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Reelfoot Rift: Dr. X and Dr. Y

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Reelfoot Rift: Dr. X and Dr. Y

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Lighter
TITLE: Reelfoot Rift: Continued Aftershocks
CHAPTER: Dr. X and Dr. Y
RATING: R for language and themes (gen fic)
WARNINGS: Aftermath isn't always pretty; may distress some readers.
SPOILERS: No.
SUMMARY: Chapter three of three in the epilogue to Aftershocks: A Story in Shattered Pieces.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
AUTHOR NOTES: Word count for this chapter is ~2500 words.

Reelfoot Rift is a major seismic zone that covers parts of five U.S. states: Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

The zone had four of the largest North American earthquakes in recorded history, with magnitude estimates of 7.0 to 7.9 on the Richter scale, all occurring within a 3 month period between 1811 and 1812. Hundreds of aftershocks followed, including nine events of magnitude greater than 5.0.

In 1974, instruments were installed in and around the area to closely monitor seismic activity. Since then, more than 4,000 earthquakes have been recorded. On average, one earthquake per year is large enough to be felt.

Scientists anticipate that more significant seismic events will occur in the future in Reelfoot Rift.

Source: Wikipedia.org





Reelfoot Rift: Dr. X and Dr. Y


Tracy smiles for what seems like the hundredth time today at the eager young doctor in front of her. “So those are our current facilities,” he says as they arrive at the nurses’ desk. “We have a lot to offer, but there’s just so much more that we could do.”

“And that’s what the fun fair is all about?” she prompts, gesturing discreetly toward the elevator.

He nods happily and trots toward the elevator button. Tracy follows, carefully keeping her sighs silent. Dr. Patel looks like he ought to be a student tour leader at a college, not an attending at one of the major teaching hospitals in the state.

“Raising money is an important part of it, of course,” he says as they head down to the first floor. “But it’s also a chance for the kids we have here as patients to have some fun – you know, hence the name.” He grins gleefully at her, and she feels obligated to smile for the hundred and first time.

“Oh, and there’s another important part, too,” he continues as they – finally – arrive at the lawn, which is covered with rides, games, a clown and jugglers, and dozens, if not hundreds, of children. Tracy has to jump to one side as a tow-headed boy of about six barrels past, and then has to jump to the other side as a bald girl wheels recklessly by.

“The last important part, the one I’m most excited about,” Dr. Patel says, as he waves to a group of teenage girls, “is an opportunity for kids from the community to see that the patients we have here are just like them. Well, sicker, of course, but in all other respects, normal kids, ones they could be friends with.”

He nods toward the girls, who are checking out a nearby booth and giggling. “Mara there, the one with the green shirt on, has been recovering from some complications of diabetes. She actually was cleared to go home yesterday with her new insulin pump, but begged to stay another day so she and the friends she’s met here in Princeton could go to the fair together.”

“Everyone seems to be having a great time,” Tracy says. She brings her pad out and makes a few notes. “So this was the brainchild of your department head, right? Dr. –”

“Dr. Wilson. James Wilson. And, no.” Dr. Patel catches himself and smiles sheepishly. “Not that he hasn’t been supportive! He has, the whole way, with getting it approved and funding and so on. He’s even taking a turn running some of the booths today. But the idea, not to be immodest or anything, was mine.”

“Of course,” Tracy says reassuringly, and smiles for the hundred and second time.

Things are working out nicely. She’s been tracking down Dr. Wilson and his still-roommate Dr. Greg House. Tim might have preferred to leave them as Dr. Y and Dr. X, but Tracy pieced together the clues and followed them to this hospital. She has plenty of background on their careers, the news reports of the mugging ten years ago, and all their publicly available records. She even knows a little about their social lives – Dr. Wilson is quite a favorite of a particular photographer of charity benefits. Dr. House, on the other hand, is more elusive, or maybe simply camera-shy.

By talking a local paper into giving her a freelance assignment to cover this event, she has an excellent excuse to get closer to them without having to approach directly. It’s perfect.

“Dr. Patel, I know you must be busy,” she says. “Why don’t I take some time to look around alone? You know, blend in with the crowd, watch some of the games?”

“Sure, excellent,” he replies. “I should check on how everyone’s doing. In fact, speaking of Dr. Wilson, I think it’s his turn in the kissing booth next.”

“Kissing booth?” She can’t keep the surprise out of her voice; it seems such a strange anachronism.

Dr. Patel laughs. “Blowing kisses only, I assure you! The children we have here really get attached to doctors and nurses, develop friendly crushes, that kind of thing, and this is one cute way for them to feel special. The way the booth works is fascinating, really. Jacobsen, one of our techs, brought the idea to me, and I knew right away that the kids would love it.

“You’ve seen t-shirts that change color in the sun, right? They have the same technology for stickers. Right before the kiss is blown, we give a blank sticker a little dose of concentrated UV and then put it on the child’s cheek or hand. The kiss then ‘magically’ shows up, and the child can wear it around proudly.”

Tracy nods and makes a few notes. It is a cute premise. She gives Dr. Patel a minute or so to get ahead of her, then follows him from a distance to see the mechanism in action.

When Dr. Patel reaches the booth (the s’s are backward in the sign; how quaint), he immediately greets the couple standing to the side: a tall brown-haired man in a lab coat and a warm, friendly-looking woman in her forties. The man turns – he’s silvering elegantly at the temples – and puts his stiff, slightly curled left hand on Dr. Patel’s shoulder briefly, drawing him into their conversation.

Dr. Wilson. He looks different in person. It’s the way he moves, she decides, slightly more stiffly than the easy smile in pictures leads one to assume.

The woman with them laughs loudly, throwing her head back and holding Dr. Wilson’s arm for support. It’s not a beautiful laugh by any means, but the smile on Dr. Wilson’s face grows wider. Tracy’s seen the woman before, in two or three of the more recent benefit pictures: “Dr. James Wilson of Princeton-Plainsboro, joined this evening by Ms. Jennifer Frayman.”

Tracy has discovered that Ms. Frayman is a part-time accountant, on the board of a few charities, and fifteen-years divorced from Efram Frayman, one of the wealthiest ophthalmologic surgeons in the U.S. She gives away more money in a year than Tracy makes.

Until this book finds its market, of course.

She wasn’t planning on writing a book; nobody she knows reads books. But it turns out that more than a few of the people she wants to know – podcast creative producers – do read books.

Former mass medium has become the niche medium to pitch to the mass media. An interesting circle there.

“He’s gay,” a voice intones from a foot above her ear.

“Dr. Wilson?” she replies, without thinking, pulling back to try to get out of the shadow of the man standing way too close to her.

He smirks like he knows her every secret. “Patel. Engaged to a plumber named Morty. I didn’t think plumbers named Morty even existed any more, but Patel found one and bagged him. Wilson, on the other hand, is straight, although also very much taken.”

“Well, good for him.” She has the sneaking suspicion that she sounds sassy, which just won’t do. Professional is always the way to go. “I’m covering this event for the Princeton Packet. Is your child a patient here, Mister –?” He looks more like a grandfather than a father, between the cane, the weather-beaten face, and the more-salt-than-pepper hair, but it never hurts to be polite.

He ignores the hint to give his name. “No children. None I’ve been informed of, anyway. So you’re a journalist. What’s your name, intrepid girl reporter?”

“Tracy Morgan.”

“No, it’s not. One, because you’re not an occasionally funny black actor pushing fifty, and two, because Morgan doesn’t start with ‘McK,’ which is what’s visible on the press badge sticking out of your pocket.”

Children are laughing, popcorn with what might be actual butter is being sold, and Dr. Wilson is blowing kisses to a pair of giggling toddlers.

Tracy looks up into extraordinarily blue eyes and hears, “Hello, Tracy McKinney, I’m Greg House. Now that you’ve spent two weeks stalking me on the ’net, do you mind telling me what you want?”

“Martin Grey,” her tongue replies, and she immediately wants to cut it out. She’s a professional; she’s going to make a mark on the world, but she’s never going to get that accomplished if she doesn’t start acting like a professional and guiding conversations instead of reacting carelessly.

“No, you don’t,” Dr. House responds even more quickly. Maybe she’s not the only one moving on instinct here.

She takes a moment to watch his eyes, the way they’re investigating her face even as they flick every few seconds to the booth with the backward s’s. “Why does everyone say that to me?” she finally asks.

“Who’s everyone? Have you been trying to check out Martin the way you’ve been checking out me?”

“Not saying it’s me, but how do you know someone’s watching you on the internet?”

“Gumshoe: Track the people cyber-tracking you,” he replies. “Handy new service run by a cranky old woman; gets the job done. Answer the question; it’s important.”

“I’m doing an extended story on a certain mob enforcer. Mr. Grey’s name came up. I talked to another, um, colleague, and he said what you said: not to pursue Mr. Grey.”

“Was he about my age?”

“Yes.”

He nods. “That explains the warning then. Men my age like pretty young things to stay pretty.”

“I’m not pretty.”

“Pfft. You are now, but you won’t be if you find Martin. Have you talked to anyone else about him? Looked for him on the Web?”

“No.”

Dr. House blows out a sigh in something that might be relief. She can’t figure where that came from. “Good,” he says.

“You know, that kind of warning usually entices journalists to push forward, to find the story underneath.”

“Then usually journalists are stupid. You don’t look stupid.”

“I’m not.”

“Excellent. Then I don’t have to threaten to sue you for libel if you mention my name or the name of anyone else associated with this hospital in your story.”

“Lawsuit? Not going to insinuate I’ll meet with an accident?”

Tilting his head, he says, “You don’t look accident-prone.”

“But Tim was?”

“Who?”

“Mr. Tweedle.”

Dr. House stares at her for a long moment; she holds his gaze.

“An isolated case," he says gravely. “Chance meeting. And… an accident. Not going to happen again.”

Tone, expression, stance: he’s telling the truth, as best he knows it. Tracy waits for a beat; nothing changes.

“Tim had a lot of fascinating tales to tell,” she informs him. There are so many things happening around the fun fair, so many things to see. “The lighter fluid one didn’t make the top ten. I’m not even going to write it up, much less try to find actual names to go with it.”

Dr. House stares at her for a very long moment; she watches two kids wriggle through the grass toward a stand of clover.

“I’m not going to argue your decision,” he says. “Of course not. But true-crime always sells, and revenge on true-crime, that’s the oldest best-seller there is.”

The kids are about ten inches away from the clover when it explodes in a flurry of wings. Butterflies, here, there and everywhere, and the two children roll with laughter.

“So there’s a personal reason you don’t want to expose that angle,” he says speculatively. “Not child abuse; the children here aren’t making you wistful or angry. Not a physical attack, I don’t think; no lingering physical sign, and my looming hasn’t intimidated you one bit more than I meant it to.”

The roving clown has switched from balloon animals to balloon hats. Those seem to be much more popular.

“Sexual assault?” Dr. House asks quietly, so that only the two of them can hear. “As a child or teenager. Every time your gaze hits the kissing booth your face twitches.”

Tracy looks at her toes. They’re safely inside her sensible walking shoes, but she knows they need a pedicure. “My sister,” she says. “Date-raped after our county fair, the summer she turned fourteen. She wanted to kiss him, go to second base, and he didn’t want to stop there. Nobody believed her, and my parents couldn’t move, and we had to see him all the time for two years until he left for college. He never thought he did anything wrong.”

It’s been eight years since she saw that punk’s detested face, and she could still describe it well enough for an artist to draw. There was no retribution for them, no recompense, but it’s OK. Sarah’s doing fine; they’re both fine; it’s behind them.

Most days.

When she looks up at Dr. House, there is absolutely no pity in his face, only an assessment of her sincerity. The knowledge that he understands provides a relief colder and sweeter than lemonade.

He looks down at his feet, head bobbing. “Not you, a sister. Of course; fits better. I should’ve known, but maybe I’m slowing down in my old age. In my dodderage. In the sunset years –” He looks at her again suddenly, a smirk on his lips. “You’re supposed to be disagreeing with me here.”

She shrugs, and gives him a genuine smile, and tosses her hair back because he called her pretty. She’s a professional, and she also knows when the day’s work is done.

“I think I’ve seen enough at the fair,” she says. “Give my best to Dr. Wilson.”

“Yeah,” he says, with a nod toward the booth. “Wilson’s already getting someone’s best.”

When she looks over Ms. Frayman is planting kiss stickers on Dr. Wilson’s cheeks, right above his wide grin.

“I’m the one who needs the best,” Dr. House protests grumpily, and then his attention is thoroughly distracted by the posterior of a young blonde woman walking by. Tracy doesn’t bother to say goodbye.

When she looks back from several yards away, Dr. House has joined Dr. Wilson and Ms. Frayman at the booth. He’s waving his arms and protesting, but Dr. Wilson overpowers him and suddenly there is a large bright-pink lip-print in the middle of Dr. House’s forehead. Peals of high laughter break out, along with smirks on the adults’ faces. Dr. House is threatening Dr. Wilson with bodily harm, but their shoulders still bump companionably as Dr. Wilson keeps Dr. House from attempting to peel off the sticker.

Tracy gets to a quiet, far removed patio – the fun fair barely in sight – before stopping. She’ll write up the event story tonight; Dr. Patel actually gave her a good hook with the local-kids aspect. The Packet should like that.

Tomorrow it’s back to the larger story, the real one. A few more points of Tim’s to verify, a few more victims to interview. This investigation has been exciting (and is going to be very rewarding) but also very stressful. Reluctantly, she pulls a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket. She’s going on the nicotine patch as soon as the final word is written, but for now she needs this. Except her lighter’s gone – must have dropped it somewhere. Damn.

“Excuse me, sir,” she says to a nearby man who’s smoking.

When he turns toward her, his grey eyes are amused and almost paternal. “Yes?”

She holds up the pack apologetically and asks, “Could I have a light?”

He shifts his cigarette – which is black; interesting – to the other hand and then pulls out a beautiful silver lighter. “My pleasure.”


~~~~The End~~~~


  • oh-uh, Martin's back.... Still enjoying this whole series. Thanks :)
  • Fuck.

    This series kills me dead, but I love it anyways. Thanks for writing this wonderfully epic story!
  • The knowledge that he understands provides a relief colder and sweeter than lemonade. I love that line.

    I didn't remember that ten years had passed until Tracy runs into the smoking man, and then I literally jumped in the chair. I think it adds more of a kick to the menace (yes, that is possible) to still have Martin lurking in the shadows at the end. His shadow is long and cold, and he's still casting it.



  • AHHHHH oh my god! XD

    You are amazing!
  • oh god. You can't do that!
    I'm still crying for the picture you painted, tears of sadness and joy - I can't really distinguish which feeling prevails. 10 years later, House and Wilson are still working and living together and drawing comfort and affection from each other, but House is very lonely and Wilson is still so scarred...- and then you bring Martin back in the picture...exactly ten years later, always on time.

    I feared that something bad was going to happen, and I thought that Tracy fooled me (and House) and was sent by Martin himself. Instead, it was him in person, looming in the shadows... god I wish I could kill that monster myself.

    I loved the part in which House showed his deductive abilities, still protecting Wilson. And I loved also what he told Tracy about their encounter with Tim. oh, and the little detail about how House is more careful and uses a sort of counter-surveillance system.

    The description of Wilson elegantly silvering at the temples, but moving stiffly had me sobbing after the first few lines.
    The image of the kissing booth (brilliant idea the stickers, btw) was so sweet...and then Wilson drawing House in the game too... *sniffs*

    I don't know, I may be overemotional right now, but this chapter hit me so hard. Maybe it's because it's the last... s
    Sorry for this blubbering comment, and thank you for this amazing and truly intense story.

    • Thank you so much. You are definitely correct that House is still protecting Wilson, and that he's put some counter-surveillance (that's the perfect word) in place.

      One small point, though: maybe it doesn't show as well here as it should, but House is not too lonely. He's still roommates with Wilson, and they're still very, very close. When House says, "I'm the one who needs the best," he's talking about female attention - how Wilson has a girlfriend and House doesn't. (Although secretly House was pleased when Wilson was finally ready to take the step of dating.)
      • Sorry, I think I have put that the wrong way in my previous comment.

        I know that they are still living together and that -at least before Martin's appearance - they are as much happy as they can be, given the circumstances.
        And I know House is not really lonely, not more than he is now, at least, or perhaps less, since those horrible events had led him and Wilson closer than they were.

        But I can't help having a bittersweet feeling because the years had passed and House still hasn't anyone, save for Wilson. And I know it's like that now too, but I hoped that something good could happen to him. He's not getting any younger and I think that he deserves a little bit of love too.

        Plus, I can't completely shake the hope for slashiness from my heart. This story was never intended as that, I know, but it stayed on the knife's edge for so long that I deluded myself I could interpret it that way, if I needed to. This kind of crushed that.

        But, well, I'm pleased too that Wilson is dating again.

        Another long winded comment, sorry. I can't seem to shut up when talking about this story. :)
  • Oh no. I didn't think; I read "ten years" and figured, how nice, they're going to show us House and Wilson the way they ended up, scarred and imperfect, but living their lives, getting on somehow, staying together; not back to what used to be normal, but well into what ended up being normal. They're going to show us it from the outside, through someone else's eyes, someone who doesn't know them or get too close, and it's going to be closure of some kind, something bittersweet probably - Wilson greying and moving stiffly, House with his "constant vigilance!" and protectiveness. Hurt and affection. A fitting and if not exactly happy then at least sweet-ish ending.

    I did not remember what "ten years" signified in connection with Martin.
    Fuck.
  • Nooooooo!!!! He is back! And we'll never know what will happen, will we?

    I don't think I can say nothing more coherent right now...

    Anyway, I love the kiss booth! I love the little descriptions about Wilson, the changes in both of them. And because I have this twisted mind, I love the ending!
  • *dies*
  • No. Freakin'. Way. I completely forgot about the significance of ten years until the end. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

  • The Ending

    Wow...I didn't see that ending coming. It made my whole body shiver! Excellent finish! Excellent story! Now what will I do with all my free time?? :( Any more new stories in sight?
    • Re: The Ending

      There are always new stories to tell!

      New four-person novels... those are rare. *smiles*

      Thank you.
      • Re: The Ending

        four-person novels rare? I would have said impossible. I can't get over the dynamics of something like that and to put a coherent award winning story together. Unbelieveable!

        Another story like this is most definitely at the top of my Christmas Wish list. :))
        • Re: The Ending

          It's my Christmas wishlist too, as long as it's by the same fabulous, brilliant, evil, loverly, awesome authors :)

          Can you imagine waking up on Christmas morning with the first 3 chapters of their second novel? It's okay to dream right?
          • Re: The Ending

            No I cannot imagine waking up Christmas morning to anything close to this. The funny thing is I definitely will be looking for it. Heck, I found this. :)) Now that this fabulous story is finished all we have is our dreams! :))
  • Oh noes!
  • 'Scuse me, but SHIT. I did NOT think about the ten years thing.

    Sweet and sad, but the ending has scared the hell out of me. D: I really hope he just leaves them alone this time, but I know it's not going to happen.

    PS: The House-with-a-kiss thing was so fun, though. :D
  • Beautiful writing. I loved the imagery of Wilson smiling; and the idea that he persevered through it all and can still be a little beacon of light that pulls House, ever protective, in. I wish I'd commented more often, but it's hard to change bad lurking habits. This entire collaborative effort was amazing and so rewarding in many respects. It touched upon something quite personal to me and really in all of life who doesn't know some heartache or fear or damage. That Martin is still there seems like the way of the world, that evil persists and there is sometimes no way to ward it off but to continue to live and to smile when one can. Sorry to be so long winded. Thank you all.
    • Not long winded at all. Thank you very much for such an insightful comment.

      In all of life who doesn't know some heartache or fear or damage. That Martin is still there seems like the way of the world, that evil persists and there is sometimes no way to ward it off but to continue to live and to smile when one can.

      So well said.
  • Why oh why did I beg for more. And DAMN did you deliver? Oh yes indeedy - you did. Just like a clock - 10 years have past. Didn't connect it at first until Tracy and the cigarette.

    Wilson is smiling a big smile and House is still House. And I love "Wilson, on the other hand, is straight, although also very much taken.”

    I just need you to throw some comfort my way - unless of course there's going to be a sequel :)

    I've adopted you as my new Agatha Christie and there was always justice at the end.

    Okay I'm down to bargaining cause I'm NEVER EVAR going to attain acceptance. Please, please tell us that you all have another ficverse brewing in that collaborative brain of you allses????

    You do realize that we only have two more new episodes of House, two?? in December and one in January?? I don't know what I'm going to do.
  • AGH! I should have seen that coming but I didn't and Oh. My. God. So good, so damn perfect.
    Brava, everyone.
  • Hey, look, Martin's back. And Wilson's with a future ex number four! Perhaps more ex than usual..? :-/
  • *shivers*
    I didn't see that coming until she asked for a light.
    This is like the worst cliffhanger ever because it is never going to be added to!!
    ...
    Or will it? *hopeful look*

    Amazing series and bravo to you all.
  • I just read the entire story in two days, and I'm seriously...gobsmacked. I can't form coherent sentences!

    I didn't catch the ten years reference, and I can't believe we're never going to find out how it ends! But seriously, this was a wonderful, fantastic piece of writing. I even cried! And I'm not a crier. So thank you for the tumultuous 48-hour ride. I'm very sad that I have now reached page 338/338 on the PDF.
  • As soon as she needed the lighter, I KNEW Martin would be there!

    (I'm also in my own little world where House and Wilson are together-together, but don't mind me. :D)
  • Wow. What a ride! Had to let you extremely talented four know how much I enjoyed this story. I've been reading it over the past few days, and it met and exceeded every rec I've seen for it. It took me. Took me like the creative process or a really good story takes me. Whenever I had to get up from the computer to attend to something I could feel my mind railing against being pulled back to the here and now, and it usually took at least half an hour before I was fully "back". That's the best compliment on a story I know how to give. Thank you, black_cigarette collective! I may have to dive off into your newer verse, Distress Call.
    • &hearts

      Thank you so much for this. Just ... wow.

      Emailing this comment to the rest of the crew now.

      Distress Call, I don't know how much you've heard about it, but it is wildly AU. So, just be prepared.
  • Oh God!!!

    *runs away*

    I would like to meet Wilson in the kissing booth.

    This story is all sorts of awesome.

    That is all.
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