nightdog_barks: (House In Library)
[personal profile] nightdog_barks
Title: A River Out of Eden
Author: [personal profile] nightdog_barks and [personal profile] blackmare
Characters: House, Wilson, a few OCs
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: No
Spoilers: Yes, for Season 8 up to and including episode 8.22 ("Everybody Dies").
Summary: Nobody said it was going to be easy. 5,507 words.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Never will.
Author Notes: The title and cut-text are from Genesis 2:10, the 1769 Oxford King James Bible "Authorized Version." The medical phenomenon mentioned in this story is real.
Beta: My intrepid First Readers, with especial thanks to [personal profile] topaz_eyes.



A River Out of Eden


"No," Wilson says, and "no" again. "You're not taking me to a hospital, you're not calling an ambulance."

"I don't have the equipment or the meds to handle this," House says, and it's déjà vu all over again, the chemo nightmare, and House does not want to relive that, he does not, but apparently Wilson's going to make him.

"Promise me," Wilson says, and his eyes are going glassy and his hair's plastered to his forehead. "Promise me."

And like an idiot, House does.




As far as House had been able to tell, this town didn't have a name. Wilson had insisted he'd seen a sign -- "Two Something," but obviously not something, Two Birds, or Two Rivers, or Two Dogs. If appearances are any indicator, House thinks it should be called Two Pigs, but not within earshot of any of the locals, who are all (all twenty-eight, or thirty-seven, or sixty-four of them) enjoying themselves at the camp fairgrounds. That's why they'd pulled in, because Wilson had wanted to see the fair.

As if Dollywood, two days ago, didn't give him a big enough dose of bad food and rides that came with warning labels. House didn't mind those; the trouble with these creaky, crusty small-town affairs was that there was nothing worth warning people about. Okay, maybe salmonella, but Wilson seemed undaunted by that prospect.

"It's a county fair," Wilson had said. "They'll have pulled pork. Peach preserves. Blackberry jam. Honey." His eyes had taken on that dreamy look House normally associated with good bourbon.

"Will they have corn dogs?" House had asked. "Cotton candy? Belgian waffles? Funnel cake? 'Cause I'm all over that."

"It'll be all over you unless you remember to pick up some Pepto-Bismol."

"Not a chance. This time, you wanna ride the Gravitron, you're on your own."

Wilson had grinned, put his kickstand up, and sped away from the sad little gas station ahead of him. House had watched him for a moment, trying not to think of how anyone who had to guess would assume that the wrong one was dying. "Wait up, moron," he muttered, and followed.

The fair had been bigger than House had expected -- besides celebrating the holiday, with all the requisite flags and bunting and other tawdry displays of cheap patriotism, the good citizens of Two Pigs were having themselves a peach festival, and Wilson's dream of peach preserves, peach butter, and peach honey were more than fulfilled. There were rides -- a merry-go-round, spinning teacups, slides, a Tilt-a-Whirl that probably hadn't had a maintenance inspection in years, and a petting zoo with bored goats and nervous ponies doing their best to ignore the grasping hands of candy-smeared children. House had endured it all -- the noise, the smell from the stock-judging tent, the flickering lights strung from frayed wire, the way his cane kept sinking into the well-trodden ground.

"Admit it, House, you're having fun," Wilson had teased.

"I'm just waiting for the fireworks," House said. "Maybe they'll set off the town dump."

And then, not too much later, Wilson had simply stopped, put his free hand to his head and rubbed slowly at his temples. His other hand had held a softball; he'd been about to throw it at some painted milk bottles and see if he could win another teddy bear, but he put it down too.

"House," he said. "I'm ... not feeling so great."

No, House had thought, it's too soon, no, and what people had always said about sinking terror, well, it was true. And then he'd touched Wilson's forehead with the back of his hand and realized it was just a damn cold.

If Wilson wasn't already dying, House could have killed him.




The Be-Tide Inn was one of those little motels that still dotted the back roads of the sandy South -- a one-story firetrap with faded blue stucco, its cracked plastic sign still advertising COLOR TV, but it was that or ride for another seventy-five miles and Wilson was in no shape for that.

"More like Fit-to-Be-Tied," House muttered to himself. He nodded over at Wilson, who nodded back. In unison they turned their Victories into the loose-gravel lot, Wilson's rear tire slipping and threatening to lay him down right there, but he balanced himself in time.

When Wilson took his helmet off, the weird red-paleness of his skin made House reassess his condition, upgrading from 'head cold' to 'possible influenza.' Wilson always was an overachiever.

"Stay here," said House, and Wilson, without a word of protest, did.

It took five minutes of RING BELL FOR SERVICE before SERVICE deigned to show up.




"Sixty a night." SERVICE had been revealed as a young, dark-haired woman, whose name, according to her i.d. badge, was Keeta. House considered asking her if she'd been named by a parrot fancier, but decided against it in favor of getting Wilson into a room.

"We'll take it," House said, fishing Wilson's Visa card out of his wallet.

"Dont'cha wanna know the amenities?" Keeta asked.

"Does it really have a color TV?" She nodded. "A working toilet? No bedbugs?"

"Yes, yes, and nossir, absolutely not."

"Then what's the problem?"

"Sir, I -- " She stopped there, her expression that of a deer in the headlights. "Here's your key, sir," she said at last, and pushed a key across the counter. A real key, some base metal rubbed dull by countless sweaty fingers in countless greasy locks, with a wooden tag dangling from the head. The number on the tag read 13. House decided to take it as a good sign.




The room was tiny, the two queen beds taking up most of the space, but it was clean, and for the moment that was all House cared about.

"C'mon," he said. "Sit down somewhere, stick out your tongue and say 'ah.' It's exam time with friendly Doctor Greg."

Wilson didn't look too thrilled at the prospect, but he obediently took a seat, turning the desk chair around so he was facing House.

"Jacket off," House ordered.

"It's my throat that hurts," Wilson mumbled. "And my head."

"Anywhere else?"

Wilson took entirely too long to think about it. "Stomach," he said. "No. Lower down. My ... my gut."

"Open up." House had kept his handy-dandy penlight from PPTH, and now he used it to shine a narrow beam into Wilson's mouth. "How long has your throat been this red?"

"Uh." Wilson closed his mouth as House stepped back. "A day ... or so."

"And were you planning on telling me anytime soon?"

Wilson had the grace to look at least a little embarrassed. "Thought it would go away on its own," he said.

"Well, that's certainly sound medical thinking. And speaking of medical, where's the kit?"

"My saddlebags. Left side." Wilson yawned. "Can I lie down now?"

"Sure," House said. "Just don't fall asleep while I'm taking your temperature." He almost did, though, closing his eyes while House looked at the reading and frowned. It was 102, which was high -- worrisome, but not overtly dangerous.

"Take some aspirin," House said. "Get some rest."

Wilson obliged, dozing off almost immediately as House arranged himself on the other bed.




He wakes with the knowledge that something's wrong.

The TV, sound turned down low, natters away, a whisper in the dark. House scrubs at his face with one rough hand.

"Wilson?" he says.

The shapeless form next to him mumbles something, and House jerks back, startled.

"Wilson?" Sometime during the night, he's ... gotten into bed with his best friend. There's a part of House that wants to think about the implications of this, but he's more concerned about the palpable heat he can feel rising off Wilson's body. He rests his hand on Wilson's cheek; it's like testing the temperature of a charcoal grill.

"Wilson," he says, "wake up. Come on, wake up." He shakes Wilson's shoulder, notes with clinical detachment that Wilson's stripped off his t-shirt and thrown back the covers. "Up and at 'em, sport. Let's check that temp again." He reaches across Wilson and turns on the bedside light, and it's then that he sees the rash and the distinct red lines creasing into Wilson's armpit.

House stares at the lines as Wilson, still half-asleep, mumbles something unintelligible. Then he hooks a finger in Wilson's boxer waistband, and yanks.

"House! What th'hell -- " Wilson flounders, tries to roll away. House leans on his chest, pinning him in place.

The red lines are there too, and now House knows exactly what they are.

"Why, Doctor Wilson!" House attempts a falsetto Southern drawl, holding his hand up as if grasping at a locket around his neck. "I do believe you have contracted the Scahlet Fevah!" Unfortunately it's a rotten attempt; he sounds more like Bill Clinton.

"You could be gone with the wind," Wilson says, or at least that's what House thinks he says. It's getting difficult to tell, what with Wilson's swollen throat, and made more so, House imagines, by his elbow on Wilson's sternum.

"Wilson, this is serious. You have scarlet fever."

"I have cancer. Now get off me!"

"Look," House says. "You idiot, will you look?" He lets go of Wilson's underwear, grabs his wrist and forces Wilson's arm into the air.

"Chills, fever, abdominal pain, high fever, headache, sore throat, rash. Sudden, abrupt onset." He nods at Wilson's exposed axilla. "Pastia's lines." He releases Wilson's wrist. "You need real drugs, and we're out of everything but aspirin. So spending your last couple good months with kidney and liver failure would be even more of a fucking waste than you're already looking at."

Wilson gazes back, his eyes dark with pain.

"No. No, House. Get me some meds; I'm sure you can find a way. You're you."




"Sorry, hon," the motel owner says. "It's the holiday weekend -- everthing's closed until Tuesday morn."

"Seriously?" House says. He's heard of small towns rolling up the sidewalks at 5 p.m., but this is ridiculous. "There's no place I can even buy Tylenol?"

The woman (her name tag says she's Doreen, but what it doesn't add is that she's a bottle red with dark roots, overdue for a fresh dye job) purses her carmine-sticked lips and strains her brain for a moment.

"Well," she says, "there's the Rite Aid on the Parkway, and the Best All-Night Bait & Tackle over on Martha Pink."

"And they're open?"

"Nope, they're closed."

House restrains himself from leaping the counter and clubbing Doreen to death with his cane only by a superhuman effort.

"There's a county am'blance service," she offers. "Or if you're in a real emergency, I can give you Dr. Haight Jefferson's number." She pops her gum by way of emphasis on the Haight. "Like the hippies," she adds.

House barely dares to hope. "You have a doctor who ... makes house calls?"

"No, sugar. He's the vet."

Any port in a storm, House thinks grimly, and says, "Fine. Dr. Doolittle it is." But when he gets back to the room, Wilson's temperature is even higher.




"Wilson, you've hit a hundred and four. We have -- "

"No! Tub. Water ... bath water."

"You're an idiot, and you'll be more of one if this fries your brain."

"Someone. Could see you. No."

"You're seriously worried I'll get caught. Here, in East Jesusville, Nowhere."

Wilson nods, just a little tiny nod, and even that obviously hurts. "You would," he croaks, and House has to admit he might have a point. Lousy coincidences seem to follow him like a cloud of stinging gnats.

"Tub," Wilson repeats, and he's pawing at House's arm, asking for support to get himself there.

"Fine," House grunts, and Wilson is a bushel basket of hot coals on his shoulder. The bushel basket of hot coals lets out a gasp -- House can't tell if it's pleasure or if it's pain -- when his bare ass meets the cold white enamel.

"You ain't seen nothin' yet," says House, but he sounds gentler than he'd intended. He turns the spigots on, full blast, and watches his best friend shiver and twitch while the lukewarm water inches over his skin.

One-oh-three in half an hour, House thinks, or I'm calling 911 instead of the horse doctor. Wilson will forgive him. He always does, eventually.

"House?"

"Yes, darling?"

"Think I'm gonna." It's shorthand from their Chemo Dance Nights, and House knows what it means. He grabs the bathroom wastebasket just in time to catch Wilson's precious Southern-fried fair-food on its way back up.

"I hate you," House says, when Wilson's done.

"Hate you more," Wilson wheezes.

"You're about to," House informs him. "I'm calling the vet on your ass."




The vet's younger than House expects, somewhere around Wilson's age, with a strong grip and light blue eyes that seem to radiate "Trust me with your large-animal needs!" Otherwise he looks pretty much like House expects a tiny-town vet to look -- a well-worn felt cowboy hat, jeans, a sturdy blue work shirt with two breast pockets covering a grey t-shirt, and plain, square-toed boots bearing the undeniable aroma of too many paddocks. He carries a battered nylon gear bag with a Big Sky Feed & Seed logo slung over one shoulder

"Mr. Bell?" the vet says as he takes his hat off. "I'm Haight Jefferson. What seems to be the problem here?"

"He is." Wilson's stretched out in the bed, naked under the scratchy covers, asleep in the heavy, restless grip of his fever -- but it's down to a hundred and three, and his brain is out of harm's way. At least for now.

"He have a name?"

"Wilson."

The vet steps into the room, moves to Wilson's side. His lips tighten.

"This is a lawsuit waiting to happen," House hears him mumble.

"Except it won't," House snaps, "because this is simple. He's got scarlet fever." They don't have time for this. "Caused by an erythrogenic toxin, released by Streptococcus pyogenes. He needs penicillin, now."

Jefferson looks at him. "You're a doctor," he says.

"Even if I am, you can tell by my accent I'm not licensed in this state." He stares back at the vet, as if by sheer force of will he can make him open his bag. "That's what you were going to say, right? I'm a doctor, why don't I just write him a scrip?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," the vet replies, but it's worked, he's turning to examine Wilson. "You know what this is, so how come you don't take him to the hospital?"

"Because I'm a cripple on a motorbike, and the good citizens of PoDunk here don't believe in taxis."

"There's a county ambulance."

"He ... won't let me. I mean, not like he could stop me, but ... I gave him my word. He's afraid if he goes in, they'll never let him out."

"I'm afraid I don't follow, Dr. Bell."

"You ever watch The Bucket List?" House says.

"Yeah."

"Well, this is ours. The ultra-whiteness notwithstanding, he's Morgan Freeman."

The vet's hands still, just for a moment. "So that's why he has a kid's disease," he says, but his tone is calm, like now he's solved a small puzzle that had been nagging at his mind. "Compromised immune system. You know," he says, addressing House over his shoulder, "I saw you two at the fair yesterday. You should be more careful around large groups of people." He sits back, but makes no move for his gear. "You wanna show me something says Wilson here isn't allergic to penicillin?"

House stares at him. "You have many cases around here where people commit murder by anaphylactic shock?"

"You'd be surprised," the vet says, but his gaze doesn't waver, and the hell of it is, House has to admit grudgingly to himself, he's right.

House has never been more grateful for the official pieces of paper he drags from his wallet. "Durable selection of health care agent, living will," he says as Jefferson unfolds the forms and reads both of them through. He and Wilson had had them done in some beach town outside Ocean City, Maryland, under a lazily-spinning ceiling fan while a notary public with the improbable name of Gadsden Pennyworth had stamped the documents with his seal. For witnesses Wilson had called up an old med school friend and his partner, neither of whom had ever set eyes on Dr. Gregory House or Wilson's new best friend, Dr. Kyle Bell.

Jefferson feels the raised seal with his fingertips, then re-folds the papers and hands them back.

"Still need to be careful," he says, and House isn't quite sure if he's referring to himself or to the contagious nature of crowds.

"He wanted to go," House says, choosing to respond as if it's the latter.

"And do you always do what he says?" For this, Jefferson doesn't wait for an answer; instead, he reaches for his case and extracts a disposable packaged syringe and a small ampoule. House leans closer, hoping the drug container is labeled for something interesting like scours or milk fever or the strangles, but no, it's just plain old penicillin.

"I do now." House sits on the bed beside Wilson and stretches out Wilson's arm for the injection. "I'm aware I'm an idiot, so don't waste the lecture."

"I see you have helmets," Jefferson says, nodding at the two dark shapes on the motel dresser. "You're an idiot, doctor, but I've seen worse."

To forestall any more talk of who's the idiot here, House says, "Haight seems like an unusual name for these parts."

The vet smiles, just a little, as he swabs Wilson's arm. "I'm not from these parts," he says. "I was born in San Francisco. Nineteen sixty-seven San Francisco."

A light dawns. "The 'Summer of Love,'" House says.

"You got it." Jefferson goes silent for a moment, concentrating on the shot. "Moved here when I was twelve, when my dad's father died." He withdraws the needle and drops the used syringe in his plastic sticks container. "Actually, you might say I lucked out in the name department. I've got a cousin named Jeff Davis Jefferson."

It's at this point that House decides not to make any jokes about rednecks. Wilson, however, chooses that moment to stir, wrinkling his nose and turning his head.

"House?" he says.

Shit.

"No," House says. "Not home yet. We're still at the motel. This is Doctor Jefferson. He'll have you galloping again in no time."

"Uh."

"Go back to sleep. It's okay. It's penicillin."

Wilson mumbles something else, something unintelligible, and promptly falls asleep again.

"Okay then," Jefferson says, and starts digging around in his gear bag. He finds what he's looking for and holds out two small, flat cardboard packets. There's a picture of a happy Golden Retriever on the packets' covers. "I don't have any Amoxil with me, so here's a couple sample packs of Simplicef -- that's cephalosporin to you. I'm gonna write you a scrip for more antibiotics, you can get it filled anywhere." The hint of a smile tugs at his lips. "Normally I'd say to hide the pills in a yummy treat, but I don't think that'll be necessary here."




"No charge. Consider it a professional courtesy -- one physician to another." Jefferson shakes House's hand and clomps his way out to his vehicle, a dusty, dented Chevy pickup of indeterminate color. It's only when he's pulled away, the rear tires churning up the loose gravel, that House notices he's left his cowboy hat. He steps back out to wave, but the truck's already gone.

On the bed, Wilson sleeps. It could be House's imagination, but his color looks better already, and, when House rests his knuckles on Wilson's forehead for a moment, his temperature has noticeably fallen.

House stands, letting some of the pent-up tension drain away. He picks up the vet's hat, runs a finger along the thin leather band. Struck by a sudden, inexplicable urge, he puts it on and looks in the mirror. He pushes the hat back a tad and lets his right hand drift down, belt-level. Holster-level.

"Draw, mister," he whispers, and his reflection nods.

Pow!

He collapses onto the bed, mortally wounded. The mattress springs bounce, but Wilson, the bastard, remains blissfully asleep. House sighs and tips the cowboy hat forward to cover his eyes. "Gotcha," he mumbles, and then he's asleep, too.




Five months and one day since James Wilson was given five months to live, two months since his bout with scarlet fever, and there he sits, dumping maple syrup -- the real stuff; he'd insisted on asking before he'd agree to get breakfast here -- over the biggest stack of blueberry pancakes this side of Mickey's.

House reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small cardboard box and a lighter. "What do you think? Candle for each month, and one to grow on?" Without waiting for a reply, he begins poking candles into the pancake stack. Six, in a ridiculously careful formation, and then he nearly burns his fingers lighting them.

"Happy non-death-day, Wilson." He dips his finger in the maple syrup puddle on Wilson's plate, and takes a taste. "You are now officially past your expiration date. Make a wish."

Wilson watches closely while House dips up more syrup with the finger he just licked clean. "Might wanna hurry," House prods. "Getting hot wax on your berries. I've never tried it, but I hear it's painful."

"What I wish," Wilson says, "is that you'd stop looking at me like I'm your next case."

"Now that you told me, it's never gonna happen. Make another one."

No sooner does Wilson blow the candles out than a half dozen servers appear out of nowhere, singing Happy Birthday at him. Wilson's failure to correct the mistake brings House a surge of something akin to pride. Good boy, Wilson; take what you're offered, he thinks. But if you're not visibly sick in another five months, we're having a talk.




Another five months and a day later, in another town, the German deli on the old side of Commerce Street offers fresh potato pancakes, hot off the griddle, and if that's what Wilson wants, that's what he gets.

"A number three," Wilson says. "Potato pancakes, two eggs, scrambled, with bratwurst."

"How about a jelly muffin with that?" the waitress offers.

Wilson barely pretends to think it over. "Okay, sure," he says, and hands over the menu.

House looks at him over the rims of his glasses. "You know," he says, "I was gonna say you're never gonna get back the deposit on that hearse you reserved, but I'm starting to reconsider."

"It's getting old, House."

"But strangely, it's not dying."

"I'm not doing it. Whatever time I have left, I'm not spending it as your guinea pig."

It's at that moment that their breakfast comes, plates of steaming eggs and cakes and ham, sausage perfectly grilled and glistening, served by efficient, bustling waitresses. House tries speaking German to them; they smile and answer in a Texas-accented blend of German, Spanish, and English.

At last House pushes his last plate aside -- apple streusel, baked that very morning -- and tries again.

"You're not even the least bit curious -- "

"No, House."

" -- as to why you've utterly failed to bloat up and float to the top of the tank?"

"Thank you for that disgusting image. And don't sound so disappointed."

"Never been happier about anything in my life. I still want to know."

"You have a ... theory, and you want to test it."

"So do you, and you don't want to test it. Never thought I'd see the day I was the optimist here."

"It's not ... it's just ... I've never been happier, House. I'm happy here, out here, just living. I don't plan to screw that up."

"If your theory, which I'd be willing to bet is my theory, isn't true? You might be throwing away your chance to keep doing this. Ignorance isn't always bliss, you moron."

"Who even said I had a theory?"

"The search history on your netbook, that's who."

"Catch you in the next town, House." He's out of his seat and into the dusty parking lot before House can even fully process what just happened.

He is, House notes, moving amazingly fast for a guy who's supposed to be dead.




It's two months later, while Wilson is staring down a challenging plate of chile rellenos at Tiny's Cafe Lounge in Los Alamos, New Mexico, that House realizes what's wrong. Or rather, what's right, as he tears himself away from his own bowl of green chile stew long enough to look, really look at Wilson.

Wilson's cheeks are tanned, his eyes clear and bright. He hasn't gained much weight, even with his pig-fests at every restaurant they stop at, but more importantly, he hasn't lost weight either. His face is lean, his cheekbones still clearly defined; no morning puffiness deriving from superior vena cava syndrome, a common complication of thymoma. The nagging dry cough he'd been developing back in June is gone.

"What are you looking at?" Wilson says.

House blinks at him. "Apparently a moron," he says.

Wilson groans and cradles his head in his hands.

"Listen," House says reasonably, "if you go get checked out, you figure, one way or another it's going to suck. Either your bizarre lack of symptoms is just a lack of symptoms, and you're still dying, which would suck; or else the fever really did run the cancer out of town, which would mean you have to decide what to do with yourself. You'd have to choose to be responsible again, or not. Which would suck."

"I thought you were claiming to be the optimistic one." Wilson's voice is muffled because he still has his face covered.

"I never said life wouldn't suck. I just said I'd be there."

Wilson looks up. "You'll be there." It's not a question.

"I said I would."

Wilson picks up his fork. He watches his chile rellenos for a minute, but they don't move.

"Okay," he says, and uses the side of his fork to cut off a healthy portion of chicken, cheese, and green chile.

"Okay?" House says. "That's it? Okay?"

Wilson looks at him warningly and pops the forkful into his mouth.

"Okay," House says.




The RapidCare doc-in-a-box clinic is run by an older guy with a ginger beard, named Rudy Hennepin. Rudy, despite his office with a disarticulated skeleton in the corner and a bright red caduceus painted on the door, isn't a doctor. What he is is perfectly ready to take cash money, up front, for a chest X-ray. At first he balks, but not for long.

"Dr. Bell," Rudy says. "You think that just because this clinic is in a ... shall we say ... less desirable part of town, that we're somehow less concerned about appearances? That we can be bought, just this easily?"

"Yep," House says.

"House ... "

"Wilson, didn't I say you were the silent partner in all this? Look, we'll give Rudy here an extra fifty. He can use it toward free TB screenings for all the homeless bums under the overpass. Can't you, Rudy?"

"You bet," Rudy says, and to his credit, he sounds really sincere.

"That's what I thought," House says, and shrugs off his jacket. He lifts the heavy, lead-lined apron from the shelf. "Here, Wilson. I hear your 'nads calling you, begging for protection."

"I'll just ... I'll just be over here," Rudy says, edging out the door. "Okay, good."

"Say 'cheese,'" House says, and ducks out the door with Rudy, leaving Wilson stoically alone.

Rudy watches over House's shoulder. "Sure you don't need another?" he asks hopefully.

"Nope," House says. He presses the button.




"Well," House said, squinting hard at the films on the lightbox, "you are still not boring."

"I don't get it," Rudy says. "Why'd you want to do an X-ray of somebody that doesn't have anything?"

House looks at him. "I thought you said you weren't a doctor."

"I'm not," Rudy says. "Only a manager here. But in this business you pick things up." He shrugs. "Like what a normal X-ray looks like."

Wilson doesn't say anything. He's just staring at the scan. After a moment he mumbles something under his breath, then turns and walks out.

"I still don't get it," Rudy says.




"It was the fever," House says, "or it wasn't. It was a miracle, or ... no, we can pretty much discount that one." He sets his shot glass on the table, among all the other shot glasses, among Wilson's shot glasses. They've been drinking for a while, bourbon mostly, but there may have been some single malt mixed in there. It's getting hard to remember. "It was the fever," he says. "Coley's toxins. HSP90. Pyrogenic cytokines." The words roll off his tongue like incantations, but they're not magic. They're just science. "A dozen to two dozen reported cases a year. You got lucky."

"So what do we do, House?" Wilson's holding his shot glass, not drinking from it. "What do we do?"

House considers the question. "Well," he says. "Well, I know I've always wanted to drive out to the Trinity site ... "

"I don't mean that," Wilson says, and now he does drink, throwing the shot back in one swallow. "I mean ... what do we do?"

"I've always wanted to drive out to the Trinity site -- " House begins again, and when Wilson starts to shake his head, House cuts him off before he can say anything.

"It's an invalid question," House says. "It's an invalid question because nothing's changed."

"Everything's changed!" Wilson's voice is rising, and he makes a visible effort to calm himself. "Everything's changed," he says more quietly. "What do we do now?"

House looks around. This is an unassuming little place, only a block or so from their hotel -- a real hotel, this time, with turn-down service and flat-screen TVs and bars of soap shaped like little seashells in the bath.

"We go on," House says. "We can't go backwards."

"I could go back," Wilson says softly.

House turns his empty shot glass. Once, twice, three times.

"You could go back," he agrees.

Wilson is silent for a long time, but maybe it's only a minute.

"I don't wanna go back, House," he says at last. "I just ... I just wanna keep being me."

House nods, and leans back in his chair. He stretches his leg out and rubs a thoughtful palm over his thigh. It hasn't been hurting as much, which is actually a little odd considering the vibration of the motorcycle.

"You know what I miss?" he says suddenly, and Wilson looks up. "Your stupid pocket protector." He takes a couple of peanuts from the little complimentary cup and pops them into his mouth. "I miss your stupid pocket protector."

"Yeah?" Wilson says, and now he's smiling. "You know what I miss? Your stupid 8-ball."

"I loved that Magic 8-ball!" House protests, and Wilson's smile becomes a laugh.

They sit that way for a long time, or maybe it's only a little while, and tomorrow, when they climb back onto their bikes, it will be to go forward.

Time, at least for now, only moves in one direction.

And House can live with that.


~ fin





Date: 2012-06-02 12:33 am (UTC)
felis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] felis
Ha. While reading this I was thinking "is she going to pull a case of magical realism with that little town suspiciously at the end of nowhere?" - but no! You pulled a case of science! The body is a fascinating thing.

Great convos in this one, but my favourite bit seems to be this:

Pow!

He collapses onto the bed, mortally wounded. The mattress springs bounce, but Wilson, the bastard, remains blissfully asleep. House sighs and tips the cowboy hat forward to cover his eyes. "Gotcha," he mumbles, and then he's asleep, too.

Date: 2012-06-05 04:17 pm (UTC)
third_owl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] third_owl
It has just occurred to me that Wilson's recovery time from the strep problem would have been a few days. He wouldn't have been ready to just hop on the bike right away.

So they were probably at the Be-Tide Inn for a little while. I am thinking Haight remembered, and went back to fetch his hat.

Date: 2012-06-04 05:17 am (UTC)
warmdarkwoman: (dog geek)
From: [personal profile] warmdarkwoman
Another one out of the park. Reminds me of Nine in Doctor Who when he says, "Everybody lives! I need more days like this!"

And OF COURSE it would be something strange and wonderful that would 1. cure Wilson and 2. provide House with a puzzle to solve.

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