"You have been found guilty and convicted of the crimes of high treason, conspiracy, harboring fugitives of the law...."
A nameless voice droned on and on about the crimes the guilty had been condemned for. This was the way it always was. The crimes were always read in a monotone droll by a man who is never shown in a cold, dispassionate tone. No. These guilty were not deserving of any compassion, even the smallest measure of facing their accuser.
A face stared forward serenely, with a half-smile quirking at the thin lips of the man in question. His blue eyes pierced through space and time, through the thick lens of the camera, through the millions of miles of cables and satellite broadcast, through just about every television and computer in America. He did not stare at his singular, vocal accuser, but at the millions of Americans, healthy, normal Americans who had condemned him to this end. His eyes screamed an acceptance and tranquility that seemed a painful mockery of what was to come, as though he knew this is not their fault. It was the same expression born on the faces of so many pet owners when their faithful Fluffys and Rovers come calling with the limp corpse of some small, furred mammal dangling from their maws, the understanding that it was their instinct to do this, their natural, genetically encoded urges. He did not blame them, and, somehow, that made it all the more grotesque to watch.
Dr. James Wilson had never met this man before in his life, this man who dared look right through the television and right at him, but he knew the stranger by name and reputation alone. Everyone knew the name of the guilty and spoke it with snide sarcasm and precision barbs. No one saw the man behind the name, no one but Wilson, and, God, how it killed him.
"Does the guilty have any last words?"
Those blue eyes, filled with what might have been a great truth of the cosmos seen only at the hour of death, flickered for but a moment from the camera to something back and away from it. They glistened slickly with unshed tears, reflecting light as did the rest of the sweat soaked, bald head. Wilson could have cried with him, seeing how febrile and weak this man had become in the weeks since his pathetic excuse of a trial. His heart contracted with the stranger's suffering.
"In 1944, this nation promised 'never again.'" He gave a cracked little huff, the ghost of a mirthless chuckle. "Funny how easily we turn on our values." The guilty shook his head, a tiny quirk of a restrained motion, as he painfully yet delicately annunciated, "No. Nothing I have to say will give any dignity to this.... this genocide."
Those were the last words of the great Charles Xavier. Wilson would not, could not, watch his execution, could not bring himself to bear witness to unbridled barbary that the so-called "civilized" world had not seen since roughly the Spanish Inquisition. He turned his back on the television while so many others, so many people he knew and loved watched with wide eyed adoration, a hungry, insatiable lust for blood and for death. Even House's precious, precocious little ducklings were watching, drawn in by the ghastly deed like so many others despite their purported high moral values and Hippocratic Oaths. Unlike them, Wilson could not bear it. Instead, he high-tailed it to the nearest men's room and quite promptly threw up everything he had in him before curling up in a quivering ball to cry softly and quite meekly to himself on the cold, antiseptic tiled floor.
And House or Cuddy? His so-called friends? They were too wrapped up in it all just like everyone else, too engrossed in the news to even notice Wilson's absence.
He sniffled, drawing a ragged breath. Never in his dreams had the oncologist imagined that anything would actually happen in the wake of the new legislation against the mutants, especially nothing as savage as this. In a distant portion of his mind, Wilson wondered in his pathetically tiny microcosm of sanctuary that barren bathroom stall in the PPTH if such cruelty was just another genetic trait to the species Homo sapiens, something to be wiped clean from the face of the Earth as simply and as devastatingly effectively as it was planned to eradicate the mutant genes filtering through America. He shuddered and drew his knees up to his chest, hugging himself against the crippling panic that threatened to swallow him whole.
It took three years for Congress to pass severe anti-mutant legislation, barely a hiccup in the grand evolution of humanity. After that, the United States government deemed that anyone with the misfortune of being born with the mutant gene was a criminal of the highest regard, and that anyone daring to harbor a mutant was, in fact, guilty of treason and giving aid to a felon. Assault teams were assembled and deployed immediately to round up as many mutants for rapid disposal. As an oncologist, Wilson had to appreciate the swiftness of the whole act, the surgical precision of isolating society's cancer, cutting it away, and radiating any remains; as a man, it sickened him.
It took little more than two hours for the assault teams to apprehend Charles Xavier and his students. Xavier had given no fight. Instead, he'd opened his front door and welcomed the strike force that dared invade his home. The damned fool still had faith in the democracy of America, as though he and his precious children would be spared for being so accommodating. Xavier waved a white flag only to have it spat upon.
It took four months for Charles Xavier's case to be "processed" and his pathetic joke of a "trial" to be held. He was executed immediately after on prime-time television, right in between back-to-back episodes of Family Guy. When not a single member of PPTH's staff seemed to note his absence the day Charles Xavier was put to death, Wilson made his way home to drown himself in the last dregs of Maker's Mark in the cabinet. He did not know why, but it felt right having one last drink to mutant kind's great hope.
It took a further five weeks for the vast majority of American mutants to be exterminated and for James Wilson to discover that, while absolution did not lie in the bottom of bottles of scotch or whiskey, it made it damned easily to sleep when the alcohol stole both his consciousness and dreams away. He withdrew on himself, sobering only to drag himself to work for his patients. Once or twice, upon glancing in the mirror at his haggard expression, Wilson almost thought he was beginning to look more and more like House by the day, even starting to summon up some bitter inner sarcasm with his own, equally scathing remarks. Cuddy started snapping at him more and more and urging him to get help, giving the added impression of the transformation, while House, for his part, said nothing like the coward he really was in Wilson's eyes. For all his lofty ideals and mighty morals, House held his tongue as the government slowly rounded up the offending cancer on society, an act that seemed a cruel contradiction to his nature, to the friend Wilson thought he knew this whole time. Cuddy, Wilson, and House slowly drifted apart, separated by an increasingly yawning gap.
It took precisely one hundred and seventy three days for the assault teams to snare the infamous Wolverine. He did not go down without a fight. Wolverine fought like his namesake for days without rest before his apprehension. They "executed" him countless times on tv before realizing he could not be killed so easily and decided to put the beast on display in the very center of New York City.
Wilson pulled himself together enough to make his way to the City, to Times Square to see him one last time. He was fortunate in his timing. The NYPD had just apprehended their friendly neighborhood Spiderman and put him on the chain alongside the dangerous, deadly Wolverine. Peter Parker. Underneath the bruises and the blood, he was just a kid, a whelp of a child. The boy sniveled and cried, begging anyone he made eye contact with to save him, to help him, after all, he had just been trying to do good for the City. The people who gathered at his cage just jeered and mocked him for it. They threw empty bottles and trash at the boy, and he eventually curled up on himself, hugging himself for dear life.
The Wolverine, however, stood proud and defiant, despite his shackles and the grievous injuries of the many attempted executions. They had chained him and beaten him, yes, but he would not be so easily cowed as the child at his side, not even by wounds that would have crippled any ordinary man. He glared at the crowds with narrowed, bitter eyes, daring any of them to risk his ire and say something about him.
Wilson had slid along the crowds, carried by the ebb and flow of the foot traffic about him and not by any concerted effort. He had driven to Manhattan on a whim, and to find what? He did not know. The doctor lingered, never taking his eyes off the man who had once been a member of the great and mighty X-Men, Xavier's protectors of humanity. After a while, his presence caught Logan's attention, and the Wolverine lifted his nose to the wind and sniffed the antiseptic stench of PPTH and the booze on Wilson's breath before scowling directly at the oncologist. Wilson stiffened, staring frozen into the eyes of a mighty, yet dying and desperate predator.
However, Logan merely turned his shoulder away slowly and spat venomously, "Save your fucking pity for someone who actually gives a damn, bub."
Wilson went home with his tail tucked quite firmly between his legs wondering why he'd ever gone in the first place.
The night the Wolverine was officially declared dead, however, House caught Wilson by surprise. Wilson had not heard of it yet, but he found House sitting in his door frame, already nursing a bottle of whiskey and half in the bag. He looked tired, exhausted almost, ragged and raw, as though aching in a way Wilson had not seen over the course of the last fews. His eyes were sunken and sad in a way that Wilson could not quite imagine.
"To what do I owe the rare pleasure of your company on this fine evening?"
Wilson sniped bitterly and without remorse, barely even attempting to contain his aggression. After all, where had House been all these months? He had said nothing over this whole time about the movement, these human cullings. Where was the vocal, irritable doctor with his rampaging superiority complex lording over everyone and everything?
House shrugged and offered the bottle of Jack Daniel's to Wilson, shaking it and sloshing the contents. "We're celebrating."
Wilson took the bottle and a big swig, feeling the whiskey burn down his throat with a welcome, hot sear before addressing the curious statement. "And what are we celebrating precisely?"
House cocked a wary eyebrow. "Aren't you going to invite me inside so we can do this shindig up right?"
Wilson frowned but unlocked the door, gesturing with a wide, sweeping gesture for House to join him inside. House clambered to his feet, swaying unsteadily. Wilson could not tell for certain if it was because of his leg or the whiskey. House gave no indication of either but limped along ahead of Wilson. In another day and age, before this strange gap had spread between them, Wilson might have worried, offered to hold House's hand or perhaps even shouldered his weight through the entry. Instead, he followed behind, making sure to shut the door and bolt it firmly if House, of all people, had something so dire that needed to be said behind closed doors.
House plopped down on Wilson's couch with a heavy sigh, and, to Wilson's great surprised, suddenly seemed so very small. His head hung limply on his neck, and his eyes stared vacantly at the floor as though the spirit and fire had left him. He looked exhausted and hollowed in some way that Wilson could not accurately place.
"They killed him, did you know? Wolverine?"
Wilson did not need the clarification. When House spoke, it was slowly and solemnly, with a care that suggested his uncertainty in speaking those words with what sounded like grief, an emotion forbidden when it concerned the mutants. Wilson had never heard House speak about the mutants before in any regard, whether for the good or bad.
"I heard." Wilson treaded this dangerous new territory carefully.
House snarled and spat viciously, feral like a cornered cat. "Dragged the body out into the street and burnt it to a crisp." He took another big swig of the whiskey, swallowing convulsively as though already well beyond his limit for the drink. "Gotta admit, I didn't actually think he'd actually burn." Wilson shrugged his shoulders, keeping his face impassive as he prepared two glasses for them and set them before his once friend; House gave a quick nod of his head and poured two liberal doses out. "Guess I was wrong." He snorted, clearly drunk but taking another drink. "Chock that one up to the history books."
"I'll alert the presses now," Wilson chimed in nervously.
House kicked back the drink with the same swiftness as the prior gulps, not tasting the whiskey at all but twisting his face into the same grimace. Then, he turned the glass in his hands. For a long moment, Wilson thought House was simply done for the night, that the diagnostician would just shut up and maybe pass out on the couch for a while. In fact, Wilson started to hop for it, for the quiet, alcohol induced snores and awkward morning coffee that had once been a hallmark of their friendship.
Finally, House raised his gaze to Wilson, and he grinned from ear to ear. "Well, aren't you going to ask me what we're celebrating?"
"Alright," Wilson sang, leaning closer now. He raises an eyebrow in what feels a cruel mockery of the mischief they once shared and asks in a reverent tone, "So, what are we celebrating?"
"The end of human evolution as we know it." House looked down down to his leg solemnly and shook his head, massaging the ruined muscle with one hand while sloshing about his glass of whiskey, threatening to splash it all over Wilson's pristine, cream colored carpet. "Fucking politicians." He raised his glass, dribbling a bit of the amber alcohol down the side and announcing with sneer, "For all those narrow-minded pricks who have never heard of a little thing called Science or progress, I toast thee." House held his glass up and out to Wilson. "Well?"
Wilson took a deep breath, looking down at the whiskey contemplatively and shaking his head in irritation. "So you're drinking yourself stupid because they killed the great Wolverine and you think his abilities could have fixed your leg." Wilson kicked back the drink, ignoring the burn on the back of his throat and scowling as he slams the glass down on the table. "So, what? It's wrong to kill him because he's a mutant, but it's perfectly fine to run laboratory tests on him to make you better? Very classy, House."
"No," House murmured, drawing his glass close to his chest in an almost protective gesture of childish naivety, like a toddler clutching a teddy bear. "No. I'm pissed because, for however much we so-called 'humans' think we are superior to other species, we just keep proving ourselves to be nothing more than animals." There was something misty to his red, bloodshot eyes now as he sips the whiskey in long draughts, some unspoken sorrow that softens even Wilson's anger. "I'm pissed because...." House swirled the remnants of his drink in the glass before gulping it down and admitting, "I'm pissed because I don't know where it will end." House shook his head and frowned, maudlin now. "I don't know...."
Wilson melted slightly, shook his head, and sighed, "You're drunk, House."
"M'not drunk. I'm intoxicated," House corrected in a subtle slur, playfully swinging his empty glass. "Drunk implies alcoholism, and you know it. Not a drunk."
Wilson could not help but chuckle at the faux antagonism from House, a jest that dissolved the little annoyance lingering in Wilson and replaced it quite simply with empathy. House had never been a particularly open man with his emotions, not even when heavily drugged. However, Wilson knew that, when soundly intoxicated, House would sometimes allow tiny glimpses to his inner world. This, Wilson knew, was a rare view into House's opinion on the extermination of the mutants, a small hint of grief and perhaps shame. It spoke volumes to Wilson about how his friend had felt all those months in silent distance. It was a giant step towards repairing their rocky relationship after all that time.
House slumped, dropping his gaze to the ground. Wilson took a moment to look at his friend, really look at his friend. House seemed humbled somehow, cowed by a world that could spurn a true hero like Wolverine. He looked weary, and incredibly small in a way that Wilson cannot accurately place. His eyelids drooped and slipped shut.
"Give me your keys," Wilson demanded in a softly stern tone, holding out his hand.
House gave a slow, languid and uncoordinated nod of his head. He fumbled at his pocket, digging and fishing about for his motorcycle keys. When he finally located them, House dropped the keys in Wilson's hands before going loose and limpid once more. House's breathing deepened and slowed to a relaxed rate, giving the momentary illusion that he had fallen asleep sitting upright.
Then, quite abruptly House let out a heavy breath and asked of no one really, "What's happening to us?"
Wilson had no answer for him. Instead, the oncologist had the small comforts he had once so willingly and hospitably offered House on nights his leg hurt too much to safely drive home. Wilson's touch gently guided House's pliant body to lie down upon the couch with hands well accustomed to offering the comfort of a soft touch. House put up only a small, pathetic attempt at pushing him away before allowing Wilson to ease him down and quickly succumbing to the overwhelming call of slumber. Wilson quickly fetched a warm blanket from the hall closet to drape over House. He lifted each of House's feet in turn, moving with slow, practiced care not to wake his once friend, despite being full aware that House was absolutely under. He unlaced each shoe and slipped it off, setting the sneakers side by side on the floor in easy reach for when House woke in the morning, along with his cane. Wilson took the dirty glasses, set them in the sink, poured a clean glass of water and placed it on the coffee table before House. It was the same motions of so many other episodes of their lives.
As he clicked off the light, Wilson fingered the keys in his pocket. In days past, he would put the keys in a drawer in the desk, a spot House knew well from so many other nights at Wilson's place. However, now, with how shaky things have been between them in recent times, Wilson wondered if House awakes in the night still drunk, if he will attempt to leave and flee the awkwardness between them. He clutched the keys for a long, worrying moment, strongly considering hiding them in a new spot before putting them safely away in the usual drawer. When Wilson took one last look to House, Wilson whispered a silent prayer that, no matter what has happened between them, House would stay the night.
Fortunately for Wilson's worrying heart, it was not until morning that the sound of House's motorcycle briefly stirred Wilson from his sleep.
That morning, at the hospital, House was just as irritatingly quiet and eerily distant as he has been all these long months. It was as if nothing has happened. However, now, when Wilson saw House, he saw the pain that was so rarely glimpsed the night prior.
The news ran the same almost comfortingly constant ticker at the bottom of the screen featuring tiny snippets of world events ranging from economic struggles to sporting triumphs. However, below that, in those trying times, a second ticker had appeared, streaking beneath the painted faces of the familiar anchors that no longer hold James Wilson's interest. Instead, he watched that second ticker with a near masochistic attention, following each and every letter as it burned into his brain in bitter memory. Those were the names of the mutants, each listing their current status in a macabre parade of the dead.
Salomon, Aaran alias Slither - EXECUTED
Sanchez, Violet - EXECUTED
Sawyer, Edie alias U-Go Girl - EXECUTED
Shaara, Neal alias Thunderbird - EXECUTED
Sheppard, Mark alias DJ - EXECUTED
Silk, Mickey alias Poltergeist - APPREHENDED
Wilson winced at the names of so many scrolling past of the condemned, interspersed with such few that have merely been "apprehended." He knew that a trial would be held for those sorry few who have been incarcerated, but he knew it will be nothing short of a joke, a pathetic waste. Each and every mutant to surface would be put down like the dogs they supposedly are.
Sinclair, Rahne alias Wolfsbane - EXECUTED
Skarr, Marcus alias Kiwi Black - EXECUTED
Sontag, Philippa alias Arclight - APPREHENDED
Stewart, Vinvent alias Redneck alias Skybolt - EXECUTED
The names went on endlessly, hundreds upon thousands of them drifting past. He shivered. Wilson had never realized just how many mutants there really were out there. And, yet, the names kept scrolling past, crawling beneath the screen with an almost insidious ease and spelling out the thousands upon thousands of dead. Wilson tried hard not to imagine the seas of corpses these lists herald, either charred to dust or buried somewhere in large, anonymous mass graves in some otherwise useless land.
Stavros, Jennifer alias Roulette - EXECUTED
Suggs, Michael alias Hairbag - EXECUTED
Summers, Alexander alias Havok - EXECUTED
Summers, Scott alias Cyclops - EXECUTED
Wilson blinked at the last name and feels his heart cave in. Cyclops. Wilson knew the name well from the news and the headlines. He even had a few newspaper clippings from before it all happened. Cyclops was a hero, a great man-child that House would more than accurately describe as "having a big, squishy heart."
When Wilson went to PPTH that morning, it was with a heart heavy with grief. It was, however, a small and seeming appropriate grace that the day looked equally as dreary. Dark clouds churned overhead, threatening a terrible storm on the way. Wilson shook his head at the weather that so appropriately mirrored his dismal mood.
An army of news crews and paparazzi were waiting to greet Wilson at the parking lot to the hospital that morning. He had barely gotten a foot out of his car when they swarmed, circling him like vultures on the wing. Their cameras snapped and clicked away loudly as they clamored around him, barking this way and that, demanding his name and what he knew. Wilson blinked, but, fortunately, Cuddy's well trained security team was there in a heartbeat to rescue him from the frenzy and ferry him through a contingent of well armed soldiers to the safe and quiet confines of the hospital. Wilson stood there for a moment, simply dumbfounded by what had just happened, staring outside at the sea of media representatives as they surged forward like a wave crashing into the veritable wall of strong armed men clad in riot gear. He stared with wide eyes at the chaos outside, his heart hammering in his chest.
"One hell of a circus out there."
Wilson jumped in surprise and fright. He had not even heard the man limp up behind him, and, yet, when the oncologist turned, there he was, standing there and leaning heavily on his cane. House looked ragged and weary, his face drawn with pain. His leg was always worse when a storm came.
"House!" he yelped in surprise before composing himself and shaking his head to the doors. "What the hell is going on around here?"
House pursed his lips together, like a five year old with a secret. "New patient."
House shrugged, looking down uncomfortably now, evasively almost. "No."
Wilson frowned. There was something strange to House's expression, something distant and fraught with worry. House was a man of little emotion, a man who played things close to the chest. It had taken years for Wilson to learn how to read him, and, while others might think there was nothing wrong, Wilson could see it written ever so plainly in House's gaunt features.
However, he did not need to press, as House explained, "They caught him last night." He spoke with a grim solemnity, perhaps mourning even. "Took three bullets to take him down." He gave another shrug of his shoulders before giving a haughty sort of sniff. "They say they need him alive and well to stand trial."
House shook his head glumly. "Henry McCoy."
Wilson hid in his office for the rest of the morning and the rest of the day. He did not want to faced the arm guards posted at regular intervals through the hospital, nor the news reporters attempting to get their big story about the capture of the infamous Beast. He buried his head in paperwork and waited until night fell over Princeton to leave. That somehow made the passing of the day easier, but not really, not by much. He found himself wallowing through his duties, spending little time with his patients and drifting more and more, lost in thought. It was a long and exceedingly tiring day, even if he did not do any real work, as his mind churned over and over again before settling on one, overwhelming and suffocating need.
When darkness finally settled, and even the flashbulbs of the reporters below seemed to dim somehow, Wilson finally rose to leave. He paused, glancing at the clear, glass door to the balcony adjoining House's office. How often had he and House stood out there and laughed and joked in the old days? Wilson shook his head as the ghost of a memory flittered through his mind with the golden, sepia tones of warm, welcome nostalgia. He would miss those days of skipping out on work and hiding from House from Cuddy out there in the cold.
The light still shone in House's office. Curious, Wilson slipped out, onto the dark balcony and over the stone wall to House's side. He peered through the thick glass and spied House across the well appointed office, lounging in his chair, his eyes closed in sleep but his brow knit in pain. Wilson glanced over his shoulder to the clouds still swelling and building above, highlighted by the faint kiss of paint orange glow from the lights lining the streets and highways of Princeton. The storm had not broken yet, and, as if in testimony to the effects on House, the drug box that normally remained hidden behind House's books rested upon the desk where it had been abandoned. House must have given himself a round of morphine before nodding off in his chair. For a moment, Wilson stood there, just outside of the light, studying his friend before turning away; he would miss House.
Wilson descended the long halls of PPTH down towards the emergency department. He moved easily past both the hospital guard and the military personnel simply by flashing his identification badge. Most hardly looked up from their post, thinking nothing of a doctor in his white, pressed coat with his primly done up tie and starched Oxford shirt. It was a small blessing that Wilson hoped would last just a little while longer.
And, then, before Wilson knew it, he was there, in the room with Henry McCoy. Having never met the man in person, Wilson was surprised to find that McCoy was larger than he had expected. The blue of his fur looked somehow more believable in person, less fantastical, a somehow dark and foreboding color with a slightly iridescent sheen to it. The fur only managed to enhance the muscular bulk of McCoy. However, he seemed somehow fragile amid the bandages and tubes wrapped about him, despite his inherent strength. The guards, however, seemed to have erred on the side of caution, shackling McCoy down with heavy, metal manacles that seemed to bite cruelly into the mutant's wrists and ankles.
Wilson stared for a long, uncomfortable moment at the slumbering beast, unsure of what to say or do, and, so, he relied on the "physician's stall" of thumbing through the mutant's chart, gleaning over the rather perfunctory details of McCoy's injuries, treatments, and varied medications. McCoy would live, that was certain, between his own, natural constitution and the efforts of some rather dedicated EMTs and ER physicians. However, instead of feeling relief, Wilson felt his heart twist at this fact; McCoy would live only to face execution after a laughable excuse of a trial.
A throat cleared with a sickly cough, and, when Wilson looked down, a pair of feral, golden eyes stared back as McCoy asked, "Can I help you?"
Wilson gasped in surprise and dropped the chart to the floor with a clatter before fumbling to retrieved it. Busted. He had not been expecting to find the infamous mutant to be conscious at all. The oncologist had been quiet, stealthy even, and, still, he had woken the mutant. McCoy chuckled softly, but Wilson flushed hotly as he replaced the chart. He had never planned this far ahead
"I.... uh..... I'm sorry."
McCoy blinked his eyes slowly. "It's quite alright." The mutant surveyed Wilson with a studious gaze before sighing heavily. "The good people of Princeton-Plainsboro have been so kind as to have me examined by nearly every specialist within their staff, and, so, please do not think me forward when I ask from what department you hail?"
McCoy hooted before wincing and curling slightly against the restraints. "Ah, forgive me." He stifled his own amusement swiftly, stilling himself to a small, contained laugh. "But cancer hardly seems like a concern granted my current situation."
They both shared and uncomfortable laugh at McCoy's jest. Wilson had always been told that Hank McCoy was nothing if not an educated and witty individual. However, laughter felt improper in this case, sick and sadistic almost. Both seemed to realize the awkwardness of it as silence fell over them.
Finally, McCoy spoke carefully. "James Wilson, yes?"
"Yes," Wilson answered without even bothering to look up.
"I thought so." McCoy nodded slowly, letting his eyes drift shut as he sniffed, studying the air. "I've read some of your journal articles." He opened his olden cat eyes and stared intently, smiling slightly. "Charles spoke of you occasionally, in private, of course."
Wilson felt a tiny smirk curl at the edges of his lips. "He would."
"He often told me that, together, we could have changed the world, advancing medicine years beyond current means." He sniffed, a nostalgic sound somehow coming from him. "Optimist." McCoy chortled oddly, a throaty rattling sound something akin to the purr of a massive lion. "Always thought you were the future of the medical community, Redox."
Wilson's face fell, and he muttered, "Don't call me that." He looked down to the ground, poking at an imaginary bit of dust on the otherwise impeccably clean floor. "I'm not one of his X-Men. I never was." Wilson wrung out his hands, glaring at them, almost repulsed by them. "I just.... I just wanted to make this..... you know....." Wilson fumbled with hands, gesticulating wildly at nothing. "Worth something."
"Regardless, he was very proud of you."
Wilson's face fell at the memory, a fresh stab at his pathetic, weak heart. "I know... He was proud of all his students."
Again, there spanned a long, pregnant pause before McCoy cautiously intoned, "I suppose I can assume this is not merely a social call?"
Wilson shook his head glumly. "No."
McCoy nodded slowly and closed his eyes once more, relaxing back into his bed. "Better you than them, I suppose." McCoy said the word with a sharp disdain, unable to name his betrayers. He cracked an eye open. "Will it hurt?"
Again, Wilson shook his head, drawing close and placing a tender hand upon McCoy's forehead, feeling the soft, downy fur beneath his palm, tingling with electric charge. "No. You won't feel a thing."
McCoy seemed relieved at that. "And... you will give it to someone who.... needs it?"
McCoy smiled faintly now, reassured and comforted by the promise of an old friend he had never truly known. "Thank-you."
Wilson hurt. Every inch of him throbbed and pulsed with sheer agony riding with each beat of his heart and cascading over him. He had so little left, just scraps of what he had taken from Hank McCoy, and so much more work to do. Yet, there was no more time left. He ambled back down from Pedes to his final charge, back to House's office. For a moment, he stood over House,just watching his friend sleep before touching House's right thigh gently and pushing, what little remained in him into the ruined limb. House never woke when the energy slowly ebbed from Wilson and into him until the oncologist felt spent and raw.
Wilson stood, tucked his letter in the crook of House's elbow, took one last look at his friend, and left.
Gregory House awoke with a start to the shrill screeching of his pager followed quite shortly by the ringing of his cellphone and, then, the phone on his desk. He blinked, clearing eyes blurred from slumber, before stretching and looking to his pager. ER. House furrowed his brow and pulled his cellphone from his pocket. Cuddy. He sighed and silenced both, while the phone on the desk continued to ring nearly off the hook. House closed his eyes and rolled over, wondering just how long he could ignore his work before someone came for him.
His phone rang once more in his pocket; House answered and barked, "What?"
Cuddy's voice shrieked on the phone. "Where the hell are you?"
"Does it really matter where I am?" House inquired with a jaunty yet drowsy tone.
Cuddy paused, obviously taken back by his reply. "What?"
House smirked. "Well, you're going to yell at me no matter where I am, aren't you?"
Again, the woman went silent for but a moment. "It doesn't matter. You need to get your ass down to the ER now," Cuddy snarled under her breath with a ferocity that seemed so very her. "McCoy died last night. Army's looking for answers as to why a stable patient flatlined. They're asking for your unique assistance in the matter."
House pursed his lips together and hissed. "ER's Chase's playground. Go find him."
He hung up and turned off his phone before Cuddy could even have a chance to retort and curled up on his side in the chair, hugging himself. McCoy had been an innocent man, as innocent as any other. In his career, House had treated and cured patients from every walk of life, even a death row convict - whose diagnosis spared him from the electric chair. And, yet, no matter what anyone did, saving McCoy only delayed his demise. It was a sick, sad system that he could do nothing to buck for the first time in his life.
House cracked open a wary eye and groaned inwardly. Foreman. The younger doctor towered over him, arms folded across his chest. Leave it to Foreman to spoil a perfectly good day that could have otherwise been spent sulking in a post-morphine stupor.
"House," Foreman barked again.
"What?" House scowled bitterly. "Don't you know decent people are still trying to sleep at this hour?"
Foreman frowned deeply and shook his head. "It's after 9. Get up. We've got.... cases."
House sat up and leveled a stern gaze reserved only for dogs that have pissed on their owner's best rug and med students. "Speak."
"Several patients across various wards claiming 'miraculous recovery.'" Foreman began to hand file after file to House. "Terminal cancer patients going into remission overnight. CNS recovery in a Marfan patient. Increased neuro function and remission in MS patients. Decreased pain scale responses across the board of all pedes patients and vastly improved vitals across the board." He shook his head and chewed on a fingernail. "Pedes nurses are saying Jesus must have doing rounds of their unit last night."
"It's not Jesus or God if it's localized to a single unit," House rationalized, surveying the status of these so called 'miracles.' "Likely an environmental factor."
"My thoughts exactly, but Cuddy would like to rule that out before the miracle seekers start flocking at her doorstep."
House flipped through the files, shaking his head. "Half of these patients are Wilson's. Where's he?"
"No one's seen him since last night."
House rose to fetch his cane and hobble over to the white board. Something fell from his lap to the floor with a paper rustling, but, as soon as he put any weight on his right leg, the diagnostician froze stiffly, ignoring whatever it was. For a long, off moment, House simply stared down at the offending leg. He reached down and rubbed the muscle there, scowling at the limb.
The older man did not respond, focusing instead on the feel of his muscles, taut and tense beneath his fingers. His deft fingers traversed the long lines of fibrous sinew and dug in to study it closely. The leg felt alien and odd to the touch, despite years spent massaging the agony from his leg. The color drained from House's face as he trembled.
Foreman called again. "House?"
This time, his call broke House from whatever held him so transfixed. Those crisp blue eyes finally turned upward to him and Foreman felt his heart stop. In all his years working with House, he had never seen anything like that... the odd, glossy sheen to those blue eyes, the fat droplets that swelled and threaten to slip from his eyes.
"House..... what's wrong?" Foreman asked hesitantly. He gestured to the leg. "Thought you dosed yourself last night. Still hurts?"
House shook his head slowly, whispering, "No."
The diagnostician did not answer, simply too numb to answer, but Foreman did not need any explanation.
Foreman gave an uncomfortable nod before steeling his resolve. "We should get a new MRI and x-rays on it, maybe a CT scan just to check for any neurological issues." Foreman distanced himself mentally like any other physician, and it came across as a cold, unfeeling distance to his suggestions. "See what's changed."
"Yeah..." House breathed, flexing and stretching his leg, feeling in awe as the muscles slipped painlessly and effortlessly beneath his fingers against one another.
"I'll order the tests," Foreman stated, as though needing to fill the silence between them.
House did not even look up as he nodded. His eyes had found the slip of paper with his name upon it penned in Wilson's hand writing, the paper he had dropped by getting up. He bent and picked it up easily. It felt heavier than it should have, weighted by perhaps his own mind. House held it gingerly as he paced, uncertain as to whether he should be terrified by his ability to move so easily now, or whether he should savor the glide of his feet over the tacky gray carpeting.
I have so many regrets in my life, and lying to you for so long has to be one of the worst. I have to leave now. I just wanted you to know how sorry I am. I could have fixed your leg years ago, but I was too scared too. Too scared to take the life from another, too scared that you would turn me in to I don't know who. I'll never forgive myself for it, but I can only hope that you can. Enjoy the leg. There was just enough left for you after the kids. Call it a gift from Hank McCoy and me.
-James "Redox" Wilson.
House closed his eyes for but a moment before settling his gaze upon his leg as cold realization and understanding took him. Oxidation Reduction reactions. Redox. The transfer of electrons from one atom to another, thus transferring energy. House understood know; Wilson's little cancer kiddies upstairs and McCoy downstairs. House sighed and nearly laughed in delirious relief. Wilson always was such a sucker for sob stories like his.
Author's Notes : Yeah..... I'm really not so certain what this is, where it came from, or where it might go. Likely one shot for now. As always, if you want to pick it up from here... go ahead. Just drop a line letting me know what you've been up to!