Fandom: House MD
Genre: Beatnik AU
Pairing: House/Wilson (references to House/Stacy, Wilson/Amber, Wilson/Kutner)
WARNINGS: Graphic references to drug use. Read at your own risk.
Notes: Written for Come As You're Not 2012.
Why it's a costume: AU-I hate AU with every fiber of my being. Bonus costume points for writing in present tense and first person and for possibly being the most pretentious thing I've ever written. Beta'd to Beatnik perfection by _tallian_
Summary: Amber is dead and Wilson has a decision to make.
The word around St. Mark’s Place is that Greg House has gone to ground. No one’s seen him and the cops are pressing hard. Tritter from the Narcotics Squad is on the warpath. He’s had it in for Greg since just after New Year’s. There was a kid named Martha and she OD’d in the john of some red onion in the East Village, and Tritter decided it was Greg’s fault because he was so high he just kept playing. He was still jamming changes on Blue Moon when the ambulance showed up. Now there’s another dead girl and everybody’s scared.
This girl is my girl, was my girl, so if the cops want to talk to anyone it should be me, but they don’t want me. They want Greg House. They’re rousting the junkie poets and the loan shark playwrights.
Tritter nabs John Henry Giles playing a rent party in Harlem and sweats him out for forty-eight hours until he’s puking on the jailhouse floor and promising to set up his own grandmother on a bunco charge, just because he’d once done a recording session with Greg. It’s a waste of everybody’s time. John Henry doesn’t know anything.
He comes up to my parent’s brownstone on East 61st to tell me he doesn’t know anything. We sit in my room listening to Miles and watching the leaves falling off trees outside my window. He wants me to know that Amber was a nice girl, so what the cops are saying about her can’t be true. I thank him for saying it and slip him the few bills he needs to score after what Tritter’s put him through on account of Greg.
Tritter’s already called Amber a whore to my face and got the papers saying she died in a cheap hotel turning tricks for dope.
She’s my dead girlfriend and he’s my friend, and I tell myself that Tritter’s filthy words can’t touch any part of them, but I also know that I may have lost both of them before Amber ever walked into that hotel room. I lost them at the same time I lost Larry. Sweet, sad Larry who put a gun to his head at a Labor Day picnic at Bear Mountain.
If I know where Greg is, I’ll ask him what happened to Amber and he’ll ask me what happened to Larry. But he already knows, the same way Tritter knows, the way I should have known and probably did.
I don’t know where Greg is. Nobody does. New York is sad and dead without him. As sad as Larry; as dead as Amber.
“Greg wants to see you.”
I hear the voice as I’m sitting on a bench in Washington Square Park, trying to write. I can barely see the speaker as he’s swamped by his large trench coat and oversized fedora. All I can make out in the ripening gloom of an October evening is a nose that’s known for poking its way into other people’s business.
Taubman runs numbers for what’s left of the Jewish mob and does errands for whoever can tolerate him. He usually has some Bennies on him and I’m tempted to ask, but if Taubman can get the drop on me, then Tritter may be hiding in a nearby bush.
Greg despises Taubman. He must be desperate, if he’s using Taubman to get a message to me. I try to remember not to care.
“Where is he?” I say out of the side of my mouth.
“Focus your audio, Jimmy,” he sneers, and if I weren’t so worried about Greg, I’d risk my knuckles on his beak.
“Yeah, I’m listening.”
“Be at Grand Central tomorrow night at 5PM. Meet him at track 51-B. Be packed and bring dough.“
“Where are we going?”
Taubman treats me to his most Semitic shrug. Right. As if Greg would tell him a word more than he had to. He slithers off to his next sleazy undertaking, leaving me with a dilemma.
My parents won’t like it. They hate Greg. I can’t actually blame them. I hate him myself, but I can’t just hate him. I can’t just not show up for whatever he needs or wants. Mom and dad have let me move back in after Amber, after Danny, after everything. In spite of what happened with Larry, I’ve still got my job at St. John’s prep and my allowance and exactly six hundred and twenty-one dollars in the bank. I have a life, if you can call it that, and if I want it. Or I have Greg as long as I can stand him and vice versa.
The next day I’m at Grand Central looking for platform 51-B. There doesn’t seem to be one. I wouldn’t put it past Taubman to screw it up or maybe he’s sold us out to Tritter. I’m starting to panic when I spot a sign near a stairway that says 15-B. Two flights up, I find a pile of clothes topped by a Yankee’s baseball cap, and I hear snoring. There’s a bag of peanuts in one hand, but baseball season is over. Maybe he’s been to the circus.
He looks bad, smells worse. I’m still glad to see him. I’m relieved that he’s alive and grateful that he had to come to me.
“Wake up, Greg.”
The clothing stirs and peanut shells fall to the already filthy floor.
“Hey man, did you bring cash?”
He didn’t come to me. I came to him with my money and my questions that will never be answered.
“Where are we going?”
“Who said you were going anywhere?”
“If you want money, it’s going to be the two of us.”
I see a hint of a smile under the beard. I also see how gaunt he looks. His eyes open and even with their perpetual haze of narcotics, they‘re still the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in their singular blueness.
“Help me up,” he growls. It’s a plea that sounds like an order.
He ducks into the men’s room and comes out looking respectable enough to get on the train without attracting too much attention. Then he tells me our destination. We’re taking the 6:10 to Boston. Boston? If there’s one place in the 48 that Greg House shouldn’t go, it’s Beantown. Not with his record, and Tritter after him and a Yankee’s cap on his head.
“Why?” I whisper as the train rolls into a darkening autumn night.
“Foreman’s got a cabin in P-town. He says I can [I] jungle up there until the heat blows over. “
I try to noodle that out, but it makes no sense. Last I heard Foreman was pissed at Greg for blowing off a gig that Foreman pulled strings to get him. I couldn’t even imagine Foreman having a cabin in that neck of the woods. Not the easiest place for a Negro to lay low, no matter how much scratch he was raking in.
It feels good to be traveling again, to know I’m pissing away everything my parents want for me. The wheels take me deeper into my own mind, closer to the book I want to write about Amber, farther from the place where it happened.
I dream of Amber. I meet her in Central Park in May. She comes to me like an angel, dancing in the rainbows created by the sunlight on the fountain. She’s so beautiful, all blonde sweetness and long legs, a smile that beamed hope and innocence and the dream of being an artist. I make my move, thinking she’s an easy lay and lose my heart to the lush sensuality of the canvases in her small apartment.
Not a dream anymore, I realize. Memories of a nightmare and I’m the one who took her there. We had a week, maybe two, before Greg showed up wanting to know where I’d been and when I was coming back and how dare I be happy? There was no art in happiness. Joy was for squares. I’d heard it all before, but Amber was fresh from upstate and ripe to believe every word. She started hanging out in the dives where Greg could still get work, and staying up till all hours with the artists and poets and junkies who hung out in the Village. One night she complained about having to get up and go to work waiting tables and Remy quietly slipped her some Dexedrine. She started painting Greg and the circle of drunks and fools who swirled around him. Amber showed us as we truly were, fallen angels, writhing in a hell of our own making.
“What happened?” I whisper into the darkness.
Greg is silent, which means he’s sleeping or that he’s as afraid of the words as I am.
It might be midnight by the time we get to Boston. There’s a brutal smoky chill in the air, a wind far harsher than the one we’d left behind, but it feels good, almost purifying. Greg is shivering. I’m not sure if he’s cold or sick or both.
We need a ride to Provincetown and how are supposed to find one in the dark near the South Street Station, with fog swirling around us and Greg looking worse for wear, although I have managed to get him to take the baseball cap off? He’s got a scarf on and seems to think he’s very model of shabby gentility.
Boston should be dead at this hour. The home of prudes and Puritans and chowder and a few cousins I’ll be just as happy to never see again. Yet there’s an odd vibrancy to the night and after a walk that leaves my toes numb and my teeth chattering we hear some voices emerging from a nearly hidden doorway. Greg knows a signal or maybe he just has the look of a kindred soul. Either way, soon we’re in a dump as dirty and smoky as any I’ve seen on the Bowery. Greg is sitting in with the band while I watch the girls strut the varicose alley. I’m not impressed. I go through a pack of Lucky Strikes, and flirt the cocktail waitress out of an extra scotch, and think of first lines for poems about Amber.
I wonder about the fellow at the next table who looks over and catches my eye with an oddly sympathetic smile. He’s young and blonde, but seems utterly uninterested in the flesh on display. He could be queer, but even Boston has places for that so why is he here? There’s an air of serenity about him that I envy. He smiles again, and I decide he’s just a gin mill cowboy. At certain angles alcoholism doesn’t look that different than Satori.
Come the dawn and that ghastly moment when the lights go up, he’s revealed as the brother of one of the bouncers, just back from a year in Germany as an Army Chaplin. His name is Bobby Chase and he’s got a lead sled that my brother Danny would have given his left nut for. Bobby offers to drive us to P-town. He claims he’s going that way and I can see that Greg doesn’t believe him, but he’s intrigued. He has no use for God and can’t wait to spend a few hours breaking down one of His representatives along with cadging a free ride.
I wonder how he’s going to make himself comfortable in the back seat of a Forty-Nine Mercury, but in spite of exhaustion, and whatever he’s taking, he’s actually alert and attentive, practically leaning his way into the front, so avid is he to start the interrogation.
“So, Bobby, what did they catch you doing in the barracks that got your pretty tuchus sent back to the States?”
I see Bobby smile, as he eases down on the gas pedal, but I also catch a flicker of concern. Everyone has secrets and it’s Greg’s goal in life to expose them in the most painful way possible, except when the secrets are his own.
“Make a deal with you, mate,” he replies with remnants of a Boston accent, but he’s clearly been gone awhile and picked up vowels in Europe and diphthongs from as far away as Australia. It’s a mess, but oddly pleasing. “Question for question. I answer one; then you do.”
“Sure, man, I’ll play,” Greg replies casually and I feel my sphincter tighten. There’s no way Bobby Chase can know the right questions and Greg is an accomplished liar, but it’s still dangerous territory. When I get the truth from Greg, it needs to be private.
After nearly four hours spent barreling through the fog at a speed that verges on suicidal, given the lack of visibility, Bobby knows about Greg’s parents losing their money, his stint in the air force, the scholarship to Julliard and his affair with Bettie Page. I know about ninety percent to be pure bullshit, except for Julliard. I’m not sure about Bettie Page.
Greg manages to find out that Bobby was a wash-out from a seminary school in Brookline, who took the easy way out when Uncle Sam came calling. There was a trip into the wrong bunk and a dishonorable discharge, and now’s he’s driving the Mercury around the country, looking for answers to the big questions. He thinks God is dead, but he needs to be absolutely sure. His next stop is an old friend in P-town. Bobby gives us the address before he drops us off at Foreman’s bungalow. It’s a stone’s throw from the beach and again I wonder how this could ever be a comfortable place for Eric Foreman and why he’d let us stay here. Then I feel the wind from the ocean cut through my coat and think maybe it’s a brutal joke.
I watch the Merc drive off, thinking again of Danny. I’d love to tell him about Bobby Chase’s car, but he’s not talking to me, and I’m not sure he ever will again.
I’m too cold and tired to protest when Greg gets in by trying to pick a lock and then breaking a window when that doesn’t work. So much for Foreman letting him use the place. He’d probably just been stupid enough to let Greg find out the address.
The bleakest of morning suns is starting to peak through the darkness, and I’m desperate for some shut-eye. What’s another crime or another enemy? I’m surprised Greg is still on his feet. Except he isn’t. He’s on Foreman’s floor with a scratch on his check that’s more than a scratch because he’s cut it on the jagged glass left from breaking the window. I want to do something about it, but Greg won’t let me. I have vague worries about infection, madness really, since I know what his arms look like under the long sleeves he wears no matter the heat of New York summers. He’s indestructible. He’ll outlive us all.
Only I think we’re going to freeze to death in that place. There must be a heater somewhere, but we’re both exhausted and it’s easier to crawl into a bed and pull every blanket on top of us. The clothes and coats and shoes stay on, but once we’re in bed something else takes over. It’s been months since our last trip together. We’d ended up in New Orleans, in a rooming house in the French Quarter. It was like we were drowning in our own sweat and the steam rising off our slippery naked bodies like some kind of primordial swamp dwellers.
We grab and grope under the blankets, seeking body heat as much as sexual satisfaction, and yet somehow we find the latter with only the friction of clothed bodies, then finally we sleep and I’m free of dreams, but not questions. The need to know returns. It’s the last thing I think of when I doze off and the first thing when I wake up.
The wake up comes who knows how many hours later and it’s not voluntary. Shouting. Lots of shouting. Police. Put your hands up. Tritter. Tritter? Definitely Tritter. All the way up from New York and definitely out of his jurisdiction, but his gun and his billy club and the broken window give him all the jurisdiction he needs. I’m guessing there’s a warrant, but to my parent’s greatest shame, I am neither a lawyer nor a doctor. I’d say I’m a teacher, but since it’s Monday and I’m not at work, that’s probably not the case anymore.
I glance over at Greg…he’s not there. For which I thank the same God that Bobby Chase is still looking for, because as bad as this is, the only thing that would be worse is if Tritter and bunch of local cops, no doubt Irish Catholic to a man, found the two of us in bed together.
I assume Greg’s gone to the can and even if they find him cooking up a dose, it’s still better than the alternative, especially since I know my skivvies are still sticky with the results of our sickness. They don’t, apparently. He’s just taking a leak, which leads me to wonder if Greg actually came here to clean up. I’d be touched if I wasn’t under arrest for breaking and entering and if I didn’t know that when Greg gives the gift of needing me, it’s because he wants something more.
Tritter has his meanest cop grin on and he lets his boys rough us up just enough to make up for the over-time. I wince more for Greg than myself, especially when one of Tritter’s bully boys from Southie lands a blow on the same cheek where I saw the cut earlier.
The Barnstable County Sheriff is a fat bastard with a cushy job, and if he’s less than thrilled with New York taking over his little fiefdom over two dirty Beats from the Big Apple, he won’t show it by making my life any easier.
He does agree to put us in a cell together, and not in the main drunk tank, because even though I don’t doubt that Greg is doped to the eyeballs on something, we’re clearly not drunk or disorderly. He even gets me a damp towel to try and clean up Greg’s face, but he still has to get his sadistic little pleasure so he puts us in a moldy dungeon-like room with one window where the harsh afternoon sun is like the lord’s own flashlight, and it’s clear that Greg is suffering from withdrawal, the on-going trauma of being Greg House.
We’ve given Tritter a chance and he’s going to use it. He’ll get Greg back to New York and keep him in the Tombs until he’ll confess to anything, including murdering Amber with his bare hands. It might be justice, but it won’t be the truth and I can’t let it happen.
I make the one call and start polishing up my shame face.
It’s not fair really, if anyone should be ashamed it’s her, and yet she’s the only one who can get us out of this mess with her money and connections and she’ll need her pound of flesh which comes in the form of bowing before her sense of martyrdom. Greg won’t do it; he’ll rot in a cell and walk to the chair before he admits anything of the sort.
I stop checking my watch long before she shows up, but it’s getting dark, shadows creeping across a cell that must have been waiting long before the Mayflower got to Plymouth. Greg is on his knees with the dry heaves, when her drily ironic purr attacks us through the bars.
“Hello Greg. Hi Jimmy.”
Only Stacy Warner wears pearls and a Dior suit to jail, and I’ll be she made sure Tritter and the Sheriff got a full gander. She’s a shape in a drape to be sure. Greg crawls back to his cot and pretends to ignore her, but I know what the sight of her does to him and that makes what I have to do even harder.
“Stacy. Thank god you’re here.”
“Why, Jimmy, why? Why does he do these things?”
Oh, she’s a piece all right. All sad kohl-rimmed eyes, and her sleek, dark hair, being pushed off her forehead for dramatic effect.
I can’t say all the things I’m thinking. I hate her with every fiber of my being. She’s the woman in all the legends about Greg House. The society girl who make him a junkie a then walked away. She got clean, but he couldn’t. Before her, he was the most promising young pianist in Manhattan. Now he’s a miserable genius who can’t keep a gig.
“Because he never got over you.” I nearly choke on the words. “I should have stopped him. He wanted to get away.”
“He always wants to get away.”
“Stacy. Please. We have to get him out of here. I’ll do anything.”
“Detective Tritter…that poor girl.”
“Tritter’s a madman and making Greg suffer isn’t going to bring Amber back. I’ll get him to check himself into Bellevue. He’ll play at your next garden party. Anything.” I let my voice crack and she catches me at it.
“Laying it on a bit thick, aren’t we?”
I bite back the bile.
“Sorry. It’s just…”
She smiles. It’s a good thing I’m on the wrong side of a jail cell.
“You two should stay away from each other.”
If she couldn’t fix him, no one can. If she can’t have him, no one will. Better he should be the greatest stride player that no one ever hears of because he’ll walk off any session over creative differences, he’ll blow off gigs on a dope-fueled whim, and he can’t get along with a single club owner in the tri-state area. Besides, Tritter’s already had his cabaret license pulled.
I smile. My uptown smile. The teacher’s smile. The one I used the first time I saw Larry struggling to make sense out of John Dos Passos. Stacy can’t be seduced, but she can still be charmed.
“You’re a liar, but you know I love you.”
Greg is making retching noises, but I can’t tell if it’s withdrawal or a comment on the comedy unfolding a few feet away from him.
“Where’s Lisa?” he manages to grit out.
She doesn’t answer, but does take the time get out a compact and lipstick. The girl knows how to put on a show. Lisa must be out in the car. Lisa does the driving, so no one has to admit that Stacy is a menace to herself and others, behind the wheel and everywhere else. No one knows who was driving the night that Greg and Stacy got into that accident, the one no one is supposed to talk about, that left Greg with a scar and a taste for medical grade morphine, which quickly became a need for whatever he score on the mean streets of the lower east side.
Stacy sashays off to sign papers and pay bail and call her daddy’s friends in Albany and Boston or maybe even Washington DC. One way or another, she’ll get us out. Escaping is what she’s good at. Leaving the scenes of crimes and never getting her hands dirty.
Not this time. Somehow I know what Greg has in mind. He may be dirty, sick, stinking, and utterly dependent upon the kindness of those who would better be strangers, but his brain never stops working and he has a plan. I suspect there’s a certain fallen angel and a Forty-Nine Mercury involved and most important the chance to leave Stacy high and dry, having put up a butt-load of her daddy’s money. We’re going to leave the state and the coast and Tritter’s obsession and the tatters of two once-promising careers.
But first we have to talk. Really talk. If I’m going to walk away from everything, I need the answers or at least one of them.
Lisa is supposed to drive us to my cousins in Dorchester, but she’s as corrupt as she is beautiful and it doesn’t take much to pay her off. She’ll rat us out of course, but by then it will be too late. We’ll be gone, baby, gone, one way or another.
She takes us back to P-town and flashes some cleavage at the single cop posted to make sure we don’t go back to Foreman’s place to get inside so she can grab my duffle bag and a very important black case that Greg left in the bathroom. Maybe she offers to blow him. She’s got a mouth made for it, the way Stacy’s is made for lies, and Amber’s was made for kisses and Larry’s was made for…
“Foreman set us up.”
I figured that one out about five minutes after the cops kneed me in the balls, but hadn’t thought it was worth mentioning and wasn’t in much shape for talking then.
He sounds genuinely shocked. Is that hard to believe that a Negro would ally himself with the cops against him? Does he truly believe that all the pain he inflicts has no consequence simply because his is so much greater?
Of course he does. Lisa drops us off near the beach, giving Greg a too close kiss just for an “old friend,” and making me wonder again who was driving the car. Another mystery for another day.
I have only one question in mind and there’s no turning back from it. The sun is setting over the Cape as we walk on the sand. I breathe in the sharp salt air and feel the wind bruise my cheeks.
“What happened, Greg?” I’m not whispering anymore. I’m shouting against the gusts and the waves and the tears in my eyes might just be from the cold. “What the hell happened to Amber?”
“You weren’t there.” He doesn’t have to yell, but it burns my ears just the same. “I was sick and you weren’t there.”
“Why was she with you?”
“Because you weren’t there,” he enunciates one more time, and if I’d actually eaten that day, it might be my turn to throw up. Greg sees my distress and it’s the happiest I’ve seen him since before Amber died.
I wasn’t there and that drove Amber to Greg, the only one who understood, even if they hated each other for it. They both needed me. He needed dope and she felt obliged to help him, because even after months in the darkness that’s the kind of person she was. An angel.
“But….why that way? In a hotel? What was she doing in the hotel?”
“I didn’t tell her to turn a trick; I told her to con some rube. Grab the wallet while he was in the john. Threaten to tell his wife. Something went wrong.”
“You think?” I snap bitterly, but it’s half-hearted now.
He turns it on me with his softest, most seductive voice, like a Lester Young solo.
“Where were you, Jimmy?”
My answer is a two note coda that could drive our friendship into the ground for good.
He’ll imagine the details as worse than they were, although they’re bad enough. I was his teacher, and I should have known better. I had Amber and she was perfect, but Larry was so beautiful, and so willing and wanted me so much. Who knew what it would do to him? Or Amber. Or Greg. Or me. Now we know who’s really guilty, who really killed Amber. And yet if I confessed to Tritter, he’d be more interested in locking me up as a degenerate than a murderer.
We walk in silence because there are no more words. The tide is coming in and we have to move ever further up the beach to avoid the water. Darkness is settling over the Cape and I can make out a bonfire in the distance.
The lure of oblivion is pulling me toward the ocean. I can end my guilt and Greg can end his pain. We’ll wash up dead somewhere and Stacy can have her crowning moment of public sorry, my parents can glare at his parents and maybe Danny will actually forgive me.
Or we can walk to the fire and beyond, find Bobby Chase and drive off to see the world and find out if God is really dead.
Either way, we’re going together.