Disclaimer, etc., in chapter 1.
Hi. So this is the last chapter. It's been a quirky fic. This ending is not so much an ending as it is a stopping point at which I feel I've accomplished the goals I set. If it's disappointing, I apologize.
Also, I've borrowed the title from a poem by Frost. Its timbre informs my take on this chapter and the whole of this fic, but Frost can almost always be read at least two different ways, so the poem may or may not influence your reading. I'd be pleased if people read this fic two different ways.
Neither Out Far Nor In Deep
Wilson minimized the internet browser in favor of Princeton-Plainsboro's labs page when his email program announced a new message and the new message announced a fresh set of labs. For hours he'd been jumping back and forth between boat shopping and lab and patient review, stopping briefly to make a sandwich around noon and to refresh House's cup of Gatorade. House dozed between trips to the bathroom, occasionally waking enough to change the channel before he closed his eyes again and began to snore lightly. Neither of them had said anything in at least two hours.
Wilson added his notes to the patient's file and saved his changes to the system, then pulled up the boat page again. His head buzzed with things they could do. To have a boat, they'd have to have somewhere to keep a boat, and as much as House disliked any change to his routine, a move might be good. He had no idea how House would react and he wouldn't bring the subject up until House felt better—but that didn't keep him from opening a new page to begin searching real estate listings in the area.
A cough and an overly loud sigh distracted Wilson. Embarrassed, he minimized the real estate page before turning around.
House looked sick. Like he should be doing exactly what he'd done all day: lying on the couch, trying to sleep. Now he'd sat up to speak. The deep fissures around his eyes were intensified by the downward tilt of his head, as if raising it fully would take too much out of him.
Wilson raised a questioning eyebrow.
House coughed again and glanced at the floor quickly: a nervous tick that related his discomfort.
"I, ah, need you to get me an antiemetic." He coughed to clear his raspy throat, sweeping a hand across his face and pausing to pinch the bridge of his nose.
"Leg's killing me."
Wilson saw him lean forward and drop his hand carefully against his gut. His right hand pressed past the familiar absence and into the always-waiting angry crevasse.
"Gotta keep a few Vicodin down long enough for them to work." An extra press of his palm, as if mentioning the leg must coincide with firming his grasp on it.
Wilson studied him silently for a second before consenting. He stretched, rubbing away the ache which had settled in his back after hours of sitting in the chair, and sat forward with his hands on his thighs.
"How's the fluid loss?" he asked.
House had brought the topic up; by unwritten law, Wilson could ask a few questions with impunity.
House nodded to himself. "Antiemetic'll help with that, too."
Wilson felt for him though he kept his face neutral. He was glad to have this chance to help.
"Anything else I can do?"
House lifted a droll eyebrow. "Can't make time move forward or backward yet, can you?"
"Oh, so close," Wilson said, swinging an arm and snapping his fingers. "Another week and I'd have it down."
House favored him with a weak smile and lay back down. At some point during the morning, he'd brought a blanket into the living room which he now pulled up to his shoulder.
Wilson fetched his phone and dialed a nearby pharmacy. He roamed into the kitchen to let House sleep. When the first two pharmacies he tried didn't have any choice antiemetics in injectable form, he gave in and called the hospital's pharmacy. He rolled an orange back and forth on the island while he answered the pharmacist's many questions. He'd had House's social security number and insurance identification number memorized for years, never mind address and phone number. The rigmarole of paperwork bored him today.
Though he'd overcome the sharp disappointment he'd felt when House had come home sick, he still wanted a day at home where he did little to nothing productive. That did not include a trip to work.
His mind wandered to the black bag in the closet and the toy inside of it while his groin reminded him he hadn't finished what he'd started earlier in the day. Yes. They'd definitely have to move at some point. He had no private space right now except the bedroom and that was the last place he wanted to put on a one-man show.
He dropped the phone into his pocket and stretched again. Another reason to move: no room for a decent ergonomic chair in front of his computer right now.
Roaming back into the living room, he stopped to put his shoes on and gauge House's hydration status from a distance. No moderate or severe signs showed and because today he was determined to minimize his interference in House's illness, he let his mind drift again. It settled on his bank account as he tied the left shoelace. All of the wives had either remarried or become financially independent; other than high quality food and some new clothes now and then, he spent almost no money. And now that he split the rent on a single room apartment with House, his account was swollen with funds. His investments were sound; he had no debt. The price of a boat he'd picked out flashed in front of him: he could pay cash for it. But, not for the first time, he wondered: did House really want to go fishing?
"Be back soon," he said out of habit, grabbing his keys and rounding the couch. House didn't even grunt.
Without really knowing why, Wilson shut the door quietly as he entered the apartment. He dropped his keys and rounded the couch to drop the paper bag. House startled awake with a sharp intake of breath. For a moment, alien eyes met Wilson, then he relaxed and sank down into the couch. Wilson heard him sigh gently.
Dropping into his chair, Wilson untied his shoes, slid them off, and arranged them neatly to the side. He watched as House steeled himself and sat up with a heavy groan, pushing the blanket aside.
Once House was settled with two Vicodin in his mouth, nearly doubled over as he had been earlier, Wilson moved the blanket and sat next to him.
Wordlessly, Wilson offered House the vial and a syringe. Let him do it. Let him satisfy himself. Wilson had learned long ago that was the easiest way to deal with House.
House's hands shook as he filled the syringe; Wilson found something else to look at.
The syringe and vial moved in his peripheral vision. Wilson took them, noting that House had drawn a reasonable amount. Not that House could overdose or make himself anything but sleepy with this drug. He didn't like to admit it—he wouldn't admit it—but no matter how close they'd gotten recently, he still didn't trust House with narcotics. Not completely.
"Why do you want to go fishing?" House asked, his voice grating as he spoke.
Wilson shook himself. He put the vial down and tore an alcohol packet open. House had already hooked his thumb around his pajama pants to expose his hip. He wasn't looking at Wilson for an answer.
"You used to fish a lot," House continued. "Then you stopped."
Divorces, remarriages, the endless string of difficulties House had faced—each one resonated between them in the moment of silence.
"So why now?"
House was watching him. No, not him. The syringe. His eyes spoke for him: you gonna give me that?
Wilson disinfected a patch of skin and stuck him. House grunted.
"I miss it," Wilson said, counting the seconds while he depressed the plunger. "I thought it would be fun."
"Why ask me?" House asked, hissing when Wilson pressed a cotton ball and withdrew the needle.
"I wanted to do more with you," Wilson answered, gently rubbing House's hip, not thinking about why he'd used the past tense.
"And you thought I'd like fishing?" House asked, batting Wilson's hand away. "It's fine," he mumbled.
House pulled his leg up to lie back down but Wilson didn't move out of his way. Instead, Wilson placed his hands on House's shoulders and dug into the muscle around his spine.
"What're you doing?" House asked, half-turning, genuinely confused.
Wilson merely shrugged in the moment they locked eyes and kept massaging.
"I don't know what you like to do outside of the apartment any more," Wilson said casually. "Fishing's as a good a bet as anything else."
House leaned forward slightly to give Wilson better access to his back. "Fishing, sure," he said. "Makes more sense than hang gliding or bungee jumping or watching paint dry. Why not?"
"You don't have to go," Wilson said lightly, telling himself he would not be hurt if House rescinded his agreement. "I want to go. I want you to go. But you don't have to."
"I'll go," House said equal levity.
He let out a heavy breath, groping with one hand at Wilson's leg behind him and touching the other to his head. One of Wilson's hands met House's while the other held a suddenly heavy shoulder.
"Just kicked in," House mumbled, gripping Wilson and now the couch too for stability. "Move it or lose it."
Wilson shifted from the middle cushion to an end cushion. "Think I'll lose it," he said, simultaneously helping House scoot with him and pulling House down on top of him.
House's questioning grunt arrived a little too late. He was half-lying in Wilson's lap before he could get any words out. "Whatever you've got in mind…"
"Nothing, nothing," Wilson assured him. "It's been a few days, that's all."
Wilson felt him snort and the friction it caused. He shifted slightly.
"That's not nothing," House leered.
A month ago, Wilson might have blushed at the comment. Now he simply shrugged. "I didn't get to finish earlier."
"Poor you," House intoned. He shifted his shoulders like a dog with an itch, then let his head rest on Wilson's chest. "Kind of uncomfortable."
"Oh, shut up," Wilson dismissed. "You'd have me pinned already if you were in my position."
House yawned. "If I were in your position, I would've finished earlier."
"Next time I'm in the bathroom puking my guts out, you try masturbating in here," Wilson griped.
"It's easy," House dismissed sleepily. "Just turn the volume up."
Wilson sniffed. "Thanks in advance for the tender, loving care."
"I should put my sex life on hold for you," House mumbled.
"Yes, you should," Wilson said.
House became heavier as he relaxed. Wilson knew he wouldn't be able to sit with House's sleeping upper body on top of him and remain comfortable for very long, but he intended to enjoy the closeness he'd looked forward to since last night. He would stay as long as he could.
House murmured something else unintelligible and fell silent. Through the thin cotton of his t-shirt, Wilson lightly rubbed a thumb back and forth over the tough hollow beneath House's collar bone. He sighed contentedly. The feel and smell of House were sometimes nearly as good as sex, and often more difficult to get. And sometimes when the sex wasn't particularly good, they were better. Long years of tumultuous relationships in combination with antidepressants made him appreciate more the value of quiet togetherness.
Wilson felt House's limbs twitch, the random-fire myoclonic jerks that were the brain's mechanism for checking the body's pulse, and smiled. Feeling House fall asleep near him was a rare event. He stopped his thumb's movement slowly. In this position he could feel House breathe, his heart beat, his muscles relax, even the squishy roiling in his bowel. He smiled a little more.
So what if they went fishing. So what if they moved. So what if House had hidden the hernia from him. So what if he'd been bored all day. So what if he could feel his leg falling asleep already, pinned under House's lower back, and if the pressure on his groin had become uncomfortable. So what if House's body would wake him in ten minutes. But most of all, so what if they went fishing.
He'd learned the take pleasure and comfort in small things. Maybe House never would, but maybe that made them a good pair. And maybe it didn't matter right now when he finally had what he'd wanted all day.
Wilson closed his eyes and breathed out, content with the warm, sleeping man grinding him deeper into the couch. In such dense closeness, so what nothing.