i got myself a paper clip (bethfrish) wrote in housefic,
i got myself a paper clip
bethfrish
housefic

[fic] Blow the Candles Out

Title: Blow the Candles Out
Author: Syal
Pairing: House/Wilson
Rating: R


When Wilson looks up from his magazine, House is leaning against the front of his desk, staring at him.

"Friendly Cancer Doctors Weekly?" House asks casually when Wilson jumps in his seat. He flicks the magazine closed. "Hmm. People—July, 2004. A little out of date, but interesting, I'm sure."

Wilson quickly slides his reading material back towards him with one finger. "I never got the full story on that anorexic Olsen twin," he says defensively.

Judging from the way House is still leaning over his desk, Wilson can only assume that he's currently between cases. This means that while his fresh-faced posse of walking medical dictionaries are huddled together in someone's office trying to finish the crossword in the New York Times, House is meandering through the halls, scoping out supply closets and empty offices for when Cuddy starts sniffing around, trying to enforce his clinic hours.

Wilson stares at House as he takes a drink of coffee from a paper cup. "Need a magazine?" Wilson asks. "I also have November, 2003."

House makes a face into his drink. "I think this might actually be dirt."

"You're still coming tomorrow, right?" Wilson asks him.

House lowers his cup and cocks his head to one side. "Tomorrow?"

"You said you'd be able to come," says Wilson seriously. "Julie will kill you."

"No she won't. She'll kill you," House corrects him.

"She will. We already reserved three lobsters." Three lobsters, two platters of hors d'oeuvres, and one too-rich chocolate cake from a French bakery down the block that he didn't even know existed until his wife spent forty-five dollars there.

House starts flipping through the November People. Brad Pitt smiles up at them from three pages in a row. "I thought you didn't like lobster."

"I don't."

"Then…why are we eating it?"

Wilson shrugs. "Because it's expensive. Because Julie likes lobster."

"Oh." House turns a page. There's a story about a sixteen year-old with a hormone problem. "I didn't realize it was also your wife's birthday." A montage of pictures shows him with his proud parents, with younger siblings who are all at least a healthy five foot four. He turns the page. It seems that Robert Downey Jr. is back in rehab.

"What do I care? Let her have her fun," Wilson sighs.

"With your money."

"With our money. It's our money," Wilson clarifies. "Until the bills come. Then it's my money."

House peers into his hospital coffee and decides to give it another chance. "I hate celebrating my birthday. Why would anyone cheerfully acknowledge the fact that death is creeping up on you from behind? Hey, did I ever tell you that Cameron got me a present?"

Wilson snorts, because while he can picture Dr. Cameron giving wheelbarrows full of presents to perfect strangers and starving children in third world countries, he can't picture House receiving even one from someone he knows with anything closely resembling sincerity. "What did she get you?" he asks incredulously.

House looks dirty and innocent at the same time. "That," he informs Wilson, "is between Dr. Cameron and myself."

"Someone's got a crush on you," Wilson teases.

"Oh my god, you think so?" House asks excitedly before his face goes blank. He tosses his coffee in the wastebasket next to Wilson's desk with a muffled thunk.

"There was still coffee in that," Wilson says, peering down into the abyss of crumpled paper. "You made a mess. You know," he says, looking past House to stare at the ceiling reflectively, "when I was a kid I asked for this little army action figure for four years in a row. He came with this plastic parachute that sprung out from his little plastic backpack. I thought it was so cool. My parents never got it for me."

"I think you've told me this story already. And I think I told you that it's obvious to one and all that your parents didn't love you."

Wilson throws the July issue of People at him.

"Just for that," House says backing up towards the door, "I'm not going to show you the panties that Cameron gave me."

"She did not."

House flashes a lecherous grin. "She did. Used," he whispers scandalously and winks.

"I absolutely do not believe you," Wilson tells him, folding his arms across his chest.

House shrugs and turns to make his exit. "You'll never know," and Wilson has to agree that no, he probably won't.


* * *



On the day of his birthday, Wilson gets home from work early and immediately trips over a damp-looking paper bag when he walks in the door. He glances down at the purple "Big Joe's Fish Market" label and can only guess.

"Right," he decides as he stands up. "Julie?" His voice trails off in the empty hallway. "You left dinner in the entryway."

He picks up the bag and carries it into the kitchen where Julie is arranging crackers and funny-colored cheeses on a tray. "Is Greg still coming?" she asks, brushing past Wilson to get to the sink.

He sets the bag on the counter and reaches in curiously. Lobster number two raises a banded claw at him. "I think these are still alive," he says with some amount of concern.

Julie pushes past him again. "They're supposed to be. You didn't answer my question. Is Greg still coming?"

Wilson reaches over to steal a cracker, but Julie glares at him until his hand drops back down to his side. "To my knowledge, yes."

"What do you mean, to your knowledge?" She stands on her tiptoes and takes three tiny plates from the overheard cabinet. "Yes or no?"

"Yes." Silence. "You know," Wilson says testily as his wife thrusts the plates into his arms, "I told you it could have been just us. I told you that. I'm seeing Greg tomorrow anyway."

Julie turns around and stares at him with her hands on her hips. "I don't know what you're talking about," and that's all she says before going back to smearing cheese in little circular patterns.

They have a deal. Julie does her best to pretend she likes House in his presence and Wilson never calls her on it. Like their marriage, it's almost functional.

Julie looks up as she's spreading. "I hope you're going to change."

Wilson can almost remember the days when he used to get home from work and she would meet him at the door. Even if it was late, she'd be waiting up for him in bed, and when he crawled in next to her she'd pull him close and fall asleep with her face in the crook of his neck. It was nice, and comforting, and when his alarm went off the next morning he'd wake up with her breath drifting across his cheek.

Wilson looks at his wife in her ironed black slacks and silk blouse, and then glances down at his own plain, white shirt. "Thank you, I was going to," he says slowly and without a trace of warmth, because he stopped expecting greeting kisses a long time ago.

He goes upstairs and takes a shower, replacing his work shirt with something appropriately colorful—dolphin gray, he thinks the tag said—that Julie bought him at Saks. Then he stays in their bedroom until the doorbell rings. Julie yells at him from downstairs, pleading the always-convenient my-hands-are-full defense.

The doorbell chimes again as he passes through the kitchen, and Julie flashes an irritated look that hovers in the air and follows him into the next room. "Greg," Wilson says, smiling wearily as he pulls open the door.

They have a deal too. Wilson stops denying that his marriage is crumbling around him and House keeps in all the things he wants to say about Julie.

Mostly.

Sometimes they both catch each other breaking their promises, but it works, most of the time.

Julie walks in from the kitchen, smoothing down the deep blue silk of her blouse with the palms of her delicate hands. "Hello, Greg," she says politely, holding out her arm to take his coat.

"Julie," he nods back. When she turns towards the closet he smirks, and Wilson shrugs back at him with an inaudible sigh.

"Dinner will be in about half an hour," Julie informs them in her practiced company-voice. "The lobsters won't take long. Please," she says, motioning House into the living room, "sit down and help yourself to some appetizers." Then she's back in the kitchen in one fluid motion, banging pots around and running water in the sink.

House looks at the trays and platters lining the coffee table. "Do you have other friends I don't know about?" he whispers to Wilson, eyeing a plate of something that looks seafood-y but ultimately unidentifiable. "Like seventeen of them?"

"Nope. Just you." Wilson shrugs again. "She likes, you know. Preparing. I guess."

House picks up something black and tiny and goopy between two of his fingers and sniffs at it. "What is this exactly?"

Wilson inspects it carefully for a second. "Oyster?"

"Let's hope so," House decides, and scrapes at it with one of the impossibly tiny forks set out next to the plates.

Eventually Julie joins them in the living room, but she almost immediately remembers that she has something to attend to in the kitchen. Or the bedroom. Or some other part of the house that isn't the living room. The three of them have several aborted conversations every time she comes back, but when she flits off again forty-five seconds into an explanation on proper soap usage, they decide that now would be the time to just stop trying.

House spreads some lumpy cheese on a cracker and pops it into his mouth. "People say that lobsters scream when you throw them in the pot, but that's really just a myth to make you feel bad about eating them," he explains casually, wiping his fingers off on a napkin.

"Really." Wilson plucks a maybe-oyster off the tray. "I didn't think lobsters could scream at all."

"Hmm," House says. "If Julie were lowering me into a pot of boiling water, I'm pretty sure I would scream. But then…" He snorts. "I'd scream if Julie were baking me brownies, so I guess it's a moot point."

Wilson glares at him for a second but then has to laugh, and they sit quietly together as Julie makes dinner, each knowing that the other is secretly listening for soft lobster-screams coming from the direction of the kitchen.


* * *



Dinner is brought to the table, literally, on a silver platter. The good china is out and the silverware is what they always use, but that's only because Julie insisted that all their silverware be good silverware.

Wilson and his wife sit on one side of the table and House sits across from them, vegetables and bread and wine bottles scattered over the expanse between them. House always wonders why they bought such a big dining room table, because there are almost never more than three people eating there at any given time. Usually it's only two, and more and more frequently, one.

At first conversation is so stiff that House keeps making jokes about antifreeze in his head, but Julie loosens up with every refill of wine, and by glass number four she's laughing sourly and warping marriage anecdotes that Wilson could have otherwise preserved.

Wilson was never that crazy about lobster and still isn't, so he makes up for it by having extra bread and, more than that, extra wine. House glances at his own half-filled first glass, and then at the empty bottle on the table. He can do the math.

Wilson doesn't get drunk the way Julie does, he just gets quiet and sleepy, and he stares into his glass while she makes semi-rude comments to House that she'll later deny.

Nobody's really hungry when Julie brings out the cake, but it's tradition and House joins her in singing "Happy Birthday" anyway, vaguely wishing he had a piano to hide behind. Julie keeps changing keys mid-song and when they finish singing she cheerfully snaps at Wilson to hurry up and blow out the candle.

The cake is way too rich and nobody has the heart to mess up the intricately frosted flower in the center, so they just sort of pick at the parts around it. Wilson pushes his cake back and forth across his plate with his fork. The icing's so thick that it won't smear.

"That's forty dollar frosting you're wiping on your napkin, James," Julie scolds, sipping at another glass of wine.

Wilson doesn't respond, just catches House's eye from across the table and pinches his lips into a tense, self-deprecating smile.

"Oh!" Julie says suddenly. "Be right back," and she pushes off her chair and flutters into the next room. When she comes back she's holding a thin box, neatly wrapped in shiny silver paper. "Happy birthday." She kisses Wilson on the top of the head and deposits the box in his lap. "Good thing I got you a present or it would have been a looonely birthday for James," Julie croons, flashing a cheesy smile at House that clearly says, I don't really like you.

House ignores her and watches Wilson slide the paper off and remove the lid from the box.

It's a tie. Blue and black with little bits of gray, and actually not all that bad looking. But it's a tie, and the way Wilson's looking at it House thinks it must be a noose instead.

"You have exquisite taste," House tells Julie dryly.

"Well then," she says and heaves a contented sigh now that she's done her part in this obligatory get-together. "Let's save the dishes for tomorrow, shall we? I'm going to retreat upstairs now because I have the feeling that I am quite drunk." She turns towards House with weary smile. "And we all know that James enjoys your company so much more than he enjoys mine. It was lovely to see you, Greg. Goodnight." And then she makes her exit without bothering to wait for a response.

House and Wilson trade blank stares from across the table while Julie's soft, muffled steps thump up the stairs.

"Your wife is an absolute doll," House tells Wilson when move they back into the living room.

Wilson puts his feet up on the coffee table next to the half-eaten tray of oysters. "It's why I married her."

"Seriously. A tie? They chopped off John the Baptist's head for King Herod's birthday. But I'm sure he would have much preferred a tie were he given the option."

"She got me a belt for Chanukah. A tie is a step up." Wilson slides down on the couch so that his chin is tucked into his neck. "I think I'm drunk."

"Possibly," House says as he idly brushes cracker crumbs off one of the couch cushions.

"I am. Or I want to be. I don't remember." He closes his eyes. This is how he wants to spend his birthday, sitting on the couch next to his friend. No ties, no lobsters. No disgusting seafood appetizers. Chinese takeout and old movies about World War II, or sting operations so intricate that he can't remember how they went later. That's what Wilson wants. But instead his wife is up in their room, drunk and probably crying, no one's rented a movie, and all he has is a new tie and the beginnings of a headache. "Did I ever tell you about how I wanted this army action figure and no one ever got it for me?"

House purses his lips. "I could be wrong, but I think you have. Many, many times."

"Oh. He had a name. Paratrooper Pete or something." Wilson smiles sadly. "My wife's a bitch, isn't she."

House shrugs. "Everyone's wife is a bitch sometimes."

"Yeah, but mine's a bitch all the time. Sometimes I try to rank her with the other two. In terms of being a bitch. You know, among my ex-wives."

"Knock it off," House snaps. "If you're going to sit here and feel sorry for yourself, at least wait till I leave."

"It's my party and I'll cry if I want to," says Wilson flatly. Then he looks at House out of the corner of his eye to see if he's really mad. He's not.

"Just so you know, I don't do the hug thing very well," House tells him seriously.

"But it's my birthday."

"I know. And you didn't get your paratrooper." House looks down at his lap and attempts a sympathetic smile, but it comes out crooked and alien on his face. "I think we have to be standing up for this or something."

"Never mind." Wilson scoots closer on the couch and rests his head against House's shoulder. It smells like laundry detergent. "I'll just pass out on you instead. Same effect."

"Okay," House agrees quietly, and when Wilson squeezes his eyes shut he can feel House's arm moving slowly around his shoulder.


* * *



Wilson tells House to go home after he wakes up at around midnight with his head in House's lap and the sounds of late night television pounding in his ears.

"Tomorrow?" House asks as he buttons up his coat.

"Tomorrow."

"Good." And then Wilson waits for House to leave, but he doesn't. Instead he steps forward and gives Wilson a one-armed hug, rubbing gently at the small of his back. "It's my one hug of the year. Don't you feel lucky."

Wilson breathes in the scent of his hair. It's sharp and vaguely manly, but clean. And comforting. "This is only half a hug."

House pulls back and puts his hand on the doorknob. "Save the other half for another time when your life is crap." It could have come out mean but it doesn't, and the way House's eyes look when he says it gives Wilson a weird, prickly feeling inside. He thinks he might start to cry.

House goes home and Wilson goes into the kitchen to get a glass of water. He stands there, looking at the mess in the sink. The pot of water is still on the stove, cold now and foggy with cooked lobster particles.

He sits at the kitchen table for a while, getting up now and then to refill his water and nibble tastelessly on some scattered crackers. He reads this morning's comics. Lucy pulled the football away from Charlie Brown again. That Lucy's a real bitch sometimes.

By the time he finally goes upstairs he's not really tired anymore, but when he starts to undress Julie startles him by sitting up in bed. She looks wide-awake, and he wonders if she'd even gone to sleep to begin with.

"James?" she whispers into the dark. "Come here…" She doesn't wait for his answer, and slinks out of bed and pulls him towards her while he's still working at the buttons of his shirt.

"What are you…" he begins, but the way she's looping her fingers under the waistband of his boxer shorts and guiding him into the mess of covers makes him forget the rest of his question.

Wilson hasn't had sex in a very long time, and when Julie presses his shoulders down into the mattress and straddles him around the waist he almost doesn't remember what to do.

There was a time when they would make love twice a day, long ago when Julie used to wait up for him and night and wake up with him in the morning. Then it was only sometimes, and it bothered them, and they bought books and read articles and tried to figure out ways to eliminate the frustration. But eventually it just flickered out all together, and the saddest part of all was that Wilson found that he didn't really care all that much. He didn't miss being intimate with his wife, and somewhere in the mess of angry phone calls and lonely dinners of canned soup and weeklong guilt trips, the need just vanished completely.

But now Julie's on top of him, holding him down with her knees pressed against his sides and her hands up by his shoulders. He reaches up to touch her breasts but it feels strange and awkward, and his mind starts to wander places that it shouldn't be visiting during sex.

He starts thinking about his patients, the ones who don't have much longer to live and others who already died a week ago. He thinks about the baseball game he went to see with his nephew, how it went into three innings of overtime, and how really doesn't have even an ounce of interest in baseball.

He thinks about House, and falling asleep with his head resting against his thigh. His good thigh, not his bad one, and how it smelled like how everything of House's must smell, like medicine and aftershave, and the detergent he uses. He thinks about House's hand resting in his hair while he flips channels with the other, David Letterman's patronizing smile flickering on the television.

He blinks and Julie's gripping his shoulders, breathing heavily, and Wilson thinks about how this isn't what a marriage is supposed to be. He thinks of House's penetrating stare and split-second flickers of humanity that he rarely lets the world see. He pictures House's warm body next to his on the couch, and for the first time in the five minutes his wife's been making love to him, he thinks he might actually come.

Suddenly Julie moans roughly in the back of her throat, and then shudders and goes limp. Wilson pants shallowly, waiting for her to keep going, but when he peers up at her, blinking slowly through a haze of arousal, she rolls off of him and tugs her nightgown back down over her thighs.

"You're supposed to have sex with your wife every once in a while," Julie mumbles, turning around to lie on her stomach. Her hair spills out on the pillow as she hugs it between her arms. He used to think she looked beautiful, lying like that.

Wilson stares at the ceiling for almost ten minutes before he finally decides to get up and go wash his face. When he looks in the mirror he can't decide if he's starting to look old or not, and if not looking old yet is necessarily a good thing.

He looks down and shamefully realizes that he's still very hard. Closing his eyes, he grips the edge of the sink and jerks himself off the rest of the way, trying to clear his mind and not think about anyone or anything. The way he's failing at it just arouses him even more.

When he finally goes to bed and falls asleep he dreams that Chase and Foreman come into his office with a blowtorch and start setting things on fire, and Cameron watches from the corner, sucking knowingly on a Vicodin.


* * *



House picks Wilson up the next day and they drive into New York to see Julius Caesar.

"It's my day off," Wilson says, twisting his eyebrows in thought, "but that doesn't explain why you're allowed to be here."

House glances in his rearview mirror and makes a face. "Tailgater. I'll show him." He slows down and the guy behind them gives them the finger. "I got the Musketeers to cover for me."

"Does Cuddy know about this?"

"Cuddy won't find out."

"I'll think she will," says Wilson dubiously. "And then she'll destroy you."

"Entirely possible. But at least I'll have gotten to attend some quality theater just before what is sure to be a truly spectacular death."

They drive deeper into the city and Wilson watches the lit buildings flicker in the purple haze of dusk. Beside him House is humming along with the radio, cursing intermittently when he misses a parking spot. It's nice.

The production is decent. House, as it turns out, has seen Julius Caesar no less than eleven times. This, he says, ranks at about number three.

Halfway into the third act, House digs around in his coat and pulls out a bag of Raisenettes. He holds out the candy across the armrest, and Wilson almost has to giggle because it's like he's on some kind of absurd date, and the only thing that's missing is for House to put his arm around him while faking a yawn.

When the show lets out they get back in the car and drive around for another twenty minutes before stopping at a café because, "Post-show crowd. Any place within walking distance will be packed with obnoxious self-proclaimed critics."

Wilson stares blankly at the menu, like he's in over his head, before ordering something unnecessarily decadent, topped with whipped cream and caramel and a hearty dusting of cinnamon.

"That's going to go straight to your hips," House says and asks for a coffee, black. "So," he says when their drinks come and the waitress leaves, "can one assume that there was no raunchy birthday sex to be had last night?"

Wilson flushes and House almost spits his first sip back into the cup.

"You're kidding. James. My god, you actually had sex. Does this mean that things are once again fine and dandy in the gray, sterile land where marriages come to die?"

"Not exactly," Wilson says, spooning a glob of whipped cream off the top of his drink. "It's hard to get an accurate reading on your marriage when the only part of your wife you see is her back when she's doing the dishes."

House nods. "Then I'll refrain from asking if the sex was good and just assume that it wasn't."

"It's probably the best for all involved if we forget this subject ever came up."

House stirs his coffee, even though there's nothing in it. "So. Seriously."

Wilson sighs. He doesn't want to think about this anymore. He wants to change lives. Move to Idaho and take up potato farming. He wants to get in the car and drive until he reaches a place where he hasn't suffered through three failed marriages. He wants to find a place where they don't celebrate birthdays.

But he wants to take House with him, because it could only be worse without him. They could grow potatoes together, he thinks. In Idaho.

"James." House is frowning at him, but it's a slightly sad and worried-looking frown. It makes Wilson feel guilty.

"So I'm thinking about moving to Idaho," Wilson says, watching his coffee lighten as the whipped cream dissolves and disappears. Only the caramel stays situated at the top, tiny rivers of preservatives floating in a sea of milkfat.

House makes a face and shakes his head. "I don't do the west. You're on your own there."

Wilson gives a half-smile.

"Hey." House kicks at his foot under the table. "Third time's not necessarily the charm, no matter what they say."

Wilson sighs. "I think that's when they expect you to quit."

They don't get back till late at night, and when Wilson gets out of the car, House follows.

"I'd say you could come in," Wilson says as he digs around for his keys, "but if Julie's up she might attack you."

Standing under the light by the front door, House shifts uncomfortably. He doesn’t look nervous exactly, but kind of stiff, like he does and doesn't have something to say. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small object. "Here."

Wilson looks in his hand. There's a tiny misshapen figure wrapped in newspaper. He raises his eyebrows questioningly.

House presses the package into his hand. "I promise it's not a tie."

Wilson unwraps the Sunday sports section and extracts a small army figurine with a plastic parachute.

He's completely speechless.

"Paratrooper Jim, actually," House informs him. "Not creative enough to go all the way and do the alliteration."

Wilson runs his finger over the thirty year-old plastic. "Where on earth did you find this?"

House shoves his hands deep inside his pockets. "I had to sell my right kidney to a crack dealer in Mexico. The guy drove a hard bargain, but hey, I've still got the left one."

Wilson stares at him.

"Oh okay, fine. Maybe it was Ebay. Spoilsport."

House smiles, and Wilson realizes that he likes it when House smiles, and also that he doesn't do it nearly enough. He squeezes Paratrooper Jim in his hand and takes a deep breath.

"I want you to kiss me."

House's eyes go wide for a split second, but then he snorts. "You obviously haven't dated in a very long time."

Wilson takes a step closer. "I think I've forgotten how," he agrees lamely.

House looks like he's cracking a million jokes in his head, but if he is he keeps them to himself, and instead directs his attention to the very significant fact that Wilson is still eyeing him.

Wilson swallows, taking a step forward. "I'm going to kiss you."

House smirks. "Are you now." And then he does.

It's kind of strange at first, kissing someone he's known for so long, worked beside for a decade, but when House lifts his hand and places it hesitantly on Wilson's shoulder, it starts to feel more and more natural. More and more right.

And while this is certainly not what a marriage should be, kissing your best friend while your wife is upstairs in your bedroom, Wilson has to admit to himself that maybe he was never the marrying type.

"Apparently adultery means nothing to you," House says in a scratchy voice when they pull away, but he doesn't move away, and when Wilson leans forward to kiss him again, he kisses right back.

They stand outside in the yellow glow of the streetlights in a not-quite embrace, Wilson's fingers grasping lightly at the lapels of House's coat. Paratrooper Jim is peeking out of his other hand.

When they part for good, Wilson brushes the skin by the collar of House's shirt with his hand, lingering over the shadows of his face while House licks at his lips.

Before going inside, Wilson pauses in the doorway, taking in the rare sight of House speechless and flushed and maybe just a little vulnerable. "It would really only be adultery if we had sex," he says, and House's cryptic smirk is the last thing he sees before closing the door.


* * *



It's quiet when Wilson slips inside, with no one around to see him lean his head back against the wall or ask him why that ghostly smile is on his lips.

Julie gazes blankly at him from a framed photograph on the wall. She never liked having their picture taken. Wilson looks at it sadly as hangs his coat up in the closet, thinking that it's hard to break something that already fell apart.

He walks into the living room and toes off his shoes, pushing them into the corner. The tray of oysters is gone, but his birthday tie is still on the table, draped forlornly over its box. He picks it up and takes it upstairs with him, thinking that it's really not a bad tie at all.

He opens the door to his and Julie's bedroom and feels like he hasn't been there in ages, even though he knows that he slept there last night, waking up at four in the morning to the sound of his wife crying softly into her pillow.

He glances over at where Julie is already asleep, curled up in the covers and as far over on one side of the bed as she can possibly be. Wilson watches her while he undresses, follows the steady rise and fall of her chest as she breathes, stares at the hair that he used to find so beautiful, splayed out across the pillow behind her.

He suddenly feels a pang of guilt, but this can't go on anymore and he knows it. They both do.

Wilson hangs the tie up in the closet next to his seven other ties and crawls into bed, setting House's birthday present on the nightstand next to him. In the quiet of the room he can hear Julie's breathing, and without really thinking, he reaches out and runs his hand lightly over her hair, just once. It's softer than he remembers.

Julie stirs slightly and Wilson pulls away, settling under the covers on his side of the bed. He closes his eyes.

Third time wasn't the charm. This time he knows there's not going to be a fourth.

That night he dreams that he and House are in Idaho, running a coffee plantation. There's a piano outside in the field, and Wilson listens as House plays and sings songs from the 1930s. Somewhere in the distance, Cameron is holding out a box of clothespins, and Chase and Foreman are hanging up blue and gray parachutes to dry in the sun.
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