Title: I care, I'm pathetic.
Summary: Wilson spends some time almost-but-not-quite alone, is there for an old friend.
I care, I'm pathetic.
Mark Lowe's lungs kept filling up, and it wasn't the cancer or any pneumonia he knew. What the hell was going on? Wilson needed a quick consult. House and his team were busy with some bizarre virus, so it was best to find someone else--a pulmonologist.
"Jackie? Could you page Bill Savage for me?"
He flipped through the file while his secretary made the call. All the tests he had been able to think of yielded nothing. Hopefully Bill could work it out.
Jackie opened the door and poked her head into the office. "Uhm, Dr. Savage can't answer your page. He died after work Friday."
"What? You're kidding me. What happened?"
"The nurse manager on seven said he was in a car accident on the way home after his shift. Route 1. I guess he was pulling out of a jughandle and someone missed the red light."
"My god. That's horrible." What must his wife be going through? He'd known Kathy before she married Bill. Knew her very well. This had to be devastating.
"Jackie, Kathy Savage is an old friend. Could you get me her phone number and text it to my PDA so I can make a condolence call? And page Dr. Alpaugh for my consult."
He talked to Alpaugh and headed out to see Mr. Lowe. Grabbed a bite of lunch with House and chatted with him about his favorite subject--himself. Forgot about the condolence call. When he headed home, he stopped at a drive through on the way, carefully watching each intersection without devoting too much thought as to why.
The apartment he had picked up when he left Grace's place was in a complex behind a shopping mall just outside Princeton. He unlocked the door, dropped his keys on the foyer table, and shut the door behind him. The hollow, cold cave mocked his isolation, so he grabbed the remote off the coffee table and clicked on the evening news before even setting down his briefcase. He unwrapped the burger and spilled fries out across the wrapper.
Have you ever allowed yourself to be truly alone? In complete solitude?
He chuckled, gestured to the air to, “Look around me. Nobody up my sleeve.”
without any radio or television…
He glanceed at the remote. But the news was on. He had to watch until the sports review. And finish eating. Then he’d turn it off and be his own best friend.
The local news anchor signed off, and before Wilson’s hand could get to the remote, the national anchor announced a breakthrough in medical science. Something that might save your life. Professional curiosity, of course. He had to watch this.
Half an hour later, he reached for the remote. Instinctively, he called up the menu.
…without any radio or television.
“Fine,” he said aloud. He flicked it off and reached for his briefcase. Three journals had arrived that day: Cancer Causes and Control, Leukemia Research, and Radiation Oncology Investigations. He pulled them out and crossed an ankle to the opposite knee, flipping to the first article in ROI.
Not reading, either.
He slammed the journal shut. “For fuck’s sake.” Exasperated, he stacked the journals together and dropped them on the coffee table. Sat back. Waited.
Looked at the blank television screen. A clock in the kitchen ticked the seconds by.
Looked at the stack of journals. They seem to grow thicker, sitting closed, unread.
“This is rediculous,” he told the walls, and fished his cell phone out of his suitcoat. He had habitually hit House’s speed-dial already when he noticed the text-message icon flashing. Kathy.
“What do you want?” House was quick on the draw.
“Nevermind. I’ll talk to you later.” Wilson hit end and read-messages, dialed Kathy Savage’s number.
“Hello?” The voice rang a distant memory. Her face drifted to mind.
“Kathy. It’s James Wilson. I just heard about Bill.”
“Oh, James. It’s so good of you to call.”
“I called him for a consult today. I can’t believe it.”
“He was a good doctor, wasn’t he?”
“Very good. Best pulmonologist in Princeton.”
“I know—” The word was choked.
“Kathy.” He hated this. Hated for a woman to cry on the phone. She shouldn’t be alone.
“I’m sorry. I’m trying to be strong. Trying to be like my mother. You remember her?”
“Of course. You don’t have to be like her.”
“I didn’t have to deal with a long, painful illness like she did.”
Don't do that to yourself. “You didn’t get to say good-bye.”
“No.” More sobs. Damnit. He shouldn’t say these things over the phone. Shouldn’t get her stirred up when he couldn’t be there to help her find some healing, some closure.
He had to be able to give her a shoulder to cry on. It was the least he could do. “Do you want to go get a drink? Coffee? Anything?”
She steadied her breathing. “Okay.”
They met at the Tap Room in the heart of Princeton's historic district. The dinner hour in summer meant students would be congregating in less expensive venues--usually only coming to the Tap Room for a cup of coffee and to listen to jazz late in the evening. For now, it would be quiet.
But quiet can be worse for a woman crying in public. They sat at a small corner table, but Wilson noticed Kathy glancing around the room as she choked back the sobs.
"This is too public. I'm sorry, Kathy. I should have been more sensitive."
"There's nothing you can do. I'm just a wreck."
He stroked her back, and she grasped his free hand, clinging to it. He could do nothing but sit with her.
Was it the light glinting off her hair? The curve of her forehead? Maybe it was a neatly-manicured fingernail that brought a sudden flash of memory, her form moving slowly under him, enjoying his attentions.
He shook his head to banish the vision. But the next stroke of her hair held more wanting than he thought it should.
They walked in silence through the darkness out to her car.
"Thank you." Her tears had subsided, her voice now back to its silk and strength. "I needed a friend."
"The least I could do." He wrapped his arms around her, held her close, kissed her hair. "You'll be fine."
She pressed her cheek to his and nodded. "I know," she whispered, and pulled away.
He forced himself to let go. Shoved his hands in his pockets as she got into the car and drove away. Bit back the impulse to follow her.
I am a womanizer. I slept with a patient. I could have lost my job.
The spasm in the back of his neck twinged and he squeezed it, pressing at the tension. "I'm in trouble."
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