A/N: Okay guys, this is it. I hope you all enjoy the final chapter (and don't find any of it too OOC - I'm sticking to my guns, it could happen...maybe). I would like to thank everyone who has stuck with this and reviewed etc etc. You make me feel special. I owe you a cookie of some sort...
Anyway, enjoy and HAPPY DAYS XD
Part Six: Open Gates and Pizza
"It-it's fine. I don't need them."
Did I just hear right? Okay, something has definitely happened.
"What is with you today?"
"You! You're what's with me! You and everyone else at that hospital. I just wanted to spend the day like a normal person spends every other day, but no, that wasn't good enough for everyone else. They had to try and make it something it's not."
"Normal people don't spend their birthdays bleeding all over the carpet," Wilson retorted, a small, almost apologetic smile on his face.
House smirked at Wilson's retort, but although his anger had wilted, his face was wracked with a certain vulnerability Wilson had only seen once around the time of the infarction. Searching his shy eyes, Wilson noticed they were full to the brim with frustration and what looked suspiciously like defeat.
A stillness washed over the room. The only sounds were those of the two men breathing. Neither man moved; Wilson, because he didn't want to disturb House – who was obviously deep in thought – and House, because he was being weighed down and glued to the couch by those thoughts.
"My parents came." Yes. Defeat it was. House even surprised himself as he broke the silence.
"Before I got here?" Wilson asked.
House nodded. Wilson's expression morphed from serious to one of understanding in seconds as it dawned on him how House ended up with his injuries. It was no secret that House and his dad didn't get on, but the reason behind it was one thing that Wilson had never pushed House to admit.
"Mom was in the car; otherwise he wouldn't have done it." House was now fiddling with his cane, body arched forward on the couch. "I told him I wasn't a kid anymore. Told him he couldn't treat me like it either. I should've expected it really. Outsmarting him comes at a price," House laughed bitterly, a wave unhappiness emanating from him. It was all Wilson could do not to pull him close and tell him everything was okay. "Fists always were his way. That and making me feel like shit."
House continued staring down at his cane as Wilson asked the one question he was dreading answering.
"What did he say?"
Everybody lies, House thought, but Jimmy knows me too well for that.
"I…He…" House stopped, now biting his bottom lip. He didn't know where to start. He didn't know how much he wanted to say. He just didn't know. "He said…he basically said that there was no way in hell he'd willingly spend today with his pathetic cripple of a son…If it wasn't for my mom, he'd have rather pretended I didn't exist." House turned his head out of Wilson's view, trying to bite back an unwelcome flood that was threatening to spill. It took all of Wilson's strength to hide his anger at how John had treated his son. This, in Wilson's eyes, was abuse.
Wilson took a deep breath and said as soft as he could, "I know you two never got on well, but it's your birthday…" When House said nothing, he pushed harder, "What's wrong with your birthday?"
Wilson watched as House tried to hide the fact he was wiping his shirt sleeve across his face and as House turned back to face his friend, Wilson immediately noticed the red blotches around his eyes and the tears still teetering on the edge by his lashes.
"Jimmy, I did something…when I was younger. It was stupid…well, not at the time. At the time I thought it was the only…what I'm trying to say is…"
Wilson's heart fractured more and more every time House faltered. Only family can do this to someone.
"House." Wilson's voice was gentle. He nodded in a way that said it's okay, go ahead.
"My dad was on leave for two months, so he'd be in the house most of the time and we'd constantly be getting under each others feet. I'd stopped off at the library on the way home from school. Obviously, being in the marines, he was strict on punctuality, so when I didn't get home 'til late, he…had something to say about it. Before he could lay into me, I remember running to my room. I actually remember willing myself to run faster. I had two old medical journals in my hand that I was desperately trying to hide, but he caught me."
Wilson's eyes were fixed on House, listening. It was like one of House's defensive walls had, not necessarily been torn down, but rather fitted with a window through which Wilson could observe.
"He practically dragged me away from my bed. He was already mad that I was late, so my stupid secrecy on made it worse…He searched under the bed, I assume he thought it was porn or something. Who knows? Looking back, I kind of wish it was porn. He started pulling everything out from under there; boxes, books…come to mention it, I think there must've been a porno mag or two. I could see him getting angrier as he started pulling out stacks and stacks of medical journals. He didn't get it – and that infuriated him. I remember his exact words. 'Boy, what the hell is this all about?!' So I had to tell him. I told him that I didn't want to be a marine. That wasn't me. I said, 'I wanna be a doctor. I wanna fix people.' It's in my head like it all happened yesterday. He started yelling; telling me I'd join the marines if I knew what was good for me. And he tore up some of the journals. Made me tear the rest of them to shreds. He said, 'You are signing up, you are gonna be a marine and you will not argue that. I didn't bring you up to be a disrespectful little bastard.' And then I earned myself a dislocated jaw when I told him…when I told him he didn't bring me up at all. It wasn't the first time, and it certainly wouldn't be the last."
House paused and turned towards Wilson, as though to gauge his reaction. He quickly turned his attention back to his cane when he saw the look of sadness on Wilson's face. He knew he had to finish explaining, but he was afraid that if he looked at Wilson again, he might be too overwhelmed. Swallowing, he continued.
"I don't regret saying what I said. It was true. But he…oh, he made me regret it every day for the next month. It got to the point that all I had to do was move and he'd find a way to punish me, a new method of humiliation. Sometimes it was only words, sometimes he'd hit me square in the face and start yelling these things at me; saying I'm a disappointment, I could never be the son he wanted, I'd never be...I'd never be a man, not in his eyes. Then, one day, it all got too much. Nothing seemed worth it anymore. I ached, I hurt and…he found me in the morning, said I still had a lot to learn and I knew what he meant. It was an ice bath and God I hated those. Then he went out walking. He was out for hours."
Wilson watched sympathetically as House ran a shaky hand through his hair.
"I don't know what it was; whether it was the bath or what, but something pushed me just that little bit too hard. It was one of the worst days of my life. That day, my fifteenth birthday…I did a stupid thing. I took my dad's car and wrapped it round a tree –"
"That's why he –"
Wilson's breath hitched and, though he didn't know if it was the realisation of how awful his friend's childhood was or the fact that House was willingly opening up to him, he found himself welling up.
"House, I'm sorry…I-I didn't realise it was that bad."
Wilson shifted closer to House, watching him lose the fight against his own tears. For a while, House said nothing, simply stared vacantly at the far wall. Wilson didn't take his focus off House. He saw everything; the stray tears that managed to escape, the of House's chest as he tried to breathe. It only just hit him, the realisation that Wilson may never see him the same way again. It wasn't a secret that he hated being pitied; he just hoped that Wilson knew him well enough to treat him the same. It was asking a lot, he knew, for Wilson to just pretend he didn't know anything, but he trusted his friend – trusted him to do the right thing.
After what seemed like a lifetime, Wilson was startled by House's sudden movement.
"Yeah, well…that was a long time ago."
He rose from the couch and limped into the kitchen. Searching the fridge, House pulled out two bottles of beer and then made his way back to the couch. Bemused by House's sudden change of mood, Wilson gingerly took the bottle from his friend, opened it and sat back in the cushions. House sat on the edge, looking into his beer.
"Some of us had the strength to get over it, some of us didn't."
House leaned back on the couch and sighed before taking a sip of his beer. The corners of his mouth curled upwards as he laughed slightly under his breath. He didn't look happy, not by a long shot, but Wilson would've said he'd look contented – if it wasn't for the dark blue bruise under his eye.
"It's not my place to say, House, but after what I just heard, you're more of a man than he'll ever be." Wilson said it so casually, but it was so sincere. He knew House wouldn't say anything, couldn't say anything, this kind of moment was never something he could handle. A glint of uncertainty was present in House's expression as his chewed on his bottom lip, but when he nodded, took Wilson's hand and squeezed it tightly, Wilson revelled in the fact that he'd obviously said the right thing.
He's been through enough tonight, Wilson thought as House released his hand.
"Chinese is cold," House pointed out.
This was House's way of telling Wilson that their conversation was over. No more seriousness, no more uncomfortable silences. No more. And Wilson understood.
"You order in some pizza, I just gotta go get something from my car," Wilson said, placing his beer down and handing House the phone. "And yes, I'll pay," he added, and then mumbled, "like you didn't already assume."
As House ran off the list of toppings for the pizza, Wilson fumbled around in the boot of his car, pulling out a small box wrapped in shiny paper. He'd purposely not bought the paper with 'happy birthday' plastered all over it. Now he was even gladder he hadn't.
Wilson sat back down on the couch next to House and pulled the box out from behind his back, dropping it in House's lap.
"It's a…sorry-for-being-so-pushy…present," Wilson smiled softly as House rolled his eyes.
After tearing the wrapping off, House turned towards Wilson, wanting to say something, but the words just would come out. Guitar strings. A new set, good quality, pure nickel. In a word – perfect. House was always amazed at how Wilson seemed to find the perfect present every year. He opened his mouth and closed it again just as quick. As usual, Wilson saved him.
"They're for your old Fender. It's been sitting there, broken and wallowing for months; thought you could fix it up, give it some attention. Maybe you'll make it happy."
House didn't miss the smirk on Wilson's face, nor could he help the smile developing on his own.