“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.”
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?”
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.
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.”
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.