Author's Note: Here's a fic that became something much longer and more complex than I ever imagined when I began it: A look at House and Wilson's friendship and how it developed, with glimpses at points in their lives over the past eight years or so.
With much thanks to Auditrix for her suggestions and betas and the folks at HT&M for their feedback as I was writing it.
Completed September 2005
When Cuddy first offered House his own department and all the perks that came with it, he had demanded possession of the connecting rooms in the hospital's new wing. He'd been ready to play the cripple card, and argue that the faculty offices in the older part of the hospital where Wilson hung his lab coat were too far to walk on his painful leg.
Cuddy had agreed quickly, though, muttering something under her breath that led House to believe that her real reasoning was the same one that had prompted his third grade teacher to seat him and Tony Clarke on opposite sides of the room after the first two weeks of class.
Truth was, he liked the view. The glass walls of the office and conference room looked out on a main hallway leading to the labs. Anyone needing tests, x-rays or scans passed by, some under their own power, some in wheelchairs, others on gurneys.
And House would sometimes test himself. He'd see a patient passing by, and come up with a diagnosis before they'd moved beyond his eyesight, then he'd send Chase or Cameron out to confirm it. Foreman had rolled his eyes the first time House tried sending him out, agreeing only after setting a $50 wager on it. Since then, Foreman had refused, saying he couldn't afford to lose any more bets.
House rarely looked out the windows looking to the outside world. The glass there faced the parking lot and main road -- a sea of asphalt, concrete and late-model cars.
"God, but this is a depressing view," Wilson often commented whenever he'd part the blinds. The older wing housing Wilson's office looked out at a green field and trees. A corner of the old fieldhouse and track were visible off to the left.
House met Wilson on that track. Wilson had been a resident, House already on tenure track when he'd felt a need to work off a rising level of frustration with the young doctors he had been ordered to supervise.
He'd just spotted Chilton at the nurses' station, chatting with a brunette. House had already been in a foul mood, and now seeing Chilton there -- rather than running the blood test he'd been ordered to do -- set him off.
"I wrote up the lab order," Chilton had whined. "They'll get to it soon enough."
"I didn't tell you to order it," House had said. "I'm pretty sure I ordered you to do it."
"Why should I? The lab can ..."
"Because as far as you are concerned I am your lord and master." House ignored the floor nurse trying to get him to lower his voice. "I am God. And the lord your God demands it. Also because the lab has a limited staff on overnights and it'll take them at least four hours to get to something you can finish in 15 minutes."
Even then Chilton hadn't budged until House stared him down, then he moved only grudgingly down the hall.
House was fairly certain if he didn't pound some pavement, he'd pound Chilton instead -- and that wouldn't do either of them any favors.
He would have preferred a long run on the trails down the road, but at 3 a.m., you take what you can get, and there was enough ambient light at the nearby fieldhouse to make the track runable even in a total eclipse.
Someone else was already on the track when he got there, but in the dim light he couldn't make out who. House waited until the other runner passed him, then waited until the man rounded the first turn before he stepped onto the surface himself. House would have preferred to have the track to himself, but if he couldn't do that, at least he could turn the man into his rabbit, using him as an incentive to keep the pace fast, to catch the other runner and pass him.
But more than a mile in, House wasn't making any headway. He was in a comfortable pace for him, easily less than a six-and-a-half-minute mile, he guessed, a pace that the bulk of the bulk working at the hospital couldn't match, but he wasn't gaining on this runner. The white t-shirt bouncing along the track in front of him almost seemed to be mocking him.
He stepped it up, felt his breath come a little faster as he picked up the cadence. Another mile in, he could sense he was gaining again. One more lap and he knew it, the white shirt growing closer with every step. As the front runner cleared the third turn, though, he looked back over his shoulder, eyed House and picked up his own pace. House was certain he'd seen a smile on that face as the man began to pull away.
House grunted, glad for the challenge, and responded to the change in tempo, first settling into the new pace set by the runner, then pushing it up another notch.
Lap by lap, House and the man took turns setting the pace. House had a sudden image of the two of locked into this contest forever. He was closing slowly, but they'd matched speeds for more than five miles now. House knew it had been too long since he'd really pushed it on a long run to keep up for much longer. Too many long shifts, sleepy days and bar nights.
He fell back on an old trick, and began to whistle, as if the pace was no more than an easy stroll. The maneuver would mean he'd have to slow down, he knew, but House also had seen more than one runner on the track or trails back in college fall victim to the simple psych out.
Half a lap more, and the other man finally slowed, stopped, than lay on his back on the damp grass of the infield.
He was still breathing heavily when House passed him, then stopped and walked over to stand over him.
"I surrender!" the other man said, holding out both hands.
"Damn straight," House plopped down onto the grass beside him, sucked in the damp night air. "Know when you're licked."
"Self awareness," the younger man said, still panting heavily. "Is the key."
"Unless you've got a good disguise."
"So they'll never know it's you."
"Then I'm all about the deception."
"Deceit does have its benefits." The other man pushed himself up to his elbows, looked over at House in the dim light. "James Wilson," he said, reaching over with his right hand.
"Yeah, like I'm supposed to believe a word you say now." He pushed himself to his feet, reached down and gave Wilson a hand up. "Gregory House. If you can believe that."
"Nah, can't be. Chilton says House is a self-absorbed prick. Of course, Chilton is an ass with so few signs of intelligence, I'm not sure he actually counts as a sentient being."
"It has been my finding that most air headed imbeciles spend their lives in fear of sharp objects."
"Understandable, since the slightest pin prick could be fatal."
Both men turned back toward the lights, and House could feel his mood had definitely improved.
"Just do me a favor, and tell me you hadn't already finished 10k before I showed up," he said. "Not that my ego couldn't take it, but it would take some of the joy out of running you into the ground."
"I'm not saying anything. Just try and catch up some day when I haven't pulled 36 hours straight."
"Is that an invitation, or a challenge, Wilson -- if that is your real name?"
"What makes you think it's not a warning?" Wilson smiled as he headed toward the parking lot, leaving House alone in the pool of light at the ER entrance.
House made the time for a long run next time he saw Wilson on the track, this time running with him, rather than in competition. When their conversation veered effortlessly from favorite routes to preferred spots to filch coffee with sidetracks into pop culture, he was satisfied. When Wilson threw out a quick, but thorough, comparison between Pearl Jam and Black Flag, he was pleased. When the younger doctor kept up his end as the conversation turned to the history of supporting the arts through all its twists and turns, House believed he was actually happy.
"So when Lorenzo the Magnificent bankrolled Michelangelo, that was just swell, but somehow Miller Brewing sponsoring Bon Jovi is the end of civilization as we know it?" Wilson said as they rounded another turn, side by side.
"Glad you see it my way," House said. "And I'll try to overlook your taste in both music and beer."
Within a month, they were setting regular times to meet for a run, finding time to squeeze in daytime haunts along both trails -- House's favorite -- and Wilson's preferred road routes.
House checked out Wilson's history at the hospital, and heard nothing but praise for the oncologist. That made him vaguely suspicious until one day when he was slouched in comfortable chair in a staff room and overheard Wilson taking a stand against a recommended treatment by a more experienced doctor. He remained where he was, hidden from the view of the gaggle of residents by a column.
Wilson laid out his case well, offered strong reasons for his preferred treatment and did not back down when the other doctor tried to laugh him off as an inexperienced practitioner. The chief agreed to take both under consideration. Curious, House checked it out for himself, passing off his clinic hours on one of his own residents while he did his research, and came down firmly on Wilson's side.
He soon discovered Wilson had been checking him out as well. The younger doctor appeared at House's elbow one afternoon, appearing far too young and irredeemably optimistic to House's eyes. It had been a bad day and House was in a foul mood, backed up with a monotony of cases, feeble residents and no way out of clinic duty.
At least the rest of the staff had taken the hint and steered clear of him. Wilson either did not know how dark House's moods could turn, or simply ignored the possibility.
"And you're here, why?"
To his credit, Wilson didn't flinch, and returned House's direct gaze. He held out a manila folder.
"Got a weird case."
House made no response, didn't even acknowledge the file.
"A 49-year-old female, not responding to the radiation or chemo. At least not in expected ways."
"You're surprised that when you fill a body with poison that it reacts strangely? I thought unusual reactions were what the cancer guys thrived on. Good for the research papers and all that. Publish or perish you know. Hell, play your cards right and you might even get a research grant out of it. Impress the folks back home without the necessity of actually curing anything."
Wilson didn't back off. Instead, he moved in closer, leaning against the side of House's desk, keeping the file well within House's sight.
"I don't think it's cancer," he said softly. "Or at least not just cancer. We've got good people, but they're all looking at the tumor. She needs someone who can see what else is going on."
House studied the young man again. Brown hair cut simply. Plain white shirt. Dark pants. Tasteful if forgettable tie. Dressed as if he was trying to blend in. But there was something else. Something that made him stand out despite every intention. House could see it now. An intensity. A sureness -- not like a surgeon's belief in his own infallibility, but rather in something bigger: In the cause of his patient, and finding the right answer.
"This isn't my field," House said, though he took the folder.
"Neither is Australian rules football, but that doesn't seem to stop you from offering your opinion."
It was Wilson who introduced House to monster trucks. It was House who schooled Wilson on the finer points of scotch and Irish whiskey.
Wilson was already married then, to his first wife Amy, but House knew it wouldn't last. She had left her family and friends in St. Louis, traveled more than 1,500 miles to live with the man she'd met her freshman year of college. Amy loved the idea of being married to a doctor more than the reality of it. In Princeton, she knew no one except a husband who spent the bulk of his time at the hospital, even when he wasn't on call if he was working on a particularly interesting case.
She began traveling back to St. Louis for holidays and birthdays. She took advantage of air price wars to make weekend trips. She'd extend her stay by a day or two, then began staying for up to a week each time she flew out. House began to notice things missing from the apartment when he'd stop by to pick up Wilson. Photos. Mementos. Amy was erasing herself from Princeton with every trip home.
When Wilson told him he was afraid it was over, he seemed shocked, and House managed to to fight his own first instincts for a scathing reply and keep his mouth shut. He offered Wilson an understated support instead. This time, for this person, it seemed to be the right thing to do.