Disclaimer: House, et al. belong to Shore, et al. Which I'm more than certain you knew.
Summary: The pain in his son's eyes is momentarily overshadowed by surprise and subsequent shame, but John can still see it clearly.
Rating: R for language, angst.
A/Ns: Um...die, Tritter, die?
He can hear Greg's shuffling footsteps long before he can see him. That alone makes the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He thinks he should have realized why before his son ever got to the room. He sits, his back and bearing tense, as he watches two enormous guards manhandle a handcuffed Greg into a chair before removing the cuffs and disappearing like ghosts to the edges of the room where he can't see them. His already painfully skinny son is positively swimming in the dark blue prison uniform he's been 'furnished' with. Say nothing of the fact that Greg obviously isn't being allowed use of his cane. The pain in his son's eyes is momentarily overshadowed by surprise and subsequent shame, but John can still see it clearly.
The thought of it makes his gut twist painfully.
"Oh, God," Greg whispers and John can tell he doesn't hear himself. He's in shock, it seems. That, however, wears off and is replaced with the sight of Greg visibly leaning away from him, shrinking back into his chair.
"Greg," John says, his voice as quiet as he can make it under the circumstances. Whatever reaction he expected, it wasn't this one.
He takes a breath because he realizes he stopped and takes in the sight of his son inching back into a cold metal chair like an abused child. It hurts to breathe, all of a sudden.
"What are you doing here?" Greg's quiet, hoarse voice carries through the phone pressed tightly against his skull.
"Lisa and James told us what happened. Your momma called you at least six times and you didn't answer. So she talked to James. Greg..." he stares at the gaunt form of his son, seemingly withering away right before his eyes. "Why didn't you tell us?"
At this question, Greg's face finally twists itself into a familiar shape: a grimace.
"What, that I got pinched for 'possession with intent to distribute'? That I'm in danger of losing my license to practice because some prick decided a vendetta against me was worth the city's valuable resources? Somehow, the urge not to tell you was far more powerful."
But John notices that Greg's voice is for the first time lacking its usual bite. There's no conviction behind his son's words. They're empty and almost forcefully blank.
"Aren't these the same idiots who couldn't find that son of a bitch who shot you?" John's voice now harbors anger, memories of watching Greg lying unconscious in a hospital bed now assaulting him.
Greg's sardonic smirk is all the answer he needs.
"You're hurtin'," John says, noting that Greg keeps rubbing his right thigh, pressing and pushing at the wasted muscle. "And they're not lettin' you use your cane."
Greg smiles again, bitter and silent, and John wishes he would stop. "Flight risk. Or assault with a deadly weapon. Wouldn't want that, of course. A cripple busting out of this place would be too much for their precious egos to take."
John stares at his son, his gut in knots, and wonders what the hell Greg's been doing all this time. This conversation, even more than most of their exchanges, is shallow and formless. He wishes he could say something to make Greg stop staring at him like that. The pressure in his chest is becoming unbearable as it is.
"You're in pain," he says, because the fingers of Greg's left hand are curling tightly around the edge of the table and his breathing is rapid and shallow. "Are they giving you anything?"
"Acetaminophen," Greg tells him and there's a hint of laughter in his voice but John doesn't know why.
"Well, what the hell do they think that's going to do?" he asks, watching as Greg's free hand works over that leg, trying and failing to stop whatever's taking place.
"They only have to show that I'm being treated, Dad," Greg tells him, calling him that for the first time in what seems like forever. Greg doesn't usually refer to him by any title if he can help it. "They don't have to care how."
There's a hint of a hiss at the end of his son's words. The bare bones of a whimper. John hates it with all the fiber of his being.
"Where's Mom?" Greg asks and John gets the distinct feeling that he doesn't actually want his question answered.
"With Lisa," John tells him and Greg gets an odd expression on his face; one John can't interpret.
"Is she alright?" Greg's voice is getting quiet again, his breathing becoming harsher.
"No," John answers and Greg's face doesn't so much fall as become…unclear. "She's worried about you."
And for the first time, Greg actually frowns and he smashes his hand down over his face. He heavily rubs his eyes and lets that hand fall to the table with a clunk.
"God damn it," he growls, letting his forehead drop to the cold, hard table. After a moment, he looks up and John is completely floored by the outright remorse he sees. "I'm sorry."
That's when John decides to call in a favor.
"Your arresting officer," he says, getting Greg's attention. "Lisa says his name is Tritter? Michael Tritter?"
Greg gives him a confused look. "How do you know that?"
But John doesn't answer that question. Instead, he reaches into his pocket and removes a thin envelope, which he discreetly slides under the glass before them. A bewildered look flashes over Greg's eyes for a moment before he snatches up the envelope and thrusts it into his jumpsuit.
"I'll be back tomorrow, son," John tells him and Greg nods woodenly. "You take good care of those."
Then John places a hand on the glass for a moment before getting up to leave.
House doesn't know what his father means, but he aims to find out. Somehow, he manages to get the envelope back to his cell without Shitter seeing and sits on his thin, ill-fitting bed to open it. A necklace tumbles out into his hand with two pendants on it. His father's shield of St. Christopher and the Gimel charm his mother has worn every day since he's known her. He blinks down at them for a moment before reaching up to put the necklace on. It takes some minutes, fumbling with unsteady fingers made unwieldy by pain and anger, but he manages it.
His exhaustion and fear have begun to take their toll and not even the throbbing in his leg is enough to keep him awake. He sleeps soundly, then, for the first time in a month.