Title: Endangering The Universe
Author: Kiwi from hell
Warnings: References to child abuse
Disclaimer: I don't own House MD, or any of it's characters.
Summary: Wilson notices something in House's reaction to his new case.
Feedback: Is love.
Notes: I've been back and forth over whether the write this, then I went back and forth over how to write it, then over what should happen. But it's done now, and I'm proud of it.
Endangering the Universe
There are days when everything feels close. His memories, his stupid, screwed-up friendship, his limp, his ex-love, his job, his need all pile onto his shoulders. They wrap around him in a shroud, and he almost wishes the metaphor were real, because at least he would get some peace. House hauled himself out of bed on another of these days, needing the balcony. Pulling the sheets away from his face, House knew he needed to be outside in the bleaching sunlight, looking down and feeling vertigo, knowing that right beside him was the tether that caused half the problems.
His eyelids still felt gummed together; opening them was a strain. The air was oppressive. It was summer, and the sun had been up for several hours already, the heat coming through his windows and getting trapped by the thick curtains, insulating the room. Too uncomfortable to say "fuck it" and go back to sleep for a few hours, he swung his legs around to the side of his bed and looked at the glowing red lights on his clock. 7.30. With his sparse morning routine, it seemed like for once he could be on time for work.
It didn't hurt to do that every now and then; it kept Cuddy and his team on their toes, not to mention he could catch a few minutes with Wilson as an elixir to get him through the rest of the day sans homicide. Of course, there were side effects to his dose of sanity - a sense of emotional impotence coupled with a deeply introspective manner; neither a recognisable difference to an observer but House felt the effect on his tolerance levels. It was a small price to pay, he had concluded, for the occasional feeling of fitting somewhere.
House pushed himself up, leaning forward slightly to compensate for lack of balance, and colours swam before his eyes. He drew in a deep breath and paused, then went about his morning ritual, after setting some Stones playing on his stereo. House smirked to himself – you could tell you were getting old when you actually preferred music at a low-murmuring-background level to pounding-so-loud-the-floor-vibrates level. Catching site of his ever greyer hair and receding hair line in the mirror, House twisted the dial up; there were enough signs already.
House was yanking the worn red T shirt, which he always felt had the best fit of all his clothes, over his head when he heard that knock at the door, instantly followed by a key twisting in the lock. He pulled the shirt down the rest of the way and slipped into his leather jacket, even though he knew it was too warm.
"Thought you might want a ride," said Wilson, barging into House's bedroom.
House didn't know how he only ever did this on days when House was up and ready to go. "Sure."
House realised he had been staring absently at the blank space on the wall next to Wilson's head.
They drove to work in compatible silence, low level jazz music coming from the radio. At one point, Wilson had begun humming along to the music. House caught his eye with a look that said "Tuning, please" and they shared a quiet laugh. A serendipitous feeling spread over House and for a moment he allowed himself to smile out the open window, happy that in that moment everything was as it should be.
The car felt small, and House instinctively shifted away every time Wilson's arm came close to him, changing gear. The air blasting in through his window was warm and stale with fumes. He started to shift restlessly, the seams of the seat chaffing through his clothing. Closing his eyes, House tried to move his focus to the music, allowing every note to melt into his mind, filling the air around him and creating some kind of privacy. The approach of the hospital, as well as the noise and dirt outside the car, were grating on House's mood already. Childlike as it was, he just didn't want to get out of the car. In a small part of his mind he wanted there to be a traffic jam, or some problem parking; he wanted an excuse for a few extra minutes of peace.
From car to building to office, Wilson walked with him acting like he did everyday, because in essence this was every day. Light was annoyingly bright, and the heat in his office was magnified ridiculously. He slipped his jacket off and dropped it on the back of his chair, then squinted into through the glass walls. Wilson had waved wordlessly, with a slight brush of his hand against House's arm, as he went into his own office. He could have been preparing for rounds or just starting some paperwork. House limped out to the balcony, leaving his cane leant against the desk.
Paper work. The sun reflected on the door to Wilson's office, over the wall that split the balcony in two, and behind the glare House saw him bent over making notes on a chart and sipping coffee from a red mug that no doubt had been prepared by his secretary. As if he sensed him looking, Wilson glanced up and their eyes met. A brief smile twitched on his face, then he flipped the chart closed, set down his beverage and came to join House. They looked out over the lives taking place below.
Wilson's elbow nudged his. "Got any cases?" It was the Wilson-code for "are you ok?"
House nudged back. "Something'll probably come up later." House-to-Wilson translation "shut up, I'm fine." That's the "shut up, I'm fine" that would be accompanied with a fond smile, if House displaying such an expression wouldn't cause the universe to collapse in on itself.
They remained standing in silence together, both leaning their forearms on the hot brick of the wall. House watched a bug crawling along the leaf of a tree to his right. The sun was beating down on his back; sweat was starting to stick his t-shirt to him. Wilson had rolled his sleeves up, revealing well defined arms and hands, with a thin covering of hair. The tiny details, the pores, the scars drew House's attention away from the bug, until Foreman came out waving a file in his face.
Their fingers brushed almost unnoticeably as House moved away. Just a silent good-bye, a ghost of an anchor, and nothing more.
When Cameron was running gels and Chase and Foreman were using their masculine charms to wangle an MRI appointment sometime before the apocalypse, House took an elevator ride down to the patient's room. He had no intention of speaking to him or the parents, of course, but a lot could be learnt from observation. Glass wall were useful for something; even looking between the slats of blinds, House could learn things. Like the man in the room was quite probably not the boy's father. A teacher, he assumed. Chase had said he was bought in from school; the parents probably hadn't arrived yet.
"House, we got an MRI slot in 2 hours."
"If you'd flicked your hair like I told you to, you would have gotten it in 1." House didn't move his gaze from the pair in the hospital room; he didn't need to see Chase pouting in response. "He's the kid's teacher?"
"Yeah, he came with him in the ambulance." Foreman confirmed.
"Get him out of the room. Try talking to the kid alone, don't let the guy back in. Ask the parent's about any recent changes in behaviour when they get here and you might wanna test for STDs."
"House you can't just make accu-" said Foreman, but he was left talking to House's back as he limped away.
Tests and parental complaints and lies and theories took a break for lunch, or at least House did. He sat with his Nike Sox clad feet on the corner of his desk, Wilson in the chair opposite and a bowl of weird lettuce-less salad between them. He licked dressing off his lips.
"Foreman's right, you know. You can't randomly accuse people of molesting their children."
"He's the teacher, weren't you paying attention?" House hit Wilson's fork with his own, diving into the salad and making Wilson wait.
"You can't just randomly accuse anyone." Wilson amended, still far more interested in getting within range of the food he had prepared.
"It wasn't random."
He waited for continuation, but none came. Swallowing his mouthful, Wilson said, "How did you know?"
"Body language was wrong."
"Ah yes, and you're an expert in paedophiliac body language."
"The kid was acting like he was feeling guilty for something unforgivable. Every time a nurse walked into the room, he put on a smile. Kids don't fake emotions. The teacher was too close; I almost mistook him for a parent, except the kid wouldn't look directly at him."
Wilson eyed House carefully, hearing an unexpected edge in the man's voice. There was something unnerving about the lack of condescension in the information he passed on. "Wouldn't the guy be the one looking guilty?" He saw a definite flicker of something on House's face.
"No. The kid is 5, for god's sake. Old enough to know it's wrong, not old enough to realise it isn't his fault."
Wilson sucked the dressing off one of his fingers, resisting the urge to wipe his hands on his newly dry cleaned pants. House had dropped his fork onto the desk with a surprisingly loud clang, making Wilson twitch. "House…"
Wilson honestly had no clue how he had intended to end that sentence. "Nothing. Want me to come over tonight?"
"You're inviting yourself into my space. Nice."
"I meant I'll cook for you."
"You bring the groceries, I'll set out the candles and the good silverware," said House as he brushed his hands off on his pants, or perhaps brushed his pants off with his hands, and exited into the outer conference room.
House gagged as Wilson unceremoniously put a plate of stuffed pepper on the table before him. Rolling his eyes, Wilson tucked his napkin into his shirt collar – no need to be polite, it was just House – and propped his feet on the coffee table.
House followed suit but said, "When you said you were gonna cook, I thought you meant real food."
"You love it really. Idiots with power tools?"
Wilson stabbed the remote with his spoon. "Any progress with the case?" The New Yankee Workshop did not require listening to. It was background noise to their conversations.
"Nope, no treatments, no nothing."
"You're just gonna wait for him to get sicker?"
House nodded, "It's a simple plan, much like my Uncle Chris. Unlike my Uncle Chris, this might just work."
An insistent buzz from an impressively sized saw cut short Wilson's laughter and drew both men's attention to the screen.
When the credits of The New Yankee Workshop rolled, House groused, "And not one severed appendage," rolling his shoulders. Sitting still too long had caused a dull ache.
"You need to stand up," Wilson commented.
"Don't doctor me, I'm fine."
Wilson smacked himself internally, realising hell would now have to freeze over before Greg took his advice. He hadn't seemed quite like he was really there all day, never invested in the proceedings. Wilson was worried. Not worried in any serious way, it was just a peak of the constant twinge of concern he had been in possession of for the past 7 years; it never quite went away because House was never quite honest enough with him. For someone who didn't lie, he was a master of deception.
"House, turn around." Wilson grabbed House's shoulders and turned as he spoke anyway, aware he wouldn't follow instructions.
"What are you doing?"
"Being far nicer than you deserve."
Wilson settled himself behind House and ran his hands across the shoulders in front of him. Slowly and carefully, Wilson traced his entire back, hands ghosting under the cotton at the small of his back, though both would deny it. He pulled his fingers up along either side of House's spine, causing him to arch. Upon reaching his neck, Wilson pressed down onto the muscle with the heels of his hands.
House gasped. He closed his eyes.
Wilson worked the knots with his thumbs, moving out in ever growing circles while the rest of his fingers stroked the surrounding areas into relaxation, barely making contact. He pushed hard against the sensitive areas until he elicited a hiss from between House's clenched teeth. One hand drifted down to his lower back and he rolled the hem of his T-shirt between his fingers. His knuckles grazed House's bare skin; the other hand carelessly kneaded his shoulder.
Wilson's breath was hot on the back of House's neck. He could smell the stuffed pepper on his breath, practically taste it. The warm air caressed his neck and right ear lobe and he felt Wilson's head move forward. His breathing quickened. Wilson's fingers moved in slow circles against his skin. He heard Wilson's tongue wetting his lips.
"Feeling better?" Wilson was so close when he whispered, his lips brushed against House's ear.
House swallowed hard and replied in the same low tone. "This is the sort of treatment I only expect after The L Word."
Wilson's laughter in his ear made House shiver. He moved back a little so their bodies were touching.
Wilson snaked his hand around from House's lower back to his stomach, remaining beneath the fabric. "I…I should probably go," he whispered. "Early morning tomorrow."
"Yeah. Yeah, you probably should."
Neither man moved for a moment, then Wilson stood up, trailing his hand over House's skin, around his back until it reached the opposite hip and running the other from his shoulder down House's arm. Wilson squeezed House's fingers, and went home to an empty apartment.
House woke the next morning with the feeling of a hangover, despite the absence of alcohol in his system. He realised that when he had finally stumbled to bed at 3am, mind spinning, he had neglected to brush his teeth. He could still taste stuffed peppers. Even then he hadn't slept in more than fitful bursts, a thousand different things in his mind all clamouring for attention, but none making as much noise as his stupid, screwed up friendship. He was awake early again, but House doubted Wilson would be offering him a lift to work today.
Teeth cleaned, breakfast dismissed and pills downed, House was startled by a knock at his door. The sound of the key turning in the lock never came, so House limped over to the door and looked through the view finder. Wilson wasn't there. The hall was empty. "Stupid bastard," House muttered to himself before he turned around and picked up the keys to his bike.
House walked past the wards on the floor that held the office of diagnostics. Loved ones dropping in for a visit before work, nurses administering morning drinks while checking blood pressure and rows and rows of sick people; House hated hospitals. Then he came to his patient's room. His family were donators – that's why Cuddy gave him the case and why they got a private room. He definitely looked sicker. Hopefully there would be some new symptoms on the whiteboard.
That wasn't why House had gone on this little journey, though it did help loosen his leg after the motorbike ride, his real reason was the opportunity to walk past Wilson's office. He could casually glance in and check Wilson's presence.
He was in, House saw through the small windows beside his door, hunched over paperwork and drinking coffee from a red mug. Without pause House walked through his own office and out to the balcony. He intently did not watch Wilson, so there was no way he could have looked away when Wilson glanced up. Nor did he flinch as a butterfly invaded his periphery.
Wilson touched his arm in greeting, joining House on the balcony and uttering a quiet "Hey."
Yesterday's compatible silence was today's awkward silence.
House broke first, pushed by the stress that had been building up while he pretended to follow the actions of a tiny spider crawling along the wall. "Do we need to talk?"
"We never needed to before."
"No. Ok." Try as he might, House just couldn't convince himself and couldn't force his tone to be as confident as he wanted. At least the possibility of change was gone; he could cope with things as they were, he was safe with them. "I should go back in there, see how the case is."
"Wait, House," Wilson called, "How come this case is getting to you so much?"
"It's not." House couldn't understand what made Wilson think that, what he'd noticed. Suddenly House felt he had been laid bare, by one little insight.
"Yes, it is."
House shook his head and spoke the manta of an impossible time ago, alone in his room. "I'm fine, it's all fine."
House blinked awake, wincing against the bright light and loud noise. Someone tried to pull his half closed eyelids open and gently slapped his face.
"Are you ok? House!"
"What did you do, House!"
"Shhh, please." House tried to push the as yet unidentified him away and caught sight of a green tie behind the whirl of hands and the persistent, loud voice. "Wilson?"
"Yeah, House, it's me. I'm here. Tell me how much you took." Wilson was pulling his cell phone from his jacket pocket.
House snatched the phone away and sat up. "2 Vicodin before I went to sleep. What's wrong with you?"
Wilson giggled nervously, and sat back on his heels, leaning against the coffee table. He looked at the empty bottle of Vicodin on the table and House's answer machine, which was flashing 8 messages. "I…" Wilson coughed, ran a hand through his hair and started again. "You didn't answer."
"You didn't think I possibly could be, oh I don't know, sleeping?"
Wilson folded his arms over his chest, trying to hide that he was shaking. "You've been…off, lately. I came over to check on you, just…to make sure. I saw the empty bottle and-"
"Didn't even bother to look at the date before you decided I hate my life so much I want to die?" House said in a chirpy tone, ignoring Wilson's shining eyes.
"Pretty much," he admitted. Wilson stood up on wobbly legs and collapsed onto the couch beside House. "Sorry. You haven't been yourself."
"Can you stop saying that please? It makes me nervous when you lie."
"Evidently," House smirked.
"It's to do with the case, isn't it? Or is it to do with me?"
"It can't be both?"
"Is it both?" Wilson watched House's face go blank as he stared at the wall; his hand was trembling, his little finger brushing against his thigh. "Are you going to answer?"
"What do you want to hear?" House snapped. "There is nothing you can do about either thing, or that I want you to do."
"I just want to understand what's going on in your head."
"I thought we weren't talking about it. I thought we didn't need to."
"I thought you tried to kill yourself. Misconceptions abound. Tell me what's wrong with you." Wilson instructed, sounding a lot more confident than he felt.
"You'll make that face. That stupid "oh, that explains so much" face when in fact it doesn't explain anything, except why I'm able to analyse paedophiliac behaviour and that I overestimated your level of acceptance of my more annoying traits and I'm an idiot for giving a damn about you and thinking you might actually be…something." House trailed off.
"I might still be…something."
"No, nothing's changed for you. The stupid, screwed up friendship remains." House said quietly. "It's ok, I can live with it."
"It's changed for you? We've kissed before, we've…done stuff. That never meant anything."
"I let you touch me. That's different, that works differently." House bowed his head and looked intently at the floor.
"Like this?" Wilson caught House's hand and stopped it from shaking, and moved it just a little onto his leg.
"Don't. Don't even. You can't just…sympathy is not a good reason to get into this and your cock will not heal all wounds. Despite what some of your patients may say."
"How about if I told you this is exactly what I wanted to do last night?" Wilson was close, so close, whispering against House's lips in a spoken kiss.
"That...would be acceptable."
House smiled into the kiss, and the universe didn't implode.