Top of Form 1
TV Shows » House, M.D. » FORWARD IN REVERSE Part I
B s : A A A
Fiction Rated: M - English - Angst/Romance - Reviews: 23 - Published: 02-03-08 - Updated: 02-17-08
Bottom of Form 1
Forward In Reverse.
A story of being and time. (Not really a time travel thing. Not sure what the hell it is though).
Summary: Wilson's present and possible past and House's present and Wilson-altered past. An exploration of what is/was/could-be & could-have-been. Pre-slash, slash, humor, angst, character death - but not REALLY!
Pairing: Wilson/House/Younger House.
Rated: M, NC-17, Mature, Adult.
THIS ISN'T ABOUT MY CAR.
"What do you mean I need a new alternator?" Wilson didn't mean to snarl at his mechanic, but his luxury automobile was earning it's moniker once more by siphoning another wad of money from his checking account. "Mumbling Moses, Leslie - you just installed a new alternator six months ago."
Wilson listened to the defensive, tinny voice on his cellular and sighed. "Fine. Do it. I can't stand the damn buses." He continued to mutter to himself as he ended the call. The phone didn't even give him the satisfaction of closing on Leslie's ear with a stern "click". Pushing a green button the size of a Tic-Tac did nothing to soothe his insulted pocket book.
Wilson saw his Route Eleven coming up the street. The damn driver was early again and Wilson was still a whole parking lot away!! He jogged, his briefcase slapping against his thigh and this overcoat billowing out behind him like a toupe flag.
Wilson tried to ignore the other thing bugging him. That thing being a who. That who being a jerk. That jerk being an ass. That ass bearing a name. That name...Wilson felt fresh enamel grinding off his teeth in an expensive shower of fine shavings as he thought over Gregory House's sneering, dismissive comments that afternoon. Just a while back. Fifteen minutes ago actually...
"House, I need you to-"
"-Can't." House didn't even look up from his computer.
Wilson stopped short, sentence unfinished, X-Ray still in its envelope, needed consult un-mentioned, humorous bachelor banter un-shared. "Um.."
"Busy." House said in such a way as to mean Get the hell out.
Wilson stole a glance at the computer screen. A naked women was licking chocolate chip ice-cream off another woman's tanned belly. "Oh, yes. Sorry to have interrupted your...anatomy lesson." Wilson pulled out the X-Ray. "My patient..."
House switched off his computer screen, grabbed his cane and limp-marched into the empty conference room. Wilson, accustomed to House's abrupt exit's, kept up with him by an animal instinct he had not possessed in times Pre-Housian. Wilson himself was often surprised by his own adaptability to the changing moods of the furious and furtive Gregory Horribilis.
Wilson, patience tossing it's gentle lasso through the air, settled over House by the coffee machine. The pot was empty. House slammed it down and began a forage for possible foodstuffs in the lower cupboards. He came up with a box of very stale crackers and began to munch.
"Those are nearly a year old." Wilson told him.
House shoved three into his mouth and chewed with his mouth open, sending little crumbs spilling over Wilson's X-Ray, now divested of it's paper cover. "Very mature as usual." Wilson shook them off. "What's with you tonight?"
House finished the crackers, handed the box to Wilson, and marched back to his office.
Wilson dropped the empty in the trash. Forgetting about the consult for a minute, "House!"
Reaching his desk again, House did not sit down but turned duped eyes on Wilson. "YOU" A finger on the end of his long arm pointed accusingly, "volunteered me to Cuddy to assist her with a lecture on Diagnostics to a group of idiots!"
Wilson swallowed with a gurgle. Oh, right, THAT thing. "First of all, they may be rich but they're not idiots. They're a group of the wealthiest philanthropists in North America and they're coming here, in case you missed it, to hear YOU do what you do best: Tell everyone how smart you are but not in those exact words because for goodness sake, we wouldn't want them to think you had some kind of swollen ego."
"I,.." House leaned into Wilson, almost nose to nose, "do NOT give lectures. I hate standing. I hate lectures. I hate people. I hate you!"
"And second of all," Wilson continued, ignoring House's rude comments, "I never volunteered you. I suggested she might have a department head tour them a little, wine and dine them, perhaps explain to them some of the break-through's we make here. And, suggesting to Cuddy that YOU might want to assist would probably have got me fired. She made the choice."
"Well, she asked me."
"Then she's ill and I'd better give her a physical. Either that or she's lost her mind and has begun to think you're capable of being nice."
"If I WANT to be nice, I can be."
"I believe you, House. Hundreds of millions wouldn't, but I do."
"On the other hand if I DON'T want to be nice-"
"-You know, Cuddy may have a point. You shouldn't get to bow out anytime a situation might be uncomfortable because of your handicap. Being able to say "I'm a cripple." does not grant you license to ignore responsibilities or treat everyone around you like jerks."
"How about just the ones who are? I already gave a lecture."
"One. And that was three years ago. You talked about a farmer and his bad dog, claimed ownership of Carmen Electra and, oh, insulted the whole audience individually and as a group. You're skills as a public speaker are many and nefarious."
"Ever since Tritter, she uses threats to make me do things. She doesn't want a diagnostician, she wants an entertainer. To do tricks like a poodle - come see the handicapped Doctor."
Wilson had not considered that aspect. Of course House would feel on display. Stared at. He could almost hear the hushed whispers of the audience as they discussed what might have happened to their speaker's leg (those who didn't already know). What happened to him? Can he feel anything? Is the leg fake? Was it a car accident? I heard he was hit by a golf club. Do you think it hurts?
A crippled doctor was a rare spectacle. An anomaly. Something interesting to look at while their asses fell asleep. House was a legend, a mystery, a reclusive unknown. House was Different.
To House, lecturing was being on display. A humiliation.
House was still sputtering, "And..."
Wilson crossed his arms, staring at his friend with a little less anger as House wound down from his tirade. But the man was in a career field with certain responsibilities. The leg couldn't always absolve him of them. "And what House? Cuddy kept your ass out of jail. She saved you from destroying what you call your life." Wilson regretted the last few words and hoped House would bleep over them.
House grit his teeth. "And...my leg hurts." He eased his bones carefully down onto his padded chair.
Wilson studied him to see if it was real or a sympathy grab. House was sweating. It was real. "Look, House. I know your leg's been worse lately. Maybe we can adjust the med's, get an MRI, see what's going on inside..."
"In fact," He continued as though Wilson had not spoken a kind word, "she didn't ask me, she told me. Gave me no choice but to say yes. So never mind, you've helped enough." He turned back to the chocolate chip tongue on naked belly dance.
Wilson sighed, his energy drained. Typical of House, via yelling insults, to finally come around (using the longest possible route), to the real reason he was upset. The damn leg. Almost always the leg told what he could and could not do. It was master and commander.
It was the whip and chains.
And, even more typically, just when you heard House's words so painfully spoken from gritted teeth and saw his face so contorted from pain that you were finally stoked to the eyeballs in sympathy, he would hook his cane around your ankles and pull your willing, naive feet out from under you.
Wilson, spent from five minutes in the man's presence, the wind and the will knocked out of his body, hung his arms and backed off. "Fine. Screw it." He said more bitterly than he felt. House was acting like a huge jerk, but his leg was doing most of the talking. Wilson left the room, tossing him a cool "Maybe I'll see you tomorrow, House."
But on his way out the door, he stole a look back at House slumped in his chair, chin in hand, face a blank. Which was more disturbing than if he had appeared sad.
It was the lecture. Unless it was his fellowships laughing at his clever quips, the man hated an audience.
He was Cuddy's precious resource. House, the one-legged circus act.
Her performing monkey.
I FORGOT: I NEED A REASON TO GIVE A CRAP.
Outside, under the blue sky, Wilson scolded himself. Of course that's not how Cuddy really saw House. He was her best doctor but, Wilson figured, sometimes Cuddy couldn't help but flaunt her valuable resource. House was, if nothing else, a draw. Potential contributors, the Hospital's name in the paper. Maybe even her name somewhere in the same paragraph as House's. Not that she was a star-fucker or fame junkie, but she was the Administrator and as such needed all the leverage she could muster to keep Plainsborough front and center research-wise. And for that it had to be well funded. It was how she could have a top Oncology Department, a Diagnostics Department (the only one of its kind nation-wide), run by a genius with, not one or two, but four fellowships to assist. Plus a hand full of other specialty departments few hospitals could afford to front.
The damn lecture. He wished he hadn't suggested it at all. Cuddy was delighted at the idea and jumped right into organizing it, though Wilson knew House would probably never agree.
But the man had been doing so much better, lately, in the human department. House had been seen speaking to colleagues he really didn't know that well. Chatting with his fellowships without a case on the board. Without a specific reason. Without being insulting! Talking to patients, even talking to the patients during his clinic hours. To someone who didn't know House, such things would appear as usual. To those that knew House and his history, such a change, however subtle, was a huge leap.
But give a lecture was still more than House could endure. Maybe to a group of med students who were there for the information and the benefit of his experience. They'd stare at the leg and wonder, too, but they would know enough not to whisper or ask him anything about it for fear of being booted out. They knew the value of his legendary medical skills.
Not so a room full of rich, bored contributors. They had nothing to lose and Cuddy everything to gain by raising their substantial collective asses in the air so she could kiss them heartily.
Contributors wouldn't care a cling-on about the medicine or the methods House or anyone else used in any department at Plainsborough. What they wanted was to be entertained for an afternoon. To reach the end of the show and exchange backslaps with their peers about their mutual generosities and doesn't my conscience look nice on this sleeve? Oh, and that poor doctor with the limp. Though I hear he's a real prick.
They did not want to see the medicine but the medicine man. House had that reputation about him. He was the genius. The man who would figure it out when no one else could. A scientific sorcerer, the Shaman of diagnostics. That alone brought the curious out of the wormwood. It was the number one reason House had received over a hundred resume's for the three open spots on his team.
But to outsiders, House was perceived as even more than a Shaman. House was the cripple. The recluse. The unfathomable grouch. That sort of name drew out the morbidly curious.
They came to see not just the brilliant doctor but the reclusive, illusive, little known about, rumpled, be-grumpled, genius, crippled doctor who had his name in the paper and not always bathed in respectable light.
They loved hating him. Not as much as he hated them, but House was good gossip. House was news. He was the Princeton Grinch.
So they came. They came just the same.
For all her good intentions, Wilson didn't think Cuddy had considered the impact on House of what she had asked. The humiliation alone might undo all the social progress House had made. If Cuddy went through with the lecture, insisting House do it, he would comply. He would stand up there and do his job: be medically insightful and brilliant. And they'd stare at him delighted with pity. He would be degraded and hated all at once. House would become nothing in their week but a stimulating dose of What-a-crying-shame.
Because Wilson had come to learn that, if it was House, most people were short-sighted idiots who only looked and listened. Then, without knowing anything substantial about him, dismissed him as a cranky misanthropic jerk. Brilliant but a jerk. Few had ever taken the time to search pass the scowl and the cane.
Wilson pulled up just short of his bus stop. Maybe he should go back and talk to him. Not that House would apologize. As close to that goal as the man usually got without being tackled and hog-tied was to offer a beer or tell a joke.
Wilson had almost turned around when his bus pulled up. If he ran, he might make it. He'd call House later than evening. Wilson broke into a sprint.
Then he was on the ground, sprawled on his backside, hands scraped raw from a vain attempt to soften the fall. And his nose felt wet.
Wilson wiped at it with the back on his right hand. Blood smeared knuckles indicated his fall had not been without cause. Actually the bridge of his nose hurt like hell. Broken maybe.
A shadow above him caused him to look up, shielding his eyes from the bright sunshine to gain a better look, Wilson saw the cause had been an old man dressed in a heavy leather black coat that swept the ground, its worn hem dirty and tattered from in-numerable years doing just that. His face was framed by as lot of wild grey hair, uncombed for centuries. A thickly calloused hand reached down to him. "Sorry, young fella. You were running."
Wilson frowned. Was he being blamed for his own bloody nose? Wilson accepted the hand, however, and let himself be hefted to his feet. His briefcase lay nearby, gaping, it's many papers scattering to the breeze. "Damn!" Holding a tissue to his nose, Wilson scurried around, gathering up the wayward notes. He might still be able to catch his bus.
"You must slow down." The old guy commented.
Wilson nodded, dismissal written all over his face. He looked over at the bus stop in time to see the bus pulling away. "Dammit!! There goes my bus."
"The number eight?" Old guy asked, pointing with a massive arm. A laborer's arms. Farmer's maybe.
Wilson looked again. Indeed, it was the number Eight bus. Not his. "Guess I made a mistake." Wilson said. Lots of those today.
"Yes, Doctor." The old guy was staring at Wilson who shivered under the warm summer sun.
"Have we met? I'm pretty sure I don't know you." Wilson said.
The old farmer walked over. Stood close. Real close. "But wouldn't it be interesting if I knew YOU?"
Wilson thought it was maybe a come on, or the guy was just crazy. The puffy and lined grey eyes were fixed on him, unblinking.
Wilson did a mental double-take as the old man elaborated. "Consider how different you're life might be if you could go back. Alter what was and repair what is. Change the meant to be into the want to be; If you were a different you or I a younger me?"
Time to go. The guy was nuts. "Yeah. Well, next time I'm about to run into someone, I'll try and look back in time to swerve."
The farmer nodded and smiled. Wilson realised he was being humored and, annoyed now, stepped around the fellow.
Except the old man snatched at his right hand, holding it firmly between his own two. The guy had gorilla strength. Wilson could see the squeezed tips of his fingers go red and then white as the old guy spoke. "I don't believe," he said, "that he would be as contrary as you suppose."
Wilson stared, forgetting all about his crushed fingers. "Excuse me." It was half question-half request.
The man released his hand and pleasantly smiled before walking away.
Wilson walked to his bus bench and sat down with an explosive sigh. Wiped at his nose. The blood was clotting and it did not feel broken anymore.
BEAUTY OFTEN SEDUCES US ON THE ROAD TO TRUTH.
No bus came. Wilson looked at his watch. His nose felt wet again. Damn!
At the sink of Plainsborough's main floor public washroom, he wiped his nose clean and searched for the hand-dryer. He grabbed paper towels from the dispenser instead. Cuddy really had to get the painters in here - orange stalls and yellow paint? - retro ugly.
Walking across the park once more on the way to his bus stop, a group of runners passed him, ten or twelve young men, all in various states of perspiration. One brushed a little too close. Wilson could smell his sweat and swore he could hear the beat of his heart. Realized it was his own heart. He felt faint and found himself once again sitting on his ass, though this time it didn't hurt as much because at least it had come down on grass.
A jogger trailing the others saw and stopped to assist. "You okay, Doc'?"
Wilson looked up, having to shade his eyes from the light. A tall silhouette framed by bright sun looked down. "Huh?"
"Are you okay?"
The timber in the voice...reminded him of... a sweaty hand grabbed his and pulled him to his feet. "Uh, yeah, I think..." Wilson brushed off his pants and finally looked directly at his good Samaritan. Stared. Shook his eyes so the image would scatter and coalesce back into something less confusing."...so."
The other man nodded and turned to rejoin his companions. But Wilson was still holding his hand. It would not obey his order to let go.
"Wait." Wilson, sun to his right now and not as bright, so not interfering with vision. No photo sun-ghosts blocking out the features.
The younger man, trying to free his own hand and not succeeding, stared suspiciously. With clipped impatience, "Something wrong?" He asked.
Wilson gathered the shape of the face, the cheekbones, the clean jaw, the fresh skin...
The eyes. As blue as a glacier-fed lake. Younger, though. Newer. No lines to give away the age or the troubles. The hair, a little different.
His mind tried to sort the pieces out and put them together in some semblance of logic but it was no good. So, of course, he couldn't be...him. But, "Are you by any chance related to-?" Wilson started to ask but the other interrupted rudely.
"No relations here. No family. Only child and right now, a busy one. See ya'."
Wilson's hand caught up to his brain and let go of the other's. He watched his Samaritan jog away, long developed legs easily closing the distance to his running-mates.
There was a simple explanation. Occam's razor. House quoted it often.
Wilson dialed House's office and got a machine. He dialed House's cell and got...static. Damn lousy AT&T. That's was it, he was gonna' switch providers.
Hot and tired and his ass sore, Wilson snatched up his briefcase. Stared at his bus stop. A bus was coming from far down the street, he didn't know which. He looked back to the runners getting smaller and smaller, farther away every second. He sat on the bus bench. The bus pulled up but was not his route. Neither was the one directly following it. His timing was fine. There should have been a bus.
Wilson looked at his hand. Sniffed it. Not his sweat. Not him.
That Samaritan sure looked a lot like...
Wilson sensibly tried to stay put and wait for his bus, but could not convince himself to. He worried. Lots of people looked like other people, right? Wilson stood and paced. Looked like, yes. Looked the same? Not really. Wilson started walking.
Then he started running.
By the time he caught up to the group of joggers, he had sweated through his dress shirt and was soaked. His hair hung over his forehead and his eyes stung from the salty water. But he saw them. There they were.
And there he was. They had slowed to a walk and were filing through a side door into Plainsborough Hospital two at a time. The Samaritan was trailing behind, walking by himself. Wilson knew the door. It was one employees sometimes used to enter and exit Plainsborough when they wanted to access the park-grounds without having to trudge across the parking lot first. It was also where one of the two employee showers were located. A short stairwell led to the basement. Wilson was glad to step into the coolness. At the bottom, he turned right. This hallway lead to the men's showers.
By the time he reached them, the object of his impromptu surveillance had already stripped and was stepping into one of twelve shower stalls.
Same old ugly orange. He really had to suggest an color upgrade to Cuddy. Wilson waited patiently as the room filled with clouds of steam. The cool he had been enjoying gave way to hot and sticky and by the time the Samaritan turned off the water, Wilson felt like a skinless over-ripened banana covered in Saran wrap.
When his Samaritan stepped from the shower and reached for a hospital issue folded towel, Wilson got a front row view of the man's tanned, fit young body. After a few seconds of red-faced gawking, Wilson tore his eyes away and cleared his throat. "Listen, I-"
The Samaritan jumped like he'd been zapped and spun around. "JE-zus!" He quickly wrapped the towel around his waist.
He recognized Wilson from the park. The good Samaritan opened his outraged mouth and asked, "What the fuck do you want?!"
Wilson looked embarrassed, realizing the guy probably thought he was a deviant. Since he had enjoyed the naked view, he supposed that in a small way, he was.
"You followed me." Samaritan correctly guessed.
Wilson face was red. "Well, sort of. Uh, yes, I did but-"
"Not interested." Samaritan said succinctly.
"Wait a second." Wilson held up both palms in a "I come in peace" gesture. He suddenly had no idea what to say to the fellow. Because he had no idea why he had come. Because he had no idea what the fuck was going on.
"Wow, you really suck at this."
"What?" Wilson was confused now. More confused.
"Trying to score."
Wilson swallowed. It was a nice body. Very nice, but, "I'm not trying to pick you up."
"Sure." The samaritan agreed in a tone that was hell and gone from an agreement.
Wilson tried again. "I want to ask you something."
"Look, Doc'. I said I'm not interested. Now do I have to beat the crap out of you or do you want to leave now with a full set of teeth?"
Wilson stepped back. He had not considered - stupidly - that this might be among the possible consequences of stalking a man half his age into the showers; that the guy might not appreciate it. "I, I don't want anything from you, I'm just,...this was just an impulse. I want to ask you something. One question. Okay? That's all."
Samaritan stared and then shrugged. He grabbed a second towel and rubbed at his hair. "Fine. Ask."
To Wilson it appeared the guy wasn't really going to pay attention, because he started sorting through a locker looking for his clothes.
Wilson would be talking to the guy's back. At least he still had his teeth. He took a few seconds to decide which question to ask. To know if he was dreaming might be nice but he doubted this guy - even if he was a dream - would know. And if he did know, he might act true to form thus far and not tell him.
Am I dead? Wilson didn't want to give the fellow any ideas and immediately abandoned that one.
May I lick the water from your chest? As delightful as that sounded to him, he was convinced he'd be visiting an orthodontist within the hour, arranging emergency dental surgery.
Wilson finally settled for: "How did you know I'm a doctor?"
Samaritan turned to him. Looked at Wilson like he was nuts. "You followed me to the showers to ask me that? Plainsborough is a hospital. If you're not a doctor, I'd put money on mental patient."
Wilson knew that was no explanation. Not from ...whoever this guy was. "Come on."
"Fine, okay. This is a teaching hospital and you're too old to be a student. Students don't carry briefcases. I know you're not one of my professors and I've never seen you anywhere in the hospital before today. Those Arnold Churgin shoes tell me you've got more money than a nurse earns, so the only thing left is Doctor."
Wilson tested him out. He wasn't sure why that was important. "I could have just been a man walking through the grounds."
"On your way to where? Plainsborough is four blocks square. Nobody uses those bus stops unless they're a student or they work here. So if you are just some random..." Samaritan looked at him with emphasis, "...creep, then you're a perverted creep."
"I'm not a pervert."
"So we're back to insane then." Samaritan pulled a black T-shirt over his head. Wilson watched the flexing pecks and smooth abdomen with a pang of voyeuristic shame. It was a very nice chest and abdomen. A light dusting of soft brown hair began just below the nipples and thinned to a tempting trail below the towel.
Samaritan applied deodorant and tossed it into a black back-pack. "Doctor then. A queer doc' who follows male med students into the showers."
Wilson was shocked to silence when Samaritan let the towel drop. He watched Wilson, as Wilson got the full view of the country below the very nice chest and abdomen. Wilson blushed to the color of a sun ripened apple. Samaritan laughed, pleased with his work. He'd done it purposely, Wilson realised, and it had elicited the intended effect.
"Yeah, nothing perverted about YOU at all." Samaritan slipped into his jockey's and jeans, zipped up, tightened the leather belt and, without saying another word, gathered up his back-pack. He turned away.
Wilson suddenly felt panicky. "Where are you going?"
Samaritan spared him only an amused glance and disappeared into the hallway.
Wilson called after him, "Wait - what's your name?!"
Samaritan stuck his head back in long enough to answer. Maybe he was beginning to enjoy the game. "Gregory." He said and was gone.
All energy was magically sucked from his body and Wilson was forced to sit down heavily on the change room bench. "I was afraid you'd say that."
RUMOR IN THE CAFETERIA WAS CAUSTIC GUY WAS WAKING UP COMA GUY.
Wilson had spent the remainder of that day trying to reacquaint himself with Plainsborough and the world beyond. Only it was impossible because almost nothing was familiar. The buildings, yes, the sidewalks, the trees (not as stately as he remembered), the lay of the grounds. But not the things that fleshed out what was his personal world inside the packaging. The people, the names, the office spaces.
Of course he had immediately gone to his own office on his own floor and found another name on his door. Doctor Judith Hansley, Endocrinologist/Metabologist. A double threat doc'. Not a typo.
Of course he'd gone to the office next door. Stepped through the glass doors, the lights out by this time of night. The room's walls the same but lined with book shelves straining under dozens of heavy tomes. And the desk, not a slick modern computer friendly design, but a large wooden job where sat a very old desktop type computer. The screen had been left on, the green lettering glowing alien. But no green ball. No name on the double doors, just the words: Research/Records.
Wilson looked through the divider to the other, larger room. It was in near darkness but still it was obvious that there was no white-board with familiar writing on it, no coffee maker, no cracker boxes. He turned back to the office. The easy chair was absent. No cane was hooked over it's comfortable high back where he would rest, or catch a nap to, for a while, escape from the pain.
Wilson didn't bother looking for Cuddy or anyone else.
When he left he used the main doors. The cars were old; long, square. Wrong.
Ir was getting dark now which mean it was well passed eight o'clock. Wilson checked his wallet. Credit cards all there. Blank checks (dated 2008) with his home address, all correct. He had six hundred dollars in cash (thank god he'd had kept that much out of his pay deposit) but would he still have a bank account? Is the money usable? He had three one hundred dollar bills and ten twenties. He examined a twenty dollar bill under the nearest parking lot light. Nineteen-ninety-five. Not a single car on the lot appeared that new.
Wilson looked around, his mind desperately grasping at absent hope, but no one and nothing appeared out of the dark to help him. He panicked a little, breathing fast. Scared. Bit his lip. Panicked again. Because at that minute, he understood that he was fucked.
No bank would accept dollars with future print dates. He was pretty sure no bank machines existed...where ever, WHEN ever the hell he was. He returned to the bus stop because he had no idea what to do or where to go. Even if his condo building existed, someone else was undoubtedly enjoying his Jacuzzi tub and spacious living room.
Wilson sat and thought but drew a blank. A terrifying black sinkhole of a blank. His heart pounded and he felt faint, suddenly wanting to cry. Only he was too sick with fear.
Between the hospital and the students residences, a tiny neon sign shone feebly from two blocks away. An all night grocery store. Maybe...
He walked the two blocks with trepidation and, once reaching the door, hesitated, considering abandoning the whole idea. Except he had nothing to lose. If it didn't work, he could always just walk out. Or run.
He was glad to see the night cashier was a young woman in her early twenties. Her hair was died pink and black and she wore a short puffy, pink cotton one-piece that dwarfed her skinny legs. She looked to Wilson like cotton candy on a stick. Around her neck were half a dozen gold and silver chains that clinked whenever she moved.
He walked to a cooler and grabbed the first thing he saw, Crystal Pepsi. Whatever, he was thirsty. Placing the disgusting beverage on the counter, the bored clerk punched the required keys.
Indifferent to manners, "Eighty-nine cents." She announced, not caring in the least.
Wilson swallowed and placed one of the hundred dollar bills on the counter.
She looked annoyed. "Don't you have anything smaller?"
"No." He lied.
She opened her till and rummaged around for change, found it and slammed it shut. Not bothering to count it back to him, she thrust the money into his hand. "Have a nice evening." She said with an icy smile while wishing him injury.
Wilson searched for, and found, two other late night convenience stores. He managed to pass one of the other two hundred's and then called it quits before his luck changed. By the time he was finished, he had covered eight square blocks and his feet inside his expensive Arnold Churgins were killing him.
Recalling a seedy hotel/bar somewhere in his travels, he found enough energy to find his way back there and booked a room for the night. The price at the Roadway Inn, tucked away not far from the north end of Half Acre Road, was within his budget. Two stories. Thirty-nine dollars per night. Extra towels more. Wilson handed the cash over to the very old, very overweight pasty woman behind the counter. Clearly unhappy with her television watching having been interrupted, she went right back to Jaws II and he found his room on the second floor. He took the stairs.
There was no deadbolt and the chain was missing. Wilson jammed a chair up against the doorknob and hoped no one with criminal inclinations wandered by. The television remote didn't work and neither did the air conditioning. But at least there was a working shower, one complimentary packet of shampoo/conditioner and clean towels.
Wilson sat on the bed, listlessly waiting while fatigue and fear argued. He needed the rest but that meant morning would come all the sooner and what then?
WELL, AS LONG AS IT'S INTERESTING
Wilson awoke from a choking dream where he was trying to run through an atmosphere as thick as honey. Every step sucked at his limbs and dragged him back. Breathing was only possible with conscious desperation. He flailed at the gooey stuff as, just ahead, a hand and familiar face beckoned him to hurry. If he just hurried, if he just tried harder, he would get there, no problem. The face shook its head in mockery. Laughed the laugh of one expecting the failure. He called, "House. I ca...I can't move...help me."
The face vanished. his strength gave way and he was toppling over to drown in a ocean of honey. He was sinking into the black, knowing he was dying. Horrified and helpless and crazy with rage that he did not even know why...
Wilson sat up, wiping the sweat from his face. The room was baking hot. The morning was late. He found his watch where he'd tossed it onto the scuffed side table. Ten-twenty. The temperature outside would already be in the high seventies.
Sunlight poured through the shabby curtains and with it returned the knowledge and fear. Wilson felt like a man stripped of identity and bereft of his country. Just call me Bourne.
He showered, dressed back into his sweat stained shirt. At least it appeared almost clean as he had hung it up in the bathroom the night before while he showered, the steam taking out most of the wrinkles. He had then carefully folded it, laid it between the cushions of the room's sole padded chair. This morning, it looked passable.
He turned the lock on the door knob, pocketed the key and ate a greasy breakfast at a tiny diner a few blocks over. The food and bitter coffee helped him feel better physically, if nothing else. Now nursing his third cup of the murky fluid, he was devoid of purpose once more. Wilson wasn't sure how long he'd be able to hold himself together. He wasn't sure where to go, what to do. Who do you speak to about something like this? Where do you go for help? He didn't know. In a place where he knew no one and no one knew him, where he figured he wasn't suppose to even exist, he couldn't even guess. The only thing of which he was sure is that he was absolutely lost. He had no more ideas, and so no decisions. Not a single goddamn useful thought.
The only thing he could think to do, which was as useless as sitting in the hotel room, was return to the grounds of Princeton Plainsborough Hospital. At least the place looked familiar and felt something akin to home. He took his spot at the bus stop and stared at the ground. Though he had not smoked in fifteen years, he suddenly craved a cigarette. It was the stress.
The sun felt good on his back. A simple physical pleasure. A tease of something normal. It was one last taste of being real. A body and soul-caress; an after-life mint. Leaning over almost double, with elbows resting on boney knees, Wilson sank into such a frightened mental state that it held him like a drugged stupor. He stayed that way until all paralyzing thoughts left him, drifting away into the sunshine and the breeze. Until the sun's warmth no longer reached him and he was stone cold numb.
A hand thrust itself into the center of his vision, bumping him from the relatively calming state of hopelessness and back into the awful panic of completely screwed. The hand held an unlit cigarette under his nose. Wilson took it without even having to think about it, his hand working like an automaton.
Wilson put it in his mouth. The other hand struck a match and lit it for him. He sucked in the deadly gases and exhaled through his nose. A practice easily adopted again as though no years had gone by at all.
Wilson knew who the hand belonged to. A who from somewhere so ridiculous it may as well be another planet. Or in a different dimension or maybe just from inside a grain of undigested pasta he'd eaten for dinner once. The Who existed somewhere removed from him. Remote and unseen. Even if he acknowledged the Who, no one else would. No reason for them to believe him. He himself didn't believe it.
The Who body sat down beside him. Without looking up, Wilson knew. But that Who was just not possible. That young Who, that young arrogant, sarcastic, attractive, sexy, naked, dripping wet body Who with the just not-possible name.
Wilson heard the Who.
"Did you sleep here?" Who asked.
Wilson straightened up, posture suggesting that heart and hope were still bent double. He looked over. Gregory, puffing on his own smoke, looked back, then turned his eyes to the crowds of students, nurses, professors and doctors all filing past in one direction or the other. Wilson saw that Gregory Who was neither remote nor other-dimensional. He was sitting there looking as alive as he pleased, oblivious to the reality that he was just a figment inside Wilson's fucked-up circumstances, his voice possibly just a temporary bout of tinnitus.
Wilson managed to make his mouth work and answered the not there Who. "No."
Gregory nodded. "Hmn. Got any family?"
Wilson decided not to elaborate on the various drama's of the Wilson tribe. "Not here."
"Got a home?"
He sighed, tired already from the questions. "Not here."
"Got a girl? - Wait, I guess that one would be a no."
The drill was hollowing him out. "I don't really feel-"
Gregory Who - House - stood up. "Come on." He said.
Wilson was heart-free and spirit-lite. He stared up mutely. Stay here? Or go with the ghost creature with the impossible name? He guessed another pointless decision made no difference since he was already fucked.
Wilson stood, somewhat shakily. "Where are we going?"
Gregory started to walk, though just slow enough for Wilson to keep up. "You can buy me lunch."
"Here." Greg tossed him a white helmet.
Wilson, with a respectable measure of fear in his eyes, just stared at the 1970's Kawasaki. "We're taking that!?" He yelped. Just the thought of getting on the contraption was enough to snap him from his mental idle. "Is that thing even big enough for the two of us?"
Greg approached the motorbike and jumped on.
Wilson felt tickled inside, an actual jolt of pleasure in his chest (he'd begun to miss those) to see it. It was the whole, lightening fast, gracefully executed ballet of it. Greg didn't stop, take a second to balance himself, carefully lift his right leg over the seat and ease it into position. He didn't even just swing his right leg over like mounting a horse. No, he approached the bike and with the control of the naturally athletic leaped in the air, with both legs bent and together, straightening and spreading them at the last second, ending up comfortably straddled on the seat like he'd practiced the move every day until he'd got it perfect. Wilson imagined that, considering the fluid ease of the motion, he had been doing it this way a good while.
How Greg had managed to preserve his nads through all of it was admirable.
"It's a seven-fifty. Plenty big enough. Besides, we're not going far." He said and motioned with a flick of his head for Wilson to hop on.
Wilson did. Not athletically, but gingerly like it was a horse that might bolt. Or a maybe a nasty mule that might kick.
He had never in his life been on a motorcycle. "What do I hold on to?" He also had no idea, at first, where to put his feet until Greg lowered two small levers on either side of the bike just behind his own footrests. Wilson gingerly placed each foot in their proper positions. His patent leather shoe bottoms had no grip and his feet slid around on the smooth metal sticks. It seemed a precarious perch for riding a two wheeled organ donor.
Greg reached behind his own back, grabbed Wilson's ignorant hands, and pulled them around his own waist. Wilson felt a little less numb now. In fact, as Greg revved the engine and the bike lurched forward, Wilson's heart gathered speed as well. But he linked his fingers together and held on tight.
At a speed that made his eyes sting, Wilson hung on until his arms ached while Greg steered the bike through the streets with the skill of a veteran. Wilson could feel Greg's muscles under his fingers contract and tighten as he maneuvered the bike through some very heavy mid-day traffic. Occasionally, he passed so close to a car's bumper, Wilson could see the surprised looks of the backseat passengers.
Greg exchanged fingers with one or two of the extra annoyed drivers and once came close to cutting off a cop car but was self preserving enough to wave an apology to the frowning policeman.
"Not long" turned out to be fifteen minutes of sustained terror. Eyes shut against the inevitable, Wilson endured. Confident they would never survive, he eventually gave himself over to the thrill of the ride. What the hell? He was dead anyway.
Greg left the heavy traffic and started down some wider, more picturesque lanes. It was a poorer area but still offered its charms in older trees, even older houses and trimmed lawns. He pulled in behind one of the taller houses on the wide street and parked the bike by the tumbling down garage.
"I thought we were going for lunch?" Wilson asked as they climbed off.
"We are." Greg answered, ushering Wilson up the back outside stairs of the old fashioned three story house.
Greg's tiny apartment occupied the entire top floor, yet it only consisted of a single large room with a twin bed, a small fridge and sink, and a two burner hot plate. A toaster oven sat on the kitchen's postage stamp counter top. At one end of the room was the tiny bathroom with only a toilet and single shower. Wilson was fairly sure the bathroom had once been the room's only closet.
Evidently he was correct as Greg hung his coat on a coat rack. It was the kind a person might find in a clothing store, a single metal rod suspended between two three-legged metal stands. There was also a chest of drawers. A small, cheap looking acoustic guitar leaned against one corner of the room.
All in all, it appeared Gregory House lived pretty close to the bone.
Wilson could think of nothing but to say "Nice."
Greg shot him a look that called him a liar. He took up his guitar, sat on the edge of the unmade bed and did a very inspired variation of China Grove. Wilson seated himself on the room's only other seat, a padded green foot stool.
Greg thrust the guitar aside, leaving it on the bed. "Wanna beer?"
Wilson didn't but thought it would be rude to decline. He nodded.
While Greg fetched two Coors from his tiny fridge, Wilson asked, "Are you paying for your education yourself?" He knew House's (his House's) Dad had helped some, but he was curious as to how much help. House had never talked much about his dad and Wilson was suspect that there was some bad blood between them.
The fridge contained very little food. The place had one cupboard and, when Greg opened it to grab a box of Ritz crackers to have with their beer, all else he could see were a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, a handful of cutlery standing in a glass and a stack of plastic covered paper plates.
Greg handed Wilson a beer and set the cracker box on the floor between them. "Some." He said, answering Wilson's last question. Greg popped his beer can, tossing the tab on the room's lone window-sill. "I bar-tend on the weekends."
"Oh." Wilson's mind went back to his on-campus days. Money in his pocket, studies, Alpha Epsilon Pi, fraternity parties. A convertible. Girls.
Greg was watching him. "What's up with you?" He asked unexpectedly.
Wilson was caught off guard, though he understood Greg's meaning. How to answer? What to say? The truth was he didn't know, but he didn't think his new friend would accept such a not-really-an-answer answer. If the shit hadn't actually been happening, he wouldn't buy it either.
A half-lie seemed the safest option. Wilson drank his beer, the room suddenly feeling hot and close. "Have you ever,...in your life, one day turned a corner and suddenly you have no idea who the hell you are?"
Greg didn't answer. Just watched him with those beautifully intense eyes that were, Wilson felt, peering directly into his soul.
Wilson tried to elaborate without sounding maudlin. "I,...something happened to me,...something bad. Something terrible and I...left home. I left everything behind. Friends, family, job, life,...everything." It was, in a certain sense of the spirit, true.
"What happened?" Greg's voice was surprisingly gentle.
Wilson looked at him, determined not to let his eyes water. "Someone very close to me died." Himself of course. This had to be death but, looking at his companion, he supposed it wasn't such a raw deal. "The next thing I knew, I was here, a long way from home - if it's even still there. I have nothing,...there's nothing for me here. Not a shirt on my back, not a penny to my knee." And I can't go back home this-a-way.
"You can't go back?"
Wilson looked into the remains of his beer and, in that instant, he wanted to look up and see the House he knew. He wanted that so badly it hurt. A hard, heavy ache that had teeth.
The younger Gregory he was only starting to know was still watching him, waiting for him to speak.
Very, very quietly, "I don't think so." Wilson said.
I'M IN CHARGE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP.
Greg pulled up to the Rodeway Inn. Wilson climbed off with a heart made of lead. Greg took the helmet from him and put it on, tightening the strap.
"Thanks for lunch." Wilson said.
Like the previous night, like after breakfast and after (though not during) the hour talking with Greg and drinking his beer in his tiny third floor apartment, Wilson felt hopeless again. Scared. Because, although Greg mumbled a standard reply, he didn't so much as wave goodbye as he did a U-turn in the street and drove the motorbike away down the road. Wilson watched until the bike turned a corner and the whine of it's engine faded. It was probably the last time he would ever see...any House, anywhere. Greg had not mentioned a future beer. No talk of a get-together of any kind.
He returned to his dingy hotel room. It was more expensively furnished (which wasn't a compliment) in comparison to Greg's place, but it was empty, stale and cheerless. Greg's place had warmth, a light salting of personality, beer, talk, music and
Wilson stared mechanically at the television for most of the afternoon. A stupefying parade of soap operas, talk and game shows played across the smoke stained screen. It passed the time and filled up hours of fear. But it left him with a lonely evening in the fading light of existence. He felt that, when the sun finally tucked itself away behind the earth, he would disappear too.
Despite that, he death-marched his way to the front desk and paid for another night. The old woman was slumped in her Lazy-Boy, blue slippered feet up. She told him to put the cash on the counter.
Wilson bought a coffee and a bag of barbecue potato chips from the vending machine. The coffee was brownish dish water but hot at least. He returned to his room to drink and eat - practically a bonafide human.
When he finally slept, he slept the disturbing slumber of the condemned.
He would have to get a job.
When by the beginning of his third day in...where ever the fuck he was, it dawned on him that maybe he wasn't dead. He might very well be insane or still dreaming. but those hunger pangs and blistered feet felt real enough. The sharp pain from the pin he stuck in his arm hurt as expected - if he were real.
So perhaps he was. It was a pointless debate because he felt, tasted, got tired and missed Greg House as though he were real, so even if he was un-real, he'd need money to keep his un-real self from ending up as an un-real street un-person. And that was so fucked up he couldn't think about it.
Without the proper credentials as proof, getting a job as a doctor was out. So do what? He hadn't needed to work at all during college and medical school. He tried to think back to his part-time jobs as a teenager. There wasn't much. He'd helped his dad in his small department store sometimes, pricing and putting things away on the shelves. He'd had a paper-route when he was twelve for about a week until he went out with a cold in the pouring rain to deliver and ended up with pneumonia. They hired another boy.
His odd job resume couldn't compete with a fortune cookie, and he had no way to prove he even knew how to cook. But it might be worth trying to get a job as short order cook in a small restaurant somewhere. The revolving doors to that glamorous life ensured owners often hired people on the spot. I.D.? Immigration papers? Stop teasing me.
Greg had mentioned he bar tended. Wilson flipped through the yellow pages and wrote down the addresses of all the likely bars near Plainsborough or somewhere between there and Greg's apartment. There were five likely's. Wilson called three of them before he heard a yes as to whether they had a bar tended named Greg who worked weekends.
He's a friend and he said you might be hiring. Are you? Are you hiring cooks?
We might be. Can you come and see me in an hour?
It was Wednesday and Wilson walked the eleven blocks to introduce himself to the night manager.
Do you know how to make Yorkshire puddings?
It's part time. Weekends only.
Can you start Friday night?
Come at six.
From oncologist to a drunk's best friend. Plus tips.
To be continued...
Return to Top