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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in willywonka3435's LiveJournal:

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Monday, July 16th, 2007
12:09 am
Fic: Illusions To Live By (1/1)
WARNING: THIS IS A TEST. Learning how to work an lj-cut. Hee.

DOES THIS WORK?!Collapse )

Current Mood: nervous
Saturday, June 9th, 2007
1:24 am
Fic: Truffles (1/1)
Truffles

It took a while for House to get back to where he used to be. Things happened on television just like that, sure, but just like that was television and television, while fantastic for entertainment purposes and whacking off when the urge struck, was far from reality. Everyone with a brain cell to spare knew that you couldn’t even rely on cooking shows for a little honesty along with the truffles; most of ‘em made the food before they taped the episode. Losers. But that was TV.

So, while a character from an afternoon movie might’ve gone from years of limping to marathon running in three days, the truth was that physical therapy sucked. The truth was that House didn’t manage those eight miles to work for two and a half months, and even then the first time was—well, glorious, but he was sore.

His muscles just weren’t used to it any more.

If the ketamine held, though, they were going to get used to it again, whether they liked the idea or not; they were definitely gonna get used to it. Because there was nothing quite the same as running, starting off and hitting your stride, running and running and thinking for awhile maybe you’d never slow down, never feeling that pain that had become, over the years, so much a part of you it might’ve been an extra limb.

Beautiful.

His palm was still callused, which annoyed him. He was accustomed to the calluses, of course, but they reminded him of what he didn’t particularly want to remember. And, sure, in the back of his mind maybe he thought every now and then about what might happen if the ketamine didn’t hold, but that was just thinking and thinking didn’t mean anything unless you acted on it. His father’d always said that; actions are everything, Gregory. What a shit-faced hypocritical bastard. Bastard, all right.

House punched his left hand with his right.

If they weren’t related, things would’ve been a hell of a lot better for him. That was for sure. But that was fate, you got what cards you were dealt and played them as best you could, and what was he thinking?

You got the cards you were dealt and swapped ‘em on the sly, baby, ‘til you got the best cards at the table and then you played everyone else under the table so they lost everything but their shirts and froze their nads off.

Where the hell was his cane, anyway?

Okay, so House didn’t know where that particular thought had come from, or which primordial sea from whose depths it chose to surface, but it was a shocker. He didn’t need it any more—with luck he’d never need it again—so what did he care? Well, maybe he wondered just a little, as it had been a pretty good cane, but now it was just a long thin piece of metal with a curvy grippy bit at one end that attracted the chicks.

No. He was not going to waste valuable time searching his apartment for a cane when he could walk. No way.

He was going to have a drink and sleep. Like normal people. And then he was going to ride to work, like normal people, and pester Wilson like normal people and he was not, absolutely not, going to look for his cane, and what the hell maybe he left it in the closet that’d only take a minute. If it only took a minute it wasn’t really looking.

Turned out looking took more than a minute. By two A.M. House’s floor was covered in various articles of clothing, most of which he hadn’t seen in a year and a half, and he was blasting something from the nineteen-eighties and cursing a blue streak:

“Damn it damn it damn it, where the fuck did I put the fucking thing?”

And narrating for the benefit of… well, no one exactly:

“I checked the closet… checked the dresser… checked the… damn it!”

And generally being pissed off.

By three-thirty A.M. House was asleep. No luck on the cane front. That housekeeper Wilson pity-hired for him awhile ago, though—now she was going to have her hands full. But what the heck, why else did he pay the woman?

Okay. Technically, Wilson paid her, but friends didn’t let friends throw money down the drain. Unless he was the drain, of course, in which case—keep it comin’.

Trouble started the next morning. He ran to work again and showered when he got there, loving the way he could stand on both feet, shifting his weight for the hell of it and shaking his head like a dog. Then, of course, because life was like that, somebody paged him.

True to form, House ignored it.

When he’d got the shampoo in his hair, the pager went off again. Beep beep beep. He should’ve smashed the damn thing ages ago.

“Shut up,” House snapped, though he knew perfectly well that there was no one around to hear him and he might as well have hollered at the nearest wall, which was essentially what he was doing anyway.

Beep beep beep.

“Fuck!”

Now he had to get out of the shower, walk across the room to his jacket, cold and wet—good thing he was alone, all right, because the scar tissue was still there even if the pain wasn’t, and it just wasn’t your ordinary conversation topic; look, ladies and gents and old lady on the corner, there’s a significant chunk of my thigh gone, you ever seen anything quite like it?

But he walked to his jacket anyway. Cuddy. What could she possibly want? Way too early for him to be doing clinic hours. Way too early for him to be at work. And because she couldn’t have known he was at work, that meant she thought he was at home. And if she thought he was at home, that meant they were currently in the middle of (a) an emergency or (b) the apocalypse, the only two reasons anyone would ever disturb him when he wasn’t working.

Odds were it wasn’t the apocalypse.

He changed and sprinted to the elevators—it was great, the sprinting thing—and was pounding irritably on the door of her office in less than five minutes.

“You better have a good reason for—”

The secretary opened it.

Damn, he hated that man.

“Dr. House, don’t you think it’s a little early to—”

“Step aside. Cripple coming through.” House looked down. Oops. “Ex-cripple coming through. Seniority rights. Get your ass out of my way.”

“If you’ll wait a moment, Dr. House, I’ll see if she’s—”

If you’ll wait a moment—she paged me. Move.”

The secretary moved. Smart guy.

Cuddy was sitting behind her desk, staring morosely at her own pager, and she didn’t look especially happy. Sure, she ordinarily didn’t look especially happy when he barged into her office at odd hours, making a fuss and offending her secretary’s “sensitive moral core” (the man actually had one)—but something was off.

“What’s up?” he asked, falling ungracefully into a chair and whacking his toe on the footstool.

“Bad news,” Cuddy said, still refusing to look at him.

“O-kay.” House drew the word out and waited. And waited.

“Bad news like more innocent children starving in Africa, or bad news like hey, House, a meteor just hit your apartment and Cameron is offering her spare room?”

“Bad news like Wilson is in the hospital,” and Cuddy was looking at him now, and, oh, shit.

“What?”

“Wilson’s in the hospital. This hospital.” Cuddy’s eyes were wet.

“He does work here, you know. There’s a door with his name on it and everything.”

“House.”

And now he was the one studying his pager like it might as well’ve been the fucking Rosetta Stone.

“What’s wrong with him?” he said finally. Not because he wanted to know or anything. Wilson would probably be fine. Probably was fine, actually. Probably tripped over his ego, something stupid like that. Sprain maybe. No big.

“He was attacked in the clinic last night. A woman came in who’d been repeatedly reported for disturbing the peace in her apartment building—someone apparently got a little too tired of her, tried to eviscerate her with a butter knife. Wilson was working late, and he took her case.”

“If she’d been eviscerated, why the hell was she in the clinic?”

“I said tried, House. Tried. There wasn’t too much damage. She was a real fighter, held him off—just needed a few stitches.”

“Wilson learned fucking stitching in medical school.” House was just about spitting the words through his teeth, like they were seeds he wanted to get rid of, gritty and stuck up against his gums.

Cuddy looked at her desk again, moved some things around on her blotter, tried to avoid saying what came next, was very obvious about it. “House—there’s something I have to tell you.”

He waited.

“She didn’t have a weapon when she came in—”

“Wilson got his ass kicked barehanded? That’s rich.”

“But she had access to one in the clinic room. It was your cane, House.”

“My what?”

“Your cane. You must have left it down in the clinic sometime before the ketamine. Wilson stepped out to speak with a nurse. The patient was waiting for him when he walked back inside. I don’t think he stood a chance.”

House stood. “And where the fuck was everyone else for this? Wilson didn’t fight? Call for help? They all deaf?”

“No—he did call for help, House. He managed to push the call button. Police have her in custody as we speak. But—House—” Cuddy was on her feet by now, too. He was aleady heading for the door. He stopped and stayed where he was, facing the glass, looking out into the hospital.

“He’s not in very good shape,” she said finally.

“Yeah. I got that when you said a sociopathic patient beat the shit out of him.”

“I just wanted to make sure that—”

“I can handle seeing him?”

“You’re not stupid, House; you know that even doctors often have a hard time with something like this, and—”

House spun around. “No. I’m not stupid. That’s why I wouldn’t be going if I couldn’t handle seeing him. I don’t need to hear the same spiel Cameron’s given family members a hundred times. I have my name on a door too, in case you forgot.”

She didn’t say anything this time, so he went back to leaving.

“House,” she murmured just as he was letting the door swing shut, but he caught the end of the sentence—“House, I’m sorry.”

---------------------------------------------------------

They’d put Wilson on the third floor, in a corner room, and House’s first impression was that he looked embarrassed. Embarrassed and affronted.

“Hey,” Wilson said, studying the bedsheets. People were doing a lot of examining inanimate objects lately. At least when House was around.

“Hey.” House stepped over the threshold, and then said nothing at all.

Wilson glanced up.

Damn.

He didn’t look good.

A greenish-yellow monstrosity spreading across his left cheekbone. The beginnings of a shiner. From the looks of the tape, cracked ribs. Probably a couple dozen more bruises under the gown that he couldn’t see. Wilson was sitting there like he was made of glass, didn’t want to move around too much in case he’d break. He had to be in a shitload of pain.

The bruise—his cane. Almost looked just like his cane. He could’ve held the cane up to the injury and it would’ve fit perfectly. Shadows of violence.

“So I guess you heard about what happened,” Wilson said finally.

“You’re the talk of the hospital.”

“Yeah. Great.” Wilson looked at the bedsheets again. House walked over and sat down in one of the guest chairs. They were remarkably uncomfortable—as if visiting relatives weren’t already in enough pain, right?

“Knew you couldn’t hold your own in a bar fight.”

“Hey.” Wilson smirked. “She surprised me, okay?”

“Oh come on; you got your ass whupped by an old lady with stitches in her belly. It doesn’t get worse than that.” House glanced at the IV—pain medication, he’d bet, and a heart monitor, which was pretty ridiculous because Wilson obviously wasn’t dying or getting ready to have a coronary or something but regulations were ridiculous a lot of the time anyway.

“You in a lot of pain?” he said grudgingly.

“Huh?” Wilson glanced at him, at the IV, at the bedsheets, back at him. “It’s okay.”

“Okay tolerable, or okay I haven’t started screaming yet?”

“I’ve got a clicker, House,” Wilson said. “I press this little button a few times, and I can be high as a kite.” But he winced when he shifted.

“When are they gonna let you out of here?”

“This afternoon. Observation, I guess. I passed out.”

House walked over to the side of the bed and eased a leg up beside Wilson’s. “Knew it. You’re just the kind of guy who’d faint when things’re getting good.”

“Look, House—” Wilson had his Serious Face on, that couldn’t mean anything positive— “she hit me with your cane. I mean, you’ve gotta be—”

“Fuck!” House lifted his other leg onto the bed too, and Wilson scooted over, wincing and generally being a tender sensitive Tiny Tim attack victim. “You’re in the hospital and you’re going to tell me I need to get in touch with my feelings? I’m not the one who lost a fight with a girl.”

“I—” Wilson gasped. That was bad. Bad bad bad. And he wheezed. That was bad too.

“Wilson. Hey. Wilson!” Now House was a little glad for the heart monitor. Not tachycardia—not yet, anyway. Spike in blood pressure, significant spike in pulse rate, clammy skin. Panic attack. Great. Wilson was going to send himself into v-fib if somebody didn’t do something about it.

“Calm down,” House muttered. “Hey. Chill.” He put a hand on Wilson’s back and rubbed his fingers in a little circle, pressing down, trying to massage away the tension. Wilson, the stubborn idiot, kept wheezing. House thought about telling him to put his head between his knees, but, what with the ribs, that might not have been the best idea.

Wilson leaned into him. Before House knew what he was doing, he’d lifted his arm, and Wilson was lying against him, head on his chest, and House was patting his shoulder and being almost maybe sort of comforting and Wilson was trembling. Just a little.

“It’s okay,” he said gruffly. Then he said other things that he remembered hearing from Wilson after the infarction, but that degenerated pretty quickly, to mindless comforting noises that actually seemed to help, his lips moving, saying stuff he didn’t even understand.

Wilson was awfully warm. And he smelled damn good for a man.

In a few minutes, Wilson seemed to have recovered. The wheezing stopped, anyway, and his BP and pulse rate dropped back to normal. House shifted his arm and let Wilson sit up.

“Sorry,” Wilson said.

“Hey. No big.”

“It was just—”

“Really. No big. You keep talking, it’s going to turn into a big.” House sat up himself, looked at Wilson, looked back at the visitor’s chair.

“Yeah. Yeah.” They were quiet.

“They’re going to let you go this afternoon?”

“Huh?” Then Wilson remembered. “Oh. Right. I could check out myself, of course, but I figured it’d be better to cooperate.”

“Great.” House rolled off the bed with surprising agility and headed for the door. He latched it behind him and didn’t look back at Wilson even then, but he did lean against the wall. He did draw more than a few deep breaths. And he did apologize, there in the hallway, entirely alone.

“Sorry, Wilson,” he murmured. “Shit. My cane.”

----------------------------------------------------------------

“Hey!”

“Hey yourself.”

“What’re you doing here?”

House shifted his feet and… shifted his feet again, just for good measure.

“You did say this afternoon. I’m not deaf.”

Wilson was surprised. Maybe happy, too. He was moving carefully, and his ribs were still taped, of course, and the bruise was darkening by the hour and House could tell, he swore he could tell, that his right eye was already swelling shut, but through all that stuff Wilson actually grinned at him.

“Thanks, House.”

“Don’t get too soppy. I wanted lunch.” House stepped forward. “And since most people eat it, you interested in eating it together?”

“You’re feeling guilty, aren’t you?” Wilson smirked, and his eyes twinkled—well, his good eye twinkled. His right eye sort of tried to keep up.

“I never feel guilty. I am impervious to guilt. I’m trying to hide from Cuddy. Quiet.”

Wilson continued walking toward the parking lot. “If you want to come, House, I’d rather you drove. I don’t think I can handle it yet.”

House laughed, watching the way Wilson walked—delicately, like some kind of bad fashion model, holding himself as carefully as possible. “You look like an idiot.” But he followed.

Neither of them mentioned a cane.

Neither of them mentioned the panic attack, either, and they scarcely discussed the beating itself at all.

But they did eat lunch together, and Wilson did pass the night on House’s couch, and while they watched some old movie on television if Wilson, tired and more than a little stiff, happened to doze off on House’s shoulder—if Wilson slept there for awhile, his hair brushing House’s neck, and if House held perfectly still—well. Neither of them mentioned it.

Current Mood: hopeful

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007
9:51 pm
Fic: Triggers (2/?)
Chapter Two

The next phase begins when the hamburgers stop. House brings twelve of them, great juicy artery-clogging things, over a three-week period—and then he quits. Wilson sits behind his desk for fifteen minutes before he realizes that he isn't doing anything; he expects House to show up, swinging a greasy paper bag and disregarding napkins entirely like the inferior things they are.

Wilson laughs. He's being an idiot. It's not like he ate most of those sandwiches anyway.

After awhile, he leans over to toy with his latest acquisition, a disturbingly happy china bear that a patient, bald as a cue ball, gave him when he told her family that she was in remission. She'd said that a doctor bear—there was a red cross of some sort on its hat, about the size of a rat dropping—was perfect for her favorite doctor. House would've gagged, but she was so damn cute. He looks at his Zen garden, too. He replaced it because he thought it was a pretty handy thing to have around. Didn't actually help with stress much—looked great on his desk, though.

Then, before he can stop himself, he's dropping the bear in the sand, raking a desert over its black button nose.

If that's symbolic of something, he doesn't want to know.

He leaves the bear there once he's finished burying it. The nose sticks up, but he can't see the stupid white hat anymore.

Somebody knocks on the door. Can't be House—House wouldn't knock on an unlocked door unless he was beat to death and his assailant ripped his hand off at the wrist and rapped with his lifeless knuckles. If the door was locked he'd stand out there pounding away and making himself as obnoxious as humanly possible until (a) the occupant let him in, (b) the hinges broke, or (c) he dropped dead on his feet. So it definitely can't be House.

"Come in," Wilson says politely, glancing at what remains of the bear, and in walks House.

"Uh."

"Don't just sit there," House says, more than a little pissed. "I called you for a consult an hour ago."

"I was with a patient an hour ago," Wilson says, and then, "You knocked."

"Are you coming or what?" House is already out the door. Wilson follows him. He looks back to the Zen graveyard once. Maybe he'll dig it out later.

---------------------------------------------------

House has tells. He doesn't think he does, but, oh, he does, and Wilson knows them all.

Right now, for instance, he's hiding something.

"I know there's a steak under there," Wilson says, eyeing House's tray, "if that's what you're so guilty about."

"I am never guilty." House smirks. "You Jews, on the other hand, you are the kings of guilt. You practically invented guilt. They should've named it after you." Suddenly he drops his fork and bends over to pick it up. He takes a very long time about this retrieval, and Wilson begins to wonder what, exactly, he's doing down there.

"Taking a long time," he says, glancing around the room.

"You weren't complaining last night." House wiggles his butt.

Okay, Wilson's blushing. Well, it doesn't look like anyone heard. He bends over too. They've both got their heads under the table now.

"Seriously. What are you doing?"

"Ever notice how much chewed gum people stick here? It's a germ-fest. Germ bash. Germ fiesta, baby."

Wilson doesn't say anything, and House looks at him. "Don't you know anything about being inconspicuous?"

"Only what I've learned from the master."

"Then I must be a piss-poor master. I bet you always got caught in school."

"Why," Wilson says impatiently, "are you under the table?"

"Because everyone else is above their tables. It's about being different, dawg." House twists his head to the side and glances around—then he sits up with a jerk and rubs his leg.

Wilson sits up too. A nurse is staring at him. She looks… mildly curious.

"Just… looking for something," he mutters, and she turns away.

"Now that I can't show my face here again," Wilson says, "are you going to explain yourself?"

"Can't." And again House's buzzer goes off at the most inappropriate time, as if on cue. Wilson is beginning to believe that he's setting it off himself.

"What is it this time? Anaphylactic?"

"No—Foreman's next job interview." House grins real widely, so widely Wilson can just about count his teeth. He hasn't touched the salad, or the steak that he hid in the lettuce, or the bag of potato chips, or Wilson's bag of potato chips, but when he stands he manages to snag both bags of chips and slide the rest of his food into the trash in one fluid motion.

"I was going to eat those."

"And now you're not. Funny how these things work."

Wilson looks at his own tray after House is gone. Why does he even bother? He glances around—to the left, to the right, at the nurse who may go to her grave believing that he's gay (and she was hot, too)—lifts the lid of his cup, and pulls out another bag of chips.

Maybe he's learned something from the master after all.

------------------------------------------------------

Before the whole embarrassing-himself-in-House's-house deal—Wilson has always privately thought the phrase "House's house" is very amusing—he hadn't had a panic attack for awhile, and he was even beginning to hope they were gone forever. Okay, he knows better. Things like that aren't content to vanish when your back is turned. Probably too much stress, and then House's being more of an asshole than usual, and running on less sleep than he was accustomed to and not taking his antidepressants.

He's not planning on admitting it to House any time soon—ever, if possible—but the antidepressants do make him a little hazy. Happier, definitely, but kind of hazy, too. Not like he went into it blind. He knows the side-effects. Worth the risk. He was tired of feeling shitty, and when you felt shitty and knew you felt shitty and were willing to admit that you needed help in order to not feel shitty and had two brain cells to rub together, you did something about it.

House had looked happier with those drugs in his system. Maybe he hadn't been happier—Wilson couldn't know that for sure—but he'd looked happier.

If he would just—

Oh, forget it.

Wilson sits on the foot of the bed. Hotel room again. Why doesn't he rent another apartment? You only want to spend so long in a hotel room, with a lumpy mattress and that damn traffic outside the window and a thermostat that never really seems to do what you ask. And he hates the bedspread.

Friday he'll probably show up at House's. They're back on more even terms again, thank God. Case of beer'll get him inside. Watch TV, grab a bite to eat, fight with House about something—there's always something to bicker about.

The teddy bear is in his pocket. Wilson takes it out and looks at it; he rubs his thumb over the red cross. Remission.

He wonders how long it'll last.

Current Mood: nervous

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007
11:02 pm
Fic: Triggers (1/?)
Chapter One

House brings Wilson lunch. This makes Wilson suspicious.

"What's in there?" he says, eyeing the grease-stained bag.

"Nothing," House says a little too innocently. He sits down on Wilson's couch and swings his legs up to rest across the cushions. Apparently, what's in there includes a burger with a good deal of ketchup and far too many onions for a rational human being's consumption.

"It's harmless," House mutters through a mouthful of what's gotta be half a pound of cow. "You really think I'd be stupid enough to drug you again?"

Wilson makes a point of ignoring the "again" and continues staring at the food. He's actually pretty hungry.

"You," House continues, having swallowed the cow's left leg, "are now interesting. For awhile, anyway."

"So this is your way of saying that I haven't been interesting for forty-two years?"

"Hey, you said it, not me." House takes another enormous bite and commences chomping. He is just about to drip some of that ketchup on Wilson's leather couch. Wilson has the presence of mind to fish around in the bag and hand him a napkin. House ignores the napkin.

"Okay. I am taking a break. I use the word 'break' for a reason. It implies a resting period and a resting period is another way of saying time without you."

"Now that's harsh." House has spilled the ketchup by now, and Wilson gazes morosely at the spot on his upholstery.

"That's not going to come out, you know."

"I always pull out."

Wilson's jaw drops. "That doesn't even make sense!"

"But it was the perfect opportunity to say something crude, and—" House is reaching across his desk as he speaks— "crude enough stuff still shocks you for some reason—" he's got another sandwich in his hand— "and you do that cartoon crap with your face when you're shocked. Never waste an opportunity."

Wilson has a mouthful of ground beef, and House is sitting there smirking at him, looking far too pleased with himself, and there is ketchup on his couch. It's not bad. The food, that is.

"Thanks," he says. He grabs the abandoned napkin and dabs reluctantly at the brand-new stain. House has spilled so many things on various pieces of his furniture over the years that he could almost, just by licking the cushions, remember every meal they'd consumed together in a decade. "So."

"So?" House hasn't quit eating, and he appears to be watching the clean-up process with rabid curiosity. He looks at Wilson now, eyes wide, eyebrows raised.

"When can I expect to start putting the moves on patients?" Wilson gives him an exaggerated wink.

"Oh. Didn't I say it wasn't drugged?"

"Didn't I say I don't believe you?"

"Stop scrubbing at that," House says irritably, "you're just going to make it worse." He pulls another napkin out of the bag, scrubs it over his face, and tosses the filthy wad in the general direction of Wilson's trash can. He misses by a mile.

"Aren't you going to pick that up?"

House's beeper buzzes. "Sorry, can't. Patient's going into cardiac arrest."

"And last time I checked, you weren't a nurse."

"Last time I checked, you weren't a janitor, but—" House waves a hand at the trash can, and he's right; Wilson picked up the napkin. "You are such a control freak. They're not very good in bed."

Wilson sits behind his desk again and stares pointedly at the wall.

"You're boring, too," House says from the doorway.

"Oh get out."

"Not till you admit it."

Wilson blows a straw at him, and House leaves laughing.

------------------------------------------------------------

They keep up the routine for two weeks. House doesn't drug him the first day. He doesn't drug him the second, or the third, or the fourth, or the ninth, either. On the tenth, Wilson swallows the last bite of a hamburger special that is really wearing out its welcome (provided it ever had one) and begins to wonder about House's ulterior motive, because House always, always always always has an ulterior motive and House has not paid for his lunch in years.

Come to think of it, the last time House bought anything for Wilson he dosed him with amphetamines and he nearly felt up one of his patients—sitting up for a breast exam? Gloves? He was lucky he didn't have a heart attack. Okay, afterward he'd had to admit that it was a little funny—but it could've been disastrous. And that headache was the headache from hell.

He runs through the options.

House might be trying to escape someone. But he hasn't heard of anything.

Wilson adds a footnote to his mental list: Talk to Cuddy.

House might be trying to… trying to be nice.

Wilson scratches that off immediately, and scrawls under it his reasons for elimination—no flying pigs, no rain of fire, no end of times. Not yet, at least.

House might be trying to drug him again.

That doesn't make sense either. He's eaten ten hamburgers—okay, four, since he threw away six because he didn't think he could look at another chunk of cow again, let alone eat one—and there's nothing wrong with him.

House might be easing into things so he can slip him a drug with less difficulty.

Yeah, that has potential.

Wilson leans back and runs a hand through his hair, loosens his tie a little, tries to relax—which reminds him. Two weeks ago he'd had another panic attack, and it'd been in House's living room. Damn, that was embarrassing, and House never brought it up. Odd behavior; if House found anything he thought could be used against Wilson, he was sure to milk that thing for all it was worth, bringing it up at every possible opportunity, shouting it down the hallways when he had the chance.

So.

Panic attack plus free hamburgers equals….

Wilson leaves the equation incomplete. He's just turned his brain into a synaptic whiteboard, for God's sake.

The ketchup stain is still on his couch, and he has a meeting in half an hour.

Current Mood: busy

Monday, May 14th, 2007
11:09 pm
Fic: Triggers
Triggers

Life's funny in that rational thought can't always overpower what it should. Man says to himself over and over and over that mind betters matter every time, but things don't always work out that way. Panic attacks, for instance. Sometimes the common-sense part of the mind, whatever part that is as you don't see it labeled on a medical diagram (parietal lobe, temporal lobe, hypothalamus, small-section-that-prevents-owner-from-jumping-off-a-bridge), goes on the fritz. Then you're afraid of what you know you shouldn't be afraid of—and it is, all told, pretty damn frustrating.

Wilson has panic attacks occasionally. They are not fun, and he would much prefer not to have panic attacks occasionally. He would much prefer not to have panic attacks at all.

He doesn't know for sure what sets them off, but they've been around for awhile, a few in high school even. He hasn't had one in front of House before, and he isn't inclined to. He thinks having a panic attack in front of House would be even less fun than having one anywhere else.

Unfortunately, what with things not always working out the way they should, Wilson gets unlucky.

He's sitting on House's couch some Friday evening; he's got his feet up on the coffee table, and House is sprawled beside him drinking a beer with his feet on the coffee table too, almost a perfect mirror image, in that special way that should be creepy but isn't because that's the way good friends tend to operate. They're watching the end of a Hitchcock movie he caught on TBS because he's had a shitty day, but he knows that he can almost count the seconds until House changes the channel. House has never been able to stand Vertigo for long, but Wilson's always liked it. Something about old movies appeals to him. House has always ventured the notion that he might harbor an unhealthy attraction to Jimmy Stewart, but he shoots that down.

They're not talking, and neither of them has said a word for half an hour, because they were bickering over House's latest insane scheme. House called him a spineless shit-faced saint or something along those lines (possibly cruder), and he said something about House needing to build relationships with actual human beings and maybe needing to have more than a drink with the nutritionist. Things escalated from there, but they'll talk again in an hour or so. House'll start playing the piano sometime, and afterward Wilson will probably go back to the hotel.

But then House turns to him abruptly, with a look on his face that Wilson doesn't see very often, and sets into a new spiel. He's seriously angry, angrier than Wilson thought he was before maybe. Who knows? Maybe it's a combination of the day's stress and the fact that he thought he could get away without taking the antidepressants. He can feel pressure building up in his chest, and before he knows it he is finding it difficult to breathe, which is eerily familiar.

He bends down and puts his head between his knees a little and tries to breathe deeply. There are a few tears sliding down his cheeks—that's what always happens to him, and it's the most embarrassing part. His eyes are heavy, and there's an ache forming in his stomach. His heart's racing. He wonders if he has the presence of mind to take his pulse. He's not in any danger but he is curious.

He's still fighting to breathe normally when he realizes that House left the room at some point, because House has returned. House pushes a glass of cold water into his hands and says a grumbled something about drinking it slowly, along with another hard-to-follow remark about calming down, and Wilson's shoulders are shaking and his fingers are trembling so he can't hold the glass properly. House takes it back, sets it on the table where their feet were minutes ago.

"I'm okay," Wilson says, but that's ridiculous. His voice keeps cracking and his heart keeps racing and he isn't sitting up yet.

"You're an idiot," House says, and House is, as usual, right.

When he does calm down, half an hour later, and his heart rate returns to normal, he doesn't meet House's eyes and House makes no effort to look at him. They exchange a few clipped sentences—does he do that often or only to impress the chicks, well he's done it a few times, has he identified any triggers, probably stress but he's not really sure. They're watching the end of the movie like it's continued to hold their interest.

Wilson drinks the water eventually, though he would prefer alcohol. House wends his way to the piano bench once the glass is drained, where he plays quietly for awhile until Wilson dozes off, his plans to return to the hotel forgotten, his clothes from work rumpled and his briefcase abandoned by the door.

He shifts Wilson on the couch when he's snoring, loosens his tie and then decides to remove it altogether. Though it's not something he would normally do, he unearths a blanket from the hall closet and covers Wilson up.

Wilson, in the morning, vaguely remembers someone standing beside him, hesitantly smoothing the hair from his forehead. But the sensation is hazy and could be nothing but a dream.

Current Mood: stressed

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
8:37 pm
Fic: Tic-Tacs
Tic-Tacs

Wilson kills himself quietly.

No one sees it coming, and afterward they console each other—“Never thought he was the type,” acquaintances murmur in the hallways, “My God! can you believe it?”

Those who can believe it don’t say anything, because if they suspected it maybe they could have stopped it, and not stopping it means they might be responsible. They want to sleep at night, the nurses in Oncology who noticed that their Head of Department came to work just a little tired sometimes, the doctors who asked him how he was and kept right on walking while he answered. People slip through the cracks, they tell themselves after they’ve turned out the lights. People kill themselves all the time. It wasn’t their job to make sure good old Dr. Wilson didn’t take a potent combination of tranquilizers and codeine. It wasn’t their job to see that he didn’t die.

They sleep at night, those people, and they dream. And they forget.

Someone replaces good old Dr. Wilson soon, because Oncology is too busy to go without a Head for long. A man brings a dented toolbox and painstakingly scrapes his name from the door. In the lounge outside some pretend the man isn’t there—others stare, and you can’t be sure what they’re thinking because you don’t know how they knew Wilson, or if they knew him at all.

You’re sure they didn’t know that he slept in soft T-shirts and threw his arm above his head when he snored, or that he had a dirty sense of humor that nearly rivaled yours, or that he was the only one who could make you feel guilty.

Or that he was your conscience, and now he’s gone—well, now he’s gone.

Chase and Foreman discuss it in hushed voices when they think you aren’t around, but you eavesdrop.

You wonder if Chase is remembering what Wilson said to him after he saved the girl who was allergic to light. You don’t know what Wilson said, obviously, but you are thinking of the way he’d drift off to sleep in your office, and the way he lent your vegetative-state guy his car, and the way he played paper football.

The police came when you called them, even though you mistrust detectives (hell, authority figures in general), and said that there were no signs of homicide. Dr. James Wilson, respected medical professional, picked up several prescriptions on Friday afternoon for patients who didn’t exist. He carried those bottles to his new apartment, where he locked the doors, ate a simple meal, brushed his teeth, and took the pills one by one until he passed out. They said it was painless.

“Like candy,” the sergeant on duty marveled. “That took guts. He just popped ‘em like Tic-Tacs.”

You don’t know why he did it, but you know how.

You are playing poker at the time, with some losers from your building who are more than happy to let you win their hard-earned cash. When you learn his time of death the next day, you realize that you’d held a full house.

You don’t go to see him until Saturday afternoon. You want to pester him into going to a stupid, grimy, cheap bar with you, because he doesn’t get out enough and someone has to be his bad influence and you are so damn good at it. You open the door with your spare key, because knocking is for wimps.

He looks alive on the couch, like you caught him in the middle of a nap, but you know better.

You pick up his hand and feel for a pulse, moving through a haze, your skin going numb, and he is lifeless. You peel back his left eyelid and he is still lifeless and there is a desert in your chest, hot and sandy and dry. Rigor mortis has already set in. Wilson is gone, and he has left you with his shell, the way a rattlesnake sheds its skin.

The desert spreads until dunes build in the back of your throat. You’re not sure you’ll ever drink again—the grit will absorb the liquid and suck it away, drain it down to nothing.

You realize that his hair is limp and his chest is flat and suddenly it hits you; Wilson will never draw another breath.

Wilson is dead.

You sit beside the body, put your head in your hands, and cry. A little. A lot.

Your shoulders shake, but there’s no one around to see, because you’ve closed the blinds.

When you stop crying, the desert is not appeased. You run a hand over your face, fish out your cell phone, and call for help—you don’t notice that your voice breaks, and when the operator asks if you’re okay, you hang up.

This happens once or twice a week. Wilson has killed himself quietly on a Sunday and a Monday and a Tuesday and just about every day by now, and it’s always the same. You are sweaty, tangled in your sheets. Your leg throbs. You have to drink a glass of water before you can speak, and your heart rate doesn’t return to normal for half an hour. You call Wilson and he answers groggily, but you say nothing, only wait to hear his voice and hang up.

Occasionally, you bring out a shirt that you’ve stolen from him, and look at it, or touch it to reassure yourself that he is still alive, still your personal Jewish mother hen, still your best friend, or pull it on and sleep without dreams.

If he notices that he is minus one of those soft T-shirts, he never mentions it, and if he identifies his midnight caller he is wise enough to leave well enough alone.

Current Mood: mellow

Sunday, May 6th, 2007
3:24 pm
Fic: Lollipops
Lollipops

“Wilson!” For once, House’s voice lacked any mockery or sarcasm. He sounded genuinely shocked. “What in God’s name happened to your face?”

The lollipop he’d been eating fell out of his mouth and landed on the desk, where it split down the middle.

Wilson was leaning against the doorframe. Since the walls were glass, leaning against the doorframe wasn’t exactly easy, but he managed. He touched his cheek and winced. “Ran into somebody’s fist.”

“Yeah, that’s what it looks like, but that’s not what happened.” House stood, threw the broken sucker away, frowned. “Damn, you look like you got hit by a truck. Well, more like you got hit by a truck and the driver backed up.”

He was sitting in House’s second-favorite chair by then, the one in the corner of the room where House reclined when he didn’t feel like being behind his desk because he could rest his feet on the ottoman. He’d seen House there after the evening with his parents, Gameboy in his lap and gaze fixed on the opposite wall, and hadn’t knocked on the door.

“Shit happens,” he said irritably.

“Okay, shit happens. But it normally happens to me.”

“So you’re the one who’s always getting kneed in the balls by patients. I don’t see why I can’t have a turn.”

“That’s more than a kick in the cojones.” House sneered. “Somebody must’ve really whaled on you.”

Wilson wished he had a mirror. He knew he looked bad, but how bad was bad? “Is there a lot of blood?”

“Well, I think the tie has finally passed on. Mercifully.” House leaned over. “Let me see.”

House actually did have a bedside manner of sorts—that was something Wilson tended to forget. Yeah, he was no Florence Nightingale, but he wasn’t Nurse Ratched either. Wilson held still so he didn’t lose an eye, and House ran his fingers over his face, grazing his cheekbones, cradling his chin, almost comforting.

Then House muttered, “You’re a fucking idiot, you know,” and there went that theory.

“It’s not like I asked for it.”

“Wait here.”

A first-aid kit in his desk drawer—that was House. He came back to Wilson with the plastic case already open, digging through it for gauze and hydrogen peroxide. Before Wilson could take a deep breath to ward off the sting, House dabbed his face, grinning appreciatively as the peroxide foamed and evaporated.

“Ouch! That hurt!”

“Oh, don’t be such a baby. I’ve seen pediatrics patients who handled a little peroxide better than you.”

Wilson grimaced. Damn, he was beginning to feel like he had been hit by a truck. Now House was bandaging the worst of the scrapes, smirking, and Wilson didn’t pause to wonder why he hadn’t fallen laughing on the floor or sent him down to the clinic. “You finished yet?” he asked.

“Yeah, just about.” House pressed his last Band-Aid onto the little gash on Wilson’s chin with a flourish, then poked him in the nose. “That hurt?”

“Ow, yeah.”

House poked his nose again, wiggled it tentatively back and forth. “Well, it’s not broken. You’ll live.”

“Hey, thanks, Doctor Friendly.” Wilson sat back and touched his cheeks, wishing again that he had a mirror.

“You want a sucker, Wilsie, since you’ve been such a good little boy today?”

Wilson grinned. “Seriously? Sure.”

But House, who’d already found another piece of candy for himself, leaned a hip suggestively on the corner of his desk and wiggled his eyebrows. “Too bad. That was the last one.”

“Bastard,” Wilson said good-naturedly. He stood up. His face almost felt a little better.

“So,” House said. “I did the doctor stuff. Now I get to hear the story.”

Wilson sat back down. “Who said there was a story?”

“Oh, come on. If you hadn’t wanted to tell me what happened, you would’ve gone to the clinic and let one of our many well-endowed nurses patch you up, or you would’ve gone home and done it yourself. Not like a few scrapes and a black eye are life-threatening.”

Yeah, he had a point. Wilson looked across the room, out the windows behind House’s desk, and shrugged. It was raining. “So maybe I just came to say see you later.”

House rolled his eyes. “Let’s go. I’m not gonna wait for the self-pity and denial so I can reassure you that hey, I’m a nice guy, because you already know I’m not. You didn’t come here banged up for no reason.”

“I got mugged, that’s all.” Wilson shrugged again. “Some jerk in the parking lot. Guy had a knife, so I didn’t make a fuss.”

He heard a popping noise. House had pulled the sucker out of his mouth and was examining it in the gray light. Wilson loosened his tie.

“You ever wonder how they make these?” House said, after awhile.

“Make what?”

“These. Lollipops.”

Wilson smiled, but that made his cheeks hurt. The mugger, whoever it had been, really packed a punch, had nearly knocked out one of his teeth even. He’d just opened the car door when someone’s hands gripped his shoulders—they’d turned him around and slammed him against the side. He’d tried to say something, but the guy, who’d been wearing dark glasses—the oldest trick in the book—held a knife to his throat, just lightly, enough to indicate that he meant business.

“It’s just sugar and corn syrup. It all goes to this huge press, and they insert thousands of sticks at a time.”

“When I was a kid,” House said, “I used to think the Tooth Fairy had a big black market going, where all these little dwarves got together and made lollipops when she wasn’t around.” He was still looking at the sucker.

“You were one weird kid, House.”

House laughed. “You should put ice on that.”

“Probably.”

Wilson leaned back and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, House was standing beside him, pack slung over one shoulder.

“I’m done for the day,” he said quietly. “And I’m pretty sure you were done two hours ago.”

“Yeah, okay.” Wilson stood, but he was hit by a wave of dizziness, and he swayed for a moment. Strong fingers wrapped around his forearm for only a second, then released him. “You wanna catch a movie or something?”

House glanced at the door. “Only if you make my dinner.”

Wilson shrugged. “Sure.”

And do the dishes.”

He laughed. “You’d have to throw that in, wouldn’t you?”

When they got to House’s place, though, House wrapped a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and insisted that Wilson hold it to his face to bring down the swelling—and while they’d walked across the parking lot, they pretended not to notice that House glanced around protectively.

And if Wilson noticed that House wasn’t letting him out of his sight—well, they didn’t mention it.

Current Mood: good

Monday, January 1st, 2007
10:19 pm
Drabbles
Using anamatics’ prompt, five drabbles inspired by five quotes from The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I sort of gave up on word counts and just kept them all under two hundred. All House/Wilson friendship. Feedback is lovely and makes me smile. xD

------x------

“I was charged with all this information when I called upon Holmes next evening.”—The Adventure of the Illustrious Client

“‘I was charged with all this information when I called upon Holmes next evening’—House, there’s a lot left; you do realize that—?”

“…”

“Okay, okay, I’m reading. ‘He was out of bed now, and he sat with his much-bandaged head resting upon’—”

“You skipped.”

“If you have this memorized, why am I reading it?”

“Your voice turns me on.”

“Nice try.”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“The pain hasn’t come back. You know what the statistics show—”

“I’ve done the research. I’m not completely stupid.”

“…”

“Gonna keep going or what?”

“…”

“‘Why, Holmes,’ I said, ‘if one believed the papers, you are dying.’”

------x------

“I opened the curtains and looked out into the garden, remarking that it was a fine night with a bright half-moon.”—The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier

The phone rang at midnight. Wilson’s hand, fumbling, eventually caught the receiver.

“’Lo,” he mumbled thickly, and waited.

“Howdy!” came the answer, too cheery.

“It’s midnight,” Wilson growled, unnecessarily. He flicked on the light.

“Yep!”

“What d’you want?”

“Amusement, alcohol, leg muscle. World peace is for Cameron and kittens.”

Wilson snorted. “Amusement’s first on your list?”

“Why are you talking?”

“If we’re asking obvious questions—”

“If you were with your wife, you’d be whispering.”

“Hanging up now.”

“My couch is bigger.”

“This a size contest? According to Cosmo, length—”

“It’s an invitation.”

“It’s midnight.”

“Yep!”

“Tomorrow?”

There was a click. Wilson switched off the light. Smiled. Slept.

------x------

“Holmes was lost in thought.”—The Adventure of the Three Gables

House was behind his desk, bouncing his ball with the handle of his cane, lost in thought, when tickets appeared beneath his nose.

“Truck show Friday,” cried the holder of said tickets gleefully. House looked up, and the cheerful, disgustingly youthful smile he was faced with helped him forget about his shitty life. He grinned.

In the crowd, tie notably absent, Wilson loosened up. Bouncing on the balls of his feet, balancing a drink in one hand and a bag of buttered popcorn in the other, he didn’t look like a middle-aged man with two divorces under his belt—he looked like a friend.

House grabbed a handful of Wilson’s popcorn, crunched the kernels between his teeth, and when Wilson glanced at him, smile flashing in the stage lights, he laughed.

------x------

“While they were talking a sudden cry of pain was heard.”—The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire

During their bet, while House was earning his time off from clinic duty and proving that he was an addict, he broke his hand. Wilson never quite knew what weapon caused the damage, but from the X-rays he determined that it was probably a heavy, blunt object, rounded at one end. He wouldn’t have admitted it, but the level of pain House endured hurt him. When he taped House’s fingers he was as gentle as possible—as if he were treating a child—and whether it was from guilt or from something else—well, he did not know that either.

------x------

“It may have been a comedy, or it may have been a tragedy.”—The Adventure of the Three Garridebs

House sat through “Psycho” and laughed. Uproariously. Loudly. At every scene. Wilson eyed him with each outburst, wondering whether or not to ask—he waited until the credits, when House’s giggles faded. There was dead silence from the opposite end of the couch for the bits which were actually funny. Wilson switched off the set.

“I can’t hear the soundtrack over your cackling, psychopath.”

House punched him in the arm, harder than necessary, grinning. “Loosen up.”

Wilson looked at House, who was remarkably happy and had no pills. He glanced back at the darkened television screen and laughed. And laughed.

Current Mood: relaxed

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006
11:50 pm
Film canister/Running Shoes
I'm a huge House/Hugh Laurie geek, and so I may be a tad... overly excited about something I received for Christmas, but here it is:

My sister was in L.A. on vacation recently, and she picked this up for me--apparently, it's the film canister in which the footage for an upcoming episode of House was stored. I figure that, since episodes have to be filmed in advance, it was the footage for a January episode--? Maybe the one on the ninth?

Anyway, I thought it was pretty awesome and wanted to share it--xD. Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!

...
(And a story:)

Running Shoes

Discounting sex, which was, of course, incomparable (and in a league of its own), there were two extracurricular activities House figured he’d always enjoyed—running and playing the piano.

He’d discovered running in elementary school, when the stereotypical fat-with-no-self-confidence bully stole his lunch for what seemed like the eighty-second time and he decided to get it back. One magnificent thirty-yard dash and one not-so-magnificent flying leap later, he was sitting gracefully atop McNeal’s head and McNeal was eating sand. House learned he had the proper build for running—tall and thin—and the proper motivation as well—half the time he ran because he didn’t want to get his ass kicked, the other half because he wanted to kick someone else’s. Things evened out, and eventually he started running for sport and pleasure instead. He’d never really liked fighting anyway.

Piano came after running, in high school. House was placed in a Piano 1 class his senior year because no other electives would fit his schedule. He was unsure about the idea at first, but he caught on fast—damn fast, as his father would have said in those days—and remained at least a full chapter ahead of his classmates for the rest of the semester. At home there was a baby grand which soon became his favorite haunt; until college, he divided his time between its polished bench, studies, the track, and lacrosse.

In college, House had no access to a piano. He did, however, have access to a track, and made use of it every chance he got.

In medical school, House got stuck with a roommate who’d wind up changing his life forever (and, regrettably, worming his way in on the list entitled “People Who Can Make House Smile”)—a Mr. James Wilson, brown-haired, brown-eyed, shy and remarkably devious, ladies’ man and geek, Hitchcock fan and great chef. For some reason—Lord knew why—they got along. They didn’t always get along, sure—Wilson was too patient for House, House too childish for Wilson—but something was there, some hidden similarity that drew them together regardless.

Wilson didn’t run or tickle the ivories. He played the guitar, though, and could hold his own against House in verbal banter any day of the week. And, of course, he could always make House smile.

A year or two into school, Wilson’s life seemed to be crashing down around his ears. His mother died, his brother dropped out of college and disappeared. Wilson’s grades fell—he slept less (not that House cared, but the tossing and turning became annoying eventually, and that bedside lamp—good Lord), drank more, and spoke hardly at all. House was beginning to think he’d have to solve the problem somehow when Wilson suddenly perked up again. Nothing obvious had changed; they hadn’t even had the funeral yet. It was just plain weird.

Though he burned with curiosity, House tried to forget about his friend’s abrupt personality alteration until he accidentally discovered what was going on anyway. He’d open the closet to grab his running shoes and they’d be missing, but the next day they’d be back, slightly dirtier and smelling of another man’s cologne. Obviously, either extraterrestrials were performing experiments on sweaty Nikes or Wilson was running, and House suspected the latter. Because the shoes tended to vanish when Wilson had a particularly bad day, House waited until such was the case and hid out by the football field. Needless to say, he wasn’t disappointed.

Fifteen minutes after House’s arrival, Wilson appeared on the scene, lugging some very familiar footwear. He sat in the bleachers, laced them up, and began running laps. The shoes were a size-and-a-half too big and Wilson was not exactly a track star—he was shorter and slightly stouter than House, after all—but there was something graceful in his stride, something fascinating about the lone figure moving in circles, hemmed in by the grass of the field, getting rid of some excess frustration. House was amused, annoyed, and pleased—Wilson felt pretty damn comfortable (too comfortable) with him if he was okay with stealing his shoes.

While House carried his tape player and blasted rock music in his ears as he ran (jazz was for wine and relaxation, rock for running), Wilson ran with no accompaniment other than the slap of rubber on sand and the huff of breath in the evening silence.

But those shoes—those damn shoes—were too big.

For some reason, this bothered House—perhaps because he’d always liked order and fit, perhaps because Wilson would get bloodstains on them if he happened to fall and snap his fool neck, who knew.

A week later, when the running hadn’t let up, House bought another pair of shoes in a smaller size. He left them where Wilson was certain to find them and sighed with relief because they began disappearing in place of his own. They hadn’t been expensive; it was no big deal, and no words were ever exchanged on the subject, no acknowledgment made by either man. House ran when he knew he wouldn’t encounter Wilson—if Wilson hadn’t told him, he wanted privacy, and House could be less than annoying sometimes—and promptly forgot the entire incident. Soon Wilson’s life took a turn for the better and the shoes began gathering dust, but House always knew his friend was depressed when the closet was emptier than usual.

House’s infarction changed everything, including his friendship with Wilson. He couldn’t even walk—running was no longer so important. And he had no way of knowing, though he might not have cared if he had, that Wilson frequented tracks again in the Nikes from med school.

Eventually, however, House recovered. It wasn’t easy and life sucked a whole hell of a lot more than it had before, but he could work, and work and music became everything. He longed to run again, and his dreams were often filled with the rhythmic sound of rubber on sand.

Then, of course, came the ketamine.

House ran to the hospital; he learned to skateboard and threw his cane gleefully in the closet. Maybe he even felt… happier.

And the day after he returned to work, he discovered the box of new shoes on his desk, and he smiled.

Current Mood: ecstatic

Sunday, November 26th, 2006
9:01 pm
It's Not Easy, 3/3
Title: It's Not Easy
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: Approx. 25,468
Characters/Pairings: All characters, essentially--House/Wilson friendship
Rating: PG-13, for a few swear words that kiddies shouldn't hear
"Summary":What if the problem with Wilson's latest marriage wasn't Julie's infidelity--what if it was something altogether different and considerably worse? Slight AU, but attempts generally made to keep all in character.

Sorry it took me rather a long time to post this last bit. Comments are much appreciated!

"Chapter" One
"Chapter" Two

X.

My blessings are in front of me
It’s not about the land
I’ll never beat the view
From my front porch looking in

There’s a carrot top who can barely walk
With a sippy cup of milk
A little blue-eyed blonde with shoes on wrong
‘Cause she likes to dress herself
And the most beautiful girl
Holding both of them
Yeah, the view I love the most
Is my front porch looking in

--Lonestar

Two weeks later House was on his way home from work when he saw Julie.

He had just pulled his bike up to the stop light at an intersection; as he waited impatiently for the light to change again, he began a game. It was a particular game which he’d played since being a boy bored to tears on family vacations—finding people nearby who caught his fancy and using their behavior and clothing as clues to guess what their lives were like. He was fairly close to accurate often enough that he even surprised himself at times, and he enjoyed the game so much he still played it when he had the chance. This was, of course, generally at stop lights.

Across the street there was a middle-aged woman, whippet-thin, with blond hair. Her movements were quick and rapid but precise, as if she wanted to control her motion and only allowed herself to travel a certain distance with each step. House watched idly as she strode, heels clicking against the pavement like Prada castanets, to the door of the Second Street grocery; before she turned inside her gaze skimmed once around the surrounding area, as if to check and make sure it had not moved while she wasn’t watching. It was when her eyes hesitated on him that House realized who she was; who she was and that she recognized him as well.

Then he was swerving dangerously through traffic and pulling into the parking lot.

House drew his bike up in the nearest handicapped space, removed his cane from the side, and swung his leg onto the ground. He left his helmet on the handlebars and headed toward the automatic doors; he made a point of ignoring the small blue-and-white sign, refusing to look at it though he knew it was there and felt its mockery tingling in the hair on the back of his neck. He had more important things to deal with.

Wilson was still living with him. It was taking awhile to get things sorted out with the divorce and House personally suspected that Wilson didn’t want to return to his old place anyway, but planned on renting his own apartment somewhere else. They fell back into their usual pattern of joshing each other and cracking crude jokes and things returned to normal except that every now and then Wilson had had a nightmare. In the early hours of the morning one day House heard a high-pitched keening sound—it had been followed soon after by a series of choking, half-restrained sobs. The noise disturbed House, sending an unpleasant chill up his spine, and he had popped a Vicodin, dragged himself out of bed, and limped half-asleep to the living room. He’d found Wilson twisted in the blanket, writhing as if in pain, face and arms pale and covered in chilling sweat. House had looked at him for a moment; then he’d sat down in a chair and flipped on the television. There was nothing on at six in the morning but he had General Hospital on TiVo; halfway through the show he’d glanced up to find Wilson awake, still pale, shaking a bit but calmer. He’d poured them each a shot of whiskey, the color came back to Wilson’s face and they went to work two hours later like nothing had happened.

(Cuddy called Wilson a good influence. If she’d known how he was getting House in at eight she might have reconsidered.)

After a similar situation had occurred three nights later, with brandy and Blackadder, House began to realize that while Wilson had told him more than he’d ever wanted to know by a long shot, the man still had told him nowhere near everything. He didn’t push Wilson about it; that wasn’t his job, his duty, and he didn’t really want to hear about whatever it was anyway. Instead he woke Wilson with the television, plied him with alcohol, and kept his mouth shut. They didn’t really talk any more, but he still played the piano.

The nightmares had begun to stop within a week. The first time House woke up at nine to the sound of his cell phone ringing rather than at six to a desperate cry for help from his living room he nearly felt the way a parent does when their kid uses the potty; he and Wilson never mentioned it, though—he’d never asked Wilson what he dreamed about, he didn’t particularly care to know, and Wilson didn’t volunteer.

When Wilson wasn’t working or watching television in the evenings with House, he was reading a book, making dinner, sleeping, blow-drying his hair, doing something else reflecting an odd male passion for cleanliness, studying oncology journals, or—and this was the latest development—calling a woman. House had had no idea who this particular woman was until he’d listened in on one of Wilson’s conversations and heard the name “Grace.” He hadn’t asked Wilson about her, of course, just waited to see what happened—nothing had, but Wilson used his cell phone for an hour and a half every evening talking to the mysterious chick about nothing in particular, and when he hung up he always seemed happier. Happy-Wilson meant Wilson-Who-Didn’t-Wake-House-Up-At-Six-A.M. It also meant House was happier. For some odd reason, he began to smile more when Wilson was and swear the pants off random strangers when Wilson was in a particularly bad mood or had related a disturbing tale recently. Swearing the pants off random strangers, of course, had always been one of his more pleasurable pasttimes anyway, but Wilson’s depression made him that much more annoyed.

It was the first time he’d been so close to anybody since Stacy, and—to be honest—the whole thing scared the shit out of him.

The oddest thing about it of all, though, was that he wasn’t trying to change it, wasn’t attempting to kick Wilson out or forget about him. The oddest thing was that he still hung around.

He was beginning to realize that, all those times when he’d insistently asked Wilson why he still stuck around and Wilson couldn’t answer him satisfactorily, those times after his infarction when Wilson had knelt in House’s own vomit to dab his face with a cold cloth, hauled him to his bed, stuck his head in a cold shower when he’d drunk too much, and House had turned round the second he got a chance and flung a beer bottle at his face, when House screamed in pain at Wilson to get out and Wilson sat next to the door—all those times this was how Wilson had felt. How, perhaps, Wilson still felt.

Not that he was particularly masochistic, but that he had to stay. Needed to stay. Because, if for no other reason, nothing else would seem quite right.

But it had been two weeks and things were really getting back to normal.

And then he saw Julie at the grocery store.

House pushed his way past a young woman with a basket of yogurt and a tongue ring, past an older man with a beer belly larger than a small collie, past a tiny boy who nearly ran over his foot pushing a minature shopping cart of his own, and into the produce section. The familiar blond head was bobbing by the asparagus. Ten minutes and one unwanted artichoke later, House was trailing her into the meat.

In the meat department she bought a large soft-shell crab, four and a half pounds of ground chuck, and a pack of a dozen Foster Farms chicken legs. In dairy she bought a gallon of milk, two cartons of cottage cheese, a tub of butter and six small containers of fat-free strawberry yogurt. In deli she bought a pound of potato salad, half a pound of fresh-sliced roast beef, and some Provolone cheese. By the time she reached baked goods House was cursing his photographic memory and furiously trying to remember the words to Bohemian Rhapsody so he wouldn’t count how many frosted vanilla cupcakes went into that cart of hers.

He finally got his chance in frozen food.

The aisle was empty, there were no stockboys within twenty-five feet—he’d checked—and she had her head inside the low-calorie dinners, checking a box of chicken marsala for carbohydrates, when he tapped her on the shoulder. He almost felt sorry for her when she jumped and cracked her head against the next shelf up—almost.

Not sorry enough though.

In his mind he saw a disturbingly cheesy montage; Wilson tied to a hospital bed demanding to know why he was called suicidal, Wilson asleep in the Corvette, Wilson grimacing when he heard the name Wilsie, Wilson drinking beer quietly in a pizza parlor, Wilson standing by the stove flipping pancakes, Wilson striding through the hallways at his shoulder letting him know in no uncertain terms exactly how stupid he was being, Wilson talking over the sounds of a General Hospital rerun which had been turned down anyway, Wilson munching popcorn and watching a movie, Wilson making fun of him, Wilson answering the phone too politely, Wilson sobering him up when he was too stoned to stand, Wilson’s sobs waking him at six in the morning, Wilson pointedly ignoring him while he swiped chips, Wilson rolling up his sleeves, Wilson lying on his couch while he played the piano, Wilson smiling in the dark—Wilson.

As House looked into the blue eyes which were practically mirror images of his own, knowing he was staring down Wilson’s demons, he realized he couldn’t hurt the woman. Not because he didn’t want to—oh, no, he wanted to. Because Wilson, naïve idiot that he was, still loved her, and because he, God help him, loved Wilson.

Julie blinked. Somehow his fingers had found their way around her wrist, and through his too-tight grasp he felt the butterfly-wing fluttering of her pulse. She was obviously frightened.

House found that he didn’t give a shit, but he released his grip anyway.

“Greg?” she said, unconsciously rubbing the marks left by his pressure. “What can I do for you?” A carton of strawberry yogurt dropped from her cart and rolled across the floor. It came to rest by a rack of small, fluffy children’s toys, leaving behind on the tile a puddle of gloppy pink liquid which made House think of blood. Nobody moved. The store radio went off for a moment; the intercom came on and someone announced that a cleanup was required in Aisle Four.

“Long time no see, Ms. Scott,” House growled. He refused to call her Ms. Wilson.

“Yes, it has been, hasn’t it?” Julie gave a nervous smile and took a step to the right. House mirrored her movement. “And what a surprise to run into you at the grocery, of all places.”

“You’re buying a lot of food. For more than one?”

“I’m having a bit of a party tonight,” Julie said. “Some friends are coming to visit.”

House had no idea why he was making inane conversation in the frozen-food section of a grocery store with a woman he hated when he should have been—he didn’t really know what he should’ve been doing, but he knew it should’ve been something different.

“No new husband, I hope,” he said.

“No.”

“Aren’t you going to ask how he is?” House snarled. “Five years. Do you even care?”

Julie stared into his eyes and backed away. She seemed to be regaining her courage. “Do you, Greg?”

“That doesn’t matter,” he said, pressing forward again. “You nearly destroyed him. Why? Why would you do that? He didn’t deserve it and you may be a cold-hearted, frozen bitch, but what you did is worse than kicking a puppy. Worse than kicking a thousand puppies.” House’s voice dropped, but the lower pitch served its purpose better than a higher one would have. “You bitch, why did you do it?”

“Need any help, ma’am?”

Both House and Julie glanced up at the noise and turned to look down at the end of the aisle; there stood a bag boy, red-apron-clad, trolley-wielding, and glaring viciously at House as though the man were the devil incarnate. His brown hair stood up in an unmerciful cowlick atop his head, his cheeks were covered in freckles, and all told he looked like there was nothing he’d have liked more than to bop House over the head with a large cast-iron frying pan.

“Oh, no, I’m fine,” Julie said quickly, “thank you for asking.” The bag boy, with no small amount of reluctance, retreated. Julie snapped her head back around to House with a movement so sharp he wondered she didn’t get whiplash.

“We can’t talk about this here,” she hissed.

“No shit.”

“Let me buy these things and we’ll go to the parking lot.” The tone of her voice was that of a question, not a statement, and she made no move toward her cart. She seemed to be waiting for him to respond.

House studied her face and nodded briefly, silently. Julie’s heels clicked back across the aisle, chicken marsala forgotten; he tailed her to the checkout line, waited impatiently as she slid her Visa (wondered if it was Wilson’s money she was using), let her struggle with the bags all the way to her car. Leaned against the bumper while she loaded the goods in the trunk and jerked it shut; then, with his cane, gestured for her to sit on a bench across the way. Her eyes flickered up to him—she was short, shorter than Wilson. She obeyed, folded her hands in her lap, said nothing. House wanted to tell her she was not a lady and so she couldn’t sit like one. Instead, he limped over and stood in front of her.

“Why did you do it?” he repeated. He was quieter, slightly drained of adrenaline. Waiting in line for a man whose face belonged on a Shar-Pei to find his checkbook had the habit of doing that to a guy.

Julie raised her gaze to his. “What?” she said.

“I don’t want to play games with you. Cut the crap.”

“He’s living with you now, isn’t he.” Julie’s eyes bored into his and House couldn’t picture Wilson with her. He didn’t answer; that wasn’t her business.

“He wasn’t a very good husband.”

“Did it ever occur to you that you weren’t a very good wife?”

“Do you want me to answer your question or not?” Julie’s voice rose a bit. House sensed she was getting angry and knew that if she made it to her car he’d never get another chance as good.

“Answer it.”

“He’s not a true Jew,” Julie said. “He’s a workaholic who can’t keep his pants zipped or his hands to himself. That stupid dog of his trashed the place—“

“Charlie,” House muttered to himself, and then it hit him.

“Charlie. Where is he?”

“What makes you think he’s any place other than home?” But Julie dropped her gaze. House knew where Charlie was, all right.

“Did you have to kill his dog too?”

“He wouldn’t stay out of the garbage. Stunk up the furniture. Scratched at the doors till the early hours of the morning. What was I supposed to do with him?” Julie said, annoyed.

House shook his head. “Forget it. Keep talking.”

“He’s an embarrassment. Has the manners of an oaf.”

“So you threw plates at his head.”

“No. I—I—” Julie got to her feet, her cheeks glowing, fists clenched. “I don’t have to talk about this with you. With anybody. I have to get home. I have guests.”

“The home might not be yours for long, you know. Divorce and all.” House didn’t feel threatened; even in heels, the crown of her head barely reached his chest. Compared to Wilson, he thought, she would have been a lot taller.

“I have to go.”

“You never told me why. You’re not going anywhere.”

Julie stepped forward. House stepped forward. “You really are a crazy bitch, you know that?”

She said nothing, was motionless. Trembled with restrained anger. House thought of Charlie and shook his head slowly. “You won’t answer me.” He studied her eyes, her face, one last time.

“You know why he cried at night. You have the power to give him some closure—you owe him that. And you won’t answer me.” He shook his head again.

“But you have told me something,” House said a moment later. She still hadn’t moved. “I think you answered me anyway.”

He left Julie standing by the bench, strode to his bike and never looked back. It wasn’t until he reached home that he began to regret not punching her.

----------------------------------------

Wilson was stretched out on the couch napping in a dying ray of sunlight, an oncology text open on his stomach, when House opened the front door. Steve McQueen was rustling busily in his cage in the corner and didn’t notice a thing.

“Some guard-rat you are,” House said. He flipped the latch on the cage and lifted out his pet. Steve scrambled onto his shoulder and began nibbling his earlobe. House thought momentarily of Charlie, another test job in the experiment to determine whether dogs really went to heaven, and limped into the kitchen to hunt down something for dinner. There was a plastic container in the fridge with a Post-It stuck to the top; the note was in Wilson’s terrible scrawl. It read “House—this is my lunch. DO NOT TOUCH IT IF YOU VALUE YOUR RAT.”

House tore the note off and was about to dump it on the counter when he realized there was something written on the back.

“House—you never listen, right? Anyway, the joke’s on you this time. I made extra.” Wilson had skipped down a space or two and written, in much larger letters, “HA.”

The food was some kind of unusual spiced meat and noodles, but a third of the way through it House realized he’d lost his appetite. He popped two Vicodin, poured himself a shot of scotch, and put Steve into his small, specially-designed rat-ball. Steve disappeared in the direction of the living room, rolling at top McQueen-speed, and it wasn’t more than two minutes before House heard Wilson.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Steve—House?”

House—intentionally—didn’t say anything.

Wilson got up and came into the kitchen carrying the rat-ball in his hand; the first things he noticed were the Post-It on the counter and the half-empty dish on the table.

“I knew you’d eat it, I knew it! Didn’t I tell you, Stevie-Weevie? Didn’t I say that?”

“Talking to rats is, in most circles, considered the first sign of insanity.”

Wilson smirked. “Well, we all knew you should’ve been in an asylum decades ago.” Steve squeaked as if in affirmation.

House tossed the scotch to the back of his throat and swallowed.

“How’s the patient?” Wilson asked, sitting across from House. He absentmindedly reached over with one hand to pull open the oven. “You put them in there aga—”

“I saw Julie today,” House said, and then mentally clocked himself with the nearest bat for being about as subtle as a tanker truck. Wilson’s face went approximately four shades paler; he began rubbing his fingers lightly over the plastic of Steve’s ball and occupied himself by looking anywhere other than at House. House poured another shot of scotch and slid it down the table to him. Wilson drank it without hesitation as soon as it came within reach; he had two more before he spoke.

“And?”

“At the grocery store. She was buying strawberry yogurt.”

“Julie hates strawberry.”

“She had guests.”

There was silence for a minute. Steve began to fidget, so Wilson opened the hatch at the top of the ball and let him climb out. He ran up Wilson’s arm to the back of his neck, where he sat down and began busily twitching his ears. Steve wouldn’t sit on anybody else. Apparently he made Wilson think of pets too.

“How is—” he began.

“You don’t want to know.”

“I do.” Wilson got to his feet. “Don’t tell me what I want to know, House. Just—”

House sighed. “Have you ever seen the movie All Dogs Go To Heaven?”

“No,” Wilson said hesitantly. It took him a moment. He looked pleadingly at House and House lowered his gaze.

“I’m sorry,” he said, not sure why he was apologizing.

“Why did you see her?” Wilson said angrily.

“What?”

“Why did you see her? Did you learn anything?” Wilson burst. “Do you get off on coming home and telling me my dog is dead? Are you happy now, House? Damn it, are you happy now?”

House glanced at the grain of the table and followed the pattern of it with his eyes. The blow-up had to come eventually, right?

“I don’t have anything else. You remember when I said to you that all I had was my job and our stupid, screwed-up friendship? Oh, you do? Damn you, House, I was exaggerating then. Exaggerating.”

“I know,” House said.

“You got me to where I’m not exaggerating, House. Not any more. I don’t have anything. Nothing.” Wilson’s voice caught and he pushed upright; Steve ran hastily back down his arm and onto the table again. “I won’t put you out. You couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you? Had to see her. Had to push. People are nothing but puzzles to you, aren’t they?”

“Sometimes.”

“I’m not a puzzle. I’m not a damn puzzle. I’m a human being, House. You keep pushing, I’ll break. You don’t give a shit about what I say to you but you still want to know, you still want to know everything. And when I won’t tell you—well, I guess we all know what you do then.” Wilson looked at his feet and wiggled a toe philosophically. “I hope she answered your questions. I hope she did. I hope she told you all the shit I wouldn’t. And I hope—I hope, House, it keeps you awake at night, you bastard.”

Thirty seconds later House heard him in the living room, grabbing the few things he’d kept while staying over—slacks, shirts, his pager, novels, medical journals, a—House winced, remembering—rubber dog bone—pulling on his shoes, picking up his keys. The door slammed and he was gone. When House returned to the scene in ten minutes, it was disturbingly empty, as if its second occupant had never been. The blanket was even folded over the back of the couch. He sat down at the piano, bringing the scotch with him, touched his hands to the keys, and began to play. He was three-fourths through a song before he realized he was playing Paper Moon.

XI.

Steve walks warily down the street
The brim pulled way down low
Ain’t no sound but the sound of his feet
Machine guns ready to go

Are you ready?
Hey, are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat, yeah

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, we’re gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

-Queen

Wilson woke up the next morning with a rat on his face.

He would not have found this quite so unusual had he been in House’s apartment, but as things happened he was attempting to sleep on the too-small, too-hard couch in his office with no blanket, no pillow, and no breakfast, and he definitely hadn’t expected to have a rat on his face at—he checked his watch—seven-thirty in the morning. Last time he’d checked, there were no rats in the oncology department.

Wilson reached up with one hand, dislodged the furry culprit’s claws from his nose, and acknowledged that it was Steve. That was good. He didn’t particularly want a rabies shot. It was much nicer to have a friendly rat on your face.

Steve.

House.

He let his head hit the arm of the couch again—bump bump stabilize—closed his eyes.

He’d been living with House for about three weeks when he’d had his first nightmare. It had been so real; it was like going back in time and reliving, over and over, the memories which he’d worked so hard to bury. But then he was woken by the sounds of a television show he recognized—General Hospital—and when he’d fought his way back to reality, he’d seen House sitting there watching the set. It made him feel surprisingly safe. There really was something to the idea of carrying a big stick.

He’d never mentioned anything he dreamed of to House. Though he was able to tell the man a lot of things he hadn’t thought he’d be able to tell anybody, some things would remain his secrets forever.

To Wilson’s credit, he’d never imagined House might go behind his back.

House and Julie had not been friends when he was married and didn’t become friends afterward—House had attended two dinner parties, caused both to end catastrophically, and, in fact, was banned from the property. As a result of that, they’d barely spoken; Wilson knew perfectly well House hated her guts. And after the phone call from the lawyers, Wilson found himself torn. Part of him still loved Julie and wanted to see her again, to find out how she was doing, and the rest of him wanted to slit the first part’s throat and was terrified of ever so much as going within five miles of Julie. He knew she didn’t want to talk to him, and there he was torn as well—he couldn’t decide whether she didn’t want to talk to him because he didn’t deserve her attention or because she’d just given up on him. There was also the possibility that she did, in fact, want to talk to him, but was waiting for him to make the first move.

Wilson was afraid of seeing Julie again, wanted to see her again; was relieved she wasn’t contacting him, was ashamed he’d been such a rotten husband that she didn’t want to contact him; knew he didn’t deserve her behavior, had a niggling feeling that wasn’t quite true and maybe he did anyway. And through all his confusion one question had resounded in the depths of his mind—why?

He was not certain really of anything else, had no clue of her motives, was even growing less certain of how he felt about himself, but he knew one thing—he wanted to hear from her lips the reason why she hated him.

Wilson had been distracted and he forgot to be suspicious. He forgot what a bastard House could really be when he sat down and gave it the good college try, and he forgot that House saw a Rubik’s Cube where everyone else saw a man. Again, his emotions told him House would not betray him, had a greater sense of honor than that, was a better friend than that, but his common sense didn’t believe it. And when House came home, told him so bluntly—as if it were an everyday thing—that he’d seen Julie at the grocery (House never went to the grocery—how did he wind up there?), told him in so many words that Charlie was dead, something had come over him. He’d lost control; he’d exploded. Grabbed his stuff, stormed out, got drunk in a terrible bar, and wound up on the couch in his office at three in the morning, dead to the world.

He’d had a nightmare by himself, the first in two weeks, and no one was there with soaps and silent brandy when he woke cold, sweating, afraid.

And there he was, drained, slightly hung over, with a rat sitting on his face.

Wilson cradled Steve in his left hand and got to his feet. The blood rushed to his head as he stood, but he ignored it. Steve squeaked in protest. Wilson lifted Steve to his shoulder and moved slowly, gingerly across the room. There was a cage by the door. Wilson bent down and picked it up. It was Steve’s. A small piece of paper had been pinned to the bars; he undid the safety pin and examined the slip. The note was written in House’s handwriting. It was unsigned.

“You’re a dog person, but Steve seems to like you. I’m sure you’ll survive.”

A few lines had been skipped, and then—

“He hates walnuts. After dinner he gets a small—small—piece of Swiss. And Wilson, if you give him alcohol I swear I will hunt you down and kill you.”

One more line—

“Take care of McQueen. He’s good company and a real ladies’ rat.”

“My God,” said Wilson reverently (if House had been there he would have said “You finally got it right”), once things had properly sunk in. He shrugged on his lab coat, dashed a comb through his hair, and made for the elevator as fast as he could considering that he had a cast on his ankle and a sleeping rat on his neck.

-------------------------------------------

House was twirling his cane. Every now and then he opened one eye and glanced up at it, spinning through the air, a blur of smooth silver against the sterilized ceiling of his office. If he squinted he could not make out the cane itself at all any more, only an oval that somehow mysteriously glowed. He thought he would make a nice kitchen fan and laughed mirthlessly to himself. The hallways and the Diagnostics rooms were silent. The white-board was blank; his markers were—thanks to Cameron—color-coded; his team wouldn’t be in for fifteen minutes. It was too early to be anywhere and he was at work. At least he had his iPod, and said machine was currently blasting Queen.

House concentrated on separating the sounds of each individual instrument from the rhythm created by the collective.

Then his own private version of meditation was utterly ruined, because the song finished and changed to a terrible ballad by Mariah Carey.

Wilson had been tampering with his playlists again.

House kept his eyes shut and scrolled to the next song. This was one Wilson had actually recommended—and he'd downloaded it, of course. He kept scrolling. There was a knock on the door—sounded more frenzied than usual. He pretended not to hear. The knocking kept up. He’d closed the blinds and locked all the doors to his office.

Five minutes later the knocking stopped. House heard limping footsteps retreat down the hallway outside. He scrolled until he found a song by The Who and lost himself in solitude.

House sat with the Coma Guy at lunch, using the man’s left hand to hold his bag of Doritos, his chin for his Reuben, his belly as a perfect soda can holder. He watched General Hospital sprawled in a guest chair with his feet propped on the edge of the bed, and nobody found him. Cuddy forced him to start doing clinic hours in between consults and his patient’s MRI; he told a fat nun she was pregnant, a man with kidney stones that he had prostate cancer, and was well on his way to telling a worried young mother with a colicky baby that her son had smallpox when Cuddy caught on and forced him to stop doing clinic hours. He left at four-thirty, didn’t get home until five. His apartment was too empty without Steve or Wilson; he ordered Chinese and cracked open his fortune cookie by himself.

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP.

4533436357456434265474356

He threw the paper into the fireplace. There was no fire but he thought there might be one eventually.

He lay on the couch, researched his case for a few hours. When he had an idea, he poured some scotch and punched buttons until he found a show on television to watch. He quit playing the piano at midnight. Then he popped two Vicodin, went to bed, and stared sleeplessly at the ceiling.

After a month and a half, he no longer liked making music for himself.

-------------------------------------------

House got to work the next morning at nine-fifteen. His team was already by the white-board; Foreman—Foreman, not even Chase—was touching his markers. He didn’t realize Wilson was leaning against the wall in the corner until he was halfway through railing on the black boy for being where he didn’t belong—they didn’t call it a white-board for nothing—and noticed that Cameron was grinning more than usual.

When he looked at Wilson, Wilson merely stared at him.

House hid his surprise by sending Cameron to take patient history, Foreman to run an MRI, and Chase to—well, as he put it, to wherever blond-haired British boys liked to go at nine-thirty in the morning. Then he went into his office, locked the door, and found his iPod. Ten minutes later, Wilson left. He still hadn’t said a word.

------------------------------------------

That evening, Wilson was sitting on the couch eating chow mein clumsily (very clumsily) with chopsticks when House got home.

Steve was in his cage on the coffee table.

XII.

Another winter day
Has come and gone away
In even Paris and Rome
And I wanna go home

May be surrounded by
A million people, I
Still feel all alone
Just let me go home
Oh, I miss you, you know

Let me go home
I’ve had my fun
But, baby, I’m done
I wanna come home

--Michael Bublé

He’d knocked on House’s office for ten minutes; there had been no answer and he’d given up.

House hadn’t appeared in the cafeteria at lunch. For a minute, he’d wished someone would steal his food and leave him with the bill.

He hadn’t gone to House’s that evening. His fear had returned with a rush. He’d driven to the apartment, limped uncomfortably up to the doorway, and stood with his finger resting lightly on the bell, unable to apply pressure. He was a certified award-winning oncologist, head of his department, and he could not bring himself to ring a doorbell; he’d approached, lost his nerve, approached, lost his nerve, finally made for his car and drove off. He wasn’t sure what he was afraid of, but he was afraid anyway.

He’d waited in the diagnostics room the next morning—he hadn’t been able to say anything then either.

Finally, when he got home after work, he decided that he’d had enough; enough of tiptoeing around, trying to figure out a way to contact House safely, with minimal nervousness. Wilson plucked his spare key off his dresser, dropped Steve from the rat-ball into the cage, slid on his ratty tennis shoes (there was a pun there someplace), and drove, once more, to House’s apartment. He was sitting on the couch with his feet up eating Chinese and watching Steve sleep when House turned his key in the lock at six and came in, scowling, smelling of alcohol.

House glanced at Wilson, ignored him, sat silently on the couch and flipped on the television.

After ten minutes of being half-heartedly studied, glared at, and surveyed by a very annoyed, more-in-need-of-a-shave-than-usual House, Wilson took Steve out of his cage and dumped him on the couch. Steve scurried over to House and climbed up his arm to the back of his neck. Wilson grabbed the remote, aimed it in the general direction of the set, and pressed mute. House’s eyes could have lit something on fire.

“Steve is yours,” Wilson said, ignoring House’s stubborn silence. “I can’t keep him, and I won’t keep him. You and that rat are like—like bosom buddies. It may be unhealthy, but I can’t keep him.”

House lifted Steve from his shoulder and stroked the rat’s ears lovingly.

“Will you take him back?”

“Why did you come back?”

Wilson looked at his shoes. “I never said I wouldn’t.”

No one spoke for a few minutes. Something scratched at the front door. There was more silence, and then a bark. The bark was followed by a second and a third—each one was louder than the previous. Steve’s beady eyes darted warily in the direction of the sound. House glanced at Wilson and raised one eyebrow.

“You see, uh,” said Wilson, “there is, uh, sort of, kind of, maybe a little reason why I can’t keep him. Besides the whole your-disturbing-relationship thing.”

“Would this reason happen to have, oh, I don’t know, four legs and a tail?”

Wilson stood up and opened the door. No fewer than thirty seconds later House’s face was being furiously licked by a large fluffy brown mongrel and Steve was cowering for his life behind his own cage.

“House,” Wilson said hesitantly--very hesitantly--“I’d like you to meet Greg.”

--------------------------------------------

Oh, for heaven’s sake, you named a dog after me? What are we, married?”

“Now, now, Greggy,” Wilson crooned, hefting the dog in question into his arms and stroking its head, “he really does like you—your uncle Housey-Wousey just has something we grownups like to call commitment issues.” Greggy seemed unfazed and began slobbering thoughtfully on Wilson’s left ear. “Ooh, Greg, that’s the spot, that’s the spot. A little to the left—oh, yeah.”

“Can we sound a little less dirty when we talk to the dog?” House said, snickering. “You’ll tarnish my rep.”

Greggy leapt, with a groan, from Wilson to the floor and began snuffling under the coffee table. Upon finding a spilled chunk of meat, he settled down, crossed his paws and proceeded to make small half-growling happy sounds. Steve poked his nose cautiously around the corner of his cage, wiggling his whiskers; House grabbed him and put him inside. “Where’d you get the dog?”

“Same place I got Charlie,” Wilson said, sitting on the couch again, “the city animal shelter.”

“Okay,” House said, “try this—for a man sleeping in his office, where do you plan on keeping the dog?”

Wilson grinned. “Um.”

“You want to keep that—” House gestured at his namesake “—in my apartment?”

“Can I?”

“Look,” said House, “I didn’t expect you back in the first place, and things were normal around here again finally, and you show up with a dog. It’s named after me, which is nice and all, I guess, disturbing really, but—”

Wilson studied the top of Greg’s head silently for a few minutes, and when he glanced warily back up, House saw that the shadows in his gaze of a month before had returned.

“I’m sorry,” Wilson said. “Can I talk to you?”

It was House’s turn to stare at the dog. He rolled his eyes. “You want a drink?”

“Yeah.”

Ten minutes and two shots of Jack Daniels later, House and Wilson were sitting on the couch while Greg scampered in circles around the coffee table and Steve, in his cage, nibbled busily on a pecan he held between his front paws.

“So,” House said finally. “What’s up with this Grace?”

Wilson promptly shattered his tumbler. “What?”

House sighed. “You idiot, that was my favorite shot glass. Grace. The one you’re always calling up and grinning about.”

“Hold on.” Wilson retreated to the kitchen and returned, arms akimbo and smirking. “A doctor, a man who should know better than anybody the value of cleanliness, and you don’t own a dustpan?”

“I don’t own a dustpan,” House said, “and if I did it wouldn’t be in the kitchen. Forget the glass. It’s not gonna go anywhere. Neither are you.”

Wilson, feeling rather like a small, unruly child, sat down and focused with an extreme amount of concentration on the tip of Greg’s twitching tail. He resisted the urge to ask where, exactly, the dustpan would be, if not in the kitchen.

“Grace.”

“She is,” Wilson said, “uh, a patient. Of mine.”

“Do you talk to all your patients so much, Patch Adams?”

“Um. No.”

House grinned.

“Anyway,” Wilson said. “About the other day.”

Greg lifted his head and woofed softly. House pursed his lips and whistled. A moment later Greg was draped across House’s lap and House’s fingers had found their way to his ears. Wilson’s jaw dropped. House popped a Vicodin.

“Is there a point to this discussion,” he said, rolling the pill around on his tongue, “or are you just going to keep stuttering and yacking till we all die of boredom?”

“It’s just—well—Julie—”

“Saw her on the way home, corner of Market and Fourth, walking into the store. So I followed her, okay? Man, could you have picked a colder bitch?”

Wilson looked at his shoes. “Why?”

House sighed. By now Greg’s eyes were closing in bliss and he was beginning to snore.

“I had one side left.”

“Huh?”

“On the cube. I had one side left.”

Wilson reached over and touched Greg’s nose. “Which color?”

“Red.”

“I hate red.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Huh?” Wilson dropped the shard of broken crystal he’d been idly fingering. In years of friendship, not once had he heard those words so solemnly from House. Greg thumped his tail once, twice; House glared.

“Don’t make me repeat it or I swear I’ll shoot you and mount your head on the wall of a country club. You’re pretty enough; with antlers I could pass you off as a five-point buck.”

“No. Wait. I just don’t get it. Let me get this straight. You’re sorry that I hate the color red?”

House rolled his eyes. “You’re dumber than I thought.”

“Woof,” said Greg.

“What? You want some whiskey?”

“House. Dogs don’t drink alcohol.”

“Woof.”

“Hear that? He wants some.”

“House. Why?”

There was silence. House rubbed Greg’s ears once more and met Wilson’s eyes.

“She didn’t answer me.”

Wilson blinked confusedly. “What did you ask her?”

“I asked her why.”

“Woof.”

“Damn it!”

“What now?” Wilson’s eyes were on the ground, the keys of the piano, the ceiling, the abandoned TV Guide resting on the coffee table, anywhere but House.

“Haven’t you ever heard of walking your dog?” House grabbed his cane and got to his feet. There was a rather large wet spot on his jeans. Greg jumped to the ground, where he began running in circles and barking excitedly. Wilson snatched the leash—it had been Charlie’s—from the table and snapped it onto Greg’s collar; Steve squeaked in protest and House irritably poured another shot of whiskey, whereupon he proceeded to dump it on Wilson’s head.

“That’s for stinking up a perfectly good pair of jeans.”

“Well, that was for making me wet the bed!”

“No, you filed through my cane for that.”

“And you stuck twenty copies of Playboy in my briefcase before a board meeting for that!”

“Woof,” said Greg, dancing busily by the door.

“House. I have whiskey. On my head.”

“So? Chicks dig that.”

“Woof!”

“Squeak,” said Steve, thinking he’d join in.

Wilson wrapped the end of Greg’s leash around his hand and went outside. House examined the now-empty bottle of Jack Daniels, tossed it into the trash, grabbed the remote and began flipping through his TiVo. By the time Wilson came back House had worked his way through half the order of won ton and was busy amusing himself by throwing grains of rice to Steve. Greg curled up near the cold fireplace and went to sleep. Wilson, whose hair was plastered to his head and who still stank of liquor, sighed, sat down, rested his feet on the coffee table and opened his mouth.

“Why what?”

“I like you better when you don’t say anything.”

“House.”

The television went silent again.

“Why she wanted to hurt you, okay? Damn it, Wilson, even when I pour warm whiskey on your head you’re Mr. Rogers. I half expect you to burst into song while you do the dishes. Sure, you cheat, you drink, you swear, and you are one major pain in the ass, but nobody wants to break you for it. She wanted to break you.”

“And a puzzle piece was missing,” Wilson said to himself.

“No. Well, yeah, but I wanted to know—” House sighed and glared at the quiet television set “—for you, too. Wilson, you had night terrors. You weren’t exactly the picture of sanity. Not like you ever are, of course, Mr. I-Dry-My-Hair-At-Six-AM-And-Clip-My-Very-Loud-Toenails-For-Eight-Hours—”

Greg rolled over in his sleep and twitched an ear.

“I’m sorry.”

House sighed. “I’m not gonna ask what for—”

Wilson shrugged. “I blew up. It was wrong. You’re not a bastard.”

“No,” House said, “I am a bastard, and you know it. But, you idiot, you like me anyway. And get this.”

“Yeah?” Wilson glanced at him quickly.

“That’s your funeral—and this is mine.” House paused. “You’re a pretty-boy adulterer who doesn’t know what’s good for him—but, call me an idiot, I like you anyway. I do. And--and I need a drink.” Greg waved his paws in the air. House returned in a few minutes with two shots of scotch.

“Thanks,” Wilson said, after he’d had a swallow.

“I told you you’re a pretty-boy adulterer.”

“No, you told me I’m a stupid pretty-boy adulterer. And you said you like me anyway.”

“So maybe I don’t know what’s good for me either.”

“There’s an apartment closer to PPTH I’m gonna check out tomorrow.”

“Good.”

“Till then,” Wilson said quietly, “can I stay here?”

House turned his head. “Have I taught you nothing, padawan?”

“No, not really.”

House laughed. “Number one on the list of things never to do is ask a question when you already know the answer.”

Wilson grinned, and House found that he was grinning too.

“They’re fading,” House said a few minutes later, with an abrupt nod.

“Huh?” said Wilson, glancing briefly around.

“Those scars you were being such a girl about. They’re fading.”

Wilson looked at them himself. “I know.”

“Scars give a man character.”

“Sure do.”

“And—dude?”

“Yeah?” Wilson looked at House again.

“That whiskey on your head? Total babe magnet.”

“Maybe Grace’ll like it,” Wilson said, winking.

House whistled and the newly-awakened Greg jumped into his lap.

“If you’re ready,” House said quietly, “maybe she will.”

Wilson rested his head against the couch and scratched Greg’s ears. “Thanks, House.”

“I swear, you thank me again and I’ll—“

“Shoot me and mount my face on the wall of a country club, I know.”

“Woof,” said Greg.

“Squeak,” said the sleepy-eyed Steve.

And that night, while House played the piano and sang old Irish drinking songs too loudly with Wilson, they realized Julie didn’t matter, Stacy didn’t matter, Cuddy didn’t matter, nobody mattered. Because, whether or not the other one admitted it, whether or not the other one wanted to even think about admitting it, they’d be there.

Because scars will fade, but friendships don’t have to.

Because House could tolerate dog drool, and Wilson knew he’d always have a place to stay with no lobster in sight.

Because music sounds better when you’re not the only one listening to it.

And because House was a full-fledged, grade-A bastard, but Wilson loved him anyway.

~end


Current Mood: okay
Thursday, November 23rd, 2006
9:21 pm
A Script (Of Sorts):

[It’s dark outside, long after working hours are over. We see a bus stop sign—beneath the sign is a bench. WILSON sits on the bench; obviously, he’s waiting for the bus. The wind has picked up, and it’s tousling WILSON’S hair, ruffling the legs of his slacks. He looks a little cold and a lot forlorn, and he’s staring out into the street. Everything’s silent, and there’s no traffic. No one’s around.

For a few minutes, WILSON is motionless, a picturesque statue—The Thinker, Oncologist Style. Then—]

WILSON: [Sighs.]

[Sound of an engine in the distance. HOUSE pulls up; he’s riding his motorbike. HOUSE stops at the light, pauses, looks over at WILSON. WILSON stares at HOUSE and doesn’t move. The light changes. HOUSE drives off without looking back.]

WILSON: [To himself.] Guess that’s that.

[Silence for awhile longer. Ten minutes later, the bus pulls up. WILSON stands and fishes out his wallet, searching for bus fare. He finds it and begins to climb inside.]

BUS DRIVER: Not taking any more passengers tonight. Didn’t you see the sign?

[WILSON steps back and looks up at the sign atop the bus. It says, “Out of Order.”]

WILSON: Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.

BUS DRIVER: No problem. Have a good evening.

WILSON: You know when the next bus will come by here?

BUS DRIVER: Probably about half an hour.

WILSON: Thanks.

[BUS DRIVER drives off. The sign is still winking golden—out of order. Probably the man’s going home, maybe to the arms of his wife, with a hot meal on the table and a fire in the family room. This reminds WILSON that he has to find something to eat for dinner. WILSON sits down on the bench again. All is silent. Then there’s the sound of an engine. It’s a car engine this time.

HOUSE pulls up again. He’s behind the wheel of a red car. He rolls down the window and looks out. WILSON looks at him.]

HOUSE: Well?

WILSON: [Tiredly.] Well what, House?

[Something clicks. It’s the lock on the passenger-side door.]

WILSON: I can’t read minds, House. What do you want now?

HOUSE: [Grudgingly.] Wait’s gonna be another thirty minutes.

WILSON: You don’t ride the bus—

HOUSE: No, but—unlike some people—I’m intelligent enough to check the schedule.

WILSON: So—

HOUSE: You getting in or not?

[Silence. WILSON contemplates this. It’s not much, but—coming from HOUSE—it’s a hell of a lot. And does he really have another choice? With HOUSE, does he ever really have another choice? Then again, would he want another choice?]

WILSON: [Standing up, lifting his briefcase.] I’m getting in.

[WILSON pulls open the door and slides inside. There’s something on the seat. He lifts it and nearly laughs.]

WILSON: You should take better care of your Ip-Od. Very valuable device.

HOUSE: [Hesitantly—he doesn’t want to say this.] You know—about—

WILSON: Don’t worry about it.

HOUSE: I wouldn’t.

WILSON: I know.

[Pause.]

HOUSE: It’s pretty late.

WILSON: Planning on driving anywhere any time this century?

HOUSE: Yeah.

[HOUSE puts the car in gear and presses the gas. They drive off.]

[Fade.]

Current Mood: sick

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006
11:22 pm
A Script (Of Sorts):

[It’s dark outside, long after working hours are over. We see a bus stop sign—beneath the sign is a bench. WILSON sits on the bench; obviously, he’s waiting for the bus. The wind has picked up, and it’s tousling WILSON’S hair, ruffling the legs of his slacks. He looks a little cold and a lot forlorn, and he’s staring out into the street. Everything’s silent, and there’s no traffic. No one’s around.

For a few minutes, WILSON is motionless, a picturesque statue—The Thinker, Oncologist Style. Then—]

WILSON: [Sighs.]

[Sound of an engine in the distance. HOUSE pulls up; he’s riding his motorbike. HOUSE stops at the light, pauses, looks over at WILSON. WILSON stares at HOUSE and doesn’t move. The light changes. HOUSE drives off without looking back.]

WILSON: [To himself.] Guess that’s that.

[Silence for awhile longer. Ten minutes later, the bus pulls up. WILSON stands and fishes out his wallet, searching for bus fare. He finds it and begins to climb inside.]

BUS DRIVER: Not taking any more passengers tonight. Didn’t you see the sign?

[WILSON steps back and looks up at the sign atop the bus. It says, “Out of Order.”]

WILSON: Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.

BUS DRIVER: No problem. Have a good evening.

WILSON: You know when the next bus will come by here?

BUS DRIVER: Probably about half an hour.

WILSON: Thanks.

[BUS DRIVER drives off. The sign is still winking golden—out of order. Probably the man’s going home, maybe to the arms of his wife, with a hot meal on the table and a fire in the family room. This reminds WILSON that he has to find something to eat for dinner. WILSON sits down on the bench again. All is silent. Then there’s the sound of an engine. It’s a car engine this time.

HOUSE pulls up again. He’s behind the wheel of a red car. He rolls down the window and looks out. WILSON looks at him.]

HOUSE: Well?

WILSON: [Tiredly.] Well what, House?

[Something clicks. It’s the lock on the passenger-side door.]

WILSON: I can’t read minds, House. What do you want now?

HOUSE: [Grudgingly.] Wait’s gonna be another thirty minutes.

WILSON: You don’t ride the bus—

HOUSE: No, but—unlike some people—I’m intelligent enough to check the schedule.

WILSON: So—

HOUSE: You getting in or not?

[Silence. WILSON contemplates this. It’s not much, but—coming from HOUSE—it’s a hell of a lot. And does he really have another choice? With HOUSE, does he ever really have another choice? Then again, would he want another choice?]

WILSON: [Standing up, lifting his briefcase.] I’m getting in.

[WILSON pulls open the door and slides inside. There’s something on the seat. He lifts it and nearly laughs.]

WILSON: You should take better care of your Ip-Od. Very valuable device.

HOUSE: [Hesitantly—he doesn’t want to say this.] You know—about—

WILSON: Don’t worry about it.

HOUSE: I wouldn’t.

WILSON: I know.

[Pause.] HOUSE: It’s pretty late.

WILSON: Planning on driving anywhere any time this century?

HOUSE: Yeah.

[HOUSE puts the car in gear and presses the gas. They drive off.]

[Fade.]

Current Mood: nostalgic

Monday, November 20th, 2006
8:15 pm
House Drabbles
Money Song – Monty Python

“It’s all about cash,” House said. He was standing in Wilson’s office, hands wrapped around his cane, knuckles turning white, bones nearly visible through the flesh. “These big companies want to make more—as if they didn’t have enough already—so they take an old drug, change it a tiny bit, market it as a new drug that’s just as useless. I won’t do it.”

Wilson looked at him. For a moment, there was déjà vu, and he thought that he’d experience a heated confrontation in his office again. Soon.

“You have to,” he said quietly, already knowing House wouldn’t.

------------------------

Another One Bites the Dust – Queen

A wonton slid into House’s mouth. He bit down twice, with a satisfying click of molars, smacked his lips in that way which annoyed Wilson because the noise was loud enough to bypass the sound of the television, and grinned. Wilson eyed him.

“I paid,” House said indignantly.

“Only because I don’t have any money!”

“Which proves nothing, other than the fact that you’re a chump!”

“A chump?”

“What have I done for you?”

“Uh—” Wilson was caught off guard.

House deftly flipped another morsel of food into his mouth. “Another one bites the dust,” he said, and smirked.

------------------------

Runaround – Van Halen

“Look. You can’t keep this up forever,” House said. He leaned on his cane and watched the man, every movement the man made. A formidable opponent.

“Questioning my—” House paused. He’d been going to say “my friends.” Wilson was his friend, but his fellows? Ah, who cared?

“Freezing bank accounts—you have no case. This can’t be legal.”

Silence.

“Maybe if I tell the truth—that I did forge them—you’ll—”

His voice was the only sound.

House sighed and lowered his head. When he looked up, the bathroom mirror was motionless.

He’d have to do something eventually.

------------------------

Dancing In the Street – Van Halen

Oh God, that was wonderful, heavenly, glorious. For years he’d longed, known he couldn’t, suppressed the desire—now his muscles were aching in a way that didn’t make him reach for the bottle—he didn’t have the bottle, how great was it to be freed of that old ball and chain? He was breathless in a way that didn’t scream spasm, he was happy again.

He’d do this every day if he could, and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity he hoped. Maybe he could.

He climbed into the fountain, threw his head back and laughed.

------------------------

Because You Loved Me – Clay Aiken

When he was lying in bed, tubes running from what felt like every orifice, helpless to do anything without asking for help, House spent a lot of time staring at that vacated blue plastic chair (fitting because blue was a sad color, the color your lips turned when you couldn’t breathe). He lay, staring and wondering.

She’d done it out of love. She hadn’t wanted him to kill himself. She’d lied to him, tricked him. He’d be in pain for the rest of his life.

“Because you loved me,” he whispered, his voice hoarse. This was what came of love?

------------------------

While You Were Sleeping – Casting Crowns

The couch was wet.

This was the first thing Wilson thought upon waking. The couch was wet, couches were not normally wet, and said couch had not been wet last night as he’d fallen asleep. Dry couch at night, wet couch in morning—sailors take warning? What the hell was he talking about?

But this couch was not wet with water.

Wilson sprang to his feet. Good Lord, it wasn’t wet with water.

Was he regressing to childhood? Did he need therapy?

Then he spotted the lone glass in the sink, and things clicked abruptly into place.

House would pay.

------------------------

Desperado – The Eagles

Two years ago Cameron had been naïve, a child with a crush, smiling shyly, expecting him to tap-dance with that cane, present her with a dew-damp rose, escort her to restaurants and pull out her chair—well, maybe not all that, but she’d had a crush just the same.

Now she stuck to working for him. If she felt affectionately toward him, this was no more than she felt for Foreman. Or Chase.

And then he put his hand on her shoulder, and he murmured to her, and after he’d left her tears flowed afresh—partially for a different man.

------------------------

The Orphan – Newsboys

“He’s my brother, for God’s sake. I just want to see him.”

“He doesn’t have a brother.”

Please. He hasn’t seen me in years.”

“And he can’t see you now. But this is when everyone decides to crawl out of the woodwork, right? Get their pound of flesh? He can’t see anybody. Get the hell out of here.”

“Look—it was hard enough to find him. It took awhile to get the news. Don’t normally read the obits. Can’t I just—?”

“He didn’t forget you.”

“He wouldn’t.”

“It ate at him.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t let me stop you.”

“Thanks.”

Current Mood: relaxed

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
11:19 pm
Better Days (1/1)
Title: Better Days
Characters/Pairings: House/Wilson friendship
Words: 188
Spoilers: Latest episode--the one after Que Sera, Sera. Many spoilers
Warning: Song-fic (is that legal? I have no idea--my first one)

Better Days

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
‘Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

Wilson leaned on the ATM machine, forearms crossed, and nearly wanted to cry. Shit, how could this happen to him? He was reputable, he was the head of his department, and he was lying to the police. And why was he lying to the police? Because his best friend was an asshole who didn’t care about anything but drugs.

I need someplace simple where we can live
And something only you can give
And that’s faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child who saved this world
And there’s ten million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

Now his bank accounts were frozen and he had nothing any more, not really. Maybe it would be better if he turned House in. For a few seconds, he was struck by this sudden, unexpected blast of hatred. Wasn’t like House cared.

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

And Wilson was about to do something—either cry, or break something, or scream—when House looked at him in that way House had, that way which said I really do care, but I won’t/can’t/am too afraid to tell you, the same look he’d seen in Atlantic City as House told him to leave because he didn’t want to push until it broke.

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

Wilson took a deep breath.

“You’re getting dinner,” he said abruptly, pushed up and headed for the door—because he knew House would follow.

‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

Current Mood: calm

Saturday, November 11th, 2006
11:40 pm
Pure Gospel (1/1)
Title: Pure Gospel
Word Count: 737
Characters/Pairings: House/Wilson friendship
Spoilers: None whatsoever
Disclaimer: Not mine
Summary: A red Corvette, a sunny day, two best friends and an enlightening realization--some pick-me-up fluff. Yay!

Pure Gospel

Late Saturday afternoon, and Wilson was in the passenger seat of House’s illicit Corvette, leaning his head comfortably against the head-rest and grinning. Seriously grinning—not the kind of grin that came when he bust a gut laughing, which stretched his cheek muscles until his ears nearly wiggled, or the kind of grin he forced, showing all his molars, when Julie asked his opinion on a table setting and he couldn’t tell the difference between Cream Paradise and Ivory Glory—oh, no, this was the real thing.

The radio was blaring, the top was down, the wind ruffled his hair, and he’d just had a very good lunch, topped off by a very good drink. He’d have to go back to his apartment in a little while, unfortunately. The place wasn’t sterile; he’d filled it up with the proper things which belonged in a home (family photographs, television, refrigerator, two chairs, one table, one bed, one couch, other stuff that slipped his mind at the moment), but it just didn’t feel like home yet. Maybe, Wilson thought, it never would. It wasn’t his home, after all, and wasn’t even as good as the other apartment, the one House had lost for him.

At the time, though, once he’d recovered from being more hair-tearing glass-shattering really-incredibly-pissed angry than he’d ever been in his life, he would have lost two more equally great apartments if he could’ve, because it was nice to know that House didn’t mind having him around. Given, House didn’t mind having him around only because he cooked and washed dishes, but if House had just desired those two qualities in a roommate he might have hired a maid years ago. But he hadn’t wanted a maid, he’d wanted Wilson. That was nice—and so Wilson realized as House was sprawled on the floor, broken cane clattering across the tile, laughing like an idiot.

They’d gone to lunch that afternoon. It had been a day when Wilson could almost forget about House’s infarction and pretty much everything bad in the world in general. For some reason, he was grinning. He moved his head slightly to the right and kept on. It had just been a damn good day.

Wilson was still looking out the window and listening to the radio when House glanced over at him and opened his mouth for what had to be the eighty-trillionth time in two hours.

“The song making you sleepy? Or was it the alcohol?”

“I had a beer, House,” Wilson said. “You’re the lightweight here, remember?” He smirked because House wasn’t a lightweight at all.

“Just don’t fall asleep in the car. Even if I wanted to lug your sack of dead weight into the house, my third leg might voice an opinion.”

“I’m not going to fall asleep in your car. What am I, your date? Besides,” Wilson said, smirking again, “what makes you think I’m drunk?”

“Well, judging from that grin,” House said, “you’re either drunk or high, and I’ve only seen you with alcohol.”

“Dude. Coat pockets. Men’s restroom.”

“Dude. Breath check.” House paused. “Also. Dude. It’d be obvious by now.”

“You,” Wilson said, grinning, “don’t watch enough television. And I never thought I’d say those words.”

“Read less, more TV. That’s pure gospel. Who said it?” House screwed up his face and feigned thought. “Oh yeah. Me. Hence the phrase, ‘pure gospel.’”

“If everything you said was pure gospel, Cuddy would be working for Hooters by now.”

“And there’s a problem with that?” House laughed. “What’s with the grin? Annoying. Looks like Botox gone wrong.”

“I don’t know,” Wilson said. “Maybe I’m happy.”

“Because you’re out of that apartment for once in your life?”

“Naw,” Wilson said, “just happy.” He looked at the road ahead and realized he was.

“Happy,” House said. “With me? What are you, crazy?”

“Could be.”

Wilson kept grinning and House kept running his mouth, and they both kept those things up all the way back home. And probably Wilson wouldn’t be so happy tomorrow, but during the drive, with the seat, the radio, the wind, he’d wanted to freeze-frame the moment and keep it forever, for the times when life sucked again.

Eventually Wilson would realize that he didn’t need to replicate the circumstances to replicate the feeling. Eventually he would realize that House made him happy, odd as that was, and he made House happy—because they were friends.

~ end



Current Mood: annoyed
Friday, November 10th, 2006
11:37 pm
Untitled
Title: Untitled
Word Count: 602
Spoilers: Vague spoilers, I guess, but not really--you're in no danger.
Characters/Pairings: You figure it out. (No pairing intended, though.)
Warnings: Character suicide. This is a really crazy fic; I was slightly insane when I wrote it. Sorry. It's not good. In fact, it stinks.

It was Sunday and he was alone.

Only those ties he particularly hated were selected from his wrinkled collection (said collection currently stuffed into the bottom of his suitcase). He trimmed his nails one by one in the miniature bathroom, seated on the toilet, not bothering to ask himself why he cared about his appearance when there was no point—he was meticulous with the clippers, making certain to trim each cuticle. The hairdryer, cold to the touch at first, grew hot quickly when he plugged it into the wall socket; he angled it properly so that the warmth reached his scalp and shivered almost unconsciously at the unexpected heat. He combed his hair out afterward, strands so warm they seemed to glow at his touch, radiating reflected heat into his fingers and the palms of his hands.

He concentrated on the sensations. There was no future and there was no past. There was only the present, the here and now. He pulled on his socks. They were black. One didn’t quite match the other. He removed the one that didn’t match and found a different pair entirely. It took him a little while to make the exchange.

Shoes were by the door. Not the work shoes, the others. Needed to be shined—polish in the suitcase. He sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed with a blackened rag until he saw his face in the toes, four familiar eyes staring back at him. He didn’t look too long, slid his feet abruptly into the leather shackles instead. He stood up and washed the rag in the bathroom sink, watching as the water from the faucet, now a dark shade of gray, ran trembling down the drain and disappeared.

Everything was done now, everything was ready.

He continued to keep his mind blank as he strode to the table by the door. A pen was chained to the edge, like the pens in banks, not immovable but restrained. Life was a lot like that. He wrapped his fingers—they seemed so numb now—around the pen, brought it to paper, and scrawled a brief message in doctor’s handwriting. The pen was replaced in its holder, the paper positioned appropriately on the table, facing the door. He turned around and surveyed the room one final time; quiet, empty, small, mass-produced. Middle-aged, and this was what was left of him? He was leaving this legacy? This wasn’t a legacy—it was a station far by the wayside, a truck stop. How many others had slept in the same bed?

Who cared?

He adjusted his collar and sighed.

-------------------------------------------------

When they found him, his loafers were dangling a foot from the ground. The space between their soles and the floor seemed wrong. Men weren’t meant to fly. They undid his suspension, lowered him. Eventually they would bury him, eventually, but not yet. He was on a stretcher for awhile, face covered—they knew he wouldn’t need to breathe.

There was the sound of a motorcycle outside, followed by footsteps. The attendant, a man in a white coat, explained what had happened, obviously trying to be calming—the words violated the quietude, the speech spattered the body with vapid graffiti. There was no glorifying death, there was no dignity in it. There was only the end of living. A snap of the fingers and you were gone. Better to believe life wasn’t a test.

They handed him the ties, knotted together, each knot in itself a precise work of art, and he went outside. He sat on his bike, leaned over the handlebars and cried.



Current Mood: sore
Monday, October 23rd, 2006
7:57 pm
It's Not Easy, 2/3
Title: It's Not Easy, 2/3
Word Count: No clue
Characters/Pairings: All characters, essentially; House/Wilson friendship
Rating: PG, possibly PG-13 (I suppose)
Summary: What if the problem with Wilson's latest marriage wasn't Julie's infidelity--what if it was something altogether different and considerably worse? Slight AU, but attempts generally made to keep all in character. Final "chapter" up in a few days.

V.

Sunday morning, rain is falling
Steal some covers, share some skin
Clouds are shrouding us in moments unforgettable
You twist to fit the mold that I am in

But things just get so crazy, living
Life gets hard to do
And I would gladly hit the road,
Head off and go if I knew
That someday it would lead me back to you
That someday it would lead me back to you

--Maroon 5

The trial was in two weeks, on a Thursday. Wilson had always privately thought Thursday was the worst day of the week, and this just cemented the belief for him. While most people, House—of course—included, considered Monday the worst day of the week because it was the start of work, for years Wilson had looked forward to the start of work—it meant he got to get out of the house. Thursday was not Friday, which was bad enough in itself, but it was the day before, and that meant Wilson spent the entire time dreading the next. And now Thursday was the day of the trial. “I’m sorry,” Wilson said, “I don’t have time to buy your encyclopedia,” and he hung up the phone.

A remote hit the couch beside him. Wilson gave an involuntary jump and looked up to find House standing in the doorway smirking.

“Secret girlfriend?”

Wilson stiffened and dropped his gaze and House sighed, striding forward to retrieve the remote himself. “General Hospital,” he said, “is on, and we are not watching it. This activity, or should I say non-activity, is so heinous it should be criminal. I certainly hope you have an excuse which will hold up in a court of law.”

“I have a question,” Wilson said, and waited until House glanced at him. “Why aren’t you at work?”

“No time for questions,” said House, “it’s time for TV.” And he sat down on the couch across from Wilson. Wilson noticed the fact that House sat more gently than he usually did and was relieved.

House flipped on the television and grabbed his beer from the coffee table. “You know I spend all week thinking of reasons not to go to work,” he said, taking a swig, “especially when we don’t have a case—and we don’t—and now that I have a ready-made perfect excuse in my own home, you ask me why I’m not there? Have to be an idiot to pass up an opportunity like this.”

Wilson grinned at him. “Wouldn’t have anything to do with me, would it?”

“’Course not. It has everything to do with you. Now shut up. Show’s on.”

Wilson sighed. “Yup. This is why I became a doctor.”

House quirked a brow without removing his eyes from the screen.

“To get my best friend, who’s also a doctor, mind you, out of going to work because—”

Wilson, though he’d begun the quip rather well, found he couldn’t quite bring himself to finish the sentence.

“You broke your ankle when the Dean opened the door in your face.”

“She’s had it in for me for years, you know.”

“I believe it. Woman’s vindictive. Why else would she give me all those clinic hours?” House rolled his eyes. “This is it. Either shut up or I force you to—”

For a moment, Wilson feared House would say “go home,” though he knew it was irrational and House couldn’t force him into it anyway. He swallowed.

“—watch Vertigo.”

“But I like Vertigo.”

“What’s your point? And what did I just say?”

“Er—shut up?”

House turned up the volume and Wilson got the message. Using the arm of the couch and his crutches, he pushed himself to his feet to begin the journey to House’s kitchen. He’d started to notice that distances seemed a lot longer when you couldn’t walk without aid. This, he supposed, was what House always had to endure, and he felt a brief rush of sympathy. His movement was enough to draw House’s attention—he glanced in Wilson’s direction and raised an eyebrow again.

“Gotta make a phone call.”

House shrugged and went back to watching his show, ignoring the fact that the cordless was still beside Wilson’s can of beer where he’d abandoned it a few minutes ago.

Wilson put a hand on the wall for support as he turned into the hallway and made his way around the corner. He passed up the phone hanging by the light switch entirely, touching the handle of the fridge instead, pulling it open. For the phone call he was about to make, he needed a fresh drink. Someone from the television in the living room was heard audibly confessing her love. Wilson popped the top on his beer and reached for the receiver.

“Get a lawyer,” he said, when he heard the familiar answering machine. “It’s over. Court’s two weeks from Thursday. You’ll get the papers in the mail.” He paused. “I’m sorry,” he said. He hung up.

The sounds of General Hospital filled the apartment. Wilson left his beer untouched on the counter, the second one that day, and headed in the opposite direction. “House?” he called.

Being deprived of the opportunity to make a snappish, non-verbal remark, House growled, “Yes?”

“Can I take a shower?”

“Well, I should hope so!”

Wilson wanted to grin at the stupid joke but could not make his face obey. It fell instead.

“Just take the shower,” House sighed.

Wilson took a step.

“And don’t use all the hot water, either.”

Wilson heard the volume being raised and walked into the restroom. He propped his crutches against the sink and levered himself onto the toilet, where he began to remove the bandage from his shoulder. The wound had stopped bleeding entirely and was instead scabbing over quite pleasantly. Wilson tossed the bandage into the trash, tilted his head back until it touched the wall, and closed his eyes.

That was where House found him forty-five minutes later, asleep.

----------------------------------------------

The night before, House reflected, had actually not been so bad. Wilson had gone to bed, and House had played his favorite song until he fell asleep; oddly enough, when he’d passed by to go to his own room, he’d noticed Wilson was grinning. He himself hadn’t slept for longer than he’d expected, and he knew it hadn’t been from his usual insomnia; it was in the foggy hours of the early morning when he’d drifted off, and it was around eight o’ clock when he’d woken to someone in the kitchen.

To his surprise it had been Wilson, balanced uneasily on his crutches by the stove and turning pancakes—his favorite kind—with a spatula. House supposed it was in return for his previous sympathy and his uncomplaining acceptance of Wilson’s residence. He didn’t care as long as his friend’s guilt came along with those half-dollar slices of heaven.

He’d talked Wilson, with some difficulty, into calling a lawyer at around nine and retreated to the shower until he heard the click of the phone. At ten-thirty, thanks to Wilson’s wheedling and the fact that he knew perfectly well where the man’s car was (the parking lot of Princeton-Plainsboro), he drove downtown, dropped Wilson off at his lawyer’s office, and swung by to pick up some lunch—a Reuben, no pickles for him and a ham-and-cheese on sourdough for Wilson. It was the first time in ten years he’d paid for anyone’s lunch. In fact, he realized, laughing to himself as the tinny jingle of a commercial began playing, it was the first time in five he’d paid for his own.

Wilson hadn’t said much when House picked him up, only thanked him for the ride and the sandwich and fell asleep again for the rest of the trip home. He hadn’t mentioned his visit with the lawyers at all. House assumed that, after his confession, Wilson needed a break and a long nap; he didn’t have a problem with that himself and didn’t particularly want another deep, emotional conversation either, but he figured under the circumstances they’d probably have to have one eventually. He’d woken Wilson up with The Who that time. It was about noon.

They’d sat in the living room to eat lunch while watching a TiVo-ed episode of Blackadder. When Wilson, who hadn’t spoken in half an hour, remarked that he needed to use the phone, House had gone to get another beer and waited in the doorway until he heard Wilson hang up, and then he’d come back in to watch General Hospital. Though it had been amusing watching the man struggle to politely refuse the offer of a telemarketer, he was not about to miss his show for it.

Twenty-five minutes into General Hospital had come Wilson’s request for a shower of his own, and as the program came to a close House stretched his bad leg on the vacated seat and drew a deep breath.

It was just then that the phone rang.

House jerked his cordless off the coffee table, punched the “Talk” button and snarled, “House.”

“Coming to work today?”

“It’s—“ House glanced at the clock “—three o’ clock. Bit late really.”

“Oh—right.” There was a pause.

“Cuddy?” House smirked.

“Yes?”

“You’re actually worried, aren’t you?”

Silence. “A little. Is he all right?”

House sighed. Feelings. He had to discuss them again. Sure, they weren’t his own, but in the grand scheme of things that didn’t really count. “Took him to the lawyer’s this morning,” he said.

“Lawyer’s?”

Fully prepared to savor the moment—he’d gloat, oh, he’d gloat—House said, “I was right.”

“You were right?” said Cuddy.

“Tell you what. Say it again, and don’t make it a question this time.”

House swore he heard Cuddy heave a grudging sigh. “Fine, House. You were right.”

He grinned and waited. His leg throbbed. Shit, he thought, time for another happy pill, and reached into the pocket of his jacket. He was able to take two before Cuddy spoke again; though he knew if she knew she’d kill him for it, he washed them down with a swig of beer.

“So it was Julie?”

“Oh yes. Not sure what the two of them were up to, but either they have some super kinky bedroom manners or they haven’t exactly been Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez.”

“You watch I Love Lucy?”

“That one’s a great kink of mine. Know what’s a really cool party game?”

House imagined Cuddy rolling her eyes. “No, House, I don’t. What’s a really cool party game?”

“How many times can you say ‘Vitameatavegimen’ stoned?”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake—” Cuddy paused. “Look. How is Wilson, and when can he come back to work?”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself? I’m not—” he snickered “—my brother’s keeper.”

“Why don’t you give him the phone?”

“Fine, we’ll do it the easy way.” House dumped the phone on the couch beside his leg, leaned back and hollered, “Wilsie!” He tapped his fingers against the sofa, waited a minute, and tried again. Midway through the “ie” he remembered.

“He’s all hot, sweaty and wet right now,” he purred into the mouthpiece, “we’ll have to call you back.”

Absolute silence.

“Oh, for such a stacked woman you can drain the fun out of just about anything, can’t you?” House sighed. “He’s in the shower.”

“I’ll call later,” Cuddy said. There was a final pause. “And how do you know they’re real?”

And before he could answer, she hung up.

“If they weren’t real they wouldn’t jiggle when you walk down the hall,” House said to the empty room. He set his leg gently back on the ground and was about to scrounge up some food someplace when he realized Wilson had been in the shower for a pretty long time and, as far as he remembered, he hadn’t heard water. Unless Wilson was into taking dry showers, which didn’t seem right for a guy who was so ridiculously feminine about his looks, something was up. Maybe he’d broken the other ankle. House grinned—at least he’d be symmetrical—sighed over the sheer injustice of the world, and headed off to check.

VI.

Not too crazy ‘bout love songs
Never been into that kinda stuff, no
But this one’s got me conflicted
Feel like I’m addicted
This sadness self-inflicted, I just can’t get enough

Now it’s taking on a whole new meaning
This type of story cuts
A little too close to home, ‘cause
This song is all about us
How do they know about us?
What happened was just between us
And now the whole world knows
‘Cause it’s all over the radio

Somebody’s making a fortune
Selling emotions to fools like me, who
Relate to what they’re saying
Obsessed, you can’t stop playing
No use in changing stations now
‘Cause it’s everywhere on the radio, the radio, the radio

--Clay Aiken

Wilson.”

A fish with a cane—since when did fish need canes?—swam by in the blackness before Wilson’s eyes and he felt his lips curve into a smile. It was House. Well, it was the aquatic version, but it was still House. Why was he dreaming about fish anyway?

“Wilson, wake up.” There was something on his shoulder. Shit, he hadn’t let her get that close in years. He shoved himself backward, struck out viciously with his left arm, opened his eyes. She was going to come after him again.

Wait a minute. He was in House’s bathroom—alone? Now that didn’t quite fit. Who’d been waking him up then? Wilson glanced down almost fearfully, half expecting to see Julie, and—oops. Problem solved, there was House.

“House?”

“Mike Tyson?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I thought you were—”

“Forget it, I know who you thought I was.” House sighed. “It was my fault. Now are you going to help the cripple up or keep sitting there like a deer in headlights?”

“Right.” Wilson took a deep breath and extended his left hand. House grabbed it and, with the support of Wilson’s weight and the bathtub, pulled himself to his feet again. He knew his leg would get him for those little aerobics in the morning, but the buzz from the Vicodin hadn’t worn off yet, and so he wasn’t really in any more pain. At any rate, it was tolerable.

“You’ve—uh, you’ve got a little—”

House glanced in the mirror. His nose was bleeding. “Had worse,” he said.

Wilson rubbed the bridge of his own nose and realized that he’d rolled up his sleeves. He was in the middle of rolling them back down and fastening the buttons on each cuff when House finished examining the damage to his face and glanced over.

“I’ve seen ‘em.”

Wilson buttoned his shirt anyway and shifted his position until he was seated more comfortably. “What are you doing?” he said. “I still have to take a shower.”

“I don’t call sleeping showering, do you? Take it later,” House said, “won’t kill you.” He paused. “This is the second time in forty-eight hours and I just had my last beer, so you’d better be grateful, but—“ he rolled his eyes “—I think I need to talk to you again.”

Wilson blinked. The bandage he’d thrown in the garbage seemed to be staring at him. He grabbed his crutches, levered himself to his feet, and mutely followed House out to the living room. He was staying in the man’s house. He didn’t see he had a choice.

House sat down at the piano and touched his fingers softly to the keys. Halfway through some piece of Chopin—the melody was graceful, haunting, but Wilson couldn’t place it—Wilson interrupted him.

“What is it?”

“What is what?” said House, over the sound of the piano.

“You wanted to talk to me about something. What is it?”

“What makes you think I wanted to talk about something? Maybe I wanted to talk about nothing. What then?”

“You dragged me out of the shower for this?”

“Cuddy called,” House said. “Wanted to see how you were doing. She’ll call back later. She was—“ he turned and leered “—worried.”

“That was nice of her,” said Wilson. He shook his beer can, determined that he still had about half left, and took a swallow. House eyed the drink enviously but said nothing. Ten minutes passed, and Wilson resigned himself to another conversation. “Two weeks from Thursday,” he said. “Court date. That what you wanted to know?”

House stopped playing long enough to speak. “I don’t want to know anything,” he said gruffly, “but you obviously have something you still need to say. So spill, and maybe then we can go back to work.”

“You? Want to go to work?” There was no answer.

“I called her,” Wilson said. House was quiet. The piano filled the silence.

“I didn’t want to. But I did anyway.”

“This is a court case,” House said. “Lawyers, you know, the snakey people—they generally get stuck with the dirty stuff.”

“I know.” Wilson shrugged. “I didn’t have to. I’m sorry.”

House spun around on the seat abruptly with, Wilson noted, surprising speed. “Stop apologizing to me.” Without the music, the room seemed abnormally empty.

“Huh?”

“I said stop apologizing to me. I’m a jerk and you’re a grown man. It may be bruised, but I’m pretty sure you still have a spine.”

“You’re right.” Wilson stared at the ground and wiggled his beer with his thumb. “But I can’t.”

House went back to his playing.

“Two years ago,” Wilson said, “I sat with my dog and I cried.” He squinted through the opening of the can at the bitter-tasting amber liquid inside. “Sat there for an hour. I couldn’t remember what was real. Whether I’d actually had an affair. In the morning I knew I hadn’t, but then I couldn’t remember.” He paused. “You know that running accident? Wasn’t a running accident.”

House’s head moved briefly in a nod.

“I quit playing tennis. Couldn’t take the things coming at my face. I’d hold her down, so she’d throw things.” He touched his shoulder without thinking. “Pretty good arm really.”

The music continued. Wilson erupted.

“You’re the one who wanted me to talk, House,” he said angrily, slamming down his beer, “so quit playing and listen.”

Miracle of miracles, House did, but he didn’t turn around. “You think I want to hear?”

Wilson was, to say the least, caught off guard. “What?”

“You think I want to hear this? You think I want to sit here and listen to this? Not a chance in hell, Wilsie, not a chance in hell.”

“Okay,” Wilson said quietly. “I understand.” He caught himself in time, lifted his feet onto the coffee table and reached for the remote.

“No. You don't. You don’t get it, do you?” House grabbed his cane and stood facing Wilson in the middle of the room. “You just don’t get it.” He shook his head, deflated, and sat down, keeping his movements conservative. “Put The O.C. on.”

Wilson scrolled through the TiVo, realized it was on live, and silently complied.

“I’m not a good man. I’m not a good person. I don’t do emotions, I don’t do feelings, I don’t do therapy. You know the only real way to keep from getting hurt?” House spat. “Well, I’ll tell you. Distance.”

“Not when she can throw,” Wilson whispered.

House looked at the television and didn’t say anything for a minute. “I’m not who you’d like to believe I am,” he said finally. “I, Wilson, am a full-fledged, grade-A bastard. But I thought—“ he shook his head “—maybe I hoped, just a little—that I was a better friend than I knew I was. You stuck around. I didn’t want to, but I must’ve been doing something right.” He paused.

“I may want to be miserable,” he said, “misery may be my life, I may not give a crap about anyone else, but it still feels good when someone trusts you—even when they shouldn’t.”

“You do give a crap about somebody,” Wilson said, “you give a crap about me.” He met House’s eyes. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

“You couldn’t tell me.”

“What?”

“You couldn’t tell me,” House repeated. “You were afraid to tell me what was just about the biggest thing in your life, when I thought, you blabbermouth, that you told me pretty much everything. Then there you were tied to a bed, beaten, saying your wife had been psychotic for years. I didn’t want you to tell me,” House yelled, “because then I might have cared, and I didn’t want to care. I didn’t want you to tell me, but—” he took a deep breath “—it hurt when you didn’t. You’re the first person to hurt me in ten years. Maybe you deserve a medal.” He sank into the couch, shut his eyes, and thumped his cane on the ground. “A medal. A damn medal.”

Wilson thought, I did it. This—this is House. He paused. Maybe I broke him.

He looked over at his best friend, who still hadn’t moved. No. I didn’t. I didn’t fix him, but I didn’t break him.

I talked to him.

And, he realized, it was all thanks to Julie.

VII.

You had a bad day
You say what you like
And how does it feel
Oh, one more time
You had a bad day

Sometimes the system goes on the brink
And the whole thing, it turns out wrong
You might not make it back, but you know
That you could be, well, oh, that strong
And I’m not wrong

--Daniel Powter

The credits for The O.C. were rolling and Wilson needed a drink. Not necessarily beer—he was pretty much done with alcohol for the day. Maybe water. His neck, without a tie, seemed odd, loose. He wore yesterday’s clothes and he was fairly certain he smelled.

But, he thought, glancing at the silent, sulking House, he felt better.

“It was habit,” he said. “And I thought she should hear it from me, not a lawyer.” He laughed slightly. “Poor man. Caught off guard like that, she could’ve killed him.”

House picked up the remote and started flipping through his TiVo. Unlike before, Wilson knew he was listening. He didn’t want to be, but he was.

“I think I fell asleep because I was tired,” he continued. House snickered. “Just tired. Tired of everything really.” Wilson spoke quietly and slipped into a tone of voice which showed he was not speaking to House so much as to himself, and House relaxed. “I still love her.” He paused. “Now that I think about it, that’s sad. All those women I didn’t love, not really, and the one I’ve loved for years hates me.

“It all happened so fast,” he mused, moving from thought to thought as they appeared. “Yesterday I was pulling forks out of my arm, today I’m sleeping on your couch, trying to file for divorce. When I dreamed about finding a solution it didn’t happen like this. There was—” he laughed again “—a therapist involved. Bit like Cameron actually. Marriage counseling. Took awhile for me to give up.”

“But you did.”

Wilson shook his head a little, as if remembering House was in the room. “Yeah. I did.”

“When.” It was more of a statement than a question.

“Last year.” Wilson shrugged. “Christmas really. We were having lobster. I was over here the night before—maybe you remember?” House didn’t say anything, but Wilson hadn’t expected input anyway. “I wanted turkey. Lobster was classier. I tried to ask her if she didn’t think turkey might have been nicer, more in the holiday spirit of things, and she screamed something—can’t remember what—threw her plate at my head. Lobster and all.”

There was silence for a minute. “Hadn’t been expecting it,” Wilson said, “so I couldn’t block it. Hit my face and shattered, broke my nose, got lobster bisque in my eye. I remember very vividly that it had too much salt.” He licked his lips. “Julie loved salt. Salted everything. It’s funny what you remember.”

Again House said nothing, settled on an episode of General Hospital he’d missed.

“After that, she left. I couldn’t decide whether to feel lucky or unhappy. I thought of calling you—” he stopped “—I thought of calling you, but it was a late dinner and you don’t sleep well. I swept up the china, did the dishes. Let Charlie get rid of the lobster. Taped my nose and went into the living room. I was watching Blackadder—” he laughed “—yeah, I TiVo it too—when it hit me.” Wilson paused.

“It hit me. Normal wives don’t throw their dinner at their husbands. I thought, I may love her but I don’t think she loves me. Not any more.”

He was quiet for another minute.

“The last year was better,” he said, “probably because it was easier to hold her off, to treat her as an opponent more than a wife. But when I looked at her….” He drew a deep breath. “When I looked at her, House, she was still the same woman I’d kissed in church, still the same woman I’d vowed to love till death do us part. And it was hard. Oh, God, House, you have no idea.” Wilson sighed and shut his eyes. “You have no idea.”

House rubbed his leg, looked at the clock, popped a Vicodin. The TV murmured quietly in the corner. Wilson realized that House had turned it down so it was almost completely mute; he couldn’t make out the voices at all. He didn’t open his eyes. “I’m sorry to kick you out of your own living room, I really am,” he said, “but—can I go to sleep?”

“Yeah,” House said. “Sure.” He hauled himself to his feet and went into the kitchen. The light where Wilson was blinked off and the light in the kitchen switched on; Wilson heard the clinking of glass. He lifted his own bad leg onto the seat House had vacated and removed his shirt. The blanket, which was folded up on the floor, he unfolded and stretched over himself. His pillow was already by his side. He lay down and looked up at the ceiling through the gloom, feeling almost as drained as he had the night before. Almost. But grateful, incredibly grateful. He’d unburdened himself for the first time in years.

Wilson was nearly asleep when House came back into the room, set a tumbler of scotch down on the piano, and began playing Paper Moon.

VIII.

Gotta change my answering machine
Now that I’m alone
‘Cause right now it says that we
Can’t come to the phone
And I know it makes no sense
‘Cause you walked out the door
But it’s the only way I hear your voice any more

And I’m so sick of love songs
So tired of tears
So done with wishing
You were still here
I said, I’m so sick of love songs
So sad and slow
So why can’t I turn off the radio?

--Ne-Yo

Cuddy knew House was making showing up in her office more and more of a routine, but she still didn’t expect him there at eight in the morning on a Wednesday. Truth be told, she didn’t expect him within ten miles of the hospital at eight in the morning on any day really, but what did you know? There he was. And there—she laughed—went her secretary. Eventually, she thought, House would give the poor woman a complex, and then he’d be sorry—because she’d start billing him for the therapy bills which were being passed off as business expenses.

“How’s the leg?” she said, by way of greeting, brushing by him and over to her desk.

“The leg?” House said, caught slightly off guard. “It’s okay. No worse than usual.” He didn’t miss a beat. “How’s the cleavage?”

“It’s okay. No better than usual.” Cuddy sat down and began thumbing through forms. “How’s Wilson?”

“Better question might be, how did you know he was staying with me anyway? I notice, Ms. Busybody, that you called my house.”

“If it was his wife—which it probably was—you wouldn’t have turned him away. You’re cruel,” Cuddy said, without looking up, “but you’re not that cruel.”

House thoughtfully chewed a Vicodin. “Hmm. Point. You’re getting better at this.”

“How many of those have you taken today? And you know you shouldn’t chew them.”

“Two, Mom,” House said, sneering at her, “and, if you’ve forgotten, I am a doctor.”

“A doctor who’s addicted to narcotics,” said Cuddy, “and you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want something. What is it now?”

“A case,” House said. “I’m dying in the clinic, I really am. It’s draining my soul. If you don’t find me something good and confusing, utterly enigmatic—” he drew a finger dramatically across his throat “—it’s curtains for me, and who’s going to do that really important job—you know, saving lives—then?”

Cuddy neglected to mention the fact that she employed more than twenty other doctors. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I honestly do not have anything that requires a diagnostician. Trust me, if I did I’d give it to you just to get you out of my office. Unfortunately,” she shrugged, “looks like it’s back to runny noses and sprained ankles for you, Superman.”

House sighed irritably, and there was a knock at the door. “Come in,” Cuddy called, eyeing him.

Foreman pushed open the door and stepped in. “Where were you?” he said to House, “I got stuck with your hours.” He looked at his watch. “And why are you on time?”

“Wow, for a minute I forgot who was whose boss. I’m dreadfully sorry, master, I don’t know how it possibly slipped my mind that I have to account with you for my every absence. Now that’s just a crying shame.” House bowed his head and feigned submission. Foreman rolled his eyes, ignored him and crossed the room.

“Got those papers you wanted,” he said, handing Cuddy yet another sheaf of things she had to sort through.

“Thank you,” Cuddy said, smiling. “I appreciate it.”

“More applications for—“ House began, but he met Cuddy’s eyes before he could finish and, for once, thought better of it. “Go do more of my hours,” he said to Foreman. “Got nothing else for you anyway.”

“Still no case? It’s been a week and Chase is becoming more of a beaver every day. I swear I heard the pencils screaming.”

“Nope. Chop-chop, black boy, those colds aren’t going to treat themselves.”

Foreman smirked and, with a “Good morning, ma’am,” left.

“You know,” Cuddy said, “technically, those are your hours and I can’t very well mark them off now I know Foreman’s doing them…”

“I get the message.” House shrugged and gave her a proper leer. “You dress like you’re a lot more friendly than you are.”

“Five seconds before you get twenty more. I can just say we’re understaffed.”

House made an attempt at a sexy growl which sounded more disturbing than anything else—then again, that was probably what he was going for—and left. It wasn’t more than ten minutes before there was another knock.

“Come in,” Cuddy called, with a sense of déjà vu; she was both surprised and pleased to see Wilson there, wearing his same dress shirt—again, sans tie—coupled with his lab coat and sporting his crutches and a smile. She was stunned that he was wearing House’s jeans. They were too big, of course, and dragged a bit over his dress shoes. House wouldn't let anyone borrow his clothes.

“Thanks for the call,” Wilson said. “It was nice of you.”

“Not a problem,” said Cuddy, and she knew it hadn’t been. “Are you working today?” She studied his face, which was pale, slightly drawn, and undeniably happier. “Under the circumstances, you know you don’t need to. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.”

“I would, but I’m not sure I’d better.” Wilson glanced at her. “Is that all right?”

“Of course.”

“Thanks.” Wilson grinned and Cuddy found herself suddenly grinning as well. Her professional façade, which had been patchy and near-nonexistent at best, slipped and fell away entirely.

“It’s nice to know you’re okay, James,” she said warmly.

“It is. It really is.”

“Well...” Cuddy shrugged and gestured at the mound of paperwork on her desk. “I’d really like to talk to you more, but—“

“I understand,” Wilson said. “I imagine something of similar proportions lies in wait in my office. I just thought I’d stop by and thank you for the call.” He smiled and made for the door. At the jamb he turned, met her eyes quickly, shyly, and said, “And I talked to him.”

With that, he was gone. Cuddy pondered his statement for a minute until she suddenly understood what he’d meant.

And when she turned back to her work, her smile was even larger than his.

--------------------------------------------------

A week later House had a case, and he was back to being a brat. A considerably more understanding brat, certainly, but a brat nonetheless. Wilson was doing his own job again and had a new small stockpile of shirts and dress slacks, because he’d got his car back. He returned a bit to his normal life; he made pancakes, cooked dinner, burned his tie in an ashtray one Saturday when House was gone, told House futilely not to put the dirty dishes in the oven, did the dishes after House put them in the oven anyway, slept on the couch, and went to work. He hadn’t heard from Julie, not once; part of him wondered what she was up to, what she thought, and part of him—the larger part—was afraid to even think about it. So he didn’t think about it, tried to push it to the back of his mind, to the section padlocked and covered in caution tape. He was terrified that the moment he opened the lock he would break down; instead he cracked it apart in small increments, when he felt safe, and spilled his past in pieces—he’d talked to House three times more after that fateful Tuesday evening, each time longer and longer. Once they had been watching Blackadder and he began to cry, broken, half-stifled sobs, before he finished. House just handed him a handkerchief (only House would carry handkerchiefs) and kept watching the show, but Wilson had known he was listening, dried his tears, and continued. House did not look at him while he talked and Wilson no longer asked him to—he understood it wasn’t necessary. But at night on those days there was always the piano.

Wilson never knew time could fly so quickly before a hearing. He was afraid of seeing Julie because he wasn’t sure what she might do. He was fairly sure, if there was one thing she hadn’t expected, it was that he’d take her to court. He was also afraid of what questions he might be asked. Reliving memories with House he found remarkably, surprisingly easy, but he was speechless in the company of anyone else, as if his throat had been sewn shut and packed with cotton (he had seen a therapist, once, before he decided that House, beer, General Hospital and James Taylor were a better cure than he’d ever hoped for), and he worried he might not be able to reply in a courtroom. Julie herself would also be there, of course, which only made it worse. He wanted to hate himself for it, but he still did not have a desire to hurt her.

He hadn’t actually considered this new speaking-confidence dilemma until one Friday, after work, when he managed to convince House to go with him for pizza and a beer with Chase and Cameron. He’d given House a ride because the man’s leg had been more painful than usual, and—coincidentally—they’d actually shown up at the agreed-upon time; seven. Chase had been waiting at a table in the corner, bottle of beer, red-and-white checked tablecloth and all, and Cameron, uncharacteristically, had been late.

They’d sat down and ordered—Chase remembered Cameron loved pepperoni, so they had three large stuffed-crust supremes, two half pepperoni and half ham-and-pineapple and one a vegetarian special. Wilson hadn’t gone out comfortably with friends in more time than he liked to remember and he found the evening very pleasant. There was no tension, no fear, no (real) hostility—he had to include the word “real” because of House, who was never completely unhostile but could, when he wanted to, come close enough. Wilson had sipped his beer, savoring its bitterness and distinct taste in his mouth, and listened with half an ear to a discussion of House’s current case, a patient who happened to have an abnormally swollen tongue. Cameron had come in just as Chase left for the bathroom and accidentally taken his seat. Wilson had guessed by looking at her that she planned on asking him something he didn’t want to answer and, for that matter, probably didn’t even want to think about.

“How’re you holding up?” she’d said, drinking from the beer she’d just ordered as Chase returned, scowled at her and sat down in a different chair. “With the hearing. It must be really hard.”

Wilson had blinked and quietly put down his own bottle. He thought for a moment and finally said, “I don’t know.” It was true, he’d realized, he didn’t know, and he’d set to work then and there to decide whether he was holding up while House glared at Cameron and asked her why she didn’t have her own business to mind and Chase picked pineapple off one pizza to drop it on his own slice.

That night, having decided that he wasn’t holding up, not as well as he’d have liked anyway, was the night Wilson cried.

IX.

I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay awhile, and maybe then you’ll see
A different side of me

I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be

--Matchbox Twenty

As two weeks from Thursday approached astonishingly quickly, House found himself thinking about it more and more, despite his efforts to the contrary. He was realizing, too, that he had changed. Not really, no, not severely, no, but enough that he noticed. It was slightly intoxicating to know that you were needed, and he was pretty sure that, for once, Wilson needed him. A month ago he’d never seen Wilson cry, not even when drunk out of his head, but now he’d been there. They had been sitting watching TV while Wilson talked; House found it unusual that Wilson, usually such a private person, actually wanted to talk so much about something which was obviously uncomfortable for him, but he did. House was listening a lot more than he let on (once Wilson began, hesitantly and almost dreamily, it was near impossible for him to stop himself) when between words there had come a quiet sob. It was hardly noticeable really but it had brought a friend, and after a few more House couldn’t stand it and gave Wilson a handkerchief. He hadn’t been surprised when Wilson didn’t blow his nose, and it wasn’t until he’d been sitting at his piano playing and sipping scotch in the dark that he understood the impact of the sobs themselves. That evening he’d played longer.

Listening to Wilson was not as hard as he’d have expected it to be before. The act really did not require much involvement; it made him feel good, he knew it made Wilson feel good and—for some reason—that knowledge made him feel better. He didn’t analyze it too much; it worked for them. A few times the things he learned kept him awake at night, but he didn’t sleep well anyway. He almost grew to like James Taylor—almost. And Wilson—Wilson, for all the blow-drying, nail-clipping, and neediness, three things House usually hated, was an okay roommate.

House was beginning to realize that he liked the company.

“Wilsie,” he said, limping into the kitchen one morning two days before the hearing, “take the day off.”

“What?” said Wilson, glancing up from slicing into a pancake and staring at him. “And you know my name’s not Wilsie.”

“Wil-sie,” House said again, “take-the-day-off. You know, from work? That thing we do way too often?”

“The thing that pays the bills?” Wilson said, grinning.

“Live a little. You’ll never get anyplace otherwise.”

Wilson’s grin faded. “Take the day off? I have a patient at ten.”

“For what?”

“Er, an interview,” Wilson said slowly, sensing that he was losing the argument and preparing himself to phone in. He swallowed, rather abruptly, a piece of breakfast.

“So don’t go,” House said, with a grin of his own which quickly became a leer. “Buddy boy, we’ve had this date from the beginning.”

“Oh come on,” said Wilson, laughing, “you’ve never seen A Streetcar Named Desire.”

House limped over to the table and swiped Wilson’s plate. “So? Doesn’t mean I can’t quote it.”

Wilson sighed, passed House the maple syrup, and pulled out his cell phone. “Fine. You win. But once, okay? And only because I didn’t want to go in anyway.”

House, because his mouth was full, held up both hands; one with the pointer upright and one a closed fist. Wilson got the message—me one, you zero—laughed again, and set about explaining to a very irate doctor why he wasn’t going to work.

They left for someplace—Wilson had no idea where—in the Corvette at nine. Wilson found out where they were going soon enough when they pulled into the McDonald’s drive-through and House turned down the radio and stopped the car at the window. Wilson ordered only a coffee—he’d already eaten too many pancakes—and was pulling a dollar fifty out of his wallet when House paid.

“I owe you,” he said gruffly. Wilson smiled, was silent and took the drink.

There was a showing of Click at ten-thirty which, coupled with popcorn, Milk Duds—House’s favorite—cookie dough bites—Wilson’s, also paid for by House—and a very annoying, lengthy running commentary was over at about one.

After that they had a drink at Wilson’s favorite bar and stopped by Fry’s, where House decided he deserved a new game and spent half an hour debating its merits and problems to an extremely bored teenage member of the staff who had more acne than brains and a large, oddly-colored stain down the front of his uniform. They left at four, with House proudly brandishing his video game (10% off, no surprise there) and Wilson swinging a plastic bag containing Michael Crichton’s latest novel (there was a Barnes and Noble nearby—he’d paid for that himself).

At five-thirty they reached House’s again, Wilson having had to drive on the way home so the Vicodin had time to take effect, and Wilson pulled the Corvette up beside his own car in the driveway and cut the gas. Before he got out, he turned to House.

“Thanks,” he said, simply.

“She is a beaut, isn’t she?” House said, patting his car, “and a real babe magnet, too.” But he knew perfectly well what Wilson meant, and Wilson, for that matter, knew he knew. Wilson grinned and climbed out of the Corvette and they went inside to order Chinese and pester the delivery boy when he arrived. There were, House thought, forty-three hours.

-------------------------------------------------

The next day was Wednesday and Wilson spent its entirety, even while at work, putting a great deal of effort into not thinking about the following one. He stayed clear of Cameron, who meant only the best and so could not be resented but did not understand people who just didn’t care to consider the situation at all; Chase passed him in the hallway and offered to buy him a drink after work on Friday, being remarkably sympathetic; and House sat at their table silently at lunch, stealing his Lays while sneaking blatantly obvious peeks at a new nurse who happened to be both particularly—er—well-endowed and completely oblivous.

Wilson stopped by Cuddy’s office a little while before he was ready to go home and discovered House in there already, gesturing wildly in annoyance about something; Cuddy spotted him waiting outside and called him in, most likely if only to get House to shut up.

“Hi, Lisa,” he said, pausing in the doorway.

“Hi, James,” said Cuddy, simultaneously smiling at him and glaring at House, who stood in the corner leaning heavily on his cane and leering at anyone who’d give him the chance.

At that, he stepped inside. He had stopped walking with crutches recently, instead acquiring a slightly awkward limping stride which was slower but more comfortable.

“Am I interrupting something?”

“No,” House said, stomping by him and storming out.

Wilson glanced curiously at Cuddy. “No,” she said, sighing. “Did you need something, James?”

“Oh, no,” he said, thinking privately that everyone else was saying no at the moment and why shouldn’t he join in, “I just wanted to let you know that I can’t come in tomorrow. I have no appointments, so that won’t be a problem.”

“Right,” Cuddy said, smiling sadly. “It’s fine.” She paused. “In fact, you don’t necessarily have to come in Friday either.”

“I will,” Wilson said hastily. “I mean, I think I can make it.” After the mess was over he knew he wanted to keep his mind off it as much as possible, and if coming in to work was the best way to do that—well, that was what he’d just have to do.

“Are you doing all right?”

“I’m—” he thought for a moment “—I’m okay. Thanks.”

Wilson made it to the elevator and was riding down when one of his patients, a woman named Grace, stepped in just above the ground floor.

“How are you?” he said. “Are you in any more pain?”

“Not so bad,” Grace said. She smiled at him shyly and pressed the button for the floor below, which was already lit up. They made small talk for a few minutes; she walked out beside him, and they chatted about whatever they could think of to discuss. She went her own way in the parking lot, and as he climbed into the driver’s seat of his car he found his heart lighter and his lips mysteriously curved. It was not until he was halfway to House’s again that he remembered he was unhappy.

Later that evening, his belly pleasantly full of pizza, Wilson lounged on the couch and tried to immerse himself in his novel. When House entered the room he had very nearly succeeded. House eyed him, plucked up a medical journal from the nearest table, and sat down as well; they remained in companionable silence for a little while Wilson worked on putting various thoughts as far from his conscious mind as he could and House worked on figuring out exactly what was wrong with his latest patient—besides, of course, intrinsic idiocy.

As he leaned over to the coffee table to pick up his drink, Wilson realized his sleeves were rolled up and put his novel down to set about the business of fixing them. This got House’s attention surprisingly quickly. He glared at Wilson over the top of his own book.

“I’ve seen ‘em,” he said, unconsciously echoing his earlier remark.

For the first time in weeks, Wilson looked at the scars himself. There were three, one thicker, jagged line beginning at his left elbow and continuing for an inch and a half down the underside of his forearm, one thinner, longer and straight line from his right elbow, and one oddly shaped, as though it was an attempted tattoo, just behind his wristwatch. Without quite thinking about what he was doing, he traced the oddly-shaped one with a forefinger. It was almost over, he thought, almost the end. Five years, and in two weeks it was almost over—except for the scars, but House had already seen those.

He traced the healing wound once more, met House’s eyes.

“Okay.”

House nodded. “Okay.” Wilson left his sleeves rolled to his elbows and drank his beer.

At eight that night the phone rang.

Wilson, who happened to be sitting closest, leaned over and picked up the cordless. “James Wilson,” he said politely into the receiver. “May I help you?”

House, though he thought with disgust that he needed to re-teach Wilson the proper way to answer a phone, said nothing and continued watching The O.C.

“Really?” Wilson said. “But why?”

Pause.

“I don’t believe it.”

Wilson’s remarks, House noticed, were growing more distraught by the moment.

“Does that mean it’s off, then?”

Pause. “No,” Wilson said quietly, with an amount of resolve which surprised even him. “No, I don’t.”

Pause. “Okay.”

Pause. “Are you sure?” Wilson’s voice held more than a little fear. It was the voice of a man who knew he shouldn’t hope because it would only end in disappointment but who couldn't stop himself from hoping anyway and mourned the finish he felt was inevitable. It was depressing really.

“Okay.” Pause. “Well, I can’t thank you enough.”

“Okay.” Pause. “I really appreciate this.”

“Goodbye.”

Wilson held the phone cradled in his left hand for a minute, barely breathing; then he pressed the “Talk” button with an unsteady forefinger and leaned back into the couch cushions. House, helplessly overwhelmed by curiosity, muted the television. The show was a rerun anyway.

“I have news,” Wilson said, after about five minutes of House’s patented expectant stare. He wasn’t sure how to feel.

“I gathered that,” said House.

“It is, I think,” Wilson said, “good news. No, it’s great news.” He glanced at House. “Are you ready for this?”

“In thirty seconds, will I be any more ready? Didn’t think so. Spill.”

Wilson’s heart leapt into his throat and he found he couldn’t bring himself to say it, put it into words for fear it might disappear. But he knew he had to get it out. “Julie,” he began, which was never a good start to any sentence, “has decided—it seems Julie has decided—”

House studied him as he might a lab rat and idly massaged his bad leg.

“Julie has decided,” Wilson said in a rush, “to give me a divorce—” and he buried his head in his hands, torn with deciding whether to laugh or cry. “No trial,” he whispered. “No hassle. We won’t even have to—have to—” he drew a shaking breath “—see each other. A divorce,” he repeated. “Never thought—never thought I’d be so happy to hear those words.” He could not raise his head yet.

House got up and went into the kitchen. In a few minutes, Wilson heard his limping stride return. There was a clunk, as of aluminum on wood, and a light, completely unexpected pressure on his shoulder. He opened his eyes; two Cokes sat on the coffee table and House stood beside him, a hand on his arm.

“It is good news,” House said. “It’s great news.”

Wilson kept his head down. “They didn’t say why she changed her mind,” he said. “I could have pressed charges, but I didn’t. I didn’t do it.”

“It’s not easy,” said House quietly. “It’s not easy, and I would’ve.” He paused. “But you did what you thought was right. And I'm proud of you.”

Wilson looked up at House and saw, for the first time in too long, the man honestly smile. They reached for the sodas as one and toasted to better days, and Wilson thought of the long-ago fortune cookie and decided that maybe, just maybe, he might believe in fate.

Maybe.

That night Wilson slept on House’s couch listening to Paper Moon and dreamed not of nothing at all, as he’d done two weeks ago.

That night, as the by-now-familiar melody washed over him, Wilson dreamed of safety. Of safety, Charlie, and the lean, hulking figure of the best friend he’d ever had.

And he slept like a baby.

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006
8:06 pm
Three Months
Title: Three Months
Word Count: 2,833 (approx.)
Characters/Pairings: House/Wilson friendship, mentions of Julie (why do I always think of her as evil?)
Disclaimer: I do not own them.
Warnings: Soppiness, major soppiness, possibly (most likely) OOC. Wilson also has a dog, and I can't remember if he does in canon.

Three Months

It was raining, Wilson thought idly as he leaned against the wall of his office, staring out the glass door which led to the balcony. It was raining, and the sky was gray, and the trees trembled in the wind, and the water poured down, and it was oddly appropriate.

He'd gotten the divorce papers that morning.

Looking back, he supposed he'd known it would happen for quite awhile, ever since she started coming home late, wearing that perfume he knew wasn't for him, attending meetings of a book club that didn't exist. But she hadn't even left him a note. He'd woken up, stretched, and reached down to greet Charlie, and Charlie hadn't been there. He'd combed the house as he called Charlie's name, stumbling half-aware through the hallways in his boxers and praying desperately that Mrs. Coxey, the doddering old maid from next door, wasn't looking through the window. He'd had no luck, and it was when he'd completed his third circuit that the news sank in.

She'd taken his dog.

He'd spun around and headed back to the kitchen, and there on the table, easier to see when he was more awake, strangely incongruous amid the cluster of ridiculously elegant place settings, was the familiar manila folder.

The first thing he did was have a drink, a nice, tall shot of whiskey, and once he downed that one he figured if someone was going to have as a bad a day as he was why not start it off right, and he had another. And, after a moment, another. And then he thought, well, the day hadn't improved yet, and topped things off with one more.

They hadn't touched in three months, two days, four hours, and--he turned and studied the wall clock--twenty-six seconds. Sex? He'd stopped keeping time for that ages ago. Sad really.

As a matter of fact, no one had touched him in three months, two days, four hours, and--thirty-one seconds now. Not so much as a brush of hands when the bagger passed him his groceries.

It was stupid for him to care, he knew, but there were moments, days, weeks, when he simply needed touch. He was tired of walking around pretending that everything was okay, that his marriage was wonderful, that his job couldn't be better, aching. And he did ache. The need for human contact was so strong in him that it often became a sort of physical pain, a burning sensation just under the surface of his skin. He wanted--he needed--someone to care for him. But there was no one, because a job was a job, and House was--well, House was House. If it came to personal matters, the job was more of a comfort. X-rays and cancer patients didn't tend to talk back to him.

Admittedly, the first marriage had been his fault. House had told him that he'd been young, a mere pup, it was acceptable that he'd cheated--House said actually that he wouldn't have been considered "cool" if he hadn't and the Gods of Marriage wouldn't have let him turn thirty otherwise--and tried to reassure him in his own demented way, generally by making sure he was completely wasted and abandoning him at the nearest bus stop, but Wilson knew House was lying, and Wilson knew the truth. If he'd been strong, if he'd resisted the urge when he knew what he was about to do was wrong, his marriage might have lasted. He might have had a shot.

Yes, the first marriage was undeniably his fault. Only his fault.

The second marriage had been her fault.

That one he was okay with accepting.

That time it'd been the pool boy, and House was busy with a particularly hard case. Wilson didn't tell him, didn't bother to tell him--what was the use really; he didn't need another hangover and irate, fat bus driver at six A.M.--until House found him sleeping in his office one morning and gave him the Houseian version of a chew-out. That lasted two minutes before Wilson fell off the couch and beaned him with the Zen garden. There was no drunken sympathy because Wilson said he'd been the one who cheated.

He wasn't surprised, not really, that House believed him.

And now the third marriage--okay, the third marriage was her fault, too, but hadn't he had a hand in things? Was he cursed with infidelity? Maybe if he'd been a little more caring, a little more considerate, a little warmer, a little something, she might not have found someone else. She might have stuck around.

She might have left the dog. Damn it, she might have left the dog.

And that hadn't been the worst part of his day. He'd had to inform three people of their impending deaths, and two others had died. That was five patients dying or dead, five he hadn't been able to fix--and four were under the age of ten.

Kids were always harder.

Wilson sighed. The rational part of his mind knew that he was an oncologist and he had to expect death, had to come to terms with the fact that he wouldn't be able to save everybody, that it was a waste of time, energy, and spirit to even try. The rational part of his mind glared at him and said, in a voice which sounded remarkably like House's, "You are a damnable idiot, you know that? You and your need to be needed. If you don't like dying people, why are you a fucking oncologist? That's what oncology is, you know, dying people--well, that and bald people, but if I knew you had that kink I would've shaved my head months ago...."

Wilson abruptly shut the rational part of his mind in a closet and padlocked the door. He knew why he was an oncologist--not because he suffered under the conceited delusion that he could save everyone, but because, if the timing was right, if he did the right thing, if he was there, he could save someone. Because of him, a person who would die otherwise, one more casualty, might live to see their next birthday. Might live to see their child graduate from high school. Might even be cured. And, ordinarily, that was what kept him going. It was hard--it was always hard when his patients died. But it was the most wonderful feeling in the world when they lived. The most wonderful feeling in the world.

The sound of cane hitting wood came from Wilson's mental closet; he abruptly pulled open the door, removed said cane, and threw it out the nearest (mental) window.

Speaking of House, House was a diagnostician.

Wilson thought he knew why that was too.

Being a diagnostician meant that House didn't have to get too close to patients. House loved puzzles--he didn't love people. He'd been through too much to go that route again. That was why House couldn't understand Wilson's reasons for going into oncology--because there was no way Wilson could completely shield himself from feeling when his patients died (though House couldn't either), because when you were an oncologist you had to be a little bit closer, because House believed the profession was useless; most of the people would die anyway. He didn't understand the rush that came with knowing you gave someone an extra day to live. That was okay--that was why you had diagnosticians, and you had oncologists, and you had immunologists, and you had--well, you had Cuddy. Different strokes for different folks.

Wilson shrugged to himself. He shifted position, pressing his forehead to the cold glass of the window. Drops of rain slid down the panes less than an inch away from his nose, and something throbbed in his chest, once, but tightly, painfully, a knot that should've been loosened ages ago. For some reason, he wanted to be outside. There was a strange urge growing in him, a thought that the sensation of water falling, thudding minute bombshells on his flesh, might mean things would be all right again. He needed the contact--the acknowledgement that someone, something, knew he was alive. Wilson wasn't stupid. He knew he was feeling depressed, and he half-heartedly hoped that he wouldn't do anything crazy, like jump off the balcony--but he needed to be in the rain so badly he thought he might take the risk. After all, he was a professional, and professionals didn't jump off balconies in rainstorms because their wives left them.

So he opened the door and stepped outside.

The city was drenched; the air was so thick he couldn't see more than ten feet without encountering a cloudy gray bank of fog. They were having quite a storm. The skies were pouring and the ground was already puddled. Wilson was soaked within seconds. He took a few steps forward, stood by the edge of the twelve-foot drop, and stared contemplatively down. Not that far really. Not when you thought about it. Not altogether far.

Four children, three marriages, and one Wilson, he thought.

One Wilson, standing alone. The cheese stood alone, didn't it? That was perfect. Jimmy Wilson, Boy Wonder, Cheese. It was a more interesting title than M.D. anyway.

But they'd thanked him. That was the worst part. He could not stand it when people thanked him for telling them they were going to die. He felt like screaming. Asking them why. He didn't do anything. He didn't fix it. They had no reason to thank him.

Shit, Wilson thought, trying to fix his eyes on the sidewalk, searching for a landmark in the sea of pea soup. He was going to do it. He was going to jump and break his stupid neck. Something was building up inside, some rage--sorrow, desperation perhaps. He needed to step away, go back inside before he did something he wouldn't live to regret.

"Hey, there are better places to stand than in a downpour. Like under Niagara Falls, if you're really looking for thrills."

Wilson knew who it was. He didn't turn around. Of course not. He didn't have to. It was the voice of the bastard know-it-all currently pounding on the door of his mental closet. It was House.

Great, Wilson thought.

"Four today," he said quietly, without turning around. He kept staring down at the parking lot he couldn't see. If he squinted, he could just make out his car.

"Four what?"

"Kids," said Wilson. He was ashamed of his voice--it was betraying him. He hadn't thought he was that depressed, but suddenly, now that he was speaking aloud, it seemed maybe he was. If there was one thing House hated, it was sadness. Tears. He hadn't seen House shed a tear since the infarction, and they never spoke of that because Wilson had been the one to wipe it away--harshly, of course, as if it meant nothing, but a moment of weakness regardless. Crying was something Wilson did only when severely drunk, and, last time he checked, four shots of whiskey at six A.M. wasn't drunk enough.

House stepped forward.

"Going to beat yourself up over this, too?" he said. "If so, can you at least do it inside? I don't want to get any more wet than necessary. This third leg of mine doesn't do too hot on soggy cement."

"I can't do this any more." The moment the last word slipped from his lips, Wilson knew what was coming next.

"You know, this sounds familiar," House snapped. "I've had enough of the drunken reruns. You may be PPTH's Wonder Boy Oncologist, you may be Cuddy's whore, but you can't save everyone, and you have to learn to stop trying."

Now Wilson spun around, with more anger than he believed himself capable of, and maybe the water on his face wasn't all rain. He met House's eyes and thought, in that moment, that he hated him.

"Wait a minute. That's not all this is about, is it?" The pieces began to fit together. Real intelligent, aren't you, Wilson thought.

"No."

"Who was it this time? TV repairman? That hot nurse down in the ICU? What's her name... Mandy?"

"Look," Wilson snapped, swiping at his face with the back of one sopping hand,wishing he could brush the hair out of his eyes and resisting the urge to say that the woman's name was Susan damn it Susan. "I didn't ask you to come find me. I didn't ask you for anything, and I sure as hell didn't ask you for advice." He stepped forward and brushed by House, grasping the knob of his balcony door, jerking it shut behind him. "I gotta go."

"Oh, no you don't!" House said, pulling the door open the instant Wilson shut it and following him inside. "No way, Jose, you aren't getting off that easy. When are you gonna learn they won't stay with you if you cheat on them? When are you gonna learn not to tell them?"

Wilson didn't even stop. He walked straight into his office, sat down on the couch, removed his shoes, lifted his feet to the opposite armrest, and lay with his face to the wall. This was his way of letting House know the subject was closed. Of course, House didn't give a damn. House never gave a damn.

"Staying here again, I see. Has she filed yet?"

"I didn't cheat," he said, exhausted, quiet. He hadn't felt drained before, but the emotions of the past twelve hours were taking effect. He squeezed his eyes shut and prayed fervently for House to leave. He just wanted to be alone. Was that too much to ask?

House sighed. He didn't do compassionate, and he wasn't about to start. "At least you still have Charlie, right, playboy?" he said, after a moment.

There was a strange noise from the couch. It wasn't as undignified as a sniffle--no, it was more of a choked inhalation, and the sound was destroyed, torn apart, unspeakably sad. House began, for the first time in over a year, to feel a bit of sympathy. It was an odd sensation, one he almost didn't recognize. He realized that he did not much like it. He limped across the room and harshly poked Wilson's shoulder.

Wilson didn't move.

House sighed again. So he was going to have to do things the hard way. He might've just left if it had been anyone else, but it wasn't anyone else--it was Wilson, and his conscience just wouldn't let him leave, even if he tried. And oh, did he want to try. Instead, he grasped Wilson in the nearest accessible spot and pulled until Wilson rolled over to face him. Wilson's face was contorted with sorrow, his eyes shut as though he might block out the world, and as House watched a sole fat tear slid down his right cheek. As House held his shoulder, Wilson breathed.

Three months.

Wilson didn't want to, he really didn't want to, but he savored the touch of House's calloused hand against his skin (well, through his shirt and Julie's favorite tie) as he would have the priciest diamonds.

His wife wouldn't come near him. Wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole (probably because he wasn't a twenty-five-year-old pool boy, probably because he wasn't enough for her).

But House would. And House didn't touch anybody.

"Hey, cat got your tongue?" House said, hoping to piss Wilson off and elicit some kind of a response--emotions were not his friends.

There was no further noise from Wilson, but a second tear crept in the path of the first. Wilson didn't budge. House did, though, hesitantly reaching out a thumb and brushing away the salty drop, because Wilson never cried, hardly even when he was drunk. And he wasn't drunk. And Wilson made that noise again, a sound originating perhaps from the depths of his soul, a sound filled with so much pain that House frowned and tried to forget that he didn't do compassion, tried to forget how stupid and embarrassed he felt. Because no one ever needed him and he didn't want them to, but now someone might and it wasn't altogether so bad. He thought he understood, finally, Wilson's strange need.

After about five minutes, House said, "Wilson...." He was surprised by the sound of his voice--the sound of Wilson's name when he spoke it, unusual and common at the same time. Rough, but soft--almost as if he cared. Like a normal person.

That was weird.

"No," Wilson said, "I'm not all right. Know something, House?"

House waited. Wilson opened his right eye and glanced at the wall, by the Hitchcock film poster House gave him for Christmas two years ago, even though House hated Hitchcock and Wilson was a Jew. "Three months," he said. "Three months since anyone's--" And Wilson's voice trailed away. He knew House didn't go for that kind of thing, and it was a ridiculous admission under the best of circumstances.

House stood silent, tapped his cane on the floor once, twice. The clock Wilson had been looking at ticked and struck the hour. Six o' clock.

"Since anyone's touched me," Wilson finished shamefully. His voice cracked and he began quietly sobbing, tears leaking down his cheeks, falling damply onto the pressed collar of his shirt. His heart squeezed violently in sorrow, pain. Fear. He didn't want another blow--it'd be too much for that evening. You weren't vulnerable around House.

House hadn't expected that. There was a rather sharp jab somewhere in the area of his chest. He wasn't used to seeing Wilson cry, but he already knew he didn't like it.

"Thanks," Wilson said brokenly; he'd already jumped and was falling, hoping he'd land on something soft so he could get back up and the next day would be normal. For some reason, he felt a kinship with the patients he spoke to daily, the ones who were grateful when he sentenced them to death.

"You're welcome," House said gruffly, because he finally realized that he had to say something, and tapped a finger to another of Wilson's tears. The droplet glistened quietly against his skin, a trillion beautiful watery facets, and he wondered when he'd last seen someone crying, or cared remotely about the fact that they were. He paused.

"I guess now you can stop counting."

Saturday, October 21st, 2006
5:56 am
It's Not Easy, 1/3
Title: It's Not Easy
Word Count: 25,468
Characters/Pairings: Pretty much all of them; pairing Wilson/Julie (sort of)
Rating: PG-13?
Disclaimer: Do I really need one? 'Cos if I owned this show, I sure wouldn't be writing fan-fiction.
Summary: It's sort of an AU, really kind of an "epic" fic (but please don't be scared off, and please give it a chance--I'm too lazy to post all the chapters separately), and it involves domestic violence. Um, what else? Dunno. Hurt/comfort stuff, House/Wilson friendship. Yeah. If you flame me and tell me not to write about things I don't understand, I won't be happy. Hope you enjoy it. Au revoir.

Prologue



It was Monday morning, and James Wilson, M.D. was running late.


To Wilson’s credit, however, he was not entirely responsible for this tardiness. Perhaps the greatest blame for the shameful slip-up should have been placed on his wife, Julie. You see, the night before Wilson had come home ten minutes after five—dinner time—and she was seething.


Wilson pushed gingerly at the door to Princeton-Plainsboro, wincing with the onrush of another brief flash of pain and wondering where House had gotten to—his motorcycle had not been in its normal space when he pulled up, and Wilson hadn’t seen him on his way into the hospital either. At the moment, though, Wilson wasn’t sure he wanted to run into House, or, for that matter, anyone else. His shoulder throbbed where he had hastily bound it upon waking, and he felt fairly certain there was a new bruise forming on his hip—he brushed against the briefcase of a patient, let the door swing gently shut on his heels, and amended his previous remark; he was absolutely certain there was a new bruise forming on his hip.


In his mind, Wilson began to list the things he had to do that morning. This was a tactic he had adopted recently, and one he employed on a daily, sometimes twice-daily basis. Reviewing his plans in an organized, calm manner diverted his thoughts; it allowed him, briefly, to focus on something else and even to temporarily forget the events of the past hours entirely. But as he walked forward, his own briefcase swinging from his left hand and his right shoulder uncomfortably stiff from its hasty medical treatment, his heart sank to the pit of his stomach at the unpleasant realization that the hazy haven of memory loss was not on the agenda that morning.


Waiting by the clinic, glaring at him rather menacingly, hands folded before her chest, stood Cuddy.


“Good morning, Lisa,” said Wilson. He attempted to slip quietly past and make for the elevator. Unfortunately, he was not as quick as he would have liked. Out of practice, he assumed; House could have made it in ten seconds flat, and he was missing a significant amount of thigh muscle. Wilson thought that was just another part of a base difference between the two of them; while House held no qualms at all about running away from a potentially unpleasant situation—funny, him being a man who couldn’t run at all—Wilson had stopped running years ago. And he’d paid for it ever since.


Cuddy did not make a move to uncross her arms; in fact, if such was even possible, her grip tightened. “Dr. Wilson,” she said, standing motionless and (handily enough) in his way, “you are three hours late.”


Wilson knew for a fact that, regularly, he was never more than five minutes late, and rarely even that small amount. Lately, however, he had begun coming in later and later. Thus far, three hours was his record. He supposed he should have expected Cuddy would say something to him; they were, after all, friends—of a sort. The problem was that they were also boss and employee, he was extremely late, and she had just caught him. He paused a safe distance away and gave her a shy smile.


“I’m sorry,” he said, and thought rapidly for a plausible excuse, “but I was getting a ride with House, and—well, you know how he is about being anywhere on time.” There, he thought, that should do it.


“No dice.”


Wilson blinked. “What do you mean?”


“No dice,” Cuddy repeated, with a quick, mournful shake of her head, “I’m afraid that’s not going to wash, Wilson. You see—although, for all I know, this may well be a sign of the Apocalypse—House arrived at eight. He’s been here for two-and-a-half hours.”


At this, Wilson shook his own head and momentarily closed his eyes. Whenever he needed the man to be late—well, wasn’t that Murphy’s Law for you? The only thing he could think was—busted. Busted busted busted. This was it. He tried weakly to flex his right shoulder, testing his mobility, hoping to ward off the panic he knew was inevitable, but his efforts were to no avail. His own bandaging job proved too much of a constraint. Busted, his mind reminded him again, and he felt the blood rush from his head. His vision shimmered and grew fuzzy. His legs began to tremble. He took a deep breath—


And collapsed in a dead faint.


Wilson’s briefcase hit the ground as he did. Its clasp broke with a snap and it gleefully abandoned its mountainous contents in a snow-like flurry of creamy paper and black ink. The clinic patients sitting nearby turned their heads curiously to see what was going on—a doctor’s illness was a nice distraction. Meanwhile, one of Wilson’s forms drifted peacefully up to the air vent, where it slid through the grate and disappeared.


Cuddy shook her head again and paged House.



I.



Cause lately my heart keeps telling me to run to you

I still can’t believe that you’re gone

But, baby, my mind keeps telling me that we are through

And telling my heart to move on



Tell me, what do we wish on now,

Now that our star

Has fallen from the sky?

And where did we go so wrong in this love?

And how do I kiss you goodbye?



--True Vibe



When Wilson next opened his eyes, he had a Foley.


While the Foley was certainly not his most important concern, it was, at the time, the most pressing. Beside the fact that he hated the things—the immodesty which came with them (somebody had to set it up, didn’t they?), the fact that they were a bit more uncomfortable than he usually found tolerable, and the way they effectively restrained his mobility—a Foley could have meant only one thing, and that one thing was the one thing he definitely did not want.


A Foley meant that he, James Wilson, was in hospital.


Given, the admission sounded a bit foolish coming from an oncologist, but Wilson had not been in hospital for ten years, since he broke his leg in two places skiing with some college buddies, and he did not intend to start the practice again soon. It was not so much a phobia as it was an incredibly severe dislike. Wilson considered himself a fairly private person—well, except when he was drunk, but House was the only one around then—and if there was one thing besides good food that you could not have in hospital, it was privacy.


And on top of that, Julie would kill him.


At this, Wilson shifted his eyelids from half-shut position to panic mode and began making a very credible effort to sit up. He got his head about three inches off the pillow (what were those things stuffed with, rocks?) when he realized something both rather alarming and very important.


He, James Wilson, was not only in hospital—he was tied to the bed.


Wilson twisted his hands quietly back and forth for a moment, trying to test his restraints. Sure enough, his wrists were bound by thick leather straps to the bed rails, and he could do little more than flex his fingers. The rough edges of his bindings chafed against the wrist he’d recently sprained; he sighed and, in annoyance, stopped resisting. In hospital and restrained. He began to feel sympathetic for the patients who actually required restraints; in truth, he’d experienced few things more degrading. It was when he waggled his feet back and forth beneath the blanket and found his ankles were bound as well that the reality of the situation began to sink in. He could not get up, and he had no idea why. If this was the current punishment for being late, a Foley and a set of restraints, why wasn’t House suffering too? He shut his eyes and was about to indulge himself in pretending to be somewhere else, far away from wives and Foleys and bindings and House, when he heard a voice.


“Dr. Wilson?” it said. “Are you all right?”


Wilson, of course, knew right away who it was—one of House’s fellows, in particular one by the name of Allison Cameron. He sighed to himself and, with more than a little reluctance, pried open his eyes once more. She was standing by the door smiling at him. He could tell by the look on her face that the façade was rather flimsy, and he wondered what bad news she had found out and whether it had anything to do with why he was bound to the bed.


“I’m fine,” he said, though he felt far from it. His wrist ached, he couldn’t move, he felt sure he was bleeding through the bandage on his shoulder, and the bruise he’d noticed earlier was throbbing away in full glory. In addition, he was currently wearing a hospital gown, and Allison Cameron was… staring at him. Did he miss something?


“You gave Cuddy a real scare.”


“What happened?” Wilson asked.


Cameron smiled weakly and made a few hand gestures in an effort to decide exactly what she should say to that. Wilson essentially filled in the blanks for himself—something bad had happened and she didn’t want to tell him about it. He tried to mentally retrace that morning’s activities; he remembered arriving, missing House’s bike, running into Cuddy, coming up with a lie which should not have come true but somehow, by some cruel twist of fate, did anyway… and then nothing until the Foley. He was fairly sure that, provided he were motivated to, he would be able to remember earlier events, but he worked so hard for blissful ignorance most of the time that he didn’t mind indulging in it when he actually had a proper excuse. He sighed—he was supposed to have seen a patient that morning, but the whole three-hours-late deal pretty much screwed that up.


Cameron was still grinning at him.


Wilson liked Cameron—he wasn’t interested in dating her (he was not quite as much a player as House or the hospital rumor mill made him out to be), but he felt a strange kinship with her, and she was oddly fascinated by him. She was, by no means, the only one who found his friendship with House odd, but she was one of the few who found it intriguing. And as if that weren’t enough, Wilson personally believed Cameron preferred to like everyone anyway. He did not have a close friendship with her but a sort of acquaintanceship; it was true that House was his only real friend (after all, that was all he had—a job and a stupid, screwed-up friendship), but if he were to have a second, he thought she’d be a pretty good candidate.


At the moment, helpless and bound to his own bed like a patient in the psych ward, he remembered telling Cameron “You’d be surprised what you can live with,” and he felt the truth of his statement finally hit home. He was surprised by what he could live with—and he guessed she was, too. Everyone had their secrets, right? Everyone lied.


“Did I faint?”


Cameron nodded. Wilson suspected she was pleased by the relatively mild question. “Collapsed right in the clinic,” she said. “The janitors will be digging your papers out of the air vents for weeks.”


“My papers?”


“Your briefcase broke,” Cameron said. “The fall was probably too much for it.”


Wilson knew Cameron would really have appreciated more avoidance, but, for his sake, he had to get back to the topic at hand. “Why am I in bed?” he asked, “if I only fainted?”


“It was, uh,” Cameron began, “a bit more than that. You see—”


Luckily for her, she was cut off just then by a direct, rather imposing thudding noise on the door to the room. It was a loud noise, so Wilson instinctively flinched a bit. He knew what was making this particular loud noise, however, and so did Cameron. She stood back a foot or two and the door swung open.


“I haven’t taught you well, have I?” said House. The expression on his face, if what was there could have been called one at all, was utterly unreadable. Wilson was completely caught off guard. He blinked.


“Huh?”


House turned to Cameron and leered at her in a particularly suggestive fashion. She sighed, sent another cheery smile in Wilson’s direction, and took the hint.


“Bye, Cameron,” he said, wondering if a sort of lopsided four-fingered wiggle counted as a proper wave and doubting it but trying anyway. Once the door was shut, House turned back to him and maintained a blank stare which went on until something caught up with Wilson, exhaustion, embarrassment, injury, who knew, and he closed his eyes.


Big mistake.


“Fainting’s a real girly thing to do, you know,” came a voice about four inches away from his nose. “I thought I taught you better than that. Did you at least get a chance to look up her skirt? Otherwise, you lose, dude.”


Wilson’s eyes sprang open about halfway through the first sentence; he let out a frightened squeak and reflexively strained a bit against the restraints, but the pressure on his wrist was too much. House’s eyes narrowed rather dangerously. Wilson did not really consider that a good sign. “Sorry,” he said, “cheated on the test and all that. Learned that from the best though. And as for the skirt, I’m—” he stumbled over the word “—married.”


“You know,” House groaned, “I never thought I’d even think this, but—”


“Oh, please, House, this isn’t the best place to propose—”


“We might actually have to—”


“Wait for Aspen, much more romantic that way—”


“Talk,” House finished, then sucked in a very large, very exaggerated gulp of air as if the word had simply been too much to get out. “Damn it, I need a drink.”


“Look,” Wilson said, forcing himself to be serious, “while I’m tied to a hospital bed probably isn’t the best time for anything—”


“Oh, I can think of something—” said House, leering at Wilson in a particularly suggestive fashion, which Wilson found highly disturbing but chose to ignore in favor of more important discussion.


“Let alone talking,” Wilson spat. “Since when are you Mr. Rogers anyway? And why, damn it, am I chained to the damn bed?”


Wilson didn’t think he’d ever seen House drop his gaze before, but he did. There was, surprisingly enough, silence for a moment. Then, “Apparently, Wilson, you’re suicidal.”


If Wilson hadn’t known the message was serious simply by its contents, he understood the weight it carried by the fact that House used his name. House hadn’t called him anything other than “you” in years. But the “suicidal” part was enough for him. He shut his eyes again and wondered how he’d ever get out of that one. On second thought, he wondered why they believed he was suicidal in the first place. The Boy Wonder oncologist with a less-than-perfect life? It was enough to send half the nurses into shock.


In the air vents above Wilson’s head, the form which had been the first to fly up there continued silently on its journey.



II.



I’m thirty-three for a moment

Still the man but, you see, I’m a they

A kid on the way, babe,

A family on my mind



I’m forty-five for a moment

The sea is high

And I’m heading into a crisis

Chasing the years of my life



Fifteen, there’s still time for you

Time to buy and time to choose

Hey, fifteen, there’s never a wish better than this

When you’ve only got a hundred years to live



--Five For Fighting



DNA is a really cool thing,” said House. “Did you know that? I bet you did, Wilsie.”


Wilson’s eyes were shut again. He was still chained unmercifully to the bed. By the sound and direction of House’s voice, Wilson guessed he was sitting sprawled on one of the visitor’s chairs. By the sound of the television he hadn’t known he had, Wilson guessed General Hospital was on. Wilson had never been very good at ignoring people, and the current time was no exception, even though House had intentionally become more and more annoying by the minute in the name department and Wilson was fairly certain that any nurses walking by would promptly decide he was gay.


“I don’t see where you’re going with this,” Wilson said. He was still tired and so he kept his eyes shut. Keeping his eyes shut also made it easier to ignore House.


“DNA,” House repeated. “Learned about it in med school, didn’t you, Jimmy-poo? Nah,” he interrupted himself, “don’t like that one. Anyway, I’m pretty sure we all did. Amazing stuff, that. Just need a little bit and those cool dudes in the blue uniforms can figure out about anything. Like, oh, I don’t know, who to arrest. A strand of hair’s good enough. Think you shower that well, Wilsie?”


“You watch too much Cops,” Wilson muttered, “and I still don’t see where you’re going with this.”


“I don’t believe you’re suicidal,” House said.


This was interesting. Perhaps he had an ally after all. Wilson cracked open one eye. General Hospital was on. He ignored it. “You still haven’t told me why they think I’m suicidal,” he said, “and why haven’t you left yet? I think it’s lunchtime. Don’t you have some food to steal?”


“Why would I steal some, Wilsie, when I have your lunch?” House said. “It’s so much more fun this way. And better-quality stuff too.”


“Look,” said Wilson again, for the second time that afternoon, “my name’s Wilson, not Wilsie, and I want to know why everyone in the hospital seems to think I’m determined to off myself. Can’t you be serious for five seconds and at least explain that?”


House paused and eyed the television. He was quiet for a minute—for House, being serious always took considerable exertion—then he said, still without returning his gaze to Wilson, “Looked at yourself lately?”


Wilson blinked. “Huh?”


“Do I have to spell it out for you?” House yelled angrily, twisting back around in his chair. “You idiot, you look like hell, you’ve been sleeping in your office all week, you’ve got about ten damn scars, and you fainted in the damn clinic. What do you think people are gonna believe? That you spend your weekends on the good ship Lollipop?”


It was too much for Wilson. He hated himself, oh, he hated himself for being such a wimp, but it was too much at once. Too much after what had happened that morning—which, he hastily reminded himself, he wasn’t going to think about. He began, involuntarily, to shake. His bindings jerked back and forth in a pitiful, bizarre rhythm as he trembled. House, not being an idiot, was fully aware of what was happening; he sighed and got to his feet. For a hesitant moment he made as if he might undo the bindings, but Wilson could not help flinching as he approached, and House shook his head and left the room without glancing back. Wilson, afraid, helpless, frustrated, and unbearably angry—at House, at himself, at the hospital staff, at the leather imprisoning him, at the Foley, at the ridiculous gown, at Julie, at the world—lay still and began, silently, to sob. He cried to himself until he once more was able to recover his composure, and when he had he cried again, because—thanks to his wife—he could no longer wipe away his own tears.



--------------------------------------------------------



Cuddy was not terribly surprised by the fact that House was waiting outside her office when she returned. It was really starting to become a regular occurrence, and, though her secretary found him rather disturbing and harbored a secret fear that he was the Unabomber, she discovered that she didn’t mind. Even though it meant she had to put up with him, she enjoyed having the company. She was not young any more, she never had liked being alone, and her office tended to get awfully quiet when there was not a scruffy, hulking, six-foot-tall doctor-cum-teenager leaning on his cane and griping in the middle of it.


Today he was waiting in the hallway outside, and he looked more angry than usual. Her secretary’s desk was notably empty. That was no surprise.


“I can’t believe what you’re doing!” House said, as soon as he spotted her approaching.


“What do you mean?” she asked, stepping rather nimbly around him and unlocking her door. This, too, was becoming routine; he would follow her in and explain, as irrationally as possible, his latest complaint—probably about his latest patient, she thought, and something I’m not doing, or not doing to his liking, or, most likely, not letting him do—she would explain, much more rationally, why things were the way they were, and he would sneer, make some biting remark about her clothing, and storm out, usually already coming up with a way to get around her. Aside from her secretary’s recent increase in therapy bills, the situation worked. Patients generally lived and she hadn’t been sued—not in the past month, anyway.


Dealing with House was all about strategies, compromise (when necessary), and games. Once you got the hang of it, you could handle him. He was not often as cruel of a man as most of the staff believed him to be, though he could do a fine job of living up to his reputation—there was something oddly respectable about him which kept people around. Otherwise, she thought, and laughed, he would’ve been lynched already; if not by Foreman, then by a patient. Perfect grades in medical school the man had and she’d swear her father’s retriever had better social skills.


Of course… the leg. That was a large part of the reason why she tried so hard, fought so hard to make sure he didn’t get himself killed. That and the fact that he was one of the best doctors she’d ever had.


Not today, though. Today he was ready to go for the jugular and Cuddy found herself wanting to hide out with her secretary. If she’d just known where the woman was, she might have.


“Are you insane?” House said, banging his cane on the ground angrily, once, twice. A painting on the opposite wall vibrated and fell askew. “Do you enjoy torturing your doctors? Is this some new kink of yours?”


Cuddy sighed and took a much-needed deep breath. “What,” she said, upon exhale, “are you talking about?”


“James Wilson. Head of Oncology. Remember, Pied Piper for all the bald little cancer kids?” House hissed. Yes, Cuddy decided, “hissed” was the best word for it.


“Calm down, House, and explain so I have at least an atom of knowledge regarding what, exactly, you mean. What about Dr. Wilson?”


“He is chained to a bed,” House said, biting every word neatly off like rapid-fire pellets from a machine gun, “humiliated, devastated, and beat nearly to death, though he would never admit to any of it. And your damn staff is calling him suicidal. You know Wilson as well as I do. Suicidal? It’s his damn wife, not a Gillette in the tub at midnight, that’s for damn sure, and I—”


Cuddy held up a hand. “Three things, House. First, I had nothing to do with this. Wilson fainted at my feet and I had a meeting, so I paged you to take care of him. It’s not my fault if you didn’t answer and someone else got there first. We are, if you’ll remember, in a hospital.


“Second, if someone is hurting Wilson, he needs to call the police. You can think it’s his wife all you want, but unless you can come up with some kind of proof, you’re going to have to get him to admit it. I have no idea one way or the other.


“And third—” She paused. “Third, House, why do you care?”


House stared at her. “I’m cruel,” he said, “but I’m not that cruel.”


Cuddy was silent for a moment, and then she nodded. “I’ll make sure he gets set free,” she said. “You’re right. The man fainted, he didn’t slit his throat.”


“Good,” said House, and with that he turned and left.


Despite the seriousness of the moment, Cuddy laughed when her secretary poked her head up from behind her blotter and slid quietly into her seat again. Then she took her pager and set about the business of removing one of her best, most reputable doctors from suicide watch. Of all the things to be doing on a Monday—and for Wilson, of all people. What were the odds?



---------------------------------------------------------------



In his lifetime, Wilson could not remember ever feeling more relieved than he did as the nurse on duty undid his bindings, her fingers deftly sliding along the leather like a magic trick. She said nothing about the drying salty tracks of tears on his cheeks or the way he shrank back when she leaned too close, overly-painted lips brushing together mere inches from his eyes and musky, flowery perfume flooding his senses. When he’d thanked her and she left him alone again, he adjusted his bed to a proper sitting position—he didn’t feel well enough to get up yet—tried to cover himself more effectively with the thin hospital blankets, rubbed his eyes with one hand, and settled down to study the insides of his eyelids for a bit. House, in his insulting, blunt way, had been right; he did look like hell. He felt rather like it as well, and he intended to amend the situation as soon as possible. He could do nothing for the scars he bore on his forearms and upper thighs but hide them, which did not work so well when he had to wear a hospital gown; that was, he thought, probably why whichever staff had found him on the floor had deemed him suicidal. He certainly didn’t look sane, and he didn’t blame them—he would’ve done the same thing.


Wilson shifted his head an inch or so in order to arrange it more comfortably on the pillow and closed his eyes. For the first time in a little too long, he thought, he might get some sleep.



III.

You’ve got me captured—I’m under your spell

I guess I’ll never learn

I have your picture—yes, I know it well

Another page is turned

Are you for real? It’s so hard to tell

From just a magazine

Yeah, you just smile and the picture sells

Look what that does to me



I’ll wait till your love comes down

I’m coming straight for your heart

No way you can stop me now

As fine as you are



--Van Halen



Julie’s face wrinkled when she was angry.


The rational part of Wilson’s mind realized that, under the circumstances, this was a rather odd thing to notice, but the irrational part, the part which focused on things like survival instincts and sheer, unmitigated fear, considered it the perfect mental focal point. A safety blanket. A binky, if you would. Thinking about the way Julie’s face wrinkled meant he didn’t have to think about the other things she was up to—didn’t, of course, make them disappear, didn’t make them hurt any less, but provided—at least—a brief mental respite.


When they’d married, her face was smooth. But it wrinkled when she was angry.


Wilson’s situation was complicated, ironically enough, largely because he’d spent so many years trying to be a gentleman. By the time he realized that saving himself meant he would have to inflict pain on his wife, she had taken too many liberties, gone just a bit too far. Done just a bit too much. Crossed the line. He tried to fight her off, tried to fight back, but when she was not attacking him with anything she found handy, she was screaming, cursing, telling him he was worthless.


And eventually it happened.


She began to make him believe her.


It was two days into his Christmas vacation when Julie first tried to break him. They’d had a fight and he’d found himself sitting hours later, bruised and swollen, at a chair in the kitchen, idly scratching Charlie and clutching like a lifeline the same shirt which had just ignited her fit because she’d smelled another woman’s perfume. He’d tried to hold her off, and he did try, but he could not bring himself to injure her. She’d wadded the shirt up and pushed it to his nose, screaming for him to confess his infidelity, and at first he smelled only Downy, but as time went on the scent of clean laundry transformed into that of the hot woman in radiology. And perhaps he had had an affair with her. He couldn’t remember. What if he had? She wouldn’t hurt him if he didn’t deserve it. She loved him.


Didn’t she?


The worst part was not that he’d confessed. The worst part was that, an hour later, he couldn’t remember the truth any more.


That afternoon he’d shed a single silent tear into Charlie’s fur and retreated for hours to his office at PPTH. He showed up at House’s with a six-pack and the latest Girls Gone Wild on Christmas Eve and spent the evening eating Chinese, listening to House’s version of James Taylor, drinking their favorite beer, and icing his knee—he blamed the swelling and sprain on a running accident and was too tired to be perceptive when House didn’t believe him. He had another fight with Julie because he stayed out on a holiday, but he didn’t miss New Year’s Eve. That night the throbbing of his ribs accompanied the dropping of the ball. His main problem, when he fought back, because he refused to merely sit and be wounded, was that he simply could not hit her as hard as she hit him, hard enough to hold her off. His main problem was that he still loved her.


He began to mark time by his injuries.


Exhaustion, for the most part, kept him from realizing that people were slowly beginning to catch on. It clouded his senses and overwhelmed him at the oddest of times. He found himself becoming instinctively afraid of things which had not bothered him in the slightest before. He had to give up tennis because he was no longer comfortable around the ball, which seemed to head rapidly for your face just when you least expected it to; she threw things at him. She screamed at him; he watched as his confidence was depleted. When she got close enough to throw a punch, he’d restrain her or even punch back, but she quickly learned and found other ways to injure him; while he was sleeping, or from across the room, or with her newly-discovered sharp tongue. He had never cheated on Julie, but he became so afraid of accidentally, perhaps subconsciously, doing so that he often prevented himself from so much as looking at other women for fear he might jump them.


He adapted his wardrobe so that, regardless of what he wore, where he went, his scars would not be visible. She was wearing him down with her deprecation, the candlesticks she liked to wing at him, and the lies she fed him until he nearly accepted them as truth. He was ashamed—horribly ashamed; he was a man who’d been beaten by his wife, and if that was not the epitome of spinelessness, he thought, what was? And even if he were to try to get help, who would he ask? What could he do? He needed her signature to get a divorce, and he’d been with her so long that—the worst part of all—he was becoming afraid to try.


She’d find out. He knew it. She’d find out.


Oh, God, no, she’d find out!


“Wilson. Wilson.”


It was an Australian accent. Julie didn’t have one of those, did she? For a moment he couldn’t remember; then it hit him.


Shit. Princeton-Plainsboro.


Wilson opened his eyes and blinked once or twice. His sight was rather fuzzy, and he soon realized that this was because there was a light in his face. Chase. He should’ve known.


“What are you doing, Chase?” he asked. “I’m fine.”


“You were hallucinating,” Chase said, somewhat defensively, clicking off the light and taking a step backward. “Moving round and saying all sorts of funny things like ‘She’ll find out!’ Or something.”


“It was a dream,” Wilson said. “Trust me, I’m fine.”


“Sure.” Chase eyed him. “You don’t look so good, you know.”


“I know.”


“Cameron’s a bit worried about you.”


“Cameron’s sweet,” Wilson said wearily. He was tired of conversation, tired of people, tired of pain, but going to sleep didn’t sound like such a good idea either, not if he was going to dream like that again. And just then—oh, perfect timing really—came the familiar pounding at the door. House was back. Before Wilson had time to wonder why, he was in the room.


“Chase,” House said, by way of greeting—Wilson wasn’t sure if it could be considered that, since he’d never really seen House “greet” anybody.


“Er… House,” said Chase, rather warily.


“Done blinding Dr. Wilson? Good. Off with you then. We grown-ups have something we need to discuss, and we don’t want you nosy little Brits eavesdropping.”


“He was having hallucinations,” Chase insisted, desperate to justify the waving of his light in Wilson’s face, and left the room mildly annoyed. House glanced at Wilson to gauge his reaction to the term “hallucinations,” but Wilson shook his head.


“It was a dream,” he said. “That’s it. Perfectly ordinary.” He paused. “Why the visit, House?”


“What, did you forget that we needed to talk already, Wilsie?”


Wilson sighed and allowed his lips to curve into a wry grin. “Just because you got me off suicide watch doesn’t mean you get to call me Wilsie.”


House grinned slyly himself. “How’d you know who busted you out?”


Wilson shrugged with his good arm, feigning innocence. “What do you get when you combine one middle-aged, self-conscious, gossipy nurse and one extremely overactive hospital rumor mill? A news and communications system faster than E-mail, that’s what.” In the act of shifting position, he bumped his injured shoulder. The pain was not much and he only allowed himself to wince for a moment, but it was enough—unfortunately—to remind House of the topic at hand.


“Where’d you get the battle scars, Wilson?” House said. He was suddenly serious, and again Wilson marveled at the rapidity of his emotions. He was not sickeningly sweet, did not even seem, to the untrained eye, very kind, but he went from laughter to solemnity in under a minute, and he eyeballed Wilson in a manner which was not threatening so much as curious and—dare he say it?—perhaps even, just a bit, solely for an instant, caring.


Though he forced himself to acknowledge the fact he could be imagining the situation, Wilson had not felt like he had a friend in months, and suddenly he did.


This was not like House—oh, no, not like House at all. It was almost creepy.


And Wilson found himself fighting an overpowering urge to honestly answer the question.


Instead, because he was afraid, he dropped the bed back to its horizontal position again, said, “What battle scars?” and got up, ready, for all intents and purposes, to get dressed and check himself out. It was a lovely idea, if he’d just been able to stand up properly. As it was, he staggered rather pitifully, stumbled across the room, and regained his balance by leaning on the door just as Cuddy opened it. He jumped backward in surprise, felt a crack in his left ankle, and landed somewhat abruptly on the floor.


The last thing he remembered before blacking out was House laughing uproariously. Laughing, and reaching out a hand to help him up.



IV.



I’ve never been

The one to raise my hand

That was not me

And now that’s who I am

Because of you

I am standing tall



My heart is full

Of endless gratitude

You were the one

The one to guide me through

Now I can see

And I believe

It’s only just beginning



--Taylor Hicks



It was about six o’ clock that evening when Cuddy ran into two of her most valuable doctors—oh, how she hated to admit that—on their way out. If it were not for the solemnity of the situation, she would have burst out laughing; as it was, she found restraining herself was no simple matter.


While, ordinarily, Dr. Wilson had to match his steps and stride to Dr. House’s, today it was the other way around. Wilson was dressed in his original clothes again—sans tie—looking slightly more normal, but he had a cast on his left ankle due to the—er—accident with the door, he was supporting himself with a pair of crutches, and though he was covering them with sleeves and slacks again, she knew the wounds he had which weren’t going to heal. For a moment she wondered if House had been right about the injuries being the fault of Julie Wilson, and she contemplated the satisfaction of bashing the woman’s face to shreds with a few nice, well-placed blows. Unfortunately, Deans didn’t do such things.


That was, she thought, altogether too bad.


House, on the other hand, looked dapper and dashing in comparison to Wilson for once. His gait seemed to have improved; he wasn’t limping as heavily as per his usual. The humor of the moment lay entirely in the way the two of them looked together. Cuddy knew they were friends, but it wasn’t often that they matched.


As she watched them approach, she noticed a few things which hadn’t seemed so obvious before; Wilson stayed a pace further away from House, rather than moving shoulder-to-shoulder with him; in turn, House seemed to have a pretty good idea when Wilson was becoming uncomfortable, and would either lower his voice a bit or move slightly apart again. Cuddy felt a rush of guilt for failing to understand what was going on previously, but she consoled herself with the reminder that she wasn’t really to blame—after all, who had figured it out? If House couldn’t, the odds were no one could have.


“We don’t need any more Girls Gone Wild,” House said to Wilson in an abnormally loud stage whisper as they came within hearing range, “we have the hottest Dean in fifteen counties.” Wilson sighed and shook his head, but he was still hard put to keep himself from grinning. Even though they’d been talking about her, Cuddy found herself wanting to grin too.


“Wilson?” she said, nearly putting a hand on his arm before she caught herself.


“Yes?” he replied, pausing gingerly and flashing her another of his shy smiles. (With those, she understood the basis for his reputation.)


“The janitors did a remarkably quick job of removing your papers from the air vents,” Cuddy said, smiling, “and you can have them back. I believe they’re all here.” From the bottom of a drawer, she removed a rather thick sheaf of documents, and then she paused, uncertain as to what to do with them; it was clear Wilson couldn’t carry them, and House was already halfway to the door. Wilson was suggesting he try to fix the clasp back on his briefcase when House heaved an exceedingly loud sigh and limped over to them again.


“Give ‘em to me,” he said. “Cane only takes one hand.”


Wilson shrugged and grinned to Cuddy when House was leaving again. “Thanks,” he said, quietly, and then he made a valiant attempt at hobbling, in a dignified manner, away.


When the door swung shut behind them, Cuddy sat down and indulged herself in a private smile. They were good men, both of them; good men, good doctors, and good friends, and when they were with each other, she knew they were in good hands. And that was lucky, because, for a Dean of Medicine with far more lawsuits than she felt she deserved, she needed every reassurance she could get.



---------------------------------------------------



Wilson hobbled alongside House until they reached the parking lot, when he found himself faced with a rather problematic conundrum. They had arrived in separate cars; as such, they should leave in separate cars, and the odds were that once they did they would wind up returning to their separate homes. Wilson’s problem was that he did not want to go back to the house where he lived. In fact, as he stood, balanced somewhat precariously with his crutches, and touched his hand to the door of his car, he realized he was terrified of it. He glanced at House, who was a few spaces down heading toward his Corvette, and let out a weary sigh. It seemed he would have no other choice.


He’d just rested his crutches against the side of the car so he could begin the process of climbing in when he heard an engine behind him and a very familiar voice.


“You going to stand there all night,” it said, “or come watch good porn, eat pizza ‘till you puke, and drown your poor angsty teenage troubles in beer?”


To Wilson, a comfortable night on the couch under a blanket in his own boxer shorts (not an annoying hospital gown) while House griped about his latest case and noodled away on the piano sounded like a much better idea, but regardless of what they wound up doing, he knew he didn’t want to go back to Julie. So he grabbed his crutches again, hobbled over to the passenger side, and clumsily climbed inside when House flung open the door. For a moment, he was able to forget why he didn’t want to go home—and for that, he was grateful.


House glanced over at him after he’d dumped his crutches in the back seat and settled himself with one or two quiet sounds of relief. At first Wilson thought that House was going to say something about Julie, but he was comfortably silent on that topic and instead remarked, “You still look like hell.”


“Gee, thanks,” Wilson said.


At the next stop light, House took his eyes off the road again and said, “You can even look cool in this baby if you’re sleeping in it, you know. It is that awesome.”


Wilson took the hint. The leather of the seat was astonishingly soft, not at all like that of the restraints used at PPTH (he already feared he might have nightmares about those), and it wasn’t more than two blocks before he’d dozed off. He did not so much as snore or stir until they reached House’s place, where House rather unceremoniously blasted Bohemian Rhapsody to provide an incredibly effective wake-up call. Wilson dreamed about nothing at all. It was the best sleep he’d had in a year and a half.


They went inside and amiably bickered for a few minutes over what Chinese to order, as they always did. Wilson examined the contents of House’s medicine cabinet so he could change the bandage on his shoulder; when he removed the dressing, he was pleased to note that the wound had stopped bleeding and begun to clot. The night before she’d flung a fork at him over the dinner table with a surprising amount of force; he hadn’t been able to dodge it in time and had had to remove it from his arm later. The next thing she threw, though, he’d deflected with her favorite china plate, and the episode of flying cutlery was over soon afterward.


House was watching The Princess Bride when Wilson got back to the living room; it was probably House’s all-time favorite movie, which, if you thought about it, was really rather odd, but Wilson didn’t care; for at least one night, he didn’t have to go back. He didn’t plan on thinking about the next until he had to.


House, on the other hand, had altogether different ideas.


Different, Wilson thought idly. Now there was House in a nutshell.



----------------------------------------------------------



Whenever House thought about the events of the day, as he could not stop himself from doing a few times too many for comfort, he wondered about the same thing, and it was beginning to plague him. He and Wilson were, if anything, like brothers. Wilson was the only one who had never left him, and the only one House almost felt he could trust—even then, there were many times when he was still afraid, felt the need to push the boundaries, to see if maybe, if he just pushed hard enough, Wilson would leave anyway. Like everybody else. But House pushed and Wilson stayed, and House pushed and Wilson stayed, and even when House wanted Wilson to go away Wilson stayed, and after a time, though House knew he could never fully trust Wilson—probably could never fully trust another human being again—he also knew he could come close enough. It was comfortable. Wilson needed to be needed, and now Wilson was the one doing the needing, and House had never before quite realized how nice it felt to be depended on by someone else. Not that he’d turn nice and become Wilson or anything. Ties that ugly? They’d just have to kill him first.


As such, the question that plagued him was this: why hadn’t Wilson told him?


In the same abrupt fashion House did everything else (life was so much more fun that way), he turned to Wilson and asked.


“What?” sputtered Wilson, dropping his chopsticks into his lo mein. “What was that?”


As Westley helped Buttercup through the Fire Swamp, House repeated his question. “So why didn’t you tell me?”


“Tell you what?” Wilson asked.


“That Julie beat the shit out of you.”


“I never said Julie had anything to do with anything. That was all your idea.”


“So go home to her,” House said. “Prove she has nothing to do with anything.”


House had not known anyone’s face could lose color quite that quickly.


“I can prove my side,” he said, with a smirk which was not as pesky as his usual. He leaned over and fished a form from the pocket of his leather jacket. It was, oddly enough, the same form which had been sucked through the air vents at the time Wilson fell.


“See this?” House said, pointing to a telling spot of something red in the upper right-hand corner. “Looks an awful lot like blood, doesn’t it?”


Wilson sat and stared at him. He was utterly silent.


“I bet if I ran this through the lab, I’d have plenty of evidence for you, pal. Like that, for starters. Unless you recently decided to dye your hair blond, I’d be willing to bet—” House jabbed a finger at something on the paper “—that isn’t yours. The blood, on the other hand, is much easier. Speaks for itself really.”


Wilson moved not a muscle, only shifted his gaze to the television. It was time for the wild dog to die in Count Rugen’s Machine.


“You should know better than to fight near work from the hospital,” House said, and then went back to munching his food. Well, he was done. Whether or not Wilson wanted to talk, the ball was in his court. And Wilson had better take advantage of it damn soon, because House didn’t do listening, didn’t do mushy friendship stuff. This time, though, he was beginning to realize that he might actually care. For years, Wilson had cared about him; maybe it was finally up to him to return the favor.


House figured, after all the crap he put Wilson through, he owed him at least that.


And so he muted the movie.


There was silence in his living room for a few minutes and he was contemplating giving up and going to the piano, saying screw the whole thing, he was no therapist, when Wilson spoke brokenly into the quiet.


“I was afraid.”


House didn’t turn to look at him, kept staring at the soundless television screen.


“I didn’t tell you because I was afraid.”


“Of what?” House said. He resisted, with less difficulty than he’d expected, the urge to tell a joke, to cover up feeling with humor again. It wasn’t the time.


“Of—of her,” Wilson said. “It was her, it is her. I was afraid to tell you, and I was ashamed.”


More silence. Inigo and Fezzik were reunited, and Fezzik began trying to cleanse Inigo of brandy. House realized he knew the lines to the film by heart and could say them in his mind along with the characters. He wondered why he still felt the need to watch it.


“I started to believe her. Started to think, after a while, that what she said was true. Started to—to doubt myself,” Wilson said, and trailed off. About ten minutes passed.


“How long?” House asked.


“Few years.”


“How often?”


“Whenever I deserved it.”


At that, House put his hand on the arm of the couch and turned to face Wilson. “Haven’t you learned anything today?” he asked, trying, for Wilson’s sake, not to become too angry.


“That it’s easier than it sounds to convince people you’re suicidal?” Wilson offered weakly.


“That you didn’t deserve it. Didn’t deserve any of it. Nobody,” House said, “and damn it, I mean nobody, deserves that. Not even Vogler, though he might come close. Do you understand me?”


“I get it,” Wilson said, and he sounded exhausted. “It’s just—it’s not easy.”


“What about New Year’s?” House asked, a few minutes later.


Wilson didn’t reply, but House got the idea.


“Listen to me closely,” he said, “because you’ll only hear this once in your lifetime. I care about you. And I owe you. A lot. You hear me?”


Wilson gave a quick, abrupt nod.


“It’s like—I don’t know, it’s like a brother thing, okay? The only one allowed to beat the shit out of you is me.”


“I’m not going to leave,” Wilson said quietly. Now it was House’s turn to be surprised.


“I’m not going to leave,” he repeated. “I know you think I will, but I’m not going to leave.” And House knew what he meant.


“Okay,” House said. “Okay.” So, he thought. This is how it feels to trust someone.


Wilson sighed, long and deep. He felt he was finally providing his problems with a means of escape, letting them into the open air to evaporate in puffs of gas. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the couch.


“You don’t have to go back. Court—you can sue. File for divorce. Like I said, you have all the evidence you need.” House wasn’t good at comforting, but he was willing to give it a shot.


“House?”


House glanced over at Wilson, who was limp. Drained. Pretty much half-dead. And… undeniably relaxed. Maybe even at peace.


“Yeah, Wilsie?” he said, throwing a fortune cookie at Wilson’s head. It made contact with a small cracking sound and split. Wilson reached up and extracted the fortune from his crumb-filled hair.



YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE FOR THE BETTER.
BE READY.



02146784431190602394587



He grinned and tiredly flicked it back at House.


“Thanks,” Wilson said. He meant it for more than the cookie, and somehow he knew House understood.


House turned the volume back up, and they watched the rest of the movie together, with House running his own quirky commentary every chance he got. When the credits began to roll, Wilson grabbed a blanket from the closet and carefully stretched out on the couch. House wandered over to his piano and began to play.


Wilson drifted off to sleep on the strains of Paper Moon, and he dreamed again of nothing at all. And as the last quiet note faded into the darkness, floated up to the waiting stars, he smiled a drowsy smile at the ceiling and knew, for the first time in years, how it felt to be happy.



will be continued later

Current Mood: sick

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006
1:37 pm
INE prologue
Prologue



Gotta change my answering machine

Now that I’m alone

‘Cause right now it says that we

Can’t come to the phone

And I know it makes no sense

‘Cause you walked out the door

But it’s the only way I hear your voice any more



And I’m so sick of love songs

So tired of tears

So done with wishing

You were still here

I said, I’m so sick of love songs

So sad and slow

So why can’t I turn off the radio?



--Ne-Yo



It was Monday morning, and James Wilson, M.D. was running late.


To Wilson’s credit, however, he was not entirely responsible for this tardiness. Perhaps the greatest blame for the shameful slip-up should have been placed on his wife, Julie. You see, the night before Wilson had come home ten minutes after five—dinner time—and she was seething.


Wilson pushed gingerly at the door to Princeton-Plainsboro, wincing with the onrush of another brief flash of pain and wondering where House had gotten to—his motorcycle had not been in its normal space when he pulled up, and Wilson hadn’t seen him on his way into the hospital either. At the moment, though, Wilson wasn’t sure he wanted to run into House, or, for that matter, anyone else. His shoulder throbbed where he had hastily bound it upon waking, and he felt fairly certain there was a new bruise forming on his hip—he brushed against the briefcase of a patient, let the door swing gently shut on his heels, and amended his previous remark; he was absolutely certain there was a new bruise forming on his hip.


In his mind, Wilson began to list the things he had to do that morning. This was a tactic he had adopted recently, and one he employed on a daily, sometimes twice-daily basis. Reviewing his plans in an organized, calm manner diverted his thoughts; it allowed him, briefly, to focus on something else and even to temporarily forget the events of the past hours entirely. But as he walked forward, his own briefcase swinging from his left hand and his right shoulder uncomfortably stiff from its hasty medical treatment, his heart sank to the pit of his stomach at the unpleasant realization that the hazy haven of memory loss was not on the agenda that morning.


Waiting by the clinic, glaring at him rather menacingly, hands folded before her chest, stood Cuddy.


“Good morning, Lisa,” said Wilson. He attempted to slip quietly past and make for the elevator. Unfortunately, he was not as quick as he would have liked. Out of practice, he assumed; House could have made it in ten seconds flat, and he was missing a significant amount of thigh muscle. Wilson thought that was just another part of a base difference between the two of them; while House held no qualms at all about running away from a potentially unpleasant situation—funny, him being a man who couldn’t run at all—Wilson had stopped running years ago. And he’d paid for it ever since.


Cuddy did not make a move to uncross her arms; in fact, if such was even possible, her grip tightened. “Dr. Wilson,” she said, standing motionless and (handily enough) in his way, “you are three hours late.”


Wilson knew for a fact that, regularly, he was never more than five minutes late, and rarely even that small amount. Lately, however, he had begun coming in later and later. Thus far, three hours was his record. He supposed he should have expected Cuddy would say something to him; they were, after all, friends—of a sort. The problem was that they were also boss and employee, he was extremely late, and she had just caught him. He paused a safe distance away and gave her a shy smile.


“I’m sorry,” he said, and thought rapidly for a plausible excuse, “but I was getting a ride with House, and—well, you know how he is about being anywhere on time.” There, he thought, that should do it.


“No dice.”


Wilson blinked. “What do you mean?”


“No dice,” Cuddy repeated, with a quick, mournful shake of her head, “I’m afraid that’s not going to wash, Wilson. You see—although, for all I know, this may well be a sign of the Apocalypse—House arrived at eight. He’s been here for two-and-a-half hours.”


At this, Wilson shook his own head and momentarily closed his eyes. Whenever he needed the man to be late—well, wasn’t that Murphy’s Law for you? The only thing he could think was—busted. Busted busted busted. This was it. He tried weakly to flex his right shoulder, testing his mobility, hoping to ward off the panic he knew was inevitable, but his efforts were to no avail. His own bandaging job proved too much of a constraint. Busted, his mind reminded him again, and he felt the blood rush from his head. His vision shimmered and grew fuzzy. His legs began to tremble. He took a deep breath—


And collapsed in a dead faint.


Wilson’s briefcase hit the ground as he did. Its clasp broke with a snap and it gleefully abandoned its mountainous contents in a snow-like flurry of creamy paper and black ink. The clinic patients sitting nearby turned their heads curiously to see what was going on—a doctor’s illness was a nice distraction. Meanwhile, one of Wilson’s forms drifted peacefully up to the air vent, where it slid through the grate and disappeared.


Cuddy shook her head again and paged House.

Current Mood: numb

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