Chapter 8: House Party
Wilson woke up not knowing where he was.
Not that that was any different from before.
He kept his eyes closed and didn’t move, feeling the warm brush of the fire in the wind and Cuddy’s 200 dollar hiking boots on the back of his leg. He lay there, hoping the sensations were merely the lingering afterthoughts of a very vivid nightmare.
That’s when the aches and pains that were the consequence of yesterday’s adventures started to creep in. They overtook him stealthily and without mercy. Wilson realized that he’d probably been hurting all night, he’d just been too tired to give a damn. His ear burned angrily from its place in the snow, cursing Wilson for sleeping on his side. His hand throbbed with more force than his heart, making wonder if maybe his broken fingers had taken over the duty of pumping blood throughout his body.
Not to mention his stomach hurt.
But it wasn’t yesterday’s stabbing, vomit-inducing, teeth-grinding pain, or even the sting of alcohol on his tattered flesh. It was just a run-of-the-mill stomachache, which, oddly enough, put a very slight smile on his face. It was the one pain that seemed remotely normal—harmless, like a freckle on your cheek.
He opened his eyes to confirm that he was still in the arctic version of Hell.
The sky was purple, in that transitional period right before the sun decides to wake up, and bring everybody else up with it. A small flame was still crackling in House’s improvisational fire pit, located atop the car mats from the Land Rover. He rolled over onto his back, pleasantly surprised by the lack of protest from his stomach.
Wilson heard a car go by on the ridge. It didn’t stop. It didn’t even slow down—a little “fuck you” from the rest of the world.
Cuddy and Chase were asleep on the other side of the fire. They were cuddled up from the cold, and Wilson couldn’t restrain a smile as he thought of Cuddy curled up in the arms of the fellow she knew the least.
House was a few feet to the left of Wilson, also on his back, eyes closed. He wasn’t sleeping, though. Wilson watched his chest rise and fall four times within ten seconds. That was fast for the average conscious person, let alone someone who was supposedly in REM sleep. There were two piles of snow packed neatly against his shoulder and right leg, meaning that sometime in the middle of the night, House woke up and piled the snow there in some sort of ice-pack blanket, and that he kept waking up, and replaced the snow when his body heat had melted his relief.
Wilson wondered how many Vicodin House had in his coat pocket. He longed for a pill, just one….just one to take him out of this place and this state of mind. He longed for the blur that the world became after one pill, that numbness that seemed to go so far beyond the physical. Just one pill.
He wondered if this was how House felt sometimes, sitting in his office and thinking about a case. He wondered if House ever stared at his pills and saw something beyond dying patients and stupid coworkers and preachy best friends. He wondered if House saw the escape he saw right now.
It soon became apparent to Wilson that he had a slight addiction to wondering.
He let his eyes drift away from House’s pocket, remembering that the real reason he wanted the pill was to get rid of the pain. He wasn’t used to pain, and he couldn’t think straight under its influence.
But that was also the reason House took the pills, and right now, he simply had more of a need for them than a stupid oncologist with a cut.
Wilson rolled over to his other side, but something in his pocket refused to let him rest comfortably. He rolled onto his back once more, and reached a hand in the pocket to remove what was probably loose change and lint. Instead, he pulled out a penlight. That’s when he remembered:
Wilson sat up quickly and crawled over to where House was, then tapped him on the shoulder to humor the notion that he was still asleep.
House spoke without opening his eyes. “What is it?”
Wilson sat back on his knees. “I have to tell you something.”
“You wet the bed? It’s okay, no one’s gonna notice out here anyways.”
“House, last night…I saw something—lights; I saw lights coming from over there.” He pointed to the path, which was useless, seeing as House had yet to open his eyes or move.
“So…you saw aliens?”
Wilson was letting his voice get frantic and he didn’t know why. “House, no I—would you look at me when I’m talking?”
To Wilson’s amazement, House complied, and squinted a pair of eyes in Wilson’s general direction.
“It was a red light on top of a white light, or something like that, it’s just…there’s people out here, House, people who might be able to help us.”
House sat up and stared at Wilson. Wilson’s eyes looked downright energetic when compared to House’s, which were dull, and paler than the sky. House wasn’t sure he’d ever felt pity, but as he saw Wilson’s face, and how the guy had this instinctual knowledge that lights meant safety, he realize that pity was almost as crappy to give as it was to receive.
“How far away were the lights?”
“Don’t know. Maybe three miles? The lights looked pretty small.”
“Wilson, those lights were probably cars passing by, planes, anything.”
“In the same spot?!” Wilson was unnerved by the sound of desperation in his own voice, but just the same, he didn’t try to hide it. “How could all of those lights show up in the same spot exactly every few seconds?”
“I...” House looked at the ground, not hiding the fact that he didn’t have an answer to give. “I don’t know, but—“
“House,” Wilson didn’t blink, and his eyes didn’t shift or look away. “I know I saw those lights.”
And House believed him; because House knew that people aren’t nearly as stubborn as they’d like to be. You give them reasons to doubt, to question, and that’s just what they’ll do. It takes a certainty beyond the realm of logic to declare “I know I saw what I saw.”
House had a pocket’s worth of respect for this kind of stubbornness, probably more. “Okay,” he said, “what do you want to do?”
Wilson was unable to hold back a confused frown as it planted itself on his face. “What? You believe me?”
“I believe you believe you.”
“And…that’s good enough for you?”
House clenched his jaw and nodded.
“Uh, okay,” said Wilson, faltering, as if he hadn’t anticipated the conversation would reach this point, “I was thinking I would go check it out. The lights, I mean. If I get there and there’s a person or radio or its some kind of building or a helicopter pad, I’ll get help. If there’s nobody there, I’ll turn around and come back. It can’t be more than three miles away, so even if there’s no one, I won’t be more than four or five hours.”
House, meanwhile, was rolling a beauty of a snowball out of what was previously his “pillow.”
“Uh huh,” said House, “and were you planning on telling this to the lovers over there,” he pointed to the unconscious forms of Cuddy and Chase, “or should I tell them you were eaten by an invisible polar bear in the night?”
Wilson scratched at the bit of stubble that had grasped onto his upper lip sometime in the last 12 hours. He wasn’t sure how House could stand it 24/7. “Tell them…” he paused, remembering how quick Cuddy was to get her hopes up. He didn’t want to be the one to let her down. “Tell them I just went looking for a ridge that’s not as steep.”
House had his snowball tucked under his right arm like a baby. He reached over for his cane and attempted to stand up, still fighting the awkwardness of having it in his left hand. After a couple of failed attempts, he was on his feet and looking more tired than he had the night before.
“I’ll let you tell them,” he said, and before Wilson could do a thing about it, the snowball was flying through the air from House’s outstretched left hand.
It hit Chase squarely in the nose.
Chase shot up comically from the ground, like a firefighter responding to anything other than kittens in trees, and he brought Cuddy up with him, having kicked her in the back of the knee during this incident.
His voice sounded like it had come from a solitary confinement inmate with no one to talk to for 20 years as he looked around in search of some bearings. He rubbed his knee confusedly, thankful he hadn’t actually attempted to stand, then spoke again, more successfully this time. “Who threw that?”
House pointed to Wilson while Chase wiped the snow off his face. Cuddy stood up, looking particularly annoyed.
“But if it helps,” said House, “he was aiming for Cuddy.”
Surprisingly, that comment didn’t seem to help at all.
House took a step towards Cuddy, his eyes flashing mischievously. “So, Wilson wants to play hero and find a way out of this joint. Sound cool?”
Cuddy and Chase yelled “No” at the same time, if only to add to the humor of them sleeping in such close proximity.
Wilson jumped in to prevent House getting slapped and himself from being yelled at even more. “I’m just going to look for way to the road, a less dangerous one,” he added, indicating the slope behind him.
“And what’ll happen if you fall or rip your stitches out?” said Cuddy, crossing her arms partially from the cold, and partially for effect.
“That’s why I said ‘less dangerous,’’’ said Wilson. “Look, I’m the only one who could possibly climb. You’ve got a sprained wrist, Chase’ll be lucky to walk in two months, and House’s shoulder is probably twice the size it’s supposed to be.”
House looked at the unnatural bulge on his shoulder. It was more like three times its normal size. Not that he would mention it.
Wilson laughed at himself for mentioning House’s shoulder and not the fact that the guy could barely stand, but he knew House probably appreciated the omission.
“My wrist is fine,” said Cuddy, “and I could easily climb one of the flatter slopes.”
“But would you want to? Would you want to go off and find a way out while we stayed here where you couldn’t take care of us?” Wilson knew full well how manipulative the statement was to a woman like Cuddy, and he didn’t care. He was the only one who saw those lights, and thus the only one who knew where to look. “I’ll be back in four hours tops.”
Cuddy opened her mouth in protest, but when the words wouldn’t come she looked to Chase, then House, then back at Wilson. “If you’re not back in four hours, we’re coming to look for you. And you better be damn careful Wilson, do you hear me?”
House couldn’t help feeling a surge of pride in how well Wilson had played his cards.
Chase shifted his leg uncomfortably on the ground. “There’s an extra bag of beef jerky in the glove box. Better take it with you.”
Cuddy turned to him and tilted her head accusingly. “There was another bag of beef jerky this whole time, and you didn’t tell us?”
He put his hands up defensively. “Hey, I knew that if you guys all thought there was less, you’d be less likely to pig out on it before we got rescued. Plus, better to find out there’s more food than less right?”
Stunned stares came from all directions.
“Wilson, just take the stupid beef jerky.”
Wilson nodded with small smile and walked around to the car as the sun began to peer out over their little valley, painting the sky with swirls of pink and orange. House followed him.
Wilson opened the door with his good hand, then rummaged around within the glove box, finding everything except gloves and the beef jerky. He whistled something, he thought it might have been the musical lovechild of “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Under Pressure.”
“Looking for this?”
Wilson turned around, not because he didn’t know it was House, but because he needed to grab the beef jerky out of House’s hand.
House’s lip twitched apologetically. “Figured I could use it as leverage if our situation devolved to cannibalism.”
“I like it,” said Wilson, grabbing the bag “it’s like the Donner Party…only the House Party,” and he continued to whistle.
“You’re not going to whistle the whole way there, are you?” said House with the odd air of finality.
Wilson froze, taking in what House just said.
“House, you are NOT—“
“Going to sit here while my little Jimbo goes off on an adventure with no one to wipe his tushie? You’re right. I’m not.”
Wilson sighed. House smiled, and took back the beef jerky.