Irony

Chapter 8: Brothers
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

“You ready to go see him?”

 

They were both fully dressed now, the pretty pastel-green scrubs discarded in the hamper. Both men looked appraisingly at each other and heaved sighs of relief.  House looked like House, and Wilson once again looked like Wilson.

 

“Yeah,” Wilson said, but his eyes betrayed him.  They were as big as saucers, and had a faraway look that spoke of hesitation and trepidation.  “I think so …”

 

House tilted his head and glared.  “Jimmy, I don’t think I’ve seen you so terrified of anything since I bought the damn motor bike with your five grand!”

 

Wilson rolled his eyes and grinned in spite of himself.  “You have this innate gift for letting all the air out of other people’s balloons,” he said.  “Sometimes you make me want to break your neck … and other times …”

 

House nodded smugly.  “I know.  You’re welcome.  Shall we go?”

 

“Yeah … let’s!”

 

Shoulder to shoulder they left the locker room and headed for the elevator.  House noticed that Wilson still seemed a little ouchy when he walked, and deliberately slowed his pace.  This was different for him.  Usually it was the other way around.  “You’re still sore.”  It was not a question.

 

Wilson looked across at him with an expression of surprise.  “How would you know?”

 

“Hah!”  Came the retort.  “You’re not the only one who plays ‘looking out for the cripple’!  You walk like you’re eighty years old.”

 

“And you don’t?”

 

“Yeah, but I got a good excuse.  What’s yours?”

 

“There’s a little bit of residual discomfort around my kidney area is all.  I’ll have it walked off by tonight.”

 

“And now you’re being smug because I won’t, huh?”

 

“House …”

 

“Never mind!  It’s okay.  You’re all right?  You sure?””

 

They’d arrived at the elevators.  House jammed the “down” button with his cane.

 

“Yeah,” Wilson said.

 

“Hey!  Question …” 

 

“What?”

 

“What happens when somebody makes the connection between you two?  It won’t take ‘em long, you know.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  We always looked a lot alike from the time we were kids.  I don’t mind if people know he’s my brother.  I love him.  Why should I mind?  I just want to get there first and have him all to myself for a little while.  Then, after that, let the dog-and-pony show begin. It’ll be just like having my own ‘Stuart Little’!”

 

“Oh brother … so to speak!”  House grinned.  “Good one, Wilson!  But mine is a lot better!  So you’re okay with it, huh?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Okay.”

 

When the elevator stopped and yawned open in front of them, they stepped in and stared hard at each other.  Neither man spoke.  Neither one had to.

 

The second floor indigent ward was chaos, and it wasn’t as though they hadn’t been expecting it.  After the relative quiet of the department from which they’d arrived, the place seemed like a traffic jam in Manhattan.  Patients were all over the place, in wheelchairs, on crutches, with heads, arms, legs bandaged, some of them dragging IV poles with multiple med bags swinging precariously.  Wilson and House found that they were sidestepping and pressing hastily up against the walls to avoid being run over.  By the time they made it to the nurses’ station, both were panting and House’s leg, which had been tamer than usual all morning, was humming with pain and causing him no end of distress.

 

Maria Colby was the reigning RN behind the counter, and she looked up just as the two doctors approached and flanked her with silly expressions of mock terror.  She smiled at them and leaned over the counter to be sure they could hear her over the din.  “Hi, Dr. House … Dr. Wilson.”  She frowned at Wilson, noting that he seemed a little paler than usual.  “I hear you’ve been ill, Dr. Wilson.  I hope you’re feeling better.”

 

He nodded.  “Thanks.  I’m feeling very much better.  You can’t keep an old oncologist down.”

 

Beside him, Gregg House scoffed.

 

Wilson ignored him.  “What are you doing up here on the ward today?’

 

“Filling in,” she replied.  “They don’t need me in ER again until Saturday, so I thought I’d do my shift here.  What they really need though, is a traffic cop.  These guys wander all over the place.  They’re supposed to exercise however they can, but sometimes it gets a little much.”  She shrugged.  “What can I help you with?”

 

“Dr. House told me about a young man who came in to ER yesterday morning … presented with suspected PPS.  The case kind of intrigued me.  Could you tell us what room he’s in?”

 

Maria smiled, nodded to House in confirmation.  “Oh … you mean Roger.  Yeah, he’s still here.  Poor little guy … he’s so scared and so sick.  He’s down at the end of the hall.  He’s not ambulatory, you know.  His muscles continue to deteriorate.  I’m beginning to think Dr. Fetterolf was right.  It really is PPS.  He must have been hit pretty hard when he was a kid.”  Wilson caught himself just in time, and managed not to say:  *Yeah, he was.*

 

“They’re going to take him to the hydrotherapy pool this afternoon, see if it helps with his pain a little.  He’s still on the same pain meds as yesterday, Dr. House.  He’ll probably be glad to see you.  He hasn’t had any visitors.”  She paused a moment, as though debating, then:  “Dr. House, I don’t know whether this is pertinent or not, but Roger has asked twice now about ‘the doctor with the hurt leg’.  I think he’s worried about you.”

 

House scowled and rolled his eyes.  “Just what I need … another bleeding heart!”  He shook his head, impatient with himself.  “I should be encouraged that at least he remembers someone!”

 

The two of them thanked Colby and turned toward the end of the long hallway.  Next stop:  Philip Roger Wilson.

 

It was a four-bed ward.  Two of the beds were empty, their covers rumpled, pillows pounded to pretzels.  The third held an intubated man with IVs and wires sticking out all over him.  A respirator breathed for him, and he was nearly inundated with bed coverings.  Monitors beeped a steady rhythm.  House looked over there with hard eyes, and Wilson knew what he was thinking:

 

*Circling the drain …*

 

In the bed against the far wall, a frail, fragile young man with matchstick arms and hollow cheeks sat propped against a mountain of pillows.  An IV was taped to his hand by the same arrangement which had held his brother captive.  His hair was long and dark and reached nearly to his shoulders, curling at the ends.  His eyes were tortured like a wounded fawn’s.  His skin was pale as parchment, and his mouth was turned down at the corners as though he needed to cry.  His gaze was straight ahead, beautiful hands curled up in his lap.  His entire world was contained within the 3’x 6’ area of his own bed.

 

Beside him, Gregg House watched his friend James inhale a horrified breath and stop dead in his tracks.  House whirled, his leg screaming, and caught Wilson’s shoulders.  His cane dropped and rang loudly on the hard composition floor.  Wilson caught himself and straightened abruptly, combing the shock from his face with obvious effort.  “Oh my God, House!  It is him!  It’s Roger … my brother.”

 

“Easy.”  This was not House’s strong suit.  He was at a loss as to what to do next.  The reality of his own pain railed at his nerve endings and he listed heavily to the left.  The pale young man in the bed, however, solved the dilemma for him.

 

The huge dark eyes widened to deep pools of shattered glass.  Roger Wilson turned his attention to the two men holding onto each other a few feet beyond his bed.  “You’re Dr. House,” he said.  “You’re the doctor with the hurt leg.  I saw you yesterday when you were here with Maria.”

 

Gregg was too busy shoring Wilson up to answer.  James gathered himself and straightened, shaking off the shocked expression with effort.  Forever the guardian, he picked up House’s cane and handed it to him.

 

Gregg nodded, turning Wilson loose and hissing a breath between his teeth as he did so.  “Yeah,” he finally said.  “That would be me.”  He indicated Wilson with a wave of his hand, trying to focus the kid’s interest away from himself.  “Roger, do you know who this is?”

 

The dark gaze regarded Wilson with no hint of recognition, and a pair of parallel vertical lines appeared between the eyes.  “Do I know you?  You look … familiar.  But I’m not sure.  Sometimes I have trouble remembering stuff.”

 

Wilson rounded the bed and walked closer.  “We’ve … met …”   he said hesitantly.  “But we haven’t seen each other for quite a long time.”

 

“Really?”   Roger’s scrutiny swept across Wilson’s attire:  the suit pants, blue shirt, dark blue tie, lab coat with I. D. badge prominent on the breast pocket.  He blinked owlishly, clearly unable to read it at that distance. “Are you a doctor too?”  The young man’s attention wavered unexpectedly between House and Wilson for another moment, and then refocused on House with obvious concern.  “Dr. House, your leg is hurting you a lot, isn’t it?”

 

House frowned darkly, eyes riveting on the kid on the bed.  “How the hell do you know?”  His question came out with more anger than he’d intended.

 

Roger’s head dropped, chastised.  His face clouded in dismay for a moment, but then he went on, voice subdued, but filled with a world-weary sensitivity of long, hard experience.  “Because your face is like an open wound, your eyes are full of pain, and your cane will break in two if you don’t let loose.  Your eyes talk to the way I feel stuff.”

 

Wilson looked from his brother to his friend, eyes filling instantly.  Visions from long ago flooded his mind and his heart with an old, sweet familiarity.  The innate gift of empathy which had followed the Wilson family all their years was so patently obvious here that it made his stomach twist painfully.  It was like being baptized with fire.  He could not recall a time when his younger brother’s tender heart had not gone out to the disinherited of the Earth, be it animal or human.  Rodge noticed pain in others because he had experienced it so deeply himself.  James was about to try to explain Gregg’s snarky rudeness, but pulled himself up short when House himself spoke up instead.

 

“You can tell all that just by looking at me, huh?  Sorry I snapped at you, but you’re right.  When I’m in pain, I get nasty.”

 

Wilson could not believe his ears.  House admitting pain and apologizing for being an ass?  What kind of magic did his brother possess?  In the meantime, the two continued to spar.

 

“You’re pretty much in a lot of pain all the time, huh?”  Roger was interested now; agonizing for a man he’d known but a single day.

 

“Yeah … every day … ‘pretty much’.  And you?”  

 

House actually giving a crap about someone other than himself?  Actually speaking the painful truth about his deep frustration and prolonged agony?  Jeez!  Someone needed to make an “NBC Movie of the Week” about this!

 

“Yeah!   My legs … they just kept getting worse every day for a long time.  Weaker and weaker … hurting.   Pain that creeps up on me until sometimes I want to scream.  It’s really bad in cold weather.  It’s hard to walk most of the time, and if I have to run away like I did that other time … trying to get away from people chasing me … they hurt so bad I guess I passed out.  They hurt now, but not as bad as before.  I think there’s pain medicine going into the tube in my arm …”

 

House nodded.  He looked around the room and spotted a wheeled stool off in the opposite corner.  Wilson interpreted the look and walked across to bring it over to him, not taking his eyes off the ongoing exchange for an instant.  House met his friend’s eyes in a silent flash of thanks and lowered himself gingerly, stretching his leg in front him with the aid of both hands, concentrating on that particularly bad spot just above the knee.  Both Wilson brothers knew instinctively he was nearing the end of his rope.  In the meantime, he continued the conversation as though the interruption had never occurred.

 

“Yeah,” he said at last.  “There is.  They’re trying to back you down easy.  How did you treat your pain before you came here?”

 

The dark head came up slowly, apologetic.  “I stole aspirin.”

 

“What?”

 

“Yeah.  Julie and me … we’d go in Wal-Mart or K-Mart or Target and hang around in the medicine department.  When nobody was looking, we’d open a box and dump the pills in our pockets and put the bottles and the boxes back.”  He shrugged.  “That’s so the electronics wouldn’t catch us going out of the store with stuff that didn’t belong to us.”

 

“You were lucky you didn’t get caught,”   House said.  “Did it help?”

 

“A little.  Not much.”

 

“Who’s Julie?”  Wilson asked with a frown.  Coincidence here.

 

“My friend.   My special friend.”

 

“Is she your girlfriend?”

 

There was a shy smile.  “Not exactly.   He’s … my boyfriend.”

 

“’He’?”

 

“Yeah.  Jules.  Everybody calls him ‘Julie’.  He’s such a girl!  I hope he’s okay.  I don’t think he knows where I am.”

 

House and Wilson exchanged glances, four eyebrows rising, understanding smiles tugging at their mouths.  Wilson knew he had to be the one to ask.

 

“Are you … ?”

 

“A Fag.  Yeah.  I guess I was born that way.  Are you guys mad?”

 

House snorted with laughter.  “Hell no, of course not!  It’s your own business!”

 

House couldn’t have cared less who screwed whom, as long as those involved were adults, and the love-in was by mutual consent.  He, of all people, realized human beings had little or no control over the person he-or-she fell in love with.  To his consternation he was discovering more and more about that every day.  His thoughts turned warmly to Wilson for a heartbeat, and the two of them traded glances.

 

Roger studied them curiously for a moment, and then recognized the subtlety of the quiet exchange.  He smiled in a shy manner, gratified they were not overly concerned about his own admission of lifestyle, and understanding why.  He decided he … and they … had much in common. “Thanks,” he said.

 

Changing the subject abruptly, Wilson indicated his brother’s legs, covered with a warm blanket and appearing thin and wasted beneath it.  “Would you mind if Dr. House and I took a look at your legs?  Maybe he or I can come up with something that will ease more of your pain and let you rest a little better.”

 

Roger hesitated, still a little unsure.  “You’re not going to hurt me … ?”

 

“No.  We’ll be very careful not to hurt you.  My name, by the way, is Jim.  Jim Wilson.”  He spoke softly, looking into the hurt face again, watching for reactions.  At first there didn’t seem to be any other than puzzlement.

 

Roger frowned, concentration evident as he mulled over the other man’s purpose in repeating his own name.  Was he expected to recognize it?   “You can do it then,” he said, and Wilson heard him repeat the name softly under his breath.

 

They lifted the blankets from Roger’s legs and feet.  His limbs were like toothpicks, all bone and sinew covered with parchment skin.  His feet had been treated with antiseptic, then bandaged with gauze and wrapped loosely with Ace bandages.  Patches of abraded flesh showed at the edges where his ill-fitting shoes had rubbed him raw to the point of near-infection.  It was no wonder he could not walk.  Even without the added pain of the PPS, he would be hard-pressed to tolerate any weight at all on his damaged feet.

 

House wheeled closer, distracted from his own discomfort now by ministering to the discomfort of his patient.  Wilson watched his friend’s practiced hands move delicately to check the small patches of uninjured skin on Roger’s feet, then work their gentle way upward, feeling for skin temperature, gauging the low bone density and atrophied muscle tone that passed beneath those long artist’s fingers.  Roger remained quiet but intent. 

 

House reached the young man’s knees and felt the swelling there. The elevated heat level was obvious in the distended joints as Roger hissed a quick indrawn breath and his eyes narrowed in sudden pain.  Gregg paused, fingers still touching lightly.  “Hurt?” 

 

A quick nod.

 

“Yeah.  Sorry to be such a pain in the butt.”

 

House did not intend to smile, but he did.  It was very “Wilson-like” to apologize for breathing.  “You’re not a pain in the butt … you’re a boy.”

 

*Why did I just call him a boy?  Somehow he still possesses a boy’s innocence, or at least that’s what he seems to project …*

 

Gregg felt his breath catch as he backed away again.  My God!  These two were so alike; both so beautiful in different ways.  Absently, he was even doing that “hospital-irony” thing he’d so often scoffed about, arranging sheets and blankets carefully at this patient’s waist.  He felt Wilson’s eyes on him, and then the other Wilson’s eyes on him too, and he realized that his own eyes were smarting, and he didn’t know why, except for the sudden fear that this day would be fraught with regret.

 

*Oh, God!  I’m drowning in this!  They’re coming at me from both sides and I’m going down for the third time.  I need to get the hell out of here …*

 

Gregg straightened on the stool and grimaced, wrapping his hands gingerly again around the nagging area of his thigh.  It hurt like hell.  Yeah, he definitely needed to get out of here and escape to his office.  He needed a stiff dose of Vicodin and some loud music and some time to prop his legs up to ride out this onset of “crippled guy” syndrome. 

 

 “I’m going down to see Norm Lyons in Orthopedics,” House announced.  “I’ll have him take a look at this.  I think Roger can be helped with small injections of steroids over a period of time, but I need to see what Norm thinks first.”  He pushed himself off the stool and pressed his cane handle deep into the sparse flesh at the junction of his right hip.  *OW!  Fuck!* 

 

“If you gentlemen will excuse me, I’ll get to it and be in touch.  Wilson, I’ll meet you for lunch in a couple of hours.  Roger … I’ll see you later this afternoon … maybe when you go down to the hydrotherapy pool.”  He turned painfully, much of his weight curling over the cane, and limped out of the room before either of them could reply.

 

Roger turned to the white-coated doctor, still standing next to his bed.  “Jim?”

 

“Yes?”  Wilson’s eyes were still on the retreating back.

 

“You really love him a lot, don’t you?”

 

Wilson gaped, caught totally at a loss.  “What?”

 

“It’s hard to love someone like him though, isn’t it?  He’s stubborn … and proud.  And in terrible pain!  But it’s not all about his leg, you know.  He can’t stand being pitied.  In his mind he’s still The Incredible Hulk.  But his leg won’t let him play it.  You have to be very careful with him.  One wrong move, and he’s gone … almost like smoke above the water.”

 

Wilson’s jaw dropped.  His own words so nearly quoted; turned back on him by a man who was literally his twin!  This was beginning to touch on the metaphysical.  

 

*Vulcan mind meld!* 

 

 “Where the hell …” he choked, “did you ever come up with that?  You’re so close to being right that it scares the hell out of me.”

 

Roger smiled, a shy upward turn of his mouth.  “I don’t know.  Guess I heard it somewhere.  I can tell you care for him.  He feels the same way, you know.” 

 

Wilson swallowed hard.  His and Gregg’s feelings for each other must be an open book around the entire hospital if this brother-stranger saw it after an hour and seven minutes.  It seemed unreal.  He was becoming antsy and a bit rattled.  He eased himself onto the edge of the bed near this unfamiliar person for whom he was experiencing a growing affection. This was not Roger … but it was!  Oh God!  He touched the thin shoulder.  This pussy footing was avoiding the issue.   James Wilson needed to know.  Now! 

 

“Rodge,” he said softly, using his brother’s nickname and locking their gazes very tightly together.  “Look at me!  Look at me closely … and tell me what you see.”

 

There was a comical blankness, then deep puzzlement, and Roger’s right hand rose to clasp the back of his neck in an attempt to ease the tension there.  It was like looking into a mirror at his own reflection, Wilson thought.

 

Roger’s chin lifted and the puzzlement morphed into concentration, and the concentration deepened further.  Wilson’s hand moved across to take Roger’s fingers into his own, drawing his arm away from the area of his neck, clasping it against his own chest with urgency, holding tightly as though the touch of their fingers might serve as a memory conduit.  “Rodge!  Don’t you remember me?  It’s Jimmy!  Do you remember that old Louisville Slugger with the chunk out of the handle?  And the first baseman’s mitt you used to drag around everywhere?  Remember Yazzi, the big scraggly mutt Dad found wandering around the railroad yards and brought home with him?  Remember Mom and Dad’s old Plymouth station wagon that Dad restored?  Remember Tommy’s funny girlfriend, Suzanne?   He married her, Rodge!   Sue’s your sister-in-law now.”

 

The darker-than-Wilson eyes narrowed and then widened.  Roger’s focus darted to the left and to the right, knowing something was expected of him, but not certain what.  His eyebrows dipped and lifted, lips trembling.  Wilson could almost feel the synapses of his brother’s damaged brain as they snapped and flashed with tangible effort.  Roger frowned for an agonizing march of moments, and then a tiny light flicked on inside his head and a spark of comprehension stirred.  But he still hesitated.  His eyes were bright with want and need, and Wilson’s heart stood still.  One beat … two … three …

 

Roger frowned.  “Tommy?”  

 

“Yes!  He’s our big brother!”  

 

“Yazzi!   She was big and ugly and clumsy, a big baby.   And I remember the old Plymouth station wagon …   It was green … 1968.”   Roger’s mouth dropped open in the astonishment of sudden recollection.

 

“Yes!”  Wilson was crushing both their hands in an iron grip.  Consciously he let his fingers go limp before he accidentally took out some small bones.

 

 “You’re Jimmy!  My brother!  I have two brothers!”  His eyes were flooding, tears splashing over and running unabated down his cheeks.  “I remember!  Oh God!  I know you!”

 

 “Roger … sweet boy … you’re home …”    *A boy … like House said …*

 

Then they were in each other’s arms.  Hugging, tangling the IV line; weeping happily  and moaning.  Long lost brothers, not lost any longer!  Roger’s memory slammed back like a hot spike of summer lightning.

 

They untangled the IV and then sat and mapped each other’s faces; not a freckle or a mole untouched, not a hair or a facial feature unexamined.  Their tears ran unchecked, their smiles shy and exploring, and their questions urgent and needy.

 

“Mom and Dad and Tommy … all well?”

 

“They’re fine.  We’ll call them as soon as you’re strong enough.  Yazzi’s been gone a long time.  They never got another dog.  She was special.  They drive a Volvo now.  The old Plymouth finally died.  You had polio when you were a kid.  And now it’s back.

 

“And where were you for ten years?  You became a teacher, but you never taught.”

 

“I was in the Air Force, I think. Mostly.  No … I never taught.  That was forever ago. The military found out I was gay.  They discharged me.  Would you believe medical?  Like being a homo is a disease!  They never batted an eye when they found out I had polio!  Jerks!  ‘Course I didn’t tell them until they asked.  I got sick and passed out in my quarters one day.  They found a picture of me and my boyfriend on the floor beside me.  That’s around the time when my legs started to hurt.  I never told anyone.  After that, I left … just moved around.  Then the world started to fade away; right out from under me until it was all gone.  And you’re a doctor!  Wow!  Tell me about what you do.”

 

“Cancer … I’m an Oncologist.  My job can be heartbreaking … but rewarding too.  I love my work, and I can’t even imagine doing anything else with my life.  This is easily the best hospital in New Jersey.  We teach student doctors here; try to retain the best of them on staff.  You’ll probably get to meet some of them.  You’re going to be here awhile … you know you’re in for serious rehab if you want to walk again.  I’m sorry, but your polio virus has returned and attacked again near the site of the tissue you thought was healed.  Once the word gets around that you’re my brother, you’ll have plenty of company.”

 

Roger stared at him.  “That’s a good thing, isn’t it?  I’ll meet friends of my brother’s!”

 

“Yeah, it is if they don’t bother you when you’re not feeling well.   So, where do you live?”

 

“We live on the streets … all over … Julie and me … we just go wherever the wind blows … here and there.  We hang out at homeless shelters when we can.  Other times a day’s worth of odd jobs gets us a flop for the night.  Then we move on.  Sometimes we get to Florida in the winter and work in the citrus fields.  We make enough to rent a place for awhile.  When the work dries up, we move on again.  It’s not a great life, but we’re used to it.  I have to find Julie … he’ll be worried.”

 

“How will you find him?  You can’t walk.”

 

“You’d be surprised.  He’s pretty smart.  He knows my legs were going bad, and he’ll be watching the hospitals.  He’ll be looking for a red flag hanging from a tree in a public place.  It’s a signal we have if we get separated.  Then we meet there at noon as soon as we can.  Funny thing though … he never knew my whole name before.  Come to think of it, I didn’t either …”   Roger laughed sadly, looked at their hands, still clutching at each other near the edge of the bed.

 

 “What happened to Dr. House, Jimmy?  What crippled him?  He’s not like me, is he?”

 

Wilson blinked at the question.  He hadn’t expected it.  “No, uh … he had a blood clot … femoral artery.  They didn’t catch it right away.  Blood flow was blocked and it caused his quadriceps muscle to die.  They had to remove so much of it that they butchered his nerve endings.  He not only has very little strength in his leg, he’s also in constant pain.  He’s been my best friend ever since the day I met him when he was still whole and strong.  He’s not very careful with his health.  I try not to let him know it, but I keep a pretty close eye on him.”

 

Roger smiled.  “Oh, he knows!  Trust me!  It’s a shame what happened to him.  He never sued over the mess they made of his leg?  He could probably collect a fortune and never have to worry about working again.”

 

“Don’t even think it!  His work is who he is.  Without it he might as well be dead.  He never even considered suing.  That’s not something Gregg would do.”

 

“’Greg’, huh?”

 

“Yeah.  Gregory House, Chief of Diagnostics.  Medical ears perk up all over the country at the mention of his name.”

 

“You’re kidding!   He’s famous?  Really?  Wow!  I got to meet a famous doctor!  And he’s sort of … yours.”  Roger hesitated a moment, then continued cautiously.  “The thing between the two of you is … kind of new though, isn’t it?”

 

Wilson smiled, half embarrassed.  “Yeah … kind of.   Keep your voice down, please!”

 

“Sorry, Jimmy.  Believe me, I know exactly how you feel.   Being gay can be scary to live with.  The world still isn’t ready for us.  I don’t know why, but it’s true.  If there’s something meant to happen between you and Dr. House, it will.  Be ready for anything, but don’t give up if it doesn’t happen right away.  It took a long time for Julie and me to get it right.  We don’t exactly get a lot of privacy …”  

 

Roger had suddenly turned into the comforter rather than the comforted, and Wilson could not keep the astonishment off his face.  He continued to sit and watch and lose himself in the mind-consuming newness of having his brother back in his life again.  He could not help noticing the shadows of pain which still lingered on the thin, guileless face.  Roger was still hurting and trying very hard to minimize it, a propensity so chillingly characteristic of another stubborn person in his life.  He had to smile at the similarities.  Wilson did not want to leave, but he knew he should.  Roger was still wide-eyed with the rediscovery of his past life and the desire to discuss it at length, breathlessly and in minute detail.  But he was tiring.  The hollows in his cheeks were beginning to resemble the sand traps on a golf course.

 

Wilson placed Roger’s hand back at his side and rose from where he’d been perched on the edge of the narrow bed.  He leaned down to plant a kiss on the taut forehead, and then straightened as a sudden stitch in his side caused him to wince.  His brother looked up, silently questioning, but Wilson held a finger to his lips and the question in Roger’s eyes died aborning.  “Thanks, Rodge,”  Wilson said, letting the rest of it hang in the air between them.  His brother would know what he meant.  “I’m going to stop by the nurse’s station and have them up your medication.   There’s no reason for you to sit here in pain.”  A white lie was needed now, and Wilson was prepared to tell it; something else he’d become expert with since knowing House.  “I have some work to finish up, and patients I must see.  When they take you for hydrotherapy, I’ll try to be back.  House too, probably.  If not, then tomorrow morning.  You rest, and I’ll see you later, okay?  I love you.”

 

“And I love you too, Jimmy.  You take care.  Later.”  Roger sank back into the pillows, exhaustion darkening his face like a shadow.

 

Wilson could feel the brown eyes at his back even as he turned left into the corridor and walked slowly toward the nurse’s station.  Totally overwhelmed with the turn of events in his life, he desperately needed some breathing room and a chance to talk to House.  He flexed his shoulders as he walked, warding off the twinge of discomfort he’d felt a few minutes earlier.  He still wasn’t up to par from the annoying infection two days previous, and perhaps he should not have been so insistent on cutting loose from the regimen of that hospital room.   The need to get to his brother had overridden his good judgment, however, and now that they had reconnected in such a positive way, he was very glad he’d pushed for Cuddy’s permission to allow an early release.  Roger’s surprising restoration of memory and quick response had left him giddy and floating.  He decided that he would return to his office and rest awhile, try to assimilate everything that had happened before someone other than Gregg House made the connection between them, and all hell broke loose.   He stopped at the counter and wrote up an order for Roger to receive 100mg of Tylenol-3 four times a day.

 

Wilson returned to his office and let himself inside while no one on his staff or any of the young doctors next door happened to be haunting the hallways.  He dropped his keys in the pocket of his lab coat and his fingers touched the pill bottle Cuddy had forced into his hand that morning.  Urimax:  40mg four times daily.  He’d forgotten about it until now, and he was already a dose behind.  He rose from his desk again with a sigh and walked into his lavatory, ran a glass of water and came back with it.  He swallowed the pill, drank the water, set the glass on his desk and returned the bottle to his pocket.  He shouldered out of his lab coat and hung it over the back of the chair, then sat down once again.  His back hurt.  He’d overdone it without even realizing it.  James lowered his head onto his hands on top of the desk and willed himself to relax.  

 

With his head turned to the left, propped on his folded arms, Wilson could see out the glass door, across the stretch of balcony, and over the brick wall which separated his office from Gregg’s.  Just beyond that other glass door he could detect a shadow of movement that broke through the reflection from the side of the building.  Gregg House was in his ergonomic office chair with his long legs propped on the bookcase beneath the window.  He was not idle.  Oh no!  He sat with his back turned to the middle of the room in a stiff-backed “let-me-the-fuck-alone” posture which Wilson knew so well.  He was tossing that damned red ball back and forth between his hands with a momentum that Wilson could feel like a pulse beat in his brain, and he knew the impact from each release had to sting the man’s palms like crazy.

 

Wilson wondered what the hell House was pissed off about now!

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