Irony

Chapter 14: House is Where??
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

House needed to think.  Big time! 

 

He found that he was at loggerheads with himself.  Not a pleasant place to be, especially when the figure-eight argument inside his own head kept coming back to James Wilson and the nasty premonition that James was going to be badly hurt, just because he was who he was.

 

Gregg had tried walking the corridors to do his thinking, but his ingrained habit of using the corridors for lurking rather than retrospection or introspection … or both … put a damper on the process.  A single circuit of that area had started a fire-burn in his leg that would not be stilled, so he searched for other methods of finding sanctuary.  He returned to his office and the big-red-ball-tossing.  Five minutes after that, all three ducklings were back there, gathering in the DD Room, full of ideas, personal insults and ineffective debates.  He had a feeling he was about to be intruded upon by all three, and he did not want to be bothered.  He rose from his chair with a pained grunt and shouldered through to the corridor again.  He could feel their stares burning a hole in the middle of his back when he swept past their door.

 

He was beginning to feel some hunger, but his stomach was in much the same turmoil as his brain.    The cafeteria and its general confusion and clanking around did not tempt him.  He could eat when the more important things were taken care of, so he headed instead to the men’s room for a pee.  Maybe in there … 

 

But while he stood in front of the urinal emptying out, two other staff members chose that particular time to charge in like the FBI on a drug bust and drop their zippers on either side of him.  Both doctors kept up a clinical banter with accompanying splashes on porcelain that had him rolling his eyes.  He shook off the last of his own droplets, hunched backward for a moment, and zipped up again.  He washed his hands thoroughly in very hot water, grabbed his cane and left again.

 

The elevator was empty when he boarded.  He leaned into the side grab rail with a grimace and shifted all his weight off the leg.  Took a Vicodin and sighed.  Reached out the cane and jabbed the button for the ground floor.  Inspiration had finally struck.

 

Gregory House went straight to the clinic’s sign-in desk.  Did his own signing in; 2:45 p.m. by his watch.  If anyone was looking for him, where was the last place on Earth they would consider checking?  Yeah!  Right!  Clinic!  He scrawled his name and picked up the nearest clipboard.  There were thirteen names on it.  That number of morons should keep everyone else out of his hair for a couple of hours if he dragged it out.  Shouldn’t be too hard to do!  His leg hurt like hell, even after the Vicodin took the edge off, and he was conscious of feeling very tired.  Hide in plain sight.  He didn’t need his whole brain to deal with these idiots, most of whom wouldn’t know a baby aspirin from an M & M.

 

His first two patients were a middle-aged woman with her elderly mother. He sat down on the wheeled stool and turned a deaf ear.  They talked, whined, complained about their aches and pains and each other, and House didn’t listen.  One of them should have to endure the pain he had to put up with every day of his life!  They’d have something to bitch about!  He ignored them both and wrote out a prescription for the least invasive pain medication for which a prescription was necessary.  In the meantime he thought about James and his little brother and the beautiful bronze kid who would probably end up breaking their hearts.  And his!  Mama and daughter thanked him profusely and departed.  He rose from the stool and hobbled to the door, caneless,  and proceeded to look for the next victim on his list.

 

An hour later, the middle aged guy from the waiting room was the tenth name on the clipboard’s list.  He hopped up onto the examination gurney and bared his chest while Gregg held a stethoscope over his heart, then took deep breaths while Gregg switched the scope to his back.  His pulse, House discovered, was normal. The blood pressure cuff was the largest one in the basket on the automatic machine.  Gregg wrapped the cuff and then turned the machine on with a flourish.  The thing rumbled and gasped, filled itself up for the first of three five-minute-interval run-throughs.  The guy was silent and Gregg was too.  He ran the guy’s numbers through the computer as the machine did its job.  His brain was working in multi-layers, only a small portion of it concentrating on BP guy’s appointment.

 

The rest of his thoughts were back again on the second floor, wondering what else James Wilson might have offered to Roger and his friend.  Perhaps the keys to his new car?   His safety deposit box?  The pin numbers to his savings and checking accounts?  Would he turn over his Master Card?  Visa?   James Wilson’s nature was to trust people.  It was as built into him as his soft brown eyes and caretaker’s soul. House hesitated to interfere in family matters.  He’d known of more than one instance where a well-meaning friend had tried to give another friend a warning about a philandering relative, only to be soundly rebuffed and a longtime friendship ended abruptly.  Gregg knew Wilson was not like that, but if his worst suspicions were realized, he would have to find another way.  Snark and insults were fairly normal in a close friendship.  Stepping over the line and giving Wilson that kind of grief, however, was something else entirely.

 

Gregg poked numbers on BP Guy’s medical file and filled in the totals as they came up.  His BP was stable now, and no changes in medications were indicated.  He wrote up refills for the guy’s prescriptions and handed them over.  When the machine finally shut off, he unwrapped the cuff and told the guy he was free to go.

 

Another hour and fifteen minutes and the clinic would close for the day.  The snotty noses and the whiners and complainers had proved a very effective distraction for the rest of his mind to wander abroad and contemplate his thoughts.  No one had to know that he was in possession of any compassion at all.  Not Wilson, not Cuddy, not the kids; no one.  And no one had any idea of the garbage that continually churned in his mind. 

That was the way it should be.  He could ride it out for another hour and fifteen minutes.  Bring on more of the great unwashed!  Push the pills and laugh at the idiots

 

Soon he could hitch a ride home with Wilson.  Then he would call for some Chinese, sprawl on the couch, have a beer or two.  Tend to his fucking, aching leg … alone … and no one hovering over him!  Swallow more Vicodin.  Get some sleep.  He could not believe how tired he was right now … or how scared!

 

 

                                                             ********

 

 

“House?”

 

He was back in his own office, in his ergonomic chair.  Both feet on the floor, but the achy right leg stretched out, both hands cradling it.  “Huh?”  He released his grip and straightened quickly.

 

Wilson stuck his head inside the door, gauging the mood.  Lethargic.  He stepped inside and walked over to the desk.  House did not look up.  He looked absolutely spent.  “Cuddy told me you were in the clinic all afternoon …”   It was not a question, exactly. But it was!

 

“She saw me?  I thought she had meetings today.”

 

“Yeah … but she seldom walks around with her eyes closed …”

 

“Har-de-har.  Good one, Wilson, but lame.  Can you think of a better place I might go if I didn’t want people to find me?  Except for Hawkeye Cuddy, that is?”

 

“Well … no … I guess not.  You were actually hiding in the clinic?”

 

“I thought I just said that.”

 

“What have you got a bug up your ass about?  I just asked a question.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  So ask somebody else.  Are you soon ready to take me home?  I’ve had about as much of this place as I can take for one day.  I’m tired, I’m hungry, and my leg hurts like hell.”

 

“Yeah, I can tell.  You’re not sick too, are you?”

 

“Now why the hell would you ask me that?  No I’m not sick.  I just need some down time.  Alone.”

 

“Your wish is my command.  So if you’re ready, let’s go!”

 

Wilson pulled the Chrysler Pacifica into the underground garage on East Side Drive and stopped a stone’s throw from the elevator entrance.  One look at his friend, slumped on the seat across from him, told James that to drop him at the front entrance and expect him to get out curbside and hobble up even the two easy steps to his front door, would be cruel and unusual punishment.  “Shall I go along up with you?”  James asked softly.

 

House already had his door open.  “No.  I’m fine.”

 

Wilson nodded and prepared to leave.  “All right … see you tomorrow.”

 

House nodded.  “Thanks,” he said.  He’d already turned away.

 

Wilson watched him go, knowing there was nothing more he could say, but certain his friend was deeply troubled about something he was not ready to talk about.  The elevator door closed behind Gregg House as Wilson sat and watched.  When it was gone, James put the car in gear and pulled out. 

 

“You’re welcome …”

 

 

                                                           ********

 

 

He stood in the doorway of the spacious living room and surveyed the space he had previously called his den:  manly dark furniture, heavy hunter-green draperies, brown Pergo carpet.  It wouldn’t take much to turn it into a bedroom for Jules and Roger.  It would accommodate the wheelchair very easily, and it was handy to all the downstairs rooms, including the bathroom.  A ramp leading from the garage to the kitchen would be easy to reinstall.  He’d put one in for Gregg years ago when his friend was still wheelchair-bound right after the infarction.  He’d dismantled it when Gregg didn’t need it anymore, but he could certainly do it again.

 

James had at first thought, after Julie left and took all her personal belongings with her, that he would put this house on the market and get rid of it once and for all.  He’d owned it for thirteen years, and it had survived three marriages, a sunroom and garage addition, and two ambitious remodeling jobs.  It was time to turn it over to a new family which might have better luck at keeping things together.

 

But now … now … he was glad he hadn’t listed it.  Roger needed a permanent place from which to rehabilitate himself and learn to walk again.  With a little luck, and after he got to know Jules a little better, he might come to understand the young man’s interests, and perhaps find him a job.  After the passage of time, Roger might find a means of self support also.  He had once been, after all, qualified as a teacher. Funny how long it had been since James had even given that fact a thought!  Perhaps he could finally get his certification and actually be a teacher after all these years.  If he hadn’t forgotten how!

 

Jules was staying with Roger at the hospital tonight.  They couldn’t get enough of each other.  But tomorrow evening he would invite Jules out here, perhaps coax him into helping move the guest room bed down here and put the heavy sofa bed in the living room.  It would be a simple proposition to make them both at home and at the same time offer them privacy.  They would need that.  When Roger was finally discharged from PPTH, he would still need to return periodically for physical rehab, and this house was fairly accessible to Princeton; only fourteen miles out.  Ridge Road opened directly onto Route 206 South, a straight shot to the hospital.

 

James did not want to get ahead of himself, and of course he would have to find out from his brother and his brother’s lover, if that arrangement was okay with them.  He did not intend to force them into anything, but having Roger back in his life again after so long was a possibility that made his heart sing.  It would be nice to regain the closeness they had shared as kids.  James sighed and turned the lights out in the den.  It was late and he was weary.  He could use a shower and a good night’s sleep. 

 

The enveloping darkness turned his thoughts abruptly back to Gregory House.  Abruptly!  Like a gunshot exploding suddenly, jarringly, through a quiet night.

 

 

                                                          ********

 

 

He was not “fine”.  He could not remember the last time he had been “fine”.  “Fine” was nothing more than a buzz word in his vocabulary; calculated as a warning to chase off anyone who might move in too closely, try to treat him like a cripple.  It was okay if he called himself that.  But that designation by anyone else served only to make him retreat further into his own isolated world.  He had told Wilson he was “fine”, but Wilson knew he was not, and he knew Wilson knew he was not; but Wilson had got the hint, and so here he was, alone again.  He’d ordered Chinese, but it sat on his stomach like a stone.  The leftovers were parked on the coffee table in their boxes, stinking up his living room, making him wish Wilson were there to share it.  The beer he’d washed it down with only made him belch like a St. Bernard.  He finally went back to the bathroom, leaned over the toilet and threw it up into the plumbing.  So much for $7.88!

 

Tonight was just another in a long progression of barely tolerable nights filled with idiot TV shows, soggy food, too much booze and too much pain.  Just one more night that saw him collapsed on the couch with the palm of his hand folded over the cramping muscles in his thigh and his face set into a grimace. 

 

Tonight he could think of nothing to help distract him, and he had to go it alone because his fear and pride in refusing to be pitied overpowered even the sting of the pain and the terrible need for someone to just hold him.  His need and the ability to voice it were so distant from each other that to try to ask anyone for simple companionship seemed an alien aspect that glued his tongue forever to the roof of his mouth. 

 

Friday nights were black holes in his existence; long dragging hours of nothing.  If his leg had been a bit more stable, he might have gone to one of the neighborhood bars just to get out of the house.  But tonight, it wasn’t worth the hassle.  Tonight, if jostled, he would probably go on his ass.  He did not need more pain on top of that which he already had.  He thought of Wilson, rattling around in the big empty house out on Ridge Road and making plans to convert one of the rooms to accommodate Roger and Jules … probably the den.  Gregg could not help move furniture, but he needed the contact with his friend.  And he needed to dispel some of the misgivings he had about Roger and Jules encroaching on James’s life. Yeah!  Definitely the den!  He wished he had not been so abrupt with Wilson earlier, but sometimes what came out of his mouth had nothing whatsoever to do with what was in his heart.

 

“Fuck!” 

 

He hated feeling needy, but he was indeed.

 

He fished his cell phone and the Vicodin bottle out of his jacket pocket and punched in the familiar number, dry swallowed a pill.  Wilson answered on the third ring.  “Yeah … Wilson …”

 

“Hey …”

 

“Hey!   I thought you needed some down time … alone.”

 

“I’m a lying bastard!  What are you doing?  Measuring the den for the bed from the guest room?”

 

“How the hell did you know?”

 

“I’m psychic.  Wilson?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Can I come over?”

 

“Sure.”  There was no hesitation, and House’s guilty conscience spiked.  “How about if I come over and pick you up?”

“I can drive, dammit!”  There came the snark again, no matter what he did …

 

“I know.  But it’s cold, and your leg is a bitch.  Give me half an hour and I’ll pick you up out front.”

 

“Okay.  I have a six-pak … want me to bring it?”

 

“Nah, I got beer here.”

 

“See you shortly.”

 

“Wear your jacket!  Like I said, it’s cold out!”

 

“Yes, Mommy.”

 

Wilson was laughing softly when they broke the connection, and it was music to Gregg’s ears.

 

Alone tonight he would not be!

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