The house was dark, silent, empty when he pulled into the drive. No lights, no dog barking, no flickering of the television in a darkened room. He surveyed the yard, but everything seemed in place. Key in the lock, opening the door. The alarm was activated, and yet there was no dog to greet him.
Something was wrong. Very wrong. He could feel it, deep in his bones. It was the same feeling as when he'd taken Andie's file to House. He just i knew /i something was…off. Knew it in his heart, in his soul, in the empty void where his love for Julie lived.
He shut off the alarm, only vaguely aware his fingers were trembling. He took a deep breath, called for the dog. Nothing. But he didn't expect it. The dog was gone, that was obvious. Julie was gone, that was painfully obvious.
i Maybe she took him to the vet, /i he sighed. He knew that wasn't the case. She'd left, and she took the damn dog, his dog, with her. With a deep breath and strong resolve, he searched for a note. Nothing on the fridge, nothing on the table, by the phone, taped to the computer in his office.
He trudged up the stairs, his own heavy steps sounding like a clumsy elephant, sound echoing off the walls. There it was. On his pillow. An envelope. His name, her beautiful, meticulous handwriting. The complete opposite of his careless doctor's chicken scratch writing.
His palms were sweating, his hands shaking as he lifted the flap. Tucked, not sealed. How considerate. She knew he was prone to paper cuts.
He sat on the bed, noting without humor how the mattress sagged under his weight. She'd mentioned maybe getting a new mattress. They hadn't gotten around to it. More specifically, i he /i hadn't gotten around to it.
Before he unfolded the delicate paper, his eyes scanned the room. Everything seemed to be in place. Except the picture of her mother was missing from the table on her side of the bed. Didn't matter. He knew what the note said.
He ran a finger along the folds, as if that would make a difference. As if that simple act would lessen the blow. He took a deep breath, wet his lips with his tongue. His eyes glanced at the carefully written words, scanned the pattern of her hand, beautiful, perfect, flawless.
i My Dearest James,
I have given this a lot of thought. I don't want you to think I've made a rash decision. I have thought long and hard, I have considered all the angles.
You know as well as I, the magic died for us a long time ago. I love you, James, but I am not in love with you. Nor are you in love with me. Your work comes first, I have never been in doubt about that. You are a brilliant doctor, and you have touched millions of lives. Throughout our marriage, I have tried to respect that. I do respect it. I respect you, as a doctor.
If only you could have been half as dedicated to your marriage. I don't blame you, James. I know you have a lot going on outside this house. I'm sorry.
There's leftover Chinese in the fridge. I'll be in touch. Julie. /i
He sat for a long time, still as a statue, cold as marble, staring at her words. i 'I have thought hard, I have considered all the angles' /i A thousand thoughts rolled through his mind, a million things he could have done differently over the years, during the past week, two weeks. He'd seen all the signs, the way she looked away when he stepped into the room, the way her back stiffened when he kissed her, the way she smelled of some new, delicate flowered perfume.
The way he'd stayed late at the hospital when he didn't have to, pouring over paperwork late into the night when it could keep till morning. The way he met Greg for dinner in the cafeteria instead of going home. The way his heart failed to flutter, even a little bit, at the sight of her. The way his eyes watched the new afternoon-shift nurse walk past his office.
The way he invented reasons to swing by Accounting to talk to Debbie. Or Greg in Diagnostics. He smiled a small smile, thinking of Greg, but quickly sobered and shuddered and reached up to rub the tendons at the back of his neck.
The reality of it was devastating. Mind boggling, soul crushing, spirit drenching. He'd known it was happening, had felt the gaping hole split wide between their feet each day, every night. He'd nearly welcomed it, until now. Until he held the proof of her unhappiness in his trembling hands. Until he looked around, and realized he was alone. Not even the dog had stayed. He wondered if Julie gave the mutt the choice, or just ushered him into the car and sped away.
The paper fell to the floor. His foot sought to hide it, obliterate it, crush it into nonexistence. It was still here, unchanged except a new crease in the corner and the grey imprint of his shoe imbedded in the milky whiteness of its skin.
There was only one thing to do.
"It's your dime," Greg House barked into the phone. It took three tries to get the number right, and as soon as he heard House on the other end of the line, he wondered why he didn't use speed dial. One touch dialing, it would have been so much easier.
James Wilson took a deep breath. He had to be cool, casual, composed. House would know in a millisecond something was wrong. As if he didn't know already. House was a lot of things, but House wasn't stupid. Wilson's left hand danced around his neck. "Busy?"
"You know The O.C. is on tonight," House answered, voice still slightly nasal from his cold. Right. House was sick. Wilson's mind flashed on the image of him sitting at his desk, chopping his Diphenhydramine. He'd honestly thought it was cocaine for a moment, and it didn't surprise him.
Thinking back, he'd had little reaction at all. House's admission, 'I know my way around a razor blade' spun through his mind. That meant something. Something Wilson should have paid attention to.
Wilson nodded, his head in his hands, shoulder holding the phone to his ear. Should have used the speakerphone. Didn't have the inclination to switch over now. "First round's on me."
The line was silent, and Wilson felt his stomach churn.
House knew. He could hear the wheels of realization spinning in his head. Not that it was a secret, House had predicted this a long time ago. He also knew House wouldn't make him say anything over the phone.
"I'll swing by and pick you up. Be ready in half an hour. Maybe I'll even let you drive." There was an unmistakable note of amusement to House's voice.
Wilson opened his mouth to say something, something like 'thanks' or 'no thanks, I'll
drive myself,' but no words came out, and the line went dead. Wilson's tongue darted out to offer precious moisture to his lips once more as he flipped his cell phone shut.
Half an hour. That didn't give him much time to break down and pull himself back together. He should have waited to call House. He needed to break down. Before he got stone cold drunk, drunk enough to forget.
He paced, reached the farthest wall of his room for the fourth time, and unleashed his fury on the unsuspecting wall. He didn't stop until his knuckles were bleeding, and in need of cleaning. He tipped forward, using the wall to brace himself, only it didn't quite work out the way he'd hoped, and he started to slide down.
He ended up on his knees, face mashed against the wall, hot tears on his cheeks. It wasn't that Julie left. No. He'd been expecting that. He'd been almost hoping for it. Hoping she would leave him before he walked out. The divorce settlement would be a lot easier on his wallet if she was the one who walked. It was the failure, the end of yet another marriage that tore him down to the foundation. Third time was supposed to be a charm.
Wilson reared back and flung his head forward, smacking his temple against the wall.
That's precisely when a pair of headlights pulling into the drive illuminated the room. Greg House had impeccable timing.