Cold Chicken and Warm Beer

"There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time."

Mansfield Park

An inch away from knocking on the door, Wilson's fist stopped, frozen by the sounds coming from his best friend's apartment. Almost hesitant, the soft notes of the piano filtered into the hallway, filling it with a gentle chorus of "Silent Night." The gentleness that filled the notes was a direct counter point to the man producing them. As the tune slipped over him, the oncologist found the tinge of melancholy that was definitely House.

Shifting the brown paper bags in his hand, Wilson decided that is was worth a few cartons of cold Chinese if it meant not breaking the spell the music had woven. In their years as friends, he'd come to realize that the diagnostician was always the most alive when music was present. Yes, medicine was his life and his passion. But music was what truly kept him going. House didn't merely survive when music was around.

He thrived.

Fading into the chilly night air that had invaded the tiny hallway, the last note of the carol caressed every nerve in his body. Using the still-raised hand to knock gently on the door, Wilson felt the timbre of the song resonate through his bones as he waited. It only took House a few moments to swing open the door and snatch one of the paper bags from his hands. Mourning the loss of the music's touch, Wilson watched as the other man hobbled cane-less away from the entranceway.

Stepping into the room, he found House's cane propped against the piano next to what was left of a glass of brandy. Though he wished it was a sign that the nerves in the other man's leg were regenerating, the doctor in him knew not to be overly optimistic about that. There had been times when he was absolutely convinced that it would happen. But as the years passed, that hope had slowly begun to dim.

"How long ago did you pick this up? My beef better not be cold."

Stepping into the apartment, Wilson merely shook his head as he muttered to himself. "Hello to you too House. Sure, I'd love to come in." While he didn't exactly expect the other man to offer up pleasantries, it would have been nice.

Taking off his heavy wool coat, Wilson hung the jacket on the often unused rack as he made his way into the living room. Dropping down into a cushy arm chair, the oncologist ripped open the bag that he'd been left with. Pulling out the large, white carton, he prayed that House hadn't gotten his hands on the orange-flavored chicken. Sure the diagnostician had wanted the beef, but that wouldn't stop him from eating whatever was in front of him.

Opening the flaps of the cardboard box, Wilson silently rejoiced as juicy chunks of chicken beamed up at him. About to call into the kitchen for a beer, the oncologist's mouth hung open as one was thrust into his face. Touched by the gesture, he wanted to say something. However, House's cerulean eyes staring longingly at his chicken caused him to forget the gesture and pull the container possessively towards his chest. "Pass me the chopsticks while you're up."

Taking a swig of the beer, Wilson stopped mid-swallow as a packet of wooden sticks bounced off of his head. Sighing into the green bottle, the oncologist swallowed the bitter liquid before bending over to pick up the utensils. Shaking his head, Wilson tried to not let the action erase the feelings his previous gesture had created.

Placing the glass bottle on the floor, he ripped the wrapper off of the utensils and threw it into the brown paper bag that the food had come in. Pulling apart the chopsticks, Wilson looked up to see House already poking around in his own food. Situating the two long pieces of wood in the crook of his left hand, the oncologist studied the man sitting across from him.

Watching as the diagnostician raised a large chunk of beef to his mouth, Wilson marveled at the amount of emotion that the other man managed to pour into his music. While he wished his best friend would confide in him the same way he did his piano, Wilson was happy that House at least had some way to express his emotions.

"What?" House's voiced, muffled by half-chewed beef, shook the younger man from his thoughts.

"Nothing."

Looking into his best friend's bright blue eyes, Wilson noticed a… kindness. It was a kindness that he'd seen in those eyes only once or twice in their time as friends. It was, however, an emotion he'd heard flow gently through the man's music so many times before.

Drinking in as much of the unmasked gentleness as the other man would allow, Wilson realized that he would always take whatever House offered him simply because of moments like this. He could abuse him, lie to him, and treat him like garbage, but Wilson would never walk away. Despite everything House put him through, the relationship would always be worth the pain simply for these rare moments of pure, unadulterated kindness.

It was an addiction more lethal than any drug, because in the end, it would never physically kill him. James Wilson knew that the relationship could, and most likely would, destroy his heart and soul, but… he needed it. He needed House and everything that came with him, because despite the fights and the insults, the older man needed him as well.

The next hour passed in a comfortable haze of conversation that covered everything and nothing all at once. Clutching the almost empty food box in his right hand, the chopsticks hovering over it, Wilson smiled at something House said. It wasn't a snarky comment or something profoundly witty. It was just… funny, and the oncologist couldn't help but revel in the simplicity of it all.

Dipping the thin strips of bamboo into the white carton one last time, James raised the last piece of chicken to his lips. Biting down on the plump piece of meat, Wilson's brows drew together as the cold, orange-flavored juices hit his tongue. Chewing up the rest of the bite, the man looked at the clock and marveled at how long they had been working away at their dinner.

Reaching out to down the last swig of beer in the dark green bottle, Wilson nearly gagged when he realized the liquid that was supposed to wash away the cold chicken was warm. But as he swallowed the mixture of alcohol and Chinese food, he realized that he didn't care about the temperature of his dinner. Or even the taste for that matter.

He could have been eating the worst food in the world, but it would still have been the best meal of his life all because of House. Because of House and the beer he'd offered without having been asked for it. Because of the smiles and looks that held no malice or bitterness. It would all be gone tomorrow, but for now, James Wilson was totally and completely happy.

With the food gone and their beer bottles empty, the two men moved to the couch that was conveniently situated in front of the television set. Flipping though the channels until they were both able to settle on something, House and Wilson sunk into the middle of the cushy seat, their elbows touching gently. Neither acknowledged the touch, but both understood what it meant.

Finally settling on some old black and white movie, Wilson leaned into the touch a bit more on the pretense of getting more comfortable. House didn't move away or say anything. Instead, he seemed to sink even lower into the seat and the Chinese food induced sleepiness that was slowly beginning to overcome him.

Giving into the warmth of the apartment and the lethargy that always followed a perfect night, Wilson felt his breathing slow and his eyelids grow heavy as House's snoring filled the living room. Clinging desperately to the beautiful place between awake and asleep, James felt his lips shape themselves dreamily around the words, 'I love you.'

From the sounds of sleep coming from the man next to him, Wilson knew that House hadn't heard what he'd said. But that didn't matter, because the cold chicken and warm beer expressed more than those three words would ever be able to.

Squeeka Cuomo's Notes

- For anamatics. Merry Christmas and happy House Secret Santa! I hope that this fic adds a little extra cheer to your Christmas. :)

- Also written for the lj community "alphabetasoup (R is for Relaxed).

- This fic is based on the end scene of the season one episode "Damned If You Do". I've always really loved the little Chinese food moment between House and Wilson.

- The opening quote is from the movie Mansfield Park.

- Batman! Thank you soooo much for you support with this. Even if you are currently a fluffy bunny of a beta. :D