AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is a complete rewrite of something that's been around for quite awhile. I didn't like the way it turned out the first time, and so I changed it!
Thanks to Taru for the Native American input.
Thanks to Josh for the "Caper".
Thanks to Michelle for the goofy chapter about the final arrest …
And now I give you:
"House and Wilson Go Native"
- Chapter 1 –
"I Want to Show You Something"
Ahhh … crap! Here he comes again!
Tall, lanky Chief Diagnostician, Gregory House, heard the footfalls in the corridor before he saw the man's body stride into view. He sighed in exasperation and with effort, pulled back his right leg from where he'd had it extended beneath his computer station console. He straightened in his chair and pain radiated through the leg, causing him to hiss through his teeth. He pulled his mental defenses closer and wrapped them around himself like a cloak. He clicked his computer back into work-mode and away from his moving wallpaper of Beach Babes, pretending to be immersed in serious concentration. He quickly combed the discomfort from his face and punched the key that brought up a more appropriate image. The glass door clicked as James Wilson pushed it open and approached the desk.
House did not look up immediately, still struggling to refocus his mental position from pain to tolerance. He unfocused his eyes and let the image of the moppy headed oncologist coalesce like a favorite photograph imprinted in his mind. He envisioned James' expression ranging somewhere between curiosity and concern, his body leaning slightly forward, hands resting on hips. His fingers would be splayed in an understated forbearance that often made Gregg smile to himself, but which he would never allow to show on his face. Wilson did not speak immediately, but hung back for some reason, and finally the silence began to create a barrier between them. House looked up after an awkward interval, staring through his woolly eyebrows, the humor of triumph evident only within the shadowy depths of his eyes. Wilson melted, just as House knew he would.
"What the hell do you want now? Can't you see I'm busy?" House's expression went from benevolence to berating in a heartbeat.
"Busy?" Wilson responded patiently. "Busy doing what? Ogling Pamela Anderson? I saw you switch from Beach Babes to that Gray's Anatomy spinal column before I even walked in here." His posture shifted gradually to his right side as his left palm rose in a gesture of disdain.
House shrugged, not in the least impressed. "Purely research," he said without a pause. "Curvature of the spine can be tricky …"
"So can curvature of the brain, House, and you seem to be doubly afflicted with both today!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Gregg's tone was turning darker.
"It means …" The younger man moved a step closer, leaned on the glass top of the desk with both arms, and lowered his face to the same level as his friend's. "You need to get up and move around, House. I know you're hiding away in here in the hopes that nobody noticed! But guess what! I knew it the minute I saw you walk in this morning." Wilson straightened and folded both arms across his chest defiantly. "That's why this is the second time I came back over here."
House's attitude changed instantly. His chin dropped to his chest like a nerve suddenly severed. A sense of temporary defeat surged through him as he slumped forward. He'd never had to pretend with this man. Slowly, he released a tightly held breath, and part of the pain he'd tried to disguise, rushed back in.
Wilson saw his friend's face tighten with the resurgence of discomfort, and hurried around the desk to Gregg's side. He also noticed someone in the hallway pause momentarily to stare through the window. Quickly he knelt and raised a finger to gesture at the picture on the computer screen, making it appear that the two of them were deep into a consultation. His opposite hand moved closer to House's upper arm. He spoke in a professional manner, distracting him, bringing him back to solid reality. "There are people in the hallway, House. One of them saw you slump forward and they think you're in trouble. At least nod your head and make them go away …"
House's head moved slowly up and down. He seemed to be gathering himself from within. Beside him, Wilson watched the corridor from the corner of his eye, and gradually people drifted away again. Wilson got up and went over to close the vertical blinds at the entrance door. He returned to House's side and leaned down. Gregg had never been a "feel-good" kind of guy, and Wilson avoided touching him as his friend slowly regained composure. "So … would you care to enlighten me as to why you're in this sorry state this morning? Did the kids notice before you sent them into exile on the wards? Or were you hiding from them too?"
House sighed, blinking as though just realizing once again exactly where he was and what had been happening. "Thanks," he said, "for whatever it was you just did." He did not comment on either of Wilson's questions.
Wilson nodded. "Whatever you need," he said softly, "whenever you need it. You know that."
"Was that a … 'you're welcome' … in some other dialect?" The question was not quite snark.
Wilson started to smile, the look of his face in its relief, brightening the dark gleam that shone from his eyes. "Yeah, I guess so. Do you think you can walk okay?" He guessed he was not going to get a straight answer anytime soon from this most guarded of men.
"Don't know," House replied shortly. "I think so. Foreman and Cameron gave me a couple of funny looks before they left here, but I didn't give 'em any reason to hang around. Chase's head was in the clouds as usual. He wouldn't notice a trolley car if it crashed through the window."
Wilson smiled and waited patiently.
Presently, House continued.
"Something twisted last night when I got out of the shower. I knew it was going to be a pain in the ass when it happened, but nothing I could do. It was already too late. Stuff like this … just happens, Wilson … and it's always too late to do anything. It seems to be the nature of the beast." He scoffed angrily, indicating his leg, which was again stretched out before him. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the pill vial. "Gotta deal with it." He dumped a Vicodin into his palm and swallowed it dry.
"I know." Wilson's concession was nearly sub-vocal, and he wondered if he too was hiding from House's disability. He would give anything to alleviate the misery Gregg had had to deal with for the past God-knew-how-many years. His eyes burned suddenly, and he realized he had to change the subject before sympathy gave way to outward display.
Wilson walked across to where the strong mahogany cane leaned against the console that housed Gregg's stereo equipment. He picked it up and held it out where House could grasp it. House did so, then looked up, tight-lipped, afraid of what Wilson might expect from him, and perhaps also wondering what his own fierce pride could allow within the boundaries of concession or accommodation.
"Up with you!" Wilson said, placing both hands under House's elbows, asking no permission, but ready to lift him to his feet unless given strict orders not to. House gathered himself in silence, not questioning Wilson's touch, but pushed up to a shaky stance, hissing as the pain spiked again.
"Bastard hurts!" House bitched as he forced his leg to take what weight it could, and Wilson backed off and dropped his hands. Stubbornly House began to pace; hobbling at first, then stretching out gradually. "Let's get out of here," he grunted finally. "I need to walk it off." He headed for the door, his limp just above grotesque.
Wilson followed, matching his pace to the other man's, happy to remain at his side. "Let's get lunch," he suggested. "I want to show you something."
The Medical Professionals' cafeteria was on the second floor, and fortunately one of the elevators emptied directly across from it. Wilson and House rode it together, Gregg propped wearily against the back wall and James standing in such close proximity that their shoulders nearly touched. Normally, House would have bitched about that also, but today he was too sore to make a scene, and too grateful for Wilson's presence to do more than glare at his friend in mock defiance. For his part, Wilson watched Gregg with a mixture of amusement and concern.
When the elevator hummed to a stop, Wilson looked at House's pinched face. "When we get in there," he said, "you go get us a table. I'll get our lunches and drinks and bring them over."
House intensified the glare. "Still watchin' out for the cripple, huh?" he said quietly.
"I guess you could say that," came Wilson's calm reply, "unless you'd prefer that I just walk out of here and leave you stranded. Want to take bets on how long it will be until you drop where you stand?"
House saw it, understood how Wilson meant it, but hated it anyway. He planted the cane by his right foot and took a clumsy step forward. Wilson's right arm snaked out and steadied a bony shoulder. "Can you walk?"
House stiffened. "Yes! I'm crippled, not dead!" He pulled away stubbornly and moved forward with as little lameness as possible. His head jerked back fractionally in defiant triumph, but he did not dare turn any further lest his concentration waver.
Behind him, Wilson sighed in exasperation. "Like I said, go get us a table. I'll get lunch and join you."
House nodded dismissively and continued across the room. Curious and questioning eyes upon him made him angry and defiant. He arched his back and minimized the limp. He finally pulled out a chair and dropped onto it like a ton of bricks. By the time Wilson came to the table with their food, the worst of the pain had abated, but his appetite had all but vanished. He hung the cane on the back of his chair and extended his leg as far as it would reach. He popped a second Vicodin, and the pain lessened further.
Wilson watched closely as he set Gregg's hamburger, French fries, silverware and iced tea in front of him. "Suit you?"
House pulled a face, but nodded. "Yeah. Thanks."
"I'm fine. So what was it you wanted to show me?"
Wilson's eyes widened at the reminder. He had completely forgotten there was something he wanted House to see. House picked up his iced tea and took a drink. Crunched a French fry, waiting. Wilson reached into the pocket of his white lab coat, pulled out a large manila envelope folded into quarters. He plopped it on the table between them. "How'd you like a week's getaway to Arizona?"
House wasn't very easily surprised, so Wilson grinned at the way his eyes widened momentarily as he picked up the envelope, and then narrowed to slits and his nose wrinkled in disdain. "To where? Arizona? Arizona is a fly-over state. You 'fly over' it to get to someplace interesting! What's in Arizona? Better yet, what's in Arizona in August? "
"Medical conference," Wilson replied with a shrug. "At a hospital in the middle of a Navajo Indian Reservation! It's been organized by an old college friend who I haven't heard from in years … Dr. Sonny Tse. There'll be about a hundred other medics who were also invited. Sonny needs to expand the staff, figure out a way to scare up some much-needed funding. He's asked me to come give a keynote speech, toss some ideas around. I can invite whoever I want to come with me. So I'm asking you. You can breathe some dry desert air. Give your leg a vacation from New Jersey. C'mon, House! This will give you a chance to … get away … relax … change of scenery. What do you say?"
House glared, his face incredulous and filled with dark bluster. He dropped the envelope back onto the tabletop without opening it. "You gotta be kidding!" His voice was louder than he'd planned, inviting stares. "Arizona is full of mesquite, cactus, dust storms, tornadoes, little pebbles that'll probably toss me on my ass. My skin will be the color of red clay every day by sunset. The Arizona desert? … In August? You'd fry your shoe soles just by stepping outside the door. You want to melt your face off in that kind of sun? Be my guest. I am so not going! Not this poor old cripple! No way! Besides, Julie would be pissed off that you invited me instead of her!"
Wilson's face fell. "Julie doesn't give a damn where I go, or how long I stay, or who I'm with." He looked as though he would cry.
House was not buying it. "You're a doctor, not an actor, you know that? So you and Julie are at the end of the trail, huh?"
Wilson sighed. "Yeah … I guess it's pretty much over. And I'm not that bad an actor!" He tilted his head and looked up at Gregg House through the shaggy forelock that always draped over his eyebrows by midday. "It'll really be good for your leg …"
"Lots of smart people to talk to and keep you distracted from the pain …"
"You can sit in the air conditioning with your legs propped up and drink coffee …"
"I'll … let you drive the Avalon to the airport …"
Silence. Then: "That Avalon? That fancy tricked-out Avalon with the hand-accelerator and the hand-brake and the comfy leather seats and big Bose sound system?"
"Yeah. That Avalon! The one I had modified so you could drive it!"
They made plans to leave for Phoenix on the early afternoon flight the following Friday.
Wilson packed his cowboy boots.
House packed his ray-ban polarized sunglasses with the mirrored lenses …