by Gigi Sinclair
"What did you say?" James looked up from the file in his lap.
Greg leaned back in his chair, propping his feet on the desk. "I said, marry me."
"That's what I thought." James glanced back at the unfortunate Mr. Fernandez's medical records, now that he knew this was just one of Greg's random teases. "It's not a very romantic proposal."
"Sorry. I should have consulted the expert." Greg brought his feet down again, leaning forward on the desk to stare more disconcertingly than usual at James. "Tell me, what would James do?"
"If I was proposing again?" There was no chance of that happening. "I don't know. Dinner, flowers, getting down on one knee. Something like that." Eduardo Fernandez needed radical chemotherapy, starting right away, James decided. It was his only chance, and even then, it looked pretty grim.
"Well, the knee thing is out," Greg went on. Obviously, Greg was dedicated to this particular "bit" for some reason. "But I think the cafeteria has macaroni and cheese today. And I'm sure I could rustle up some roses from the get-well bouquets. Unless you prefer lilies. Then I'll have to head to the morgue."
James stood, the Fernandez file in hand. "I have to go." Much as he would have liked to play along with Greg in their usual casual, semi-flirtatious style, he had work to do. "I'll see you later, Greg."
"Think about what I said," Greg called after him. "I'll even fork out for a ring."
"Three baguettes, no less," James replied as he left, trying not to think about the fact that he could talk about engagement rings with almost as much expertise as he could talk about cancer treatments.
Eduardo Fernandez was a married father of four. His wife and his eldest daughter came with him to the consultation, and James had to look them all in the eye as he told them Eduardo had very little chance of surviving. He was trying to put the best possible spin on it, playing up the chemotherapy option and the slim odds that would work, when there was a knock on his office door.
Glancing through the window, James caught a glimpse of a nurse with something in her arms.
"Excuse me a moment." He inclined his head to the family, who barely seemed to notice. Mrs. Fernandez was sobbing into a tissue, while the daughter had her arm protectively around her father's shoulders. Eduardo himself was looking sadly resigned, something James had seen many times before. Too many times. "Yes?" James opened the office door, stepping through and pulling it half-closed behind him.
The nurse thrust a large bouquet of white roses at him. "These came for you, Dr. Wilson." He didn't take them.
James frowned. "What?"
"For you," the nurse repeated, shifting the bouquet in her arms and looking pointedly at the card. James picked it up automatically and read: "Marry me." No need to wonder who that was from.
"I'm with a patient," James snapped, shoving the card back into the flowers. It bent, and James clearly read: "Get well soon Nana" in childish crayon on the back of the card. No need to wonder where they'd come from, either. "Put them at the nurse's station." The nurse turned around with a sigh and, adjusting her grip on the bouquet, went over to the desk.
As soon as the Fernandez family was gone, James went back downstairs and barged into House's office. He was alone, which was just as well. At the moment, James was feeling just annoyed enough to make a scene in front of the ducklings. Instead, he had to make do with making a scene in front of Greg's Gameboy and half-eaten Oh Henry bar. "What's the matter with you?"
Greg glanced up from his game. "In general, or were you referring to one foible in particular?"
"I'm telling a man he's probably not going to live to see his grandchildren, and you send me a bunch of flowers you stole from some poor kid's Nana?"
"Nana was discharged yesterday. She left the flowers for the nurses."
"Which is where they ended up."
Greg clutched his heart with his free hand and fiddled with his controller with the other. "You re-gifted my engagement present? How callous, James. You wound me, truly."
"OK, Greg." He sighed. "Listen, I can take a joke as well as the next guy, but..."
Greg's eyes came up again, and this time they stayed up, his eyes fixed on James. "It's not a joke."
Not one Greg was willing to give up, clearly. "Oh. OK. Well, while you are a very attractive man and I do care about you as a friend..."
"It's an insurance policy." Greg put the Gameboy on his desk.
James laughed. Greg's expression didn't change. "What, you think if he sees me wearing your class ring he won't ask me to the senior prom?"
"He's not stupid, unfortunately. One day he's going to realize that the best way of getting to me is through you."
"So if we're married..."
Greg waved a hand. "He can figure out some way to get rid of you if he wants to. Malpractice, cutbacks, anything, no one'll give a shit."
James blinked. "Thank you. That's very reassuring."
"But if we're together and he gives you the axe, then we call him a homophobic prick and sue him. Suddenly, we're on 'Larry King Live' and '60 Minutes Two' and anywhere else it takes until they forget about his money and give him the axe to save the hospital's reputation. We might still go down, but we'll take him with us."
It was a paranoid idea, James thought, but not a bad one, in theory. Very few of Greg's ideas were bad, in theory. "I'm already married, Greg."
"It's not bigamy if one of the marriages isn't legal," Greg replied, with a certainty that led James to suspect he'd actually looked into this. "Anyway," Greg went on, "We don't have to really do it. We just have to disappear to Boston for a weekend, eat some beans, play a little golf, you come back with a gleam in your eye and I limp a little more than usual, and we're all set if and when I finally piss him off enough."
"And are you planning on pissing him off?"
Greg smiled. "Every chance I get."
James smiled back. This was Greg, and this was just what James loved about him. The quick mind, the endlessly creative ideas, the willingness to fight no matter what the cost. If it wasn't for Julie, James thought, he might actually consider it. It would be fun, in a teenage prank kind of way, and he hadn't been to Boston for years.
"It would never work." And James, he decided, wasn't going to feel the least bit disappointed about that. "So I guess you'll just have to keep your mouth shut if you want to protect me."
"I do," Greg replied, his voice more earnest than James had heard it in a long time.
The irony of the phrase wasn't lost on James, who raised his eyebrow and said, jokingly because that was what made it acceptable: "Till death do us part?"
"Are you kidding?" Greg opened his drawer and fumbled for something. Vicodin, James assumed. His smile got bigger when Greg pulled out a lollipop instead and shoved it into his mouth. "I'll be tossing rocks at you from gentile hell."
"If I eat any more ham sandwiches, I'll be right there with you." There was more James wanted to say, there was always more James wanted to say to Greg, but there was no way he could say it. So instead, he said: "Dinner tonight?"
"What about your wife?"
James shrugged. "I'll tell her I'm out saving my job." It was no less believable than most of the excuses he'd given Julie recently.
When he got back to his office, James opened Eduardo Fernandez's file again, as if staring at it would make the man's tumours disappear. Then, after a long pause, James reached for his PalmPilot and looked up his friend Jerry, the one who worked at Beth Israel and always said how interested their Board was in James, if he ever became available.
James knew Greg was serious when he said he wanted to protect him, but he also knew Greg was serious when he said he was going to piss off Vogler every chance he got. And, as James had learned, being friends with Greg meant you had to be prepared for every eventuality.
He couldn't imagine what being married to Greg, legally or not, would entail, and he was glad he wasn't going to find out.
Mostly glad, anyway.
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 Fox Television, 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.