Chapter 7: Sewing Season
It surprised Wilson to learn that the voice was not House’s, but Cuddy’s, as she practically shoved him next to the rather feeble fire that House was making.
On second thought, it wasn’t that surprising…House would’ve called him something more colorful.
“Wilson, you evolutionary U-Turn!”
That was more like House.
“Or did you want to die?” he said, abandoning the fire to stare menacingly into Wilson’s face, “because Chase has a hunting knife in the trunk. All it would take is one quick slice.” Except House didn’t say ‘slice.’ He rather made a descriptive sound effect accompanied by a slashing movement across Wilson’s throat and a clown-like grin.
“I wasn’t going to die,” said Wilson, fighting the awkwardness of Cuddy unbuttoning his jacket and shirt while he spoke.
“Oh,” said House, scooting down next to Wilson, if only to add to his friend’s discomfort, “so I guess that’s just your first period then?”
House gestured elegantly to where Wilson had pulled him out of the car, the place he’d been staring at just moments ago. Wilson took a look in that direction, squinting in the darkness of night. It took Wilson a moment to see the blood that had pooled in little knee indentations in the snow. They were Wilson’s knee indentations.
Cuddy was stuck on the last three buttons on Wilson’s shirt. He thought about helping her but didn’t. The longer she took with the buttons, the longer it would be until she saw his stomach, and the longer it would be until she yelled. Or not.
“Why didn’t you tell someone?!” Cuddy mastered the first rebellious button.
Wilson was about to grace her with an answer when he realized he really didn’t have to.
“I—wait a minute. This is exactly like something House would do. You’d never ask him ‘why’?”
“Exactly, Wilson,” she said, strangling yet another button into submission, “this is something House would do. This is not something a smart, rational human being with regard for other human beings would do.”
Wilson looked down at his feet, like a teenager who isn’t quite equipped to argue with his mom. He helped Cuddy with the last button.
She did something between a gasp and a muffled “Oh my God” when she saw it. Even House gave him a pity wince. After Wilson took another look at him though, he was sure he’d imagined it.
A cut this gory was not something Chase was going to miss by sitting on his ass on the other side of the fire. He slid over to the others on his hands and good leg like a lame crab.
“Damn,” he said in some weird impersonation of an Australian stoner, ‘that has to be, what, 5 inches long?”
“Four,” said Wilson, unsure why he was defending the length of his laceration.
House leaned in closer to get a better look, mentally analyzing the length of the cut and how deep it might be, as well what might have done it. It didn’t look like wood, or glass, but for once, he really wasn’t sure.
He sat back and looked at Cuddy, who was looking at him as if expecting House to shake his head solemnly and say that Wilson’s death was imminent. Instead he said, “Cuddy, there’s a Sprite bottle in the back of the car that still has stuff in it. Go get it.”
And she stood up and turned towards the car.
They could hear her rummaging through the trunk and back seat, obviously with little success. The dark is like that, in that everything that involves eyesight gets a little bit harder, but you probably already knew that.
Chase gave House a puzzled look and yelled to the car, “There’s another bottle of Sprite in the front seat. It hasn’t even been opened yet.”
This prompted House to quickly spout, “No, we can’t use Chase’s. Find mine.”
“Why can’t we use my Sprite?’
“Because my Sprite, isn’t Sprite,” said House.
Chase gave him a look that resembled something out of Cameron’s grab bag of morally outraged expressions.
House rolled his eyes. “Relax, it’s not like I was driving.”
Wilson peeked his head across both men’s line of sight. “But what if Cuddy got tired,” he asked.
“Then you would’ve driven. Its what you do.”
Wilson tilted his head a little, admitting it was “what he did.”
House looked down and whispered, “And we probably wouldn’t be in this mess.” He didn’t know why he didn’t say it louder. He didn’t mean it, so it wouldn’t be different than half of the stuff he said audibly anyways. There was just something taboo about the statement that made it uneasy on the brain, let alone to the ears.
But it wasn’t true. It couldn’t actually be true. And yet, House had this weird infatuation with “what ifs” to which few could really relate or understand.
He was prodded back into reality by a Sprite bottle on his left shoulder. Cuddy shook the bottle and gave a triumphant grin. “This what you were looking for?” she asked.
House took the bottle without speaking, and leaned over towards Wilson again. “Thirsty?’ he asked, brandishing the bottle about two inches away from Wilson’s face.
“Good.” House proceeded to take a large gulp from the bottle, prompting suspicious stares from the rest of the group, namely Wilson.
“House…what are you doing?” Wilson couldn’t help but scoot back a few inches when he saw House’s eye twitch into that mad coyote stare the doctor sometimes got before doing something dangerous and painful. There was no reason for Wilson to know about this particular stare other than it’d been directed at him several times before. He wasn’t looking forward to repeating the experience.
“Me,” said House with utterly unconvincing innocence, “nothing. I’m—What the Hell is that!”
House’s eyes darted to something just behind Wilson’s head. Wilson craned his neck to see it too.
“What, I don’t see any—Ow! Shit, House!”
Wilson squirmed around with depressing futility while House poured the contents of the Sprite bottle on his friend’s right side.
“You cursed, Wilson,” mused House, “that’s ten demerits.”
Wilson lay with his bare back in the snow, panting and wincing and looking generally pathetic.
“And you called me a baby,” said House.
House gave a nod over to Cuddy’s blue box of sewing wonders, and outstretched his left hand. Chase handed him the box a moment later, its label melted off from a close call with the fire. He opened it on his left side, towards the flame and away from Wilson. He held the needle in his right hand while his left hand pillaged the blue box, looking for a thread skinny enough.
He did this all without taking his eyes off Wilson.
Chase knew it was only a matter of time before they’d start to fight, he just didn’t know he would be the one to start it. Wilson was still in the snow, probably freezing, but Chase suspected the gaping wound in the man’s side probably bothered him more than a wet, cold back. He was surprised when Wilson spoke.
“The road’s just above that ridge.” Wilson pointed to the treacherous cliff from which they’d fallen. The moonlight made the hill look almost peaceful as it shined on the tiny, reflective minerals in the snow. It was just dark enough that you couldn’t see the bits of shattered car and wonky snow mounds that formed as the Land Rover came down.
Wilson sat up and brushed the snow off his back. “When do you think they’ll find us?”
Chase grimaced. “If they find us…and not our bodies.”
Cuddy shot him an annoyed glance that was intensified through the glow of the fire. “Chase, that’s not exactly helpful.”
“I’m not talking about helpful. I’m talking about realistic. White Haven probably booked other hospitals for that seminar; they might not even miss us.”
“And what about Cameron and Foreman? Are you saying they won’t notice we’re gone?”
Chase sighed. “I’m saying that we’re not expected back until the day after tomorrow, and all we have is six bottles of water, some beef jerky, and a collection of injuries. By the time they send somebody looking for us, we’ll be—“
“And you’re saying there’s no hope? Wilson just said there’s a road just above that ridge. We can practically hear the damn cars!”
“But they can’t hear us, Cuddy! Or see us. To them, we’re just another car that skidded off the road years ago, and nobody bothered to fix the guardrail.”
Cuddy voiced cracked as she neared tears for the second time today. “But-But what about the other car? There was another car! House, tell him that there’s something up there!”
House looked up from his needle and thread, for once thankful that Chase was a hopeless budinski.
“That driver is either an asshole or a dead asshole,” said Chase, “neither of which is going to help us out.”
For someone who didn’t stand up to people with any frequency, Chase was surprisingly skilled at it. And he felt guilty as he watched Cuddy blink rapidly in an attempt to keep her tears in her eyes and not on her cheeks, but Chase also knew the destructive nature of false hope, and good conscience forbade him from letting Cuddy bet their lives on it.
House thought he heard Wilson whisper, “There’s got to be a way out of here” but a second later he wasn’t sure, and didn’t care enough to ask.
Two seconds later, and the thread was successfully tied to the needle. He turned his palm away from Wilson like a good coin trick as he stuck the needle as close to the flame as his fingers would allow.
Wilson thought he saw something flash over to his right. He looked over to the path that had been the subject of earlier speculation. Unlike the mountain, the moonlight did not make the perilous road look any more peaceful. As a matter of fact, darkness blanketed the treetops in the way it normally does, with scary uncertainty. He stared at the spot for a moment, hoping to see the flash of light again, but his observation was cut short by none other than Gregory House.
“Hey Wilson, you know what sucks?”
Wilson squinted, trying in vain to read House’s face. “What?”
“It’s illegal to have sexual relations with a porcupine in Florida.”
“Why would that—Ouch! What the Hell, House!”
House examined his handiwork, making sure the needle was completely through Wilson’s skin before continuing. If Wilson wasn’t angry, or in pain, he might’ve been impressed with the sheer speed with which House got it in there.
“See,” said House, “you’d think that after last time you would’ve noticed the correlation between me making outlandish statements and you feeling pain. Maybe that’s just me though.”
House grinned. Wilson didn’t.
House’s look softened as he looked at Wilson’s cut and then back at the thread. He’d need to sterilize the string with the alcohol, which wouldn’t be pleasant when weaved through Wilson’s bloody skin. He didn’t even think a masochist would enjoy it.
He twisted the cap off the Sprite bottle and began to drizzle the last of it over the thread.
“What are you doing?” asked Wilson, his view obscured by House’s characteristically large head.
House looked up, and didn’t lie. “Here, take this.” He tossed Wilson a Vicodin and took one for himself. Three left.
“I’m going to tell you a joke. Try to stay still; this is gonna hurt.”
Wilson swallowed his pill and nodded. House began stitching. Wilson tensed up the moment the alcohol retouched his wound, but true to his word, he didn’t move.
“Okay,” said House, obviously stalling while he thought of a joke dirty enough to make Wilson forget his current predicament. When that didn’t work, he settled on the only one he knew. “So, two hunters are out in the woods, right? One of them collapses, so the other one calls 911 and says, ‘Help, I think my friend’s dead!’ So the operator says, ‘Well, can you make sure he’s dead?’ The operator hears a shot, and the guy gets back on and says, ‘Okay, now what?’”
Wilson chuckled, but when House saw Wilson’s clenched fists in the snow, he realized it was a mere pity laugh. House thought briefly about what kind of upbringing would result in a man who laughed politely at dumb jokes even when in excruciating pain.
“Not helping, huh?”
Wilson shook his head, obviously scared to open his mouth and release the train of obscenities currently tugging at his lips.
House wished he could think of a genuinely dirty joke, the kind that would make Cuddy cringe after merely thinking about the atrocities that came out of House’s mouth, but all he could think of was the joke where he got to say the F-word.
House quickened the pace of his stitching as he began. “There was a boy standing on a corner selling fish, and he was yelling out, ‘Dam fish for sale, dam fish for sale!’ A preacher walked up and asked why he was calling them ‘dam fish.’ So the kid said, ‘I caught them at the dam, so they're dam fish.’ The preacher bought some, took them home and asked his wife to cook the dam fish. His wife looked at him, shocked, and said, ‘Preachers aren't supposed to talk like that.’ When preacher explained why they were dam fish, she agreed to cook them. So then dinner was ready and everyone was sitting down, the preacher asked his son to pass him the dam fish. His son replied, ‘That's the spirit dad, pass the fucking potatoes!’”
Wilson smiled, but didn’t laugh. House hadn’t really expected him to.
“Finished.” House bit off the extra thread about 5 inches off of where the sutures ended, making Wilson look slightly like one of Frankenstein’s failed experiments.
Wilson stared at the blue thread that was now mated to his abdomen. He wasn’t brave enough to touch it, not yet, but for now he admired it thoughtfully.
“You did a good job. Thanks.”
House, however, looked at it critically, focusing in on the places where his stitches were too spaced out or right on top of each other.
“That’s nothing,” he said, looking up. “You should’ve seen me sew up Chase’s pants.”
He winced a little, rubbing his shoulder ruefully as he realized he’d probably expected too much of the stupid limb.
“You okay?” Wilson asked. Of course Wilson asked.
“No, actually I just narrowly escaped death by having my insides sewn back in my body by my doctor pal. Oh, wait…that’s not me.”
Wilson gave an exasperated blink, and began putting on his shirt. He was tired. They all were.
So within ten minutes, all four of them were sprawled out next to the fire like victims of religious sacrifice. They stared up at the stars, not talking, just thinking and finding the big dipper. Chase was the first to fall asleep. Cuddy pretended to be asleep, and within ten minutes such a thing was reality.
Wilson and House didn’t talk to each other, but they both knew they other was also awake. House didn’t think about anything in particular, just the same, generic ideas that everyone considers, the ideas they think they invented.
But as House looked up, finding fractal patterns in the stars and thinking about how millions of years ago, cavemen might’ve been staring at those same stars, he knew these ideas weren’t special. These are the ideas of ordinary people and geniuses alike. These were the ideas of our ancestors, and they’d be the ideas of our grandchildren. This is because you can see stars, but you really can’t understand stars. You can’t reach out and touch them.
So, if only for that night, Gregory House was not special. He was not the pretty and unique snowflake that grazed his ear in the wind, but rather a uniform speck of dusk that was collecting on his office desk as he thought, and for some reason, he liked it.
It was about an hour after House started snoring that Wilson thought he saw the flash again. He turned his head back towards the path, shivering a little as he edged his way away from the fire.
But this time when he looked, he saw it again.
In fact, Wilson saw this light flash roughly every 10 seconds for about five minutes. This is when he deduced that he wasn’t dreaming.
He sat up eagerly on his elbows, wincing as his stomach twisted awkwardly with the motion. It was a little red light that blinked in unison with a smaller white one just below it. In the dark, he couldn’t begin to estimate distance, but as the light appeared only centimeters around when compared to his hand in front of his face, he imagined it wasn’t coming from nearby.
He didn’t know what they were coming from, or what they meant, or how long they’d been blinking, or how long they’d continue to blink. So Wilson continued to watch them with childlike fascination.
It wasn’t until nearly 15 minutes later that Wilson was able to put his findings into words. He didn’t wake anyone up, not just yet, but he knew what this meant.
Those lights meant that somewhere, passed the icy path and ragged rocks, in a place where hope went to die and cars went to crash and doctors went to nearly kill themselves, there was another person.
Those lights meant there was a way out of here.
Those lights meant they were saved.