Disclaimer: I don't have enough money to be sued in the first place; it'd be rather silly to try. Anyway, I only own this idea. Or, rather, my subconscious does. *nods* Also, there's paraphrasing of a quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That was an accident, but I figured I'd cover my butt.
Summary: In fact, it's odd, but this is the most relaxed, even jovial, she's ever seen Greg.
Notes: I wanted to continue this series, but canon wasn't proving good enough fodder. *scowls at Shore, et al.* The idea for this is directly based upon the memory of an oddly awesome dream I just had. *nods*
Sequel to Bottleneck, Diversion, Casualty, Bystander, and Abyss. Reviews are always encouraged and deeply appreciated.
"May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one." - Captain Malcolm Reynolds; 'Bushwhacked', Firefly
House sleeps and he remembers. Sometimes, after his body is done throwing itself off a metaphorical bridge for the time being and he's actually able to sleep without just triggering further abuse, he dreams at length, vividly and without interruption. He remembers these dreams in their near-entirety for long afterward, simply able to recall them without bother. It's an interesting alternative in that these are usually dreams he wants to recall. He doesn't quite understand it yet, but he knows he doesn't want to let go of the faraway images of his father smiling down at him, tickling him, both of them laughing before things took their haphazard turn for the worse. He doesn't know how old he is in these dreams, but it never matters.
He opens his eyes and looks out at the room in front of him, the floor to ceiling windows are closed even though it is morning. He doesn't realize it yet, but there's a genuine smile on his face for the first time in recent memory. He eases himself to his feet, tipping his head to the side, and studies the closed blinds, noting the bright sunlight they eclipse before limping over and throwing them open.
His mother makes a startled noise behind him and he turns to see her now holding a pillow over her face. A muffled voice issues forward from behind it asking, "Who are you and what have you done with my vampire of a son?"
House snorts, rolling his eyes, and goes over to his mother's bed, sitting down and yanking the pillow out of her hands. "Remember that time we were stationed in Germany and Dad told me he was going to leave me on the Russian border?"
His tone is light, his body and demeanor oddly bouncy and Blythe stares unabashedly at him, unable to speak. She does remember John's threat, remembers the furious tones he delivered it in, remembers Greg telling him that Russia wasn't a place they could get to with any expediency and John's oath that he'd make the effort if Greg didn't shut up. Blythe doesn't remember any reason why Greg would be smiling about that memory, or any other, really. They weren't good parents. She's reconciled that fact as best as she can, but this is another story. This seems to be Greg glorifying in his father's hatred of him. This, she cannot understand.
...Just like a match you strike to incinerate the lives of everyone you know...
"He chased me all over the house," Greg is saying now, the odd smile blooming, and Blythe is unsure of what to do. If Greg truly has lost touch with reality, she's fairly certain she won't be able to restrain him in any way, much less anything after that. She freezes, waiting it out like everything else, simply allowing each moment to dictate the next. It's what she's good at, she knows. "That was the best game of Tag, ever."
Her breath catches in her throat. "I -- Greg, wh -- your father wasn't playing Tag -- " but she stops herself because she realizes she doesn't want to make him see the truth behind what he remembers. She wants him to be happy in what he believes, not what he knows. So she watches her son, not letting herself correct him. Greg's still not looking at her, but his smile hasn't wavered at all and she finds herself captivated -- she'd forgotten how beautiful Greg's smile could be. He's looking down at the bedspread now, catching his fingers in the hem where she pulled the blankets and sheets, bunching them while trying to find increasingly elusive sleep.
"He told me I gave him a better workout than his DI in basic, remember? He was all out of breath and told me I had to be eating too much candy. I didn't eat candy, he knew that. I'm just a fast runner."
Greg's voice is quiet now and he gave his head a little shake and got up, crossing the spacious room and carefully kneeling to root through his bag, dumping several red vials and some orange ones from the CVS closer to...her home. He removes the caps, taking out the prescribed dosages for each, and piles them all in his hand. A moment later, they've vanished toward his stomach and he rolls his eyes before going to the kitchen and filling a large cup with water.
Blythe listens to Greg mutter in German, words she's never been able to grasp, and then drains the cup without pausing for breath. Hers catches again as she remembers John hitting Greg and telling him he was eating too slowly and if he couldn't finish it, he wouldn't get any for a while.
"See if that doesn't make ya eat faster, God damn it..." John's bark slices through her memory and Blythe brings the pillow back to her mouth, trying in vain to stifle sobs. She has no earthly idea why any memory of John (or her) would make Gregory smile. None at all. She finds herself pushing that aside, however, as Gregory ambles back into the main interior of their hotel room and digs through his bag, smirking with satisfaction as he pulls out a large pair of headphones, a small case, and a CD player.
"Cuddy packed them -- YES!" Greg pumps his fist, doing a small dance on the spot, and then proceeds to jam the headphones tightly over his ears and unzip the case. Blythe opens her mouth to protest before thinking the better of it. What on earth should she be bothered by this for? He's not hurting anything, least of all her. Blythe finds herself curling back against the wall next to her bed and watching as Gregory propels himself around the room, anguish of the previous (decades...) days seemingly forgotten. It isn't until she realizes what he's singing that she's given pause.
"...At the end of the world or the last thing I see...You are never coming home, never coming home..."
Gregory is worrying his lower lip now, heedless of the wounds he inflicted on himself while seizing the night before. He's holding both hands before him, performing a little dance with all his fingers.
Blythe remembers suddenly that the doctors in the ER had him perform the same movements several times over during his stay.
"This is Chase's CD," he murmurs and she realizes he's looking at her, speaking to her. "A lot of them are, actually. He forgot them when he became an attending. I guess Cuddy thought it was mine."
Greg gives his head another little shake. "Maybe it is now." Gregory shrugs and picks the case back up. "This is their third CD. There's several songs, presumably about the military on it, too. I asked Chase if he knew whether any of the members of this band were brats, but he didn't. He told me their names and I looked them up on Wiki -- Wikipedia, this online encyclopedia, and they weren't on the list of famous military brats, but it's always incomplete so..."
Greg exhales, then, and gives a little chuckle. "I'm on it -- didn't know that..." The thought doesn't seem to give him the disdain she would have thought it did, given his reactions about everything else military-related.
"You would be," Blythe tells him but Greg shakes his head.
"I'm not that famous."
"That famous?" Blythe asks, her eyebrows rising now. "You say it so casually."
But Greg frowns a bit. "It's annoying trying to get pertinent medical information about your patient when the person you're talking to is too busy gushing about your previous cases." He snaps then, a mocking expression on his face as he adopts a high-pitched voice. "'Didn't you have that case where that' -- shut up and tell me what I need to know or you won't get your stupid autograph!"
"People -- other doctors want your autograph?"
Greg looks at her then and starts a little. "Not really..."
"If it bothers you, then..." her voice peters out and she bites her lip. She never asked John why he didn't leave the military -- it seemed much the same for Greg regarding the medical field.
Greg looks at her then, his face decisive and firm. "Because I can also joke about medicine," Greg answers her unspoken question and she looked at him, bunching the handful of sheets in her fists once more. "And I think that's important -- for me, at least. I...believe that if I can't joke at all about my profession then I have no business doing it and -- I can still joke about it. The commercials on the Discovery Health Channel are absurd and if I can't see that anymore, then I'll know it's time to quit."
She doesn't quite get his meaning, but he doesn't seem bothered by talking about it. In fact, it's odd, but this is the most relaxed, even jovial, she's ever seen Greg. She doesn't know what to think about it, really -- her own landscape seems eternally bleak from here on out, but in comparison to what her son has already faced, she can see how this wouldn't be the devastation it is for her. For all she knows, this may be the eye of the storm for him. She doesn't know what's waiting for him back in Princeton, after all.
"I guess I've never...wanted to think about your cases. They scare me...being in that position..."
"Again," Greg finishes for her, biting his own lip. "That's not why I do it."
She favored him with a wry smile, "Do you even know why you do it? If helping people apparently isn't it?"
"Well, you told me already -- "
Blythe blew out a breath and frowned. "That's why I think you do it, but -- really -- I can't tell you what your motivations are. I could be terribly wrong. For all I know, you could be racking up money to buy a mansion and your patients are just a means to..."
She trails off then, taking in the patently revolted expression she doubts he realizes has affixed itself on his face.
"I hate those idiots. Smug bastards."
Blythe doesn't say anything, knowing perfectly well he'll just deny feeling anything resembling empathy for anyone, and finds herself smiling just a little bit and gets to her feet. "Do you want to shower first or should I?"
"Ladies first," Greg mutters, an unexpected blush coming to his cheeks.
"Aren't you a gentleman?" she asks and he flushes further, suddenly overcome with an air of embarrassment.
"I was raised to know better," he mumbles, jerking to his feet and beginning to pace once more.
Blythe nods wordlessly, now having joined him in his self-consciousness, and doesn't want to mortify him further so she gathers her change of clothes and goes into the bathroom, willing herself to ignore the safety bars on the walls or the sanded bottom of the shower she steps into.
After a few minutes, she can hear Greg singing loudly over the spray, apparently crashing around to music she doesn't know. For some reason, she feels something lift inside her. She guesses he figures it's safe to be himself for a while.
...If life ain't just a joke, then why am I laughing?...
It takes the majority of the day, but between her finally giving into his badgering and letting Greg drive (she's in the car so she guiltily decides that if something happens, she'll pull them both over and take the blame for knowing better) part of the way so she can sleep and her own (lead-footed) determination, they eventually make it to Princeton with a surprising amount of daylight to spare.
To the right of the New Jersey Turnpike, she can see four figures holding a large cardboard sign with what looks suspiciously like a cartoon house off to the side of one of the myriad exits.
She looks at Greg in the passenger seat, nearly laughing at the comically affronted disbelief on his face. It's a few more minutes until they exit onto their specific service drive but Greg's former -- and another, new face she's never met -- employees don't give him the chance to open the door. The young woman flings it open and envelops him in a hug. The three young men can hardly restrain themselves laughing, but somehow they manage it.
By the time the blond one she thinks is named 'Richard' or something get his own turn (the shorter black man flatly refused, to which Greg responded that Foreman could help him kill the other three as a reward), Blythe finds she's smiling more widely than she's done in the last year, at least.
"Looks like you were missed," she says loudly enough for him to hear.
The new young man bounces forward and eagerly shakes her hand. "Lawrence Kutner, Mrs. House -- I guess you know Cameron, Chase, and Foreman already."
Blythe smiles at his exuberance and Greg's pronounced scowl, "Actually, I only personally met Drs. Chase and Cameron. Dr. Foreman is a mystery -- "
"And will remain so," Greg grouses half-heartedly, rolling his eyes as Cameron herds him over to sit on the curb so she can check his vitals.
"You drove, didn't you?" she asks bossily, not even bothering to hide her annoyance.
"We got here in one piece, didn't we?" Greg rolls his eyes but complies with her examination.
"What if you'd been arrested again?" Dr. Cameron frets, holding each of his eyelids back and shining a penlight into them, checking for something that she apparently finds before pulling out a cuff and taking Greg's blood pressure.
"Then he just would have been arrested again," Dr. Foreman cuts in, irritation to rival Greg's written all over his face.
"What if his mother -- " Dr. Cameron counters, but Dr. Chase stops her with a shake of his head.
"Have you eaten?" Dr. Chase asks, looking at Greg then, and Greg gives himself whiplash trying to get Blythe's attention. He throws her his most pleading look. HELP ME!
Blythe exhales and tamps down her smile enough to assure Dr. Chase that they did stop for food. That Greg was the only one who ate (or that he was the one who tried to persuade her to do the same) isn't anything he needs to know.
"So does House really eat that much all the time, or is this some problem we -- " The new one starts to ask her excitedly and everyone present rolls their eyes except Dr. Chase.
"Kutner, shut up," Greg says in a surprisingly light tone and this Kutner instantly does so without protest, his enthusiasm seemingly boundless.
"I'm so sorry for your loss," Dr. Cameron says earnestly to her now (the same way she introduced herself years ago and Blythe gets the impression she does everything this way which, in due turn, reminds her of John) and Blythe doggedly ignores the blade that slices through her heart yet again, accepting the hug Dr. Cameron offers her. Dr. Chase, instead of possibly hugging her or even looking awkward as she expects, goes to a nearby car and opens the backseat, pulling out a box and carrying it back over.
"From Drs. House, Foreman, and I -- you probably already got Dr. Cameron's flowers with House's name on the card."
Dr. Chase ignores Dr. Cameron's scowl and hands her the box, which she opens it to find a very large coffin-shaped chocolate chip cookie with black frosting spelling out Rest In Peace in Latin, as well as hers and John's names in what would be the To: section of an envelope. The names of her son, Dr. Chase, and Dr. Foreman in what was presumably the From: section.
"You actually bought that?" Dr. Foreman's appalled voice carries around her head and Dr. Chase's false clearing of his throat along with his defense follows.
"Ahem, unlike Cameron's flowers, House's mother actually believes House had something to do with this."
"Not now, she doesn't," Dr. Foreman counters and Blythe looks up at the four of them, immediately aware of the wind cooling the tears on her face.
Gently positioning the cookie box's lid back on, she took a couple of steps forward and placed a kiss on Dr. Chase's cheek. "Thank you," she says in answer to his stunned face. She gives Drs. Cameron and Kutner another hug each and then turns back to where Dr. Foreman is backing away, possibly attempting to hide behind Gregory's lanky form. Greg, himself, is eyeing the cookie, trying without success to hide his covetousness. "One piece," she tells him firmly and he attacks, snatching a large hunk and jamming it into his mouth.
"Thank you, Mommy!" he says around the unchewed food in a falsetto tone that pulls a laugh from somewhere unknown inside her.
"Wash your hands when you're done, Gregory," she tells him amiably and he nods excitedly, licking chocolate off his fingers now.
"You're an ass," Dr. Foreman says to Greg, who dashes off (bad leg be damned, she decided, after seeing him dart all over the place despite it), still making a show of enjoying his hunk of cookie.
"So you've probably said," Blythe tells him, finally laying a hand on his shoulder. Dr. Foreman freezes momentarily before forcing himself to loosen back up. Blythe sighs, "You don't like him -- really, it's not necessary. But it's also not necessary to pretend you hate him."
"Who -- " Dr. Foreman starts, but bites back the question she knows he's asking.
"If you really hated him, you would have quit years ago. You don't have to like him -- if you know anything about Gregory by now, you know he's not holding out for universal -- or even partitioned -- popularity. Even if you wish he would..."
Dr. Foreman exhales, nodding grudgingly.
"We should get to the hospital," Dr. Cameron says to everyone assembled, rolling her eyes and handing Greg a packaged wet napkin that he ignores until he catches sight of her pointed look. Greg fakes a put-upon sigh and cleans off his hands before faking an enthusiastic scream and pointing off into the distance. Dr. Kutner falls for it and gives Greg an insincere scowl.
"Damn, you're easy," Greg observes, his head tilted back to the side. "I would have thought you'd've learned by now. I'm going to have fun breaking that habit."
"You need observation," Dr. Chase proclaims suddenly and together, he and Dr. Cameron begin herding Greg back to Blythe's car.
"Dr. Foreman and I will ride behind you," Dr. Cameron tells her as Chase glances back at Blythe, silently asking permission to drive. Blythe nods and gratefully takes refuge with Dr. Kutner in the backseat.
She falls asleep listening to Greg and Dr. Chase arguing with Dr. Kutner about the apparently fallacy of liking both Star Wars and Star Trek at the same time (something they're discussing with the seriousness of the recent presidential debate), unaccountably relieved. It doesn't matter that James and Lisa aren't here for Greg. She doesn't doubt, though, that these four have stepped forward to take up the slack.
...Maybe I can do it if I put my back into it...I can leave you if I wanted, but there's nowhere else that I can go...
My Chemical Romance. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. Reprise Records, 2004.
Snow Patrol. "Ways and Means." Final Straw. Interscope, 2004.