Wilson knocked on the door of Alice's house, thinking to himself that he perfectly understood why House had chosen to move out of his dingy little apartment and take up residence in this beautiful home.
"Wilson, you found the place, eventually," House said sarcastically, opening the door.
"Nice to see you too, House." Wilson held out a hand and House shook it, then the two men each wrapped an arm around the other for a brief – but very manly – hug. Wilson was a little surprised, but then he guessed it had been a long time since they'd seen each other socially.
He handed over a bottle of red wine that House took greedily before showing Wilson into the house.
"So, gonna give me the tour?" Wilson asked.
House frowned. "Really?"
"Yeah, really. I liked your old place, but this one is a vast improvement. I'd like to take a look."
"Okay," House said reluctantly.
He begrudgingly showed Wilson the main rooms, giving brief, obvious explanations as they entered each one.
House opened one of the French doors leading off the living room and stepped outside to give Wilson a quick view of the garden.
"Yard," he offered helpfully.
Wilson began to laugh.
"What?" House asked, annoyed.
"There really is a hot tub." Wilson remembered back when House had come into his office with a grazed back, telling Wilson it was the result of a "hot tub misadventure". Wilson hadn't believed him at the time.
"When will you start believing me?" House said, as if he was hurt.
House lead them back into the kitchen and poured them each a glass of wine.
"So, how was Egypt?" Dinner tonight was the first chance Wilson had had to hear all the travel stories. It had been a long time since he and House had been able to sit down and chat socially. Once the story had been published in the Observer, Wilson was caught up in a crazy month of legal mop-up. He'd briefly seen House to say goodbye before he and Alice had headed-off on their three-week trip. He'd received one postcard during that time – obviously written by Alice. They'd been back from Egypt for almost two weeks, but House had been in demand, his absence causing an unexpected hole in the smooth running of Princeton Plainsboro. All together it had been well over two months since Wilson had been able to have a proper conversation with his friend.
He'd missed him.
"Egypt was hot. And filthy for the most part. But pretty cool. The pyramids were just as big as I remembered. I'd been thinking that because I saw them as a kid they wouldn't be that impressive – you know, everything looks bigger when you're a kid. But they were still awe-inspiring. We caught a flight down to see Abu Simbel and that was great. Alice took about a billion photographs and she's going to make you sit through everyone of them."
"I don't mind," Wilson said, and he meant it. He still couldn't quite get over the idea that he might be seeing photos of House, on vacation with his girlfriend. Just like a normal person. He was looking forward to getting to know the woman who'd made it happen. "Where is Alice?"
"In the bathroom. She'll be out sooner or later."
House led them into the living room and they sat on the sofas.
"So did you end up going to Petra?" Wilson remembered that although House and Alice's trip had been reasonably well planned, they'd left their final week open to see what might appeal to them. Going to Jordan to see Petra had been the latest idea he'd heard before they left.
"Nah, we went to Alexandria instead and then went on to stay at a resort on the Red Sea at Hurgada. Had our own private swimming pool."
"Yeah, it was. Oh, and I got you a present." House got up and went over to a bookshelf, pulling out something flat and long. "Here."
Wilson took the gift, pulling off a black plastic bag to find a sheet of papyrus covered in colourful, carefully inked hieroglyphics.
"House, it's beautiful." Wilson was really touched. He couldn't remember the last time House had brought him back a gift from vacation. In fact, he didn't think it had happened, ever.
"It's not exactly original," House said with a sneer at Wilson's reverence.
"No, I get that," Wilson said. "I just . . . I really like it."
"Good," House said gruffly.
"Hi James." Alice walked in and Wilson stood up so they could exchange kisses.
"Alice – it's lovely to see you."
Alice then stood next to House and he reached an arm around her, giving her a quick squeeze. Wilson noted that he dropped a light kiss to the top of her head, then whispered, "You okay?". His voice was quiet enough that Wilson almost didn't hear.
Alice nodded and gave him a grim smile before turning to Wilson with a softer expression. "You set up with a drink?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm fine, thanks Alice." Wilson held up his glass and gave Alice a smile.
"Great. I'm gonna go grab one for myself, get our dinner sorted, and then I'll join you. Oh, and James, has Greg warned you about the photos?"
"Yes, he has, but I actually want to see them."
Alice laughed. "I'm afraid you don't have a choice." She gave him a broad smile and disappeared into the kitchen.
The two men took their seats on opposite sofas and again Wilson was struck by how stylish and yet comfortable the place was. Looking at his friend, Wilson thought that at one time he could never have imagined House anywhere other than completely and miserably alone; sitting on that brown leather couch in his one-bedroom apartment, staring blankly at the TV. And yet here he was, and he looked right at home.
"Alice brought back a parasite from Egypt," House said, settling more comfortably into the sofa.
"Oh no, is that why she looks a little pale?"
"Yeah, she's been throwing up all day."
"House, you should have cancelled dinner if Alice wasn't well. We could have made it another night."
"So what has she got? Nothing too serious?"
"Well, yeah, it is pretty serious actually. It's the kind of parasite that I'm legally obliged to support for the next twenty-one years."
It took a moment for House's obtuse explanation to sink in.
"And you . . . you're . . . A baby?" Wilson said uselessly, feeling a universe beyond surprised.
"Alice keeps going on about legacy and some crap. I figure it could be interesting."
He figures it could be interesting, Wilson thought, shaking his head as if the movement would somehow help the realisation sink in. Then he mentally shrugged. It could be interesting was one of only two reasons why House did anything. House had done a lot more stupid things in pursuit of interesting than having a child.
"Happened a bit faster than we thought it would, though," House added as Alice returned to the living room.
"Yeah, maybe there was something to that theory of Patricia's," Alice said with a smile, sipping from a glass of what looked like ginger ale. "Something about soul mates?"
"I think you'll find it was my theory that actually worked. Relaxing and having lots of sex."
"A relationship, a vacation and a baby?" Wilson asked incredulously. "House, I thought you having another girlfriend was impossible. I thought you going away on a romantic vacation was impossible. I thought you having a family was really impossible. Wonderful, but impossible. I can hardly believe it. "
"I'd say you need to try harder, Wilson," said House with a sly grin. "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice laughed and kissed him on the cheek.
"Come on. Dinner's ready, let's eat."