Disclaimer: Denial is fun, isn't it? Too bad it wouldn't get me anywhere. Not mine. :kicks other foot:
Summary: You can only do the best you can! Just because it happens to be better than most others isn't your fault! That doesn't mean you can't make mistakes! It doesn't mean you can't get sick! It doesn't mean you can't have flaws!
Notes: I went down to Alabama for our family reunion this year. Because the view of Kentucky wasn't exactly easy to make out through Wilson's car windows, I'll assure you that there really isn't much in the way of proper lighting down South. Really, it's unnerving in the extreme. :still creeped out: And a large helping of thank you to JuliaBohemian for her on-the-fly beta'ing job. This chapter reads more easily thanks to her. Reviews are always encouraged and deeply appreciated.
But he could have made 'em family -- instead of keepin' Simon from seein' I was there. - Kaylee Frye, Serenity.
"Why do you care?" Greg's voice drifted quietly over from where he lay hunched into the passenger side window. Blythe sighed, closing her eyes in the glare of another lamp post overhead. They'd been driving all day, weren't even halfway there, and if Greg seized again she didn't know if she could get him to a hospital. She was tired and the gaping maw inside her was only getting bigger with every passing hour. She wanted to say she didn't have time for Greg's games, but it was patently untrue and, given the flames of guilt licking at her insides, hurting him yet again wasn't going to make her feel any better.
Blythe sighed, checking her rear-view mirror before switching lanes and beginning to search for an exit. There was nothing for it. It was simply better to pull over for the night. John had hated making any 'unnecessary' stops during their moves, even if it had meant sleeping in the car. But as Greg had readily pointed out, she had already violated his most sacred tenant by postponing his funeral until Greg had arrived. Staying the night at a motel wasn't going to do much more harm.
"What do you mean, why do I care?" she asked, rather more forcefully than she meant to. When Greg didn't answer, she glanced over at him to see him hunching in on himself again, tears cascading down his face as his body was wracked with sobs. He was sitting there beside her and all she can think was how distraught he seemed, about what she couldn't imagine. He'd been dealing with poor health in one capacity or another for as long as she could remember and this hardly seemed any different. And here he was crying, body hitching as he fought to take in air, like he's taken one hundred steps backward to the person he was before John had his way with him, not even bothering to hide his emotional weakness. She didn't know it was because he no longer has the strength. She could only be insulted by it. It was almost mocking, the way her usually well-composed son was daring to shed tears over this. There's no way that he could possibly care, no way that this loss was really a loss.
"Why on earth do you keep crying?" Blythe burst out, pulling over to the shoulder and glaring at Greg as he continued to sob helplessly. "You aren't the slightest bit upset that your father's dead, don't -- " Greg's hand came up to swipe at his face and she saw it was twisting rapidly back and forth. Greg took hold of his hand with the other but the appendage continued to flail about of its own volition. All the while, he cried harder and harder.
"You're seizing..." Blythe murmured, reaching toward him, but Greg lurched clumsily out of her reach, fumbling behind him for the door latch and throwing himself out of the car. He fell to the ground, but managed to get up and begin stalking lopsidedly away from the car where he was quickly swallowed up by the darkness unhindered by such conveniences as abundant lighting.
"Gregory!" Blythe yelled, shock, dismay, guilt, and anger all fighting to overcome her as she fought to get out of the driver's side as quickly as she could. Greg had forgotten his cane and she was tempted to leave it in the car but finally grabbed it and slammed the door shut behind her. Greg was meandering up the side of the road, heedless of his bad leg or the wilderness that surrounded them on either side of the highway. She could hear him still sobbing even at this distance.
Without thinking, Blythe took off running as fast as she could toward her son's limping visage. As soon as she caught up to him, she grabbed his collar and yanked him backward. Both of them fell to the ground and he screamed, clutching his leg, but Blythe clapped a hand over his mouth, leaning in as close to his face as she could get. "Have you lost your goddamned mind?" she snarled, becoming more infuriated by the way he stared uncomprehendingly at her. She went to hit him, but froze as Greg ducked, curled up on the ground, and was mumbling something through his arms. He was covered in dirt, now, foiliage sticking to his shirt and hair. Blythe felt her hand come to her mouth and she stared, horrified at the way Greg lay shaking before her, not even bothering to defend himself past warding off blows.
She jerked to her feet and stood there for seemingly hours, now trying not to cry herself. Oh, my God...Oh, my God... Suddenly, she remembered where they were and her breath caught in her throat.
"Greg," she said as soothingly as she could. "Greg, sweetheart, we have to get back to the car. It's -- it's not safe out here."
Blythe glanced around again and gave her head an impatient shake, kneeling close to Greg so she could try to make sure he heard her. He was mumbling, "I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorry..." over and over almost too quietly for her to hear. Blythe felt her eyes sting again and took a shaky breath but was careful not to touch him. "Greg, please. We have to get back to the car. We'll get hurt out here."
"So?" he objected thickly and didn't move. "Don't care."
"I care," Blythe said pleadingly, her hands curling up again where they supported her on the ground beneath them.
That was when Greg lurched to his feet again, yelling, "WHY?" before overbalancing and falling back again. Blythe scrambled forward, taking as gentle but firm hold as she could manage of Greg's arm and yanking him back to his feet. Thrusting the abandoned cane back at him, she didn't stop pulling until they'd reached the car again and were inside it.
Once they were securely behind locked doors, Blythe found herself crying now, not caring that Greg squirmed and fought her when she threw her arms around his neck and continued sobbing. He was snarling something under his breath, fighting to get out of her grasp but she wouldn't lessen her hold on him. She didn't care what he did, she wasn't going to let go. She owed him that much and far more.
Finally, Greg slumped forward, his entire body shaking and Blythe gently held him away from her and reached into the glove compartment for Kleenexes. She handed them to Greg, who stared at them for a few moments, before taking them back, wiping his face, and telling him to blow. When she'd finished he was staring incredulously at her.
"H-have you lost your -- " he began hoarsely but she cut him off with a sad smile.
"I lost it a long time ago, Greg." Blythe exhaled, her humorless laugh dying abruptly. "I've been fighting it and you paid the price. I never meant for you or your father to join me. I've been so busy hating everything that happened, trying to pretend it didn't -- trying to mold reality into some kind of bubble that I could control...I forgot that you weren't the problem and I let John forget, too. You never were. I guess..."
She sighed, closing her eyes for a moment and then forcing herself to look at him, reaching up and touching his face, thumbing the now-full beard that had grown over the past few days, and not moving her hand away when he flinched backward. "I wanted to make myself believe that if you were hurt enough, it meant...it meant he would be. Well, I'm sure that as a doctor you know the definition of insanity..." Blythe chuckled sadly. "And the worst part is that I know perfectly well that you understand my -- our point of view. You understand why we felt that way about you, maybe you always did and that's why you never complained or asked for help or let anyone else interfere, anything...and we never..."
Blythe forced herself to look in Greg's face, every line, the perpetual frown, the exhausted daze with which he'd watched everything over the past few days that he'd been in her presence. The untenable sadness that she knew she put there. And none of it is for him, the worst part of the whole tragedy. Everything he felt was for other people, he didn't know how to feel anything for himself and the knowledge that she was why made her want to scream, but she didn't deserve to. Certainly not while he couldn't.
"What did you think you would accomplish running out into the wilderness like that?"
Greg laughed bitterly, flashing a falsely longing look out the window ahead. "Well, surely some of my lawless brethren out there would be willing to take in one of their own, show me the ropes?" She gasped, but he plunged on ruthlessly. "I'm sure it wouldn't take long; I'll probably shoot up the ranks -- oops, a military metaphor, my apologies...I'll get the hang of it in no time!"
"You are not like -- "
His face whipped back toward hers, contorted in fury, "Like what? The military officer slash inhumane son of a bitch who spawned me? You mean like the equally brutal, remorseless rat bastard who raised me? Is that what you mean?"
He was yelling again, now, and Blythe cowered under the volume (and the plain facts) of his assertions. Greg started to get out of the car again, but Blythe reached out and grabbed his arm as tightly as she could, willing herself to ignore his subsequent flinch. "Gregory John House. You have every right never to speak favorably of myself or your father again, you have every right to hate us and everything we did to you. You do not have the right to die just because you think your life is worth less than either of ours because it is worth more, do you understand? You work every day to save lives of people no one else thinks can be salvaged and you don't do it for any other reason than that it should be done."
Greg scoffed and opened his mouth but Blythe cut him off. "I'm not finished. You can say all you want that all you care about is the puzzle, but whatever you want to call your patients, at the end of the day you remember that they're people and that they don't deserve to be in pain. You want more than anything else to spare others the pain you've been through -- "
"How the hell do you know that?" Greg spit, narrowing his eyes at her. "All you and Dad ever cared about was what I did besides work. You want to know what the answer is? Not a damned thing. I'm sorry, alright? I'm sorry I don't have the muscle mass to put on a show for you and pretend I go mountain climbing or white-water rafting or whatever the hell you pictured me doing on my innumerable weekends off! I'm sorry I'm so boring after all the effort you put into trying to make me one of Professor Xavier's mutants or something! I'm sorry -- "
"Stop! Stop apologizing for assumptions that aren't your fault!" Blythe howled then, unable to stop herself. "Stop apologizing for me, stop apologizing for your father, stop apologizing for James and Lisa right now, especially! You are human, whether we're capable of remembering that or not! And you are not a mutant, do you hear me? You can only do the best you can! Just because it happens to be better than most others isn't your fault! That doesn't mean you can't make mistakes! It doesn't mean you can't get sick! It doesn't mean you can't have flaws! You think your father ever did anything aside from work, Greg? You know as well as I do that John ate, slept, and drank the military. I suppose we entertained entirely too many fantasies when it came to you, but the biggest one is that you might be happy!"
Blythe took a steadying breath and started the engine again, putting the car in drive and re-entering the freeway. Eventually they passed a sign for an upcoming Embassy Suites and Greg told her to turn into the exit when they got there. Blythe blinked, almost issuing a denial on the grounds of expense before she remembered that Greg was a department head at his hospital and could -- would pay for the best if she asked.
Greg stilled then, staring at her with that same foreign expression of incomprehension that she was starting to hate. He turned away and stared out of the window again, not speaking until they got out of the car.
After weighing the pros and cons (of which there were many), she eventually gave up and simply let him have his way for once. After all, when had she ever in the past?
"Is this fantasy like the one where I'd make new friends every time we moved? Or is it like the one where if only I'd straighten up and fly right, or..." he stopped and stared at her, "What did you mean, 'stop apologizing for James and Lisa'? What the hell did they do?" he was confused now but quickly replaced that look with an expectant one as he leaned against the car and steepled his fingers in a pose long-familiar as one of John's when Gregory had gotten into trouble yet again.
Blythe blew out a breath, "When James told me why he'd been so angry with you, he told me everything about what happened with his girlfriend and all kinds of things about you getting drunk and calling him up in the middle of the night and the bus crash and how you've been taking more of your medication and -- "
His face was closed now, his expression forcibly blank. "If you'll excuse me, I have to make a call."
With that, he about-faced and stomped over to a bank of payphones. Blythe felt herself shiver despite the warmth and rushed into the hotel, humming unconsciously as the doors closed behind her. She didn't glance backward, only favoring the woman at the front desk with a watery smile. Whatever Greg said to James was between the two of them. She didn't need to get involved. Everything would work out between them sooner or later.
After about ten minutes, Blythe was tempted to walk back outside to see what was keeping Greg, but she was thankfully spared by the automatic doors swishing open and Greg stomping inside, followed by a bellboy with his luggage. Blythe felt her breath hitch as she realized she'd completely forgotten about his bags in her haste to get away. She wanted to say something, but Greg cut her off with a tight, false grin and then began speaking with the desk clerk. He was still furious, she could tell, but nothing else. The knot of tension between her shoulders wasn't going anywhere, she discovered, an unidentifiable feeling coming to mix with the fear. She hoped it was something akin to resignation. She was certainly accustomed to that.
...So when you ask, 'Is something wrong?' I think, 'you're damned right there is, but we can't talk about it now'...
It wasn't until they were checked in that Blythe finally registered the full meaning of what had just happened. Greg was paying for a terribly expensive hotel room, for only one night, but with amenities that he wouldn't have been able to get at a motel, which had been her first thought. He had an ID number with the ADA that was automatically logged with everything he'd need to simply function while staying there, right down to a room on the ground floor. It took some time, as the Embassy Suites wasn't his usual hotel, but Blythe wouldn't complain. After an hour or so, the concierge let them both into an expansive room with a widened doorway.
Within moments, he'd let himself fall into a chair and sleep. Blythe startled at the noise and turned to see his head slumped over the back of the couch. From her vantage point, she could see a circular reddened wound on his neck and other depressions in his temple. She sighed, trying to remember a time when she saw Greg happy or at least content in some way. She realized then that she could not, much less that he should care to show her anything other than contempt and the knowledge that she didn't deserve it made the jagged wounds in her heart deepen even further.
She wanted to move him to a bed but he was still too heavy and whatever she wanted to believe, she'd disturbed him enough for a lifetime.