RETROSPECT

Part I

By GeeLady

Summary: A last case, a last breath, a last redemption. Wilson looks back and sets things right. (This is not a House's Head/Wilson's Heart related fic', it's something else altogether). Set POST Season 5 or 6 or 7 (or whatever number proves to be the final season).

!WARNING! Primary character death - that means, yes, Gregory House! But please try it out anyway. **I know this setting has been done a great deal on TV and in movies - Amadeus, Fried Green Tomatoes, Interview with a Vampire and others - but a cool plot idea came to me and I just have to try it!

Pairing: H/W slash (kinda') & House/other slash (not kinda' and not nice).

Rating: Mature. NC-17. Adult! Language, drug addictions, rape, illness, hurt/comfort. This is a SAD story. Again, I warn you - PRIMARY CHARACTER DEATH.

*This story is also inspired by: Not With a Bang But With a Whimper by DIY Sheep (a must read!)

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Have no fear

for when I'm alone

I'll be better off

that i was before

I'll take this soul

that's inside me now

who i was before

i cannot recall

long nights allow

me to feel I'm falling

i am falling

the lights go out

let me feel I'm falling

i am falling

safely to the ground.

Eddie Vedder

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The place smelled like all such places did - musty. Old people smell: A535, mashed potatoes and green beans every meal, stained sheets and grown-up diapers sitting in urine too long.

These were the places where the still young and vibrant stashed their parents and grandparents to await their deaths and so fill the place with the smell of that too.

Maria McLellan followed the direction she had been given at the front desk by the volunteer receptionist and quickly found her way to the elevators, the fourth floor (where the very old or sick were stored), and room number Nine.

This is where her project of the week was. Her assignment was to interview, write the article and, she hoped, move onto more interesting human interest stories.

The man in the wheelchair who watched her enter the room appeared startled for a moment. He was very old. At least ninety, almost bald and what hair was left, a fringe around the back of his head and tuft atop it, was snow white. It stood erect like wisps of dead grass on a grey and pitted landscape.

The eyes were old eyes that held her own for a moment. Where hers were soft green and yet in no need of glasses, his were wide, dark eyes frosted over with cataracts that she wondered if he could see through anymore. The bushy eyebrows were white too and met almost in the middle, stray unruly individual hairs rubbed this way and that, too long gone from a mirror.

But at ninety, it hardly mattered whether he was well groomed or not.

To him, though, it did. "I wish they told me you were coming today. I'd have combed my hair at least." In his gravely voice, he sounded genuinely poo-pooed about it.

Maria sat in a pink chair worn with many nurses bottoms and looked over her afternoon project. From the fine bone structure to the expressive eyes and wide-set mouth, lips thinned to a near invisible line, she thought he had at one time been a very handsome man.

"You're a pretty one." He remarked, checking her once over.

Maria, red hair flowing to her shoulders and slim figure hidden in a neat black pantsuit, thanked him. "You're Mister Wilson?"

"Doctor Wilson."

"Sorry."

"Eh." He waved away her mistake with a trembling hand. "I haven't doctored anyone for many years. Call me James."

"All right James." She took out her recording device and notepad. Some journalists almost never took pen notes anymore, but she liked to. Getting some of the words down in her own hand made them more personal to her. It helped her become involved with the individual in a small way. It was somehow more meaningful than a distant, recorded voice. "Is it okay if I record this?"

He nodded amicably. "Sure. Whatever you like."

Maria knew almost everything ever written on this particular project. Local story long dead, long ago. No one younger than sixty even knew or cared about it she supposed. But it had piqued her interest because of the controversy surrounding it. The thing that had been lacking in all those old newspaper articles and court transcripts she had read, had been the human element. For this to be real to her, and so to her readers, it had to become real in her mind. And for that she needed to know about the people involved. She needed to see them aside from what the words said.

This man was the last one alive from those days. And, to her luck, the one she had hoped was still kicking.

"You knew Gregory House?" Never ask Yes or No questions. Ask questions that invite them to open up and spill.

"I did." He nodded thoughtfully. "I sure did."

"And, you were there through it all?"

"Of course I was. That's why you're here today, isn't it?"

She smiled. "Yes, but there's so much we don't know about . . . what happened. And about him - I've read that-"

"-Do you have a friend sweetie?"

She tried to mold her patience to his abruptness. "Sure. A few friends."

He dismissed her answer with a huff. "I'm not talking about bar buddies, co-workers or girl's night out at Club Big Dick. I mean, do you have a friend?" He leaned forward just a little, his manner so intense. He wanted a truthful answer.

"I mean a soul-mate?" He said. "Another human being that without them in your life, makes you less than half you were. I mean a person who fills everything in you that feels hollow. I'm talking a friend in a billion. Your other self, your counterpart, the one who makes you more real? The one who brings the spark of life to you?"

Maria answered truthfully. "No. I've never really had the time."

""Never . . . the . . . time.". . . " He repeated her words one by one like they were a foreign tongue. Incomprehensible.

"Well, make the time, Sweetie."

"Can we get back to Doctor House?"

"I am! What do you think I've been talking about?" His anger vanished as quickly as it had appeared. "Ever saw a diamond?"

Maria decided to play along. It was going to be a long afternoon. "Of course."

"Yeah, but only set in gold and sparkling under a glass counter. Nothing you can touch. Nothing that belongs to you. Right? But have you ever seen one close up, right up to your eyeball, like under a microscope? Even an uncut diamond, still in the rough?" He didn't wait for her to answer. "At first glance, seems like a big damn mess. Under a microscope, nothing but flaws in the crystal, discolorations, cracks, hollows, even carbon bits that tell you the thing hadn't stayed long enough in the earth. Needed more cooking."

The old doctor James leaned back in his chair and his eyes turned from her to another place where she did not exist. He saw back into the past, to a time and place beyond the room, the pretty girl and his own death looming in the doorway.

"But then draw back your eye and look at that same diamond under normal light, with your own senses and your belief in what's good, and those flaws disappear like they weren't ever there in the first place. And you realize," He stretched his palm out to her as though he were displaying the thing itself, "that you hold in your hand one of the most enduring, most wonderful things in this earth and it belongs to you. A diamond - a blue one! A blue diamond, and you can't ever imagine what sights you valued prior to seeing it. Everything else is artificial and dull by comparison. Your life is changed." He settled back in his wheelchair again, as though the monologue had wearied him.

" . . . That was my friend." His eyes softened and his voice fell, rolling over with tenderness. "That was Greg House."

Maria leaned forward, scribbling a word or two and making sure her recorder was working properly on the little table between them. "What happened to him?"

Doctor Wilson drew in a big breath and let it out as though gathering all thoughts and emotions in one place to sort them into an order and form she could understand.

"There was so much . . . " He began. "I guess I oughta' start with his final case. That awful time is rooted with it. Awful time." James looked around as though something was missing from the room. His eye caught it. "Hand me that, will ya?"

Maria's eye followed his pointing finger to a large green ball resting on a shelf and she retrieved it for him.

He took it carefully, held it, turning it like a trophy or an heirloom. "This was Greg's. He was a hell of an athlete before the infarction wrecked his leg - you know about that?" He looked at her and when she nodded her affirmation he continued.

"Guess you would. It was mentioned over and over in the damn papers like all he was was the bloody infarction. Like all he ever could be was a cripple."

"Or a drug addict?" She suggested, having read much about that as well.

"So the hell what?!" He snapped at her. "So the hell what he was an addict? That had nothing to do with what happened to him."

Maria was taken aback by that. As far as she had read, it had everything to do with it. "But the court transcripts . . ."

"Court-shmort! Lawyers are liars, young woman. Courts and trials are nothing but circuses to obscure the real events and make you believe that what's done is best for justice. Goddamn, I wish I'd had the eyes to see what was being done to my friend. The groove that was being carved for him to be thrown in and dragged along. I could have stopped it, maybe changed it, if I'd just looked a bit harder. Seen passed selfish pride and fear. I'd give everything that came later to go back and do that."

"Do what? He was found guilty."

"Only he wasn't."

Maria leaned in, her curiosity about this man House whom she had never known rising above her irritation at the old man's slowness.

"Greg House didn't kill that kid, honey. We did."

And then the tiniest words, shaken apart with memory, "And then we killed him."

XXX

"House. Take the case!" Cuddy had not made it a request and thrust the thick file under Greg House's nose. His blue eyes rolling heavenward, he reluctantly accepted the folder. "How many nephews can one Dean have anyway?" He remarked and left her office.

"Just this one." She answered before the door shut.

-

-

House pushed the conference room door open with his cane and tossed the thick file on the table, letting the papers fan out across half its length. "Jason. Cuddy's nephew. Spoilt brat. Leukemic patient. He presented at three other hospitals with pain, swelling of the joints, stiffness and rash."

His underlings four faces and eight hands tried to gather the notes together and place them back in order.

"Check for childhood arthritis and screen for RH. Do a full blood panel, metal toxicity, common household poisons, infections, and see if the kid is having nightmares or unwelcome wrestling matches with the neighborhood bullies."

Kutner, his thick brows rising above friendly brown eyes, asked, "Why?"

"'Cause there's a new game in town when it comes to pummeling the less statuesque. It's called "Crushing". Kids hold another kid down and squeeze his knee joints until they're too swollen and stiff for him to walk. Ah, the Internet. What would schoolyard meatheads do without it?"

Foreman. "Cuddy's nephew huh? The kid's been sick with leukemia for," Foreman read the chart, "three years and you want us to start poking around in his already ravaged body. Aren't you worried we might blow it?"

House poured a cup of coffee. "Nope. I'm not worried I'll blow it. And if you blow it, I'm in the clear."

Cameron and Chase exchanged looks. She turned to look back at House over her shoulder. "Joint swelling is common for cancer patients. The treatment causes strong immune reactions. So you must already suspect something else." Cameron had been back working with House for just under a year. Emergency had wrung her dry and being back in Diagnostics was actually restful by comparison. Moreover working again under House was every bit as interesting as it had ever been. So was House.

"Probably virus. He's got Diarrhea so maybe an exotic one. This kid's parents have been all over the place with this kid." House said, sipping his coffee. Ever since Kutner had perfected his coffee mix, House forbade anyone else from brewing a pot as long as Kutner was somewhere in the hospital.

Kutner was pleased that he could please House. It was such a rare accomplishment. "Breakbone fever?" He wondered.

"Dunno'" House answered. "Go check out his bones."

His four underlings vacated the room and House took his coffee to his office, desiring a few tunes and moments of peace. His leg had other ideas and at the last minute he turned on his heel and headed for Wilson's office.

Wilson was in the middle of putting on his coat.

"Where're you going?" House asked as he entered and sat down in the chair opposite Wilson's very neat and clean desk.

"Thought I'd go out for lunch today."

"Alone?" Wife number four was away on a tropical holiday with her sister. Wilson didn't seem worried that they had not wanted him along.

"Sure. Unless you wan to-?"

"Absolutely." House thrust a small orange vial out to his friend and prescriber. "Right after a fill-up."

Wilson sighed, walked to his desk, dug his prescription pad out of his top drawer and scribbled out the usual.

House was given a good close up view of his friends' dark hair. "I believe you're finally getting some grey."

Wilson ripped off the 'script and handed it to House. "Knowledge that my best friend's liver soon is going to announce "That's it, Buddy - Sayonara!" will do that to his prescribing doctor."

"My liver and I have an understanding. If I die, he dies!"

Wilson frowned. He hated House's never-may-care attitude toward his own health. He hated it even more when the man spoke of his own death so casually. House at fifty-one was ten years his senior and had been popping Vicodin for nearly fifteen years. Often with whisky chasers on and off duty. House's dying was something he didn't like to think about too much.

"Where're we going for lunch?"

"Mario's."

"Lasagna and garlic toast. Special occasion?"

Wilson smiled at him, indulging himself in House's youth-like enthusiasm. Some things about the man would never change. He hoped. "None at all."

After a very good lunch, they returned to the hospital and finished their shifts with their respective patients. Wilson with his nine he had scheduled for that afternoon, and House with his one.

-

-

The second differential was underway. "Our leukemia kid developed his watery Diarrhea three days ago. Usual treatments ineffective."

Foreman read from the patients file. "Chemo' from two years ago was eighty percent effective. Leukemia returned. Blood transfusions every four days . . . " He looked up at House. "Why do we have this case again? Shouldn't this be sitting on Wilsons desk?"

House stared at the white board. "It should be but it isn't." He said.

"You stole it from Wilson?" Cameron asked.

"It's not stealing if he never knew about it to begin with. I convinced Cuddy to give it to me. Wilson is an innocent."

Foreman clarified House's information for the rest of the team. "Cuddy made him take it."

"No." House said. "Cuddy thinks she made me take it. I'm stockpiling favors for later."

Cameron dived in. "Allergy to food. Scratch test."

"Done. Negative."

"Sensitivity to certain foods." Taub offered. "Dairy, wheat, fish, citrus, beef . . .?"

"All common sensitivities. None that apply here." House turned around to face them. "This kid's been to three hospitals and four different specialists who tested the boring stuff already. That's why he's here now. So read the damn file before every one of you suggests things that have already been ruled out."

"He's been here half a day." Chase said.

"But you've been here five years. Now I've just told you to disregard the obvious boring crap. If it was obvious, the kid would be treated and at home playing with his Wii or maybe a gaming system. Here - maybe this'll help." House turned to the white board and wrote out a new symptom - "GAS".

"He's burping a lot?" Kutner asked.

"No. He's got gas. Just started yesterday."

"Bloating in the intestines could be an allergy." Foreman said then, when he saw House's face, added "It might be an allergy to an added ingredient in his diet. I'm assuming he's on a macrobiotic diet?"

House looked at the board. "Finally! An idea. Yes, he's on the physical, spiritual and planetary health cancer diet. I know there's something wrong in that idea. Oh yeah! It's idiotic."

Chase did a quick run down for those in the room perhaps not in the know. Chase had found out his dad, Rowan, had been on the diet for some time before dying of stage four lung cancer. "Whole grains, rice, heavy on the vegetables . . . all gas inducing."

"And not to mention but I will." House added. "Macrobiotic diets are top heavy for soy products which several world Cancer Councils think is bad for cancer patients. But what do a bunch of world renowned researchers know anyway?"

"He's been off all of that since being hospitalized here. Liquids only."

"And he still has bloating. Interesting, hmmmm?" House looked at them. He knew he probably didn't have to tell them what tests to run next but he voiced them regardless. "The kid's treatments have circled the continent at least once this year. Make sure he doesn't have Traveler's Diarrhea, and even though he's a kid and not a middle aged woman, check for Collagenous Colitis. Cut into the mucosa and get me a sample of the of protein collagen from the second epithelial layer."

-

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-

-

-

"New case?" Wilson asked as House joined him in the hospital cafeteria. Wilson was seated at a table by the window. Long beams of yellow sun warmed their bodies.

"Yup. Cuddy insisted."

"The leukemia kid?"

House stopped chewing his ham sandwich.

Wilson caught the look. "Thieves tales travel fast." He cut into his chicken patty. "It's probably a secondary infection or even a reaction from the transfusions. The more he has, the more likely that is. You know that Mister "Taint My Veins and See What Happens"."

"It's not an infection. No fever. In fact, his temperature is below average."

"If he just had a transfusion, that also is a common reaction."

"He hadn't had a transfusion in the four days before he was here and I've suspended them since then."

Wilson chewed. The chicken was luke warm and the gravy was over salted. "That's not a good idea, House."

"Regularly introducing foreign bodies into his system while we still don't know what's wrong with him could cloud the tests and delay a diagnosis."

"Those foreign bodies are screened, sterilized and harmless. Other than the fact that they keep him alive. You can't diagnose a dead kid. He has gas."

House dropped his sandwich and picked at his cole slaw. "It's more than gas. There's no reason for his body to be producing it. He hasn't eaten real food for nearly a week."

"How are his B.M's?"

House raised his eyebrows at Wilson's code talk. "It is okay to say bowel movement. We are doctors and this is a hospital."

"There are people eating in here."

"Most of them are doctors too. Some are even nurses and believe me, shit is one thing nurses know a lot about."

Wilson pushed his plate away. "Why must our conversations turn to bodily functions only when I'm eating?"

"I like to be consistent." House snatched Wilson's abandoned chicken. "And I'm hungry."

"If you need help with this kid, my door is open." Wilson gathered his tray. "And you owe me a lunch."

-

-

House returned to his conference room to find a member of his team back already. Using the black marker Kutner had added something to the white board. He was now drawing a line through "COLLAGENOUS COLITIS" and "PROTEIN MARKER".

House snatched the stylus from his hand. "If I've told you kids once, I've told you a thousand times - no one touches the marker or the board but daddy! Now you've set a bad example for the other children." But House read the word Kutner had added.

""TYPHLITIS"." House nodded. "Rare leukemic transfusion complication. The kid hasn't had any transfusions for nearly a week but still . . .could be delay due to restricted nutrients, even his low temp'. Typically it would present with fever."

"But his temperature has been low since he arrived." Kutner suggested. "He might simply have a naturally low set body temperature . . ."

"If we check it now and find it elevated - within normal - then for him he has a fever." House nodded. "Do a culture for C. difficile. If it's positive, pop in a new nasogastric tube and start him on metronidazole. Go."

XXX

"That was the turning point in the case."

Maria watched the old doctor's eyes turn inward as he recalled the tiny details that the papers never mentioned. Tight, hard "bleeding" news is what the papers liked to print. Things that sold. Sad stories were only printed if they happened to widows & orphans, lost kittens or wounded soldiers home from a war. Famous doctors turned sour received no leniency.

Old Doctor Wilson stared passed her, melancholic with images still crowding so much of his memory. "That's when everything began to go wrong."

XXX

Wilson encouraged wife number four - Ginger - to invite House for dinner.

The two had never mixed company for more than fifteen minutes as six months previous Wilson and Ginger had flown to Las Vegas for a one, two wedding and a three, four honeymoon. During the flight home, Wilson had phoned House with the nuptial news.

"Ginger? Ginger?? You expect me to believe that's her real name?"

Wilson assured him it was and that she was very sweet and crazy about him.

"Am I supposed to guess whether that feeling is mutual?"

"Don't be jealous, House. You know you're the only cantankerous, drug-addicted jerk for me."

"Congratulations are in order. Also, I just faxed your name and number to a very good divorce lawyer. He'll be calling you in a year or so."

"Hilarious. We'll be landing in thirty minutes. Shall I call a cab or are you going to resemble a friend and pick us up? You can make it our wedding gift."

"I'll be there."

Ginger turned out to be five-foot-nothing of tongue curling saccharine and House had barely made it home with his Wilson friendship intact.

Ginger had not been so accommodating to her husbands friend since that night. "He's "disabled" all right!" had been her summation of House.

"House is lonely. He's a pain but he's my best friend. And he's got a big case right now. I just want him to have a nice evening with people instead or porn for a change."

Ginger ran delicate fingers through her auburn dyed hair and adjusted a bright orange evening dress that was much too tight for her ample hips. An ill-suffering sigh, "Fa-hine." She stuck a finger in the center of his chest, making him wince. "But if he makes so much as one joke about my height, he's gone."

Ginger wasn't sweet and kind when House was on her mind, Wilson mused. Strung tighter than a fiddle was more like it.

Wilson answered the door. House had put on a fresh shirt and one of his nicer jackets. He was trying at least.

Wilson saw the bottle in his left hand. "And you brought wine!" Wilson stood back. "Are you sure you have the correct address, Stranger?"

House shoved passed Wilson's smart-ass grin. "Get out of the w-a-a-y."

Dinner went unexpectedly well. House didn't refrain from jokes about Ginger's height or backside but he was cooperative enough not to say them when she was in the room.

House sipped his third glass of dark grape.

"How was the roast?" Ginger asked the men.

House, glancing at Ginger's retreating back end, said over the table to Wilson. "The rump roast was just fine." And when Ginger had disappeared into the kitchen. "And the roasted cow-ass wasn't too bad either."

Wilson almost choked on his own drink. "House!" He whispered fiercely but had to stifle his own chuckle. She really did have a substantial ass for such a tiny person. But did she ever use it well in the sack.

"I've never met someone who was fifty-five percent backside before." House continued, ignoring Wilson's warning to shut-up. Ginger would probably appear any second. "God's ass bin must have been cleaned out."

Wilson toppled forward on the table, laughing himself silly and mostly because he'd exceeded House's alcohol consumption by nearly two times. "Which ass bin?" Wilson managed to choke out. "The extra-large or the "holy shit!"?"

House nearly fell off his chair. The wine was doing its assigned work and the two men were rapidly morphing into pajama-night girls.

Wilson put a drunken finger to his red-stained lips. "Shsh-sh-sh. . . " But he couldn't help himself. He turned deadly serious and gave House the palms out signal that he had something to say. "House. This is serious now. We had to apply for a zip-code."

House stood up on three wobbly legs and threw an arm around Wilson's shoulder. "Come on, let's take a walk around your trimmed, stereotypical urban back yard."

Ginger returned carrying bowls of Carmel swirl only to find her husband and his inebriated friend staggering out the livingroom sliding doors onto the ground level deck. "Hey. Pudding." She said to their weaving backs and tangle of arms.

"No thanks, honey-muffins." Wilson said. "I 'ass had enough." He giggled at his own joke.

House sat down on one of three deck chairs placed around a small table on the deck. "Thanks for the wine." Wilson said.

House drained the last drops into his glass. "Kind of a wedding gift. You know to Christian the good ship Ginger."

Wilson snortled a few more chuckles but he was getting sleepy now. "She's a peach."

"Two even." House's pager beeped at him. He squinted to read it in the dim light. "Perfect." He sobered a little, enough to sort his mind out and start thinking like a doctor again, instead of the newlyweds' drunken friend. "I gotta' go back to work."

"I'll tell Ginger to call you a cab."

XXX

"He went to work drunk?"

"Figured that be the first thing you'd ask. Why does everybody think doctors don't have lives outside their work?" He tilted his head in a kind of shrug. "I admit, House hardly ever did anything outside of work, but even he needed time away. A few laughs. That's all I tried to give him. House was fun. To me, he was. I had more fun with him than my wives or my brothers. Even if the fun was far between the fights and the troubles."

"What happened?"

The old doctor rubbed the top of his head. "Things happened. Decisions happened. Some wrong and some right. House happened mostly."

Maria waited for him to explain. Doctor Wilson seemed far more willing to tell the little known details if she didn't push him.

"Houses' patient, the leukemia kid, was getting worse. The parents were frantic. Cuddy was beside herself. The parents were rich. Very rich. Donated trunks full of money to the hospital every year." He took a moment and cleared his throat. "Damn oxygen makes the throat dry. Body responds by creating twice the mucus."

A bit of doctor talk, Maria smiled. "You said the kid was getting worse? How did House fix it?"

"He didn't, since you asked. But he sure as hell tried." Doctor Wilson took out a tissue and wiped his post-nasal drip away. "He tried everything. Him and his team. I even tried, but it wasn't my case."

Wilson sat up straighter. His wheelchair needed some more padding. One pillow wasn't enough anymore. "The kid got worse. Diarrhea, bloating, and now blood in his bowels. Yet the leukemia had been under control not two months before. He had received a regime of transfusions. New stuff. Radical RNAi gene therapy with promising results. A batch was delivered via the blood and in it went, switching off certain genes, sometimes turns others on. But this one was designed to switch off the mutated gene on chromosone sixteen, responsible for some types of myeloid leukemia.

"The treatment appeared to be working well until the kid was sent to us. Fact is, he had been deteriorating for the previous week, but his own physician thought it was a simple transfusion reaction. Nothing to worry about."

Maria tied to keep straight in her head Doctor Wilsons medical jargon. "But it wasn't a transfusion reaction."

"Nope. As Doctor House used to say - If the patient dies, the diagnosis was wrong and it was something else. The "it" being the disease of course." He took a few deep breaths.

"Do you want to rest? I can come back." Maria really hoped he didn't need to. She wanted this down and done today so she could type it up over the weekend. Besides, it was getting interesting.

"No. I might be dead by tomorrow. Um, . . . oh yes. The kid was getting worse . . ."

XXX

Cuddy met House by the clinic. "His parents are beside themselves."

"Pretty neat trick."

"No jokes. They've been here all night and want to know where their sons doctor is."

Cuddy saw the parents coming down the hall, evidently on their way to her office. "Try for God's sake to be professional." Suddenly cuddy leaned in and sniffed House. "Have you been drinking?" She asked. Then, horrified, "Are you drunk?"

"I was drinking. Now I'm working."

A tall silver and grey haired business man type demanded of Cuddy and House. "What is wrong with our son?" His pale faced wife with the perfectly sculpted hair and two hundred dollar manicure trailed behind him.

House threw Cuddy nod. "I'll be in my office."

Cuddy stopped him with hand on his sleeve and whispered fiercely into his ear "You are not leaving me alone with this." Then addressed the distressed parents. "Mister and Misses Parks, this is Doctor House. Your sons doctor."

The husband just turned his body slightly to address the same question to House. "What is wrong with our son!?"

"He's sick." House said. "If you'll excuse me, I'd like to go-"

But the wife stepped in front of him. "He is our only child and you are his doctor. Tell us what's wrong with him."

"I don't know." He almost yelled in her face. "I have no idea what's wrong with him." His head was beginning to pound from the wine, the hurried cab ride, the walk into the hospital from the parking lot on his already sore leg that he had been dragging around all day and evening, and the pungent waft of her expensive French perfume. "What I do know is he's bleeding from bowels that are barely working. I know he has leukemia and I also know that if you will stop delaying me with useless questions, I can get my team together and try to find out what's wrong with him."

House limped away as fast as possible, leaving Cuddy to deal with the consequences of his bluntness.

Misses Parks turned to Cuddy. "Did he have alcohol on his breath?"

Cuddy smiled and took her arm, leading her into her quiet office. "Doctor House was reluctantly attending a small wedding this evening." She bald-faced lied. "He had to make an obligatory toast. But he will be here all night and for as long as it takes to help your son. He's our best doctor."

XXX

Doctor Wilson stopped speaking for a moment. He was looking at the wall. Maria followed his gaze to a cheap picture of a motorcycle that looked like it had been taken from a calendar. There was a few paperback books piled on a small shelf screwed into the wall at wheelchair level and an old purple vase with a lid. A gift from one of his grandchildren no doubt.

"How many grandchildren do you have Doctor Wilson?"

He started and lifted his eyes back to her. "Don't. Never had any kids."

Maria had never met anyone so old who did not. Not even one child. It was unusual. "How many times were you married?"

"Six. Wonderful women, all of them. In their own way."

But not a single kid from any. Not even by accident. She wondered if it was he who hadn't wanted children, or the women who hadn't wanted children with him? Or was there some other reason?

"I wish I had taken that case." Old Doctor Wilson said suddenly.

"Oh?"

"Yes. I should have insisted. I should have fought Cuddy about it."

"Cuddy was your boss?"

"Lisa Cuddy. Oh!" He smiled a devilish grin, yellowed teeth showing such delight, Maria was shocked at the years it took off him. Well, not took the years off, just transformed him into a younger, happier soul. Wilson really must have been a very handsome man in his younger years.

"Lisa Cuddy was beautiful. Smart too. Ran that hospital like an army barracks. But not a hard noser. No. She had a really soft spot for House. She'd known him a long time, you see. A long time. Longer than me. And I think they may have been more than friends once upon a time, but I was never positive about that. The way he looked at her sometimes . . ."

"You mean with love?"

"Mmm, more like lust. House was not subtle. Funny thing though, he was a romantic."

"Hard to put lustful and romantic together on the same page."

"House could." Wilson chuckled to himself. "I may have been married six times but he was a heart breaker in his own way you know. Half the women in the nurses lounge wanted to try him. But none of them dared. Hard to get passed that scowl."

Maria wanted to get back to the main topic. "You mentioned you wished you had taken that case."

"Yeah. I should have. The kid had cancer. It was my specialty."

"Do you think you would have saved him?"

"Hell no. The kid would have died. But House, . . . but my friend wouldn't have. Greg would have lived."

The doctor took out his dingy pocket hanky and wiped at his eyes. This time Maria was moved to see he was wiping tears away before they had a chance to fall.

"He must have meant a lot to you."

"Gregory House was integral to me. He was my courage. The marrow of my life. To truly appreciate what he was, I had to lose him."

Doctor Wilson wiped at his eyes again. "Sorry, dear. Hard to talk about him sometimes. I get all blubbery. He hated that. If he were here, he'd call me a simpering idiot."

"He doesn't sound like . . . "marrow"." More like jerk.

"Sweetie, if he walked in that door right now and called me moron, it'd be music to my ears."

He smiled again, a full set of stained teeth, and Maria was granted a peek into what this House must have been like - to bring such delight to an old man forty years later just from a single memory.

"I loved him."

XXX

Part II ASAP