Title: Stress Test (House, M.D.)
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
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Archive: Mailing list archives only--others please ask permission!
Category: Relationship drama
Spoilers: None really, but set sometime in the midst of season 1
Rating: T for language and tame m/m interaction
Summary: Heading home
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me. House, M.D., was created by David Shore and is the property of Bad Hat Harry Productions, Garret van der Meer, Katie Jacobs, Paul Attansio, David Shore, and Bryan Singer, executive producers. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my submission to Goth Girl's "First Time Challenge". Because I had no one else to write who needed a first time, blame her for the pairing. She is also directly responsible for the setting.
DEDICATION: For Sandra, because she asked.
COPYRIGHT: (C) Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, May 11, 2005, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.
"Now boarding United Flight 660 to Newark. First-class passengers only at this time, please."
"That's us. Let's go."
"I'm not getting on that plane."
And so our trip continues. Greg has been unreasonable for the entire conference, and I have been coaxing and coddling him every step of the way.
He hasn't moved from his chair. "It's late. Don't you want to go home? Haven't you had enough of Chicago?"
"I don't care. It's the eastbound flight of the beast."
"I beg your pardon?"
He waves his boarding pass in front of my eyes. "Flight 666. I don't trust it."
I snatch it out of his hand and point at the printed figure. "This is Flight 660. You misread it."
"Oh," he remarks, squinting at the numbers, then shaking his head. "I'm tired."
"Then let's go home."
He's not kidding about being tired, because he almost falls back into his chair once he's pried himself out of it, leaning heavily on his cane. The carry-on bag hanging from his shoulder skews his balance precariously, but he insists on lugging it himself. I saw him put two matchbooks into it before we left the hotel restaurant.
"What are those for? You stopped smoking."
"Airline regulations let you have up to four books of matches in your carry-on luggage."
"So you have to have matches..."
"Because I can," he finished my thought with a victorious smirk.
"Are you sure it's your carry-on? The regulations keep changing. I think they're only allowed in your checked luggage now..."
I gave him a sad little nod. "Yep."
He dug them out and flung them back on the table. "Well, screw it, then."
One battle won, I guess.
Greg takes the window seat behind the bulkhead, and I stow his carry-on in the overhead bin along with my own. I toss the journals I've been meaning to read in the aisle seat, then fish the Gameboy and earbuds out of his bag and hand them to him. "Do you want your Earplanes?" I ask, earning a disinterested shake of his head as he paws through the seat pocket. I don't think I could feel any more like a doting mother of an easily-bored child if I had a Tupperware container of Rice Chex in my bag to give him mid-flight.
He's already perusing the airline magazine. "Movie... movie... Damn. Saw that one already."
I glance at the small illustrative photograph before he flips away to the audio programs. "I saw it. You fell asleep. If I hadn't nudged you after the lights came up, you'd still be there."
"What time are we supposed to land?"
"Ten. Ten-thirty. Something like that."
"You going into the hospital tomorrow?"
"I have to. Work to do."
He glances out the window at the grey Chicago sky with a grimace. "I think I'm going to call in in the morning. Could use the sleep."
"Bullshit. You'll head in to your office after I drop you off at home."
"Maybe I'll sleep in my office."
"Maybe you will."
Greg turns and glances at my magazines, as if he'd ever read medical journals on a plane. "You could always come in and make me stay home and go to bed," he leers openly.
"Julie expects me home. So no."
Giving me a fake pout, he holds his magazine next to mine for a moment and looks back and forth between them with great show. "Mine's better," he sighs, then settles back over an article on vacationing in New Orleans.
Were I to accuse him of flirting, he would pshaw and hit me directly in the solar plexus with his next words, even if they were ostensibly a compliment. It is unseemly for a man in his position, or mine for that matter, to be gay. So we aren't. I stay married for as long as this wife will have me, and Greg drops suggestive rejoinders in my lap as if I won't react, because I won't. Damn.
Just in time, the flight attendant sticks her head into our little luxury box. "What can I get you to drink?"
"Johnnie Walker Black, rocks."
"And you, sir?" she asks House politely.
"Tomato juice. No ice."
"You hate tomato juice," I chide him as soon as she's disappeared to her bar cart.
"I like it on an airplane."
I say nothing and wait for my drink.
The rest of the aircraft is boarded to the tune of tacky Musak and slamming overhead bin doors, and soon engines howl as we rumble away from the gate. The attendant waves a seatbelt and an oxygen mask in the air, and I pay her cursory attention. My traveling companion ignores her. We taxi out to get in line, and miraculously take off almost on time.
Greg watches the dim pavement zoom by the window with a steady gaze. The noise is so loud in the cabin that I can feel it, so instead of conversing, I observe him as he enjoys the rush of defying gravity. His eyes close, and he presses his head back against the cushioned seat with a rare smile. More than anything, I wish I could take his hand and share the sensation with him, but he is in his own little bubble and I dare not burst it.
Soon we are airborne, and my friend looks a bit lost, like a kid who realizes the parade is over. Even the delivery of his mysterious tomato juice doesn't perk him up. He plugs in the earphone jack and powers up his electronic toy, and all is peaceful for a little while.
Somewhere over Indiana, the "Fasten Seatbelts" sign comes on again. "We are heading into a small storm system, so the captain has asked that passengers please return to their seats and fasten their seatbelts for the time being. Thank you for your cooperation."
"Oh, fun," Greg sighs, no trace of fun in his demeanor. I can see the little screen of his game blink and fade to "Game over" with his momentary inattention. "Fuck it, anyway," he adds, switching off the gadget and tugging the cords of the earbuds so they pop out one at a time. Wrapping the cable around the case, he tucks the works between his leg and the armrest, then stares out at the darkened sky.
"Don't worry," I say mildly, perfectly aware that he's worrying already. "We'll be fine."
Just then, the plane drops, no more than two hundred feet, but enough to feel in my stomach and make everyone gasp a little. Greg visibly tenses and grasps the armrest. "How soon is too soon for your life to flash before your eyes?"
"Not yet, okay?" I tease with a smile. He doesn't look at me, though, so I try to think of distractions. "Nice hotel, wasn't it?"
"It was a hotel. It wasn't home."
"Could you get the heat set right in your room?"
He still doesn't even glance at me. "What do you mean?"
The plane hits a little turbulence, so I lean in close to his ear. "Damned Chicago in April. You'd think it might be spring, but it might as well be January there. And then the cleaning staff kept turning on my air conditioning! The first night I had burrowed under the blanket AND the bedspread before I noticed that the thermostat had been set to 65!"
"And they call that a luxury hotel. They should issue dogs upon check-in." It's a non-sequitur, but it shows that he's starting to be distracted from the choppy weather.
"I heard of a B&B once where every room came with a cat."
"Lemme guess. You went on your second honeymoon there. Wait. First honeymoon, second wife..."
"I actually understood what you meant. And no."
"With my luck, if I went there, my cat would curl up on my face."
"Well, at least you'd be warm."
With no warning, a bright flash of lightning shines several miles off out the window. I am startled, and while he doesn't show it, I can tell that Greg is terrified. The pilot starts taking the plane higher, presumably to get above the storm, but just then we hit a gusty area and are shaken lightly, like beans inside a set of maracas.
We are in very little danger, but the tension in the aircraft is pretty thick. The last thing I want to do is minimize his fears, or worse, give in to them myself. My ordinary reaction would be to make a small joke and change the subject, but then again, this is Greg.
Gallows humor it is, then, just loudly enough so he is the only one who can hear me. "We may not have much time left. Which of these lovely attendants would you like to blow you before you die?"
His knuckles still white upon the armrest, he finally turns sidelong to me and regards me sardonically. "Only the attendants?"
"Okay," I continue, casting a look around the cabin, effectively hiding my guilty grin, "which of the ladies in first class? There's that blonde in the blue suit, or the one in the nice pink sweater."
"The sweater wasn't what attracted my attention."
"Thought you'd like her..."
"There was that cute redhead in the waiting area. I think she's in coach..."
"Sorry--we're under 'fasten seatbelts'. Gotta be first class."
"Crap. The pink will have to do."
Since I want his undivided interest, I clamp my hand firmly over the wrist on the barrier beside me. With an exaggerated gesture of his head, he glances down at my hand, then back up at me, his eyebrow cocked curiously. "You with me?" I ask as intriguingly as I can manage with the plane vibrating worrisomely.
"Yeah," he nearly drawls, his eyes focused on me like blue lasers.
I give him a wicked half-smile and begin. "Are you picturing what's under that sweater?"
"Do you think they're real?"
"I honestly couldn't care less."
"Good attitude. Do you want her to take it off?"
"No. She's probably wearing a bra, and that would ruin the mental picture of them naked."
"Okay--so much for the preliminaries. Do you want her to kiss you?"
He considers this for a moment, then replies with his eyes narrowed slightly, "No."
"She's got pretty hands."
"Does she bite her nails?"
Discarding the notion of trying to make visual confirmation, I wing it. "No. Trimmed short, no polish."
"I like polish."
"Okay, I was mistaken. Clear polish with a little shimmer."
"Is it iridescent? Iridescent is good."
I shrug. "Why not? They glint in the light as she reaches for your fly..."
"No, she doesn't," he interrupts suddenly.
"She doesn't?" I ask, feeling like I've missed something.
With his other hand, he deliberately lifts my arm away from his. My heart drops two hundred feet...
...until he flips his hand over and grasps mine, interlacing our fingers tight. He leans toward me, his voice not even a whisper over the engine noises. "No," he says, "she doesn't."
"What happens next?" I fumble.
"What do you want to happen?"
"I beg your pardon?" I had been in complete control, and he has reduced me to babbling.
Bringing his head closer, he puts his mouth next to my ear and murmurs, "We're spending our last moments on earth. You don't want to watch while some total stranger sucks my dick."
Like an idiot, I reply, "I don't?"
"No--not when you'd rather be doing it yourself." He squeezes my hand hard, but not uncomfortably so.
"I--I never said..."
"You didn't have to." His head is so close, he barely has to move to align our mouths, and his tongue touches mine before our lips converge.
Dr. Gregory House kisses like he practices medicine: he probes and pokes, trying different tactics and building on what facts he learns. Imminent plane crashes, vision, oxygen--all are forgotten in the wake of this onslaught. He's still got tomato juice on his breath, which clashes terribly with my scotch, but I honestly don't care.
I can't allow myself to imagine him ever touching me beyond this, so I mentally triangulate the shortest route to the washroom to take care of this erection myself once the "fasten seatbelts" sign has been turned off. What I want from House is nearly inconsequential, or at least I need to make it that way, because I know I won't get it. Therefore, I am reluctant to stop kissing him back, because I will never get another chance.
However, as we shift our angle of attack, I open one cautious eye, which notes a curious onlooker peering between the seatbacks from the row behind us. I sense no hostility nor any kind of judgement at all, but our tiny hideaway is suddenly far too public, and I draw my mouth away from his slowly, swallowing hesitantly.
The intensity of his gaze as I pull back might set me on fire, but when he ducks toward me again to continue the contact, I slide my head out of reach and indicate our audience in the next row with my eyes alone. He doesn't gawk through the gap, but instead closes his eyes and lips as if to reset the entire interlude back to zero.
I follow his lead and reschool my breathing and facial expression to absolutely neutral. Do mistakes get erased from your permanent record if you pretend they never happened in the first place?
A small bell sounds over the loudspeaker. "The captain has once again turned off the 'Fasten seatbelts' sign, so you may move about the cabin freely. For your safety, please keep your seatbelt fastened while seated. Thank you for your cooperation."
Immediately, I pop up, saying, "I've got to, uh..." and gesturing awkwardly toward the door to the toilet.
He nods at me wordlessly from under his eyebrows, looking forbidding and forlorn all at once.
Just making it to the doorway before three other passengers, I smile in artificial apology and duck inside. Though I was hard and ready just moments before, my embarrassment at our discovery has dissipated the urge and helps me return to normal quickly. Soon I am soft enough to urinate unimpeded, so I do so and wash up with a speed that I hope is appreciated by the next person in line.
Greg is looking out silently at the dark sky when I return. I find my place in the journal I'd abandoned earlier and make a great pretense of reading. My eyes stick on one five-syllable word while the picture of Julie's smiling face hovers accusingly in the front my mind, despite my efforts to ignore it. Add to that distraction the remembered sensation of his tongue pushing against mine and his lips sliding sloppily and perfectly across my mouth, and there will be no more reading on this flight.
No one speaks until he excuses himself once the length of the washroom line has shortened, leaving me alone under my cloud of self-recrimination. It gives me little comfort that most of my regrets involve the brevity of the contact and not the mere fact of its existence.
Soon a cane precedes my colleague into our row, and he settles back into his seat, disturbing me as little as possible. The fragile intimacy we had achieved for a moment is gone, replaced with awkward politesse.
Attendants hurry around with in-flight meals, so we don't need to speak for awhile of anything other than food and utensils. I eat my food, though once it is gone, I have no memory of what it was.
After the trays are cleared away, and more beverages arrive, we sit breathing in identical patterns between sips. Without overture, House announces, "You will forgive me if I don't apologize."
The complete absurdity of this comment hits me, and I blink as my brain tries to sort it out. "House," I begin, only to be immediately interrupted.
"Do you think Julie will be waiting up for you when you get home?"
I get his message. The subject is closed. I have somebody else, and we will just go on acting like this huge thing isn't there between us. "Probably not. She has an early class on Mondays and goes to bed by nine-thirty."
"I TiVoed 'The O.C.' You could come in and watch it with me." Suddenly his eye twinkles, and order is restored.
The corner of my mouth tweaks up in spite of itself, and I hear myself ask, "So is Marissa still with that girl, or what?"
Fascinating conference. I may have even learned something about medicine there.
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