AN: With a whole new chapter hot off the press, I re-read some earlier posts and realized I had some clean up work to do. So this be the re-edited and hopefully rejuvenated classic House-and-Wilson-in-Victorian-England story. As I said the first time around, not a historian, so happy to hear about any inconsistencies spotted. Also, find any interview or snippet with HL speaking with his native accent. *melts*
Though he was loathe to admit to such weakness, traveling by train always made him ill. Even as a child, he'd always feared the swaying, rolling motion would betray his traitorous stomach and reveal him for the weakling he was. His father, a strong, courageous merchant sailor had always berated him for his motion sickness every time they had left the safety of the shore. He'd suffered through countless family trips across the channel and back again; clinging to his mother as a young boy, and later to the railing when no-one else would come to his aid. The only solace he'd ever found had been in both soothing darkness and absolute silence; both of which looked to be precious commodities aboard the noon train. He resigned himself to his fate as he discovered the only open seat in sight was beside an elderly gentleman near the window. Reaching up, he removed his hat and smoothed his rebellious hair.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Sir, but I wondered if that seat was taken?"
Upon closer inspection, he found the gentleman in question was not elderly, but prematurely aged. His face was stubbled, his wiry hair was unkempt; as though he had not seen a barber in sometime. But despite his disheveled appearance, his clothes were well made and in excellent condition. He balanced a cane beneath the palm of his right hand, and met the younger man's eyes with his own.
"Not to my knowledge." The gentleman eased himself to his feet, resting heavily on his cane as the younger man slid into the seat hurriedly.
"Thank you, sir." He said breathlessly. The gentleman sank down in his seat once more. He used his hands to shift his right leg into a more comfortable position before straightening in his seat and resting the cane against his leg once more.
"I am unaccustomed to travel." The younger man blurted, and thus regained the attention of his seat-mate. "I regret that I do not have a strong constitution when it comes to traveling. I shall try to not inconvience you."
"As you can see," the gentleman said dryly, "I do not travel well either. But despite our poor constitution for travel, perhaps we shall find other things in common. My name is Gregory House." He offered a hand, and the younger gentleman took it warmly.
"I am James Wilson. It is a pleasure to meet you."
"Likewise. What business do you have in London?"
"I am looking for work. And you, sir?"
"I am returning home."
Outside the dirty windows of the train, the station began to recede as the train began to pull away from the platform. Unable to stop himself, James turned to watch the gray of the train station give way to the countryside. Beside him, Mr. House leaned back in his seat and rested his head against the back.
"What work do you seek in London? Labourer? Farrier? I should think you unsuited for one and oddly dressed for the other." he said.
James laughed aloud. "I am a physician. I hope to find a fellowship. Or at the very least, I would settle for a position as an assistant. There are far too many young gentleman languishing in Oxford, waiting for patients of their own. I thought my chances might be better if I sought them out." He laughed then, smiling wistfully. "Although for this evening, my ambitions are much more mundane. Room and board. Have you any experience with either? Would you recommend a place?"
"I recall my first days in London, when I was a younger man." Mr. House fell silent for a moment, lost in some recollection before he shook his head and continued. "I stayed in Mrs. Fischer's boarding house near Hyde Park. She was a very good businesswoman, and I would imagine her to be in business yet."
"I shall inquire about her. Thank you." James smiled at his companion, and noticed he did not smile so readily in return. Mr. House closed his eyes as he tightened his grip about the handle of his cane. James studied him closely then, noting the way he breathed raggedly for a few moments before reaching into the pocket of his greatcoat and withdrawing a small flask. He unscrewed the cap with shaking fingers, and threw back several mouthfuls before putting the flask away. In embarrassment, James turned his attention to the window and surveyed the grassy hills intently despite the way the movement turned his stomach.
"My apologies." Mr. House said quietly, and James turned to find he had settled his head against the back of his seat. He looked very pale.
"Quite all right. Is there anything I could do for you?"
"No." Mr. House rasped. "It shall pass soon enough." He closed his eyes again, taking deep, slow breaths. James found himself breathing in time with his companion, and thus, soothing his nausea. Intent as he was upon his seat-mate, he found the noise and clatter of the train soon fell away. Mr. House's pain eased some time later, and by the slowing of his breath he'd slipped into sleep. James, too, rested his head against the back of the seat and closed his eyes.
He woke some time later to find the rail car was almost silent. His traitorous stomach soothed, he was pleasantly surprised to find he felt extraordinarily well. Opening one eye, he lifted his head from the back of the seat to find many people were sleeping, or reading. The sun was setting, and James was grateful to see London on the horizon. Beside him, Mr. House was still sleeping. His countenance was peaceful, his leg pain had eased. Almost as though he'd overheard James' thought, Mr. House awoke with a start.
"Are you well?" James asked gently.
"Yes, thank you." Mr. House sat up slowly, easing his leg out from beneath him. He straightened the limb experimentally. "I hope I didn't disturb you."
"No, not at all." James fidgeted with the button of his coat for a moment before he stopped himself. "It would seem we are nearly to London."
"Yes. It will be good to be home." Mr. House admitted.
"How long have you called London home?" James asked.
Mr. House stretched out, looking far more comfortable than he had. "I was a young man when I moved to London, much to my father's dismay. But I knew best. I sought to make my own name while I was still a young officer."
"So you served in the army?"
"Yes, for a time. My career was not what my father had hoped; and while I regret the loss of use in my leg, I was not saddened when the injury I sustained ended my career." Mr. House pressed a hand to his leg, and rubbed it gently beneath the material of his trousers.
"So it was an injury you sustained in battle?" James blanched, realizing that his questions were far too intrusive for a gentleman he'd just met. "I beg your pardon—I don't mean—"
"It's quite all right." Mr. House gave him a ghost of a smile, his blue eyes lightening. "I welcome your questions. I weary of dancing around the elephant in the room, so to speak."
James nodded, uncertain what to say in response.
"I was a lieutenant during the Battle of Balaclava. My regiment was among those that charged down into the valley. We were cocksure and utterly fearless, for we had charged into many frays and always returned none the worse for wear. I—"Mr. House paused, and James feared for a moment that he would not be able to finish the tale. "We charged into the valley, and I saw many of my comrades fall around me. I do not think I felt fear until I felt my horse struck beneath me; when we two began to fall." Mr. House's eyes were shuttered, distant. James shivered at the intensity of those piercing blue eyes when he turned to face him intently. "I remember that we struck the ground, and I was pinned beneath my horse's weight. While I set about freeing myself, a shell struck very near us. If not for my horse shielding me from the worst of the explosion, it is likely I should not have survived. When I woke next, it was on the operating table." Mr. House shrugged guilelessly as he reached the end of his tale.
"It sounds terrible." James admitted, feeling his stomach turn.
"War is seldom as grand as men believe. When it is men on parade, with their starched uniforms and polished lances marching in time; the battlefield is nothing more than an illusion. Perhaps, in time, the illusion shall become reality."
The train began to slow, and James chanced another look out the window to find the pleasant countryside had long since given way to cobblestone streets and dreary buildings. The sun, too, had set some time earlier and James could see streets dimly through the fading light.
"When we finally disembark, it will be quite late. I believe you said you had not yet found accommodations." Mr. House said quietly. James turned to survey him in surprise.
"No, I have not." He said cautiously.
"If you like, you are welcome to a room in my house." Mr. House offered, and James felt his eyes widen in surprise.
"I am grateful, truly, but I couldn't possibly intrude—"
"It is no intrusion." Mr. House's eyes were warm. "I have a great many rooms, and letting one out to a promising young physician will certainly not cause me any distress."
"I—I would be honored." James said when he found his tongue again. "I must repay you in some way. Please, is there anything you have need of?"
"Perhaps I have need of a physician." Mr. House said cryptically.