The House Fan Fiction Archive


Defensive Strategies

by Milkshake Butterfly

Notes: Written in twenty-six hours for the Kink/Cliche Challenge on LJ back in May; part of the reason I took so long to post it was given that time frame I wasn't at all sure of the results at first. The challenge sent three different prompts out from the two categories, and let you write a story based off of whichever you chose; I think for archiving purposes I won't say what mine was, and let the story speak for itself.
Also, the Detroit line came from Syal, after one of my discussions of the pairing, and someone else came up with Housexual, though we never did figure out who.
Warnings: Surprisingly few. Much to my surprise, it stayed out of actual smut scenes. Of course it was written in 26 hours, with all the uniquely desperate, demented brilliance that implies....
Thanks: To Canthlian, Cristin, & RosaleenDhu for Alphaing, Azarias and Emily for incredibly fast Beta turn-arounds, Tris B. for her usual brilliant Beta-ing consults, and especially to Catalase, who Beta'd, did a bit of Alpha, helped me figure out what I was doing, and generally kept me sane while writing this.

"I need a sign," Wilson told House, settling in across the booth from him.

"What, like a 'voice from above' kind of sign, or a 'tasteful font and maybe some graphics' kind of sign?" House asked, barely glancing up from the basket of fries that had arrived while Wilson had been in the bathroom.

"Either would be nice," Wilson replied, stealing a fry. House gave him a flat look. "But I was thinking more the second one, I admit," he finished, after pausing to chew and swallow. Their drinks had arrived too, sodas for both of them. Wilson had decided he wasn't yet at the stage of post-divorce where drinking was all that great a plan, though he figured it was probably a bad sign that he'd been through this often enough to know that from first-hand experience.

House, on the other hand, might drink at home but only did so in public when things were seriously screwed-up, though Wilson had never been completely certain if that was because of control and safety issues, or just because House avoided being in public as much as possible to begin with. Agreeing to go out with Wilson would have been a sign of something; the fact that he'd been the one to suggest they go out somewhere positively screamed that something. Wilson just wasn't entirely sure what that something was, or maybe he didn't want to be; if Wilson was in such obvious pain that the man who was so introverted he wouldn't even talk to patients if he could help it was trying to get him out among the happy shining crowd, he didn't think he wanted to know.

Still, he did have to admit that working their way through a different local restaurant every night did beat sitting at home in his new and still too-bare apartment, brooding over past mistakes. Even if sitting at home was safer, in some ways.

"So," House said, after a meditative fry-consumption pause of his own, "what would this sign say?"

"I don't know," Wilson said, leaning back in the booth. The vinyl creaked distractingly; it was too new to be totally broken in, but not new enough to be completely resilient. "Maybe, 'Not Interested,' or, 'Look Elsewhere,' or maybe just, 'Stop, Please, It's Flattering But I'm Not Ready To Date Again Now, If Ever.'"

"You're gonna need a big sign for that last one," House pointed out, licking ketchup off his fingers, and it took Wilson a second to remember to reply.

"I could write it on a sandwich board and just wear that. Then I could list other things, too, like the fact I'm oh for three in the marriage sweepstakes." He swooped in and stole another fry when this last statement caused House to pause for a second, a look halfway between surprised and thoughtful on his face.

"That'd probably actually encourage a few of the more terminally codependent types," House pointed out, after a second.

Wilson bit down on an urge to tell him that House would know, after all, and said instead, "Well, there's still the fact that not a lot of people will hit on a guy who's wearing a sandwich board."

"They would if that was really all you were wearing," House pointed out, with a dramatically overdone leer. Wilson rolled his eyes.

"You can always be relied upon to lower the tone of the conversation."

"Part of my charm," House insisted loftily. He paused for a second. "If it's really bothering you, we could stop doing this."

"No," Wilson replied, and if it didn't come out as vehement as it wanted to, he knew he'd still spoken too fast. House tilted his head, his eyes widening slightly as he studied Wilson in that particularly diagnostic way of his, french-fry held momentarily forgotten in his fingers. Wilson resisted an urge to shift uncomfortably--that look always made him itchy between his shoulder blades, somehow--and continued on, "You were right, I do need to get out. I just wish...." He paused and gestured slightly with one hand towards the bar, where a small cluster of girls was seated. They kept sneaking little looks at him and then giggling together. "You'd think I'd be used to it, but I'm not."

"Think of it like trauma recovery," House told him, taking a sip of his drink. "Stuff that never meant anything beforehand is going to be a lot harder to handle."

Neither of them glanced towards House's cane. But then, neither of them needed to. "It'll be flattering and fun again someday, but right now I just wish they'd stop," Wilson said, leaning forward on his elbows and sighing.

House looked thoughtful again for a minute. "Well, you could always," he began, then looked at Wilson for a long moment and shook his head. "No, that wouldn't work."

"What?" Wilson asked, sitting up straighter.

"I was going to suggest you could try to be less attractive, but short of shaving your head completely bald, which would cause the nursing staff to have hysterics...." House said, musingly.

"Gee, thanks," Wilson said, rolling his eyes and leaning back again.

"It's not my fault you were born looking like that," House pointed out. "Blame your mother."

Wilson rolled his eyes again. "I could slouch."

House thought about this a second. "Nope."

"Wear ratty clothing?" he suggested.

The reply was faster. "Nope."

Wilson's turn to think for a second. "Be mean?" he finally offered, tentatively.

"Again, you'd just attract a different sort of girl. You're better off with the ones who like you because you're nice, believe me."

One of these days, Wilson was going to get the full story about Cameron out of House. Until then, he was just going to go insane with all the hints House dropped.

"So you're saying I'm screwed."

"You could always wear a wedding ring," House said, gesturing towards Wilson's clasped hands with a fry.

"I didn't wear a ring when I was married," Wilson pointed out, and ignored the little quirk of eyebrows this provoked out of House, though House otherwise kept his eyes were fixed on the fry basket. "I was always afraid I'd take it off to wash my hands and lose the damned thing," he added. He was aware that seemed defensive, but he needed to say something.

"So, just wear it when you go out," House said, looking up from the fries with a casual shrug.

Wilson sighed, leaned forward, and stole another fry. "I'd rather not."

"Because it's dishonest?" House asked, his voice strangely clinical.

"Because...." He paused, and snagged another fry, using the time to eat it to think, then sighed again. "Because I'd rather not have the reminder," he finally admitted.

He was saved from any response House might have made to that revelation by the arrival of their meals. The waitress smiled at Wilson in a way that made him want to wiggle across the booth away from her, but otherwise didn't do anything too disturbing--though the way she stared directly at him when she said they should let her know if they needed anything else was enough to make him shift uncomfortably again. House didn't comment, just looked at him with something sardonic in his expression.

"See?" Wilson asked, when she was gone.

"I saw before," House said, reaching for the salt. He'd ordered a burger with the works; Wilson had ordered a salad. House had looked at him and Wilson had pointed out neither of them were getting any younger or healthier. Now, presented with the contrast between his leafy green selection and House's layered heart-attack delight, Wilson found himself wondering if those potential extra years of life were worth it.

"Uh, House...."

House cut the burger in half without even saying, 'I told you so,' though he did say, as they were transferring it over to Wilson's plate, "I get some of the salad, and you're paying half my bill."

"Done," Wilson said.

They didn't discuss anything serious for the rest of the meal; Wilson insisted on a share of fries, since House had gotten some with his burger on top of the ones he'd had earlier, and they talked about sports. Hank Wiggen was back in play and had just torn up the Yankees hitters, and House took a certain proprietary pleasure in that for which Wilson couldn't entirely blame him. And if there was something odd about the theory of going out to spend more time around people and only actually talking to House, well... Wilson really didn't think it was worth examining too closely. He felt better, and this was life, not medicine, so it didn't really matter why it worked so long as it did.

This might have held, and the whole thing gone down as a vaguely pleasant evening only somewhat marred by the whole apparently irresistibly-attractive-to-women thing, if it hadn't been for, well, the irresistibly-attractive-to-women thing. They were done eating and it was Wilson's turn to wait for House to come back from the restroom, only he'd decided to do so near the entrance, to avoid being gawked at by the girls at the bar some more. There was just one problem: the girls had followed him.

Well, girl. They didn't usually come after him in hunting packs, like Velociraptors, although that thought was probably going to keep him up nights. Wilson still had the distinct feeling that her friends were waiting just out of sight so as to be on hand to congratulate if she made a kill or console if her chosen prey managed to escape. He was betting, though, that she succeeded a lot more often than she struck out; there was a determined look in her dark eyes that, when combined with the easy confidence in her smile and movements, made him suspect she didn't often fail to get what she wanted.

And 'girl' wasn't the right term, either, once she got separated off from the rest of the bunch. Late twenties, early thirties maybe, with big dark eyes and a waterfall of curly dark hair, smooth dusky skin and a body, shown off to advantage in the tight pants and shirt she wore, that was reminding Wilson it had been a lot longer than just the start of his divorce proceedings since he'd had sex. Those breasts in and of themselves were pretty breathtaking, even to someone who spent as much time around Cuddy as he did, and had to be real--and Wilson was willing to bet even House would be impressed by the lines of her legs.

Damn, it had been way, way too long. This was the real problem he had with all the flirtation and offers; every time he said no, it used up another little bit of control out of his definitely-not-inexhaustible supply. He liked women and he liked sex, and that had always been a problem; he didn't trust himself with relationships anymore. He'd gotten through his marriages without cheating by the skin of his teeth, and that had been the reason for his first two divorces; he'd come to the point where he knew he was going to cheat, and that, not the actual cheating itself, had been the final thing that told him it was over. His leaving Julie had finally broken that pattern, but he was still hurting over her and knew he had no business getting involved with anyone new, yet when this girl smiled Wilson couldn't quite keep from smiling back, stupid as it was.

She had a great smile, too.

"Excuse me," she said, with that smile. Her voice went with the body and sent his brain to very bad, porn-filled places. "I wouldn't normally do this," she added, ducking her head a little and smiling up through her lashes, a coyness not matched by the look in her eyes, and a distant part of him admired her technique, "but some friends and I were at the bar and we couldn't help noticing... you have a really great smile."

Well, at least they were on the same page. "Uh, thanks," he said, a bit awkwardly but still smiling almost helplessly, and cursed that somewhere along the line he'd learned flawlessly how to attract women but never at all how to repel them. He sucked at putting people off. That was House's job, and one of the unspoken exchanges of their relationship; when House wanted or needed someone to whip out the winning smile and make nice, he called Wilson, and when Wilson needed someone to be a bastard and offend someone or get rid of them, he called House. Except right now his human shield was off in the bathroom, and the girl was only five six or so and had just leaned forward enough to give him an amazing view of her cleavage.

He wondered if shouting for help was premature.

"Do you--" she began, then broke off with a pause that Wilson was pretty sure had been planned, but only because he knew this game so well; she was really very good. "Are you from around here?" she finished instead, with just the right touch of awkward.

Fuck, but there was a voice in his head right now saying that if she was this good, he should take it, because she couldn't possibly be expecting anything too much. Some commitment-free sex would do him good, bolster up that reservoir of control and let him say no again for a good long while. Except Wilson was bad at commitment-free sex and he knew it; he always somehow ended up with commitment, and the girls never seemed entirely unhappy with that. "I... yeah," he heard himself say, and thought, you complete idiot, what are you doing? Except what came out next, instead of something that sensibly extracted him from the conversation, was, "Actually, I work just down the street, at the hospital."

He wasn't sure if this was his libido or how he'd been raised, but right now his common sense was pissed at both options.

Her eyes widened, and there were bits of him that couldn't help being gratified. "Oh, you're a doctor?" she began, with a slight laugh. "That's actually great, and kind of funny, because I-"

Wilson never got to find out what was great about it, because the cavalry had finally arrived. The noise of the rest of the restaurant concealed the familiar limping rhythm of House's steps until he was right on top of Wilson and casually sidling into his personal space. It wasn't really a surprise, or all that atypical, except for the fact that instead of pausing just slightly-too-close and helping Wilson hold the velocibreasts at bay with the force of his personality, House cheerfully crossed over the entirely-too-close line and slipped an arm around Wilson's waist. It was warm and very weirdly comfortable, all things considered.

"Sorry," House told the girl, who was staring at them with a startled expression, "he's taken."

When Wilson had been praying for rescue, somehow this wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind.

Still, the rapidly reassessing look on her face suggested it might work, so he marshaled his self-control and did not turn and stare at House, or jerk away and ask him what the hell he thought he was doing. The first actually took a lot more effort than the second; he knew what was House was doing, after all, and it really wasn't too horrible a fate to bear for a couple minutes.

He did think he owed the girl something though, for leading her on and the embarrassed flush rising to her cheeks, so he signed exasperatedly, turning his head slightly to get House in his peripheral vision, and began, "She wasn't--"

"No, I'm sorry," the girl interrupted him, and gave him another one of those smiles; he had to look slightly away to avoid the attractiveness of it, and House's arm momentarily tightened. Probably warning he was giving off mixed signals, but under the circumstances he was lucky he wasn't giving off coherent ones--just of the complete wrong type. "I.... It was nice meeting you," she said, and fled, taking her somewhat battered dignity and a really great view of her backside with her.

Well, it was more than some people got away from House with.

"Oh, you owe me for that," House said, watching her go, just loudly enough that Wilson could hear him. He didn't immediately let go of Wilson, either--but then, that might have alerted the rest of the pack to the charade, and it was probably a bad sign that he was thinking of women in those terms these days.

"For pretending you're getting to have sex with me?" he asked, turning to face House, and blinking for a moment at how close his face was. House's eyes were even more distracting than normal from this range. "I think the debt-burden there is on the other side."

"Well, I suppose really that depends on who's on top," House said, waggling his eyebrows.

Wilson rolled his eyes. "Okay, I did not need that image. You going to let go of me any time soon, or do we walk to the car like this?"

"Well that would certainly get the rest of the women here to leave you alone--not merely gay, but clingy."

"In this scenario, you'd be the clingy one."

"Might be worse. Gay with a clingy boyfriend who owns a stick, very bad idea to hit on."

Wilson rolled his eyes again, and House finally let go--but not without grabbing Wilson's ass as he did so.

"Hey!" It was more formulaic than anything else; Wilson didn't think House meant anything by it.

"Playing to the crowd," House said, loftily, before heading for the door.

Wilson trailed after him, sighing, "House...."

"Well, you wanted a sign," House pointed out, over his shoulder. "There you go. Neon, ten feet high," he added, indicating the metaphorical sign with a jerk of his chin.

The air was cooler when they'd gone in, but still not chilly. "I'm thinking the wedding ring idea might be better than having you grope me everywhere we go."

"You sure?" House asked, as they headed for the car.

It took Wilson a moment to think about. "No."

House gave him a strange look, but he didn't comment.

There was probably some parallel universe where it ended there, just another slightly odd event in a more than slightly odd friendship, and Wilson eventually got over his latest divorce and got back into dating and maybe eventually ended up with yet another wife, House went on with his life as well, and they just stayed friends. That was probably, actually, the easier universe, if not necessarily the better one, though sometimes Wilson wondered.

In this universe, which was the one that mattered to Wilson anyway, it didn't go that way, and didn't end there, because two weeks later, in a different bar and grill, they ran into the girl with the attack breasts again.

For about five days House had stuck with his particular plan, which Wilson endured with a dignified silence and a lot of staring. House insisted it was a really noble self-sacrifice on his part, but Wilson didn't find that particularly plausible; House was getting way too much enjoyment out of things like slipping out of his shoe and running a socked foot up Wilson's leg under the table. He always had gotten a kick out of doing shock-value things. They stopped on the fourth day not because it wasn't working--Wilson still got hit on, but never by anyone who had seen the two of them together, which made for a noticeable drop in volume--but because it was working a little too well; it had, after all, been way too long since the last time he got laid, and Wilson's body was starting to threaten to react on pure stimulus grounds, no matter how inappropriate it was. He told House that the reprieve had been enough and called a halt to things before they got out of hand.

So things went back to normal, or at least normal for them, which even Wilson had to admit was actually pretty strange by most standards. They worked their way through another string of restaurants on nights when they weren't stuck at the hospital, they saved a couple more lives, House made some suggestive comments about Cuddy's cleavage, and life went on.

Right up until the Friday evening when they ended up at Terry's Bar and Grill, sitting at the bar ordering appetizers, mostly because there weren't any other options--the place filled up fast--and it was better than standing around awkwardly while waiting for a table to open up. Six years ago, House would have spun on the stool; now he eyed the floor with the practiced look of a man who knows that at some point he is going to have to get down, and he probably won't enjoy it by then. It wasn't even the height, Wilson knew; it was the lack of support, so that by the time they were finished, his lower back was going to be hurting. You didn't spend that much time leaning on a cane without paying for it in other ways.

He'd have suggested they go somewhere else, but House had that determined, stubborn look in his eyes, and Wilson knew if he did House would just briskly turn him down, and secretly be a little hurt by it. So he didn't.

They were waiting on the onion rings--House had won that round--and debating what to order for dinner off of the menu when Wilson heard a faint, discreet sound behind him, and swiveled to find himself presented with a pair of smoldering breasts and bountiful eyes. Or maybe that was the other way around.

"Um," he said, when he finally rescued himself from the vision of cleavage past, "hello."

The look the girl gave him was bitterly amused. Her hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail tonight, and her eye makeup was maybe a little more dramatic, but if the clinging pants and shirt weren't the same as last time, they were close cousins. "Well, well, if it isn't the doctor. Or, excuse me, the taken doctor," she said, and he had no idea how on earth she was managing to be both seductive and scornful, but it was actually more of a turn-on than just seductive might have been. Which probably, now that he thought about it, said very bad things about him.

House, he saw out of the corner of his eye, had only turned his stool very slightly, so he was angled towards Wilson, and was giving her a look over his shoulder. Wilson knew that look. It was House's 'I'm not going to like you, am I?' look. Wise people feared it and ran away; this girl just gave him a quick, dismissive flick of her eyes before focusing back on Wilson.

"You lied to me," she told him, a wounded note creeping into her voice.

"I... what?" he asked, blinking slightly.

"I've been asking around," she said, stepping forward and resting one hand slightly on the lapel of his jacket. He was peripherally aware of House sitting up straighter. "You could have just said no. You didn't have to make me think I was an idiot."

Oh, that lie. Which technically had been House's lie. Except he had a feeling admitting that would be a very bad idea, and for once his sense was overruling other, older instincts. "I'm... not sure what you mean," he said, leaning back very marginally, away from her hand.

She dropped her arm, but her eyes looked disdainful, and flicked back and forth between them. "You two are not an item. I hear he attended your wedding."

Well, that explained why his good sense was momentarily overpowering those other, stupider instincts: this one was dangerous. Wilson might have been an idiot when it came to relationships, but there were some levels of idiocy he avoided, and getting involved with this sort of woman was one of them. "That doesn't actually mean anything," he pointed out, and wondered if it would be fair to slip off the stool and bolt for the restroom, leaving House to deal with her. It bothered him, though, that he couldn't quite decide the question of fair to who. It was possible that neither of them deserved each other, or maybe that they both did, and in either case it might have been really entertaining to watch them duke it out, except he didn't want to get caught in the crossfire.

She gave him a haughty look. "Please. I think in the very least you should owe me dinner."

Running seemed like a very good idea, suddenly. He was just opening his mouth to try and think of a good excuse--maybe he could figure out a way to fake a page, that always worked for House--when once again the cavalry arrived.

"You know, there's an easy way to settle this," House said, turning his stool a little farther towards Wilson and sitting up a tiny bit straighter. Both the girl and Wilson turned towards him, her with a skeptical expression and Wilson with one that might have looked slightly desperate. House smiled slightly at their mutual regard, and suddenly Wilson felt a brief moment of unease.

Then House leaned forward on his stool, grabbed Wilson's lapels so that he was dragged forward as well, and kissed him.

House's lips were surprisingly soft, and his tongue was surprisingly friendly--Wilson had barely even realized his own lips had parted when he found that tongue sliding against his own, before it continued on in what Wilson couldn't help but think of as a dementedly cheerful exploration of the rest of Wilson's mouth. Maybe it was the way he could almost feel House's smile, or... no, as close as they were there was no almost about it. House's stubble tickled for a second, and then started to rasp and burn slightly, and it was only when he felt House's biceps moving under his hands that Wilson realized his arms had come up and he was clinging for dear life. And it was only when that sunk in that he realized he was kissing House, he was kissing his best friend, he was making out with the guy he worked with and ate lunch with and mocked the nursing staff with. And he was doing it in public.

And it felt really good. Really good. The kind of kiss that, if you ended a first date with it, meant that it was certain you were getting a second one, and if you ended a second date on it, you were clearly getting some on the third.

Very dimly, just before they broke for air, Wilson wondered exactly what the protocol was for that sort of a kiss after years of friendship and what might be considered three solid weeks of dating. Seeing the quickly smothered heat in House's eyes, and thinking back over how much House had clearly enjoyed taking liberties during that period of pretending to be involved, Wilson mentally scratched out 'might be considered': they'd been dating. Wilson just hadn't noticed it.

Most people would have called this an epiphany, Wilson knew, and some of them went to ridiculous lengths to have one, including embracing strange religions, climbing strange mountains, and taking strange drugs. House, judging by the easy and casual way he seemed to get bolts of revelation, probably called it a Thursday afternoon, if even that. Wilson didn't know what to call it, except 'epiphany' felt like too exciting a word for something that left him feeling like an extraordinarily dense idiot.

He risked a glance over at the girl, and found her mouth hanging slightly open. She shut it with a snap when she realized he was looking. Unfortunately, this did nothing to take away from the realization that she wasn't the only one staring at them; the nearby diners were all gaping as well.

House gave them all a glare that, despite the general distribution, managed to have only marginally less intensity than the kind he bestowed upon only a single individual. "What, is this something you've never seen before? Do none of you get cable?"

Very suddenly everyone found other things to look at.

It occurred to Wilson he was still clinging to House's arms, and he let go abruptly, flushing and staring at the floor. Which meant he missed whatever expression was on the girl's face--not to mention a last view of her cleavage--as she said, "Fine," in a very strange, strained sort of voice, and turned to stalk away.

He did raise his eyes long enough to get another view of her in retreat, but that was kind of instinctive.

He couldn't quite meet House's eyes when he looked up--what did you say when your best friend had just kissed you in public? 'Sorry,' might have been appropriate, except Wilson wasn't, and he didn't think House was, either. 'Thanks,' might have been even more appropriate, but required a level of calm and casual he couldn't quite muster, especially when House's lips quirked into a smile for a second, and drawn by the movement, Wilson found himself fighting an incredible urge to grab him and try that all again.

"Don't worry," House said. "I know you'd do the same for me." There was a brief pause, during which Wilson tried to remember how to speak, and then tried to figure out which words to use. His lips were tingling faintly. "Well, okay, maybe not," House said, "but in any case, any response would of course be purely Pavlovian, and I'm not going to attach any real significance to it. And hey, look," he said, straightening and looking past Wilson, his tone brightening and warming, "the gods of timing are smiling for once, because I see our waitress and she's bearing onion rings. Think they're ours?"

They were, and further they came with the attached notice that a booth had been freed up for them. Wilson didn't know if he was grateful or not. He might not have known what to say, but he was fairly sure he needed to say something. When he automatically stood too close to House, so that House leaned into him while standing up without having to admit he needed to, Wilson was acutely aware of the brief contact of House's body in a way he never had been before... or maybe had just never admitted to before.

As he followed House across the restaurant, Wilson found himself thinking that House might not think it meant anything... but he did.

They talked more about sports, and ordered based on habit; at this point it was something of a given that Wilson would get half of House's steak and House would get half of Wilson's pasta, and they'd split the salad and fries. The only differences were that after what had just happened Wilson found it very hard to keep his mind on the conversation, and the waitress didn't bat an eye when they asked for extra plates. Apparently if you were okay with kissing at the bar, sharing meals was perfectly normal as well.

Kissing. At the bar. House. Him. Wilson felt like he needed a drink, except he knew better than that and just kept it to soda; the last thing he needed was to get drunk and do something he'd always wonder about later on. Whatever decision he made, he wanted to be clearheaded about it, at least.

Except it was very hard to be clearheaded when House kept licking dipping sauce off his fingers, and Wilson kept thinking back to that tongue in his mouth, which led to very bad thoughts about that tongue elsewhere, and he wasn't gay, so this was all completely wrong.

Well, he thought he wasn't gay. The fact he suddenly wanted to spend hours getting better acquainted with his best friend's tongue probably indicated that wasn't as certain as he had always assumed. And if Wilson was honest with himself, he'd been attracted for a while now--just glancing at the past couple weeks could tell him that, and if he went and looked back at all their prior relationship, it was.... Well, it was something. Something that wives and girlfriends had actually been jealous of, much to his perpetual bewilderment at the time, though he had to admit that it suddenly made a lot more sense. So... was he gay, and had just been in denial all this time, closeted so deeply even he hadn't known it?

A girl passed them by, and Wilson recognized her as part of the velocibreast pack; she slowed slightly to give them a disdainful stare, which meant Wilson had plenty of time to process the fact that while her cleavage wasn't quite on par with her friend's, it was still very nice, very much on display, and once again, very real. Also, he was very clearly not gay.

So, if he wasn't gay, did that mean House really was right, and this was all just a Pavlovian response, something that might go away if he found a nice, less-velociraptor-like girl and got his libido soothed?

House glanced up at him from underneath slightly lowered brows while making a point about batting statistics, and Wilson's pulse gave a little jump that was in no way related to anything as blatant as licking. Wilson smiled back, and definitively ruled the 'Pavlovian' option out as well; he had no conditioning at all to respond that way to a certain set of blue eyes. Except that meant he really was attracted to another guy. Not just any guy, either: he was attracted to House. Which, despite the fact Wilson really liked him as a friend, was only marginally more sane than getting involved with the girl with the smoldering breasts.

The food arrived, and Wilson had never been so happy to have a distraction before in his life. Not even when House had shown up the first time to save him from the velocibreasts. Though if that had led to this, he might want to worry more about where this might lead.

Especially since he couldn't seem to stop thinking about it, and now that they were eating the conversation had tapered off a bit so he didn't even have the distraction of mutual Yankees-loathing. The idea that he might not be purely heterosexual should have bothered him more, only as far as he could tell, trying it on for size, it didn't actually change much of anything, except possibly to explain why he'd always had a weakness for musicals. He wasn't gay, he just wasn't totally straight, so the net lifestyle change he had to seriously contemplate here was... nothing, unless he wanted it to be. Unless he decided to act on those less-than-straight thoughts.

Which was the problem, Wilson had to admit, because he'd just woken up to the fact he'd been flirting with his best friend for years. That was way more terrifying than realizing maybe he had some bisexual tendencies--after all, he knew about Kinsey's studies, so it wasn't like the idea of that wasn't possible. But to go instantly from, 'Okay, I could like a guy,' to, 'Okay, I like House,' was.... This was real, this was here, and this was now, and it was tangling up his emotions and his intestines in about equal parts, to the point he was just picking at dinner, and House was shooting him the occasional speculative or concerned glance.

"I said it didn't mean anything," House finally pointed out.

"And I heard you," Wilson replied, winding some pasta around his fork slowly. "I'm.... I'm not bothered by it, House," he said, and realized as he did so that he wasn't.

He was bothered by the fact he wasn't bothered by it. Wilson was completely okay with kissing House. In fact, he wanted to kiss House again. It was just that he knew he should be bothered by this, he should think this was a bad idea, he should be wanting to run screaming from even the idea of any relationship with House. It bugged him that it didn't bug him.

He was getting very confused.

House gave him a skeptical look, and Wilson said, "No, really. I'm not bothered by it. I just...." The problem with House was, once he saw that there was something wrong, he had a tendency to keep picking at it until he found the root cause; it made him a wonderful doctor but a terrible person to be friends with, in some ways. Unless you learned to cope. "She creeped me out," Wilson said, indicating the girl and the bar and maybe the whole scenario with a flick of his eyes, before taking a sip of soda.

House's eyebrows raised, and he leaned back slightly for a moment, giving Wilson a look that told him House didn't really believe that was everything at all, but that he was willing to accept it for the moment. And then he stole one of Wilson's carefully apportioned shrimp.

"Hey!" Wilson said, and got momentarily distracted from his thoughts by the resultant food-swiping competition.

It didn't last, though, and as soon as there wasn't something actively going on, his brain went back to pondering what he'd just realized. The thing was, if Wilson didn't have that urge to run screaming--if he just accepted that he was bisexual, and that he was attracted to a man, and that man was House, and he was okay with that--where did that leave him? Well, with the question of whether or not House liked him back, and Wilson wasn't even sure if that was worth asking. In fact, he was wondering how the hell he had attributed House's clear enjoyment of all that flirting he'd done to just his love of startling people--it wasn't that House didn't like shocking people, but that situation had been another thing entirely. So Wilson liked House, and House liked him, and now he knew that House was a great kisser. He also knew that House came with a set of emotional baggage so vast you could have used it as a life raft at sea, but then again, Wilson had been dealing with that baggage in capacity as a best friend for years now, so even that was a lot less intimidating than it should have been. And from the opposite viewpoint, House knew about and had been dealing with Wilson's emotional baggage for the same time period, so neither of them would be entering into this with any illusions about the flawless nature of the other person, only to get their hopes dashed later on down the road.

And from that point of view, getting involved with his best friend suddenly didn't seem like such a bad idea after all.

Theoretically, this should have been when the panic set in, or Wilson's good sense caught up to the rest of him.

In reality, this was when the dessert menu arrived.

House ordered a chocolate cake that sounded like it had the ability to bring strong men to their knees and possibly create world peace; he always seemed to gravitate to things like that on the menu. Given the state of his nerves, Wilson ordered another glass of sofa, which caused House to give him a level stare.

"You realize you just ordered a couch," House told him, and Wilson blushed and tried to ignore the amused, knowing look of the waitress.

"I know what he meant," she told them, with a grin, and headed off towards the kitchen.

"You're not getting any of my cake," House informed him, as soon as she was gone.

"I don't want any of your cake," Wilson replied, which was true, except possibly in a metaphorical sense. House just gave him a dubious look.

By the time the cake actually arrived, Wilson was pretty much completely reconciled to the bisexual thing, although he hadn't completely ruled out the possibility that he was just Housexual instead. In either case, his common sense still hadn't uttered a single protest, his subconscious was informing him that it had been in favor of this for years, his libido didn't even need to make its opinion known, and Wilson was feeling more and more that he should probably do something to act on this revelation at the first opportunity that didn't involve public lewdness.

Watching the faces House made over that cake made him rethink the lewdness part of his plan. After all, the staff here could see this too, and couldn't possibly blame Wilson for losing control. And if they hadn't thrown them out for French kissing while at the bar....

Then again, there was always the chance he might someday have to deal with one of these people in the clinic, so it was probably better to restrain himself at least until they got to the car.

The check had arrived with House's cake, and when Wilson looked at it he realized they'd not only been rung up together, but that this marked the first time they'd never even been asked. Probably, again, the kissing at the bar. Wilson got out his credit card wordlessly; the waitress swung by to take it just when House was making a particularly intense, eyes-closed, orgasmic face, and Wilson found himself unable to look away and acutely aware that he was never going to be able to eat here again without the faint patina of embarrassment and lingering associations of arousal.

The waitress gave him another amused look, and he flushed again and glanced away, which was lucky since House's eyes popped open right then. Wilson wasn't quite ready to meet that particular steady blue stare head-on just yet, all things considered.

He had a feeling that the chocolate cake was the only thing saving him from a particularly intensive grilling, though, because House's eyes narrowed as they studied him for a long moment before he returned to demolishing the five-layers-drizzled-in-hot-fudge confection in front of him. Consequently, Wilson wasn't sure if it was a relief or not when House finished and pushed the plate away from him. On one hand, it meant he couldn't avoid actually doing something for very much longer, but on the other hand, he'd already rolled both their straw wrappers into little balls, fiddled with his drink as much as he could possibly stand, shifted in his seat so much that even a much more dense person than House was bound to know something was up, and talked himself down from an erection twice.

The way House ate cake ought to have been illegal. The way he licked his spoon had to be in violation of some decency act or another, and Wilson wasn't even going to think about the little happy sounds. Really.

Make that talking himself down from an erection three times.

House leaned back in the booth and eyed all this with a bemused expression. Wilson avoided looking directly at him again, tapping a spare straw against his glass, and after a heartbeat House gave an easy shrug and grabbed his cane. "Meet you at the car?" House offered, jerking his chin towards the back of the restaurant and the restrooms. Wilson gave a jerky nod in response, not trusting his voice at the moment.

The waitress came back with the bill, and Wilson gave her a much more generous tip than he normally would have just to make up for the French kissing and the orgasmic faces, and then hesitated upon standing up. It was a nice night, clear and not too cold, and he really probably could use the time alone to gather his thoughts, so there was absolutely no reason not to go and wait for House at the car, like they'd agreed. None at all.

He pivoted on his heel and headed for the bathrooms instead.

The bathroom was small, as restaurant bathrooms went--just two stalls, a urinal, and a sink. House was at the sink when Wilson walked in, but the place was otherwise deserted. Perfect.

There was a knack to wedging a bathroom door shut. Most people never learned it; Wilson had perfected his technique before he was even twenty-one. He should probably feel bad about that, or at least worried about the potential consequences of blocking off the men's room in a crowded restaurant, but mostly what he felt was desperately horny and tired of waiting. He blamed the cake.

House, who had flicked him a vaguely interested look in the bathroom mirror when he entered, watched the door-blocking spectacle with a bemused expression on his face, almost absently drying his hands with a paper towel before crumpling it and tossing it expertly into the trash can. "You know," he commented, with a lightness that seemed totally genuine but struck Wilson as false, somehow, "I knew you weren't fine with it."

"I'm not--" Wilson began, and then hesitated, because he wasn't exactly sure how to finish that, or for that matter, what to do next. The reality of being alone and theoretically uninterrupted in a bathroom with House hadn't exactly hit until this moment. Adrenaline, shock, and a lot of rationalization had gotten him this far, and suddenly Wilson found that tide of that receding, leaving him beached in a very strange place indeed. "It's...." he tried again, and ended up just staring at House, swallowing after a moment.

House tilted his head and gave a small, almost privately bitter smile. "Well, this is going to be fun. We could try charades. Or maybe you could write it on a note and pass it to me. You know, this was the reason I was going to wait until we got to your apartment...."

Thoughts of House in Wilson's apartment led to thoughts of House in Wilson's bed, which brought back some of that impelling horniness, at least. Wilson licked his lips awkwardly, and House glanced away from him for a moment, that small bitter smile increasing. "I'm not sure I'd have managed the car ride home," Wilson admitted, his voice coming out strangely atonal.

You had to know House fairly well to be able to read how he took that: no reaction but a slight widening of his eyes, and that total lack of response was the most telling. Wilson's own eyes widened and he found himself doing a very fast, very desperate mental reevaluation, because there was no way that statement should have gotten that pained a response out of House.

House still wasn't meeting his eyes as he limped for the door. "Well, we can call a cab," he began, but didn't get any further as Wilson's brain finally caught up to the fact that House had managed to interpret everything completely the wrong way, and was stuck on the idea that Wilson really was bothered by it. That Wilson had a serious problem with what had happened, in an 'I don't know how to be friends with you anymore' kind of way.

He was fairly certain that grabbing House, pushing him into the wall beside the door, and kissing him hard settled that, at least. House's lips were as nice as he remembered, and his tongue every bit as friendly, once the initial moment of stunned shock passed. Now that they weren't both perched on stools Wilson could lean into him, pressing House back against the wall and himself into House, taking care to make sure his weight landed on House's good leg and hip and not the bad one. House made a small sound as Wilson rubbed against him, tongue darting little flicks into House's mouth, and his left arm came up to wrap around Wilson's back. Wilson made a happy sound of his own at that, and rubbed a little harder, enjoying the pressure of House's hip and thigh against his groin, and the fact that for the moment, at least, he didn't have to talk himself out of this fourth erection.

He let go of the handfuls of House's jacket he'd grabbed and ran his hands down House's chest, enjoying the noise House made in response. He knew House took somewhat better care of himself than it often at first seemed, but it was still almost a surprise to feel the density of muscle underneath his clothing; Wilson couldn't resist skimming his fingers down to the hem of House's t-shirt and then sliding up underneath it, skin on skin and the muscles of House's stomach and ribcage trembling under his touch. House jerked out of their latest liplock with a gasp, and Wilson took the moment to steal a few panting breaths of his own before attacking House's mouth again. He realized, now that the initial rush of sensation had faded a bit, that he could taste the chocolate cake, and barely held off a laugh, because it seemed he had gotten some of it somehow, with the bonus of an added flavoring of House. Quivering House, very nearly whimpering House, 'is that a stethoscope in your pocket or are you just happy to see me' House, and Wilson was wondering if House could feel his grin in the kiss the way Wilson had been able to feel House's smile earlier.

This was an utterly ridiculous thing to be doing, but at the same time it seemed to make perfect sense, and it wasn't even alarming at all to find his hands sliding back down House's ribs to tease along the waistband of House's pants, getting a low, faint sound out of House that was quite possibly the sexiest thing Wilson had encountered all week, and he was including the girl with the breasts. He kissed House harder, pushing him more firmly into the wall, and slid his hands across the tops of House's hipbones, wondering where this was going to stop, and if he ever wanted to.

Some part of Wilson was still pretty sure he should be more bothered by this. After all, he had twenty-plus years of being a practicing heterosexual male behind him, and it seemed a bit extreme to be going from that to suddenly wanting to suck the cream filling out of his best friend like a particularly bizarre Twinkie. In a restaurant bathroom, at that. But at the same time, this didn't feel anything like a new development; more like something that had been going on and building up for ages now, and he'd just happened to finally notice it right before it hit its climax. Which was probably a very bad word to use, under the circumstances, because when House shifted his hip like that it dragged across Wilson in a way that pulled a needy moan out of him.

Which was right when House unhooked his arm from around Wilson's back, got his balance under him, and pushed Wilson away.

He found himself stumbling back a few steps from the sheer unexpectedness of it, staring blankly at House, who was staring back at him with a carefully controlled expression only slightly marred by the fact that his lips were swollen and his breathing was still coming at a near-pant.

Okay, now Wilson was thinking that maybe 'Sorry,' was the right thing to say. Except he couldn't quite remember how to talk just yet.

Maybe House couldn't either, because he looked away from Wilson, down at the floor, and licked his lips. Just that little detail was enough that Wilson had to suppress a full-body shudder, and he swayed very slightly, because his libido was telling him it hadn't been finished there, but his good sense had finally crawled out of whatever hole it had been hiding in and was holding him in place.

He also suppressed an irrational urge to check his watch and find out how long that had taken in nonsubjective time. He was pretty sure it had been a lot faster than it seemed, but since Wilson hadn't thought to look at the time before grabbing House, it wouldn't have told him anything to check now.

"Okay," House finally said, still not looking at him, and some part of Wilson decided that he might just love the man for being the first one to break that silence. "That was not what I expected."

Wilson licked his own lips and was surprised when his voice came out fairly even. "I told you I didn't have a problem with it."

That got House to look up slightly, though without really raising his head much as he did it. "No, you did. Just not the problem I thought you had."

Dammit, Wilson hated it when House pulled a shift on him like this. He knew he was missing something vital here, something that he should have seen or guessed, except he hadn't, and so knowing about it was just irritating. Like having a splinter he couldn't find, much less remove. "So what problem is it I'm supposed to be having?"

"I... appreciate..." House began, very awkwardly, eyes staring into some middle distance over Wilson's shoulder, "that it's been a while, and that you could read a certain clear interest in the earlier events and so it might have seemed like here was a nice, safe solution to your libido issues--"

"Oh God, not this," Wilson said, covering his face with his hands and biting back a groan.

"What?" House's face, when Wilson lowered his hands, was genuinely bewildered for a change.

"I don't believe that you're stupid enough to actually believe that," Wilson told him.

"And I don't believe that you're gay enough to be kissing me in restaurant bathrooms for any other reason," House retorted.

Well, at least there was an obvious counter to that. "That's because I'm not gay," Wilson said, lightly.


"I'm just not straight. I figured it out over the pasta."

House rolled his eyes and leaned back against the wall. "I have had people tell me less plausible things, but that is only because I'm a doctor."

Well, Wilson had to admit that even in his own head that sounded a bit strange. It just also happened to be true. "House...." he began, taking a step forward, and then paused and shook his head. "This isn't about sex." He paused again and thought for a second. "Well, it's not entirely about sex."

House gave him the sort of skeptical look he usually reserved for patients who were either clearly lying or obviously insane, and Wilson sighed again. "All right, let's try it this way: we've been flirting for years."

"Well--" House paused, tilting his head and looking thoughtful for a second. "Yeah. Okay. But you never meant it."

"Funny," Wilson replied, lifting his eyebrows, "I always thought you never meant it."

"And if I thought you didn't mean it," House said, ticking off points like they were in a differential, which in a weird way they could be, "and you thought I didn't mean it, and we still kept doing it, that really means that neither of us meant it and it meant nothing."

"Or that it meant everything," Wilson said, quietly.

House hesitated, taking a deep breath before saying, "I find the former more likely."

"More likely, or more safe?" House wouldn't meet his eyes, and Wilson risked another step forward, back into that slightly-too-close zone. "All right, I admit that a whole lot of what's going on here is me wanting to pin you against a flat surface and do some exploring, but that's not everything."

House's eyes came up to meet his for a disturbingly direct moment that got the blood pounding in Wilson's ears. Then he sighed, so gently Wilson almost missed it, and focused back on Wilson's shirt again. Wilson found himself taking another step almost despite himself, and despite the way that House's lips quirked when he did it, a brief, bitterly amused expression crossing his face. "And that," House said, drawing the word out for a second, "would be the other problem."

Wilson blinked. Two shifts in one conversation didn't really seem fair, although he might want to consider this a preview of the whole relationship and take it as due warning. "And which 'that' are we dealing with now?"

"Mechanics." House pronounced the word with flair and a slightly lascivious lift of his eyebrows that was probably supposed to convey more to Wilson than it did.

"Mechanics," he repeated, blankly.

"As in, who's on top, who's on bottom, who's on first, what's on second, what's in second, and given the pasta-based timing of your little revelation I'm going to take it as a given you've never actually done this with another man."

"Oh. Um," Wilson said, fighting off a blush and staring at House's shirt now; he probably had the better bargain there, since House's shirt had writing and Wilson's just had a red and blue striped tie. "No."

House didn't say anything, just leaned there and gave him raised eyebrows. Someone tried the door and swore loudly as it didn't open; they both glanced over for a second, and then went back to their mutual regard of each other's clothing choices. Again, Wilson thought he had the better deal; House in a black t-shirt, red button-front shirt, and black jacket was.... Well, the mechanics couldn't be too hard to work out, right? "That doesn't matter to me," he heard himself saying, mentally tracing out curves of musculature under cloth.

House had that bitter smile again. "Of course it wouldn't. To you."

Wilson closed his eyes. "House...." He opened his eyes and caught House's stare for a second. "You're saying you don't want this."

"I'm saying...." House's eyes wandered away from him for a second, and then back. "This is a bad idea."

"We've had worse," Wilson pointed out, with a lightness he didn't feel. "I think my marriages qualify, for a start."

This would have gotten at least a ghost of a smile out of House, once, but this time he just kept staring at Wilson with that too-intense look on his face. "What do you think you want?" he asked, and there was something halfway between gentle and yearning in his voice.

Wilson dropped his gaze back down to House's chest. "I... don't know. I want... Really, anything that you want sounds good right about now." He could just see the edge of House's collarbone peeking out from under his t-shirt where Wilson had tugged it askew, and somehow his eyes had locked on it as if it were hypnotic. The temptation was too much; he couldn't keep from taking a last half-step forward, then lowering his head and licking at it, slowly, nudging cloth as far out of the way as he could with his mouth to follow it along.

"Oh, please don't do that," House said, but there was a quality to his voice that told Wilson only about half of him meant that, and even that half's defenses were crumbling fast.

"Why not?" he mumbled, into House's skin.

"Because," House began, and Wilson could hear the strain under that; his next words came out in a rush. "Because all the blood rushes towards the head without a brain and I can't think clearly enough to remember why this is a bad idea and I should stop you."

Wilson couldn't help a smile. "So you do want me."

House sighed, and with it a tension went out of his body that Wilson hadn't even noticed was there until it was gone. "What kind of an idiotic question is that? Of course I want you." House paused. "Everybody wants you. Nurses, accountants, other doctors--of both genders. Cashiers at grocery stores and waitresses at restaurants. You're a walking, talking wet dream, and the worst of it all is that you're so nice. It's like a fantasy come to life. Everybody wants you. That's how we got into this mess in the first place, remember?"

It was like flipping a switch; suddenly it was hard to breathe for all the wrong reasons, and Wilson was pushing back and away from House, half-turning towards the sink but not completing the movement because he couldn't look at his face in the mirror any more than he could stand to look at House's. He fixed his eyes on the trashcan, breathed slowly in and out, and tried to ignore House, who was still leaning against the wall and staring at him.

"That got you to let go?" House's voice was incredulous, but when Wilson risked a glance up, the surprise was quickly fading from his face to be replaced by an expression that Wilson knew entirely too well. It was that intense stare, that figuring-things-out look, and suddenly, Wilson wanted nothing less in the world than to be diagnosed in a restaurant bathroom by Gregory House.

"You were right, this was a bad idea," Wilson told him, and headed for the door. House stopped him by the simple method of sticking his cane out so it hit across Wilson's chest; not hard, and Wilson could have pushed by it if he really wanted to, but some traitorous little part of him didn't. So he stopped, licking his lips and staring at the door.

"If you were a patient," House told him, voice strangely factual, "this would be the part where I told you what was wrong with you." Wilson closed his eyes. "You're not a patient," House continued on, and Wilson drew in a sudden breath, but kept his eyes closed. "And this isn't the hospital. And as... easy as it would be to let you go out that damned door...." Wilson opened his eyes, still unable to stand looking at House, but even without being able to see his expression, Wilson could hear some of the strain in his voice. "Talk to me."

"Is that an order?" he asked, almost angrily, not but quite; he could recognize even as he said it that he wanted to be angry more than he actually was.

"Would you be more likely to do it if I asked nicely, used your name, said 'please'?" House's tone was nearly gentle, and Wilson closed his eyes again and swallowed.

"I... House...." He didn't know how to do this, or say this, in the middle of a bathroom where people were bound to start pounding on the door soon. Odd, that hadn't bothered him five minutes ago. "It...."

"What?" Still that strangely soft voice, and Wilson finally found it in himself to straighten and turn to look at him.

"Not here. I'll talk to you, but not here."

"All right." House looked like he might have said more, but instead he flicked his gaze down at the floor briefly and then back up before lowering his cane and pushing off the wall. When he spoke again, something of his earlier lightness was back in his voice. "My place or yours?"

The words sent a little shiver down Wilson's spine despite everything. He closed his eyes for a second and considered the urge to retreat into the relative safety of his own space--except at this stage it still barely qualified as that. And if worst came to worst, it was easier to walk out of someone else's home than it was to throw someone out of your own.

"Yours," Wilson said, and opened his eyes just in time to catch the brief look of surprise on House's face before he smoothed it away into a controlled mask again.

"Okay," House said, and unblocked the door.

They got looks exiting the restaurant. Wilson avoided meeting everyone's eyes and prayed none of these people ever ended up in the clinic, or worse yet, needed an oncologist. He also made a mental note to never eat there ever again, which was a shame; the meal itself, or at least what he could remember of it around his massive sexual identity crisis, had been excellent.

The car ride back to House's place was not the most awkward thing he'd ever endured, or even in the top five most awkward things, but he'd been a geek in high school and being married three times also meant three different sets of in-laws, which probably had a lot to do with it. There were a lot of uncomfortable silences and sidelong looks, but the good thing about what had just happened was it had gotten his libido to ease back and behave itself a little, and so he didn't spend the whole trip thinking that for the Corvette to really be christened as House's, they ought to have sex in it. Not the whole trip, no--just selected bits of it.

And come to think of it, House in black and red would look really good sprawled out across the car's hood.... No. He wasn't going to think about that. His libido was not driving. House's libido was driving, and clearly he was in a lot better control of it. Maybe. Hopefully.

Wilson didn't know what significance, if any, to attach to the fact that pulling up to House's back door felt like coming home, or the way that stepping inside made him relax somehow, even with the unspoken state of affairs hanging between them. He also wasn't sure if he wanted to think too hard about that, either; he had enough on his plate at the moment.

There was a moment of awkward silence, the two of them standing beside the door and doing that not meeting each other's eyes thing again, before House abruptly asked, "Want a beer?"

"I think I'm better off doing this sober," Wilson admitted.

House made a faint noise that might have been agreement and headed through the kitchen towards the living room, pausing on the threshold long enough to peel off his jacket and toss it, with a faint rattle of the pill-bottle, across the back of the sofa. Wilson followed a little more slowly, but it felt stupid to keep his jacket on when House had his off, and so his suit coat ended up on the back of the sofa as well, dark gray against black.

He was noticing color contrasts more tonight for some reason.

House ended up seated on the piano bench, facing him, which right there said something, because that was his comfort zone. Back when Wilson had told him he was getting divorced from Julie, House had sat there the whole time, occasionally playing a single note or two to punctuate the conversation, and the hairs on Wilson's arms had nearly stood up when he finally placed the eerie familiarity of it: House had done the same thing when Wilson had told him he was going to ask Julie to marry him. This time he locked both his hands around the handle of his cane, and Wilson was grateful; House played beautifully, but those one or two note counterpoints to the discussion were horrible on his nerves.

The silence stretched. Wilson stood somewhat awkwardly in the middle of the room, hands in his pockets, and looked at House, or more accurately looked at the leg of the bench House was sitting on. House looked at him, and the fact that he was really looking at him had a lot to do with the reason Wilson was looking at the piano bench.

"Well?" House finally asked, raising his eyebrows.

"I--" Wilson began, then broke off and licked his lips.

"You said you'd talk," House pointed out.

Wilson gave him a somewhat resentful look. "You're usually better at this."

"I'm usually not--" House began, then broke off and stared away for a minute.

"Not what?"

"You talk. Your issues. That was the deal."

"I'm not so sure our issues separate out that neatly."

There was a pause and then House gave a ghost of a laugh, smiling faintly and looking back up at him. "I usually don't care that much. You--" He paused again, then took a deep breath and finished, staring intently at Wilson's knees. "You matter."

The warm rush of pleasure that caused was entirely unexpected, and enough that Wilson finally found it in himself to try sitting down in a nearby chair. House turned on his bench to follow the movement. But even seated, Wilson wasn't sure how to explain this, because he wasn't sure he understood it, either.

"Should I begin?" House finally said, after a minute.

"I.... No. I just need to...." He paused and tipped his head back, staring at the ceiling.

"You have to know that everybody likes you," House pointed out, in his most reasonable tone.

"Of course I know that. I--" He sighed again and looked back at House. "The thing is, they don't. Everyone I've ever known who liked me has done it because of... all that. The fact that I'm attractive, and nice, and successful, and... the good guy." All he could think of now was when he'd told Julie he was leaving her, and she'd spit something about how a third divorce was going to make him look, and he'd finally realized he didn't care about that anymore. That it didn't really matter. It had been simultaneously terrifying and liberating. "I don't know if any of them ever actually like me for anything but those things. Or if, once you took all of that away, they'd vanish too."

There was another silence, and Wilson found himself staring at the rug. House finally broke it with, "Except me."

"Except you," Wilson agreed, and felt another degree of tension slip out of his body. "I...." He swallowed, and took a deep breath, and admitted, "I want you." It was surprisingly easy, all things considered. "But I want you to want me for more than just...."

House's smile was wry. "Not just another pretty face?"

"It seems kind of stupid, doesn't it."

The smile slowly slid away as House's eyes stayed on him. "No, it doesn't," he finally said, quietly, before levering himself up and moving over to perch on the arm of Wilson's chair. House gave him another long, searching look, and Wilson found himself wondering how he'd managed to go this long without acknowledging the way those blue eyes made his pulse speed up. Then House leaned in and kissed him again, gently and softly; Wilson's eyes drifted closed, but House lingered only for a moment before pulling back.

"It was never about that for me," House told him, from just inches away. Wilson kept his eyes shut and took a second to just enjoy what this felt like, inhaling the breath House exhaled, the warmth and closeness of it, and how it somehow felt more intimate than their body-to-body kissing in the bathroom earlier.

He knew that it couldn't last, and it didn't, because House leaned back and pushed to his feet again, hobbling across the room to what Wilson couldn't help but think of as the protective distance of the couch. "This is still a bad idea," House told him, along the way.

If he got up to follow him, House might end up trying to bolt even farther, so Wilson just leaned forward in his chair, clasping his hands between his knees and tracking House with his eyes. He waited until House was seated to say, "I still say we've had worse."

House's expression was unreadable, and he studied the floor for a long second before looking up and asking, "Do you know how this will end?"

"What says it has to?" Wilson challenged him.

House looked briefly exasperated before looking away again. Wilson couldn't help noticing that his arms were crossed loosely over his stomach, for all the way the rest of his posture was trying to imitate a sprawl. "My luck. Your history. Both our sets of respective issues. The odds. My bitterness. Your loneliness. The way I push people away and you can't seem to help drawing them near. My--"

"Stop," Wilson said, flatly, closing his eyes against the litany.

House did, for a minute, before continuing, in an almost gentle voice. "The point is... this can't work."

Wilson opened his eyes and met House's stare head on. "You don't know that."

House continued as if he hadn't spoken, gaze turned inward. "And when it falls apart, neither of us will have the temperament to go on from there in any way approaching civil. It'll be a disaster and one of us will have to move to Detroit."

Wilson couldn't help a small smile at that, and offered, "I think we might be able to get away with Pittsburgh."

House gave him an equally small smile back, but with a lot more bitterness to it. "No, definitely Detroit at the least. And that's only if it goes fairly well; there are some scenarios that end with one of us moving out of the country."

"I think you're exaggerating," Wilson said.

"Or else you just want to think that. You always go into relationships telling yourself that it'll work out, that this time it'll be the one. The only difference is, this time I know I'm not the one, and I'm not afraid to tell you that," House countered, voice almost painfully even.

And he had a point, Wilson had to admit: he did do that. He just didn't think he was doing it this time, and besides, there was another thing in what House had said that was worth looking at. "But you are afraid. Of this. Of what could happen if it did work."

There was a pause, and then House asked, quietly, "Aren't you?"

Which was... simultaneously the most wrong and the most right thing anyone had ever said to him. Because there it was: the only thing more frightening than the possibility that this wouldn't work was the possibility that it would. That this really could be the rest of his life, because he'd never planned on anything like this; it wasn't on the map.

But then, neither had been those three divorces, and looking at it now, a lot of the stuff Wilson had planned for... didn't have the same value it once had. It was the normal stuff, the stuff you were supposed to want, and until Wilson had met House he'd never once questioned that they were things worth having. Except House had never seemed to consider them as such, and had provided a completely different list of things to value, to work for. The honest, if grudging, respect of his peers, rather than the insincere respect he got because they felt they had to give it. The knowledge that he'd done the absolute best job he was capable of in any sense, rather than just the formality of a job fairly well done and then praised far beyond what it deserved. The thrill of taking a risk, daring to take a chance, and seeing it pay off, rather than staying in the careful bounds of safe perfectionism. Having friends who liked you so deeply they stayed your friend even when they wanted to throttle you, rather than friends who only knew you on such a shallow level that they'd never encountered anything that would make them even feel put-off, much less homicidal. Living, in the now and in the moment, rather than just being good for some nebulous future payoff that might or might not happen. Because this was not a test, none of this was a test, so everything that you did now mattered; this moment, this heartbeat, had as much value as the ones you'd have fifty years from now, and should be used and lived to its fullest potential.

And put that way, suddenly Wilson had never wanted anything more in his life.

He found himself grinning, which was worth it just for the, 'Okay, what the hell?' look that crossed House's face in response. "Am I afraid? Terrified. But I wouldn't pass up the opportunity for anything." House's stare got a little more blatant and Wilson added, "I mean that."

House rolled his eyes. "Did they drug the pasta?"

Wilson was still grinning as he got up. "You'd better hope not. You had some too--in fact, the way you were stealing my shrimp, I think you had slightly more." He crossed the room and settled down on the couch beside House, who gave him a look halfway between longing and fear.

"I'm not lying to myself, House," Wilson told him. "I'm not expecting some fairy-tale romance and happy ending. I think a lot of the time it's going to suck, because you're frankly a bastard and I have... my own issues. But on the other hand...." He reached out and took one of House's hands, pulling it away from his body; House only hesitated a moment before he let go, and Wilson gently uncurled House's fingers, leaving his hand palm-open and face up before Wilson planted a brief kiss in the middle. The fingers on House's other hand tightened where they were still wrapped around his body, Wilson noticed, but he ignored that in favor of meeting House's doubtful gaze with a steady one of his own. "Are you going to tell me it's not worth it?"

House smiled slightly, but it still had that bitter edge. "You're not going to take no for an answer, are you."

Wilson hesitated a moment, looking down. "If you honestly tell me that you don't want this.... I'll leave. And we can... try to go back to the way things were." It hung unspoken between them how unlikely it was that the attempt would be successful. "But...." He met House's eyes squarely again. "You've always told me you never lie. Well?"

House looked at him for a long moment, eyes starting out wide and searching and then slowly narrowing. "Oh, hell," he finally said, and grabbed Wilson by the shoulders, dragging him into another entirely willing liplock.

Grinning into the kiss, Wilson decided he could get very used to becoming more regularly acquainted with House's tongue. In fact, half-sprawled against House as he was, he was deciding there were a lot of other things he could get used to as well. His hand started out braced on House's good thigh, but when he managed to shift around enough to regain his balance, it seemed the perfectly reasonable thing to do to move his hand both in and up, and introduce himself with a handshake to a whole new portion of House's anatomy, which seemed very happy to meet him. House jerked out of their kiss with a gasp that turned into a moan as Wilson continued his exploration, and he found himself smiling at that expression, mentally deciding to try and get House to make it again as often as possible.

In fact, pulling back slightly so he could study the view further, Wilson decided there needed to be a guidebook for this sort of thing, because there really ought to be a word for the moment in an ongoing sexual identity revelation when you went from merely being attracted to another man to actively wanting to do something physical and never before contemplated with said man. Like how right now Wilson found himself wanting to drop to his knees, pin House's hips to the couch with his hands, and proceed to find out if giving a blowjob was as easy as some girlfriends had made it look, or as difficult as other ones had. In case it was the latter, though, he decided to forgo it for right now; there would be other times, even if he had a sneaking suspicion that House could make a great new fashion statement by wearing that open red shirt, a black t-shirt, a flushed erection, and nothing else.

Just not necessarily one fit for public viewing.

"You know," House pointed out, leaning back on the couch and baring the line of his neck in what Wilson found an irresistible invitation, "we still haven't worked out that who's on top thing...."

"You always have to complicate things," Wilson muttered into the skin of his jawline.

"Part of my charm," House murmured, lazily rocking his hips up into the pressure of Wilson's hands. "Hey," he added after a pause, "Do you think you could still try that wearing only a sandwich board thing?"

Wilson stopped what he was doing and gave House a long stare. "You realize you're weird, right?"

House gave him a lopsided smile. "Weird works for me."


While the fallout from that particular night theoretically stretched on for years, what Wilson considered the last really big impact from it came five weeks later, when he turned around at the counter in clinic one day and found himself confronting a strangely familiar pair of breasts.

When he finally raised his attention up from the cleavage, which was encased in a nice white blouse and dark red suit coat with a nametag reading, "Dr. Charmaine Larue," Wilson found himself meeting a very familiar, sardonically amused pair of dark eyes.

"Oh God," he said, without even thinking, "tell me you don't work here."

Her smile was every bit as good as he remembered even with less makeup and a professional setting, which was what had thrown him for a minute; he hadn't quite recognized the attack breasts out of their natural habitat. They camouflaged surprisingly well. "No," she said, and the purring, porn-inspiring quality of her voice was surprisingly absent, leaving it brisk and fairly impersonal. "I just got called in on a consult and couldn't quite resist saying hi when I saw you. Plus I also wanted to put to rest the idea you might have had that I was stalking you or something--I just happened to see the two of you together the last time I was here, and asked." Her smile briefly got wry. "And was assured there was nothing going on. Nice cover you've got going--God knows how you maintain it."

She was a lot more reasonable when separated off from the rest of her pack, clearly. "Um... thanks, I suppose." She raised her eyebrows at him for a minute, and Wilson found himself unable to help asking, "You're really a--"

He got interrupted from two directions at once. House's arrival was slightly worthy of deja vu, except for the fact he didn't go so far, here at work, as to slide an arm around Wilson's waist; Wilson wiggled slightly away from him anyway, on general principle. From the other direction, Cuddy appeared, and she and House spent a long second staring inscrutably at each other, having one of their silent conversations that even sleeping with House hadn't gotten him any closer to deciphering.

Whatever the hell they communicated, they broke out of it at almost the same moment, Cuddy turning towards Dr. Larue and House turning towards Wilson.

"So, you about done here?" House asked him in an undertone, indicating with a slight tilt of his head and flick of his eyes that the question was about the sudden reappearance of the smoldering breasts in the hospital, rather than Wilson's clinic duty.

At the same time, much louder, Cuddy said, "Dr. Larue, thank you so much for your help. Is there anything else we can do for you before you go?"

There was a brief pause, during which Wilson met Dr. Larue's eyes and saw the same, slightly bemused expression in them that he suspected had to be in his own.

"On second thought, maybe it was for the best," she told him, grinning slightly. "I don't know if I could take dealing with this on a regular basis. You two..." her grin got wider and her eyes briefly burned with a familiar wicked light, "have fun. Not that I have any doubts that you'd do that anyway." She flashed one more grin at them, and then turned around and sauntered out of the clinic, with the three of them staring after her.

"There goes a pair of breasts as great as any I have ever seen," House said, watching her go. Cuddy turned towards him with raised eyebrows and a faintly incredulous expression, and House gave her a falsely apologetic look in return. "Yes, sorry, including yours." He paused a second and eyed the line of her blouse. "Though it's close."

Wilson rolled his eyes and briefly looked away; he'd never really taken this seriously even before he and House had gotten together, and wasn't about to start now. They had enough problems without pointless jealousy.

Cuddy's faint snort seemed to agree with his assessment of House's sincerity, anyway. "So do you two want to tell me what that was about?"

Wilson suddenly became very interested in studying the file-folders, but House just grinned casually at her. "She strike you as the persistent type?"

Cuddy's raised eyebrows conveyed a, 'Yes, and?' that even Wilson could read.

"Well, she is," House continued on. "Was going all single-girl-hunter-mode on poor Jimmy here while he was still in post-divorce weakness." Wilson rolled his eyes, but let House run with it. "So we pretended to be involved to get her to leave him alone."

Cuddy's eyes widened and her eyebrows went back up; mentally, Wilson filed the expression away for a rainy day. It wasn't the most incredulous look he'd ever seen her give House, but it probably ranked in the top ten. "And this... worked?"

"Well... yeah," House said, as thought it was blatantly obvious.

Cuddy's eyes cut between the two of them before she took a very deep breath and added, "And... there's really nothing."

"All an act, I swear," House told her, all bright-eyed innocence and enthusiasm, which just made her roll her eyes and turn to Wilson, who gave her an uncomfortable little smile and shrug.

"Well, it did work," he told her.

She paused, gave them one more dubious look, and then walked away, a hand pressed to her temple and a faint mutter of, "No, I don't actually want to know," trailing behind her.

They watched her go, and then turned and stared at each other for a long moment.

"Well, it was true at the time," House offered.

Wilson smiled, shook his head, and headed for the door.

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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.