mr duck's embarrassed (nigeltde) wrote in housefic,
mr duck's embarrassed
nigeltde
housefic

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Title: Lies, damn lies and statistics.
Author: nigeltde
Pairing: House/Wilson
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Diagnosis: divorce, or complete cessation of all higher brain functions.
Disclaimer: Never ever happened, and although I might pwn them, I certainly don't own them.
Author's Notes: Boundless thanks to betas veronamay and lainy122 who made this way better than it deserved. Thanks to Disraeli/Twain/Sorkin for the title.




Wilson's divorce papers were delivered to his office, and then he started sleeping with Cameron.

Well, it might not have happened quite like that; maybe it started before the papers came, and actually, maybe it never started at all. House didn't really know. But he preferred to operate on the assumption that these two good-looking single people were banging like bunnies because a) it meant he didn't look like or feel an oblivious fool, and b) it gave him a good excuse to be absolutely vicious to everyone, and especially Cameron, because he could, and Wilson, who should damn well know better by now.

He hadn't been there when the papers arrived, and it was exactly like Wilson to keep it to his chest, forcing House to work it out. Patient's symptoms: eight straight hours working with dying people, no lunch break, one coffee break only; three subsequent days avoiding all work, hiding out in the cafeteria (although not at lunchtime, more's the pity), his office, Cuddy's office, even the clinic, without once showing his face in House's own department; a devil-may-care attitude towards clothing, resulting in the foregoing of a doctor's coat and, horror of horrors, an argyle-patterned tie; and a renewal of the kind of behaviour that would get a less charming and attractive man a lawsuit from every woman in the place. Diagnosis: divorce, or complete cessation of all higher brain functions. Seriously, argyle? Where do you even buy something like that?

Wilson's two previous divorces had presented differently, although the flirting was a constant--hell, the flirting just was constant--but House felt confident in his diagnosis. For one thing, there was the flirting, for another, there was a rumour going around, and for another, he had accidentally found the lawyer's cover letter when, in need of a tongue depressor, he had accidentally broken into Wilson's office and accidentally rummaged through his file chest, desk drawers, and briefcase. Having sequestered his evidence, he settled in to wait for Wilson's return. No wonder he spent so much time in House's office; his own was a bland monument to middle-aged tenureship, board-of-directors-head-of-department security, the perfect doctor's perfect office. Contents: Kentia palm (ah, the memories: House had knocked it over once in their argument about that kid with lymphoma and Wilson had knelt on the floor at his feet to scoop up the dirt), vertical blinds, wood panelling, golfing trophies, a heavy silver frame that had held pictures of two out of three wives, and a plush grey sofa chair opposite House that he had once caught Wilson and some nurse making out in. He put his feet up on it and hoped that he had stepped in dog crap at some point that morning.

Eventually he heard Wilson approaching. There was slight pause in his stride as he realised the door was ajar, and then he entered, heavy sigh, heavy funk about him, heaviness all over. Drama queen. He barely gave House time to move his feet before he collapsed into the sofa chair.

"Hey," House grouched, "bum leg here. It doesn't take kindly to being sat upon by fat middle-aged men."

Wilson ignored him, surveying the room, taking in the paper in House's hand with a lift of his eyebrow. He heaved another sigh.

"Did you have to?"

Honestly. House gave him a particularly nasty glare, the one reserved for idiotic best friends who didn't share important information. "Well gee, not if you'd told me in the first place. And throwing it in the trash? Really, Wilson, this kind of thing should go--"

"You think I should start shredding my personal documents? Really? What do you think the chances are of some, say, lunatic with no concept of letting a subject go, ransacking my office?" Wilson's body was still relaxed but his voice was terse and his eyes were shifty. Resignation and anger: not many could manage the combination but with House as a friend, Wilson was an expert.

"That, OR, you could just keep me informed. It would be easier. And the shredder's always breaking."

Wilson was staring at the back of the photo frame. From his angle, House could just see Julie's smiling face and golden hair--shoulder length, so the photo had to have been taken about three months after the wedding. He reached with his cane and pushed it over, a loud bang in a quiet room.

"Why is it," Wilson said, quizzically, like he was about to ask why the Coyote kept returning to Acme when nothing he ever bought from there worked out well for him, " that all the time you get to destroy something dear of mine? When is it my turn to do that to you?" Meaning, House had to presume, that Wilson held his privacy dear. Or, alternatively, he had just been blamed for Wilson's divorce. And he hadn't even had to sleep with Julie to do it!

"Because you're always saying hurtful things like that to me. Come on, Wilson, Vogler is so last season."

Another heavy sigh from Wilson. It would probably be too much right now to ask him if his wife left him because all the sighing gave her a headache. See, and people said he didn't censor himself.

"I was going to say recycling, not shredding," he lied. No reaction. He had the sudden urge to jump up, grab Wilson by his collar, and haul him off to a bar where they would do what people at bars do and Wilson would stop looking so tired, and start paying attention to what was important--namely, House. A bit tough at the moment, maybe; well, he'd write physically haul Wilson around on his Things to Do When Leg Gets Better list. "Where are you staying? Why aren't you camped out at my place?"

"Allison--"

"Allison?"

"Allison," Wilson said, "has a cousin who needed a housesitter. I'll work something out by the time he gets back."

"And how the hell does Allison know about this before I do?" he asked, and his scowl, he was sure, was ferocious. He gave Wilson ten seconds to give an adequate reply before he put his cane to good use.

"She directed the paralegal to my office. She figured it out."

Days ago. Who'd have thought she could keep her trap shut that long? Wilson had to have done something pretty spectacular for her. "Julie had the papers sent here? Wow. It's almost like she's trying to tell you something."

"It's a bit late for that now," Wilson said under his breath, slouching down even more into the chair. He was still doing the shifty eyes thing but he wasn't blushing so it was possible that whatever the hell was going on here didn't involve nookie. House tried to remember if he'd seen Wilson and Cameron together in the last couple of days but drew a blank. Then again, he'd barely seen Wilson at all in the last couple of days, so that didn't mean much.

"Oh, don't be an idiot! It's never too late for bitter bitchiness. I should know." Julie had never really had a chance, but at least she got to have a good time trying to think up new and inventive ways to make completely unsubtle points. She was almost as good as himself.

"So, the good doctor's helping you out," he said to Wilson's nonresponse, his total reluctance to ever discuss his marriages with House, attaining sweet vengeance by throwing in as much innuendo as he could manage (which was a damn lot). Now Wilson was blushing. As well he should: it was really a rather revolting idea if you thought about it, and House decided that, on the whole, it would be nice to get through the day without throwing up.

"Don't you have lab results due back now?" asked Wilson. "Please say yes."

"My filthy minions are doing an MRI. But it's a tumour. Boring." House made a face to show how boring tumours were. "Why do I always get the tumours?"

"You never get tumours! I always get tumours. You always think it's a tumour, but it never is. Which is why you should hustle back and check on your patient, who I'm sure is dying of the black plague or something."

"Oh please," said House, and drew a deep breath in order to tell Wilson just exactly how much it couldn't be the black plague and how incredibly Euro-centric his mind was and how this pointed to deep and disappointing failures within medical training and the educational system as a whole, when there was a knock at the door. Whoever was on the other side actually waited for Wilson to call out in the affirmative, and House knew that it was Cameron before it opened.

Sure enough, she stepped inside, scans in hand, sympathetic smile fixed firmly in place. House noted with concern that it was directed at Wilson for once and not himself (he'd had special receipt of it in these post-Stacy days), and that Wilson smiled back. This was no good.

"Well?" he demanded, when they showed no signs of stopping. Why did people feel the need to smile all the damn time? "Did you come in here to grin goopily at Dr. Wilson or give me important news that might actually save the life of a patient?"

"Um, neither," said Cameron, putting her professional face back on. It was, unfortunately, no less beautiful than her sympathetic face. "It was an adenoma, you were right. It's operable and Dr Lewis said he can fit him in tomorrow morning."

He was going to murder Cuddy. In the time he'd wasted on this bozo he could've gotten in at least two more levels of Harry Potter. He grabbed his cane and levered himself up.

"What, are you kidding me? You mean it wasn't the plague? Give me those scans. Girls are too squeamish to read these things right anyway." He grabbed them from her and leant down to stage-whisper to Wilson. "It reminds them of zombie movies." Neither of them rose to the bait. This was his problem, he got attached to people and then he couldn't get rid of them once they'd learnt to stop reacting. He needed to stop being so sentimental. "Also... girls have cooties?"

Cameron just rolled her eyes but he didn't take it to heart. He was under stress at the moment. Wilson was losing his mind, obviously, and it was up to House to save him.

He shooed Cameron out the door, shutting it on her heels. He turned around and looked down at Wilson, sprawled all over the chair, exhaustion etched across his face. "You do know the etymology of," air quotes, "'cooties', don't you? Here's a hint: it doesn't mean head lice."

Wilson stared at him. "You're not serious. My three-year-old nephew says that!"

"Your three-year-old nephew has a dirty mouth."

Wilson shook his head. "No, you made that up. You must have."

House shrugged. "It might be true."

"Get out. Get out of my office before you scar me for life. Again."

There was another knock at the door. He shot a look at Wilson who obediently kept his mouth shut. When the door didn't open, Cameron decided to call through it.

"Um, Dr House? Are you coming? Because...we kinda need the scans."

Wilson looked away down at the doorstop and grinned behind his hand, and House felt something twist and burn in his gut. It was suddenly difficult to draw breath. He called through the door so Wilson couldn't see his face. "Right behind you, pumpkin-pie!"

"You should leave her alone," said Wilson, although House noticed that he was still smiling. "She's just trying to be nice."

"Nice is just another way of saying unimaginative." He paused a moment, fiddling with his cane, awkward, but Wilson seemed to have nothing more to say to him. Fine. He could take a hint, when he felt like it. But the memory of Cameron's smile stuck with him, niggling, mosquito-like, and at the door he he turned back and assumed the aspect of the wisdom of the ages, or at least a guy who'd been on a date with Miss Bleeding Heart 2005. "That is a BAD place," he said, and he could tell that Wilson knew what he meant, "and you do NOT want to go there."

Wilson said nothing.

-----

It was a tumour. He didn't know whether to feel vindicated, annoyed by the cliche, or despondent that atrociously imminent clinic duty didn't allow him to celebrate his lack of patients properly. After clinic (thirteen common colds, a personal best) and an unfortunate run-in with a disgustingly sensitive Cameron who had the nerve to enquire about Wilson's state of mind, he was too tired and fed up with the hospital and its parasites to stay there, so he took his Vicodin, went home, watched bad television, got through about eighteen half-hearted bars of "Jolene" before he realised exactly what he was playing, went to bed early, stared at the ceiling for three hours, took some more Vicodin, and finally fell unconscious.

When his alarm went off at two-fifteen he surfaced, gasping, from an erotic dream, dark but almost tangible flashes of skin and soft hair and pleasurepain that faded quickly but left him deeply disquieted. He swallowed his pill, a nightly safeguard against being woken up at three, with a mouthful of the scotch he'd given himself for Christmas and fell straight back into sleep and the dreams, where Wilson smiled at him, and he smiled back, and then they did things that could still get you arrested in most states.

The next morning at the hospital the first thing he saw was Wilson and his three minions all chatting away merrily in his own conference room, so he broke up the festivities and, when it looked like Wilson and Cameron were heading in the same direction, actually resorted to ordering Cameron to find him another patient. By the expression on her face you'd have thought he'd told her that Cuddy kept a supply of baboons in the basement to eat all those just-too-stupid-to-even-bother-with interns. But she scurried off, determined to foist some work on him before he changed his mind. She came back with a kid with either IBS or Crohn's and rich parents, a boring combination but an admitted patient would keep Cuddy off his ass and everyone else busy with tests.

At least theoretically. Over the next few days he kept count:

Wilson turned up to help out with his case eighteen times.

Cameron gave Wilson fourteen of her patented sympathetic smiles.

Wilson complimented Cameron nine times.

Foreman and Chase gossiped about them twice.

Then there was one heart-numbing, gut-twisting half-hour when neither of them could be accounted for before he remembered that Wilson was in a board meeting and Cameron was eating lunch with a school friend. And this patient didn't have the decency to be critical at all times, so Cameron got to go home and who knew what happened outside of hospital hours? He bet they went and had awful missionary sex in expensive motels and apologised to each other every time someone bumped someone else with a bony elbow.

At night, instead of going to sleep, he stayed at his office and wrote Wikipedia articles on the most trivial subjects he could think of until Cuddy sent him home, where he watched infomercials and terrible reality television, read old issues of Lancet, and toyed with the idea of calling Wilson's cell in the hope of interrupting something. It all felt somewhat familiar and eventually he realised that he was Nancy Thompson, drinking coffee so that Krueger couldn't get her, except that instead of being a nubile young hottie he was an ugly old cripple and instead of Krueger killing people it was Wilson getting naked and doing terrible, wonderful things to him. The whole situation pissed him off mightily. He spent his days in a haze of irritation shot through with the tingle of caffeine and lack of sleep, floating above a deep lethargy that threatened to pull him down whenever he forgot himself. And at the foundation, of course, there was the pain, upon which everything else teetered, around which his life was organised, no matter what Cuddy and all the happy-happy-ha-ha-you're-a-cripple-now-yay quacks tried to tell him.

By noon on the fourth day pretty much everything had ruled out Crohn's. At three the kid had a minor hematochezia and the evening saw House in his office, facing off the Whiteboard of Symptoms (headaches, anaemia, abdominal pain, joint pain, fever, diarrhoea, now bloody), playing with his cane. Mostly he was staring out the window, trying to clear his mind. He couldn't remember how he had focussed during withdrawal. Had he not at all? Had it been a blind accident of neural pathways that had led him to the correct answer? There was a girl right down the hall--she was somewhere in the hospital, anyway--who might be about to bleed to death on his watch, here, and all he could think about was Wilson, Wilson and himself, Wilson and Cameron--and really, they might be two of the best-looking people on the planet (well actually, Wilson was a bit funny-looking. But it added to his charm), but there were few things he wanted to think about less than the two of them together. Honestly, when he couldn't even extract a bit of porn from the situation, it was beyond the pale. Why the hell couldn't Wilson just keep it in his damn pants?

He got up and stomped around a bit, feeling useless, running over the symptoms again and again. Occasionally his brain threw out something of interest (sickle cell with hyposplenism complications?), but brief consideration was enough to dismiss most theories. At seven-twenty Chase came in to report and defended his absence from the kid's bedside by claiming that Dr Wilson had taken over while he went to get dinner. House told him that he was getting fat, threw him out, and settled in to wait for Wilson to make an appearance. He passed the time by practising his free-throw with a wastepaper basket and balls made out of the reams of useless printouts his team somehow thought were relevant to the case and/or worth his time. It helped three times out of five when he imagined that he was throwing them at Wilson.

It was twenty minutes before he started wondering how long it took for Chase to eat. Ten minutes later he was contemplating the possibility that Wilson had expanded his operations to the other good-looking member of his team (Foreman was just plain scary); this possibility quickly gave way to stark, horrific reality. He had only just managed to force himself to believe that not even Wilson would sink that low before the man in question finally showed his pervert face. He thankfully passed by the obvious recycling joke (by this time the office looked like the interior of a snow globe owned by a particularly enthusiastic child of three) and settled for reminding House of the collection the cleaning staff was taking to raise funds for a hitman. Wilson sat down in his usual chair and looked nervous and far, far more attractive than he had any right to be.

"No change?" House asked.

"She hasn't bled again, if that's what you mean."

"Yeah, that's exactly what I mean," said House, "because when I asked if there'd been any change, instead of telling me about the things that had changed, I wanted you to tell me everything that had stayed the same."

Wilson stared at him. "Does that even make any sense?"

"Yes," he snapped, then he rubbed his hand over his face and breathed out and his breath said get out of my head, you intrusive bastard, and his mouth said, "Wilson, you know, whatever," which was so pathetic that obviously his brain wasn't saying anything at all. He looked up. Wilson's nervousness had been replaced with concern. "If you smile at me sympathetically I will personally see to the immediate disposing of your remains."

Wilson did smile a little, but it wasn't sympathetically. Lucky for him. "Oh, god forbid you be offered a little human comfort."

"That's nothing. About half an hour ago I could have really used a Snickers and a backrub. What took you so long, anyway? Did Chase get homesick for some really, really authentic haggis?"

"We were just tossing around some ideas. Chase thinks it might be vasculitis."

House scowled. "Yeah, well, so long as that was all you were tossing. It's an interesting idea. If only it wasn't so, what's the word, wrong." He tilted his head back, pushed at the desk with his cane to make his chair twirl, and stared up at the ceiling going round and around. (Meckel's Diverticulum and Crohn's? No, the scintiscan and ultrasound were clear.) "You've got to stop encouraging them. I don't want to have to be the bad parent all the time."

"What's up, House?" Wilson's voice was gentle and irritating, pollen to a hayfever sufferer. "You look like shit." House realised he should put a halt to the twirling before he bumped his leg and made a bad day even worse; it was hard enough just to hold it off the ground. He lowered his good leg as a brake and came to a gentle rest facing the windows. "Aren't you sleeping?"

Outside, rain pelted down in the dark. It was the kind of rain that told you in no uncertain terms to drive ten below the limit and hunch over the wheel like an octogenarian sitting on a couple of phone books, but people were stupid and House figured Emergency would be looking at about ten accidents in the next twelve hours. Behind him, Wilson shifted closer, and in the reflection House could see that he was no more settled in that chair than he had been in the previous one. "Some of us have work to do, believe it or not. We can't all just go home happily at the end of the day."

"What home?"

House eyed him via the window. "Was that a crack at my expense or yours? Are you expressing discontent over the palatial Cameron family residence, so generously entrusted to your care?"

Wilson eyed him back. "You're staying here at night?"

House usually hated and loved it equally when Wilson sidestepped his plans for a conversation. At the moment, though, hate was winning out. He reached for his pills. "Of course I'm not staying here," he snapped. "As if Cuddy would let me have sleepovers without her participation. I'm just not sleeping well." He paused. "My leg has been a bit, you know," and he made a so-so gesture.

"The pain has increased?" When he didn't answer, Wilson looked slightly alarmed. "By how much? What have you done about it?" His eyes widened further. "You haven't done anything? Not even any tests? House, this--"

"It's FINE," House said, glaring, trying to shut him down, and, bless the lords of Heaven, Earth and below, it seemed to work. Wilson made a frustrated noise and raised a hand to rub at the bridge of his nose as if it would make House disappear. Then, bizarrely, he just cupped his hand over his face and stayed like that.

House swung around to study him directly. He wasn't crying, thank god, but he seemed almost as strung out as House felt. He supposed that trying to keep up in bed with someone a decade younger than you was quite stressful, which led directly to the punch-in-the-gut realisation that Wilson was about to come clean about Cameron and that, really, tonight would be a lovely night to take the Corvette for a nice drive on the highway, and maybe he should strap Wilson to the fender while he was at it for doing this to him.

Distracted as they both were, Chase's dramatic entrance (he far outperformed Wilson in this regard; it was the advantage of youth, and possibly repressed British homosexual flamboyance) made them jump a mile. He waved a folder full of notes and x-rays and scans.

"I've got it," he announced, eyes gleaming in triumph. He still had the thrill of the hunt evident about him and House couldn't--and, aw shucks, wouldn't--deny that he knew how to pick a capital-D Doctor. He darted a glance at Wilson, who had the audacity to look relieved. Fair enough, actually: House was feeling more than a little relieved himself. "It's simple," said Chase, and House waited for it: this was going to be good. "It's a peptic ulcer, probably from an H pylori infection."

House smacked himself on the forehead. His mistake: D obviously stood for Dunce. "Of course! So simple! Wilson, why didn't I think of that?"

Wilson put a knuckle to his chin and frowned. "Because...it doesn't fit her symptoms?"

"You know, for someone who's supposed to be so nice, you sure do enjoy mocking the stupid," he said, earning him black glares from all sides, as if they both didn't deserve that and more. "But, he's right. Unless someone forgot to tell me that she was born in Addis Ababa?"

"No," said Chase, warily, "but you know it's not unknown here. Look, we need to get some antibiotics into her."

"And the joint pain?"

"Anemia causes tiredness causes joint pain."

"Nice try! Just because she's a kid doesn't mean she doesn't know what pain is. She also has a fever, moron, and she hasn't been bleeding long enough," he said, but he could feel it, Chase had triggered something: there was something about fever, infection, joint pain. "What are her vaccinations?"

Chase pulled out a form from the depths of the file and studied it. "All the usuals."

"MMR? Yellow Fever?"

"Yes, no."

"Yes, sir. The joint pain's in her ankles?"

"And her knees." Chase was looking increasingly bewildered.

Triumph! Cheers! Fat Christmas bonuses! "OK, Doogie, go give her all the needless antibiotics you like. But before you do, do me a favour and take a look at her legs."

"For what?"

"Well, first I'd make sure they're still there. Just lift the sheets and go with it! Speaking of, better take a chaperone." Ah, Chase was his buddy. You could always count on Chase to take things personally. "After you've done that and realised how right I am and how wrong you are, give her steroids and plasmapheresis to stop it moving to the kidneys, a barium enema to make her botty feel better--Cameron can do that one. Get a skin biopsy, keep a couple of eyes on her urine and creatinine, she should be out of here in a fortnight, a month tops."

"Plasmapheresis?" Comprehension finally dawned. "I was right, wasn't I?"

"Congratulations! You were so right, you went all the way round to being completely wrong!"

"But it is vasculitis?"

"Would it make you cry if it wasn't?"

"It's Henoch-Schönlein purpura," said Wilson, looking about as fed up as House had ever seen him. "So yes. Vasculitis."

"Spoilsport," he muttered at Wilson, before calling out to Chase, who was halfway out the door: "Don't get used to it!"

Chase turned to glare at him, then finally seemed to realise that he had interrupted something. "Oh, fantastic," he said, looking at House, then at Wilson, then back at House, raising his eyebrows. "Have you quit again? You look like shit. And what the hell is with all these balls of paper?"

----

On the fifth day Cuddy caught him napping in Exam 2 and forced him to tell her that he hadn't been sleeping because his leg had been especially bad recently, which was pretty unfair considering his head was still full of images, of Wilson, from his nap. He was exceptionally nasty to her, which served the double purpose of relieving some tension and convincing her that he really was in more pain than normal, and she nodded briskly, told him that if he going to be an obstinate bastard and not actually see someone about it then to go home and sleep and get here tomorrow on time able to function as a senior doctor at this hospital or else. House had the distinct sense that the else involved rabid attack baboons.

He went back home and stared at his bookshelves, his piano, his bed, and loathed the lot of it, loathed the person who could have collected all this stuff and put it in a house and thought it said something about himself. What annoyed him most about this whole mess--well, what annoyed him most was the whole Wilson and Cameron having sex thing, but what annoyed him second most was that he'd been totally blindsided by his reaction to it all. When it came down to it, he had either been lying to himself for god knew how long or was just incredibly blind and stupid. Neither option was particularly attractive; he was a diagnostician, for fuck's sake. Patient's symptoms: secretly going to extraordinary lengths to buy expensive coffee so that best friend always came to his department for a caffeine fix; jealous reactions to best friend's partners, imagined or otherwise; distinct feelings of comfort and happiness when around best friend; and finally and conclusively, although late-presenting, obsessive thoughts about best friend's not only dangly bits but also hands, eyes, neck, earlobes, chest, thighs, toes, and, on one memorable occasion, butt dimples.

Diagnosis: well, DUH. He should sack himself in protest.

----

The next morning he made up his mind to find out for sure whether they really were doing it or not. The easiest way to do this would be to confront one of them, and seeing as he couldn't trust himself to be able to tell if Wilson lied to him, Cameron it was.

He cornered her in the labs where she and Foreman were screening out the boring patients and chatting about Chase's genius, neglecting to consider that he'd been wronger than the guy who'd given Elvis his first Big Mac.

"Hey, Foreman," he said, "don't worry. I bet you a whole buncha money that next time you'll be just as incorrect as Chase! I know! Why don't you go trade notes?" He bugged his eyes out with meaning and looked towards the door. Foreman, who had shown no aptitude for mind-melding before this day, continued his streak of fumbled passes and stared at him, unamused, before turning back to his microscope.

He tried again. "Oh, and there was a call for you. Your...dealer? I think. He said it was urgent. I took it on my phone, you can use it if you want." He pointed helpfully back in the direction of his office.

Foreman sighed. "What do you want, House?" he asked, not even bothering to look away from whatever was on the slide.

This is what he got for trying to be subtle and pleasant: raised blood pressure and a jaw that ached from clenching it. "I want you tear yourself away from your nude underage women and your nude underage donkeys and AMSCRAY."

"Well, I'm doing my job, which, you'll remember, is your job, so no, I don't think I will."

"You can have the day off."

Foreman lifted his head, paused, then swung round, giving House his full, if disbelieving, attention. "You're willing to give me the rest of the day off just to get me out of here?"

"What?" asked Cameron, a note of alarm in her voice.

House thought it over. This was setting a nasty precedent. But, desperate times. "Yeah, ok, whatever. "

"I don't want the day off," said Foreman, smiling his evil smile, steepling his evil fingers. "Why do you want me to leave so badly?"

"Yes," said Cameron. "Why is that?"

He hated them. He hated them all. They were all sacked as soon as he had the energy to make Cameron do the paperwork. "All right, all right." He sighed. "Three clinic hours."

"Eight."

"Four."

"Six."

"Five."

"Done." Foreman grinned, shaking his head. He looked at Cameron. "You would've done the same," he said, with a shrug that didn't even bother to pretend to be apologetic, and collected his work and left, no doubt laughing maniacally to himself.

Cameron went from nonplussed to exasperated to majorly pissed in five packed seconds. She turned stiffly back to her work. He waited, browsing through the crap on the benches, tapping his cane on the floor intermittently. She eventually broke.

"I think you might want to take a look at this guy," she said. "Twenty-year-old male--"

He cut her off before he had a chance to get interested despite himself. No chickening out now. "Yes," he said, waving his hand, "I'm sure it's all very enthralling and not at all early onset of MPB or something. That's not why I'm here."

This time she lasted thirty seconds before sighing, pulling off her glasses, and turning to him, face stern. "Why are you here?"

He looked at her. How the hell could he blame Wilson, really? She was beautiful and smart and compassionate and sure, a nutcase, but Wilson actually seemed to do better with the nutcases.

"You're fired."

Her mouth dropped open. Prettily. "What? You, you can't.... What for?"

Guilty reaction? "No fraternisation in the workplace," he said, shaking his finger at her. "You've got to learn to read that tricky fine print. I let the Chase nookie go because I'm just that nice, but I'm afraid I have to draw a line somewhere."

She blushed furiously but stood her ground. "I'm not fraternising with anyone!"

"Really? You and Dr Wilson have looked pretty chummy lately." He narrowed his eyes.

"What?" Her voice reached registers that only dogs and bats could hear. "No! Did he say--"

She wasn't lying! He tried to hide his glee. "Oops! My mistake! You're rehired, but don't let it happen again." She still looked flabbergasted. "Oh, don't worry," he said, magnanimous in his victory. "I won't put it on your permanent record."

The pneumatics on the door meant that its swish closure on her angry "You can't just--" wasn't as satisfying as it should have been, but the day was suddenly as rosy as it could get for a cripple with best-friend issues and he'd take what he got.

----

He found Wilson in Exam 3 at the end of his clinic hours, standing bewildered in the aftermath of a father with four unruly, probably lice-infested children. Wilson was good with kids--he had to be--but it seemed that no-one, except maybe Corleone himself, could have withstood these terrors: drawers and cupboards were open, gear was strewn about the room as though it were the latest schoolyard craze (which it assuredly was), and had Wilson noticed that there was a lollipop stuck to the bottom of his shirt? Still buzzing with his newfound good mood and radiating helpfulness towards to world, House pulled it off, righted a chair, and sat on it, giving Wilson handy tips on where to begin his cleaning. He pondered the lollipop, one of the generic brands the hospital still handed out in a misguided effort to appear like the kindly grey-haired local GP it entirely wasn't. It had left a bright pink stain on Wilson's shirt. Raspberry, probably, although the cherry looked unhappily similar. Perhaps he should taste it to check.

Wilson, tie distractingly loose, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, stopped in front of him and plucked the lollipop from his hand. "There's no way I'm letting you put this anywhere near your mouth," he said, and threw it in the trash, and House was left gaping up at him, mesmerised by the planes of his cheekbones, the deep brown of his eyes, the quirk of his mouth, the ridiculous floppiness of his hair.

"Your hair is ridiculously floppy," he said, when he finally could, and Wilson rolled his eyes and moved away to the bench, where he grabbed a (thankfully unused) tongue depressor and handed it to him.

"Here," he said, smirking faintly. "Suck on that." He began returning things to their rightful places, hooking the sphygmo cuff over its stand, closing drawers on unopened needles, syringes, drugs, restoring the reflex hammer to its little case, the pens to their Pfizer mug. Wilson had used to clean stuff--rooms, attics, dishes, file chests--when his patients had died, but doctors of his caliber couldn't afford to have time-consuming methods of dealing with horror and guilt, and he had soon learnt how to repress quickly and unobtrusively. When House had met him, he had been so tightly buttoned down you could have stuck a bonnet on him and called him Elinor Dashwood; the first thing House ever made him do was laugh, and that was the end of wife number one.

House stuck one end of the tongue depressor in his mouth and waggled it with his teeth. "Mmmmm," he hummed, then waggled his eyebrows too. "Woody."

"You're a dirty old man, and you should be ashamed of yourself," chided Wilson, but he had the shadow of a smile on his lips, and House carved himself another notch on his gotcha belt.

"Hey," he said, "I'm not the one taking advantage of a sweet young girl's hospitality." Oh, yes, they could laugh about it now, and it didn't at all cause a twinge in his gut (that was from lunch; every meal at the cafeteria was so bad he subsequently erased all memory of it, which meant he forgot to stop going back).

"No, I've moved out of Cameron's cousin's place," said Wilson, as if it were nothing, and goddammit, this was the second time in a row, and he should watch it because sometimes House really hated his stupid oncologist guts. He tried to suppress a scowl.

"What happened, did you kill the goldfish? Nice. Why didn't you call? You know what they say about real friends, I could have helped bury it."

"Bury it?" Wilson quirked an eyebrow. "I flushed the sucker." He paused, then said, in a bad attempt at mildness, "Why did you lie to me about being in more pain?"

House considered throwing his cane at him, but he'd probably miss (he always did), and anyway the money that would be taken out of his salary to repair the window and compensate the old lady who was surely on the sidewalk below would be better spent on emergency (read: whenever Wilson did this kind of thing; whenever his leg thought about getting bad; whenever Cuddy was around; whenever Clinic was on; whenever Cameron got that look in her eye; just before patients and/or their relatives punched him) cyanide capsules. Instead he said, "I didn't say anything about being in more pain," then, as Wilson frowned: "Where are you staying now?"

"I asked first."

"I don't care."

"Neither do I."

House glared at him. Mexican standoff. Fuck. They both knew House couldn't win at this; Wilson was like a snake with his patience. "This was supposed to be turning into a good day," he muttered. "I never lie."

"You lie all the time! That was a lie right there!"

Miss Manners, House often thought, really should have produced a guide regarding smugness. It was so hard for one to find an appropriate balance in these situations. Still, 'like headlights on full beam' had always worked pretty well for him, and he now applied it liberally with a smile and a sarcastic brush. "Beautiful paradox, isn't it?"

"Convenient paradox, rather. You can just quit it, you know, not everything has to be a battle of wills."

"Says the guy who's gonna lose. You can quit it, the damn room is tidy already. Let the nurses do it, that's what arbitrary hierarchies are for."

Wilson glared at him. "They don't hate you because they envy your brilliance, believe it not."

"But I'm best friends with you! And they like you so much."

Wilson threw his hands up, an abortive gesture accompanied by eyes raised to the heavens, and half-yelled, "What're you--," and then he looked directly at House and stepped forward, grabbed his upper arm almost painfully. "Are you punishing me?" he asked, voice low and intent, eyes unreadable. "What did I do?"

Well fuck, he thought, what the hell was he supposed to say to that? The response that immediately came to mind--you wanted to leave me--was, for a number of obvious reasons, unutterable. So he tried to ignore the insistent bodily contact, and concentrated mostly on trying to gauge Wilson's emotions without meeting his eyes. Luckily, after a moment Wilson let go, pulling his who am I even kidding? face (first appearance three months in, coincidentally also after a divorce, during their first post-divorce argument), visibly shook himself off, and perched on the exam table. House, for lack of something better to do, studied his cane. The notch on the handle, created on their third day together when he'd thrown it at the physio, was worn almost smooth by the heel of his hand, had become part of the whole cane, and he thought, partners. Fuck. He should have used the new one today. It had a better swing, and fewer memories.

A nurse pushed through the door and managed to say, "Dr Wilson? You've--" before House's full-body itch of irritation burst out of him in the form of telling the nurse to leave now, if she didn't want this cane rammed so far up her ass that it'd give her conjunctivitis. She vanished, leaving only a gasp behind. Wilson gaped.

"What is going on with you? You're on the warpath. You're not sleeping and you look like hell on a bad day."

"At least I'm not leching after a girl half my age," he said, which gave Wilson plenty of opportunities to steer the conversation into safer territory, but instead, he said,

"Is that what this is all about? Cameron?"

"No, god, it's not about Cameron," he groaned, not managing to bite back the words, feeling the conversation slip away from him and into some awful, uncontrollable space where he might tell meaningful truths and Wilson would laugh at him or hate him or not believe him, and it would be like Stacy all over again except this time there wouldn't be anyone at all he could escape to. Perhaps he should start grooming Cuddy in case the position of best friend became vacant. Dammit, now that he knew for sure Cameron wasn't messing things up the whole situation should just go back to normal. Normal wasn't perfect but he was used to dealing with pain, and at least he knew that Wilson was happy he was there, happy to see him most of the time, even if he didn't show it. He rummaged in his pocket for his pills. At least his Vicodin was always happy to see him; everyone likes to fulfil their function in life.

"Well, what's it about? Me? Cuddy? Could it possibly be a patient?" Wilson, on the other hand, didn't seem to care about how things were supposed to be anymore. Their unspoken agreement not to question past a certain level of resistance was apparently not worth the paper it wasn't printed on. Surely there was some sort of International Court of Male Conduct that he could be reported to?

"I'm just--" House cast about desperately, but he was pinned by Wilson's gaze and no help from was forthcoming from internal or external sources. Maybe it wasn't too late to call back that nurse. "Unbalanced."

"Really."

House stabbed his interruption with a gesture. "When you're, you know. Not around."

Wilson did a bit of a double take, surprise transforming to disbelief. Well, he had good reason to think House was lying, and really, not only was it for the best, it was also easier, so win-win, when you thought about it. He decided to take a leaf out of Wilson's book (tentatively titled Evasion: the Dos and Don'ts of Being a Clever Bastard). "Yeah, you know, you keep my raging ego in check or something. My staff, at least, are very grateful for your presence."

"So this is about your ego?" Oh, wonderful, he was getting snippy again. At least House was consistent.

"Well of course it is, everything's about my ego. Didn't you get the memo?" He pushed himself up, wishing Wilson had left a little debris lying around, wanting to stomp on things.

"Hey! I'm trying to be your friend, here! Will you just give it a rest for once?" Wilson jumped to his feet too, eyes burning, brittle, explosive, like one tap to the right place and he'd break into shards. "I'm going crazy, Greg, I'm clinging onto this thing we have with my bare fucking hands," and he shook his clenched fists in the air between them, "and god, you won't even take one little step to meet me!"

"Oh shove it, Wilson," he snarled, because as if Wilson got to be righteous here, "You were the one who avoided me! You didn't even tell me you got divorced!" He slammed his cane on the counter, surprising himself with the violence of it. "Give it a rest? I'm obsessed with you! I can't--I can't stop thinking about you!" And then his brain kicked in and the panic hit him, bam, so hard he went numb for a second, giving Wilson just enough time to bolt to the door ahead of him and hold an arm out, slam it shut just as he got it open. He sighed loudly and stopped, hand resting on the handle, heart racing, leg throbbing, teeth clenched. This would be where the cyanide came in handy.

"Don't just run away. What the hell was that?"

Wilson was trying, unsuccessfully, to catch his eye. House gathered his nerves and snapped in the general direction of the ceiling, "That was me telling you that you're annoying the piss out of me." A sudden hard tug on the handle got him about an inch of daylight before Wilson pressed the door shut again.

"I can't believe this!" Wilson hissed loudly, like he wasn't the world's biggest coward himself, and House ground his teeth together and his cane into the lino, trying to force a retort past the lump in his throat that made it hard to even breathe. Wilson's hand, holding the door closed, curled into a white-knuckled fist and then relaxed again with nervous repetition. "You're, what, you're obsessed with me? What does that even mean?" he asked, his voice more gentle but still insistent, and when House didn't answer he frowned, licked his lips, hesitated for what had to be at least two eternities. The weight of the silence was spine-crushing.

"Do you love me?" Wilson asked, finally, fast and low but clear, and House's stomach flip-flopped and his knees sagged just hearing it, and he had to glance over at Wilson, because was he being fucking serious? And Wilson, of course, took advantage of it, took one piercing look into his eyes, and he knew, and that was the ball game, folks, that was it, and the only good thing about it was that at least Wilson would piss off now and he could get out of this hellish room and go home and wait for the world to end in peace.

But Wilson, the contrary bastard, wasn't leaving. "You owe me so many fucking apologies," he said, instead, then he then moved his hand down to cover House's on the doorhandle, looked at him for a long moment.

House stared back at him, baffled, and then Wilson leaned in like he was going to tell him a secret, except he kept leaning in, and House had to lean back a little because it was too weird, it had just been too long since someone was in his space like this, and Wilson delivered his secret in the form of a soft dry kiss just to the right of his mouth. But then his body (which he had to admit was still occasionally good to him) realised what was going on and he pushed forward, realigned himself, made it a proper kiss. He opened his mouth and coaxed his way into Wilson's, whose hand tightened on his, and who tasted, very tellingly, of cherry lollipop, and Wilson made a little sound that hit his brain, heart, and cock simultaneously, and he had to break away just to clear his head, get his balance. He backed up slightly, although Wilson wouldn't let his hand go, and felt ridiculously, happily stupid because he looked into Wilson's eyes and finally, they seemed to have an understanding for the first time since all of this had started.

"You're afflicted as well?" he asked, feeling like a fourteen-year-old girl trying to impress her seventeen-year-old boyfriend by being sardonic, and Wilson, finally Wilson smiled, a real one with teeth and everything, and this must have been a long, gradual thing for him, because he straightened up, seemed to broaden and unfold from a weight-bearing hunch that House hadn't even realised his posture had turned into. "My condolences."

"Don't worry about it," said Wilson easily. He let House's hand go, and wow, it had been a long time since someone had done that, too, so he stepped forward and brought up his hand to cup the back of Wilson's neck, thumb following the line of his skull, and kissed him again, a thank you and a sorry and a plea for a mattress, and Wilson clutched his hip and put a hand on the centre of his chest that burned through his T-shirt, and kissed back like it was the one thing he was sure about. When they broke apart this time, House stayed close and studied the skin in the V of Wilson's unbuttoned collar as Wilson kissed the corner of his jaw and whispered into his ear, "I think about you, too. Christ, Greg, you've got no idea," which was a bit scary, really, but exactly what he wanted to hear, and also a complete turn-on, so what did that say about him?

"You do realise what a bad deal you're getting, right?" he murmured at Wilson's pinstripes. "I'm a tad out of practice with this stuff. And if you've been having the kind of dreams I've been having, I gotta warn you, there's no way I can live up to them."

Wilson shrugged, turning the movement into a long stretch, letting his head fall back and leaving a long line of throat exposed. His speech buzzed under House's lips. "I always--oh my god--heard Paul Hamm was bad in bed anyway."

"Let's get the hell out of here," said House, and Wilson nodded fervently. They lapsed into silence, disentangling themselves, and House made the startling discovery that putting more distance between them made it both easier and harder to breathe, the burning in his gut that had fuelled him the last couple of days shifting up to his chest, settling under Wilson's handprint like a reminder. "You never...had to," he parodied Wilson's clinging gesture, "cling on. You're my only friend and you can get me free doctor stuff and cheap beer at that place on Rosedale. I couldn't, I would never have dropped you, even if I wanted to." He looked away, needing to reassemble a face suitable for striking terror into the hearts of patients, underlings, and hospital administrators, clearing his throat loudly. "Well, now that we've cleared the air, can we be men again? Actually, on second thought, you can't. One of us has to be the girl, and oncology just isn't manly enough."

"Can't we both be girls?" Wilson seemed to be putting himself back together too, worry lines returning to their usual depths, hands going straight to his hips in that eternally earnest way he had, no doubt remembering exactly how close they were to the rest of the hospital. But he carried himself more lightly, he kept smiling at House, and he had a dazed look about him, like he'd just bumped into Angelina Jolie in a 7-11. Flattering, but absolutely typical. They'd probably just gotten married in Wilsonland. He was going to be wife number four.

"Ooooh, kinky," he said, and leered at Wilson. "I knew there was a reason I liked you." He paused, visions of infatuated oncology nurses chasing him down hallways flashing through his head. "Speaking of kinky, this is going to bite us in the ass, you know."

Wilson looked sceptical. "Come on, Cuddy wouldn't fire us."

"Well, I was thinking more along the lines of the honeymoon period only lasting until next week when I get bored or Chase bats his eyelashes at you, but now that you mention it, I kinda hope Cuddy does fire us. We could move to Majorca, set up shop as rogue physicians. Treat sea turtles for renal failure. We'd be famous."

"Well, it has always been my dream to appear on 60 Minutes," said Wilson, opening the door for him. He even--without knowing it, House hoped--put a guiding hand on House's back. Yup. Definitely married.

They stepped into the clinic side by side, thankful that by this time of the day, the usually omnipresent grotty and coughing swirl of humanity was at a low ebb. Brenda eyed them from behind the safety of the desk and looked like she knew exactly what had gone down, and didn't like it one bit. Then she smiled, Nurse Ratched, at him, and he knew that he would be facing her retribution for the nurse he yelled at before. He hustled Wilson quickly by her. "I thought it was your dream to own a baseball team?"

"....No, that's Homer Simpson."

"Settle down, Tubby, it's an easy mistake." Wilson huffed through his nose and bumped him with his shoulder, smiling, and House bumped him back. "Come on," he said. "I need to find a new best friend." He spied a pair of artistically-arranged breasts in the distance, barrelling towards them. He raised his voice. "Say, doesn't Cuddy earn more than you?"

The breasts arrived, an outwardly deadpan Cuddy (and who knew if she ever laughed on the inside?) firmly attached. "Considerably more," she said. "I hear that you two have been having a bit of a, hmmm, tiff. If only I'd been in my office, I might have heard the whole thing, through four walls."

"In our defence, half of them are glass," said House. Wilson looked like he wanted to die.

"Just keep your voices down next time," she said, and something weird happened to her face. She was smiling, but something was different about it, something--warm. It was...affectionate. Amused. Indulgent.

Creepy.

Luckily, it quickly disappeared. "Well, I'm sure you want to get home and get some rest. Goodnight, Dr Wilson. House, we'll talk about this further tomorrow, but Dr Cameron has just filed a formal complaint against you, and there WILL be consequences this time. And you have a new patient, but he's stable for the moment. Twenty-year-old male--"

"My winged monkeys can handle it then," he said, making a beeline for the door, calling "Seeya!" loudly over his shoulder. Wilson kept pace as usual, an odd look on his face, not even noticing that House was leading them to the bike.

"Did...did you just cast yourself as the Wicked Witch of the West?" he asked, something scary obviously going on in his brain.

Huh. "I guess I did, Glinda."

"And Cuddy is the Wizard."

"Cameron is Dorothy."

"Foreman is the Tin Man."

"And Chase is Toto. It's perfect. We need to be on Broadway." He racked his cane and grinned as Wilson realised how he planned to get home, rationality versus sore temptation battling it out in full view. "You've certainly got the ties for it." He lifted his leg over and sat down, gripped the handlebars, looked back at Wilson.

Three, two, one. Temptation won out. Wilson hopped on.

Victory was his.


The end.
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