Irony

Chapter 19: I Need You!
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

He was not in the mood for the classics.  Not tonight. 

 

Show tunes!  Play the lighthearted stuff that would take his mind off his suffocating dark mood; turn his thoughts away from the black cloud that persisted in hanging over his head and making him feel like some sort of alien in his own mind.

 

*Jesus!  I feel like crap for some reason …*

 

His incredibly long fingers noodled around over the keyboard in search of all the fluffy-assed melodies that kept hiding there.  The ones that still eluded him and made him concentrate to uncover the strains that still bounded away, just out of reach.  The music he searched for was in his head somewhere … songs of love and moonlight and hoo-ha-hay and “happily-ever-aftering” that made every view of the world look a little like Camelot.  Or Oklahoma … “a bright golden haze on the meadow”.   Like Kismet … “No other love have I …”

 

Then:  “Midnight … not a sound from the pavement …”

 

His hands splayed on the keys and he was in the South Pacific:  “This Nearly was Mine”.  And Oliver:  “Where is Love?”  

 

Was there a theme emerging here somewhere?  If so, what was it?  The songs he was playing were not the ones he might have chosen, but melancholy things, and mournful, that dripped from his fingertips like medicine from an eyedropper.  He could feel their mocking nature; breathe their hopelessness, as undisciplined as his sudden turn of mind, mutating into the fear of everything he’d ever tried to turn away from, but from which he could never find an escape.  The piano was not his ally tonight.

 

His right foot had been too long upon the sustain petal.  Pain was moving steadily up his leg, into his knee, to settle in his damaged thigh.

 

It was the pain that broke the spell.  His hands dropped into his lap, fingers smarting from their unrelenting assault on the keys.  That was not music he’d been playing.  It had been his frustration coming out.  The anger and the fear and the doubt assailed him over his own misgivings about two young men whose motives he could not read.  Jules’ purposes here were still a mystery, and his blind suspicions were digging at his consciousness. 

 

From the sounding board above his bowed head, the Vicodin bottle mocked him. 

 

“You Need Me!” 

 

He looked up, reached a hand and snatched it down, tipped off the lid and dry swallowed one.  Then another.  The escalating pain in his leg mocked him also.  He tried to ignore it, but it was no good. 

 

“Not Tonight!”

 

For the first in a long time, Gregory House felt an uncertainty about his own abilities beginning to creep into his consciousness.  He had no clue in the world upon which to pin his suspicions about this kid.  Or that kid.   Nothing!  But the misgivings that flooded his mind with doubt would not let go, and in his heart and his mind’s eye he saw James Wilson getting hurt.  Physically hurt?  Perhaps an even deeper hurt:  Wilson’s innate propensity to trust everyone unconditionally, gone bad.

 

*Ahh, Jimmy!  I have nothing to offer but my own foreboding … the stupid fear that something really rotten  is going to happen … and sweet Jesus …not you! … I can’t cause you to doubt the love of the brother you haven’t seen for so long! … but I’m afraid I’m  going to lose you either way!*

 

He rubbed at his leg, but the pain was unrelenting this time, not all of it physical.

 

 

                                                                   ********

 

 

Billy Travis was on his lunch break.  Nancy had packed him leftover lasagna in a good-sized Tupperware bowl.  He’d nuked it and scarfed it down like a hungry hound dog.  God, that woman could cook!  He just had to marry her, and that was all there was to it!  He smiled to himself.  Nancy was no pushover.  She might have something to say about that!

 

The third floor was quiet and his staff was around and about, doing their jobs, doing him proud.  He’d visited Roger and Jules on his lunch break the past two nights, finding them in the dayroom at 3:00 a.m. both nights.  He ignored the elevator and took the steps down one floor, coming out in the hallway about a dozen steps from the dayroom entrance. 

 

They were there, as usual, Rodge in the wheelchair and Jules on the settee at his elbow.  Roger was nodding a little, and Jules’ hand was on his upper arm, caressing it gently as the other man drifted off into a restless sleep.

 

Travis walked across the floor like a giant black shadow, soundlessly on size-thirteen tennis shoes.  His brow was knit at their positions in proximity to each other, and he eyed Jules with a silent question.

 

*What gives?*

 

Jules inclined his head, inviting the huge RN closer and Billy lowered himself by the smaller man’s side.  “His legs hurtin’, mon,” Jules whispered.  “Even with the meds and massage.  Maria knows he’s beginning to feel the differences the PT is making in the muscles and tendons.  But he’s having trouble sleeping tonight, and the two jerks in the room … they keep bitchin’ him out.  So we come out here.  Night nurse give him something for sleeping.  When he goes to sleep, I will stretch out on the sofa.”

 

Billy curled his hand and touched Roger’s cheek gently with the backs of his fingers.  “His temperature seems fine to me.  I’d hate to wake him up just to stick the oral thermometer in his mouth.  How long ago did she give him the meds?”

 

“Not quite an hour ago.  He’s been restless, but I think they’re working now.”

 

Billy nodded agreement.  “Looks that way.  Jules, he’s going to have a lot of pain as he works on strengthening his legs, but he’ll get through it.  If he’s anything like his brother, then he has a spirit and a determination that rivals a damn wolverine!  You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but I’ve known Jimmy for of whole lot of years, and I’ve seen what he can do.  Gregg House?  I think Gregg gets around as well as he does, partly due to the jackass stubbornness of your friend’s brother.  Jimmy grabs on like a bulldog and won’t let go.  He bullied the hell out of Gregg and wouldn’t let him quit.”  Billy pulled a chagrined face for a moment, and then shrugged.  “He may do the same thing with Roger.  Just thought I’d warn you!  That little tidbit of information shall, of course, remain sacred between you and me … dig?”

 

Jules blinked.  Then winked.  “Dig, Dude!”  He said.

 

Billy Travis made no further comment about the two men hanging out in the dayroom at all hours of the night.  They’d done it before and they would probably do it again. The second floor wasn’t his domain or his responsibility.  When his lunch break was over, he said a whispered goodnight and took the stairs back to the third floor.

 

Jules looked after him speculatively.

 

 

                                                                 ********

 

 

James Wilson unlocked the back door and stepped into the kitchen.  He threw the car keys on the table, turned on the light in the downstairs bathroom and turned on the hot water full force.  He hurried upstairs for clean underwear and a comfortable sweat suit, then came back down, stripped and stepped into the relaxing heat of the hot spray.

 

What a day!  He was tired beyond measure, and the thought of stretching out somewhere flat and getting a little extra sleep, seemed almost orgasmic.  He was surprised at himself for thinking that.  Julie had been gone for … what? … three weeks now, give-or-take, and he had not missed her; had not even given her absence more than a passing thought, except when her name had come up in casual conversation. 

 

He must be slipping!  He’d gone on the prowl again almost before the ink was dry on his first two divorce decrees.  This time, however, not so!  No carnal thoughts, no urgent desire, no wet dreams, no itch that needed scratched, and not even a mild urge to troll the bars or linger near any nurses’ stations … or even Debbie in Accounting.  His sexual fantasies were down, his erotic imaginings under control, his cock flaccid. 

 

What the hell did that mean?  He must really be getting old!

 

James stepped out of the shower and dried off with the same towel he’d used early that morning.  God, it felt good to just languish.  He pulled on his old, navy blue sweat suit, tossed the towel in the hamper and padded barefoot out to the kitchen in search of a snack to take along on his quest to flop somewhere.  He could feel the beginnings of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, and he thought again about the strange influence Gregory House had upon his life.  Only recently had he given any thought to dragging food along to bed with him.  Gregg had gotten him started on that untidy habit, and it was all his fault!  He rummaged through the refrigerator and came up with a handful of baby carrots and a dill pickle.  He placed them all on a small paper plate, turned out the light and retreated to the old sofa bed that now occupied the living room.  He flopped down, set his goodies on the coffee table and grabbed the TV remote.  In one motion, he lifted his feet onto the coffee table, scooped up the paper plate and flicked on the TV.

 

*Sooo “Gregg Hous-ish”!!*

 

And the enigmatic gentleman was back in his thoughts again!  He wondered what House was doing at this hour.  It was pushing 11:30 p.m., and there were no messages on the answering machine.  Evidently Gregg was holed up at home and determined to keep his own counsel the rest of the weekend.  Wilson knew his friend seldom initiated a phone call unless he wanted something, but once in a blue moon he would deign to touch base  when James knew he was troubled about something and requested that he check in.

 

*Call me if anything changes …*

 

*Yeah …*

 

No call.  No word.  Nothing.  Blank spaces looming with zilch to fill them in!  Wilson crunched on a carrot and flipped the channel changer on the remote.  “Vast Wasteland!”  Some things never changed, even after the passage of forty-something years.  He set the thing on ESPN2 and muted the sound.  Another annoying habit of House’s, and the realization that he was doing the same thing in stark imitation, hit him over the head.

 

“Damn!” 

 

He was surprised he’d said it out loud.

                                                                    ********

 

 

His bed felt hard tonight.  The sheets, pillows, quilt and blanket were in wild disarray around him and there were no comfortable positions.  He’d left the lamp on the bedside table dimmed to its lowest setting, and its glow cast gray shadows of the room’s furnishings pale against the far wall.  The room was warm tonight, thanks mostly to a slight break in the weather, and there was no wind whistling in the eaves to heighten the sensation of chill.

 

His outer clothing, shoes and socks were dropped haphazardly on the floor, far enough away from the bed so that he would not accidentally become entangled in them if he must get up in the middle of the night.  He lay spread-eagled atop the bed covers in tee shirt and briefs. 

 

He was lonely.  He was worried.  And he was in pain.  The Vicodin he’d swallowed a half hour before had not yet dulled the ache, and the throb extended from his knee all the way to the middle of his back, making him nervous and restless.  He tried a glass of scotch a couple of hours ago, after he began hitting more cracks than keys on the piano.  Two swallows later it was nauseating him.  Sometimes booze worked like a charm; other times it did just the opposite.  Tonight had been the night of opposites.  His restless mind played morbid scenarios inside his head and mixed it all in with snatches of rational thought until he could not separate them anymore.  He finally let it all run wild until he pressed the heels of his hands hard against his eyeballs and turned the visions into a frenzied cascade of color that burst outward against a dreamscape horizon.

 

He thought of Stacy and their few years of happiness until it all fell apart in accusation, bitterness and frustration, and their harsh words to each other could no longer be forgiven or reconciled.  It had hurt.  More than the leg!  It was the beginning of the end of trust.

 

He thought of his parents and their Nomadic, insane lifestyle that dragged his younger self all over the globe in the name of national security, to never have a real “best friend” or a momentary feeling of “home”.  Only discipline and regimen, which he’d shucked forever on the same day he moved permanently out of their latest base housing cracker box.

 

He thought kindly of Lisa Cuddy and their brief liaison during their whirlwind college years when everything was truth or dare, and she had shared his bed and his wild-oats days, and then come to him one day in a panic over a missed period.  She’d been a week late, but the guilt and tension had killed their short love affair.  To this day they still circled each other like two bull elk in rut, still guarding against one another, although the competition had mellowed into a grudging friendship that neither of them could ever define if their lives depended on it.

 

He thought of Roger and Jules and their love and Roger’s illness and the “something” about them that bothered him greatly and made his mouth go dry whenever they met.  He wondered if the young men felt the same way about him.  As if that mattered!  And yet it did, in a way, because one kid’s lover was also Wilson’s brother.

 

 *Damn fate!!*

 

Groaning, he rolled over onto his left side and dragged the reluctant right leg over on top the left.  The fingers of his right hand found the scar and began to caress the remaining muscles gently, trying to coax away the soreness and the bone-deep hurt that, even after all these years, still made him want to scream sometimes.  And he remembered Wilson’s soft hands upon him earlier in the week, carefully kneading, rubbing the skin in soothing circles until he began to relax under Wilson’s caring touch, causing him to feel like a wet dishrag, lulled into painless stupor.  Comforted and comfortable.  And he thought of James and how well the smaller man fit right here on this big bed next to him, and how under those circumstances he did not mind at all if James Wilson looked out for and comforted and protected him. Wilson was the only person in the world who could do this without fear of being pushed away permanently. 

 

He remembered Wilson’s look of worry that followed him into the elevator earlier tonight when he’d dropped him off and then continued on home.  “Call me if anything changes!”  Wilson had said.  And as usual, he’d thrown a careless “yeah, okay” … or something like that … over his shoulder and had not looked back.  Of course he hadn’t called.  If he knew James, his friend would not expect him to call.  He was just leaving the connecting door of possibility and chance unlatched.  It was (of course!) part of their understanding of each other.

 

Gregory House rolled over again, onto his back, and let the damaged limb ease down onto the mattress.  From here he could reach the bedside phone. James answered quickly on the fourth ring, just before the machine picked up.

 

“Hello?”  (He probably hadn’t looked at the caller I. D.)

 

“Hey …”

 

“Hey!  House?  What’s wrong?”  The mild voice honed to an edge.

 

 “Nothing.”   He paused and let the silence lengthen between them.

 

“Then … what?”   Tension and worry so thick you could cut it with a knife.

 

“I need you.”

 

“Give me half an hour …”   The phone went dead.

 

House hung up … lay back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling.

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