Disclaimer: If you're here, you know who they belong to. And there's a quote from Full-Metal Jacket. Highly appropriate, I think.
Summary: He used to smile so rarely and does so often now. But it's not fair, she thinks, that he had to lose so much to make that happen.
Rating: R for some language, much angst
A/Ns: Yeah, die, Shitter, die. And Cuddy's name on House's hospital bracelet was taken from a screenshot of 'No Reason.' Her first name isn't on it. So it isn't here, either.
Dedications: To that unfortunate (and 'ironically' Muslim) student in California who was tasered repeatedly for forgetting his precious student ID. scowls May those bastard guards pay dearly.
John returns the next day, needing to show Gregory that he can keep his promises now just as he did when his son was a child. But Gregory is not in his cell when John arrives. He is indisposed, John is told. He would later find out that while he was being shunted aside, Gregory was dying of acute hepatic failure. The doctors at the prison treat Gregory as best as they can but it is not long before one of them demands he be sent to the hospital. Tritter attempts to waylay them and the doctor is shocked by the complete lack of care the detective shows.
He goes to the captain himself and demands that Dr. Gregory House be sent not just to Princeton General but to his home hospital. The warden complies, but only after being shown proof of House's deteriorating condition.
House arrives at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital mere hours before the onset of end-stage liver disease. His team, Wilson, and House's parents set up shop in House's room, holding a sort of vigil. Cuddy drops by as often as she can, managing to think of excuses to pass his room and perform checks on his vitals. House's blood type is AB Negative; it's only a miracle that they are able to find a donor at all.
They give him tacrolimus to keep his body from rejecting the new organ graft, but one of the side effects is neurotoxicity, leading to aphasia, and anemia. House can't talk anymore and he's always cold. He opens his eyes on a Tuesday, his mother's birthday. She cries into his hair as she hugs him and tells him she loves him. His eyes slide shut again, but he maintains a surprisingly strong grip on her lapel. He is asleep again but not comatose. For that they are thankful.
They try him on another immunosuppressant but the ability to speak, it seems, has been lost for the most part. House becomes able to say words, but none of them make much sense to anyone. Some of the words are only recognizable to John and Blythe, who are polyglots like their son. Eventually, though, they figure out a pattern for what he says and what he means. 'Da' is an Irish term for 'father.' It's one John comes to appreciate a great deal. 'Maman' is a French term for 'mother.' Blythe swipes a tear from her cheek and kisses her baby's forehead, assuring him that yes, she is. The term, 'meter' comes to mean 'Miles Davis,' a connection Jimmy, Lisa, and Blythe find amusing. John doesn't get the correlation until Blythe reminds him about the transition between standard and metric. John sighs, smiles, and ruffles Gregory's hair. He doesn't flinch away anymore and some minute part of John is relieved, but most is not.
'Lise' was House's seldom used nickname for Lisa when they were in college and, rarely, afterward. He calls her that all the time now. The last syllable seems to escape him, but she couldn't care less.
'Immy' is Wilson's new nickname and he gives House a grin when he hears it, silently gleeful that House can say his name at all. Those bright blue eyes are filling with frustration, he knows, because House has millions of things he'd like to say, but can't. They think about learning and teaching him sign language, if only to alleviate his irritation, but it has to wait until after he passes his physical therapy marks. Jimmy and Lisa go to some random store in the mall and buy him a plush black and grey hooded sweatshirt to wear. He doesn't like to take it off and will only let them do so when he settles down to sleep at night under his flannel blankets. Blythe washes it nightly. It always smells like Downy laundry detergent, which seems to make Gregory feel calm.
House is released from the hospital two months later and is brought with James and Lisa, who has taken a short vacation, to his parents' home in Nyack, New York, to 'help' pack up the house. They're moving to Princeton and have bought the apartment next door to Gregory's. It's newly vacant and will give them a chance to keep a close eye on him as well as having the added benefit of reducing change in his routine to a minimum. House watches as Jimmy helps Blythe sort through his things and makes a growling sort of noise in his throat if Jimmy or Lisa dares to attempt throwing any of it away.
They watch Nip/Tuck on FX like before and Gregory pays rapt attention to the screen, his eyes alight with glee as the woman House used to call 'Evil Woman Jimmy' opens her car door to suffer a deluge of medical waste. John is mildly disgusted but intrigued by the amusement Gregory's eyes show.
House giggles in a light sort of way as James flips out about her one hundred thousand dollar Mercedes and John figures he thinks this woman deserves it. This is the only episode John, himself, has seen, but from what he's been shown, she does. He watches Gregory's face in a strange sort of fascination as one of the other characters kills her husband by paralyzing him and removing his kidneys to fill a quota for Evil Woman Jimmy. He listens to her litany about how he betrayed and violated her trust and the sanctity of their marriage (although she really can't talk, having cheated on the old bastard with one of the main characters, as Lisa half-heartedly complains; Gregory agrees, murmuring something about 'briars'). He agrees as well, to a point, but silently wonders when all these med students and doctors became so damned evil. On other nights, they watch Rescue Me and he wonders if many firefighters are prone to meeting others clearly in the throes of psychosis.
They move into 221C the following week and Gregory House wanders aimlessly around the gradually filling rooms, standing in the sunlight for a full ten minutes. They gently move him out of the way when they need to, speaking gently with him and taking care not to make him trip over his withered leg, which hangs lifelessly to the side, giving him a worse limp and causing him to list to his right like a slowly sinking ship. He has forgotten how to use a cane and seems resistant to the idea of relearning. They pad the sharp edges near his feet so he doesn't injure his toes as he drags the leg along the floor but, for the most part, it doesn't seem to bother him. He's always managed to be surprisingly quick and that continues even now. The fentanyl patches used now (in place of hydrocodone pills that Gregory cannot--or will not—swallow) seem to help with the pain in ways that won't destroy his liver. For that, they're all grateful.
Gregory, James—who has moved into 221B, as well--and his parents have been settled in for two weeks when John finally returns to the police precinct jail where his son almost died as a result of a petty, adolescent grudge. He brings with him a Polaroid of Gregory taken at the ICU when he was in a dissociative fugue state and unresponsive to nearly everything. He wears his full dress uniform and looks every inch of the Marine Bird Colonel he is.
He is seated in front of Detective Michael Tritter's desk and waits patiently for the ten minutes it takes for the son of a bitch to come back from his precious lunch. He can smell the pastrami and rye Tritter ate on his breath and grieves silently because Gregory can no longer eat sandwiches of any kind, least of all his favorite Reubens, unless they are first cut up into small pieces and subsequently fed to him. He grieves for the son who must now be cared for instead of doing the caring. It hurts; he hurts, and he wants this fucker to know it.
"Lance Corporal Tritter," John says, addressing Tritter by the rank he held while under John's command so long ago. Tritter looks surprised to see him, but glad. John silently seethes at this man's jovial welcome of him in light of what's happened to his only son because the same asshole forgot he was a Marine.
"Colonel," Tritter says brightly, reaching to shake John's hand. He doesn't take it and delights quietly in Tritter's confusion. "How've you been?" The quiet giant is about seven inches taller than John, but defers to him regardless. He is two inches taller than Gregory and tried to use that to his advantage. It didn't work.
"Not well, corporal," he doesn't elaborate, waiting for the condolences he knows will come. They do and he pretends to accept them, instead imagining the words pinging off him like birds flying into clean windows, sliding to the floor and lying bloodily at his feet.
"So what can I do for you?" Tritter asks, a smile on his lips. He's glad to see the drill sergeant who whipped him into shape as a teenager is still in top form.
"You can start by giving me your badge number, detective," John answers, switching to Tritter's non-military rank.
"Why, whatever for?" Tritter asks, clearly dismayed and confused. John reaches into his pocket and pulls out Gregory's hospital badge and the bracelet they clipped from his wrist two weeks prior.
ID: 85873 295-13-7865
ADM: 03-09-05 DOB: 12-21-59
Tritter's eyes snap up from the badge to meet his, shock in them for the first time. "That...he was--"
"He is my son, lance corporal," John corrects, switching back to his previous addressing. "He isn't dead."
Tritter stares at him, shock completely taking away his ability to speak. John doesn't care. Gregory can't speak most of the time, either, so he supposes they're nearly even in that respect.
"He was rude--" Tritter tries to sputter, but a glare from John shuts him up instantly.
"He's rude," John says quietly. "So you think it's alright to treat him like he's less than human. You searched his apartment on a falsely acquired warrant, which amounts to 'unlawful search and seizure.' You arrested him for 'possession with intent.' Intent, my ass, you son of a bitch. Gregory wasn't selling shit and you knew it. He's in chronic pain from nerve damage. His liver function was severely compromised by the medication he was on. He was given acetaminophen under your watch. His liver was failing, you idiot!"
By now, John is yelling in all his drill sergeant glory. "My son almost died of acute hepatic failure because he didn't pay enough attention to your shriveled, emaciated dick for your liking! He has brain damage, motherfucker! What are you planning on doing about that? Can you pay his medical bills? Can you teach him to speak again? Can you help him relearn a lifetime and more of knowledge or a double-specialty medical education? Or are you just going to humiliate him further?"
John's reddened face is mere inches from Tritter's now, and the man's colleagues are wondering whether to come to his aid. He says nothing, though, so they merely watch.
John reaches into his pocket and pulls out the Polaroid, shoving it in Tritter's face. "He was in the hospital for two months and can't ever work again because you and your precious penis couldn't go to a regular doctor's appointment. From what you told Dr. Cuddy, you came on your lunch hour. You don't go to a free clinic on your lunch hour, you grabtastic piece of amphibian shit! It's your own fucking fault you had to wait two hours! If your dick was so goddamned special, why the fucking hell didn't you go to your ENT? And don't tell me you didn't have time! You can wait two hours to trip my son and snatch his cane away, after all! You can take off innumerable hours to indulge fucking grudges! You can tell everyone you arrested him and violate his civil rights all the fuck you want! Don't tell me you couldn't go anywhere else! You're all the same idiots who couldn't find the son of a bitch who walked right into his office and fucking shot him! Badge number now, God damn it!"
Tritter stares at the brain damaged man in the picture Colonel House's holding, unable to say anything. John waits a moment more before shoving him back up against his desk and stalking over to the idiot's commanding officer, who has come out of his office to see what was causing all the noise. John speaks with the police captain for a moment before being led into his office.
Tritter clears his throat awkwardly and tries to ignore all the stares and glares he's getting. He shuffles back over to his desk and pretends to type some nonsense into a file. It feels like an eternity before the door opens again and his C.O. is there, red-faced and pissed.
"Tritter, in here, now!" Redgrave's voice booms out and Tritter suddenly feels like a kid going to the principal's office. Only this is worse. Far worse, he knows.
John House tries to reconcile the committed Marine he knew Tritter was as a teenager with the petty, bullying son of a bitch standing before him. He can't and it sickens him.
"Give him your badge number, detective," Captain Redgrave tells the younger man and he does. John commits it to memory, a flash going through his memory of the first time he heard Gregory play the piano. The baby grand they bought him for his twenty-fifth birthday hasn't been played in nearly four months. He'd give anything for Gregory to keep him up all night again.
The sleek wheelchair they ordered for Greg to use when they go out arrives the next day. The only way they can get him to agree to sit in it is to promise him ice cream after they return. Upon coming back from Whole Foods, Blythe prepares him a banana split and watches with a small smile on her face as he attacks it with the enthusiasm (and manners) of a preschooler. Somehow, he manages to get chocolate sauce in his hair and, when John laughs, Gregory takes his sticky spoon (covered in the vegan/kosher marshmallow fluff that Lisa bought) and puts it in his father's hair.
"Da," he says, sticking out his tongue. "What."
"Yeah," John agrees, pulling the spoon out of his hair and trying not to laugh. "White. This all used to be brown. You took care of that. Thanks." But he's smiling.
That evening, Blythe finds Gregory standing in front of the piano, pressing one of the keys over and over. It's so reminiscent of when he was an eighteen-month-old little boy that she has to struggle not to cry. She comes up to him and he looks down at her, his bright blue eyes filled with a wonder that she hasn't seen in a very long time.
"'Ano," he says haltingly, thinking for a moment before switching over to the signs he's picked up so easily. He signs for her, his fingers slow-moving and clumsy, but improving.
Piano, he tells her and she signs in return.
Yes, Greg, that's right! She gives him a big smile and he smiles back. He used to smile so rarely and does so often now. But it's not fair, she thinks, that he had to lose so much to make that happen.
Play, he signs and she happily nods, sitting down and inviting him to join her. He lands with a thump on the seat and immediately presses every key within reach. A jumbled mess of noise sounds out, but his closed-mouth smile is so wide and bright that she can't possibly care.
She takes gentle hold of his hands and begins to help him pound out the notes for the first piece she ever taught him, Beethoven's Moonlit Sonata. He remembers it, obviously, because soon enough he's leaving her behind, playing each note by himself. Blythe watches, heedless of the tears that slide down her face, astonished and silently ecstatic when he finishes the final note.
She gives him a big hug and he clutches her back, his face buried in her neck. The feeling of his warm breath on her neck is all the thanks she needs.
In December of that year, Lisa--who started showing soon after Gregory's release from the hospital—goes into labor. The day before Gregory's birthday, she gives birth to a son. Everyone, including Gregory's team (who all returned after finishing their fellowships elsewhere), is present. Gregory sits in a chair in Lisa's hospital room and stares down at the blue-eyed little boy in the hospital bassinet, his eyes wide but, as was most usual, completely silent.
On the white card taped to the bassinet is the name Gregory John Christopher House II.
Lisa has named him after his father.
The next time James Wilson and the Houses see Michael Tritter, he is sitting at a desk in the mall wearing a security guard's uniform and an extremely foul disposition. John smirks gleefully as his four-month-old grandson looks up from the stroller Cameron pushes. Lisa is at home with House today, as are Chase and Foreman for a few hours, and they needed a distraction for him while they bought little Greg some new clothes.
James takes a picture with his camera phone, making a note to show it to Lisa as soon as they get home. He does and she smiles with grim satisfaction that the man who ruined House's life isn't faring far better.
It's not much, but enough for now.
Was that satisfactory?