Summary: Five ways in which the Duckings didn't find out about House and Wilson.
Pairing: Slash; House/Wilson, though with additional loosely implied pairings.
: Conceived in February and March. Written in April. Beta'd in May. Posted in June. I have no idea why this took so long. At any rate, originally, the idea sprung out of a section of Trivial Pursuits, my first House fic, but you don't necessarily have to have read that story to read this one, or vice versa--which is good, as the rating means I can't archive it on this fic is something of a variation of the "Five Things That Didn't Happen" format, which traditionally explores five different AU scenarios; this fic explores one scenario with five different reactions and POVs.
While to date no lives have been claimed by this story, and it remains uncertain as to whether or not reading the fic is dangerous, it should be noted that this fic would seem to be cursed, as upheavals, disasters, and bad news followed my betas around while they were trying to attend to it. Aside from that, the only other cautionary note is that mixing this story with food or drink may be unwise.
Disclaimer: House, characters, and concepts are property of FOX Broadcasting Corporation, Heel and Toe Films, Bad Hat Harry Productions, and NBC/Universal studios. I am not any of those people.
To Canthlian, Cristin, & RosaleenDhu for Alphas, to Catalase, Marisol, Lanthano, Ouri, & Poison Ivory for Betas, to Tris B. for continuing to be there to check grammar and sentences with, and to Nix for saving my mind with a consult. I am no longer a single writer, I am a pack.


(More Than You Can Chew)

It was Monday, and the Diagnostic Medicine conference room still hadn't quite lost the early-morning smell of cleaning products, though it helped that someone had propped open the door and started the coffee maker before Foreman arrived. He was actually still a little surprised, even after all these months, that the janitorial staff was brave enough to tackle House's office. Then again, they seemed to do it as little as possible, and made up for it by using chemicals at just short of lethal strength, and while they were at it also completely rearranged all of House's things for reasons that managed to sound both perfectly plausible and totally false. House was atypically silent about this, but he did always get a brief smile or gleam in his eye when someone first told him that one of his patients was doing something particularly messy, like vomiting blood. It didn't stop him from chewing you out if he thought you'd caused the problem in the first place, and it didn't last very long in any case, but if you looked for it, it was there.

They didn't have a patient just now, but for a change Foreman didn't really mind. Last week had been a kind of three-ring circus of diagnostics, as House tried to juggle and cure two related patients, one unrelated one, and his clinic hours, with the upshot of three saved lives, one big new donor to the hospital, and Foreman out another fifty bucks on a bet, this one with Chase over whether or not House could keep that many balls in the air without dropping one. So for once Foreman was thinking some of House's work-laziness might be a good thing, at least for a couple of days; even after the weekend, he didn't feel like handling anything more strenuous than a case of high blood pressure in the clinic until at least Wednesday.

Chase and Cameron appeared to agree with him. Chase had a cup of coffee, a plate with some crumbs, and an entire book of crossword puzzles in front of him on the table, and while Cameron was on the computer, a quick glance over her shoulder while he was getting his coffee showed Foreman that she was knee-deep in a game of solitaire rather than House's email. Both of them looked up at his entrance, but didn't comment. House himself apparently still hadn't arrived, even though Foreman was five minutes late, but that wasn't really surprising considering that the man hadn't gone home yet when Foreman had left, well past dark on Friday; he'd been holed up in his office when Foreman checked out, deep in conversation with the ubiquitous Dr. Wilson.

Someone had apparently also brought donuts; they were arranged in a neat and tempting pile on a plate on top of the microwave. Foreman considered them for a long moment, mulling over the unlikely possibility that the cleaning staff had left them there, laced with arsenic, in the hope of getting vengeance on House, but then decided the donuts were probably safe. After all, the staff would get stuck with having to clean up the consequences of anything they did, so they were probably more likely to try and arrange as tidy a death as possible, or ideally something that wouldn't even occur in the hospital. He grabbed a grape jelly-filled and the paper, settling in on the other side of the table from Chase, who didn't bother looking up as he asked, "Seven letters, begins with 'e', 'To erase or strike out.'"

"Expunge," Foreman and Cameron answered him, in unison, which did get Chase's eyes to flick up as he gave them a quick smile and scribbled it down. Foreman glanced over at Cameron with a smile of his own, but she was already back in her solitaire game. And losing, from the set of her shoulders.

He shrugged and opened the paper to the business section before biting into his donut, which promptly squirted jelly all over the page.

"Well that's interesting," House said, from behind him. "Though mostly because it raises the question of whether you knew that was going to happen or not, because if you did, that says a lot about both your opinion of the business section and your ability to plan ahead."

Some day he was going to figure out how a man who walked with a limp and a cane could sneak up on you like that.

Chase and Cameron were both looking up from their respective diversions, amused, and House, as he limped into the room, looked amused himself, but also a lot more chipper than Foreman had expected for a Monday morning. He was something approaching reasonably shaven, and if the clothing was pure irreverent House it at least looked freshly washed and wrinkle-free. He also looked like he was having a strangely hard time not smiling, which was... not exactly what Foreman was used to from the man, to say the least.

He glanced over at Chase to see what he was making of it, but Chase was staring at House with his head slightly tilted, a hint of a furrow between his brows.

"And how is everyone this exciting and repulsively shiny morning?" House asked, gesturing out the window with the coffee pot before pouring himself a cup. "Got any new and interesting dying people in the queue?"

This time Foreman exchanged a look with Cameron, who was gratifyingly paying attention and clearly as baffled as he was.

"After last week?" she asked, a little hesitantly.

"I'd think you'd be welcoming some time off," Foreman said, backing her.

"And here I thought we were here to do life-saving stuff," House replied, and Foreman briefly considered checking to make sure he had walked into the right conference room.

"Well, yes, but--" Cameron began.

"Great! Bring on the sick people. Cuddy's always complaining about my billings anyway, right?"

Or maybe he just hadn't woken up at all yet today, and this was all a dream. Cameron was staring at the penholder as though she might find the reason for all this tucked in with the pencils, and Foreman was seriously considering getting up and checking for signs that House had been replaced by a pod person, when suddenly Chase laughed.

House looked at him with an inquisitive expression, which after a second Foreman reluctantly mimicked. Chase was smiling, pen tapping against his teeth.

"Something funny about my lack of billings, Chase?" House asked.

"Well, you've always seemed to think so, but that's beside the point. Someone," Chase said, with a quick sideways dart of his eyes to Foreman, and then a flick of a glance back up at House, or more accurately at House's neckline, "got lucky last night."

Well, Christ, Foreman thought, finally spotting what Chase had seen, he had. House looked gratifyingly blank for a second, and Foreman felt himself break out in a smirk of his own as he said, "Nice lovebite." House glanced down, which was pointless given the way it was hiding in the shadow of his jaw like that, and then back up, face settling into a less surprised and more controlled blank. From the corner of his eye, Foreman could see Cameron had straightened up more at her desk, and he couldn't quite resist asking, "So, who gave it to you?"

House's expression turned exasperated. "Not that it's any of your business, Eric--" he began.

"I did," Dr. Wilson said, walking in the open door behind Foreman.

For a second, everybody froze, while House glanced at Wilson, raising his eyebrows and looking either amused or surprised, or maybe both. Foreman couldn't see his own face, but he could just make out Cameron's, and not only were her eyes huge, it looked like her eyebrows were in serious danger of merging with her hairline.

Then Chase broke the silence by giving a short, disbelieving laugh, and when Foreman looked over, he was giving House an expression of pure skepticism. "Yeah, right."

Foreman let out a breath he hadn't even been aware he was holding, and heard Cameron echo him. They exchanged a relieved look as Wilson, smiling faintly, made his way over to the coffee maker himself.

"Well fine," Foreman said, folding the jam-stained business section up and getting out the headlines instead, "don't tell us, then."

Cameron went back to her solitaire. Chase went back to his crossword. And because neither of them were facing towards the sink and microwave, they both missed the exchange Foreman caught over the top of his paper, as Wilson looked over and sort of shrugged at House with his eyebrows, and House, before taking a sip of coffee, gave him a small but actual shrug back.

Foreman decided not to think about it. After all, he wasn't up to handling anything more stressful than a case of high blood pressure until Wednesday, at least.

(Trivial Pursuits: Extended Edition)

It was Tuesday afternoon, the weather was beautiful, and House's latest patient was responding well to the steroids they were giving her. Wilson tried not to take it as a sign that she'd be on an even more accelerated track of dying shortly, but that was difficult for some reason--possibly the fact that by now, he'd gotten used to the patterns of House's stranger cases. But for the moment at least, the sun was shining, Sarah Cambridge did not appear to have cancer, Chase and Cameron looked relieved, Foreman looked somewhat impatient, and House looked... bored.

That always made Wilson nervous. Again, it was probably the fact that he'd had enough experience with the man to know the patterns of his life, and boredom and House always had the potential to be a dangerous combination. In fact, Wilson still wasn't entirely sure House being bored hadn't had nearly as much to do with them getting together as Wilson finally getting divorced from Julie had. When pressed on the point, after all, House tended to evade giving his precise reasons; usually he would claim an excuse, like that Cuddy had ruined him for all other women, or that it had seemed like the easiest way to get Cameron to leave him alone was to say he was taken. And since he never lied, that required actually being taken. Except House had also told Wilson that Cameron didn't know about them, and besides, those two had resolved their relationship back into something a lot more like what they'd started out with even before Wilson had finally given up on his marriage. So boredom wasn't actually that implausible, all things considered.

"Yadda yadda yadda," House finally said, cutting off Cameron's recitation of the patient's current stats. He was perched on the edge of the desk, while Wilson leaned against the wall near the doorway and tried to fight a sense of impending doom. "She's getting better, end of story. Happy warm fuzzies all around. Anyone got anything more worthwhile than this, or are we done?"

"Unless you have anything interesting to add," Foreman said, sounding skeptical. He and the other members of House's team were sitting at the table, Foreman on the far side from the doors, his chair turned outwards to face House, Cameron at the near side, a spread of paperwork and file folders in front of her, and Chase at the table head nearest the sink. Foreman was managing to sprawl in his chair, and looked bored. Cameron had given House an irritated look when he interrupted her, but had then gone back to her papers, which was about normal for her these days. Chase, meanwhile, was staring at the ceiling, his chair tipped back on two legs--which was normal for him these days as well, come to think of it.

House gave Foreman a look over the top of his file folder that was hard to classify as anything other than 'evil', and Wilson braced for impact. He wasn't disappointed. "Well," House began, sounding oddly casual, "the Mets are losing, insurance rates are up, interest rates are down, the stock market is holding stable, and oh yeah, Wilson and I are sleeping together now."

Chase's chair slammed back onto all four legs with an audible crash. Foreman, who had just started to take a sip of coffee, narrowly avoided a spit-take. And Wilson briefly covered his face with his hands as he contemplated ways of getting revenge for this, some of which might actually be quite fun.

When he took his hands away, Foreman was staring at him, which made Wilson flush, House was smirking, Chase was staring at House with huge eyes and a vaguely betrayed expression, and Cameron had finally looked up from her paperwork.

"You mean you weren't already?" she asked, eyes widening very slightly in disbelief.

House's smirk got wider, and he told Wilson, "Told you so."

"Oh, shut up," Wilson muttered, crossing his arms defensively over his chest. He'd just lost fifty dollars from betting on Chase being the one to take it well... if they ever found out at all, which Wilson had made it perfectly clear to House he was fine with them never actually doing.

Oh yes, he should definitely get revenge for this. Lengthy, protracted revenge. Possibly with leather ties involved.

Chase continued to gape, and Cameron raised her eyebrows briefly, taking them all in before making a small, amused sound and returning to her paperwork.

Sometimes he wondered if he hadn't liked her just a bit better when she was stuck on House, really.

House was still looking at him, with his smirk slowly taking on an edge that Wilson was thinking of reproving him for using in front of the children. Foreman looked back and forth between the two of them a few times, and then blurted at Wilson, "How can you be gay? You were married three times!"

Well, that was disturbingly tactless.

On the bright side, it distracted House from staring at Wilson; he turned away and shot Foreman a disgusted look. "Well, Eric," he began, and Wilson wondered if Foreman would figure out House was using his first name that way as a reprimand for making it too personal, "they have a word for that. You'll find it in the dictionary under, 'b'."

Foreman's eyebrows went up a little higher, and he made a small exhalation halfway between a snort and a sigh, but it was Chase who spoke, sounding surprisingly dazed.


The expression of, 'Good God, I cannot believe the idiocy' on House's face probably deserved to be photographed and hung on a wall somewhere. What was really strange was how closely Foreman's, for a minute, mirrored it. "No, Chase, bisexual."

"Oh," Chase said, eyes still wide and somewhat panicked. Cameron gave what sounded like a small, muffled laugh, earning her a curious glance from Foreman, and made a note on her papers. Wilson began to suspect her of secretly being much more evil than she appeared. Which he'd believed of her at one point, but not lately. He supposed she could have gotten back into it whenever she'd gotten over House, or else she really had known beforehand--though Wilson didn't think House would do that, for a number of reasons. Not the least of which was that Wilson would really be obligated to extract revenge, then.

Unless that would be incentive, in which case... his head was starting to hurt.

"The wheel is spinning, but the hamster is dead," House muttered, glancing away from the unfolding tableau of his team and towards Wilson again, face clearly begging for sympathy about the idiots he had to work with. Given the circumstances, Wilson crossed his arms tighter and glared back.

"I've just had a nasty shock!" Chase protested, which was enough to distract Wilson from the incipient battle to the death of his glare and House's puppy-dog eyes.

"You're an intensivist, you're trained for nasty shocks," he observed, starting to seriously wonder what was up with Chase. Foreman, judging by his expression, was wondering the same.

"Well, yeah," Chase protested again, swallowing and giving a sort of vague nod, "other people's nasty shocks."

"Which this is," House pointed out, "as it doesn't involve you at all." He paused, then got another evil look as he asked, "Does it?"


Foreman's eyes narrowed, and for a second he looked like he was about to grin, but then he gave a quick glance around the room and stopped himself. On the other hand, Cameron had a really evil smile on her face, though she'd only glanced up at Chase from the corner of her eye. In fact, Wilson thought he knew that look--House was wearing a somewhat milder version of it right now. Which meant Cameron either knew something or was planning something, and also made Wilson wonder, not for the first time, if it was really a good idea to have someone like House playing even so mild a role-model as he did for his team.

"I mean, of course not," Chase said, into the small silence that had developed. House straightened and started to speak, then finally seemed to notice Cameron's evil little grin. He closed his mouth, leaning back slightly again, and flicked a thoughtful look in between Chase and Cameron.

Cameron looked up just in time to give Chase and Foreman, following the path of House's gaze, a perfectly innocent stare, all wide eyes and blank expression.

Well, she hadn't picked that one up from House--Wilson almost believed it and he knew better. He never really believed House when he was trying to look innocent. It didn't really fit. On the other hand, House trying to pretend he was guilty of a much lesser crime could work disturbingly well.

House took the heat off of her--and Chase, although that was nearly in the nature of a mercy killing at this point--by switching his attentions back to Foreman. "I notice you didn't say anything about my orientation," he observed.

Foreman gave Cameron one more suspicious look, which she met with slightly wider eyes, before turning back to House and observing, in a surprisingly casual tone, "Hey, at this point, you could be sleeping with llamas and I wouldn't be surprised."

House... looked disturbingly contemplative for a second, and Wilson's own eyebrows went up. "The animal or the variety of priest?"

"You didn't," Wilson breathed, without even thinking about it.

The evil, smirking, just-you-wait-until-we-get-into-bed smile came back for just a second, and Wilson forgot to inhale for a moment. Then it was gone and House gave a casual shrug and said, "Hey, some people look good in saffron."

Mentally, Wilson upgraded the revenge he was going to extract by several levels. Fortunately, this turn of phrase had startled even Cameron out of her casual attitude--everybody was frankly staring at House, now.

"Well, I think that diversion puts a nice cap on the day, don't you?" House abruptly said, in a loud and falsely bright voice. He shoved off the desk and executed the tight sort of pivot you only actually could with a cane, observing in an undertone to Foreman, "Interesting enough for you?" Foreman rolled his eyes, the effect of which was wasted as House was already moving towards his office. "Unless or until the patient starts dying again, I'll be in my office." He reached the office door and, while opening it, added over his shoulder, in a remarkably suggestive tone, "With Dr. Wilson. Having... fun."

Three pairs of eyes turned towards Wilson as House vanished behind the relative safety of the glass door. Wilson stared back for a second, trying to come up with something to say that wouldn't dig this blast pit House had generated even deeper, then finally settled on a shrug, a long-suffering sigh, and the words, "Insanity is communicable."

He got a laugh out of Foreman, anyway, although Chase and Cameron just gave him somewhat dubious looks before he turned away and followed House into his office. The door had only just begun to close as Foreman and Cameron moved in for what Wilson couldn't help but think of as 'the kill'--which meant Wilson could still hear them, and possibly House could as well, judging by the lifted eyebrows the other man gave him.

"So why were you so shocked?" Foreman asked, and then after a second, continued on in a remarkably good imitation of a teasing thirteen-year-old, "Did you have a crush on him?"

"No!" Chase protested.

"Aww, you had a crush on him."

"I did not!"

"Better question," Cameron's voice came, paradoxically sounding both lazy and sharply amused, "which him?"


The door finished closing, and Wilson was frankly grateful. House leered up at him from his desk chair. "I think they're cute."

"You are going to pay for that," Wilson replied.

House's smile was pure evil bliss. "I look forward to it."

"Did you tell Cameron about us?" he asked, just to be sure.

House's eyes widened. "Would I do that?"

"Just because she's taking notes on evil from you doesn't mean you've mastered her ability to play innocent," Wilson told him.

House laughed a little and leaned back in his chair, the wicked smile returning. "No, I didn't tell her. Much more fun to let everyone learn at the same time. Plus, you'd never pay your end of the bet. Now if you want to discuss if she guessed, I do have to note that deciding the reason the guy you're making passes at is rejecting you is that he's gay does have a certain time-honored tradition behind it. It even explains why she never tried to hit on you."

"You know," Wilson said, keeping his voice even and crossing over to stand in front of House with his hands on his hips, "there are better ways to get me inventive in bed."

"But how many are this fun?" House asked, all bright-eyed enthusiasm and charm.

"I can think of a few..." Wilson said, voice dropping a few levels in register, and he moved closer to House than was probably remotely safe, given the fact that his office was practically a fishbowl and the blinds were completely open. The way House's breathing picked up made it worth it, though. Wilson did some fast calculations about the likelihood of the trio dumping this juicy tidbit of gossip into the hospital rumor mill, the chances that the staff already thought they'd been involved for years, and the color Cuddy would turn when confronted with all of this, and then gave a mental shrug before bending down, grabbing House's shirt, and kissing him in as slow and thorough a way as possible.

House was breathing much faster when he was done, and looked a little less self-assured, which meant that it wasn't a total loss even if there turned out to be a small crowd of people watching them through House's door. Which a quick glance assured Wilson there wasn't, at least; they seemed to have gotten lucky.

"Now," he said, straightening back up, "I was thinking that I might have to work late all the rest of this weekend..."

House's eyes narrowed.

"And that maybe I should just go directly home to my place, alone, so that I don't miss out on too much sleep," Wilson continued, innocently.

"Oh, that old standby of revenge," House said, a little reprovingly.

"This isn't revenge," Wilson corrected, and at House's inquisitive look, continued, "That comes... later." And he tried one of his own just-wait-until-I-get-you-in-bed smiles on House, with a gratifyingly attentive reaction.

"So what is this, then?"

"Well, I'm tempted to say justice, but if I'm being honest, this is sulking."

"I never should have said you were the girl," House muttered, glancing briefly towards the ceiling. Wilson grinned at him. "So... am I supposed to apologize?"

"To start. And then you can buy me something nice," Wilson replied.

House's eyes narrowed, and then a smile slowly broke out over his face. "Nice, huh?" he asked, and then added, "You're on," in a way that made Wilson worry suddenly about House's possible definitions of 'nice'.

Oh well. He'd never gone into this expecting a normal relationship, anyway. And at least it was never boring.

"So, how much fun do you think we can have with Chase and this 'crush' thing?" House added, conversationally.

Okay, sometimes boring seemed tempting, after all.

(People in Glass Offices Shouldn't Snog Oncologists)

The fact that he and Wilson were fighting again didn't, these days, really distinguish this day much from any given other one; it didn't even really distinguish this Wednesday from any given other one, though House suspected if you did a scatter-plot of their fights you'd find marginally more on Tuesday, for no particular apparent reason. It was becoming a sort of theme for them, lately, and an odd one; after this many years of friendship, House was at a loss to explain why they suddenly were arguing every other week now, when there wasn't even anything that stressful going on in the rest of their lives for a change. Of course, Wilson had always been... not antagonistic, exactly, that was Cuddy or Foreman. But Wilson had always been nearly as willing as the two of them to point out when he thought House was making a mistake; he'd always done it in his own, uniquely Wilson way, which was a lot nicer and less irritating than the way Foreman or Cuddy did it and, now that House thought about it, probably more effective as a result. But lately, that quiet stance of his had gotten a lot less quiet, and if Wilson was still nowhere near as forceful as the other two, the fact that he knew House better--and had a better idea of where to aim his blows--more than made up for it.

But then again, maybe this was inevitable; maybe you could only take so many years of House before you hit some sort of limit and couldn't stand it anymore. Maybe Wilson's patience, which was astounding, had simply run out, and the more subtle methods he had previously used to try and make a difference had stopped being adequate to his frustration; maybe the death of his marriage had finally ground out the last of his tolerance. Maybe... Hell, all House really knew for sure was that lately, those little ethical quandaries and moral ambiguities that followed House around like little lost baby chickens had been provoking increasingly tense reactions out of his previously much more unflappable best friend. Of course, that didn't actually support the 'this was inevitable' theory all that well, since House would have thought if it was a matter of getting sick of anything, it would be his personality, not his professionalism, or lack thereof. Whatever the cause, though, today they'd started out arguing about House treating his newest patient for vasculitis when Wilson was pretty sure the cause had to be related to his department, and had ended up... somewhere else.

"It's not a mistake," House repeated, for emphasis.

"Oh, of course not," Wilson said. His hands were on his hips and even without the lab coat, that was a bad sign. "Not you. The great, infallible Doctor Gregory House, who is always right."

"I never said I was always right." At some point--probably around when it had detoured away from being a specific case thing and towards a general attitude--he had gotten up from behind his desk, and hobbled over to face Wilson in front of the chairs, which meant he had a perfect view of the exasperated look that crossed Wilson's face at this statement.

"No, you just act like it. And ignore me whenever I try to point out that you could be wrong." It was late, the sun was setting, the sky was drizzling, and House's team was doing... whatever it was they did in the conference room when they were awaiting treatment results and trying to ignore him. He didn't expect to be disturbed for anything less than the patient going into arrest--not when a glance through the door would show Wilson's expression, the set of his shoulders, and the tension in his jaw. House couldn't see his own face, but he didn't imagine it was that cheerful either; he felt like the wrinkles in his forehead were trying to settle into permanent trenches.

"And gee, do you think that might be because, I don't know, one of us has a track record for being correct more often than not?"

There was something positively smoldering to Wilson's eyes, an expression House had previously seen only rarely, and lately had gotten a lot more used to--but the ironic thing was it was possible anyone else might have missed just how angry Wilson really was. He did pissed like he did so many other things--quietly, but with a dangerous amount of feeling hiding behind that cool exterior. "I'm right just as often as you are, House--I just don't feel the need to be so obviously smug and triumphant about my victories."

"Oh really," House said, as dryly as he could.

"I am not your inferior, and I'm getting sick of you dismissing my advice and my concerns." House rolled his eyes and started to turn away, and Wilson reached out and grabbed him by the arm. He stared at the hand circling his bicep for a long moment before raising his gaze to give Wilson a flat look. Wilson flushed a little and dropped his hand, curling it into a fist along his side, but he didn't drop his gaze, and that flush didn't make him look any less quietly furious. "You know what?" he asked, almost abruptly. "I bet I can take you. Two games out of four in the least, and tie the fifth, any game you want to name. Come on." House couldn't quite help giving him a patronizing stare, which deepened the flush before Wilson added, "I mean it, House. Right here. Right now. Anything."

"Oh really," House repeated, a lot quieter and a lot more intent this time. Wilson still didn't give an inch, though, just stood there with his hands clenched and his eyes glaring. The glare gave way to a slight widening of his eyes when House stepped deliberately forward, towards him, and lost more ground when House let go of his cane; the sound of it clattering against the chair seemed unnaturally loud, even to him. Maybe a stupid move, certainly overly dramatic, but when he took his next, awkward step forward, Wilson backed up. It didn't matter at that point, though, because moving without his cane was more of a controlled fall, which led to the next step, and by then House had momentum on his side to counter the lack of balance, and pushing his hands forward onto Wilson's shoulders and shoving him into the wall was the easiest thing of all.

Wilson's eyes widened as he hit, and his lips parted; even if House hadn't already been planning what he did next, the unconscious invitation was too good to pass up. He closed his eyes to shut out the concerned, worried, almost fearful expression crossing Wilson's face, and shoved their mouths together with a force that was nearly bruising, with the weight of all the years of their friendship and four months' worth of escalating arguments behind it.

Wilson's body went rigid, and his lips parted further in what House figured was probably surprise, but House found he didn't really care very much; whatever the reason, it was a perfect opportunity to dart his tongue into Wilson's mouth, running it teasingly along Wilson's teeth before pushing forward the last half-step to mold their bodies together. Wilson made a little sound like a gasp at that and abruptly relaxed, and when House risked a quick glance he found that Wilson's eyes were shut now as well, head dropped back against the wall.

He let his own eyes drift shut again and focused for the moment on just the feelings, trying to memorize the exact sensation of Wilson's lips and Wilson's body against his, because any second now one of them was surely going to realize what a stupid idea this was and stop it. But for the moment, Wilson's mouth open to him, heat and wetness and the play of tongue against tongue, Wilson's hair tickling his hand where he'd crept up to hold Wilson's neck, Wilson's legs shifting apart to accommodate the thigh House managed to work between them without, miraculously, losing his balance... This made perfect sense of everything, every argument, every hurt look, every inch of the widening gap that he'd felt starting to stretch between them. More than that, it closed that gap, bridged the spaces between them and made House wonder just how the hell, with this lying unacknowledged between them, they'd managed to get this far; their friendship had always been a delicate enough balance without having something like this lurking under the surface, adding turbulence to already dangerous waters. And House was pretty sure this couldn't end well, even with Wilson's hands coming up to rest lightly on his hips, but for the moment... he didn't care. In fact, for the moment, all that really seemed to particularly matter was figuring out how to break their kiss just long enough to suck in desperately needed gasps of air but not so long as to actually feel like they'd stopped kissing.

Then Wilson's hands left his hips and ran up his chest, and for just a moment, before he felt the return of that rigidity in Wilson's muscles, House was very curious where this was going; feeling that tension, though, he concluded sanity had returned. He opened his eyes just as Wilson's hands, flat-palmed, gently eased him away, and wasn't really surprised to find an appalled, flushed look on Wilson's face.

Or... at least, mostly not surprised, because the focus of that appalled, flushed look wasn't House, it was... over his shoulder.

Towards the conference room.


House closed his eyes and took a deep breath, considering for the first time that maybe it had been self-preservation and not denial that had kept him from ever doing that to Wilson before; maybe his subconscious had been working overtime to protect him from getting involved with a man who could drive him to such a state that he forgot the vitally important fact that his office was composed of a good fifty-percent windows.

"Which one of them?" he asked, opening his eyes again.

Wilson's gaze cut over to him again, looking dazed and embarrassed and entirely too attractively mussed, but also kind of amused as well. "All of them."

Oh, hell. House risked the balance shift enough to lean back slightly and look over his shoulder, and there his team was, all three of them, clustered in the doorway to the conference room and staring with utterly flabbergasted expressions. Or at least, Chase and Cameron were. In fact, their expressions were so closely identical as to be almost comical, right down to the wide eyes, the slightly parted lips, and the one hand lightly resting against the edges of the doorway; his right and her left. Cameron, House noted, was wearing her glasses. He wondered if that meant she'd been doing paperwork before a much more interesting spectacle had come along. Foreman was standing in between them, still holding his coffee mug, but even as House looked over the expression of surprise was fading, a smile lifting the corners of his mouth as one eyebrow lowered and the other stayed raised.

"Pssh," Foreman said, raising the coffee mug to take a sip. "I knew it."

In slightly eerie unison, Cameron and Chase turned to stare at him.

"What, like you never wondered?" he asked them, and then shook his head and went back to the conference room.

House turned away from this just in time to dodge the returning gapes of his less unflappable team members, and instead got to endure the stare of Wilson, which was... quite possibly just as awkward, actually. Wilson still looked sort of stunned and the mussed thing wasn't going to go away on its own, but the appalled look was fading and something much more alarmingly speculative was starting to take its place. Their legs were also still nearly brushing together, and House could feel the heat of Wilson's right thigh seeping into portions of his anatomy that really didn't need the stimulus right now.

"One of us," he said, aiming for casual and succeeding somewhat to his surprise, "should probably say something."

Wilson nodded with a dazed slowness. Someone behind him made a small sound, and House elected not to turn around and try and figure out which one. "Sure. You first."

Well, that was unfair. The one time he had no idea what to say, Wilson actually wanted him to talk.

"You..." Cameron said, and since it beat staring blankly at Wilson, House looked back over his shoulder at her again. "You... you..." Her eyes hadn't gotten any less wide, but her eyebrows had lowered, and her knuckles had gone white where she held the doorframe; her shoulders went up and down with the breaths she was sucking in. Chase was giving her the sort of look a man might give a live grenade he suddenly found himself standing next to. "You..."

It seemed like it might be a good time to try and defuse the situation. "He started it," House pointed out, tipping his head at Wilson.

"I... I what? I did not!" Wilson choked out, and House turned his attention back to him. Two high spots of color burned on his cheeks, and House couldn't tell if they were fury or... something else.

Well, it wasn't as though the situation could get much worse. "Yes you did."

"You kissed me," Wilson said, indignantly.

"Well, yeah. After you practically dared me to."

Cameron made a small, high-pitched sound, dragging House's gaze back to her. Chase, he noticed, had started to carefully edge away.

Foreman meandered back to the doorway with a fresh cup of coffee and gave Cameron a somewhat amused look. "If you two are going to keep doing that," he observed, indicating House and Wilson with a jerk of his chin, and it was a measure of the situation and how oddly comfortable House was with it that House actually had to give the position that he and Wilson were still in a glance before it registered what 'that' Foreman was referring to, "there's a storage room just down the hall that is not a solid mass of windows. You know, just in case you don't want this to be the talk of the hospital for the next week and Dr. Cuddy to be receiving letters about it for months."

"But think of the entertainment value," he said, weakly, and it suddenly occurred to him maybe Wilson and Cameron weren't the only shell-shocked ones here.

Or maybe it was just House and Cameron, because suddenly Wilson's face went from stunned to composed, and he nudged House back the other couple inches he needed to disentangle himself, then grabbed House's cane and handed it to him. House took it and stared somewhat blankly.

"We need to talk," Wilson told him, glancing over his shoulder at the tableau behind them. "Without an audience."

"Storage room?" House suggested. Maybe Wilson was starting to think clearly, but he still felt stunned.

"I was thinking my office, actually," Wilson countered.

"Well, that would still solve the windows problem," House said, as Wilson started for the door, dragging him along with one hand knotted in House's jacket. House went with him in a state of mild bemusement, trying to figure out when the hell he'd completely lost the upper hand here.

He got rolled eyes for this statement from Wilson. "You can have him back in an hour," he told House's team, and then, after a sidelong look, added, "Or maybe two."

Foreman snorted into his coffee mug, and Chase's eyebrows went up. Cameron confirmed her sudden essential kinship with House, though, by joining him in staring blankly at Wilson. "But... I... But it..." she said, weakly.

Odd, how House agreed with her there. Except Wilson was dragging him out into the hall, and House didn't get a chance to tell her what he was thinking, which would have been something along the lines of, 'I didn't actually mean for this to happen.'

A passerby in the hall gave them a strange look, but didn't say anything; the cluster of staring people House had been mildly fearing didn't actually seem to be there. Wilson finally let go of his coat as the door finished closing, and smiled at him. "I told you I could take you on."

This couldn't work. House knew it couldn't work. Him, and Wilson, and... this, when they were both so bad at relationships in their own unique ways--it had to be doomed, right? Except instead of thinking that, a large part of him was actually thinking, Huh, why didn't I think of this years ago?

Just think of the money it might have saved on Wilson's last wedding and divorce, for example. Not to mention the fact that Wilson had had a point, earlier; House hadn't been listening to him as much lately. Maybe it was spillover--trying so hard to deny this thing growing between them that he'd started denying other things about Wilson too, like the fact that House did and always had respected him. As an equal. An equal who was now stopped in front of the elevators, staring at him with lifted eyebrows and a growing look of concern, and it suddenly occurred to House that there'd been a very long pause between what Wilson had just said and now; he had to fish for a moment to even remember what the statement had been. Right, taking him on. "Yes. You did. And you were right." He paused a second. "We'll run some more tests on Miss... Maybe-It's-Vasculitis tomorrow."

"Because I kissed you?" Wilson asked, something House couldn't read in his eyes.

"Because you had a point. The kissing was just a delightful bonus."

Wilson's smile in response was like the sun coming out. "So."

"So," House responded, pushing the elevator button. "Did you mean 'talk', or did you mean... 'talk'?"

Wilson rolled his eyes again, shifting a little, and House realized with a certain amusement that the less rattled he was getting, the more nervous Wilson was becoming, as if they were attached to pulleys against each other's weight. "The first one. This is... I mean, it's... we're... not that that wasn't nice, but it..."

House smiled. "Right. So you and me in a room with no inconvenient windows or interrupting staff, and you expect--"

"House." He recognized that tone, exasperated and annoyed but not actually angry, and suddenly realized how much he'd missed it. Which might have bled into his smile, softening it or something, judging by Wilson's reaction. The elevator doors dinged open and they stood there for a long moment ignoring it, staring at each other with the sort of stupid, goofy grins that--if anyone had actually been on the elevator to see them--probably would have completely negated the luck of only getting caught in House's office by people he could terrorize into silence.

On second thought, maybe he was wrong to have worried about someone catching them; all things considered, they didn't have a prayer of everyone not getting it within a week.

"Right," House finally said, sticking out his cane and stopping the doors just before they closed, then limping into the elevator with a strangely chipper feeling about the rest of the day. "Well, come on and prove me wrong again. I think as long as you're involved I could get to like it."

Wilson kept smiling, and followed him.

(Common Knowledge)

The average Thursday was not supposed to be this hard--in fact, Chase usually liked Thursday. It was the day before Friday, which he liked even more, but the nice thing about Thursdays was the way people used them to plan for their Fridays. In short, it was the perfect time to find a date, or at least something fun and interesting to do for the weekend, and Chase had been making plans for canvassing the nursing pool for the rest of the day, probably starting in Radiology. The nurses there weren't the most attractive or the most witty or even the most fun, but somehow they always knew everything that was going on. In fact, it had been one of the girls in Radiology who confirmed Chase's suspicion that there was more going on between House and Dr. Wilson than just consults, back in the days before it had gotten to the point where the two of them were doing everything but flashing a neon sign. No, not the most obvious department for gossip, Radiology, but that was probably why they did so well--after all, everybody knew about Bookkeeping, so people were a lot more careful what they said around them.

But before Chase could get to Radiology--he'd hoped to make it before lunch, because if you let it go too long, the really interesting people or events would already be booked or full up--he had to survive his coworkers and the latest round of Wheel of Diagnostics. It shouldn't have taken long. Everything was going well for a change--no interfering billionaires, drama-producing ex-girlfriends, or looming divorces; even the patient side of things was running smoothly for the moment. Sally Anne Miller's vitals were stable, her responses to the latest treatment were so far positive, and her husband had finally been cowed into shutting up, a task at which Chase, Foreman, Cameron, and House had all failed spectacularly before Dr. Wilson had taken five minutes alone with the man, smiling the whole time, and somehow left Mr. Miller flinching every time one of them looked cross. Pulling off that particular trick had earned him a surprised look from Cameron and Foreman, a small smile from House, and a really abrupt mental reevaluation from Chase. Of course, the man had spent who-knows-how-many years dealing with House; coping with difficult personalities was probably down to an art form by now.

An art, but not a science, and not a perfect one in either case, because House, after mentioning the now pliant Mr. Miller, had just made a spectacularly suggestive comment about other talents and uses to which Wilson could put his mouth, and Dr. Wilson had turned a rather impressive pink that went really well with his green tie and guilty, too-wide eyes. Cameron and Foreman were both staring at him with slowly widening eyes of their own, and Wilson shot them a nervous glance and swallowed before looking down at the chart in his hands.

"Huh," House said contemplatively, after a moment during which the silence stretched. "I didn't actually think you'd blush."

Chase had the distinct feeling that this was going to take longer than he'd thought. Possibly even longer than he was thinking right now, judging by the slow looks of stunned comprehension creeping over his teammates' faces.

Cameron slowly leaned back in her chair, while House leaned back against the edge of the desk, looking bemused and sipping his coffee, and Wilson bit his lip, avoiding looking at anyone. "Please tell me," Cameron said, in a strangely flat voice, "that the two of you aren't... aren't..."

"Sleeping together," Chase supplied for her, because listening to that stretch out was just too painful. He wondered if it would be tacky or insensitive to try easing his chair away from her; he never had really gotten what the deal was between her and House, and still didn't know how much of it had been resolved. There was a chance she might spontaneously explode all over the room, and Chase hated to think about cleaning that up. On the other hand, there was a chance she might want to spend the night getting drunk, eating ice cream out of containers, and crying, and Chase actually thought he could work with that. They had compatible tastes in Breyers.

"I could say that..." House began, meditatively, staring upwards towards the ceiling, and Wilson closed his eyes and gave a small sigh of what looked like resignation, closing the folder as House finished, "except that would be lying, and lying is bad, right?"

Cameron's jaw dropped open slightly, and Wilson opened his eyes and gave House a vaguely disgusted stare. Foreman just looked... nakedly disbelieving, actually. "This is a joke, right?" he asked, leaning forward, elbows on his legs. "I mean, you're not..." Wilson and House exchanged a look, and Chase didn't really need any special skills to interpret that Wilson was silently promising House that there would be vengeance for this, later. "Jesus," Foreman said, sitting back up, "you really are."

"What, this is news?" Chase said, rolling his eyes, and instantly regretted it as everyone turned to stare at him.

"You knew?" Foreman said, after a minute. House raised his eyebrows and leaned back against the desk in what Chase had come to recognize as a, 'That's a good question, why don't you answer it?' pose. Great, he'd just been thrown to the sharks.

"'Course I knew," he said, lightly tapping his pencil on the pad in front of him. "I can't believe you didn't."

"You knew and you didn't tell us?" Cameron blurted, darting little wounded looks between him and House. House just gave her his trademark raised-eyebrows response, and Wilson seemed to be trying to blend in with the whiteboard. The lab coat worked for that, but the fading remnants of his flush didn't.

"I thought it was obvious!" Chase pointed out, then dropped his pencil and gestured expansively, "What did you need, snogging on the conference room table?"

Cameron and Foreman both glanced down at the table and shoved their chairs back in perfect unison, which resulted in the first three-party rolling of eyes Chase had ever been involved in. Whatever had been affecting Dr. Wilson earlier, he seemed to have snapped out of it; he shot House a look that pretty clearly said, 'This is your fault,' and tossed the chart onto the desk behind him.

"Oh come on," House said, ignoring Wilson in favor of continuing his disgusted stare at the rest of his team. "We have not... 'snogged'," he said, pronouncing the word with a sort of lofty disdain for the childishness of it, which was rich coming from a man who regularly ignored patients in favor of playing with his Game Boy, "on the conference room table."

"Though you probably shouldn't make the same assumption about either of the desks," Wilson muttered, looking down at the floor, in a voice that, while quiet, carried entirely too well in the sudden silence of the room.

Cameron's face went to a new level of appalled, and she gaped blankly at the paperwork spread out in front of her on the table. "I have to work at that desk!"

Chase rolled his eyes again and leaned back in his chair. "Oh come on, it's kissing, it's not like it's sex," he pointed out, staring at her. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught an expression on Foreman's face like Foreman hadn't even thought about that, and really hadn't wanted to.

Cameron turned to give him a disgusted look of her own, but Chase found himself suddenly distracted by an entirely different set of looks; House and Dr. Wilson were both acting uncomfortable now, each of them staring at the carpet, except they kept sneaking little sidelong glances at each other.

"You..." Chase said, honestly surprised for the first time in this whole conversation. "On the desks?" Foreman dropped his head into his hands. "Christ, what are you two, sixteen?"

"It was only the once," House said, a bit defensively.

"There are two desks," Chase pointed out. "It couldn't have only been the once."

"Well, technically--" House began, and Foreman's shoulders went rigid just before Cameron broke out with, "If you finish that sentence I swear to God I'll kill you with my pen."

After a momentarily silence, Foreman's voice, somewhat muffled, said, "Thank you, Dr. Cameron."

Dr. Wilson, Chase realized, was laughing, or maybe crying. He had one hand spread over his face, with the other tight across his chest, and his shoulders were shaking, anyway. House gave him a brief look that actually seemed concerned, and Wilson took his hand away and rested his chin on his fist. "No, go on, this is entertaining."

Foreman's shoulder's twitched, and Cameron's expression turned to a mixture of appalled and exhausted. Chase rolled his eyes again. "I don't see what the big deal is. I mean, okay, it's fairly disgusting that the two of you can't even manage not to have sex in our offices--"

"--In this hospital? Even the laundry rooms are constantly booked," House put in, in an undertone, which earned him a look from Wilson that Chase couldn't even read.

"--but it's not like everybody doesn't already know. I don't know how you two kept your blinders on this long," he added, to Foreman and Cameron.

"Cuddy doesn't know," House said, eyes narrowing.

"Yes she does," Chase replied. "She just pretends she doesn't so she can have plausible deniability."

Wilson and House exchanged a look. "...the Board?" Wilson said, tentatively, after a moment.

"Plausible deniability," Chase repeated, nodding. Foreman had finally raised his head and was watching this exchange like a spectator at a tennis match.

House's expression got very strange. "The cafeteria staff?"

"Do you think they ask everybody if they're separate or together?" Chase answered, trying his best to sound as skeptical as House seemed to manage effortlessly.

"...the Oncology Department?" Wilson asked, voice getting somewhat faint.

"Makes jokes about it when you're late for meetings, but defends you to all comers because if House cares about you, he's nicer to your department."

"I'm nicer to his department," House put in, sounding acidic, "because he's got it running so that it's the only one around here staffed by doctors who consistently think, rather than just coasting along."

Chase couldn't quite help a smirk. "Sure you are." House's gaze took on that dangerously level quality that suggested he was about to get lethally sarcastic, but before he could speak, Wilson broke in.

"I think we should probably break this up before we have to draw lots to decide who gets to kill Chase," he said, burying his hands in his lab coat pockets and smiling faintly. House glanced at him, gaze flicking between Wilson's smile and Wilson's pockets and back again, then got a small smile of his own.

"What?" Chase demanded, vaguely affronted. "I didn't do anything!"

"You are the only person I know," Foreman told him, "who could sit there after all that, say that, and believe it." Cameron made a small noise that sounded like agreement, and started gathering her papers up.

"We'll just be..." Wilson began, then paused and exchanged a quick look with House. "We'll be in my office, if anything comes up," he concluded, and then headed for the door at just a slightly faster walk than normal, holding it open for House to limp out before him. By a sort of mutual unspoken accord, everyone else watched them go in silence, no one speaking until they were out of sight down the hall.

"Should we even ask what that was about?" Foreman finally said.

Chase gave an easy shrug. "Probably they've gone off to have more of that sex that you somehow completely missed they were having--which they can do in Wilson's office without having to close all the blinds and thus pretty much announce that's what they're doing," he observed.

Cameron gave him another one of those open-mouthed appalled looks, but Foreman just rolled his eyes and stood up. "One, it was a rhetorical question. Two, you missed the actual sex bit as well. And three, thanks for the mental image. I'm going to go see if there're any particularly disgusting festering sores anywhere in the hospital to try and drive it away," he added, heading out the door himself. Which just left...

"Want me to get some ice cream so we can eat it together while you lament over lost opportunities?" Chase asked Cameron.

"Oh, grow up," she said, standing and snapping her files shut, then stormed out of the room in a way that made Chase feel sympathy for anyone unfortunate enough to cross her path until she'd gotten over her snit. So much for that idea.

Oh well. It wasn't lunchtime yet, and there were still the nurses in Radiology to help salvage the day.

(Till Death Do Us Snark)

Because it was Friday, their latest patient was recovered and on his way out the door, and traffic had been unusually bad that morning, Cameron didn't attach a great deal of significance to House's absence at first. He could be late, or he could be here and just avoiding his office for some reason, or he might even have gotten in before she had, dumped his stuff off in his office, and be out prowling the hospital corridors bothering the staff and the occasional patient; the months since Foreman had joined the team, with Vogler and Stacy and everything else, had changed him somewhat, but not enough that he was ever eager to get down to work. The fact that something might be wrong didn't even occur to her until Dr. Cuddy appeared, an hour into the morning, looking severely harassed and singularly annoyed. Which was an expression that Cameron was admittedly used to seeing on Cuddy's face when House was involved, but it seemed a bit more intense than usual, particularly for this early in the day.

"Good morning," she told them, and Chase, whose eyes had fixed on her cleavage the instant she entered the conference room, guiltily jerked his attention back up to her face. Dr. Cuddy rewarded this with the slight upward twitch of her eyes, evocative of an eyeroll without actually being one, that it deserved; Cameron hid a smile, and caught Foreman doing the same from his position in front of the coffee machine.

"Where's Dr. House?" Foreman asked Cuddy, and the almost-a-smile she had started to get, observing this exchange, vanished back into the set annoyance of earlier.

"Actually, that's what I came to talk to you about," she began, and then hesitated before going on.

Cameron gave her a quick once-over for clues to just how serious the situation was. Fairly standard purple-and-gray powersuit, no help there, the file-folder under her arm was unlabeled, and about the only thing that Dr. Cuddy's taste in jewelry had ever taught Cameron was that she was highly attracted to shiny things. Her shoes, though, were another story: solid black, with toes pointy enough to puncture things, heels tall enough that Cameron suspected she would never be able to actually walk in them, no matter how well Cuddy managed it, and a single narrow strap circling her ankle that was more a decoration than a useful method of keeping her in them. Those were not every-day shoes; those were hot date, important evening event, or 'my life has handed me a situation so intense I need some seriously ass-kicking powerpump' shoes.

Oh God, what had House done now?

"Dr. House..." Cuddy began, then paused again, and across the table from Cameron, Chase leaned forward slightly, looking worried.

"He's not... sick, or something, is he?" he asked, and he sounded genuinely upset about even the possibility. Cameron had started to give up hope of ever figuring out that relationship.

"No," sighed Dr. Cuddy. "That would actually probably be easier to handle. Then again, given what a horrible patient he is, maybe not. At least with this he's not actually here. Though when he gets back..."

"He left?" Foreman sounded surprised.

"He didn't say anything about this last night," Cameron added.

"Well, he did say he was tired. Spontaneous vacation?" Chase suggested.

"In a manner of speaking," Cuddy said. She sighed again, and then said, bluntly, "He eloped."

There was a moment of absolute silence during which Cameron tried to decide if she'd heard that right or not. She didn't think there was anything wrong with her hearing, but... surely he couldn't have, wouldn't have... without even saying anything...

"He what?" Chase blurted.

"Eloped," Cuddy repeated, enunciating very carefully. "Ran away to get married. Blackmailed me into giving him the vacation time before I even knew what it was for--and don't ask me how he did that. I'm trying to repress the entire memory."

"Damn," Foreman said. "I didn't even know he was seeing anybody."

"Neither did I," Cameron said, much more weakly, staring blankly at the empty whiteboard just past Cuddy's shoulder. She'd... Well, okay, what had existed between them didn't really qualify her for an obligatory notice if House had started to see someone, but she still thought he would have... mentioned it, at least in passing. And certainly if it was something serious enough for him to get married, she felt like she should have known. Should have noticed, but nothing had seemed at all different from his usual routine--it wasn't as if he'd been spending any less time at the office, or come in with lipstick on his collar, or anything. It was a complete surprise, and as such, despite how much she'd changed during those same intervening months since the end of what little she and House had had, she wasn't entirely sure how she was supposed to feel, let alone how she did feel.

Not that there weren't some things that she was aware of that she'd almost rather not be feeling. Betrayal? Yes. Jealousy? A bit. And... something like relief? All right, she could admit that was there, too. Because... it felt oddly like she was finally off the hook, somehow. And she liked House, if 'like' was the right word for the complex and often churning mix of irritation, attraction, affection, and sympathy that he seemed to inspire in her. But one of the things that had gotten her to slowly edge backwards from their... potential relationship, if you could even call it that, was a realization she'd come to sometime during the whole mess with Stacy: House didn't need a girlfriend, or even a wife; he needed a keeper. Possibly one who came with a frying pan to hit him over the head with from time to time. She didn't have the resources to serve that function with him; as much as she'd wanted to fix him, it had been a somewhat sobering realization when it occurred to her that if she couldn't, she had no real chance of enduring him.

"He... I mean... he... wow," Chase said, looking stunned. And a bit like he felt almost as confused as she did by this revelation. "Who... is she?"

Which brought up a whole new thought, and briefly let concern dominate the mix of emotions Cameron was trying to sort out--if she hadn't been up to it, what if whomever he had picked was even worse, but hadn't had the sensibility to realize that and back down? What if... This hadn't been thought out, couldn't have been thought out; what if he'd married the wrong person? The last thing he needed was to go through a messy divorce; she could still remember entirely too well how bad things had gotten when Wilson was going through his, and that had just been pain by proxy.

"This'll probably be good," Foreman said, with a smile.

Cuddy opened her mouth to reply, then closed it and her eyes for a minute. "I hate him," she said, to no one in particular, and in an oddly conversational tone. "I hate him and I swear to God I will get revenge for this, someday, somehow."

An inkling of just what could account for both the lack of new signs that House was in a relationship and Cuddy's reaction suddenly came to Cameron, and she got partway into thinking, Oh no. He couldn't possibly have--

"He's getting married to Dr. Wilson," Cuddy said, eyes still closed, in an oddly clipped and strangely sharp voice, as though at any second she was going to start screaming.

Oh my God, Cameron thought. He did

Foreman, she suddenly realized, was choking; he'd made the mistake of taking a sip of coffee at exactly the wrong moment and had inhaled it instead. Chase just looked sort of blank, as though he couldn't process what he'd just heard. And Cameron... started to giggle.

"But that's not even legal," Chase bleated, and Cameron giggled harder, pressing her hands to her mouth. This was either hysteria or the situation's actual comic potential, and she wasn't sure which, but she couldn't seem to stop.

"Which is why they flew to Toronto instead of Vegas," Cuddy replied, and then gave Cameron a slightly worried look. Cameron risked freeing a hand long enough to give her an 'I'm fine, really' wave, which she suspected was a lie, but it prompted Cuddy to continue, "It won't be legally binding in this country, which led to a rant about spousal rights from House that I could have done without, but Dr. Wilson insisted that was only because House secretly yearns to be a stay-at-home wife, which come to think of it is another thing I could have forgone. But I understand that House does plan to scare people with their wedding rings."

Foreman gave his coffee cup a deeply suspicious look, as if he'd started to wonder if someone had spiked the contents, and Cameron, who had just about gotten her giggles under control, went off again.

"They left me," Cuddy went on, in a soul-weary voice, "to deal with the collective apoplexies the hospital board members are going to have as soon as they hear about this. Though Dr. Wilson at least had the good grace to look apologetic."

"Are they gonna fire him?" Chase asked, back to looking worried again.

"They can't," Cameron pointed out, through the trailing end of her giggles; they were nearly hiccups now. Definitely at least in part hysteria. "It would be discrimination."

"But they can scream bloody murder and make my life a living hell over it," Cuddy said, with another sigh. "You know what? Do me a favor. When my head explodes from the strain, make House wear a suit and tie to the funeral? If I'm going to die for him, he should be forced to pretend he's an adult until I'm safely in the ground."

Foreman finally seemed to gather enough of his wits to speak, although he had put down the coffee cup and kept giving it dubious glances. "Wilson. James Wilson. Head of Oncology."

Cuddy gave him an exasperated look. "How many Wilsons do you think we have running around here? Oh, no," she abruptly added, briefly looking towards the ceiling, "now there's a terrible thought. What if they breed?" The last word was plaintively drawn out.

Chase's face took on a new level of appalled. "I'm pretty sure that's anatomically impossible," he said.

"Oh God, that's a mental image that's going to haunt me," Cameron muttered, and briefly closed her eyes, snapping them open again when the vision of a pregnant Dr. House threatened to invade the back of her eyelids.

It meant, however, that she did catch the end of Dr. Cuddy giving an impressive eyeroll. "Not with each other, obviously, but I wouldn't care if they found a surrogate mother or adopted. The thought of House raising a child fills me with dread for the future of humanity."

There was a... not pregnant, she didn't want to think about pregnant right now, but certainly at least an expectant silence while everyone considered this.

"I think it would probably be best to not think about it," Chase finally said.

"And discourage him if he ever brings it up," Foreman added.

"I think Dr. Wilson is probably smart enough to deal with the issue himself," Cameron said, firmly, and Cuddy shot her another speculative look. But now that the initial shock, and yes, the initial sting of disappointment, were wearing off, Cameron found that if she couldn't exactly say she liked the idea, it was... strangely workable. Actually, she was a little annoyed with herself, since even with all the blatant jokes and references to Chase's obvious attractiveness it had never once occurred to her that House might not be anything other than a perfectly heterosexual man who just enjoyed saying the worst possible thing. But all of those things did mean it wasn't entirely surprising to realize that he wasn't totally straight now, and it certainly didn't surprise her at all that it was Wilson. She'd always envied Wilson at least a little for how much House let him in past his defenses--those same defenses she'd found herself beating her head against again and again, with no success. And while Dr. Wilson wasn't the type to hit people over the head with frying pans, the fact that he didn't frontally assault those walls of House's, and instead undermined them, didn't make his tactics any less effective. Given that it was House, really, it was possible they were more likely to work.

And to be honest, while it didn't necessarily say good things about her, Cameron was... actually relieved it wasn't another woman, or someone new he'd met. That bit of jealousy she couldn't quite ignore probably would have been much worse if it had been; on some odd level, though, it felt like Wilson had a prior claim.

Plus... on the purely shallow level, they were actually sort of cute together.

"Anyway, I thought I should give you the news first, before you heard it from the hospital gossips, who are going to have a field day with this," Cuddy said, briefly looking skyward. "Also, Dr. Cameron, House wanted me to give you this," she added, opening the file folder and passing over a sheet of paper, folded in half. Cameron's name was scribbled across one side of it in House's own unique brand of doctor's handwriting.

Cameron took it with raised eyebrows, and flipped it open without too much worry for the way Foreman and Chase were both leaning in to try and read over her shoulders. It wasn't that House wasn't fully capable of saying something horribly embarrassing to her; it was just that, to her occasional regret, nothing had ever happened to get really embarrassed about. The note inside was short to the point of being blunt, anyway. Not that she'd really expected anything else.


I thought about telling you with this note or a phone message, but I figured it'd be more fun all around if Cuddy got to do it. Sorry for the lack of notice. If we ever renew our vows, you can be Maid of Honor.

Greg House

PS: Tell Chase I wasn't ever actually serious about the flirting. Foreman is much more attractive than him anyway, unless you go in for the puppy dog thing.

Chase, she noticed from the corner of her eye, looked vaguely offended, and Foreman looked like he was torn between amusement and horror. Cameron felt the giggles threaten again, and carefully folded the note up. "I see," she said, in her best, most modulated, completely in control voice.

Cuddy gave her a look like she knew exactly what a performance that was, and a brief twitch of a smile like she'd been where Cameron was right now herself, earlier, and Cameron found herself wondering if that wasn't true; after all, there were all those jokes and rumors about her and House--had there ever been any substance to them? Was Dr. Cuddy, too, trying to cope with this surreal mixture of relief and regret and possibly inappropriate amusement? Cameron couldn't really ask now, but she gave the other woman a small smile of her own, and made a mental note to try and talk to her alone sometime in the near future.

Always assuming dealing with the Board didn't actually end in her death. Though as far as that went, Cameron didn't think they would kill her; she was more worried that Cuddy, foreseeing all the future repercussions of this, might try to use them to kill herself.

"Maybe it'll be a good thing," she offered out loud. Chase and Foreman both gave her nearly identical skeptical sidelong looks, but didn't actually say anything.

Cuddy, on the other hand, did, after a sigh. "I'd be a lot happier about someone finally putting a leash on him if I didn't half suspect they'll be having sex in the exam rooms every time my back is turned." Chase turned sort of green at this thought, but Foreman actually laughed, and Cameron had to bite down on an inappropriate urge to point out that they probably already had been. "Although that gives me a really dreadful idea for a wedding present."

"A choke chain?" Foreman suggested.

"Wouldn't work on a person," Cuddy pointed out, in what Cameron found an oddly matter-of-fact voice, given the subject matter. "I'm thinking a prong collar, leash, and a book on dog training. One of the ones that emphasizes discipline and control, not one of the newer ones with all the rewards and cuddling," she finished, with a much brighter expression on her face than she'd had all morning. Foreman laughed again, but Chase's mouth was hanging slightly open, and Cameron wasn't actually sure what her expression was; she was trying to deal with the mental image of House wearing a leash held by Wilson, which made the second really bizarre picture she really didn't need that she'd gotten today.

This, she decided, called for some merciless teasing when House got back. She and Foreman could work as a team. Maybe they could join forces with Dr. Cuddy. She'd invite Chase along to play as well, but he looked a bit like he was giving Cuddy a preview of the apoplexies of the board by having one of his own.

"Ugh, ew, I did not particularly need the image of their doubtless kinky and perverted sex life that that just gave me," he said, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes. Cameron gaped at him, and Foreman made a noise a bit like a cat choking up a hairball. Cuddy took this all in for a second, her eyes wide in an expression that could have been disbelieving or appalled or any number of things, and then broke into a grin for a long moment before turning around, hands pressed to her face. She was either, Cameron decided, fighting off murder, tears, or the same hysterics that Cameron had been through earlier, but in any case it had to have been a relief for Chase, because they stopped staring at him to stare at her.

When she turned back around, after a much shorter time than any of the possibilities would have taken Cameron, her eyes were suspiciously shiny and she couldn't quite seem to keep the corners of her mouth from twitching upwards. "You know, I was actually really annoyed House for making me tell you, but in retrospect?" She shook her head slightly, but didn't elaborate further. The not-quite-a-smile went away, and her usual business-like expression took back over, as she said, "I'm giving you all the rest of the day off. I'd appreciate it if you'd clear out promptly and avoid the place until Monday, when the worst of the explosions should be over. Your presence would probably just add fuel to the fire. Go... get drunk or buy your own inappropriate presents or something." She looked at them a minute, the corners of her lips quirking again, before she gave another headshake and strode out of the room. Just before she went out the door, Cameron thought she heard her mutter, "Oh, I am going to have so much fun tormenting him about this..."

There was another definitely-not-pregnant pause while everyone looked at each other, and then away from each other to the floor or the furniture or the windows, and then back at each other.

"Bar?" Foreman finally said.

"Oh, yes, definitely bar," Chase replied, fervently.

"Can we even find one that's serving this time of day, though?" Cameron asked, glancing at her watch. "It's not even noon yet."

"You'd be surprised," Foreman answered her, "But even if there weren't usually any, I bet we can get alcohol out of someone. If we have to, we can explain our boss just got married and we want to properly salute that."

"By getting so completely shitfaced that we forget about it?" Chase asked, hopefully.

"Oh come on, it's not that bad," Cameron said, fighting down an urge to roll her eyes.

"Wilson," Chase reiterated.

"I think it's sort of sweet," she insisted, and ignored the way they exchanged an 'I don't get her' look over her head. "Besides, maybe he'll be in a better mood."

"Don't take this the wrong way," Foreman said, "but House in a better mood scares me. I don't think he'd be any less a bastard, I think then he'd just be doing it purely for fun."

There was another pause while everyone contemplated that.

"Okay, definitely bar," Cameron said.

"I knew you'd come around," Chase said, standing up. Foreman looked relieved, and dumped out his coffee, which almost brought on another bout of giggles as Cameron stood up herself.

"You should have seen your face," Cameron told him, as they grabbed their things.

"My face? You should have seen your own."

"We all probably looked pretty stunned, there," Chase said, shrugging into his leather jacket. Cameron exchanged a glance with Foreman and read the exact same thought in his face about Chase's expression, and suspected that they were going to spend the rest of the day finding really inappropriate moments to say, "Kinky sex!" to him, just to see the reaction. "You know," Chase went on, "I bet that she's off somewhere right now laughing at us. How much do you want to bet?"

"Not taking that one," Foreman said with a laugh, heading for the door and holding it open for them. "Kinda makes me surprised House didn't arrange to be here to watch our reactions when we learned the news himself."

"That does seem a bit lacking in foresight for him, doesn't it?" Chase asked, as he exited.

"Yeah, well, maybe in another universe," Cameron said, following him into the hall, and Foreman let the door close behind her.