Wilson wakes up one morning to find House sorting through his stuff.
"What are you doing?" he asks, voice still groggy with sleep.
"Looking for your list," House says, opening and closing the drawers of Wilson's dresser, rummaging through the contents.
Wilson generally considers himself on top of things, most of the time, and even that comment is confusing him. "What list?"
"The rather pathetic list of things you're going to do before you die. I'm not sure you still have it; you might have lost it somewhere around divorce number two, but you're the type who would keep it around for sentimental purposes." House rifles through Wilson's sock drawer, and then heads down the hallway toward Wilson's study.
Wilson, not really willing to leave House unattended, considering he's lost his fucking mind, follows. "Why do you even care about my list?"
House finds Wilson's desk and starts opening and closing the drawers, sifting through the papers, which is only slightly less distressing than House sifting through Wilson's clothes. "Did you know that the average life expectancy in the US is now seventy-seven?"
Wilson rubs his forehead and thinks about kittens. That way he can resist the urge to kill House with his bare hands. "What does that have to do with anything?" he asks, though he has a sinking feeling that House has a plan. House with a plan is dangerous.
House takes a moment to smirk, and Wilson's wondering if he should start investing in underground bunkers in East Europe, because that's House's "I totally have a plan, and you're going to hate it" smirk. Wilson is kind of terrified by that smirk. "Well, seeing as it's your thirty-eight and a half birthday, I thought you might want to go through your list. Get started on your midlife crisis."
Wilson rubs his forehead again and thinks of the kittens. Throws some puppies in as well. He needs the extra reinforcement. "House..." he says.
But House has already pushed past him and is halfway down the stairs before Wilson gets out the second word.
He resists the urge to whack his head against the wall. This isn't over, not by a long shot.
Especially because he doesn't actually have a list.
When he gets to work, Wilson locks himself in his office, doing his best to avoid House, though that isn't as effective as he'd like, since the balcony door doesn't have a lock, and he needs to leave his phone connected.
It takes one loud phone call asking if he's had sex on a beach yet before Wilson decides to hide out in the Oncology lounge, because there's only one door and it locks, and it's surprisingly easy to fake bad signal and/or a dying battery in there.
He naps on the couch, realizing that being thirty-eight and a half sucks far more than being thirty-eight.
House somehow manages to leave a box of green hair dye on Wilson's desk overnight, also leaving behind a bright yellow post-it that says "#25 - Dye my hair a bizarre color."
Wilson plots his revenge, but decides to keep the dye. Never know when it might come in handy.
Since House has already set the ground rules, Wilson figures he might as well go along with it, see how far they can take it. The next morning he heads to the office extra early, when the sun is barely peeking over the trees, so that he has enough time to set up.
It's a real bitch, dragging himself out of bed, but it's completely worth it when House storms into his office later that day holding a blue post-it with the words, "#15 - Pull off a whoopie cushion gag" written on it in one hand and said whoopie cushion, painted black on one side for camouflage, in the other.
After that, it's all out war.
There's the brochure for some skydiving company nearby, with the post-it next to it reading, "#43 - Throw myself out a plane." Wilson rolls his eyes when he sees it, ripping them both down in one motion. He throws out the post it note, but he hides the brochure next to the hair dye.
Later on, in a fit of whimsy, Wilson tapes a hand drawn plane ticket to India onto House's light board, "#21 - See the Taj Mahal" written underneath, and when the post card comes a few days later, a picture of the Taj Mahal at dusk, its stone colored red in the dim light, he's so touched he doesn't tease House about it later. Instead, he sends House an e-mail with the subject, "#34 - Go to Alaska in the summer", and a link to a video of snow covered mountains and endless sunny days. They never talk about it again.
On the fifth day, House wallpapers the windshield of Wilson's Volvo with ads for very expensive Italian cars, the yellow post-it, "#2 - Buy an absurdly expensive car," tucked neatly behind one of the windshield wipers. It takes Wilson half an hour and some awkward jumping over the hood to get all of it off.
One night, House's CD player mysteriously starts blasting swing music at four in the morning (completely by accident), and when he gets up to look into it, he finds a book, How to Swing Dance, with a post-it that says, "#7 - Learn to swing dance" stuck to the front. He complains loudly about it in Wilson's office, but Wilson feigns innocence and doesn't tell House that he's wanted to learn since he was twelve, just never got around to it.
By the time they reach #16 (Finally get around to seeing all of Lawrence of Arabia), Wilson sits back on House's couch, sips his beer, and thinks that maybe this won't suck after all, as he watches Peter O'Toole run across the screen. That only lasts until #47, when House lures him onto the roof of PPTH late at night with the promise of cookies, but instead leaves behind a post-it on the edge: "#47 - Pretend to be Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic", which makes Wilson roll his eyes, but he still climbs onto the lip, closing his eyes to feel the wind on his face.
After a while, though, Wilson realizes that he can't actually wait House out when it comes to this sort of psychological warfare, and they have lunch together after an intense morning, with Cuddy calling Wilson down to her office, demanding to know why House had given her a post-it with "#11 - Grab Cuddy's ass" written on it after insisting that it was all Wilson's fault and that he was merely acting as Wilson's proxy, and Wilson retaliating with a creative masterpiece (in accordance with #17 - Write a novel) that he left on House's desk.
The Cranky Bastard: A Novel
by James E. Wilson
Wilson wishes he was there to see House's expression when he read it, and at the very least, Chase said that it had been priceless.
During lunch, Wilson tries to negotiate a cessation of hostilities. "When is this going to end?" he asks, because he's really beginning to run out of ideas.
House rolls his eyes, and speaks to Wilson as if he's especially slow. "When we finish the list."
Wilson resists the urge to groan out loud. "We're never going to finish the list! There is no list! The only list that exists is in your head!" Wilson knows that House can't keep doing this forever. Eventually, he'll get bored, find some new and creative way of torturing Wilson. But until then, Wilson will have to watch his back. Kittens, Wilson thinks. Kittens.
House just smirks knowingly, and it pisses Wilson off so much, he slaps a post-it (#14 - Eat all of my lunch myself) onto the back of House's hand when his fingers inch too close to Wilson's fries. That leads to an argument over whether or not it counts if Wilson's already done it before in his life, and Wilson leaves the table without so much as a temporary truce.
House leaves a kazoo the next day with the now very familiar post-it note. This one reads, "#5 - Learn how to play a musical instrument", and Wilson grabs it and tries out #36 (Make a musical composition) while House is trying to nap in his office.
House doesn't like that very much.
The whole thing comes to an end on a bright spring day, while they're out on the balcony (House's half) taking a break. House is surprisingly relaxed next to him, complaining about patients, the too familiar sound of it washing over Wilson as he listens, taking it in along with the sound of wind rustling through the trees, the cars in the parking lot. The pranks have tapered off a bit, longer spaces in between (and Wilson is never going to live down some of the things he said during #37 - Pulp Fiction drinking game. He hadn't quite realized that people cursed that much in Tarantino movies).
He thinks that maybe he should be more tense than he is, knowing that he has the trump card in his arsenal, that he needs to pull off this maneuver just right, but he's prepared for this moment, has set it up for this particular reason.
The timing is perfect when House stands up from his usual position, hunched over the edge. It almost feels like slow motion, the straightening of House's spine, the turn of House's body, the way his mouth opens as he's about to say something, opening up his chest so Wilson can slap the last post-it onto the front of his T-shirt and pull his head down for a kiss, not giving him time to see that the note reads: "#1 - Take a chance."