Irony

Chapter 31: All Over But The Shoutin'!
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

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!  Impossible!

 

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.”

 

Wilson 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.  He paused.

 

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 balance.

 

Then he knew.

 

Gregg felt the sobs, rather than heard them.  Wilson 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 forever!”  Wilson 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.  Desperation! 

 

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 vise. 

 

Wilson 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 dictate.

 

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.

 

Wilson 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 lips.

 

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!”

 

Wilson 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.

 

Wilson 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?”

 

Wilson 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, maybe.”

 

“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 …”

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