In the morning they showered together in
amicable silence. The only sound was the cascading water. If anyone had bothered to ask, they would have said the reason was to save time. They would have been lying. In truth, they did it because
both were curious to look at the other without clothes on. They did nothing at
all which might have hinted at intimacy. The time was not right. They explored each others’ bodies with their hands and their eyes, and they lathered one another
with liquid Dove and TRESemme shampoo. Wilson shaved his face while nearly inundated with body
wash bubbles. House did not join in the experience. They lingered beneath the hot water in the custom shower, and Wilson
encouraged House to lean on him more than he leaned on the securely installed grab rails.
Later, they dried off with luxurious Turkish towels.
paused when House hitched his breath suddenly and shifted his weight. He placed
the palm of his hand lightly on the hip area of House’s bad leg, painful and bent at the knee, imploring with soft eyes
for permission to examine the wound. He had seen the injury when it was fresh
and still draining and still bandaged and open and raw. He had not seen it healed.
Miraculously, House nodded, allowing him to touch the infarction site. House kept his eyes closed and Wilson knew it was still an open wound in House’s mind, still as fresh
in memory as the day it had happened and no one had believed him when he told them how bad the pain was. House flinched minimally when Wilson widened
his palm and extended his fingers in an attempt to conceal the ugly, disfiguring scar. He
could not cover it all with one hand. *Jesus,
Gregg!* He shook his head sadly
and House sighed in resignation. Wilson
straightened and lifted his hand to touch House’s face for one brief moment.
For breakfast they had toast and freshly
brewed coffee. Neither of them looked at any of the three morning newspapers
strewn about the kitchen table. The only thing either man looked at during that
time was the face attached to the body sitting across from him, each man pondering in his own mind how important they had
suddenly become to one another. Each man wondered where in the hell something
as strange and indefinable as this … could possibly go … and for how long, and to what end.
At 7:30 a.m. they left for work in
the Pacifica. House
would have offered to drive, but knew he would get shot down, so why bother, right?
They were still quiet as they drove toward the center of town. Neither
mentioned the events of the night before, mutually deciding it was history and best left to rot in its grave. House did not complain about any extra pain in his leg, so Wilson
did not worry the subject either.
It was still bitterly cold, but the sun
was out, the last of the snow had gone, and there was no wind. Just past Vince
Crane’s Chrysler dealership and a few blocks from the hospital, Wilson
turned toward House in order to scrutinize his friend’s scruffy face. “How
come you don’t drive the Chevy Corvette anymore?”
House blinked and pulled a pained face
as though he’d just been asked if he were about to undergo a root canal. He
recovered quickly, however, and scowled across the seat at Wilson. “Wow! That came right out of left
field, didn’t it?”
shrugged. “Not really. I’ve
often wondered. I haven’t seen the thing but once or twice since you got
it. You sell it?”
House shook his head. “Naw … it’s in Billy’s garage … up on blocks.”
“Billy Travis’s garage? Why?”
It’ll probably be there until hell freezes over, and you’d know why if you thought about it.”
“I have no idea.” Wilson shrugged. “Because it messes with your leg?”
Can’t drive a straight stick anymore,” House admitted darkly. “I
knew it was going to be pretty much of a problem when I saw it wasn’t automatic.
Had to try it though! Had to be the tough guy and drive it anyway. But you kind-of need both legs in proper working order to handle the clutch-brake
thingie. Third or fourth time I took it out for a run, my leg spazzed out and
I came this close …” He
held his thumb and index finger so close together they nearly touched … “to driving the bastard right through
the Pearly Gates!”
jaw dropped. “You never said anything …”
“What was there to say? ‘Hey! That stupid
ass, ouse, killed himself trying to drive aHouse, killed himself trying
to drive a manual-transmission car! Can’t do that with a bum leg. Poor dumb dead bastard!’ Gregg’s nose wrinkled in disdain and an eye
crunched shut in an “ouch” expression. “I figured I’d beach the whale before the whale beached me!”
“So … riding around on that
ugly yellow suicide machine you bought with my money is better … how?”
“My leg is mostly just along for
the ride when I’m on the bike. My hands do all the work and take all the
credit. A lot safer that way for all concerned!
Besides, I paid you back! Hey! Wilson?! You gonna drive right past work and
hit the brakes and swung the wheel to the left, dipping the Pacifica
across traffic and into the entrance of the hospital’s parking garage. He
gulped. He’d damn near hit a delivery van.
He pulled into the nearest Handicap slot and killed the engine. He did not dare look over at House. The Pacifica purred as it powered down and settled into the slot like a contented housecat. They grabbed their brief-case-sport-bag carryalls and prepared to disembark. House muttered something about … “not all
suicidal drivers out there are cripples” … but Wilson
did not ask him for clarification.
Lisa Cuddy was waiting for them just past
the entrance where the carpeted corridor opened onto the rear of the administrative wing and the clinic exam rooms. Standing with a determined look on her face and arms folded across her chest, the diminutive hospital administrator
had arrived early again to check on her boys. She had the suspicious deportment
of a prison security guard and the scowl of a barroom bouncer.
House took one look and nudged Wilson’s forearm with his free hand. “Incoming!” He growled. “Three o’clock low!”
laughed. He couldn’t help it. By
some miracle, he saw he was beginning to get welcome vestiges of his best friend back.
Both men came abreast of Cuddy at the same
moment, and she fell into step beside them like a drill sergeant. Not one to
be distracted by appearances, of course, her eye was on their ease of movement … or lack thereof.
“You both seem to be … ‘no
worse for wear’ … if I may borrow the oldest cliché in the book.”
She looked pointedly at House’s leg. “You look like you’re
doing pretty well … for a man who went out of here in a wheelchair last night.
What’d you do? Go see a faith healer? Or maybe an Indian medicine man?”
House raised an eyebrow and stopped dead
in the corridor to confront her in a calm, unruffled manner. “No, Dr. Cuddy,
not quite. Wilson called my favorite hooker from his cell
phone on the way home. She rode in on a magic carpet and was there to meet us
when we got to my place. It’s amazing what a little voodoo and physical
therapy can do for a man. She was there for the better part of the night, you
see. We took turns! Next question?”
face was like a blank page from “The Book of Innocence” when Cuddy turned to look at him. Wide-eyed and open-mouthed, he could do nothing but shake his head beneath her disgruntled stare. “I … I …”
“Don’t try to defend yourself,
Dr. Wilson,” she said demurely, “it only makes it worse.”
Smugly silent, House rounded gracefully
on his cane and continued down the corridor. Cuddy let him go and shifted her
attention to Wilson.
“I’d like to see you in my office a minute.” She turned
around once to watch the retreating back of Gregory House disappear around the corner toward the elevator. *How does that son of a bitch DO that?*
dropped all pretense of innocence and followed her through the heavy front door of her inner sanctum. “It’s about Roger, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is, Dr.
Wilson.” She went behind her desk and pulled out her chair. Sat down and faced him. There was a manila folder on the desk
and she folded her hands on top of it. “Sit down … please. How are you feeling, James? You had a nasty session there
for awhile. Are you okay, and are you taking the Urimax?”
He smiled a little and settled into one
of the straight-backed chairs facing her desk. “I’m good. A little congested, but it’s easing. It never had a
chance to get a good foothold. I’m still taking the scrip you gave me. Thanks for asking.”
“You’re welcome. You’re too valuable a commodity to me around here to allow you to be out of
commission for too long. I’m happy that you’re all right.” She paused for a moment, and he knew she was shoring up to tackle the potentially
difficult subject that must be discussed between them.
“James … I’m not sure
what to do about your brother …”
raised both eyebrows, then heaved a sigh and looked off to the side for a moment. When
he returned his gaze to meet her own concerned one at last, he gave the impression of a man whose mind was made up. “I know he presents a problem for you here … and you can’t keep him on ward service forever. It will probably be more of a problem soon, because we’re going to try to find
his boyfriend and …”
Cuddy scowled. “’Boyfriend’?”
“Yeah. Roger is … gay. I guess I knew that about him
almost forever … but it never came up until now. He always avoided any
discussion of it with the family, and then he took off and disappeared and no one ever had to address the issue. There’s a ‘significant other’ still out there, and I’ve decided that the man needs
to be found, and they should be reunited. Roger is worried about him, and he’s
sure Jules is wandering around somewhere nearby, just as worried.”
“Really? Roger is a gay man?” Cuddy could not keep the astonishment
off her face or out of her voice. “I had no idea. He’s a darling young man … bright and friendly … and so happy to know who he is, and
to have his brother back in his life again. But he’ll require a lot of
care and a lot of therapy if he’s going to be able to walk again and return to any kind of normal existence. It can only help him if we can find his ‘friend’ and bring him back here. He needs a lot more in his life than this hospital can provide.”
“I know,” Wilson said, “and I’ve been thinking about it almost constantly since I found
him again. I can’t do too much for Jules, since he’s no relation
to either of us, but I’d like to have Roger added to my hospitalization insurance as a dependent. I’m his nearest relative, and I need to take responsibility for him for awhile. Maybe permanently.”
Lisa Cuddy removed the manila folder from
beneath her forearms and opened it in front of her. “That,” she admitted
with a sigh, “was going to be my next question. He’s eligible, of
course, to be listed as your dependant, since he would be classified as next-of-kin and handicapped as well. Is that what you wish to do?”
The brown eyes bored into Cuddy’s
with a strange sense of irony. “I guess you could replace Julie’s
name with Roger’s …”
Again her face registered surprise. “Are you telling me … ?”
“Yeah … Julie and I didn’t
make it. She left me a week ago. Said
I spent more time here at the hospital than with her. My job consumes more of
my life than I ever realized. This is the third marriage it’s broken up. And now that Roger is back, it’s going to get even more complicated. Julie would never have tolerated him for a moment. She already
resented House, because I spent so much time with him right after the infarction, when he broke up with Stacy. Also, the fact that House is permanently disabled made it even worse, because she had no compassion and
no time for him whatsoever. She called him names that would have made a sailor
blush. Of course, Gregg couldn’t have cared less about that … but
the name calling would have hurt Roger a lot… so I guess it’s for the best.”
“For what it’s worth, James,
I’m so sorry about your marriage … but by the same token, extremely happy that you and Roger have found each other
again. Are you sure you’re all right with this? You are entitled to time off, you know that; in order to be with him, work with him … whatever you
need. You have only to ask and to clear your schedule.”
“And you also need to sign some papers
to switch dependents on your insurance.” She turned the manila folder around
on her desk to face him. “I had everything drawn up ahead of time. Forgive me, but I was anticipating you. The
only thing I had no idea about was Julie leaving. You can sign it now, and I’ll
take her name off it by quitting time tonight.” Her smile was sweetly deceptive.
That was what made Lisa Cuddy such a damn
good boss, Wilson thought.
He stood, took the pen she held out to him and scrawled his signature on four separate sheets of paper. Just that quickly, Roger Wilson became his responsibility. He
wondered how it would eventually play out somewhere down the line. He wondered
how it might affect what he had … what he ever would have … with Gregg
By the time Wilson caught up with House again, his friend had Dr. Robert Chase in his office, the Aussie
sitting close to the edge of the chair on the other side of the desk. House was
speaking in low tones to the younger man, and Wilson noticed
that all the doors were closed and the vertical blinds were drawn. As he walked
in, he could see between a few errant slats that Cameron and Foreman were both in the DD room pretending to be engrossed in
separate research projects. Their eyes lifted frequently, however, to focus curiously
on the closed door in obvious speculation.
As Wilson walked up to the desk, House
reached into his jacket pocket and pulled forth a man’s large red handkerchief, waving it in front of himself like a
banner. “… and this is something similar to what they apparently
use as the signal.”
House and Chase both acknowledged Wilson’s entrance and then went back to their consultation, or
whatever it was. Chase reached across the desk and took the red square with the
black pattern on it from House and stuffed it into his own pocket. Wilson stood with both hands perched on his hips and listened. Chase looked a little confused. “And
I’m just supposed to pin this to the trunk of a tree in the middle of the park and wait for some homeless guy to show
“Not just ‘some homeless guy’!” House insisted. “He’s a light-skinned
black guy. He’s twenty-eight years old, straight black hair, skinny,
probably wearing fatigues and a pea coat. He’ll be hanging around there
about noon, looking for the signal. So the thing needs to be up by then. You’d better get going so you can scout around awhile. His name is Jules. Don’t call him ‘Julie’
… that’s private between him and Roger. We don’t get to call
him that unless they give us permission. When you find him, bring him back here
and take him to Room 220 on the second floor ward. Page me … or Wilson
… or call on your cell phone. Try to be your charming self and don’t
scare the guy off!”
House tilted his head up to include Wilson. “Anything
you want to add?”
shook his head. “No …”
House already knew a hell of a lot more than he did.
“Okay,” House continued. He returned his focus to Chase. “Scram! Don’t screw this one up!”
Chase nodded, hurried to his feet and made
for the door. “On my way,” he threw back over his shoulder. He disappeared into the corridor and was gone in a heartbeat.
“How, may I ask, did you …
House grinned briefly. He hefted himself out of his chair and hop-stepped, sans cane, over to the vertical blinds between his
office and the DD room. He made a great show of opening them, checking out the
studious duo next door, and then hobbled back to his chair and plopped down again.
“Ah James … I’ve been
a busy little beaver while you’ve been secluded in Cuddy’s office with your nose stuck up her giggy-wampus …”
“House!?” Wilson began huffily.
House grinned up at his friend’s
incensed face. “Whoa … whoa … whoa, Buckaroo! I’m not mad or jealous or anything, just because you were in there making out with the boss …”
plopped down in the chair Chase had vacated, realizing House had gotten to him yet again.
“You arse!” He
mumbled, half under his breath, while Gregg’s eyes sparkled with one-upmanship.
It was good to see him coming back to full-fettle after yesterday’s painful experience. “Where did you find the red hanky?” Wilson persisted. “How
did you know what Jules looks like? He’s black?”
House enjoyed his upper hand by looking
smug for a moment. He then stole a quick glance into the room next door. Two pairs of eyes were glued to the glass walls.
They saw him looking and smirking, and their rapt attention flitted away again.
“We have an audience,” House deadpanned softly. “For
one thing, I got the old red handkerchief out of my locker. There’s two
or three of them in there. Been there since Noah used ‘em to polish windows
on the Ark. One
of ‘em finally came in handy.
“And I know what Jules looks like
because I asked Roger. Duh! That’s the first place I went this morning when I saw you disappear into Cuddy’s office. I figured it was so you could put Roger on your medical insurance, right? Smart move on your part! Anyhow, Roger told me who you
should look for, and yeah, Jules is a black guy … so what? His name is
‘Jules LeBeque’. And Roger said to thank you for the party last night
… he loved it … he said to tell you thanks for sending somebody to look for Jules … and wanted to know when
you were coming down to see him … not necessarily in that order.”
could only stare in open-mouthed wonder. House had thought of everything and
was letting him know it in a very unsubtle way. “Thank you.”
House nodded curtly and swiveled his chair
around to face the window. He did not, however, prop his legs on the bookcase
again. Picking up his cane from where it was parked near the cabinet which held
his expensive stereo turntable, he began to twirl it leisurely and expertly through his fingers. “Welcome. Just be careful …”