The Male Man
Pairing: Established H/W
Rating: NC-17 Adult.
Summary: House had hidden his condition for a many years. But what happens when it becomes known at the worst possible time?
Disclaimer: Not mine...blah, blah, blah - though a fantasy never hurt anyone.
This story is in response to a prompt by AdamtheAnt. Thank you for the excellent idea! I hope the resulting fic' meets with your approval.
AN: I only know as much about Aspergers as I have read and researched. There are several chairs of opinion when it comes to what makes up an "Aspie's" mind; one such opinion suggests that the Aspberger mind is the extreme male spectrum of the human brain, an opinion many Aspies firmly denounce (particularly women with the disorder).
Aspergers has been called the "high functioning autistic". In my story, I have decided that House is a high functioning Aspie.
I can only write as I imagine it might be like to view the world through the mind of a man with Aspergers (or to be the friend of the man with Aspergers), therefore some of my renderings may be inaccurate or just plain wrong! All other medical misunderstandings that may arise in this fic' about Aspergers, and autism in general, are mine and mine alone.
Boy did this story ever bring controversy to my door! I've received both kind, encouraging reviews and others designed to take a strip off my from top to bottom - both types from mostly those with aspergers. Some told me I got it spot on, others said the story was grossly inaccurate and awful. I have a thick skin, so I wasn't so much bothered by the differences as - who do I believe?
Since knowing House, since knowing about House's condition, Wilson could recall only a handful of times where things - people and situations - had gotten out of control for his friend. Out of control so he could tell by House's expression, bowed countenance, or that cornered, haunted look that came over his face, that House was close to a break-apart.
Not a break-down. It had nothing to do with depression of the pressures of the job, but House's inability to analyze and cope with a particular set of circumstances within those pressures. Such stresses, in a certain way, hemmed him in, making it impossible for him to process their nature, thereby leaving House powerless to react accordingly, and so innocently conveying the impression to them that he wasn't like them. That he was in fact abnormal, to those who looked on in ignorance.
Now was one such time and Wilson approached the crying mother, the shrill demanding father and the flying, furious hands of doctor Lisa Cuddy, to extract a mentally bombarded House by pulling on his arm and leading him to safety. As a parting excuse, Wilson offered a few cursory words. "I'm sorry to interrupt everyone, but this is more important. Consult." With some satisfaction, Wilson imagined Cuddy's outraged expression as he dragged away the one upon who she had been venting her wrath for the last five minutes.
Wilson pulled House by the sleeve into the calm solitude of an empty space. Exam room, vacant office, broom closet - it didn't matter. "House?"
House stared back mutely at his friend as though, instead of English, Wilson had just spoken Swahili.
Wilson placed a warm, worried palm against the left side of House's face. Scratchy cheek, eyes shorn of comprehension, locked expression. Wilson was worried, but not scared. He knew what this was. And, after so many years, he also knew what to do and what not to do.
Comfort: ten percent. Thus his hand on House's cheek.
Leave House to sort everything out in his genetically exacting brain; allow him an unfettered moment to put their words and expressions in order and bring some sense to the cacophony of sounds and drowning emotions that moments before had surrounded him, rendering him unable to find the correct words to speak: fifty percent.
Patience: forty percent. Wilson had lots of that one.
Once House had been sequestered in quiet, it never took him more than one or two moments to snap out of it.
"Hey." Wilson said.
House's lost look having vanished, it was immediately replaced by his more customary intensity. "Shit." He blurted. "Did I-?"
"- You did nothing." Wilson assured him. "Three against one isn't fair."
For a few seconds more House looked back at his friend to check for any dishonesty. When he could find none, he nodded. "Thanks."
Wilson suggested. "Cuddy ought to be back in her office by now." Away from the upset parents in other words, and maybe more willing to be reasonable - and calm.
House nodded again, apparently satisfied. With his limping shuffle, he moved to the door, ready now to take on a lone Cuddy by himself, but not before Wilson stole a kiss from the corner of his mouth. "See you at five. I'll come get you."
"What's up with your patient?" Wilson remembered the parent's vocal anxiety over their son, who was not getting any better under House's watch.
"He's getting worse." House said, picking at his food. Dinner was spent seated at their dining nook set in the new, larger, more beautiful living space, that both were still getting to know. Especially House. Change was so much harder for him.
For House to have lost his appetite meant he was especially distracted over his case. "Blood was clean, urine was clean. He's been here two days and he's worse, except I have no idea what he's getting worse from."
"Define "getting worse"."
"Abdominal pain, muscle aches, vomiting, fever - he has all the earmarks of a viral infection but none of the antibodies. It's like his own body is doing this to him."
"I suppose you tested for Celiac?"
House nodded, abandoning his plate. Wilson had cooked spaghetti with his excellent meat sauce; a mixture of pork, beef, grated parmesan and his own collection of fresh herbs, but House's stomach was having none of it.
House shook his head. "Sorry." He gestured to the partially eaten food. "I'll eat it tomorrow."
House was just saying that to be nice. He hated leftovers, but he knew how to be nice. Practice makes ordinary. Repetition makes normal. He sounded nice, but he really didn't care about wasting the food. That was so unimportant next to what was currently occupying his whole attention - his team's case that needed solving. A kid House didn't know or much care about was sick. Caring wasn't the point. The sickness was, and House knew he could do something about that.
Wilson could tell the signs were there - House's obsessiveness, his focus narrowing to a single point in space - his one intent and need: to understand. Such exacting vision was well suited for the job; less so for private life. But Wilson knew how to distract House in a healthy way, so he could keep both of his lives on stable ground. So he could be happy.
Wilson stood, leaving clean-up for later, and circled the round, wood table next to the tall casement windows, now closed to the frosty winds of January. He bent over House. "Hey, want to spend the evening in bed?"
Wilson stared at his lover and his lover stared back with piqued interest. A small smile cracked House's granite concentration, and that was all the answer he needed.
"It's been four days." Taub unnecessarily pointed out. "The kid is getting worse. This has to be environmental."
House looked at his employee like he was nuts. "He's not in his home environment. If it was environmental, he would have gotten better just by being here." House paced back and forth, the rhythmic thumping of his cane becoming a menace to his underling's nerves. House ignored Taub's irritation and, almost shouting - "What else?"
Foreman knew it was a mistake to say so once again, but he could think of nothing clever, and it looked like they were getting mighty low on options. "Toxin."
House looked from Foreman to Thirteen and back. "You two back to sleeping together?" House asked. "Huh? Pillow talk differentials? We ruled out toxins two days ago."
"But we haven't checked everywhere." Chase reminded his boss. "Something could have been carried in and somehow gotten onto the kid. A hospital is full of poisons and chemicals..."
House ran fingers across his chin. He hadn't electric shaved his beard back to its customary buzz for days, and he knew he was looking a bit Raggedy-man. "What are his symptoms?"
Chase nodded. "Yes, we know his symptoms are mostly pain. Pain is a symptom of poisoning."
"Which one?" House asked. He pointed the rubber tip of his cane at the door. "If you can narrow it down to under a hundred, we might be able to do something for him, but until you know..."
Foreman came to Chase's defense. "If we start swabbing, at least we'll be doing something."
House stopped his pacing. He was loathe to admit that he had nothing. The worst symptom the kid had manifested was the lack of any symptom other than the pain. "Fine." He said, subdued. "Go swab the damn place."
Once his team was thankfully absent, House turned to his books and read for over an hour. Nothing leaped out at him from the pages of his many medical tomes. Pain was caused by over-exertion, cramping from lack of blood flow, encephalic disease working on the autonomic nervous system, damaged peripheral nerves, damaged muscle, damaged bones, diseased muscle or bone, cancer, thyroid disorders, toxins invading and damaging tissues, muscle death...
So many causes. But there was just one, just one thing causing this kid's pain. House instinctively felt that. He knew it. He said - "Blood work was clean." to the handle of his cane in the empty room. "No previous injury, no drugs. Parents are health nuts, kid's diet was excellent, exercise regular, lots of sleep for a growing boy..." Something was missing. A crucial point of information that somehow they were all missing.
Wilson entered the office. "Hey, you missed lunch."
House tore his mind away from his thoughts focused inward, his eyes centered on the curve of his first, but not last, cane. Smooth, easy to look upon, an object requiring no effort to absorb, needing no particular disassembling of form to understand. The thing was simple in design and use - complete in it's purity of function.
Now his mind and other senses were needed in the world more resistant to intellectual dissection. Wilson, his friend and lover, was talking. "Lunch? Not hungry." But more was required here than simple facts. Always more was asked of him. He'd grown accustomed to providing for their social hungers. "S-sorry. This case..." Wilson was smart, and more than that, Wilson knew him. He would fill in the rest.
"Got you down, has it?"
Actually that was true though, in relation to his case, he had not looked upon himself like so until now. "Yeah. The human me is a mess."
Wilson sat, clasping his fingers in his lap, relaxed. Used to the two or three sides of his friend. "And what about the diagnostician?"
Wilson fidgeted, not an easy thing to do while sitting, but his hands kept clasping and unclasping.
"What's going on?" House asked. "You're clenching."
"Dad and Mom are in town. They want to meet us for dinner." Wilson explained with some apology. "At Julio's."
Italian food with a splash of Mediterranean. "Odd choice for a pair of Jews."
Wilson nodded. House would refrain from the blunt references to his parents ethnic origins during dinner. They'd already lived through that semantic blast. The previous dinner out, where Wilson had announced to his bowled-over parents that he was now living, in-love, and sleeping with a man - who happened to be House - House had remarked on their stone-faced inability to say a word in response. "Wow. Speechless Jews. Pinch me." That dinner had ended on a stiff, feathers-ruffled note. But at least he hadn't been disowned.
"Best behavior." Wilson urged. "Please?"
House feigned insult. "You expect I'll be a bad boyfriend?"
"No, I expect you'll be a good boyfriend, just a bad dinner guest."
"I'll sit quietly this time. Happy?"
Wilson grabbed a quick kiss off House's rough cheek. "Shave."
"What's good on the menu for tonight?" Was Wilson's mother's rhetorical first words as she took her seat.
House listened passively to the beginnings of the boring night out. Stupid way to start a conversation. All she had to do to know that was read the menu. Her rhetorical question made no sense.
Rhetorical hadn't accompanied House to dinner, so he would be Helpful, as Wilson requested. "Lasagna with meat sauce or balls, linguini with the either of the above, bruschetta and melba toast or pita with garlic butter - the Mediterranean pizza is very good, or the Italian hot sausage pasta bowl; that's what you ate last time."
Last time was over a year ago. House had offered the information as a matter of course. He was supposed to be Friendly and Nice. Everyone told him so. Reciting for her the highlights from the previous and only time he had read the menu, was being polite. House didn't notice the odd look the mother gave him, but he did notice that she had not thanked him. House wondered at her atrocious dinner manner. May I? Please? Thank-you. You're welcome... anybody ought to be able to fake those.
Wilson's mom stared for a few seconds more at her son's strange and much older boyfriend, cleared her throat and went back to pursuing the menu's contents. In the end, she choose the lasagna and a glass of medium priced red wine.
House ordered non-alcoholic beer and the sausage pasta dish. Wilson and his dad decided to split a pizza.
"So," Dad Wilson asked after consuming a respectable portion of his food in silence, "how's work?"
Hiding behind the dessert menu, House rolled his eyes. He would force himself to endure another half hour of this subtle parent/son-and-his-crazy-old-boyfriend interview and then he was leaving. He had never been so bored, or so politely ignored. Not since the last dinner out. Thank god his own father was dead and his mom lived many hours away. The difference there was his mom liked Wilson and had expressed how happy she had been to know her son was in a healthy, loving relationship again - "Finally!" had been her words to her son.
Wilson's parents, on the other hand, merely tolerated him. House could see behind their well-bred expressions that they were silently biding their time, waiting for the day that Wilson came to his Jewish senses and dumped him. The father, whose name Wilson had mentioned several times on the cab ride over but which name was escaping him once more, looked upon Wilson as their prize offspring, and that fine breed of a Jewish specimen living with a homosexual atheist earned Wilson repeated disapproving throat-clearings, and House nothing but a malevolent stare through-out the entire first course.
Wilson's mother, - Muriam? Marian? Merrell? - Mommy-Wilson, clicked her perfectly polished nails until House accidentally dumped the salt shaker all over her lap, giving her something else to occupy her fingers. It would save her another trip to her manicurist. That was nice, wasn't it?
Both people were too aware of their tenuous hold on their son and would never out-and-out dare tell James to part with his new life-partner, but their faces wished it for him every time they looked House's way.
House could care less what Wilson's parents thought of him - or his remaining parent for that matter. Not when it came to how he lived his life. He also resented that he always ended up being the black sheep even when it wasn't his own family. Either way, Wilson always came out in the winner's circle. He could do no wrong even when he was, according to them, doing wrong.
"Spoilt brat!" House said.
Faces stared at him. Two sets of perplexed eyes looked to House, then back to the beleaguered martyr, their son, for an explanation.
House looked at Wilson. "I didn't say that out loud." He looked at Wilson. "Did I?" What was it he had said? He'd slipped a mental gear again. Powerful emotions were the bane of his life, and sometimes his memories got mixed up when they got oiled in the damn things. "Um, whatever it was - sorry?" He wasn't, but social decorum demanded he act like he was. And he only said the sorry part to Wilson, not to mom and dad. Best to ignore those who ignored him. Stupid dinner out.
Wilson kicked his leg under the table, then looked at his parents with a smile that excused his gay lover of the loose, often incomprehensible tongue. "House has a difficult case right now. A boy. He's very sick." Then patted House's hand to still any further verbal faux pa's.
"I don't understand. If he'd sick, how is he spoilt?" Misses Wilson wanted to know.
House knew Wilson wanted him to keep his lips clamped shut and let Wilson clean it up, but the words escaped before he had time to censor his own thoughts, and direct them to the correct fragment of conversation. "'Cause his parents are idiots." Stupid kid. Stupid case!
Wilson sighed, moving in fast to cover that over, too, as best he could. "They delayed bringing their son in for treatment." He explained in answer to his parent's profound disapproval of his rude, inconsiderate boyfriend. House's weirdness was far more on their worried minds than the nameless spoilt sick kid with, according to his doctor, morons for parents.
House shrunk behind his menu, ordered a huge serving of chocolate cake and liqueur ice-cream al-a-mode, and spent the remainder of the excruciating dinner experience licking sticky sweet stuff off of his lips and fingers. Stupid restaurant. Stupid Wilson's parents.
Wilson spent the last half hour soothing over his mom and dad's fears that he had taken up with a mental patient (an uncured mental patient) by talking of his own work and the typical American mundane sloth of his and House's home life. They were gay, yes, but Average. House was a little odd, admittedly, but everything was still American apple-pie Fine, Davy Crocket Good and very, very Norman Rockwell Normal.
If Norman had been gay and living with Sherlock Holmes on crack.
This was a little late but - there it was!
Part II asap