Wounded Ways

Part I

Pairing: House/Wilson established relationship.

Rating: NC-17, Adult, +18, Mature. Language. Abuse. Sexual situations. Medical situations. SLASH.

Summary: House family crises, extreme Hurt/comfort, Peripheral character death.

Disclaimer: I manipulate the sexy House to my hearts desire. No money, just fun.

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Doctor Gregory House hoped his afternoon mental stupor was about to be slain by his ringing office phone.

"House." He answered, then adding "I am absurdly, dramatically bored so I hope this is Cuddy wearing only her thong or Wilson in red leiderhossen. I don't care which so talk sexy." He quipped. His day had just begun with, at first look, an interesting case that had quickly mutated into a boringly common ailment. With no other cases currently requiring his restless mind, he had plopped into his swivel chair and had spent the majority of the afternoon surfing the Internet.

"Greg?" His father's gravely voice caused House's breathing to momentary halt.

"Dad?" Son, like father, waited for the other to start speaking. Son, unlike father, felt the familiar sensation of tension across his chest and a hard knot of muscle in his stomach.

"Your mother..." The elder House did not finish the simple phrase.

His son, tension turning to nausea, filled in the blank easily enough. "What happened?" She was either very sick or - no way would his father call him for any other reason.

"She went quick. Didn't suffer,...they tell me."

Don't trust doctors, the last three words implied.

He, the brilliant son-doctor, found himself unable to gather letters into syllables so to utter meaningful words. "How-"

"Heart attack." John House answered simply. "Funeral's tomorrow morning. Ten AM. Open coffin."

House swallowed a painful lump in his throat. Stomach acid began its customary agitation. "Open coffin?" House repeated, his stomach churning fire. "But...M-Mom wanted to be cremated. She talked about it years ago."

"My wife is not going to be burned. She's going to be buried properly."

"It doesn't make sense-"

"-Are you coming?"

Question ala Asshole. Asked in order to elevate himself above his wayward son who had rarely visited his mother. One last dressing down. Mom's not alive to hear it, Dad.

House's face went red. From anger, resentment, embarrassment or grief, even he wasn't sure which were applicable. The son-of-a-bitch actually expects me to say No. Saying Yes wouldn't be much better. A Yes indicated that a No had a fair shot, and was the answer Greg believed John House secretly expected.

"Of course." House said. Fuck you!

A few more words were exchanged and House replaced the receiver in its cradle.

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In the conference room, from the coffee machine, Thirteen had heard the ring and seen House's face as it morphed. Her new boss was a deep rushing water filled with undercurrents, hidden rocks and broken branches. Unexpected floods were the norm.

The pretty brunette watched, fascinated, as Gregory House's handsome, angular face changed from cocky joviality to guarded fear; like an expectation of something awful had just overtaken him. Kind of like when the IRS rings up. You know you didn't cheat on your taxes but you worry that you must have done something, otherwise why would the IRS be calling? That face.

Face number two said Yes, it is bad news, just not about you.

Face number three said the most - Now you have to go and do something about this terrible news; something you don't want to do; a matter you have no choice in.

House stared at his desk papers thoughtfully for a few seconds. Over the few short months she'd worked for him, House had let her slowly, crumb by crumb, into his unbelievably active mind. He didn't guard himself from people, exactly. He spoke, and often acted out, precisely what he thought and, like a man on a stage, then he'd, in a virtual sense, rush stage left and wait for the applause or jeers. He did not seem to care at all which was offered, as long as his point was made, his way gotten or the medical procedure allowed.

She knew very little about him on a personal level. She watched House shrug into this leather jacket and gather up his wallet, backpack and motorcycle helmet. He poked his head into the conference room.

"I'm gone for a few days. If Cuddy asks, it's a family matter and none of her business. If Wilson asks, tell him...mmm, let him worry actually. He will anyway. Can you, Taub and Trekkie handle our case...whatzits...double name guy?"

"Donald Rogers."

"Yeah, him. Get Foreman to get Chases' help if you need it. But keep him away from the animal crackers."

Hadley was often surprised by the contradictions in her new boss. House put on an act of undiluted indifference to anything personal about anyone else, particularly his underlings, then he'd turn around and let slip some bit of personal knowledge regarding one of them that, had he really felt indifferent about it, would not have remembered let alone mentioned. "Okay." She resisted the urge to ask him what was wrong.

He saw her hesitation, glad she did not ask. "Good." He said, grabbing his cane and lurching quickly out the door.

XXX

"Why didn't you tell me?"

House cringed at Wilson's insistent whine from the other end of his cell phone. Of course Cameron (who had run into Thirteen, and then made whatever discreet phone calls she needed to make to glean the latest) had run and told Wilson all about House's mysterious and sudden trip.

"It's no big deal." House could almost see Wilson's repudiating eyes popping out at him through the phone. Wilson would undoubtedly be seated behind his meticulously clean desk with the pencil holder, paper-clip caddy and staple-puller all in a row, and chewing his nails.

""No big deal"??" Wilson sighed. "Your Mom dies and - look I'm your best friend. I'm more than that. We live together. We sleep together. I care even if you don't...about...you."

House sighed back but it was unprotesting air. "I'm...sorry." He managed, surprised to find his cool exterior basically undamaged by his admittance of an emotion.

"Are you okay?" Wilson asked, voice honeyed with sympathy.

"Yes." It was the truth. Funeral was done, his Mom had looked as peaceful in death as she had in life, dressed in her powder blue skirt and suit coat with the lacy collar, her old woman's hands neatly crossed, painted nails and wedding ring sparkling with fresh polish and a careful shine.

House had almost not managed to control his shaking hand and he paraded passed his dead mother behind his very much alive father. Dad had kissed the cold forehead, paused for a second and walked on.

He, her only son, had done no kissing but paused much longer, looking down at his mother's dead, but still beautiful face. He allowed himself the tiniest crack of a door to the possibility that she was somewhere else. And happy. He had allowed it for her. A parting gift.

"Yeah. Fine. We'll be there tonight. Tell Cuddy I'm be at work on Monday." He hung up.

Wilson stepped outside his office. "How is he?" Cameron asked.

He jumped. "Are you actually eavesdropping?" She had obviously been listening outside the door and held no shame for it. For how long she'd been standing there, her ear to the keyhole, he didn't know but House was right, the tiny brunette was presumptiously nosey.

Wilson stared at her for a second, not caring what his expression said. He did not feel like giving Cameron the scoop on the latest House drama.

Her carefully plucked eyebrows drew into a line of impatience. "How is he?" She asked again, a little more insistent.

Apparently his face had not displayed a discouraging frown. Suddenly Wilson felt that he understood House's aversion to ever being involved with the woman. Cameron reeked of not only mothering sympathy, but greedy concern. As though only she above all other people on the planet possessed insight and sweet love enough to see into House's soul and fix whatever she decided was wrong way down in there.

Wilson held that position now and even he, on as intimate terms as he was with House, most times had no idea what was coursing through Gregory Houses' labyrinth-like thoughts or ever saw coming his newest and craziest scheme. Wilson decided that Camerons' snoopy inquiry was way off.

"He's fine." How House felt or thought, was none of her business.

XXX

During the drive home, Wilson cringed whenever he thought of the word "we'll" that Greg had used. Worry began to churn inside his stomach. John House was obviously coming back with Greg. Wilson felt the next few weeks would not be pleasant ones. Greg had said he'd told his mother about his relationship with a man and Wilson assumed she had broken the news to the father. He wondered how that conversation had gone?

"Fun times I'm sure." Greg had remarked and dropped the topic.

Wilson entered and glanced around at the messy apartment. A first impression needed to be good. Better than this. Then he hesitated. Does leaving a mess indicate they were still whole, masculine men? Should he leave evidence of being a slob to paint the apartment in masculinity? Does cleaning it up make them appear girly fuss-budgets, tinkling fingers and all?

Wilson sighed. Mess or fuss? Which in a positive way would impress John House more?

"Fuck it." Wilson mumbled and scurried around, tidying up where during the working week, Greg had left plates and clothes. It had not occurred to Wilson there might be a reason behind Gregs' slovenliness. Even those few weeks he had stayed with him when his marriage to Julie had ended. At the time, he had not had insight enough to understand that when pain or neatness were held in the balance, pain almost always won.

Greg ate from cans because proper cooking entailed standing for lengthy periods. Not that Greg couldn't stand for, say, twenty minutes or a half hour straight, he just couldn't do it without pain. He was in pain all the time. Standing made more pain. So when Wilson wasn't there to cook, Greg made peanut butter sandwiches and ravioli from a can. For him, sitting down was relief and relief to a chronic pain sufferer meant: When it hurts less.

Ditto for the laundry problem. Draping a discarded shirt over a nearby chair hurt less than walking it to the bedroom hamper. Wilson had come to learn that Greg Houses' work or home life was measured in a unique way -- Pain-feet. There were light-years and man-hours, so too was there pain-feet. Twelve inches or one foot equaled a distinct measure of pain on Gregs' hurt meter. He had just so much in his endurance tank per day and if he exceeded it, he'd be popping twice the Vicodin the next day to make up for it. Feet walked, pain measured, tank drained, pills doubled, risk to liver swells exponentially. It was a rather complicated formula and no one but House knew exactly how to calculate it or how far he could fudge the numbers.

Once House had stayed at the hospital for forty-eight hours working, trying to save a patient and on his feet much of that time, until he had come home in so much pain, Wilson had spent the night massaging the leg and, finally, shooting him up with morphine after he had moaned and thrashed for almost twelve hours. Another shot the next morning and House was ready to return to work. He'd eaten nothing and Wilson had been forced to help him shower and dress because the leg was almost numb from the spasms that continued despite his brain being too high on morphine to notice.

This number of feet walked or so that measure of time spent on the leg, equaled insert-agony-here amount of pain. Neatness just couldn't compete.

Wilson surveyed his quick fix job. The place didn't sparkle but it looked better. He had a case of nerves at the thought of meeting John House. He had met him before, but this time he was meeting Gregs' father as Gregs' lover. "Fun times."

Wilson remembered there was almost nothing in the fridge and decided to go the food store.

Be elsewhere when they got back. Let them settle into whatever father/son routine of silent anger they needed to and then make an appearance with his arms full of groceries. He would then be greeted by John House, after a fashion, as a welcomed distraction instead of gay Gregs' live-in boyfriend.

It was easier.

XXX

House turned the key in the lock of his apartment and stepped aside to let his father through first. John House carried a blue, much used old-fashioned suitcase - the kind with the metal snap locks -- setting it down by the front door.

Wilson drove up and saw Houses' car parked out front. He had six bags of groceries and was glad he could make two trips out to the car to further avoid the first greeting of John House as a gay man.

He gathered two bags in his arms, kicked the car door shut with his foot and walked to the apartment. Opening the door he walked quickly to the kitchen, greeting House and Houses' retired military Lt. Colonel on the his way through the livingroom. "Greg -- oh -- Mister House. Hello." Wilson felt immediately uncomfortable under the gaze of those twin grey gun barrels John House used for eyes. House senior was fully aware of his relationship with House Junior and though given no choice by his son to accept it, Wilson suspected the man never-the-less quietly and sternly disapproved.

Wilson could read it in John Houses' face - There's the homosexual my son is living with. But what John House said was "Wilson."

The last name monikers with which House habitually christened everybody - Wilson's included - from John Houses mouth held a tone so different from his sons', the chasm couldn't be crossed with a jet-plane. For House the Son it was laced with affection or thick with sarcasm. Whatever the emotion woven into the six letters of Wilsons' name, always it was said with a deeply personal connection.

The Wilson that had just been dislodged from John Houses' mouth was a one syllabled after-thought. Like a bullet casing being ejected from a shotgun barrel. John Houses' lips were curled with a barely concealed disgust and grim in their delivery. The difference between the two styles was like peace and war.

After taking several more minutes to bring in the food, Wilson decided to ignore the more unpleasant aspects of House Senior and offered to make coffee. It was as good an excuse as any to escape to the kitchen. When he returned, far less unpleasant - and that was saying something - House Junior was standing in the middle of his living room and, to all intents and purposes, unsure of what to do with himself since his father had settled his old bones in the middle of his couch.

Wilson decided to hell with convention and walked over, taking one of Houses' stiff arms in his hand and kissing him once quickly on the lips. Wilson could feel the wave of tension emanating from Houses' body and bouncing off the furniture and his own father. Wilson caught the rapid turning away of his head as John House avoided a picture he considered obscene - that of his son being kissed by a man. His own son was a homosexual and Daddy was not pleased.

Wilson didn't give a shit. He served coffee and let father and son alone to discuss whatever they might need to discuss, retreating to the bedroom. Once he closed the door, the tension drained from his body like dirty water.

In the living room, House stared at his father as his father drank his coffee, double cream, no sugar. "What kind of a place were you thinking about?" He asked the elder House.

"Once the condo sells, I thought maybe a retirement community right here in town. Someplace where someone else does the laundry and makes the meals but otherwise leaves you the hell alone." John House summed up.

House stiffened at the mention of his father settling in Princeton. He had brought him home because John House had requested it and assumed it was because his father and he needed to have some legal discussions about his mothers' will or some such thing that had never actually crossed his mind until after the funeral. He had long assumed that his dad would leave everything to his mom, but her dying first had never entered the rare and fleeting speculation of his mind and how stupid that made him feel now.

There had been no reading of Blyth Houses' will. All legal papers had been left in her husbands' hands. House wanted to ask his father if his mother had written any final message to him or left him a memento, but his father had not once mentioned his wife's will and House was trained well enough in the ways of not only a military family but his fathers' version of military family to not bring the subject up. Had Blyth House left her son anything, her husband would have already made the decision (regardless of his wifes' wishes) whether to give it to his son or toss it in the trash without his son ever having knowledge of it.

John House had always assumed to know what was best for his family and Greg House held no illusions that the mere death of his fathers' wife would alter that. The reality that his son was nearly fifty years old had not crossed the mind of the father.

Even at fifty, Gregory was still his son.

An hour later, while Wilson was still absconded in the bedroom, that son was on his third bourbon of the evening. John watched Gregory as he swirled the amber fluid around in the short drinking glass, staring into it. John suspected it was, in his sons' mind, the better place to stare, rather than having to look at his father. Looking meant conversing. Conversing meant sharing. Sharing what was where the problems usually began.

John had declined Gregs' offer of alcohol.

"Hungry?" his son asked suddenly.

John House nodded. He was. Between the funeral arrangements, the traveling, the showings at the condo and his age, he had not had time to eat for over a day. "Sure."

Greg, with the help of his ever present cane, got to his feet and limped to the kitchen.

John House studied his sons' unusual gate. Despite what he believed to be Gregs' self coddling on the matter, he had never gotten used to seeing his only son as a cripple. He had been so active as a boy. So active as to be a major worry for his mother. Running, exploring, climbing, falling . . . "Need help?" He felt he ought to offer.

Greg just shook his head and John watched him as he withdrew bread and cans from the cupboard, and condiments form the fridge. In a few moments, John could smell tuna. Sandwiches then.

Greg brought back a short stack of cut sandwiches on a plate and left them on the coffee table. He returned to the kitchen, asking over his back, "Something to drink? I think I have orange juice."

John said a polite "Yes." Feeling more and more like a new and awkward piece of furniture in his sons' apartment.

Greg returned with a full glass and placed it in front of him then returned to his chair. He stared into his glass once more, the effort of being socially proper seeming to have exhausted him.

John ate silently while he watched his son drain his glass. He was clearly not going to be eating.

John decided to tell his son something. "Your mother would have approved of the proper burial you know."

"What's proper about defying her wishes?"

"I knew your mother almost all my life. that cremation business was just her trying to save the planet."

"Oh." The drink had made him light headed and loose tongued. "All that social consciousness must have been annoying as hell. All the better you ignored her then."

John House felt the blood rise along the back of his collar. He didn't want a fight, but with Gregory that's almost all he ever got. For almost fifty years Blyth had set herself as the blow softening boundary between them and now that boundary was gone. John House had been in his sons' presence for almost three days, the longest stretch since Greg had left home. And, watching his son limp around the room, seeing him take pill after pill and drink after drink, eyeing his careless grooming and seeing the disheveled nature of his home maintenance, John House came to the sad conclusion that his only son was a stranger. They had never been close, but now it felt like Greg would rather have been entertaining a homeless guy from the street. Nary a difference.

"I know you hate me." John House said as Greg poured a fourth drink. The bottle was half gone. Greg set the bottle down carefully, deliberately slow-handed, as though making any noise might be a rude interruption of the hard, pulsing words his father had just spoken.

Greg sighed heavily and leaned back in his square, dark easy chair. "You have no idea what I feel." He answered.

That was probably true, but hate was in there somewhere. John House had felt it almost his whole life as a father. Try as he might to correct any possible mistakes that had been made, his son despised him. "She wanted you to know she loves you. Those were her last words."

Gregory House hated that his father had told him that. The implication was simple: Son had hardly ever visited his mother so she had hardly any opportunity to tell her son how she felt. Sons' fault entirely. He wanted to tell his father off but had no energy left for the effort. He had expended himself over the last three days and he was on Empty. His tiny reserve of social decorum had been wrung dry of platitudes, hand-shakes and thank-you's offered to a crowd of related strangers he would never see again. Until his fathers' funeral.

"Fine." He answered.

XXX

Part II ASAP! (This will have several chapters at least)