Title: Mind Games
Fandom: Quantum Leap & House, MD
Spoilers: For "Houses Head" & "Wilson Heart"
Characters: Sam Becket and Al Calavicci, Gregory House, Amber Volakis and Mentions of Wilson
Disclaimer: The characters you know and love all belong to their respective creators.
Summary: Sam Leaps into House on the day of the bus accident.
When reality coalesced around him, Sam Beckett found himself sitting in a bar, a shot glass containing some kind of alcohol halfway to his lips. He paused, took a deep breath, and waited for his equilibrium to return.
He set the drink down carefully on the bar. The bartender was standing in front of him expectantly, and Sam wondered if he needed to pay for the drink.
The two men stared at each other, Sam willing the man to repeat whatever he'd said.
"I'm not giving your keys back. So stop asking," the man said as he turned and addressed another customer.
Sam just nodded. It appeared that he was too drunk to drive, and alone, or the bartender wouldn't have taken his keys.
It wasn't often that he had time to contemplate where and when he'd landed before he was thrust into the middle of the action. Al would be arriving soon. That gave him a little time to learn as much as he could about the man – and it was a man; that was a relief – he'd leapt into.
He looked into the mirror behind the bar, piercing blue eyes stared back out of a thin, haggard face which definitely needed a shave.
A quick perusal through his pockets produced a wallet and a bottle of medication. He read the label. The pills were Vicodan for a Gregory House. Sam had a degree in medicine, but he didn't need it to figure out that the pills, coupled with the well-worn cane he'd found leaning against his stool, told him the man was most likely handicapped in some way.
But which leg and how badly, Sam couldn't tell, and he was a little taken aback by the strength of the prescription in the bottle. He never shared the ailments of the person he leapt into, which could often lead to embarrassing situations; like the time he was supposed to have been blind. Until Al showed up, it was best not to try and walk until he was sure what was wrong with Gregory House.
He shoved the pills back into his pocket and flipped open the wallet. The driver's license confirmed his identity. He also found information that indicated that Gregory House was actually Dr. House of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey.
That piece of information clicked something in Sam's brain and he wondered if he didn't know the man. After all, he had his own medical degrees. A question for the growing list he was mentally preparing for Al when he arrived.
"House, I'm here. Let's go," a sharp female voice called, pulling Sam out of his perusal of the good doctor's things.
Sam looked up to see a pretty blonde women glaring at him.
"Oh right, my ride," he stuttered when he realized she was speaking to him. Sam assumed that being asked to pick up a drunken friend was the source of her annoyance.
"Well," she snapped, her arms thrown out indicating her irritation as she waited for him to move.
"Ah," Sam hesitated. He still didn't know what malady Dr. House was afflicted with and really didn't want to deal with any mistakes just yet. His eyes landed on the untouched drink in front of him. "As soon as I finish this," he said and then indicated the empty stool beside him. "Join me?"
The woman rolled her eyes in exasperation. "No. You called. I came. Let's go."
"One drink," he insisted and flagged down the bartender. Sam reached into the wallet he still held in his hand and laid a five on the bar.
The woman stalked over, slammed her purse on the bar, and grumpily sat on the empty stool. She ordered her drink but never took her eyes off him; the anger and dislike was palpable.
Sam looked away wondering why Dr. House had called someone who so obviously hated his guts. Silently, he pleaded for Al to hurry up and was rewarded with the familiar whooshing sound that indicated his holographic companion had arrived.
"Sam," Al said by way of greeting as he came to stand on Sam's right and added, "Meet me in the men's room."
The time traveler shook his head, indicating that he knew Al was there but that he wasn't moving as he pointed to the cane and then tilted his head toward the woman, whose name he still had not discovered.
"Oh yeah, the cane," Al said and pulled out the hand com that always reminded Sam of a note pad constructed from Lego. "You're Gregory House. You have chronic pain in your," Al slapped the com, "right leg." And went on to explain the injury.
Sam smiled. Finally, some useful information. He turned his back to the woman, pointed surreptitiously over his shoulder and whispered, "Who is she?"
Al glanced over at her and noticed she was staring daggers at Sam's back. "What did you do to her Sam?"
Sam rolled his eyes and mouthed Nothing
Al snickered his disbelief but knocked the com once again looking for her identity.
"I'm done, so are you ready to go now?" she groused.
Sam turned back to see the empty glass in front of her. "Uh, sure." Now that he knew what his injury was, he could fake it and hope that she dropped him at an empty home so he and Al could talk about what he was here to do.
"NO!" Al yelled causing Sam's focus to swing back to look at the apparently empty space to his right. "You can't let her leave."
"Huh? Why not?" Sam said before realizing he'd spoken aloud.
Fingers snapped in his ear. "Hello, over here," she said. "Leaving now." The woman stood and waited for Sam to follow.
"Wait!" Sam said frantically. "I have to use the men's room."
"Fine," she snapped and sat back on her stool. "But hurry up. I'm not you personal slave you know. I'm only doing this for Wilson."
Carefully, Sam stood and tentatively walked toward the restroom. He figured between his supposed drunkenness and the late hour, he would be forgiven if his gait was wrong. By the time he got to the rest room, he felt more comfortable with the idea that he had a limp.
Al was waiting for him when he entered.
"Okay. First who is she?"
"Her name is Amber Volakis; she's the girlfriend of your best friend, Dr. James Wilson."
"But she hates me?" Sam didn't need Al to tell him that things were never pleasant between Amber and House. He assumed it must be hard on Dr. Wilson to have the two most important people in his life at each other's throats.
"Well, that's because you're an asshole," Al replied and when Sam frowned he added quickly, "Not you - Dr. House. Everything we've found says he's brilliant but a big jerk."
"Great." Sam didn't do 'asshole' well; it wasn't in his nature to be intentionally mean to anyone. "I think I know – knew him. Or at least heard of him." Sometimes his memory could be so full of damn holes he wanted to scream and other times the answers were right there when he need them. This was one of those holey times.
Al checked the hand held. "Don't think you ever met him but he's pretty well known. His expertise is sought after all around the country."
"Then I doubt I'm here because of my medical degrees." Sam said. "So what's Ziggy say? Why am I here, Al?"
"Because Amber and you get on the bus that is due to come by in about fifteen minutes. The bus crashes and Amber is killed. You get knocked unconscious and almost die, too. In fact, there is evidence to suggest you're never quite right again."
"That's great, Al," Sam said smiling
The hologram looked at him sideways. "You're looking forward to brain damage?"
Sam waves him off. "No, of course not. I just meant that keeping her here shouldn't be hard. But if House could have ridden a bus home, why did he call Amber in the first place?"
"Got me, Sam. But if she dies, the relationship between Drs. House and Wilson deteriorates. Dr. House eventually becomes unemployable and dies from a drug overdose." Al smacked the handheld and continued. "It was ruled accidental but the prevailing belief was suicide," Al finished slowly and looked up to meet Sam's worried gaze.
"Dr. House blamed himself," Sam mused quietly
"Yeah, and it seems Dr. Wilson blamed him, too," Al said and continued to peruse the info on the uplink. "House was never the same after the crash. He had difficulty focusing and was plagued by seizures from the head trauma."
"But this is simple; we just don't get on the bus," Sam said and waited for Al to contradict him.
"It's never that easy, Sam."
The scientist nodded, "Let's hope it is this time. Meanwhile maybe I can also mend fences with Amber so that they get along after I'm gone."
Al snorted. "From what I can find in the records, Dr. Wilson is about the only one who ever tolerated him. Don't think one conversation will change how Amber sees Dr. House."
"Maybe not, Al, but I have to talk about something to keep us from leaving." Sam paused. "Maybe one conversation with House will change how he behaves."
"What are you suggesting?" Al asked.
"Talk to the man. Explain to him what's at risk if he continues this feud with Amber."
"Did you forget the part of our conversation when I told you he was an asshole?" Al said. "Besides he won't remember anything I say when he leaps back. Swiss cheese brain." Al circled one finger near his head.
"Well, then I guess it's up to me," Sam sighed
Al nodded. "Maybe just having your nice guy persona in him for a few hours will rub off."
Sam smiled. "Let's hope."
"I'll be back if anything changes," Al said as he pushed a button on the handheld causing the chamber door to appear. He stepped through and disappeared.
Sam limped back toward where Amber sat at the bar. She wasn't facing him and this gave him a chance to study her as he formulated a plan.
House was most likely the instigator in the feud, if Al's assessment of the guy as an asshole was correct. Sam decided that feigning drunkenness coupled with the kind of heartfelt confession that often accompanied inebriation might get Amber to at least think of House differently.
"How about another drink?" Sam slurred as he settled himself back on the bar stool.
"You've had enough," Amber said. "It's late and I want to get home before Wilson."
"Oh, come on," Sam said smiling and slapped Amber on the shoulder. "Can't friends share a drink? My treat."
Amber studied him. "You're drunk and we are not by any stretch of the imagination friends. So, before I have to scrape you up off the pavement - "
"Now why is that?"
"Why is what?"
"Why can't we be friends?" Sam said as he signaled the bartender for another round. "You like Wilson. I like Wilson." He figured if his girlfriend called the man Wilson, it must be the appropriate mode of address.
"Okay, House, what's going on?" Amber said as she crossed her arms in front of her and challenged him with her gaze.
Sam flinched under the naked hatred he saw in her eyes. "Wow, you really hate me," he blurted out.
She snorted. "Hate is too generic. Loath and detest might be better choices."
Sam leaned heavily on the bar and rested his head against his hand, trying to give the appearance of a man so drunk he needed help holding his head up. "You don't mince words. I like that. Good to know where I stand."
"And like you're so fond of me," she chuckled before her tone turned threatening "Look, we have an arrangement, and if this is some ridiculous attempt to break it, it's not working. You have exactly five seconds to get to your feet or you can take the bus home." She stood and reached for her purse that was lying on the counter.
Sam intercepted her hand and held it. She glared at him and tried to pull away. "Let go of me," she snapped.
"I know you won't believe me and tomorrow I'll deny everything, but right now there is something you need to hear."
Amber opened her mouth to retort and Sam placed his other hand sloppily against her mouth. "Just shut up, okay?"
When she nodded, Sam removed his hand. "I think you're the best thing that's ever happened to Wilson. No matter how I feel about you personally, you need to know that I don't want to see the two of you separated."
Amber finally pulled her hand away, and the determined set of her stance told Sam that she didn't believe him, though she didn't voice it.
Sam waited. He checked his watch and realized he'd delayed her long enough. "Okay, I'm ready to go now." Sam slipped clumsily off the barstool, grabbed his cane and limped toward the door.
He hadn't leaped and he wondered if Al was right. Leaps were never this simple.
"You're kidding, right?" Amber asked as he hobbled by.
"No. I meant it," he said as he continued on his way.
Amber grabbed his arm and spun him to face her. "You don't get to do that," she said, the anger rising in her voice. "You don't get to change the rules. Is this some sort of mind game?"
Sam smiled. "I guess you would believe that." He leaned in close and whispered into her ear. "Here's the big secret. I want you and Wilson to be happy."
Amber pulled back as if she'd been burned. They stood silently staring at each other, her eyes searching his for the truth.
"What's the catch, House?" Amber asked. "Why say these things?"
"What, a guy can't share some honest emotion with his best friend's girl?"
Amber snorted. "You, never."
"Okay, then how about this?" Sam paused, searching for a better argument because it appeared that Amber and House had too deep a history of animosity for her to trust him immediately, or ever, but he had to try. "If you and I don't get along, then Wilson gets hurt."
"Since when do you care about that?" Amber snapped. "Look, I don't have time for this, so just shut up. All this touchy feely crap is giving me the creeps."
Sam sighed and exited the bar to find Al waiting for him on the street. "Sam, you saved Amber. So time to go." Al made a shooing gesture as if willing Sam to leap.
Amber walked past and shouted over her shoulder. "Taxi's leaving. Now or never."
"Wait, I'm coming." He hobbled as slowly as he could and whispered to Al. "I'm still here, Al."
"Huh? Wonder why?"
Sam gave him a wry look and pointed at the Lego in his hand.
Al chuckled as he slammed the com link. "Looks like Ziggy thinks you still have to fix the relationship between Amber and House."
"That isn't happening," Sam hissed. "She doesn't believe a word I say."
"Why would she?" Al said. "To House, this is all some kind of game and Amber knows it."
"You spoke with him?"
Al nodded. "He seemed to understand, but I'm not sure how much he cared or believed. Plus he kept calling me a hallucination."
"This House guy is a real piece of work. I'm not sure why should be helping him."
"I'm guessing because Wilson is the one you're really helping, and everything I've found indicates he's your favorite kind of nice guy." Al looked at his link. "Plus, if House stops practicing medicine, a lot of people will die without his expertise."
Sam reached the car, and Amber was staring at him as she leaned on the roof. "Done talking to you imaginary friend?"
"Very funny," Sam snapped. He wanted to race around the car and shake some sense into her, into House, too. These two stubborn people were so afraid of losing control of Wilson that they were willing to risk him in order not to show weakness to the other.
Suddenly, his winning tactic became clear. Sam leaned on the hood of the car mirroring Amber's position. "If you and I never get along, who do you think Wilson will choose?"
She tried to look haughty and self assured, but Sam could see the doubt creeping through.
"And your point?" Amber asked instead of answering his question.
"What if I told you that no matter what I do, no matter how awful I am to you, and no matter how rotten you treat me in return, Wilson will choose you?"
Amber mouth quirked up in a small smile. "Are you saying I win?"
Sam waved her off. "No, no this isn't about winning or losing - "
"Of course it is, House," she interrupted. "It's all about winning."
"I don't think this is working," Al said. "Maybe try asking her to be nice to House again."
The leaper just glared at the hologram and Al backed up a few steps. "I'll just shut up now."
Turning his exasperated gaze back to Amber, Sam shook his head. "You know what? Never mind. Let's just continue to play this stupid game and tear Wilson apart and just destroy everything in our path because that's the fun part, isn't it?" Sam was getting angry. He'd never met two such ridiculous people in his entire life, and that included all the leaps.
Amber shrugged. "Beating you? Yeah that's fun and I don't see it destroying Wilson in the process. He's stronger than you give him credit for so quit being a drama queen."
"I admit it. You win. I believe that if it ever comes down to it, Wilson will pick you. Game over."
Amber stared at him. "Why are you saying this? Why now?"
"Because," Sam shouted and slapped the top of the car, "I just want you and Wilson to be happy. Is that really so hard to believe?"
"You really mean it," she whispered as Sam's intensity finally penetrated past all the defenses that Amber had built against House.
"But if you tell anyone, I'll deny it," Sam quipped trying to maintain some semblance of House in the discussion. "And I'll still make your lives miserable."
"I'd expect nothing less." She shook her head and sighed. "You are such an ass."
Sam's brow creased in confusion. "I thought you believed me?"
"I do and that's the problem. Now, I might actually have to be nice to you," she said as she threw him a small smile. "Or at least ignore some of your crazier stunts."
Relief flooded through him. "Oh, the horror. Let's never speak of this again."
"So tomorrow – ,"
"You'll still be an ass," Amber said and then added more quietly. "But at least I'll know the truth."
Al's voice cut into their conversation. "You did it, Sam. Amber and Dr. Wilson get married and House actually accepts their relationship."
Sam smiled as he had heard the information but to Amber it appeared that he was smiling at her
"Just… thanks for coming to get me," Sam said sincerely as he was enveloped by the blue light of the leap and was gone.