Title: Wounded Birds
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.
Characters/Pairing(s): House/Wilson Pre-slash (possible slash later on)
Genre: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Romance, Sick!Wilson.
A/N & Warnings: Based on a prompt given to me by Christikat: House finds out that Wilson was abused as a child. Thanks for the idea! Spoilers for all of Season 6. Huge thanks to George Stark II for her Beta services—I really appreciate it! Also posted at .
Rating: M (NC-17) for explicit adult subject matter and the mentioning of child abuse. (Possible NC-17 later)
They took the oncologist's car but House did the driving on their trip to Connecticut because Wilson's right leg and ankle weren't ready for the task. It didn't bother him but they had to stop a few times along the way for House to get out and walk around to prevent his leg from cramping up. For most of the drive Wilson was pensive and silent; House knew his lover's mind was reliving both the good times he'd spent with his first love and the horror that had befallen both of them. House knew all too well what it was like to be abused by a parent and how the scars never completely healed from it. What he couldn't empathize with Wilson about was the murder of a person he'd been in love with. To be honest he didn't want to be able to empathize with that, ever. However he did want to know how to comfort his best friend, but he simply didn't. This trip was the only thing he had been able to think of to help.
Judging by the look of grief in Wilson's eyes House began to wonder if it wasn't a mistake instead. He was tempted to turn around at the next junction and go home, but something he couldn't recognize kept him from doing that. Besides, he reasoned, at least this would bring closure for the younger man.
"Wilson," House said, breaking the silence, "we're getting close to Hartford. Which exit are we supposed to take?" When Wilson didn't reply House said again, a little bit louder, "Wilson! Pilot to navigator!"
Realizing that his lover was talking to him, Wilson was a little startled. "What was that, House?"
The driver rolled his eyes. "I said, we're coming up on Hartford. Which exit do we take? You're the one with the map, remember?"
"Oh, yeah, right," Wilson replied distractedly and picked up the road map on his lap. He began to look carefully at the signs they passed and then back down at the directions and map.
"Uh, the ninth one," Wilson answered. "Have we passed one yet?"
"Not yet," House replied.
"Okay, yeah. Good," Wilson told him. "There should be one coming up in the next couple of minutes. According to the directions Penelope gave you we take the ninth one we encounter and we head east after that."
House nodded in acknowledgement and then asked, "Are you sure you're up to this?"
"As sure as I'll ever be," Wilson answered, shifting a little in his seat. "Are you still okay with this?"
"I'm scared shitless," Wilson admitted quietly, staring out of the front window and carefully avoiding House's eyes.
"There's nothing to be scared of, Wilson," House assured him, trying to sound confident and not quite succeeding. "Your father is nowhere around and Aaron's is dead. Besides, even if they were able to hurt you they'd have to go through me first. You have nothing to be afraid of."
Wilson looked at House fondly. "It's not that. I'm scared about seeing Penelope again. She was just a little girl the last time I saw her. She may not even recognize me. Hell, I probably won't recognize her. You talked to her…does she know why Aaron was killed? Does she know that he and I were lovers?"
"She knows everything," House told him with a nod. "What she didn't figure out on her own her father told her on his deathbed. It takes real guts to admit to murder when you're seconds from dying anyway."
Ignoring the sarcasm the oncologist inquired, "Did she seem like she was…okay with it?"
"It doesn't really matter if she's okay with it," the older man told him frankly. "It was what it was. The past can't be changed whether she likes it or not. She didn't make any indication one way or the other. She did say she was looking forward to seeing you again."
That piece of information seemed to relieve Wilson, who smiled a little and relaxed more in his seat. Seeing that helped House to relax as well.
"I'm looking forward to seeing her again too," Wilson acknowledged, nodding slightly. "I'm sorry for the way I've been behaving. I guess I've known for a while now that Aaron was probably dead but having it confirmed…well, it feels like it happened yesterday. Look, I know you're uncomfortable talking about this kind of thing, but I just want you to know how much it means to me for you to have arranged this and accompanying me today…words can't begin to describe it."
House produced a small smile and he looked lovingly at the other man for a moment before returning his eyes to the road. He reached with his arm and caressed his lover's face. He wanted to tell him that he would do anything for the younger man if it meant he would be happy and healthy but saying that just wasn't his style. Doing things for Wilson was the only way the diagnostician knew how to express to him just how much he loved him. Words were far too inadequate.
Trying to break the seriousness of the moment with a little levity House told him, "You can show me tonight after we get home just how appreciative you are." He waggled his eyebrows for effect.
Wilson smirked in response and although it wasn't as much as House had hoped, it would have to do.
They managed to find their way to the upper middle class home of Roger and Penelope Sawyer. House parked the car right in front of the home. Both men climbed out and House was very happy to be able to stretch his legs. His ruined thigh was starting to really ache. He pulled his bottle of ibuprofen out of his jacket pocket and dumped three into his hand before putting the bottle away and dry-swallowing the tabs.
Wilson noticed. "You okay?" he asked the older man in concern.
"Same old same old," House told him with a half-shrug. They stood on the sidewalk looking up at the two-storey home and perfectly manicured lawn. "Still want to do this?"
After a moment of hesitation the younger man nodded. "Yes. Let's go."
House nodded in agreement. Wilson grabbed his hand before leading the way up to the door. The diagnostician's first reaction was to pull away but he quickly overruled that. If this was what gave the younger man the courage and comfort to see this through then he would give it to him. It seemed a little gay to House, but then he reminded himself that he was in love and in a sexual relationship with his male best friend which meant that he was, in fact, gay. He squeezed Wilson's hand gently only to receive the same back. He had to admit, it did feel nice, not that he would ever do so aloud.
Taking a deep breath, Wilson pressed the doorbell. After a few nerve-wracking seconds the door opened to reveal an attractive thirtyish woman with golden brown, shoulder length hair and grey eyes staring back at them. A girl that couldn't have been more than two hung on her leg and stared up at them without fear. The woman smiled expectantly as the door first opened to reveal the two doctors but as soon as she saw Wilson the smile broadened and warmed with recognition.
"James!" she said happily, "it's so good to see you again!"
Wilson's expression went from barely masked anxiety to relief. He smiled back. "Hi, Penelope. It's really good to see you again, too. Uh, this is my…partner…Dr. Greg House."
She looked up at House with the same warmth and extended a hand to him. "We've talked over the phone. It's nice to put a face to the voice. How do you do, Dr. House?"
House took her hand hesitantly and shook it briefly. Slightly smiling he nodded. "Good. Nice to meet you. You can drop the doctor and just call me House. That's what most people call me."
"Okay," she agreed. "Call me Penny. Please, come in!" The mother tried to step back to give her guests access to the house and only then seemed to realize the toddler was washanging on her leg. She gathered her daughter into her arms and allowed House and Wilson inside. "This is Abby," she told them, introducing her child. "Can you say hi, Abby?"
The girl shook her head and buried her face into the crook of her mother's neck.
"She's in the 'playing shy' stage," Penny said, shrugging. "I hope you don't mind hanging your own jackets on the coat rack while I put her down for her nap. Please, make yourself comfortable in the living room and I'll be right back."
The doctors did as they were told while she was gone. They sat on the overstuffed sofa. House was impressed with how clean the place was considering that she had the toddler and a son in first grade. There were a few toys scattered on the floor around a large playpen from the child throwing things out while she played (or protested her incarceration?) but otherwise everything was very neat and tidy. Penny had excellent taste; a simple, casual style that the diagnostician took to right away. A family picture sat in a silver frame on the fireplace mantel; it was a handsome, normal-looking family staring at the camera. Penny and her husband wore pleasant but not overly exuberant smiles, the son had a finger in his ear and a goofy expression and the daughter had turned her head to look up at her father just before the photo was taken. It wasn't perfect and that's probably what it was about it that appealed to him the most.
He glanced over at Wilson to see him fidgeting nervously.
"'Partner'?" House questioned, raising an eyebrow.
"Would you prefer 'boyfriend' instead?" the oncologist asked him with a shrug. "Or is lover-boy better?"
House smirked at that. "Actually," he quipped, "I like the sound of 'butt-buddy' best."
That brought a chuckle from Wilson as well as a light blush to his face. "I don't think so. I can't see myself introducing you at some hospital function as my 'butt-buddy'."
"I think that would be the perfect place to call me that," the older man answered with a gleam in his eye, "especially with Cuddy within earshot."
Both men chuckled at that and were still chuckling when Penny entered the room.
"Sounds like I missed a good joke," she commented with a smile. "Look, I put a pot of coffee on just before you arrived. Can I get you some?"
"In a few minutes," Wilson told her. "First I'd like to catch up. The last time I saw you, you were this little girl playing hop-scotch and wandering around with a Barbie doll everywhere you went."
"I'm surprised you remember that," she replied, taking a seat in an armchair facing them. "That was a long time ago. Too long."
Nodding, Wilson said, "I often wondered what became of your family. By the time I got home you had already moved and I was never given a straight answer about where."
"Straight answers were few and far between back then," the woman said, nodding soberly. "I grew up thinking that the big brother I idolized died in an accidental car wreck. That's what both of my parents and all of my relatives told me. When my dad told me the truth before he died he said that he'd lied to protect Mom and me."
"He lied to protect his own ass," House muttered cynically, frowning. Penny nodded, looking over at the other man.
"You're right," she told them. "Dad asked me for my forgiveness so he could die in peace. I told him to go to hell and left his bedside. I couldn't even bring myself to go to his funeral. I mean, what kind of man is capable of murdering his own son?" She shuddered involuntarily and paused a moment before looking into Wilson's eyes, "I'm sorry for what was done to both of you. When I found out that you'd been sent to a special treatment camp I wanted to locate you and call you up but I was afraid that you wouldn't want to see me or that hearing from me would bring back horrible memories for you that you'd rather forget. I was very glad to hear from House about Aaron and you. I'm pleased you're here today, James. It's almost like having Aaron here, too." Her eyes shone a little but there was no overt display of emotion.
"Seeing you does the same thing for me," Wilson told her sincerely. "You look so much like him—only prettier."
House, feeling a little uncomfortable, like an outsider even though he knew neither of the other two meant to make him feel that way, shifted in his seat and then said, "That coffee smells really good."
Penny grinned at him, nodding and rising to her feet. "Why don't I go get you some? James?"
"I'd love some, thank you." he told her.
They continued to visit over coffee and an apple pie that she'd baked that morning. It was so good that House devoured three pieces as well as two large mugs of coffee. The talk was much lighter than before. Wilson and Penny really dominated the conversation and House listened for the most part, adding a thought or comment here or there. He preferred listening to the stories and jokes that were being made over talking anyway and it gave him an insight into an aspect of his lover and best friend that he hadn't had before. The more they visited the more he liked Penny; she was forthright and genuine, a 'what you see is what you get' person. She baked great pie, too.
Eventually it became time to head to the cemetery before the drive back to Princeton. Wilson promised to stay in contact with Aaron's little sister and gave her his own contact information. As he and House were leaving Penny gave both men a hug, catching House a little off-guard. He stiffened slightly but allowed her to hug him.
"You two reminded me of the happy memories of Aaron. Thank you," she told them with moist eyes.
"Thank you, Penny," Wilson told her, unshed tears causing his own eyes to glisten.
The drive to the public cemetery was a short one. Both men were for the most part quiet although House did, uncharacteristically, tell his lover, "I like her."
Looking at House with surprise Wilson smiled and nodded. "She must be someone special to receive such quick approval from Gregory House."
House shrugged, stifling a smile. "She bakes good pie."
It was a small cemetery but very well maintained in a peaceful, pretty location. They drove to the section that Penny had directed them to and parked. The weather was cooperating, the afternoon sun warm and encouraging. Birds chirped all around, landing and taking off from their perches on the grave markers; the buzz of the odd insect passed House's ear. Together they limped past row upon row of headstones until they came to the row that held Aaron's grave at the far end. According to Penny, Aaron's grave had gone for years without a grave marker of any kind and the only way she had been able to locate it was from an old plot map the cemetery keeper kept in his office. Aaron's final resting place now boasted a beautiful marble headstone with her brother's name boldly carved into it: Aaron Stanley Greenbaum, Beloved Son, Brother and Friend 1965-1981.
"I'll stay here," House told his best friend quietly, cupping Wilson's cheek with a hand and placing a gentle kiss on his lips.
Nodding with appreciation and understanding Wilson returned the kiss and then walked down the row on his own. House watched from a distance as the younger man stopped at the foot of Aaron's grave and just stood there, motionless and stoop-shouldered. After a few moments he walked up to the headstone and began to trace the letters spelling out his first love's name. Wilson's face was long, his eyes very sad. Lowering his head and closing his eyes, the oncologist remained that way for a while and occasionally House could see him take a huge, shuddering breath but otherwise he was still and there was no sound from his sobs.
It killed House to stand there and watch his lover grieve that way and he cursed the bigoted men who had cause this kind of pain for the man he loved. He wanted to limp over to Wilson and take him in his arms to comfort and protect him but refrained. Finally this was Wilson's chance to say good-bye to a friend and lover that had died decades before in such a pointless, horrible way and the diagnostician didn't want to interfere with that. He had to look down at his feet to keep himself from acting on his impulses.
When Wilson hurt so badly it caused House to hurt badly as well; this kind of empathy was something new and frightening for him and he wasn't certain how to deal with it in an appropriate way. In the past this was when he usually turned around and ran away from the uncomfortable emotions but he was tired of running and he would never abandon his lover when the younger man needed him to be there as he knew Wilson did.
House glanced up to see Wilson discreetly wiping his face with a handkerchief and then stuffing the cloth pack into his jacket pocket. The younger man looked up in House's direction. He waved for the older man to come to him. Taking a steadying breath, House carefully made his way over the uneven earth with his cane until he was standing next to his partner. He laced his fingers with Wilson's, needing the physical contact as much as the oncologist seemed to.
"Are you going to be okay?" House asked him. It was a question House had barely asked his entire life until he'd entered this enhanced version of his relationship with Wilson. Now it seemed to him like he was asking it all of the time. He hadn't cared enough for another person to ask it so much before him.
Wilson nodded. "Yeah, I am. I finally got my chance to say good-bye. I was denied that before." He smiled fondly at House, a smile that reassured the older man and eased his own anxiety. "If you like Penny, you would have liked Aaron. She's so much like him that it was like seeing his ghost today."
"Could he bake pie, too?" House asked him quietly, lifting an eyebrow.
The question caused the younger man to laugh lightly and the sound of it was like music to the diagnostician's ears. Wilson shook his head. "I don't think so," he answered.
"Well, I guess nobody's perfect," House said with a smirk. "Ready to go?"
Wilson nodded. "Yeah, I'm done here. Let's go for dinner somewhere that serves great big steaks. I'm starving."
"Sounds good," House agreed as they walk back toward the car. "I'll treat."
Wilson stopped in his tracks and looked at his lover in amazement. "What's the occasion?"
"Hey, watch it," House frowned. "Keep that up and I'll withdraw the offer."
Wilson held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, okay. No more teasing."
"Good," House told him with a curt nod and they continued walking again. "Besides, I have to butter you up a little before springing on you just how you can pay me back tonight for my generosity!"
Wilson gave him a look of disbelief mixed with a little bit of horror, causing House to smile deviously. Yes, he thought to himself contentedly, this was definitely going to be fun!