Irony

Chapter 3: Questions Without Answers

1 - Weird Wet Wednesday
2 - Greggs Place
3 - Questions Without Answers
4 - Wilson Goes Down
5 - Roger
6 - In Wilson's Room
7 - Billy Arrives
8 - Brothers
9 - Mixed Bag
10 - Gregg Screws Up
11 - Don't Go!
12 - The Signal
13 - Finding Jules
14 - Houses is Where??
15 - Billy Rides Again
16 - Looking Out For The Cripple
17 - The Cripple Gets Even
18 - Wilson's Boys
19 - I Need You!
20 - Jules and Roger
21 - Me 'n' My Shadow
22 - Crutch Ballet
23 - Wilson Speaks
24 - Whispers
25 - Winners
26 - Business at Hand
27 - All These Men ...
28 - Get Ready... Get Set...
29: Caper
30 - Over The Rainbow
31 - All Over But The Shoutin'!
32 - Irony

by Betz88

They dispatched the pizza with alacrity and were on their third can of beer.  They’d been watching an episode of “LOST”, and when it was over, House thumped his empty beer can down on the side table with a snort.  “That has got to be the dumbest show I ever saw!”

 

Across on the couch Wilson slouched comfortably in tee-shirt and boxers, surrounded by the ruins of pizza and breadstick containers.  “Yeah … it is!   If you don’t watch every week, you don’t know what’s going on.  And half the time you don’t know what’s going on anyhow.”

 

“No shit!”  House said.    He flicked off the TV, picked his cane off the floor and slowly made to rise from the chair, fully aware that Wilson was watching him nervously.

 

 “I gotta pee!”   

 

He pushed upright on both arms, and this time made it to his feet with a minimum of effort.  Moving carefully in order to keep his foot from turning while in bare feet, he headed for the bathroom. Wilson’s sharp gaze followed him safely to the door and began picking up their dinner debris to take it to the kitchen.

 

When House returned from the bathroom, Wilson was still in the process of cleaning up.   When he turned off the water in the sink, the soft strains of Moonlight Serenade caressed his senses from the direction of the living room.  He let the rest of the clutter set where it was and moved stiffly to the doorway between the two rooms.  House was hunched in front of the keyboard, dark head bowed, lost in concentration over the keys.  Without a word, Wilson moved closer, gliding up behind him on silent feet, eyes following the nimble fingers that danced across the expanse of the eighty-eight, bringing forth memories of the Glen Miller original that he’d listened to from the time he was a child.   Allowing his senses to blend into the music, Wilson closed his eyes and swayed with it, letting his body relax into a boneless lump of pleasure.  He raised a hand without even thinking about it, trailing his fingertips along House’s spine, and placed it lightly on a bony shoulder.  Muscles bunched in alarm for a moment beneath his palm, but then relaxed again as the music swelled softly to a climax.

 

House’s hands did not come off the keys at the end of the song, but segued into the first few bars of Begin the Beguine.  Wilson undulated with it, lifting his other hand until it rested on House’s opposite shoulder, massaging gently with thumbs, index and middle fingers.  This time there was no momentary twist of tenseness, no questioning of propriety or personal space intruded upon.  Gregg continued to the end of the piece and then allowed his hands to fall into his lap, slumped comfortably with body relaxed and head bowed.  Nothing happened for a suspended instant of time which seemed lost somewhere in languid transition to them both.  Then House’s face slowly came around and turned upward to gaze at Wilson, who still stood in silence behind him with both hands on his shoulders, eyes closed.  House inclined his head gradually to the right and down and let his cheek rest lightly on the back of Wilson’s hand.

 

Wilson’s eyes popped open and his mouth gaped, drawing a quick, surprised breath at the same moment.  House grinned wickedly and the spell was broken.

 

 “Gotcha!”

 

 But his actions belied his words when his left hand rose to touch the tips of Wilson’s fingers where they rested over the front of his shoulder, and he turned his face downward just far enough so that his lips caressed the junction where their hands came into contact.

 

Wilson stared, incredulous.  “House?”

 

“What, Jimmy?  You can’t tell me you’re not in the mood …”   House’s voice had turned deep, seductive.

 

“I don’t … Jesus!”  Wilson dropped to his knees beside the piano bench, suddenly weak, hands retreating, retracing their path down House’s spine, elbows resting on the smooth wood.  His hands stumbled to a place near House’s injured thigh.

 

House raised his right hand and ran his fingers gently through the mass of silken hair.  “Don’t what, Jimmy?”

 

“Don’t even … seem to remember how to breathe …”   Wilson concluded lamely.

 

“Let’s go to bed.  I’ll see if I can help you remember.”

 

James Wilson suddenly could not seem to find a means of remaining coherent.  “I’m … I mean I don’t … I can’t …”

 

“Sure you can.  I don’t want to be alone in there tonight.  Please come with me.”

 

“House … my God … are you all right?”

 

A muffled curse broke the spell.  “Ah, Christ!  Everything always comes down to ‘am I all right’?  Yes, dammit, I’m fine! Will you come with me?  You do have to drive me to work in the morning, you know … give me a ride in that new ‘cruise ship’ you bought … let me carry your briefcase for you because of your ‘injured’ back and all …”   His voice was taking on a tone of barely disguised desperation which was very confusing.

 

Wilson crumpled inwardly, all his thoughts in haphazard disarray.  What the hell was his friend thinking?  “House … sometimes you fuck with me to the point of distraction.  I was already intending to stay with you and haul your miserable ass to work in the morning … but what are you talking about?  Are you asking me to sleep with you?  In the same bed?”

 

House hung his head, looking almost contrite, wondering if he had taken the conversation a little too far.  “Maybe I just read too much into your actions awhile ago.  When you touched me … ran your fingers up my spine … Christ!  I felt it all the way to my dick.”

 

“What!?”

 

“Sorry.  I spoke too soon, Wilson.  I thought you were …”

 

Wilson blanched. 

 

*Oh God!* 

 

Suddenly he was on his feet, shifting position until he was sitting on the piano bench beside his friend, pressing his left hip anxiously against House’s weaker right one, forcing him to move over.  “I’m sorry too … I didn’t understand.  For a second I thought you were trying to seduce me.”  Wilson reached forward with both arms, leaning in, gathering House’s thin shoulders around and closer to brush the scruffy face against his chest.

 

House sighed raggedly, voice muffled. 

 

“I was.”

 

He slumped, going limp in Wilson’s embrace in a shy, tentative action, as though expecting to be rejected momentarily.  They sat in an unnatural position, unmoving.  Thoughts stampeding.

 

After a time Wilson cupped House’s cheek gently in the palm of his right hand.  “I’m not sure I’m getting what you’re saying to me.  This is so out-of-character for you, and the further it goes, the more confused I am.  I want to be here for you, but I’m still not certain I know what it is you want.”

 

House did not move.  If anything, he settled deeper into Wilson’s tentative embrace.  “I’m not sure I know either.  I only know I’m sick of the emptiness and the pain …tired of the bullshit, the struggle, the way people look at me as though I’m some sort of freak.  You’re the only one who doesn’t do that to me.  You don’t patronize me, or keep trying to do for me … treat me as though I’ll shatter into a thousand pieces if you bump  against me.  You make me want to smack you every time you ask me if I’m okay … but I know you, and you ask everybody that question … every damn day.  You can’t help it, it’s who you are.  You give me dignity, and that means a lot, whether I show it or not.

 

“This morning you told me you loved me, and you floored me because I never saw it coming.  Ever since then I’ve been wondering what the bloody hell you see that’s worth loving.  The only reasonable conclusion I can come to is … you’re lying to make me feel good … or you’re lying to yourself.  Actually, you’re not the only one who’s confused here.  I just had to know which it was …”

 

“Gregg …”

 

“Uh oh … it makes the hackles on the back of my neck stand up when you call me by my first name.”

 

The edges of Wilson’s mouth curled a little.  He backed away from the light embrace and looked House in the eye.  Then his left hand rose also, moving into opposition at the other side of the narrow, melancholy face.  Slowly he closed the distance between them until he could press his mouth firmly but gently against House’s half-parted lips, lingering, deepening the contact, but not to the degree that they both became breathless.  Wilson was smiling a little more, eyes sparkling impishly as they moved away from each other again, reaching out with a thumb to wipe a trace of dampness from the corner of House’s eye.  There was a truth here, something still hidden that one of them needed to lay bare.  It might as well be him.

 

“Does that answer your question?”

 

House could not manage anything above a whisper. 

 

“Beyond the shadow of a doubt.”

 

 

                                                                  ********

 

 

“We need to talk,” Wilson said finally.  “We need to decide if what happened between us should go any further than this.  I need to know how you feel, and God knows I need some time to think it through.”

 

House sighed heavily.  He had turned forward again. His body was slumped on the piano bench, head down between his arms, hands propped like support pylons on the sounding board in front of him.  He looked like a man who had just met with another defeat in a long line of many which had gone before it.

 

Wilson sat quietly beside House’s rigid form, an arm stretched protectively over his friend’s back, the side of his head resting against the spot where Gregg’s upper arm joined his shoulder blade. James’ hand was turned palm out, the backs of his fingers circling gently through his hair, across and back down.  He did not press Gregg for answers or reasons or feelings.  They had blindsided one another so completely, and the reality would take time to sort out.  There was a complicated history between them already that needed untangling.  They must both take a long, hard look at their words and determine whether they were truth, fantasy, or anywhere close to either possibility.  Both their lives were already intertwined and complex and intricate, and now that they’d thrown a monkey wrench into the machinery, it made everything even more difficult.  Where in hell would it go … could it go … from here?

 

“House?”   Wilson’s voice intruded softly into his thoughts.

 

“Yeah …”

 

“Let’s go into your room … get you settled … take your meds … and we can talk about this.  Okay?”

 

“Yeah.  What the hell did I do with my cane?” 

 

“It’s hanging off the end of the piano … there at the bass end.”

 

“Oh.  Okay.  I’m ready.  We can go now.”  House’s words were a little off-kilter.  A little confused.  He had not moved from the position in which he’d been sitting for the past half hour.

 

In the end, Wilson had to reach across, grasp the cane’s handle, then offer it to House and help him curl his fingers around it.  “At the risk of having you smack me,” he intoned quietly, “are you all right?  You act like you’re half asleep.”  It was better than saying his friend was lost somewhere in a fugue-like state.

 

House snapped out of it, turned and glared for a moment before his features softened.  “Uh … yeah … I’m fine.”

 

Getting him off the piano bench was another matter.  He’d been sitting too long, and his    body was stiff and unyielding.  His knee buckled when he placed weight on it, and he cried out in pain when he started to go down.  Wilson made a grab for his shoulders and they both managed to stabilize each other. 

 

As he had done earlier in the day, Wilson took House’s arm across his shoulders and guided his friend slowly back to his bedroom.  Wilson eased him down onto the bed, helped him lie back and then lifted his legs carefully up and around.  He placed the bad leg on the pillow and began to massage gently, starting at House’s ankle and working toward the knee.  There he stopped when he heard Gregg hiss a breath between his teeth and felt the man’s body stiffen perceptively.  “Still hurt?”  He asked.

 

House nodded, not trusting himself to speak.  Wilson got up and went over to the bathroom, returning momentarily with a glass of water.  He tipped a Vicodin from the bottle on the night stand and offered it over, waiting for House to take it and hand the glass back.

 

Wilson put the glass and the bottle on the night stand and resumed his perch on the bed near House’s feet.  “I’m going to work on your leg.”

 

The blue eyes glittered in warning and House’s right hand snaked out to stop the motion of Wilson’s fingers as he turned in the direction of the painful thigh.

 

 “No!  Don’t …”

 

“You know I’d never hurt you,” Wilson said.  He reached out for the second time, and House’s hand reluctantly withdrew.

 

Wilson began again, both hands on either side of the infarction site, kneading inward near the deep surgical scar with careful strokes, then working back out  again, and upward with increasing pressure on the painful muscles.  The leg was cramped from lack of use, overuse … it didn’t matter … and it took some minutes of careful massage until it began to release tension beneath his concentrated manipulations.  House, in the meantime, relaxed by degrees, and began to melt into the surface of the bed.

 

For a long time there was no conversation between them, only the sounds of the cold wind through the building’s eaves and whatever traffic moved about on the icy street outside the bedroom window.  After awhile Wilson realized that the Vicodin had finally kicked in and House was calming beneath its influence; that and the soothing hands on his leg.  The blue eyes remained alert, but he continued to stare at the ceiling as though something up there might be of great interest and fascination.

 

Wilson knew his friend was having a hard time marshaling his thoughts in the direction they must turn tonight.  House was brilliant at his job, at ferreting out illness and severe injury, and at issuing orders.  He was also a genius at sarcastic one-liners.  But when it came to expressing feelings, or letting another person see behind those barriers of inscrutability, he could be almost as inarticulate as a ten-year-old.  Wilson did not press him, but stretched out casually by his side, and so far House had not chased him away. Wilson sensed it was as good a gauge as any that the other man was at least in a receptive mood.

 

Finally Wilson yawned and adjusted his position on the bed.  He withdrew his hand from House’s shoulder and curled himself into a ball with both hands beneath his right cheek.  House turned his head away from the wall and toward the man he trusted. 

 

“Tired?”

 

Wilson nodded.  “Yeah.  Tired and a little achy.  I think you were probably right this morning … I’m catching cold, and I’m going to end up with a snotty nose …” 

 

“There’s Sudafed in the medicine cabinet.  Why don’t you take some … and I was kidding about the snotty nose thing.”

 

“I know.  And I already took some … but OTC stuff doesn’t normally work on me.  I’m still going to get a snotty nose …”

 

“Wilson?”

 

“Mmmm?”

 

“I’m sorry I made a move on you today.”

 

“Oh?  Are you sure?  Or are you saying what you think I want to hear?”

 

“Don’t know.  Do you want to hear it?”

 

“I don’t know either.  The thought of us together has certainly crossed my mind a few times … funny thoughts about me and you.  I’d be lying if I said different.  But I always thought you’d never let me get anywhere near you in that way.”

 

“I wouldn’t have.  But something changed today.  I don’t know what happened, or why.  All of a sudden it felt good to have you leaning against me … holding me up when I almost fell … twice!  You always know what I need before I know I need it … hearing you bitch at me for taking too many meds, bitch at me for walking around without the cane, bitch at me for not eating right.  Everything!  This morning when you went flying through the door soaked to the skin and skidded across the damn floor, I saw you in my head … falling on your ass, fucking up your back, and … ‘bang!’ … the shoe was on the other foot and it was me looking out for you the way you always look out for me.  I acted it out with Cuddy, I guess … and now we have to cover my lie with another lie.  I’m sorry.”

 

“Gregg …”   Wilson rolled back onto his side of the bed and looked House in the eye.

 

“What?”

 

“Stop apologizing.  It’s scaring the shit out of me!  And I do love you.”

 

“I guess I knew that for a long time, but even the thought of what it might mean down the road gives me goose pimples.  You’re younger than me, and I was out of my mind for even thinking we’d have a chance.  You can’t spend the rest of your life running interference for a cripple!”

 

“You must really get your rocks off telling me what I can and can’t do with my life!”

 

“I’m being realistic, finally.  It can’t last, Wilson.  I would probably destroy you.”

 

Wilson’s response was deeply sarcastic.  “Even you don’t have that much power!  You can’t destroy someone who’s already destroyed.  I’m pretty far down that road.”

 

“Meaning … what?”

 

“House, don’t be na´ve.  My history of relationships has been self-destructive.  I’ve been pretty much like smoke in the wind all my life.  I don’t know why that is, but I don’t seem able to control it.  I drift in and out of love like a stupid teenager.  I’ve killed three marriages, all before my fortieth birthday!  You can’t keep smoke from drifting, and after it drifts far enough, it just … disappears.”

 

“And then reappears somewhere else?  Is that what you’re telling me?”

 

“I suppose.  You’re not the only one with a rotted brain.  We’d destroy each other.”

 

“Is this a ‘can-you-top-this?’ contest?”

 

“Probably.”

 

“Well.  At least we agree on something.”

 

 

                                                                ********

 

 

The conversation they intended to have that night never happened.  They both fell asleep with the lamp still on, half clothed, half spread-eagled and reaching for each other.  The bed clothing lay bunched in disarray.  The lights were still on in the living room and in the hallway; and the pizza mess still looked like a sunken shipwreck in the scummy ice cold water in the kitchen sink.

 

House came to consciousness just before 3:00 a.m. with an involuntary grunt of pain.  He reached for the Vicodin, quickly thumbed off the lid and downed two of them. When he pulled back his hand from replacing the bottle on the night stand, it gravitated to his thigh as though possessed with a mind of its own.  Long powerful fingers grasped the area where the convoluted surgical scar bisected healthy skin and muscle.  Sometimes he wondered if he looked close enough, he might find his own fingerprints etched like acid on glass in the surrounding flesh.  Not a pleasant thought! 

 

Beside him, Wilson breathed heavily.  In the soft glow of the lamp, the youthful features looked very vulnerable, very beautiful; very innocent.  House wondered what the hell he’d been thinking when he’d tried to put the make on him.  He had never before entertained the thought that there might be a single ‘gay’ bone in his body.  Or Wilson’s, for that matter!  But his desire to be near Wilson was an agonizing, deep-seated need.  He had never found a male body to be sexually desirable, even in his wildest fantasies.  But Wilson was different.  Tantalizing, tempting, infuriating.

 

House wondered if his own physical pain was causing him to lose his mind.  It wasn’t the first time he had considered that!  He shifted position, denying the rising discomfort in his leg, and looked closer at the face of the man beside him.   Wilson was not only his best friend, but also his willing slave, co-conspirator and whipping boy, whose quick wit was right on a par with his own.  James withstood all House’s abuse, anger and bitterness with unending good humor and infinite patience.  And often a deaf ear!  House had learned long ago that there was nothing in his repertoire of insults and vitriolic comment that would permanently chase Wilson away from his side.  Unceasingly gentle, but fully capable of snarking back in reprisal at his friend’s sharp tongue, James often ignored his own needs in order to make things easier for House.

 

In the quiet solitude of night, the sound of their breathing was the only thing to break the stillness.  Gregory House was wide awake now, his pain becoming more aggressive, but he was determined to ride out the encroaching bone-deep ache that came on as the affects of his last Vicodin dose wore off.  It hurt to try to lie still and watch Wilson sleep in such innocence, and yet endure the discomfort when all his instincts demanded that he move and stave off the crawl that was beginning beneath his skin and the burning sensation that threatened to set his damaged nerve endings on fire.  Gregg lay stiff instead, arm muscles distended, a clenched fist digging fingers into his thigh, the other pressed hard against his forehead.  It would take a good ten minutes more for the renewing effects of the powerful Hydrocodone to get into his blood stream and cross the blood-brain barrier, bringing the relief he needed.  His body was trembling in misery now, and he could not relax to a point that would not shake hell out of the entire bed.

 

Beside him, Wilson stirred restlessly, even in sleep intuiting that something was wrong.  His eyelids fluttered and opened.  He frowned, instantly awake.  His body remained still for a moment, his mind processing whatever had awakened him with a cold spike of alarm.  He looked to his right and in the dim halo of the lamp’s glow, focused on Gregg House’s rigid body.

 

With a moan of realization, James rolled onto his side and reached across to pull House’s rock-hard forearm away from his face, taking the man’s hand into both of his own, prying the stiffened fingers away from his palm.  “House?  What is it … your leg?”

 

“Yeah.”  The word came out between clenched teeth.  “Took meds, just a minute or so ago …waiting for them to kick in.  I feel like I have the DT’s.”  House drew a deep breath and consciously forced himself to relax.  Wilson loosened some of the pressure he hadn’t realized he’d been exerting on the other man’s fingers.  House looked at him and made a face.  Even in pain he could manage a wisecrack.  “I’m glad that wasn’t my right hand … I wouldn’t be able to walk for a week!”

 

Wilson released the hand and made a wry face at the sorry joke.  

 

Softly: “Idiot!” 

 

He rolled over again and sat up, got out of bed and scooted over to the other side.  There was tightness in his belly that hurt a little, and he was becoming more congested.  He ignored it.  He reached up and tugged House’s sweat pants down to his bare feet, then off completely and tossed them in a heap on the floor. Within a few moments he was performing acupressure on House’s right foot, moving quickly up the calf to the knee, and further still until the quivering muscles of the damaged thigh began to smooth out beneath his gentle fingers. 

 

House arched his back, pressed his head deep into the pillow in relief and then gradually let his body go limp.  “Oh God!  That feels so good.  Thanks.”

 

“Whatever you need, whenever you need it,” Wilson said softly.   It didn’t hurt to keep reminding him, keep him aware that Wilson would do whatever it took.

 

The blue eyes were soft in the gaunt face, and a genuine smile appeared through the stubble on House’s jaw.  The meds were finally kicking in.  Wilson winked and began to get up to return to the other side of the bed.  House, however, grabbed his tee-shirt and pulled him down again.  “Come here, you!”

 

Wilson scrambled to maintain his balance, stomach tightening a little, trying not to inadvertently strike the bad leg.  “Jesus!”  He exclaimed.  “I could have hurt you!”

 

“Right now you could hit me with a sledge hammer and I wouldn’t feel it,” House joked.  “I was thinking it would be nice to just hang onto you for a minute.”

 

Wilson frowned.  Was the Vicodin suddenly making him amorous?  Cautiously he lowered himself onto his belly, back onto the surface of the bed and straightened himself along House’s right side.  The bed pillow prevented him from coming into contact with the leg, and yet he was wary.  He placed his right arm across House’s chest and rested the palm of his hand at the crest of House’s shoulder.  He looked for a moment into the tired blue eyes and then lowered his cheek onto the other side of House’s chest and let himself relax by degrees.  In a moment he felt a wiry arm circle his own shoulders with a warm tenderness he was not quite sure he would ever believe.  He closed his eyes, wondering where this was going to end up.

 

Gregg whispered softly into his ear.  “I want this.  I want it for as long as we can keep it together.  I want it until the smoke starts to drift in the wind.”

 

Wilson’s throat filled and he could not speak.  So he nodded his head instead.  House’s arms tightened around him.

 

They slept.

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