Chapter 24a

"Never Buy an Old DeSoto"

2005

"It's not broken, House!"

"Unhh … ?"

"I said it's not broken. Your leg isn't broken! You did mess up your ankle and your ACL. And your face looks as though some two-hundred-pound line backer used your head for a goal post. But nothing's broken. You'll be all right."

Gregg took the chance and opened his eyes. Wilson was right beside him, on a stool drawn up to his bedside as close as he could get. His warm hand lay alongside House's bristly face on the side that wasn't purple, two fingers tangled in his hair. He looked around himself and stared in a moment of disbelief. He was in his own bed, in his own apartment, and there were no IV lines weighing down either of his hands.

And they were alone and the lights were dimmed. No Cuddy, no Ducklings, no Billy, no Vince, and no Mom standing nearby with misty eyes.

His leg, of course, throbbed along with the beat of his heart. Nothing new. But now the chorus was being joined by the ones in his knee and ankle and jaw. The whole side of his face was one huge aching bruise.

A man couldn't take a nosedive down four stair steps and expect to swim. So be it. He had experienced worse.

"Why am I here and not at the hospital? Did they finally see the 'logic of the situation' and throw me the-hell out?"

Wilson laughed softly and caressed House's face gently with his thumb. "No, Spock. That was me. You're here on my orders. And here you're going to stay. So am I. Your Mom moved out and I moved in."

"Huh?"

"You heard me. If you ever intend to regain what you lost, you're gonna have to start over from scratch … right from the beginning … and this time there'll be no fooling around. We're going to do it together. I'm on a three-month leave of absence, starting today, and here is right where I'll be until you're so sick of me you'll be ready to brain me with a crutch!"

"What makes you think I'll get sick of you?"

"Oh … you will. I'll see to that."

"Oh yeah? Like Billy Travis said one time: 'You and what army?'"

The drugs were weighing heavily.

Gregg was drifting. His senses closed down slowly, and then he began to wander back to the hinterlands … back to sleep.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

And so it began.

It took three difficult weeks before Gregory House was able to resume anything close to normal activities. The bruise on his face went through an entire rainbow of colors before it went back to its former shade, and before it didn't hurt like hell to chew.

His swollen ankle morphed through the same exotic transition of hues before resuming its correct contours and his anklebone again rose above layers of traumatized tissue. In time, however, it too cleared up. The knee was a different story. Since it was in such close proximity to the infarction site, the rehabilitation there was slower and trickier.

Wilson brought in a whirlpool unit for the bath, and insisted that House soak in it at least twice a day, more often if his pain escalated. Jimmy was a tough taskmaster, and for another six weeks, allowed absolutely no weight bearing.

Then the exercises began.

Bend, straighten; bend, straighten.

The knee remained tight. More scar tissue to be loosened, and it was painful. Gregg pounded his fists on the edge of the mattress and cursed and moaned, sounds of deep distress that rumbled out from deep in his throat.

Wilson gritted his teeth, turned a deaf ear and kept it up.

Bend, straighten; bend, straighten.

Three times a day. Every day. Then whirlpool. Then elevation and ice packs. Sometimes House felt like cooked spaghetti. He ran hot and cold. He cursed and swore and sweated and suffered.

James Wilson never left his side.

Days passed, sometimes in a blur, and the torturous exercises continued. His pain rose to dizzying heights and came back down to manageable levels. It felt so good when it stopped. The fluctuation began to show benefits. For the first time in years, his Vicodin dependence began to come down.

At first, James kept him on one pill every four hours during the day, and reduced it to two after bedtime, adding an extra only if he awoke in pain in the middle of the night. After awhile he could manage on six of them in a twenty-four-hour period. He began to wonder if he could do even better, but James would not allow him to come down any faster than that.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

In the evenings they would sit around the conversation pit, the area that contained the bookcases, the baby grand piano, the old leather couch and Gregg's plush leather recliner. All of this was flanked by the big plasma TV, the Sony stereo and the little desk where Gregg kept his laptop.

When Wilson first took up residence there, the end tables, coffee table, piano, and many places on the floor had been piled high with books and magazines of all descriptions.

In his fear that Gregg might take a header among them, James cleaned them up and replaced them in the big bookcase. House, of course, bitched loudly, but it did him no good. His friend simply read the riot act in a calm and gentle manner, and ordered him to keep his mess cleaned up.

After that there was no mess.

One evening Wilson picked up a dusty volume of Shakespeare and began reading from it out loud. Gregg, propped on the couch on the opposite side of the room, picked up the TV Guide and threw it at him. "Willya cut that out, for chrissake? God, I hate Shakespeare!"

In a singsong voice, he quoted: "'Ah, what light from beyond yon window breaks …'?!

Have you ever heard such drivel in your entire life? Yuk! Spare me! I'll take Tennessee

Williams!"

Across from him, James Wilson looked over and met the snappish blue-eyed stare. He put the book down and walked over there. Sat down on the edge of the couch and took both of Gregory House's hands gently into his own.

Incredibly bold for the very first time in his life, he leaned over and kissed the slender fingers. His nose was two inches from Gregg's face.

"I love you." He said simply.

The incredible eyes blinked, stared incredulously, blinked again. James was certain he'd blown it. In his compulsive decision to kiss a new love 'hello', had he just kissed an old friendship 'goodbye'?

But then Gregg's expression softened. The corners of his mouth turned upward into a smile of complete wonderment.

Beautiful.

James held his breath as a parade of emotions passed across the mobile face.

"And I love you," Gregory House whispered. "My whole life, I think."

The smile grew wider. The pain in his leg was the furthest thing from his mind.

They embraced. Clung together with the newness-oldness of the sensation, blown away by the realization, finally, of a truth they had known from deep somewhere in the recesses of their minds … for years and years …

That night they slept together in Gregg's big bed. No rushing anything. James was always mindful of Gregg's pain, and willing to do anything he possibly could to help alleviate it.

They didn't sleep much, just clung together in mutual bewilderment, and celebrated the new openness of the reality between them, which had, for so long, lain masked and dormant.

In the full force of morning light, they made plans to be together forever.

How to tell Francie … and Vince and Billy … how to let it gradually become known at work …

… and admit the truth to Susan, who had known of their love from the day she'd first met them!

It was wonderful. It was right!

The following day, Gregory House sold the DeSoto.

- THE END -

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