Title: Where the Rails Converge
Author: Boonadducious, a.k.a. Ashley
Pairing: House/Wilson Friendship. No slash
Rating: PG-13; for a little bad language
Warnings: This is based on DIY Sheep's The Contract and the subsequent spin-offs from other authors. Yeah, 'nuff said. If you haven't read that yet, go do it! Spectacular!
Word Count: 4,500
Summery: At times, we all wonder if the journeys we are traveling will mean anything, or if they will just be like pursuing where the railroad tracks converge.
Disclaimer: Don't own them. Never have. Just borrowing. I'll try not to break them.
A/N: Okay, this is my second try at a House fanfic (first here at LJ), and lo and behold, I write one from the Contractverse. I figured it would be a good way to establish myself. This story takes place a little bit after Exigencies, so this is further in the future then some of the other C-verse fics. Thanks for all those who corrected my mistakes. I will get a beta for the next story, I promise. Please continue to give feedback. Comments are my anti-drug.
When Gregory House had gotten several feet from the wrought-iron gates of the Princeton Cemetery, he stopped, realizing this had been his first time he had truly been alone outside in months. His mobility had greatly improved as of late and he was finally back to using his cane almost like before, so he was not surprised when Wilson honored his request to make this visit alone, at least with his friend waiting out by the car.
It had been a year and a half since his release from prison and three months since he had returned to work, and things seemed to be looking up, at least from the outside. Inside, House still felt like a mess. Among other things, he was conscious about what everyone thought about him, and he was paranoid about every foreign thing that came into his wake. He knew a grown man should not act like this, but then again, most grown men had not gone through five years of life-altering torture.
He hoped what he was about to do would bring some peace to his weary soul. He had been wracking his brain for months trying to find the cure of the fear he had inside of him, but this was the only solution he came up with. He hoped this did not end up backfiring on him later.
As he was still, working up the courage to go further, he began to take in his surroundings. He had been here a few times to visit the grave of Allison Cameron, but he was always being led around by Wilson and he never got the change to look at how gorgeous this place really was, at least for a cemetery. It was one of the coldest days they have had all year and there was a thick blanket of snow covering the ground. The sweet sounds of birds were absent, and the lush green that normally accompanied the tall trees had disappeared. It was simply replaced with black and brown bark; wooden fingers that stretched to the sky, as if begging the Lord for their green covering to return.
"It's cold," House whispered, acting out what he thought the trees were saying (that is if they could speak).
"Come back," he continued in a longing voice. "I need you. I'm…exposed."
House always felt embarrassed when he did this, but it was one of many habits he could not, or would not, shake. For years, he had managed to keep his imagination at bay; at least, until seven years ago. When he was being constantly tortured, cursed at and threatened, all he wanted was an escape. His once dead fantasy life was one method he used to escape the torturous reality for a little while
After he was finally released, it became very difficult to turn off the imagination he had come to depend on. He even retreated into it completely for a brief period of time. However, he knew he had to return to the world of the living, for Wilson's sake and for his own.
After snapping back into reality, he began to trudge through the snow toward his destination, leaving three deep lines in his wake. Since this had been the first time he had walked through snow in years, House decided to adopt an old habit in order not to exert himself. He ended up shuffling his feet through, never taking strides of more than a few inches. This action was not as effective as he would have liked, but he simply continued on anyway. A voice from his subconscious seemed to be telling him the shackles would hurt more if you stretched them too far.
Soon, he could see it, the point he had been yearning for. Wilson would kill him if he found out he strayed his original course to come here, but for the moment, he did not care. He had to see this for himself. He was becoming exhausted, but the large marker was in sight. Even though the fact that it was so large disgusted him, he was glad the size made it so easy to see.
After what seemed like hours of walking, he was there, only about ten feet away, staring into the carved words that read:
Beloved Husband and Father
House's gut twisted inside him, not just from the name before him, but from the memorial's appearance. It was only a couple inches shorter than him and was about a yard wide. It had a rectangular shape with intricate floral designs carved into the outskirts. There were no flowers at the base, and the small brass vase attached to the side of the stone only held one long-dead rose, but the sheer magnitude of the thing was enough to convince House that someone certainly cared about this man; some stupid poor someone.
The overcast sky still allowed the sun to shine slightly, and the shadow from the obscenely large tombstone seemed to envelope House's entire body, further lowering his body temperature. He huddled within himself further as he shuffled a little closer, slowly allowing memories to come back to him.
The first, obviously, was his voice. Every memory of his torture was now tainted with that voice, even though he only heard it at the very end. The way he told him of his reasons for making House's life a living hell were…stupid. That was the only word for them. House had treated his daughter, and she died under his watch. Was that the doctor's fault? No. It was not anybody's fault. People died, sometimes far too young. That is the way life works. House remembered the moment when he heard his reasons. His heart had sank. He was going through all this hell, essentially, for nothing. Even worse, he did not even know this man.
When House first saw Thompson, he did not remember him or his daughter at all. Only after he was released and he had plenty of time to think did it finally come to him, and only in the past few days did the memories become more vivid. He wondered why he ever forgot him, because the man's behavior had initially horrified him, even making it past the thick shields he placed between him and his patients' lives.
He was initially forced to take Emily Thompson's case because her family was a huge source of donor money to the hospital, but after she became sicker, the case became a top priority to him. She ended up having undiagnosed Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, along with a severe case of an unknown strain of pneumonia. Because of her condition, she had numerous infections in her lifetime and was put on a number of antibiotics. So many that the body was resisting any broad-spectrum anti-biotic they gave her. A bone marrow transplant could have saved her, but the no one in the immediate family were sufficient matches and the case of pneumonia was impossible to diagnose due to the difficulty of getting a medical history from the parents.
Actually, it was not both of the parents that were the problem. The only person in the way of the correct diagnosis was the father, the man House had come to know as Thompson. Even then, House was disturbed by his demeanor. He seemed to scare his wife, daughter, and son into submission, and he did not make his attitude a secret. Most abusive parents did not make a point of showing their violent tendencies to the world, but this man did. Sure, he never did anything physical with anyone while in the hospital, and there was no evidence of any harm done while outside, but House knew full well that you did not need to use fists to inflict harm.
Both Foreman and Chase would do anything to avoid talking to him. Cameron seemed to be the only one with enough gutsto stand up to Mr. Thompson and his stubborn ways. It was really the only time House and his only female employee had stood shoulder to shoulder to face an issue. In a way, it was kind of nice, but House being House knew how his well-oiled machine worked, and soon reverted their relationship back to usual.
"That's why you killed her, even though I did what you asked" House mumbled, fighting back the tears at Cameron's memory. "She was one of the few who wouldn't put up with your self-righteous crap."
House's gloved hand tightened the grip on his cane as his more recent memories of Thompson returned to him. The first time he saw the face of his attacker, he was dressed like a priest, and seemed like the most harmless man in the world. At least, until House looked into his eyes. Words could not explain the feeling House got when he gazed into the dark blue eyes of Robert Thompson. They were empty, but the same way a room full of smoke was empty. There was pain, yes, but there was also darkness, and hatred, and the fire of violence. However, it was only giving the illusion of fullness. There was no substance in those desires, and yet he continued to fill the chasm with them in hopes they would someday be enough. In the life of Gregory House, there had never been a time when he truly believed in evil. He always just thought the worst part of human nature came from pure animalism, but never the kind of evil that involved Satan and hell. If that absolute existed, then there would have to be other absolutes, which meant there was an order, which meant we weren't accidents, which meant that…this life really was some kind of test. In that moment in the cold cell with the man he had grown to hate, House seriously began to wonder about his assumptions.
"I knew right away who you were," House said to the stone, a little louder this time. "Those eyes…while I was treating your daughter, you reminded me of my father. Now I see…" House was finding it more difficult to keep back the tears now. He rarely cried about his experiences, at least since he had been out of catatonia, but now he was finding it very hard to keep it all in. "Then I saw…you were barely even human."
A tear finally escaped and slid down House's icy cheek. He was beginning to feel his chest tighten and his breath begin to hitch, but he could not cry. Not here. Not in front of…him. If Thompson saw him crying, he would think he won, and House could not handle that. To distract himself, he whipped the gloves off his hands and threw them onto the ground before shuffling closer to the grave.
"You said you were punishing me for killing your daughter, but you were the one that killed her," House said as he took his cane and gripped both hands around it, holding it in a defensive stance. "SCID is an inherited disease. It was your dirty genes that gave it to her. Also, you were probably too busy with all your garden parties and charities that you didn't even notice how sick your daughter was always getting." House's urge to cry was slowly turning into anger; deep and wild anger. Anger that had been pent up for a very long time by fear, a factor that was becoming increasingly irrelevant.
"You also knew all of your cutting words and bad attitude made her worry herself sick, further compromising her immune system. Yet another reason this was your fault. Who knows, you probably were blaming yourself the whole time, and the only way to live with yourself would be to hurt me. Maybe you were lying about all that crap about me being punished! Maybe you just needed a sacrificial lamb!" House noticed now that he was yelling, which was very difficult for him considering the cold and his compromised voice, but he did not even give that a second thought. "Or maybe…maybe you're just an evil, demonic mother fucking bastard!"
As soon as he yelled the last word, he swung his cane as hard as his frail arms would allow and struck the gravestone right where the name was etched. The impact was surprisingly strong, causing the cane to snap in half, only a thin shred of wood holding it together. That did not stop House, though. He simply ripped the two pieces apart and continued to deliver blow after blow to carved rock. Whenever the cane broke again, he just used the leftover pieces to continue hitting.
"I hope it was worth it, you son of a bitch!" he shouted as pieces of splintered wood flew into his face and onto his clothes. "I'd hate to think you ruined my life for nothing!"
As soon as the cane was in a state he could no longer use, he threw what was left of it aside and used clenched fists to punch the stone. Over and over; ignoring the pain in his arms and the stinging in his fists. He had enough anger to last this a very long while.
House ignored it when he heard his name, even though he knew there was only one person who it could be. He knew he would be upset, but he could not stop. He had to keep going.
"House!" he heard again, it was closer now, and much harder to ignore, and soon it was accompanied by a strong pair of arms being thrown around his torso.
"House! Stop it! Please, stop!"
"No! NO!" House shouted as the arms dragged him out of arm's reach of his enemy. He finally noticed how much his hands stung as the cold finally reached them, and it was made worse by him flailing his arms. But he still could not stop. Not yet. It still was not good enough.
"House, that's enough! He's dead! It won't do any good!"
"Let me go, Wilson!" House shouted, flailing even more now and trying to wriggle out of his friend's grasp. It was fruitless, since he was still far weaker than Wilson, but he had to try. He had to do this.
"No! No, House!" Wilson shouted, tears now tainting his voice. "You're killing yourself! You're letting him win! Look at your hands!"
Yeah, look at my hands, House wanted to say. "Why can't you understand?!" was what actually came out, but seconds after he uttered it, he did get a glimpse of his hands. They were covered in blood, scratched up by the rough stone they had been subjected to. House looked forward and saw that there was also red splattered over the word BELOVED on the tombstone, and a few drops had also made it to the white ground beneath.
This site finally allowed House to allow his heart to calm down and his adrenaline output to taper off. Unfortunately, once this happened, the exhaustion from what he had just done finally hit him. House ended up collapsing on the snowy ground, taking a still attached Wilson with him, and finally let his emotions turn back from anger to tears.
Wilson's protective grip quickly morphed into one of love and comfort as he let his friend's tears soak into his heavy coat. House's bare and bloody hands were gripping the coat's outer layer for dear life as Wilson buried his face into icy hair.
"It's okay, buddy," he whispered. "It's okay."
House continued on sobbing for several minutes, all while the wind began to die down and the cold became much less bitter. Still, Wilson was concerned House did not notice how cold he was getting. Without disturbing his friend, he reached over and grabbed the now wet gloves off of the nearby ground and stuck them under his arm to warm them up again. By now, House had begun to calm down and turned his head to look at the tombstone. Wilson did not mind that as much as the trembling coming from the other man's lips.
"I…thought you were going to see Cameron," Wilson said as he took House's hands in his and slipped the gloves back on.
"I was," House huffed softly through clogged sinuses. "But I changed my mind. I-I had to see for myself."
"Why?" Wilson said, broken hearted over the pained look on his friend's face. "Why torture yourself?"
House answered the question with silence. He simply continued to stare at the intricate memorial and the shattered pieces of wood that lay by its base.
"You know how they buried Hitler?" House finally said after a few more minutes of silence.
"No," Wilson sighed, allowing his friend to hold onto his coat a little tighter after the gloves were finally on.
"The Allies found his body in a bunker and threw it in a shell crater. They then set fire to it."
Wilson furrowed his brows as his saw House give a small smirk at the relevant historical reference.
"Eventually the Russians got a hold of what was left and displayed the skull in their WWII museum, before throwing the rest of his ashes in a river."
"Wow," Wilson replied. "Seems appropriate."
"It was too good for him," House uttered, almost inaudibly.
Wilson could not decide if he was talking about Hitler or Thompson. It was just like House - at least the new post-prison House - to come up with stories or tangents in order to cover up statements that he might see as too revealing of his inner feelings.
"Amen," Wilson said, squeezing House's bony shoulder.
The pair sat there for a few more minutes, letting their body heat melt the snow underneath them and let the moisture absorb into their clothing. They were both becoming physically uncomfortable in their current position, but House could not bring himself to look away from the site and Wilson did not have the heart to disturb him. The older man almost felt that if he tore his gaze away from the stone, Thompson would somehow emerge from behind it and make his life a nightmare again.
"Do you believe in hell?" House asked, still not turning to face his friend.
Wilson was a little taken aback by the question, but not to the point of surprise. He was expecting to have some kind of deep spiritual conversation with House in the near future. He always noticed how his patients who had survived cancer seemed to become more interested in spiritual things. House had been to hell and back, which should have elicited a similar reaction, but so far he had seemed to have the same outlook as before (not that he blamed House). In a way, looking into the beyond was a good sign. A greater purpose for what we go through always helps, even if we do not agree with that purpose.
Wilson sighed before saying, "I didn't used to, now I'm not so sure."
"I certainly wouldn't want to be in heaven with…" Wilson gave a small motion toward the stone in front of them but hesitated before saying, "…Hitler, and I seriously doubt I would be in a just universe."
"The universe isn't just," House said softly. Even though he might not be sure about his view on absolutes anymore, that particular sentiment had not changed. To remind himself of this, House took a glove off of his right hand and held it in front of him. He curled his gnarled fingers into a claw-like shape, allowing the pain from the action to flow from his wrist through his upper arm. "How can it be?" He allowed his fingers to make a few more movements, emphasizing how damaged they had become.
Wilson sighed once again, and allowed House's heavy head to rest on the soft cushion of his chest.
"He's dead, isn't he?" Wilson finally said optimistically. "That's justice right there."
House did not respond. Wilson knew it was always bad news when House was silent, so he knew he needed to break it himself.
"Do you know why I believe in hell now?"
House remained silent, but Wilson took it as a no.
"When you witness…pure evil…all of your beliefs about moral relativism and the absence of truth melt away, and you change how you see things. My grandmother told me how it happened to her after the Holocaust, and I didn't understand it until…now."
While still silent, House finally tucked the gnarled hand underneath his armpit. He knew all of this already, but hearing it from Wilson seemed to confirm it was not just him and maybe there was some truth to his feelings from before.
"When I first saw you after you were released…I saw how evil mankind could be…and I knew I couldn't deny its existence anymore. However, in that same moment, I also knew Good existed."
"How?" House croaked, a bit confused.
"Because you were allowed to escape. You were allowed to come back to me, and I was allowed to help you come back to your life."
Wilson let out a smoky breath as he felt House nod. He was clearly too tired to talk about this anymore, but this was not the last of this conversation. Wilson realized for the first time since he came here that he himself had not taken his eyes off of Thompson's tombstone either. He did not correct this, however. The site of the memorial somehow made Wilson more at ease then he had been in months.
"I didn't used to believe in hell, either," House finally sighed.
"And now?" Wilson sighed back.
"And now I hope with all my might it's real."
Wilson nodded and gave his friend a reassuring rub on the back before letting him go and pushing himself to his feet.
"C'mon," Wilson said. "Let's go home. Clarence is making chicken alfredo."
"Okay, I'll be right there."
"Are you sure? It's getting pretty cold and…well, you broke your cane."
House rubbed a hand over his face, a little embarrassed that he forgot that small detail. He then looked up at Wilson, prompting him to reach his arms out and help the other man to his feet. It took a few seconds longer than it usually did when Wilson helped him walk, mostly because of the snow, but they eventually found a comfortable equilibrium.
"I have to go one more place," House said, finally taking his eyes off the grave and sticking his hand into his pocket. Wilson was curious when he held a small, folded piece of paper with a pink hue between his fingers.
"May I ask where?"
"Emily Thompson's grave," House said reluctantly and motioning his head toward the direction he knew it was in.
Nodding, Wilson allowed House to begin his labored walk. Together they trudged toward the equally large memorial and when they finally reached it, House broke away from Wilson and, with great difficulty, shuffled forward until he was only a foot or two away from it. He held out his hand and let the note go, allowing it to flutter toward the foot of the stone. He stood still for a few more seconds before motioning for Wilson to come and get him.
"What did you say to her?" Wilson asked as they got back into their joint stance.
"That's between me and her," House said as they began to walk toward the car.
"How long have you had that note?"
"A few weeks. I actually wanted to go here a long time ago, but I always…his grave was too close to hers."
"What changed now?"
House was silent again. Too many questions, probably. At least, that's what Wilson told himself.
"Do you want your glove back?" Wilson asked once they were halfway across the cemetery.
"Nah," House replied. "It's wet. It will only make it worse."
Wilson smiled and nodded, sensing a calm in House's voice that he had not heard in a very long time, even before Thompson came into their lives.
However, House was not really calm. He was still just as burdened as he ever had been. Sure, he felt a little better, but punching a stone could only do so much. In the end, it would only destroy your hands and make you even more frustrated. His little action did that along with destroying his favorite cane and further damaging his hands. He had now been through all of the physical motions that he thought would help him find some kind of closure, but the journey felt like an idiot's trip on the railroad tracks. He would try and reach the point where the rails converged, but they never did. They just kept going. Maybe that was what he was doing now. Maybe this road to recovery was just a journey toward where those rails met. Maybe he was wasting his time in going back to work and trying to get his life back. Maybe Thompson had already won.
"What's the best way to humiliate the devil?" House asked Wilson when they were almost to the graveyard's iron gates.
"Show him he's lost," Wilson sighed, knowing exactly what his friend was thinking.
"What if that's impossible?"
Wilson gulped and said, "It's not, you just have to live your life, recover, love your friends, honor Allison's memory, do your job, and most of all, don't give up.
As cliché as that phrase was, that seemed to be all House needed to hear. It was mysterious, and it made no sense whatsoever, but it did the trick. Don't give up. Interesting. He had not been giving up. He had been fighting like hell to get his life back. Was that really all it took? Even if he failed…this was against everything he was brought up with, but it felt right. It was almost as if Allison and Emily had created their own tag team and were trying to whisper that into House's ear that Wilson was right. No way, it could not be that easy. He just assaulted a rock and made his body go backward in recovery and it still had less of an effect than three little words from Wilson? Jeeze. The universe is not just unjust, it's strange.
"I won't," House said, allowing a smile to form on his lips.
Wilson gave a large smile back to him by the time they reached the car. Wilson helped the other man in and dropped the spare glove on his lap before closing the door and trotting over to his own side.
"You wanna get a pizza and watch a movie tonight?" House said once Wilson's seatbelt was buckled.
Wilson was a little taken aback at the request, since it had been years since he had heard it, but he gave a happy nod and agreed.
"Okay. You're buying."
As Wilson started the car and heard that familiar statement, he began to laugh. It was all he could do to keep from crying tears of joy.
Okay, one more thing. I got a comment that said they were wondering why they are not bandaging House's hands. I did write a section about that, but I had to cut it because I didn't want to make this story too lengthy. Besides, I figured they would just deal with it when they got home with no need for a lengthy conversation. I'm sure those two are used to these kind of injuries by now. :)