Ghosts

You fumble with the key, hands stiff from clenching them all day, find the lock, guide yourself by touch alone. The lamp directly outside the building has blown, casting this portion of the street in blackness. You barely notice as you grope the rough wood of the door, half-staggering over the threshold, your eyes still heavy with the tears of an hour ago. The door slams behind you and you lean against it, suddenly short of breath. The familiar hallway, the muted glow of the television left on all day, the shoes piled in the corner, all conspire to ease your grief for a precious moment. It's okay, you realise. You must have imagined it, or been tricked. Everything's fine, everything's normal, and any minute he's going to appear round the corner and kiss you like you haven't seen each other for a year; in reality it's been mere hours, but without him time distorts so that an hour becomes a year, and a day becomes an eternity.

And then the answerphone clicks into life, and Cuddy's strained voice is pleading for you to pick up and talk to her. You feel nausea rising up in your gut. You know you won't make it to the bathroom, but it doesn't matter because you haven't eaten today in any case. You feel bile burning at the back of your throat as her voice cajoles, coaxes, soothes, begs. You can't move, can't ignore it. Eventually, she's gone, and the flat is soaked in silence.

House tugged the keys out of his pocket and promptly dropped them on the step. Wilson, trying not to laugh, picked them up and attempted the door, distracted by the arms around his waist and the lips on his neck. Rough wood under his fingers and warm hands sneaking under his shirt. He was tempted to stay put, let House do whatever was on his mind right here in the street. He could always pretend he had no idea what the law was later. He was a doctor, not a policeman or a lawyer. Wouldn't dare infringe the professional boundaries. Yes, good idea, except it was a bit cold for that sort of thing and anyway, there was food indoors and a shower, and a bed.

The door fell open and Wilson had to drag them both inside, House now fully engrossed in planting a record-breaking hicky on his throat. They fell back against the closed door, the keys once more on the floor and forgotten, bags discarded and jackets tossed out of the way. Grabbing fistfuls of hair and shirt, Wilson finally gave himself over fully to House's ministrations. His groan of relief after a day of silent longing at work almost drowned out the initial bleep from the answerphone.

"House?" Cuddy's voice. "Pick up the damn phone! How dare you walk out before your shift is over? And Wilson's with you too, isn't he? You're both in so much sh-" House threw his cane like a javelin and the phone, the answerphone, and the small table they rested on crashed to the floor. Nothing seemed to be broken, but the machine beeped and Cuddy's voice was gone.

Somehow you find your way into the living room, standing in the middle of the floor with your hands loose at your sides. On the screen is some terrible 80s drama, a cop in a trench coat walking what he would probably refer to as the 'mean streets' in the dead of night, a full moon hanging ominously overhead. You stare at the scene, vaguely aware that you've seen this before somewhere. You definitely recognise the actor. John someone. Or Stuart. Or… it doesn't matter. You consider turning the set off, but can't find the drive to move. You let your coat slump to the floor, attempt to remove one shoe by treading on the back, but lethargy persuades you to leave them on. Suddenly exhausted, you collapse onto the couch.

The coffee table is littered with items. Just everyday things – coasters, a magazine, a neat pile of newspapers. His mug, you realise, has the cold dregs of this morning's coffee still congealing at the bottom. Your hand finds the handle, fingers drag it towards you, and the mug crashes to the floor, breaking into three large pieces and a dozen smaller shards. A thick sludge of coffee oozes across the floor. You stare, and wonder if you meant to do that or not. Nothing in the universe could persuade you to get up and clean it up now, so you turn your face back to the television, where the commercials have kicked in. A woman with a cheesy smile wants you to buy shampoo. A small child needs a revolutionary kind of diaper, apparently. There's an advert for your local pizza place. You stare at each one emotionlessly, uncaring, almost oblivious, but at the same time seeing each familiar scene in detail for the first time. As you watch, motionless, the first pangs of hunger awake in your gut. You don't know if you can manage to eat. You used to think it was strange how emotions could effect you so physically, and now you know the mechanics behind it you regard it merely as ironic. One minute you want to puke, the next you're famished. There's a few crusts of toast on a plate within arm's reach, and you pick at them, never quite getting them to your mouth. You can't take the risk that before long you'll want to vomit again. Besides, this was his toast.

The T.V. flickers, and you're looking at the cop again, his gnarled features in someone's face, demanding answers, hunting down an explanation. How, where, why? He won't stop hounding until he's solved the mystery. You can barely find the energy to work out what the questions are. All you know is, he's gone. It won't ever be the same.

It was Wilson who finally dragged House into the living room, pretending to fend him off and insisting they have something to eat before confining themselves to the bedroom for the rest of the night. House didn't relent until the magical word 'pancakes' came up, at which point he was left to fend for himself on the couch while Wilson headed for the kitchen.

House flicked the T.V. On, flipping channels at random until he found an urban music channel. Leaving it muted, he watched the singer strut across the set, flaunting her assets like the MTV whore she was. He grinned, knowing Wilson would tut like his mother if he was caught ogling. When the adverts came on he flipped channels again, pausing briefly on Baywatch (a fully-dressed man having a heart-to-heart with a fully-dressed woman – boring), a re-run of an old soap, and a different music channel before finally switching the set off. The only entertainment he was interested in tonight was currently juggling two plates, two beer bottles, and a selection of cutlery as he lunged optimistically in the direction of the table.

"You could help, you know."

"I was helping by keeping out of the way."

"Right. Like you help your patents by keeping out of their way?"

"Exactly."

Wilson hid his grin as House tucked in. Somehow he resisted the urge to grab him by the collar, drag him across the table and lick away that annoying yet tantalising drip of syrup that always lingered on House's lip.

"Eat faster, Jimmy."

"I don't want indigestion."

"And I don't want to have to wait for you."

"You'll have to anyway. I want a shower first."

"Shower after."

"I'm sweaty. I stink. And don't say that's the way you like me."

House grinned across at him, and then very slowly his tongue slid out of his mouth and brushed across his lower lip, mopping up the syrup as it went. Wilson whimpered, his fork clattering against the plate. He could sense House moving a split-second before something suspiciously left-foot shaped brushed his thigh and landed in his lap.

"Shower after," House repeated, flexing his foot.

"...Mm," agreed Wilson.

It's strange how still the air is. This apartment, usually occupied by two people, usually buzzing with sounds, with movement, with human interaction, has become an empty, desolate place. Even Steve McQueen sits quietly in his cage, watching you sullenly, as if this is all your fault. You ought to feed him, change his water, but he looks about as keen on eating as you do. He rustles his bedding under his feet, little ratty eyes blinking up at you. You wonder if that means he forgives you.

You need to walk, to feel your muscles stretch and contract, the floor under your feet, the walls with your hands. You brush your fingers over the windowsill and they come away grimy. Three trails linger in the dust, and will remain until the layers build and cover them over. No point cleaning the place up. People will come, no doubt, and try to console you, but you don't care what they think. Let them judge. It's what people do best, after all, and who are you to stop them?

You've done three circuits of the living room before you realise you're exhausted. And then you realise you've been exhausted for hours, and the nausea is rising again. Your vision pitches, and black spots flicker in front of you as you stagger into the bedroom, shouldering the door aside. The thought of getting in bed to do nothing but sleep has never been so alluring, but when you've crawled, fully dressed, under your half of the covers, you hit another brick wall of grief. There's a monster inside you, yanking your intestines, constricting your lungs, making you heave that racking sob, because you'd never have done that on your own. You don't cry, and those aren't tears soaking the pillowcase…

Your eyes open again, red and stinging, and fall on the other pillow, his pillow. You know that if you reach out a hand and run it across the smooth fabric, you'll find stray hairs, lost during the night. Your hand won't move. Your eyes, heavy as portcullises, slam shut once more, and you're asleep before the rain sets in.

It was strange how the air seemed to crackle with electricity, thought House, like the cheap special effects in an old B movie. A thunderhead rising, sparks leaping within it, building up to its Earth-shattering crescendo maybe later that night, maybe once the sun rose. It was always hard to tell with storms. Steve wasn't happy about it; animals could predict a storm better than most meteorologists. He scurried in his wheel, round and round, the sound a distracting constant in the background.

"Just ignore him," Wilson muttered. His fingers were moving slowly down House's ribs, tickling slightly. "He's jealous, that's all."

"We should get him a mate. Then maybe he won't watch us all the time."

Wilson laughed and shoved the bedroom door open. House went back to work on his neck for a while, before pushing him down on the middle of the bed, clamping his thighs tightly, possessively, around Wilson's hips. Wilson's hands move down to his ass as his hips bucked involuntarily, his eyes asking House to ride him, to get him off, to do something – anything. Still fully dressed (if Wilson's unbuttoned shirt didn't count), House ground down slowly at first, enjoying the expression on Wilson's face as his eyes half-closed and his head rolled back. The next thrust was configured to the exact specifications to illicit – yes – that groan from Wilson's throat, and he didn't resist as Wilson sought out his zipper and yanked House's jeans down his hips.

Thunder rolled somewhere far away. House didn't think Wilson heard it, but it made House's spine tingle. He paused until the sensation wore off, watching as Wilson peeled off the rest of his clothing. Gently, almost reverently, House touched his lover's chin, tilting it upwards so he could kiss Wilson softly on the lips. Arms snaked around his waist pulling him closer, and the kiss deepened as rain began to patter against the window pane. The noise was strangely erotic.

"Love you," murmured Wilson, his tone coy but his eyes clouded with lust.

House smirked as he straddled Wilson again. "I know."

"We've been through this before. You're no Han Solo."

"And you sure as hell ain't Princess Leia."

Wilson laughed, and because Wilson was laughing, House laughed too. Lightning flickered silently outside, the subtle tremble of sound following minutes later, lost in the noise of traffic and people. It'd be hours before the storm hit, before the world changed forever. And after the storm passed, everything would seem normal again, to the untrained eye. Washed out and refreshed, but in places the colours would run and mesh together, leaving the world an unfamiliar, troubling place.

But that would be later. For now, there was nothing but the rain, and the sounds of Steve in his cage, and the panting of breath and the smooth, slick sounds of skin-on-skin.

And a hand falling back on the pillow, grasping the cloth tight in a sweaty-palmed fist.