And Never Tarnish
Wilson was tired.
The working day was over; Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital was quiet. The only light in the young doctor's office came from the desk lamp, angled so that the pool of light was in front of him.
The oncology seminar at the University of Chicago hadn't been as educational as he'd hoped; no new theories advanced, no breakthroughs in treatment. He'd missed a week's worth of real hospital time, a lifetime in medical years.
And he'd missed House's birthday. He knew the ducklings had given a small party; Cameron had actually saved him a piece of cake, stored carefully in a plastic baggie in the department refrigerator. By all accounts, House had worn a frozen rictus of a smile on his face the entire time, giving a spot-on impersonation of a man sentenced to die in the morning. Gregory House hated parties, especially his own.
Wilson had felt uncomfortably restless on the last day of the seminar, left early, gone back to his hotel and packed. His flight wasn't until late that afternoon, so he'd decided to take a walk -- he was on the Magnificent Mile, after all. Some time after that, he'd found himself window-shopping, and realized he was looking for a present for House. He'd willed the thought to go away and had kept walking.
The result of that excursion rested now on his desk: a small package wrapped in trademark Tiffany-blue paper, a white satin ribbon tied in a neat bow on top.
He remembered stepping into the store, the bright track lights overhead warm like sunlamps. Only to look, he told himself.
He'd wandered through the aisles, glancing casually at the treasures under the display case glass. Diamonds, sapphires, Rolexes and Tag Heuers ... there was nothing for him here.
But then he'd stopped in front of one case, and found himself looking at a keyring. Of course, being Tiffany, it wasn't just any keyring. It was a dull silver, in the rough shape of a horseshoe, with small silver spheres at each end. One of the spheres was permanently attached; the other could be unscrewed in order to slide a key onto the ring. A tiny silver tag graced the top of the shoe.
The saleslady behind the display case had caught him; Would you like to see it? she'd asked. Of course, he'd nodded, and his fate was sealed.
He'd had the silver tag engraved with House's initials, and picked it up before his cab had arrived to take him to O'Hare.
Now here it was. And here he was. And ... what the hell was he doing? Wilson leaned forward, resting his forearms on his desk and clasping his hands together as if in supplication.
What was I thinking? House will hate this; he's always had trouble accepting gifts ...
The door to his office opened. "Jimmy!"
House moved forward into the office, his caned gait strangely graceful. "Come on, it's time to go home! Cuddy can't keep you here all night ..." His voice trailed off as he saw the blue package on Wilson's desk, and he stood still.
"James, you dog. Secret admirer? Or is wife no. 2 using your own alimony to buy you expensive man-presents? Interesting, either way."
Wilson squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose as House eased himself into the chair facing the desk.
"No, which one?" Wilson knew that innocent tone in Greg's voice. Damn him.
"No, either one." He opened his eyes and sighed, defeated. "Here", he said, giving the box a little shove in House's direction. "Happy birthday."
House made no move to take the present.
"You shouldn't have", he said at last. James settled back in his chair and flexed his shoulders, trying to work some of the tension out.
"Yeah, I know. You're an asshole and everybody hates you. Is that better?"
"Well, since you put it that way ..." House reached forward and picked up the small package. With one more look at Wilson, he laid his cane on the floor and used both hands to untie the white ribbon and pull apart the wrapping paper. He turned the cardboard packaging upside down and the gray jewelry box fell into his palm.
House glanced up at Wilson again, his expression unreadable in the dim light. He opened the gray box, and stared at the keyring inside. After a long moment, he lifted it from its velveteen bed and hefted the metal horseshoe in his hand. He blinked in surprise.
"Heavy", he said.
James found he had to clear his throat to speak. "It's silver. Platinum overlay, that's why it's heavy. Stronger than silver and it won't ... discolor ..." House wasn't really listening. "I figured as long as you have that stupid bike, you could use a different ring for the key, so your apartment key and motorcycle key wouldn't be in the same place ..." And I'm babbling. Jesus, I sound like a complete lunatic.
House hadn't said a word. He was turning the keyring around and over in his hands. His strong pianists' fingers unscrewed one of the little silver spheres, rolled it over his knuckles in a practiced magician's trick, and gently screwed it back onto the horseshoe.
"I got it in Chicago", James finished, hating the silence. The older doctor looked up.
"You were thinking about me while you were in Chicago?" Wilson didn't answer.
Ah, he's pissed, James thought miserably. Why did I do this?
House was inspecting the small silver tag. Wilson knew what was there -- the initials GJH, engraved in a plain Roman stamp.
Shit. Why am I such an idiot? Wilson took a deep breath, preparing to rise from his chair. I'll tell him forget it. I can take it back. Never mention this again.
"This isn't complete." James blinked. House was holding up the keyring, angling the blank side of the silver tag so that it shone in the reflected light like a moon breaking through the clouds. His voice was very soft.
House leaned far forward. His blue eyes were the color of an Arctic aurora, a sky-ocean of shifting light and unimaginable depth.
"This isn't complete. Where are your initials?"
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Legal Disclaimer: The authors published here make no claims on the ownership of Dr. Gregory House and the other fictional residents of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Like the television show House (and quite possibly Dr. Wilson's pocket protector), they are the property of NBC/Universal, David Shore and undoubtedly other individuals of whom I am only peripherally aware. The fan fiction authors published here receive no monetary benefit from their work and intend no copyright infringement nor slight to the actual owners. We love the characters and we love the show, otherwise we wouldn't be here.