"I thought you said you were going to help me," Wilson said. He bumped through the front door of his new condo carrying an armload of shelving components.
"I'm supervising," House said. He stretched out along Wilson's couch and crossed his hands behind his head. He noted that the couch and a TV were the only items in the room, and House recognized both from Wilson's former study. Even the walls were bare, a stark white that was almost painful in the sunlight streaming in through unadorned windows.
"You don't need more shelves. You need to move in with me."
"Enough with the moving in, okay?" Wilson set the parts on the floor near the far wall and wiped his hands on the butt of his jeans. He bent over and started rifling through his tool box.
House had no objection to Wilson's endeavors. He certainly had no objection to the view of Wilson's ass, but there were plenty of things at House's that needed fixing if Wilson was in the mood to play handyman. And if there weren't, House would be more than happy to break something. Breaking stuff happened to be a skill at which he excelled.
"It's silly to expend all this energy keeping up two places when we could combine our efforts and cut the maintenance work in half," House argued.
"Okay, firstcombine our efforts?" Wilson threw a disgusted look over his shoulder. "That would imply that you've actually made an effort."
"Don't try to confuse the issue with details."
Wilson walked over and dropped the instructions on House's chest. "Make yourself useful and read those to me."
"Don't want to be useful," House said. He sat up and snagged the bottom of Wilson's t-shirt before he could get away.
"Then you're doing a great job."
"I like you. You like me. We both like the sex." House tugged Wilson into place between his legs and gripped the front waistband of Wilson's jeans. "What is the damn problem?"
"House," Wilson groaned in exasperation.
House had to hand it to Wilson. The appearance of your ex-wife at your front door while your best friend practically had his hand down the front of your pants would've reduced many men to incoherent babbling. House was feeling a little less than articulate himself, and it wasn't even his ex. Wilson merely swallowed hard, pushed House's hands away, and turned to Julie.
"Am I interrupting something?" Julie asked, clearly confused by the possibility that there could be something to interrupt.
"We'd have to start something before you could interrupt," House added. Damn, one of these days he really should see about getting a few of those inhibitor synapses reconnected. Either that or remind Wilson to close the front door next time. "Anyone want a beer?"
"No, thank you," Julie said. She looked at Wilson and held up a small stack of envelopes. "I just...I've got some of your mail."
"Thanks." Wilson walked over to Julie and took the bundle of letters. "You didn't have to bring it over."
"I'm showing a house in the neighborhood anyway, so I figured...." Julie looked at House again, then up at Wilson with a bewildered expression. "James?"
"Well, I need a beer," House announced. Wilson and Julie ignored him as he made his way to the kitchen. If there'd been a back door to the apartment, he would've been gone. As much as he enjoyed a good melodrama, he wasn't stupid enough to get between a woman and her uncloseted ex-husband. Not when he knew Julie had a hell of a right hook.
House planted himself at the kitchen window and used half a bottle of beer to wash down a Vicodin. He could hear Wilson and Julie in the living room. No words, just the rise and fall of their voices. And the silences. And then the sound of the front door finally closing.
Suddenly the beer bottle was snatched from his hand.
"Do I need to hire a bodyguard?" House asked. Wilson's mouth twisted before he drained the rest of the beer. He slammed the bottle down, then hunched over, gripping the edge of the counter.
"No bodyguards," Wilson finally said.
"How much is this going to cost?"
"Cost?" Wilson asked.
"I'm assuming she can use this to up the alimony."
"Julie's not getting alimony." Wilson straightened up and turned around, leaning back against the counter.
"She's not entitled to alimony. She has her own career."
"In real estate."
"She's good at it," Wilson said. "She actually made almost as much money as I did last year."
"No kidding?" House pondered that surprising fact. Wilson got a flat salary, but it was a good salary. Julie must be selling a lot of high end properties to come anywhere close to Wilson. "Maybe you should ask for alimony."
"I don't need alimony either."
"You say that now, but you don't know what it takes to keep me in the manner to which I've become accustomed."
"Take-out Chinese, dollar movie rentals, and...," Wilson eyed House from head to toe. "And a Goodwill wardrobe. I think I can handle it."
"Okay, you don't know what it takes to keep me in the manner to which I wish to become accustomed."
"Nice try, Cinderella."
House lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. He couldn't actually see the ceiling through the predawn gloom, but that was okay as it turned out. He needed to concentrate and Wilson's light snoring was enough of a distraction.
The week was rapidly drawing to a close and he still didn't have any proof that that Mr. Hargrove had contracted Legionnaires' at the hospital. Chase hadn't found any proof to the contrary, but the bet rested on House's ability to provide evidence, not Chase's. So far he had bupkis.
The phone rang and Wilson reached for it automatically. He never even opened his eyes. House decided it would be an act of kindness to let Wilson deal with whoever was suicidal enough to disturb House at home. Then he realized that Wilson answering his phone in the middle of the night might not be entirely discreet. He rolled to his side, intending to intercept the call.
"'lo?" Wilson nearly broke House's nose when he blindly shoved the phone at him. "F'r you."
House rubbed his nose as he listened to Chase's stammered first words. Then Chase stopped stammering and started to get interesting.
"Start him on Levofloxacin, 500 mgs," House told Chase when he'd finished his report. "I'll be in shortly."
Wilson made an irritated grunt as House rolled half on top of him, flattening him face down on the mattress. House made a few reaching attempts to replace the phone, then gave up and tossed it at the bedside table. "Get up."
House slapped Wilson on the ass and wondered just how soon Chase would really expect him at the hospital.
"Part of me is already up, the rest of me is going back to sleep," Wilson muttered. He turned his head toward House. "What are you so happy about?"
"Case number two."
"You have another Legionnaires' patient?" Wilson rubbed at his eyes.
"Admitted a week ago with minor trauma," House said. "Yesterday he developed a dry cough. Tonight he spiked a temp."
"104?" Wilson guessed.
"103.6. Close enough." House rubbed his chin against Wilson's shoulder.
"Hey, did we not talk about the shaving thing?" Wilson asked. He tried to squirm away from the irritation but House had him pretty firmly pinned.
"My stubble is nowhere near your testicles," House said. He dragged his chin down the line of Wilson's spine just to feel him wiggle.
"Ass," Wilson said. House wasn't sure if that was a reference to the current location of his stubble, or to him. "I thought you were going in to work."
"Absolutely." House rolled off Wilson and to the other side of the bed. He swung his legs out and grabbed for his cane. "I will return, a victor, to the field of battle."
"Sure, you're happy now, but Cuddy will be miserable." Wilson pulled the covers back up over his shoulders. "Which means you'll soon be miserable again because she's bound to share the love."
"You'd better be right about this," House said as he pushed by Foreman and Chase. He dropped into his chair and glared across the desk at them. Being dragged out of bed was bad enough. Being dragged out of a bed that held another warm body was damn near criminal.
"You had something more important to do at five a.m.?" Foreman asked. Chase gave House a strange look, then got fascinated by the pattern in the carpet. House had spent enough time on this floor to know there was no pattern in the carpet.
"Well, duh," House said to Foreman. "I had this hooker who was...."
"Imaginary?" Foreman asked.
"Only if Wilson stops lending me money," House said.
"Mr. Pearson's got Legionnaires'," Chase interrupted.
"Has he been to any of the same places as the first patient?" House asked.
"Only one place," Foreman said in a grim tone. "This hospital."
"He's been here for the last week," Chase added. "He had to have contracted it here."
"What's the emergency?" Cuddy asked as she barged into the office.
"You couldn't give me a little lead time?" House asked Chase and Foreman.
"We did think it was a bit urgent," Chase said defensively.
"Sure, now you think it's urgent," House said.
"What's urgent?" Cuddy demanded. She came to a stop at the side of House's desk, her arms folded over her chest. Both Foreman and Chase shifted slightly away from Cuddy. House was mildly surprised at the unexpected display of self-preservation.
"We have another Legionnaires' case," House told her. "Another transplant patient."
"That's not good news, but why is it an emergency?"
"He got it here," Chase said. Cuddy's face went blank as she processed the news. "We don't know where in the hospital for certain, but it's definitely here."
"Son of a bitch," Cuddy said. She rubbed her forehead, grimacing. "Okay, we need to test the water supply for the entire hospital: drinking fountains, showers, everything. We also need to move the transplant patients to an uncontaminated area."
She snatched a piece of scratch paper from House's desk and began scribbling notes. After a moment she glanced up at the three silent men. "Why are you still standing here?"
"Well," Foreman said with a glance in Chase's direction. "We're not sure what you want us to do."
"Start checking for contamination," Cuddy said with an impatient wave of her hand. "I'll call Aylesworth about moving the patients."
"Bottled water," House said. Cuddy turned to stare at him, uncomprehending, as Chase and Foreman left. "Until we know which areas are contaminated, you'd better arrange an alternate water supply."
"Right, good idea. I'll arrange to have the water delivered." Cuddy added another item to her list. "You can follow up on any immunocompromised patient who's been discharged in the last two weeks."
"Me?" House shook his head. He'd already done that, at least with the oncology patients. And he had Wilson at home, in his bed, naked. "This is not a diagnostic problem. It's an epidemiology problem."
"Wrong," Cuddy said with a vicious smile. "It's a hospital problem, which makes it my problem. And now I'm making it your problem."
House watched Cuddy walk out of his office and decided he really hated Wilson for being right.
"See, this is what comes of sending a boy wonder to do a man's job."
"Bite me." Wilson stroked the hood of the car, petting it like a puppy House had just kicked.
"Boring," House said. He walked around the car Wilson, the sneaky SOB, had bought while House was distracted by an epidemic. Wilson had parked it at the far end of the hospital lot. Evidently he was under the impression that it needed protecting. House had to agree that it probably did...from him.
The car was exactly what he would've expected Wilson to choose if left unsupervised. It had a certain sedate style, like something your parents might drive if they had any taste at all. And it probably had every safety feature ever invented. It was so conservative it made House's brain bleed.
"You're a closet Republican, aren't you?"
"You know that bite me thing? You can forget about it any time in the near future," Wilson said.
House grinned. He derived a unique satisfaction from baiting Wilson. Foreman, Chase and Cameron: even after all this time they often failed to see him coming, and then they pouted about it. Cuddy, on the other hand, expected mind games. The only way to catch her off guard was to be honest. House could still mess with Wilson, and Wilson liked it. Wilson messed back.
"That's exactly what's wrong with this car," House said. He jabbed the tire with his cane. "There's no va-va-voom."
"Yes, well, I don't need a penis substitute."
"Especially one that goes from zero to sixty in five seconds," House agreed. "You've already got that covered."
"Good idea." Wilson narrowed his eyes at House. "Make fun of my penis and see how far that gets you."
"I take your point."
"It'd be the first time," Wilson said. He held up his keys and shook them. "So, want to go for a ride?"
"I have a meeting with Stacy in fifteen minutes."
"And throw in lunch and I'm all yours."
"Fetch, roll over, play dead." House rapped out the commands, but he sat down across the table from Stacy. He thought the hour and fifteen minute delay had made his reluctance quite clear.
"If only you were that easy to train." House took that to mean that Mark was easy to train. Or at least easier. Then again, Stacy had had years to hone her skills on House. Mark probably never stood a chance.
Stacy glowered at him as she opened a file on the table in front of her and set a legal notepad next to it. "The formal deposition will be Monday. Mr. Ingle's lawyer as well as a court stenographer will also be present."
"Yeah, yeah," House said impatiently. "Been there, done that."
"Frequently, judging by your legal file," Stacy said.
"And every time just as pointless as the last," House said. "Mr. Ingle had HTLV associated myelopathy, a fairly rare condition. If he'd gone to any other doctor he wouldn't have gotten the right diagnosis. Oh, waithe did go to other doctors, and he didn't get the correct diagnosis."
"Be that as it may, Mr. Ingle is alleging that you caused him unnecessary pain and suffering."
"You can't object," Stacy said, incredulous. She looked down at her file again. "And to what? The word suffering?"
"I object to the word unnecessary," House said.
"Are you saying you think Mr. Ingle's suffering was necessary?"
"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger," House said.
"So your defense is that you were helping Mr. Ingle build character?" Stacy said sarcastically.
"Sure. Sounds good." House didn't give a crap about Mr. Ingle's character. Frankly he didn't give a crap about Mr. Ingle. He'd had a disease; House had treated him. End of story.
Shaking her head, Stacy began to rattle off a series of questions, most of which had nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with pointless legal double-talk. After a while even the challenge of concocting outrageous answers wasn't enough to keep his mind from wandering.
"Were you and Wilson sleeping together when we were involved?"
"I...." House paused as Stacy's words penetrated his boredom. "What?"
"Were you and Wilson...?"
"No," House said immediately.
"Okay." Stacy turned to the next question. "Please explain why a repeat biopsy...."
"Wait," House said. He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table as he puzzled over Stacy's question. How had she even known to ask that question? "Julie? No, not Julie. You've never met Julie."
"Can we get back to the deposition?" Stacy asked.
"You opened up this line of questioning, counselor," House said. He tapped his fingers on the table, still thinking. He let out a little grunt when the solution occurred to him. "Cuddy. Julie told Cuddy and Cuddy told you."
"Does it matter?" Stacy asked.
"Well, yes, if only because Wilson promised I could be the one to tell Cuddy," House said. And damn it, he'd really been looking forward to that. He'd fully intended to invite her to join a celebratory threesome.
"The thing isit's none of your business," House continued. "You dumped me. You're married. Who I may or may not be sleeping with is totally irrelevant in the happy world of Mark-n-Stacy."
"If you'd been sleeping with him while we were together, it would totally be my business."
"I wasn't. You know that," House said. "So why are you asking about it now?"
"Forgive me for finding this all a little too coincidental," Stacy said. "You find out Wilson's gay, and suddenly you're sleeping with him."
"There's no suddenly about it. He made me wait for weeks," House said. "Clearly all the people spreading those slutty rumors had never actually slept with him."
"You were one of the people spreading those rumors." "Not any more," House said. "And the only reason I wasn't sleeping with him years ago is that I had no idea he'd be interested."
"You've always been gay?" Stacy asked with blatant skepticism.
House gave a mental sigh. Stacy should know better. If it were merely a question of sex, then House had always believed that whatever felt good between two or more consenting adults was fair game. Any issues he had with Wilson weren't related to sex, but to relationships. Specifically, the expectations within a relationship. House had never been good at playing by the rules.
"Bisexual," House said. "And yes. That's usually the way it works."
"We were together for five years and you never said anything about being gay."
"Wasn't relevant. Last time I checked you weren't a guy." House didn't bother to correct her on the gay thing again. She was a lawyer, she should be able to understand the subtle difference.
House quickly switched tracks. "Although it's been a while. Maybe I should check again."
"See, that's just it," Stacy said, emphatically shaking her finger at him. "You're too enthusiastic about the idea of getting in my pants."
"I'm enthusiastic about getting into anyone's pants, not just yours," House said. He was slightly more selective than that, but not by much. "Hey, you're the one who said I was adventurous in bed."
"Adventurous is not the same thing as gay."
"Probably depends on who you ask," House said. He studied Stacy's expression. "Are you really that surprised?"
"That you might have experimented at some point? No, I guess I'm not really all that surprised. But that you're sleeping with Wilson? Yes."
"Why not Wilson?" House asked. He leaned back in his chair and cupped his hands around the top of his cane, waiting.
"Why not Cameron?" Stacy shot back.
"Wilson gives better head."
Stacy slapped the file shut, shoved it across the desk at House and left the room in a silent fury. Even though he was expecting it, the slam of the door made him jump. He blew out a long breath, then grabbed the file and his cane. He figured he had maybe ten minutes before Cuddy came looking to put his ass in a particularly humiliating sling. He needed to be somewhere that wasn't here.
"Write me some answers," House said. He tossed a manila envelope at Wilson, then plopped into the chair across the table. Wilson looked up from his supper, the cafeteria's infamous Tuna Surprise if House wasn't mistaken, and stared at House while he finished chewing.
"Make me look good," House added.
Wilson laid his fork down and opened the envelope. He pulled out a sheaf of typewritten pages and thumbed through them. "This is for the deposition."
"Better make me look really good," House said. He reached over, grabbed Wilson's fork and speared a wedge of tomato from his salad. "Unless you've got a thing for ex-cons."
"What happened this time?" Wilson asked in a weary tone.
"She knows about us."
"Us as in...?"
"The whole naked, sweaty in bed together thing."
"God." Wilson dropped his head into his hands. After a moment, he raised his head high enough to glare at House. "Why would you tell her?"
"Then...how does she know?"
"Elementary, my dear Wilson. Your soon-to-be-ex has a big mouth." House wagged the fork at him. "And you told me Julie sucked at blow jobs. Or didn't suck, actually."
"I never.... Shut up." Wilson sat up, pushed his tray aside, and leaned back against his chair with a sigh of sheer exasperation. "It was bad enough being caught between you two when I wasn't sleeping with one of you."
"Look at the bright side. I think at this point it's obvious even to her that it's over between us." House snagged the corner of Wilson's tray and slid it over to his side of the table. He didn't want to be wasteful and it was obvious that Wilson had lost his appetite. House blamed the Tuna Surprise.
"What I'm more concerned with is whether it's obvious to you."
"Jealous?" House taunted. Wilson stared at him, lips in a tight line. He clearly was not amused. House shrugged a vague apology. "I think I just wanted her to want me."
"And?" Wilson prompted.
"She does. Or did." House considered the Tuna Surprise for a moment, then decided he'd taken enough risks for one day. He started on the rest of the salad.
"You're absolutely convinced Stacy came back because she's still in love with you?" Wilson said skeptically.
"What other reason could there be?"
"Oh, I don't know. Revenge?"
"A woman scorned?" House asked. That didn't quite compute. Stacy had dumped him, not the other way around.
"You have to admit, you made those last six months you were together pretty hellish for her," Wilson said.
"She made the last six years of my life pretty hellish for me," House said. "If we're counting pity pointsI win."
House swiveled back and forth in his chair, moving in time with the music in his headphones. It had been a bitch of a week, and didn't look to improve in the near future. The hospital was contaminated and it was going to take a lot of time and money to remedy. This led to a whole lot of aggravation all the way round.
Cuddy kept reminding him that if he hadn't screwed the pooch with Vogler they'd have all the money they needed to install fancy filtration and monitoring systems. Chase was pissy over losing yet another bet. Stacy was treating him like a leper, and House wasn't sure if that was because he'd screwed up the deposition or because he was screwing Wilson.
House opened one eye when he felt a slight breeze. Cameron was standing beside his desk with her patient face, which he knew meant she wasn't feeling patient at all. He pushed the headphones down around his neck and sat up.
"I thought you might want to know that Mr. Hargrove died," Cameron said.
"How's the other one doing?"
"Mr. Pearson seems to be improving."
"So we're batting five hundred. Not a bad average for a clean up hitter."
"Not a good one in medicine," Cameron said.
"It's all relative," House said with an airy wave of his hand. "Ask Wilson. He'd be happy with fifty per cent."
"But his patients didn't get their disease from us." Cameron turned to go.
"Is there something weird about my curtains?" House asked before she could get away. Wilson's statement was still bugging him, even if he suspected it had been mostly or even fully intended to divert him from the real question in question. The problem was that there were very few people who could offer an opinion.
"Your...curtains?" Cameron turned back and glanced at the vertical blinds behind House.
"At my place. Are they ugly or strange or...?"
"No, they're fine."
"Fine," House repeated dubiously.
"They're...curtains," Cameron said.
"Did they make you feel uncomfortable? Unwanted?" House persisted.
"What?" Cameron asked. She shook her head. "To be honest I didn't really notice them. They blend in with the décor."
"I have a décor?" House asked. That was news.
"Yeah, post-modern sociopath," Cameron said with a roll of her eyes. House snorted. "What do you want me to say? Your place is very...you."
"It reflects your personality," Cameron said, which didn't address the question of rudeness. At least, he didn't think it addressed the question. "I could walk into that apartment anywhere and know it was yours."
"But would you be comfortable living there?" House asked.
Cameron gave him an odd look. She made a few aborted movements with her hands, then threw him a look that begged for an explanation. House groaned. Sometimes Cameron's persistent fascination with him was fun. Sometimes it was just a pain in the ass.
"Why are you asking me?" Cameron finally asked. "Why not Chase or Foreman?"
"Because neither of them has ever seen my place."
"Wilson," Cameron suggested.
"He's biased," House said. He just didn't know whether it was a bias against his home in general or his curtains in particular.
"I'm the only one you could've asked?"
"Don't read anything into this." House got to his feet and walked straight for the door. He wasn't in the mood to play along with "he loves me, he loves me not." Her voice stopped him just as he grasped the door handle.
"The answer is no."
House turned back.
"I wouldn't be comfortable living there, not for the long term," Cameron continued. "Not the way it is. There's no room for anyone else."
House hung onto the door handle as Cameron returned to her little desk in the corner of the conference room. Okay, so his place was all House, all the time. Surely Wilson realized that was because there had been no one but House to fill the space. Wilson had gone from single to coupleand back againa number of times. He knew how this cohabitating thing worked.
"What?" House startled and shook off his musings.
"Dr. Cuddy just called," Cameron said. She seemed amused by the fact that House hadn't noticed the phone ringing. "You're late for clinic."
"Mr...Hollister?" House paused in the doorway of the exam room and stared at the familiar face. "Weren't you just here?"
"A few days ago."
"And you're back because...?"
"My leg still hurts."
"Uh huh." House set the file down on the counter and turned to Hollister. "Have you been following the prescribed treatment?"
"And your pain isn't any better?"
"Well, I wouldn't say that exactly."
"So it is getting better?"
"A little, yes...."
"Then why are you here?" House asked.
"Could I talk to the other doctor?" Hollister asked. He looked around as if he thought the 'other' doctor might be hiding somewhere in the room. He even gave House's cane a searching look.
"Other doctor?" House asked.
"The pretty one?"
"Long dark hair, blue eyes?" Hollister asked.
"Tall, blond, talks funny," House said. He grabbed the file in disgust. "This isn't a dating service, Mr. Hollister. Even if Dr. Cameron could use the help."
"No buts," House said. "Get out of here and don't come back unless you're missing a limb. In fact, if you come back without a good reason I'll see to it myself that you are missing a limb."
House leaned against the counter and scribbled a short statement in the chart while Hollister scrambled to vacate the premises.
"I see you're as effective as ever at clearing a room."
"Idiot was trolling for a date," House said. He closed the file and turned to Cuddy.
"With you?" Cuddy asked with perfectly understandable look of surprise.
"Cameron." House shrugged. "Or Chase. Not sure which."
"Have you finished following up with all the discharged transplant patients?" Cuddy asked.
"Don't think so."
"You don't know?" Cuddy's chin went up and her posture stiffened. House could almost see her shift into all-wheel drive.
"Since none of my minions has told me otherwise, I assume they haven't finished." House leaned into Cuddy's personal space. "You told Stacy about me and Wilson."
"I...." Cuddy stammered, momentarily left flat-footed by the abrupt change in topic.
"I realize this doesn't fall under doctor-patient confidentiality," House continued. "Still, I would've thought a little discretion was in order."
"I shouldn't have said anything." Cuddy's manner was very manner of fact and sincere. "I apologize."
"Well that's going to make this a very one-sided argument." He scowled. Leave it to Cuddy to suck the fun out of everything.
"I didn't intend to tell her," Cuddy said. "I didn't even want to know. Generally your sex life is something I literally wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole."
"Flattered, but the 'pole' is closer to ten inches."
"Hookers will tell you anything if you pay them enough," Cuddy shot back.
"You calling Wilson a hooker?" House asked, delighted by the possibility. He was going to have to start humming "Pretty Woman" every time Wilson stopped by the office.
"Nice try," Cuddy said. "But Wilson would never play to your ego no matter how much you paid him."
"I take it by your un-freaked demeanor that you approve."
"Of the fact that Wilson calls you on your bullshit? Absolutely," Cuddy said. "Of the fact that he's insane enough to sleep with you?" Cuddy paused for a moment, then looked at House with a rueful expression. "You're both totally screwed up, and I don't know if that's good or bad."
"I don't know either," House admitted. "But it makes for some interesting nights."
"You know, if we hurry we can still make the matinee over at...." Wilson's voice trailed off as he came to a halt in the middle of House's apartment. "What...?"
House met Wilson's puzzled look with a bland expression of his own. Wilson was a smart guy, reasonably observant. He'd figure it out.
House had done a lot of thinking, and only ended up confusing himself. Stacy had chosen Mark because she needed to be first. House knew Wilson needed to be needed, but he didn't think Wilson needed to be number one. Cameron had said that House didn't have room for anyone else, but there was room for Wilson. There had always been room for Wilson. So he still didn't know what the hell Wilson's hang up was. He wasn't sure Wilson knew. All he knew was that someone had to make the first move.
Wilson suddenly turned to House with the expression of a man who'd figured out the answer, but now wasn't sure what the question had been. "What happened to your curtains?"
"You were afraid you'd clash."
"That's...sort of sweet." "But you're still not going to move in," House said. There were very few people who had the power to defeat him so completely. Figures he'd fall for one who could do it almost effortlessly.
"Why is it so important to you?"
"I like having you here," House said.
"I'm here most of the time anyway."
"I want to know you'll stay."
Wilson looked at House before sweeping his gaze around the apartment again. "Do you really think if I move in it'll be some kind of guarantee I won't leave?"
No, House didn't think that. After all, Wilson had left three wives and who knew how many girlfriends and his address had never figured into the equation. But it would be a start.
"I'm very possessive," House announced.
"I noticed." Wilson let out a mirthless chuckle. "I can't make promises. You know that better than anyone. Happily ever after is not something I've had a great deal of success with."
"You're not even going to try any more?"
"I am trying," Wilson said. "I wouldn't be here at all if I didn't think it was possible."
"Well, we know what my problem is," House said. In a sense he'd already known that. Wilson always meant his relationships to end in happily ever after, but they didn't. House wanted to know that it could be different for them. It was a guarantee no one could give him.
"We still don't know yours," House continued.
"I don't have a problem," Wilson insisted. But he didn't look at House.
"Are you embarrassed to be with me?"
"If that were the case I would've disavowed any knowledge of you years ago," Wilson said with a small smile.
"You're ashamed," House said.
"I just said...."
"To be with any man."
"No. I'm not ashamed," Wilson said. "I'm also not prepared for the rest of the world to know."
"That's it?" House asked, dumbfounded. That was too simple, too...stupid. "You're afraid someone will find out you're...."
"Yes," Wilson said sharply. "Maybe that sounds stupid to you. Hell, you'd tell people you're gay even if you weren't, just for the shock value. You don't care what people think."
"And you care too much," House said.
"Maybe. But how many years have I been listening to the things people say behind my back," Wilson said. "All the jokes, the snide comments about my cheating."
"You have been something of a slut." House tried to say it gently, but there was no getting around the fact of Wilson's repeated indiscretions.
"Yes, and I'm also gay. Or queer or a fag or whatever other name people can use to label me," Wilson said. He plopped down on the couch and dangled his arms between his thighs, knitting his fingers into a tense, white knot. "The fact that it's true doesn't make it any less painful."
"You're going to have to deal with it sooner or later."
"I know, just not quite yet," Wilson said.
"I'm not good at keeping secrets."
"You're also not big on sharing your personal life," Wilson pointed out. House couldn't argue with that. He liked his privacy, except when exposing his personal life could shock and appall the listeners. Then he was all for sharing.
"I'm not going to ask you to lie," Wilson said. "But I'd prefer you not volunteer the information."
House nodded slowly. It was not an unreasonable request. In the grand scheme, did it really matter whether Wilson made his sexual orientation a matter of public record? Only to Wilson. Sucked that the decision had been made out of dread, that it would be an issue at all, but then life sucked. A lot.
"Julie, Cuddy and Stacy already know," House pointed out.
"Julie won't say anything. I can pretty much guarantee that," Wilson said. "And Cuddy...won't make that mistake again."
House was intrigued. Wilson's tone indicated that he, too, might have had a few words with their intrepid leader. House was curious as to what those exact words had been.
"Stacy won't talk. She didn't even tell me when she found out you're gay," House said.
"That was before she found you're gay."
"Yeah, but I'm just a little bit gay," House said.
"Several parts of my anatomy beg to differ," Wilson said dryly.
"Hey, just because you've got a hair trigger...."
"Once." Wilson held up his index finger to emphasize the point. "It happened one time."
"Which makes you 0 for one," House pointed out.
"Fine. Ready for a rematch? Let's go."
House felt a slow smile spread across his face. Baiting Wilson really was such great fun. "Interesting concept: competitive sex."
"Is that a yes?" Wilson asked.
"What about Chase?"
"He can find his own misanthropic cripple."
"I was referring to the fact that he has his suspicions about us," House said. He gave Wilson a gentle whack across the shins with his cane, just for suggesting the possibility of sex with Chase.
"Oh, that," Wilson said. He rubbed absently at his leg. "Eventually he's bound to share his suspicions with Cameron and Foreman."
"Which is seriously going to curtail my chances of getting in Cameron's pants," House said.
"Lucky her," Wilson said. House snorted in amused agreement.
Wilson leaned back into the couch cushions and sighed. House knew that sigh. It was the "My life is out of my control and there's nothing left but to bow to the inevitability of the situation" sigh. He'd get over it.
House wasn't worried, not about the bottom line. People tended to like Wilson on first meeting. Knowing he was gay wasn't likely to change that substantially, anymore than it was likely to change the fact that people hated House on first meeting.
Wilson waved vaguely around the room. "You didn't really get rid of your curtains, did you?"
House considered several possible answers before admitting the truth. "They're at the cleaners."
"Have to admire a man who plays all the angles," Wilson said with a faint smile.
"What if you'd dumped me?" House asked. "Naked windows on top of a broken heart would be more than any man could bear."
"Ah, but you're not just any man."
"I do have a problem with naked windows, though."
"Unbelievable," Foreman muttered as he shoved the final stack of charts toward the middle of the table.
"What's that?" Cameron asked.
"House was right, everyone knows he's right, and he's still being a bastard."
"You'd think someone who's getting some on a regular basis would be a little more agreeable," Chase said. Foreman and Cameron stared at him.
"What makes you think he's getting some on any kind of basis, let alone regular?" Foreman asked. "Even hookers need a break."
"Just a hunch," Chase said.
"Well, if it's as good as your last hunch, I'd advise against making any bets on the outcome." House leaned against the door and grinned as Chase let out an exasperated sigh. Wilson brushed by House and headed straight for the coffee maker.
"We're just getting in the last of the cultures and it looks like only the transplant unit and the peds clinic are contaminated," Cameron said.
"And we finished tracking down all the recent patients with exposure," Foreman said with a firm pat for the stack of charts.
"No more cases?" House asked.
"That's lucky," Wilson said.
"Lucky for House," Chase said. "If it weren't for that second patient House would've lost a lot of money."
"Yeah, tons," House said sarcastically. Cameron and Foreman had both decided against participating in the bet and Wilson had made like Switzerland, publicly declaring his neutrality on the issue. Chase was the only one contributing to House's budget this week.
"Don't spend it all on one hooker," Chase said. His gaze slid fractionally to Wilson. Wilson paused in the act of raising his mug and frowned.
"Please, that's not enough to get me any kind of decent professional girl. However, if you'd prefer to take it out in trade...."
And then Wilson was frowning at House.
"I thought you hired Cameron for the purposes of sexual harassment," Foreman said. "Not Chase."
"Sure, but if another opportunity presents himself, I'm flexible."
"I'd have thought the leg would impair your flexibility," Chase said. He gave House a perfectly innocent look. "But I guess we'd have to ask someone who knows."
House gave Chase a small smile. Chase was definitely having fun playing with his suspicions. House looked forward to having fun with Chase having fun.
"Could you boys stop thinking about sex for five minutes?" Cameron asked. She closed the last of her charts and added it to the pile.
"Uh oh." House put his hand to his mouth in mock horror. "We've offended Dr. Cameron."
"Not for the first time, I'm sure," Wilson agreed. He set his mug on the counter. "I'll be in my office."
"You mean you don't want to stay here and think about sex?"
"I scheduled ten minutes of non-sex thoughts this morning," Wilson said. "I thought I'd try to get some work done during that time."
"Call me in fifteen," House called after him as he hung a left in House's office and headed for the balcony door. Cameron pulled off her glasses and rubbed her temples. Foreman looked at him like he was the most pathetic sight he'd ever witnessed. Chase smirked.
"Let he who can go longer than ten minutes without thinking of sex cast the first sexual harassment suit," House said.
"Around you? I'm pretty sure I can go longer than ten minutes," Foreman said.
"Really?" House frowned. "Cameron?"
"These days my libido wanes in direct proportion to the amount of time I have to spend with you," Cameron said with a completely straight face.
"Ouch," Chase said with a laugh. House turned on him. "Not a problem. I have more self control than that. Looks like you're the only one who can't keep his mind off sex."
"I can keep my mind off sex. I've just never seen the point," House said. He clapped his hands together. "Okay, get these charts back to wherever you stole them from, and find me a new case. A difficult one this time."
House left Cameron piling charts into a wire cart and Chase handing money to a puzzled Foreman. Interesting. Chase was paying off a bet Foreman had forgotten about. A bet Foreman hadn't won given that, technically, Wilson wasn't living with House. No, paying up was Chase's sly way of reminding Foreman of the bet. And once Foreman remembered the terms of the bet.... And so it begins, thought House.
Amused, he cruised right through his office and out onto the balcony. Wilson was sitting in the chair on his side, his feet resting on the dividing wall.
"Your ten minutes up?" House asked. "Depends on who wants to know," Wilson said. He gave House a mildly annoyed look. "You just can't resist, can you?"
"Apparently not." House hitched one leg up on the wall and half-sat facing the conference room. "Chase doesn't actually know anything. He suspects, and he thinks he'll be able to trip one of us up. What he seems to forget is that I'm far better at this game than he is."
"Still...." Wilson watched House's staff through the window. "We're so in for it."
"Yeah." House gave Wilson a knowing smile. "This is gonna be fun."
This story was added on 1 FEB 2006