After my Home/Change/Trust trilogy wrapped up, I realized I still had some stories left to be told. You don't have to read the other three stories to get this one, but here's what happened for a brief overview:
Home: Wilson kisses House; ultimately avoid relationship
Change: House convinces Wilson to stay; ultimately accept relationship
Trust: House and Wilson maintain their relationship despite potentially tempting situations
This story consists of a chess game, a series of vignettes, and everyone else's reaction to Wilson and House's relationship. As always, reviews are greatly appreciated, particularly with this first chapter. I have some future ones sketched out and in the process, but I'd love to know what you think. Thanks!
The chessboard was nothing particularly special. Made of wooden squares—some dyed mahogany and others left in pallor grains—it originally came with a full set of brown and cream-colored pieces. A series of pawns, a king, a queen, and two each of bishops, rooks, and horses set neatly on the playing table, little figurines set to move out onto their field of battle. The only missing piece was a rook, one that House had used to prop up Steve McQueen's water bottle. An old whiskey bottle cap sufficed for a replacement.
As Wilson sat on the couch opposite House, a late November sun glinted off the faint red tints in the oncologist's hair. The older man glanced up momentarily before finishing the board's setup. He handed Wilson the bottle cap and gestured for him to put it in the empty space on his side of the board.
"Hey, thanks, House."
"Spare the sarcasm. That's the lucky piece."
They smiled, and House ran his eyes again along the man in front of him, still trying to convince himself he was still here, that neither of them had messed up the relationship. It was incredible, really—almost miraculous, even, but "miracles" were a cop-out explanation of the worst sort, and House refused to let it explain anything.
Still. They'd been friends for twenty years, best friends for ten of those, and closer than he'd ever thought possible for the past half-year. They had a long way to go, House knew, but neither was in much of a hurry to rush along and stumble in the process.
House mentally tallied the number of people who knew about them. Cameron, thanks to her irritably perceptive ways, had figured it out almost right off the bat. Julie, too, according to Wilson. But as far as he knew, they'd kept their relationship clandestine from everyone else at the hospital, including Cuddy and the other two ducklings.
That, House relented, might be miraculous. But he still wasn't quite sure if that's what he wanted.
He observed the oncologist carefully, quietly, curiously. Early yesterday morning, he'd gotten a call from Julie that she was on her way into Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital, and within minutes he'd met her in the room. Wilson still had the sated glow of a new parent.
Somehow, Wilson had convinced Julie to let House be there for the birth, too. The older man had dredged up some respectability and sequestered himself to the corner of the room, while Wilson reassuringly squeezed Julie's hand. No diamond and gold band adorned either ones' fingers; skin on skin assured enough familiarity of companionship to carry them through the moment.
House resisted the urge to comment that the birthing doctor was incompetent or that the nurses did nothing but take up space. He itched as a bystander, but swallowed his ego to enjoy Wilson's expression when he held his daughter for the first time.
Then. Then, House had felt a slight pang of envy. Not so much because Wilson's attention was fixated on something House didn't have, but because House hadn't been the one—couldn't be the one—to share this part of Wilson's life, to make him happy in this way.
The oncologist had nodded for House to join him and Julie in their little circle of affectionate attention to the child. She was so small. House had seen countless births throughout his medical career, but even he couldn't lie to himself about how surreal this one had been. He glanced over at Julie, checking for confirmation that he wasn't tainting their breathing space. She was too enraptured with the tiny life to notice.
Setting a hand on Wilson's shoulder, he peered into the smooth blue eyes of his love's daughter. Even smaller up close. She was a soft, fragile mass of wrinkles, like an ancient woman with the world's knowledge, curled up under a rippling blanket in the crook of Wilson's elbow. He rocked her softly back and forth, talking and cooing in that annoying parental tone that instinct prompts even the most inexperienced adults to use.
House smiled despite himself, then leaned forward to kiss Wilson's cheek. Julie, face still flushed and tired eyes shining an ebullient shade, didn't comment. Almost sisterly, she faintly squeezed Wilson's arm, encouraging him to bring their daughter back down to a level where they both could admire her.
Giving Wilson a supportive shoulder-rub, House told him he'd be waiting at home, but to take his time. Nice wasn't exactly something he was everyday; but then again, Wilson had become the occasional exception, and this was an exceptional occasion.
Wilson returned a hurried kiss to House's lips, and then broke into an insuppressible smile when his daughter gurgled, crying, and announced her existence to anyone willing to listen.
At the moment, Julie was the only one within hearing range. Months ago, her boyfriend had come under arrest for abuse and had long since disappeared, leaving her house and life once again secure. She and Wilson had worked out a mutual agreement between them—Wilson would stop by after work for a few hours to spend time with their daughter, and once she was a few months older Julie had cautiously allowed Wilson to take her for a few consecutive days.
Of course, it all sounded perfect now, House thought suspiciously. Time will tell.
He didn't want to dampen Wilson's mood, though. He'd been on such an emotional high that he'd spent the night at the hospital, wide-awake, sleep incomparable with the rush of awe he felt for his child. House, meanwhile, had limped around the apartment, ignoring the pain in his leg, overcome with thoughts and questions of his own.
If he couldn't share this part of Wilson, he needed something more to compensate for it. There were too many blank spaces, he realized, when it came to his friend, his love. Asking would be easier, but it lacked the sardonic fun House so enjoyed. He had a better idea.
Consequently, House dredged out the chessboard and set it up, just in time for Wilson to finally return home from the hospital.
"So. Jimmy." House repositioned his king like he was staking out territory. "Ever play chess before?"
"Of course." Wilson's words had a lilt of confusion to them, but his suspicions were nearly eradicated by his parental enthusiasm. He hung up his light suede jacket and wandered over to House, sinking into the reassuring sofa. He glanced over the board, amusement flickering across his face at the whiskey bottle cap. "I used to play a lot more than I do now, though. I actually won a chess tournament back in med school. So I was pretty good."
"Well, let's not jump to conclusions. You've never played me before."
Wilson grinned. "True."
House watched him with an eagle eye, then referenced the board again. With a quick sweep of his limber fingers, he swiped away one of his own brown pieces. "Here. I'll even play you without my queen."
"No fair," Wilson protested with a smile when he saw where the game was going. "You just want to have an excuse if you lose."
"If? Come on, Jimmy, have some confidence. I thought you were a regular pro."
Wilson rubbed his hands in lighthearted anticipation, then prompted redundantly, "What's the catch?"
"I thought you'd never ask." House leaned back on his chair, rescuing a Vicodin from the depths of his pocket. He swallowed and tapped the chessboard with a finger, pointedly. "For every piece that a person takes, the other had to tell a story."
"A story. About what?"
"One of the other's request. It can be personal, pointless, whatever."
"Nothing is ever pointless to you, is it, House?"
A smile flitted across the gruff doctor's face. "I'll even let you move first. Aren't I being generous?"
Wilson reached for a pawn, and House stopped him with a quick breath, as if he'd just remembered something. The oncologist glanced up.
"Pick carefully. I have some interesting questions for you to answer."
"I'm sure I can think of some interesting stories for you to tell, too."
House paused for a good moment or two before slightly nodding in agreement. "I suppose so."