They let the matter drop for the rest of the day. It didn't resurface again until that evening, when House was (again) squeaking for his medication.

Wilson gave it to him and tried to ignore the note he was writing.

House managed to catch his sleeve between his fingers, and tugged until he turned his attention to the words MAN UP AND DO IT, JIMMY.

"I'm not going to hurt you. Period."

Favor in the long run. U think you're the only one who wants out?

Wilson just shook his head. They let it drop again for a while. Then: "Hey… you need the bathroom again?"

"Mm-hmm."

Afterwards Wilson sighed. "How long do you actually intend to hold out for?"

Long as I can. Leg's bad here tho; need to up dosage.

"I need to up the dosage… enabling you to hold out, and thus suffer, longer. I see." He ran a hand through his hair and stood up.

He got a syringe, held it up with a big flourish, and put it on the floor. House went very still and closed his eyes.

Wilson stomped down and watched his friend flinch at the sound of the glass crunching. He watched the shudder, heard the hiss, and prayed that he had done enough.

But when House's eyes opened, though he looked terrified he was nodding. A glance towards the table, then a note: Good. Break them.

Wilson still wasn't sure he could do it, right up until the moment he laid all the clean syringes on the floor and raised a book over them. He looked one more time to House, praying for a reprieve.

You have to do it, House wrote. Because what if she NEVER files?

Wilson lowered the book slowly. "What?"

For divorce.

"D- divorce? Me and Julie?" Wilson was stunned.

"Mm-hmm."

"No, that's-… that's crazy, we're not divorcing!"

House shrugged and started sketching.

"But we haven't-... come on, nobody's having an affair, nobody- we, we..."

When House was done with his drawing he nodded for Wilson to take the pad.

It was a crude balance with the caption HAPPINESS SCALE. On one side, the lighter side, were two frowning stick-figures, one of which appeared to be female. On the heavier side, clearly outweighing the couple, was a single smiling stick-figure with a box over its mouth.

Wilson had no trouble interpreting the picture, or, after a moment's thought, agreeing with it. House, the eternally miserable, was far happier lying tied up on his living room floor than Dr. and Mrs. Wilson were in their picture-perfect marriage. They had no fights, no affairs, and yet no happiness.

Still, that didn't mean things were over! "It's just a rough patch," he argued aloud. "It'll get better."

House's eyebrows arched. While you're hanging out over here?

"I... I could go home!"

Or while J hides out at her sister's? Or while u sleep in same room but don't xchg 2 words all night?

Wilson was quiet for a while. "Is that really what you think?"

"Mm-hmm."

Wilson stood up and paced around the room for almost half an hour. It wasn't quite enough time for him to decide that his marriage was indeed beyond saving, but it was plenty of time to realize that the ransom he'd demanded had been paid.

He knelt down and put a hand to House's face. "Fast or slow?"

House snapped his fingers.

Wilson jerked the tape off all at one go, wincing at the sound House made. "Sorry - should've thought of a politer way of keeping you quiet."

"No worries." House's voice was hoarse from a day of nothing but growls. "Anything else and I'd have eaten it... choked and escaped by ambulance. Tape's a good way to go."

Wilson got up to look for scissors. "Should it frighten me that you know that? Um. I don't know if I agree with you yet, but thanks."

"What - for not making you actually be the bad guy in the end?" House shrugged. "Your wife is not going to be so merciful. You're going to have to be the one to file, or you two will be together in misery forever, til death do you part. I know you: you'll agonize for a while, and then you'll do it."

Wilson sat on the floor and started sawing through the duct tape. "You sound like that pleases you."

"I'm interested," House agreed. "I don't see you hurt people that often. I'm wondering how you'll handle it."

Wilson stopped what he was doing. "You're an ass," he said. He snatched up a butter knife from the coffee table and pressed it into House's hand. "Cut yourself loose."

"Jimmmyyyyy," House whined as Wilson disappeared into the bedroom, "That's what friends're for! If we can't be honest with each other then-"

"I will so come out there and tape you up again!" Wilson yelled back, with no intention of doing it. Half a second's thought had told him why House wanted him out of the room: there was probably a lot of wincing and cursing in his future and he wanted to do it in private.

So Wilson stayed in the bedroom with his files and pretended not to hear the ruckus. "There's pills on the table," he called dispassionately.

A long while later House burst in, cane in hand. "You," he declared, "Don't deserve freedom. You should stay married after all."

"Believe it or not," Wilson said as if he only just realized it himself, "I actually don't want to talk about the marriage thing right now."

House looked outraged. "You kidnapped me to make me talk about that, and now you don't-"

"You might want to check the mirror for a sec," Wilson interrupted. "What are you going to tell people?"

It was obviously a diversionary tactic, but House checked anyway. He winced at the bright red splotch covering his face. "Uh..."

"Let me guess: allergic reaction to Cuddy's bikini wax?" Wilson suggested.

"I was going to say: apparently Cuddy has poison ivy in her special place." House grinned at him in the mirror. "Either way."

"So... considering I've really got nothing to go home to... wanna finish the movie?"

House rolled his eyes. "Quit feeling sorry for yourself," he scoffed. "You're not the one who just spent the day taped to a chair."

"No, I'm the one who just spent the day tortured by a guy who's supposed to be my prisoner. Do you have any idea how demoralizing that is?"

"Yeah, it's pretty pathetic," House agreed as they arranged themselves in the living room again, both on the sofa this time. He opened a beer. "I take it you're staying for the rest of the weekend?"

"Not quite as appealing now that you can talk, but... yes." He didn't have to say thanks.

"Well, you know if Julie throws you out once you tell her you're getting a divorce – which you will; if you can waste perfectly good pain meds you're a stone-cold bastard who can do anything – if she throws you out, you can always come back here."

"Mm."

"Long as you leave the duct tape at home."


The End.

Feedback is super appreciated… and so are suggestions. I am totally willing to adopt & nurture plot bunnies if you have them!

Thanks for reading and happy holidays.