James Wilson left Gregg House’s office
and veered around the corner toward the elevator. His thoughts ranged from half
angry to half sympathetic.
*For the life of me, I can’t figure
out why the hell I try to maintain a friendship with that man. He’s been
snappish and rotten for days! Even more so than usual. He gets me pissed off at myself for being snappish and rotten in return.
The difference must be the way he looked when he came in this morning. I
knew he would bust my ass for it, but I followed him anyway. Something was way
off center … and Gregg doesn’t “do” off-center! Well,
maybe he does. But not with me. *
Wilson knew from the moment he’d
arrived that morning that Gregg was in a bad way. Just watching his friend walk
down the corridor to his office made Jim’s stomach hitch up until he’d finally had to look away. So he’d followed him as he moved with his head down, bent over the cane and oblivious to anything
around him. Wilson watched from a distance as Dr. House struggled with the shoulder
strap of his briefcase and fumbled around unlocking the door to his office. When
Gregg set the case down, lowered himself painfully into his chair without even removing his jacket, Wilson positioned himself
near the blind spot just outside the doorway to watch and monitor the other man’s condition.
Gregg’s movements were rigid
and jerky, his hand shaking as he reached to his jacket pocket for the Vicodin. He
palmed two pills and took them dry, then laid his head back on the backrest of the chair and closed his eyes. Wilson stiffened. *Two? *
He was about to move forward, make himself known, when House groaned almost subvocally and sat up again. Jim drew himself back and continued to watch as House bent gingerly over his crippled leg and used both
hands to lift it up to the level of the desk, then set it down easy with a ragged sigh.
He leaned back in the chair once again.
This time Wilson came forward and stepped
into the office as though he were just arriving, and strode over to where Gregg sat.
“You look a little beat up this morning,” he observed nonchalantly.
House snorted. “Been babysitting me again, you idiot,” he snapped. “I
heard you from the time you pussyfooted after me all the way from the freakin’ elevator.
Watching out for the cripple again, huh? Well, don’t bother. I need to be alone awhile if you don’t mind.” He turned his head away in the opposite direction, facing the vertical blinds on his window, pretending
to find something fascinating there to stare at.
“Who the hell do you think you’re
kidding, you dumbass?” Wilson shot back.
“What’s happening with you? I know you. Come on, Gregg, you can barely walk, and you look like death warmed over.
If Cuddy finds out, she just might have you admitted for observation.”
That did the trick. Gregory House snapped his head back, straightened up, then looked across to meet his friend’s eyes
reproachfully. “No way!” he whispered angrily. “That’s never gonna happen again as long as I’m still breathing!”
Wilson ignored him. “Then level with me, dammit! What happened? I don’t know what’s wrong, but something sure is. Talk
House sighed and spoke in a low tone, as
though he did not want even the walls to overhear. “Damn leg spasmed and
went out from under me last night when I got up to get ready for bed. Whacked
it good on the edge of the piano bench. I thought I was going to pass out. You know the rest.”
Wilson shook his head sadly. “Yeah, guess I do. Did you ice it? Try a cold compress?”
“No.” Flatly. “Hurt so damn bad I couldn’t think. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t care. Just wanted to curl up somewhere and go to sleep.”
“And did you? Sleep?”
“Hour or two, maybe. On the freakin’ floor. Then the sun came up …
it does that about once a day. You know how it goes …”
In spite of himself, Wilson chuckled. “Yeah. I know how it goes. And you slept on the floor.” It
was a statement, not a question. No wonder you can barely walk. So how the hell did you get to work?”
“I drove. How do you think?”
“Yeah. How else did you THINK I would get here? Run? I don’t think I could do a marathon right now.”
“You drove! Jesus Christ, man … you could have killed yourself!”
“You’re beginning to sound
like my mother, you know that, Wilson? Just like a damn naggy little echo goin’
round and round inside my head.”
“Pretty soon I’m going to sound
like your worst nightmare!” Wilson shot back. “What the hell were
“I was thinking I needed to
get to work! If you recall, it was you who insisted I put hand controls in the
car. So I did. Now I don’t have to use the leg at all. Just had to shove it over there out of the way.
Not like it was going to be good for anything
… like pressing down on the brake, or the gas pedal.” He laughed
and it was an angry laugh that began deep in his throat and roiled outward. “The
only thing the son-of-a-bitch is good for anymore is giving my other shoe a cool place to hang out!”
“Gregg. Please.” Wilson found himself pleading and hating himself
for it. “This isn’t helping you any.”
“Yeah? Well, there isn’t anything I know of that WILL help me any, so I might as well keep on bitching. Oh, by the way, did I tell you lately that I’m never going to get any better? I’m always going to walk like I’m thirty years older than I am. Or forty. Or fifty.
Take your pick. The only time it ever gets any better is when I’m
mad as hell. So I try to stay mad as hell.
You get it?”
“Sure,” Wilson joined in sarcastically. “And while you’re feeling sorry for yourself, why don’t you just
take it out on everyone who cares for you. Do it up right!” He stopped
abruptly, so tired of the same conversation, the same litany. “Gregg …
let me go get you a set of crutches. We’ll go to the nearest exam room. I’ll take a look. Maybe there’s
something I can do to ease some of the pain.”
No crutches! No way! I’ll
just stay right here ‘til it starts to tame down. The pills should kick
in soon. I’ll be okay. Get
the hell out of here!”
James Wilson closed his eyes and drew a
deep breath, then expelled it with a whistle between clenched teeth. He
threw back his head in exasperation. *Stubborn prick! * “Okay. Have it your way.
Don’t say I didn’t offer!” He turned on his heel and
headed for the door, not looking back. Behind him he could feel the biting stare
of angry blue eyes piercing right through the shirt on his back.
It had been a long day indeed. Patient after patient with much more serious medical problems than Gregory House streamed through the Oncology
Department in an unending line. Wilson, however, never failed to offer a kind
word or a smile while some of them struggled through radiation treatments or sat with IVs full of noxious chemicals contaminating
their veins. Even the sickest ones, their faces pinched from nausea or pain,
could count on the kindness and caring of Dr. James Wilson. He was a man who,
when asked why he became a doctor; especially why he wanted to be a doctor who worked with cancer patients, was able to say
“… because I want to help people!” and mean it. And yet as the day wore on, his thoughts kept returning to the lonely office three floors down, where a
special person dealt with his own bitterness, his own demons. James did not quite
understand why his concern for this angry friend took all precedence over everything else in his life.
It was seven in the evening before he finally
got out of there. Again his thoughts returned to Gregg House, and whether or
not the man might have sought out help of any kind for his own problem. On the
way down to the ground floor, he decided to check by Gregg’s office, ease his own mind that House wasn’t still
hiding from the world and from himself.
It was dark. The vertical blinds were drawn and the room was mostly in silhouette, stark and hollow when the man who
resided there wasn’t in it. Sometimes even when he was, Wilson realized. But wait! The cane’s black outline
stood out glaringly propped against the side of the desk. James felt a cold chill
skitter down the length of his spine and a hollow place open up deep in his gut. Nasty
digestive juices bubbled upward in cadence with his rising alarm.
He leaned in through the unlocked door. *Oh Shit! * “Gregg? Gregg? Are you still here?
Gregg? Answer me!”
At last there came the sound of movement
from the corner between the wall and the window. Wilson moved closer and dropped
his briefcase on the floor. Gregory House was sitting there, leaning crookedly
against the rigidity of the wall. His useless leg was pulled up as close to his
chest as he could manage, his head bowed onto the knee. Wilson went to his side
and knelt there, touching the stubbled face lightly with the backs of his fingers. *Oh
this is marvelous! Two nights in a row on the floor! * “Gregg?” Gently.
“Are you conscious?”
The sigh was half relief, half exasperation. “Still checking on the cripple, huh? I
might have known.” A tiny smile tugged weakly at one corner of his mouth,
accentuating the deep dimple that resided there. The long slender fingers of
House’s opposite hand came up and grasped Jim’s wrist with something that might have been affection. Then it was quickly withdrawn. Could it have been gratitude? *Naw* “Sure gotta piss,”
he stated with a smirk, hoping for a reaction. There wasn’t one. He continued. “Been skulking in here all day. Watching
the great-unwashed parade go by. Hungry.
Kids all came looking, sticking their noses in one by one, but left again. Cuddy
stopped by three times. That woman couldn’t find her ass with both hands. Can you help me to the head? My freakin’
bladder’s about to explode.”
Wilson laughed with relief and stood up,
gently touching a thin shoulder. “I love you too,” he said dismissively.
Only a subdued huff came back in return,
but to Wilson it was as good as an affirmation. Only then did he notice there
was no fancy sneaker on House’s right foot.
“That bad?” He inquired softly.
“Oh Christ, if you only knew. Can’t put it down. Pain goes through
the roof. Now get me my pain pills and get me to the john before I wet you down
like a fire hose.”
Later, when Gregg was settled back into
his desk chair and the offices were silent around them, Wilson reiterated an earlier question.
“Will you let me find you a set of crutches so you can get to an exam room?
I need to take a look at your leg.”
The look he got back was scathing. Then: “Yeah. Guess it’s better in the dark without an audience, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.” But Jim’s eyes were still questioning.
House knew the look. He’d seen that look; put up with it ever since the day of his original injury. “It hurts like hell, okay? But nothing like it did this
He got the nod he’d expected. He looked away, hiding his face, and grinned like crazy.
“Okay!” Wilson said. “Be right back.”
The crutches beneath his arms made him
feel even clumsier than he did with the cane. He’d had to take the jacket
off. It was a little rumpled anyway, after having been scrunched beneath him
all day. His leg wanted to sag, dragging his foot across the floor. It had had a mind of its own the past few years. With effort
he hitched it up. The pain came shooting back.
*What the fuck did I do to myself? It was only a bump! *
By the time they made it to the examining
room, he was pale, shaky and exhausted, and it was impossible to hide it from Wilson.
House lay on his back on the gurney, looking
half embarrassed with his jeans off and tossed in a corner. Wilson was staring
down at the wasted quadriceps muscle, the site of House’s ‘muscle
death’ episode, and the area where a huge surgical scar knotted a deep furrow in surrounding skin and tissue. The site had darkened to a deep purple bruise, and the contusion was serious, but hardly dangerous. “You
could play for the Minnesota Vikings with this,” James remarked nastily.
The younger doctor then tilted his head
to the side and looked his friend in the eyes. “You’re going to have
to use the crutches for another week, at least. There’s no way you can
weight-bear on this for a while. You know that, don’t you?” There was a decidedly snarky grin on his face.
House was not amused. “I was afraid of that. Maybe I can just stay home the
rest of the week and …”
“The hell you will!” Jim Wilson growled. His good mood was back, no longer frightened
that his friend had re-injured himself seriously. “You did this to yourself, idiot.
You can take the consequences. I’ll come by in the morning and drive
you to work myself. Besides, your car’s in the parking lot. Impossible for you to get it home anyway. Plenty of time for
your leg to heal a bit before you can drive again.”
“Maybe one of the kids could …”
“Well SHIT! In the meantime I’m going to have to hold off both them and Cuddy. All I need for a whole damn week is them to hang around and go: ‘tsk
tsk tsk’ … like I’m a lopsided lawn ornament.”
“Oh, you’ll figure out a way,”
Wilson remarked, still in that snarky tone which Gregg recognized jealously as his own.
“Now you’ve got two clubs to whack ‘em with instead of just one.
I’m sure you’ll manage.”
House pursed his lips thoughtfully, and
Wilson could tell there was another light about to go on in his upper story. Gingerly,
Gregg pushed himself to a sitting position and allowed his legs to dangle off the side of the gurney. Wilson helped him pull on the worn jeans, held out the crutches, then supported most of his weight as he
slid down onto the floor on his one sound leg.
“I could knock ‘em silly if
I hit ‘em with one of these,” House observed dryly.
“I’m sure you could.”
“Chase ‘em through the halls
“And beat their brains out …”
“Yeah … Marathon!”
“Come on, Gregg. You have to get off your leg. You said you were hungry. Let’s go eat. My treat. If you behave, I’ll buy you a beer.”
*And that’s the story of my day. That’s pretty much the story of a LOT of the days around here. Damn
fool. I don’t know why I put up with him.
All he does is bitch at people. Nobody wants to be around him. He snarls at Cuddy and the kids like a junkyard dog. Pisses
me off …
*He gets away with murder because he knows
he can. He bites people’s heads off and they don’t bite back. Usually. They just sit there with their
mouths hanging open, too shocked to challenge him. He loves it. He’s in control. His crippled leg holds no dominion
there. Oh yeah, another thing: he
looks frail. Fragile. He looks as
though if you dropped him, he would shatter into little tiny pieces. Don’t
you believe it. You’ve got to look beyond the cane … beyond the crutches
… or whatever he has to use this week. He’s got a strength that’ll
make your head swim. And he can handle himself if he has to. He’s not a weak man. Except for the leg, he’s in
great physical shape. He has to be. It
takes great strength to be disabled. In many respects. Oh, don’t get me wrong. His pain is real. If he has one true weakness, that’s it. He hurts. Twenty-four-seven. I’ve seen him
in so much pain there were tears in his eyes. He’s learned to deal with
it … and with well-meaning people who only want to help. Why he feels shame
with that, I don’t know; but he does. And so he gets pissy. It’s nothing. I know him, you see. I’ve known him for a long time. He has one of the kindest
hearts in the world. But you’ll never see it. I have, though not very often. He guards those moments jealously. The nature of the beast, I guess.
*Gregg House is the best friend I ever
had. I love the hell out of him and he knows it.
He’d give me the shirt off his back. (I’d iron it before I
wore it though.) I guess if I could barely move most of the time and if
I were in the kind of pain he puts up with every day of his life, I’d be kind of bitchy too. But Goddamnit, he PISSES ME OFF!!