Gentle Implosion

Summary: Takes place immediately following the House episode "Babies & Bathwater." Special thanks to [info]cereta, [info]wickedwords, and [info]marzilla for most excellent beta work.

This is for [info]tzikeh, who has been very patient. Mostly. *g*

Feedback: Please! to elynross



"So, want to grab some dinner?" Wilson leaned in House's office door. "I'm all moved back in. We should celebrate."

"You were never technically moved out, you know." House pushed back from his desk.

Wilson had his jacket slung over one arm, and he lounged against the doorframe, his other hand in his pocket. "There were boxes, and things were packed up and moved around. It counts."

"Think of it as an opportunity for a little spring cleaning, a chance to liven things up by swapping your golf trophies with your tennis trophies."

"I could do that, if I had any tennis trophies, which I don't."

House shuffled his papers into their folder. "See, there's your problem."

Wilson raised an eyebrow. "Do we really want to get into our problems?"

House squinted at him. Just like Wilson to turn some healthy, male-bonding mockery into a serious discussion. "You're such a girl." He braced himself with his cane and stood up. "Let's go to Hooters instead."

Wilson pushed away from the door, then turned back to see that House was just looking at him, instead of following him. "What, you expect me to object?"

House blinked at him, then grabbed his own jacket up and shrugged it on. "I don't know about you, but I was just thinking of their wings."

Wilson smoothed his tie. "Is that what they're calling them these days?"

"Yes, and there are no finer examples of hypertrophying known to man, outside of air-brushed porn magazines." House stood tall and took hold of his lapels, thrusting his chest out. "Ah, it's a great time to be alive." He looked at Wilson imperiously and made 'carry on' motions towards the door. "Onward, Wilson."

The hospital was relatively quiet and empty as they made their way out, as if the tumult of the day had driven everyone away -- as it probably had. House wondered if his colleagues' animosity would worsen with the news of the loss of funding. At least it would provide distraction from the bitching about the office pool on how long Doctor Freedman and Nurse Lowell would take to realize that everyone in the hospital already knew about their joint coffee breaks in the fourth floor janitorial closet. House, a firm believer in the power of human denial, had put his money on late fall, six or seven months from now.

Wilson also had no objection to taking House's car, although he made more than one snide remark about House's recklessness. They didn't say much on the way, even with House's near constant commentary on whatever came into his head.

The wings were perfect, spicy and hot, the beer was good and cold, Wilson's laughter was even better, and the full-breasted waitress was flatteringly attentive -- to Wilson.

During the meal itself House started to feel almost relaxed, tension easing a bit each time Wilson smiled -- for which House mostly thanked the waitress -- and even more when he got Wilson to laugh out loud at a couple of his more sarcastic stories. It almost drowned out the sound of bitter laughter from that afternoon that kept creeping around the edges of House's awareness. But they didn't talk about Vogler, or any of it. Wilson seemed to relax, as well, his tie loosened and his sleeves rolled up, idly drinking his beer.

Afterwards, House made his way slowly out to the car while Wilson took care of the bill. He'd grabbed it first, fair and square, and House had let him. He was feeling generous, and Wilson had had a bad day. He'd noticed that Wilson left a more than generous tip on the table. She hadn't been that pretty, but Wilson was a soft touch.

He leaned back against the driver's side door and stared up at the sky, popping a pill and resting his leg. He saw Wilson come out the front door, then turn to call something back inside, laughing, and House just enjoyed the easy look on his face. Wilson whistled a little as he walked to the car, looking down at the ground. House thought he recognized "Desperado," but hoped he was wrong.

Instead of going to the passenger's side, Wilson came to a stop in front of him and held out his hand. House looked down at the open palm, then back up into Wilson's face.

"You're joking."

"You're the one who who's been drinking."

House raised an eyebrow, and Wilson held up a single finger, then crooked it in half.

"You had more than that," House said, even though he knew he was wrong.

"Someone has to be the adult," Wilson said, and he might not have meant it, but the whole day was there between them again.

House's leg ached, and he wanted to sit back down, but he didn't move. "What, are you planning to take me home and take advantage of my inebriated condition? All you had to do was say so." Wilson just stood there, hand held out, but something on his face-- House shied away from it, silently dropping the keys into his outstretched palm and making his way slowly around the car.

Wilson was a solid, careful driver, for someone trying to beat every light, but House kept glancing at the side mirror, expecting to hear sirens. It wasn't any faster than he'd go himself, but tonight House was tired and didn't want to be stopped. He was restless, too, and he found himself smoothing out non-existent wrinkles in his pants, tossing the head of his cane back and forth between his hands, shifting in his seat to find a less uncomfortable position. Whatever spurred his earlier garrulousness had faded with the rest of his energy.

"Something wrong?" Wilson asked after House pulled himself upright for the third time. "Is it my driving?"

"I was wondering if we could maybe break the sound barrier," House said.

"Oh, like you stick to the speed limit in this thing."

"I don't have a reputation to maintain."

"Don't sell yourself short; it's just not a reputation any of the rest of us want."

"Thank you for your reassurance, Doctor. Your bedside manner remains intact." Wilson looked at him sharply, and House nearly regretted his words.

Wilson looked forward in time to almost miss a yellow light and floored it, only slowing down marginally when he made it across the street. "You have exactly the reputation you want, you know. And you've worked--"

"I've worked very hard to get it, it's true." It was true, and there was no bitterness to his reply. He was so tired, almost too tired to maintain that well-deserved reputation, which Wilson inexplicably paid very little attention to, anyway. He closed his eyes and let his head rest back against the seat. "I'm tired."

He felt rather than saw Wilson's head turn; he could picture the surprise in those dark eyes.

"I know." Wilson's voice was almost gentle when he spoke, and perversely it made House miss the sharp edge that had tinted Wilson's words lately. He didn't trust gentleness.

"It's so wearing to be rescued," he said. "All the hoopla with the villagers rejoicing, chaos in the streets, and I ask you, who has to clean up the spilled intestines and cart off the carcass?"

"Cuddy?"

"Damn straight. Woman works so hard it wears me out. Oh, and there was that small matter of getting my best friend fired," he said, aiming for casual and instead hitting semi-formal, wondering why he brought it up when they'd so successfully avoided it all through dinner.

The pause was brief, but tangible. "I think you saved a life or two today, too."

House kept his eyes closed as he waved his hand dismissively. "That was just for show. After losing Vogler's money, I had to make at least a token effort to prove my worth."

They hit a stoplight that even Wilson apparently decided he couldn't run, and he slowed quickly, but smoothly. House braced himself with his good leg.

"You were right," Wilson said, as he revved the engine, then took off again. "It wasn't that big of a deal, getting thrown off the Board; things would have probably worked out."

House opened his eyes and turned his head, but Wilson kept his eyes on the road. Wilson was much better at the polite, feel-good lie than House would ever be. "No, they wouldn't have. I misjudged; I fucked up." And I'm sorry, but Wilson knew that -- had known that for a very long time. Just like he knew that House would have fucked it up all over again, given the chance.

"It doesn't matter," Wilson said with conviction, and House might almost have believed him this time. "Cuddy slew the dragon--"

"It mattered to you." This time, the rest went unspoken. He never explained himself. Never apologize, never explain; it made deniability so much easier. That hadn't been how the story was supposed to go, though. "I should have seen--"

Wilson's hand on his was big and warm. "You can't be anyone else, Greg. Moreso than anyone else I've ever met, and damn the consequences."

"But they shouldn't--" Wilson squeezed his hand. House tried to clear his throat, and instead turned his hand over. Something eased inside when Wilson interlaced their fingers. Something else tightened. He hadn't expected this. Not after so long--

"You're going to have a hard time shifting," House said.

"I like this gear."

It seemed much too short a time until Wilson pulled into the driveway. He had to take his hand back to put the car in park and turn off the engine. House let his hand fall to his leg and left it there. He noted that his heart rate was up. When Wilson spoke, House realized that he was still just staring at his own open palm, mind blank.

"Are you going to invite me in?" His voice was full, and left House with nothing to say.

"Shouldn't you be--"

"--getting home to my loving wife? What part of 'my marriage sucks' wasn't clear?"

"You're still a married man," House said lightly, as if it mattered -- as if it had ever mattered, really. All this time, and he was still fighting it, still--

"Whose fault is that?"

House looked at him sharply. "No, see, you don't get to do that. You don't get to make your inability to commit my fault."

The anger that flared in Wilson's eyes, in the tightening of his mouth, made House drop his own gaze back to his hand, the one Wilson had held, still open, palm up, on his lap. He noticed that Wilson's hand was fisted around the car keys, the muscles of his forearm taut, and then they relaxed.

"You were the one that ran away." He said it so softly, so gently, and when he had, everything else got very still, very quiet. House's face felt stiff. It hadn't seemed that way at the time. Had it?

It had been one night, so long ago that distance blurred the details that the alcohol hadn't. House didn't remember how Wilson had tasted; he didn't remember how that first kiss had undone him completely, or how Wilson's hand on his dick nearly caused him to embarrass himself. What he remembered was Wilson's passion, a terrifying hunger that House had no idea how to feed, and most of all, his gentleness. Even in the midst of anger, Wilson was gentle, with everyone but himself, always had been, and maybe with House, once in a while -- the moments that House liked Wilson best. Those were the most honest moments, when Wilson didn't hold back because of House's brokenness, as he did most of the time. Didn't everybody?

One incandescent, forgotten night that House never pulled from his memories to dwell on, because he might be a masochist, but he wasn't stupid. They'd been drunk, and they'd been stupid, and the next day, House had let Wilson off the hook easily, leaving before he woke up, not wanting to see him try to explain that it had been a mistake, the alcohol had taken over... He hadn't even seen Wilson for a couple of days after it happened, House was so busy with some emergency or other, and when Wilson finally tracked him down, he hadn't had to say a word, House understood and told him so, and it hadn't changed a thing between them. And Wilson clearly understood, as well, because he took one look at House, and the issue just never came up.

It turned out to be exactly the right way to handle it, too, because Wilson had found wife number one before Christmas. Wives number two and three had taken a bit longer, spaced out (and overlapping) with several even shorter-term flings, and House had never let himself think about it too much. When he wasn't drinking.

All this time, and the issue had never come up. House wondered whether that was because he'd been right, or because Wilson had been willing to let him be wrong. Until now.

Thinking back, one thing House clearly remembered was that Wilson had driven them home that night, too. Maybe he'd been the only stupid one, and Wilson had just been kind. After all, someone had to be the adult.

Wilson broke his reverie by reaching out and touching his cheek. House looked up at him.

"Why?" he asked. It was the only question he could come up with, and he wasn't sure himself what he was asking.

"Why what? Why you? Why now?" Wilson sounded worn out, himself, and he shook his head slightly, as if equally mystified. "I honestly don't know. Maybe I'm tired of waiting. Maybe today showed me something I used to think was true, before I let you convince me I was wrong." Wilson stroked House's cheek lightly. "I don't regret anything that's happened between us. And... I'd like to have more to not regret."

House was tired, himself, in spirit more than body, but he was also jumpy, nervous. He couldn't look into Wilson's eyes for longer than a moment, but he couldn't seem to look away. Emotional displays had always made him twitchy, but Wilson deserved better, especially today. And maybe he was tired of waiting, too -- waiting for Wilson to tire of the parade of wives and other women, to say it hadn't been a mistake, to declare himself... to stop caring. Or maybe he'd made a mistake all those years ago, and he'd just been too much of a coward to admit it.

That felt more honest, and more like the Greg House he knew and often loathed. He took a deep breath and blew it out. "I don't think I know how to do this."

Wilson took hold of his chin firmly. "Just follow my lead," he said, and then Wilson kissed him.

As kisses go, if House were being objective, it wasn't so great. He was so tightly-wound that he didn't move when Wilson tugged gently on his chin, and so Wilson leaned forward into open space, rolled his eyes slightly, and had to lean further forward to press his mouth against House's. Even then, House couldn't move, and he thought he might be holding his breath, and all he could think was that he couldn't think straight and he didn't know what to do with his hands. Then Wilson's hand moved to cup the back of his neck, a finger sliding up into his hair, the tip of Wilson's tongue stroked lightly over House's lower lip, and he ceased thinking entirely, which apparently unlocked his body from its state of paralysis and let him clutch at Wilson's shirt.

On House's own personal list, which hadn't been updated in a while, the kiss was up there with the best, possibly falling right under their last first kiss, which House was remembering better and better. Wilson's mouth tasted faintly sweet, and a hazy image of a bowl of mints at the restaurant surfaced briefly, but then Wilson groaned and tightened his hand on the back of House's neck. As if Wilson had just been waiting on his response, his kisses turned hungrier, and his other hand slid along House's thigh, causing House's breath to hitch.

Some uncounted time later, Wilson leaned back, his hand still squeezing the back of House's neck, a smile curling in the corner of his mouth as House just looked at him silently.

"Smugness is such an unattractive quality," House said finally. His mouth was dry, but he felt oddly less tired.

"I think I have a right to a little smugness. I mean, how often do I manage to silence you?"

"Is that all you wanted? You should have said."

"Right. Because that's one of your more charming traits, your tendency to do what people want."

"Maybe it depends on who does the wanting."

Wilson's thumb stroked along House's nape. "So," he said. "Are you going to invite me in?"

I'm not sure I know how warred with you're already further in than anybody else, neither of which made it past his lips. Instead he just nodded. His neck felt stiff, then cold as Wilson's hand left it so he could climb out of the car.

House put his hand on the latch, but rather than opening the door, he just sat there, watching Wilson walk around the front of the car, then stand on the front walk, hands in his pockets pushing his jacket aside, looking too patient, a stance betrayed by a slight rocking back and forth. House wasn't sure how this could be both happening too fast and have taken far too long, but both felt equally true. For a split-second he wondered if he were dreaming, but then he saw Wilson's tie and knew it was real.

The back of his neck felt both hot and cold. The automatic part of his brain started cataloging symptoms: hot flashes, dry mouth, sweaty palms, difficulty swallowing, inability to think, out-of-character behavior. He'd come up with six possibilities before Wilson came over and leaned to look his window.

House rolled the window down, and Wilson smiled, almost sympathetically. "You will have to get out of the car, you know."

House just looked at him, nothing to say, not quite sure what was wrong, but certain that he couldn't imagine what came next, how he took the next step.

Wilson face grew serious as he watched House, and then he opened the door. "Trust me."

House swallowed hard, his eyes raised no higher than Wilson's tie, as if it were a magnet. He added a nervous stomach to his list of symptoms. Trust Wilson. Maybe he could do that.

He climbed slowly out of the car, and let Wilson shut the door behind him as he walked ahead. He patted himself down for his keys for a few moments before hearing a rattle behind him, and he turned to glare at Wilson, who was flipping House's keys in his hand.

"Ah ah ah," Wilson said as House made a grab for them. "My keys now."

"I only invited you for the night, not to move in," House said impatiently as he waited for Wilson to get the door open, pushing past him as soon as he did. Wilson stepped inside and shut the door behind him, leaning back against it.

"So... you're inviting me to stay, then."

House stilled briefly, then looked back over his shoulder. "I guess. If you want-- Yes," he said, knowing that Wilson needed to hear him say it. As long as you want. It was years overdue.

Wilson took the few steps necessary to bring him close. "Yeah, I want," he said roughly.

His kiss, though, was slow, unhurried, as if they had all the time in the world now, as if Wilson intended to use his time wisely, and too well. House's stomach did another back flip, and then he was kissing Wilson as if couldn't stop. He slid one hand under Wilson's jacket, pulling him along as he backed up against the wall, dropping his cane, careful to make sure it wasn't underfoot.

Meanwhile, Wilson's hands were busy uncovering bare skin, and House caught his breath as Wilson curved one palm along House's stomach, fingertips sliding under the waistband of his pants. Wilson's mouth trailed down along House's throat as he made short work of House's belt, then stopped, his right hand hover over the zipper. House's breath was harsh in his own ears. "Oh, don't stop now," he said, proud that he could form a complete sentence.

Wilson's soft laughter brushed against House's ear, sending a jolt of heat through him that was lost in the flood of sensation as Wilson smoothly opened House's pants and wrapped his hand around House's dick. House almost lost his balance, catching himself with one arm around Wilson's waist, and one clutching the strong forearm moving against his stomach as Wilson began stroking him with rough, steady jerks.

House didn't know whether Wilson had a fantastic memory, or otherworldly intuition, but the rhythm was perfect, and he caught Wilson's mouth with his own, biting his lips and kissing him until he needed more air than he could draw in through his nose. Wilson let his mouth go, turning to bite and suck along House's throat. He felt Wilson's dick hard against his thigh, but he couldn't spare a thought for it as climax shuddered through him before he was ready, so he settled for saying "nglh," and then his leg buckled.

He let go of Wilson to catch himself, just as Wilson shifted his hands to try and catch him. House batted at him, suddenly angry, but only managed to pull Wilson off-balance, as well, and they both stumbled hard to join his cane on the floor. House landed with his back against the wall and his bad leg straight in front of him, while Wilson came down sharply on one knee with a muttered "Fuck!" then just looked at him, mouth tight. House spared a thought for how ridiculous he must look, come-spattered, dick hanging out, as he grabbed for his cane to help get his feet under him. Before he had it Wilson had knocked it out of the way.

"Oh, nice move, taunting the cripple." He wanted badly to rearrange his clothes, so he didn't, staring at Wilson defiantly, feeling like a poorly-behaved little boy.

"Fuck you," Wilson said calmly. "It wouldn't kill you to accept a little help now and then."

"Is this where I say thank-you for the hand job?" The words weren't calculated, and that told House how badly embarrassed he was, which only made it worse.

Wilson took a deep breath, then shook his head, all the tension going out of him. "It's not your gimpy leg that bothers me, you know. I couldn't care less about that. It's your crippled personality."

"It's part of my charm."

"That explains so much." Wilson looked at him ruefully, with that familiar gentle amusement, and an unfamiliar directness and heat. "So, anyway, yes, you say thank you, and then? You reciprocate." He started undoing his own belt and pants, watching House with a small smile. House licked his dry lips, and then wriggled himself into a more comfortable position, his anger somehow evaporating under Wilson's unwillingness to feed it.

"C'mere," he said, beckoning. Wilson came forward on his knees, moving so he straddled House's legs. House grabbed his lapels with both hands and jerked him forward so that Wilson had to catch himself against the wall. His startled laughter was music to House's ears as he made short work of Wilson's zipper, tugging his pants and shorts down until they were bunched around his legs, across House's knees. He was strangely pleased that the inarticulate noise that Wilson made as House's mouth closed around his dick was much longer and girlier than anything House had let escape.

This had been a long time, too, and unlike riding a bicycle, it took a few fumbles before House got it all figured out again, his mouth tight and hot around the end of Wilson's dick while his hand worked the rest, spit-slick skin sliding as he sought Wilson's rhythm. Then one of Wilson's hands was helping him, and it turned him on so much he thought he might embarrass himself again. He closed his eyes and just listened to the gasps and half-finished words coming out of Wilson's lush mouth, his hips making sharp, abortive thrusts. He liked watching that mouth, but right now he preferred hearing the profanities that the normally buttoned-up, so restrained Dr. Wilson was flinging at him.

"Fuck, Greg, that's. Oh, Christ, can you, here let me, you have to let-- Oh, God, yeah, suck it just like-- Shit--" What he lacked in eloquence, he more than made up with in feeling, and then it all faded to a cut off, high-pitched sound that House thought maybe only dogs could hear, but he could feel shiver right through his body.

Wilson sank back on his haunches, panting. House noticed that he was careful to not let any weight rest on House's legs. He wiped his mouth on Wilson's shirt tail, earning him a feeble cuff to the head. After a few moments, Wilson rolled off to lie on the floor, and House slid down to lie on his side, straightening out his bad leg and closing his eyes again, listening as Wilson's breath slowed to normal. After a bit he felt the gentle touch of Wilson's hand in his hair.

They lay there together silently for several minutes before House spoke. "We're very bad doctors."

"Oh, I dunno, I thought we played together pretty well."

House sniggered, surprising himself, and he opened his eyes to see Wilson's lazy grin. "Seriously, in a just and wise universe, that had our best interests at heart, we would come down with some foul STD to punish us for our wicked ways."

"Our gay ways, or the being impatient?" Wilson asked. "Besides, I don't see that I have anything to worry about."

"Oh, now, that's comforting. Just wait till next time."

Wilson's hand stilled, so briefly that House thought he might have imagined it. "Relax. If you find yourself so afflicted, I work at a hospital. I know a good doctor."

"Which would be great if we were talking about cancer. And 'so afflicted'? Who talks like that?"

Wilson laughed. "I can pull a few strings. I'm on the board."

House closed his eyes again, something easing in his chest. "Yeah. I think I heard about that."

They faded back into comfortable silence. House was a bit surprised at exactly how comfortable it was. Whatever it was.

The whole idea was still just as bad as it had been the day before, and all the perfectly good reasons against it still made perfectly good sense, but... he remembered now. He remembered that first kiss, and how if he hadn't already been drunk, he'd have felt drunk, and how he never did find the one sock, and how he'd felt, waking up to find Wilson in his bed -- before he'd started lying to himself.

And now that the lie was exposed, he knew couldn't go back. Oh, he could make up a new lie, better than the first, because the intervening years had only added to his creativity and guile. But he'd learned a long time ago that the only way to successfully lie to himself was to never question it, never look at it head on.

Besides, he doubted Wilson would let him get away with it this time. He knew House too well, sometimes to House's dismay. It was one thing to have someone with whom you could be yourself, quite another when they wouldn't even allow you the concealment of a polite social lie. It wasn't so much that Wilson demanded honesty as that he saw right through House, and he'd become more and more unwilling to hide it.

"Ow!" House slapped the side of Wilson's head, and then pulled his shirt collar aside to see the imprint of Wilson's sharp white teeth on his shoulder. "What was that for?"

"You looked serious. I've had enough serious today. Now I want entertainment."

"What, live-action porn isn't enough for you?"

"That was great, but now I want beer and popcorn and a really bad movie."

"Now you want beer."

"Yes."

"And if I can't provide it, will you leave?"

Wilson looked thoughtful. "Maybe long enough to get some. I really want a beer."

"But you left your car at the hospital."

"Ah, but I have the keys to your car."

House shoved a hand in his still unfastened pants and came up empty. Wilson smiled wickedly and dangled the keys over House's head, pulling them away as he snatched at them.

"You just want to go take it really fast," he accused.

"Yeah, I do. I hate wasting time."

House cleared his throat, and finally looked away, rising up on his elbows. "In that case, I think you'll find what you want in the refrigerator. Your movie choices are Barn of the Blood Llama, Piranha Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, or Adam's Rib. Ah, the joys of Netflix." He looked at Wilson, who looked back a bit blankly. "What?"

"One of these things is not like the others."

"Can I help it if I have a thing for Katherine Hepburn?"

"Well, who doesn't?"

Wilson leaned over and kissed him again, leisurely, and House idly wondered what Cuddy would say if he started popping James Wilson several times a day in addition to Vicodin. Surely in these enlightened times, gay sex in the workplace was more acceptable than addictive analgesics. It wouldn't do anything for the pain, but it might improve his mood, make him a kinder, gentler soul. Healed by the wonders of gay sex! They could write a paper.

By the time Wilson stopped, House was a bit breathless. Wilson wiped the corner of House's mouth with his thumb, then lay back down on his side, propped up on one elbow.
He looked utterly ridiculous, and yet surprisingly sexy, pants still around his knees, shoes neatly tied, shirt front and cuffs still buttoned, with his tie loose around his neck.

"You look like you've been ravaged by an impatient preppy."

"And they say romance is dead."

"Give me time. I'm out of practice."

Wilson rolled his eyes, then rolled slowly to his knees, and House took every advantage of the view, reaching out a hand to brush lightly over his ass.

Wilson shivered. "Yes?"

"I'm practicing."

Wilson laughed again, and it had lost the last faint traces of bitterness that had colored it in his office. House watched as he untangled his pants, putting things to rights before rolling up his sleeves. He saw his keys go back into Wilson's pants pocket, and made a mental note to remember to dig them out later. Then Wilson scooped up House's cane and held out one hand. House clasped his hand around Wilson's opposite wrist, getting his good leg under him before clambering to his feet, and Wilson still held on. He brought his left hand up to curve his palm along House's cheek, brushing his mouth briefly with his thumb before leaning over to follow it with a soft brush of his lips.

"Sentimentalist," House said, taking his hand back to fasten his own pants before reclaiming his cane, and if his voice was a little rough, Wilson ignored it.

"Takes one to know one."

"What are you, twelve?"

"On my good days," Wilson said, grinning again, and House nearly found himself smiling in response. His mouth hadn't shown such a tendency to curve in-- ever, probably. Not knowing what to do with the unaccustomed feeling of benevolence, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

"Vogler knew."

Wilson moved both hands to cup the back of House's neck, rubbing lightly. "That's pretty vague. You're usually more precise than that."

House waved one hand around idly. "My higher brain functions have temporarily shut down." He ignored Wilson's sly grin. "He knew about...this." He waved his hand again, indicating Wilson and himself, his hand moving back and forth between them.

"This." Wilson imitated the gesture.

"Yeah. You know. This." House waved his hand again, awkwardly, not looking directly at Wilson.

"If you don't stop that, I might have to molest you again."

"God, I hope so."

Wilson smiled slightly. "And you know that Vogler knew about this -- that -- how?"

"Something he said."

Wilson looked at him intently. "Before or after he kicked me off the Board?"

"Does it matter?" he asked, knowing the answer. "After." Wilson's gaze narrowed, and House felt exposed.

"It only matters if we care, Greg." House couldn't look away, and Wilson smiled as if he'd seen something in House's face that pleased him. "Yeah, me, too. Now, I'll go get us each a beer, and you pick a movie."

He walked off toward the kitchen, leaving House standing there, watching him go. Then he stopped in the doorway to look back over his shoulder. "It's going to be okay. We have our jobs and... we'll... go bowling. Although it'll probably have to be Thursdays. Board meeting on Wednesdays, and I have late clinic hours on Tuesdays."

"Thursdays it is."

"Friday nights are for bad movies and good beer."

"Oh, definitely. What about Saturdays?"

"Negotiable."

"Oh, I like negotiations. I'm good at those."

"You suck at negotiations. You're never willing to give up anything that matters."

House ducked his head in agreement. "Never was a truer word spoken," he said, slanting a look up at Wilson, who held his eyes for a moment.

"I'll just. I'll get the beer."

"You do that. I have a serious decision to make! Llamas, piranha women, or Kate! And they think being a doctor is hard."

"I may want my own set of car keys," Wilson called from the kitchen.

"Just what kind of girl do you think I am, Dr. Wilson?" House said in mock outrage, feeling ridiculously content. "My virtue may be yours, but my car is sacred!"

"I'll throw in a blow-job."

"Deal. And you say I can't negotiate!"

They put the sublime before the ridiculous, making it through Spencer and Kate and halfway through the piranha women before Wilson fell asleep on the couch. He woke up when House tried to cover him with a blanket, and staggered into the bathroom. When he came out, he stripped his clothes off and dropped them like bread crumbs on the way to the bed, where he curled up naked under the sheet, muttering something that sounded like "good night." House considered the couch for about ten seconds after leaving the bathroom before crawling in next to Wilson in his T-shirt and briefs.

It had been so long since House had shared a bed with anyone that he had trouble getting to sleep, but he found he didn't mind lying there, listening to Wilson breathe, and occasionally snore. It was a really unattractive sound, right up until Wilson turned over and stopped, and woke House back up. His leg was aching, not badly, but it would be soon if he didn't do something about it. One of Wilson's hands was resting next to House's shoulder. He didn't want to move.

Omens of pain finally pushed him out of bed to find his narcotic crutch, abandoned along with his jacket in the living room. He pulled the bedroom door to behind him. The coffee table was littered with empty popcorn bags and beer bottles. He dug the pills out of his pocket and limped over to pour himself a Scotch, well-used to ignoring the disapproving voice in his head that sounded not unlike a disappointed Wilson.

He sat down at the piano, sipping his drink and idly playing a note or two, his mind oddly and pleasantly quiet, for once. He put down his glass and started playing softly, mere whispers of sound, improvising on Ellington.

Some soft sound or movement must have caught his attention. He looked up, and Wilson was leaning just inside the hallway, sheet tucked low round his hips, watching him.

House took another drink of Scotch. "Couldn't sleep?"

"Isn't that my line?"

"Didn't mean to wake you."

Wilson didn't answer. House started tinkering with the keys again, drifting through bits of several songs, unable to settle, each one sounding more ridiculous to him than the last. When he hit "As Time Goes By" he pulled his hands away from the keyboard and glared at Wilson.

"What's your problem? That sounded nice." Wilson pushed away from the wall, catching the edges of the sheet in one hand as it started to slide down his hips.

"My problem is, I'm not nice. You're not just a sentimentalist, you're a hopeless romantic, and this is a pathetic scene, you half-naked in your sheet, me playing romantic crap. I blame you." House put his hands in his lap as Wilson came around behind him.

"Keep playing. I like it when you play." Wilson put his hands on House's shoulders.

House rolled his eyes. "I'm not here for your cheap entertainment," he muttered half-heartedly, and started playing again.

Wilson squeezed his shoulders. "You always make everything more difficult than it has to be." He slid his hands down House's arms until his fingers rested lightly on House's, following the pattern of notes.

House tolerated it bravely until he felt Wilson's lips brushing along his neck and over his ear. The discordant result ended the music, and Wilson's hands tightened over his. House cleared his throat. "You can't expect me to keep playing under these conditions," he said. "Make up your mind what you want."

Wilson bit his ear lobe. "You mean you don't know? You are out of practice."

House turned his hands over and laced his fingers with Wilson's. "You're going to break me," he said, somewhat unsteadily.

House could feel Wilson's mouth turn up in a slight smile against his cheek. "I thought you were already broken."

House took a deep breath. "I know how to function with a broken body, but--"

Wilson wrapped his arms around House, fingers still interlaced. "Yeah, me, too." Then he stood up, letting go, only to take House's left hand in his right. "C'mon." He tugged until House grabbed his cane and stood. "Walk this way." He started for the bedroom.

"If I could walk that way--" House was distracted, and his cane came down on the trailing sheet. There was a tearing sound.

Wilson stopped. "Oops."

"Those sheets cost me four hundred dollars. So much for cheap entertainment."

Wilson looked back over his shoulder, and grinned as House looked up from where he'd been staring at Wilson's ass and legs. "Good thing you've got tenure."

House made himself look into Wilson's eyes. "One of the two things I've got going for me."

Wilson's grin softened into something else, as close to content as House had seen him lately "And you claim you're not a romantic."

"You're still paying for the damn sheet." House moved past him towards the bedroom.

"I'm already going to be paying three sets of alimony," Wilson said, following him. "Maybe we can work something out."

"What are you, some kind of communist?" House felt unbecomingly like whistling. Maybe, he thought, things were only as hard as you made them. And maybe, another voice told him, you've come down with something not only disgustingly incurable, but contagious.

Fortunately, he knew a good doctor.
 

The End