and pulling at
his clothing in an attempt to reassure himself that Wilson was real.
It hurt Wilson to think the atmosphere of safety he had
tried to create was so fleeting that Greg could have thought it was an illusion. It was hard, but then being friends with
Greg House had never been easy. He just wasn’t a trusting bastard.
“Where are you going mister?” he said as he
intercepted House with a gentle hand on his chest.
House stopped and they waited. Eventually he looked up
and frowned, but allowed himself to be guided to the couch.
“I’ll get you a beer later. Sit down and talk
to Cuddy,” he said as he knelt down and began to carefully do up House’s half done, half forgotten shirt buttons
as he prattled on about the various merits of restaurants and House’s lack of ability to do up buttons properly.
“Don’t make any rude remarks,” he admonished
into House’s ear as he stood up and made for the bedroom.
But House didn’t speak. House never spoke. Not since
the day he had been officially been declared innocent. He functioned – to a point and did what he was told, but he just
The psych doctors had said it was a rare form of semi-catatonia.
They had wanted to institutionalize him, but Wilson had said no. He’d come in to visit and found House tied to the bed.
He’d sat there, watching for an hour as House gently tugged at the restraint on his left arm, then started on the right.
How many hours had he spent tugging on chains with no hope they would ever release their grip? The scars on his wrists said
hundreds… maybe thousands.
Eventually House had given up, defeated, and sank back
into the bed with a whimper of acceptance. How many times had he done that – just accepted what was happening to him?
“Inmate 501437, Life Without Parole sir,”
he said as he impassively faced the so-called ‘independent tribunal’, all of whom had been bribed by his mystery
nemesis. Another ‘infringement’ had put him on report and brought House in front of the discipline board again.
He’d been sitting quietly in the mess hall; trying
his best to left handedly eat the rancid concoction he’d dubbed rat stew (he hoped he wasn’t eating Steve’s
relatives), when he’d felt a nightstick on his shoulder. He turned around. Just his luck. It was one of the particularly
sadistic guards: Fat Boy as House called him.
“What did you say convict?” asked the guard.
Ah – this old game. He sighed tiredly to himself.
He had played this one before. He wondered which strategy he should use this time. No that it really mattered. Either way
he was going to lose. If he answered he’d be breaking the ‘no talking in the mess hall’ rule – and
he lose his dinner and get half an hour of ‘nose and toes’ outside the guards station. ‘Nose and toes’
they called it: the CIA Kubark torture manual called it a ‘stress position’. He didn’t think his leg could
take it. It was bad enough on two legs. Try doing it on one.
But if stayed silent he’d be breaking the ‘all
inmates must stand to attention and answer promptly and respectfully any direct questions asked by any correctional staff’
rule and he’d go on report.
Bugger it. He would go down fighting. He slowly lifted
his legs over the bench and putting the weight on ‘Pipey’, stood up and looked at Fat Boy. All eyes were on the
two of them. Everyone in the prison knew about the crippled doctor. House slowly pointed to his eyes, the ‘no talking’
sign on the wall and then mimed zipping his mouth shut. Then gave the guard his most ‘you are an idiot’ stare.
It took a few seconds for Fat Boy to work it out. He began
to turn puce with rage that House had dared to make fun of him. House sensed two more guards coming up behind him.
“You insolent bastard,” spat Fat Boy. He put
his nightstick under House’s chin. “I am gonna ask you one more time. What did you say ‘Inmate 501437, Life
Without Parole’,” giving House his new official name as the property of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
He took a deep breath. “I me… Greg House…
said, and let me put this in a way an overweight hick like yourself can understand… nothing.” He practically shouted
the last word. “Because there is a sign on the wall that says ‘no talking’ and unlike you… Fat Boy…
I can read.” He smiled nastily. He felt good. He felt alive.
But he nearly tripped over his irons as he was immediately
hauled backwards by the guards behind him and half frog marched, half carried to the guards’ station. They smashed him
face first into the wall. Pulling out a pair of handcuffs they lifted his right arm up and chained it to a bolt high up in
the wall. He was left, helpless. One arm above his head and his cane dangling uselessly from his wrist.
Fat Boy came waddling up behind him. He turned to the
astonished mess hall and waved his nightstick. “Listen you scum,” he said spit flying. “If any one of you
ever even thinks of trying something like that, I’ll...” He viciously brought the nightstick across House’s
buttocks, again and again, as he took out his rage on the defenseless prisoner. House’s knees buckled and he cried out
as his right arm took his full weight. Eventually Fat Boy stopped leaving the two men both gasping. Fat Boy looked around
the room, then shouted in House’s ear.
“‘Nose and toes’ convict – Now!”
House knew now was the time to retreat. Ignoring the pain
he shakily got his feet under him, feeling sheer relief as the pressure on his wrist was released. He straightened up and
lined himself up so only his feet and nose were touching the wall. Fat boy knocked House’s feet together with his nightstick.
He knew how hard it was for House to maintain this position. “And clever boy,” he continued. “You are also
Well, he thought. That wasn’t the smartest idea
you’ve ever had Greg. He already had been put on report so many times he had no privileges left, so he guessed a spell
of solitary again. He didn’t realise what they had cooked up for him.
But he had shown no reaction as he had been told by the
tribunal he was the worst of the worst, incorrigible, unfit to even be allowed to live amongst his fellow criminals and was
sentenced to indefinite isolation.
He’d just accepted it.
But he’d died a little bit more that day.
Watching House that day Wilson had made his decision.
House would live with him. He was alone after divorce number three and Wilson knew he could make him better. He had to make
him better. He wanted his friend back.
Cuddy sat silently for a minute watching House stare at
the floor, until Wilson returned with a hairbrush.
With an ease obviously born of practice Wilson completely
ignored the uncomfortable silence, grabbed a handful of House’s hair and yanked his head back.
“So where are we going tonight,” he asked
absently as he roughly brushed the short brown hair into a slightly more manageable tangle. After a few strokes he threw the
brush on the table, grabbed House’s jacket from the stand and began putting him in it. Pushing and pulling arms and
adjusting collars until House was suitably dressed for a night out.
But not hearing a reply he turned to find Cuddy with her
hands in her face. Trying not to cry. This sickened her. More than the infarction, more than anything. This was wrong.
House looked like a real boy. He was dressed exactly as
he had been. Wilson had even gone out and bought every band T-shirt he could find. House’s scruffy un-ironed shirts
were Armani, his jeans were JAG and his shoes were Nike. But Wilson was the one who tied his shoelaces.
The fire in the eyes was gone. Everything inside him that
made House House, was gone. She cursed the day she had dropped the key in his lap. She was sorry. She hadn’t known,
she thought desperately.
It was only Wilson who treated House exactly the same.
All the time while he was taking care of House: making sure House ate, dressing him in the clothes he knew House would like,
making sure his hair was brushed… he bitched at House, snarked about House to his face, and bought porn videos and popcorn
for Friday nights.
Because little Jimmy Wilson, boy wonder oncologist, believed
in hope. He was waiting for the day when House would just turn to him and insult him right back. He didn’t know if it
was possible, but Wilson wanted Greg back. He fell back on his old tried and trusted principle. Maybe if he gave it some time
he would get his friend back.
Wilson had taken a few weeks off to get House settled,
but then he realized he had the problem of work. House needed an eye kept on him at all times and Wilson couldn’t keep
him in his office – he’d frighten the cancer patients (not like he hadn’t before).
So he had gone to Cuddy and explained he needed to put
House somewhere nearby while he worked. She had agreed and Wilson had arranged for a private nurse to look after Greg. But
the only place they could stick him was in the hospital’s childcare centre.
It was funny to come in after work and see House sitting
on the floor of what Cuddy termed his designated ‘House area’ – a spare room off from the main playroom
– staring intently at a kid’s picture book, with Clarence dozing on a nearby couch – keeping an eye on him.
Clarence was a godsend. House had taken to him from the
“House, this is Clarence. He is going to be looking
after you,” said Wilson as he brought the two men together. “Like a body guard,” he added hopefully.
House had just poked him in the stomach and wandered off.
“What does that mean?” asked a bewildered
Wilson took a breath. “I think… that means
he likes you.”
Clarence was a big gentle man who was more than capable
of squishing House in an instant if he wanted to. He was nearly seven feet tall and had a remarkable resemble to Mike Tyson.
But if Greg got upset or anxious Clarence could calm him down without even touching him and then keep him calm until Wilson
got there to take charge.
House hated to be held or grabbed. Wilson was the only
one he was happy to let push and pull him around.
He had obviously been held down too many times by too
many people. Wilson realized that being held down, unable to move, to House, meant pain. Wilson knew that House remembered
House had never been the type of guy to talk about his
emotions, and now even more so. But night after night Greg’s soft cautious cries would wake him.
He became so attuned to House’s soft muffled whimpers
that even the slightest hiccupy sob would wake him. He would follow the source of the noise and slip carefully into House’s
bed, careful not to wake him from his nightmare.
Then, just had he had done all those years ago during
the Frasier marathon, House would instinctively reach out to Wilson, one hand finding a convenient bit of shirt to twist in
its grasp. Eventually the sobs would die down, to be replaced with the gentle rumbling as House slept, holding onto Wilson
like a giant human teddy bear.
But it was Clarence who had discovered the secret to keeping
House happy – distractions. They bought him copies of every trashy celebrity magazine they could find and Clarence would
stick them under his nose. They didn’t know how much was going in, but the bright pictures of Tom Cruise doing the shopping
or Angelina Jolie on the set of her latest film seemed to intrigue House.
One day Wilson found House with a lollipop. As he entered
the room he stopped short and unconsciously held his breath as he took in the scene before him. He was taken back in time.
House was lounging on a chair, a forgotten People on his lap, gazing out the window and sucking contentedly on a bright red
lollipop. For a second Wilson almost believed House would turn to him and say something cutting or rude. But House just continued
to stare intently out the window.
“Where did he get that Clarence,” he asked.
He must have said it a bit too forcefully because Clarence
looked a little nervous. “I bought it for him Doctor Wilson,” he said. “That is OK right. The red food dye
isn’t going to make him hyper or something?”
“No, that’s fine Clarence. He used to love
those… before,” said Wilson sadly as he stared at his friend. He was so involved he nearly missed Clarence’s
“…just staring at it like he really really
Wilson turned abruptly. “I’m sorry, what did
you say?” he asked.
“I was just saying it was funny. He saw this kid
with one of those free lollipops they give out in the clinic and he just couldn’t take his eyes off it. I thought he
was going to try to swipe it,” said Clarence.
Wilson looked thoughtfully at House. “Anything wrong
Doctor Wilson?” asked Clarence. Wilson realized he had been staring into space. He shook his head. The idea that even
while completely insane his friend would still want to steal lollipops from small children made Wilson suspect he was still
in there somewhere, hiding and wondering when it would be safe to come out.
Doctor Simpson tried not to snigger as he watched his
patient. The doctor and Wilson were on the couch. House was sitting on the floor of the psychiatrist’s office, happy
and safe in between Wilson’s legs.
Simpson could tell House felt happy because he was completely
ignoring the array of distracting goodies Clarence had laid out in front of him and was valiantly attempting to undo Wilson’s
right shoe lace.
Oblivious, Wilson sat back into the couch’s deep
cushions. Simpson sighed. Wilson was taking this hard, and considering the man was an oncologist, that said something. Love
makes people crazy.
Wilson ran a tired hand over his face. “I don’t
know what it means Doctor Simpson. He’s become very clingy since it happened. But maybe it is a good thing. He seems
more there. Maybe it means…” he trailed off. “But he was pretty traumatized at the time.”
Simpson watched as Wilson sat up and unconsciously fumbled
with House’s collar, tidying it up. Simpson had noticed that sometime in the last month Doctor Wilson had finally snapped
and that House’s shirts were now beautifully ironed. House paid no attention to this fussing and reached out to grab
the lollipop Clarence was waving in front of him. “Tell me what happened?” he asked.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,”
he said. Greg was scared. It wasn’t surprising. He didn’t like this building. He didn’t like people in uniform.
And he’d known something was up. He’d been a pest all morning. Fidgeting when Wilson was putting on his tie and
continually tugging on it until the knot nearly strangled him and Wilson had to pull the car over and loosen it.
Now he was hiding behind Wilson, his head resting on Wilson’s
back while he nervously fingered the back of Wilson’s jacket.
“It will only be for a few minutes Doctor Wilson,”
replied the prosecutor. “We need to show him to make the case.”
‘Show him’. Bad choice of words. Wilson sighed.
But he knew it was necessary. For the lawyer and his thugs it had been easy. They had the tapes, but for the prison guards
they only had Thompson’s records and House.
“Okay,” he relented. “Come on House,”
he said as he put his hand behind him and lead House into the courtroom.
They were sitting in the front row, waiting for the session
to begin, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. A guard was standing there. “Excuse me… Doctor Wilson. There is
an urgent call for you at the front desk. About a patient.”
Damn, that meant Terry was dying. Wilson looked around.
He tapped one of the prosecutor’s assistants on the shoulder. “Can you sit with him,” he said shrugging
at House. “I have to take a call.”
A few minutes later he was on the phone to his assistant
when a voice startled him.
“Doctor Wilson.” He looked up from his phone
into the scared face of the guard. “There is a problem with your friend.”
He dropped the phone and bolted into the courtroom. It
was in chaos. Guns were drawn and people were screaming. Half the courtroom was running for the exits, while the other half
were gathered behind the judge’s bench.
He pushed his way through the crowd to the source of the
disturbance, until he was grabbed by a guard. He angrily shrugged out of the guard’s grip with a hissed “I’m
his doctor” and turned to mob.
“He’s scared. He’s terrified,”
he growled. He tried to gather some semblance of control. “Please just back off and be quiet. He can’t hurt you.
He can’t hurt anyone.”
No one moved until the judge waved the security guards
away. “I’m fine.” They reluctantly stepped back and holstered their guns. “And get that bastard out
of here,” he said as he motioned to the defendant.
The two men slowly approached House. He had burrowed himself
in a corner, curled up, wedged in behind his cane, using it like a barricade. He was shaking violently and sweat was pouring
down his face. He was not looking at any of them, but staring into the middle distance, panting as he relived past terrors.
“What happened?” he asked the judge.
“He was fine until the defendant came out, then
he freaked out. Bolted every which way, but Sunday. For a man with a cane, he sure lead everyone a merry dance,” said
the judge. “Then he just seemed to trip over his own feet and curled up.”
“Well, we got our show all right,” said the
prosecutor from behind him.
At this Wilson rounded on him. He was furious, blood boiling
in his veins. Greg was not a fucking wind up toy or a fucking exhibit. He was a human being who had gone through nearly fours
years of physical and psychological hell. Wilson realized what House had done. He’d tried to run and tripped over his
own imaginary chains. How many times had that guard pushed him around until he tripped on the real ones and fell, unable to
get up, unable to do anything but curl up and wait for the kicking to begin.
“Show? I’ll give you a show,” he yelled
angrily as he punched him on the jaw. The man dropped like a stone. The boy wonder oncologist had no idea he was such a good
boxer. Then the guards were on him and he struggled until the voice of the judge stopped him, cutting through his rage.
“Doctor Wilson, don’t you think you should
attend to your friend.”
He calmed down and they let him go. He wiped the back
of his hand across his face. He nodded. “I am sorry. You are right.”
He crossed to House and slid down the wall beside him,
sweaty and shaking. “Hey,” he said softly and prepared to wait till Greg started to reach out. He’d discovered,
through many years, that was the best approach.
“What was the aftermath?” asked Simpson.
Wilson smiled ruefully. “It took half an hour for
House to calm down and the prosecutor and I both agreed not to sue.”
“And the prison guard?”
“He was convicted on all counts,” he said
as he leaned forward and rested his forearms on House’s shoulders. “House sure did a number on the jury.”
He continued on. “I don’t know exactly what
the bastard did to him and House can’t tell us, but judging by his reaction it was bad.” He gently tugged on one
of House’s ears. “He was so afraid,” he said softly.
But Simpson noticed that House, after successfully managing
to pull out Wilson’s entire right lace, was now randomly pushing buttons on the computer game between his legs, his
eyes lighting up each time the little machine made a garish noise.
Although Wilson was worried, House was nothing like the
wide-eyed shaking skeleton he had been six months ago. If House was all there Simpson was sure he would have said Wilson was
just being a worrywart Jewish momma.
They stood to leave and Simpson stifled a laugh as Wilson
noticed his shoe. The shoelace was neatly tied around his ankle.
“House,” came the anguished cry. “Oh
for Lord’s sake. Come on – up you.”
He lifted House up by the collar and dumped him on the
couch before joining him, pulling off his shoe and rethreading his lace.
He looked up at the doctor. “Ever wondered what
it would be like looking after a 45 year old toddler?” he said in exasperation, waggling the shoe under House’s
nose: “woooo, ” he growled. “Bad. Don’t play with my shoes.”
He stopped. “Not that he was particularly grown
up before,” he said with a slight laugh as he remembered. “Just more talkative.”
Simpson slapped him on the back and looked at House who
had paid no attention to Wilson’s scolding and was now concentrating solely on his latest lollipop, but managing to
look a bit smug at the same time. “I think,” he said thoughtfully. “You are doing a good job Doctor Wilson.
Although you might want to take him to a dentist sometime soon if you keep feeding him so many lollipops.”
After Wilson had relaced and retied his shoe he took House
by the hand and with Clarence in tow they walked into the elevator.
He was pressing the button for the second floor when he
heard the man behind him mutter: “Bloody homos.”
He didn’t turn around.
“I said, bloody homos.” Wilson felt a slight
push on his back and felt Greg’s hand tighten its grip in a silent plea. House was doing nothing, just looking down
at the floor, but his body suddenly became a mass of tension, his shoulders rounding as if in expectation of a blow. House
recognized that tone. It was the same tone that the people who hit him used. The same anger. To House that tone meant pain.
Wilson could practically see him physically and mentally curling up. Fuck this, thought Wilson as he turned to the man.
But another voice suddenly cut in. “You gotta problem
with that?” Clarence was looming over the man, suddenly looking not very nursey, but slightly psychotic. Clarence was
normally so gentle and protective around House that Wilson forgot he was also ‘a serious homie’.
Clarence took a step closer to the man who backed up against
the wall. “Cos I’m gay and I don’t have a problem with that?”
“No… no problem,” squeaked the man.
“Good,” he menaced. “So you just leave
my Doctor friends alone – got it.”
The man gulped. “Got it.”
Clarence smiled evilly. “Good.”
Wilson looked over at Greg who was now watching the scene
intently, almost looking impressed. “See, I told you he was your body guard,” he whispered.
They walked out of the elevator and into the corridor.
Cuddy was there. “Morning Doctor Wilson.” She smiled at him and motioned to House. “He hasn’t changed
Wilson turned pink. He gave an embarrassed smile. He put
out his hand out without looking and pushed House’s chin up. “Bad House,” he said. “Don’t stare
at the nice boss lady’s cleavage.”
It was only then that she turned to Greg. “Doctor
House,” she said as she put her hand gently to the pendant that hung on his chest and kept it there for a moment, looking
intently into his face. Then she abruptly pulled away, nodded at Wilson and continued on her way.
House was a doctor again now for all the good that did
him. The medical board had reinstated his license. Cuddy had organized it. They had also awarded him a commendation for dedication
to medicine. He had showed the plaque to Greg on his birthday. Written on it were the words ‘first do no harm’.
House had paid no attention to it.
Typical, thought Wilson.
“Okay, here is your final present.” He held
out a small package and when House failed to take it, unwrapped it for him and stuck it under his nose.
“For you bucko. It’s yours anyway. Well, maybe
not. Maybe it belongs to all of us? Remember when you broke Julie’s best knife?”
House looked at it intrigued. He reached out and plucked
it slowly from Wilson’s fingers.
He looked between it and Wilson for a few seconds. A strange
look crossed his face. Maybe, thought Wilson, this might do the trick.
Then House stuck it in his mouth.
“House no – for God’s sake,” Wilson
said urgently as he pulled it out by the chain and wiped it off.
“Don’t… eat… it,” he had
ordered sternly, emphasizing every word as he fastened it around House’s neck.
So far House hadn’t tried to swallow it again so
it appeared to be relatively safe. But every so often he saw House fingering it, turning it round and round, looking at: either
contemplating what it was or thinking about eating it. Wilson just hoped it wasn’t the later. With House you never knew.
After Cuddy had gone Wilson turned to House, handing Clarence
his backpack. “Make sure you are good,” he admonished as he gave House a quick hug. It was a good thing House
wasn’t all there or he would have whapped Wilson one for doing that just on general principle. ‘Bro’s don’t
hug’ House would have said.
Wilson put House’s hand in Clarence’s. “Don’t
let him eat too much junk food.”
“Will do Doctor Wilson,” said Clarence as
he lead House away.
“And make sure he goes for a limp in the park?”
he yelled as they moved off.
He watched as Clarence gave a shake of his hand in acknowledgement.
Turning he noticed the guy from the elevator was sitting in a nearby chair, watching with his mouth open, an unspoken question
on his lips.
Wilson opened his mouth to say something, but nothing
came out. He stared at the man for a few moments, and then walked away. He shook his head. It was amazing what you could live
Clarence also sometimes babysat House at home if Wilson
had to go out. But Clarence had gone away for the week to visit his parents in Alabama and Wilson had to go out shopping.
This meant taking Greg out on the House leash.
The psych Doctors had suggested it after House had bolted
in the shopping centre. Christ he was glad he had gone into oncology. The idea of sticking someone on the end of a piece of
string like a dog seemed abhorrent. But on the odd occasion when circumstances meant he had to take House to a ‘potential
bolt-able’ situation he knew he had no other choice.
Hence the House leash. He hated it with a passion. The
idea stemmed from the toddler leash. Which he also hated with a passion. But sometimes it was handy to be able to juggle the
shopping, content in the knowledge that your deranged ex-convicted murderer insane best friend won’t wander off.
They wandered into the fast food restaurant. Wilson in
the lead with House bobbing along behind tentatively on the end of his piece of string. Wilson knew the risks, but House had
always loved the shakes here and even he was feeling reckless with his health.
A few people gave them funny looks, but he just ignored
them. And Greg didn’t seem to mind it the string. Most of the time he stuck close to Wilson in public anyway. But then
again it was tricky to tell what Greg minded. A couple of months back Wilson had noticed House was limping a bit more than
usual. He checked him out and discovered House had broken one of the metacarpals in his foot. After so many years of pain
and conditioning and fear House hadn’t even dared to wince.
He ordered two thick shakes. Vanilla for him and chocolate
for Greg. He tried to remember. He was pretty sure House liked chocolate.
As he waited for the drinks he slumped against the counter
and rubbed his eyes. He didn’t realise how tired he was. He felt hot, grimy and sweaty. As he fumbled for his wallet
he didn’t notice House was looking at him intently, like he was a lollipop ready for the swiping.
The extension of the McCorporate cash register pushed
his shakes over the counter and told him to ‘have a nice day’, but he wasn’t paying attention. He was mulling
over the injustices of life. Ironic he thought, of all the places to get deep and philosophical… McHappy’s
It was the bastardization of his friend’s character
that made Wilson the maddest. Everything about House – his fire, his arrogance and intellect, his sheer enjoyment of
talking dirty – had been slowly and tortuously beaten out of him, he reflected sadly, not looking as he passed House
his thick shake.
“Fuck it Jimmy, you know I hate chocolate.”
Wilson turned around in astonishment and stared hard at
his friend for a few moments. House was ‘there’ there. Looking at him with irritation. Oh my God, House is back,
he thought stupidly. Only he would do it in the middle of fucking Mchappy’s.
“How many years have you known me - I like strawberry…”
House was about to continue, but he never got to finish his sentence. Wilson grabbed him and pulled him into a giant hug.
Customers watched in amazement as the thick shake was crushed between the two men.
Eventually Wilson pulled away. House looked down at the
crushed container, tilted his head and said: “not so good now huh.”
Wilson grabbed the shake and upended the remaining dregs
onto Greg’s head.
“You big limping twerp,” he said happily as
he watched the chocolately sludge dribble down House’s face.
But then Wilson paused for a second and looked thoughtful.
“You came back… Hang on,” he said pointing a finger at House, with House there was always a reason. “Why
did you decide to come back?”
House looked down at his shoes. “Well,” he
trailed off as if searching for an answer. “You… were looking a bit down,” he said hopefully, totally evading
Wilson put his hands on his hips, shook his head and sighed:
Typical fucking House.
“And why am I tied to you by a piece of string?”
They were at the park. He smiled at the mental image of
House being pushed on the swings.
He put on the video. He had to know what he was up against:
Wilson had never seen such despair and misery. It was
captured in Greg’s eyes as he gazed into the lens. For a moment, a second, he appeared to be begging, pleading to who
ever was on the other side of the camera – for mercy, for something, for anything other than this… but then it
was cut off as another blow fell and he fell into the abyss of pain again. There was no mercy.
When he came home House was sitting in Wilson’s
bedroom, sitting on the bed next to the box. Wilson stopped dead. The box. The box with the tapes.
He just looked up at Wilson, not saying anything. He didn’t
seem to be angry. If anything his expression was blank. Wilson took in the scene and stared back, not knowing what to do or
how Greg would respond to the knowledge that he still had them.
“Clarence went to the shops,” said House at
last. “He’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“We were out of milk and he said you would yell
at him if I didn’t have my daily glass of milk.”
Wilson nodded slowly again.
“Gotta grow up big and strong with healthy bones,”
he said. “Not broken bones… bones break so easily, you’d be surprised. I should have drunk more milk,”
he said matter-of-factly, but Wilson winced as he took in the implications of that statement.
“Clarence always says I am too thin,” continued
House as he addressed the box. “But Clarence is big – and a serious big black dude.” Wilson smiled. Sometimes
House was unpredictable, sometimes he was just House.
House appeared to be lost in thought. “I got used
to that feeling. I didn’t call it anything; just ‘that feeling’… and it became part of life. But I’d
sit there, listening, as everyone else got theirs… the squeak of the cart, the little doors opening. I used to watch
at first, but that became too painful.” He’d hated the smug look and the cruel smile Boot Boy the guard would
give him as they passed by his door. That bastard really enjoyed his misery.
Wilson knew that during his time in isolation House had
been slowly and deliberately starved, getting about one meal in three.
House looked up. “So I’d just listen. You
can hear every little thing – noises bouncing off doors and walls and all that shit. That cart used to sound so loud.”
He continued, almost apologetically. “I’d wonder if this time it would be my turn, but more often than not the
cart just squeaked past. So eventually I came to accept I was never going to get any,” he said finally. It made it easier.
“I knew, that because of what I had done I wasn’t
going to get any. And that was that,” he finished quickly. “Not much you can do when you are chained to the god
“But maybe I did deserve it. I told him people die,
but maybe it was my fault? Christ, I had a year to do nothing but sit there and rack my brains, but I couldn’t even
House fingered the edge of the box and smiled thinly.
Wilson tensed. This was more information about how he felt than House had given in months. He didn’t know if he should
speak or shut up. Either way he could ruin it.
“There was nothing you could have done. She was
always going to die. Thompson was insane. He just wanted to hurt someone – and that person was you,” Wilson said
slowly. “But what about before you knew. When they came to you and you signed without hesitation. What you did for me…
for all of us?” asked Wilson.
“Don’t Jimmy.” And for the first time
in his life House said ‘please’. “Please don’t Jimmy. What I did is mine alone. My choice, my burden.”
House looked down. “I’d do it all again. That’s all you need to know,” he said softly and Wilson knew
this was as close to the truth as he was ever going to get.
House snorted. “It’s a good thing he didn’t
pick Chase… otherwise we would have all been toast.”
At this Wilson laughed with fond remembrance. “Yes,
he truly was a little weasel.”
They didn’t speak for a few minutes. Then House
suddenly stopped his intensive inspection of the box and looked at Wilson.
“You saw?” he asked. But it was a statement
not a question.
Wilson nodded slowly, knowing House knew anyway.
“It becomes a part of life,” said House and
Wilson suddenly realized what they were talking about.
“Like picking up the dry cleaning…”
he continued absently.
“Oh God Greg,” muttered Wilson softly under
He wanted to go over and hug the other man, but House
seemed frozen, fragile and he was afraid that if he even touched him he would break. There was a slight frown on his face
as House stared at the box. Eventually Wilson slowly and carefully sat down on the other side of the bed.
He leaned over and picked up the box, putting it on the
floor. Greg was watching him with wide eyes. So open. So vulnerable. He looked like he would crumble at any moment. Wilson
carefully picked up one of House’s hands, and ignoring the sarcastic Housian look he got, stared into his eyes.
“House. I promise, as long as I live - you will
never have to pick up the dry cleaning ever again.”
House looked at him, first with amazement, then he began
to snigger. Suddenly Wilson found himself thrown backwards onto the bed as House grabbed him in a bear hug. House was squeezing
the life out of him, but laughing into him at the same time. He felt it vibrate through him. It was a good sound. It had been
too long since House had laughed – and Wilson was the only one who could make House laugh.
“Arghh, House – oxygen,” he managed
to splutter. House released his death grip and put his hands on Wilson’s chest, like a puppy dog, as he lay on top of
him. Wilson could feel his warmth, his angular bones as they dug into his soft fleshy spots, the key that hung from the chain
around his neck as it danced over his chest, and then there was always the peculiar Housian rumbling he seemed to continuously
make whether asleep or awake.
House put his chin on Wilson’s breastbone and his
big blue eyes looked thoughtfully at him. They stayed that way for what seemed like an eternity, locked in their strange relationship:
protector, protectee… protectee, protector.
Eventually House spoke. “You know I always thought
you would have made a good teddy bear.”
“Come back here...”
Wilson walked into the space and set down the box and
the can of gasoline. He was alone. It was dark. It was quiet. But the place screamed at him. It filled his ears. It stank
of fear and pain. It reminded him of the time he had gone to Auschwitz. Even forty years after the horror had ended and the
people had gone, you could still feel the atmosphere oozing thickly through the walls.
He looked down at his feet. There was a brown stain on
the concrete floor. He blinked slowly. He knew whose blood had made that stain.
It was still here. Left over and forgotten, but intact.
A shrine to vengeance. The place where the battle for his life had been fought. Not much of a battlefield. But then they aren’t
all that impressive. Fields, meadows, streets filled with bloodstains that would be washed away by the next rain shower. He
wandered around the empty space, his feet crackling on the grimy floor.
He gazed at the table, absentmindedly fingering one of
the ringbolts that were drilled into each corner. It was a big old sturdy worktable. It reminded him of Greg’s old kitchen
table. He remembered House’s eyes lighting up with glee at Wilson look after he had announced it was an antique autopsy
“But I just made this sandwich on there…”
he stammered as he dropped the sandwich back onto his plate.
“Oh, don’t be such a baby,” said House
as he swiped the remains of the sandwich and threw himself down on the couch next to him. He looked at Wilson in mock indignation.
“I cleaned it – with water and everything,” he said stuffing the sandwich into his mouth.
Wilson reached into his jacket and pulled out a piece
of paper. Greg had never known he’d kept that too. He put it gently down on the table, smoothing it lovingly out on
the bumpy wood before turning away.
A flash of sky blue caught his eye. He walked over to
the wall and picked up the crumpled up shirt. It had been one of Greg’s (and Cuddy’s) favourites, but now it lay
forgotten, stiff with muck and grime, like a relic of war.
He stood there for a long time, clutching the shirt in
his hands, just looking around. It was a shrine to vengeance.
He watched it burn. As a testament of love, he thought,
as he mentally whacked himself in the shin with a cane for such a sappy sentiment.
When he returned next morning it was so normal the events
from the night before felt surreal.
He could hear the radio playing an eighties rock song
in the kitchen. Clarence was badly singing along while he made breakfast, pausing only to stick his head round the corner
and smile hello when Wilson walked in before happily going back to his singing. He waved a hand. Still, even now, Clarence
was ‘the bodyguard’. The security that had been denied Greg all those years.
He found House sprawled on the couch, Steve snoozing his
shoulder. Keeping each other company. Steve was getting on and between House and Clarence he got spoiled. He really was getting
fat now. A little furry butterball House said. But that didn’t stop him from feeding Steve Wilson’s best Camembert.
Steve had given up his wheel (House had diagnosed arthritis)
and now lived a life of decadence, snoozing and sunning himself in all manner of dangerous place. Wilson had nearly sat on
him twice in the last month, but House seemed to have an inbuilt Steve McQueen radar. House would be just about to unceremoniously
fall onto a couch, when he would suddenly reach behind him and a small furry ball would appear, saved from being squished
in the nick of time.
They were both sunning themselves in the window. House
was like a cat, enjoying lazing in the warmth. A pleasure too long denied.
One of the prison guards had turned informer in exchange
for clemency. During the investigation into the corruption in the prison he had described the conditions Greg had been kept
The new tough on crime prison kept its ‘isolation’
cells in the basement. For most of the time the convicts down there saw no human contact but the hand that pushed their food
through the door. There was a policy of absolute silence – no talking, no singing, no screaming – absolute isolation.
Half the time in darkness, the other in gloom. Daylight became a distant memory.
Inmates were not meant to be kept in isolation for more
than three weeks. Greg had spent over a year down there in the dark.
And for Greg it was worse. Although completely illegal,
the warden had ordered House be put in handcuffs as well as leg irons and the cuffs to be secured to the wall with a chain.
There was no point to this except to make his life sheer misery.
The guard said that at first he would sometimes hear House’s
chains rattle as he slowly paced his cell, four shuffling steps one way, and four steps back; but at the end he had given
up and would just tug constantly at the chain that held him to the wall or just sit huddled on his thin mattress with his
face to the corner. He didn’t even walk in the exercise cage. After they had dragged him there he would just stagger
a few feet and crumple into a ball of misery, refusing to move no matter how much they kicked and punched him.
Wilson had looked in horror when the psychiatrists had
said it was probably only the regular torments Thompson had organized that had broken the sheer monotony and stopped House
from going mad from the sensory deprivation and the restraints. Inmates only got one hour’s exercise in the cage a week;
House got regular ‘special workouts’, ranging from being used as a guinea pig for ‘inmate extraction’
exercises to simple sport for bored corrections officers.
In other words he had become nothing… and had come
to believe it… the only thing keeping him going was the contract.
Maybe why that was why he had gone away for so long. He
had to find himself again.
Even now he didn’t like the dark. One day House
had announced he wanted to go shopping. They had gone to Baby World and Greg had taken great pleasure in selecting the most
hideous night-light he could find. It was nauseatingly cute, adorned with unicorns and some sort of disturbing looking elf
“Can I have it mom?” he had asked loudly,
startling a prospective mother of what looked like twins.
Wilson rolled his eyes and played along. He knew this
was House’s way of not saying ‘I’m afraid of the dark’.
“Yes junior, you can,” he replied.
“Can I have a lollipop too?”
Wilson eyed the woman who was now openly staring at them.
“Don’t push it or I’ll put you back on the string,” he said as he hustled House away.
As Wilson entered he looked over drowsily, but then his
eyes narrowed. “What did you burn down?” he asked.
“You were out all night, you smell of gasoline and
you are sooty. So I presume you torched something last night.”
Wilson sighed and kicking House’s feet off the couch,
sat down beside him. “Do you really want to know?”
House sat up and eyed him warily. The fear was always
just under the surface. He was silent for a minute. “Yes,” he said slowly. Wilson watched as he unconsciously
massaged the bracelet scars that circled his wrists. Even Steve looked at him expectantly, the light reflecting off his little
House stiffened and stared at the floor. Steve sensed
the change and ran down House’s body and onto Wilson. House let him go.
“You were there?” he said.
“Yes,” replied Wilson. “It wasn’t
just your burden you know.”
“And I burned it down. Happy now.”
House looked at his friend and then a slow smile spread
across his face and he laughed softly to himself.
“Yeah… Thanks,” he said as he plucked
Steve off Wilson’s jacket.
“Your welcome…what are friends for?”