The Sound of Silence
"Sooner or later it's over, I just don't want to miss you tonight…" - The Goo Goo Dolls, "Iris"
Dr. James Wilson let out a long sigh and unknotted the tie he was wearing. The soft blue tone didn't feel right to him. This wasn't a social event he would soon be asked to attend; it was the funeral that he had spent the last week and a half dreading. The thought of having to inter to woman that he loved was more than he could handle, but he handled it in the same fashion he had so often handled when faced with giving a mother of two small children the news that she was terminal: with a detached sense of efficiency. He followed the creed that had been laid out before him by the man he so often called "friend", but in the light of recent events had began to question the veracity of that title.
It was because of Dr. Gregory House that he was standing alone in the bedroom that he had once shared Dr. Amber Volakis trying to decide which tie would allow him to maintain an illusion of acceptance without revealing the disastrous truth of how he felt. He knew that no matter what he wore he wouldn't be able to conceal the truth from those closest to him, but it wasn't House or Dr. Lisa Cuddy that he feared, it was the Fellows under him and House's team that concerned him. It was those that looked to him for help, guidance, and support that he would be wearing the fragile façade for; it was for those that might doubt his ability to continue and would start to question his confidence. It was, in essence, a mask that he would wear to hide from himself.
"This isn't working for me," he spoke aloud to no one, "I need something that's a bit less cheerful." he said wrapping the soft blue tie around his hand. It wasn't until he reached the collection of ties resting on the bed he had bought with Amber that he noticed that the tie wrapped around his hand was cutting off his circulation. He felt the silk of the tie becoming tighter around his hand, but he had fought the sensation that was building until he couldn't bear it any longer. Looking down he saw that the fingers on his right hand were becoming a strange shade of purple. Closing his fingers around the silk tie he felt the strain course through him. It was strange and almost alien to him, however, it felt like an old friend he hadn't spoken with in years returning to him.
Wilson allowed the sensation to linger for a moment longer before unwrapping the tie from his hand. Glancing over the selection before him, he rested the silk tie back where it had been before, filling in the gap between the assorted shades of blue he had set out minutes before. Moving further down the color spectrum he knew that he wanted something a bit darker. In an effort to circulate the blood in his hand, he ran his right hand across the ties until he came to a stone-washed gray tie. It was dark enough that it wouldn't seem out of place in a funeral, but it was light enough that those around him wouldn't take a second look at him. Affording himself a moment to himself, he lifted the tie from the bed and walked over to the mirror. "Much better," he whispered to himself, "this will do fine." he continued.
Satisfied with the selected tie, Wilson rested the loose tie around his neck. The man looking back at him in the mirror was a complete stranger. His face was littered with the shadows of facial hair, something James Wilson didn't often allow for, casting a strange almost House-like aura over him. Moving in closer he could see the black outlines that had taken residence under his eyes, aging him twenty years overnight. Wilson knew there wasn't much he could do about that, however, he did remember a trick that Amber had once shown him. Scanning the edge of the vanity near the edge of the bed he spotted the compact that Amber had left the evening she went to bring House home from the bar.
Taking a deep breath, Wilson walked over to the vanity and removed the compact. He felt strange opening the compact and looking at himself, but he knew that he had to do something about the ravages of emotional war under his eyes. Moving the mirror so he could see where he had to apply the makeup, he removed the soft sponge from its center location and gently traced under his right eye. He watched as the makeup covered and concealed the darkness that lurked. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough to sell the illusion that he was trying to create. Once he was satisfied with the right eye he moved to the left and did the same. Several moments later he was finished and looked more like the man he had once been.
Wilson ran his left hand across his face, feeling the rough ridges and needle-like sensation of the facial hair and frowned. He would have to shave before he left for the funeral. It would be disrespectful to show up looking like he hadn't slept in since her death and lost track of his razor - even if it was the absolute truth - Amber deserved better than that. Feeling a small chill run through his veins, he shivered and walked into the bathroom where he had left the razor. Glancing down at his wrist to check the time, he saw that he had about an hour and a half before the funeral would start. More than enough time to shave and clean up. Enough time to create a façade and conceal the fact that even though on the exterior he was calm and collected, inside an emotional war was being waged.
As he reached over the sink to turn on the faucet he saw the faint remains of an "x" etched on the webbing of his left hand. He knew that the mark was a reminder, but he couldn't quite recall what it was reminding him of. Shaking it off, he turned the handle and allowed the warm water to rush out over his hand. Closing his eyes for a brief moment to collect his thoughts and afford the heat from the water to create steam, Wilson remembered what the mark was a reminder of. He had been asked, or in this case demanded in a loving tone, to check in with Cuddy before he left for the funeral. He would do that once he had shaved and was feeling something close to his former self.
Once the heat from the steam alerted Wilson that it was time to begin, he brought the razor to his face. He knew that he should have applied shaving cream before he risked cutting himself with each stroke, but he didn't care. He wanted to feel the sting of each hair being removed. He wanted to feel something, anything, that wasn't the cold feeling that had been creeping its way into him these last couple of weeks. As he drew down on the first stroke, he felt the sharpness of the blades against his soft flesh and cringed with each hair that was removed. Bracing himself for the second stroke, he knew what to expect, and wasn't as frightened by the sensation. The sting remained for the duration, but with each successful stroke he felt less and less of the sensation he had created the first time.
It wasn't long before he was finished. Using his right hand to make sure there wasn't anything left, he was satisfied as he inched across his chin and down his throat. He rested his hands on the edge of the sink for a moment before wiping clean the mirror to make sure he was finished. Upon clearing the mirror he saw that the stranger than had once occupied the visage had been replaced by the familiar and almost effeminate James Wilson. He was - more or less - returned to the man that Amber had fallen in love with, House called his friend, and Cuddy had known as her silent confidant. There wasn't much more he could do except wear a faint smile and hold the emotional thunderstorm at bay.
Wilson walked back into the bedroom and removed his dress coat from the far end of the bed. Glancing over at the closet door he saw the trench coat he often wore to the hospital hanging on the door handle. He was taken in by how the small handle was able to support the weight of the coat and his mind drifted to his relationship with Amber. She had often been the one to support his weight, drag him along, and ask him to look at himself and describe what he saw. He felt a pang of heartache wash over him, but instead of fighting it back he allowed it to consume him for a moment. A small voice in the back of his mind reminded him that denial was the first stage of Grief, but he could have cared less.
As he brought the dress coat around, he remembered that he hadn't finished doing his tie. He wanted to leave it as it was, but he knew that Amber, had she been alive, wouldn't have tolerate such behavior. Swallowing the emotional tidal wave that was about to wash him ashore in his mind, he fixed the tie and brought the dress coat the last bit over to complete his look. Moving back over to the closet door, he removed the trench coat. He knew that he might not need it, but something deep inside of him wouldn't allow him to leave it. Taking a long breath, holding the oxygen in longer than he normally would have, Wilson reached into his breast pocket of the dress coat and removed his cell. Looking down with enough trepidation to cause his hands to shake, he opened his contacts list and scrolled down to Cuddy's number. A moment later he brought the cell to his ear and listened as the other line rang.
"Cuddy," the female voice on the other end of the line answered, "I'm almost done with the requisitions at the hospital. I shouldn't be too long." she continued. Wilson was taken aback for a moment before he realized that she didn't know who was on the other end of the line.
"Lisa," he started, "it's me. I was calling because you had asked me to. Before I left for the funeral?" he continued, "I could care less about the requisitions that are on your desk right now." he said feeling a tinge of anger building inside of him. He was never that short with her and he was afraid that she might have taken it the wrong way. "I'm sorry, Lisa." he said in a desperate attempt to cover his ass. He wasn't sure if it mattered or not, but he was satisfied having made an attempt to repair the damage done.
"Oh," she said reflexively, "I'm incredibly sorry about that, James. I didn't realize it was you. I thought you were, uh, someone else." she continued. Wilson could sense that she was attempting damage control from something that House had done. He knew that it would be a bad idea to press the issue too far, but his curious nature wouldn't allow him to let it hang.
"I know it isn't something I should be concerning myself with right now," he asked testing the water, "but what did House do this time? He hasn't killed someone has he?" he asked. There was a long lull in the conversation. Wilson knew that she was searching for the right answer, something that would leave him at ease about the situation.
"He was being the same brash, over zealous, narcissistic bastard that we both know and love," she offered, "but to offer an answer, no he didn't kill someone. Though, this is one of those times when I wish he had. It would be easier to control and deal with." she said letting out a long sigh. Wilson could hear the exhaustion in her voice and was starting to feel like he was pressing the wrong buttons. "But this isn't your fight, James."
"I know," he replied dully, "I don't want to be short here, but was there a reason you wanted me to call you before I left or not?" he asked. There was a tinge of anger in his tone, but he didn't care. He knew that she would understand. He wanted to believe that she would understand. "I don't have a lot of time and I'm about to walk out the door," he continued, "so if there's something that you're looking to find out or say now is the time." he said with a finality that shocked even him. Had he really become this despondent?
"Just wanted you to know that there are those of us who do care, James. You're not alone," she offered, "and even though you might feel like you alone I want you to know that I'm here." she continued. Wilson could feel the emotions churn within himself, but he couldn't allow them to break through a second time. Cuddy was making an honest attempt to be a friend.
"Thank you," he offered," I'll be seeing you at the funeral." he said. He waited another moment for her to say something else, silently counting the seconds until it would be safe to end the call. There was nothing except a bitter silence on the other end of the line. Without much thought beyond what was said, Wilson ended the call. Letting the air out of his lungs, Wilson walked out of the bedroom and listened as the door closed behind him.
As he left the apartment he knew that it would be a few hours before he would return. He took a moment to consider locking the door or leaving it as it was, but he knew the kind of neighborhood he was in and wasn't about to risk it. Listening as the key turned in the lock, he felt a wave of nausea wash over him. Throwing himself to the side, he vomited into the bush next to the stairs. He tried to avoid looking down at what had exalted from his stomach, but he couldn't help it. He was entranced at the brown-red hues splashed across the bushes. There was something poetic about the feeling of release. Shaking it off, he reached into his trench coat's pocket to make sure it was still in there and let out a sigh of relief as his hand came across the shape of the bottle.
The drive to the funeral was one that Wilson could have never expected. He found himself flooded with memories of his life with Amber, each location that had been a set in their life together casting another shadow, each one becoming more painful than the one before it, each one another reminder of what he had lost along the way. The small coffee shop where he had asked her out, the Princeton-Plainsboro Park where the two of them shared their first ice cream, the mattress store where he had made the mistake of buying the mattress she wanted and not one he wanted, every wonderful moment spent with her came flooding back to him, and each one held a darker tone than the one before. Would he ever be able to look at those stores the same? Behold the memories the same?
Wilson could feel himself becoming anxious with each passing moment, but he wanted to maintain control over himself. He would have allowed himself the chance to fall apart on the drive to the funeral, alone, but he knew that he wouldn't be able to compose himself at the funeral if he had. He knew that it would require a strength from within that he did not possess to bring himself back in time. He was three miles out from the cemetery where Amber was being interred when he felt the tidal waves becoming stronger. Reaching into his pocket he groped for the bottle, knowing that the assurance that it was still there might be enough, but he knew before he found it that he was wrong.
Grasping at the round bottle Wilson fought with himself. He knew that he had been becoming dependent on the Valium, almost as dependent as House was on his Vicodin, and that was a road that he wasn't interested in walking down. Wilson swallowed the lump in his throat as he removed the bottle from his coat and rested it on the dash of the car. He would drive the last few miles to the funeral and see where he was when he arrived. If he was still feeling the crushing weight on his shoulders he would allow himself to take one or two, but if he was able to control his emotions he would leave the bottle in the car. Out of sight, out of mind. He couldn't allow himself to become like House was.
As he approached the parking lot of the cemetery he felt another wave of nausea come over him. This time, however, he fought back the pressure that was building in his throat and leaned back in the seat. Glancing around he saw that he was the first to arrive. This afforded him to chance to medicate, if needed, without revealing or having to explain to those around him what was going on. No one had known, except Amber, and she had been an advocate of leaving the bottle home and facing the anxiety without medication. Taking a moment to collect himself, to brace himself, to allocate his emotions, he knew. He knew that he wasn't strong enough to do it alone. Amber would have to deal with him being medicated during her funeral. He took a deep breath and reached across the dash.
Checking once more to make sure that no one was around, Wilson removed the cap on the bottle and watched as three round foreign objects fell in his hand. He looked around the car to see if he had a bottle of water with him, but soon realized that his search was futile. He would have to take them straight. Taking a deep, long breath, he brought his hand to his mouth. Seconds later he felt the Valium land on his tongue and with a swift swallowing gesture Wilson drew the pills down his throat. There was a moment of discomfort that was followed by another wave of nausea, but he was able to fight it back. He would, in a few minutes, be able to face the crushing guilt, anger, and betrayal that awaited him.