Wilson and David
Ordinarily, David tried living tentatively as if he really was like everybody else. But there were moments when the past sneaked up and struck when he least expected it. One moment, he'd be living in the present, doing whatever he was supposed to be doing, and then suddenly he would be reminded of the giant chasm between the way most of his life had been and right now. He wanted the right now, he wanted it SO much. But deep down, he felt as though he, undesirable, skinny, miserable little David, did not deserve the bounty that lay before him. Then he felt scared. He wasn't worthy of this life, and someday House would realize that, and send him away.
It always happened the same way most times. Once this happened when he was with House, learning to play the piano stride-style. He was practicing coordinating the left hand with the foot pedals. House was sitting on the bench with his back to the keys, next to the boy, resting his chin on his cane and listening intently. He hadn't really expected David to be able to learn the skill easily. Some musicians take years to learn stride. Then David got it; he went from stumbling to effortless in a matter of minutes. Soon he was having fun experimenting with the bouncing base line.
David then began playing with his right hand as well, making House's smile broaden every time he improvised something new, even when it didn't work out. David started to "tickle" the keys, imitating something he'd heard on a Fats Waller recording. House started to laugh. * He * was making House feel happy. Within himself, David began to get a silly, bubbly, care-free feeling. He didn't know that this was joy; all he knew was that he had everything he ever needed or wanted: a home, and somebody who loved him, this wonderful teacher who gave him the gift of beautiful music every single day. The boy began to make the piano sound loud and raucous and crazy. His little heart soared. He wanted to... he wanted to laugh with House. He forgot that he wasn't like other boys. Then the whispery, mean thoughts came back to him. * You don't belong here. This is too good for you. You don't deserve to feel this way. * David instantly stopped playing. * House doesn't know that you're really no good. You don't really deserve ANYTHING. *
House was watching the little boy from the corner of his eye. David had been practically dancing with the piano, then suddenly let his hands fall to his lap and lowered his head until his chin rested on his little chest. His feet slid off the pedal extensions that House had installed for him, and dangled above the floor. He sat neatly, perched on the edge of the piano bench. Something had happened, but House had missed it altogether. Nothing external, that was for sure. Differential diagnosis: internal injury. Something really nasty had reared its ugly head.
"Tired of playing?" House asked him. 'Be Switzerland,' he thought. 'Don't feed into whatever he's feeling until you know what the hell it is.'
David shrugged - his usual response when he didn't want to talk about it. House knew how to read this boy. He had his ordinary shrug, that really meant 'I don't know,' and his other shrug, more right shoulder than left, that meant: 'Let's not go there.' And House knew that one place they surely * were * going to go was 'there,' wherever 'there' was. He wanted this boy to survive his miserable beginning.
"Wanna watch TV? It's still early." House offered. It was just after 7:30.
"No," came a little whisper. "I want to go to bed."
Retreat. David tended to retreat whenever this thing caught hold of him. House had learned from his upbringing by an in-your-face marine dad who never let him retreat for even a moment that the better course of action was to allow the boy to have some space. "Okay."
While he watched TV alone, the doctor also listened with one ear to David preparing for bed. Taking his shower, brushing his teeth, and finally entering his room in the little blue terrycloth bathrobe he had chosen because it looked like House's. Fifteen minutes later, David came out in his pajamas.
"G'night House." David's voice was just above a whisper.
House rose and headed to the boy's room to put him to bed. David seemed not to want him to come, but the man decided to do it anyway. He knew that there had to be constants in a child's life. This was a non-negotiable one House would provide. He could still recall his mother tucking him in and reading to him when he was small, and knew how that had helped to create an unbreakable bond between them.
After he'd gotten David settled in bed, he asked, "What do you wanna hear tonight?"
David wouldn't answer. He curled up on his left side, still facing out into the room, and shrugged.
House knew that David liked him to read from the ancient volume of Kipling that he'd had since he was a boy, so he chose that for him. He sat on the side of the boy's bed, closer than his usual spot at the foot.
"Hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O my Best Beloved..."
David started to cry. He wasn't anybody's 'Best Beloved.' He felt so fake, so BAD.
House set the book aside and, pulling back the covers, scooped the little boy into his arms. He didn't say anything at first; there wasn't anything he could say, but he knew what he could do. He could be the constant, the "k" in David's equation. He held the boy, unconsciously rocking him and murmuring that it was "All right, all right, I've got you, you're all right, shhhh..."
David fell asleep eventually, but House could tell that the child wasn't getting any rest. He would stay out in the living room on the sofa late, so that he would be close to David when the nightmare struck. The doctor put him back into bed, tucked him in gently, and whispered the new mantra he now said to him every night. "You're a wonderful boy, David." He kissed him. "House loves you, David."
About 10 feet past House's office, Lisa Cuddy did an instant double-take. Greg House had been at his desk, but something nagged at her brain; something had seemed off. He'd been sitting, swinging his legs to music he played on his IPOD stereo system. Swinging. There was no way those long legs could possibly dangle from an office chair.
It was a little boy. The same little boy who had told the ER staff that House was his dad when he'd been in that bus accident. They never had gotten the truth out of either House or the boy. That had been weeks ago. Since then, Wilson had investigated, and gotten more information, but he'd only chosen to share a bare minimum of it with Cuddy, or anyone else at the hospital. "He's got a kid staying with him right now," was all the young oncologist had said.
Who in the hell would leave a child in House's care? Cuddy abruptly swung around and headed back to his office, planning to pretend she'd forgotten something and maybe sidle into the room to do some investigating.
He was small, somewhere between six and eight, and cute, much more attractive than he had been that first night. His hair had been trimmed, and his clothes were form-fitting and clean. He wore brown corduroys and a blue oxford shirt, untucked. Like a miniature House. Adorable, actually. Cuddy hoped that he wasn't as snarky and irritating as House could be.
"Hello," Cuddy said to him, playfully, "You must be Dr. House."
The boy looked up from... a blank piece of sheet music (Cuddy had to double-take on that), over which he held a pencil, poised for writing. He had big green eyes, eyes that looked ...sad and pained at first. Then the look faded into blankness. "No. I'm David." He sounded almost...hostile.
"Do you know where House is?"
"You're the boy who's living with Dr. House, aren't you."
David looked up at her reproachfully. She could almost hear him saying, 'Go away.'
House came in behind her. "Don't talk to strangers, David," he said, intending the comment to playfully needle Cuddy."
"Sorry..." David murmured seriously. He rose and stood to the side of House's chair.
The tall doctor folded his long, lean frame into the seat. "What can I do for you, Dr. Cuddy?"
Rolling her eyes, she answered, "Nothing in particular. I was just meeting your little friend."
House introduced them.
"Well, David," Cuddy said to the boy. "So how do you like living with House?"
David's face went tenser. He wouldn't look at Cuddy or respond in anyway. Frowning, House nudged the boy gently with his elbow.
"Dunno," he barely whispered.
House was frowning. "David?" He leaned forward and craned his neck to get a better look at David's face.
Cuddy, a little alarmed, asked. "What's the matter, sweetheart?"
Suddenly David's green eyes flashed angrily. He still didn't look at her. "I'm DAVID!' He seethed through his teeth.
House touched David's small shoulder. "Hey..." He tried to turn the child toward him. "...hey, what's the matter David?"
The little boy's face became a conflicting storm of fear and anger, tightly controlled. "Gonnagoseewilson," he said in a tremulous, panicky voice as he ran to the glass balcony door. It was heavy for him usually, but now he had little trouble opening it enough for his skinny form to slip through. Before it closed, the two adults could hear his running footsteps, silence as he scrambled over the partition between the balconies, and then more, fainter footsteps.
"So how long have you been sacrificing chickens in front of this child, House?" Cuddy kidded him. "Because he's obviously got some issues."
For once, Greg House didn't needle back. "Excuse me," He rose and followed in David's wake.
David entered Wilson's office so quietly that, had he not let in a blast of cooler air, Wilson wouldn't have noticed him at all. He stood just inside the door, trying to blend into the glass.
Smiling, Wilson beckoned with a wave. "Hey buddy! I saw you in House's office a few minutes ago, but you looked kinda busy, so I didn't disturb you." Then he realized that something was up. The color had drained from the boy's face, and he was shaking visibly. 'Uh-oh,' Wilson thought.
Greg entered, glancing briefly at Wilson. "David, what happened?"
He glanced around House, as if he thought the woman might be with him. Looking down at his shoes, he mumbled, "Wanted to see Wilson."
Shaking his head, Greg said, "No, David. Lisa scared you." He knelt, careful of his bad leg, and touched the boy's shoulder gently. "Tell me what scared you about Lisa."
"I just wanted Wilson!" David shouted, running then to Wilson's side. He clutched at the younger doctor's lab coat. Instinctively, Wilson put his arms around the little boy, and tried to calm him down. "Shhh..." he said. "Shhhh... It's alright, honey. You're safe with House and me."
David peered out onto the balcony again. Cuddy had followed House, but was hovering outside on Wilson's side, looking concerned. "No," he moaned, and buried his face in Wilson's chest.
Wilson held his shoulders. "What's the matter, David?"
"I don't know." He replied tearfully.
"Did Dr. Cuddy say something that scared you?"
"I don't know!" David exclaimed. He began to weep, a low, miserable, broken-hearted cry. Wilson felt as if his own heart would break. He felt helpless.
House pointed out at Lisa. "Look, David. It's just a lady. You've never met her before. She's not going to hurt you. She's friends with Wilson and me." He beckoned for Cuddy to join them.
"No, House," Wilson warned. "He's terrified."
"Well, time to face this fear," House said bluntly. "David's got to be here at the hospital with me, and Cuddy * is * this hospital." He opened the door.
Lisa entered the office tentatively. David, taut as a bowstring, clamped his hands over his nose and buried his face into Wilson's chest.
House got it right away. Abruptly, he pushed Cuddy out of the office again. Grabbing her arm, he dragged her back to his office. "What kind of perfume are you wearing, Cuddy?"
Cuddy caught on fast. "Wow - is that it? It's Chanel No.5. Old stuff."
House grabbed a stack of his pop culture magazines from his desk and started rifling through them for perfume ad inserts. "Start looking for it then."
Smugly, Cuddy replied, "Or I can get the lotion I keep in my purse."
"Or...you...can get the lotion...in your purse." House repeated.
Back in Wilson's office, House set the open bottle of lotion on the desk and waited. A tearful David was still in Wilson's arms, calming down. Suddenly the boy's face became a shock of horror again. And he began to vomit. All over Wilson.
"Thank you. Thank you * so * much." Wilson said as he peeled off his lab coat, shirt, and tie. "I liked that tie, House."
David, now hanging his head shamefully, saying he was sorry over and over.
Wilson hugged him. "I'm not mad at YOU," he said, glaring at House.
"There was no way of knowing he'd actually hurl," House said in defense of himself.
Wilson picked up Chinese food and turned up on Greg's doorstep that evening. He had two reasons for inviting himself. First, he wanted little David to understand that he wasn't angry about the upchucking incident. Secondly, on a less noble plain, Wilson was reasserting his place as House's friend. 'I'm still here, you know...' was what he felt like saying. He knew it was kind of juvenile; all these years, he had been trying to get his friend to be more social, and now that there was someone else in House's life, Wilson was beginning to feel as though House and David were becoming two-man show, with no room for a third. Hell, he loved House, and some small part of him was afraid that his best friend was losing interest in him.
Wilson felt a little embarrassed about that part of himself, but not as much as he thought he should. He'd spent most of his life living along the fringes of other people's lives, being the even-tempered middle brother, the good son, and the trophy doctor-husband. And now he was a little bit afraid of being pushed out of the one relationship in which he held something more than 'filler' status. His rational mind told him that he needn't have worried. Even when Stacy was the main event of House's life, he'd always had time for Wilson.
He used his key to let himself into the main door, but knocked to be polite now that there was another party to consider. He decided that he wanted to get to know David, find out what it was about him that had obviously thawed House's frozen heart. He was in a total quandary as to what House's intentions were. He was illegally keeping a minor child. Granted, from the information that House had volunteered (after Wilson had browbeaten him for a while), the boy had been abandoned, but that didn't give House the right to take him in. He should have called the police, or Child Protective Services, and left it up to them. Then the boy's rightful family could be contacted. Perhaps Greg might be able to still look after him once things were made legitimate.
House let him in quickly, he'd been in the middle of something. Without explaining himself, he returned to the kitchen, where David was sitting at the table. Wilson took his time, hanging up his coat and jacket, and settling himself in. They talked quietly; Wilson couldn't eavesdrop at all. So he turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels. About ten minutes later, House led a subdued, red-eyed David to the living room.
"I want to go in my room, House," the boy said once he noticed Wilson.
"Aren't you hungry?"
He shook his head. "No."
House nodded. "Okay."
Wilson regretted barging in. "Maybe I should go?"
"No," House told him. "I'm glad you're here. I need the comic relief." He started unpacking the Chinese food. "Ah, General Tso has sent his chicken. Thanks." He picked up some chopsticks and dug in. "Now say something funny."
Wilson looked at the now closed door to the room that House had fixed up for David. "Is he going to be ok, Greg?"
The older man sighed, and shook his head. "His mother used that perfume Cuddy was wearing. A lot. It triggered some really bad memories for him. She used to spray it in his face for some bizarre reason."
"Yeah," House set his carton of chicken down. "He thinks he can still smell it now. When we got home, he showered for 30 minutes. I had to drag him out of there before he scrubbed himself raw." He shook his head. "He's the cleanest 8-year-old on the planet. He showers for long periods of time anyway - I thought maybe there was some kind of sexual trauma. Not sure about that, yet, but apparently his mother had some kind of cleanliness thing that she solved by spraying everything with Chanel. Including the kid."
Wilson didn't feel much like eating after that, either. He understood now why House hadn't turned David over to the authorities. This kid was one hell of a puzzle for him to figure out.
"Do you think he'd talk to me?" Wilson asked.
House shrugged. "No idea."
Wilson got up and went to David's room. He tapped on the door. When there was no answer, he slowly opened it, calling, "David, do you mind if I come in?"
David's soft, fluty voice responded, "Okay."
He was lying on his bed, curled up around a pillow, clutching his little harmonica in one hand. He wouldn't look at Wilson. Wilson had the distinct impression that the boy had allowed him in only because he didn't think he had the right to say no.
"Hey buddy," Wilson said quietly. He stood close to the door, leaving it half open. "Are you sure you don't mind my coming in?"
David gave his characteristic shrug. He dragged himself into a cross-legged sitting position and waited.
Wilson sat at the very end of the bed, allowing David lots of space. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
David didn't know how he felt. 'Bad' was the only word he could think of, but that was obvious. He wasn't sure what to say to Wilson. "I can't stop smelling the perfume." He said finally.
Wilson nodded. "That must be terrible," he said gently.
"Sometimes I can even taste it. It won't go away," he said ruefully. "Can you smell it, Wilson? House says no, but I don't see how he can't." He held out one arm.
Wilson sniffed the sweatshirt-covered arm. "No, David, honey." He whispered. "It just smells like a shirt." He sniffed again. "Little detergent, little fabric softener."
"I wish I could just smell that," the boy whispered sadly. "It was gone a long time, the whole time I've been here with House, but it came back when that lady came into House's office."
Wilson didn't have any idea what to do about a problem like this. This was something like an OCD. The kid needed an SSRI, not talk therapy. "David, I'd like to give you a hug. You think that might help you feel better?"
He shook his head. "No, you don't - I don't want you to. You'll smell the perfume. It's so disgusting, Wilson."
"Could we try?" Wilson held out his arms.
David gritted his teeth and let Wilson hold him. He was stiff as a board. Wilson drew the boy across his lap and just held him close for a few minutes. Then, without warning, he buried his nose the boy's hair and inhaled deeply. "Shampoo," he reported. He nuzzled into David's neck, inhaled. "Soap." He proceeded to stick his nose under the boy's sweatshirt and the oxford he wore under that. Then into his pockets, into the thighs of his jeans, up his pant legs, into his socks. Each time reported, "Smells like soap...and little boy." Sometimes he would say something funnier, like, "Really clean ear wax, and adorable little kid." David was giggling by the time he was done.
He held him a while longer. This time, David felt a lot more like a little boy in the man's arms. Wilson ventured a bit further and tickled him a bit. David wasn't the slightest bit ticklish, so of course Wilson wanted to find out just how un-ticklish the boy was by tickling his ribs, neck, and feet. "I cannot believe it. I'd be rolling on the floor if someone did that to me." David tickled him experimentally. Sure enough, Wilson grabbed his side and started to laugh. Wilson's smile was warm, but his laugh was wonderful. Fascinated, David tried all the areas where Wilson had tickled him with the same results. He'd never even been aware of ticklishness in himself or anyone else, because he rarely had the opportunity to touch other people. He filed that away to try on House sometime.
They were lying on their sides, facing one another on David's narrow bed, chuckling together, unaware of Greg, who was watching them from the door.
Wilson spoke to the boy seriously now, "David, you're okay." He told him. "That perfume thing was just something really cruel and nasty that was done to you." He squeezed the thin shoulder. "It's not real anymore, I promise you."
David's smile vanished. "Okay," he replied.
"Trust me, and trust House." He told the child. "We don't have any reason to lie to you."
"Want to come and get something to eat?" Wilson nodded towards the living room. "We've got Chinese." He got up and held out his hand.
"Okay." David took Wilson's hand.
"I'm sorry I threw up on you. I didn't mean to."
Wilson chuckled. "Don't worry about it. I've been thrown up on before."
He leaned down to be on the boy's level. "Yeah, it's kind of a doctor thing. Sometimes treatments make people get sick on you. You get used to it."
"It smells really gross."
"Yeah, but it always washes right off." He demonstrated with one hand, a typical Wilson gesture.
David thought about that for a long time as they entered the living room, and shared out the rest of the General Tso's chicken and everything else Wilson had brought.
They caught up to House, who was eating everyone's fortune cookies, but graciously allowed them to select the fortunes he didn't like.
Later, House encouraged David to demonstrate his skill on the harmonica to Wilson. The oncologist was stunned, to say the least. He applauded long and loud, a one-man audience.
David shyly looked into Wilson's eyes, and saw a man looking at him as if he was a real boy who was way more than his mother ever saw. Somewhere in the proud moment, David stopped smelling Chanel No.5, and started smelling leftover Chinese food, the shampoo and soap he had used, hospital disinfectant that had permeated Wilson's and House's clothing, and finally, his two new friends, who just kind of smelled like people were supposed to smell.
Wilson started to really pay attention to David. He began to understand why Greg wanted to keep the child now. Sure, he was another puzzle to his friend, and he was really just a sweet kid who needed a family. But he became special to Wilson. The man was utterly charmed by the little boy and constantly amused by watching the little spirit unveil itself before him.
David grew on Wilson quickly. He infiltrated the man's soul, grew a thick vine around his heart, and choked off other things his life. Somehow Wilson just didn't feel like facilitating teams or board meetings all the time. He let someone else do the grunt work for a change. He stopped always being the sympathetic ear that everyone could count on. That need to be needed was gradually absorbed by something else. David and House were becoming his own tribe. They needed him; but mostly they wanted him, and he stopped living for being needed so much by people who used him and moved on once their lives had stabilized.
Wilson discovered that he liked having a child around. A healthy one, for a change, rather than a balding chemo patient. But then again, Wilson reflected, there was a cancer of sorts in David's soul; an emotional cancer. He and House were supplying the chemo in the form of corrective experiences and just loving the child as much as they could, every day. The prognosis seemed good, but there was no telling what other time bombs were lurking in the little boy's heart and mind. The oncologist in Wilson was hooked on healing this boy, just as the diagnostician in House was hooked on uncovering what was wrong with him, and making things right.
Despite a fair amount of trepidation, Wilson agreed to look after David When House had to go away to Washington, DC for a conference. It was during this time that the little boy stole his heart for good. David was his usual low-key self, maybe even more subdued in House's absence. He did try half-heartedly to scam Wilson into feeding him Mac and Cheese and peanut butter sandwiches for four days. But most of the time, David was merely kind of a little satellite that didn't stray far from his side and wasn't any trouble whatsoever.
One evening, the boy had been practicing piano and singing to himself when Wilson found himself singing along. Wilson had been told quite often in his youth that he had a tin ear. Obviously this was true, because the little musician stopped making any sounds at all each time Wilson forgot himself and joined in.
Finally, David rose from the piano and came to sit right next to his doctor friend. "Wilson, maybe you can sing a simpler song," he theorized.
Nonplussed, Wilson repeated, "A simpler song?"
"Yeah. An easy one. One that's hard to screw up."
Wilson might have laughed if this little professor wasn't totally serious. "Why don't you teach me one?" He suggested.
David thought about it for a minute, and started right in with: "Make new friends/But keep the old/One is silver and the other's gold."
Wilson repeated the lines after him. David winced. "You have to use different notes, he told the man. "You know, go up and down the scale." He demonstrated again. Wilson flubbed it again.
David thought about it for a few minutes, then said, "Try singing exactly what you hear me sing. Then he launched into the little song again, singing one note at a time. Wilson tried to follow, but could only match a few of the notes.
"Know what Wilson?" David said after their last attempt.
"Hmm..." Wilson pretended to think deeply. "I should join the spoon band, instead of the choir?"
David raised his eyebrows, reminding the oncologist for all the world of Greg House. "No, I think you're a tenor, not a baritone. You're trying to sing in the wrong range."
"Yeah," he nodded. "You should sing up here," he demonstrated in the air with one hand on a gigantic piece of invisible sheet music. "But you're singing down here, where House sings." He raised his hand up much higher. "My voice is soprano. Up here."
"Ok," Wilson agreed. "Show me how to sing like a tenor."
David bounced over to the piano and played a scale that covered the tenor range. "You sing these notes." As he played, Wilson tried to match the notes. He did a better job at it, but, having spent a lifetime not singing, nothing miraculous happened.
David played what sounded like a short funeral dirge that House had taught him as a practice piece. "Aa-ron-Brown-is-dead-and-gone/ You'll never see him mooooore/ He used to wear an old brown coat/ That buttoned down before..." This one was actually even easier than "Make new friends." David was able to deepen his voice enough to sing the tenor range. "Try it."
Wilson tried it, and he didn't suck. They sang it four times. Then David left the piano and knelt next to Wilson on the sofa, so they could sing face-to-face. Once he was sure that Wilson had the few lines cold, David began to sing the soprano part. They did that twice. Then the boy stopped. Wilson stopped, too, thinking that the lesson was over. "Keep going!" David encouraged. Wilson did. Then, the next time around, David came in at an unexpected place so that they were singing a round. Stunned at how such a simple change could make them sound light years better than they had, Wilson nearly dropped the ball. "Keep going," David insisted. They did this eight or ten times before David started to slow the song down until finally, they calmed to stop in unison.
David gave him a sweet, satisfied little smile.
Wilson discovered in that moment that he really loved David.
Wilson also noticed that David sometimes spoke oddly. On their second night together, after a phone call from House, Wilson tucked the boy into bed. Missing House, perhaps, David told Wilson, "House puts a kiss on my face before I go to sleep." Cute. Precious. A little bit weird. Charmed, Wilson responded with, "Can I put a kiss on your face, too?" Sometimes David used his new musical vocabulary to express himself in a non-music context. "Bummer, I left off the top sheet. Now I gotta Da Capo al fine." House had interpreted later: This meant he had to make the bed all over again.
After a while, Wilson realized that David talked like a child to whom nobody had ever listened. He had never had the benefit of anyone telling him he sounded odd. Wilson had been so completely charmed, though, that after he'd noticed this difference, he would lie in wait for days to hear a new 'David-ism.' Then he'd be tickled for hours, and try to find ways to work the odd phrase it into conversations between just him and House when they were alone.
When Wilson spoke to House about this, he didn't learn anything new. House had merely accepted this as David being David. Wilson suspected that perhaps there was a time in House's own childhood when he'd been forced to keep his own counsel long enough that he'd developed odd habits of his own. That would explain a lot, the mused.
Then Wilson got really distracted, because things began to change between him and House.
House had kissed him. It happened a couple days after his friend had returned from the D.C. conference. Wilson stumbled blindly down the three steps to the sidewalk outside 221B. House had kissed him on the sofa an hour before, then, as he was leaving, he had hugged Wilson, no, had held him in his arms like a lover. He had dropped his raincoat on the floor where he stood in front of House's door. Wilson had been so stunned that he couldn't remember how he'd made his way out the door. When he reached his car, he realized that he'd left the raincoat where it lay on Greg's living room floor. He didn't return for it. He wasn't sure his now shaky legs would carry him much further.
Wilson was so busy the next day at the hospital that he didn't see House until the afternoon. All during the early part of the day, while he was immersed in his work, but when he least expected it, the kiss came back to him. Then later, he'd been delivering his diagnosis of lymphoma to Alan Simmons. Simmons was angry, ranting at him, begging for some other answer than the one he had given. And somewhere in the midst of all that, Wilson flashed back to the kiss once more. He involuntarily closed his eyes, savored the memory. Alan Simmons had taken Wilson's reaction for compassion. Embarrassed that his doctor was hurting with him, Simmons had apologized, thanked Wilson, and left the office abruptly.
Wilson went out onto his balcony for air. He wanted to be alone, away from the hospital, somewhere quiet where he could reflect on the change in his relationship with his best friend. He did not want to be an oncologist today. He felt like dealing only with the living.
As he gazed across the PPTH campus, one hand on his hip, the sensations of Greg's kiss returned to him, full force. He let his eyes close. Involuntarily, his right index and middle fingers came up to rest on his lips. He sighed softly under his breath. What in the hell was he getting into?
"Hey," House was on his own balcony, sitting on the partition between the two, watching Wilson.
"Oh..." Wilson startled.
"Left your raincoat last night." House told him.
"Yeah. Guess my mind was a little... preoccupied."
House smiled thoughtfully. "Well, you should come get it tonight. I hear it's gonna rain tomorrow."
"Okay," Wilson half-whispered. He felt like he was fourteen years old again, which was when he'd had his first kiss.
"Wilson," House said softly.
Wilson looked up at his friend.
Greg blew him a two-fingered kiss, then turned and limped back into his office.
Wilson didn't turn up at House's place until around 10PM, when he knew David would be asleep. The boy wasn't much of a morning person, but he hadn't yet molted and gotten his full night-owl feathers yet.
House let him in promptly. Wilson had envisioned that they might talk about what was going on between them. He should have known better. House talked all the time, but he was always saying, "It isn't what people say, it's what they do." And he did something as soon as the door closed. He put his arms around Wilson again, held him, and kissed him the way he might have kissed a lover he'd had for years.
Wilson was discombobulated again. He dropped everything in his hands and slid his arms around House's strong shoulders, then up and around the man's neck. This was the most erotic moment of his life; the exotic-ness of being kissed by a man, the oddness of reaching up, embracing hard angles rather than reaching down to hold soft curves. Of being held more so than being the one doing the holding. Time slowed down. Wilson tasted, savored House, caressed his fuzzy face, ran his fingers through his hair - felt where it was beginning to thin a little bit on top. "Ohhh..." Wilson swayed from the intensity of his emotions. He was losing himself in these new sensations.
"Hey, you dropped the beer." Jimmy had brought some beer, luckily nothing had broken.
House actually tried not to laugh at Jimmy as he broke the embrace. Then he started to chuckle as he grabbed up the beer and limped his way into the kitchen to put it in the fridge to settle. When he returned, Wilson was still standing where he'd left him, still wearing his overcoat and that bemused expression.
He drew the other man to the sofa. "Next time I kiss you, I'll make sure you're not holding anything important."
Wilson couldn't speak at first. He removed his coat and tossed it onto the armchair. Then he sat down next to House, very close to him, now.
"Are you gonna want to talk about this?" Greg asked simply.
"Shouldn't we be talking about it?" Wilson asked. "This is so out-of-left field, Greg."
House sat with his elbows on his knees, his fingers steepled together. "It's been building for years, Jimmy."
Wilson knew he was telling the truth. He had always wanted to be able to touch Greg, but they were guys; the rules were that guys didn't touch, didn't kiss. And he had always felt a little unhappy that he couldn't give more than a handshake, or a slap on the shoulder. And House had always been so weird about being touched anyway, especially after the infarction. Perhaps from that time forward, Greg had been so stand-offish because his need had been so overwhelming that he was afraid to give in to it, for fear of offending his best and only friend.
Greg spoke to him in the gentlest voice James had ever heard him use. "All I know is that I'm kissing my best friend, and I like it." he paused to look into James' eyes. "And he likes it, too."
"I..." James floundered. "Yes." He was whispering. "I like it. I want... more." Wilson's dark eyes met Greg's. "Uh... Greg," Wilson shook his head as if to clear it. "Do you want to... have sex? I mean, is this what you intend...?"
Then Greg kissed him again. As their lips met, Jimmy had this giddy feeling of vertigo. He grabbed hold of Greg's collar, holding him close, and just kept kissing and kissing and kissing him. He was totally unaware that he was moaning into the other man's mouth. Greg was laughing at that; high on the thought that his kisses were making Wilson feel so good.
He took James' hand then, pulled back, and began to stroke the knuckles with his thumb. He spoke in a half-whisper. "If this means we're gonna have sex, then so be it. I like where this is going. I like feeling close to you, and I wanna get closer."
Wilson endorphins pulsing crazily through his gonads and other interesting places in his body again. He closed his eyes for a moment. "Greg," House extended his arm so that it rested across the back of the sofa between them. Wilson took the warm hand in his. He found that there really wasn't any need to speak.
After House had told Wilson that he intended to keep David, Wilson stepped in to help his friend make it happen. He contacted Stacy Warner, House's ex-lover, and charmed her into acting as House's consultant. She didn't practice family law, but she knew her stuff, and would be instrumental in getting House what he wanted. Their brief affair a few months back had ended in disaster, though, and Greg really didn't want to see her again. "But you need her," Wilson had told him. "Stacy doesn't do grudges, and even if she did, she would help you, you know that." House had refused to ask her, though, so Wilson did, behind House's back. She sprang a surprise visit on them to reconnoiter, and was so impressed with David that, in no time, Stacy had found them a colleague she trusted, and was off pulling strings for them behind the scenes. David didn't know about any of all this. By now, though he had begun to call House "Daddy."
The three had fallen into a comfortable pattern, one that kind of made them feel like a family. On the weekdays, House turned up at the hospital early - a side-effect of having to get a child to school on time. At noon, he had lunch with Wilson in one of their offices or the cafeteria. House left work promptly at five unless his current case prevented him from leaving. If he was going to be late, "Mom's Taxi Service" retrieved David from school and delivered him to the hospital. The boy spent two or three hours doing his homework, studying his music, watching TV in House's office, or exploring, until House drove them both home. If House was held up by a case, Wilson would take him, instead, make them dinner, and stay with the boy until House arrived. Occasionally, both men were busy, sometimes on the same case. Then David ended up sleeping on a couch somewhere quiet in the hospital. House had even set aside a little space in the overnight bag he kept in his office for spare pajamas and a change of clothes for him.
"Normal people hire sitters for this kind of thing," Cameron had pointed out to House early on. House never really answered her implied question. If he had answered her, he'd have told her that they weren't normal people. David had lived such an insecure life before that House (and Wilson) felt it was better to keep the boy close to him, in spite of the inconvenience.
If anyone had asked David, he would have agreed with House. He wanted nothing more than to be with his people. House, and now, Wilson. They were the only two people who loved him, and he didn't care if he had to hang out in the hospital for a few hours sometimes to be near them. And the weekends more than made up for that.
He tossed again, feeling hot and miserable in his narrow twin bed. The covers felt oppressive. He kept flipping his pillow over to the cool side. Then later, he felt too cool, and burrowed down under the clammy comforter. He couldn't stay comfortable, and he couldn't stay asleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. He thought he might like a drink of water during one of the hot times, so he got up to get one from the kitchen. House didn't like them using one cup in the bathroom, and he wouldn't put in one of those dispensers with disposable cups. "Kitchen water always tastes better," he had said.
David got halfway to the kitchen before he realized that he was dizzy, and his stomach was doing a kind of flip-flopping thing. Then the LAST think he wanted to do was swallow anything. His mouth began to do that yucky hyper-watering thing it did just before you throw up. Making a quick about-face, he ran to the bathroom just in time to upchuck into the toilet.
He thought maybe he should go and wake House - he had told David he should if he ever needed him during the night. But David was reluctant to. Wilson was in there sleeping with him, and they were still keeping the fact that House and Wilson slept together a big secret from him. Any fool who watched them, at least at home, could see that they were crazy about each other, but David wanted to be polite. They were the only two people who loved him in the whole world, and he didn't want to screw that up by being inconvenient.
He brushed his teeth and washed his face. Back in his room, he put himself back to bed. His muscles felt sore, and he thought that if he wasn't so extra, extra tired, he might actually be able to go throw up again. He decided to lie there and think of things that did not lead to throwing up, and to wait out the night until House was awake again.
"Rise and shine, buddy." Wilson was fully dressed in clothes that he always left behind, old worn jeans and a t-shirt; bum-around-the-house clothes. He didn't look at all as if he'd gone home, got a good night's sleep, and returned to their apartment for breakfast. Wilson never left home looking like crap, even if he was just making a quick run to the store. But that was the story, and he and House were sticking to it. Actually, they never really told any kind of story. They just left David to believe that Wilson wasn't sleeping with House, and left little evidence to the contrary.
His eyes felt...hot. During the short time that he'd been asleep, his throat got in on the act, and so did his right ear. They were sore. He wanted to crawl into a corner somewhere dark and sleep for about eight years.
"Wilson, I'm sick." David whispered.
Alarmed, Wilson took a good look at the boy. "Oh man, you are!" he exclaimed. He felt the boy's face, checked his eyes. And for a split second, forgot he was anything but a daddy. He panicked. "Greg!" Then he remembered he was a doctor who dealt with big nasty cancers, and that a virus was small potatoes by comparison. He started examining David - eyes, glands.
"What's up?" Greg stood in the doorway, still in his pajama bottom and t-shirt. "Oh man..." David looked like crap.
"Get my bag, will you?"
In spite of his miserable condition, David catalogued another bit of evidence. Wilson didn't bring his medical bag with him unless he was traveling to or from work. He always brought it inside so that the medicines he carried didn't get exposed to extreme temperatures in his car. If he'd come this morning, Wilson would never have brought his bag.
House quickly limped back into the room with Wilson's bag, and sat at the foot of the boy's bed. "Cold?"
"Worse than a cold. But still a virus of some kind. Hopefully a quick one." Wilson listened to the boy's lungs - no congestion, good. He looked into his ears. "Right ear is a little inflamed. Into his mouth. "Oh, the back of his throat looks like a real party going on." He checked David's eyes, which were slightly bloodshot. "You look like crap, buddy." He took out a digital thermometer and slipped it into a plastic cover. "But we're gonna fix you up." He popped the thermometer into David's mouth. Then he turned to Greg. "Get over here, Daddy."
"Oh, I think you're doing just fine, Wilson," House told him.
Wilson spared an annoyed glance up at the other man. "Hey, come and sit with your kid."
House cleared his throat. "I think this is more a 'number two dad' kind of job."
"You've got to be joking, * Doctor * House."
Sighing, Wilson scooted back onto David's bed until he was sitting against the wall, nearly in the middle of the bed, and held the boy on his lap. "Hey buddy." He cuddled the boy. "Looks like you've got a nasty bug. He unconsciously pressed his lips to David's forehead, felt his temperature, something his mother had always done with him. "You're burning up." But David instantly felt overwhelming relief. Wilson and Daddy were here and they were taking care of him. He relaxed into the man's embrace.
House was alarmed that he hadn't thought to buy any kid medicine for a situation like this. He went into the bathroom and found that his supply of anti-inflammatories had expired, and threw them into the wastebasket. "Got any kid's Tylenol in there?" he yelled back to the other doctor.
Wilson rooted one-handed through his neatly organized instruments and supplies and came up with a single sample packet of adult painkiller. "What kind of doctor doesn't own an aspirin?" he asked incredulously.
"The kind who doesn't have headaches, courtesy of Miss Vicodin," House told him.
David was too miserable and tired to say that he knew what they were talking about. VI-CO-DIN was on the bottles of pills that Daddy took for the pain in his leg. David had thought it was pronounced, "vick ah din." Now he knew better. He buried his face in Wilson's shoulder and waited for them to make him better.
House opened the adult Tylenol sample from Wilson's bag. He'd found a pill splitter in the medicine cabinet. They gave him one-and a half pills. When Wilson tried once again to shift David into House's arms so that he could get dressed and go out for some more appropriate meds, the boy clasped his neck tightly. "Want you to stay, Wilson," he murmured. Then he was instantly sorry, because he had shown a preference for Wilson over House.
"Stay with him, Wilson. I'll go," the older man had agreed without any further comment. Now David felt awful, and sick, too.
House and Wilson worked well together as they took care of their sick boy. House had read to him or watched his little portable TV with the boy when he was awake. But it was Wilson who made sure he ate at least a little, and kept a supply of dry pajamas at the ready as he sweated through one pair after another. It was Wilson who held him when he whined a little, Wilson who got up with him during the night. It was symbolic of their roles in David's life. House taught him and encouraged him to fly; Wilson caught him when he fell.
By Sunday evening, David was able to lie on the couch between them, his head in Wilson's lap, feet in Greg's, while they watched a marathon of David's Spongebob videos. Greg loved every minute of it; Wilson spent a lot of time humoring them both. He didn't really mind being a little bored. He was exactly where he wanted to be, with the two people he loved most, and happier than he'd ever been in his entire life. Wilson extended his left arm along the sofa back to touch Greg's right. Fingers interlaced, their eyes met. 'I love you,' he mouthed. Greg smiled back at him, and closed his eyes.
"He was a hardheaded man, he was brutally handsome/And she was terminally pretty..."
Greg was late finishing up a case, so Wilson had picked David up from school instead of sending the taxi service, and was bringing him back to the hospital. It was a welcome diversion for the oncologist; Wilson absolutely loved hearing their boy sing. He could listen forever to the boy's sweet, fluty soprano that was bigger and bolder than one would expect from such a shy little kid.
David naturally had absolute pitch and excellent breath control, probably a voice instructor's wet dream. Whenever Wilson missed hearing David's voice, he'd plug in some music and let nature take its course.
"Out every evening, until it was light/He was too tired to make it, she was too tired to fight about it"
Wilson chuckled to himself. He found it especially endearing when David was singing something totally inappropriate as if he understood what he was singing about. * Maybe he did, * Wilson thought to himself. But David had such an innocent face, such a sweet, shy manner about him, that you always had to do a double take when something unexpected came out of his mouth.
"Lissen baby, you can hear the engine riiing/ We been up an' down this highway, haven't seen a goddamn thing..."
The days had finally begun to lengthen. Wilson was glad to get out for a while; he needed to get some sun in his eyes. He was tempted to take the rest of the afternoon off and kidnap David to someplace fun. Greg had discovered Chuck E. Cheese, which was a great place for a competitive man with an inner eight-year-old like Greg to hang out, now that he had a kid. David had confided to Wilson that he only liked going because it made Daddy so happy to play the goofy games. He had more fun watching House than he did participating. And when they cashed in all their tickets, House gave all his to David, so he usually got something kinda semi-cool. Nah, David wouldn't enjoy doing that with him. Wilson sucked at games of skill.
"Wanna ride around for awhile?" he asked the boy.
Smiling, David agreed. He took off his sneakers and tossed them and his backpack into the back seat. Then he propped his feet up on the glove box (his legs were a little too short to reach the top of the dash yet), and started fiddling with his MP3 player, searching for his "traveling" playlist.
Wilson pulled over and placed a call to his receptionist to let her know he wasn't coming back. Then he called Greg.
"Are you naked?" His partner asked upon seeing Wilson's name in the caller ID box. Translation: 'I'm alone and I can speak freely.' If someone had been in the office, Greg would have simply said 'hello.'
Wilson smiled to himself. "I've got the kid. Pony up the ransom by six this evening at your place, or you'll never see him again."
House chuckled. "What's the ransom?"
"Oh, you know." Wilson hung up and turned off the phone. Then he pointed to David's MP3 player. "Plug it in, I wanna hear too." He removed his jacket and tie, then rolled up his sleeves and pulled back into traffic.
If House were along, his deep baritone would make a rich, lovely contrast to David's sweet soprano. The two of them sometimes brought tears to Wilson's eyes, which he did his best to hide.
"I love his sausage, crave his hash/ wild about his succotash/ I can't do without my kitchen maaaan..."
Blues now. OLD stuff. Bessie Smith. House was teaching the boy music from a historical perspective. David got a kick out of the old-timey music.
"When I eat his doughnut, all I leave is the hole..."
Wilson winced. He was glad they weren't in the convertible.
"Hey David, do you know what that song is about?"
David thought about it for a minute. "Yeah, this rich lady doesn't want her cook to leave."
'Good.' He thought. "Right. Just asking."
David sang a few more bars. "Because she's really going to miss having sex with him."
"Uh...yeah." Wilson didn't say anything more. He'd never discussed sex with a child. He wondered if House had explained the song to David. House generally kept Wilson up to speed on anything important that happened with the boy, though. This would have been important to share. "Do they teach you about sex in school?" he ventured.
It was as if he was talking about breakfast cereal. "No, not until fifth grade."
"Oh." Wilson accelerated through an intersection. They were nearing the outskirts of town.
David did that little shrug that said he was uncomfortable. "My mother was a * prostitute,* remember?"
"Oh yeah," Wilson turned the sound up just a little. "Forgot." He was preparing to table the conversation, at least until he talked with Greg.
David stopped singing and abruptly switched to another song, 'Ramblin' Man,' Allman brothers.
"I'm sorry," Wilson said, placing his hand on David's head as he slowed at a traffic light. "Didn't mean to remind you of all that."
David turned away to gaze out of the window. "It doesn't matter, Wilson."
They ended up driving through Round Valley State Park, until they found a good bench where they could soak up some sun, and watch a flock of geese that were obviously on their way back to Canada. Wilson was sorry he'd obviously put a damper on what might have been a fun afternoon. He racked his brain trying to think of a way to turn it around. He needn't have.
David looked up at his "Number Two Dad," gauging his reaction slowly as he spoke, "Know what, Wilson? I think sex isn't bad by itself. It's the reason for sex that's bad sometimes. Just like everything else. Am I right?"
Wilson was impressed. "That sounds like a good philosophy to live by." He stretched his legs out in front of him, folded his arms across his chest, and relaxed his back against the hard seat. "Sounds like you've given this a lot of thought."
David looked ahead at the pond, picked at the knee of his jeans. "SHE did it to get money. And she felt so bad about it that she blamed me. She thought it was nasty and she did it anyway." He glanced over at Wilson. "Daddy says if you do something your heart and your mind tells you is wrong, you're compromising yourself."
"I agree with Daddy." Wilson told him.
David nodded, acknowledging that he'd heard Wilson. "But when people have sex because they're lovers, like you and Daddy, it's okay, right? Because you're not pretending to love each other just to earn money. It's not an immoral thing to do."
Wilson's brain locked for a moment. What was he supposed to be saying to a normal 8-year-old about his relationship with Greg, and what more would be okay to say to David, who was by no means normal? "Well..." He racked his brain. 'Truth,' House's voice whispered gently in his mind. "David, I'm kind of surprised here. I didn't realize that you knew about your dad and me."
"I don't know why not," the boy replied. "Stevie Wonder could see it."
"You make a lot of noise."
Wilson felt his face go red. "Noise?" He was never aware of any noises they made.
"You moan when Daddy kisses you. "
'Oh God.' "David, uh..." 'Just be honest,' House whispered again. "Okay, House and I do love each other very much, and we do sleep together..."
"Every Friday and Saturday, and sometimes you come on other nights and leave before morning. You should just live with us."
"...Um... and it's okay because we're devoted to each other. I love your dad, and he loves me." He began to feel as though his face might be getting a little less red now. "And I agree that having sex without having feelings for the other person isn't a good idea." Wilson prayed that David wouldn't ask if either of them had ever been with a hooker - * Wilson's * hands were mostly clean, but House's...
David shrugged - the little shrug he did when he was uncomfortable about something. "Anyway, I'm never going to do sex, so it doesn't matter.
Wilson smiled to himself. "I guess that's about normal for eight," he told the boy. "But your feelings may change as you get older."
David wrinkled his nose at that thought and shook his head. "I doubt it." Then he asked, "I figured all the moaning means Daddy must be a really good kisser. Is he?
Wilson gazed into the distance, past the geese to the other side of the lake. "Yes honey, Daddy is a VERY good kisser."
Wilson and David returned after dark. House had returned just a few minutes before, and was unwinding at the piano. When they entered, House spared them a glance and a slight smile, and kept playing. David eased up behind his dad and did what Wilson thought of as 'David's piano hug.' It was something he did with House while he played. He rested his head on the back of House's right shoulder, and rested his hand on the other shoulder. "Hi Daddy," the little boy murmured.
"Hey..." House kept playing. "D'ja have a good time?"
"Yeah. Did you cure the patient?"
"Dunno yet." House started playing a pop sixties tune, and sang quietly, almost to himself. "We're gonna wait till the midnight hour/That's when my love comes tumbling down.../I'm gonna take ya, girl and hold ya/And do all the things I told ya/in the midnight hour..."
Wilson might have sucked at singing for most of his life, but one thing he was definitely good at was dancing. He grabbed David's hand, and started dancing behind House. Smiling, David tried to imitate Wilson's moves. It wasn't pretty - David wasn't bad, but he wasn't coordinated enough yet to keep up. Wilson scooped the little boy up into his arms and danced him around and around until they were both hugging and laughing and dancing at the same time.
House couldn't get enough of the scene, this man whom he loved so much, dancing, holding their kid. When his and Wilson's eyes met, he mouthed. 'Stay?'
Wilson crossed the room, still carrying David. He leaned down and kissed Greg.
"Mmmph" House tried to remind Wilson that they weren't alone, for God's sake. Then he gave up, because surely Wilson would have remembered by now. Obviously the Talk had taken place without him.
David wriggled out of Wilson's embrace and stalked away from them, exuding boyish distaste, and muttering, "Yuck. I'm absolutely * sure * that there is no way I'm ever doing * that. *
It happened only occasionally that the two men kissing by the piano completely ignored their son. This was one of those times.
Please post a comment on this story.
Legal Disclaimer: The authors published here make no claims on the ownership of Dr. Gregory House and the other fictional residents of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Like the television show House (and quite possibly Dr. Wilson's pocket protector), they are the property of NBC/Universal, David Shore and undoubtedly other individuals of whom I am only peripherally aware. The fan fiction authors published here receive no monetary benefit from their work and intend no copyright infringement nor slight to the actual owners. We love the characters and we love the show, otherwise we wouldn't be here.