House spent the late afternoon hiding
in his office.
He had refilled the Vicodin scrip at the
hospital pharmacy and took two of the pain-neutralizing little pills moments after the pharmacy guy shoved the vial across
the counter in front of him. He rode back up in the elevator mulling over the
last words Wilson had spoken to him and contemplating each nuance in his friend’s voice as he remembered them. Actually, he wasn’t sure what to think, and Wilson hadn’t elaborated. Gregg was no more prepared for that statement than he’d been when Wilson had
moved suddenly on the couch, causing the frayed nerve endings to send his leg into spasm and his pain through the roof. Neither could he tolerate the stricken expression on his friend’s face at his
agonized reaction, and Wilson’s: “Oh God! I’ve just run over a puppy,” look. He’d
gotten out of there as soon as and as quickly as his leg could tolerate his weight again.
Right at this moment, all hell was
breaking loose over in Wilson’s office. Cuddy was there, the ducklings
were there, and half the Oncology staff was over there in that cramped office space in celebration of the startling news about
the young man in the ward on the second floor. House had seen Maria Colby pushing
Roger Wilson in his wheelchair. Roger the celebrity. Nurse Brenda and Debbie-from-Accounting also hurried past his front door on their way to join the festivities. Too many bodies in one place jostling one another, was not for him, especially with
the way his leg felt. He sat with it propped gingerly on the bookcase while John
Henry Giles spun lazily on his turntable and the big red ball worried back and forth between his hands. His mood was dark. He was certain Wilson had warned them all
to leave him alone, at his urgent request, and he sat in solitude, as usual, keeping his own counsel and distracting himself
with his music and his mental meanderings until things calmed down again next door.
He could see flashes of movement from time to time out his rear door, across the balcony and through Wilson’s
glass door. He shuddered to think of all those bodies wrapped around him. He was content to allow Wilson this moment, hoping he would be granted the last word
sometime later this evening.
Gregory House closed his eyes, swaying
to the blend of piano, sax, trumpet, bass and clarinet, and let the provocative, mind-blowing words from two hours ago float
on his imagination once again.
am taking care of the concerns of James Wilson!
You are my business! I don’t
know how to make it any plainer than that.”
Like food for a starving man, Gregg believed
he could live the rest of his life on just those words alone.
Next door, the celebration chugged forward. Music from the Bose penetrated now and again, and the rise and fall of intermittent
laughter reached his ears and then faded in the distance.
After what seemed like hours, the Vicodin
finally began to do its job. Exhausted, House dozed, propped upright in his chair. The red ball tumbled from his hands and rolled unnoticed across his office floor …
And the sun tumbled out of the sky.
At 9:00 p.m. he awoke to the sensation
of a warm hand placed gently between the crook of his neck and his shoulder. Wilson. At last. The party must be over. Celebrants gone, Roger back on the ward.
He’d been asleep for hours, thanks
to those life-affirming little white pills, and dreaming sporadically. His mouth
was dry and felt like cotton. He straightened in his chair too quickly. He’d given himself a stiff neck too. And,
oh my God! His leg!
His own fault! He’d gone to sleep with his foot propped on the edge of the bookcase.
Bad move. His leg was bent at the knee, but slightly backwards. The ligaments were stretched all wrong, his knee aching, thigh sending out sharp angry signals like a staccato
finger too hard on a telegraph key. He grabbed the arms of his chair in a death
grip, fighting it. “Oh … Son of a bitch!”
Wilson leaned over him. “What is it? Leg again?”
“Yeah,” he gasped, “and
my neck and my back and my ass … Jesus!” He could not move his foot
voluntarily from the bookcase, and his back felt like it had a knife sticking out of the middle when he tried to lean forward
to hoist it down. “Wilson …” He found himself breathless and in total misery. “I
can’t move my leg. My back hurts and my ass is asleep. Lift it down off the bookcase, will you?” He grimaced. “Fuck a duck!”
Wilson slipped one hand under House’s
knee, the other beneath his ankle. Carefully keeping the leg straight, he lifted
it away from the bookcase and eased his foot to the floor. House’s body
turned in the chair, following the motion of the stiffened limb, knowing it dictated every action of which he was capable.
“Ahh … hurts! Crap!” House leaned back a little, working his head
slowly in a circle to ease the stiffness in his neck. He flexed both shoulders
and arched his back until the pain of non-movement released him from its grasp. “The
‘pleasures’ of getting older,” he groused. “Every freaking
hinge in my body feels like they’re rusted fast!” He made no move
to shift his leg. It remained at a stiff downward angle in front of him like
a dead weight; useless and wooden, sticking out from his body. His hands gravitated
to his thigh. His breath hissed between his lips.
“I can’t move the damned thing!” The blue eyes were
bleak, questioning, beseeching Wilson with a look. “I can’t move
Wilson did not answer. He was backing away toward House’s desk, hand on the phone, picking up the receiver, speed-dialing
The response on the other end was quick. “Cuddy here …”
“It’s Wilson. I’m glad you haven’t left yet. I need a wheelchair
in House’s office. No fuss. Just
get one up here!”
“Yeah. Probably nothing too serious, but he can’t move.”
caught me just in time, Dr. Wilson. I was on my way out the door. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” The phone clicked.
Wilson turned back again and knelt by Gregg’s
side. He grasped the chair arm, very conscious of his friend’s personal
space, not taking the chance of inflicting pain by laying a hand on or near his leg.
Above him, House’s eyes were pain-filled now, and dark with humiliation at his body’s betrayal. “Cuddy’s coming,” Wilson said, “with a wheelchair.
Don’t get all pissed off. It’s necessary.”
“Yeah, I know. Fuck! I hate this!”
Wilson nodded, immediately understanding
that House’s declaration had nothing to do with his decision to call Cuddy and have her bring the wheelchair. “I know you do. I’m sorry, Gregg.”
“Yeah … yeah … comes
under the category of ‘shit happens’. But don’t you dare admit
me! Either one of you! Take me down
in the elevator and straight to the car. I’ll be all right again, once
I get the son of a bitch moving. And I can do that okay after you get me home! I didn’t hurt it … I just sat too long with the knee bent all wrong. You get that, Wilson?”
Wilson sighed. “Yeah, I get it! But shut up now, for crying out loud,
or you’re going to talk yourself right into an overnight admission for observation!”
The glare Wilson got back was a look of
pure evil, but House did indeed shut up.
Two minutes later, Cuddy was at the door,
knocking on the glass.
Wilson stood up and strode across
to her, pushing the door open to admit the wheelchair and their boss, who was slightly breathless with alarm. “House?” She abandoned the wheelchair at the door,
walked quickly to his side and bent down.
Gregg’s eyes went straight
to her cleavage, desperate to diffuse the situation. He blew out an appreciative
breath between his teeth with pursed lips and billowed cheeks. “Ummmmm
… yeah … wow! Bet you could stash a fortune in there … and
probably all of it in one-dollar bills!” He looked up into her worried
eyes with childish innocence. Only the line of sweat across his forehead belied
his attempt at creating a diversion.
Cuddy straightened and turned partly toward
Wilson. “Shut up, House!” She
said. “If I want your two cents, I’ll ask for it! If you can still insult people, you can’t be hurt too badly!
What happened, Dr. Wilson? What the hell did he do to himself this time?”
“According to him, he went to sleep
with his foot propped on the edge of the bookcase. Must have sat like that for
a couple of hours. I found him that way.
He can’t move his leg. He may have pulled something in the knee. I need to get him out of here.”
“Okay, let’s get him into the
wheelchair and take him down to ER …”
“No!” House had come to the end of his “shut-up” tolerance.
“No ER! And stop talking like I’m not here! Take me home! I fucking mean it!”
Cuddy and Wilson eyed one another at length,
silently comparing opinions. Would Cuddy override him? Wilson thought not. House was notorious for punishing himself
and doing stupid things which would compromise his disabled leg, but as a doctor, he was the best in the profession. If he had truly hurt himself, he would not be stupid enough to refuse treatment. It was very important to him to be able to walk using only the cane.
Finally, they shrugged at each other. “It’s a judgment call, I guess,” Cuddy said finally. “Actually, I can’t see much sense letting them torture him in the ER at this time of night
when you’re going to be driving him home anyway. If it’s not better
by the time you pick him up in the morning, we’ll send his stubborn butt for an MRI.
Where are you parked?”
“Parking garage,” Wilson replied,
“right next to the elevator.”
“Okay, let’s take him down
there. Can you see that he gets settled at home okay?”
“Certainly …” Wilson did not mention that he intended to stay.
“Okay,” Cuddy conceded. “You’ll check his knee before you leave for the night?”
Stubbornly silent, Gregg let them help
him into the chair. Wilson raised the right leg rest to keep his knee straight. House
let his attention shift angrily between the two. So intense, both of them! And this was on his behalf? When had
he become so pathetic to cause both his best friend and his boss to become this
attentive? It had been a day of celebration for Wilson, and for Cuddy too, obviously
happy to learn the amazing story of James’ younger brother. Inwardly, House
regretted spoiling its afterglow for them.
He had not allowed himself to get up and
go over there earlier, even though he might have liked to. For some reason he
was also feeling a tad jealous of Roger. He had no reason for it, but there it
was. When Wilson was with his brother, all his attention was not centered upon
him … and House was not yet certain how he would deal with that. He did
feel a little guilty that he was letting Roger’s presence nag too insistently at his consciousness all of a sudden. Was there something about the young man that was setting all his instincts on edge
out of the blue? He needed to think about that.
It was a little unsettling, but he knew his mind would tinker with it until he found a resolution.
As a rule Gregg welcomed solitude. He did not need to mask his pain when he was alone.
He’d lingered apart from the others because he was feeling a little sorry for himself and feared fucking up his
leg again. Still, he’d ended up causing himself more pain than if he’d
actually joined in to share snacks and coffee and camaraderie. Determined to
mask his thoughts, he fought back the heat of the anger which might betray him further.
No matter what he did, no matter how much he tried to avoid it, he was vulnerable to injury, whether inflicted by circumstance
or by his own stupidity. The fact that he had fallen asleep in the wrong position
was giving him more grief than he might possibly have imagined. Whether living
with unkind fate, fighting the pain in his leg, or being pissed at the arrival of Roger, none of it did anything whatsoever
to change the circumstances. If, after nearly seven years of disability, he could
not learn to manage his life as a cripple, then he deserved whatever insult or injury befell him. His heart told him Roger Wilson had nothing to do with it. His
head told him otherwise. But his heart was no longer a very good judge of anything,
Now, if only his fucking leg would tame
down! He needed to feel “south of normal” again. Clumsily he dug in his pocket for his meds, took two of them in blatant disregard for the two people standing