Title: Matters of the Heart
Prompt: #50: House learns that Wilson's mother is/was a battered wife.
Rating: PG13 (for delicate subject matter--see prompt.)
Character(s)/Pairing(s): House & Wilson Friendship, later pre-slash (my first!)
Warnings: Post-Mayfield (Season 6 Premier.)
Disclaimer: I'm weird, not crazy.
Summary: Wilson gets the one phone call that every mother's son dreads.
The phone call came completely unexpected one night after both House and Wilson had retired to bed.
House, already awake due to the pestering of his throbbing leg, pretended to be sleeping as he listened carefully to the muffled words that managed to carry from Wilson’s bedroom to his inconvenient spot on the couch.
“What?” House could hear Wilson exclaim with horrified uncertainty, only to be then fallowed by several horrible gasps of unrestrained shock, which ricocheted loudly like bullets which bounced down the hallway, into the living room and aimed directly for his ears. “Oh, my God, when?” Wilson’s voice was subdued, as though he were afraid to speak in a normal tone for fear of scaring away the listener “An hour ago?!...My God, Dad, what---I mean, why didn’t you…Yes, Dad…Yes, I understand…Of course, I will, don’t be ridiculous…it’s…it’s what…what she would have…wanted…” A lengthy pause, as House waited anxiously for more input; he was by now fully aware of what this phone call meant to Wilson. “…when is it?” Pause. “A couple of days? Um, yeah---Okay. No, that’s all right. Sure, I can make it…it’s more important than, than my job…yeah…no, don’t do that, I’ll just get a hotel…well, okay…all right, Dad. All right. I’ll see you in two days.”
House waited for the climax but much to his surprise it didn’t come; there was no sobbing or wailing that he suspected to hear, upon the event that a doting son learned about the sudden death of his mother. Instead, there was simply an eerie, heavy silence, which made him feel so uneasy that he was immediately prompted to leave the comforts of his sleeping bag, and go investigate.
He found Wilson sitting upright in the darkness of the bedroom, the phone back in its cradle as though nothing had happened. At the sound of House’s footsteps Wilson turned sharply, and his widened eyes glistened for a moment before the shadows swept over them quickly, dulling them once again.
“What’s up?” House ventured, leaning painfully on his cane in the doorway, as Wilson stared back blankly at him.
There was yet another awkward pause, and then Wilson let out a shaky breath and slowly turned back towards him. “My mother…she…” Wilson was visibly trembling, but remained sitting as he spoke to the opposite wall. “She’s dead,” he said simply, as though that was all there was to it; however, House could tell that he was much more affected than his lack of emotion let on. “My father, he…just found her,” Wilson went on slowly. “She…had a…a heart attack, I think…in…in her sleep.”
“Prominent history of heart attacks and heart disease in the family?” House asked automatically, and when Wilson’s head jerked up to face him with enlarged, glossy eyes, he turned away quickly, in a weak attempt to prevent his tired face from blushing.
“No,” Wilson murmured, and to House it sounded as though he were sleepwalking. “At least not that…that I know of. House, my mother was seventy-five years old. She was healthy. She worked out. She ate right. It doesn’t make sense.” Wilson shook his head profusely, as though this simple action would somehow magically erase the painfully fresh memory of the dreaded phone call from his head.
“You didn’t live with her,” House pointed out soberly, “therefore, you couldn’t have known her real daily habits.” Tapping the cane delicately on the floor to stay focused, House prompted, “Was she a smoker?”
“I just said,” Wilson snapped without thinking, “she’s healthy. She doesn’t do stuff like that.”
“Drinker?” Wilson’s warning tone was lost on House as he waited with apt anticipation, while Wilson froze where he sat rigidly, his sobering eyes turning sharply into dark narrow slits.
“Like I said, House!” Wilson exclaimed with unexpected exasperation, “She doesn’t do stuff like that!” With that, Wislon slapped the bed with anger and shoved himself off, sweeping past House and quickening his step down the hallway.
House could see that Wilson was getting visibly frustrated, so he quickly changed tactics as he fallowed Wilson into the bathroom---only to find the door slamming shut in his face.
“This isn’t just going to go away,” House called from the other side, from where he could hear Wilson frantically splashing water on his face. “Sooner or later you’re going to have to face the truth.”
An awful, almost hysterical laugh responded. “Oh? That’s funny coming from the guy who didn’t want to go to his own father’s funeral.”
“He was a bastard,” House reminded curtly, “and apparently you’ve forgotten, I went anyway”---to which Wilson, much to his amazement---burst out laughing again, even though House could see nothing funny. It was the laughter of a man at the end of his rope, and House knew instinctively that Wilson was desperate to keep reality at bay, at all costs.
“Yeah,” Wilson scoffed bitterly, “after Cuddy drugged you first.”
“I didn’t have to go in,” House pointed out soberly. “I could have stayed in the car while you went to the funeral. And anyway it doesn’t matter. You’re going to go, whether you want to or not.”
“Says who?” Wilson was chuckling manically in spite of himself, his voice slightly muffled by the door. “You? That’s a laugh! What, you going to drug me too? Should I be preparing myself for an ambush?”
“Stop being a child,” House snapped gruffly, “and open the goddamn door.”
To his surprise, the door’s handle jiggled slightly and then loosened, and the door slid open to where he could see Wilson, sitting uncomfortably on the toilet seat, covering his face with his hands. “God,” he whispered, as House stood observing him silently, “I have such an unbelievable headache.”
“Denial can manifest itself physically,” House reminded sagely, “so I’m not surprised.” Sitting himself down on the floor, spreading out his leg at a comfortable angle, he scrutinized Wilson until Wilson must have felt House’s eyes boring down on him, for suddenly the hands moved away and Wilson was staring back.
“What am I going to do?” Wilson mumbled weakly, instantly causing House to cringe, for he sounded about as small as two-year-old boy. “I don’t know how I’m going to do this…”
“It’s easy,” House said casually while gazing back at him solemnly from his spot on the floor. “You go to the funeral parlor or the graveyard, and you shake hands with everyone and you say a few words and then, when all the niceties are complete, everyone shakes hands again and goes home.”
There was a pause while Wilson debated House’s statement, then sadly shook his head. “It’s my father,” Wilson confessed, “that I’m really worried about.”
“He’s unwell?” House surmised, hoping Wilson would believe he was really interested, when really he wasn’t. If this was what helped Wilson get moving, then he would feign interest at all costs. Then they could stop talking about it, and he could get back to bed (or at the very least, try to).
“No, no,” Wilson shook his head quickly in opposition, “it’s not that at all, in fact, he’s in perfect shape for a seventy-six year old male. It’s just that…” To House’s horror, Wilson’s face clouded and tears sprang up into his eyes. “My father and I…we don’t exactly, um, see…eye to eye,” he confessed in a voice choked with unshed tears.
House kept his eyes to the floor, embarrassed, as Wilson swiped clumsily at his eyes, smearing the tears clinging to his eyelids across both cheeks, leaving red streaks in their wake. “Guess we have more in common than I’d like to believe,” House observed, watching warily as Wilson snatched some toilet tissue and began to dab at his eyes. “What happened?” he asked, hoping to usher things along.
“This is…really…I don’t know how to say it,” Wilson blubbered, fiercely avoiding House’s eyes as House’s eyes strived to avoid his own, “but---God, this is hard---”
“Just spit it out Wilson,” House admonished. “It’s me, for chrissakes…nothing you say will surprise me when it comes to the sins of dear ol’ Dad.”
“He beat us,” Wilson blurted out, and to House’s unexpectedly startled expression, looked sharply away, his face reddening in the dim light that the low-wattage bathroom fixtures provided. “Well…me only up till I was about seven, and then…well, he got tired of me, I guess, and took the rest out on Mom.”
“Holy crap, Wilson,” House breathed with exasperation, “I mean…what the fuck!” It took a lot to make House surprised, and Wilson knew it; he couldn’t look House in the eye, and just sat there with his eyes on his lap, feeling naked in the awkward silence between them. (Secretly, however, he was filled with relief that House seemed to be on his side and even, dare he think it, showing some sympathy; he knew it was the old irrational fear returning back to haunt him: the same fear that said that nobody he told would believe him.)
“He was a drunk,” Wilson said, feeling an incredible weight lift off his shoulders as he spoke the words he’d never admitted to anyone that mattered, “and he would take out his anger on Mom. On us…all of us,” he added pointedly, thinking of Danny and Jonah living halfway across the state. “He was your typical raging alcoholic. The tiniest thing would set him off.”
“I assume you were all too afraid to call the authorities,” House finally broke in, much to Wilson’s relief. “Common in this kind of situation. The mother’s too afraid of what will happen if she talks, and so the bloody cycle keeps on continuing, and the tormentor keeps on getting away with the abuse.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Wilson snapped roughly in spite of himself, “I know I was too weak and lilly-livered to do anything about it---”
“I didn’t say that,” House cut him off sharply, looking Wilson straight in the eye---his own eyes filled with a sadness that Wilson had never seen, “you were young and ill-equipped and stupid when it came to adult matters and therefore, just like any other ill-equipped, scared-shitless little kid, you didn’t know any better when it came to knowing how to handle it.”
Wilson gasped as though someone had struck him in the chest, and he stared at House in speechless amazement---House being the first one to ever have relieved him of this guilt. “You can’t save everyone, Wilson,” House stated firmly, the whole while not once removing his eyes from Wilson’s, “it’s about time you know that.”
Wilson simply stared in awe at House, as the tears began to flow freely down both cheeks, and he began to think that somehow, perhaps, he’d be able to do what he had to do. It would take time, but he could get there.
“Thanks, House,” Wilson whispered, as he was almost too overcome with emotion to be able to speak.
“No problem,” said House. “Now, how about we both get some sleep? Because if we’re going to head over to your dad’s place, we should get a head start.”
“We?” Wilson murmured, not sure what to think. “But you hate funerals!”
“I think I can put that aside for the moment,” House allowed, “if you’ll make an effort to avoid your father there…but then again, any sort of interaction you two might have should be very interesting for me.”
“Wow,” Wilson proclaimed. “You’re actually coming with me?”
“Why not?” House shrugged lackadaisically, “I’ll just make sure to bring lots of popcorn.”
Wilson stared back at House as though he’d seen a ghost. “What the hell happened to you back in Mayfield?” Wilson demanded, but House shook his head.
“I’ll save that one for the trip down,” House declared. “Now get some sleep because we’ve got a long ride ahead of us.”
“I’ll try,” Wilson said, still feeling goosebumps as he followed House out of the bathroom and began to pad his way back down the hall; however, before turning, he reached out for House’s arm, stopping House in his tracks. “Mind if we share the living room tonight?”
“I would say yes,” frowned House, staring, “but I don’t think the sofa is big enough for the both of us.”
“I just…” Wilson blushed. “I don’t think I can sleep alone tonight…”
An embarrassing moment ensued as House debated the conundrum. “I could always sleep with you,” House pointed out, “your bed’s big enough.”
“But…” Wilson stammered, staring, “But then we’d…actually be sharing a bed.”
“That’s right, Sherlock.” House grinned. “Just don’t hog my side.”
“But,” Wilson stuttered, eyes widening, “but House…that’s…that’s just---”
“Weird? Yeah.” House smirked, halfway grinning as he shuffled past Wilson and ambled off down the hallway, pausing momentarily outside of Wilson’s bedroom. “Welcome to the club,” he added serenely before he disappeared inside.