Troops rallied around Wilson
in a most generous manner when he returned to work at the hospital Monday morning, gathering in anxious clumps like autograph
hounds around the newest American Idol. Sometimes, House thought, James couldn’t
win for losing. He always found himself the center of attention whether he wanted
to be or not. Gregg had sat in his own office and watched a steady stream of
inquisitive sympathizers parade in and out of Wilson’s
office. He hoped his friend was braced well enough to receive them, because …
sorry … but he had no intention of joining the parade himself, and he was sure Wilson
knew his reasons why.
Maria Colby, Nancy Franklin, Bill Travis
and The Ducklings were already waiting near his door when he and Jimmy turned the corner from the elevator and walked up the
hallway. Gregg had nodded briefly by way of greeting, and then ducked through
his door with a whispered: “Must’ve hit the papers! Big time! Good luck!” into Wilson’s ear.
James’ sarcastic reply: “Yeah, guess it must’ve! Thanks a lot!” That had been his only comment about the well-wishers lined up like worker ants
who strode past Gregg’s door, headed for his own. The flow of curious
humanity gathering under the guise of empathic concern cast nary a glance in his direction on the way to “console”
Wilson about the actions of his wayward brother.
Inwardly, House cringed at the thought
of half the Rehab staff and more than half of the Oncology Department standing around figuratively holding James’ hand
and wiping James’ tears. James himself, always kind and benevolent and
patient, would tell everyone that “Roger-had-made-his-bed-and-now-he-must-lie-in-it”. He would assure them that he was indeed all right, taking things a day at a time, and telling everyone
“thank you for your concern”, without actually giving out any information.
House could feel the shivers of “blech!”
run up and down his spine in revulsion. Every time he looked out across his balcony,
he could see heads bobbing in the office next door, and he knew he had no capacity to put up with such stuff. He’d had to deal with some of it right after his infarction, because even those of his colleagues
who couldn’t stand his ass on a daily basis, still would not have wished such a twist of fate upon anyone. For a short time, while still under the influence of stiff medications, he’d acknowledged their awkward
well-wishings in his own awkward manner. Later, when his pain had subsided a
little from its peak, he had told them all to fuck off and let him the hell alone!
He snickered to himself at the thought of James Wilson doing anything like that!
As the day wore on, the constant influx
of supporters began to wane a little, but it never diminished completely. Hourly
employees arrived during their breaks and their lunch hours. Professional people
stopped by during breaks in the day’s action. But it seemed that everybody
in the whole damn place wanted to leave the popular Dr. Wilson with a few kind words of support
and encouragement … and ask unsubtle questions about Roger’s fall from grace.
Gregg House witnessed it all with a tightly
controlled aura of smug satisfaction. He had purposely lost count of the coy
pecks on the cheek James received from the bevy of sweet young things who paraded across his doorstep. Instead, he bided his time in confident neutrality, assured that he was the one person James would choose
to go home with that evening, and whose bed he would certainly choose to occupy that night.
After lunch, House became bored with the
continuous procession of bodies. He rode down to the lobby to seek out a vending
machine. There, with the cascading chink of quarters through the candy machine
mechanism, he purchased a Snickers bar the size of New York,
and a big bottle of Mountain Dew. He sat in one of the uncomfortable chairs in
the clinic’s waiting room to munch on the candy bar and slurp the soda, rubbing shoulders with the snifflers and the
hypochondriacs while they glared at him in resentful silence. He then went to
the men’s room to wash up. Later, he lurked around the corner near Cuddy’s
office and peeked through the windows. She was not there. He would have bet on it. Upstairs holding Wilson’s hand, no doubt, just like everyone else.
Gregory House then approached the front
desk and signed himself in for clinic duty for the remainder of the afternoon, to the continued amazement of Nadine, the woman
on duty. He went into exam room one, parked his cane in the corner and sterilized
his hands at the tiny sink. He popped a Vicodin, eased himself down on the wheeled
stool and waited a few minutes for his leg to calm down and prepare himself mentally for his first customer.
The worst case of the afternoon was a construction
worker with an ingrown great toenail. The man had tried to ignore the pain to the point of his toe turning purple and the
affected area becoming crowned with a well of pus. Disgusted, Gregg jabbed a
needle full of Novocaine into the base of the toe while the construction worker wailed in pain. He then drained the pus and dug out the imbedded nail, letting the blood flow freely until it ran red again. He gave the guy a shot of antibiotics and a vial of pills, wrapped the toe, fitted
the man with a paper slipper and sent him on his way, limping awkwardly on a foot deadened by the powerful anesthetic. House grinned to himself, pulled off his rubber gloves and discarded them, washed
his hands again, and shouted out the door for the next name on the list.
At 4:30 p.m. clinic hours were over. Gregg House walked out of exam room one, and wearing a cloak of heroic benevolence
as though it was Superman’s cape, limped over and signed out at the desk and then turned toward the elevator. His leg was flaring up again. Three and a half hours on his
feet did that sometimes. He would wait for Wilson
upstairs in his own office.
James was not able to tear loose from the
final group of lingerers until after 5:30 p.m. Disheveled and undone, lab-coatless,
sleeves rolled to his elbows and tie askew, he wandered slowly into House’s office at 5:45 with his brief case hanging
off his shoulder and his suit coat dangling in limp disarray from the opposite hand.
His tawny hair was sweated against his head and his eyes vacant, their luster dulled.
“Sit down before you fall down!” Gregg scolded.
“That’s my line,” Wilson groaned, but he did not protest.
He folded himself into the chair across from House and let his gaze stray upward and out the window. “What a long, lousy day!”
“I noticed.” They sat quietly, sharing the silence in comfortable symbiosis, grateful to be back in each other’s
company at last. Gregg watched his friend with mounting concern.
Finally, Wilson stood up with a painful groan. “They meant well, I think, but if one more person
tells me how sorry they are about what happened, I think I’ll scream! Let’s
get the hell out of here, House! My head is spinning and my ears are ringing.
I feel like I’ve been run over by a Mack truck. Every muscle hurts. We got any beer left?”
“Yep … and I’m ready
whenever you are. Lead on.”
drove cautiously all the way to House’s place and parked the Pacifica
next to the big burgundy Envoy. They disembarked without talking, got into the
elevator and rode up to ground level. Gregg jangled his keys in his hand and
had the door open before poor Wilson could even concentrate
enough to step inside.
They dropped their combined paraphernalia
just inside the entry door, and Wilson plodded wearily to
the couch. He sat down, stretched his neck slowly in a circular motion, butted
both knees against the edge of the coffee table and allowed his body to bunch forward wearily.
Still they did not speak, but House, in an unusual display of support, walked up behind Wilson and placed his hands lightly on his friend’s shoulders.
Gently, Gregg began to massage the tense
muscles with his strong fingers, working the man’s shoulder blades with this thumbs and pressing toward the center and
down along Wilson’s spinal column. Wilson’s
body rode the sensations with grunts of pain and pleasure. His torso undulated
with the movement of Gregg’s strong hands on his back as though he were a rag doll in the grip of a child.
Gregg kept it up for ten minutes or more,
leaning into it with enthusiasm until his leg began to clench painfully. Wilson had not made a voluntary move, or spoken aloud. His head was bent forward, his chin bowed nearly to his chest. When
Gregg finally had to ease up long enough to lift his weight off his right side, his hands detected a slight shift in Wilson’s posture below him.
For a moment, House did not understand. He allowed the fingers of his left hand to trail across Wilson’s shoulders as he grasped the back of the couch with the right in order to regain
Then he knew.
Gregg felt the sobs, rather than heard
was doing his best to contain his misery and not let it show. He couldn’t.
James Wilson’s rampaging emotions
had caught up with him at last. Today’s events had been the final straw.
House was at a loss what to do for Wilson, just as Wilson was suddenly at
a loss to handle his sorrow and disillusionment. He had experienced a joyous
reunion with the beloved brother he had thought to be dead; had sacrificed his bank account, his home, his time, his heart
and his soul, only to be betrayed and taken advantage of. Roger was a changed
person, and a lot of the changes were not good. Now he was gone, House thought,
as though he had never been there; moved on to the next level without a backward
glance and distanced himself yet again! Trenton
was close by, of course, but the sense of finality seemed to shout: “goodbye
must be wondering what Roger and Jules had in store for Tom and Suzanne.
Today the whole emotional mess had smashed
down on James’ already overburdened shoulders like a waterfall, and he had finally bent beneath its weight.
Gregory House did not know what he could
possibly to do ease the guilt and the self-recrimination; to assure this most loved friend that something good had to come out of this! Surely James’ sacrifices had not been
in vain. Roger was, after all, getting better physically.
Gregg’s initial assessment of Jules
LeBeque as the only bad guy had been faulty. They were both jerks! But Jules was bearing the brunt of punishment. He had been
the one caught with stolen money, and he was the one taking the fall for Roger’s insatiable thirst for danger. The whole mess was breaking James Wilson’s heart.
And, consequently, Gregg’s.
Lions ten … Christians zero. Something like that!
House felt the need to gather Wilson in and hold on tight, as Wilson
had held him tight weeks before. He was uncertain how to do this, or how to throw
open his long-shackled heart and offer refuge and sanctuary to another human being.
This was something entirely different from the way they had embraced one another in bed. There were iron locks on Gregg’s caged emotions, and he had to set them free for good if he was going
to be of any help to Wilson.
He was not certain if he had that ability any longer. He was petrified
of being hurt again. He felt suddenly fragile and vulnerable, overwrought with
emotions which had become extremely foreign to him. He took a deep, shuddering
breath and slowly backed away from the safe barrier of the couch which separated them.
House almost made it around the other end
to sit down by Wilson’s side. Almost! His leg seized when he tried to put weight on
it and it gave way beneath him. This time the cane was next to useless to hold
him steady. He crumpled downward in a heap with a strangled cry of distress,
grabbing at the edge of the coffee table and the couch cushions in an attempt to break his fall. Both Gregg’s knees hit the floor hard, and the shock waves radiated immediately to the injured knee
and the infarction site.
James Wilson made an instinctive
grab for House’s shoulders and managed to keep him from cracking his head on the end of the coffee table. They landed on the floor in a tangled heap, sending the coffee table skidding into the middle of the room,
magazines and TV remotes flying like guided missiles. They clutched at each other
wildly, like panicked passengers on a plane going down in flames.
Something inside both men snapped.
Suddenly they were clutching at one another,
limbs entwined, gasping, teeth clenched against the pain, physical and mental. All
the frustration, exhaustion, anger and fear coalesced in a single instant and struck them both at their most vulnerable moment
like a bolt of lightning.
The kiss that ensued from the results
of their agony was brutal and full of wanton outrage and feral passion. They
were like two beasts in rut; ragged, fatigued and bloodied, but still desperate to find respite from instincts that drove
them both to primitive fury. Fight or flight.
It was certainly not love.
They grappled, flailing wildly at
each other, biting at each other’s lips with sharp teeth, breaths guttural and deep in their throats. The rage against circumstances neither could control numbed their sensibilities and heightened their nervous
systems until the only way they could cope with the frustration and pain was to resort to violence.
Base instincts! Blind fury!
Inflict exquisite pain on whatever
came near! House drew back, out of control, and furled a massive right hand,
aiming his fist in the direction of Wilson’s face, wanting
nothing more than just to smash it until it bled. He could feel the intense desire
to feed this madness that consumed him with brutality and force, and numb the agony that gripped his lower body in an ever-tightening
met the movement with a curled fist of his own; indulging a mad instinct to inflict pain somewhere outside his own being in
an attempt to mask the agony of his failure to help his brother. He pulled back
his arm with the full intention of causing more injury and pain to the one man he loved more than any sense of reason could
Their eyes met briefly just before
the instant of impact; wild and glittering, lips pulled back from their teeth. Two
wolves moving in for the kill! The flare of temporary insanity sparked across
between them and sent a flare of horrified realization. The incident had lasted
no more than a brief span of seconds, but it had felt like a lifetime.
It extinguished itself as suddenly as it
had begun. Then it was over and the cold fear of what they might have done to
each other left them limp and physically drained.
They lay stunned, overwhelmed and full
of shame. Then they clung to each other, exhausted, spent. Their lips met again. This time, hungry. Needy.
collected himself first. He pulled away from the warmth of House’s mouth,
still riding rough on his lips, and buried his face in the crook between House’s neck and shoulder. “Don’t!” he whimpered. “Please don’t!”
House let go and backed off as his senses
and his pain returned with a crash.
Still unreasonably angry, and not even
sure why, House cringed away from the massive hurt he had just inflicted on his bad leg, and rolled away from Wilson to a
spot across the floor near the piano. Grunting forcefully with the effort of
suppressing a scream, he bent double over his leg and grasped it tightly between both hands.
Cursing loudly, House rocked his body back and forth, trying to will the pain away.
He knew the action was useless even as he indulged himself, but he was not thinking clearly at the moment.
Weeping and frightened, Wilson crawled after him. Managed to dig the
bottle of Vicodin out of his friend’s right jacket pocket, threw off the lid and held two of the white pills to Gregg’s
House swallowed convulsively and all the
fight went out of him. Wilson
had always responded to his open hostility with kindness, and there was no way he could fight that. He could not handle his humiliation. He bit down on his lip
and suppressed another groan. His anger was directed at cruel fate, not at Wilson, but Wilson was handy. “I’m sorry, Jimmy. So sorry. So fucking sorry! I think I’m losing my mind!”
did not answer, just lay there and stared blankly into his lover’s face.
When Gregg’s pain finally subsided
to more manageable levels, he let himself relax rigid muscles and rolled over the rest of the way to lie flat on his back
on the hard wooden floor. His legs were pointed in the direction of the skewed
coffee table and his head was under the piano bench. James Wilson sat Indian-fashion
as close to Gregg’s left shoulder as he could manage. James’ face
was wet and shining and tears ran unchecked down his face. As Gregg looked up
at him, Wilson lifted his hand and placed it gently on House’s
temple, running his fingers through the matted dark hair and doing his best to smile.
House sighed. “Movie of the Week,” he mumbled sarcastically.
nodded. “Yeah … what the hell just happened to us?”
House’s snort of ironic laughter
was harsh. And very telling. “I
think we have our answer about whether or not we’d end up killing each other …”
They never did have that beer. They never ate supper either.
They showered together, but Wilson had
to hold House up. His leg was too weak and painful to take his weight, and he
knew instinctively that this time it was bad.
They went to bed au natural, touching each
other in tender apology, each man still chastising himself for the hurts of the other.
Gregg’s leg was propped up on two extra bed pillows and wrapped in the moist heating pad. As usual, he professed to be “fine”, but James did not believe him for a minute.
“House?” James’ fingers were playing in Gregg’s messy hair, fondling his ears and pushing back
the grey-streaked tangles gently.
“Hmmm? If you don’t stop fooling around, I’m going to hose you down …”
“Sorry.” But Wilson continued to play. “I’m putting the house on the market.”
“What? When did you decide this?”
“While we were in the shower. That place has way too many bad memories. I
spent three crappy marriages there … and I enabled my kid brother right into a charge of larceny.”
“That’s bullshit, and you know
it. Roger ‘enabled’ himself into everything he got! Are you sure about selling the house? Shouldn’t you take
some time to think about it?”
snorted softly. “I thought about getting rid of it after my first marriage,
and after my second, and again after Julie moved out. Now Roger is gone too. There’s just not anything left for me there.
I need to put it behind me. Move closer to town and find my own apartment,
“You have this apartment …
if you want it. You should know that.”
Gregg looked across at his lover with softening eyes. What was Wilson trying to say?
“I know I do … but like you
said awhile ago … we could end up killing each other. If I would ever be
the one to cause you more pain, I couldn’t stand it. There are dark places
inside me, Gregg. And I think the smoke is on the wind …”