house and wilson walking noeffingpostage

(no subject)

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.]

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(no subject)

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.]

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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.”

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

house and wilson bros before hos

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."

house and wilson bros before hos

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

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house and wilson bros before hos

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.

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