Fic: Take the Long Way Home
Title: Take the Long Way Home
Characters: House, Wilson, Cameron, Cuddy, mention of others (Foreman and Taub).
Rating: "R" for sex talk and intimate body parts.
Warnings: Yes, for crack.
Summary: "I.S.R.," he says. "Involuntary Sex Reassignment." 2,649 words.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Never will.
Author Notes: This is not meant to be a treatise on gender, sexual politics, or anything else besides what it is -- a crack AU, set in a world that is most definitely not our own. Much creative license has been taken with ... well, everything. There are a few notes at the end; title and LJ-cut text are taken from the song of the same name by Supertramp.
Beta: My intrepid First Readers, with especial thanks to hannahorlove and deelaundry.
Take the Long Way Home
Wilson braces himself against the bathroom wall, left arm straight, palm flat against the pale blue wallpaper. Why he'd had that last beer, he doesn't know, but God his bladder is already thanking him in anticipatory relief as he reaches inside his boxers to twitch himself out and ...
"Um," Wilson says cogently as he continues to fumble. His bladder is grumbling now, such a fickle bastard -- he can almost hear it muttering come on, come on, come on.
"Um," Wilson says again, more urgently this time, and at last he gives up and does an agitated little two-step in the bathroom as he tugs his underwear down.
He stands there for a long moment, the full-bladder urgency forgotten as he cups his genitalia. Or rather, as he cups his lack of male genitalia -- where before he was convex, he is now concave, a perfect half-moon of labia majora, tufted with crisp curls of pubic hair.
Wilson stares for a moment, then his bladder takes matters into its own hands (figuratively speaking, of course), and a few droplets of warm urine trickle down the inside of his right thigh. He executes a quick pirouette and sits down on the toilet.
Oh, he thinks. I've ... become a girl.
"There's a lot of that going around," House says.
"There's a lot of what going around?" Wilson's keeping his legs crossed; that way it's harder for him to tell that anything's missing.
House pours himself another cup of coffee, tilts the bright red cup against his lips and swallows.
"I.S.R.," he says. "Involuntary Sex Reassignment," and is he staring at Wilson's crotch or is it just Wilson's imagination? House swings his way back to his desk and eases himself into his Eames chair. "Swappage, if you will." He is staring at his crotch, Wilson just knows it. "Or if you won't. Happened to Foreman last week."
Wilson recrosses his legs, this time resting his right ankle on his left knee to try and block House's view of his groin. He grits his teeth.
"You didn't tell me," he says.
"What was there to tell? He was a girl for a day, he woke up the next morning and the mamba was back in its lair." House settles a little more comfortably into his chair. "Last major outbreak was in 1916," he says. "Don't tell me they didn't cover the Great Presidential Perplexion in your eighth-grade American History class."
"Don't let Cuddy hear you call it that," Wilson mutters. "How did you know about Foreman?"
"You think I don't know Foreman after all these years?" House replies, but his answer's just a beat late in coming.
"And what about you?" Wilson says.
House shrugs. "What about me?"
"Is it ... affecting you?"
House looks at him. "Right," he drawls. "Like I'd turn into a girl."
"Oh, he's totally a girl," Cameron says. She takes another bite of her chicken-salad sandwich and nods at the same time to emphasize her point.
Wilson watches her head bob up and down as she chews. It's pretty obvious that while House may be a girl today, Cameron is not. She'd walked over to Wilson's table in the cafeteria with that peculiarly stiff-legged gait common to those who've suddenly undergone ISR, and grimaced as she'd sat down.
She leans back in her chair and dabs at her lips. "And it's not even that he really minds being a girl," she continues. "It's just the whole emasculation thing, you know? House can't handle that."
"He ... told you all this?" Wilson inquires.
"Are you kidding? This is House we're talking about." Cameron picks up a slice of pickle from her plate and uses it as a pointer. Wilson watches, hypnotized, as the limp green dill plank waves in the air.
"Maybe it would be different if he'd gotten boobs, but that's not the way ISR works." She pauses, and her eyebrows scrunch together in a momentary wrinkle of contemplation. She eats the pickle. "Of course," she says, "we still don't know how ISR really does work, and seeing as how it's been around ... well, forever, I guess that's a moot point."
"I guess so," Wilson agrees. He feels slightly dazed, and wonders if that's a side effect of ISR.
From across the cafeteria, he spots a familiar face -- Jeannie the cardiology nurse is eating alone. From her slumped shoulders and dejected demeanor, Wilson guesses that ISR has, in its perverse selection, given her back the one piece of anatomy that she'd rejected in her former life as Eugene.
Cameron follows his gaze, and, obviously sensing their focus, Jeannie looks up. She flashes a wry smile and waves, and Cameron waves back before turning her attention back to her lunch.
"At least it'll go away on its own this time," Cameron mutters, and Wilson instinctively squeezes his thighs together. Nope, still nothing there that needs protecting. Cameron looks at him.
"How do you guys do it, anyway?" she says.
"Do what?" Her eyes are gimlet-bright with curiosity, and Wilson feels the sudden urge to push his chair away from the table, stand up, and back away slowly. She tucks a stray strand of hair behind one ear, but her eyes never leave his face.
"Keep from bumping into things?" she says. "Every time I turn around I feel like I'm going to walk into something." She frowns at her guilty lap. "It's always in the way."
Wilson stares at her.
"I think ... my pager just went off," he says faintly, and leaves her there, still contemplating the surprise guest in her pale yellow scrubs.
"He called it the Great Presidential Perplexion," Wilson says. Cuddy rolls her eyes.
"Oh, what did you expect?" she snaps. "House is a jerk no matter what he's packing in his pants. He's just pissed he had to work Susan B. Anthony Day this year." She taps a few keys on her open laptop. "Anyway, I've heard it called worse. Just goes to show what sore losers you all are." She fixes him with an accusatory, chisel-sharp gaze. "Did you know the Museum of the Americas still refuses to hang Alice Paul's official portrait?"
"Well, but she was never really sworn in, and -- "
"Just because the ISR outbreak reversed itself right before the ceremony ... " Cuddy's grumbling trails off as she abandons the laptop in order to hunt through the short stack of reports on her desk. "Stupid lousy timing," she mutters. She glances up at Wilson again. "Look, you want some advice?" she asks.
Wilson isn't sure he does, but then again he doesn't see much choice in the matter.
"Enjoy it while it lasts," Cuddy says, "and if House invites you anywhere -- just say no."
The next few days are interesting.
He catches himself unzipping in front of the urinal before having to retreat to a stall.
Nothing fits correctly -- his pants, even the chalk pinstripes belonging to his favorite Brooks Brothers, seem to billow and ride up at the same time. Everything's either too long or too short in the inseam; it feels as if everyone in the hospital is staring at him, even though he knows they're more concerned with dealing with their own reassignment problems. The outbreak seems particularly virulent this time, although so far the World Health Alliance hasn't declared it a pandemic.
House, meanwhile, has been engaging in activity that could only be described as stalking. He's showing up at administrative meetings, even though the Divination Department's been excused from attending ever since the unfortunate incident with the goat and the sack of beans. He never says anything -- just sits silently in his rumpled dark jacket like a brooding monk, watching Wilson. He's stolen Wilson's pocket protector, God only knows for what mysterious Apollonian rites. Wilson just hopes he gets it back in one piece.
His court reservation for a lunch game with Chrissie Taub is cancelled by a "Mrs. Wilson." Wilson curses impotently -- House is being his usual bastard self, or perhaps it's bitch self this time. Bitch or bastard, it's House as God made him; there's never been much Wilson could do about that, so he decides not to try.
Not too long after The Change, he's hunkered down over a hand mirror he's laid flat on the floor, inspecting himself with all the wonder of a botanist examining an entirely new order of an already rare species.
How do women do it? he thinks. Aren't they afraid they'll sit down on something? He touches his new parts, gently at first, then with greater confidence.
Vulva. Labia majora. Labia minora. Vaginal introitus. And that tiny, hooded thing ...
"Oh," Wilson says. "Wow."
The very next day, House invites him out for drinks, at a lounge downtown in the old warehouse district.
Wilson, against his better judgment (and the fact that he really wants to stay home and play with his new parts some more), says yes.
"House, seriously, what is this place?" Even asking the question, Wilson isn't sure he wants to know. The same stylized letters that marked the neon signpost of the establishment on the street are repeated in a giant scrim over the stage -- black and silver, they proclaim this to be The Zigzag Cabaret in a retro logo straight out of the 1930s.
"Don't you like it?" House says. "I thought this would be right up your alley, the way you latch onto all those Turner Classic snore-fests." His fingers are turning the glass of whiskey he's been sipping all night; the golden liquid moves in hypnotic patterns as if caught in a tiny wave machine. On stage, a woman in a black silk cocktail dress is singing a medley of Cole Porter songs, accompanied by a solo piano.
At least, Wilson thinks it's a woman.
"I'm not taking you anywhere again if you're not happy," House says. Someone -- definitely a woman -- laughs close by, a couple of tables away. It's a shrill, harsh sound, and Wilson flinches a little.
"It's not that I'm not happy," he says. "It's just that I don't know why you'd care."
House's eyes are hidden in shadow. "I'm wounded by that remark," he says, and takes another sip of his drink. Wilson rolls his eyes and looks back at the stage. The singer winks at him.
"Cuddy warned me about this place," Wilson blurts out, and it's House's turn to roll his eyes.
"What are you, five?" he asks roughly. "Cuddy just doesn't want everyone finding out she comes here for fun." He runs a thumb through the condensation on his glass. "Think about it," he says. "She's got no kids, her marriage sucks -- all she's got is her job and a few screwed-up friendships. And that's without ISR. Can you blame her?"
"I'm not blaming anybody," Wilson says. "It's just that I don't understand -- "
"Understand what, honey?" This close, Wilson can see the faint shadow on the singer's upper lip. She -- he -- smiles. "Did I hear you mention our dear Lisa's name?" Before Wilson can answer, he switches his gaze to House. "Haven't seen you here in a while, Greg. Planning on having some fun tonight?"
"Thought so," House replies. "Not so sure now."
Wilson feels as if he's stumbled into a hall of mirrors. The singer makes a small tsk-tsk sound and lays something small and square on the table.
"Maybe this'll help un-confuse you," he murmurs. His hand lingers on House's shoulder. "Got to get back for my next set, or I'd stay longer." His return to the stage is greeted with polite applause as the pianist tinkles out the first music box notes of 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen.' Wilson picks up the little folded square.
It's a matchbook, ink-black with golden letters, the same logo as out front. He flips it open; the barest hint of sulphur tickles his nostrils, and on the inside flap is written:
The Zigzag Cabaret -- nunc scio quid sit amor
The translation takes a moment, but once Wilson has it he smiles.
"Now I know what love is."
"Virgil," House says. "Writing sappy lyrics for the vox populi way before Hollywood or Motown."
Wilson re-folds the matchbook and lays it aside. He's starting to think maybe he knows what this about, but he wants to make sure.
"And what do you want to know, House?" he asks.
"You," House says bluntly. "I want to know you."
Wilson's head is spinning. "You mean in the ... Biblical sense?"
"Whatever you want to call it," House snaps back, and now the spinning feeling is becoming a full-body experience, and Wilson finds himself wondering if this is some kind of modern-day shanghai joint where House is going to sell him to white slavers or pirates or --
"But ... we're both girls," Wilson protests weakly.
"Yeah," House says. He looks away for a moment. "About that -- "
And that's when it happens. The spinning feeling turns into a sinking feeling, like Wilson's being pushed forcefully, body and soul, through a very small keyhole. The sinking feeling gets all the way to his groin, where it suddenly changes, and then it's as if his ISR-generated genitalia are stretching, the muscle fibers and molecules shifting like a glove being turned inside out. And then the feeling's gone, and a familiar shape reasserts itself in his pants.
"Ah, fuck," he hears a woman at the next table mutter, and guesses that someone else has just undergone gender reversal.
Wilson touches himself, gently at first, and then probingly, to make sure everything's back where it's supposed to be. Penis, testes ... he only stops when he realizes he's groping himself in a semi-public place.
"Oh," he whispers, and is surprised at the sting of tears in his eyes. He feels as if he's lost something very important, but he'll be damned if he knows what. "You knew. That I was going to change back."
House shifts in his chair. "Yeah," he admits. "I was on Sam Szcimenski's team when he was doing ISR research at Hopkins. He believed he'd found a way to predict when the reversal would occur -- I dug out my notes and casefiles when it was clear there was another outbreak happening."
"And so you brought me here," Wilson says. "Because ... "
"Well, I thought about taking you to the Poconos," House grumbles. "But you'd probably turn out to be allergic to trees."
"So you ... and me ... you want me to ... "
"No strings," House says. "Consider it ... scratching a mutual itch."
Wilson narrows his eyes but allows the metaphor to slide.
"What about Foreman?"
House shakes his head. "Foreman's moved on," he says. "New nurse in Peds, name starts with a W ... Wendy or Wendell, something like that. I told him he should give the new internist a call -- the one with the French name, but does he listen?" He turns the matchbook over, and Wilson sees there's something else written on the back.
Carpe noctem, it says. Seize the night
House's eyes are everywhere but on his own.
"So," he asks in an exaggeratedly careless tone. "What do you say?"
The piano player and the singer who might be a man who might be a woman have gone back to Cole Porter, and the sultry chords of 'Too Darn Hot' provide a backbeat to the buzz of conversation and the scuffling of chairs.
"I say," Wilson says slowly, "when are you changing back?"
House grins at him but doesn't answer, and after a moment, Wilson smiles back.
Whatever happens -- and Wilson knows something will happen, whether it's something as unlikely as ISR striking twice in a lifetime or House figuring out a way to blow up the world or the two of them moving in together --
Whatever happens, it won't be boring.
Complete lyrics of "Take the Long Way Home" may be found here.
Alice Paul (1885 - 1977) was, along with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many others, an American proponent of women's voting rights. Her National Woman's Party actively opposed Woodrow Wilson and other incumbent Democrats in 1916 for their refusal to support a constitutional Suffrage Amendment. Wilson was reelected by a narrow margin. The Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing the right of women to vote, was adopted in 1920.
Although Susan B. Anthony Day is real, it is not a Federally-observed holiday.
More information about Divination may be found here. *g*
The name of the Zigzag Cabaret was borrowed from an episode of the television show Monk. The Latin on the Cabaret's matchbook is taken from the Wikipedia list of Latin phrases.