Title: Twenty Years of Stealing My Food: Part 20/20
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Heel and Toe Films, Shore Z Productions and Bad Hat Harry Productions in association with Universal Media Studios.
Beta: triedunture, fantastic to the end
A/N: Last part of a backstory taking place over twenty years, all the way to canon.
Summary: Wilson tries to make his marriage work and gets offered another job. House employs three new staff in succession as we reach canon.
Excerpt: Wilson might be known as the House Whisperer, but House thought of himself as the direct line to all things Wilsonian.
Twenty Years of Stealing My Food: Part 20
As they pulled on coats to leave the bowling alley after an enjoyable evening's bowling, Wilson said, "I won't be around tomorrow night--Julie and I have one of our staff dinners."
"And how are your 'At Home with the Wilsons' going?" House asked, knotting his scarf around his neck. "Are there many excruciating evenings of strained conversation with underlings to go?"
"A few. And it's not like that. It's quite enjoyable, believe it or not." Wilson had been having oncology staff over in small groups for dinner once a week, following his surprise marriage. The Vegas wedding had been presented to family, friends and hospital colleagues as an impulsive romantic trip; Wilson had received many best wishes after the event, and Julie had suggested the series of dinners as a way of her getting to know everybody. Take-up had been uniformly good, as most oncology staff were very curious to meet their boss' new wife and see inside their home. Julie's old home, actually; Wilson had moved in with her. House had visited, and been vaguely appalled by the heavy drapes, dark paintwork and chintz; Julie hadn't felt the need to move or redecorate after her divorce. House was also sure that Julie had done similar dinner parties for her former husband's work colleagues. Altogether, it seemed to him that Julie was doing her best to live her life exactly as it had been before. Just with a different husband.
"So perhaps I should have my staff come to my place for dinner," House said, his tone mischievous.
"So long as they know they'd get fed Cheerios and peanut butter sandwiches," Wilson remarked. They stepped outside, leaving a room full of smoke and color and noise, and found themselves in a chilly parking lot surrounded by swirling white fog. The air was damp and visibility was poor.
Wilson pulled his coat close around himself and said abruptly, "House, there's something I wanted to tell you... about my marriage..."
"Christ, I don't want to know, whatever it is." House was exasperated. Trust Wilson to bring something like this up, just when House was looking forward to going home and relaxing. "Unless you're getting divorced, but that's too soon even for you."
Wilson and Julie had now been married some six months or so. House had half-expected them to separate in record time, but instead they were confounding him by actually trying to make their marriage work.
"I really want to make it work," Wilson said now, as they began to edge cautiously across the parking lot towards Wilson's Volvo. "I can't possibly be a third time divorcee; I want to do everything possible to make this marriage last. I'm going to try not to work too hard, try and spend lots of time with her--"
"Is that really wise?" House quipped. Wilson ignored him.
"I'm going to remember birthdays and anniversaries... and I'm not going to cheat on her. I'm going to be faithful."
"I mean it." Wilson's tone was matter-of-fact, but he stopped and looked at House.
House stopped too, standing close. He could see Wilson's breath as a white mist, feel it on his cheek. The white blanket of fog surrounded them; they were alone in their own private cloud.
"You mean..." House arched an eyebrow and pointed towards himself.
"I do mean." Wilson met his eye.
Christ, Wilson was cutting him off. That... was new. House was momentarily stunned. His first impulse was to tell Wilson he gave it six weeks, but House was suddenly unsure. He'd tried to go cold turkey off Wilson before, several times, when he'd met Stacy in particular... but Wilson was always too fucking irresistible to keep that up indefinitely. While House wasn't at all sure that he himself was so fucking irresistible.
"Fine," House said eventually, figuring that humoring Wilson was the way to go.
"Yeah. You're her husband, you should be faithful. Why are we even having this conversation?" And House dipped his head to brush his nose ever so gently against Wilson's nose, then stepped away towards the Volvo.
At the sight of Wilson on the balcony outside their offices, House picked up a fistful of résumés and headed outside. It was raining very lightly, more dampness in the air than actual raindrops.
"Ever heard of Dr. Rowan Chase?" House said in greeting, pushing the papers towards Wilson's hand.
"Uh, should I have?" Wilson took the papers and peered at them.
"Only if you're up on Australian rheumatologists." House looked up at the sky, feeling the moisture in the air settling on his face.
"I can't say I am. An Australian rheumatologist has applied for your fellowship?"
"No, but his son has. Dr. Rowan Chase telephoned me this morning to tell me, all the way from the land Down Under."
"Nepotism, alive and well."
"Actually, no, unless there's some serious double bluffing going on." House closed his eyes, letting tiny drops of rain rest on his eyelids and eyelashes. "He said that in his professional opinion he didn't think his son would be suitable, and I might want to take that into consideration. And I said, do you speak-a my language?"
"And then he smiled and gave you a Vegemite sandwich," Wilson supplied the line readily, and House opened his eyes and grinned, pleased. Wilson pulled out a résumé from the stack. "Here we are. Dr. Robert Chase. Intensivist."
"Now that would be useful," House said enthusiastically. "Intensivist. You don't get many of those around."
Wilson fixed House with a steely glare. "House, you cannot hire someone just because their father apparently hates them enough to call you all the way from Australia."
"Of course not," House said with fake indignation. "He might have a stupid accent or something serious like that, we need to interview him. We'll schedule him first."
Wilson sighed. "So if you like him, you don't have to see anyone else afterwards."
"You know me too well, Jimmy," said House, and Wilson smiled at the use of his name. He reached out to ruffle House's hair, and then unexpectedly dropped a quick kiss on the back of House's neck. House reveled in the moment of intimacy, and didn't move, for fear of spoiling it; Wilson had been serious about being faithful to Julie. There had been the odd snatched affectionate peck, and House had nibbled on Wilson's ear a few days before in an empty clinic exam room. But they hadn't led anywhere; Wilson was trying to keep his distance.
Wilson lingered on the balcony for a few more seconds, then put the bundle of papers back into House's hands, and vanished back into his office.
House stayed outside for a while, letting the pile of résumés grow damp.
After a long quiet period, House found his life was suddenly full of distractions. He had a new member of staff to train, and a new guy living in the apartment upstairs to obsess over. Tall and skinny, with a mop of fair hair and sparking greeny-blue eyes like the sea, Gary struck an unexpected chord with House and they ended up in bed together the day after Gary had moved in. The sex was hot, the shared company surprisingly pleasurable.
The distractions were sufficient that House didn't immediately notice when in the midst of it all, Chris reappeared in Wilson's life. Linus, a friend of Chris's was diagnosed with cancer, and became a patient of Wilson's. This would normally have been a matter of grave concern for House except that House was getting regularly laid elsewhere, Wilson was still valiantly not cheating on Julie, and Chris and Linus were pretending to be a couple while at the hospital. The risk of Wilson tumbling back into bed with Chris seemed minimal.
Nevertheless House had to keep tabs on the situation. As his new fellow Robert Chase was very green and not up to actually doing much work yet, House encouraged him to hang out with Linus. "But watch out, if you have to take him to the bathroom and he drops the soap, be careful not to pick it up for him."
"I can cope with that," said Chase, and he duly reported back to House that Chris visited reasonably often but was not around the hospital all the time, and his contact with Wilson was fairly minimal. House was reassured.
"Linus is a good guy," Chase added. "We get on well. He told me to drop by his place if I was ever down by the coast, he gives a lot of parties apparently."
"I'd be very careful of going to his kind of parties," House said darkly. Wilson had always been very close mouthed about the kind of thing he'd done during relationship he'd had with Chris, but House had gotten the impression that all-male parties had played a part. "Or orgies, as they might be better known."
"Could be fun," Chase said with nonchalance, and House was amused at how undaunted Chase seemed to be by whatever House threw at him. Maybe there was some hope of him turning out a decent diagnostician after all.
Wilson opened his front door, and was surprised to see House. House looked almost as surprised to see Wilson, even though it was Wilson's house.
"Julie not around?" House asked.
"She's staying at her mother's for a couple of days," Wilson said. He wasn't actually sure where Julie was (she had told him, but he hadn't listened properly and was subsequently too embarrassed to admit it), but the lie rolled so smoothly off the tongue he barely even thought about it.
House stepped inside. "I was going to lure you out to a bar, but I guess I might as well come in. Assuming you have beer, of course."
"Beer I can do." Wilson went to the kitchen, and came through to the living room a minute later carrying two bottles of beer in each hand. House was flopped down on the couch staring round the room.
"Are those new curtains? They're hideous. Every time I come here I remember how much I hate this place."
"Gee, thanks," Wilson said dryly, sitting next to House and handing him a bottle. "So why are you subjecting yourself to my interior decor then?"
House took a swig of beer. "Gary's moved out."
"Oh." Wilson pondered. "That's good, right? It must have been awkward, meeting him in the hallway since..." Gary had dumped House the previous week.
"Yeah. It's just... he's gone to live in London."
"Wow, you drove him three thousand miles away!"
"He says," House's voice was very neutral, "his company are transferring him and it was planned a long time ago."
Oh. Wilson contemplated what that meant. Had Gary gone into this relationship with House knowing he'd be leaving the country shortly? Had this always just been a brief fling for him?
"You believe that?" Wilson asked eventually.
"Fuck only knows." House said, drained the bottle, and reached for another.
Wilson shook his head and opened one for himself.
They put the TV on and sat up channel surfing late into the night. By 2 AM they had both dozed off, Wilson slumped into House's shoulder. Eventually House woke with a jerk, and the movement woke Wilson up too. House mumbled that he was going to see if he could possibly bear the wallpaper in the guest room, and if so, he was going to bed. Wilson staggered up, followed House to the guest room, and fell down on the bed next to House. The two of them slept through to the morning, Wilson with an arm looped around House's waist, House leaning the side of his face against Wilson's neck.
When Wilson returned from work the following day, Julie was back. Wilson told her House had stayed the previous night in the guest room. He was pleased he'd thought to rumple the sheets of their own bed so it looked like he'd slept there.
"Hi, honey, I'm home," Wilson called as he shut his front door behind him.
Julie came out into the hallway, her mouth forming an O of surprise. She was wearing her coat. "James, I didn't know you were going to be back so soon, I've arranged to go out."
"Uh, I'm sorry," Wilson said, wondering why he was apologizing for having left work on time for once. "I thought it would be nice to be home in time for dinner..."
"The girls from my Spanish class are going out for drinks, there's a couple of birthdays." Julie paused. "I don't have to go, I can call them--"
"No, no, no. You go, you don't need to change your plans. I should have warned you." And now he actually felt guilty about having left work on time for once.
"Well..." Julie upturned her hands. "If you really don't mind... I was just on my way... Look, your dinner's all ready to heat up, I'll just go put it in the oven for you."
She disappeared into the kitchen. Wilson hung up his coat slowly, depressed to think that even though House was hardly interfering at all, his marriage was nevertheless slowly falling apart. He was failing to spend as much time with her as he'd hoped, but when he was around, she quite often wasn't there. She was developing her own interests, seeing more of her friends. Not that they fought, they were just too polite to each other.
He followed her into the kitchen, musing that he really must not forget their first wedding anniversary next month. He knew it was coming up as he had gotten Nora, the Oncology Department secretary, to stick reminders of significant dates on his calendar; but he then found himself unsure how to mark such dates when they arrived. He didn't have much intuition about what she might like to have as a gift or do to celebrate. Perhaps he'd just ask her. Tomorrow, maybe.
"Good day at work?" she asked with a modicum of interest, tucking a casserole dish into the oven.
"House had another fellow quit on him. Second one in six months. Means I've got interviews to look forward to, again," Wilson said with a laugh.
At the mention of House, Julie's lips thinned. "Why does he need you to interview with him?"
"Cuddy banned House from interviewing on his own years ago, after the first two lawsuits. I'm the only person even remotely willing to do it."
"What would he do without you?" Julie said rhetorically, as she turned the dial on the stove. "Give it twenty minutes, it should be nice and hot. Look, I have to run, I'll see you later."
She kissed him briefly on the cheek, and was gone.
Alone, Wilson wondered whether to call House, but decided not to. He'd made quite a thing about leaving work to go home on time this afternoon to spend the evening with his wife, he didn't want to admit that it hadn't worked out.
So, the being-faithful-to-her thing had fallen through, and it wasn't because of any grand seduction on either side, it was because House had needed him. Wilson had come to House's rescue after Gary had dumped him, and offered comfort in the way that came naturally to him, the way he knew worked best; ending up in bed. Wilson had since concluded that fidelity hadn't actually been the marriage-saver he had thought it might be. And that was just because he hadn't been cheating physically didn't mean he hadn't been still cheating on her emotionally. He always had another priority higher than her.
But he wasn't giving up on making this marriage work. How could he? It was bad enough being twice divorced already: as House had said on one occasion, "Once is a mistake. Twice looks like carelessness. Three times, and everyone will assume you're a secret wife-beating sicko." Nobody would ever want to date him again. They'd think something must be seriously wrong...
Interviewing with House was always a frustrating experience. Three candidates had been lined up, but mid-way through the second interview, House brightly told the candidate they had the job.
"House," Wilson said in exasperation afterwards. "Why do you even have me sit in on your interviews, when you don't even ask what I think? There's still one more candidate waiting outside!"
"No point wasting time on them when we've already got the right person," House said cheerfully. "And you're here because Cuddy won't let me interview on my own, not because I care what you think. How was your weekend, by the way? Have a happy anniversary?"
"You're deflecting. Why her? What was so good about--" Wilson picked up the application--"Allison Cameron?"
"You're evading 'cause your weekend sucked. As for Cameron, Wilson, did you see her?"
"House, you cannot hire people because they're hot." Wilson was absolutely not admitting to House, or anyone, that his weekend away with Julie had indeed sucked. They had gone to Niagara Falls. The Falls had been spectacular, they'd had a great view from their hotel, and a good dinner in the evening... and somehow Wilson had hardly enjoyed himself at all. He was having a hard time figuring out why. He refused to believe it was because House had gone to a Monster Truck event in his absence.
"Why not? You do."
"I do not!" Wilson was indignant.
"You so do. Whenever I see a new intern in Oncology they're female, blonde, with big boobs."
"That is... a gross exaggeration."
"I'd say it was a slight exaggeration. Anyway, as a cripple, I need beautiful staff around me to look at. I've already got Chase, Cameron will compliment him nicely."
"House, that is not any sort of criteria for hiring a fellow." Wilson looked down at the résumé again. "Hold on. I see it."
"Your real reason. It's here under 'Marital Status: Widow'. She's only twenty-five and she's widowed already. You want to know more, don't you? That's your puzzle."
"You'd better tell that last candidate to go home." House stretched in his chair. "Did I tell you that Bigfoot did a slap wheelie? Man, the crowd loved it."
Wilson had to go up to Trenton for a weekend family get-together; Julie cried off coming with him at the last minute, claiming she had a migraine. Wilson didn't fully believe this, but as he couldn't blame her for not wanting to see his family, he shrugged and went by himself. It wasn't terribly successful but at least there weren't any arguments. Instead his brother Jonathan drank too much and fell asleep in a corner.
Wilson stayed the night, went out on the Sunday morning to pick up a few groceries for Mom, and got chatting to a woman he met in the store. Her name was Rebecca and she was a kindergarten teacher. She talked in a lively and enthusiastic way about her work and the children she taught, and Wilson was enchanted. She asked him if he'd like to do dinner sometime, and Wilson immediately confessed he was married.
"But... it would be nice..."
"I can be discreet," she said.
And as he'd already given up on this fidelity thing, he gave in to temptation. Their affair was enjoyable but short-lived; Wilson felt guilty--considerably more so than he did with House--and although she clearly got a kick out of of sneaking around with a married man, even inventing code names for the two of them, the novelty soon wore off. The periods between meetings got longer and longer, and eventually she broke up with him, very gracefully, explaining she'd gotten a new boyfriend who she liked a lot. Wilson was genuinely happy for her.
The resignation of another of House's fellows, the third to go in a year, rendered House vaguely depressed for a month about the prospect of recruiting and training all over again. He took to spending long periods idle, doing as little work as he could possibly get away with. When they did get a patient, Chase and Cameron were both still sufficiently clueless that House was reluctant to work with the two of them on their own, even for a short time. As his recent resignee had only moved to another department at Princeton Plainsboro, and was therefore still reachable on the end of a pager, House continued to call him in for differential diagnoses when he felt the need. It was only a matter of time before Cuddy turned up at House's desk to tell him this had to stop and he had to recruit a new fellow NOW.
"Have you even advertised?"she demanded.
"Yes," House said irritably, and waved at a tall stack of résumés. "Just haven't had the chance to go through them yet."
"Because you've been so busy recently," Cuddy said sarcastically. "Block some time, call Wilson and set up some interviews." She stood up to leave, and added as an afterthought, "By the way, is anything up with Wilson? I thought he's seemed a bit out of sorts the last couple of weeks."
House, mortally offended at the very idea that anyone had noticed anything about Wilson that he hadn't, switched automatically to lie mode rather than admit this. Wilson might be known as the House Whisperer, but House thought of himself as the direct line to all things Wilsonian.
"Wilson? He's fine, just been working too hard recently. You should take him off some of those committees you keep putting him on."
"You volunteering to take his place?" Cuddy said with mock enthusiasm at the prospect, and left.
House sat and tried to recall when he'd last seen Wilson for any length of time. A few days ago, possibly. He didn't remember noticing anything wrong, but then House had been rather self-absorbed recently. And yet for the first time in his life, House was experiencing some degree of security; finally settled in his tenured job, with Cuddy as his champion (since appointing him as Head of Diagnostics she had already seen off two attempts by hostile board members to get rid of him) and acceptable quantities of Vicodin to numb the pain; Wilson was just next door, and while the man's marriage was obviously crappy it was not, House thought, on the verge of collapse; he thought it had another couple of years to run yet, and House could live with that. Sooth to say, after so many years of stealing his food, House had rather started to take Wilson for granted.
Deciding he had been remiss, House engineered lunch with Wilson the following day, and told him that Cuddy was on the warpath and they would have to set up some fellowship interviews soon.
"Well, get on with it, let me know when," Wilson said. He poked at the uneaten sandwich on his plate. "Did you get many applicants? After what you put in the ad?"
"Dozens. Apparently the phrase, 'Only masochists need apply', didn't put people off as much as I hoped."
Wilson snorted. "Your fame precedes you."
"If they can't take the heat, they shouldn't come in the kitchen," House pronounced loftily, and to his surprise Wilson suddenly glared at him and put his hands palms down on the table.
"You can be a real ass sometimes, God only knows why anyone wants to work with you," he said, and abruptly stood up and walked out of the cafeteria.
House gaped and stared after him. He was used to Wilson's patience being endless. It was rare for him to snap like that. And under so little provocation. Cuddy was right, something was wrong, and House just hadn't noticed. His mind skipped over possibilities; perhaps Wilson's marriage was closer to the end than he'd thought.
House got up, left the cafeteria and headed straight for Wilson's office. He went in without knocking. Wilson was at his desk, surrounded with piles of paperwork, apparently trying to bury himself in it all.
"Go away House, I'm busy," he said curtly. House sat down opposite him instead.
"Wilson, what's up?"
"Nothing. Go away." A muscle jumped in Wilson's forehead and his eye twitched.
"I'm going to find out sooner or later," House said, gently, for him. "You may as well tell me now and save us both the trouble."
Wilson closed his eyes and tilted his head to one side, apparently realizing the truth of what House said. He opened his eyes, leaned back in his chair, and looked House squarely in the eye.
"I've been offered another job."
House froze. Suddenly he felt as if his stomach had been cut open and the contents dropped on the floor. It wasn't surprising--Wilson had been made Head of Oncology at Princeton Plainsboro before the age of forty, a notable achievement, and it was to be expected that other hospitals would come sniffing around him at some point. But somehow House really hadn't expected it to happen right now.
Wilson kept on looking at him, apparently not in the mood for volunteering more than asked.
"Where?" House asked eventually.
That was not good. Vancouver had a good oncology department, and they'd made overtures to Wilson before. They would be paying top dollar. Also Wilson loved Canada--he had grandparents there, he was a McGill graduate, for goodness sake--and House could imagine him being tempted.
"Much more money?" House asked, painfully.
"A lot more money."
House winced. "When did they offer?"
"Two weeks ago."
Two weeks ago! "Why didn't you tell me before?" House was indignant.
"For Christ's sake, I've tried! House, you know you've had your head up your ass for the last month," Wilson said through gritted teeth.
House couldn't deny that. "When do they need to know by?"
Wilson's reply was unexpected. "Yesterday."
House swallowed. "So, what did you say?"
"I told them no. Of course I told them no." Wilson broke eye contact and slumped forward on his desk, head in hands.
House was quiet. He felt relief, overwhelming relief, but also an growing sense of guilt, an emotion he always tried to avoid and deny if at all possible. His leg began to throb; his hand started to move towards his pocket for the Vicodin bottle, and he stopped himself, not wanting to do anything to upset Wilson further right now.
Presently Wilson went on, "I didn't tell Julie, because I knew she'd want me to take it. But she found the offer letter in my pocket a few days ago. I've heard of nothing else since." He reached into the inside breast of his jacket and pulled out a letter. He threw it towards House. "You try telling your wife that you're turning down a job like that because you can't leave your best friend who treats you like crap and who's hardly spoken to you for the last month."
House unfolded the letter. It was several pages long, but the important bit, the money, was on the first page. House goggled at the salary. He didn't know exactly what Wilson earned, but he had a good idea, and this looked like a one hundred per cent increase. Plus a golden handshake and a generous relocation allowance.
"You could have taken it," he said eventually.
Wilson laughed hollowly. "Yeah, right." He reached out and took the letter back from House, and stuffed it back in his jacket pocket.
"I could move," House said, knowing as he spoke how difficult that would be, perhaps impossible. He'd been fired from too many jobs in the past. There were not many employers who would put up with him in the way that Cuddy did. At Princeton Plainsboro House had his dream job, with a department created especially for him; that wasn't going to happen anywhere else. "Or visit you. We've lived a long way apart before--"
"That was then, House, and this is now," Wilson said flatly.
Wilson was right and House knew he was right. They'd coped before, when they were younger, jobs had been short-term contracts, other relationships fleeting for the most part, and when House hadn't been crippled. Since they'd both ended up in Princeton, everything had changed. They'd put down roots; their roots had become inextricably intertwined, and they couldn't uproot one without uprooting the other. Not without a great deal of pain. And they both had quite enough of that already, in their different ways.
Now House was upset too, and when he was upset he lashed out. "You're an idiot. You should have taken the damn job." And to rub salt in the wound, he added, "Everybody leaves in the end, remember? Maybe this is your time."
Wilson slammed a fist into his desk. "Stop screwing with me, House, and get the hell out of my office."
House could rarely remember seeing him so angry. House stalked out, shut the door behind him, and gulped down two Vicodin at once.
The following morning Cuddy arrived at work at her usual time to find House sitting in her office, dozing in her chair. She was astounded; House didn't usually arrive at work for another four hours. Actually she thought he was possibly wearing the same clothes as yesterday; certainly he looked even more scruffy than usual.
"House! Wake up and get out of my chair."
House jerked awake. "Dr. Cuddy, good morning." He didn't move from the chair.
"And to what do I owe the honor of this early morning call?" Cuddy demanded suspiciously. She sat down opposite him.
House rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and leaned forwards. "You have to give Wilson a raise."
Whatever Cuddy had been expecting, it wasn't that. "Oh yes, fine. I always say yes to requests like that out of the blue first thing in the morning. Especially from you, House."
"You value him as Head of your Oncology department, right? You want to keep him? Take a look at this." House pulled a copy of Wilson's Vancouver offer letter from his pocket and tossed it across the desk to her. He had sneaked into Wilson's office the previous evening, when Wilson had popped out and left his jacket hanging on his door, and photocopied it. "I think Princeton Plainsboro needs to be a bit more... competitive."
Cuddy read the letter and frowned. "Has he accepted this?"
"No. Because he's a jackass. But he deserves it, Cuddy." House produced another sheaf of papers. "Now, this is his salary over the last three years, since he got his current job--" (Cuddy closed her eyes, not wanting to speculate how House had broken into her computer again)--"and frankly I'd say you got him on the cheap. He was an internal candidate, it was a time when he was not in a position to make demands, for reasons we both know," (Cuddy knew that House was talking about his own post-infarction, post-Stacy mess) "he was very young so not as experienced as some, and he obviously got the absolute bottom of whatever pay scale you were using. His drunken moronic predecessor must have been on a helluva lot more. This hospital must've saved hundreds of thousands in the last three years since Collins retired, just by paying a smaller salary."
Cuddy's eyes narrowed. "Wilson could be making this case to me himself, you know."
"He wouldn't because he's too modest, and an idiot, and anyway, what would you have done if he'd come to you with that offer letter?"
"I would have..." Cuddy looked down at it again. "I would have thought it was a bargaining chip, because he wouldn't leave, even for that, and I'd have met him halfway."
"Right. But I'm not meeting you half way. I'm telling you he deserves this full increase, he's owed it. He's proved he can run that department and run it well. His reputation has grown and he gets consults from all over the world. And you've put him on just about every board and committee there is in this hospital, because you can rely on him to do a good job."
Cuddy leaned back in her chair. "House, I can't just give out a large pay increase out of nowhere. Not without money coming in from somewhere."
"Crap. You've got donors coming out of your ears at the moment. Get one of them to give something to Oncology, and stick it in your head of department's pay packet."
"It doesn't work like that, House. But you've given me an idea." She smiled, and it was a calculating sort of smile. "You're right, Wilson gives a lot to this hospital. And you know what? Its partly that he's picking up your slack. Doing the things that you refuse to do."
"I am not doing clinic duty."
Cuddy wasn't ready to fight that battle just yet, and ignored House's comment. "I mean stuff like meeting donors. Donors who might give something to Oncology, say. Donors who always want to meet the doctors on the frontline before they get their checkbook out. Funnily enough, I've got someone like that coming in this morning. I think if he was to meet our legendary Head of Diagnostics, and if that legendary Head actually talked to him and was polite to him, he might be that much more inclined to add an extra zero."
That evening, House was slumped in his apartment in front of the TV when Wilson came visiting. House hadn't seen Wilson all day; after shmoozing the donor that morning for Cuddy he'd gone straight home, partly in disgust at himself, partly because he'd been up all night before.
Wilson sat down on the couch next to House and put some paper bags down on the table. "So, Cuddy called me in to her office this afternoon and guess what, she's giving me a raise."
"Really?" House muttered.
"Yes, and funnily enough it's exactly the same amount that Vancouver were offering. To the dollar."
"Coincidence," House murmured, pleased that Cuddy had come through.
"Julie's quite placated," Wilson went on. "She assumes I've negotiated it, but I haven't, isn't that odd?"
"Very strange," House agreed solemnly, and looked up at Wilson with wide eyes.
"Thank-you, House." Wilson grinned at him. "I've brought beer. And the suicide by cholesterol menu."
House sat up, delighted. "Fried chicken and donuts!"
"I don't know how you did it," Wilson said, digging into a bag and producing two bottles of beer.
"I prostituted myself to Cuddy," House said, flipping one open.
That made Wilson laugh. "Not literally, I hope."
"Pretty much. I had to shmooze a donor." House pulled a face and drank deeply from the bottle.
"Well I know how difficult that is for you, so thanks," Wilson deadpanned, and took a swig from his own bottle.
"She didn't need much persuading; she knew you were worth it," House added, and moved the conversation swiftly on. "I've found my top choice next fellowship applicant, by the way."
"Oh?" Wilson opened another bag and produced boxes of fried chicken.
"Wings? Gimme." House handed Wilson a résumé and took a piece of chicken in return. "He's perfect. He's black with a criminal record."
That made Wilson splutter. "A criminal record?" He peered at the piece of paper in front of him, holding it by the edges to avoid getting greasy fingermarks on it.
"It's not on the application. It's a juvie record, sealed." House munched chicken.
"House, this really takes the cake. You want to hire someone because they have a criminal record. Which you shouldn't know about anyway."
"My team break into people's houses, you know that. It'll be useful having someone around who actually knows how to pick locks and stuff."
Wilson sighed. "You know, I do believe this is your actual reason. That," he tapped the paper, "and figuring out how someone with a criminal record also managed to get a 4.0 GPA."
"No," House countered, "My real reason is to keep Cuddy happy. My department is already a model of equal opps for cripples, chicks, and kangaroos. All I need is for Chase to start lusting over Foreman the way he already does over Cameron, and I'll hit the equal opportunity jackpot."
Wilson couldn't help but grin. "Or, you could hit it by telling her you had your dick up my ass tonight."
House smiled widely and reached up to flick Wilson's ear, acknowledging the offer, accepting it. "You think she'd believe me?"
They snuggled up and watched TV while finishing the chicken. House then picked up the bag of donuts, took one look and claimed the one with chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles. As House bit into it from one side, Wilson leaned over and bit into it from the other.
"Hey, no stealing my food!" House said, with mock indignation
"That's rich, after you've been stealing mine for the best part of twenty years," Wilson said, his voice amused and fond.
They shared the donut, each taking small delicate bites from each side until meeting in the middle, after which Wilson leaned over and started chewing on House's ear. Then House stood up and headed towards the bedroom, Wilson following him without discussion.
House perched on the edge of the bed. Wilson stood in front of him and unzipped House's fly, slowly, carefully; he pulled out House's rapidly hardening cock and rolled it between his hands. House shut his eyes tightly and breathed, relishing the touch of Wilson's soft fingertips and slightly calloused palms. A minute later, a different sensation; a tongue sliding across his shaft, lips delicately lapping at the tip. House opened his eyes and looked down to see Wilson's head between his legs, Wilson's mop of silky brown hair shining in the lamplight.
"Fuck, yes," House whispered, leaning back on his hands, as Wilson alternately licked and sucked, and briefly seemed as if he was about to swallow House whole.
House was just thinking he would come in Wilson's mouth when Wilson pulled back. House groaned a little in protest, as Wilson stood up and unzipped his own fly. He then unbuttoned his shirt slowly, deliberately, and pulled it off his shoulders, his nipples standing out from his chest, pale in the dim light. House hummed in appreciation as he wriggled out of his pants, watching Wilson continue to strip until he stood there naked, hard-on standing erect and proud, utterly desirable. House growled a little in the back of his throat.
Wilson stepped forward to wrap his arms around House's shoulders, and they kissed deeply, lips and tongues exploring with slow, deliberate familiarity; then Wilson put a hand to House's chest, pushing gently. House sprawled backwards onto the bed obediently and Wilson landed directly on top of him; his chest pushed against House's chest, his groin pressed up against House's groin, their cocks rubbing together, with just a little pre-come from House helping them slip and slide.
House began to pant with anticipation of climax, but stopped as Wilson pulled away again.
"What the--" House grumbled
"Your dick up my ass, remember?" Wilson raised himself on his hands and rolled to one side, groping in the nightstand drawer. House watched as Wilson tore open the condom packet. Instead of putting it on himself, though, Wilson came to straddle House again, and rolled it carefully onto House's cock in a gentle, intimate action. House hissed a little at the snap of latex, but stayed hard, trusting Wilson to do this properly, and grew harder as Wilson stroked lube onto House's cock. Wilson then reached back to prepare himself.
"God..." House was husky, overwhelmed with beauty and lust and love, and simple gratitude that he had Wilson in his life.
Wilson bent his head to drop a kiss on House's mouth. Then he eased himself down onto House's cock, and House was transfixed at the sight of Wilson's contorted face. Wilson took House inside him at first awkwardly, then more readily with each thrust, and then swaying and riding along right there with House, desire and enthusiasm evident with every movement. Up and down, House doing the fucking but Wilson on top and in control, clenching, bringing House slowly back--towards--fan-fucking-tastic ecstasy--House reached forward to grab at Wilson's cock, tall and straining; Wilson gasped at the first touch and came at the second, sticky fluid seeping into House's triumphant fist. With a final buck of the hips House climaxed too, coming with a rush of adrenalin over the top of the falls, hurtling down with a huge explosive crash of waves that roared, then rippled, and eventually calmed to absolute, contented peacefulness.
Wilson fell onto the bed beside House, neatly avoiding House's bad leg, and they crawled under the covers together, warm, cozy and close.
The following day at work, Wilson took a call from Rebecca; she had been admitted to hospital in Trenton. She was sick. Nobody could tell her what was wrong.
Wilson responded to the distress call, contacted her doctors, and arranged to have her transferred to Princeton Plainsboro.
So we've reached canon - and if you want, you can go straight on to The Unaired Unaired Pilot which is set during 1.01 Pilot. The story of Chris's reappearance and House's relationship with Gary is told in A House Distracted. Click my username to get the links to all my fic.
Much gratitude to everyone who has followed this fic; and in particular to all the wonderful people who left reviews. It has been hugely important to know that at least some folk out there were with me, and knowing you were there and enjoying it really helped to motivate me to continue and finish. Very many thanks!