Boxing Day morning dawned bright and clear and cold, and was heralded by the ringing of the phone. House roused himself from sleep to take the call, since Horatio might as well have been in a coma for all the life he was showing. It was Delko and Calleigh calling from a motel at to say they were in and fairly rested. House told them the time and place, sent Wilson a text saying basically the same thing, and went back to sleep.
He woke up fully a couple of hours later because of the sun in his eyes, and found that the bed was empty. He stretched out a hand. The sheets were still warm. He strained his ears, and heard the faint sounds of water running.
House made his way into the bathroom slowly, aware that his leg wasn't hurting as much as usual today and hoping to keep it that way for as long as possible. He washed his face, brushed his teeth, and opened the shower door.
Horatio was standing under the water, head bowed and water pouring from his hair, rubbing his neck. He glanced up at House through the veil of droplets and smiled before tilting his head back to rinse his face. House, simultaneously amused and aroused, stood uncertainly by the door, his eyes jealously noting how the water flowed so smoothly along the contours of Horatio's body.
Ridiculous to be jealous of water. But how else to put it? House wanted to be the tiny beads that clung to Horatio's eyelashes, wanted to be the thick ropes that slung from his hair when he shook his head, wanted to be the water that sheeted down Horatio's long flat stomach.
"Greg." House looked up to see Horatio smiling at him. "You're staring."
"You're beautiful," House said without any trace of sarcasm or flippancy.
Horatio stepped out from under the shower and took hold of House's shoulders, pulling him into the enclosure. He kissed him, wet hands pulling at House's T-shirt, and House, who was fast getting drenched anyway, began to strip off his sodden clothes as though his life depended on it. It was mere minutes before he was up against the wall and Horatio was licking his way down House's chest.
"Horatio," House gasped, inhaling water. He began to cough. "Wait a second, I want to ask you something."
Horatio reached up and switched off the water, then put a calming hand on the back of House's neck. "Greg."
House managed to get the offending liquid out of his lungs – or at least out of his throat. "Sorry," he said, coughing again. "I wanted to ask...well...if you wanted to be the pitcher."
Horatio arched an eyebrow. "The pitcher."
"Yeah. I mean, I'm always the pitcher. So I figured maybe you might want to pitch."
"And you would be interested in catching?"
House smiled. "Horatio...I'm going to say this once, okay? And only once. So you might want to listen." He paused. "I'd do anything for you."
"Okay." Horatio grinned. "Okay. Then I will definitely pitch on this fine morning."
Horatio took care of breakfast while House sipped coffee and rubbed his thigh, which had definitely been under some strain during their shower session. Waffles were on the menu for breakfast, and as Horatio was feeling in an unusually merry mood, he put blueberries in them.
"How are you feeling?" he asked as he brought the plates to the table, not bothering to conceal his smile.
House shot him a look that spoke volumes and downed the rest of the coffee. "I'm in pain," he grunted in as sour a manner as he could muster, but Horatio saw the smirk. "I need a Vicodin."
"What else is new?"
"Not for my leg."
Horatio snorted and helped himself to a waffle. "Come on. It wasn't that bad."
"I never said anything was bad. I believe the word I used was 'pain'." House poured himself another cup of coffee and had a bite of waffle. "Christ, this is good. Now I remember why I'm marrying you."
"And it of course has nothing to do with the fact that I banged your brains out earlier."
House almost choked. "Would you stop doing that?" he asked, brushing half-chewed pieces of waffle from the back of one hand with the other. "I'm trying to eat and you're talking about sex. How do you expect me to concentrate long enough to swallow?"
House facepalmed. "Oh for God's sake..."
"So what are you wearing?" Horatio asked, taking pity on House and deciding to move the conversation in a direction that would hopefully allow them both to eat in peace.
"Tux?" House shrugged. "I don't know. It's in front of a justice of the peace, it's not in a church. We don't have to be formal..." He trailed off and stuffed a forkful of waffle into his mouth. "What are you wearing?"
Horatio steepled his hands and touched his lips to his fingers. "White."
"White." Horatio smiled. "It's a suit, and it's white. You...I think you should wear what you always wear. T-shirt, jeans, blazer."
House looked doubtful. "You in a suit and me in jeans? Come on, they'll throw us out of the office for an obvious display of heterosexuality by not having enough fashion sense to be gay!"
Horatio opened both hands. "Surprise me."
"I'm sure. Surprise me."
Horatio sat in the front of the Hummer and studied the fountain in front of the justice's office thoughtfully. The license was folded neatly in the inner pocket of his jacket. He checked his watch. They were early.
"How're you feeling, H?" Delko asked. He was dressed simply but elegantly, in black pants and a white shirt. Calleigh, who was in the backseat, wore the same thing. "Nervous?"
"No," Horatio said, which wasn't entirely true. "I've been waiting for this all my life." And then he sat up a little straighter as the convertible swung into the parking lot. "Here we go."
House had driven to the office of the justice of the peace with the top up, and now he pushed the button to lower it. Afternoon sunlight poured down on him as he hefted the cane and got out of the car.
Delko slid out of the Hummer, grinning. "House."
"Hey." House squinted in the bright light and gave what he hoped came off as a calm and confident smile. He nodded to Calleigh, who had also just emerged. She was unreasonably pregnant; House judged the size and position of her bump and predicted twins. Probably a boy and a girl.
Horatio jumped down from the backseat, blinding in a white suit. His shirt was black. His hair was windblown. He looked incredible.
House leaned on his cane and tried to look nonchalant, but he saw the way Horatio was looking at him. House was in black. Black pants, black shirt, no jacket. He had taken a good look at himself in the mirror before he'd settled on it, trying to be objective. The effect was sleek and somehow dangerous.
Horatio came to a halt in front of him. "Greg." The way he said House's name told him he was more than impressed. "I like."
House smiled. "You look great."
There was the sound of an engine, and a Mustang pulled into the spot next to the Corvette. Wilson climbed out and ran both hands back through his hair as though trying to get it to behave. "Sorry I'm late," he said breathlessly. "You wouldn't believe the traffic."
"You're not late," House said, glancing at his watch. "You're right on time." He turned to Horatio and offered him his arm. "Shall we?"
Silence prevailed as House and Horatio stood before the justice of the peace, broken only by the old man's voice as he conducted the ceremony – a ceremony that was barely a ceremony at all, it was so short and to the point.
"We are here to join Horatio Caine and Gregory House in civil union." The justice turned to Horatio. He was a withered old soul, with long white hair and wise dark eyes. "Do you, Horatio Caine, take Gregory House, to be united as one in civil union?"
Horatio reached for House's hand. "I do."
"And do you, Gregory House, take Horatio Caine, to be united as one in civil union?"
House returned the gentle pressure of Horatio's fingers. "I do."
"And there are no objections?" The justice looked first at Delko and then at Wilson. Neither said anything, but both smiled. "Very well. Then repeat after me...I, Horatio Caine..."
Horatio turned to House and looked up into his eyes. "I, Horatio Caine, do take you, Gregory House, to be my spouse in our civil union, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."
The justice nodded to House. "I, Gregory House..."
House took a deep breath. "I, Gregory House, do take you, Horatio Caine, to be my spouse in our civil union, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."
"By the power vested in me by the state of New Jersey," the justice pronounced gravely, "I hereby join you in civil union." And now he smiled. "You may kiss your husband."
Horatio laid one hand on House's chest over his heart. "I love you," he whispered.
"And I you." House leaned down and kissed him.
"So what's the plan?" Calleigh asked as they walked out to the parking lot after all the legal documents had been signed. "Honeymoon in Vegas?"
"Probably not," Horatio admitted with a sigh. "We haven't made any plans."
"I'd say we could go on a roadtrip, but I think you've seen enough of the road to last you until well into the afterlife." House glanced at Horatio for confirmation and received it. "Yep. As I thought."
"Where did you two go on your honeymoon?" Horatio asked.
"Week in Palm Springs," Delko said with a grin. "It was nice."
"I certainly enjoyed it." Calleigh laced her fingers into Delko's. "Well, whatever you settle on doing, I do hope you have fun." She smiled, and gave Horatio a hug. "Congratulations again."
"Thank you." Horatio hugged her back, and shook hands with Delko. "Eric."
"You feel free to come down to Miami anytime, okay?" Calleigh was hugging a very surprised House. "Congratulations. I'm very happy for you both."
"Thanks." House was clearly at a loss for words.
Delko grasped House's hand. "Keep in touch, all right?"
Horatio watched as the Hummer pulled out into the road, and Wilson, who had been silent all the time, chose this moment to speak. "So you're going to spend your honeymoon in New Jersey?"
House snorted. "And you would naturally have a better idea."
"Naturally." Wilson pulled an envelope from his pocket. "Of course, it would have been nice if you'd told me earlier so I wouldn't have had to clear my savings for this. This is my wedding present, if you want to call it that, to both of you."
House frowned. "What in the..." He got the envelope open and stopped, staring into it as though it held the secrets of the universe. "Jimmy."
"Tickets to San Diego," Wilson explained to Horatio. "Round-trip."
House looked up, wearing the most uncharacteristic expression of shellshock. "I..."
"Thank me later," Wilson said, and smiled. "Have some fun, House. You've earned it."
House was obviously too bewildered to speak. He tried to say something, faltered, and settled on a nod. Then, as though he'd decided that that wasn't quite enough, he reached out and put a hand on Wilson's shoulder, giving it a soundless squeeze.
Wilson seemed to translate this effortlessly. "Oh, stop with the effusive gratitude. You're welcome."
"Thank you," Horatio said quietly.
"You want to thank me?" Wilson jerked his chin towards House. "Make sure he takes a break. For him it's all about speed...moving from one thing to another, never slowing down or stopping because then he might have to contemplate how he's spent all these years not really living. If you can do that, I won't make him pay me back."
Horatio laughed. "I'll do my best."
"I know." Wilson held out a hand. "Congratulations, Horatio. Take care of him."
Wilson turned to House. "I'm happy for you," he said seriously, and gripped House's hand. "Behave yourself."
House had recovered enough to flash a grin. "Right."
Wilson rolled his eyes and got into his car. "Good luck to you both," he called out of the window as he was reversing. "And don't drink the water."
Horatio looked at the taillights of the Mustang as it drove away. Dusk was encroaching on the horizon, and the air had a mildness that was unusual for this time of year.
"So," he said. "What now?"
House looked down at him. "Does it matter?"
Horatio considered this. He slid an arm around House's waist, fingers slipping into the hip pocket of the black slacks. "That depends. Are you happy?"
"I'm happy," House said, and his lips twitched in what could have been a smile. "Are you?"
"Yes." Horatio held up House's keys and dangled them in front of his face with an impish twinkle in his eyes. "Come on. Let's go."
"Where are we going?" House asked as he got into the passenger seat. The breeze was threading its way through his hair, and somehow the lines on his face seemed less noticeable than they had been all along.
Horatio started the engine. "I don't know. Are you with me?"
House smiled. "I'm with you."
They were both smiling as the convertible pulled out of the lot and into the fast approaching darkness.