Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and House, M.D. belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and David Shore.
Warning: all places and names not directly canon to House, M.D. are things I picked at random. Any resemblances to real places or people are entirely coincidental. Also, some really amateur Italian.
Note: 21st reviewer gets to request a fic! If they want it, I mean. If they don't, we can...just move on with our lives, I guess.
Bill Arnello—Billy to nobody, not even his brother—made it his business to know everyone. That was why he was Joey's right hand man. It didn't matter if they were grifters at the park or arms dealers from the former Eastern Bloc. If they did any sort of business, legit or not, in the Tri-State Region, whether gambling, drugs, prostitution, or even some of the more distasteful enterprises, he knew who, where, and how.
So he knew exactly who Anoushka was.
He knew about her before she ever stepped foot in New York, ten months earlier. He knew about her before that night at La Nonna, when he'd looked up from a plate of riccota gnocchi to find his brother and a capo named Benito staring at the door and turned, only to get a glimpse of a narrow, arching shoulder and back as she left. He knew about her before July, back when there'd been that big mess in East Harlem where some consigliere from the family got a finger cut off by some high ranking vor for touching her hair.
He knew what she looked like. (A Botticelli Madonna come to life, all holy eyes and untouchable face, the sort of girl who made even a guy like Joey stop and turn to stare after her when she walked by.) He knew where she lived. (In a high class flat in London, in a restored townhouse in New York when she was there.) He knew what she did. (Nothing in particular, really, not in London or in New York, apparently living off of some sort of inheritance or something.)
He even knew, because of one, particular night in front of the Carlyle when he'd been following Joey into the car and heard, from behind them, from a cab that had just pulled up, a certain, low, restrained voice that made him bang his head on the roof of the car as he tried to swing around, what she sounded like when she laughed.
And he also knew, because it was impossible not to know, exactly who she belonged to.
"Dr. House?" said Anoushka. "I'm Summers, your three o'clock."
Summers. Bill had known she wasn't Russian. That look, that speech, it was All-American white bread. But all anyone ever called her was Annoushka, because that was what Luzhin called her, and to find out now that her name was Summers made his hands, in a strange, unfamiliar gesture, clench into fists.
"Well, finally," said House. "These kinks aren't going to work themselves out, you know."
Bill inhaled sharply, abruptly.
Anoushka only smiled, a glimpse of white teeth.
"Ms. Summers," said the other woman, the administrator or something. "I'm Dr. Lisa Cuddy, Dean of Medicine. I didn't catch the hospital you represent...?"
"That's because I don't," said Anoushka, in a tempered, polite tone, and glanced at House.
House looked at Anoushka, at Cuddy, at the other doctor standing beside him with an expectant face, and then said, "My office is this way."
He swung around on the cane, ignoring the outraged expressions on Cuddy and the other doctor, and Anoushka moved to follow him, the smile she gave the others gracious but implacable, unquestionable.
Bill wasn't going to say anything. She didn't know him from Adam, and he had to remember that he was being discreet, that he didn't want anyone from any of the families to figure out where Joey was, that he had no business talking to, or even standing in the same room as, Nikolai Luzhin's girlfriend—
Only she paused, as she passed him, paused and glanced, quietly, inquiringly, at him.
"Puttanesca's," she said, looking him in the eye. "You were with your brother, and it was your mother's birthday."
He should have said something. That was his cue, he recognized, except he couldn't think of anything at all except that she remembered, they were standing in a Jersey teaching hospital nearly six months after the fact and she remembered, and he stood there staring at her until she smiled again, a smaller, softer curve of the corner of her mouth, and left with House.
Cuddy was talking, but he didn't care. Bill walked away, toward his brother's room, where he was supposed to he didn't know what, sit in a corner and jerk off and wait for Joey who might be a fag to wake up or—
Walked away, trying to think about Joey and what he was going to do and how was he going to handle the fact that Joey, his brother Joey, wanted to go into Witness Protection so he could finally go and be the finocchio he'd apparently always wanted to be and what in Holy Mary's name was he supposed to tell Mamma about what her firstborn was doing—
Walked away, and couldn't think about anything except that night, nearly six months ago, when Joey had introduced himself to the girl with the green eyes sitting at the next table with all the Russians, when Joey had danced with her to something slow while he watched and Mamma had told him that she prayed every night that one of her boys would bring home a girl like that exactly, one of these days, a Dio piacendo—
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. A fucking teaching hospital in Jersey!
To think he'd been so unnerved that night at Puttanesca's, taking Joey by the shoulder and asking him what the fuck he was thinking, whispering in Anoushka's ear like that in front of everybody and their grandmother—and Mamma, in front of Mamma!—
Bill stood by the glass wall of his brother's hospital room and looked off into nothing.
Thirty minutes, maybe forty, later, Anoushka came to stand next to him.
"Dr. House said he was going to be all right," she said, as if they were in the middle of a conversation, had been talking for hours and hours.
"It's what I hear," said Bill, calmly, collectedly, because he'd had an hour to prepare.
He looked at her, and she was already looking at him.
Those eyes. It was because of those eyes that he guessed her to be twenty-six, maybe twenty-seven, rather than the twenty-three her face suggested.
"Arnello," he said, "Bill Arnello."
"Joey told me," she said, and smiled again, that understated smile that made him want, more than anything, to see more of it, the young, girlish smile to those womanly eyes. "I guess you know who I am."
"Joey told me," he said, and wasn't quite as shocked as he should have been to hear his voice so light, so playfully teasing.
She laughed, the same laugh as from the cab all that time back, a laugh like a Mass being sung in all its glory and grace, and his heart throbbed in his chest.
That was how Anoushka was there to see Joey wake up. How she was there to sit next to him while they talked to Joey, the perfume of her hair and skin intoxicating the air, and how she went with him in the car, later, when Joey talked him into driving back into New York to get a change of clothes and give Anoushka a ride while he was at it.
And Bill decided that maybe, though he would never admit it out loud to anyone, Joey wasn't the only one who knew a thing or two about wanting something you couldn't have.