Title: Filling the Pages

Author: SOrion
Fandom: House MD
Pairing: House/Wilson (Wilson/OMC)
Disclaimer: Not mine.

Summary: Pages need filling, lives need living.

Part 1 – Long Enough

You've spent over almost forty years of your life, expecting to know what you would find whenever you turned a page in your book.
It's worked well, so far. You had your story in front of you and tried to live up to it.

Until today. Today, you turned another page, comforted by the familiar quilt pattern that was your life, your destiny.
But what you saw didn't look like what you expected. It didn't even look like what you didn't expect.

Your next page… is empty.

This is what comes to your mind, when you wake another morning in your empty hotel room.
It's not like you only just realized that your wife left you (it's been over a year, after all), or that you're maybe not the straight arrow that everyone and their moms (yours, especially) expected you to be.

No… It's just that you're awake now, and you find your page turned. You don't know whether you turned it, or if it turned itself while you were sleeping.
And you aren't afraid of turning, anymore; afraid of what you would find, after this. Because there's literally nothing there to be afraid of.

Your therapist would be proud of you.

"You already managed the hardest part," she liked to say. "You've discovered yourself and allowed yourself to see it. This is a huge achievement," she liked to say. "Now, you can live your life. Your own," she liked to say.

She liked to say a lot of things, actually.

And you always smiled and nodded, making her believe (at least you think you did) that you were somewhat proud of your accomplishments.

The only problem was… Those accomplishments didn't get you anywhere. They didn't suddenly make your life better, your world brighter.

Oh, no. They left you, nearing forty, with a revelation that certainly brought some relief with it… but also the realisation that for the first time in your life, you didn't know what you were supposed to do.
Before, it had been easy. Career, wife, house, picket fence, children, dog.

It was what you've always pictured your life to be.

But while you certainly liked – even loved – to make all those women as happy as possible… They never could make you happy. Something was always missing.
Parts of that something, you now know, are a lot more graphic than you always let yourself believe.

Those 'accomplishments' made you feel like the biggest idiot to ever walk the face of the planet.

38. Jesus! 38! That was indeed a number to behold. How could you have gone for 30 fucking 8 years, ignoring how you've always… always…

Yeah. Always.

At least, that is how it made you feel, before today: A past-his-prime loser of an idiot, who now had to figure out how to pick up guys, for Christ's sake! Not with the excuse of experimentation, but with intent.

During the course of your therapy, you thought you knew what the next page would look like: Disaster. Of proportions that even House's more creative attempts would turn a lovely shade of envy-green.
But… it doesn't. It's not a disaster looking at you. It's an empty canvas, aching to be filled.

You lie in your bed, and laughter bubbles from deep within your chest.
You can breathe. Breathe! You didn't even remember how good that used to feel!

Breathing, crying, laughing. It never felt so good…

You don't know how long you lie there, basking in finally feeling yourself, again, when the first ray of sunshine blinds you through a gap between the curtains.

Another day has started, then. That thought is a good one.

First things first, though, you decide and get up:

Today, you're going to find an apartment. Because, frankly, it's been long enough.

It doesn't take long for him to find out that something's changed. It never has, it never will.

You somehow hold the hope that this time, he won't resort to drugging you to find the answers, his busy mind is always seeking.

And it so happens that he doesn't need the drugs. He just very timely barges into your office via the balcony, exactly one day after you moved into your New Apartment.

God. Your apartment. That shouldn't feel like you've only just moved out of your parent's attic room, but it does. It feels better, even. Your life. Your own.

"So, you up the meds or something?"

Well… almost your own. House never quite understood the concept of ownership, if it doesn't concern something that is his. (In which case, he understands very well, indeed.)

House makes himself comfortable on your couch, leans back and looks at you, expectantly. Or maybe expectantly expecting what he already expects you to say.
The eagerness of a child who has just peeked into mother's shopping bag, discovering his favourite dish and now innocently asking what's for dinner…

It makes you smile.

He raises an eyebrow.

"No, actually. I lowered them," you answer truthfully. You've gone with half the dosage for three weeks; ever since your little revelation.

The eyebrow is being lowered, and the eyes narrow, instead. "Did you, now."

Putting all of his weight on his left leg and the cane, he can get up quickly, if he wants to (and if he's not having a bad leg day). Within the blink of an eye, he stands right in front of you, leaning closer and sniffing your hair.

You laugh. "What?"

He straightens, studying you seriously. "You moved out of the hotel."

"Did I, now," you reply, deadpan.

That reply makes him smirk. "So… Found some nice blondie with legs up here and tits out there, whom you want to impress with your own car, your own doctor's degree and now your very own place?" He tilts his head.

He knows your buttons usually better than you know his; but you score, every now and then… And more often, lately.

"Not yet," you say, since it happens to be the truth, as well. You haven't found anyone, yet… but you do intend to find out, whether your charm works as well on men as it does on women, and apartments help the case (the doctor's degree never hurt, any, either).

You turn back to your paperwork in front of you, so you only see House's expression from the corner of you eyes and file it under the usual 'House is jealous of anyone and anything that dares to threaten his Wilson-monopole'… You have no reason to believe anything else, after all. And House should know better than to think that anyone could ever take his place.

And you should date, again. Because, frankly, it's been long enough.

You find out about the powers of your charm that very same weekend, and you only feel a little bit bad for lying about some of your past.

But when sitting at the bar, talking to a beautiful young man, who's probably at least ten years younger than you are, you really don't want to tell him that you've been heterosexually married three times and haven't had sex with a man for twenty years. (The urge to want to hit yourself still hasn't quite left.)

But in the end, it doesn't matter. Because Paul is funny, smart, interesting… and he has a knowing light in his eyes that suggests that maybe you don't have to tell him, anyway.

"So, James," he says, and you like the sound of your name off his lips, "doctor, huh?"

You nod. He's a primary school teacher, probably a very good one, what with his gentle nature, perceptiveness and his talent to coax people out of their shells.

Paul sips his beer. "May I ask what of?"


He nods, seriously. "Tough field. One of my former school kids died of cancer about a month ago. She was eleven, but I saw her every so often. You know... to see how she's doing."

You blink. "She died here? In Princeton?"

"Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital."

You can't stop a sad smile from breaking free. That is one particular case, you'll never be able to forget; and she was the only girl of that age who died while in your care, the last three or four months. "Andie."

He stares at you, now. "Wait. You're not... that doctor Wilson, are you? You're just one of his staff?"

Ah, right. You've only told each other your first names... "I... uh, no. I mean, yes, I am James Wilson." So much for hiding your age, for a while.

A slow grin spreads across his face, and he eyes you up and down. "Not bad. I'd have figured you were about my age... Guess not, then."

You blush and clear your throat.

He laughs, and it's a nice, open laugh that makes people feel better. Then he puts a warm hand on your arm and caressingly wanders up and down a bit, before pulling back.

Later, you discover that his hands are as warm and friendly in private, as they are in public. They run over your skin, put you on fire and comfort you at the same time.

You don't know if he believed you when you said that you felt like giving yourself up and being taken care of, just for tonight, or if he saw right through you... Considering the way he takes his time, exploring and pleasuring you, it certainly feels like he knows it's your first time for two decades, and that you're too afraid to screw up, if you were to take the lead.

But you can't ponder this question for long. It feels so good, having another man inside you, moving, taking, pleasuring...
God, how you've missed this. You never realized how much.

Everything your revelation brought with itself is worth it, you decide, to finally be able to feel this, again.

You crush his mouth to yours, thrust your tongue between his lips to entwine with his. So good.

You can't wait to discover more empty pages to fill with this... Because, frankly – oh, yes, right there – it's been long enough.

House is making himself scarce the following weeks. You don't worry, at first, because he still consults you, he still steals your lunch, and he still drops by.

It takes you two weeks to notice that your friend's patterns have changed. Slightly. And it takes another week for you to feel the queasy feeling of anticipation.

Because if House is waiting, he is waiting with a little something up his sleeve. And that usually calls for at least some worry.

It is a nice distraction, when your assistant calls you, telling you that you have a visitor who would like to see you. A Mr. Paul Langer.

You relax and tell her to let him in, and seeing his beautiful face widens your smile.

"Hey," he says, walking up to your desk.

You get up to take him into your arms and kiss him. "Hey, yourself," you answer and explore his mouth some more.

He's a good kisser; and everyone you've ever kissed says the same about you; so neither one of you notices the shadow passing by the balcony door and disappearing, again.

But for some reason – maybe a strange sixth sense – Paul brushes his lips one last time against yours and asks: "So... about that House. Am I ever going to meet him?" (On second thought, he probably asked about House, because you mention him all the time.)

You chuckle and shake your head. "I don't think that would go over particularly well..." You kiss him, again, making him laugh and thread his fingers through your hair.

"Why?" He nips at your lower lip. "Because you never told him, you're not the straight arrow you appear to be? Or because you're afraid, he'll figure out that you're in love with him?"

Abruptly, you pull back and stare at some spot on the floor. The good and carefree feeling is already crumbling to dust...

Paul tenderly caresses your cheek with the knuckles of his right hand. "You know I like you. Don't you, James?"

He tilts your face upwards with a slight tap to your chin. His smile is full of understanding and affection.

You feel like you don't deserve it.

He kisses you, quickly. "And I know you like me. But no one holds a candle to the mysterious 'House'. Not me, not any of your wives, not even your job."

You know that conversation. Not the exact words, of course... But... "You're breaking up with me," you're stating.

Paul is smirking, mischievously. "Not just yet. The sex is way too good." He pulls you into another one of those expert kisses.

And you're torn between going with the flow and feeling guilty for once again not being the partner you could and should be.

But Paul is different. For the first time, someone knows exactly where they stand with you... and doesn't mind.
You're friends. And the sex is good. Fantastic, even.

After a long while, you pull back and look at him. "I wish I could... you know..." You lower your eyes, again.

"Not the first time you wish for that, is it?"

You shake your head. With every wife, you wished that you could give her the attention she deserved. The one that in the end, you always ended up giving to House. "No," you finally force out. "But I guess I am finally beginning to understand it."

The next kiss is almost distracting enough.

Paul smiles and winks at you, and you know that he really is okay with the way things are. "I have to go. See you tomorrow night?"

You lick his lips. "Wouldn't miss it."

One more grope at your ass, and Paul turns to the door. "Neither would I. You are quite the tiger in the sack."

You laugh, blushing only slightly.

When you're alone, again, you think that you would love him, if you could.
And maybe you do, a bit. The way you loved your wives and affairs in between: Good, nice, loveable people, whose only flaw was that they were not your best friend.

You realize that this is the first time that you actually see it, while it happens. Every other time, you let yourself believe that you were truly in love; that this time, it was what you were waiting and looking for.

Now you know that it's not. That thought is sort of saddening, but also liberating.

You decide that you'll allow yourself to simply feel good, again. Because, frankly... Yep. Exactly. It's been long enough.

House drops by about an hour later; he even uses the actual entrance and not the one to the balcony and sits in the chair front of your desk.

"If you're here to steal my lunch, you're too late. I already had something," you say, turning back to your paperwork.

"Riiight. Forgot. You got some office tongue, earlier."

You don't even notice that you've lifted you head, until you're staring into his eyes.

He stares right back with mock innocence, waiting for your reaction, almost daring you to talk yourself out of whatever he must have seen. And you already know what that is.

You surprise yourself by shaking off your shock in record time. "I had a sandwich, afterwards. Tongue is satisfying, but not very nutritious."

House's expression is unreadable. Which is unusual, because most of the time, you can read him. Or at least get a hint...

Finally, the man is leaning back in his chair. "So, that was the big secret? The whole," he signs quotation marks in the air with his fingers, "personal thing?"

You furrow your brows, confused.

He continues: "You're a closet case and suddenly figured out what it was that you wives were lacking?" He leers at you.

You roll your eyes. "That was only part of it. I like women. The female body is a beautiful thing, I'm sure you'll agree." You're glad that this coaxes a grin out of him. "It's just that... I guess I liked the idea of having a wife more than I liked the women, themselves. And yes," you add, before he can interrupt, "I know I'm an idiot."

House studies you for a while. "And you didn't tell me about this, why?"

You rub your face, exasperation prickling under your skin. "Jesus, House! I've only just come to terms with the fact that I screwed up my life, while knowing on some level what I was doing." You huff a breath of air, feeling the stupidity, again... It does sound particularly idiotic, being spelled out like that. "I didn't take those meds for fun. Give me a little time, okay?"

House's expression turns contemplative. "You've had that time." He tilts his head. "Your pretty little boyfriend must have known you for long enough to know where you work and know you wouldn't mind seeing him, here."

You sigh. He's right, of course. It's been a while, and you could have told him about it. "You're right. I'm sorry," you admit. The knowledge that Paul was all too right about how you were afraid that House could read right through you, is easily ignored.

You wait for House to say something else, and when he doesn't, you decide to give him the details, he most likely has already all figured out. "Paul and I have been together for almost a month, now. It... feels good to have someone." You add the latter with a wistful smile.

House nods, slowly. "Any marriage plans, yet?"

You snort. "Yeah, right. What with my encouraging record in the marriage department."

The two of you share a sardonic smile.

"Besides," you say, "it's not like that; and for the first time, I am aware of what it really is... It just feels good, and I really like him."

House clears his throat, declaring particularly loudly: "Yeah. It looked like it felt good."
He grins, but something is off about it... The grin is not fake – that would be very unlike House – but it's not quite right, either.

"You're not telling me something," you finally decide.

House just sits there, studying you, smiling slightly; and his ever playful eyes twinkle at you, when he says: "So are you, Jimmy, my boy. So are you."

You smirk. You don't mind House being playful, even when you're on the receiving end. It annoys you more often than not, but it always means that he is in a good mood.
And you certainly prefer House being reasonably well (even at your expense) instead of miserable, because of what you've just revealed to him.

He's the one and only constant in your life. You love him, in whatever way you let yourself (or he lets you).

So, no, you don't mind House being House. Because, frankly, he's always been like that.

Part 2 – Reading On

You use your key to House's apartment with the slightest bit of trepidation, somewhat puzzled by the lack of tasteless jokes or public outings, that afternoon.

You would have expected both, at some point, and you looked in every doctor and nurse's expression for some sign of what House might have let slip. But nothing was there.

That made it more likely for House to have something in store for you, tonight. Movie night. You bring the food, as usual.

House sits on the couch and cranes his neck to grin at you. "I hope you brought some of your gayety with you, because the movie selection sucks."

You roll your eyes. "That was lame. Not worthy of you." You put the take-out Chinese on the coffee table and go to grab a beer for yourself.

House seems to be in an awfully good mood, as you settle down next to him, starting to put the food onto plates.

"No hot date, tonight, then?" he asks.

You hand him his plate. "I'm here, aren't I?"

"What's His Name must be lonely."

You smirk and break your chop sticks. "You know his name." House mostly remembers people's names, but never feels like using them. Just in case it isn't clear that he has not the slightest interest in them... Though, personally, you don't think that the forgetting of names is necessary, what with House's charming personality and all.

"Paul," he concedes with a sickly sweet voice.

You grin widely at him.

"Why Paul?" he suddenly asks.

You swallow a tasty bite and raise an eyebrow. "Yes... I have no idea what I might see in an attractive, smart and likeable younger man."

House nods. "I get what you see in him. But it's not like you to settle for anything that you don't consider to be your 'one true love'." His sarcastic tone matches your mood, whenever that topic comes up.

You snort. "It has worked out incredibly well, so far." You shake your head. "House, I finally managed to reach a point, where I recognize where it really is that I'm standing in a relationship. Something that you've been trying to make me see for years, I might add. So, why are you bugging me about it, now?"

House shrugs and stares at the food he holds in his lap. "Usually, people need a basis of comparison," he says clinically. "For you to know that you never truly loved, you would have to know what love feels like." He looks at you. "Wouldn't you?"

Why aren't you surprised...?
You know that denying what he just said would only bring him closer to the truth. So you nod, slowly, nonchalantly, hoping to convey that it isn't important. "The basis has been there, all along. I just didn't see it."

It's not even a lie. The basis has been there for almost as long as House has.

House puts his Chinese on the table and leans back into the cushions. He's silent for a very long time, before he says: "I know."

You don't think you've ever seen him quite like this. Quiet, nervous, afraid... And the lump in your stomach expands to your throat and you can't help but put your food away, too.

He knows. And there is no doubt about what it is that he knows. He knows...

You try to swallow and it almost hurts. "How long have you known?" you force yourself to at least whisper.

Both of you stare ahead, neither dares to turn.

The corner of House's lips twitches, but it's gone so quickly that you wouldn't have caught it, even if you had looked at him.

"You..." he starts, "were always my greatest puzzle. And I could see the whole picture, years ago. But one piece was missing. Without that..."

He shrugs, again, and you have to look at him.

"I couldn't really be sure that the picture really was what I thought it was." He turns his head towards you. "It is."

You bite your lip, look down and try to relax your hands that have wound themselves around each other. "So... What happened to your usual method of poking and prodding until you get the last piece?"

He shrugs, almost helplessly. "I... didn't want to be wrong."

"You never do."

He huffs a small laugh. "Did you listen to what I just said, or did you never get any further than your usual broken Best Of record of 'House needs to be right'?"

The words finally start to trickle in, and their meaning suddenly becomes as clear as day. So clear, in fact, that you wonder for the briefest of moments, how you could possibly have ever missed it.
Your heart skips a beat (extra systole, your medicinal mind provides), and you are frozen to the spot, staring ahead.

He knows. He reciprocates.

You desperately flip back a few pages, to see where this has all happened. But there is nothing that could have given you a hint.
All the pages full of picture perfect denial are useless. Fucking useless! And the more recent ones only revolve around you and your feelings and experiences.

It might have been written down in House's book; but in yours, there is only the gossamer of a desire, glittering in your peripheral vision, always just slightly out of reach...

You have ached for it, but it was never yours to have. And now, it's floating right in front of you... You can reach out your fingers and touch it, hold it... It's yours. All you have to do is...

House smiles a sardonic smile. "Be careful what you wish for..."

It takes your entangled mind a moment to piece together that House sees your inaction as rejection. It isn't... It's just... that you don't really know how to react. "No," you say quickly. "I... I mean..."

"Would you please at least look at me?" he tries to demand, but it comes out as nearly a plea.

You turn hesitantly. "I just don't..." You're lost. How does one react to something like this? Jump the other party? Laugh it off? Take it slow? What?!

House snorts. "Hey, you're the one being frequently banged by a hot young guy; it's not like you don't know what to do. I, on the other hand, haven't had sex with a man for..." He pauses in mock contemplation. "Oh... four months. Male hookers are a lot more expensive."

You were about to start in on how it wasn't about sex (as House probably knew), but his time frame startles your jaw into dropping and your mind into some kind of medically impossible freeze.

House shakes his head, radiating fake resignation. "I know, I know... You think you know a guy..."

"You never told me," is the first thing to escape your slack lips; and it occurs to you a second later, how completely ridiculous (and hypocritical) that statement is.

House obviously realizes the same thing and looks at you, as if you were a moron. You feel like you are, at any rate...

You shake your head out of its stupor. "So... What now?" That isn't much smarter, some part of your mind adds, not so helpfully. "I'd say something like that I don't want to risk our friendship by doing something stupid; and that we should just forget about it. But we both know that's not possible, anymore, don't we?"

"The box has been opened," he agrees.

The two of you still aren't moving.

House grabs his cane to have something to occupy his hands with and taps it on the floor. "We're all there is."

As cryptic as that sounds at first, you know what he means: You're all there is for each other. None of your respective relationships lasted as long as this one. None of either of your partners have put up with you for even nearly this long.

And the real risk would be doing nothing, hurting from one girl- or boyfriend to another. Being alone with whatever partner you could find.
Having the other within reach, but never touching...

The mere thought is maddening, and you shake your head, again, to dislodge it.
No, doing nothing is not an option. Not after what's been revealed.

A picture manifests itself on your next page. It's chaotic, lively, angry, vivid, energetic, pulsing... It shows the two of you, fuelling each other with whatever life throws at you.
The picture is by no means calm or harmonic, but it's all you. Both of you; complete.

A slow smile spreads on your face. "We are going to drive each other mad."

When you look at House, he is smiling back at you and chuckles. "Too late."

You laugh and you both spend a while to look both awkwardly and completely at peace at each other.

At some point, one of you starts to lean in (you're not sure which), and the first brush of lips certainly is awkward. You've known each other for way too long for such a shift in your relationship to be an everyday occurrence.

Your lips move, change angles, barely nip... And while it is unknown and a little weird, it is also the most right you've ever felt.

Had you looked at your watch, you would have known that it wasn't nearly the life time it felt like being.
And the first, sweet, tentative brush of House's tongue over your still closed lips puts an abrupt end to life as you know it, anyway. Nothing that was before matters all that much, anymore.

Your tongue meets his and your lips gradually part wider and wider, until you kiss in earnest.
Soft sighs turn into moans, and you laugh into the kiss, grab him and pull him closer, feeling him smile in return.

You know that you've let yourself in for a bumpy ride... But that is something your friendship has always been.
For the first time, you actually let yourself feel the love for this man you knew was there, and it is nearly blinding.

Because, frankly... No... It hasn't been nearly long enough.

The following day, you enter a small diner and see Paul sitting at a table in the back.

It's still early (you asked him to meet you for lunch), and you don't really know how you're supposed to feel or deal with this.

Truth, of course, is the way to go; but you of all people know how important the wrapper is. People thank you for telling them, they are going to die; surely you can deal with a break-up.

When you approach the table, something else strikes you: You always greeted him with a kiss, but you can't make yourself do that, this time, not even 'for old times' sake'...
Instinctively, you purse your lips and then look at him, as you reach the corner booth.

He returns your gaze, briefly, smiles painfully and looks at his fingers that nervously tap on the table top. "You're breaking up with me," he throws your own words back at you. Obviously hurt, but unable to be mad at you.

You all but collapse into the chair in front of him and nod slowly. "God, I suck at this."

"You told him, then?" he asks.

A smile is breaking free, no matter how hard you try to hide it. And of course he sees it. "I didn't have to. All he needed to figure it out was the fact that I was interested in men."

"I thought he was smarter than that..." he quips.

"He is. And he knew; he just didn't let himself hope."

Paul swallows hard and sounds almost desperate, when he forces out: "We had a good time, right?"

You nod.

"Why can't you look me in the eyes, anymore, then?" he demands.

Your head snaps up. "I'm sorry!" You didn't even realize that you kept doing that. House, yesterday, and now Paul.
"Of course we had a good time. A great time. And I really care about you..."

"You're not going to go being a stranger, now, are you?"

You shake your head. "Not if you don't want me to. I just didn't think you'd want to see me, after this."

He smirks. "I am usually not a guy for 'we can still be friends'..." He eyes you for a while and weighs his words, carefully. "But you're a really good guy, you're interesting, we haven't been together long enough to warrant any claims, and I knew from day one that your feelings for me would never come close to your feelings for him." He reaches for your hand. "We had fun." He winks at you.

You return the smile, sadly. "I never meant to lead you on."

"You didn't." He pulls back his hand. "And I was too smart to fall too deeply for you."

His tone indicates that he did fall, at least for a bit. Then again, so did you.
But you know for a fact that Paul won't be having any problems finding someone, again, soon.

"So tell me. Is he any good in bed?"

You bark a laugh and immediately close your mouth and peek over your shoulder, to make sure you don't have an audience. "We, uh... Yeah, it was good."

"What about his leg?"

There is probably not much you haven't told Paul about House. It's a wonder he never told you to shut the hell up, already. "It was kind of acting up, yesterday." You snort. "Probably because he's been agonizing over confronting me, all day."

Paul laughs. "Didn't stop you, apparently."

"No... But I got to top. I didn't think he'd be into that, too much." You unconsciously lick your lips. "I was wrong."

"I think, maybe I actually do want to meet this guy."

Your eyes widen, both in amusement and terror. "And I really don't think you do."

The two of you spend a nice lunch together, and already you can see the picture of him as your lover fade on the last page...

You wonder if he really is still going to be a friend on the next one.

You watch House discuss animatedly with his team – his new team – and your lips quirk. He waves his arms and cane, his expression shows all too clearly that the world at large and the fellows in particular are idiots, and he is very much in his element.

Paul next to you chuckles. "He's the fiery one, huh?"

You sigh and half shrug your shoulders. "I did warn you. He'll probably bite your head off, before you can figure out just how annoying a guy he can be."

The fellows – once again, two men and a woman – hustle out of the conference room, and House's assessing gaze follows them, until it settles on you and your company.
The blue fire turns a shade darker, and you can almost see a storm cloud gather itself above House's head. (You try to push the sudden onset of cartoonism into the back of your head. Though you do plan to leave a stack of business cards with a coyote picture and 'Wile E. House – Genius' on it, on House's desk, sometime, soon.)

You inconspicuously bite the inside of you cheek and just smile, shake your head and push open the glass door, Paul trailing right behind you.

House shoots daggers with his eyes. "What's your boy toy doing here?"

"Despite my reservations, he insisted on meeting you."

Paul crosses his arms. "You stole my boyfriend. I think I'm entitled to knowing who he ditched me for."

"No," House fires back. "Like you said, he ditched you. You're entitled to nothing."

"He's my friend," you intervene. "It's not up to me to decide who he can or cannot meet."

Ah... and now, you are the target of his scalding stare. "I know how friends end up with you. And I know your fidelity record, which is, frankly, abysmal."

Your hands are on your hips, before you know it. "First of all, I already had sex with him, and I distinctly recall you assuring me that this would keep any relationship from forming, because I was oh-so-bad in bed."

Paul snorts and House very nearly growls at him for that implication.

You continue: "And second, my fidelity concerning you is worthy of an entry in the world book of records or a Nobel peace prize."

His eyes soften, and your amused expression turns more affectionate, in turn.

"Twenty-one years, House. Our friendship survived twenty-one years of you throwing everything you had at me, to see if I would walk out on you." You look at him, warmly. "I'm still here, in case you didn't notice."

For a long moment, you both forget that there is somebody else in the room, and then something in House shifts and he looks past you at Paul.

"You any good at poker?"

Paul blinks for a moment, then grins. "Not good enough to beat James, most of the time. But not bad."

You bite your tongue to not laugh out loud at House's wolfish grin.

"Thursday, next week. Poker night. Bring beer."

You turn to look at Paul to see his reaction to House's invitation that sounded like an order but was really a masked sign of maybe-accepting.

Paul seems to have noticed all three and is laughing. "I'll be there." He eyes you, and for a moment it appears as if he wants to hug you. You wouldn't really mind, but it would be awkward and provocative... and you can go without either.

Then the moment passes and he just winks. "See you then."

As soon as the door closes behind him, you expect a comment from behind you. And, of course, you're not disappointed.

"I might still take back the invitation, what with how he ogled you."

You roll your eyes and take a step closer. "He's a good guy. And he knows where he stands... You might even say that without him, you wouldn't have gotten that last piece of the puzzle..." You grin.

House tries very hard not to smile. He gives up after a moment and smiles back. "Then I'll just have to make sure, everyone gets that you're off the market." He lifts an eyebrow.

"Do you want to hang a poster in the lobby?"

He snorts. "You would kill me. Naw... I'll think of something... subtle."

Your turn to snort. "House, you don't do subtle."
Resigned, you shake your head, slowly and step even closer, until you're right in front of him.

House tilts his head. "I thought you made it quite clear that nothing will ever happen at work...?"

You lift your hand and caress his cheek. "Maybe I changed my mind."

House averts his gaze and mumbles: "What about your privacy? You're always big on privacy."

You smirk. "And you're not." You know that's a lie, but it's one that House won't admit to. "So, what's changed?" You pull him closer, ever so slowly.

You see a shadow pass by the office in your peripheral vision, slow down and suddenly walk away.

House has seen the person too and changes his mind, within the blink of an eye.
He smiles and leans in.

As far as kisses go, it's a pretty harmless kiss. It's almost sweet, slow, just a hint of tongue, tender hands holding on and holding close...

It's everything your relationship usually is not, except for in those very rare moments, in which House shows that he enjoys your company. That he does care, even if he doesn't really know what to do with that feeling or how to express it.

That kiss could go on forever and you would be happy...

Naturally, it doesn't go on forever.
In fact, it goes on for another half minute, until the door behind you opens and someone says:

"You know, you could at the very least close the blinds, you two."

For (both) your credit, you didn't jump apart, immediately...

Whether Cuddy came right this moment by accident, or because someone had already informed her of your not really workplace acceptable behaviour, you will never know. ('Never' probably arriving at around three or four this very same afternoon, when the gossip approximately will have gone up one side of the hospital and down the other, and everybody will know everything about every little detail there is to know, up to but not necessarily excluding the cologne you're wearing, today.)

You face your boss, but keep a hand on House's arm and smile apologetically (more or less sincerely).

She tries very hard to be annoyed, but the amusement is definitely winning this round.

House grabs you around the waist and grins, widely. "We'll remember that."

"I'd rather you'd maintain some sort of professionalism at the hospital. But since you're you, I'll settle for moderately discreet."

You clear your throat. The kiss accomplished what you wanted (House is reassured, you got a kiss out of it, and your'coming out' is hereby taken care of – not really in a way you would have preferred, but coming outs rarely are), and you have appointments, paperwork and rounds waiting for you.

"So," you say, turning in the one-armed embrace, "you coming over, tonight?"

"Are you gonna cook?"

"Are you bringing the beer?"


You grin and slip a hand around House's neck.

He pulls back. "I don't know your address."

You chuckle. "I'm sure you'll figure something out." And you kiss him, again.

You don't let it last for long, despite House's attempts to keep you close.
Yes, you think, when you see him peeking at Cuddy, after you end the kiss, his smugness is attractive.

"I'll see you later." And with that, you leave the room and House to the wolves. (One look back confirms that he will survive Cuddy's teasing, though.)

A few pages into your new story, your life has returned to something resembling normal. You write each page with House looking over your shoulder, interrupting, correcting, scoffing, laughing and teasing, incessantly.

And, yes, sometimes he rips a page, in anger... You guess that House's own book has some pages in it, that already hang out, precariously, too.

But you always gather all of the paper back together; you even catch House every so often, softly caressing the rips and donkey ears in your book, the book that marks your life as more than friends, now.

You couldn't love him more, if you tried.

"Your mother called," is the greeting you get from the scruffy looking guy on the couch, when you come home. (Despite still having your apartment, you've taken to calling 221B'home'.)

You don't really know what to make of that comment. "And?"

"She said, she tried to reach you at work, and when you weren't there, she called here."

You still don't quite follow. "What did she want?"

"She didn't say. But that's not the point."

"I really hope you're going to tell me your point, because I don't see one."

He stares incredulously at you. "You told your mom about us!"


He actually splutters for a moment. "Wh... What did she say?"

You shrug. "For reasons that are completely lost to me, she actually likes you. And I guess she could tell that I was happy."

"What did she say?"

Your lips twitch. "When are you boys coming for a visit," you recite, dutifully.

House seems torn between horror and amusement.

"I take it, you didn't tell your mom, then."

The mix of emotions suddenly clears up and only leaves dejection. "No. She'd only feel compelled to tell 'the colonel'." He leans back and fakes nonchalance. "Something I can do without..."

The colonel is always a difficult topic to deal with, and you never quite know what to say.
In the end, you copy his careless stance and mention in passing, while hanging up you jacket: "Well, at least I love you just the way you are."

He snorts in amusement, but you know that your words hit home, nonetheless.

You love your book. It's been so long...

And of course, nothing is ever that easy.
Because it isn't just your book that's part of the equation, now; it's House's, as well. And House's book has something written on some page or other in the not so far future, that you both know about.

But neither of you expected that page to be the next one.

Part 3 – Written in Pain

At first, House appears a little tired, maybe. You make nothing of it; he probably stayed awake all night with a case.

Then, every now and then, you see his face spasm. Probably a cramp in his leg. You still don't worry.

You do begin to worry, however, when House starts avoiding you. You think that maybe he's pissed at you for something you have yet to figure out. But he doesn't act like that, either.

Yesterday, he came to your office and kissed you, almost sweetly and smiled at you, tiredly, maybe even a little sadly and said, "I'll make it up to you, soon," like he had to reassure himself that he would.
He didn't come over, that night – like all the nights, for a week – and he doesn't want you to come home, either.

He's not at lunch, today, and your worries multiply. You have a hunch – hell, every pill he takes is proof – you just don't want it to be true.

You're standing in his kitchen and prepare dinner, when he comes home, stopping in the kitchen doorway, tilting his head.

"Not really hungry, you know."

"I know," you answer and turn to smile at him. He doesn't look good, and your eyes dart lower...

He notices your sad look and avoids your eyes. "It's nothing, it'll go away, again."

You swallow. "How long have you been wearing the catheter?" It's well hidden, but you know what to look for.

He shrugs. "Just a couple of days."

Your smile loses its humour, and your stomach clenches. "How many couples?"

House sits down and stares ahead for a long time. "Since Monday," he finally admits.

Today is Friday. "House..." you whisper, pleadingly, unable to say anything else.

This causes House to look up, sharply. "What do you want me to do?" He is angry; though you're not quite sure, if it's really you, he's angry at.

Your vision blurs, and you know that you're only one step away from crying. "I want you to live."

That is one loaded comment, and you both know it.

House averts his gaze, again. He knows that he's taking too many pills, he knows that it's one of the reasons your love-making sometimes isn't as easy as he'd like it to be, he knows it will kill him before long; and now he also knows what he would leave behind.
But that knowledge doesn't make his searing and always present pain go away, doesn't enable him to do his job.

And you know that, too. You know House's pain and what it does to him.

Yet, you selfishly want him to live.

He looks up, again, and holding your breath is the only thing that keeps the tears from falling. His expression is helpless, almost pleading.

He silently begs you to understand, and you silently beg him to fight.

"I'll..." he starts. "I'll look into some stuff, tomorrow morning."

You're not sure you dare to hope he's saying what you think he's saying.

"Maybe some additional thing to cut down a little," he elaborates, again, without naming it. He doesn't have to.

You manage a jerky nod and a smile.

He smiles back, but it visibly costs him energy he doesn't have.

Then the moment is over and he nods towards the stove. "I guess I could eat a little. Just..." he says and gets up, "bathroom first."

You allow a cautious feeling of hope rise in your chest, a weight leaving you, letting you breathe more easily.

And then you hear the dull sound of a body hitting the ground.

Your book is falling to the floor, lying unimportantly on the tiles, pages bending and ripping.
But you don't care. Your book is nothing without its counterpart.

The blur of pages that follow could describe years or seconds, you don't know. But when you find yourself sitting next to a bed, gripping a trembling and hot hand, your unshaven face would be able to tell you that less than two days have passed.

The laboured breathing and the painful whimpers squeeze your heart each and every time, and you don't know whether to thank God that House is still alive, or curse him for causing so much pain.

The liver is currently stable – but nobody really knows if it will last and for how long – but still in a bad enough shape to cause constant worry; House is completely off the Vicodin, and because of his history as an addict, he only gets a minimal dose of morphine that hardly cuts through the pain.

And you have to watch your heart and life go through detox, unimaginable pain and near liver failure, no one daring to do much, out of fear that any of those things would kill him.

House doesn't have the energy to scream, anymore; but the contorted face, the never-ending spasms in his hand and the hoarse, sickly squeals are much worse.

You haven't cried a lot, despite everything. You always tried to be composed, give House something to hold on to...
And then his scratchy voice breaks the silence, hardly above a whisper but loud as a gunshot in the closed off room.

"I don't think I can do this..." His eyes have trouble focusing on you, but he seeks out your face, anyway.

You nearly choke on the sob that bursts from your chest, and you cradle his cheek with one hand and bury your face on the other side.

You don't know what to say, so you just kiss his feverish skin and repeat again, and again: "I love you. I love you so much. Please, stay with me. I love you. Oh, God, House. Please."

You're not sure if you're only imagining it, but for a moment, it feels almost as if some of his tense muscles relax just a little bit and maybe just for a little while.

"Love you so much," you say, again.

You feel something that is barely a nod, and House whispers, "Try..." before he mercifully passes out, again.

You know that he'll wake up way too soon, and wash his still tense face with a washcloth.

The movement slowly becomes a caress, and you tenderly kiss his forehead.

"I love you," you say, once more and let the tears fall freely.

It's been a week, now.

The cautious optimism that is trailing you, now, had crept up on you, without you noticing it, and you don't dare to look at it, too closely.

House's liver is weak, but improving, and the worst part of the detox over. You don't really know how either of you survived this long; but as it is usually the case in times of crisis, people tend to run on auto-pilot.
You did. The last week, you hardly knew who or when someone entered the room or what they said to you, how much time had passed, what your mostly untouched food tasted like... Your world became very, very small, focused only on what and who mattered.

You return from lunch. (That is something that House and everyone at his disposal forced you to do, as soon as he had some of his mind back under his control. After a while, they had you eating regular meals... But nobody managed to get you out of the room for long; you still sleep on a fold-away bed – one that you had to pay for, yourself. Hospital regulations can just well go shove it someplace unpleasant.)

Both your appetites aren't really anything to write home about, but at least House is well enough to complain about the diet he's on. It makes you smile a little.
You didn't think it was possible for you to miss House being bitchy.

When you open the door, you hear voices from within and blink. No. That is just not...

"Mom..." you almost stutter.

"James, darling!"

Before you know it, you have your arms full of your mother, and you hardly believe how good it feels, to just let yourself be held.

"It's okay, Jimmy," she almost coos. "Mum is here, now."

Surely, this shouldn't feel that reassuring to a grown man, should it? But you find yourself relax and smile. "Thank you."

She pushes you away a little and looks at you, her hands on your face. "Why on earth didn't you call and say that Gregory was ill? I would have come, earlier."

You bravely shake your head slightly and ignore the nagging little voice in the back of your head that tells you that one week ago, all you wanted was your mother telling you that everything was going to be fine...

House snorts. "You didn't miss a thing." He tilts his head. "Except maybe for when our Jimmy here wasn't shaving for half a week. He had to give it up, after a while. He just can't pull off that look."

"Oh, shush!" your mother says, smiling.

You look at House and are almost surprised at how much he enjoys having her, here. You might even go so far and say that he misses his mother, too... But it doesn't go far enough that you would actually call Blythe.

But you have considered it, to be honest. You know how much his mother means to House. Then there is the colonel... And the colonel is best to be avoided.

It doesn't take long of the three of you talking, for House to fall asleep, his hand still holding yours.
You were surprised when he not only didn't refuse any contact in front of an audience, but actually sought it out.
Your guess is that on some level, he revels in an unconditionally accepting parent. Blythe is very nearly unconditional, she is definitely unconditional with her love for Greg... But her husband is one condition, House isn't ready to accept. At least not now, possibly not ever.

You have a nice, comforting talk with your mother (comforting at least, when she's not asking embarrassing questions – which she likes to do, every so often), when your cell chimes.

You look at the caller ID, your eyes widen and you mentally check your calendar to confirm that, yes, it is Friday...

You pick up. "Hey."

"Hey, yourself," comes a cheerful voice. "You guys ditched me."

"Yeah..." You had completely forgotten about Paul and your third poker night, the evening before. "Sorry about that. We had a bit of a crisis, here."

"Trouble in cripple paradise?"

You snort, amused. "No... uh..." You never really had to put it into words, you just realise now. And you don't like having to, one bit.

Paul seems to sense your discomfort. "Are you guys okay?"

"He..." You briefly close your eyes and take a deep breath. "He's in hospital. As a patient, I mean," you add, quickly. "He... uh..."

"His liver?" he asks, bless him.

You nod and then sigh. "Yes."

"From the sound of it, it's not life-threatening, right...?" His tone is careful, probing.

"He's somewhat stable, now. Off the pills, of course... You should have seen him a week ago." You stop and swallow.


"Yeah." You can wholeheartedly agree, but you sound more resigned than anything else.

"Would either of you care for a visit from the ex?"

You laugh a little. Not much time has passed, but he's much more a friend of both of you than 'your ex', by now.
But both Paul and House have found a liking to tease you with it. (Probably one of the reasons, House likes him – as much as he ever likes people, that is – Paul's got an interesting sense of humour, at times, and he can take House's in return...)

"Yeah, that would be nice. He'll be here, a while, yet."

"Okay." He's cheerful, again. "I'll see you guys tomorrow or Sunday, then."

"Okay. See you then."

You flip the phone closed and shake your head, smiling.

"Who was that?" your mother asks. "A friend?"

You are about to say yes, when House interrupts.

"Your son's ex-boyfriend."

You roll your eyes. "Yes, he's a friend."

"And your ex," House insists.

"Fine. Have it your way." You stand up and kiss House, quickly. "Anyone else want a coffee?"

Your mother nods, politely and House sends you the eye.

"Only if it's not decaf."

You sigh. "House..."

He rubs his face. "For Christ's sake, Wilson, it's coffee, not a bottle of single malt with a side serving of Vicodin!"

Our mother catches on, quickly. "Actually, Jimmy, I'll have decaf, please."

You play along and clap your hands. "Right. Decaf for everyone."

House scowls at you. "You better not slip in something else for yourself, you little sneak."

Now that he's said it, you actually think about it for a second. But House is much better at the cup switching thing than you are, so you discard the thought, quickly.

When you come back, you can hear the two of them talking.

Mom is telling House about her cousin's daughter Meredith, and you stop in your tracks. You know what that means...

"... are taking dancing lessons now," she says.

House is suspiciously quiet.

"They call it a c-leg. It registers the exact position of the knee fifty times a second. And the batteries can go for forty-eight hours." She sounds animated, and you know that she's emphasizing her words with her arms, hands and face...

You wait for an interruption: a huff, a scuff, a word... anything.

Instead, he says, quietly: "A week ago, the pain was so bad, that I was this close", you imagine he points out a nearly non-existent space between two fingers, "to having the damn thing hacked off."

They're both silent, again.

Then your mom's voice breaks it; her voice is soft but insistent. You are almost sure that she's leaning forward and touching House's arm.

"You could run, again."

Again, silence.

Then your heart nearly stops, as he replies.

"I'm... considering it."

You make a u-turn and rush to the next bathroom, afraid that you would have sobbed with as little restraint as a two year old, had you entered right then.
This week was hell for your nerves, and sometimes it doesn't take much for you to almost make you lose it, again. Your control is good, but not that good.

You put the three paper cups above the sink and splash your face with cold water.

"Considering," you gasp. "He's..." You stare at your reflection and will the silly grin away. It takes you several minutes, and while you walk back to the room, it threatens to return, as your mother's last sentence comes back to you.

He could run, again.

There are no guarantees that he'd be pain free, but...
You make a mental note to look into some numbers and studies. Maybe check out the computer legs... Meredith has had her accident, one and a half years ago; you can never know what technological developments there have been, since then.

You enter the room, distributing the coffees. "Sorry. There was a queue."

The short peek at Ouse, HoHhhHouse, you allow yourself, hints that maybe he doesn't quite believe you.

You're glad that he doesn't call you on it. You want to give him time, make him really consider it, without pressure.

When you're alone, again (you brought your mother to a hotel), there is a comfortable silence between you and House.

You're reading a novel and House is looking out the window, and he seems almost content.
You don't notice that he's turned to look at you, until he speaks.

"I've been thinking," he says casually. "When you've got a minute, get me an appointment with Taggart."

The air is stuck somewhere in your lungs, and you're sure for a moment that your heart stopped in anticipation, until the next beat nearly breaks your ribcage.
Your eyes have probably taken a comical size, when you turn your head.

House looks at you, and then inspects his hands that are picking at the white standard hospital cover. He's almost embarrassed. At least that is what you make it out to be; it's not exactly an expression, House wears every day.
"Don't act all surprised. I know you were standing outside the door, when your mom went on and on about the miracle of prosthetics."

You don't buy his sarcastic tone. Somewhere in that mirror maze of House's brain, the man actually wants to believe that maybe there can be yet another miracle for him.

He lifts his head and his eyes steadily find yours.

It takes a few seconds for you to catch up, and then you grab the phone on House's bedside table, without looking away. You blindly type in a short intern number.

"Kenneth? This is James Wilson."

The two of you keep your eyes locked, House silently urging you on, even though his expression isn't giving anything away.

"I was wondering if you have an opening, maybe early next week."

House takes your hand and you bite your lips.

"Greg House," you say, as an answer to the question about the patient's name.

You have to laugh at Taggart's response. "Okay, thanks." You hang up and lean closer to House.

"He's done for the day," you tell House. "So, he's coming down, right now, before you can change your mind."

House snorts, and the corners of his mouth lift, involuntarily. It makes you laugh, again.

Your expression must convey just how much House's decision means to you, how much you love him, and how very much you don't want him to suffer, anymore... because his own expression turns pensive and he pulls you closer.

The kiss is slow, soft, loving... and long. In fact, it is so long that only Taggart's arrival stops you.


You wake up, slowly. Actually, you're almost sure that you've been in this heavy darkness behind closed eyes and veiled recognition, only moments ago, but that memory slips through your numb fingers, before you know it.

Your mind pulls at you, while the darkness pulls on the other side to rest some more.
But, as it mostly is the case with you, your mind wins, and you will your body to wake up.

For some reason, the first thing you notice is your left hand. It is warmer than your right and being tenderly held.
You would smile at the love, if your lax muscles allowed it.

Instead, you instinctively search for the pain, the ever present pain. And there actually is pain, but something is different, something important.

It's not your pain. It's the pain of healing fire.

And then it hits you, as if someone had pulled out your consciousness with a rubber band and now let it snap back into your head with such force that it makes you flinch.

It hits you, how you've turned a page in your life, you didn't believe you had the will to turn.
It hits you, how you've found someone to hold onto, someone, for whom living was worth it beyond the puzzles that energize your every day.

It hits you... that there now is a new page, a blank page, a page on which constant pain might not be permanently engraved.

A frighteningly, liberatingly, white, blank, empty page. A page that someone will help you fill.

And you can't wait!


Conscious or not, it takes every ounce of strength you have, to force your eyes to open to slits.
They open a little more, when they're greeted with a warm smile.

You want to return the smile and the pressure on your hand... But first, you need to know. You need to be sure. You need confirmation that the page really is turned, that this isn't just a figment of false hopes.

You try to speak, but your throat feels like sandpaper, and you can almost still feel the tube that must have been there, not too long ago.

Wilson, as usual, reads your mind and feeds you an ice chip.

You sigh in relief and determinedly croak: "Is it gone?"

Jimmy smiles (wistfully?), reaches across the bed, gently takes your right hand and lays it where your pain used to be.

"It's gone," he confirms. "And the surgery went really well. Taggart was cocky like you wouldn't believe."
He rolls his eyes; though you have a feeling it's more for your benefit than real conviction.

Your right hand curiously and carefully feels its way around the surgical site through your blanket.
It hurts, but this kind of pain feels so good, you almost laugh out loud. (You probably would have, if you'd have had the energy.)

It's gone. The page is turned.

A new chapter is about to begin for (the two of) you. And you know exactly what you want it to begin with...

"Love you."