'Reverse Psychology' - part 2

Part the Second

"You've been smoking the funny stuff again, haven't you?" Foreman asked as he and Chase entered the conference room first thing in the morning. Foreman turned on the lights while Chase grabbed the coffee pot.

"It's over," Foreman continued. "We got caught. We're going to pay the price. I'm done."

"You started it. You're the one who said Wilson liked living with House," Chase said. He poured the water into the coffee maker and turned it on. He leaned his hip against the counter while he waited for it to brew.

"Yeah, but there's living together and then there's living together," Foreman said. He hung his coat up and set his briefcase on the corner of the table.

"Who's living together?" Cameron asked as she pushed through the door. She watched as Chase and Foreman exchanged looks. Foreman unfolded his newspaper and took a seat at the end of the table. Cameron looked at Chase. "You?"

"Not a chance," Chase said with a snort.

"Then who?"

Foreman peered at her over the top of the newspaper. "House and Wilson."

"They're not living together," Cameron said. She tucked her purse under the desk before slipping her coat off.

"They may not be living together, but they're living together," Chase said.

"You don't know that," Foreman said.

"Remember the Legionnaires' patient? I called House at four-thirty in the morning and Wilson answered the phone," Chase said. "Two seconds later House was on the line."

"What?" Cameron asked.

"Maybe House picked up on an extension," Foreman suggested.

"It was pretty damn obvious they were in bed together," Chase said.

"You don't know that," Foreman repeated. "And even if they were in bed together, that doesn't necessarily mean they're doing the nasty."

"Oh, god," Cameron muttered. She plopped down in a chair.

"Two grown men sharing a bed?" Chase said in disbelief. "What? You think they were telling each other scary stories or making shadow puppets?"

"I vote for shadow puppets," House said as he strolled into the office. "Way more entertaining."

He draped his coat across the back of a chair and headed for the coffee. Chase handed him a mug with a dazed look on his face.

"What?" House asked Chase as he added sugar. He turned toward the table to find his other two subordinates staring at him, too.

"You and Wilson were making shadow puppets," Chase said skeptically.

"Um...." House thought back to the previous night. "Probably not. I'm pretty sure the lights were off."

"Are you admitting that you and Wilson are sleeping together?" Cameron asked in a small voice.

"Sure, okay, I guess so." House took a seat and gave his coffee a vigorous stir.

"No, no, no," Foreman said, shaking his head. "None of this glib double-talk. Tell us the truth for once."

"About what?"

Chase's voice got softer and more hesitant with each word. "Are you and Wilson...having...sex?"

"Jealous?" House took a sip of coffee. As he set the cup down to cool, he remembered his conversation with Wilson less than two hours ago. When it came down to it, House was no more eager to expose this aspect of his personal life than Wilson was, but he'd had a point. There were a few people who deserved to hear the truth, and hear it from him.

"One time offer, and it's only good for five minutes," House announced. He paused to set the timer on his watch. "Ask me anything you want and I'll give you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me Cuddy."

"Are you and Wilson together?" Foreman asked.

"Not at this very moment." House checked his watch. "Stupid question and you just wasted thirty seconds."

"You know what I meant," Foreman insisted. Of course House knew what he meant. Didn't mean he was going to reward Foreman for his inability to formulate a precise question.

"Are you having sex with Wilson?" Chase asked.

"Not at this very...."

"Ever," Chase added quickly.

"Yes," House said. He ignored the looks around the table—two stunned and one smug—in favor of watching the seconds count down. "Three minutes left."

"Is it just sex?" Everyone turned to stare at Cameron. Her hands fluttered in some undecipherable gesture as her cheeks reddened. "I mean, you're both single, and probably lonely, and...."

"I realize that I'm regarded as somewhat unlovable," House said. "And probably with good reason. But do you really think I'd be in a relationship with Wilson just for sex? I have hookers for that."

"An actual relationship?" Foreman asked. "As in true love 'til death do us part relationship?"

"I think it's too early to make any claims about the 'until death' part," House said. "But he nags, I whine, and we fight over who has to sleep in the wet spot. Sounds like a relationship to me."

"That's…a whole lot more than I ever needed to know," Foreman said. He disappeared behind his newspaper once more.

"But how long...," Chase began.

"Oops, sorry, time's up," House said. He grabbed his coat and mug and headed for his office. "Any answers I give now might be true. Or they might just be my way of screwing with your little minds."

House hobbled into his office as fast as he could. He set his coffee on the corner of the desk and started to go through his mail, most of which was junk, and messages, most of which were also junk, and he wondered how these things piled up so fast overnight. House suspected Princeton-Plainsboro alone was responsible for several nude acres of what had been Amazonian rain forest. He should ask Cameron, she'd probably know. Hell, she'd probably fallen in love with whoever was responsible of keeping track of that kind of thing.

"You're not unlovable."

House let his head drop forward, closed his eyes, and counted to three.

"Dr. House...."

"And you felt compelled to tell me that?" House turned to find Cameron standing on the threshold of the office. A quick glance told him that Chase and Foreman had vacated the premises, once again proving that they both knew how to look out for number one. Cameron, on the other hand, sometimes showed all the survival instincts of a cantaloupe.

"I just thought...."

"First, I wasn't speaking in absolute terms," House said. He dumped the majority of the mail into the waste basket and set the rest aside. "I mean if there are women who are willing to marry serial killers on death row, chances are even I can get laid. And second, I don't need reassurance from you."

"Is that how you think of me? As someone who'd marry a serial killer?" Cameron asked.

"Probably not. Not serial killers," House conceded. He paused, thinking. "The victims, maybe...."

"You work so hard to drive people away," Cameron said, her eyes full of pity.

"Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work on some people," House said with a pointed look.

"But no matter how hard you try, it doesn't work." Cameron met his gaze, refusing to be cowed. "People love you in spite of all your efforts to prevent it."

"Yeah, well, people are idiots," House said.

"Some people are," Cameron said with a very pointed look at him.

House allowed Cameron to make her point and make her exit. Then he smiled. His little girl was growing up and getting a 'tude. The attitude needed work; it needed to be bigger and badder and more consistent. Even so, it was enough to make a bitter, balding, obsessive, junkie cripple proud.

"You didn't." Wilson stared up at House from where he was slouched in his deck chair. He had his feet propped against the balcony wall and held a can of soda in a loose grip, resting it against his belt buckle.

"Did," House admitted. He swung his cane, tapping it against the dividing wall. "Hey, I gave them a rare opportunity for total honesty. Can I help it if they wasted the time asking questions about my sex life?"

"What did you expect?"

"Pervs, every one of them," House agreed. "Especially Chase."

"You know, it's not just your sex life anymore," Wilson said.

"Don't worry, I didn't tell them about your little 'quick release' problem."

"It happened one fucking time," Wilson said with a resigned note in his voice.

"One non-fucking time, but I forgave you," House said. "Mostly because it led to the Blow Job of Guilt, which was pretty spectacular even by my high standards."

"No one would blame me if I pushed you off this balcony, you know that?" Wilson said in a casual tone. "Cuddy might bill me for the clean up, but even that's doubtful."

"You'd miss me," House said.

"Doubt it. You don't move that fast," Wilson said. He leaned forward, set his empty can on the floor, and crushed it under his heel.

"You wouldn't believe how fast I can move when I'm motivated," House said. To illustrate, he pivoted on his bad leg and headed back toward his office.

"Where are you going?"

"It's been almost thirty minutes since Chase said something stupid," House said. "He's due, and I don't want to miss it."

"God forbid."

"There's a couple of good bands downtown tonight," House said. He paused at the door and looked back at Wilson. "We could hit that tacky Italian place you like, then go catch a few tunes."

"Make the reservations for eight," Wilson said as he pulled himself out of his chair. "I've got a late meeting."

Cameron joined Foreman and Chase in the cafeteria. It was the height of the lunch rush, but they'd managed to claim a corner table for themselves. Cameron sometimes wondered if House's magnetic repulsion field hadn't been extended to include his fellows. Some days it certainly seemed as if everyone was giving them a wide berth.

She took her dishes off the tray and stacked the tray with theirs on an empty chair. After a few moments of watching the other two eat their vegetables like good little boys she couldn't stand the silence anymore.

"Just go ahead and say it," Cameron said, resigned to the inevitable ridicule. "You think I'm an idiot for ever having liked House."

"I thought we'd made that very clear on a number of occasions," Foreman said.

"And not just because House turned out to be a switch hitter," Chase added.

"You think he was telling the truth?" Cameron asked. She picked some of the more severely wilted lettuce out of her salad, then dripped salad dressing over the rest.

"Sure," Foreman said. Chase nodded a vigorous agreement.

"But House lies," Cameron said. She stabbed viciously at a cucumber slice and scowled when a lurking crouton shot out from under her fork and ricocheted off her water glass. Chase edged away from her.

"From what I've observed, House only lies about disliking people," Foreman said. "On the rare occasion he's admitted to liking someone, it's always been true."

"Besides, you've seen the way he and Wilson are together," Chase said. "They're like Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Butch and Sundance. You can't have one without the other."

"But I've never seen anything remotely sexual or romantic between them," Cameron protested.

"You won't," Foreman said as he drowned his meatloaf in ketchup. "Not here."

"Not unless House thinks he can mortify someone." Chase laughed. "Most probably Wilson."

"There is that." Foreman watched Cameron poke aimlessly at her salad. "You're not going to get all weird about this, are you?"

"Me? No," Cameron said slowly. "It's just.... It's like House is a foreign language and something's always getting lost in the translation."

"My advice? Stop trying to understand him," Foreman said. "Concentrate on picking his brain for the medicine, and forget about the rest. Unless you want to end up as twisted as he is."

"Can we talk?"

House looked up from his computer. Stacy was standing in front of his desk, a determined look on her face.

"Do you think that's wise?" House asked with only the slightest pretence at sincerity. "Talking leads to dinner. Dinner leads to sex. Mark might not approve."

"Mark and I are going home."

"Okay," House said, puzzled by the announcement. Stacy didn't normally fill him in on her daily schedule. That was unfortunate because the information could've been useful at times, times when he wanted to avoid her.

"To Short Hills," Stacy said.

"Oh." House considered the implications of that statement. "Was it something I said? Something I did? Or...someone I did?"

"You and James are grown men, allegedly," Stacy said. "What you do is your business."

"Interesting, though, that you're leaving just after you found out about us." House rubbed his hands together, thoughtful. "Might lead a man to think that you were only here to begin with because you were hoping for another chance."

"In your dreams," Stacy said. "We're here because Mark needed to be here. We're leaving because Lisa agrees that Mark's made enough progress that our local hospital can handle his therapy now."

"Good for him," House said after a moment. "For both of you."

"That's it? No sarcastic comments? No cracks about how glad you are you won't have to work with me?"

"That goes without saying," House said.

"That's never stopped you from saying it anyway," Stacy said.

"We shouldn't be anywhere near each other." It pained House to make that admission, but not as much as it pained him to be near Stacy. He'd never be able to trust her again, but he didn't truly hate her either. He didn't think he ever had. He didn't think he ever would.

"No, we shouldn't," Stacy said. Her expression warmed. "Shame. You're still one of the sexiest guys I know."

"The allure of forbidden fruit," House said with an airy wave of his hand. "You only want me because you can't have me."

"That would be a great theory, if I actually wanted you," Stacy said. "I had a good thing with you—a great thing—but had is the operative word. I want what I have with Mark now."

"So you have Mark, I have Jimmy, and all is right with the universe."

"Not all," Stacy said. "But it's a start."

House watched Stacy's ass as she walked out the door, and out of his life again. He watched with a little regret...and a whole lot of relief. He did just fine tying his psyche in knots; he didn't really need her adding to the problem.

Even when Stacy had moved out of his view, he continued to sit, still staring at the door and thinking about regret and relief and psychic knots. A half hour passed before he stirred again. He reached for his phone and dialed the hospital operator.

"Connect me to the appointment clerk in the pain clinic." House waited on hold, his face twisting in exaggerated horror as he was forced to listen to an orchestral cover of "Stairway to Heaven," something that shouldn't exist in any sane universe.

"Yes, this is Dr. House," House said when an actual human being came on the line. "I need to make an appointment.... No, it's not a referral, it's.... A month? No, that's fine.... Patient's name?"

House took a deep breath. "Patient's name is Gregory House."

House threw his keys at the mantel, perversely happy when they bounced off and fell to the floor. His leg had started giving him fits late in the afternoon and hadn't yet let up. Then Wilson had been late for dinner and he'd spent the rest of the evening in a monosyllabic funk.

"Why don't you go soak in the Jacuzzi for a while?" Wilson suggested as he hung his coat up.

"Why?" House snapped. Those were the most words Wilson had put together all evening and it was in an attempt to get rid of House. If he were the sensitive type, he'd be hurt.

"Because your leg is hurting and it might help."

"No, it won't," House said stubbornly.

"Fine, don't then." Wilson yanked his tie off and dropped onto the couch. House continued standing in the middle of the room, unable to decide whether to stomp and storm or sit and sulk.

"Have a bottle of scotch to go with your vicodin. What do I care?"

"My leg hurts."

"I know," Wilson said.

"Which explains my mood," House continued. "What's your excuse?"

"Bad meeting."

"All meetings are bad by definition," House said. "What's so different about this one?"

"It got nasty. There was name calling." Wilson dropped his head against the back of the couch and closed his eyes. "I don't want to talk about it right now."

House bounced his cane against the floor. He wasn't good at emotional crises. He never knew when to push and when to back off. Usually he chose to push, often until something broke.

"Go do something about your leg," Wilson said, his eyes still closed. House decided the Jacuzzi might be a good idea. He could both soak and sulk in the tub.

House didn't know how long he'd been soaking, but it had been long enough for the jets of warm water to massage his body into something resembling a strand of overcooked spaghetti. The sulking had eased a bit, too.


House reached up and flicked off the Jacuzzi jets. He opened his eyes to find Wilson sitting on the edge of the tub, his fingers playing with the surface of the water.

"Better," House agreed. Not good, the leg would never be good, but better. "You?"

Wilson shrugged and leaned back against the tile wall.

"Want to join me for a medicinal soak?"

"Nice idea, but the tub isn't big enough for the two of us."

"Was it O'Connor?" House asked. Dr. O'Connor was a dinosaur in the Oncology department. He should've fully retired several years ago but he lingered, keeping his hand in and generally getting in the way. He'd also been something of a mentor to Wilson, which was why Wilson allowed the lingering and interfering.

"Adams," Wilson said.

"Adams?" House was surprised, but it certainly explained Wilson's mood. Wilson and Ron Adams had been friends for several years, golfing together regularly and socializing with any one of Wilson's three and Adams' two wives. House had even spent time with Adams. He'd found him generally innocuous, if nothing to write home about.

"I told a couple of people," Wilson said. "Just a couple of friends. Just the basic facts. Adams...freaked."

"What did he say?"

Wilson shook his head. "In private…it was ugly. And in private…he's entitled to his opinion, just as long as he keeps it private."

"No, he's not." House reached out and caught Wilson's fingers where they lingered at the surface of the water. "You don't have to put up with any crap from him. Talk to Cuddy. Or Stacy. She'll put the fear of God in him."

"I can't," Wilson said. "As long as he keeps his personal opinions separate from our professional relationship, I have no grounds to complain. Besides, he's a friend."

"Bull," House said. "Friends don't treat friends like crap."

"You treat me like crap all the time."

"Yeah, sure," House admitted. "But I do it with love."

"Right. I knew there was a reason I hadn't knocked you on your ass yet," Wilson said with a wry smile. He disentangled his fingers from House's. "You have to look at it from his perspective. He thought he knew me and suddenly he found out he didn't."

"He does know you. He knows exactly what kind of person you are. Being gay doesn't change that," House said as he leaned forward to open the drain at the bottom of the tub.

"Not in his book," Wilson said. He reached back over his shoulder and grabbed a towel from the bar. He waited until House had gotten steady on his feet before handing it to him.

"This is exactly why it's better my way."

"Your way?" Wilson asked.

"If you start out with everyone hating you, you never have to worry about whether they'll hate you later."

"Why is Dr. Chase in the clinic when your name is on the schedule?"

"Funny you should mention that," House said. He didn't look up from the prospective referral on his desk because, really, they'd done this dance so often he could do it in his sleep, even with a bum leg.

"Yeah, funny," Cuddy said. "Why is he doing your hours?"

"Because he loves me that much?"

"Try again."

"Because I promised I'd fix him up with you?" House suggested. The notion was ridiculous—Cuddy would eat Chase alive—but the entertainment value might be worth the bother of having to train a new fellow.

"I'm not letting you get out of patient care," Cuddy insisted.

"Working on a referral right now," House said. He had no intention of accepting the referral—it was only interesting to the obviously inept doctors over at General—but he was taking the time to actual read the pertinent documents. Skimming them, really, but that counted.

"You'd better be." Cuddy's hand hesitated as she laid a thin folder on House's desk. "I signed off on all of it."

"Even the Friday night competitive lap dancing?" House picked up the folder and flipped through the documents it contained.

Cuddy hesitated, studying House carefully. "Are you sure about this? Making Wilson the beneficiary of your life insurance, retirement fund…." Cuddy shook her head. "How do you know he won't just push you off the balcony for your money?"

"Wilson would choose something neater. Poison, maybe," House said. He'd given Wilson power of attorney five years ago, shortly after Stacy ran away. That was the important one, the one that said House trusted Wilson with his life. This…this was just money.

House closed the folder and leaned back in his chair. "I didn't think you would have a problem with us."

"I don't have a problem with you sleeping with Wilson, or whatever it is you two do when you're not annoying me," Cuddy said. "It's just…aren't you moving a little fast?"

"We've known each other for years," House said. Outside of his parents, he'd known Wilson longer and better than anyone else. It was the most stable adult relationship in his life. That had to mean something. At least, he hoped it did.

"But what if it doesn't work out?"

"If it doesn't work out...." House shrugged. "I'll probably leave him as my beneficiary."


"It's Wilson—he's never going to think about the money first." House filed the papers away. "Besides, who else would I leave it to? I don't have kids. I'm not likely to get married. Why not let Wilson have it?"

"You trust him that much?"

"Don't you?"

"As a friend, absolutely," Cuddy said without hesitation. "As a lover...I might be a little more cautious."

"No one's perfect," House said. And if such a person existed, he'd be boring as hell. Perfection was for wimps. House was not a wimp. He liked a challenge and Wilson, bless his pathological little heart, was a challenge.

"I know all of Wilson's faults, and I know greed isn't one of them," House added. "He'll probably use the money to help little bald cancer kids. Which is actually more annoying than if he used it for a week of debauchery in Rio."

"You could always leave the money to me," Cuddy suggested with a coy look. "I'd be happy to spend it on a week of self-indulgence, although I'm thinking more South of France rather than Rio."

House could picture it. Cuddy lying on some nudie beach where her breasts would finally be allowed to roam free as God intended, and surrounded by handsome young Frenchmen who all answered to the name of Jean-Claude. It was undoubtedly a noble cause, but there was just one problem.

"But you would throw me off the balcony for the money."

House was riding a Vicodin wave, watching the clouds gather to the west, and bothering no one. The 'bothering no one' part was bothering him and therefore needed to be remedied. He made a quarter turn in his chair and began bouncing his ball against the wall between his office and the fellows' room.

Right on cue Cameron appeared in the doorway. "Do you mind? I'm trying to work."

"So am I," House said.

"You don't have any work."

"If I don't have any work, how is that you have work?" House asked.

"I'm helping Dr. Wilson with a couple of cases."

"Interesting." House resumed bouncing the ball. "You're avoiding me, but not Wilson."

"I'm not avoiding you," Cameron said instantly. House almost applauded the unflinching lie, but he had to deduct some points due to the fact that she didn't know she was lying.

"You are," House said. "The question is—why aren't you avoiding Wilson? You're not going to try to fix him now, are you?"

"I'm not avoiding you," Cameron said through clenched teeth. "At least, no more than anyone tries to avoid you."

"You're mad at me."

"I'm not...." Cameron took a deep breath and met House's gaze. "You can't keep screwing with people."

"But I'm so good at it," House protested.

"But it's bad for the department. It's bad for our patients."

"This isn't group therapy," House said. "It's an office. We're here to do a job, not nurture each other's personal growth."

"That would be a wasted effort in your case," Cameron said sharply.

"Well, exactly."

"This isn't about giving each other warm-fuzzies," Cameron said. "This is about the fact that we'd work a lot better if we weren't constantly subjected to your little mind games."

"You're just pissed 'cause I hooked up with Wilson."

"I'm not jealous," Cameron insisted. House didn't believe her, not entirely. Obsessions were stubborn things, something he knew all too well. "You didn't want me. I got that. I got over that."

"So what's the problem?"

"The problem is you hit us with this stuff out of the blue and it's distracting."

"Given that I'm the one sleeping with Wilson, I'm the only one who should be distracted."

"Do you know what Chase and Foreman are betting on now?" Cameron asked.

"Whether or not Wilson has a cane kink?" House had wondered that himself. As yet, he hadn't gotten a definite answer. Wilson could be incredibly coy when he put his mind to it.

"Er...no." Cameron was nonplussed.

"I'm close, though, right?"

"Actually…." Cameron made an unconscious gesture toward her neck which made House grin. Then she gave a little indignant stomp of her foot. "It's disruptive."

"They'll always be making bets on something," House said. "This week it's Wilson's ties, next week it'll be Stacy's Botox treatments."

"Stacy uses Botox?"

"Let's pretend I didn't say that." He was almost sincere, despite the fact his inner bitch was cackling gleefully at the rumors that were bound to result from his slip of the tongue.

"See? This is exactly what I mean," Cameron said. She was so utterly indignant that House was waiting for steam to rise from her head or her eyeballs to explode. "You just can't resist screwing with people. Or screwing them over."

"Or just screwing them," House said. Cameron glared at him. "Hey, you're so big on honesty. Why don't you just admit the truth?"

"What truth would that be?"

"You're mad because I ruined your fantasy," House said. He held up his hand when Cameron tried to protest. "You said you'd gotten over me, and I'm willing to take your word for it. But that doesn't make the fantasy go away."

"I don't fantasize about you."

"You do. It's okay. Fantasies are fine. I have a few of my own," House said. He had more than a few, and he was willing to bet half of them would make Cameron blush. Hell, some of them made him blush. "But unfortunately for you, my relationship with Wilson is just a little too much reality for your fantasy to handle. Killed it dead."

"You are so full of yourself."

"Maybe," House conceded. "Doesn't mean I'm wrong. The point is—don't get angry at me. Just find a new fantasy. Or incorporate Wilson into the old fantasy."

"A threesome?" Cameron looked scandalized.

"I can give you pointers."

"We've got it."

"Well, don't give it to me," House said. He looked up from the grant proposal he'd decided to tackle. All three of his kids were lined up in front of his desk. All three of them were looking way too satisfied with themselves.

"Interesting case," Foreman said, casually waving a file before House.

"Not likely."

"Fifty bucks says you can't resist," Chase said.

"Not likely." House set his pen down and sat back, waiting for the opportunity to prove them wrong. He derived great satisfaction from crushing their hopes. Purely as an educational strategy, of course. It wasn't personal.

"Thirty-seven year old male first presented two months ago with burning abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea," Foreman said.

"Wake me when we get to the good part," House whispered to Cameron.

"Blood and stool cultures were negative," Chase said. "The patient had taken a trip to South America several months prior to his illness, so his doctors thought it might be a tropical bug."

"But no one else from the trip was sick, and they still couldn't culture any organism," Foreman added.

"Still snoozing here," House warned.

"They thought maybe it was typhoid fever," Foreman said. "But whatever it was, the patient began to improve and was discharged after a couple of days."

"And they all lived happily ever after," House said in a mocking sing-song.

"Until twenty-four hours later, when the patient was readmitted with the same symptoms," Chase said.

"It's not typhoid," House said.

"They still couldn't culture anything," Cameron said. "But they did do a full bowel series that time: EGD, colonoscopy, and a small bowel follow-through."

"Which showed a smooth small bowel mucosa," Foreman said.

"Sprue," House said.

"That's what they thought," Foreman agreed. "They started him on a strict gluten free diet and sent him home. Thing is—the guy's really sick by now. He's lost a lot of weight, and he wasn't a big guy to start with. He's in serious trouble."

"Let me guess—he was soon readmitted with an exacerbation of his symptoms," House said, intrigued despite himself. "He probably wasn't following his diet."

"He says he was," Chase said.

"He lied," House said. All three simply stared at him, and still with the smug expressions. "Are we waiting for a drum roll before the big finish?"

"It's not sprue," Foreman said.

"And you know this how?"

"Because this time his twelve year old son was admitted at the same time with the same symptoms," Cameron said.

Foreman waved the file again, taunting. House growled, then made a 'give me' gesture. Foreman handed over the file, a stupendously smug expression on his face. House ignored him in favor of poring over the documentation.

"So I guess this means...." Foreman began.

"This means you need to redo the history," House said. "And find out about the status of his relationship with his wife."

"His wife?" Cameron asked.

"Yeah. Mistress, too, if he has one."

"Mistress?" Cameron said. "But...what about the son?"

"If he's got a mistress, I want to know about that, too," House said.

"Ew," Cameron said.

"Does this mean we're taking the case?" Chase asked.

House tried to recapture his bored expression. "Until something better comes along."

House finished hiding his toys and was just logging off his computer when Wilson appeared in the door.

"And how was your day, dear?" House asked as he reached for his coat.

"Oh, you know." Wilson's lips twitched in a small smile. "Adams isn't speaking to me, which is an improvement over a couple of days ago. What about your not-so-evil minions?"

"Chase wavers between fascination and revulsion. Cameron thinks I'm doing you in an attempt to avoid doing her," House said. He grabbed his backpack and turned off the lights before joining Wilson at the door. "And Foreman wishes we'd all just shut up about it."

"So business as usual?"

"So it would seem." House pushed the elevator call button and stared as the light crept slowly along the floor numbers. "I have a patient."

"Voluntarily?" Wilson sounded surprised.

"He's being poisoned, probably by his wife," House said. "You know, you've been very lucky."

"Yes, three marriages, three divorces," Wilson said. "Clearly I was tempting fate."

"You do that sometimes," House said. He glanced sideways at Wilson. "I've been thinking."

"Oh, boy."

"Shut up." House smacked Wilson on the arm. Wilson just grinned to himself. "Maybe you should call your wife."


"Technically, she's still your wife."

"Technically, she's my ex-wife," Wilson said. "Judge granted the final decree this morning."

"Congratulations?" All these times and House still didn't know the appropriate sentiment to express on such an occasion. Of course, normally he didn't care what the appropriate sentiment was. Truth be told, he didn't really care now.

"Something like that," Wilson said with a carefully indifferent shrug. "And why would I want to call her?"

"That house she showed us, it was nice."

"Yes?" Wilson said.

"Maybe we should think about moving," House said. "Maybe we should do more than just think about moving."

"Well, if you're sure that's what you want...." Wilson said slowly.

House shook his head, one side of his mouth lifting in a disbelieving smile. Oh, Wilson played it so beautifully. Too beautifully.

"You bastard."

"Who? Me?" Wilson's mouth was hanging open, his eyebrows raised, his hands planted on his hips. It was the perfect expression of "I have no idea what you're talking about," an ovation worthy performance by the possibly soon to be late Dr. James Wilson.

"You played me," House said. He was furious, and insanely amused.

"Right. I played you," Wilson said dryly.

"You made me think you were manipulating me into refusing to move when in reality you knew I'd think you were manipulating me and would therefore call your bluff and I'd agree to move if only to prevent you from having an excuse to blame me for not living together because you actually do want to live together." House jabbed Wilson in the belly with his cane. "Reverse psychology."

"I think that might be a double reverse, and I have even less idea of what you're talking about than I did before."

"You played me." And House was beginning to wonder what other cons Wilson had pulled.

"Yes, that's me—the master manipulator," Wilson said with a dramatic wave of his arm. "This is the culmination of seven years of my Machiavellian plans—to settle down with you in a little cottage with a white picket fence, 2.5 dogs, and 3.5 legs, where we'll live happily ever after as Doctor and Doctor while I bake cookies and you terrorize the neighborhood children."

House almost applauded the fact that Wilson had managed to maintain a straight face. "That house doesn't have a picket fence."

"Sadly, no, but the two-man Jacuzzi more than makes up for the lack."

"You'd seen that house before," House said. He watched Wilson, waiting for the next denial, the next misdirection. Instead, something inside Wilson seemed to surrender. "You had, hadn't you?"

"Maybe. Once."

"You bastard," House said again. This time there was note of admiration in his voice because, damn it, he'd never suspected.

"The house was perfect," Wilson said. "And you were right—we needed to move forward."

"And you couldn't just tell me that?"

"No," Wilson said with an incredulous look. The elevator finally arrived and they stepped into the empty car. "If I'd told you the truth you would've driven me crazy looking for ulterior motives."

"So you told me lies figuring I'd search for the ulterior motives in that and end up at the truth?" House was starting to get confused.

"I practiced forging your signature in case that didn't work," Wilson said, which apparently meant House had gotten it right. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite sure what he'd said in the first place.

House reached out and grabbed Wilson's tie, pulling him closer. "We are either so wrong for each other, or so right."

"It's not too late to back out," Wilson said, his hand tangled with House's where it wrapped around his tie.

"Yes, it is," House said. He pulled Wilson flush against him. "When it comes to you and me, it's always been too late."

"God help us both," Wilson agreed.

On to Part 2

This story was added on 1 MAR 2006

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