House passed by it the first time while raking the shelves for Die Hard 2. Something nudged at the back of his brain. This can't be right.
The expression that he wore was nothing like House's, and House could only think of a few times in his life that he'd twisted in his lips in quite the same fashion. But his cheekbones and eyes were, well, identical. Now that he thought about it, his entire face mirrored a thirty-seven year old Gregory House, drunk at the Bard and Banker on his friend James Wilson's birthday, the first one of those that they had shared together. Wilson was imitating Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, for reasons lost to time, and House had been giggling madly, attempting John Travolta's lines.
Except for the slicked-back hair. He didn't think that he'd ever had hair like that.
The recollection of this particular memory just made House step away farther from the glossy box, remembering some scientific article in the New York Times from a while ago that talked about look-alikes, and how everyone had one floating around somewhere in the world. But this couldn't be right. This man looked far too much like him to have simply been blessed with similar features by some random twist of fate. This guy had his genes.
Usually House wouldn't be so quick to be suspicious, usually he would at least try to investigate, and so he lamely convinced himself that Wilson had played a trick on him. But how would Wilson have made the box in the first place, without the help of a factory printing press, and how did he manage to get it to the Best Buy? He worked a full shift today, yesterday, and the day before. And how would he make sure that no one else bought it by mistake? Furthermore, what was on there? This version of himself walking, speaking and eating pasta? He shivered. Was he filmed and photographed when he wasn't looking and then manipulated with CGI? This clone wore a suit, something that House would never do, which was more reassuring and less so at the same time.
His underarms were warm and damp and his button-down shirt felt constricting, like it was pushing down on his chest. But he had to look, just had to; otherwise he would wonder for the rest of whatever time he had left in this life.
He picked up the box, unsure of its nuclear capacities, and flipped it over. 'Starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, renowned British comedians', it read. House had never heard of either of these people, which would make sense, since he wasn't raised on the BBC.
So this creature was named Hugh Laurie. And he was British. House thought about how he would sound with a British accent. Thought about trying it, in fact, but the DVDs section was full of post-holiday shoppers and he wasn't even sure that he felt comfortable making noise at this point. Hugh Laurie might be lurking around somewhere, ready with crumpets and puckered lips.
So he rooted around in his pocket for his phone, hands pulsing as he dialled Wilson's number.
"Wilson?" He ventured shakily.
"Yes, it's me." There was a spot of silence.
House cleared his throat.
"Are you sure that we haven't been thrust into The Ring?
"House, you've never watched that movie. Why?"
"No, seriously. Have you checked?"
"Well, someone had an exploratory surgery today, and they bled. Like, real, red, blood. Honestly. I was there."
"No, stop it. I mean this for real."
Wilson shifted his tone.
"I found… something at Best Buy."
"What is it? Silver condoms? An electric blanket?"
"Um, no. Not quite."
"Why are you phoning me then? What's so exciting?"
He spat it out in one burst.
"There's a DVD boxed set. With me on the cover."
Wilson was silent.
"Like, someone has made fan videos of you and stuck them in the store?"
"Um, no, this is a TV show. A British one, I think. From the BBC. Jeeves and Wooster."
House breathed in deeply. At least someone else knew now.
"Are you sure that you aren't just high? Or exhausted? That last case really took a hit on your sleeping habits."
"I slept nine hours last night."
"So what are you planning to do? Buy it? Upload it to YouTube?" He could tell Wilson was mocking him.
"Well, what do you think?"
"You're asking my opinion on something?"
"Umhmm." House stared at his palms, sparkling with sweat, and wiped them on his jeans while the phone rested in the crook of his shoulder.
"I say you go home, have some tea, and go to slee-"
House snapped the phone shut. He picked up the boxed set, feeling the protective plastic slide under his grasp. He leaned more heavily than normal on his cane and patted it in a fatherly way as he moved toward the cashier.
You're all I've got now.
"Holy shit," said Wilson, toes curled tightly on the glass tabletop. The clean-shaven man filling up House's plasma-screen was holding a small tea-cup and saying something that should have been funny. Wilson didn't laugh. Instead he joined House and a bottle of scotch on the bathroom floor. The cold tile was searing on his thighs beneath their thin slacks as he leaned against the base of the toilet.
House scratched his forearm. "Did you know that raccoons are closely related to bears? Bet you didn't."