and another prodigal one...
title: blueprints from childhood
author: the unreliable narratress
fandom: House MD
episode/spoiler: vaguest references to the end of season 5
characters: House (teenage!House), Blythe, two OFCs and a whiff of Amber at the end
rating: gen, pg/pg13
warning: contains possibly disturbing descriptions of (childhood) alcohol ingestion and implemented abuse of medication
summary: He tried to sneak into the living room, but with his teenage body all knees and elbows and sharp angles, he ended up sluggishly trying to catch the lamp. - During his stay at Mayfield, House is forced to remember a childhood incident.
a/n: I wrote this one before the other two I’ve already posted, so if you find something out of tune, please let me know.
disclaimer: I have to feed a seven year old wabbit and a half a year old computer so please don't sue me. Seriously: I hope the idea to this story is mine, but I do not intend to touch the rights of the owner of the characters from House MD I’ve used. No moneymaking, no offence meant.
He tried to sneak soundlessly into the living room, but with his teenage body all knees and elbows and sharp angles, he instead ended up sluggishly trying to catch a lamp that usually sat on a small table next to the couch. The reading lamp’s imitated Tiffany style of amber and soft caramel colored glass discs perfectly matched the pattern on the throw over the back of the couch. He always wondered if his mother bought the lamp to match the throw or if she matched the thick plaid to the... well, NOW it wasn't quite a lamp anymore - just a pile of caramel and amber colored glass fragments and a fake golden frame, which showed turned upside down, that on the inside rust had overtaken the cheep paintwork.
He still tried to wrap his head around what happened when his mother showed up - her flannel, lavender-colored dressing gown and the smell of rosemary and lilacs from the lotion she used to keep her hands soft so familiar, so comforting, that he forgot to be afraid. At least for a moment.
Her hands flew up to her mouth; instinctively covering up whatever might have come first over her lips. "Gregory, what happened? Are you all right?"
He stared dumbfounded at the remains of the lamp, thinking she worried about the mess he left on the floor. "I'm s-sorry, Mom. I didn't mean to. Please don't tell Dad. I've s-saved some... some money; for a guitar from the thrift shop... I can buy a new lamp instead." The words stumbled over his lips, leaving a faint bad taste of disappointment, like spoiled food.
"I'm not talking about the lamp; I'm talking about you. Do you know how late it is? Greg, you're supposed to be in bed... it's a school night."
He tried to back away without causing suspicion, when she closed the distance between them, but it still felt like he was trying to walk through water and she was at his side in an instant.
Her eyes, washed-out violet blue, opened wide when she got the first whiff of the smell coming from her son. "Greg, is that beer I smell on you? And cigarette smoke? Where have you been? What have you done?" She grabbed his chin to raise his face. "Are you drunk, Gregory?" she whispered in horror.
"Jus... just a little. All the cool kids in my grade do it," he started to defend himself. "Just s-some beers. They said I couldn't be their friend if I wouldn' do it." He knew she wanted him to have friends. "I'll never do it again, I promise, Mom. Just don't tell Dad. Please."
She looked into his eyes; knowing something was off, but never able to tell what he was lying about. Maybe she didn't really know what to look for. Maybe she didn't want to know at all. "I'm only worried about you, honey, you know that. And if these boys force you to drink beer, they are not the right kind of friends for you. You need to stay away from them. They're a bad influence, do you understand."
He hung his head, looking all contrite and rueful. "Yes, mom. I promise." His stomach churned. It wasn't like he enjoyed lying to his own mother. "Can I..." he started to swallow convulsively as bile burned its way up his esophagus. "I think I'm going to..."
"Oh, dear." Blythe grabbed his shoulder instead of his chin and steered him into the kitchen, the room being closer to the living room as the bathroom, and bend his head over the sink just in time with the first heave coming out of his mouth. She rubbed his back comfortingly and held his head, while he tried to throw up as noiseless as possible as not to wake his father. Afterwards she gave him water to rinse his mouth and to drink and then sent him to bed. He left the kitchen, head and stomach aching and empty, feeling her eyes all the way up to his room in his back.
* * *
It had been just a matter of time that someone would catch him. Lots of fathers didn't like to see their bad habits mirrored in their children. John House was no exception. Of course, no drinking when he was on duty - only between tours. It wasn't a secret that a lot of flyboys were hard drinking between flights. Maybe it scared the hell out of them to be on the ground and not in total control of their surroundings. His father sure liked to be in control of everything.
Now - thirty-five years later - he still wondered that it took his mother almost three years to catch on his early childhood drinking habit. He started shortly after his twelfth birthday.
First, out of curiosity when he went over to Mrs. Orchard's house, their next-door-neighbor, one day and the open bottle sat unguarded on the kitchen table.
Mrs. Orchard couldn't walk very well and when her son - he wasn't married – got sent away on assignments, she was left to her own devices. So she used to employ the kids in the neighborhood to run small errands for her. He kind of liked her; she never tried to pinch his cheek, telling him how sweet he was and how fast he outgrew his clothes. Instead she barely talked at all; her deer brown eyes glazed and far away - then he didn't understand why - scribbling the things she needed from the store onto small notes and putting it with some money into a shopping basket she used to leave sitting by the back door.
One day he returned from a trip to the grocery and it started to rain just after he arrived at the house. He didn't want to leave the basket outside, afraid the rain might spoil the goods and so he tried the door. It wasn't locked and he opened it just a little to call for Mrs. Orchard.
There was no answer, but he entered anyway.
The bottle on the table was open, and almost full. Nobody would have ever noticed if a sip was missing. He put down the basket, watching around. He knew he would hear the shuffle of Mrs. Orchard's feet and cane long before she would enter the room. So he took the bottle and smelled cautiously; licked once around the rim, tasting, before he sipped. A sharp, awful, foul taste filled his mouth; the liquid burning all the way down to his stomach - than a strange warmth started to bloom inside his belly. At least for a few seconds. Then his eyes started to water up, his cheeks grew hot and his stomach cramped. He made it barely outside before everything he ate that day - or so it seemed – got a repeat performance. He knelt in the grass; arms slung around his aching belly and heaved.
The next time - almost a week later, this time he went straight in, an excuse ready (but he never needed one because Mrs. Orchard was nowhere to see) - he took a smaller gulp and it stayed in, filling him again with warmth and a strange lightness.
Over time he started to experiment with different kinds of alcohol, whatever he could get his hands on. Never at home of course - he knew his father would have noticed if even the smallest amount was missing - but Mrs. Orchard kept lots of bottles in her kitchen and the living room. Sometimes he could right sneak in while she slept on the couch or with her head on the kitchen table, liquor and small, round, white tablets spilled all over. He could have taken anything... everything... he wanted: money, jewelry, other stuff lying around. But he never touched anything else. He never stayed long - just long enough to locate a bottle, check how much had been left in it and transferring some of it into an empty bottle that once contain cough drops. He found it near the trash can one morning. Then he would leave quickly, quietly and hide the bottle until he could get away from home without causing suspicion. There was always a place to find, deserted enough for him to not be seen drinking and dreaming - or throwing up sometimes, afterwards.
When they moved and he lost his easy access to Mrs. Orchard's liquor, he discovered that a lot of adults didn't mind if he went into the store and simply bought a few cans of cheep imported beer. If they asked he said his father send him to get it for him. Almost every time they believed him. He took extra care not to go to only one store and never in the stores on base where word might have gotten to his father's ears; sometimes he even took his bicycle to drive to the next town...
He didn't like them using his given name; it felt like they tried to intimidate him by turning him into a kid. "Yes?" he answered listlessly, startled from his memories.
"I asked when you started drinking hard liquor?" The therapist repeated the question like a broken record with the needle always scraping over the same point. "Gregory?"
He silently counted to ten and then again to ten in Spanish and again in Japanese until the sound of his own thoughts drowned out the voice of the therapist.
Amber - still perched on the edge of the therapist's desk - smiled knowingly and mocked the therapist's speech with a rude pantomime. Rising an invisible glass high in the air, she saluted him and mimicked knocking back a drink.
He wished he could join her. Or be back at Mrs. Orchard's house, standing on the dusty floor of the kitchen, poised to take the bottle and feel the warmth and lightness blooming in his chest. He’d do it all over again…