A Couple of Morons

Outside, it was cold. The snow fell angrily--in haphazard twists and turns, and each strike to the face felt like a frozen blade across the skin. The wind howled like a man dying a violent death, and the torrid freeze raged onward.

Wilson looked through the balcony door and at the storm, and let out a long sigh. He didn't think of making snow angels or building snowmen. He thought of icy roads, inconsiderate drivers, and all the ways a car could slide into an oncoming truck, or into a snow drift. He thought of all the careless drivers causing wrecks on the highway, and of the ER being filled with injured mothers, brother, fathers, and friends.

Sighing, he opened up youtube and watched a skit from an old sketch show, and chuckled despite telling himself it wasn't professional to be watching videos at work. Of course, House had been the one to send them, which should have been warning enough not to click on them (most of them were not safe for work) but he clicked on them anyway. Leave it to House not to put NSFW in the email; then again, Wilson learned a long time that anything he sent would be best unopened while there was company.

It wasn't as if Wilson had much work anyway; he could be in the clinic, but he would save that until later. Colds, flus, and probably a few ice-related injuries could wait. Just a few more videos and he would leave.

The door opened and he minimized the window, drawing up a pen. He knew it was House, which made him pretending to work unnecessary. Still, he often liked to pretend he was busy--House liked interrupting Wilson working. There was no real reason behind pretending to be bothered other than the fact it always seemed to be what House was after anyway. House bothered him, Wilson pretended like he was annoyed, and House didn't call him on that fact he really wasn't busy at all.

House plopped onto the chair on the other side of Wilson's desk, cane bouncing between his hands. "There is no such thing as real altruism," he announced.

"I'm working," Wilson lied, pretending to look over a release form he'd signed twenty minutes ago.

"And I so care," House replied with an eye-roll.

"So. What brought upon this profound realization?" he asked, closing the folder and clasping his hands together as he looked over at House.

"Some idiot was handing out change to a homeless guy in the clinic."

"How cruel of him to tease him with money for food," Wilson muttered with an eye-roll, opening the folder he had closed mere seconds ago, and pretended to read it again.

House scoffed. "Right. Because three quarters is really going to feed him. And judging by the sores on his face and the fact his eyes were jaundiced, he's not spending his money on food."

"Right. So, the person giving away change is somehow responsible for meth addiction. I see. And this is his fault how? It's not like he knew what the change would be used for."

"No, but he knew that half the clinic was looking at him, and that he could part with three quarters. That money doesn't do anything for the homeless druggie, and it doesn't dent his wallet any, and judging by the smirk he was getting from the hot blonde with an ear infection, he gets to go on a date. He knew she was watching."

Wilson closed the folder. "He still gave money to someone in need. It was a nice thing to do."

"It was a nice thing done to further his own wants. Either he did it to catch the eye of the hottie, did it because everybody was looking and it made him appear all noble, or because he felt like it was the right thing to do, and only did it because the Sky Bully was watching and he wanted to get a good word in before Saint Peter scratched his name off the guest list. He didn't do it out of the goodness of his heart--he did it in order to get something in return. Ergo, not really altruistic."

Wilson blinked. "All right, so one guy did a good deed for his own purposes. What does it matter why a good deed was done? It helped someone; it was nice--what does it matter if the reason behind it wasn't completely selfless? He could have easily used those quarters for the vending machines. He chose not to."

"Because it's not altruism. Society gives him a pat on the back, he gets to tell himself how great of a person he is, and he'll probably get a blowjob out of it, too. Three quarters gets him stamped with the trait altruistic, and he's not. It's a lie."

"And you hate lies."

House nodded. "That's why I don't do it."

"Except for when you do. I think I recall a certain fib about us being gay together."

"Okay, but I didn't pretend that it was for the greater good," House pointed out with a slight tap against the floor with his cane. "Nobody ever does something purely out of selfless reasons."

"People are capable of altruism, you know."

"No they aren't. They only do good deeds because it's what's expected; to make themselves feel better about their bitter, cold, selfish lives, or because they're trying to work their way into a heaven that doesn't exist. It's only truly out of the goodness of their hearts if they do it without getting anything in return. No pats on the back, no promise of eternal life, and no 'I feel better about my sorry existence' feelings, either."

Wilson sighed. "So, you're saying that no one in the entire history of humankind has ever done something truly good? Nobody at all?" he countered with a disbelieving eyebrow raise.

House shifted in his seat and pursed his lips. "All right. So I'm sure that there are some people who are genuinely filled with good intentions--people who are capable of being truly selfless. They're idiots, but they exist."

"So good deeds are either truly selfish, or completely moronic." He put his finger to his lip in faux-thought, then hummed. "Have you ever considered becoming a motivational speaker? I know that I always feel better about myself after one of your talks."

House bounced the cane between his hands again, his blue eyes alight with a grin. "Oh, you!" he said with a fake half-chuckle.

Wilson rolled his eyes.

"So," House continued a moment later, "what this creates is a world where false altruism gets you a tax exemption, and possibly an impromptu blowjob in a janitor's closet, and real altruism gets you trampled. Stopping real good deeds becomes a necessity in order to have a happy life, and puts an end to altruism. I don't believe people will continue doing good deeds if all it gets them is a slap across the face. And don't give me that crap about karma, either. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. A good deed done only to get a good dose of karma renounces its altruistic-ness and doesn't count, anyway."

"But it does exist."

"Does it? How do you know? How can you be so sure that even the unknown altruistic deeds weren't done for a selfish purpose? Done because some mythical figure who only exists in the mind of the stupidly faithful says you're supposed to? Says that in order to get into heaven you have to give some detoxing hobo cash for cocaine? Sure, you just caused another OD, but who cares, right? As long as you get into paradise, what does it matter? As long as you get the warm-fuzzies and can tell yourself that when you go home and cheat on your wife, your taxes, or bring a belt to your kids, that despite all your sinning, you're really just a good guy?"

The conversation had turned sour as did House's expression, and Wilson felt uncomfortable. Something about the whole thing felt important; was House trying to say something? Or was he just generally annoyed and musing? "Under that same argument, how do you know that someone hasn't done something truly altruistic? We'll never really know the real reasons behind any deed--good or bad."

"Have you?" House asked, his eyebrows raised.

Wilson smiled thinly and shook his head. "I'm not falling for that."

"Falling for what?" House inquired innocently.

"If I keep count of a good deed, then it's no longer altruistic. Remembering it makes me feel good about myself, and then it doesn't count, since making me feel good is selfish."

"You've known me too long," House muttered, sounding half-heartedly whiny, and then sighed. "People only do these good deeds to stay out of hell. Deeds done out of fear or guilt or selfish reasons--can you really count it as a good deed? Even the people who didn't do it to make themselves look good did it to stay out of hell. Ergo, selfish reasons, and therefore no longer altruistic."

"I'm Jewish. I don't believe in hell."

"Not like Christians do," he retaliated with his eyes narrowed. "But you believe in the great big Sky Bully, and being punished for misbehaviour. Doing a good deed to avoid the wrath of the Almighty doesn't an altruistic deed make."

"Granted, some deeds are done selfishly, but to say that all deeds are is unrealistic. Like you said, real altruists are morons, which means they do exist. Even if it's rare, it does happen."

"All I said was that if someone were to be truly altruistic he would be a moron. He'd get trampled on. There'd be no point to it at all."

"Not everything has a point. Hate, rape, murder . . . Why not good things, too? Love, hugs, kisses . . ."

"Oh God. Have you been watching the Hallmark channel again? Because we've talked about this." Wilson managed to stop himself from blushing, although in all reality, he had been watching the channel recently. It wasn't his fault that they often had mildly entertaining movies; of course, they were badly edited, but still, he couldn't be entertained with mindless actions films all the time. "Rape, murder, and all the general nastiness is understandable. Mental illness, power problems, walking in on your cheating wife at the wrong time--they have reasons. Don't tell me you haven't considered at least one of them. You can't be friends with me and not think about putting a pillow over my head."

"There's a difference between idly fantasizing and actually doing."

"Is there? Is there really a difference? We're not talking about doing it, anyway. We're talking about the reason. Murder, rape--can all be attributed to anger, or power, or general psychotic problems. I understand why people do what they do--doesn't mean I agree with it. Nothing ever happens without a reason."

"People die without real reason all the time."

"They die of cancer, or a misdiagnosis, or because of a car wreck. Even if they drop dead walking down the street, there's a reason. Bad genetics, heart problems, or an aneurysm--whatever. The phrase you're looking for isn't 'no reason' so much as 'unfairly.'"

"Fine. But there isn't always a reason as to why someone does something nice for someone else. Sometimes people are just generally nice. Sometimes, good things are done simply because they're done--not to stay out of hell, or get into heaven, or to show off--sometimes, it happens. Not as often as it should, of course, but it does."

"They're morons," House stated.

"But they exist," Wilson pointed out.

House nodded. "Yeah. But they don't get anything."

"Isn't that the point of altruism? Nothing in return?"

House nodded slowly, but it didn't really look like he was looking at Wilson anymore, so much as through him. "No heaven to go to, no pats on the back, no warm fuzzies . . . Nothing."

"I thought you said that was what made them morons?"

"Feeling like crap over doing something nice doesn't exactly seem . . ." He clamped his mouth shut on the word 'right' or 'fair' or whatever he'd been about to say.

Wilson furrowed his brows. "It doesn't have to make you feel like crap. It just can't be done with the intention of getting something in return. If something good happens because of it, or you just happen to feel happy afterward, then it still counts."

House tilted his head to the side. "And you know this from personal experience."

"All right, I get it--I'm a human being with flaws. It's nice to know the lengths you go to in order to make me feel better about myself."

"It wasn't a question, Wilson."

Wilson opened his mouth to retaliate, but nothing really came to mind.

"Do you know what altruism gets you? Half your lunch stolen, a boatload of dying patients, three alimonies, and an asshole best friend who takes advantage of it."

Wilson knew what House was trying to say, but he couldn't think of a way to respond to that without bringing it to light and making the entire situation uncomfortable. House didn't really delve into emotions often, and maybe that hadn't been his intention in the beginning or maybe it had, but either way, it had been brought up, and Wilson had to say something.

"Is that your way of telling me I'm a moron?" he said a moment later, his expression schooled into that of indifference.

House smiled briefly and almost imperceptibly. "Pretty much."

A small moment passed between them; quiet, but there. Their eyes locked longer than they normally did, and then House pushed himself out of the chair. He reached into his pocket and dropped three quarters on Wilson's desk, then turned around and walked towards the door.

"House?" Wilson called, with every intention of saying 'thank you' but when House looked over his shoulder, he thought better of it. "You're a moron too, you know."

House scoffed. "In your wildest dream. I'm fully expecting a ticket into heaven for seventy-five cents."

When the door shut behind him and Wilson was alone, he pocketed the quarters with a smile, and glanced through his balcony door, where the storm raged.

Outside, it was cold.

Inside, it was warm.


A/N--This was a free writing exercise. It means that I just wrote whatever came to my head first with no planning ahead of time. It's supposed to help with creativity. I'm not surprised it came out as a House fic. Also, thanks to whoever nominated me for the Rock the House awards! It's appreciated.