Fandom: House MD- Grey Gardens AU
Pairing: Wilson/wives, House/Stacy (Chase/Wilson, implied House/Cuddy UST)
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100, 023. Lovers
Warnings: The ending might not make too much sense if you haven’t read Grey Gardens
Follows up: Part One, Interlude
Summary: James’ life changes forever, and he falls into a downward spiral of depression and drug abuse. Meanwhile, House’s marriage falls apart and Eric Foreman takes over the hospital.
Author’s Notes: My God this was enjoyable to write. I hope I’ve given enough background as to why James ended up a Vicodin addict although it initially seemed OOC, and I know April 2006 seems kinda abrupt but Grey Gardens is supposed to happen between 2005 and that. And I hope the end makes sense. Plus, I paralleled “All In”. Gotta give me cookies for that.
Oh what a shame that your pockets did bleed on St Valentine's day, and you sat in a chair thinking "Boy, I'm such a prince!"
It took three days for House to figure out that James was having an infarction, and James has decided (because lying around for days on end in pain makes you think a lot of stupid things over) that if they ever make a film of his life (entitled "Jimmy Wilson, The Pretty Good Surgeon Whose Thigh Up And Died For No Apparent Reason"), he will have to have someone work on the dialogue. The original basis leaves a lot to be desired ([Scene: James is lying on the bed in pain, fingers clenching on the covers, eyes tight shut. There is utter silence in the room.] House: "Oh, God. Wilson. You're having an infarction." James: "Ah." [two beat pause] "Fuck."])
So, yes. James was walking out of theatre a week ago when he collapsed, his thigh in agony. Elizabeth was by his side in a moment and no one could work out what the hell was going on, at least until House figured it out (James thinks that that is somehow a source of twisted pride for Greg; that he kind of saved his friend's life). Elizabeth performed surgery to remove the thigh muscle that died, and has since been in about twice to press a brief kiss against his forehead and assure him he'll be fine. James has heard that she's sleeping with the head of Pathology. He doesn't blame her and he isn't angry.
Sighing, he taps his fingers against his remaining whole thigh. He doesn't want to be furiously unreasonable about this (although, God, he *is*. He's barely into his thirties and already he'll probably never walk unaided again. As for the jagged, messy scar that's practically a dent on his thigh- it's not good. It's not pretty, and neither is the fact he's going to be in constant pain forever as well. Ah, life is beautiful) and he's trying to cope ok. He suspects he isn't. He's probably just shutting it all into a box that he'll pointedly ignore from now on.
It's not like he hasn't had plenty of visitors. House and Cuddy were with him within a couple of hours the pain starting, and Cuddy has barely left since. She probably hasn't slept much either, constantly being there to hold his hand (figuratively, anyhow, because James would probably break her fingers trying to alleviate his own pain) and talk to him and read the cards sent to him with an amused edge to her voice. There's a particularly charming get well soon card from Rose that contains a bitter message with lots of phrases like 'deserved' and 'karma' and 'understanding how it feels' and 'what goes around comes around', which James has to consider is probably justified, what with him wrecking Rose's conceptions of marriage almost deliberately and all that.
House... well... he can't cope well with James' injury and the resulting emotional fallout. They've been friends for about ten years now and they still can't have a straight conversation that involves actual feelings; not without gruff coughing and alcohol and rapid bailing on the whole thing. He strongly suspects that the only reason House has been in once or twice is because Stacy threatened him with divorce. They currently have nothing to say to each other because James is just in too much pain to withstand House's blunt nature and House just can't say the words that they both know he ought to. But he hasn't left, as such. James can open his eyes at almost any hour of the day (or night, actually), and see House leaning or sitting against the wall in the corridor outside, generally arguing with a cellphone or reading a medical journal. It's the closest thing to being certain that Greg actually cares about him James has got.
Stacy is a rock, as ever, holding everyone together, because that's what she does. That's why she and House can actually be married without a homicide occurring. Stacy is supporting Cuddy, who occasionally collapses in fits of misery on his behalf (unlike House, she can be sad that James is in excruciating pain, and, you know, will be forever), supports House and makes him act like a proper friend from time to time so that their friendship break up over this. And she's remarkably calm and soothing towards James, in all honesty.
James is due to be discharged in about three days, with a wheelchair and a pair of crutches and a bottle of Vicodin. It isn't a pretty prospect. Cuddy has had to go work out a treatment plan for leukaemia and House has had to go diagnose a patient and Stacy is off for yet another divorce hearing (not her own, though; not yet) and he is alone and starting to feel rather miserable about the whole thing.
The glass door slides sideways and a woman with crimson fiery red hair, wearing a Laura Ashley skirt and Doc Martens (with very, very battered White Out daisies on them), makes her way in. She has a very young baby strapped to her front, and she makes her way over and removes the child from the harness and dumps it into his arms.
"Laura," James says, and then looks down. "Why have you brought me a small child?"
"It's not for you," she explains, leaning over to kiss his cheek and missing slightly so their lips brush (it's probably deliberate, with Laura, but they're both married- to other people-, so James ignores whatever she's trying to achieve). "But Lisa said you were all miserable and I heard babies were life-affirming. So. Be life affirmed."
James looks up from the kid at Laura, frowning.
"You stole a child to make me happier?" (It's the sort of thing she'd do)
"No," she sighs patiently, "Don't be stupid Jimmy. She's your goddaughter, October."
James wants to say something like it's not a good idea to name your kid after the month she was born in or you made me godfather? (the latter would result in him getting a little misty-eyed) but instead he simply smiles.
"I'm not sure this is going to work," he says. "I'm never going to walk properly again, it's going to take more than an admittedly very pretty baby."
She just smiles in a very Laura like way, and says: "There are thousands of people dying of starvation and AIDS and shit in Africa Jimmy", and he feels like asking her whether she's donating her sympathy towards them because she obviously isn't being sympathetic towards him, but that seems remarkably petty and small-minded.
"Why are you here?" he asks.
"Because I have to be," she shrugs.
James has come to realise, while miserably soul-searching over the last few days, that people date and marry this image of James Wilson they have, this image he projects that really, really isn't him. It's sad but it's what happens and when they catch a glimpse of what's underneath the hologram of whatever he's pretending to be, that's when the relationship enters troubled waters and sinks. Maybe not Laura. She's looking at him in his miserable, broken, raw, true state, and James realises that was what she saw all along. No wonder it would never work. Instead, he avoids those green eyes and watches her daughter fall asleep, privately glad that it all went wrong because he and Laura would have killed each other.
(When she leaves, two hours later, she leaves him a box of pancakes.)
"My leg hurts," James says, apropos of nothing. Everyone ignores him.
"Jimmy boy," House asks curiously, looking up from the sheaf of papers on his lap, "Why has Libby-"
"I told you not to call her that-"
"-Sited infidelity as the reason why she wanted a divorce?" House finishes, smoothly pretending he can't hear him. "I don't remember you having time to cheat on her. Certainly not after your leg muscles committed suicide because they didn't like your new haircut."
"I thought you'd decided they were all wiped out by an invading army of alien-"
"That was last week," House scoffs. He spends a lot of time, ignoring how much it hurts James' feelings, speculating as to why the muscle death occurred in the first place. The theories are all stupid and tiresome, but he refuses to give up on it, even after Cuddy wouldn't talk to him for over a week. "Anyway, nice try at distracting me, but no dice, Limpy."
James turns to look at him. Maybe House realises he's gone too far. But he doesn't back down.
"Cunt," James says, but it doesn't make him feel better. Cuddy is watching the two of them, eyes wide and horrified, but although she opens her mouth furiously, no sound comes out. House's eyebrows raise slightly, like he's surprised that James is capable of coming out with words like that (he never normally swears), but his mouth is still in its perpetual smirk. No matter that James loves him more than he loves anyone in the world (except maybe Lisa); right now, he hates him. Absolutely hates him.
"You want to know why Elizabeth put 'infidelity' on the divorce papers?" he demands, and his voice sounds too loud in his quiet living room, and he doesn't care, "You really want to fucking know? Because it sounds better than the fact she doesn't want to fuck a guy with an eight inch dent in his fucking leg, doesn't want to bother with a guy who has to take industrial-strength painkillers in order to feel halfway normal, doesn't want to be seen with a guy who has to use a cane in order to get anywhere fast." James is breathing too hard and Lisa's eyes are filling up (this last year's been hard on all of them) and House is impassive as ever, but he's biting on his lower lip, which is a new one. "And who can fucking blame her?"
He shouldn't be saying this. It shouldn't be pouring out like this. House and Cuddy are his best friends; he should have sat down and rationally told them about how crappy he felt, and Greg would have mocked him and poured him shots (mixing alcohol and narcotics; mmm, nice combination) and Lisa would have hugged him, and maybe that would have helped a little. But he didn't. James feels pathetic enough, having to rely on a wooden cane and Vicodin to get him through the day even vaguely normally, without having emotional problems on top of the physical ones. So he kept his mouth shut and let it eat away at him and feels bitter all the time and now he's taking it out on House.
It's not like House doesn't have it coming. It's partially James' fault; he can't cope as flippantly with House as he used to. But still- Greg hasn't eased off in the slightest, and it's tiring, particularly to James, who has been cracking apart over the last year and he could do with some support from his best friend, and he's not getting it.
He throws his cane at House, sending divorce papers falling to the floor, crashing (and burning) like his marriage did six months ago. And then he gets to his feet, and makes his way (slowly, painfully fucking slowly) towards his bedroom. House is at his side before he's gone about three steps.
"James-" It might be an apology (he's using his first name; that's an ominous sign) and suddenly James doesn't want to- can't- hear it. There's a hand on his shoulder and he turns around and punches House as hard as he can. Greg staggers back, hand moving to his face, Lisa actually half screams, and James can't breathe.
"I am going to bed," he says with forced calm, "You two can see yourselves out."
Neither of them say a word and neither of them try to help him as he makes his way into his room. He takes a Vicodin, hands shaking, leg aching, and waits until he hears the front door slam shut unnecessarily hard behind his friends before actually breaking down in tears.
A week later, Lisa mediates a meeting, and James and Greg talk.
"I'm sorry," James says. (But he isn't, not really)
And "It won't happen again." (But it's not a guarantee that it won't)
And "I'm fine, really." (But he isn't)
House is sleeping on his couch again because Stacy is currently not talking to him. That's what their marriage is all about; arguing like hell and then getting back together again. They're both too independent to do this marriage thing but yet they make it work. James half wants to take notes but he's also decided he's not fucking entering into a state of matrimony again. Anyway, he's got his best friend passed out on his couch most evenings, and Cuddy is around most of the time, and they're both keeping an eye on him, and he pretends that he doesn't know this, and they pretend that they're not doing it, and all in all it's rather more destructive than it used to be. James can't blame them. He's not making this easy and neither are they and it's an entirely impossible situation.
In some ways he feels more sorry for Greg and Lisa than he does for himself. God, what he does to them...
Anyway. Elizabeth has finally left Princeton General, so it's no longer awkward looking at his ex wife in theatre (she's moved to Philadelphia with, incidentally, the guy who used to be the head of Pathology; obviously it was meant to be). James himself now works at Princeton/Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, along with House and Cuddy. Needless to say, House has almost entirely stopped working, but his reputation is worth something, so he's not fired- yet.
"Morning House," James says, shuffling in, dressed in slacks and a t-shirt, his hair wet from the shower and dripping down his neck, carrying a mug of coffee in the hand not clenched around his cane. "Think Stacy will have forgiven you yet?"
House sits up slowly, rubbing his eyes, and then removes the cup from James' hand and starts drinking from it with such certainty that James lets him get away with it.
"Anyone would think that you're trying to get rid of me Jimmy boy," he says.
"And why would you think that?" he asks, ruffling House's hair. House glares daggers at him. "I love having you around," he deadpans. House finishes the coffee while James wanders about making breakfast and blow-drying his hair.
"You're only here 'cause I can cook," he says later, when House has eaten half his breakfast too.
"If I wanted a cook I'd have shacked up with Laura when you two got divorced," he replies, rolling his eyes. "She's way prettier than you."
"What, you don't think I'm pretty?" James asks, batting his eyelashes.
"Oh, shut up," House mutters.
He moves back in with Stacy that evening though.
"Morning Allison," James says, poking his head around the door to the diagnostics department.
"Morning James," she replies with a smile. Allison Cameron is House's latest fellow and the only one who has managed to grit her teeth and stand him. Although she's only worked here about a month- at any moment she could discover exactly how narcissistic and pedantic and bad-tempered he truly is, and then she'll run for the hills screaming like everyone else. Except maybe she won't. As far as James can tell, Cameron actually *likes* House. She admires him and she finds him amusing.
(He has to admit, House is *so* graceless and *so* disarmingly *not* charming that he's got a charisma that makes you love him anyway. Ish. It annoys James no end- he's the one with the charm and the lines and the devastating smile and yet he's the one with four divorces, a fucked-up leg, and two years of celibacy. Yum.)
"Is House in yet?" he asks.
"Of course not," she replies, but James notices that she has the kettle on. She makes really damn excellent coffee- probably the reason House hired her, that was his criteria for hiring that week (when he is forced into hiring fellows- or minions, as he calls them- he tries to liven up the interviews by making them do skills that will be useful to him. The time he hired Cameron, he had them all making coffee. He'd had to tone down the process ever since their Dean of Medicine walked in in the middle of him trying to coax one fellow into dancing for him, like in Fame).
"You want some?" she asks, indicating the bright red mugs House favours and therefore keeps in the office.
"Sure," he shrugs. "I'd love some."
She's pretty and she's married and two-maybe three- years ago he'd have been putting the moves on her. Flirting, gently seducing bit by bit until she broke down. But he's too tired and she pities him too much and he's lost so much more than some tragically murdered muscles (House's theory this month is that the red blood cells and white blood cells started a nuclear arms war and his poor thigh got caught in the middle). And he's losing more day by day.
James accepts the coffee from her and barely manages a smile.
"You think he'll actually do it?" Cuddy asks. She's taken her shoes off and her feet are curled up under her and her eyes are all aglow with gossip. James would laugh but he doesn't laugh nearly as much as he used to anymore.
"You know I'm not a betting man, Lisa," James shrugs. "Maybe he won't. Someone ought to learn from my mistakes."
House's latest fellow, a red-headed straight-talking young woman called Petra Gilmar, is the most likely candidate for infidelity that James has ever seen. She can tolerate House- grew up with four brothers, you learn these things- and is obviously slightly attracted to him. The problem comes, of course, from the fact that House is probably slightly attracted to her. And yet he's still wearing that wedding band and bickering with Stacy.
"I don't think their wedded bliss is quite so blissful," Cuddy adds in an undertone. "He's been on my couch four nights running."
(James has refused to let House sleep on his couch any more; they've both realised it's not worth the aggravation.)
"It's always been that way," he shrugs, "They bicker, they make up, they bicker."
He wonders, vaguely and with a hint of interest, as to whether Cuddy and House used to have conversations about his marriages behind his back. He suspects that they did (long debates with powerpoint presentations, maybe, detailing quite why he's such an asshole and making bets on when the divorce papers would be served).
James leans back in his chair, biting his thumbnail because his leg is really playing up today and he's in pain and he can't take another Vicodin for an hour and a half. He's in his very bland office, which has virtually no furniture and is painted beige because fate is sadistic like that. The bland colour reminds him vaguely of Rose and her delightful choice in colour schemes, complete with matching haberdashery and kitchenware (oh, the joys of mail order catalogues). He's got a couple of photographs on his desk, one of him, Greg and Lisa drunk and laughing sometime, and one of October in all her pretty three-year-old glory (she's now known as Tobey, because her father apparently has recovered his senses, although too late to stop his wife calling her October Cobain Hart). And some folders and that's about it. His life is rapidly getting emptier.
"Still," Lisa says thoughtfully, "If it happens with anyone, it'll be with Petra."
James is single, and he is miserable, and he's living for his job right now. Saving people is about the only thing that makes his life even vaguely worth living. Sure, House and Cuddy are great friends, to a certain extent, but they don't understand and House's attitude-which is that nothing has changed- is starting to seriously grate across James' nerves, and Cuddy is wonderful but she can't make up for that. Not one bit. James knows that he ought to see a psychiatrist- he's probably slipping into clinical depression or something, knowing him- but somehow he can't bring himself to admit that he needs the help. He feels pathetic enough. Long evenings in his apartment trying to walk like a man, cane lying on the couch, until he stumbles and hisses in pain and crumbles into pieces.
On the outside, of course, he's Dr James Wilson. Attractive (in spite of the disability- at least they can't see the scar), charming, always smiling, moderating Dr House and so calm and controlled and talented. It's what James does. He lies. He plays the person he used to be. He grins through gritted teeth and forces himself to laugh and makes the effort to flirt occasionally with the nurses and so on.
He *was* that person. He did it with no effort whatsoever. And now James has to think about everything he does, everything he says, because if he doesn't- he wouldn't be *him*.
"James," Cuddy says, as she gets up, smoothing her skirt, because she's got a meeting with someone called Grace who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," he says, forcing a grin and hoping it doesn't look too fake. Cuddy narrows her eyes at him.
"Are you sure?"
"It's been a long day," he sighs. It's a lie. It isn't.
(And how long can he hold this together?)
"Meet the new boss," House sings along with The Who, "Same as the old boss..."
It's not true. The old Dean of Medicine of Princeton/Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, Sebastian Charles, left a couple of months ago because he suddenly gained a conscience and decided to go to Africa, to "frolic with dying orphans or whatever it is Doctors Without Borders (And With Bleeding Hearts- Cameron, why haven't you gone yet?) do" (as House charmingly put it). The new boss (or bosses, rather), are Edward Vogler and Eric Foreman, an uncle and nephew team who don't like *anyone*. It's ok. No one likes them, either.
House is sprawled contentedly in his chair in his office, while his minions (sorry, team, James really ought to think for himself once in a while) run tests on the latest patient. He's listening to the super-long version of "Won't Get Fooled Again", which lasts nearly nine minutes (which seems rather excessive to James, but he's not going to say it, because Insulting The Who goes on House's list of deadly sins, right alongside Wearing Socks And Sandals and Interrupting General Hospital), and James is keeping him company before he's due back in theatre. He's working increasingly longer hours, but it's not like he's got anything to do with the time left over, other than cook stuff and mope around doing fuck all.
What I need, James thinks, Is counselling and better friends.
And then he hates himself for thinking that. Because it's not true. He probably needs the therapy part, because he's more than a little fucked-up, but House and Cuddy *try*. They *care*. But because he's shutting them out, increasingly (but very carefully so they won't notice that's what he's doing), because he doesn't want to rely on them. He can't rely on anyone, and maybe that sounds paranoid, and maybe he's going crazy (actually, he probably is), but it's the way he feels. He's never been all right with this. But it's astonishing how everyone seems to think he is. Perhaps he shouldn't have gone into medical school after all. He could win a fucking Oscar for the way he's convinced them all he's absolutely fine with having a large chunk missing from his leg.
It's almost funny, in a masochistic kind of way.
His head is pounding and his leg is throbbing and James is half collapsed on the bathroom floor, vomiting bile into the toilet. The door to the disabled stall is locked and the electric lighting hurts his eyes and his pager is going off, but he can't move and he can't breathe. A stream of profanities runs through his aching brain and he runs shaking hands through his hair. He feels like utter shit. Actually, that's an understatement.
He retches again, throat and mouth burning, eyes stinging with tears, and he's trembling all over. James' fingernails dig into his palms and spasms of pain run through his dead thigh. It's not turning into a good afternoon.
With an annoying bleeping sound that makes James want to douse it in petrol and dance some kind of victory dance while it burns, his pager goes off again. He's wanted in theatre in fifteen minutes. In his current state, he has no chance of even holding a scalpel. He's tired and he's in pain and what he needs right now is a massage or some such thing and a hot shower and some sleep.
Unfortunately, the process of getting those things will resulted in him getting fired. It's a crazy world.
James presses his face into his hands. It's slick with sweat and for a moment he prays, God, please, kill me right now. KILL ME RIGHT NOW. Nothing happens and he sits there for another moment, stomach churning, shaking all over, listening to his pager bleep frustratingly.
The bottle of Vicodin rattles almost comfortingly as he fishes it out of the pocket of his labcoat. There's at least half a bottle full of white pills in there- he rations them carefully, never taking more than he absolutely needs, perhaps even less than he actually does. He manages to open the lid and the pills spill into his lap. For a moment, James ears start roaring and he wonders how many it would take to actually overdose. Surely he's got enough here.
That one for Laura, he starts counting, and that one and that one for Rose, and that one for Julie, and that one for Elizabeth... and that one for Greg, and that one for Lisa, and that one for Stacy, and that one for Foreman, and that one for Vogler, and that one for Harmony, and that one for...
James imagines himself sprawled out on the bathroom floor, dead, and it scares the fuck out of him that that thought soothes rather than frightens him. He quickly pushes all the pills back into the bottle but keeps two out. He shouldn't be taking two. He should be taking one. But he takes them both anyway, aware that he's at the top of a slippery slope, even more aware that he's going to let himself fall anyway.
He pulls himself to his feet, flushes the toilet, and makes his way to the operating theatre.
James is unemployed, still resoundingly single, a drug addict, friendless and very, very depressed. He feels mildly guilty about all this, if only because House's marriage to Stacy fell apart recently and he wasn't there to offer up his sympathy. He's not talking to House, or Cuddy, or Stacy, or any of House's fellows. He's shut himself up in his apartment and he goes out to get his Vicodin and to get food and to buy books and do his laundry and that's about it. It's not like his phone doesn't ring off the hook. Lisa sounding tearful and begging him to meet her for a coffee, Stacy asking him if she can have a chat, Laura telling him she's heard all about him from Greg and if he doesn't start socialising she'll come round and break his door down (but they both know that she's lying; Laura is a friend in absentia but she doesn't actively care about him). There isn't a single message from House. The two of them had a huge argument two months ago, culminating in James informing House he wished that House was the one who had the infarction, not him, which they both know is uncalled for. James wouldn't wish an infarction on anybody, not even Eric Foreman, who forced him into working such long hours that he started cracking apart and was forced to start taking too many Vicodin to even be capable of walking.
It's too late now. Bit by bit he's severing the ties with the man he used to be. He's not James Wilson, Boy Wonder Surgeon (a favourite nickname of House's), or James Wilson, Casanova (read: manslut) or James Wilson, guy you can turn to when things get a bit fucked-up. He is not James Wilson, husband of [insert name here], or James Wilson- why the hell does he put up with House?- or James Wilson, oh, he is quite gorgeous, isn't he? He is James Wilson, junkie, miserable, self-pitying, and bored out of his skull.
He doesn't contemplate suicide as much as he used to, which is, as far as he's concerned, a good thing, because not wanting to off yourself with your medication has to indicate a step in the right direction, right?
(It's not like there's anybody left in his life to actually ask)
[ Stacy is packing boxes and smoking simultaneously, which Greg has to admit it a neat trick, even if it might result in his apartment going up in flames (hey, it'll match his marriage). He himself is sprawled out on the couch, drinking a soda and watching cartoons with the sound turned up too loud because that's always been one of his tricks for setting Stacy's teeth on edge (and then he wonders why he's divorced).
"Have you spoken to James recently?" she asks. Greg flinches and hopes she doesn't notice (that would just be too humiliating).
"Um, no," he replies, contemplating turning Spongebob Squarepants up really really loud, just to piss her off that bit more. "The last time I spoke to him he made it inescapably clear that he doesn't actually want to talk to me."
Stacy sighs as she continues packing books into her cardboard boxes (Greg is vaguely reminded of helping Wilson move home a lifetime ago, back when he was a vaguely different person and Wilson was... *Wilson*, not the person he is now. Whoever said that quote was right- the past *is* another country).
"You ought to try and talk to him," she says, nagging him like she did when they were married, biting her lip.
"Stacy," he says, muting the TV and turning to look at her, "Whatever you may think, I do know I'm not Jesus, and I can't just lay a hand on Jimmy boy and make him all better."
"You could make an effort," she snaps, then sighs. "I don't know why I bother trying anymore Greg, I really don't."
(Neither does he)
"Are you done yet?" he asks. Stacy looks around the living room, which is shockingly bare, hands on her hips.
"I think so," she says. "I just need to pick up the waffle iron and I can go."
Greg gets off the sofa.
"You are not taking my waffle iron."
"Firstly, it's *my* waffle iron, actually, I bought it, and secondly, you don't know how to use it," Stacy says with an edge of smugness to her tone.
Greg decides that wailing but Cuddy does is not the smartest of things to say and neither is but I could learn!
"Fine, take the fucking waffle iron," he mutters, sitting back down on the couch. "Don't let the door hit your ass."
Stacy stares at him for a moment like she'd like to say something else but she doesn't; instead she goes into the kitchen, returns with the waffle iron, dumps it into the top of her box, and begins to carry the cardboard boxes downstairs to her car. Greg doesn't offer to help. She doesn't ask for it.
He waits until the door's shut before contemplating calling Wilson and asking him whether it's normal to feel like this after your ex-wife has walked out for the last time, taking your waffle iron with her, but he can't quite manage it. ]
James has not got good cards. They're not bad, as such; they're just not *good*. And he wants to bluff everyone into thinking that he's got a decent hand. Unfortunately, with Greg House on his right side and Robert Chase on his left, he's got no chance at all. House is sitting there cheerfully puffing cigar smoke at everyone and regaling them all with stupid facts about the Animal Kingdom (that he got off the Discovery Channel last night) in order to distract them from the poker game, winding them up until they can't bluff any more. And Robert- he's rubbing slow, seductive circles on the inside of James' left thigh, trailing heat through the pants of his tux, and he can't concentrate for willing Robert's hand to move a little higher.
He turns to glare at Robert with a look that he hopes says quit it but probably says please. Robert blinks innocently back at him, but his mouth twists a little and his hand slides further up James' leg until it's about half an inch from his crotch. He gulps and takes a deep drink from his martini. Robert smiles in a satisfied manner and uses the hand not driving James into a frustrated erotic frenzy to slide a stack of poker chips into the centre of the table.
Princeton/Plainsboro's clinic is having a poker night funraising type thing. They've all dug dresses and tuxes out of the back of their wardrobes (Petra is looking particularly stunning in a backless jet black number- Foreman hasn't left his new fiancé alone all evening- and Allison is poured into a red silk number that has most of the men in the room doing a double-take, although she's on the arm of her husband tonight, looking mildly smug). Cuddy's in midnight blue with a neckline plunging enough for House to make loud comments on it all evening (although James has caught him taking silent, appreciative looks, when he thinks no one else is looking). As for Robert- James had no idea he'd look so fucking good in a tux, or he would have insisted on getting him into one earlier. He's spent the last few hours resisting the urge to rip it off and bend Robert backwards over the table, scattering cards and poker chips everywhere.
(Ah yes, Robert Chase. They've been together... seven months, after a very complicated thing involving a court case and James not wanting to break Robert and having to go through painful Vicodin withdrawal and everything and he still isn't quite sure what it is about Robert. Robert used to work for Stacy and he's got lots of blonde hair- he tried cutting it and then promptly grew it again- and he's deeply gorgeous and apparently head-over-heels for James-cane and all- and James has fallen for him and has yet to work out how he feels about that. But, for the first time in five years, he has an active sex life. An unsettlingly active sex life. Ahem. Anyway, back to the poker game)
"Fold," he manages to choke out, as Robert's hand finally makes it all the way up the seam of his pants. One finger slides down the zipper, like he's contemplating pulling it down. James knows he must be flushed and he's fairly certain that at least two people at the table know what Robert is doing and his breathing has gone all shallow. He pushes his hips towards Robert's hand and the zipper is finally, finally starting to move and then the warm fingers are gone entirely as Robert flips his cards over to reveal that he's won. Smiling, he rakes all the chips towards him as House rolls his eyes and puts his cigar out on the tablecloth, Cuddy drinks deeply from her spritzer, and James concentrates very, very hard on thinking clearly, because all the blood in his body seems to have rushed south.
"Fuck you," he hisses softly through his teeth. Robert turns an utterly charming smile on him.
"Oh God, I hope so," he replies.
Much, much later (after House has won all James' cash as well, and wandered off, waving it smugly, to give Cuddy a ride home) and Robert has driven him home because he's a recovering almost-alcoholic and therefore entirely sober, Robert has him slammed against the bedroom door, pulling mercilessly at his shirt while kissing him violently in between muttering all the things he wants to do to him (some of them are remarkably creative and the part of James not moaning oh God, yes, please, right now wonders whether he's been coming up with these all evening and if he has, how the hell did he manage to win all those hands of poker?) and grinding against him-
"Hey," Robert says suddenly, "I remember that bit."
"I'm so glad," James replies dryly. "It didn't happen all that long ago."
Robert grins at him and takes a mouthful of coffee.
"So..." he says slowly, "That's it?"
"What, it wasn't enough?" James enquires.
"No, but... that's it?"
"Yes. I got married, I got divorced, lather, rinse and repeat, my leg fell apart, my life fell apart, I met you, blah blah blah." James slouches a little more on the couch. "Your go."
Robert glances out of the window, where it's still resoundingly raining.
"Can't we just have sex on the couch and be done with it?"
"No! I bared my soul, it's your turn."
"Fine." Robert moves from where he's been leaning against him to look at the ceiling. "'April Fools, Or: How Robert Chase Dealt With His Parents' Best Attempts To Fuck Him Up, Dropped Out Of The Seminary and Medical School Before Deciding On The Law For No Apparent Reason, Realised He Was Gay, Moved To America, Fell For An HIV-Positive Artist, Got His Heart Broken, Barely Avoided Alcoholism, And Then Met This Very Pretty Dark and Brooding Surgeon'."
"That's such a stupid title," James says.
"Like yours was better," Robert replies, poking his tongue out.
Robert comes in late from school to find his mother dead on the couch and three empty bottles of gin under the sofa. He looks at her body for a very long time, then goes upstairs, vomits for twenty minutes, brushes his teeth, makes his way back downstairs again, and calls his father up to tell him his wife is dead.
"Robert." James doesn't know how horrified he sounds; doesn't know if this will hurt Robert's feelings, but... "Oh my God," he adds softly.
"It's ok," Robert tells him. "It gets better." He reaches out to trace James' mouth with his index finger. "The story's got a really good ending." He leans over and kisses him, briefly, calmly. "If I can cope with telling it, you can listen to it. Ok?"
Rowan Chase sounds surprisingly upset on the other end of the line, much more upset than Robert feels, and he promises he'll be home soon. Robert replaces the receiver with a quiet click and can't bring himself to go back in the living room. Instead, he walks into the kitchen, gets himself a glass of water, and sits at the dining table looking at it until the front door opens.
He doesn't cry. He thinks he might have run out of tears.
(Robert talks and James listens and outside it's still raining.)
So let it all go by looking at the sky Wondering if there are clouds and stuff in hell