1Author's Note: This is the sequel to Rehab Confab, but you don't have to read that before reading this. This story was rendered completely AU by the events of Words and Deeds, but I wrote it anyway because, like those damn voices, it got into my head and wouldn't shut up. Plus, I can't just leave House and Wilson as "ex-best friends".

Warning: Never attempt to sit through a budget meeting without a good supply of rubber bands to shoot at co-workers who insist on using the phrases "bottom line", "game plan", or "let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes". Salute this, corporate fuckwads!

Real Warning: Wow. This is the first real warning I've ever written. I feel funny. Anyway, this is not a songfic, but it contains parts of a song. Please let me know if I got too schmoopy. I just wanted a happy ending.

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

The first day back was gonna be a bitch.

A month in that assholic rehab facility, playing with clay, playing the piano-hell, playing with himself- to pass the time and now he had to face his co-workers. He had already made bets with himself as to who was going to react how.

Cameron would, of course, invade his personal no-fly zone, stare up at him with those sappy eyes and stupid Mona Lisa smile. She might even try to hug him again, in which case he would have to send her to sexual harassment class. No, after all, meant no.

Foreman would raise one superior eyebrow, but otherwise ignore the past month and go on with the job. Good old Foreman. House briefly considered a moratorium on black jokes just out of gratitude, but then decided against it. The show had to go on.

Chase would stay silently supportive like a good boy, but would probably not want to get too close after that shot House had given him to the chops. Gun shy. Understandable, but it would make yanking his hair that much harder.

Cuddy would play Ice Queen, but would eventually thaw. She couldn't act like a raging bitch to the man whose sperm she hoped to squirt into a turkey baster and then...well... Okay, so she hadn't asked him. Yet. But he'd heard through the grapevine that she was down to considering a donation from Weird Fred, the janitor who lined his dashboard with roadkill, so there was still something to hold over her head.

Wilson would-

Hell with Wilson! House thought, savaging the elevator button with the end of his cane. He sold me out. With friends like that, who needs enemas?

But just for the sake of completing his analyses, Wilson would be waiting in House's office, of course, maybe standing in the doorway, hands on hips, brown eyes radiating concern and regret. Wilson would have spent the month since they'd last seen each other on one of his marathon guilt trips (House was certain he had frequent flyer miles), kicking himself for not standing by his best friend in his hour of need.

"Serve him right, too," House muttered, Jack-the-Rippering the elevator button again. Bastard had sent him to the funny farm. Well, to be fair, House had been forced to check himself into the funny farm, but the principle remained. Fuck Wilson.

House stood outside the diagnostics office and sighed. Deep breath. Best defense is a strong offense. "Good morning, British boy, Barbie doll, and Blackenstein's Monster," he said, limping through the doors.

Three heads turned. Now cue Cameron and her sappy welcome...

"You're late," she snapped with a disgusted glance in his direction. "Can't you manage to make it in on time just once?" She went back to the journal she was reading.

House gaped at her. "Whoa. Kicked in the nads! A little respect for the crippled ex-addict, please." He reached into his jacket, popped two Vicodin, and stared around the room expectantly. Chase. Chase would dart a nervous glance to his face, drop his eyes, and-

-and Chase was at his side, patting his back. "Good to have you back, House," he said with a shy smile. "We missed you around here." He gave House's shoulder an assertive squeeze.

House made a horrified noise. "I'm barely gone a month and my intensivist has gone all Brokeback Mountain on me! Get off!"

He shot a pleading look at Foreman. "Help me, Obi Eric Kenobi. You're my only hope."

Foreman's only reaction was to raise his eyebrow. "For what? Another Vicodin prescription? Good luck." He went back to the current edition of Black Doctors Whose Ties Always Match, or whatever he was reading.

House sighed in relief. "So the pod people only made it to Chase's and Cameron's apartments." He approached his white board and lovingly ran one finger down it. "Did you miss me? Were they mean to you while Daddy was gone? It's okay; I'm here now." He looked back at his team. "Any cases?"

"No," Cameron snapped, without looking up from her journal.

Chase smiled at him.

Foreman ignored him.

Wilson-hey, wait a minute. Where was Wilson?

"Where's Wilson?" he asked the room at large.

Cameron slammed her journal shut. "Oh, I don't know. Practicing medicine? I'm going to help out in the clinic." She stomped out.

House rolled his eyes dramatically. "And that's why girls shouldn't be doctors. They also can't kill spiders or open peanut butter jars, but that's probably not professionally relevant." He climbed to his feet. "I'll be in my office conspicuously not being an addict. Call if you need me."

So. No cases. No one rose to the bait about his continued use of Vicodin. No chance to brush Cameron off. And Chase had rumpled the shoulder of his favorite t-shirt. This day so far sucked so badly he might as well be treating patients.

One thing he could always count on was music. He clicked the play button and leaned back to enjoy.

And now, is it too late to say/

How you made my life so different in your quiet way?/

What the righteous fuck was this? House sat up quickly. Bette Midler??? His sound system had been violated in his absence! Sullied by melodramatic lyrics and inferior piano playing. House's eyes narrowed. Cameron. Had to be, unless Chase was gayer or Foreman was whiter that he thought. No man could be that gay or that white.

I have walked and I have prayed/

I could forgive and we could start again/

In the end, you are my one true friend

House ejected the disc, careful not to actually touch it. Ew. Pop music germs. Top 40 cooties. He looked around half-heartedly for a jewel case, then decided that Cameron should be punished both for her lack of a proper welcome and for musically raping his office.

He opened the door that led to his balcony and stepped out into the freezing cold morning. Drawing his arm back as far as it would go, he frisbeed the CD into the arctic air with great relish and watched as it sailed into a snowbank. That was cool, but it would have been cooler if it had gone left as he'd intended and taken the ridiculous toupee off the pointy head of Dr. Minski, who was walking into the building. Damn. Missed opportunity.

House was about to go see if Cameron had left any more flingable objects within reach when a movement from his left caught his eye. Wilson was standing at the door of his office, watching. For a moment the two of them locked eyes, then Wilson silently turned away and went back to his desk.

What the-did I just get the cold shoulder from Captain Cancer?

He had. House felt righteous anger fill the space where he usually kept his sarcasm. Son of a bitch. So Wilson was feeling pissy? As far as House knew, PPTH's resident brown-eyed boy hadn't spent the last month locked in the Ha Ha Hotel, eating meatloaf lovingly prepared by Jeffrey Dahmer's ghost and listening to grinning mental midgets spout platitudes like "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" because his former best friend couldn't keep his mouth shut. And Wilson thought he was the injured party?

Wilson's problem was that he was addicted to being needed, and he'd been pissed when House had been handling the Tritter thing all on his own. So Wilson had stepped in and "saved" House from himself just to create a need. Great. Thanks, but no thanks. We have some lovely consolation prizes for you, including the board game of "Let's Make a Deal".

If Wilson thought House was going to come crawling back, begging, he was looking for weapons of mass destruction under Saddam's bed. Let Wilson do the crawling or find himself someone else to save. With one final disgusted glance toward Cancer Central, House limped back into his office.

HWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHW

There was, House found, one big problem with dumping his best friend: no one to slack with when the need arose. And the need arose often when you were a doctor who hated patients and also had an unholy boss who insisted that you treat them.

Second day back and still no cases. He tried playing Vampire Hunt on his Gameboy, but hequickly mastered it by pretending all those tiny bloodsuckers were Wilson. Not very mature, maybe, but it did improve the shit out of his aim.He'd also tried listening to music, but no matter what he listed to Cameron's insipid tune kept invading his mind:

I have walked and I have prayed/

I could forgive and we could start again/

In the end, you are my one true friend

By now had a sneaking suspicion that he knew why Cameron had left the CD in his sound system. In her signature sentimental style she'd hoped he'd listen to it, think of Wilson, burst into tears, and go rushing off to a heartfelt reconciliation. Cameron still didn't realize that her boss was the same man who'd rented Titanic simply to watch Retardo DiCraprio freeze to death. House had paused that part because Wilson had claimed he could actually see frozen boogers in the boy's nose. Of course, they had both been drunk at the time, so he wouldn't have been surprised if Wilson had seen Motley Crue coming out of the boy's nose...

As a last resort, he actually left his office and started toward the clinic. If he had to be here, and Cuddy said he did, he might as well irritate some people. Ah! There was Dr. BrownNose Markham from Radiology. Markham had hated House since House had suggested he have his lips surgically attached to Cuddy's ass. Markham would be good for a few minutes' distraction.

"House! Welcome back." the radiologist said.

Startled, House glanced behind him, thinking maybe they'd hired another House in his absence. "Are you talking to me?"

"Who else? Listen," he lowered his voice, "sorry about Wilson, man. It was a shitty thing he did. Hang in there, though." He clapped House on the back and walked on.

House stood there, at a rare loss for words. Finally he shrugged it off and walked on, conceding the loss of yet another coworker to the pod people. Or maybe Markham had one more ounce of decency than House would have credited him with. Either way, it was nothing to House. As he said often, the opinions of other people never changed his opinion of himself. It did, however, make him think Markham was a space loon, though.

The elevator dinged and opened to reveal Debbie from accounting. He grinned mentally. Now here would be a fun encounter. Little Debbie had at one time had aspirations of becoming the fourth future ex-Mrs. Wilson until House had stepped in with a casual mention of her in front of Julie. Julie had hated House, but she'd hated Wilson's girlfriends more. Apparently, there'd been some kind of confrontation in the parking garage...

"Hiya, Debs," he said cheerfully. "Seeing any married oncologists lately?" He rocked back on his good heel and waited for it.

"Oh, hi, Dr. House. Welcome back. Feeling better?" she smiled, actually for crying out loud smiled at him.

House drew back until he felt the wall of the elevator. Oh God, they'd gotten to Debbie, too! "Yeah," he managed. Okay, if a personal attack didn't work, how about a professional one. "I'm going to be a few weeks late getting you the diagnostic billings."

She flapped a hand. "Don't worry; I'm swamped right now, anyway. Get them to me whenever you can." She gave him a final smile and stepped off.

House followed slowly, afraid to follow too closely in case the pod people were still hungry. First Markham and now Debbie. This was getting creepy. If people continued to be nice to him he would just have to find another job.

He stepped cautiously into the clinic, sharp senses on the lookout for random acts of kindness. Up ahead he heard a shrill voice berating someone and his heart soared. Nurse Brenda! Brenda didn't hate him, maybe, but she did have a healthy contempt for his laziness, lack of compassion, and tendency to discombobulate her beloved clinic.

"Another beautiful day, eh Brenda?" he announced. "But then, when you're fighting the good fight against runny noses and scratchy throats, every day is beautiful." He grabbed a patient folder.

Brenda gave him a look that he could have sworn was less contemptuous than usual. "You don't want that one. It's just flu." She rooted into the pile and came up with one. "Here you go. This might be more interesting for you."

House felt cold chills run up his spine. Brenda had actually broken protocol and given him a case he might find interesting? He took the file with numb fingers and turned toward the exam room.

"Dr. House!"

He turned around hopefully.

"Don't forget these." She stuffed a handful of lollipops into his jacket pocket. All grape, his favorite flavor.

House fled toward the exam room, turning back just in time to hear a familiar voice. Wilson at the nurse's station. House watched as Wilson handed Brenda a file. She nodded curtly and took it without looking up. Then she turned her back on him. Interesting. Even Brenda normally had a smile for the handsome oncologist.

After logging three clinic hours out of sheer boredom, House decided to run an experiment. He limped around the hospital, noting the reactions of the staff. At the end of the day he was forced to come to the conclusion that the hospital personnel were supporting him.

Oh, not everyone, by any means. The oncology nurses were still firmly in Wilson's corner, but they could be excused. After all, most of them either wanted to get into Wilson's pants or were already there. The majority of the hospital, though, had shifted loyalties.

In a moral election between himself and Wilson, he would have expected the sainted Wilson to win the popular vote every time, regardless of the facts. Hadn't happened that way, and House started to relax about his sudden popularity, knowing it must be bugging St. James to no end.

Serves him right, the bastard. Seems like people hate betrayal even more than they hate me.

A good day's work done and a problem solved, House slung his backpack over his shoulder and left for the day.

That night while sitting at the piano, he found his fingers unconsciously abandoning Beethoven in favor of that stupid tune. Dammit! If this keeps up I'll have to ask Foreman to cut out the retarded song center of my brain.

HWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHW

On his third day back, House discovered a second problem with dumping his best friend: no one to eat lunch with. At noon he had gotten up from his desk and, out of habit, headed for Wilson's office. He stopped himself and turned back abruptly, surprised at the pang of regret.

It's not regret, he told himself firmly. It's just irritation at the interruption in routine.

Yes. That was it. After twelve years of eating with Wilson at least 5 days a week, he had to create another routine. But with whom? Well, before there had only been one person willing to spend time voluntarily with House, but now that he had a newly-expanded pool to choose from, he found he didn't want any of them. Cameron would probably throw food at him, Chase would smile him to death.

He stuck his head back into the diagnostics room. "Hey, Foreman, you still hate me, right?" he asked hopefully.

Foreman looked up from his laptop. "Definitely."

"Thank God. Come on, it's lunch time."

Foreman waved. "See you in two hours. Give Coma Guy my love."

Good old Foreman. "No, I mean, let's go have lunch."

"What, you mean together?"

House nodded. "Yep. I'm buying."

The neurologist looked up at him suspiciously. "Why?"

"Do I need a reason to spend time with my favorite neurologist?" He reconsidered. "Well, my favorite male neurologist. There was this neurology professor in med school and she was-" He held his hands in front of his chest to demonstrate. "Anyway, come on. Free lunch."

Foreman closed his laptop and reluctantly followed House out the door and to the cafeteria. House got his usual Reuben (no pickle), french fries, potato chips, and a large piece of chocolate cake. Foreman chose a salad and chicken breast. The cashier looked mildly alarmed when House actually pulled out his wallet and paid for the two meals.

House scanned the cafeteria for someplace to sit where people weren't. There, across the room at the farthest table in the corner, was Wilson. Alone.

House chose a table close enough for Wilson to notice, but far enough not to be too obvious. He sat down across from Foreman and started in on his meal. A week of throwing up from withdrawal and pain combined with a month of prison-grade food had left him permanently starving. Explained why he'd woke up at 3am craving macadamia nut pancakes and stuffed peppers.

"So, anything interesting while I was gone?" he asked through a mouthful of sandwich and fries. He kept an eye on Wilson, who seemed to be eating with unaccustomed lack of enthusiasm.

Foreman see-sawed his hand. "A couple of cases, but nothing that turned out to be up your alley. I know it doesn't matter, but we cured them."

Out of the corner of his eye, House saw Wilson glancing over at them. He leaned forward, chin resting in his palm and gave Foreman a big grin. "I really missed you guys, you know that? Here, have my chips."

Foreman tensed. "House, why are you looking at me like that?"

House pasted an innocent expression on his face. "What? Can't I share food with my co-worker, Eric?"

"Um, no, Greg, you can't. Not without wanting something."

Making sure Wilson was still watching, House let out a hearty laugh and slapped Foreman on the arm. Foreman followed his gaze and rolled his eyes. "Oh no! Forget it. House, I am not going to be Britney to your Paris and Wilson's Nicole. If you want a BFF you'll have to make up with your old one."

House dropped the hail-fellow act and scowled into his cake. "This ex-BFF did more than dump a drink on me or run off with my latest boy-toy," he said sullenly.

"What Wilson did sucked, yeah, but is it really inexcusable?" Foreman softened his tone. "Look, it was a bad decision, no one's saying it wasn't, but he was backed into a corner. He panicked. Besides, he's miserable."

"Yeah yeah, I get it, poor Wilson," House said impatiently. "So now I should make nice and make up with him." He snorted. "You're as bad as Cameron, leaving that CD in my office as a nice, subtle hint."

Foreman frowned. "Cameron hasn't been in your office. Wilson was. He was listening to something over and over while he cleaned in there. Must be his CD."

So Wilson had left him the CD, hoping he'd listen to it and make the first move. Odd. Usually it was Wilson himself who made the first move. This could only mean that he recognized how badly he'd fucked up and knew that only House could make the decision to reconcile.

House said nothing, just watched Wilson for a moment. The normally popular doctor was eating alone, and so far no one had approached him even to say hello. It was like he carried a vial of Ebola in his pocket. House had overheard a couple of nurses speculating on what was in Wilson's pocket, but what had been mentioned was more of an attractant. He was bent over his tray, shoulders slumped, pushing his fork through his food without eating it. He looked the way House had only seen him after losing a patient-defeated. As he watched, Wilson dropped his fork onto his tray and walked out, head down.

Maybe he'd been too hard on Wilson. The man was obviously sorry for what he'd done. It was eating him up. After all, he was the famed superhero Guilt Man; that is, if you could picture a superhero wearing that repulsively boring tie.

A small part of House that he normally kept chained up under sedation and locked in the basement whispered that he missed Wilson. Just a little. Maybe after twelve years their friendship deserved another chance.

House decided he would give Wilson a chance to apologize. Wilson would stop moping, House would have someone to cook for him again, and they would both have someone to drink beer and watch bad zombie movies with.

And maybe then that fucking song would stop running through his head like Halle Berry from a traffic accident.

HWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHW

It was the fourth day back and House was determined not to find another reason that dumping his best friend sucked. In fact, he was determined to find someway to un-dump his best friend, preferably before lunch. Foreman was a fine doctor, but he didn't understand the delicate dance that was lunch with House: you buy food, House steals it. You roll eyes, House ignores it. You then push food closer in order to allow better access. It was all about the ritual.

House loitered on the balcony for several minutes that morning, freezing his dangly bits off, but determined to give Wilson an opening. Normally, the oncologist couldn't resist a tacit invitation to join his friend in a slacking moment, but today no dice. House could see Wilson in his office, even caught him glancing up now and then, but he made no move to come out.

Realizing that he was in imminent danger of testicular hypothermia, House sighed and climbed over the barrier separating his balcony from Wilson's. Slightly disappointed that there was no patient to disturb, he barged into La Casa de Tumor.

Wilson looked up. They stared at each other for a moment. Finally, Wilson spoke. "So, how are you?"

House shrugged. "I made it out with my virtue intact. No one molested me in the showers. Then again, I was smart enough to bring soap on a rope."

"It was rehab, House, not prison." Wilson sounded exhausted. Up close, House could see the dark circles shadowing his brown eyes and his skin seemed paler.

"So you say. The fact that I couldn't leave sends another message." He realized that he was starting to sound accusatory, so he shifted gears. "So, any big plans tonight?"

"No."

"Animal House is on tonight and I have beer. Dress is informal, so feel free to wear a toga. We could do an audience participation thing."

"No thanks." Wilson bent his head back to his paperwork.

House sighed. "Goddammit, Wilson, don't put on the martyr act. I came to say we're cool."

Wilson looked up in disbelief. "We're cool? That's what you're here to say?"

"Yeah." He shifted uncomfortably. "I was pissed, but-" he waved his cane vaguely.

Wilson looked at him mutely for a moment, then held up his hands in a familiar "I can't believe what I'm hearing" gesture. "You-this is so typical of you, House! You abuse the hell out of our friendship, and then have the balls to waltz in here and announce that you forgive me? Guess what? It's not that easy!"

"Oh, get down off that cross, Jimmy, we need the wood!" House snapped back. "You should speak to your agent because the role of wounded soldier doesn't suit you; in fact, you suck at it!" A voice was telling him that this was not the way it was supposed to be, but Wilson's stubborn streak had ignited his own.

Wilson held up his hands once more, this time Jimmyspeak for "I give up". "You know what, House? Have it your way. I'm the bad guy. You were just an innocent bystander. That's always your stance on everything, anyway. I don't know why I expected our friendship to be any different." He slammed his file shut and tossed it in a drawer, eyes lowered.

"Good talk," House said. "Glad we cleared the air." He spun on his heel and marched out, fuming.

He reached his own office and plopped down on the floor.

That went over like Rosie O'Donnell doing a pole vault, he thought with a sigh.

HWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHW

The problem stuck in his head, recurring in spite of all the vital issues he tried to concentrate on: why Cuddy's breasts seem to grow and shrink on alternate days, how Cameron's hair could seemingly change colors and styles spontaneously, why the phone always rang just as he lowered himself into the bath. Finally, he gave up and put his mind to the scene earlier that day. What the hell had gone wrong? He had taken the meaning of the song and done the right thing by offering Wilson the chance to apologize.

"It's called mixed messages," he explained to Steve, taking a bite of his peanut butter sandwich. "He fed you while I was locked away in the Enchanted Forest, right? Did he happen to say anything to you that might help me figure this out?"

Steve said nothing. He was one of the world's great listeners, but tended to avoid giving advice. He was like a tiny therapist, refusing to break rat-patient confidentiality under any circumstances. It was a great comfort to House considering all the things he'd told Steve in private, but did nothing to help solve the Jimmy thing.

"Look, it's not like I didn't have my...part...in this thing," he said finally, breaking off a piece of sandwich and handing it through the bars of Steve's cage. Steve took the food and started cramming it into his mouth with both paws, but House could see he was still listening. "I guess I could have been more understanding. You know, Tritter was after Wilson, too." He hesitated and, since there was no one to hear but his therapist, he went on. "And it's not like I don't miss him. A little." He wiggled the stale, tasteless sandwich. "We've fallen a few notches from pot roast and lasagna without Wilson to cook."

Steve cleaned peanut butter off his whiskers. Maybe he was contemplating the Mystery of the Pissed Off Oncologist or maybe he was simply trying to get goo off his body. Either way, House watched him, lost for a moment in thought. Suddenly, something occurred to him.

Foreman said Wilson had been listening to that stupid song over and over while he cleaned. He hadn't been listening to it for House. He'd been listening to it for himself.

House limped over to his computer and downloaded the song. Love songs were usually off-limits on his playlist, but no one had to know. He turned the volume down, lest his neighbors overhear, and just listened:

I have walked and I have prayed/

I could forgive and we could start again/

In the end, you are my one true friend

That wasn't Wilson begging to be forgiven. It was Wilson trying to find a way to forgive him.

House leaned forward, head on his cane and stared off into space. In his mind's eye he could see Wilson after he'd left for rehab: jacket off, tie loosened, puttering about House's office. Cleaning because it was the only thing he could do for his friend. After there was nothing more to do, settling in House's chair, massaging the bridge of his nose and just listening.

Though love may break, it never dies

It changes shape through changing eyes

Not long ago Wilson had warned that one day House would push their friendship too far and it would break. Now that it had happened, he hoped Wilson would be willing to fix it.

He thought of Wilson alone in the cafeteria, the slumped, defeated posture. He'd only done what he thought was right, what he thought would help his friend, and for that he'd endured almost five weeks of the silent treatment from friends and co-workers who normally adored him.

Treated badly for going against the grain, but still sticking to his guns. House could relate to that, as it seemed to happen to him daily. Still, Wilson had done what he could to save his best friend from jail and loss of his medical license.

Abruptly, he stood up, tossed what was left of his sandwich to Steve, and limped toward the bedroom. "Thanks for listening," he called over his shoulder to the rat.

HWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHWHW

It was House's fifth day back and he did the unthinkable again. He paid for not one lunch but two. The cafeteria ladies huddled together in a large, shivering mass, counting on safety in numbers.

It wasn't easy balancing a tray while walking with a cane, but House figured it was part of his reparations. He made his way slowly to where Wilson was sitting, alone, toying with a bowl of cereal.

"Is this seat taken?"

Wilson looked up, shrugged, and went back to his cereal. House took it as a good sign and sat, lowering the precariously balanced tray carefully to the table. "Here," he handed Wilson half the loot. "Fried chicken and mashed potatoes trump Raisin Bran any day."

"Thanks," Wilson said without looking up.

House crammed some chicken into his mouth to avoid the awkward silence. "So," he said finally, "I was going to cook something for you, but I didn't know what I could make out of peanut butter, leftover lo mein, salt, beer, and tarragon, which happen to be the only things I have in my kitchen."

Wilson still didn't look up, but he made a noise that sounded like an amused snort. Encouraging enough, so House went on. "Look, I was thinking last night. About some of the things I've said and done lately."

Damn, this was hard. It would help if Wilson would meet him halfway, but the oncologist's attention was fixed on his plate.

"I had no right to drag you into this thing. The prescription pad, the lies. You almost lost your practice because of me and-" He tapped his fork against his food nervously. "I'm not good at things like this. I guess I'm just trying to say..." He flapped his hands helplessly.

Wilson finally lifted his head. He stared at House for a long moment. "Are you apologizing?" he asked.

House looked away. "Yeah."

"You never apologize to anyone." Wilson blinked several times, as was his habit when trying to process something new.

House shrugged uncomfortably. "I figure after twelve years you get some special treatment. Stick with me another twelve and you get a gold watch."

Wilson snorted again, this time louder. "I guess I could use a gold watch." He looked into House's eyes and both of them broke into small smiles.

"So, does that mean you accept my apology?"

"Yes, but things are going to change around here." He level a finger at House. "First, you buy lunch for the next month. You owe me at least that for all the cereal and peanut butter I had to choke down when my accounts were frozen."

"Can do." That was easy enough. He could just win a few hundred more in medical bets every month from his ducklings to cover lunch expenses.

"Second, you either learn to cook-"

"What?!?" House looked horrified. Wilson had obviously smoked large amounts of cheap crack before work today. Unfortunately, he realized that he would comply and a disturbing image of himself clad in a pink apron and chef's hat sprung to mind.

Wilson held up his hand in compromise. "-or you always do the dishes after I cook."

"Well...okay." He relaxed, figuring Wilson would be flexible about that one and eventually maybe forget entirely.

"Third-and this is the most important, so please pay attention-no more of that stupid Yankee Workshop when I'm trying to watch TV. If you want to see people losing limbs, we can watch Quentin Tarantino films like normal men."

House pretended to think it over. It was hard to put up a gruff front when he was so glad to have his best friend back, but he gave it a go. "I guess," he said reluctantly. "Never bargain with a Jew."

"Always a bad idea," Wilson agreed.

They tucked into their lunch with gusto and this time the silence was comfortable, companionable.

"Did you TiVo Animal House last night?" the younger man asked through a mouthful of potato.

House shook his head. "Nope, but I have it on DVD."

"The Double Secret Probation edition?"

"Yep."

Wilson considered. "It'll be late by the time I get over there, so make sure the couch is clean enough to sleep on. In fact," he gave his friend a superior look, "that's the fourth change: clean, sleep-ready couch at all times."

House gestured with a chicken leg. "The only time that couch isn't clean is when you run out of diapers, Dr. McWeeWee."

Wilson blushed and stabbed his fork in House's direction. "Hey, you're reason I wet-"

House held up his hand. "No need to be embarrassed, big fella. Bladder control problems are a natural part of aging."

Wilson started to say something, then closed his mouth, rolled his eyes and sighed.

God, I've missed this!

Judging from the half-smile on Wilson's face and relaxed body, so had he.

Brenda stormed in, carrying a lunch tray and a clinic schedule. "House! You're half an hour late. Cuddy says you need to do four hours today, so you better get started. Boss lady says that if you try any of that 'my leg hurts' or 'I'm allergic to exam room tables' crap I can kill you and she'll help hide the body." She shot a glare at him for emphasis. "Hi, Dr. Wilson." She patted Wilson's shoulder and stalked off to terrify the masses.

Wilson stood up. "Come on. I'll do an hour of clinic with you."

As they walked out side by side that song came back to House one more time:

What I denied, I now can see/

You always were the light inside of me

Funny how he didn't seem to mind it so much this time.

THE END

Author's Note, part 2: The Revenge: The song is "My One True Friend" by Bette Midler. The Walgreen's sound system was playing it one day as I shopped and every single line screamed "House and Wilson!" especially given what was happening on the show at the time. If you want the lyrics and to hear it, try this page: