House had walked back into the bedroom, as if the piano provided some secret respite. Head reeling, Wilson kept in stride with him. His face bristled from where House had leaned close, body rippling like a field cut through by wind. The absence of an embrace was blatantly cruel.

"Cameron never even called," House said shortly. "I just assumed that's where you would be."

"That's a lie."

"Check the answering machine."

"What for? You'd just delete what you wouldn't want me to hear anyway."

"I wouldn't bother anymore, Wilson. You're apt to tell me anything if I give you the opportunity to."

"Do you think I'm that easy to mess with?"


Wilson ran a hand through his mussed brown hair. His chest felt like an ice sculpture left out in the sun too long, and now it was ready to be wheeled back out to the ocean, poured into another nondescript tumult that he could never quite surge above. House sat down on the bench, swinging his legs around to one side—one smoothly, one stiffly. It was how he acted, too, Wilson realized. His laconic cynicism sheltered every humane instinct he tried so desperately to eradicate. Not this time.

House had barely played three measures when Wilson hastily came up behind him, touching his face and leading his mouth to his.

Spearmint toothpaste, coffee, a fading undercurrent of whiskey.

The blend of tastes was stunningly more realistic than Wilson had expected. He'd pictured this moment like a crumpled postcard or sorts: something short, brief, reduced down to the absolute necessity; something that carried not much depth in description, but the sharpness of the picture was what mattered.

Every second rushed him closer to the inevitable moment when it would be over, when House would roughly shove him away. Wilson half-expected their friendship to be tossed out as well. There was no explaining a kiss. Reasons went numb on his tongue.

Now, he's going to now…

Wilson winced as he felt House's hand on his shoulders. But instead, House's fingers slid up into his hair, entangling in the short brown locks that dangled against his nape. A surprised moan escaped Wilson's mouth as he slowly kneeled on the bench, moving around to sit beside House, then in front of him, so warm underneath, lips reluctant to part. Stopping meant talking, talking meant explaining, explaining meant ending.

Not yet.

"Leg," House murmured.

It took him a second, but Wilson vaguely noticed he'd practically thrown his whole weight on House. Not good, especially with his left knee dangerously close to House's bad thigh. Stroking a tentative hand apologetically through House's hair, Wilson leaned back and let him move forward.

Too far—

Wilson's arms flailed, grasping for balance in House's shirt as he toppled backwards, spine colliding with the piano and sparking a raucous barrage of notes that tormented the air. Both immediately stopped, the interruption of sound cutting through to reason.

House ducked his head, as if humility was something that floated innocuously just below eye contact, drifting amid the half-space between he and his friend. Wilson wanted to lean in and pick up where they left off, but a diverging chasm was slipping between them; he could feel it. It frightened him.

House cleared his throat. "Most people make out on a couch, not a bench. I don't know. It's more, uh, comfortable, maybe?"

"House." Wilson gazed back at him. The other man still had his eyes focused on his mouth, close and yet not touching. Arms were entwined; Wilson was surprised, but encouraged, at the strength with which House held him near. "Look." He wet his lips, voice strained and struggling for breath. "Look at me."

"I am. God. Jimmy."

"I—can we—?"

House spoke quickly, voice gravelly, still watching the breath move in and out between Wilson's swollen lips, feeling his chest rise and fall against his own. "It took you how many failed marriages to realize you liked men?"

Wilson was already shaking his head. On some level, he'd expected the question. "It took me nearly twenty years to realize I was in love with you."

"Great line. Use it often?"

"Saved it for you."

A revelatory flicker passed sporadically through House's blue orbs. Wilson tried to keep him still with his own eyes, grasping for the evasive vulnerability that clung just below House's surface. He wanted to tell him. Everything. This was not some lustful feeling he was falling into as if it were a random, convenient crack in the sidewalk. This was not something that he'd take one dose of to feel better about himself. This was not something that only temporarily clogged the pain, and would merely let it fester and gather like bacteria until it draped every emotion in curtains of dusk. No.

This, Wilson realized, wasn't selfish. It was not fleeting.

The doorbell rang.

The younger man moved close again, but House evaded his lips, touching a finger to them. He stared off over Wilson's shoulder, eyes clouded.


The doorbell rang again.


"Get up, Jimmy."

"Forget the damn takeout."



"Come on, James."

House pushed at Wilson's chest, causing the younger man to catch his balance again by reaching backwards, his palms landing on random piano keys once more. The sound scraped painfully against his ears.

"Stop. Ignore it. It doesn't matter." Wilson fumbled to touch his face again, but House had slid himself off of the bench and was leaving the bedroom. "Please."

House stalled for a second in the doorway. Framed in the hallway light, Wilson watched his lanky frame shake slightly with a breath.

Turn around.

A plummeting feeling accosted Wilson as he hung in the balance. Helpless, spiraling. As a child, that same sensation came from bleeding knees and a desperate tug at a mother's skirt for attention; he'd felt it again during that numb night only a few months ago—his chest exploding in a cataclysmic burst of flares—lying side-by-side with Julie as he realized they were miles, eons, lives apart.

It was that same feeling. Wilson stood up on weak knees and made his way over to House, wrapping his arms around him again, encouraging the other to lay down his guard. Lips again. Somewhat soft, unexpectedly, rimmed in prickling facial hair that felt strange, but not uncomfortable. Warm. Deep. Divulging.

The doorbell rang.

House cut him off, pulling away as if he'd just pressed sensitive skin to a blue-white flame, scorching himself. Wilson struggled to keep him close, but he watched the erosion of affection in House's eyes.

He ran his hands under the collar of House's shirt, even as House took an awkward step back. Wilson was captivated by his expression; it was some melancholic preservation he found in its decomposition—the crumbling of eyes, the downward fall of lips, the wrinkles that rippled across skin as though reality had wrought chaos below the surface.

Wilson wondered if sometimes he felt alive because he hurt so much.

But no. He felt alive now; he was spilling over the brim with the intensity of it here, now, so close, wrapped up consensually, physically and emotionally tied, bound, in a shared gaze.

"Tell me." Wilson pressed a light kiss to his lips. Once, light, barely a brush. He let it float between them. "Tell me truth."

House gazed back at him. Floated away.

"The doorbell's ringing."


Hey, Jimmy.


I wasn't sure if you were going to talk to me.

I invited you to come along, didn't I?

For a little bit anyway. If I get too sarcastic, I'm left to hitchhike, right?

No, I like the sarcasm. Although that cane is a great way to make people nice to you.

Pff. Yeah, right. In theory.




Are you ignoring me?

No. Just thinking.

What about? Me?

No. My stomach's a bit queasy, that's all. Must've been the Chinese last night.

You didn't eat any.

Oh yeah. Right.



Could you stop calling me that?

No. It's habitual now. Besides, you like it.

You're making this hard.

Not so hard. It's not like you've gone off to live in exile. I'll see you tomorrow.

You won't even look at me. You'll send Cameron or Foreman or Chase to talk to me about the patient like I've contracted some plague. Shit, you'll avoid the entire oncology department. I know it.

Maybe. For a few days.

Why? Is it that hard to be open with someone?

You told me you loved me.

And you got distracted with takeout.

Don't simplify this.

I'm not. I'm just confused.

So am I. So just…give me a few days.

And then…

Then it will go back to normal.


Yeah. Banter back and forth, you listen as I talk, you offer advice I should take but can't.

Are you really afraid I'll change you? That's not what I want to do.

But you have already.


Here's the apartment. Up this street. Brick building; second story.

Isn't this the one with the toilet…?

Let's not discuss it, all right? It's only temporary until I find somewhere else.

Or you could just fix the plumbing.

Or I could just fix the plumbing.

Is it this one here?

Yep. See? The one with the bushes out front.

Laced in poison ivy?

I wasn't going to be picky.

No, but you're sure going to be itchy.

You coming in?

I think I'll stay here.

Oh. All right.

But… You do know you can come over sometime, right?

Not now.

No. Not for a few days. Give me some time.

Right. Some time.

But you know where I'll be, Jimmy.

Yeah. Right at home.