1Auld Lang Syne
It May Not Be a Wonderful Life, But It Could Be, Part I
Disclaimer: I don't own House or It's A Wonderful Life. I REALLY wish I did. But, while I'd miss the money they'd bring me, I'd settle for simply Greg House and George Bailey.
A/N: WARNING! This starts off angsty. DO NOT DESPAIR. I promise it's only for a little while. Those of you who've seen It's A Wonderful Life should understand this. Those of you who haven't. Stop reading. Go watch it. Now. Besides, you won't appreciate it as much if you haven't seen it. This fic was created simply because we felt like it. Also because it's Christmas, and holiday fics are a great way to relieve semester finals stress. Finally we would like to explain something IMPORTANT. Our character, "Mr. Dallas", who made his first appearance in our story "I've Got a Baaad Feeling About This" (which, by the way, is NOT abandoned! We've been extremely busy,) is in this fic as well, and will be in other fics. This stems from a strange sense of humor we share, based on an inside joke involving a puppet show and the Odyssey. He is not the same guy. Exactly. We're just using him as a general scape goat for all diseases in our fanfic world. All patients from here on out are called "Mr. Dallas". Just wanted to clarify. Sorry for the super long A/N, and now, ON TO THE STORY!
He sat in his office, head resting on the smooth wood of his cane, for once ignoring the throbbing pain in his leg. He hadn't moved for hours, not even to turn on the light when it became dark and the halls of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital emptied. The dim light of the sign above the receptionist area vaguely illuminated the small room: the toys and gadgets lying unused and abandoned on the desk, the haggard and worn features of their owner...
...and the black words of the wipeboard he'd wheeled into the room.
Slowly, stiffly, he moved for the first time in hours. Using his cane, he made his way across the floor. The words on the glass door cast a shadow on his face, his own name temporarily branding his features: Gregory House M.D. He picked up the eraser and deliberately wiped the board clean. He then leaned against it as if the task had drained all his energy. Pain washed over his features as he placed too much weight on his leg. Slowly, he walked back to his desk and took up the small prescription bottle that lay there. Popping it expertly open with one hand, he poured all the white pills onto the gleaming surface of his desk. Carefully, he picked one up.
"One for the pain in my leg," he said, tossing it back and swallowing it dry.
"One for Stacy constantly reminding me I can never have her." He tossed back another.
"One for Cuddy assigning me the messiest clinic cases because I was the cause of yet another civil suit." And another.
"One for Cameron not backing away while she has the chance
"One for James's 'friendly insistence' that I prevent her from doing so."
He was breathing hard, but his eyes were dry as the drugs coursed through his veins.
"One for not being good enough, fast enough, smart enough. For being too late. For letting death beat me to the finish line." Another Vicodin made its way to his mouth for each clause.
He paused, considering the final pill in his hand.
"One for wishing I was never born."
He popped it in his mouth and smiled, a terrible, pained smile. "Merry Christmas," he said as he fell into blackness.
"Are you sure this is the assignment you want?" The angel's wings flapped in agitation as she stared earnestly at the young man in front of her. "I mean, I can understand why you'd pick him, and I'm not saying it's not an admirable cause, but...this is for your wings. If you fail..."
"I know." The new angel gripped his halo in his hands, twisting it in agitation. "But...if I can't do this for the guy who saved my life then I don't deserve them."
"Well," said the secretary angel, "he's ready to see you now. Good luck." She straightened his robes, took the halo from his hands, polished off his fingerprints til it shown gold again, and replaced it over his head before shoving him gently through the door. Taking a deep breath, he squared his wingless shoulders and prepared to argue his case to the Archangel.
"Have a seat, Mr...?"
"D-Dallas, Michael, I mean sir, I mean your holiness." Dallas's voice squeaked on the last part.
"Michael's fine," chuckled the angel. Surprisingly, the Archangel was rather short. If Dallas had thought about it, he would have realized Michael had been alive in a time where everyone was much shorter, but he was so nervous his thoughts were something akin to traffic during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC. Despite his diminutive stature, the Archangel gave off such an overwhelming aura of intense goodness that he was rather intimidating.
"So," continued Michael as he settled himself comfortably on a cloud, (it constantly amazed Dallas how relaxed everyone was in heaven. He'd always imagined a stiff formality,) "You've picked an assignment?"
"Y-yes," stammered Dallas, trying and failing to be as relaxed as the angel. It had nothing to do with physical comfort. While, not having wings, he was incapable of lounging on a cloud like Michael, the chairs which were set up in the Archangel's 'office' were deep and soft. Even in school Dallas had had trouble with public speaking, and this was the Celestial equivalent of a risky business proposition. "I saw the name of the doctor who saved my life a few years ago on the list." The list updated daily and consisted of all the people in the world who wished they were never born, which served as a handy assignment list for angels who wished to earn their wings. "I'd like to help him."
"Gregory House, right?" said Michael, looking down at the file that had appeared in his hand. "His file doesn't indicate a very positive life on his part."
"At first glance," asserted Dallas, "but take a look at this." He pulled out the memories he'd found at the knowledge banks. "My research shows he cared deeply for several people, good people who care for him too. Here's one." He opened a memory and watched it come to life, spreading the image over the clouds which seemed to permeate all of heaven. A young blond man with a goofy smile appeared, apparently walking through a campus. "Dr. James Wilson, Jewish, definitely slated for heaven at the moment. A few sins involving adultery, the severity of which was dramatically reduced by his kind and open honesty to his wives each time. He's a caring, thoughtful man who chose a profession where he's faced with hopelessness everyday, but still retains hope. He's Dr. House's best friend. This is him in college." A man was walking a little ahead of him, nose buried in a thick medical volume. "That's Dr. House right there." He pointed him out. At just that moment, the college-aged House rose his piercing blue eyes from the book to look for traffic before crossing the street, sparing a glance behind to stare at the cheerful man behind him who had begun to whistle. Rolling his eyes, he tucked the book under his arm and crossed the street. A very pretty young woman in a short skirt passed him as he walked briskly by. Suddenly, the whistling stopped and, curious, the young Gregory House turned around to see that the whistler behind him had stopped short and was staring after the pretty girl. Chuckling a bit at the man's slack-jawed expression, he shook his head.
And caught sight of the speeding car. Dropping his book, he yanked the young blond guy out of the street just as the car passed, trampling the medical volume but leaving the two college students unharmed.
"Whoa," said Wilson, "I guess I owe you my life...and a new book. James Wilson." He held out his hand.
House considered it, then firmly shook hands with the grinning blonde boy.
"Greg House," he replied.
"House, huh?" Wilson said, "Taking a bit of a risk going into the medical profession with a name like 'House' aren't you, Greg? The puns practically write themselves."
"No more of a risk than standing in the middle of the street staring at a buxom blonde, James."
"Touché," he grinned, "and call me Jimmy."
The memory faded, and Dallas placed it back in his file. Michael leaned back, thoughtful. "So what happened?" he said at last. "His file indicates extreme bitterness, not to mention a callous, sometimes cruel attitude towards those closest to him."
"Well, a couple years ago, I understand that he was hurt very deeply by the woman he loved." Dallas pulled the memory out of the file.
Dr. House? A dark haired doctor hurried towards him, her high heels clicking as she walked. "That's Dr. Cuddy," explained Dallas as they watched her approach. "Lapsed catholic, slight drinking problem but no other major sins. She's House's boss and Dean of Medicine at the hospital. She's one of the few people who can stand him and is in turn one of the only people he trusts even marginally. She's also his doctor." House twisted in his wheelchair to look at her. "You'll need this," she said. He looked at the object she'd proffered; it was a cane, gleaming with polished wood. He looked up at her with disgust, which she tried to ignore. "You're injury being...permanent, I thought I'd go and buy you this. It's better than some crappy aluminum hospital-issue." He was still staring at her, with pain and anger in his eyes, she blustered on, trying to distract him "It's much sexier, you can pretend it's a pimp stick."
"I don't need it," he finally snapped, without looking behind him he addressed the woman pushing the chair. "Help me up, Stacy," he said in chilled tones. "Stacy, atheist, his girlfriend of three years at the time of this memory," provided Dallas. "They lived together for two of them. She's a lawyer with a prickly nature similar to his but has more…people skills." She didn't say a word as she tenderly helped him to his feet. Glaring at the two women, to his mind the doctor who failed to recognize what was wrong with him in time and the love of his life who'd betrayed him, he began to walk down the hall. He took one step, and then tried to place weight on his right foot. Stacy gasped and caught at his arm as he stumbled. He growled at her and wrenched his arm from her grasp. "I'm just trying to help, if you weren't being such a stubborn idiot-"
"Help?" he cut her off, "It's your fault I can't walk Stacy, that I'll never walk again."
"I saved your life." She was nearly screaming now.
"You ruined it," he said, looking away from her. Her eyes filled with tears.
"Ok," she said, "ok." She kissed his cheek, and walked out the door. "I'll be moved out by the time you get home. Have a nice life, Greg."
He said nothing, but as her steps echoed down the hall, he fished in his pocket and pulled out the bottle of vicodin he'd been prescribed for the pain. He shook one onto his palm and dry swallowed it. Quietly, so quietly that Cuddy was certain she'd imagined it, he said "You too, Stacy."
Silence reigned in the little room. The archangel's eyes were filled with unshed tears; knowing paradise often causes one to feel the pain of those down on Earth a little more, but it is impossible to truly weep when one is in heaven.
"Research indicates that he loved her," Dallas said quietly, gripping the file in his hands. "He hasn't been the same since. He'd always been sarcastic and mean, but with the infarction in his leg rendering it useless, and the love of his life going behind his back and authorizing the operation that robbed him of his final hope that he'd walk again he became...bitter."
"His job is now the only thing that keeps him going. That and his continued friendship with Wilson, who sticks with him despite the constant abuse House throws at him."
"Recently though, Stacy came back, bringing a husband with her. She works in the hospital as a lawyer. The added stress of this has pushed him to the breaking point, and he pushes the patients' buttons more than he normally would. Dallas pulled out another memory, which bloomed in the air. "This is from earlier today, or as close to 'today' as you can get in a place in which all times are one."
"Aw, c'mon, Stacy, call me Greg. After all, we used to live together, or was the sex just an extended dream?"
The lawyer ignored his comment and shoved a file in his hand. "What do you recall of a patient named Andrea Houston?" (A/N: Messing with the name 'Dallas' again, and no, I have nothing against Texas!)
"Did she have big breasts? 'Cause if she didn't, I'm not sure I can give you any information."
"You bullied her into tears."
"You're REALLY going to have to be more specific than that, care to narrow your search parameters?"
They glared at each other for a while, neither saying anything. "She's suing the hospital, Greg. The hospital can't take much more of this." She looked at him in exasperation.
"I suggest you behave yourself. That file contains your next clinic cases, I believe it indicates how pissed Cuddy is." House opened it and grimaced at the list: explosive diarrhea, rectal exam, and several puking babies. "I'm going to need a spare shirt," he said, "too bad I ran out of laundry today, you know us men...helpless. Maybe you could come back to my house and start doing the housekeeping again? My fridge hasn't seen good food in months." Her expression didn't change, but she gritted her teeth. "Fine, just a suggestion, I know you're devoted to that husband of yours. Mike, right?"
"Right, right. Well, then, think you could lend me your shirt? It'd give your dear husband a thrill and I wouldn't mind seeing you topless again." Stacy was about to respond when the sound of a wheelchair approaching cut her off.
"Mark," she said instead.
"Hey hon, this guy giving you trouble? I'm sure you can take him, he only has one leg to stand on." Stacy shushed her husband and glared at him as House checked the back to the chair in a conspicuously surreptitious manner.
"Hey, shouldn't you have a spare?" he asked, all concern. "You never know when some maniac doctor might slash your tires."
Stacy sent him a look of disgust as she pushed her husband towards the hospital cafeteria. "Grow up, Greg." And the memory dissipated with the breeze.
"Is her husband a patient there?"
"Hm?" asked Dallas, snapping out of his reverie. In his research, he had grown to understand his one-time doctor a bit more, and with the added empathy angels have…"Oh, yeah. Stacy brought him herself and asked House to help him. No doctor could figure out what was wrong with him. House nearly lost paradise forever at that point. He almost let him die."
"But he didn't," Michael finished, understanding the new angel's upset expression.
"No. No he didn't. He saved his life."
There was a comfortable silence for a moment, then Dallas dug through his files for his final memory.
"What's this?" smiled Michael.
"I'm not sure," said Dallas as the memory dispersed, showing a young, very pretty doctor with tears in her eyes, "but I think she may be the key to his future. This is from today as well, a couple hours after the one you just saw."
"Dr. House?" She had dark hair and wide green eyes. "Dr. House." As he continued to ignore her, she yanked the headphones out of his ears. He glared up at her. "Nobody, and I mean NOBODY interrupts The Rolling Stones. It's criminal. Literally. I hear you can get five to ten…"
"Dr. House, what are you doing?" asked an obviously distressed Cameron.
"Trying to listen to 'Satisfaction', thank you very much."
"I meant," interrupted Cameron with barely contained rage. "What are you doing to these clinic patients? Are you trying to get fired?"
"Cuddy's not exactly helping; she just won't take a hint," he said sarcastically.
"You don't mean that, House," she said tiredly, dropping into a chair. "You know just as well as I do that your job is the only thing holding you together."
"Read that in one of your psychology books? The same one that told you that I 'like' you perhaps?" he sneered.
"I've learned my lesson on that," she said quietly. "You've made your feelings towards me abundantly clear." She stood to leave. "But you're not fooling anyone by pretending to hate your job. You need this hospital and, though I KNOW you don't care, the hospital needs you too." They stared at each other in silence for a moment, then started when their beepers went off.
"The patient's dying," observed House, grabbing his cane to hurry after her towards the patient's room. "Are you sure 'bout that last statement?" The memory faded as they rushed off.
"Who was that?"
Dallas tore his eyes from the spot on the clouds where, a moment before, Cameron's face swam and addressed the Archangel.
"Allison Cameron, atheist, one of the purest souls I've seen. Married her college sweetheart, a Thomas Brinkman, despite knowing he would die of cancer within the year. They had one child, a miscarriage. She's in Dr. House's employ, and she's in love with him."
"I could see that," said a quiet Michael. Some things even awe an angel.
"And he loves her too."
Michael turned and stared at Dallas. "What?" he said, incredulous.
"I thought so, too," said Dallas, grinning for the first time during the meeting, "but check out these readouts. The first are emotional imprints from when he talked to Stacy when they were living together…before the infarction."
Michael looked them over. Respect, love, lust, affection…but it was clearly a selfish love, one that didn't involve sacrifice. He turned to the second readout, and his eyes widened. "He's pushing her away," he breathed.
"Yeah," said Dallas. "He doesn't think it's fair to hold her down by even admitting he likes her."
"He doesn't know does he? That he loves her?"
"No. I don't think he even comprehends how she feels."
Michael considered the files spread before him, and looked up at the earnest face of the wingless angel before him.
"Assignment approved," he said, sitting up straight now, his voice all business. "You have twenty-four hours." He smiled then, a twinkle in his eye.
"Good luck and Godspeed."
"What the hell are you doing in my office?"
House groaned and shifted. He was on the floor, what had happened? He tried to remember last night. "Vicodin," he said at last.
"Ugh, great a drug addict. Security!"
"Chase?" House asked, registering the crisp Australian accent. He cracked his eyes open and squinted at the least favorite of his ducklings. "Wha?"
He broke off as two security guards walked in. "Get this man out of my office," instructed Chase. They nodded and picked Greg bodily up.
"Your office?" House asked. The men dragged him out past the door to the room, where the words 'Dr. Robert Chase, M.D. Diagnostics" were stamped in gold. "Did Cuddy get the holidays confused? It's Christmas, not April Fool's Day!" The two men threw him out in the snow.
"And stay out!" they barked as they went back in, but he was too distracted to reply; he was standing. On his leg. Lifting the leg of his jeans, he stared at the unscarred flesh.
"What the hell?"
End of Part I
A/N: Merry Christmas everybody! We hope you enjoy this. There are only two parts to this story. It was originally going to be a one shot…but it was getting too long. Besides, It's A Wonderful Life is broken into two parts too. The last part WILL be out before Christmas Eve, though, we promise! We are working like dogs! Well, my dog's lazy, but you know what we mean! In the meantime, I dunno, go watch It's A Wonderful Life, get yourself reacquainted with George Bailey, Zuzu, Clarence, and good ol' Bedford Falls.