House had mocked him for going home to bed rather than having a long afternoon in a bar, but Wilson was too tired to care. He had stumbled in at two and fallen into bed in a more or less continuous movement. The phone continued to ring on the bedside table. He groaned, and kept his eyes closed, hoping it wasn't House. If he wanted to go out and play, then Wilson could kiss goodbye to his much needed sleep. His hand searched in the air a few times, before hitting and clutching up the receiver. He shifted his head round onto the right cheek, and pressed the receiver to his left ear.
"Hello," he mumbled.
"James?" said a man's voice, with a strong, growly Brooklyn twang.
"Papa," Wilson greeted, pulling himself into a sitting position as if out of respect, "Hey. Happy Hanukkah. What's up"
"Thought I'd give you a call, see how you're doing. Bad time of year to be alone"
"Yeah," Wilson agreed, running his free hand over his face and making a spluttering sound as he tried to wake himself up a little more, "I've been keeping busy at work. Hanukkah is kind of a crappy time for me right now"
"We were hoping you might be able to come up over the Christmas vacation," Wilson Senior ventured, his gruffness barely disguised a hopeful tone. Wilson felt a pang of guilt as he explained.
"Gee, I'd love to, Papa. But I usually end up covering over Christmas, so that"
"I get it. Giving the goyim a break," he laughed, "well, it would be a shame if you couldn't make it at all"
"I...I know," Wilson sighed.
"Your mother wants to know if you've been to services this year," his father said sternly. Wilson made a face, and stifled a groan.
"Look, Papa; I've been busy at work recently. I just don't have the time. And Hanukkah is about family; I don't want to go to shul on my own, it"
"She wants me to tell you that David has taken the kids to shul every night this Hanukkah"
"Well, he obviously has a lighter workload than I do. And he's just sucking up to Mom," Wilson said, sounding slightly childish. His father laughed, a rough, steady chuckle. Wilson grinned at the memories through the years of that sound. He could always make his father laugh. The chuckle slid smoothly into seriousness, as he knew it would.
"Now listen, Jimmy. I know you're busy. But do your Mom a favour, and go to shul tomorrow night. I know she won't know if you don't, but promise me you will"
"Okay, I...I will," Wilson murmured sleepily, dragging the duvet off his legs and shuddering. He turned to the side and put his bare feet on the floor. His head rested on his hands, elbows on his knees. "Thanks, Jimmy. I'll tell her. Just remember, okay? And wear the yarmulke she gave you"
"Right, Papa." Wilson heard the line go dead, and put the receiver back on its cradle. He lay down, pulled the duvet back over himself and tried to drift off again. After ten minutes, he knew that it wasn't going to happen. He was awake now.
He slung on a dressing gown and walked through to the living room. In the tall closet next to a bookcase, was a red plastic box with a broken lid. As he opened the closet and squatted down in front of it, he looked at the box and remembered.
The box had been broken on the first night of Hanukkah, one year ago. Things were starting to deteriorate in his marriage; Laura stayed out late with friends, and he shut himself up in his office and didn't get home until after nine most nights. But because Laura came from an observant Jewish family, he was getting home early to accompany her to the synagogue this first night. Not coming from a particularly religious family, Wilson was still adjusting to attending shul on all festivals, and sometimes just for Shabbat service on Friday nights. He had made some friends, sure, but overall the experience made him feel awkward and out of place - lost among what had been told were his people.
The red box had been in the same place, less dusty then than it was now, Wilson thought as he wiped the lid with his palm. Inside the box were a few things his mother had sent down to him in a moment of religiosity. A black yarmulke, stitched with gold, a prayer shawl and tefillin. The last two items he had had since becoming Bar Mitzvah, but the yarmulkah was new. When he and Laura had changed into clean clothes, he had taken the box out of the closet and set it down on the carpet. Then the argument had started. About what, it didn't matter. He couldn't even remember now, but it had escalated into a general screaming of each others' faults. What he did remember was taking a hasty backward step from his wife's aggressive yelling, and plunging his foot through the red plastic with a loud crack.
He looked at the hole in the lid for a long time, before lifting it. Inside, everything was laid out neatly, the shawl at the bottom, with a small calico bag containing the tefillin on top, and the yarmulke next to it. He didn't touch anything, just tapped the side of his finger against his top lip thoughtfully, then carefully closed the lid and shut the closet.
House leaned against the doorframe and watched Wilson teaching a knot of sickly kids how to play dreidel in the playroom. Eight children, ages going from six up to about thirteen, clustered on beanbags and padded stools around a bright red plastic table. It had been made for kids, so Wilson was hunched over it, his knees sticking out from either side. Looking, House thought, like he'd stepped into 'It's A Small World After All' at Disneyland. Wilson's head was bent, his hair hanging in front of his forehead. A pile of gold foil-wrapped coins was heaped in the centre of the tabletop.
"Now, this side," Wilson explained, pointing to the spinning top's facing panel, "means that you take half the pile"
He didn't raise his head enough to see House approach. House didn't alert anyone to his presence until he arrived at the other end of the table, just behind the kids. He frowned at the scene.
"Didn't think you people were into proselytizing"
"House," Wilson said, with an automatic weariness. House grimaced at the kids.
"Doctor Jimmy trying to foist you off with spinning tops? Goddammit, Wilson; break into the Oncology funds and get them a Playstation"
"Sorry, kids. This is the part where he has to tell you he spent the money on a trip to Jamaica. It's alright, Wilson, no-one blames you. I know you"
"House!" Wilson tried to keep both annoyance and amusement out of his voice and failed with both, "I'm busy here. Whatever you want can wait, right"
"Your intonation says that that wasn't a question. But I'll take the liberty of answering anyway: yes, it can wait. But so can I." And House lowered himself onto a tiny vacant plastic chair which reached less than halfway up his back. Wilson almost burst out laughing at the sight of House's knees so nearly touching his ears, then straightened his face.
No reaction. Wilson took a deep breath.
"I am just going to ignore you." And he continued with the lesson. It was kind of hard to explain the game when House kept leaning forward and poking him with his cane.
House grinned as Wilson watched the last of the kids being herded away by nurses.
"You want one of these cancer kids, don't you"
Wilson looked round sharply. "No"
"Don't worry, Wilson, I get it. You get them for what? Six months? And they're dead before the novelty wears off. Good plan"
Wilson looked disgusted, but by no means shocked. He stood up and headed out. Judging by the way he was wiping the perspiration caused by the overheated room from his forehead, House guessed that he was heading for the balcony. He followed him into the cool drizzle, and they leaned against the balcony wall, side by side. There was a long silence, peaceful and without awkwardness, before House spoke.
"Come over to mine tonight"
"You're supposed to be working Clinic tonight, right?" Wilson asked, tilting his head right to look at House, who stared into the swirling violet clouds of nightfall. It was barely five o'clock; the nights were so quick now. He shifted his cane, and lifted it up onto the wall, laying it flat.
"Foreman's covering for me"
Wilson frowned. "How did you pull that"
"I told him that unless he covered my hours today, I'd make sure he had a Kwappy Kwanzaa"
"Does he even celebr"
"No. But he got the idea."
They stayed silent for a few moments more, before Wilson sensed House's eyes on him and felt obliged to answer.
"Come on, Wilson! We'll celebrate Hanukkah the way it was intended to be celebrated: unostentatiously"
Wilson snorted. "I think you may have just said something both nice and culturally aware"
"'A great miracle happened there'. Coming"
"No. Sorry, but it's Zos Hanukkah and I promised my parents that I'd go to services tonight"
House slowly stood up straight, and looked exaggerratedly from side to side, his eyes wide. Finally, he whispered slowly, "Do they have a network of spies, or just a tracking device"
Wilson sighed, and turned round to lean his back against the wall. "I promised them, House. I can't lie"
"It wouldn't be a lie. The L Word is like a synagogue service"
"How the hell is it like a synagogue service!" Wilson yelled, laughter cutting into indignation.
"Alright, it is absolutely nothing like a synagogue service. But I'm saying it is. Now what are you going to do"
"Report you to the Anti-Defamation League?" Wilson fired back, rubbing his damp hands together. House smiled, a genuine smile, but it faded fast. He knew that Wilson's mind was made up. Without another word he scraped his cane up off the wall and limped heavily towards the door. Wilson ran a tired finger down the side of his nose and watched him fade into the darkened hall.
"Doctor Cuddy?" said a voice which she knew to be Wilson's, yet sounded unusually uncertain. She looked up from her desk. "Doctor Wilson," she nodded, smiling, "Come in. Is there a problem"
She shifted aside a wodge of paperwork and watched him smile almost bashfully, and take a seat. He didn't waste time, just blurted out, "Can I leave early today"
She was amused, and a little intrigued, by the way he delivered the question, almost tripping over his tongue, stammering a tiny bit.
"Sure. You've done plenty of extra hours recently. Mind if I ask why"
"Uh...Hanukkah?" Wilson said. Cuddy looked at the small menorah on her shelf and then back at Wilson. "You've worked every Hanukkah since you've been here, except last year. Something changed?" she asked, gently. She didn't want to appear intrusive. Wilson shrugged.
"My mother want me to go to shul this year"
"Alone?" Cuddy raised her eyebrows, "That's not very sensitive of her. Sorry," she hastily added, "That really wasn't my place to say. Take the afternoon off; it's fine. Which synagogue"
"Beth Chaim. I haven't...been there since my divorce"
"Good luck. It'll be fine. I'd offer to go with you, but," she gestured to the pile of paper by her side. Wilson smiled understandingly, and got up. "Thank you," he said, moving to the door.
That wasn't so hard.
"Do you know that your initials spell 'Jew"
"Do you know that yours spell 'irritating moron?" Wilson answered, walking across his office to open the door and let House in from the balcony. "Huh?" House drawled, finger to his mouth, with an expression of deep confusion, "Something tells me that ain't right...Hey!" he cried in mock-realisation. Wilson sniggered, and watched House enter the room, his eyes on him like an overprotective mother. When House was in the room, valued items had to be guarded, food hidden, secrets locked away. House picked up a few things lying on Wilson's desk, a glass paperweight, a medical journal, a pair of scissors which House picked up, trying to fit his fingers into their reverse handle.
"Hey Wilson," he whined, "Your scissors are broken"
He's bored, Wilson thought. "They're left-handed, which you know"
"You people. Got your own scissors, own potato peelers. Next you'll want your own schools. Did you know that almost thirty percent of severely retarded people are left-handed? Makes you wonder..." he said, dropping the items back on the desk in careless order.
"Is there a point coming here, or are you just going to keep on with this? I just want to know if I should get a chair"
"Ha," said House tonelessly, dropping down into Wilson's vacant chair and tossing his cane lightly from hand to hand. Wilson began rearranging the desktop into an almost-obsessive order. House watched him intently for a few quiet seconds, then said, "You're ditching me for God"
"Yes well, it was a hard one; he's got eternal salvation, but you have television lesbians. Eventually, I decided he'd be better in the long run," Wilson replied, dryly. House sucked in his right cheek thoughtfully, seemingly perturbed by Wilson's lack of remorse.
"You," he said more emphatically, "are ditching your best friend for God," he adopted a weepy tone, "How do you think that makes me feel? You'd rather hang out with him than me"
"Well, given your overwhelming God complex, I'd say it didn't matter which one of you I chose to hang out with," Wilson said sharply, but without malice. He chewed a lip as he straightened a pile of forms on the corner of the desk. "Look, it's to keep my mother happy. Despite your fiendish machinations, someone with an unhealthy amount of exposure to you is still managing to do a nice thing for another human being. Accept it. Live with it. Go away." He tried to turn away, but House still remained. Wilson heaved a sigh, "Alright"
"Here comes the compromise," House said delightedly, leaning his chin on his cane handle and staring up towards Wilson. "I'll come over to your place afterwards. About half past seven"
"Glad you saw sense, Jimmy. Bring chips."
House left without any further comment, and Wilson thought he caught a satisfied smile on his face. Wilson loves me more than God. Of course he does, Wilson thought; you can't be agnostic about House.
When he looked at the clock on the wall and saw it was five off two o'clock, his heart sank a little. He would rather stay here, in his office, shut up with some relaxingly mountainous paperwork. He found the knowledge that the bottom of the mountain would never be reached oddly comforting. Instead, he predicted that in ten minutes Cuddy will walk casually past, looking in to see if he has gone. Slowly, he scooped up all the work he needed to take home with him into his arms and carried it across the room. He put it in a leather satchel which had cost him a week of House snorting and calling him Just William. The recollection made him smile. This was so not a big deal. He just had a nagging fear that the congregation would see through him, expose him as a shul-skipping phoney with a false agenda. He knew that he was an excellent secret-keeper but, when confronted, a lousy liar. What if (the notion was stupid, he realised that) someone said something to the tune of: 'Oh, Doctor Wilson. Did you enjoy that ham sandwich I saw you eating outside the library? Are you just here to make fun of us? Huh?'.
That's ridiculous, he snapped mentally. That definitely wouldn't happen. Go home.
Wilson stood in front of the hall mirror, looking dubiously at his reflection. The yarmulke nestled snugly over the sweep of brown hair. He squinted critically, shifted it further backwards slightly. He wanted it to look right; he treasured it from a secular viewpoint, as a gift from his mother. He adjusted it a final time, a nudge to the left. Then he half-nodded, and slipped it off, stowing it in his pocket. He had changed into a clean shirt and different tie (the one he had been wearing had inexplicable food stains on it). On the table under the mirror lay the bag containing the prayer shawl, and the smaller bag containing tefillin. He picked up this bag and shook out its contents. The two wood boxes fell into his hand, their leather straps unwinding down between his fingers. Uncertainly, he raised his hand and kissed the boxes softly. He didn't need to wear them tonight, but he wanted to see them again for a minute. He remembered.
Beth Am Temple, 1981. Jimmy's rabbi was giving him and some other neighbourhood kids of his age classes in preparation for their bar mitzvot. Rabbi Greenberg was a clever and decent, though not particularly comforting, tutor to his young charges. His no-nonsense approach hardly inspired Jimmy's confidence, especially when coming from a less religious family than most of his classmates made him feel awkward from the outset.
"This is the first line of the tefillin blessing"
The fifteen or sixteen boys sat cross-legged on the floor of the synagogue's study room, and watched the rabbi chalk up some Hebrew characters on the blackboard. Jimmy strained to decipher their meaning. The first word was 'ADONAI', but before he could get any further he heard his name being called.
"Wilson?" the rabbi hailed, "Franks? Would you mind coming up here? I need a couple of volunteers"
Jimmy hesitantly got to his feet and accompanied Gerald Franks, an acne-ridden, sullen boy with a vaguely moronic expression, to the front of the room.
"Right, Gerald," the rabbi said, lifting a set of tefillin from his desk, "I am going to demonstrate for the class how to lay tefillin.
To Jimmy, it went like a blur. From his position at the side, the Rabbi Greenberg body obscured the movements of his hands. The rabbi's back swayed a little, his lips poured a continuous stream of incomprehensibility, and when he stood back the boxes were strapped onto Franks' forehead and left arm. "Your turn, Jimmy"
Wilson lifted an obedient left arm. Rabbi Greenberg muttered some Hebrew and took hold of Jimmy's wrist, the leather tie ready. Then, he frowned at the pencil smudge of Jimmy's middle finger.
"It's...pencil, sir. Rabbi," Jimmy stammered.
"Are you left-handed"
"Yes, sir. Rabbi," he hastily corrected again, shutting his eyes to block out the sniggering of the louder kids.
"Then we use the other arm," the rabbi informed him, letting his left drop and seizing his right. Jimmy's eyes opened as the strap was wound around his arm rapidly seven times and became tighter. Then the pressure was on his brow, and more Hebrew was recited over him. And then - there he was. Jimmy Wilson - twelve year old, baseball fan, school Checkers champ, son, brother, nephew, friend - had been replaced by Jimmy Wilson, Jew.
He was relieved when the boxes were removed.
Wilson glanced down at his digital watch, the evening already dark enough for the numbers to be luminous. Five forty-five. Five minutes more walking to get there, with fifteen to go before services began. Plenty of time.
The foyer of the Beth Chaim synagogue had been revamped, Wilson noticed upon pushing open the door from the street. It was very modern now, no different from the lobby of an office building or a theatre. There was a big desk manned by two Receptionists at one end of the foyer, and the doors into the main building at the other. Kids ran around dressed in new clothes, squealing, while their parents chatted. Wilson sidled in, staying near the doors, feeling incredibly awkward, out of place and even resented, misinterpreting curious looks as guarded stares. This is what it's like to be House, he thought with a smile. Suddenly, the atmosphere seemed to lift. A middle-aged woman in brown was at his elbow.
"We haven't seen you before," she said. Wilson saw a man who must have been her husband standing a little way behind, looking vaguely discomfited at his wife's forwardness. He shrugged at Wilson and rolled his eyes. Wilson smothered a snicker.
"No, I don't come as often as..." he hesitated. It would be wrong to say 'as I should' when he wasn't even sure if he believed in a God. Luckily, the woman saved him from finishing.
"Who does?" she said, and laughed, "David and I were just saying how lonesome we'll be now the kids aren't in town, what with Hanukkah being about family. Come sit with us, will you"
"Sure," Wilson grinned, slipping the yarmulke out of his pocket and settling it on his head.
"Good. My name's Margo, and this is David," she said, leading Wilson to her husband, who held out a hand.
"Hey. David. Hope Margo didn't disrupt any seating plans you might have had"
"No, not at all. James," Wilson replied, shaking the offered hand. A general bustle swept across the foyer as the inner door was opened, revealing the main room. The crowd headed towards it amiably, the children still shrill and excitable. Wilson's face softened and his shoulders relaxed as he listened to their bubbling laughter.
On the way out, at the service's end, Wilson had slipped twenty dollars into the charity box by the door. It had been a good service; short, joyful and partly in English.
Out on the sidewalk, David and Margo invited him for a drink, but he declined. He had a hot date.
He walked with the couple to their car, exchanged goodbyes and headed onto the streets. It was oddly quiet in this area. He could hear roaring cars and sirens nearby, but the roads he walked seemed empty by comparison. The sky was almost purple, he observed, with streaks of red breaking in. Possibly a storm coming, Wilson thought, then chuckled as the first raindrop hit his tilted face. Yep, a storm coming. He turned up his coat collar and shuffled on, his shoes shushing on the steadily dampening concrete. He had given his only money to the charity box, so had to ignore the stationary bus just ahead. House's place was about ten minutes away from here. The rain began to get harder, and Wilson kept his eyes on the ground, watching feet pass on both sides, splashing up tiny droplets. Then he crossed, navigated a muddy alleyway and came out on a narrow backstreet. Here there were no moving cars, no pedestrians, just silent buildings tightly packed on each side. He was alone with the rain. And that's when he heard it.
His stomach clenched itself into a fist. The voice was low, and near; behind him. He had no idea where the speaker had appeared from, but he froze. Something stopped him from turning to face the voice. He stayed stock still, hoping that the voice would be content and leave.
"Kike," louder this time. Why? Oh, God. The yarmulke. Still on his head.
For the first time in twenty years, he was back. Jimmy Wilson, Jew.
He slowly wheeled around. The speaker was a tall, slim man with olive skin and jet-black eyes, dressed in a long beige coat. He didn't look like a Nazi, a redneck or a thug. He looked calm, normal, ordinary. Wilson stared, his throat suddenly barren and itching. A thin trickle of sweat abseiling rapidly down his back made him flinch. The man took a step towards him.
"Fucking Jew bastard"
Wilson somehow managed to pull his voice up from a his feet and throw it reluctantly into the night air. "Leave me alone," he said. It sounded pathetic, and he knew. It sounded more pathetic almost drowned out by the splashing of rain. He recalled the newspaper article a month or so ago about Anti-Semitism in New Jersey and almost smiled. Then, it had seemed distant - not an issue for him. Anti-Semitism was Hitler, Fagin and medieval woodcuttings of burning temples. The man laughed roughly, menacingly.
"What if I don't? Will you swing for me, you hooknosed fuck?" taking two more steps, until Wilson judged the distance between them to be five feet. Still enough space to run for it. The man seemed to read his thoughts.
"Gonna run, Jew?" he almost laughed. Then his tone dropped sharply, without warning, and he barked out, "Kike motherfucker!" and lunged.
Wilson stared stupidly, shocked, until the fist smashed into his nose, sending red waves of pain screeching across his eyes and rocketing into his brain. He gaped, staggered against the wet, grey wall, and his head lolled forward, the yarmulke falling off and into a puddle. Blood and rainwater hit the sidewalk below him in twin streams. The pain had barely dulled enough for him to try and plan an escape when he sensed the man coming at him again. He started to raise his head when the man's hands seized his shoulders and his knee powered into Wilson's chest. His head flung back against the wall as he screamed in pain. He couldn't breathe, he thought in terror. He was sinking to his knees without being able to help it, deprived of the oxygen needed to stay on his feet. The bones of his hands jarred as his palms hit the concrete ground. On all fours, he wheezed as the blood ran from his face onto the sidewalk. Oh God, a footstep coming closer again. Oh God, Yahweh, Adonai, HaShem, someone's got to be listening here. Make him stop, make him see he's done enough, make him...
The foot crunches against the top of Wilson's head, smashing him down flat on the ground., his face pressed against the cold wetness.
But he knows now. Wilson had just been taught that his attacker does not quit. Therefore, he finds the will and strength to roll onto his side and quickly push himself onto his feet.
The man was taking a short break to watch his victim sway on his feet, determined to stay upright. But as soon as Wilson steadied himself, and looked up at his assailant with shaky, blurred vision, he was ready again. He started for Wilson again. Even though sounds were merely roars now, and sight was a misted jamjar bottom, Wilson still managed to see the gleam in the approaching eyes. This guy was having fun. Wilson made his hands curl into fists and pulled back his right arm.
The attacker's mistake, Wilson thought, his big mistake, was not having attended bar mitzvah classes at the Beth Am Temple. If he had, maybe he would have seen this coming. Maybe he would have expected it. Instead, it came as a complete shock to him when Wilson quickly dropped his right arm, and threw out his left. The punch caught his attacker way off guard. His right arm had been drawn back, ready to drive another punch into Wilson's face, leaving his right side wide open. Wilson's fist cracked against the man's head between his temple and cheekbone. He dropped like a stone. Wilson stayed by the motionless figure for a moment. Just checking that he was breathing (he was) and if he was bleeding (he was). It wasn't until it occurred to him to leave before his attacker came round that Wilson realised he was crying.
The walk to House's was tough. His eyes and ears didn't seem to be working properly, although both improved as he walked on through the reviving rain. The blood from his nose didn't seem to be stopping, and every step he took seemed to echo in his pounding head. He couldn't go at more than a half-pace because of the tight agony of his chest.
It took him twenty minutes of lurching, of sobbing and of staggering, before he found himself at House's door. His arm slowly reached out and slapped the solid wood a few times.
"I thought we said seven o'clock," House called as he moved to answer the door, "You've missed all the good parts. They're just talking now," the lock rattled and clicked open, "You wouldn't even know they were lesbians if it wasn't for the fact they"
House stopped mid-sentence, and took in the sorry mess in the hall. Wilson smiled weakly, and House shuddered at the grotesque quality the blood lent his face. He wanted to do several things all at once. Instead, he surveyed Wilson with feigned casualness and said, "Did you...fight with God"
Wilson tried to say something, and instead merely moaned in pain. House put a firm hand on the back of Wilson's arm and walked him carefully across the living room and into the bathroom. With his cane, he flipped down the toilet seat and gently pushed Wilson down onto it. He grabbed the hand towel which hung on the back of the door, and turned on the hot water faucet in the sink. Softly, almost tenderly (but reassuringly not quite), House wiped away the blood from Wilson's face, wringing the towel under the hot water at intervals.
"I told you, you should have come here instead. I don't hit above the neck," he muttered, relief sneaking in as Wilson's face became more visible.
"It's not broken, is it?" Wilson croaked, "My nose"
"No," House said after a brief moment of squinting at it, "but from the amount of damage around it, it should be"
"What do you know, a Hanukkah miracle," Wilson murmured. House's shoulders suddenly shook with laughter, and Wilson felt his chest strain as he laughed helplessly. House handed him the towel, and Wilson pressed it to his face. "Am I going to get to hear the story? Or will I have to wait for hospital rumour mill to start cranking out theories"
Wilson hesitated. "I got attacked"
House nodded professorially, his voice mock-serious, "That does make sense, Doctor. Do you think this attack might have had a motive, or were you really asking for it"
"...Nothing," Wilson said. As soon as the words left his mouth, he had committed himself to another lie. "I don't know why. I was walking along Bleacher and this guy just came at me. He smacked me around while I was still wondering what the hell was going on and why it hurt so much. Eventually, I managed to get an arm in and knock him down"
House looked at Wilson for a long time before nodding. Not looking satisfied, Wilson couldn't help but think.
House had already identified the chest injury, of course, Wilson realised as he ran a hand over Wilson's ribs. "They're fine, no fractures. My, you're being spoiled," House said breezily, and they both began to snigger again. While Wilson was still grinning as best he could, House got him up on his feet and supported him back into the living room and onto the couch. When Wilson was lying down on it, House threw a blanket over him and went to make some coffee.
Wilson was asleep when he re-entered, his breath strained, his face swollen. So House sat in the other chair and drank two cups of coffee and thought. After both cups were empty, he grabbed his keys and left the apartment, shutting the door carefully behind him. On the sofa, Wilson grunted and shifted slightly at the sound, then returned to motionless slumber.
Wilson insisted on showing up at work the next morning. His face didn't look too bad, on the whole. The bruising around his nose was severe, and, as House pointed out, hilarious. It was a black and blue mass of swollen tissue. The stamp to the back on the head resulted in a large lump and a very nasty headache. His chest only bothered him when he tried to walk at human-speed. Everyone asked him what had happened. His answer was that he had slipped on the wet streets and smashed his face. Cuddy wondered suspiciously how that could have caused the unpleasant lump on the back of his head, but gave a subdued Wilson the benefit of the doubt. He just wanted to get on with his work and forget the whole thing, and she allowed him that much. House also seemed to allow him that much; not disturbing Wilson all day, keeping off his balcony and away from his office. At lunchtime, Wilson drove down to the police station and made a statement. He desperately wanted to forget the whole thing, but if someone else were to be attacked, he knew the blame would be with him. So he told the police the story. They hadn't caught the guy. Wilson had the feeling that they never would.
Before he left in the evening, Wilson had a well-known habit of visiting the children's cancer ward and talking a little with each patient. He usually set aside an hour or so to visit the thirty or so kids. Today, two of them were playing dreidel on a bed. Wilson watched them for a long time, thinking about playing as a child with his brothers. Both of them.
Every kid wanted to know what had happened to him. They all got the same story as everyone else in the hospital, and a few seemed just as suspicious as Cuddy. This disease made them think like adults so fast.
At eight o'clock, Wilson finally left the ward and headed down the hall to his office. He had to gather up his papers and get his coat, and then he could go home and phone his parents. Tell them what a good time he had had at shul, tell them he hoped that they had had a good Last Night too.
He opened the door and stepped inside. His eyes went to it immediately. On the middle of his desk, crumpled a little, worse for wear, lay the yarmulke. The water had made it a little out of shape and some of the stitching had come loose, but there it lay. He slowly walked to it, picked it up, turned it over incredulously, then put it carefully in his satchel, on top of his files.
Wilson climbed over the balcony's dividing wall, gravitating towards the light coming from House's office. He looked in at House, hunched over a medical journal at his desk, and tapped softly on the door. House used his left leg to propel his swivel chair backwards enough to reach the door and unlock it. Wilson stepped in, and House kept his eyes on the journal, not lifting even once to look at his friend. Wilson walked slowly to the door which led onto the hallway. He stopped as his hand came to rest on the door handle.
"What for?" House demanded, looking up from the journal. Wilson let out a short, laughing 'heh' sound through his nose, and nodded. He took out the yarmulke and held it up for House to see, playing along, letting House pretend that he didn't know what he was talking about.
"Oh that," House said, "Why do you assume it was me? I mean, you're the one who spent half his evening praying. And with this God complex who can tell anymore"
Wilson managed to hold back an outright laugh, and settled for a tightly-reined smile. "Right," he said, satisfied. "Merry Christmas, House"
"You coming over on Christmas Day?" House said, quickly, an irrepressible note of anxiety in his voice.
"Sure, Lord" Wilson said, "I'll bring a goat to sacrifice."