Written for a friend's birthday. She prompted me with Wilson's finding a hidden picture of House's childhood friend.
Wilson stood in front of House's bookcase, considering it with a practiced eye. Somewhere in this apartment there were three of his McGill yearbooks, and Wilson refused to leave without them. The how and why of House's theft would require further inquiry at a later date. Today the important thing was to reclaim his property.
He'd almost dismissed the bookshelf as too obvious, but then a parody of 'The Princess Bride' started in his head: He knows I'll look here first, so surely he wouldn't leave them here. But he knows I know he knows I'll look here first… Wilson shifted a pile of medical journals and discovered, not a stack of college memories, but a 4 x 6 mystery.
"What's this?" He waved the faded photograph in the general direction of the piano.
"That. Is. A. Picture," House said slowly, as if speaking to a mental patient.
"Really? I thought you were stealing souls again," Wilson put his free hand on his hip; the left continued to hold the picture aloft.
House rolled his eyes before relenting. "It's a picture of my best friend from when we were stationed Florida."
Wilson frowned in concentration, "That's over 30 years ago. You still have it?" He flipped over the photo to study the girl in the snapshot with renewed interest.
House shrugged. "I knew her for a long time. It seemed impolite to throw it away."
"Yes, I know how you like to avoid being rude." Wilson answered. He considered the girl for a few moments longer. Her face was scrunched up in amused exasperation, no doubt at something young Greg was saying or doing out of frame. Wilson knew that expression very well. "Tell me about her."
"Wilson," House groaned. "This is not show-and-tell time."
"Come on, you must have some story concocted. What's it gonna be - an insult to deflect the emotional significance? Or a grudgingly given backhanded compliment?" Wilson waited, but House's only response was to play a soft chord. Wilson cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. "She really was a good friend. What happened?"
House was obviously considering ignoring his best friend, but the weight of Wilson's stare forced him to answer.
"Nothing happened. Dad got stationed to Japan. We lost touch; we were only twelve after all."
Wilson sat back on the couch, still looking at the picture and said nothing. House absentmindedly played a slow bluesy tune. When he spoke into the silence, Wilson was riveted by tone of his voice, meshing with the low background music.
"I snuck out of a meet-the-neighbors party my parents were hosting, trying to avoid playing nice with all the officer's wives by hiding out in the park. Out of nowhere, a water balloon dropped from the sky and landed on my head."
Wilson could see the image of young House, water and bits of latex rolling down his face, slowly craning his neck up in bewilderment. He couldn't prevent a soft chortle from slipping out.
House grinned in response. "Well that's how it seemed, but it was actually thrown of a tree. I looked up and this little slip of a girl clambers down like a monkey, sticks her hand out for a handshake, and says 'Hi, I'm Katie.' As if instigating a one-sided water balloon fight is a perfectly acceptable way to introduce yourself."
"I imagine it is in the world of Greg House," Wilson noted.
House's eyes were obviously seeing some other time as he nodded. He told stories of skipping school, long sunny afternoons on the beach, and of sneaking away at night to sleep under his best friend's bed. He talked for the better part of an hour, never looking up from the melody he was softly playing.
When he wound down, Wilson smiled from his friend to the photo. "Why don't you frame it? Put it up somewhere."
"Because then all of my nosey guests will want to know who it is and why I keep it," House said pointedly.
"I already know why you keep it."
House did look at him then, very briefly. "Because of my inherent sense of politeness?"
"She meant – means – something to you," Wilson began. House groaned and dropped his head onto the piano. Wilson ignored him, warming to his topic. "She helped to shape your life. You still care about her, and you keep the photo to remember her and the person you were when you were with her."
"Thank you Dr. Wilson, PsyD," House grumbled with a disgusted shake of his head. "Did you go to school for 13 years to learn that people keep pictures of the things they love?"
"Love?" Wilson latched onto the word.
"Wilson!" House barked warningly. Wilson sent House a smug smile, but decided to let it go. They both knew he'd scored a victory with the admission, and that was enough for now.
Wilson sat in silence for several minutes, listening as House switched tunes to tinker with a song he'd been composing for almost the entire time Wilson had known him. Wilson secretly loved it when House pulled this particular tune out of his repertoire; it was his favorite. When the music petered out, House glared at him, the expression a complete contrast to the sweet, longing quality of the melody he'd been playing. "Go ahead and ask. I know you're dying to know."
Wilson gave him a sheepish look before asking, "Do you have a picture of me stashed somewhere?"
"Yes, but I keep it in the fun drawer under my playboys."
"Rrrriiight," Wilson stretched the word out to be sure his disbelief was obvious.
"You think I made you buy me that expensive high resolution digital camera for pictures of nature? It's great for catching candid moments of naked friends leaving the showers."
In case he was joking Wilson rolled his eyes. "So glad I could contribute to my own sexual harassment." In case House was serious he added, "I bet the picture would be better if I posed for it." Wilson keep his words free of inflection so that House could interpret the statement anyway he chose.
House looked up and let his gaze map out every inch of Wilson before he reached into his backpack for the camera. Wilson shifted so that he was wedged into the corner of the couch and stretched an arm over the back. Afraid that he would look ridiculous, he immediately pulled his arm down and put his hands in his lap. Too much like a naughty school kid, he decided. He shifted forward to stand. House stopped him with a gruff, "Stay still," followed by, "Say anal probe."
Wilson laughed out loud more from surprise than because it was funny. House pressed the shutter and Wilson stood to look at the photo over House's shoulder. It was a nice shot. Wilson's face was splint with the beginnings of laughter; his eyes crinkled attractively, hair perfectly in place despite the long day.
"Not bad," House decided. "It's fit for my mantle."
"Oh, your mantle. Does that mean you're going to claim me to any visitors that accidentally wander into you lair?"
House shrugged. "I'll tell them you're my favorite prostitute."
Wilson shook his head but made no attempt to hide his smile. He started back to his place on the couch, but House stopped him with a request. "Would you go check the hall closet for a frame? I want it ready after I photoshop your head onto Cuddy's body."
Ignoring the second part of that statement, Wilson changed directions. He found a box marked 'Photos' on the top shelf and, sensing a likely spot for a frame, pulled it down.
There were no picture frames inside but three cheap photo albums instead, the kind with sticky backing and clear plastic that was supposed to be bad for your photographs. House's statement about keeping pictures of things he loved still in his head, Wilson couldn't stop himself from taking a look.
The first one he opened was full of pictures of Blythe. After checking that House was still involved with his piano, Wilson quickly scanned the pages. Before his eyes Blythe matured from a young mother with a tiny blue bundle in her arms to the handsome woman on Wilson's own arm in the final photo, taken on her last visit.
The second one was also more or less expected. It was mostly shots of Stacy, both alone and with House, several of all three of them, and a smattering of other people they both knew. Toward the back there were a few candids of Cuddy, although none appeared to have been taken in the showers. Wilson was amused to note a single photo of Foreman, Cameron and Chase huddled around the whiteboard. He'd have to remember to tease House about that one later.
Wilson's grin faded to amazement when he opened the last album. Wilson was staring at a much younger version of himself, immortalized forever in a Polaroid with an expression of bewilderment frozen on his face.
"House, what are you doing? I have a patient!" Wilson squinted at the sudden flash of the camera.
"Sorry, hospital rules. I have to take a photo of all the hot new doctors for the Dean of Medicine. She has to get her masturbatory materials somewhere."
Wilson blushed, years away from building up a resistance to House's brand of teasing. "House…" he began, but the other doctor was already gone.
The cessation of music pulled Wilson from the memory, and he continued to flip through the album as House began plucking at his guitar instead. Younger Wilsons stared back at him from every page. Occasionally there was a hand, an arm, a hint of long hair to indicate that Wilson wasn't alone, but there was never anyone else in frame, unless it was House himself.
The last photo in the album was from his wedding to Bonnie. Again, only Wilson and his best man were in the picture, but Wilson could identify which wedding it was by House's unguarded smile, aimed at him instead of the camera.
"Come on, House. The Best Man has to be in the wedding pictures," Wilson begged, desperate to prevent another fight between his best friend and his new bride.
"Just because you want to tie yourself to these people forever," House's tone told Wilson in no uncertain terms how long he expected that to last, "doesn't mean I want to be associated with them via still life."
"House," Wilson rubbed the back of his neck wearily. Something flashed in House's eyes at the gesture, gone too fast to be identified. He tugged Wilson's arm away from his neck and rolled his eyes dramatically.
"Fine, you big baby. But just one, with just you."
"Fine," Wilson agreed eagerly, sure Bonnie wouldn't be disappointed to be missing House from the majority of her wedding album.
"And you tell me where you're taking your honeymoon," House added smugly.
Wilson's look was a mixture of irritation and regret. "I can't. I promised her two weeks of no hospital, no House."
"I won't call. I just want to know where you'll be so I can send sunshiny happy thoughts your way."
"And by sunshiny, happy thoughts you mean fake bomb threats."
"One time! I only did that once!" House exclaimed indignantly.
"Yeah, well it's hard to forget being pulled out of a hotel because someone has called in a bomb threat against you specifically. My first wife was not very happy, and I doubt the second one would like it either."
"Number one had no sense of humor," House griped.
"Yes, that's why I divorced her. I couldn't have someone around who didn't amuse you at all times," Wilson deadpanned.
House grinned and the photographer snapped the picture. House gaped from the cameraman back to Wilson. "You little sneak, you set me up!"
"What?" Wilson blinked innocently at him. "I had no idea that was gonna happen."
"Of course not," House snorted. "Go ahead; enjoy your hospital-and-House-free honeymoon. I'll just hang out with Stacy; maybe play a few rounds of golf."
"I'm sure you'll manage fine without me," Wilson grinned.
"Or not," Wilson whispered, pushing back the memory of that particular homecoming. He checked the box again for more photo albums and smiled when he found his missing yearbooks instead.
"The new album's in the bookcase." House's voice made Wilson jump and drop the book he'd been holding.
"House," Wilson began.
House ignored him. "This picture," he said, holding up the camera to illustrate, "should fill it up."
Wilson just started at him, trying to read between the lines and get to House's real message, an activity at which he usually excelled. The older doctor smiled at him mockingly.
"You'll need a new one," Wilson hedged, trying to buy himself some time.
"Yes, you'll have to buy me something cool - maybe one of those digital frames that shuffle between the photos."
"People will think I'm a really good prostitute when they see that."
House's answering grin was like lightening, flashing across his face and gone in less time than it took to process the expression. "I don't mind them knowing if you don't. As long as they don't want to share."
"You've never shared me," Wilson kidded.
House looked down at the floor. The album Wilson had dropped was opened to the last page, with the picture from his second wedding. Wilson studied the photo with new eyes, noting the lightness and happiness radiating from the two of them, directed at each other.
"Nonsense," House told him. "I share you all the time." He looked up, a challenge in his eyes as crystal blue met soft brown. "But I think I'm done with that."
"I don't understand," Wilson admitted.
"Come on, boy genius. You already figured it out. Don't play dumb now, you know how I hate that," House admonished.
Wilson spoke his thought process out loud. "You deliberately sent me to the closet to find these. You're trying to tell me something."
House grunted. Maybe it was agreement, maybe it was 'you're an idiot, Wilson' or maybe he just felt the need to contribute to the conversation. .
"You kept these pictures because you care about me, because I'm important to you." Wilson studied the top of House's head as House took a sudden interest in the floor. "And because you love me," Wilson stated it as a fact, unable and unwilling to keep the hope from his voice.
House looked up, and even his mockery couldn't hide the relief on his face. "Wilson, you big girl! Can't some things just go unsaid?"
Wilson considered that for a moment before crossing his arms resolutely. "No, I think some things need to be said. At least once." And he looked at House expectantly.
"You mean right now?" House's look was incredulous, but his tone suggested anxiety.
"I'll make it worth your while," Wilson promised.
House went from nervous to intrigued in the blink of an eye. "How?"
"I'll help you replace the photo in your fun drawer."
House studied his face to be sure he was serious, stepped into Wilson's personal space and whispered huskily, "I love you."
Wilson had to buy a box with a lock for the photos they took that night.