Thanks to Nestra and Cori for the beta-work!
House had read the same paragraph six times without any actual comprehension, but he stared at the magazine anyway, unwilling to consider going home. When footsteps sounded in the hallway, he blinked and made his eyes focus, as though he'd been paying any attention to the article at all.
"You're here late." Wilson stood in the doorway, arms crossed.
"So are you."
"I had work to do."
Wilson exhaled and came into the office, suddenly looking tired, letting the door swing shut behind him. "Every last box. You'd never know the place had been empty."
The pause stretched a little too long.
"And what's kept you here until," Wilson checked his watch, "one-thirty in the morning?"
"Nothing," House lied. Or maybe it wasn't a lie; he hadn't been waiting for Wilson, exactly.
Wilson sat down on the couch, let his head fall back, and stared at the ceiling. "It's...funny," he said, after a while, in a tone that bore no humor at all. "When I thought I'd been fired, I assumed my marriage was over."
"And now it isn't?"
"She has no more reason to leave me now than she usually does."
House thought about making some snide comment about the blonde at the third-floor nurses' station, but let it slide. "It's funny," he resisted the urge to reach for his Vicodin, "how you only seem to focus on her reasons for leaving you, instead of your reasons for leaving her."
"Yeah. About those reasons," Wilson said, and suddenly House couldn't bear to listen. Fortunately a page rang through the halls -- Dr. Lauder, to the pediatric ICU; Dr. Lauder, to the pediatric ICU -- which in the late-night hospital silence was too loud to talk through.
House took advantage of the pause. "If I'm going to play marriage counselor, I need a drink. I move we adjourn to someplace that isn't my office."
House stood, a little too fast, wincing from the rapid motion. He'd been sitting too long. "I've got this house -- couple of couches, well-stocked bar -- where there's a marked lack of hospital staff." His mind, traitorous, supplied the image of his darkened bedroom, bed the way he'd left it that morning, sheets askew. How easy, to imagine Wilson there.
How easy, and how wrong. House grabbed his cane and turned off the desk lamp, resolutely not following his own train of thought.
"Lead on, Macduff," Wilson said, and let him be first out the door.
When they got in, Wilson headed straight for the fridge and cracked open a beer. He threw the gauntlet down on his way to the couch. "You think I should file for divorce."
House wanted to shrug, to disclaim responsibility, but he didn't. "She doesn't understand you. You can do better."
Wilson took a deep swig, then set his beer down, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "I've been thinking that myself." His look was uncomfortably appraising.
They had always flirted, but never with intent. It was their unspoken agreement. House wouldn't make a move -- he'd already alienated more than his share of exes, he'd be damned if he'd let Wilson join that club. And Wilson? Wilson flirted with everybody. Didn't mean anything.
Except that tonight, apparently, it did. Like a two-bit psychic, House saw his future in a flash.He's going to proposition me.
Outside of getting his leg back, he wasn't sure there was anything he wanted more. The force of long habit gave him the strength to push Wilson away. House's First Axiom: if you want it, you can't have it, so don't try.
He shook his head and limped to the liquor cabinet to pour himself a drink. "You can do better."
"You just said that."
House had his eyes on the bottle of scotch, not on Wilson, when he answered. "I meant, better than me."
When he turned around he expected Wilson to be...startled, at least. He'd just undone the lie of omission on which their friendship was founded. But Wilson looked unfazed. "I'm not Cameron, you know."
As he sat down, House gave Wilson the most incredulous look he could manage. "No shit? I brought the wrong doctor home."
Wilson ignored him. "I know what I'm asking for."
This was a whole new kind of agony: caught between how desperately he wanted, and how disastrous he knew giving in to that desire would be. "I'm really not a picnic," he said, forehead furrowed as though it pained him to admit it. "For one thing, I'm a drug addict."
"I think I'm the one who pointed that out to you in the first place." Wryly.
Damn him for being reasonable. House slugged back the whiskey in his glass, set it down more loudly than he meant to, and changed tack. "I'm not sure I trust your judgement."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Oh, come on, take a look at your marriage. Or, hey, either of the two previous would do." House ignored Wilson's wince. "You have a real gift for choosing inappropriate partners."
"And why do you think that is?"
"Because you're an idiot?"
Wilson gave him a slightly brittle smile. "Or because of you."
"I'm not that bad an influence," House said, letting himself sound annoyed. "How about, I don't know...the affairs? Or your staggering inability to commit?"
"I'm committed to you, aren't I?"
"You expect me to buy that the reason you're incapable of sustaining a longterm relationship is, you've been pining for me? Give me a break."
"'Pining' would be overstating the case, but the theory's sound. Why is this so hard for you to believe?"
"I'm not relationship material."
"No, you're just scared to change your neat little paradigm: ruined leg, ruined life. You don't know what to do with something good."
"Good thing you're here to fix me, then." Bright and bitter. "Looking for a bird with a broken wing?"
"You can't have it both ways!" Wilson's veneer was starting to crack. Like he'd used up his share of restraint for the day. "I don't put you on a pedestal, and I don't pity you. Some days I don't even like you. But that doesn't change the fact that you -- this --" making a gesture that took in the two of them and the space between, "this is the best thing I've got going."
"And you'd risk it?" House's voice escalated to match Wilson's. Some distant part of him noted that shouting felt dangerous, too revelatory.
"Because I don't have such a surplus of friends that I can afford to lose you when we fuck this up."
The words hung in the air like smoke. House's leg throbbed dully, as though the fight were awakening the dead muscle to ache again.
"I'd say the real risk is doing nothing." Wilson was quiet now. "Pretending we don't want more." There was a pause. "Pretending it doesn't matter."
It mattered. He'd admitted as much in Wilson's office, and he wasn't going to back down from that. He owed Wilson that much.
He owed Wilson a hell of a lot more than that, actually.
"If it didn't matter, this would be easy," House said, finally. "I'd have gone down on my knees for you a long time ago." He shrugged one shoulder, acknowledging the impossibility. "Metaphorically speaking."
He'd meant it half-as a joke, a way of breaking the tension, but he wasn't prepared for the sight of Wilson's eyes darkening, the unconscious motion of his tongue wetting his lips, his pained swallow. The awareness of Wilson's physical desire was like a blow to the solar plexus. How had he ever thought he could say no to this?
Wilson looked down at his hands, then back up at House. "Nothing's ever simple with you, is it?"
House shook his head. "You wanted simple, you picked the wrong guy."
"I can live with that." Wilson took a slow breath. "Can you?"
The words were a plea. House felt frozen into free-fall. Somehow he managed a jerky nod. Against his better judgement, despite all the reasons he knew this couldn't work, he couldn't help trusting Wilson, in the end.
And that was his last coherent thought, because after that they were kissing. Wilson whimpered once into his mouth, and everything caught fire.
For all of his illicit fantasies, House had never actually imagined he would get Wilson, tousled and inviting, in his bed.
Now that Wilson was naked on House's dishevelled sheets, his mind flooded with possibilities. House took a fierce pleasure in murmuring them into Wilson's ear, making him shudder. The prospect of being fucked apparently appealed; Wilson muttered a "God, yes" that made House's breath catch in his throat.
Though if that gave him the illusion that he was in control of the situation, that misapprehension was shattered when Wilson knelt between his legs. It had been a long time since House had been with anyone besides his own right hand. He bit back the impulse to beg Wilson never to stop.
And sure enough, Wilson did stop. "Tease," House muttered, and Wilson laughed low as he repositioned them side-by-side. Wilson was stronger than he looked.
Sucking at Wilson's throat won him an inarticulate little moan, a broken sound that made his body burn with desire and pride. House thought of all the other places he could put his mouth, all the other sounds he might be able to wring forth. He bit at the juncture of shoulder and neck, and the sound of Wilson's voice thick with urgency inflamed him. He tightened his grip, rubbed himself harder against Wilson's hip.
And then both of them were hanging on for dear life, moving desperately in the same rhythm, racing for the finish. In this race, at least, House's leg didn't slow him down.
House woke at four-thirty, gulped two Vicodin, and went back to sleep. When he woke again it was after seven; Wilson was in the shower and he could smell coffee brewing.
As he was contemplating the eternal question of whether coffee was sufficient to get him out of bed, the shower shut off. A vague anxiety coiled in his belly: not entirely unpleasant, but unnerving. Were they going to talk about this high-stakes game?
Wilson would probably argue that he gambled all the time. That the practice of medicine was one big risk. House stared at the ceiling and grudgingly admitted that his imaginary Wilson had a point. Maybe he even had a decent track record, risk-wise.
Wilson emerged wrapped in a towel, which was a prettier sight than House was used to.
"You look cheerful this morning." The amusement was all in his eyes and his tone: someone who didn't know him well might not have known it was there.
House dragged himself to a sitting position and shrugged. "I was thinking about risk."
"Oh?" Wilson's eyebrows said, only you would wake up calculating probabilities.
"This risk, I mean," House said, gesturing vaguely between them. "I think the odds are good."
Wilson snorted. "Like the saying goes. 'The odds are good, and the goods are odd.'"
House felt strangely warmed, but he scowled, for form's sake. "And we still have jobs."
"So we do." Wilson was poking through the clothes he'd left on the floor, which afforded House a fine view of his ass. "Arguably better ones than we had yesterday, now that Vogler's gone. Though you might want to steer clear of Cuddy for a day or two."
"Don't make me deal with that; I haven't had breakfast." House started slowly toward the bathroom. "There's an Egg McMuffin out there somewhere with my name on it."
"Works for me." Wilson stood up, finally, underwear and button-down in hand, and the sly look he gave House said he knew House had been staring. "What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? Go take your shower, already."
"I'm going to whack you with this thing," House said, grabbing the bathroom door with one hand so he could shake the cane at Wilson.
"Promises, promises," Wilson said, voice muffled by the closing of the door.
House had never been prone to indulging himself in hope, even before the infarction. But as he stepped into the shower's hot spray, he broke his own rule and let himself wish. Maybe this wasn't a zero-sum game. Maybe this was a gamble neither of them would lose.
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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 Fox Television, 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.