Presumption of Innocence
Disclaimer: House M.D., its characters, locations and storyline are the property of David Shore, Bad Hat Harry Productions and the Fox Television Network. All Rights Reserved.
A/N: This is part four of "The Law of House" series established on the short story "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". Please comment—it helps me improve my writing! Thank you to all who have been following along and reviewing!
Warning: H/W slash, relationship established.
Rated T for language, violence and sexuality. Discretion advised.
Dr. Gregory House stood outside of the ICU room, watching through the glass with a frown on his bearded face as two police detectives interviewed his lover. It had been two days since Dr. James Wilson had been attacked in the hospital parking lot by two Neanderthals out to bully and destroy anyone and anything their miniscule minds couldn't comprehend. Wilson and he had been keeping their blossoming relationship a secret until they both were comfortable enough to come 'out', as it were. Impulsively House had stolen a kiss from the oncologist at work when there didn't seem to be anyone else around to witness it. Unfortunately they had been wrong about that and Wilson had been the one to bear the brunt of two residents' bigotry; he had gone to his car to retrieve a patient file he had accidentally forgot to bring in with him that morning and had been jumped from behind by the so-called 'healers', whom had proceeded to beat and kick him mercilessly. The result had been two lacerations of Wilson's bowel causing internal bleeding which had threatened to kill him. Surgery had gone well, and barring any infection caused by bacteria escaping from the bowel into his abdominal cavity, he would recover completely. Despite several unsuccessful efforts to get the oncologist to say who his attackers were House had managed to convince him to file a police report following the emergency surgery.
The diagnostician simply thought it was a little soon after surgery for an interrogation. Wilson had accused him of being over-protective. House's response had been simple: Damn straight he was! After years of denial he had finally given himself to the one true love of his life and he wasn't about to allow anything to destroy the one source of happiness in the world that he had found and the source of that happiness. He would do whatever it took to protect Wilson.
House heard the tell-tale clicking of four inch heels on the tiled floor heading in his direction. He sighed in frustration. Here was yet another source of potential hurt from which he had to defend Wilson and himself. Closing his eyes briefly he prepared himself for the inevitable confrontation and argument that was coming.
Dr. Lisa Cuddy walked up and stopped at the diagnostician's side, her curly brunette hair and ample breasts continuing to bounce after she stopped. She folded her arms in front of her and watched the events unfolding on the other side of the glass for two or three minutes before saying anything.
"How is he?" she asked quietly, looking up at the man beside her. House didn't return her gaze but kept his eyes straight ahead instead. He was still pissed off at the Dean of Medicine for the harassing remark she had made the day of the attack when she had learned that Wilson and he were lovers.
"The same is was when you asked an hour ago," was his cold reply. He was sick of her showing up every hour on the hour asking the same damned questions each time. He knew that her concern was genuine but he just couldn't bring himself to forgive her and therefore refused to acknowledge it.
"When did the police arrive?" Cuddy asked next. If she was aware of House's anger towards her she didn't show it. "I knew that they were coming today but I didn't know when."
"And you didn't bother informing me of that fact because you knew I'd bar them access if you had." It was a statement of fact, not a question.
"I wasn't aware that I was obligated to inform you about anything concerning Wilson," Cuddy retorted, her blue-gray eyes flashing angrily. "You're not listed as his next of kin."
"Check again," House told her, now glowering down at her, his crystalline blue eyes appearing cold as ice. "Wilson changed it a week ago. Besides, that's never made any difference before. What is it that you want? What do you hope to gain by baiting me like this? Go back to your office and away from where good doctors are at work!"
"Damnit, House! I--." She began to shout and then stopped herself mid-sentence. She took a deep breath and then began again, controlling the volume of her voice this time. "I came here because…because I wanted to apologize for what I said the other day in Emergency."
House continued to glare at her but said nothing. He wanted to hear the apology, not that he had any intention of accepting it or forgiving her. He wanted her to grovel. He wanted to knock her down a few notches and remind her that she may be hospital's administrator but that didn't give her the right to be a total bitch. Cuddy took his silence as permission to continue.
"I was caught completely off guard by the revelation that you and Wilson are…."
"Say it," House told her sharply. "It's an easy word to say, so just say it!"
The Dean of Medicine exhaled quietly. "Lovers," she said softly. "I've known you both for so long and have seen you both ogle and pursue every pretty woman that came into sight. You once lived with a woman and, until recently, pursued a relationship with me. Wilson's been married three times and was obviously in love with Amber. So naturally when you revealed to me the true nature of your relationship I was shocked speechless. I didn't bother to think about what I said, I just said it and…well, I realize how offensive it was. You had every right to say what you said to me. I truly am very sorry. Who am I to judge? If the two of you are happy then I…I think that's great! Well, I said what I came to say, so, I'll be going."
House watched her squirm her way throughout the entirety of her explanation and apology. He believed that she was telling the truth but he didn't give a damn what her excuse was and only wanted the apology. He hadn't needed to listen to her rationalization of it, too. He watched her turn around and walk away a lot less assertively than when she had arrived.
Good, he thought icily. She deserves to feel like a louse. I wonder if her lawyer told her to do it.
Turning his attention back to Wilson and his interrogators House saw that they were wrapping up the interview. Without invitation or permission, House walked into the room and walked over to Wilson's bedside placing himself between the oncologist and the detectives.
"Finished?" the diagnostician asked, not waiting for an answer, "Good, get out!"
"House," Wilson weakly spoke up, looking up with deep brown eyes that could melt his lover's resolve with one glance. He was reverting back to the habit of addressing him by his last name when other people were around, "Relax. It's all good."
The diagnostician gave him a dubious look before turning an annoyed one onto the police. "What?" he said irritably. "You're still here? Don't you have a donut shop to go to?"
Looking at the older doctor in annoyance one of the detectives, the one that looked eerily like Shaggy from 'Scooby-Doo'1, told him. "Don't worry, we're leaving." To Wilson he added, "Thank you for your cooperation, Doctor. We'll keep you updated on the progress of our investigation."
"Thank you," was Wilson's reply. House glared at them with hostility even after they were out the door and out of sight. He then relaxed and sat down next to the hospital bed in the chair which had served as his bed for the past two nights. The diagnostician had only gone back to the apartment long enough to shower and change clothes. He squirmed a little under the intensity of the look he was receiving from the oncologist.
"Was that necessary? They were only doing their job, Greg."
"They could have done it just as well tomorrow," House told him stubbornly. "You need to be resting, not testifying before the Inquisition."
The younger doctor sighed, shaking his dark-haired head slightly. "Aren't you being a tad overdramatic?" he asked. "I'm tired but otherwise I feel surprisingly good."
"You don't look good," House told him bluntly, as was his style. "You look like you're in pain. Are you?"
Wilson waved away the question as being irrelevant. "A little, maybe. I'm fine."
"'A little' my aunt's fat ass!" House snorted in derision. "When was the last time you received pain meds?"
Wilson thought about the question. "You were still asleep…it was right around six this morning."
As the oncologist was recalling the information the diagnostician had grabbed the chart at the end of the bed and looked it up. House was terrible for not charting with his own patients so it was damned good that the rest of the staff was.
"It says here 'Five-fifty-eight a.m.," the older doctor read. "It's nearly noon. Time for more."
"I don't need more right now," Wilson told him in objection as his lover pressed the call button clipped to his pillow. One look at him told House that he was lying.
"Try convincing your face of that," House told him sardonically. "Quit the martyr act, Jimmy-boy. It's not attractive. If you're in pain then take the damned pain meds! Don't worry—you won't end up an addict like me."
"A recovering addict," the oncologist reminded him. "You always seem to leave that part out."
The door opened and a nurse came into the room.
"He's overdo for his morphine," told her sharply, "What are you women doing at your station anyway…giving each other manicures and gossiping about the boss?"
The nurse glared at the older doctor. It wasn't the first time she had been yelled at by him; it wasn't even the first time that morning. "Yes, Doctor," she said through gritted teeth. "I'll be right back with that."
"And bring me a coffee when you come," House told her off-handedly. "Black, double sweet."
The look she gave him before she left could have killed a bull but not a crotchety old goat like him, and House found it amusing. He even allowed himself a quick smile before replacing it with his standard annoyed look instead.
"Ever the charmer," Wilson commented sarcastically. He shifted uncomfortably in his bed which was slightly inclined. As he moved he appeared to experience a sharper pain and gasped in response.
"Lie still," the older doctor told him. "What are you trying to do, pull out your stitches? That's my trick—find your own."
"Sorry," Wilson replied dryly, "I haven't had as much practice as you have at winding up in a hospital bed with half of my body held together with suture cotton. I'll try to come up with something original by tomorrow." He winced once more and the pain was strong enough to cause his face to turn ashen. "I have to admit," he grunted. "This really hurts."
"Quit squirming around, then!" House told him, rolling his eyes. "Don't worry—in a few minutes you won't care how much pain you're in. God, I envy you."
Wilson frowned. "Leg bad?"
The diagnostician rubbed his thigh. "About a six." He admitted.
"You've been doing a lot better than that," the oncologist said with concern. "Go home…take some Ibuprofen, put your leg up and get some sleep! You don't have to keep vigil over me anymore—I'm going to live, remember? Sleeping another night in that chair will only aggravate it further."
"I don't want to leave you alone," House told him. "You'll miss me too much." The truth was House knew that he was the one who would be doing most of the missing. He was getting used to having someone to snuggle up to before going to sleep and he wasn't certain he'd be able to slumber left on his own. He hated how needy he could be.
"Once I get that morphine shot," Wilson said, "I won't even remember you for the next few hours. Go!"
House stubbornly remained in the chair, crossing his arms in front of him like a spoiled brat. "Fine," he said, "but I'm not leaving before you fall asleep."
"Fine," Wilson agreed with a sigh and closed his eyes. House simply sat and looked at the younger man for a while. The grimace on his lover's face bother him and he rose from the chair, went to the door and poked his head outside. At the top of his lungs he bellowed towards the nursing station. "Patient—in—pain—bring—the—damned—morphine—now!" House stepped back into the room and turned around to see the oncologist glaring at him.
"What?" the older man demanded, feigning innocence because there honestly wasn't anything innocent about him and he knew it.
"Come sit down and behave yourself!" Wilson told him as forcefully as he could which wasn't all that forceful.
Sighing, the diagnostician reluctantly obeyed, but that didn't keep him from grousing. "You're worse than my mother ever was! Sheesh, try to help a guy and this is what I get!"
Though crude, his method did work and quickly at that. Wilson's nurse returned to the room holding a loaded hypodermic, staring daggers at House as she approached her patient. Wilson knew the drill; he rolled gingerly onto his side just enough to give her access to his hip. House watched warily as she swabbed the injection site with an alcohol wipe and then inserted the needle and injected the morphine into the muscle and carefully pulled it out again. Because the needle was inserted into muscle and not a vein it failed to bleed of any consequence and didn't require a band-aid. Wilson rolled back onto his back, wincing as he did, and the nurse pulled the bedding up over him once more. She then took the wrapper from the swab and tossed it into a trash can and disposed of the hypodermic into a biohazard box attached to the wall behind the bed. She threw another dirty look at House as she retrieved the chart, documented the injection and then replaced the chart to the slot on the end of the bed.
"Thank you, Tammy," Wilson said to her softly with one of his devilishly beguiling smiles that seemed to work on her as well as it did on the rest of the nursing staff. She smiled in response and then left the room but not before giving the diagnostician a final evil face. House stuck his tongue out at her in response.
"Oh, very mature," the oncologist told him sarcastically.
"She started it," the older man told him defensively.
"No," the younger man answered, "you did by bellowing at her and the rest of the staff like a bull moose."
House responded by sticking his tongue out again and pouting. It was just like Wilson to wear away at his good mood. If he had intended on being obnoxious he would have walked all the way down to the nursing station and yelled from there.
"What was with that smile, anyway?" House demanded irritably. "You're already taken, or have you forgotten so soon?"
Wilson looked at him with alarm in his eyes. "Of course not!" he said quickly. "I give everybody that smile, you know that."
Of course House knew that but he enjoyed toying with his lover's mind—it was one of his favorite pastimes. "You've never given me that smile," House told him with a frown, feigning suspicion but trying not to ham it up too badly.
"Yes I have!" Wilson defended. "I give you that smile all the time! Greg, you're not jealous--?"
"She is very, how shall we say, curvaceous," House countered, giving it all he had and struggling not to reveal a smile.
Now Wilson appeared to be very upset; he was taking the bait hook, line and sinker. House could hear the monitor as his heart rate and respiration increased. A joke was a joke but he wasn't willing to allow it to harm him.
"House, I wasn't trying to flirt! I was just being polite…!" the oncologist insisted but his voice trailed off when he saw a self-satisfied smirk emerge on the diagnostician's face. "And I just let you get me again!" He said in disgust, shaking his head.
House gave his lover a smile that was reserved exclusively for him and leaned forward to kiss the younger man softly but passionately on the lips. Wilson received it happily and returned the same. House lingered there for a moment longer and cupped the younger man's cheek with his hand, caressing the skin with his thumb. His blue eyes locked with Wilson's brown ones.
"I love you," the diagnostician whispered against Wilson's lips as he kissed him again.
"Harugghm-hmm," someone vocalized from the door. House recognized that particular throat being cleared and looked up guiltily as Wilson did the same.
"Busted!" Dr. Remy 'Thirteen' Hadley said, her crossed in front of her and a smug smirk on her symmetrical face.
House gave Wilson a surprised look. "You hadn't told her yet?"
"Nope!" Thirteen answered for him. "I've been trying to get him to sit down for a chat for over a week now but I've always just missed him. I'm glad to see that things have turned out well…for both of you."
House felt very uncomfortable. He wasn't embarrassed about his relationship with Wilson but he was always ill-at-ease with scrutiny of any kind. Deep down he was a very private person but he hid that fact by being confrontational, loud and, sometimes, overly dramatic. He didn't acknowledge the comment but Wilson did.
"Thank you, Remy." The oncologist was beginning to fade as the morphine began to do its work. His pain was quickly diminishing and at the same time he was becoming very sleepy—morphine was classified as a narcotic for nothing.
"So why are you here?" House asked her bluntly, rarely one to mince words.
"I was looking for you," his Fellow told him. "A worker from CPS was by your office a few minutes ago. She wanted to talk to you about Kenny. She went to visit with him until you were available. I told her that it could be a long wait but--."
"I'll be down there right away," the diagnostician told her, becoming even more serious than he had just been. Apparently Thirteen hadn't expected that response because she arched an eyebrow in surprise and nodded uncertainly.
"Okay, uh, great," she said haltingly. "I'll just go let her know, then." She approached Wilson and gave him a quick peck on the forehead. "Get better fast."
The oncologist smiled at her dopily and nodded. Oh ,yeah, House mused, he's baked, all right.
"Later," she said to House and then left. A smile tugged on the corners of his lips. He turned his attention back to the younger man, who was nearly asleep. He rose to his feet and bent down to kiss Wilson softly on the mouth.
"Go to sleep," the diagnostician told him quietly.
"You too," Wilson murmured, "at home."
"Yes, Mom," House said sarcastically but his lover was already asleep. He quietly made his way out and headed to Kenneth Baker's room.
House entered Kenny's room without knocking. Sitting on the chair at the five-year-old's bedside was not the individual he expected to see sitting there. Another woman stood closer to the foot of the bed. Anger awoke in him, his entire body displaying it for everyone to see.
He turned to the older woman standing at the foot of the bed. "What the hell is she doing here!" he demanded loudly, pointing to the woman sitting down next to the small boy.
"Who are you?" the older woman asked him condescendingly, her eyes appraising him.
"I'm his doctor!" House answered, his glaring eyes never leaving the younger woman but speaking to the older. "Who the hell are you?"
The older woman frowned with disapproval, probably at his language around the child and his gruff ways. "I'm Mrs. Talbot; I'm a worker from CPS assigned to Kenneth. This is his mother."
The younger woman looked at him indignantly. She was holding Kenny's hand. The boy's face displayed surprise and uncertainty and House realized that his outburst had scared him. For that reason and that reason only he forced himself to calm down and speak in a milder tone at a lower volume.
"I want to talk to you both outside." His tone left them no room to argue. He waited for Talbot and Eva Baker to walk past him.
"We'll just be a couple of minutes, Kenny," House told the boy gently, surprising himself. He was definitely getting soft. He went to where the women were waiting. To Talbot he said, "She does not have access to the child!"
"I'm his mom," the diminutive younger woman told him angrily. "You can't keep me from seeing him!"
House looked at her with distaste. Baker was short and petite, perhaps five-one or five-two and he estimated her to weigh little more than a hundred pounds if that. As far as age went she couldn't have been more than twenty-three or twenty-four at the most. Her bleached-blonde hair was growing out at the roots to expose the mousy brown of her true color. She wore too much make-up which she spent too much time putting on. Her sweater and skinnys were designer but her shoes were worn and looked like she had got them from a discount store or thrift shop. On her fingers were numerous silver and gold-plated rings but noticeably there wasn't one on her left ring finger and it didn't appear that there ever had been. Inch-long gel nails painted gaudy chartreuse had little rhinestones glued onto them as embellishment. She smelled of designer perfume, fresher tobacco and staler pot. Her eyes were red-rimmed but there was no other indication that she had been crying; she wasn't stoned but he suspected she had been the night before.
"You gave up that right the moment you punched that child in the gut!" House told her coldly, his eyes a gelid blue. "As his doctor I can restrict whomever I want if I think it's a risk to my patient."
"You're a fucking liar!" Baker spat at him venomously, her eyes darting back and forth between the diagnostician and the social worker. "I would never hurt my baby boy!"
"Dr. House," Talbot said mildly, "I appreciate your concern for Kenneth. Your report was received and it's receiving the proper attention, I can assure you. Our investigation is still in progress. Until it is complete CPS is allowing Ms. Baker supervised visits with her son. There will always be a worker present when she is visiting. You must remember that until a conclusion as to the validity of your claim of child abuse is made, Ms. Baker is given the benefit of the doubt while at the same time CPS makes certain that Kenneth is not in danger."
"In other words," Baker said to him in contempt, "fuck you!"
House's hands balled up into fists and if she hadn't been a woman she would have received a right hook to the jaw already; if she continued to bait him he would disregard her gender and do it anyway.
"This piece of trailer-trash saw her son displaying Pica, a disorder that he can't control on his own. He was eating dirt—so his so-called 'mom' punched him in the stomach numerous times, rupturing his spleen and nearly killing him—but that's not enough for her—then she has to cram his stomach full of soil contaminated with unsterilized manure, poisoning him. Then she lies, telling ER staff that he fell on his bike and makes no mention of the soil consumption at all. There is no doubt to benefit her!"
"I appreciate your concern," Talbot told him again, unruffled. "However our policy is quite clear. If you try to bar Ms. Baker she has the right to get a court order to see him and if our investigation concludes that there is not enough evidence to support the accusation, she could sue both you and this hospital. I spoke with Dr. Cuddy about this earlier and she understood."
Of course she did, House thought bitterly. Can't take a stand to do the right thing if it means the hospital might lose as much as a penny in profit!
"I'm going in to be with my son," Baker said defiantly and began to head back into the room. House grabbed her wrist and easily held her in place.
"Sorry," he told her, his eyes gleaming with fury barely restrained. "Kenny is heading for a full battery of tests—could take hours. He has to be prepped now."
"Then I'll go with him," Baker sneered.
"No you won't!" House told her, whining snottily. "It's against hospital policy." He looked at Talbot with the last word. "You might as well go back to your motel and cop more weed for tonight."
Talbot looked at the diagnostician incredulously and Baker began to do her imitation of a long-shore man but he didn't bother standing around arguing any further. He limped to the nursing station to give his orders for a full series of unnecessary, non-invasive tests that would take several hours to complete and then headed for his office.
He really was very tired and the idea of sleeping in an actual bed was enticing. His leg ached miserably despite the prescription-strength Ibuprofen he took for it, and there was a kink in his back from sleeping in a chair. It would be good to go home, shower, eat and sleep for a few hours. Thirteen had assured him that she would stop by Wilson's room and sit with him while the diagnostician was gone.
Carrying his helmet in one arm House held his cane in the other and limped his way down the walkway leading to his parking spot where his motorcycle sat waiting. He was pleased and relieved to see that it was still there and in one piece. He mounted the bike and was about to put his helmet on when he noticed that he'd been followed by a familiar male wearing a lab coat and a sneer.
"So it's my turn now, Noddrick?" House asked him in a low, gravelly voice. "Where's your fellow jackbooted moron?"
The fourth-year resident snorted, "I always knew there was something wrong about you, House, but I didn't suspect you to be a fag. Your bitch Wilson, well, that's another story."
House dismounted his bike and removed his cane from its holder. The loathing he had for the bigot in front of him was palpable in the air between them. Every muscle in his body tensed up and adrenalin began to be excreted into his blood, preparing him for a fight. He wasn't about to be beaten half to death; if Noddrick made another slur against Wilson he was going to be the one to be thumped.
"Go crawl under the pile of shit you came from," House told him, nearly growling. Deep down House was not a violent person but he had learned young that life was little more than a bloody battle amongst members of the supposedly wise Homo sapiens sapiens. If you wanted to survive, you had to know how to fight.
"We don't need your kind in this hospital," Noddrick told him quietly, slowly advancing on the diagnostician. House hung his helmet on the handlebars of his bike, never looking away from his antagonist. When the resident was within three feet of him he stopped and pulled something out of the pocket of his lab coat. House saw a metallic flash off of the object in Noddrick's hand. He couldn't believe that the younger doctor was planning on attacking him in broad daylight so close to the hospital. Then again, House could peripherally see that there wasn't anyone in proximity and even if someone did see the attack it would take them too long to stop it or catch the running resident.
"Trust me, Noddrick, I have no interest in banging you," the diagnostician told him banefully. "It would be so horrific my dick would fall off."
Noddrick moved so quickly that House was caught off guard. He saw the flash of a blade arc towards him a second too late; the razor-sharp weapon easily sliced through his leather jacket and clothing underneath, superficially slashing the skin of his chest just above his left nipple. House's response was his cane swinging to catch his attacker in the back of his knees. Noddrick saw it coming, jumping out of the way and slashing again, this time deeply slicing the diagnostician across the clavicle, fortunately avoiding any major blood vessels. As the younger man's arm was finishing its swing House caught it and twisted it in an unnatural direction. The resident screamed in agony as his shoulder and elbow were dislocated and tendons were pulled. To finish him off, the older man threw aside his cane and slammed him full-strength in the abdomen with his fist, knocking the wind out of Noddrick. House released his grip on his arm and allowed his opponent to drop to the ground, writhing in pain and gasping for air. The older man stood over the younger, his foot ready to smash the resident's head should he try to come at him again.
"You've just been owned by a 'faggot', dick-head!" House growled down at the loser, panting. "How does it feel to be on the receiving end?"
Noddrick couldn't respond because he was still trying to re-inflate his lungs. House used his foot to force the resident to look at him as he said. "You or any of your imbeciles so much as breathe on either Wilson or me again and you won't be conscious when I'm done with you!"
The sound of several feet against the concrete coming towards him caught House's attention and he looked up as two security guards arrived looking like the Keystone Cops. They scrambled to secure Noddrick.
"Sure, now you get here," the diagnostician groused, frowning. He pulled the zipper on his jacket lower and put his hand to the deep cut on his clavicle. It stung badly with his touch. Blood was staining one of his favorite t-shirts. "Shit," he muttered. The cut on his chest was superficial and wouldn't need much attending to but the one on his clavicle would definitely require stitches.
House hobbled over to where his cane had rolled, picked it up, brushed the dust off of it and headed for the ER. Sleep would just have to wait.
1 The characters of Scooby-Doo and Shaggy belong to Hanna-Barbera Productions.