Title: It wasn't relevant.
Series: Wilson in Therapy
Series beginning: http://brenginee.livejournal.com/21037.html
Characters: Wilson, House, therapist, parents, brother
Spoilers: Takes place between season two and season three, so includes spoilers for "No Reason"
Summary: Wilson tells his therapist about a trip home to see his mother.
Disclaimer: Wilson is not a character I created, but was created by David Shore and the writers of House, MD. The rest in this piece is inferred by the characters and situations presented in the series.
Notes: massive thanks to cocoajava and autumnfaerie for honest reading feedback.
Concrit, or any feedback, welcome.
For a therapist who forthrightly challenges perspectives, it seemed Beth rarely moved from her designated chair, and Wilson's view of her never changed because he did not deviate from his place on the black leather sofa.
She crossed her legs and balanced the now-familiar pad on her lap. "How have things been going since we last met?"
Three months of coming to this office, untangling his history for the therapist at $150 an hour, and he had no more an idea of what he needed or where he was going than when they had started. Granted, he had cancelled more appointments than he had kept, especially in the last six weeks. It wasn't easy to get out of the hospital, not with House there, laid up in a coma or working so intensively on his physical therapy. At first Wilson had been unable to pull himself away unless he had to. After that, he just couldn't do much of anything.
"Fine. Just busy at work," he said. "Case load seems heavier than usual." And worse. He'd lost three patients in just the last week--and carried a niggling worry in the back of his mind that he might have forestalled a couple of those deaths if he had been able to think more clearly.
"What are you doing here?"
The gravelly voice brought a smile to Wilson's face. "Just wanted to be here for opening night. How do you feel?"
"Did Cuddy give me the ketamine?"
"She did. Any pain?"
House wiggled his leg under the blanket. "Not bad."
Wilson sighed. "So the pain isn't gone."
"No, I mean it isn't bad. It doesn't feel bad. No pain. At least not there. My back is killing me. Don't nurses in this hospital know you're supposed to turn a coma patient periodically?"
The smile came back. "They've turned you every two hours."
House looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "How do you know?"
Wilson only raised his eyebrows in a satisfied smirk.
"I'm a friend. This is what friends do."
"No, it's what lonely divorced men do when they have no life."
Wilson shrugged and pulled up a chair. "In your case, you get both of us."
"No, I don't. Get out of here. Now."
"Why?" He tried to laugh it off, but somehow even House managed to shock him sometimes.
"Because I don't want you here. Go save a life or eat or see a movie. Whatever."
James shook his head in disbelief and stood up. "Uhm. Fine. Sorry to have disturbed you."
As he wandered to the elevator, he felt lost. Now what? He couldn't believe even House would react so gruffly to him after waking up from the ketamine coma. Was it really too much to expect some friendly word or a smile? It would have gone no better if he'd pointed out that he'd been there every night after work for the last two weeks. House just didn't know how to appreciate devotion.
And right now, Wilson could use some appreciation.
He exited the hospital by the clinic doors, where a quick glance told him Cuddy had left for the night--probably hours ago.
Beth scratched at the knuckle of her ring finger. "When you cancelled your last appointment, you said you had a family emergency. Did you go see your parents?"
"I did, but it wasn't an emergency. They're okay. Mom just wasn't really feeling well," what else could he say? In reality his mother had been fine, nobody had called him. "She calls me every time she feels a pain because she's afraid she has cancer." At least that's what Dr. Grossman's mother did whenever she felt sick.
"How old is your mother?" Beth asked.
Beth raised an eyebrow. "Fifty-five. I'm sorry... how..." she paused, a crease forming between her brows. "That seems awfully young."
Wilson smiled. "It is. She was still a teenager when she started having children."
Both eyebrows raised, Beth took a deep breath. "It's impressive for the child of a teenager to become a doctor as successful as you have become."
He nodded. "I guess I just got used to taking care of things. It felt like a very natural field for me to go into."
"Are you the oldest, then?"
He paused, weighing his options. "Pretty much," he finally said dismissively, hoping his tone wouldn't betray the truth he withheld.
"Where do your parents live?"
"Eastern Jersey. Out past Freehold."
For three weeks, Wilson had checked on House's progress only through the Diagnostics team. His work rarely took him to the neurological floor, but now he wanted anything other than seeing House anyway, if seeing House meant being told again to go away. Maybe if he stayed away long enough, House would eventually apologize--or at least notice that he'd pushed away his only friend.
On the Saturday morning after he'd cancelled his therapy appointment due to his mother's phantom illness, he decided to go anyway. Something about going home, seeing his mother, feeling her hands on his face as she cried for joy somehow appealed to him. At least she would want to see him.
Two hours later, James pulled into the driveway of his parent's ranch home wishing the elephant would just get off his chest already. He inhaled as deeply as he could, but exhaled without the satisfaction of release.
His mother appeared on the porch as he pulled a large canvas suitcase from the trunk.
"My son! My son!" Tears streamed down her face as she ran to him, her stride straining against the thin cotton of her dress. She grasped his face in both hands and kissed him, hard, on the cheek. "You stay away too long."
"Hi, Mom." He gave her a smile. "How are you?"
"You know me. I get by."
"So where's Dad?"
"Oh, he's just up in his office. You go say hello and let him know you're here."
"I'll see him."
"How was the drive over?"
"Fine. No problem."
"It is such a close drive. You should come home more often."
He didn't respond, only looked over the house, paying extra attention to the second floor window next to the box elder tree on the south.
He stepped over the threshold and the smell of the house's aging interior filled him; a mixture of extensive human occupation, too many air freshener products, and his mother's spicy-sweet cooking. He dropped the suitcase on the floor of the living room and followed his mother into the kitchen, idly examining the room, furniture, and appliances for problems he might fix during his visit.
"You should spend more time with your family," his mother continued, opening the oven door, a turkey baster in her hand. "I'm proud of you. You know I'm proud of your accomplishments. I'm just so proud of my son! An oncologist! You save lives. You make people feel better. But you have to have a family, Jimmy."
He wobbled a chair that stood unevenly, staring at its feet, and nodded without looking up. "Is Dave here?"
"He's out on Chatzie," she said, shutting the oven door and fanning her face. "She's been sick, but I think she's better."
James looked out the window at the corral. In a few seconds he caught the swish of a tail rounding the bend behind the barn. "I'll go say hi."
"Remember your father's upstairs," she called after him. "He wants to see you, too."
Bright sunshine highlighted the white crossbuck fences that surrounded the corral and lined the property alongside the road, contrasting it from the bright green grass and black asphalt and casting sharp shadows through the trees. He wanted to take joy or comfort in the beauty, but it just washed over him.
As he approached the corral, he noticed the paint chipping, peeling, and fading. With so many fences around the property, maintenance took forever. Why did they even paint those things? A quick flash of memory, his mother standing out at the end of the drive, tears in her eyes as their father drove off for his "refill" after another argument. She had smiled so broadly, with tears of joy, to have fences she could be proud of. It had taken him and David a whole week to make the property look almost good enough for the wealthy neighborhood.
"How's she doing?" he called out to his brother.
David nudged Chatzie into a trot and directed her across the corral to James. "I think she's pulling through."
James took the chestnut mare's head in his hands and stroked her nose, examining her eyes. "What was wrong?"
"Just heaves. We weren't sure she'd get past it, but we shot her up with drugs and cleaned everything up. She'll be all right." He patted the mare's neck. "Mom givin' you the third degree?"
James tucked his hands into his pockets and shrugged. "How are they really doing?"
David shook his head. "They really should have sold this place years ago. They can't keep up with it. They're down to just Chatzie and Belle."
James climbed up and straddled the fence to see his brother at eye level. "Burney come by any more?"
"He brought Heat Wave up to stud last year. We didn't get anything out of it. I think the well's run dry."
"They giving up?"
David screwed his face into a frown. "Mom won't. You know she wouldn't give up her Daddy's ranch. Belle and Chatzie will die of old age, right here, if she has anything to say."
They sat in silence, Chatzie chewing on long blades of grass that grew by the fence post. "Let me see her for a minute," James asked.
David pulled the horse up from her snack and gave her a soft kick. She trotted around the corral, black mane and tail glistening in the sun. When they returned, James agreed she looked as good as ever.
"Gotta take care of her if she's gonna be the last one," David said, then looked up and considered his brother for a moment. "Julie coming later?"
"No. It's over."
"I'm sorry man."
James nodded. "So what's Dad's story these days?" He picked absent-mindedly at a fleck of paint.
David shrugged. "He reads, he writes. Mom takes him his meals upstairs now."
"Of course. When did that start?"
"Year ago? Maybe two?"
The sun forced beads of sweat from James' thick eyebrows, and he shrugged his suitcoat off his shoulders. "Books still selling?"
James squinted at the sun. "He's not... y'know..."
"What? The coke? Nah. You know he went off that stuff back when we were kids."
"I know. But I never trusted it."
"Yeah. How's House?"
James turned back toward the barn. "I don't know. Haven't seen him in awhile."
"Tell him I said hi if you see him again."
"Sure." James suddenly wished he could just lie down in the grass and sleep for the next three days. "Well, good to see you. Guess I'll go check in." He nodded toward the south corner of the house. "Should I tell him about Chatzie?"
"He doesn't care."
"Okay." James swung his leg back up over the fence and climbed down, and behind him he heard his brother kiss at the horse, who trotted off around the edge of the corral.
He climbed up the porch steps again, anticipating the screech of the screen door hinge just before it sounded as he pulled it open. He let the wood frame fall behind him with a clatter. "Chatz seems to be okay, Mom. I'm gonna go say hi to Dad."
"Oh thank you," his mother said, drying her hands on a dishtowel. "I made some lemonade, do you want some?"
"No thanks. I'm okay." He picked up his suitcase and started up the stairs.
"Yeah," he called back.
"Isn't Julie coming?"
His lungs deflated. When his mother appeared at the bottom of the stairs, he could see in her eyes that he didn't have to answer.
Beth looked up from her pad. "You've lived in New Jersey your whole life?"
"No, I left home when I graduated from high school. Went to college on a full scholarship in Canada. Stayed there with a fellowship. But when the job opened up in Princeton, I thought it made sense. It was time to come back."
"Was it difficult to leave home after taking care of things for your mother?"
"Extremely. She encouraged me to go--I mean I had to, with a scholarship offer like that--but I came home every chance I got. I always came back during breaks."
"Did you have any help?"
"Yeah, my brother David pretty much stayed home to help take care of the ranch."
Beth studied him carefully, a slight smile softening her face. "What about your father? What's he like?"
"Dad? Oh, pretty typical, I guess."
She smiled. "Typical in what way?"
"Oh, you know. Backyard barbecue. Thanksgiving football. Worked nine to five."
"That doesn't sound typical at all. More like an ideal."
Wilson smiled. "I guess he must have been an idealist."
At the top of the stairs, James picked carefully along the hallway, trying to avoid the ancient creaks in the floor. He reached his old room, pushed open the door, and flicked on the light.
"Welcome home, Jimmy," he whispered to himself, and sighed.
His mother had long ago moved his things into the closet, converting the room for her own interests as they changed. Remnants of her fleeting passions littered the floor and furniture. He raked together a collection of whimsical rubber stamps that had been scattered around a pile of gem-toned paper and piled them into a half-made basket, which he set on the floor. From the bed, he picked up the beginnings of a pink and black gingham quilt and folded the fabric into a loose square to lay on top of the basket. Decorating magazines were scattered everywhere, but he gathered them into a neat pile on the corner of his dresser, garnishing the stack with a single gardening glove on top. He brushed unidentifiable crumbs from the top of his desk and gingerly poured them into a wastebasket that practically overflowed with scraps of wrapping paper. After one last glance out into the hallway, he gently closed his door and lay down on the bed. His head sank into the pillow and he brought his hands to his face. What was he doing here?
A sea of failures began to wash over him. He'd lost his third wife. He'd let House get shot. He let his family live in near poverty. He avoided them. He couldn't even bring himself to say hello to his own father. And lately he hadn't even been able to concentrate on his work. He was losing his grip. He was losing everything, and he had no net to catch him.
How the hell did he get here? He was the well-adjusted one. He was supposed to be together. By all reports House was doing great, getting into physical therapy, completely weaned off the Vicodin, embracing life. It was great. Or would be, if House's recovery hadn't driven this wedge between them.
He had been wrong. He'd let House get to him. So stupid. Didn't House always say the wrong thing? But had it been so wrong to hope for a kind word? Some appreciation?
In his mind's eye he replayed what he had been so sure would happen. House's hand reaching out for his, the weakened grip. The thanks. The request for a cup of water.
And now he was lying in his childhood bed, completely alone in the world. His life turned upside down. He clutched at the covers and rolled into them, curling into a ball, and fell asleep in a cocoon of the past.
When he woke, he smelled the earthy, peppery scent that signaled dinner would be called shortly. He had to see his father before his mother asked him about it again. He took a deep breath and sat up, brushing his fingers through his hair. He'd slept in his tie, and wrinkles now gave it an uneven, neglected look. He removed it and undid the top button of his shirt.
The food smelled even stronger in the hallway, so he didn't have much time. He went to his father's office door and knocked. When there was no answer, he opened the door slowly and called out, "Dad?"
A grunt came in reply, so James entered. The book dust in the room nearly overpowered the smells of cooking. James found his father seated at the large desk by the window, facing a chunky computer left over from the late '80s.
Without turning around, his father answered, "That Jim?"
"Good. What do they call that cancer you get in your blood?"
James put his hands on his hips and his eyes widened. "Uh, there are a few. Lymphoma, leukemia--"
"That's the one." He tapped out the name on the keyboard and continued writing.
James inspected the room, noting warped and broken bookshelves with dust-encrusted volumes ready to fall to the floor. "Dad, I could fix these shelves for you."
"Leave 'em alone. They're fine."
James shrank back unconsciously, willing himself into a smaller space. He had to get away from this. "Good to see you, Dad," he croaked, and reached for the doorknob.
The older man gave an uninterested wave without turning around, and James pulled the door shut behind him as he left.
David was just mounting the stairs. "Delightful bastard, isn't he?"
"How long did you stay with them?" Beth asked.
"Just a couple nights. Took Mom out to eat. Drove back the next morning."
"How did it feel to see your family?"
Wilson fell silent, considering. He could just tell her. He could let her know about the overwhelming sense of failure, the depression, how small he felt. He could tell her he spent half his time trying to justify his existence by making small repairs around the house and stables and the other half sleeping just to escape himself. He could tell her that he had started hating himself on that trip and hadn't managed to shake the feeling since.
"Well, you know. Family's always a challenge. It was good to come back." The empty lie nearly broke him, but he held himself together. He found he couldn't meet her eyes.
Beth set her pad on the table beside her and leaned over. "James?"
He looked up.
"I sense that you're struggling. That maybe you've decided not to tell me everything. I just want you to know that you are safe here. You won't be alone here. You can't say anything about yourself or your life that will make me want to end our sessions."
Wilson nodded. "Sure. Yeah. Yeah, I know."
She studied him silently, waiting.
"It's okay. I'm just a little under the weather. But I'm okay." The compassion on her face chipped away at him, but he couldn't. He couldn't do this right now. He needed to get things together, then he could tell her about his father. But not now. Not while he was alone. Not with everything still so uncertain.
Her eyes conveyed acceptance, a relief to him. "Okay, then. Next Wednesday? Please try to come. And think about whether or not you can tell me some of what's really going on with you. I can't help you much if you keep everything to yourself."
Could he deny that he was holding back? No. He only nodded. "Okay."
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