Summary: House isn't quite the devious mastermind he thinks he is. Turns out, neither is Chase. But Wilson already knew this. ....... Rating: PG-13
1 We feel
Part the First
"House has changed his shaving schedule."
Foreman eyed the amber liquid in Chase's glass as well as the pitcher from which he'd poured. "What are you drinking?"
"Just listen," Chase admonished. He hitched his stool a little closer to the bar and leaned in toward Foreman. "House's shaving used to be purely random. Monday was the one day you could sort of count on him to have shaved. Now he comes in on Monday with stubble. Not a lot, just enough to make it obvious that he's shaving for the weekend."
"I'm frankly frightened by the attention you've given House's shaving schedule," Foreman said. He regarded his own drink with a suspicious eye. Looked like beer. He took a cautious sip. Tasted like beer. He took a long look around the crowded bar. No one else was acting odd. Maybe it was an Australian thing.
"I'm serious," Chase insisted.
"So am I," Foreman said, his eyes wide.
"Do you think we should mention it to Cameron?" Chase asked.
"I suspect she's already aware of House's shaving schedule," Foreman said. Which was sad, but not as sad as the fact that Chase was aware of House's shaving schedule.
"She might not take it well if she finds out House and Wilson are doing it." Chase's tone was distracted as he swung his head from side to side in order to scope out the female portion of the bar's Friday night clientele. He'd flash the prettiest ones a smile, but even then his gaze had already moved on to the next candidate.
"No way." Foreman jabbed his finger into Chase's shoulder to get his attention. "You have no proof that House and Wilson are anything other than good friends."
"Point one: House doesn't have friends."
"He has Wilson."
"Point two," Chase continued undaunted. "On the day after the days House has shaved, he's in a good mood."
"Meaning what?" Foreman asked.
"Meaning when he shaves, he gets lucky," Chase said.
"Means nothing," Foreman said dismissively. "He probably just called one of his hookers."
"House doesn't shave for hookers," Chase said.
"Seriously, manyou really need to get over the shaving thing," Foreman said.
"What shaving thing?" Cameron set her purse on the bar and claimed the empty stool on the other side of Chase. Foreman slid the pitcher of beer and a glass toward her. He considered shoving Chase in her direction, too, but she had enough problems already.
"House's shaving thing," Chase said.
"Did you notice he's changed his schedule?" Cameron asked as she poured herself a beer.
"I did." Chase gave Foreman a smug 'told you so' look while Cameron watched them both with a puzzled expression.
"I give up," Foreman muttered.
"I don't like it."
"You haven't seen it," Wilson said. He grabbed the section of the paper with the open house listings and got out of his car. House groaned, then pushed himself out from the passenger seat.
"Don't be whining at me," Wilson said as he locked the car. "You're the one who insisted we should live together."
"I did, and we should," House agreed.
"And I agreed."
"Finally," House muttered. It had only taken how many years? Granted, living together hadn't been a goal during most of that time, but stillit should count as time served.
"So don't be whining at me," Wilson said again.
House hated it when Wilson got logical on him. Yes, House had hounded him constantly about living together. Yes, Wilson had finally succumbed to the force of House's arguments, or maybe just to the force of his constant arguing. And yes, House had done nothing but whine about the actual logistics of finding a place that suited both their needs. But you'd think Wilson would know better by now.
House followed Wilson up the driveway to the front door. Unthinking, Wilson held the door open for House. If it had been anyone else, he might've protested. He knew it wasn't about the leg. Wilson was simply being Wilson. His mother had raised him to be polite, and House had, as yet, been unable to break him of the habit.
House was so deep in his musings that when he suddenly came face to face with the realtor standing in the foyer, he stopped in his tracks, silent except for the 'ooph' that exploded when Wilson's shoulder impacted with his spine.
"Hey, Jules," House said when he'd dragged some air back into his lungs. Wilson stared over House's shoulder, then began frantically rifling through the paper.
"Greg. James." Julie was in professional mode: a tailored navy pantsuit, simple silk blouse, her blonde hair pulled up in a loose bun. House approved, but then he'd never found fault with either her appearance or her taste. He'd never really found fault with Julie at all, other than the fact she'd tended to take up too much of Wilson's time.
"Julie." Wilson looked lost for words as he waved the real estate section at her. "You...I thought...the paper said this is Kevin's listing."
"His wife just had a baby," Julie said. "I'll be handling a few of his properties while he takes a short paternity leave."
"Oh." Wilson started to edge back toward the door. "Look, I'm sorry. We'll go. House doesn't even like this place."
"I do now," House said. He really did, as much of it as he could see. The kitchen was small, but neither of them was much for entertaining. The living room was a nice size and had a great fieldstone fireplace on an interior corner.
"House," Wilson began in that oh-so-familiar tone of overtaxed patience.
"It's okay," Julie said. She reached for Wilson, resting her fingers on his forearm for just a second. House's instinctive response was to tell her to keep her hands off his property, but he managed to hold his tongue. He suspected one or both of the Wilsons would object, and even fighting dirty he couldn't take them both on. Not if he wanted to win.
"There's no reason I can't give you the fifty-cent tour," Julie said.
"What can I get for a dollar?" House asked as she led them through the living room to the master suite.
"The fifty-cent tour and change," Julie said without missing a beat. She opened the door to the bedroom and stood back to allow House and Wilson to enter.
"Nice," House said as he gazed around the room. The bedroom was large, with a huge walk-closet and even bigger master bath. If House could con Wilson into letting him install a mini-bar and a plasma screen TV, House could spend the rest of his life quite happily without ever leaving the master suite. But Wilson, and Julie, insisted he see the rest of the house.
There wasn't much left to see: a guest bedroom, bathroom, a small study and a tiny laundry room. Not a lot, but it was enough. It was pleasant, it was compact, and it was all on one level.
"The room above the garage is finished," Julie said at the conclusion of their tour. She came to a stop at the foot of a steep staircase that led off the foyer and over the two-car garage. She glanced at House's cane, then at the stairs. "But I don't suppose that would be of much use to you."
"Not me," House agreed easily. "But I'm betting Jimmy here can find all kinds of uses for it."
"You...? You're looking...together?" Julie asked with a stunned expression.
"House's place is too small. Mine has stairs," Wilson said, which apparently was his roundabout and somewhat tactless way of saying "yes, we're shacking up." Wilson's pager suddenly went off, loud in the uncomfortable silence. Wilson fumbled for the pager and grimaced at the message. "Sorry, I have to take this."
While Wilson went into the kitchen to call the hospital, Julie escorted House back to the living room. She waved him to the sofa and took a seat on an ottoman near the fireplace. "So...."
"This is awkward," House agreed.
"And yet it's not the most awkward situation I've ever been in," Julie said with a rueful twist of her lips. "It's not even the most awkward situation involving you and James."
"He never meant to hurt you," House said.
"He never means to hurt anyone," Julie said sharply. She shook her head when House struggled for a response. He felt like he should defend Wilson, but damn it if Julie didn't have a valid point. Instead he concentrated on trying to balance his cane on one finger while Julie composed herself.
Julie suddenly gave a small laugh. "You know, it's almost easier that he's with you rather than another woman."
"Really?" House asked.
"Every time he cheated I was left wondering was it me? What had I done wrong? What did she have to offer that I didn't?" Julie brushed back a stray strand of hair. "Whereas with you, well, I know what you have that I don't."
"Ah, yesthe big wood," House said. He fondled his cane and gave her his most obnoxious leer. Julie's smile became easier, more natural.
"I don't hate him," she said.
"Maybe you should." Wilson was standing at the entrance to the living room, cell phone still in his hand. He gave a little shrug when House and Julie turned to look at him.
"I have better ways to spend my time," Julie finally said. Wilson opened his mouth to respond, then simply nodded in agreement. He redirected his gaze at House.
"I have to go. I have a patient."
"You have minions," House said as he pulled himself up from the couch.
"Who have their own patients."
"But it's Saturday," House complained.
Wilson merely jerked his head toward the front door. "Let's go."
"Now this is the way to spend an afternoon," House said. It wasn't really. Beer, nachos, and football were the way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but he'd felt the need for open spaces. A recent spate of rainy weather had given him a slight touch of cabin fever, and while a stroll along the riverbank wasn't exactly a cripple-friendly activity, it was pissing Wilson off. As far as House was concerned, it was damn near a perfect day.
"As opposed to?" Wilson asked. He walked just a step off of House's right, squinting at him through the sunlight reflecting off the water.
"Oh, sayspending the afternoon with your ex-wife."
"Technically she's not an ex yet," Wilson said. He shoved his hands deeper in his pockets. "I don't suppose it would do any good to suggest that we do something that won't aggravate your leg?"
"Like what?" House asked. "Death won't aggravate my leg, but I'm not quite ready for that yet."
"Yet," Wilson echoed under his breath. House stopped as Wilson stared off at the far riverbank. "We're not even married yet and already it's nag, nag, nag," House said mildly. He started walking again, cursing under his breath when he stumbled over an uneven patch of ground. He felt Wilson's hand at his elbow briefly, gone as soon as House regained his footing.
"If you don't like the nagging you could always do something about it," Wilson said.
"Like a gag?" House asked hopefully.
"Like try some other method of pain control."
"Vicodin works for me."
"No, it doesn't," Wilson said. "It gets you by, but it doesn't work for you."
"I've tried other methods," House said. It was the truth, for once. In those first few weeks and months Stacy had pushed, pulled and flat out bullied him into every possible approach to pain control. He sometimes suspected that had been more for her benefit than for his. "They don't work."
"You haven't tried them recently. Circumstances are different now."
"Different how?" House asked. Nothing was different. His thigh was still a mass of scarred and distorted muscle and nothing was going to change that. All he could do was suck it up and deal. Just his perverse luck he'd fall for the one person who knew his history and just would not let it go.
If House had wanted a nag, he'd be dating Cuddy.
House turned and stared at Wilson. What the hell did Stacy have to do with it? Besides, she wasn't gone anymore, she was back.
"Stacy moved on. You're not the center of her life," Wilson said. "You can't use your pain to punish her anymore."
"Stick to oncology," House said with a warning look. "Leave mind games to the experts."
"Because you know I'm right."
"You're not right," House said.
"Fine." Wilson started walking up the bank, away from the river and away from House. "You want to be miserable out of spite, be my guest."
"It's not spite," House called after him. It was pain, and it was a fact. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Greg back together again. And neither could Wilson.
"Besides," House added. "Every method you suggest involves major surgery if not loss of a body part."
"So try a different drug, or combination of drugs," Wilson said. "Try a TENS unit. Try biofeedback."
"Biofeedback?" House said incredulously.
"Okay, not biofeedback. You'd probably break the machine." Wilson threw his hands up in frustration. "Just try something."
"Here." Cuddy shoved two files at House as they walked through the corridor.
"Boring," House said as he looked at the first. He flipped open the second file and ran his eyes down the page before closing it. "Also boring."
"Don't care," Cuddy said in a distracted tone. "You have a zero patient load at the moment. You have to do something to earn your keep."
"If I'm not treating patients, I can't be sued for malpractice." At this point the hospital should be offering him bribes to stay very far away from the sick and injured. Given his billing versus his legal costs, it would certainly improve their bottom line. Hell, they could probably lay off half the legal department if he refrained from the practice of medicine. House took a strange sort of pride in that fact.
"I wouldn't bet on it," Cuddy muttered. "Look, you can either accept these two cases or I can increase the number of your clinic hours. Either way you are going to see patients."
"I'm dealing with some intense personal issues right now."
"Please," Cuddy scoffed.
"I have issues," House insisted. He gave her his best hangdog expression and mentally thanked Wilson for not asking him to shave the night before. He'd been told the scruff added a certain pathetic quality to his appearance
"I believe you have issues. I just don't believe you're dealing with them," Cuddy said. House reluctantly conceded round one. Cuddy stopped to drop off a few files with a departmental secretary, then resumed walking.
"Is Stacy around?" House asked.
"She's only working half days this week," Cuddy said. "Why?"
"I need to make some changes in my personnel file," House said. "The hospital provides benefits for same sex partners, doesn't it?"
Cuddy stopped and looked up at him. "Are you serious?"
"Would I kid about something like that?"
"At every possible opportunity." Cuddy resumed walking, giving House repeated sideways looks. Finally she slowed to a halt and turned to him. "Wilson already has medical and dental insurance through the hospital. He doesn't need coverage."
"I know, but there are things like life insurance and retirement," House said.
Cuddy sighed. "If you're serious, talk to the Human Resources office. They'll set you up."
"Cool. Gotta go." House shoved the files back on top of the stack Cuddy was carrying and headed back in the opposite direction.
"House," Cuddy called sharply. He leaned hard on his cane as he turned back. "Mess with my oncologist and I'll make you wish you'd never been born."
"You're not on the schedule," Wilson said. He signed out in the clinic log and turned to House.
"Cuddy's making me work extra hours until I find a new case," House said as he signed in. "I don't suppose you have anything weird, like cancer of the nose hair or something?"
"No, they're all boring, normal cancers," Wilson said. "You know, if you weren't so picky ."
"Oh, don't start," House said. He grabbed a file from the top of the stack and limped around the desk.
"Would it kill you to take a routine case for once?" Wilson remained at the reception desk, leaning on his forearms and watching House.
"It might," House called back to him. "You wouldn't want to take that chance, would you?"
Wilson gave an exasperated wave of his hand and left. House knocked on the door to Exam 2 and entered without waiting for a response. He closed the door behind him and turned to face his patient.
"Well, Mister...John Smith?" House frowned. Mr. Smith was a man in his early twenties with the physique of a body builder and a certain air of humiliation. "Either your parents weren't very imaginative or you're using an alias."
"John Smith is my real name."
"Lacking in imagination it is." House rolled the chair over in front of the exam table and sat down. "What seems to be the problem?"
John fixed his eyes on the ceiling as he pulled away the sheet draped across his lower body. House moved back slightly as he came face to face, so to speak, with an erection. He didn't immediately see a problem with the exposed penis, other than the fact that is was in his face. In his professional opinion that wasn't where it belonged.
"You know you're going about this the wrong way," House said. "You're supposed to wear a trench coat and hang around playgrounds."
"I can't make it stop," John said.
"Here's a radical thoughthave you tried sex?"
"I did, but it didn't make a difference," John said. He yanked the sheet back up to his waist and stared at House with a sort of miserable anger.
"How long?" House asked.
"Well, since it wasn't going away, we went for a good forty-five ."
"Not how long did you have sex," House snapped. "How long have you been erect?"
"Oh. Er...almost five hours."
"Truth is, this kind of erection isn't really related to sex," House said. "It's called priapism. It can be caused by a number of factors, one of which is drugs."
"I don't use anything, except an occasional joint."
"Today?" House asked. John gave a small and ultimately unenlightening shrug. "Come on, just a few hits off the old bong to make that eight a.m. philosophy class a little more interesting?"
"Yeah, okay, I had a few hits while I was getting ready this morning," John admitted. House figured that between the joint and the sex, John probably hadn't made it to his philosophy class. A shame, really, because stoned and horny would've put him in entirely the right state of mind for philosophy.
"Priapism is associated with recreational drug use, including marijuana," House explained. "The catch is we need to verify the type of priapism before we can treat it. You haven't had any injuries to the area?"
"No, nothing." John shifted uncomfortably. "You can fix this, right?"
"Sometimes when we put the little guy back to sleep, he never wakes up again. Which is sad. And sometimes treatment doesn't work and the little guy has to go bye-bye, which is really sad."
John stared at House with a horrified expression.
"But only sometimes." House looked up after he'd written out the orders. "Relax. We're going to get a couple of tests first, then I've got a nifty trick that usually fixes this right up."
"Hey, Cameron, have I got a date for you." House skipped into the conference room. Granted the skipping was implied rather than actual, but the thought was there. Mentally, he was skipping his little ass off.
"What kind of date?" Chase asked.
"Ach! No cutting in," House said, shaking a finger at Chase.
"I'm sure I don't want to hear this," Cameron said while Chase made a point of being on the other side of the room from House.
"Twenty-two year old male with priapism," House said. He pulled a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and washed down a pill. "He's waiting in Exam 2: locked, loaded, and just begging to go off."
"How long has he been erect?" Foreman said.
"Geez, what is it with you guys?" House said in an accusatory tone. Foreman rolled his eyes and sat down next to Chase on the far side of the table. "I find the perfect date for Cameronsomeone who's both sick and hornyand you try to butt in on the action?"
"How long?" Foreman repeated.
"About five and a half hours."
"That's not good," Chase said. "More than six hours and he could be looking at permanent damage."
"Gotta wait on a couple of tests to rule out high flow priapism," House said. "Then I get to stick a needle full of Sudafed in his penis. Which is kind of bizarre albeit in a totally logical way: a drug that unclogs the sinuses also unclogs the penis."
"The wonders of modern medicine," Foreman intoned dryly.
"The idiot probably thought it was really cool to have a never-ending erection," Cameron said, her disdain obvious.
Chase gave her a sideways glance. "Well, duh."
Before House could expound on that profound sentiment his pager went off, recalling him to the clinic.
"I can't believe I let you talk me into this."
Foreman closed the door behind him and looked around cautiously, expecting to hear an alarm at any moment. No, not an alarm. That was too mundane for a mind as warped as House's. Foreman figured his taste in home protection probably ran to the rabid attack dog and/or poison darts end of the spectrum.
"Right, like you're not curious," Chase said. He walked around the room, unconcerned by the potential repercussions of their borderline criminal act. He walked along the bookshelves crammed full of reading material. He leaned forward, peering carefully at the titles.
"What are you looking for?" Foreman asked. When no trap door opened up beneath Chase's feet, Foreman risked moving to the center of the room. He rifled through the sheet music and newspapers scattered across the top of the piano.
"House's porn collection," Chase answered. "Unless he's got home video of him and Wilson, it won't prove anything."
"I know. I just wanted to see what he had." Chase turned in place, staring at the shelves covering the walls from floor to ceiling. "Do you think House has actually read all these?"
Foreman glanced at the books and nodded. "I think he probably has."
"Probably," Chase agreed. He rubbed his hands together, looking far too eager for Foreman's peace of mind. "Well, let's get started. Cuddy has House tied up in clinic all afternoon, but we probably shouldn't take any chances."
"You mean more chances than breaking and entering?" Foreman asked.
"If I'd known you were going to be such a girl, I'd have brought Cameron," Chase said with a disparaging look. He started seeking out doorways, identifying each room as he went.
"House is going to know," Foreman said. He was a born pessimist, he knew that. But pessimism had served him well and he certainly wasn't going to trust to Chase's luck. Not when it came to their boss. "He's going to know, and he's going to kill us."
"He can't punish us for something he taught us to do," Chase said as he opened a door at the end of the short hallway. He nodded when he realized he'd found the master bedroom.
"Sure he can," Foreman argued. "Logic has nothing to do with it."
"You take the bathroom, I'll do the bedroom," Chase said as he entered the bedroom. He motioned for Foreman to follow him and then began sifting through the junk piled on top of the dresser.
Foreman sighed the sigh of a condemned man, then trudged through the bedroom and into the bathroom. "What exactly are we looking for?"
"Evidence." Something in Chase's voice made Foreman stop and look back into the bedroom. Chase was standing near the closet holding a fistful of ties. They were recognizable as Wilson's if only by the sheer number. House wasn't exactly a suit and tie kind of man.
"We already know Wilson crashes here. Finding his stuff doesn't prove anything."
"I guess not," Chase said. He replaced the ties in the closet and wandered over to lean against the bathroom door. "I suppose what we need is more specific evidence."
Foreman ran his hand across the bottles in the medicine chest, turning them so he could read the labels. "Huh."
"What?" Chase asked. Foreman picked one bottle and showed it to Chase. "Prescription for HCTZ."
"I didn't know Wilson had hypertension," Chase said as he read the patient's name from the label.
"If you spent as much time with House as he does, don't you think your blood pressure would be high, too?"
"Probably. And it's evidence," Chase said.
"That Wilson stays here, not that he's sleeping with House," Foreman said. If they were going to accuse House of kinky sex with Wilson, or sex of any kind for that matter, they'd better damn sure have irrefutable evidence.
While Foreman closed the medicine cabinet, Chase returned to prowling around the room. He opened the bedside table and rummaged through the contents. He grabbed a package and held it up. "Hey, look here."
"Condoms," Foreman said. He turned the bathroom light off and joined Chase. "So what?"
"So House is having sex."
"Or maybe it's just wishful thinking," Foreman said. "Unopened condoms only prove that House wants to have sex, not that he's having it."
"Maybe we should look for used condoms then."
"Are you kidding me?"
"It would be incontrovertible proof," Chase said. He got down on one knee and leaned over to look under the bed. "Too bad I didn't bring some swabs."
"For DNA," Chase said.
"Forget that." Foreman put his hands up in protest. "I barely agreed to break into House's place. I certainly didn't agree to get up close and personal with House's DNA."
"And Wilson's," Chase reminded him. He reached for the edge of the dark brown comforter but stopped when he spied a folded piece of paper lying where it had slid down the side of the pillow. He picked it up, read the scrawled handwriting, and grinned. "Well, well, well, maybe we don't need to swab."
"What's that?" Chase held the paper up and read in a lilting voice, "My dearest James."
"That's kind of freaking me out," Foreman said.
"That House is sleeping with Wilson?"
"That House would actually refer to anyone as 'my dearest'," Foreman said. His eyes widened as Chase began to unfold the paper. "You're not going to read that."
"I certainly am." Chase shook the page out and read. Almost immediately his face fell.
"What?" Foreman asked. Chase muttered an oath under his breath and handed the paper to Foreman. He skimmed the brief note.
Looks like Cameron will be the only one getting a gold star from teacher this month.
"I knew this would happen," Foreman said, waving the paper at Chase. "I told you, didn't I?"
"Shut up," Chase said. He grabbed the note and refolded it before laying it on the bed. "Just put everything back where you found it and House will never know."
"He already knows," Foreman insisted. "I don't know how he knows, but he does. House is scary that way."
"Fine," Chase said, throwing his hands up in defeat. "Then what would you suggest we do?"
"Suck it up and prepare to do two extra weeks of clinic duty."
House made a beeline straight to Wilson's table in the cafeteria. He came to a stop behind Wilson's chair and reached over his shoulder, his target one half of Wilson's sandwich. Wilson had other ideas.
"Ow," House said when Wilson slapped his hand away, hard.
"Hungry and in a hurry," Wilson said although there was nothing hurried about his movements. There never was. Even under pressure, Wilson's movements were always calm and efficient. "Get your own."
"Nice way to treat a cripple," House said. He waited for some sign of guiltWilson was always good for guiltbut he merely picked up the remaining half of his sandwich. He looked up at House and very pointedly took a big bite from the middle.
"Fine," House said. "At least give me some money so I can get my own."
"Oh, for...." Wilson rose from his chair so he could retrieve his wallet from his back pocket. He pulled out a couple of bills and shoved them into House's waiting hand. "Consider it an advance on your allowance."
"But Jimmy," House whined. "The big dance is this weekend and I need money for gas and a corsage."
Wilson gave him a stern look and House's shoulders sagged under the rebuke. His hangdog expression hadn't worked on Cuddy, but maybe . Wilson's eyebrows rose but he remained silent. He wasn't buying it at all. House shrugged, abandoning his play for sympathy.
Wilson glanced at his watch. "You're here late. Clinic run over?"
"Nope, just giving Chase and Foreman a chance to cover their tracks," House said. He pulled out the chair next to Wilson's and sat down. If he could distract Wilson, he might yet get some of that sandwich. It went without saying the money was his to keep.
"What are they doing?"
"If I know Chase, and I'm beginning to, he and Foreman spent the afternoon breaking into my place."
"What?" Wilson asked, aghast. "Why?"
"Because Chase is bound and determined to find out just what you and I have been up to behind closed doors."
"See?" Wilson slapped his sandwich down on the plate. "This is exactly what you get for teaching them to break into people's houses."
"What I'm getting is an entire month off clinic," House said, delighted by the prospect.
Wilson's indignant sputtering wound down as he cocked his head and studied House through narrowed eyes. "No. There's no way you'd be this calm if Chase and Foreman were searching your place. You won't even let me go through your drawers without written permission."
"Because you wanted to iron my shorts."
"Oh shut up," Wilson grumbled.
"I'm merely being pragmatic," House said. "Breaking into my place was inevitable given Foreman's criminal record."
"A criminal record he overcame," Wilson said. "Until he met you."
"I'm nipping it in the bud by allowing it now, when I'm prepared," House explained. "I made sure they won't find anything except what I want them to find."
"That depends on how thorough Chase is," Wilson said. "After all, you also taught him how to obtain illegal DNA samples."
"Huh." House hadn't considered that possibility. "This could get interesting."
"What's this?" Wilson looked up as House dumped a pile of loose papers on his desk the next morning.
"Some kind of grant proposal." House shrugged and made himself at home in the chair. "I think I need a little help."
"I thought Cameron did all your clerical work," Wilson said as he glanced at the proposal. He frowned when he came across one page that had undergone some heavy editing. With stick figure illustrations. Wilson merely shook his head because he really, really didn't want to know.
"That was before I broke up with her." House gave an exasperated sigh. "That'll teach me to dump a chick before I'm done using her."
"No wonder women swoon in your presence." Wilson neatened the crumpled and stained papers into a pile before shoving them across the desk.
"Are you implying that the very sight of me makes women ill?" House asked. He shoved the papers back at Wilson. "You're good at this anal-retentive stuff."
"I have my own proposals and reports to do," Wilson said. He took off his reading glasses and rubbed at his eyes. "Is it time for lunch yet?"
"My tummy says it's still at least a half hour away," House said. "Think I could get Cuddy's secretary to do it?"
"Not if you keep calling him a secretary."
"Stupid PC crap," House said. "What good does that do anyway? Does calling him a personal assistant change what he does? Does it change him? No, of course not. A personal assistant is still a secretary, a sanitation engineer is still a garbage man, and you're not fidelity-challenged, you're a slut."
"Yes, and you're a bitter, balding, obsessive, junkie cripple," Wilson said. "No reason to sugar coat it."
"Heywatch it with the balding cracks."
"I'm sorry. Did I offend you?" Wilson asked without a trace of sincerity. House stuck his tongue out at Wilson because he couldn't think of a suitably scathing rebuttal to 'bitter, balding, obsessive, junkie cripple' that didn't sound bitter and/or obsessive.
"I'm pretty hard to offend," House admitted. "You do, however, annoy me."
"Well, I'm making progress then."
"And speaking of progresswe're agreed? No more house hunting," House said. He wasn't shy about using any conversational opening that would serve his purpose, even if he had to conjure it out of thin air. "At least not until we get over the Julie-induced trauma?"
"That wasn't trauma. That was just...awkward."
"You say awkward; I say traumatic," House said. "Of course you've always been better at uncomfortable social situations than I."
"Hyenas are better at social situations than you are," Wilson muttered, still watching House with a wary eye.
"And as much as I hate to admit it, Julie is a class act," House continued as if Wilson hadn't spoken. "I mean, just think how humiliating she could've made this whole living together thing."
"If we were actually living together," Wilson agreed. He threw up a hand before House could respond. "And don't start with that again. Your place is too small."
"I'll clean out the closets ."
"It's not just too small for our stuff. It's too small for us," Wilson said. "Admit ityou need lots of personal space."
"Like, totally, dude," House said.
"Fine. You don't need 'space.' But you do need a place to pout."
"I do not pout," House said, offended. "I scowl, glower, leer, ogle, sneer, sulk and occasionally make the 'oopsy' face. I never pout."
"You pout," Wilson said firmly. "You're pouting about moving."
"I'm not physically able to move." House brandished his cane. "Certified cripple here."
"Like you weren't planning to make Chase and Foreman spend a Saturday lifting and toting for you."
"That would be an abuse of power."
"And you would never do that," Wilson said. He put his glasses back on and turned toward his computer. "If you want us to live together, then we have to find a place that gives us half a chance of actually succeeding. Someplace where we can retreat to our respective corners when the bell rings."
"Sounds like you expect this relationship to be a bit...."
"Tumultuous?" Wilson said. "And you don't?"
"Well, sure," House said. "But you say it as if it's a bad thing."
"Not bad, just something I should prepare for, like nuclear winter or bio-terrorism or boy bands."
"If I listened to half of what you say, I might start getting a complex," House said as he headed for the door.
"Please, you were born with a complex." Wilson looked up again as House reached for the doorknob. "Look, maybe we should table the moving discussion. Wait until we're both ready."
House stared at Wilson for a long moment. House knew when he was being had, and he was definitely being had. "You're good."
"You don't want to live with me but you pretend to agree and then insist on moving because you know I won't agree to move which allows you to blame me for not living together even though that's what you want, not what I want."
"Yes, I'm really very good," Wilson said with a dazed expression. "Especially given that I have no idea what you're talking about."
"But I'm better," House said, ignoring Wilson's protestations of innocence. "We are going to live together because I'm calling your bluff."
House gave him a pointed look as he opened the door to leave. "Do not mess with the master."
"Pathetic." House gave Foreman a disgusted look. "Did you really think I'd be interested in transient global amnesia?"
"I took a shot," Foreman said, unperturbed by House's disdain.
"I ask you people to find me something interesting and you give me this?" House looked around the table at his staff. If one of them didn't find something soon, he was going to set a record for clinic hours, to be followed shortly by a record for malpractice suits. Speaking of which....
"Dr. Chase, I believe you have clinic this afternoon," House said.
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do." House pulled his schedule from his pocket and smoothed the paper on the table. "One to three p.m., both today and Friday."
Chase looked to Foreman for help. Naturally, Foreman left him to sink or swim on his own. Chase looked back at House, then he let out a long breath and held his hand out for the schedule.
"Wait, that's your schedule, not Chase's," Cameron told House.
"It was my schedule."
"What did he do?" Cameron shifted her eyes to Chase when House didn't immediately answer. "What did you do?"
"Doctors Chase and Foreman have been very naughty boys," House said with a fond look at his straying employees. Fond because they insisted on giving him the means with which to torture them. "Now they have to stay after school and write 'I will not commit felonious acts against my boss's person or property' one hundred times."
"What if we get a new case?" Foreman asked.
"Well, then you're going to be really busy," House said.
"Well, this is mildly interesting," Chase said. His voice was slightly too loud and his expression too stubborn to come off as completely natural. Cameron continued staring at him with suspicion, but Chase ignored her. He slid a file toward House and then pulled a film from a radiology jacket. "It's one of your clinic patients."
"If any of my clinic patients had been worth my time, don't you think I would've already mentioned it?" House pointedly ignored the file in favor of balancing his coffee stirrer on his nose.
"A sixty-five year old female. Presented with weight loss, fatigue, and...."
"And microscopic hematuria," House said. He flicked the end of the coffee stirrer with his finger and it did a full 360 degree revolution through the air before landing on Cameron's tuna salad. House gave it a six for technical merit, but only a 5.2 for artistic impression. Cameron appeared to be scoring it much lower.
House glanced at Chase. "She has a history of breast cancer and she probably has metastatic disease. Boring."
Chase got up and slapped the x-ray on the light box. Cameron and Foreman left their seats at the table and moved closer to study the film. House retrieved his coffee stirrer.
"She's got a solitary mass of the right kidney," Cameron said, glancing back over her shoulder at House.
"If it's not a met, it's a new primary," House said. What was it these children couldn't understand about the term 'boring?' "Either way it's Wilson's problem now."
"That's not what's interesting," Chase said. He put the film back in its jacket and retook his seat. He gave the file another nudge in House's direction. "Her HIV test came back positive."
"Does she have a history of transfusions? Drug abuse?" Foreman asked.
"Sexual promiscuity?" Cameron asked.
"It's always about the sex for you, isn't it?" House asked. Cameron gritted her teeth and pretended she hadn't heard him as she retook her seat at the table.
"She was married, faithfully she says, for thirty-five years," Chase said. "She's had a couple of relationships since her husband passed away, both with men she knew from her senior citizens' center."
"Ah, yes, wizened little gray haired grannies and grampies getting it on," House said with a blissful look on his face. "Gives us all something to look forward to."
"Why would you order an HIV test on someone like her?" Cameron asked.
"She's had unprotected sex. HIV could explain the weight loss and fatigue." House started twitching in his chair. Even tormenting his unimaginative minions was getting old. He was getting bored of being bored.
"She's had sex with, like, three men in her entire life," Chase said incredulously.
"Unprotected sex," House repeated. "Do I really have to explain this to you? When you have sex with a person, you're having sex with everyone they've had sex with and everyone they've had sex with. And while that sounds like it'd be a really fun party, it's actually the fastest way to an STD."
"Still, it's pretty unusual to see a woman that age, with that history, turning up with a new HIV diagnosis," Foreman said.
"Yes, it is." House leaned across the table and scowled at Foreman. "It's still boring."
House tried to move as if his brain had some small connection to his limbs, but he realized that grace, if he'd ever had it, was beyond him at the moment. He gave up and simply flopped over, letting his head come to rest in the small of Wilson's back. It wasn't like Wilson would be complaining. Or at least, with his face buried in the pillow, House wouldn't hear him complaining if he did.
"When you're right, you're right." House watched the shifting shadows on the ceiling while his breathing slowed. "Sex is as good as vicodin."
Wilson raised himself up on his elbows and looked over his shoulder. "But not as long lasting?"
"I'm good for now." House shifted position slightly to straighten out his leg. Wilson slumped down into the pillow again. House waited until Wilson had relaxed before speaking. "I was thinking...."
"I know and I wish you'd stop."
"What scares you most about this whole 'out of the closet' scenario is people talking behind your back," House said. He'd been turning this over and over in his mind since Wilson confessed the reason for his reluctance to move in with House. House wasn't an idiot; he knew Wilson had legitimate concerns. He also knew that he wouldn't be immune to the fallout although his reputation as an unethical bastard with aggressive tendencies would help.
"Maybe we should just tell them," House continued. "Put it out there before the rumors start."
"How is that going to help?"
"Keeping it secret makes it seem like something shameful, makes it look like we're ashamed," House said. "If we just put it out there, treat it like it's no big deal, then maybe other people will react in kind."
"My god, you really are a romantic," Wilson said dryly.
"People are sheep," House said after delivering an admonishing slap to Wilson's ass. "Apply the right stimulus to a few and the rest will blindly follow along."
"And which sheep, exactly, are we going to tell?"
"I already know you're gay."
House reached up awkwardly and gave Wilson's ass another slap.
"Family?" Wilson asked.
"Noooooo," House drawled. "Sorry but there is no way in hell I'm telling my dad I'm shacking up with a guy."
"The shock could kill him."
"Then again," House said thoughtfully. He didn't actually want his father dead most of the time. But it might almost be worth the fallout to see the look on John House's face when his son spoke the name of the love that dare not speak its name.
Wilson twisted under him until House's head was now lying in his lap instead of on his ass. House considered complaining about the bumpy ride, but the truth was he was happy either way.
"That's not funny."
"I wasn't kidding." House simply smiled when Wilson glared down at him. "You going to tell your parents?"
"I haven't even told them about the divorce." Wilson let himself fall back on the mattress, embarrassed by his cowardice. House reached down and grabbed the top sheet. He dragged both it and himself up and over Wilson.
"They're going to figure it out sooner or later," House said as he made himself comfortable along Wilson's right side. Turned out Wilson's hip made a decent pillow for his own damaged thigh. House thought it might have something to do with the relaxing effects of body heat.
"Later works for me."
"On the other hand, there's no time like the present."
"For telling my parents?" Wilson asked.
"For telling anyone," House said.
"I suppose there's something to be said for getting it over with." Wilson's hand rubbed lightly across House's back as he considered his options.
"You don't have to decide this minute," House said. He could afford to be magnanimous since he hadn't decided how or when he was going to handle it either. "You can sleep on it."
"I appear to be sleeping under 'it'," Wilson said. His hand stopped the soothing rubbing and started the annoying pushing. "Which reminds mescoot over."
"Because the other side of the bed is still dry."
"Aren't you going to eat some breakfast?" House asked.
House studied Wilson carefully as he wrestled his overcoat out of House's overstuffed front closet. Wilson's expression was tense, his face pale. He was wearing his black suit, the one House normally found very flattering, but with the plain white shirt and somber tie the effect was that of a man going to a funeral. Maybe he was.
R.I.P James Wilson, Princeton-Plainsboro panty-peeler.
"We don't have to do this," House said while mentally trying to say Princeton-Plainsboro-panty-peeler fives times fast.
"Yes, we do."
"We don't have to do it today."
"Putting it off won't make it any easier." Wilson didn't look entirely convinced of that fact.
House sighed as he went back into the kitchen. He set his breakfast dishes in the sink and wondered about slipping a valium in Wilson's coffee. He didn't wonder about the ethical considerations, he had no qualms about giving Wilson the chill pill he so obviously needed, but the actual mechanics were a little trickier. He'd have to distract Wilson. That would be a whole lot easier if one or both of them was naked.
"I'm going to go," Wilson said. House turned and leaned back against the counter. Wilson was standing in the kitchen door, briefcase in one hand, overcoat draped over his other arm. He shrugged. "I need to get rounds in before clinic."
"You don't have to tell anyone," House said.
"But...." Wilson frowned and shifted from foot to foot. "We agreed...."
"Yeah, yeah," House said irritably. "And you're going to have a stroke if your stress level goes any higher."
"What is the etiquette for coming out anyway?" House asked. "An inter-office memo? A notice in the newspaper? A cotillion?"
"House." Wilson rolled his eyes.
"I hope it's not a cotillion," House continued, ignoring Wilson's exasperated response. "With this leg I don't think I could handle the high heels."
"The tiara would be lovely, though," Wilson said dryly.
"Maybe we should just make out in the hospital cafeteria," House said. "People would surely figure it out then."
"The cafeteria induces enough nausea already. I don't think we should contribute to the problem," Wilson said. He straightened his back and firmed his grip on his briefcase. "I'm ready."
"You're pissing your pants," House said, dismissing Wilson's bravery as the façade they both knew it was. "Yes, fine, we both know the idea of coming out makes me want to run away from home and change my name," Wilson agreed. "But I'm not going to."
"It's not necessary to make a public announcement."
"But there are people who should know," Wilson said. "There are people in my department who need to know how to find me, and, frankly, need to know that I do have a personal life and won't be available twenty-four hours a day."
House gave him a sly grin.
"And no, I'm not going to go into detail about what's involved in my personal life. I'll leave that to you," Wilson said, resigned to the inevitable and certain to be scandalous tall tales House would be telling. "And there are a few people I feel deserve to know the truth. A few people who deserve better than to find out through the grapevine."
"Me, I don't think anyone has the right to know," House said.
"But you're going to enjoy the hell out of telling them anyway," Wilson said.
"Think Cameron will cry?"
Wilson pointed an admonishing finger at House. "Don't be mean."