|Bounty Hunter Bedlam
Author: hwshipper PM
How much havoc can a crippled Princeton doctor wreak for a disaster-prone Trenton bounty hunter? Stephanie Plum meets House and Wilson in a crime caper with absconding brothers, monster trucks, and a man with sinister eyebrows.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Humor - Stephanie P. & G. House - Chapters: 6 - Words: 28,405 - Reviews: 40 - Favs: 30 - Follows: 3 - Published: 04-07-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4976474
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Part Six: Welcome to the Wilson Family Reunion
After a while, David couldn't help but become aware of our scrutiny. He glanced across at us, then stood up and edged out the door. House grabbed his cane straight away and followed him from the hall. I went too, not wanting to miss a thing.
I thought we might find David a speck in the distance down the road but no, he was standing a few feet outside the door and fumbling in his shirt pocket. He pulled out a single cigarette and a box of matches, and lit the cigarette, shielding the flame carefully from the wind.
"Spare one of those?" House was offhand.
David glanced at him, and said in a throaty voice, rather like Jonathan's but hoarser, "Bumming a cigarette off a bum?"
"I have no shame," House said, straight.
David grinned a little at that, his smile reminding me of Brother James. He dug in his pocket again and produced another cigarette. House took it, and David lit it from the glowing end of his own cigarette.
"Cheers." House took a long drag, and said ultra-casually, "You're David Wilson."
"And you're Greg House," David batted back, and House's mouth formed an O of surprise. David looked at me. "And you?"
"I'm Stephanie Plum," I said. "I'm helping your family with some stuff."
"How do you know who I am?" House looked like he didn't want to ask, but couldn't help it.
"I'm psychic," David said, blowing out a lungful of smoke. "Or just a lucky guess. I've only heard of one cripple hanging around the family. Friend of James for the last twenty-odd years, right?"
"Yeah." House still looked surprised. He drew thoughtfully on his own cigarette and tapped ash on the ground. "But how do you know? You left home when James was still little boy Jimmy in high school, right?"
"You got it." David scattered ash in a small circle. "Look, I don't want to meet them, alright? I just wanted to see old Uncle Al off. I was gonna leave now and walk to the memorial park, watch the burial if I can get there in time. You wanna come with me--give me a lift?"
"We'll come with you," House replied to David without hesitation, and the three of us headed towards the Buick.
Once there, it was clear that David had scoped out the place beforehand. He headed towards a secluded spot, surrounded by trees, but with a reasonable view of the empty plot awaiting Alfred Zinman. There was an old bench there, long forgotten and half decayed; David sat down on one end, and House prodded it cautiously with his cane before entrusting his weight to the other. I stayed standing.
"So, how are Jon and James?" David asked, settling himself down on the bench.
"They're fine." House obviously didn't want to go into Eyebrows Mattison's mysterious vendetta right now. "What about you, oh long lost brother David? Why have you turned up here after all these years, if you don't want to see your family? And how did you know about this funeral anyway?"
"You ask a lot of questions, don'cha? One of nursing home staff got a message to me. She doesn't know my real name. I used to visit Uncle Al sometimes. Once, maybe twice a year." David stared out into the graveyard. "Henna's a good girl, always friendly to me."
"You visited Uncle Al?" I was fascinated.
"Yeah. He was alright." David kept staring out. "Never judged me, never ratted me out to Mom and Dad. And he didn't see much of the family himself either, he just got the big news--births, weddings, deaths. It was hard the last few years though, he got much more senile and he didn't always recognize me or remember stuff."
"So, old Uncle Al was your link back home," House marveled. "I'll be damned."
"We got on. He kind of had his own lost brother; our grandfather, died in Belsen. Uncle Al met you a couple of times, I think, House?" David looked at House through brown eyes which were bloodshot but sharp.
"Yeah," House said slowly. "At the odd ghastly Wilson family occasion. Jimmy's numerous weddings, for example."
"You always amused Uncle Al," David's mouth crinkled into a smile. "You always seemed to be there, through all the marriages and other crap going on. I remember him telling me how Jon punched you in the nose at Jimmy's first wedding. That was funny shit."
"Yeah. Hilarious." House's tone was dry but he grinned a little too, then returned to the interrogation. "So, Uncle Alfred didn't judge you. Didn't judge you about what? Why did you leave home?"
"Mom and Dad kicked me out when I was nineteen," David said simply. "Told me never to darken their doors again. Jimmy never tell you about it?"
"No." House flung out a frustrated arm. "Sometimes I think he doesn't know either."
"Maybe he doesn't." David shifted a little on the bench. "I guess we'll be hanging around here for a while, if you want the story. You're practically part of the family, right?"
Sore spot. House didn't answer, and David didn't miss that.
"I'd like to know," I ventured.
"She's the hired help," House said. "Bound by client confidentiality, probably."
"If it's a secret, I won't tell anyone," I said.
"It's no secret." David snorted. "Least, I don't give a damn. Mom and Dad might. Fuck 'em, eh."
House looked at David. "Come on then, don't keep us in suspense. Spill."
David leaned back against the bench, which let out a rather threatening creak. He frowned for a few seconds, apparently gathering his thoughts, coughed to clear his throat, and began.
"When Jon and me were kids, we went to a camp one summer. Live in the wilderness, build tents, make fires, that kind of shit. There were a lot of kids there, different ages, and not as much adult supervision as there should've been."
That sounded ominous. David's brown eyes went blank as he continued, "Three eighteen-year-olds thought it was fun to pick up a pair of eleven-year-old twin boys, feed us vodka and weed until we were practically senseless, and do what the hell they wanted with us in this small stuffy tent all weekend."
He paused. House was sitting absolutely still and I barely dared breathe myself.
"We never told anyone. Neither of us wanted to deal with whatever crap would follow. We just wanted to pretend it never happened. Except it had, and to make a long story short, Jon dealt with it by staying drunk and I dealt with it by staying high. On and off through the rest of our teens."
House was looking right at David, concentrating hard.
"Mom and Dad despaired of both of us, but I was the real bad boy." David's tone was matter-of-fact. "Jon could control the drinking when he really tried, they could live with the occasional vanishing whiskey bottle, and hey, so he liked a few drinks, so what? While I was smoking pot until practically catatonic... and then other stuff. I'm a poster boy for drug progression. Stealing money, shoplifting, all that shit. Maybe I'd have still ended up a cokehead and Jon a lush anyway, even if it hadn't happened. Thing is...," His voice trailed away, and then he asked, "Why the fuck am I telling you all this, anyway?"
"It helps," I said. "You just lost Uncle Alfred. You need to share."
"I'm a doctor," said House. "Call it therapy. I'll be sending you a bill afterwards."
"Yeah, I'm good for that, you can tell." David swallowed, and when he spoke again his voice was much quieter. "Thing is, I had to live with something that Jon didn't. Red-blooded macho man Jon always knew those eighteen-year-old fuckers were sick and twisted perverts and he'd been a victim. While even aged eleven, I knew that girls didn't do it for me, it was boys."
House nodded, as if something had been confirmed that he'd suspected.
"And I gave myself hell thinking I'd provoked it somehow, sent a wrong signal somewhere, gotten into this nightmare and dragged Jon into it too. God, the guilt." David gave a humorless smile. "I know now I was way off track, those fucking bastards just wanted to have their kicks raping a couple of small boys for a weekend, and it made no difference. But it took me years to get this."
House said very quietly, "Does Wilson--Jimmy--know about this? The summer camp, I mean?"
David shook his head. "I never told him. I'd be amazed if Jon did. A couple of years later Mom and Dad were going to send Jimmy to that same camp. Me and Jon said fuck no, waste of time, and he didn't go. Poor little Jimmy thought we were spoiling his fun for the hell of it." David looked at me with an apologetic expression. "I was a bastard to my kid brother. I used to mooch his pocket money, steal his stuff to sell. Jon wouldn't take that kind of crap from me but Jimmy was an easy target, he wanted to help me, he made excuses for me."
"He's an enabler." House rubbed his chin, grazing knuckles against stubble.
"But then I found out that my dealer took blow jobs as well as cash. So from then on I could always get drugs, if I didn't mind getting fucked. I'm not proud of it, but I wanted drugs more than I cared about sex." David pulled out a cigarette, but didn't light it. "When you're an addict, drugs are what you live for and fuck everything else. You know they're screwing you up, but it's not as simple as just saying okay, I'll give it up, you know?"
"Yeah," said House. "I know."
"The day they kicked me out Mom and Dad were both at the end of their rope... I'd gone away to college but I'd more or less flunked out, was hanging on by the skin of my teeth. Jon was okay at the time and I was copying all his work." David stared at the cigarette between his grubby fingers, and when he next spoke, his voice was choked. "But the thing is, this is gonna sound corny, I'd fallen in love."
This was unexpected.
"Teenage love, how romantic!" House's voice dripped sarcasm. I glared at him, but David let out a short hoarse laugh.
"Think what you want. It was real to me. His name was Jed, he was a couple of years older than me, also flunking out, just as much of a cokehead as I was. We were living together in this piece of shit basement apartment, and God, I was actually happy."
"So what happened?" I asked.
David hesitated briefly, but he seemed to have got to a point where he couldn't stop, and it all came pouring out. "We'd gone out clubbing the night before and come back and crashed. Mom and Dad didn't warn me they were coming to visit, they walked in next morning and the place was a dump, beer cans everywhere, air stank of dope... A mirror on the table with a line on it... And we were both asleep in bed, naked... And the gay thing was a total shock to them. Dad slapped me awake and gave me hell, and he kept calling Jed--stuff--like he wasn't there hearing it... I told them I loved him, and Mom cried, and in the end Dad said you're not my son anymore. Don't you dare ever come home again. And I said fine, fuck you then, and that was that."
"And does Jimmy know about this?" House asked.
"I dunno what they told him, really. Jon was living down the street and Mom and Dad went straight there to tell him he didn't have a twin brother anymore. He came to see me, find out what happened. But I never saw Jimmy, he was back at home, would've only heard about it later, from Mom and Dad and Jon...." David nodded towards the burial.
We looked out through the trees; the funeral party had arrived. The casket was in the ground, and the mourners were gathering around. Luke and Nancy were there at the head of the grave; Jon next to them, with his grown-up daughters standing on each side of him.
Wilson was a few feet away and looking around at everyone else, shoulders hunched up in his jacket, his expression forlorn.
"He's wondering where we are," I said.
"He thinks I've ducked out and left him there," House's voice was neutral. "So, Davey boy. You fell out with your parents and both your brothers too?"
"I tried to stay in touch with Jon at first, but he wouldn't accept Jed." David stiffened a bit at the memory. "We met and he spent the whole time telling me that fucking other men was disgusting and I was sick... so in the end I said fuck you. I don't need a brother like you."
"Jon's an intolerant bastard," House said. "You'd have had better luck with James."
"He was just a kid at school. Five years younger than me. He couldn't possibly have understood, or done anything if he did." David looked closely at House, then said abruptly, "You're fucking him, aren't you?"
House stared for a minute, then said slowly, "Yes."
"Then Uncle Al owes me twenty bucks." David grinned. "Too bad he's not around to pay up."
"You took that news a helluva lot better than Brother Jonathan did," House said.
"Surprise surprise. Mom and Dad don't know?"
"No." House was quiet.
"Don't be too hard on James," David said unexpectedly. "Bear in mind what happened the last time one of his brothers came out."
"Chucked out of the family and never seen again." House's voice was barely a whisper.
"Jon is an intolerant bastard, but I don't blame him like I used to. The summer camp thing... Look," David said abruptly. He put the unlit cigarette back in his pocket. "I think I could cope with meeting my brothers this afternoon. Just for a short chat. But I don't wanna see Mom and Dad. You gonna help me?"
House looked at me, his blue eyes fierce. "Make it so, Obi-wan."
I thought quickly. "There's a reception now at the Harpoon Hotel down the road, isn't there? The Harpoon has a big garden, and there's a gazebo at one end. It's always quiet, you can't see it from the hotel or anything."
The glass-enclosed gazebo, an old fashioned summerhouse, was used for small private parties on the edge of the property. I remembered it well; my Aunt Trixie and Uncle Tim had had their wedding reception at the Harpoon, and cousin Peter had been caught in there with his hand up one of the bridesmaid's skirts.
"And?" House demanded.
"We can go on ahead, get there now. And House, you could go to the reception and bring Jon and James out to the gazebo without anyone noticing?"
"Excellent idea, with one minor change; I'll wait there with Brother David and you can go get the Brothers J from the reception," House said.
We sneaked away from the trees and headed out of the memorial park, down the road to the Harpoon Hotel.
"What happened to Jed?" I asked as we walked, ignoring House's eye-roll.
"He died a long time ago," David was matter-of-fact. "He was HIV-positive when I met him. I'm not," he added quickly. "Fuck knows why not, actually, but I escaped it."
"Fascinating life you've led," House said. "Hold me back, I want to be you."
"Swap you anytime, bum leg n'all," David said. "I crashed really badly after Jed died. I wouldn't believe he had died for the longest time... I kept seeing him, he kept on talking to me. I just got fucking furious that nobody else could see him or hear him, it got me into trouble over and over--"
House abruptly stopped walking, so David and I stopped too.
House stared hard at David and said, "You're schizophrenic."
"And you're a diagnostic genius, right?" David started to walk again.
"Your family know you're a schizo?" House followed him.
"No. It only came on after Jed died." David kept walking, looking at the ground.
"Textbook," House said. "Child abuse, drug addiction, smoking, psychological adversity over sexual identity, chucked out of the family. And a stressful life event, the loss of a loved one, to trigger it."
"Fuck you. I'm on meds now, have been for a while."
"Yeah, or you wouldn't be here. You haven't always taken them or you wouldn't be homeless." House sounded confident.
"Tom does his best to shove pills down my throat when he has to." David layered on one final surprise for us as we arrived outside the Harpoon Hotel.
House looked at me, a wry smile just crinkling the corners of his mouth, and I led the way down the driveway.
David looked all around carefully before sitting down. House plumped himself down too.
"I see my father coming, I'm leaving," David warned me. "Even if I go out through the back window."
"I'll be careful," I said.
House looked at David meditatively and said, "When I was nine, I went through a plate glass window rather than face my father when he was angry...."
I would have loved to have heard more, but my cell rang. I looked at the screen; Morelli. "Hello?"
"Hey, Cupcake. I have some information," Morelli said, and I could tell he was excited although his tone was level. "I managed to have a chat with someone at the prison who knew Eyebrows Mattison. A guy called Bugsy."
"Bugsy's been in jail ten years, but he's due to be released soon. When he heard Eyebrows had a Viagra stash outside, he wanted some. But he didn't have a lot of money, so one of the things he bartered for blue pills was a key."
"A key? Like, to open a door?"
"Yeah. Except in this case, to open a safe deposit box. Turned out Bugsy got this key twenty years ago from an old pal of his called Alfred Zinman." Morelli was triumphant. "Al was going into a nursing home and needed some quick cash at the time to tide over some unexpected bills; Bugsy was kind enough to lend him some money, and got the key as security. Bugsy says it opens a box in a bank in Washington DC in which Al kept everything he had of value, but it's no good on its own; as well as the key you need a security code. Fourteen digits long."
Wow. Finally we were getting to the bottom of this.
"Now Bugsy had the key, but not the code," Morelli continued. "He didn't worry about it because as long as he had the key, Al couldn't empty the box. Over the years Al paid him back most of what he'd borrowed bit by bit, but then Bugsy got sent to prison and lost touch with Al. Bugsy held onto the key anyway, until he figured he wasn't ever going to bother following it up. He thought Al must be dead by now and the security code lost forever. But he told Eyebrows the story, and apparently Eyebrows figured it was worth taking the key now and trying to get the code later on."
"Right." This was very exciting. "What's in the box?"
"Bugsy claims not to know. Alfred set it up forty years ago when he retired; the contents are whatever personal possessions he had that he didn't want to sell or trust anyone to look after for him. Bugsy can't have thought there was much in there, or he wouldn't have given up on it. But I think he talked it up for Eyebrows, to barter the key. Bugsy told Eyebrows that Al was a Holocaust survivor, maybe suggested he had gold smuggled out under the noses of the Nazis or something." I heard someone shout Morelli! in the background down the phone. "Gotta go, Cupcake. Talk to you later."
I rang off and told House what Morelli had said.
"Breakthrough," said House. "About fucking time the police actually helped with this."
"What the hell is all this about Uncle Al?" David asked, perplexed.
"Let's recap, for the benefit of ourselves and Brother David here." House sat back in his chair. "God, I need my whiteboard. And my staff. I suppose you two will have to do."
"Eyebrows Mattison is a criminal in jail for dealing in black market Viagra," I began. "He gets hold of a key, which is Uncle Al's old safe deposit box key. As soon as Eyebrows is out of jail, he finds out that Al is still alive after all, and goes to see him to find out the security code. And he bribes Alfred with what he's got, which is Viagra."
"So the old man takes the pills--bad move. But he's senile and his memory's shot to hell, so he doesn't remember the code anymore. He does remember that he gave it to his twin great-nephews, years ago," House continued. "Twin nephews, that sound familiar, oh twin-David? Eyebrows must have pretty pissed that Al couldn't tell him the code. Maybe he found out Al had a heart condition, maybe he thought there was a chance that the Viagra would shut him up forever. And then Eyebrows finds out that as far as anyone knows David is long since AWOL."
"So he starts stalking Jonathan, breaking into all the places Jon's been recently, looking for some kind of ancient bank account details. This actually makes sense," I said. "So what might be in this safe deposit box?"
"You got me," said David. "Anyway, sorry to screw up your story, but I don't have any safe deposit code. Don't even have a bank account."
"You need to discuss it with Jonathan, jog each other's memories." House rubbed his hands together. "Okay, Boba Babe, go get the Fabulous J Brothers."
Most of the mourners were there, straight from the burial. Luke and Nancy Wilson were in the middle of things. I found James and Jonathan together in a corner and managed to collar them.
"Stephanie!" Wilson greeted me with relief. "Do you know where House is? I couldn't see him at the burial, I was getting worried."
"He's fine." I was quick to reassure. "We just met someone, that's all. Look, can you two come with me for a few minutes, without anyone missing you?"
They both obviously thought Eyebrows Mattison had popped up again, and followed me quietly outside and down the garden.
"So what's happened?" Jon asked as we approached the summerhouse. Then, "Fucking hell! David!"
"Oh my God," Wilson said, covering his mouth.
They both hesitated outside the gazebo, as if going in might cause their long-lost brother to vanish again, so I went in first and they followed. David was sitting perched on the very edge of a chair, as if he might need to flee at any second. House, in contrast, was relaxed in another chair, savoring the upcoming moment.
"My name's Greg House and I'm your host for tonight," House proclaimed, holding aloft an imaginary mike. "Welcome to the Wilson family reunion."
In the middle of it all, my cell rang. It was Ranger. "Hey," I said.
"Babe." Ranger's tone was level, but he was obviously as pleased as Morelli had been earlier. "We've got him."
I was suddenly thrilled. "Eyebrows?"
"The same. I had all RangeMan employees keeping an eye out for him, and he was seen this morning near the office of Jonathan Wilson's law firm. I turned up with reinforcements, and we caught him breaking in. He's unconscious, handcuffed and in my car right now."
It was over! I was relieved, and I actually knew what to ask next. "Ranger, Eyebrows should have a key. A safe deposit box key. Can you check if he's got it on him?"
"Will do. There's someone here to speak to you," Ranger added, and next minute Lula was on the line.
"Hot dang," she said. "Tank stayed over at my place last night, got the 911 page from Ranger this morning and when I heard where he was going I said I'm coming too."
I remembered that Eyebrows had shot Tank in the chest in the past. "I guess Tank was eager to get Eyebrows."
"Yeah. I was hoping to pistol whip ol' Brows, but Tank and Ranger wouldn't let me in the building. Anyway, I kinda accidentally bumped into Brows when they brought him out, and he fell against my stun gun. Whaddya know, it went off and he got it in the crotch, unlucky fella." Lula paused. "Tell Gimpy that was from me, right?"
"Will do," I said, and then Ranger was back.
"Got it," he reported. "Small brass key, looks old. Eyebrows had it in his wallet."
"Keep it safe, that's the key to it all," I said.
"I'll hide it somewhere on my person. You can find out where tonight," Ranger said, a suggestive smile in his voice, and rang off.
House was looking at me expectantly. I said, "Ranger's got Eyebrows in custody, and he's got the key."
"Excellent!" House clapped his hands together sharply and glared around the gazebo. Everyone stopped talking and looked at him.
"Enough of the heartwarming family reconciliation." House stood up, picked up his cane and leaned on it. He looked from David to Jonathan and back again. "Rack your brains, both of you. Uncle Alfred gave you some information at some point, and we now know what it was: a fourteen digit security code."
"No way. I'd remember anything like that," said Jon.
"And we also know it was probably forty years ago, when he retired and set up the box," House continued.
"Forty years ago! We were just kids," Jon protested.
David's weathered fingers twitched as if holding an invisible cigarette. "You trust my memory from forty years ago? Fuck, I'm not even sure if all this is real."
"He gave you a paper to look after, perhaps?" House pressed. "Guard this with your tiny lives? Don't tell any of the grown-ups, this is a secret between us?"
"Would it have been written down?" I asked. "If he wanted to keep it quiet, maybe he just asked you to remember something. And he probably didn't say anything about a safe deposit box or a bank. Perhaps he just said, can you remember a number?"
Jackpot. Jon jumped and David sat still.
"It was summer, we were sitting out in the garden around by his house," Jon said.
"Jimmy was there too, playing on the lawn." David shut his eyes and frowned in concentration. "He had a kangaroo ball--big orange thing. It was sunny."
"I don't remember," Wilson said mildly to House.
"You were a toddler," House said. "You're forgiven."
"Uncle Al had asked if we knew our home phone number, so we said of course we did, and we recited it to him. And Mom and Dad's work phone numbers, too," David reminisced.
"And then he said, guys, can you remember these numbers for me?" Jon took up the story. "And he taught us these two phone numbers, one each."
"You remember them?" House asked swiftly.
Both Jon and David frowned. "Not really," Jon admitted. "The first bit, yeah. Mine was 375."
"Mine could've begun 394, or maybe 349," David was slow. "It did start with a three. No idea what the last four numbers were."
"I might recognize them if I heard them," said Jon.
"You want us to start spouting random sets of numbers at you?" House was exasperated.
"He didn't say whose phone numbers these were supposed to be?" I asked.
David and Jonathan both nodded with an identical head movement. "But it was a joke, we laughed about it," Jon explained. "He pointed to Jimmy playing on the lawn and said these were our brother's future phone numbers."
That didn't make any sense. Wilson looked perplexed.
"What exactly did he say?" House probed. "What words did he use?"
David and Jonathan looked at each other. "'These numbers are for your brother, the future Dr. James E. Wilson'," David spoke with unexpected clarity, as if a light had suddenly shone on a dark recess in his mind.
House looked pained. "The future doctor?"
"Family joke. We were all gonna be lawyers and doctors when we grew up." There was an ironic edge to David's voice. His brothers both looked a little uncomfortable.
That still didn't make sense. Dr. James E. Wilson. Funny way for Uncle Al to refer to his little nephew Jimmy. Unless there was a reason for it. Dr. J.... A phone number. I pulled out my cell and looked at the dial.
"Jon, you said your number started 375?" I asked.
"Yeah. I think so." Jon was cautious.
"Try not to get run over by a bus until we write it down," House said snappily. "What's your point, Boba Babe?"
"Dr. J. If you dial it on a phone, it would be 375." I held up my cell. It had the standard letters next to each number. 2 = ABC, 3 = DEF and so on, to 9 = WXYZ.
"Jesus Christ almighty!" House brought his fist down on the table with a crash. "Dr James E Wilson. Fourteen letters. Dr James translates in numbers to 375-2637--"
"That does sound right," Jon exclaimed.
"And E Wilson to 394-5766," House concluded.
David shrugged. "Dunno, but it could be."
"Uncle Al took his youngest nephew's name and prescribed vocation, made it into two phone numbers for his security code, and taught the numbers to his oldest nephews," House marveled. "What a fucking stupid thing to do!"
But Wilson looked as delighted as I felt. "House, it's a terrific thing to do!"
"It's cute," I chipped in.
House snorted. "It would be even cuter if he'd actually told someone about it instead of making us sit here working our asses off."
"Now where would be the fun in that, House," Wilson said, still smiling.
Then David levered himself to his feet. "I'm gonna go."
"Already?" Jon said, his tone dismayed.
"Any minute now Mom or Dad will be out looking for you two." David was matter-of-fact. "You should get back to the party. And I've gotta go anyway. Tom's expecting me back at the shelter."
Tom. Wilson and Jonathan both opened their mouths, but neither of them said anything. House looked at me and we both shrugged a little.
"David, can we keep in touch this time?" Jon asked, and there was a pleading note in his voice I hadn't heard before. He swallowed and added, "We could meet--Tom?"
"I'd like that," Wilson said immediately.
David looked down and shuffled his feet a little bit. "We're staying at the rescue mission on Carroll Street, alright? We'll probably be there a couple of days. If not, you can leave messages for me there, that's what Uncle Al used to do." He paused, then added, "They know me as Schizo Dave."
That silenced Wilson, who looked his newly found brother up and down with a doctor's concern, but Jon piped up, "I'll just walk out to the road with you."
"Aw, ain't it sweet, brotherly love," House said.
David raised a single finger at House, tempered it with an unexpectedly sweet smile, and left. Jon was about to follow, when Wilson grabbed his hand and pushed a wad of notes into it, hissing, "Make him take it."
Jon nodded, curled his fist around the money, and headed out after David.
"Well, wasn't that just heartwarming," House said to Wilson. "You need to get back to the party. I'm going home with Boba Babe, catch you later."
"I want you to come say hi to Mom and Dad," Wilson said quietly.
"I don't," House said, quick as a shot.
"House," Wilson said simply, and they looked at each other for a minute. Eventually House puffed out an annoyed sigh, and followed Wilson up the garden. I trailed along behind.
Luke and Nancy were standing together in the middle of the function room, each holding a glass of wine. Wilson paused in the doorway, then reached out and put his hand on House's shoulder, tucking a finger underneath House's collar, stroking House's neck. It was the first time I'd seen them touch, properly.
"Wilson," House muttered, alarm in his voice. "You don't have to--"
"Actually, yes, I do." And Wilson propelled House across the room and up to his parents.
By the time they got to Luke and Nancy, Wilson had one arm around House's shoulders and the other hand resting on top of House's hand, the one holding his cane.
Jon came in the room at that moment and stopped next to me.
"Hey, Mom, Dad," Wilson said smoothly, and Luke and Nancy looked at him and House in surprise. "I just brought House over to say hello. We have to go now, but I wanted to tell you something--" Wilson gulped a little, but carried on, "I moved in with House a while ago. I've still got my old apartment, but not for much longer. I--I've been in a, uh, relationship with House for a long time now... a physical relationship... and I just wanted to let you know."
"Jimmy Wilson," House rasped, turning his head towards Wilson. "You never cease to surprise me."
Wilson smiled shakily back, then House and Wilson turned and left. They walked out of the room, bumping shoulders along the way. The parents stood staring after them with shell-shocked looks on their faces.
I peered out to see House stop walking a few paces outside the door. Wilson stopped too, right next to him, and then House pulled Wilson towards him, looping an arm around Wilson's waist, and they kissed. A proper, deep passionate kiss with tongues. It made me feel a bit gooey and think of the previous afternoon I'd had with Morelli.
Next to me, Jon said, "Here's to my faggot brothers and all of the other flaming fairies who hook up with them," grabbed a glass of wine from a passing tray, and downed it practically in one gulp.
The family managed to locate and open the box, using Eyebrows' key and the numbers that we had figured out. They'd found a bunch of very old family photographs, jewelry and other memorabilia, some dating back to the 1930s. No fat wads of cash, but everything of incalculable value to the family.
The most treasured possession was a wedding ring that had belonged to Alfred's own long-lost brother, Wilson's grandfather, who had died in Belsen. Wilson's grandmother had gotten away early with other departing families, and her husband had given it to her to sell if necessary. She'd managed to hang onto it and given it to Al before she died, not long after the war. Wilson's Mom was very emotional at finding her father's ring.
I was able to tell Wilson that Eyebrows had gone back to jail for various charges, including armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The charges were sticking this time, and it didn't look like he'd be getting out of jail anytime soon.
All the Wilson family were there. Amanda and Brianna beaming their approval that 'Uncle Greg' was now officially their Uncle Greg; Luke and Nancy still looking just as shell-shocked as they had done at the reveal back at Uncle Alfred's funeral; Jon's nose was even redder than I remembered it being.
And David still looked down-at-the-heels but was dressed for the occasion, a lot more smartly than I had last seen him. I spoke to him before the ceremony and found he was sticking to his meds and now living at a halfway house, trying to get his life together. David was accompanied by another man who was introduced to us as Tom. Tom was a little older and scruffier than David, and stuck close to him.
We didn't manage to speak to House or Wilson before the ceremony, but met them at the reception afterwards.
"Congratulations!" I said. "That was a beautiful service."
"Glad you kissed," Grandma Mazur said. "I was really looking forward to that bit. Too bad we were sitting so far back, though, I couldn't see that well."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Grandma," House cast what could only be described as a lecherous look at his new spouse. "But no, you can't come on the honeymoon with us. And I was looking forward to seeing you in your Goth gear, but you've let me down."
"I thought this was more appropriate for a civil union," Grandma said brightly. She was wearing a smart jacket and skirt which my mother had approved. Mom hadn't seen the vintage T-shirt Grandma was sporting underneath, which was rainbow colored and said 'NO PROP 8'.
"You look great," Wilson reassured her, smiling.
"That's some wedding band you're wearing," Lula said to House. It was large and gold with a patina of small scratches, obviously well-used and antique. "Wilson, you too cheap to buy him something new?"
"It was my grandfather's," Wilson said simply. "From the deposit box. Mom said I could have it."
"And she knew who you were going to give it to," I said.
Wilson nodded, and House reached out to flick Wilson affectionately on the side of the head. Wilson swatted him back, then House slid an arm around Wilson's waist and nuzzled his shoulder.
"I've got my front row seat now," Grandma Mazur said. "Keep going."