Disclaimer: Heel and Toe own the characters. Eminem. "Recovery.". Aftermath Records, Interscope Records, Shady Records, 2010.
Summary: That was when the impasse had begun to form, John now realizes. And his son hadn't been the one to dig it, he knows now.
Notes: I haven't written House fanfiction in a very long time. Maybe with this distance, I can enjoy myself and get back to my other stories.
...You ever love somebody so much, you can barely breathe when you're with 'em - you meet and neither one of you even know what hit 'em...?
John forced himself to wait in the hall, listening to the judge tell this Tritter sonofabitch that his son was as far from a criminal as he was from a sailboat.
This shouldn't have been allowed to happen. John shook his head and sighed as he listened to the judge place his son under arrest for contempt of court. Well, that - at least - shouldn't have been a surprise. John froze, biting his lip and actually pinching himself on the hand.
Stop it! he thought angrily to himself. Hadn't thinking like this gotten him into this mess? Where his son thought it was better to hide practically everything from him and his mother rather than to risk hurting or disappointing either of them?
It had been like pulling teeth just getting Greg to admit he'd been shot and that had been an equally big deal, as Blythe had tearfully told Greg, her hug on him as gentle as she could make it. He'd mumbled something and started to raise his hand, but the drugs and the surgery and the injuries themselves had taken their toll that not even Greg could pretend his way through.
John hadn't wanted to think it at the time, but it's occurred to him on the several extremely important occasions over the years that Greg would have been safer joining up than being a doctor - hell, he'd been through more in the past several years than half the infantry men John has known. Or it seemed that way, anyway.
If only Greg had become a physicist, John found himself thinking for the first time. Well, that wasn't true. Greg was a physicist, did work for that that in addition to writing medical papers, his wife had been quick to remind him when he'd complained about Greg always being too busy -- supposedly -- to see them as often as they would have liked.
Blythe always insisted they saw him enough, that Greg told her he loved her enough -- and John, too, she said firmly, when John snorted.
"Well, I'm sorry you're not fluent in Gregish," she'd actually sneered at him at one point during that summer when she'd calculated how long it had been since John, himself, had spoken to Greg. "But if you'll make the effort to be fluent in me, then our son shouldn't be any different. The very least you could do is forgive him being a child, John!"
John had stared at her angry form as it had returned to the living room as carefully as she could, watching in surprise as Greg looked up from whatever he'd been absorbed in at the time - some mess of metal and wires - and immediately jumped up to aid Blythe's careful descension to the couch.
The fact that Greg had begun completely avoiding his eyes or touching him after that day didn't occur to him for days afterward.
That was when the impasse had begun to form, John now realizes. And his son hadn't been the one to dig it, he knows now.
At the time, he hadn't wanted to compare his relationship with his wife with anyone else, much less their son. Incestuous or something, it'd felt, he had wanted to say.
Really, he just hadn't wanted to admit that it was too hard to bridge the gap he'd purposely created.
"No one's telling you to date or marry him, Johnnie," his father had told him back when Greg had begun school and John - already irritated by his son's incessant jabbering about this thing and that thing - had asked why his boy couldn't just be quiet some of the damned time.
His father, Grant, a tall, quiet man who'd done his duty in Okinawa and then come home 'to the only place I've wanted to be' - rather ironically given what had just taken place four years before - Oʻahu ("I'll always be a local," his father had said firmly when John had asked. "Only I'll be a local on this side of Midway!"), had looked him in the eye, then, and frowned.
"So all anyone gets to hear in that house is WKRJohn AM? Nothin' but John House's thoughts and beliefs and opinions? You all day long and night - no wonder a six-year-old kid wouldn't cry when you go off to war; I'd be surprised if that beautiful wife of yours didn't consider Greg a break, contrary to your opinion - someone to actually listen to her and enjoy things with her - who happens to share her DNA.
"Damn it, Johnnie, I can't believe you would get between a woman and her son. Don't forget, lieutenant, you married her, not him, and I'll remind you that when you were his age, all you wanted was for your momma and I to listen to you. It's all any kid wants, son. To be held and talked to. A woman is similar, yes, but still different and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it."
His father had glared hard at him then and slapped John's knee before he could interject, because he'd certainly been prepared.
John still remembers those green eyes so much like his glaring hard at him, remembers how forceful his father's tone had been, "Don't you dare interrupt me, boy! You insisted you chose to see Blythe for who she was, pregnant or no, and I was proud of you for not letting convention rule your life -- but now look at you! You want that woman to forget the nine months she spent puttin' that child together inch by inch so you can feel like you're on your honeymoon for the rest of your life. Sorry you feel so short-shrifted, tiger! Tie a knot in it and get on with your damn life!"
John had frowned and forced himself not to look down at his shoes the way he'd wanted, "My life is to protect the country."
His father had actually shoved him, then, and John tumbled back out of his chair and, upon righting himself, gaped at his father.
"Your life is to protect them, moron! If I raised you to think differently, then I am sure sorry, indeed!"
Grant House had stormed down out of their place, a nook overhanging the lake behind the house John had grown up in. By the time John had righted himself and walked back, Grant had locked him out.
Gathering what had been left of his pride, John had slept at the base that night and gotten an early flight back to California in the morning. It was to be the last time he'd see or speak to his father.
John hadn't believed it when Blythe had reminded him as much at his back when he'd been on his way out to the garage to get the...well, he'd immediately forgotten what he'd been about to retrieve because Blythe had started to cry.
John had unthinkingly come over and attempted to wrap his arms around her, but his wife had jerked angrily away from him and whipped out the cell phone she'd insisted they both get -- he didn't even know where his was, at the time, or whether it'd even worked.
It turned out to mean the world, the universe, that when his - their son - had needed him, he'd been unavailable. What was it that Gibbs always said on NCIS? Never be unreachable!
He'd failed - he was rambling in his own mind again, biting his lip and pushing a hand through his hair. His father had told him as much and he'd refused to believe it, but that John had never expected the messages this Greg had left. There were so many of them. Short, concise -- it had been a code, C-Q-D of all things, because S-O-S was too easily recognized by anyone who cared to glance at her phone.
It just said that much - CQD, nothing else. His wife had called and called, but had gotten no answer until the following morning. Greg had told her, with a hoarse voice, that he'd meant it at the time, but the situation had resolved itself. He'd lied (of course she'd known) and told her it was a terrible stomach bug. She'd wanted to press all sorts of things - why would he message her when he could go to work, why --
But she'd forced herself to accept that her extremely competent son was fine, had assured her of as much, and - regardless of his call, within days of leaving Sarah's, they'd been expected in Oʻahu to see John's family the way they always had. If Greg was fine enough to call her, there was no need to cancel the trip.
She'd cried that day and started to throw the cell phone, but he'd stopped her. He wanted to see the messages, he told her, and she'd shoved the phone into his hands before simply sitting on the couch and crying.
At the time, he'd assumed she was blowing everything out of proportion. Greg loved to make a big show, puff himself up, a giant font of nothing doing. Oh, sure, he was some kind of bigshot doctor, sure he was sent all kinds of mail when it was time for him to leave for college...
John practically punched himself in the chest, slapping himself with the butt of his open hand. This rambling bullshit wasn't why he was here, God damn it!
John forced himself to sit down and smooth his hair as the courtroom doors opened and everyone filed out. One of the last people to leave, as Greg was led elsewhere for confinement, was Dr. Cuddy, Greg's boss. Her eyes widened in surprise.
"Colonel House," she said, her eyes widening further in astonishment as her head ducked from side to side. "I didn't expect - "
John nodded tersely, "I didn't tell anyone I'd be here." He stepped closer to her, "Do you mind if we go talk somewhere before I speak to Greg?"
Dr. Cuddy sighed hesitantly, but nodded back, leading him over toward an empty closet. She laughed dubiously, "I feel like your son has rubb - " her head snapped up as her cheeks reddened.
But John only frowned, "No, no - say what you were going to say? My son has rubbed off on who?" He kept his voice as calm and light as possible, but Dr. Cuddy now looked like a deer in headlights.
"I - "
John all but rolled his eyes, "Dr. Cuddy, why don't we stay right here in front of this bathroom. That way, if anything ridiculous happens you can call for help im- "
Dr. Cuddy's eyes widened again and she stepped back again, "I wasn't implying you'd - "
"It doesn't matter, Dr. Cuddy." John shook his head again, forcing himself to lessen his frown. "I just want to talk to my son and I want to know more of what happened before I go down there and all he has to say is platitudes to try to rush me back out the door."
Dr. Cuddy was frowning herself now, if in confusion, and John elaborated, "If you think my son has ever - ever desired to bring ruination down on his mother and I - or the rest of our family, for that matter, you'd be so out in left field there'd be no point in lookin' for the ball."
Dr. Cuddy began to snort, but forced herself to stop as she realized who she was talking to. She'd only ever seen the expression John now gave her on Greg, he assumed, but he really didn't care just now.
"I'm sorry, is he your son or mine?"
Dr. Cuddy swallowed, and backed away from him, smoothing her skirt as she did. "I'm sorry, that was - "
"Inappropriate? Inconsiderate? I could think of more 'i-n' words, but I think those'll do for now."
Dr. Cuddy's head snapped back up and she started to say something, but stopped, again raising her hands, this time in concilation. "You're right. I don't really...Twenty years and I don't really know anything about your son, probably."
John didn't add that he knew it wasn't 'probably'; that was better left unsaid.
"Look, Doctor, what happened to start all this?"
Dr. Cuddy blew her bangs out of her face in agitation and flung her hands up again, "Oh, the usual - House says - Greg says something rude to a patient and that patient, who happened to be a cop, wasn't going to just settle for suing him. Probably because he's a cop. This has been the worst year for the hospital since we hired Greg. He's never apologized, never even conceded he did anything wrong."
John allowed his frown to come back to his face, "So it never occurred to you that Greg might not have actually done anything wrong? You just - what? What happened when this cop -- "
He lifted his own hands and gestured toward the courthouse, "I heard everything that bastard said, not to mention the judge reminding everyone that my son is not 'flooding the streets of Princeton with narcotics'. How the hell did we get from 'he said something offensive' to my son facing a ten-year felony drug charge, Dr. Cuddy?"
It took everything in him not to raise his voice, but John had had a lot of practice with Greg. He'd always - always - made it a point never to punish his son while he was still angry, or even to speak, no matter how long it took for him to cool down.
Dr. Cuddy was staring at him as though he'd grown three heads now. "I - he - Detective Tritter said that Greg..." her voice petered out and she looked as though she wanted nothing more than for a black hole to open up and swallow her. Oh, well.
"You never asked Greg's side of the story?" John resisted the urge to lean in her face and settled for folding his arms. She was scared shitless as it was.
"He never - he wouldn't say what happened." Dr. Cuddy said quietly, biting her lip, and glanced up to see John's incredulous face.
"He's done this so many times before!"
For the first time John forced himself to turn away from Dr. Cuddy and opened and balled his hands in an effort not to punch the wall beside them. His head snapped up and he said in his deadliest tone, "Don't you go anywhere."
Dr. Cuddy responded angrily, now, "I'm not your child, Colonel House!"
He turned back around, not caring if he yelled now, "And my son is not yours, Dr. Cuddy! At most, you've been some kind of a friend - though I'd say a pretty shitty one! You're obviously a source of income - at the very least, you're just a warm hole! Is that offensive enough for you!"
Dr. Cuddy jerked away from John, then, her face paling and her eyes widening in shock. "Get away from me."
"Gladly!" John snapped and immediately, a justice of the peace took hold of his arm, shoving his overcoat into it, and John allowed himself to be led from the courthouse, the entire crowd staring at him, but for the first time in his life, John House didn't care what everyone around him thought.
He breathed as deeply as he could, standing on the steps of the courthouse, leaning back against the cold wooden exterior as he unfolded his coat and threw it around his shoulders. Wincing at the lance of pain that went down his right side at the abrupt change in temperature, John only stared forward, continuing to plan.
Author's Notes: This story, however it turns out, is dedicated to Aaron Swartz. Alav Ashalom.
x-posted to my journal and housefic