Jules passed his driver’s test with
ease. The cop who tested him frowned when he read the information on his application
and saw that his age was listed at twenty-eight. He looked about nineteen. Jules stared back at the man and laughed his melodic laugh, and assured him he was
indeed twenty-eight years of age. He was born on January 31, 1978, he said. Jules
had put on a few pounds and no longer looked like an orphan of the storm. He
was slender and delicate featured, and looked like a teen-age high school student in jeans, sneakers and a “Marvin the
Martian” tee shirt.
the little green Shadow in front of the police barracks and waited inside at the bay window. Jules
finished the driver’s course, parked the car once again and came up to him with a grin on his face, waving his driver’s
permit in the air, showing off the bright red stamp on the front of it that read: “PASSED”. James grinned as they walked back to
the car. Jules drove; he was official now.
He backed out of the stall and they headed home to Ridge Road
so Jules could pick up Roger and take him to the nearest WENDY’s for celebratory hamburgers, fries and Frosties.
paused patiently while Roger maneuvered himself with clumsy grace into the old car with his partner. He waved to them as Jules pulled smoothly out of the driveway. He
then went into the garage, climbed into his Pacifica and left
again to go back to work. He was now officially relieved of the burden of dragging
the boys around with him every time they needed to be somewhere. James heaved
a sigh and turned on his Bonnie Raitt CD, nodding in time with the music and forming an abstract mind picture of spring and
a young man’s fancy. He wondered with amusement whether or not he still
qualified as a “young man” … not that he actually cared anymore …
It was the beginning of April and days
were getting longer. Daylight Savings Time was back, and the weather was finally
warming up. Crocuses, daffodils and forsythia bushes were budding and ready to
push their petals outward. Home owners were spending their first few days out
of doors; raking lawns, playing with their children, walking their dogs, getting ready to begin planting spring gardens. It was a day that seemed to fill a person with the joy of living and an extra appreciation
for a world awaking at last from the harsh bonds of a prolonged winter.
drove into Princeton proper via East Side Drive and pulled the Pacifica
into the physicians’ reserved parking lot near the front entrance. He shut
it down, got out and beeped the lock remote. Across in one of the blue handicap
squares, Gregory House was arriving also in a crescendo of sound, killing the bike’s engine, pulling off his helmet,
unfastening his cane from its mount on the side of the suicide machine, and getting ready to disembark. Wilson waited on the sidewalk for his friend
to ease his leg over the saddle, find a sense of balance and walk across in his direction.
noticed House still wore a brace on his right knee, easily visible in outline beneath his jeans. At least he was back on the cane again. He knew Gregg had
stayed at home the first three days of the week, leg propped up and iced, and moving around his condo only with the aid of
those old crutches.
Gregg would never have told him about
his difficulties if he hadn’t stopped by his place Monday night to check on him after he’d called in sick that
first day. He’d found his friend on the couch, leg propped up and iced,
the crutches on the floor beside him.
had hurried over and knelt beside the couch, knocking the crutches half underneath with one knee. “Ahhh … House … what have you done to yourself now?”
His hand found Gregg’s and he picked
it up to caress the slender fingers.
House rolled his eyes, pursed his lips
and offered only a huge put-upon sigh in response. ”What does it look like? I
was practicing for my stage debut. You know … the Paul Newman role in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’!”
Wilson had stayed long enough to cajole
Gregg into allowing him to examine the swollen knee, determine that he had indeed twisted the medial collateral ligament. He’d assisted him back to bed, removed his sweat pants and wrapped the knee
firmly with a wide Ace bandage, taking great pains not to press against the infarction scar.
A figure-eight bandage was not an easy thing to manage on a knee joint, but Wilson
did it. He replaced the ice packs and dragged the crutches along with him, propping
them within easy reach. “I have to get back to the boys,” he said. “Will you be all right alone?”
“I managed to make it this far,”
House growled. “I can make it the rest of the way. Get going … get back to your ‘children’! I’m
left reluctantly and went home to his crippled brother, but he’d stopped by House’s place both nights thereafter
as House struggled back to the use of his cane.
Now, he stood on the sidewalk and eyed
his friend who walked up to him gingerly. “You just coming in to work for
“Just asking. Glad you made it back okay. I see you’re still wearing
a brace …”
“Thanks. Preventative medicine, I think it’s called.”
They turned together and walked in through
the front entrance, past Cuddy’s office, past the clinic, and on toward the elevator.
Wilson bit his tongue and slowed his pace by degrees
as House’s gait became more ponderous with each step.
“Julie, I’m bored out of my
It wasn’t like Roger to whine,
but today was the first time they’d been able to get away alone, and his restlessness which had built up over past weeks,
was surfacing in increasing doses.
Jules curled an inquisitive eyebrow in
his lover’s direction and took another spoonful of Frostie, letting it melt slowly in his mouth. “I know what you’re thinkin’, mon … but no.
It’s too soon. You are not strong enough.”
Roger frowned, dark eyes pleading. “Yes I am. I can walk on these
damned things just fine … besides, I don’t need to be strong. I just
need to be helpless, and I never had any trouble with that. C’mon, Julie
… let’s do one!”
Jules sighed. He usually deferred to Roger’s demands and did whatever his partner asked. But not this time! Rodge was definitely improving in his use
of the crutches, but his legs were still too weak and the pain too consistent. He
could not maneuver skillfully enough or strongly enough yet to pull off one of their well-practiced scams with any hope of
success. He was still in rehab twice a week, and after one of those sessions
he was exhausted and in pain the rest of the day. He was not nearly ready enough
for one of their little capers this soon. Jules sat calmly behind the wheel of
the Shadow and put the last spoonful of Frostie in his mouth, clamped his teeth down on the plastic spoon and said sternly: “No! Not yet!”
Roger blinked. He was not used to hearing “no” from Jules, and it turned him grumpy and unreasonable. “Why not!?”
“You know why not! You are still not strong enough, and I could not just run out and leave you behind, knowing you were in
a strange place, in a strange neighborhood, and in the company of strangers! It
would not work. You need at least another week.” Jules stuck the empty Frostie cup back into the take-out bag and started the Shadow’s engine. “Finish your lunch so I can throw the bag away.”
“I’m finished!” Roger pouted. He dropped his half-full
cup into the bag and crossed his arms angrily over his chest. He eyed Jules with
a belligerent frown.
Jules laughed. “You look three years old when you make faces like that,” he said. “I love you. I don’t want anything to happen to
you. You might not know this … because I did not say anything to you while
you were so sick … but when we did the last one on the other side of town, I nearly got caught by the police.”
Roger’s jaw dropped. “What? You’ve got to be kidding! And you didn’t tell me? How did it happen?”
“The old man caught me dipping into
the cash register while his wife was tending to you on the floor. That is how. He made a grab for me, but I got away from him and ran out. There were two policemen only a half-block away, checking a bad traffic signal. I ran right past them and the old man was shouting behind me. One
of the cops came after me and I was lucky to keep ahead of him. Then you must
have got up, and the woman let you go. You ran into the street. You thought you
had been asleep, but we were robbing the store. You hit your head and you were
hallucinating, and I didn’t want anyone to know.” Jules took the
Shadow out of park and put it in gear. He pulled slowly over to the drive-out
trash bin and dropped the bag through the chute. “One of Gregg House’s
doctors put the signal on a tree. That is how I found you. Young doctor Chase found me and took me to you. They have
helped us because of their respect for your brother. Maybe we should have more
respect for Jimmy too, eh?”
Roger sat with his head down. Silent. “I’m sorry.”
Jules shrugged. “Not your fault. You were sick, and I did not know how
bad it really was. You could not help it.
But now we are fine. Maybe some day we will not do this foolish thing
“But Jules … it’s fun!”
“For you, perhaps.”
“Not for you anymore though, huh?”
“Only because it pleases you.”
“Once more then? Just once more … after I can walk better? Just one,
The eagerness in Roger’s voice melted
Jules’ heart. He relented. He
could deny his lover nothing. He smiled and waited for a break in traffic, then
pulled out. “You know we must plan it.”
“Yeah, I know. You’re better at that than I am.”
“We will find the right neighborhood. The store must not have a surveillance camera.
No more than two people working … maybe a Mom and Pop. Not many
“I know the drill …”
“I know you do. But you must be very careful. We will be in big trouble if
we ever get caught. And you could be badly hurt.
You are not strong.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You brother will be ashamed of us
“I know that too, but he will never
find out! Like I said, Julie … just one and then done.”
James Wilson stood in House’s office,
near the man’s desk. His hands were in his pockets. The ducklings were next door in the DD room, pretending to not watch.
It was the first time they’d seen Wilson in there
in almost three weeks.
House looked up from his computer, pushed
away the hard copy he’d been working on and laid down his pen. “Is
there something I can help you with, Dr. Wilson?” His voice was soft, smooth
and carefully modulated. His snark was carefully hidden beneath polite protocol,
but Wilson could see the sparks emanating from the depths
of the blue eyes. House was looking for an encounter. Any encounter would do!
“You removed the brace,” he
House blinked. “Uh … yeah.” This was not the conversation
he would have envisioned. He wasn’t sure what reaction he was expecting,
but it sure-as-hell wasn’t this! “Why?”
“No reason. I assume things are … getting back to normal?”
“Unhhh … yeah.” Damn! He was repeating himself. “I’m fine.”
“I know. You’re always fine! The boys and I are having roast
beef and mashed potatoes for supper tonight. We have “Crash” and
“Brokeback Mountain”. I stopped by to ask if you’d like to join us for supper and videos. If so, is your leg good enough that you can drive yourself out to the house? If not, one of us can come and get you.”
Gregg’s jaw dropped, and then
he smiled. “I thought you’d never ask!”
grinned with one-upmanship; turned to walk away, but House called after him. Wilson
glanced back over his shoulder and kept walking. “What?”
“I’ll bring the freakin’