Irony

Chapter 7: Billy Arrives
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

It was after midnight when Gregg and his friend finally folded things up and called it a day.  When shifts changed at 11:00 p.m., a shuffle of feet at the doorway a little after the hour, and the deep clearing of a male throat announced the arrival of a very welcome presence in Wilson’s room.

 

Gregg looked up from where he still sat on the bed beside Wilson, and snorted at the dark image watching from the doorframe.  “Sneaky bastard!” he accused.  “Stop lurking!  Get your big black ass in here and say ‘hello’ to your honky friends!”  At his side, James Wilson looked up groggily from where his head rested against House’s shoulder.

 

Billy Travis, black as midnight and built like a Sherman tank, laughed in his deep baritone voice and ambled across the floor in a manner not unlike the menacing vehicle he resembled.  “Howdy boys,” he said with a grin.  “’Honky friends’ is right!  I never know where the hell I’m gonna find you two little white guys holed up together, am I?”  He approached the bed and laid gentle paws on tired shoulders and caressed knitted brows with the backs of powerful fingers.  “Nurse Ratchet out there tells me you boys had a busy day.  Your leg bothering you again Boss?  And Jimmy … have you peed yet without feeling like there’s broken glass coming out of your pecker?”

 

They both glared at him and then answered at the same time:

 

“My leg is fine.”

“I peed hours ago.”

 

“Stock answers from the heroes of the century,” Travis grumbled.  “Don’t know why I bother with you two.  I might as well walk up to a brick wall and ask it the same questions.”   Billy held up a digital thermometer with a fresh sleeve on it.  “Who’s first?”

One at a time, he took their temps while they exchanged exasperated glances and stoically allowed the indignities of being treated like ten-year-olds.  He took House’s pulse first, then Wilson’s, half concentrating on the face of his digital watch and half on their impotent stares that burned invisible holes in the opposite wall.

 

Their temperatures were normal … or at least close enough to be acceptable.  Their pulse rates ticked away calmly within the right parameters, so Billy eyed both men with a patient stare of ultimatum.  “I know how you boys get a kick out of hanging around together, but it’s time to break this little party up!

 

Travis did not ask permission or apologize for his actions, but leaned down to pick House’s cane off the floor and hand it over to him.  He then placed both large hands under Gregg’s arms and literally lifted him to a safe standing position.   Silently he swung Wilson’s legs around on the bed and adjusted the IV line.  “I’ll be back with a new bag in a few minutes,” he said as he pulled up the sheet and folded it neatly at Wilson’s waistline.

 

Gregg watched that last action with eyes twinkling smugly, but kept his comments to himself.  He planted his cane and took a tentative step.  Pain shot up his leg and he eased off it and waited.  Billy was facing the bed and Wilson couldn’t see through him, so House’s painful grimace and indrawn breath passed unnoticed.

 

They said their goodnights and parted company, knowing that any protest in the face of Billy Travis’ absolute authority on this shift would fall on deaf ears and earn an iron stare.

 

“I’m going to sack out in your office, Wilson, and I’ll see you in the morning.  Simon Legree here should be willing to sign off to Cuddy so she’ll parole you by then.”  House winked and followed Travis out the door.  His leg hurt like hell.  He minimized the limp by force of will and left Travis standing at the nurses’ station looking after him in dark, suspicious exasperation.

 

 

                                                          ********

 

 

Jim Wilson turned his back on the vertical blinds which closed off the front of the room from the corridor.  He stretched out his left arm stiffly, the one with the IV in his hand, in order to relieve the discomfort caused by the needle.  The insertion site felt as though it was encircled by bands of steel, and there was an annoying amount of pressure built up all around it. It hurt like hell if he moved the wrong way, and it made his entire arm naggingly achy.  Billy had replaced his nearly empty IV bag with a fresh one and he was set for the night.  So-to-speak.  He was positioned on his left side, his hand slack, facing the windows.  His knees were drawn up toward his body and he guessed it was about as comfortable as he was going to get.  He’d gone to the bathroom again, this time by himself, dragging the IV along behind him with no mishaps.  He was sure Cuddy would discharge him in the morning, which would enable him to get away as soon as possible to reassign his patient load and clinic duties to a subordinate.  After that he would be free to locate his brother and initiate the visit for which he had been waiting ten long years.

 

The prospect of seeing Roger again after all this time was a thrill of excitement and fear that reverberated along his nerve endings.   He was experiencing tidal waves of frenzied anticipation through his nervous system that would not allow his body to relax.  His thoughts kept winding and rewinding like a movie reel full of memories and images, scrolling and popping in his head.   It reminded him of antique photo-flash bulbs. 

 

Roger was alive!

 

Roger was here, and they were only a few short hours from seeing each other again.  How would he look?  Would the passage of ten years be beneficial or detrimental?  Would his beautiful, once-powerful body be ravaged by time and the brutal reality of life on the streets?  Would his little brother remember him?  Would he look up from his bed and recognize the two-years-older sibling he had fought with and conspired with?   Would he recognize the brother who had wept into his pillow on so many lonely nights?   The brother who had kept an old baseball bat and first baseman’s mitt propped in the corner of his bedroom for the day ‘Rodge’ returned to claim them, but never did? 

 

Roger was very ill, James knew, and there was an uncertainty in his own mind as to their ability to come together and hug each other and fumble around one another inarticulately as brothers so often do. Would they be able to laugh and smile together again and remind each other of some of the old times and the old places and the old friends?  Or would the other man cower away from him as though he were a total stranger?  Would Roger reach out his arms in welcome, or lie there in pain, too sore to express any physical act of wonder, or manage even a grain of recognition?  Were his damaged, emaciated legs paralyzed and unmoving, or could he still manage to get himself into a wheelchair or up on crutches without someone’s help?

 

James Wilson lay shivering with trepidation, unable to quiet his brain or his body to a level that would allow him a decent night’s sleep.  The feeling was familiar.  He had been there before when Gregg House was so ill, and now the fear was back.  He felt as though he’d been wading blind through Karo syrup, and that someone had plucked his eyes from his head and rolled them in sand.  He turned onto his back and stretched his legs out straight and away from his body.  He arched his neck and felt the grip on his shoulder muscles, extending them as far as he could stand it, hoping that to do so would ease some of the tension and bring with it a release from the constant ache that would not allow him to let go.

 

It didn’t work.  He’d been afraid of that.  There was nothing he could do to make it better.  Finally he rolled into a fetal position, tighter than before, and let the hot tears of dread roll down his face and penetrate deeply into the hollow his head had created in the pillow.  He was frightened, and he could feel the threat of his worst fear beginning to return and wrack his body with indecision. 

 

“Smoke on the Wind”.     Suddenly he wanted to flee. 

 

Gregg … Roger … Thomas … Dad … Mom … Ruthann … Melanie … Julie …

Of those who had dared love him in the past, and those who loved him now:  he was well on his way to destroying their love. All of it.  It was what he did!  He was not worthy, and he knew the destruction was about to begin again.

 

James Wilson buried his face deeper into the pillow and sobbed.  “Oh God!  Why won’t it just let me alone?”

 

*Help me, House!  Smoke is on the wind and it’s blowing me away …*

 

 

                                                              ********

 

 

The old Kroehler convertible in Wilson’s office was comfortable enough, though narrow.  House took a final Vicodin and swallowed a bit of water in a flimsy paper cup.  It was warm enough in the hospital not to need a blanket, and he arranged himself on his back with an old pillow under his knee and another beneath his head.  He had turned Wilson’s Bose sound system to an NPR station which was playing symphonies through the night.   At the moment he found himself relaxing to the familiar strains of the Warsaw Concerto, music he knew by heart and had loved as a kid when those had been the days of wonder and transition.  That was when he’d first discovered there were other choices in music than rock ‘n’ roll, or ear-shattering human voices screeching with the intensity of fingernails down a blackboard.  Those had been the days when he’d begun reading medical texts for pleasure, soulfully experimenting with composition on the piano and delving into the intricacies of foreign languages.  He’d become a loner by choice.

 

So many things had happened in the intervening years between then and now.  For a moment he paused to wonder for the thousandth time:  IF he had chosen a different pathway, might he have become someone other than a cripple, a misanthrope and a smarmy bastard?  It seemed that no matter how much he philosophized or agonized, or how often, all the highways and byways in his brain always seemed to converge at a single junction.  The here and now!  Life was what it was and it was his responsibility to see it through and try not to leave too many bloodied bodies dying in his wake.

 

The music finished and faded away.  A soft female voice announced the next selection.

Suddenly Gregg’s brain ground to a halt in its ruminations.  The music had changed.  Soft acoustic guitar.  Segovia.  He had heard Wilson play his guitar like that a few times.  Muted, it was; finger-tip plucking, soft strains of old melancholy, forsaken and sad.  Right then, Wilson showed up in his mind out of the blue.  Wilson did that sometimes at odd moments.  Gregg’s thoughts could be miles away, and Wilson’s face would appear like a bright wraith in front of him; or something Wilson had said earlier that made an impression at the time, then faded away, only to come crashing back with some vague reminder that brought his image back into sharp focus.  It usually meant they needed to talk.  This new image beckoned urgently and he wondered if Wilson was in trouble.  The thought alarmed him. He swung his legs off the couch and stood quickly.

 

“Help me, House!  I’m caught in the wind and it’s blowing me away!” 

 

House’s feet hit the floor running. 

 

Change that to:  “Moving fast for a cripple!”

 

                                                               ********

 

The hospital was dark now.  “Middle of the night” silent.  Corridors lit only by low-spectrum ceiling spots and low-wattage bulbs placed at intervals along the baseboards.  Restful, sleepy time lighting was in use in the administrative wing as well as the wards.

 

House moved along close to the wall, touching it with the fingers of his left hand every few strides as an aid to his compromised balance.  One of the elevators stood open at the end of the corridor.  He stepped inside and hit the button.  The doors closed with a rumble, their mechanics a hollow roar in the empty hallways.

 

Third floor:  doors grumbling aside again.  It couldn’t be helped, but lucky for him, no one seemed to notice. Be cautious now!  Travis was on this floor, and would surely be prowling around somewhere.  Gregg looked both ways.  At the nurse’s station, two female heads moved about, one Caucasian, one Hispanic, working on updates and case files.  It was quiet.  Billy was not there at the moment.  House turned the corner and hurried toward Wilson’s room.  It was always difficult for him to sneak about, and such efforts caused tension he did not need in the depleted muscles of his leg.  Quietly, he opened the door and pushed the vertical blinds aside, stepped in and closed it behind him.

 

Wilson was on the bed, deep in shadow, huddled on his left side with his back to the door.  At first Gregg thought he was asleep, and that his own worry had been for nothing.  But no!  Even from this distance House could see the trembling that shook Wilson’s body, and as he drew closer he could hear the muted sounds of a man weeping.  He stopped dead, suddenly at a loss to know what to do next.  He was not good in situations such as this, and he had no idea what to expect of himself.  He should not have come here.  He would only make it worse for both of them.  He stood still, lost and undecided.  James Wilson was in pain, and he certainly knew what Wilson always did when he was in pain.  Always!

 

Gregg House tossed down his cane with a muttered curse and hobbled around to the other side of the bed.  Then James was against him, pulled into an awkward embrace, and House’s powerful arms were gathering him in, stubbled cheeks raking through the heavy mop of hair, fingers locked behind his head, drawing him closer.

 

“Ah, Jimmy … you’ve got to cut this out.  You’re using the Vulcan mind meld on me and if you don’t stop it, I’ll never get any sleep.  Besides, you’re shrinking the sheets.”

 

Wilson squirmed within the desperate embrace and looked incredulously into the depths of the fathomless eyes.  “House?  What are you doing here?  How did you know I was fucked up?”

 

The voice came back soft and melodic, so unlike its owner that the contrast was almost unbelievable.  “Like I said … the Vulcan mind meld.  I would have heard you from another galaxy.  What’s wrong?  Are you having pain?”

 

“No, not your kind of pain.  I’m just so screwed up, and it hit me all at once.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“I don’t know … I guess it means I’m scared.  Scared of seeing Roger again … scared of screwing him up worse than he is.  I do that to people, you know.  I betray them.  I’ve betrayed everyone I ever loved … who ever loved me.  I betray them and walk away from the wreckage.”

 

“Wow!  That makes you a pretty powerful person, doesn’t it?”

 

Wilson frowned.  “That’s my line!”  He grumped.  “What do you mean?”

 

He could feel House smiling up against him, and he shivered with the sweet sensation of long fingers tangled in his hair.  House continued.  “Well, the other day you said you put up with me because you loved me.  So … I should be on the lookout for something nasty, ‘cause it stands to reason that if you love me, you’re soon gonna be out to destroy me.  That theory has a few holes, doesn’t it?”

 

“It’s happened before, House.  There’s something wrong with me!”

 

“There’s something wrong with everybody!  But in order for you to destroy me, I have to be dumb enough to let you!  I don’t know what happened between you and your parents, but they seemed like nice people when I met them.  So did your brother Tom.  I don’t know much about your marriages to Mel or Ruthie or Julie … at least the ‘behind-closed-doors’ part.  All I got to see was the ‘my-friend-going-down-the-tubes’ part.  And the little bit that you felt free to share with me.  I saw three women virtually suck you dry … and you try to tell me you were the one who destroyed them?  Get real!  Your choices in women suck.  You should get a pony.  Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?”

 

“House … thanks for the pat on the back, but I feel so shitty right now.”

“I know.  You’re scared about tomorrow … actually it’s ‘today’ now ... and you’re torn both ways about Roger.  That’s not too far south of normal.  He’s your brother, for God’s sake!  Actually, you need to look at the kid as a second chance.  He’s a blank slate, an open book.  He’s very ill, and he’s gonna have some difficulty walking again.  But you have an opportunity to just spend time with him … and help him remember you and his whole family.  You’re not gonna destroy him.  He’s pretty much done that number to himself … just like you think you’ve done to yourself.  And here you sit, having the monster of all pity parties.  It’s bullshit though … you know?  Your ‘smoke on the wind’, theory is crap!  Smoke thins out and blows away, but you’re here!  Just like a big pile of hippopotamus poop plopped in the middle of your bed.  The wind can’t blow away a pile of hippopotamus poop … it just stirs the stink around ‘til everybody smells it.”

 

Insanity!  Absolute bullshit on top of insanity!  House logic!  Wilson twisted himself stubbornly away from House’s hands and dragged his encumbered hand into his lap.  The cover sheet had slipped down on his legs and he pulled it up modestly with his free hand.  He took a deep breath and blew it out with a huff.  House stood still, leaning both arms on the edge of the mattress, staring at him in curiosity.  Wilson stared back, admitting to himself the validity of House’s argument, but still smarting with the need for a little more self pity.  *Damn you, House!*   That was the one thing about self pity:  it had to have something to feed on; a willing witness.  If you were unable to draw anyone else into it with you, the effort became moot.  It was a game that desperately needed an audience.  You couldn’t play it alone.  James still suffered from a stiff sense of guilt, but House had blown hell out of the premise that there was something else wrong with his head.  He looked up into the searching blue eyes and wiped the last of the tears away from his own.  “You are a total prick, House … you know?”

 

House grinned.  “You’re welcome.  I love you too.  Can I go back to bed now Jimmy?”

 

Wilson shook his head, but the softness in his expression as he watched his friend limp ponderously back around the end of the bed betrayed the look of his half-angry features.  “Go!”  He said sharply.

 

House retrieved his cane from where he’d dropped it and headed for the door.  “No more mind meld shit tonight, Wilson.  I’m tired!”  He disappeared into the corridor.

 

Wilson curled back into his former position on the bed.  His body was relaxed, and he could allow himself to let the bullshit go for now …

 

It wasn’t long before he slept.

 

 

                                                          ********

 

 

The last time Gregg remembered looking at his watch was 2:20 a.m.  That was right about the time he got back to Wilson’s office.  After that his brain stopped spinning and the ache in his leg calmed almost to zero.  With the Bose now whispering the gentle melodies of Chopin and Strauss, he lost the struggle with wakefulness and slept with a vengeance.

 

The first lancets of daylight stole between the vertical blinds at 6:30 a.m. and the ache in his leg returned and told him it wanted its breakfast.  Who was he to argue?  Stiffly, he swung his legs over the edge of the couch and planted both feet on the floor.  Christ!  He needed a shower, but he had no change of clothing.  There were scrubs in the locker room, however, and paper hospital underwear that he could make do with until he had a chance to get home for a change of clothes.  The stuff in his personal locker over there consisted mainly of old sweat pants and ratty looking jackets and old tennis shoes.  Nothing he would have chosen to wear during a work day.  Nothing he would care to wear to the second floor ward while he accompanied James Wilson as he became reacquainted with his younger brother again for the first time in ten years.

 

House dipped into his jacket pocket for his Vicodin and popped one of the little white pills.  There were only four left, enough for the day if his leg behaved itself.  But not enough if his pain levels accelerated to the level they’d reached yesterday.  He must remember to ask Wilson for another prescription.

 

House turned off the Bose before the NPR staff began their normal early morning roundup of world news and editorialized claptrap.  Sometimes these people were more than annoying.  He loved their music, usually, but from earlier experience, when they started talking, he stopped listening.  He grabbed his jacket and his cane and set out for the locker room.  None of the medical day shift staff had arrived on the floor yet, and he hurried along the corridor in order to finish up and get himself to Wilson’s room, hopefully in time for breakfast.  He was famished, and even the crap they served and called “food” would be preferable to another cup of bitter coffee and a stale doughnut.  He hoped Wilson was feeling better this morning, and ready to go to his brother.

 

Gregg stood beneath the water he’d turned up as hot as he could stand it, and soaked in the heat and steam which surrounded him.  It felt so good on his damaged leg … and also on his good one which took up so much of the slack the other one couldn’t handle.  He let the water droplets beat down on the back of his neck and his shoulders, cascade down his spine and run between his ass cheeks until he thought he would actually get his cookies off from the pure sensation of luxury.  He soaped himself thoroughly and let the hot water rinse it off him until an eddy of soapy water circled about his feet and began to spread out across the concrete floor on either side of his shower stall.  He turned off the water before it turned into a flood, and grabbed his towel off the back of the stall door.

 

Oh God … he felt a sense of refreshment and a breath of new life.  He limped heavily across to the bench against the wall and lowered himself to dry his hair and try to reach to his legs and feet.  He let the towel lay across his privates long enough to lean his head against the wall and remain there unmoving until the euphoric feeling began to leave his limbs and he was able to get dressed in the icky green scrubs.  Actually, they fit his lanky body perfectly, and a look in the full-length mirror on the door told him he looked at least “official”.  He rose carefully, crossed to his locker and pulled out his Remington, made sure it was still on “number two”, and set about attacking his neck, chin, cheeks and jaw.  His beard was still damp and the shaver lugged a little, but he reached the desired effect with a minimum of effort.

 

 He stared at himself critically.  Had Wilson been telling the truth when he said he’d lied about saying he looked good unshaven?  Or had he simply been getting even for all the money House had swindled out of him?  House had paid back every penny months before this … but still!  Damn Wilson!  Sometimes the man was pure intellect, sometimes pure sarcasm.  The sweet, innocent demeanor he presented to the world, however, was pure illusion, gobbled up eagerly by the gullible, but completely dispelled by the man’s own confession that he was like “smoke on the wind” … undulating and dissipating and reintegrating like a wraith, and just as elusive.

 

Yeah.  Right!  Horseshit!  He’d knocked that theory into a cocked hat last night!

 

*Ah Wilson …*   House thought.  He hoped his disjointed verbal meanderings in Wilson’s hospital room a few hours before, had resulted in the desired effect.  He hoped the stupid stuff that came out of his mouth had at least made Wilson pause in whatever-the-hell was bothering him.  His friend was indeed a deep well of murky water that needed to be stirred with a stick about once a month.  House felt a strong need to help Wilson overcome his fears because House needed to do his job, and to do his job, he needed Wilson, because Wilson was his barometer on all things “north of normal”.  And that thought led to the next puzzle:  whatever might become of the connection they’d just discovered existed between them?  Could that connection possibly turn to something deeper?  Or was it doomed to dissipate like Wilson’s screwed-up “smoke on the wind”? 

 

What would the reemergence of Wilson’s little brother have on their recent discovery?  It would be folly to believe there would not be a profound effect.  But what?  It was a tad bothersome, and House was not comfortable with “bothersome”.  He had enough of that already in dealing with his disability.  He did not need more of it to cope with in a new relationship which, at this point, he was not even sure was fact or fantasy.

 

He shook himself out of his reverie and snapped off the Remington’s power, shoved it back in his locker and slammed the locker closed.  He ran his fingers through his haystack of hair and called it good.  Now it was time to stop wool-gathering and get on back to Wilson’s room … and breakfast.  He threw the wet towel in the canvas hamper in the corner, grabbed his cane and pushed the locker room door open.  

 

It was not quite 7:30 a.m.

 

                                                               ******** 

 

Cuddy and Chase were already in Wilson’s room when House arrived.  Wilson was standing beside the disheveled bed, gesturing animatedly with both hands while he talked to them.  He was free of the IV, although the site where the needle had gone in was deeply bruised and looked sore to the touch.  He had shed the girly hospital gown and was attired in … Oh Christ …green scrubs!  House leaned against the doorframe with a grin plastered across his face, and then stepped into the room holding out both arms like a runway model.    “Oh look at us!”   He giggled gleefully. “The Olsen Twins have come back!”

 

Cuddy and Chase laughed openly, but Wilson was quiet.  Too quiet!  His expression said it all.  The sparks from his eyes were enough to pop truck tires, and for want of pants pockets in which to shove his hands, both fists were clenched and dug into his hips hard enough to leave indentations in the skin beneath the soft cotton blend.

 

When things calmed down and everyone, except Wilson, of course, stopped laughing, House turned his attention to Cuddy and Chase.  “And you two gallant people are here so early because … ?”

 

“Because,” Cuddy replied with a touch of left-over humor, “Dr. Wilson would very much like to get out of here.  I came in early to check him over at his request, and he seems to be recovering nicely.  I saw no further reason to detain him.  And Dr. Chase is here because Dr. Wilson called him and asked him to go on a mission.”

 

House’s elegant eyebrows rose.  “Oh really?  Been a busy little beaver, aint’cha, Wilson? ‘Mission’, huh?  Mission of Mercy?   Mission Impossible?   Mission to Mars?   Per-mission?   Sub-mission?  Trans-mission?  Oh-mission?   Mission-Airy?  Mission to the Moo ….”

 

“House, will you pleease be quiet!?”  Wilson scowled at him and waggled a handful of fingers between himself and his sartorial twin, indicating their scrub outfits.  “I don’t want to spend the day looking like a …”   He paused, trying to think of an appropriate metaphor.

 

“Like a ‘doctor’?”  House interjected sarcastically.

 

Wilson ignored him. “Chase has agreed to go to the cleaner downtown and pick up the suit I dropped off there two days ago, and also, to get me a new shirt and tie and fresh underwear.”

 

House nodded agreement that the idea seemed a sound one.  “Excellent.  Chase, my apartment key is in my locker.  Wanna go to my place and get me a change of clothes too?  When you locate my bedroom, you’ll find my clothes.  Bring me anything that’s not in a pile on the floor.   Uhhh … I’ll see to it that Wilson buys your lunch for the next two weeks …”

 

Chase, meanwhile, stood his ground, and it was clear that he was enjoying the snarky interactions between his senior colleagues.  His eyes were downcast, but he could not quite control the upturn at the corners of his mouth.  “That will not be necessary.  I’d be happy to help both of you out.  Just don’t expect me to do it on a regular basis, and it’ll all be fine.”  He looked from one to the other as though stressing the point, but then let down his guard and shrugged at Cuddy who stood with her arms crossed, enjoying the situation.  “Uhh … I’ll be going now.  Be back as soon as I can.  See you later.”

 

 He escaped quickly; almost ran.

 

                                                          ********

 

 

The two of them shared Wilson’s breakfast when it came, making quick work of orange juice and coffee, a bowl of dry cereal and toast with butter and jelly.  Wilson sat on the bed and House lounged in the visitor’s chair with his legs stretched out in front of him.  Cuddy finally pressed a pill bottle into Wilson’s hand, gave him a pointed look and left for her office.  Wilson shoved it into the waistband of the scrubs without even looking at it.  They waited for Chase to return from his “mission”, saying very little until Wilson finally sighed in consternation and lifted puppy dog eyes to House.

 

“Hey …”

 

House looked up, knowing exactly what was coming, but allowing his friend the dignity of seeing him keep his own big mouth shut.  “Umm?”

 

“Uh … I’m sorry I snapped at you awhile ago.  It was kind of shitty.”

 

“Yeah, it was … but … I get it … y’know?  You’re all tied in knots, and that’s okay.  You still feeling as scared about seeing him as you were last night?”

 

Wilson nodded.  “Yeah.  I’m on pins and needles.  Can’t wait to get down there, but my head is spinning with all the ‘what-ifs’.  You are going with me, right?”

 

“If that’s what you want …”

 

“Of course it’s what I want.  You know me, and you know the history … you know what a coward I’m being about this.  Why wouldn’t I want you with me?”

 

“It’s kind of private … a family thing.  I really want to go with you … planned on it, in fact, since I saw the kid when he first came in, and he might remember me … but it’s still up to you.  I don’t want to butt in.”

 

Wilson’s eyes narrowed and he smiled slightly.  “God, House, that’s a first for you, isn’t it?”

 

House wrinkled his nose and snorted.  “Don’t push it!”  He said.

 

They smiled sheepishly at each other for a moment, happy that the air between them was clear again.  Neither of them would be caught dead, however, saying it out loud.

Wilson and House walked together to the nurses’ station, standing patiently through the smiles and silly remarks.  The story of their travails had swept the entire hospital by then, and the jokes ran the gamut from “The Bobbsey Twins” to “Abbot and Costello” to “Mutt and Jeff”.  When professionalism finally took the place of amateur Vaudeville comedy, every doctor, nurse, LPN, janitor and orderly wished Wilson a speedy recovery, and one of them even dared tell House to get out of the scrubs quickly before someone mistook him for The Grinch.  House did not find the joke amusing, but when he looked plaintively to Wilson, his friend was standing with a telephone receiver in his hand doing his best to keep from laughing.  And that, House decided, was a good thing!  It kept him from torturing himself further about Roger.

 

Wilson called Oncology and spoke with Stan Ralls, his second in command, telling him that he would be in charge of the department for a few days until he, Wilson, felt fit enough to take over again.  The amount of time he spent on the phone told House that Wilson was being brought up to date on a list of patients and their procedures, and letting him know who was on duty and who was not.  After ten minutes or so, he hung up and they continued the wait for Robert Chase.

 

Chase finally called and told them that everything they’d asked for was now in the MD’s locker room, and the two doctors could go get dressed any time.  House and Wilson passed on their thanks and took their leave, heading straight for that sanctuary to change out of the thin, itchy scrubs.  They entered the elevator with sighs of relief while four Nurses and LPNs waved happily from behind the counter of the nurses’ station.

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