The sun rises the next morning behind layers of grey cloud. Wilson watches from his seat at the foot of the bed, hoary light congealing slowly over the trees outside as House dozes fitfully beside him.
His mind feels like it's moving in slow motion, bogged down with the fatigue of trying to process what he's heard, trying to know what to do with it. The most immediate reaction he can find within himself, burning sickeningly in his gut, isn't one that helps him, because there's nowhere he can direct it and no use he can put it to. He's pretty sure anger towards a dead man never did much good for anybody.
He tells himself he never knew John, will never understand him or what he did or any of the ways his mind worked, and that he's probably the better off for it. What he's not sure about is whether he understands House better now, for knowing this, whether he should or whether it really makes much of a difference at all.
He's tired of thinking so hard.
They shower and dress in black and go down to breakfast almost without exchanging a word, almost without needing to.
"So what did you decide?" he asks eventually over the rim of his mug. "About…about the arrangements. Is there a burial, or…?"
House shakes his head. "Cremation. What my mom wanted, apparently. I'm guessing he didn't care much one way or the other, so."
"What time's the service?"
"Two. Then there's some drinks thing at the funeral home."
"You want to go?"
House shrugs noncommittally, eyes distant, and Wilson gives up.
As it turns out it's a relatively small affair, in contrast to the wake there's maybe twenty people in the room when they finally make their entrance. Richard looks up as they move to their seats, nods slightly at Wilson who manages a jerk of his head in response, eyes averted.
At the front of the room, John and Blythe's bodies are laid out in matching coffins, serene faces just visible from where they're sitting and he swallows hard, looking down at his feet. He's always found this tradition vaguely morbid, the embalming and scrutinising of the body, maintaining the illusion of something that no longer exists.
He glances at House, searching for a reaction, but he's staring straight ahead and it's hard to tell if he's gazing at the bodies of his parents or looking straight through them, unseeing.
He tries and fails to concentrate for most of the service, his thoughts wandering back to last night, to early that morning, the images still burrowed into his skull. He's fleetingly aware of Father Steve reflecting that although John wasn't a man of God he was nevertheless a man of strong beliefs, beliefs he upheld in his everyday life, and how Blythe was one of their most loyal parishioners, how she'd come to church every Sunday like clockwork, always alone, always with a smile.
House's face is a mask throughout, his expression not flickering even the eulogies begin and Richard takes the dais moments later.
"I know John wouldn't have wanted me to get too heavy on you," he begins, after a couple of feeble jokes, "but I've got to say right now, he was probably the best man I've ever known. Kind every man aspires to be. Even when we were kids he put me to shame, always had to do the right thing – if he found a dollar note on the street he'd turn it in. And when he went into the Corps after me, I knew he'd turn out to be a better officer than I ever was. Wasn't a bit surprised when he made colonel."
Richard pauses, scanning the crowd.
"He didn't always have it easy," he continues, eyes settling pointedly on House. "Had some disappointments, some let-downs. Things in his life that didn't pan out exactly like he hoped. But he always did his best. And that's all any of us can do, I guess."
Blood boiling for a moment at the barely-concealed gibe, Wilson feels House stiffen beside him, muttering something inaudible under his breath.
After a couple more childhood anecdotes he can barely bring himself to listen to, Richard steps down, and he's surprised then to see Abby take the stand, smiling briefly as she makes eye contact with him.
"It feels a little odd being up here," she begins, visibly nervous. "I was surprised to be asked. I'm not family, but Blythe was…she's been basically like a mother for the past couple of years. We met when we were both doing volunteer work a couple of days a week at a bookstore. I was in kind of a bad place at the time, and she was nice to me so we just, we got talking. We'd go out sometimes after work or I'd come over and we'd have tea. She was always ready to talk. Even when she looked tired, even when she probably had a lot else on her mind, she'd always make time for me. She was…she was just really kind."
She stops for a moment, looks around awkwardly
"I mean, I guess most of you here already know that about her. She always made a point of staying in touch, making sure I was okay, letting me know she was there. And it didn't ever feel like it was a chore, you know, like she felt some sense of obligation. She really cared." She falters for a minute, clearing her throat.
It's only then that Wilson realises his left hand has gone numb, House gripping it hard enough to stop all blood flow. With a tiny jolt in his chest he squeezes back, keeping his eyes fixed determinedly ahead.
Abby manages a few more brief, nervous words before stepping down, and after a closing prayer from Father Steve the service ends. House releases his hand without a word, standing abruptly.
People begin to approach House then, quietly offering their condolences, shaking his hand, and he murmurs his thanks in terse but polite tones, knuckles white around the handle of his cane. Wilson hangs back a little, watches as House gradually disentangles himself from the small crowd and moves towards the twin coffins at the front of the room.
Looking away, not wanting to intrude, he catches sight of Abby a few feet away.
"I really liked your eulogy," he tells her honestly, smiling as she approaches.
"Thanks. You didn't think I spoke too fast? I was so nervous, this is really not my kind of thing."
"I'm not sure it's anyone's. But no, you did great."
She nods, a strange expression on her face.
"Listen, I just wanted to say…sorry."
"Hm? What for?"
"For, you know." She rolls her eyes sheepishly. "Last night. I feel like such an idiot."
He frowns at her, still mystified.
"Coming onto you. I should have known—I mean, you said you were here together. Until I saw you just now for some reason it just didn't click to me that you were here, together."
"We—" Wilson opens his mouth to respond, to correct her, then stops himself without knowing quite why. It seems pointless. It isn't relevant. He doesn't really want to.
"It's fine," she says hurriedly, holding up a hand, "you don't need to explain anything. I really should have figured it out."
He shakes his head, smiling, accepting.
They move aside a little, talking quietly, and although he's nervously waiting for it she doesn't mention the party again, doesn't make any reference to House and Richard's altercation or his own intervention, doesn't ask any questions he doesn't have an answer for.
"Do you know if he's around?" she asks after a while. "We haven't met, I wanted to…do you think he liked the eulogy?"
"Actually, I think he did. You'd never get that out of him, though."
He glances around for House, growing uneasy with the realisation that he's nowhere in sight.
"He was here just a few minutes ago, I'm not sure where he's—"
"He went home," interrupts a familiar voice from behind Wilson.
He turns sharply, coming face to face with Richard again for the first time since last night, and he feels himself tensing involuntarily, muscles rigid.
"How do you know?" he asks at last, voice tight.
"Watched him leave about five minutes ago."
"You—Did you talk to him?"
"Sure. Had a few words up at the front there. He seemed pretty eager to get away."
"Can't imagine why," Wilson murmurs.
He can't keep the anger from his voice now, the suspicion, last night's dream rushing back to him along with its reality, House's words, House's eyes.
Richard eyeballs him for a moment.
"Not sure I like your tone too much," he says, tone mild and still aiming at joviality.
"I've never been much of an advocate for child abuse," Wilson snaps, the words out almost before he has time to form the thought, not caring who might be within earshot.
Richard freezes, momentarily silenced.
"Whatever Greg told you…"
He turns and begins to walk away, stops abruptly as he feels a hand grip his shoulder roughly.
"Now you listen to me," Richard says, his voice a harsh whisper. "What—what John did in his own home, whatever he saw fit to do to teach his no-good kid right from wrong…"
"Go to hell."
He jerks his arm backwards and Richard tightens his grip, eyes narrowing in anger.
"There are a lot of people here," Wilson says quietly, his voice impossibly steady. "Your wife, your friends, Blythe's friends – they're here to mourn. They deserve more respect than this. I'm asking you seriously to take your hand off me and let me walk out of here before I change my mind."
After a moment, Richard seems to concede, releases his arm. Wilson doesn't move for a second, tempted beyond belief to lash out anyway, strike, draw blood, brimming with the kind of violent urge he's never felt before.
He turns to Abby, his features contorting in what he hopes is some approximation of an apologetic smile.
"I'm—I need to leave."
She nods, eyes wide as she stares between the two of them and he can't stop to say anything else, can't look back, shaking a little with everything he's suppressing as he walks out with a dull ringing in his ears.
It's raining again outside, huge, dense drops and he closes his eyes and gives himself up to it, lets it soak him through, soothing, numbing. The white hot anger, twisted in the pit of his stomach, begins to uncurl, and all he can think of is blue eyes.
He gets back to the hotel minutes later, clothes still dripping wet and House is outside on the balcony, back turned. Wilson moves swiftly, shrugs off his jacket, joins him outside.
House doesn't look up, staring out into the rain lost in some memory, and his arms are wrapped tightly around his torso like he's trying to pull something in, hold onto something that's fighting to get loose.
He puts a hand on his shoulder and he starts, turns to face Wilson with wide, haunted eyes and there's something about him that hurts to look at.
"Hey," Wilson says again, a little breathless, reassuring, and all he wants is to make that look in his eyes go away, to never see it there again.
He means to carry on, means to say more but House makes a sound, something raw in the back of his throat like words that can't find form, and Wilson moves closer without volition and holds him, hugs him close and doesn't let go, finally; his fingers brush against the nape of his neck, cradling his head against soaked fabric, breathing against his skin.
"Wilson," House says, voice broken and muffled in his shoulder, fingers digging into Wilson's back and this is all he's wanted, all he knows how to long for, House safe and here and in his arms.
They cling to each other, motionless, silent. House draws back without letting go at all, raises a hand to Wilson's face and pushes dripping hair out of his eyes, shaking like he's coming apart at the seams and Wilson holds on, holds him together, stills him.
"I love you," he says, breathless, then, "I love you."
They're some of the easiest words he's ever said, slipping out like an exhale of warm air and he doesn't know why he hasn't said it before, should have been saying it all along, and maybe he has been. Against his cheek he feels a sharp intake of breath, something like a sob and before he can speak again House is kissing him, desperate and certain, hands fisting tightly into his hair.
His head spinning, his body responds on his behalf while his mind's still playing catch-up, arms wrapping around House's neck and he can't get close enough, pulls him in until there's no space anywhere between them, they are perfectly aligned. House's tongue pushes into his mouth and he's never known sensation like this, it's all he can do to stay upright, blind and yielding and terrified, suddenly, terrified to feel this, terrified to lose this.
Breaking contact for a moment he breathes in, swallows against the hard lump forming in his throat and House runs a thumb along his jaw line softly, endless blue eyes searching.
"It's okay," he murmurs, and it's like he's understood something without Wilson having to say a word, looked straight through him into every nightmare and every tightly coiled moment of dread. . "It's—I'm okay."
"Yeah," Wilson says, voice shaking, and it's true, he believes it, has to believe it. He turns his head into House's neck, eyes stinging with sudden hot tears, and feels lips press against his temple.
When they kiss again something gives way between them, shatters imperceptibly into dust and House moans against his lips, says his name again like a prayer, like an affirmation, the rain still beating down all around them, enveloping them in white noise and water and he's okay, they're okay. They're okay.
He wakes up the next morning from a long, dreamless sleep, and his head feels clear, somehow, well rested to the point of crisp lucidity.
He realises suddenly that the bed is empty beside him, the other as unoccupied as it had remained all night, and turns over in time to see House enter, fully dressed, letting the door fall shut behind him.
"Hey," Wilson replies, bemused. "Is it…You've been out?"
He nods brusquely, eyes downcast and averted. Wilson watches him drop the keycard onto the desk and shed his coat in stiff, jerky movements, determinedly avoiding eye contact.
"Come here," he says softly, voice firm.
House looks at him, defences fractured. Moves slowly to the edge of the bed and sits.
"Told Sarah I'd go over. Deal with the financial stuff. The ashes."
A few questions run through his mind, then; was Richard there? Did you scatter the ashes? Are you okay? Why didn't you wake me?
"You want to talk about it?"
A long pause.
Wilson nods, pursing his lips, accepting. He doesn't need to know. He reaches for House's hand, holds it still against the mattress.
"You want to get out of here?"
House exhales sharply, almost a laugh.
When they get back to House's apartment late that afternoon, he's barely sat down before he turns to see House motionless in the doorway, regarding him with an unreadable expression.
He nods towards the door, leaving before Wilson has time to ask him why, time to do anything but sit there for a beat, rise, and follow him back out in bemused silence.
Outside House is revving his bike against the curb, frowning in concentration.
"What...Are you going somewhere?"
He looks up as the engine roars into life, raises his eyebrows expectantly.
"Is there any point asking why?"
"Depends how you feel about unanswered questions. Get on."
Resigned, Wilson descends the steps, climbs on behind House thinking dimly that he should be more apprehensive about this than he is.
His relaxation dissipates a little once they get out on the open, non-residential roads, his palms beginning to sweat as House floors the bike to a speed he's sure can't be legal.
"Is this your plan?" he yells over the sound of wind and motor, tightening his grip around House's waist. "Send us both out in a blaze of glory, avoid going back to work?"
"Can't wait to get back," House shouts in response, taking a left turn that feels strangely familiar. "All those clinic hours to make up, desperate patients to heal—"
"Employees to abuse..."
"Plus I bet it's been days since anybody took a glance at Cuddy's ass. She needs the attention. Keeps her perky."
"I'm going to try not to read into—What the hell is this?"
There's a sudden dull weight in his stomach as they turn into the parking lot of the Regency Hotel, the all-too-familiar gilded sign glaring ominously at him as they come to a stop.
House dismounts, retrieving his cane and looking expectantly at Wilson.
"What is this?" he asks again, something like nausea rising in his throat.
"Got your key?" House asks, ignoring him.
He mouths silently for a minute, speechless, nods. House shrugs again, impetuous.
Resigned again, he climbs stiffly off the bike, swallowing hard as he follows House towards the entrance.
"So, what? You're kicking me out?"
House turns to him, expression scornful.
"At this point, I figure calling you an idiot is a waste of breath."
"You're checking out."
"He's checking out," House repeats to the girl at reception, who nods in slight surprise and smiles.
"Of course. Thought the day would never come, Mr Wilson."
"I—" He pauses, stares at House in dumb disbelief, smiles back weakly. "Yeah. You know, it's about time."
"Did you want, uh, any help moving out?" She glances over Wilson's shoulder to the motorbike parked outside. "We have a shuttle service, if you'd like I can arrange to have your belongings delivered to your new place once you're all packed up."
"Great," House intervenes before Wilson can open his mouth. "221B Fairview."
She turns away and as House nudges him into motion a smile, beaming, ridiculous, spreads over his face.
"Idiot," he hears House murmur behind him, hand ghosting over the small of Wilson's back.
They pack up his room in brisk, easy silence, it takes them hardly any time at all and he's forgotten just how little he's got here now, how long his life has been in limbo.
"Just how much of your crap did Julie end up with?" House mutters, opening a cupboard to find it empty.
"Not much," he shrugs. "Half my stuff's at your place, the rest's in storage."
He'd always figured he'd get it out at some point, once the divorce was finalised, once his life made sense to him again, he'd leave the hotel and find a place and get his furniture and books back along with his life. But he's gone without it for this long and there's something freeing about this lack of clutter, the unfettered clarity of the corner he's turning.
"Think that's it," he says, checking the bathroom cabinet. "At least the shuttle guy's not going to expect too much of a tip."
"You want to get out of here?"
As they reach the threshold House turns, backs him against the door frame and kisses him swiftly, urgently and he hears himself whimper in response, hands clutching at worn leather.
"What was that for?" he asks, breathless as they draw apart
"You need a reason? I don't know. Figured you might as well leave on a high note."
Dizzy, euphoric, he laughs. Minutes later, he's handing in his key card feeling lighter than he has in years as they turn to leave, finally, forever.
The sun's beginning to set as they ride home, fading against the horizon in shades of melting orange and he holds onto House tighter than he needs to, closing his eyes. The wind rushes cold against his face, and he's never felt less afraid.