Genre: Romance, Hurt/Comfort
Word Count: 1850
Characters: Wilson/OFC, House
Summary: Wilson's in love, and even House approves. So what could possibly go wrong?
It's been seven weeks—seven glorious weeks, and Wilson still can't believe his luck. Sarah is beautiful, of course. A killer smile, a body that fits perfectly in his arms. She isn't Amber—but no one is. It's time to move on. So Wilson will take the lessons Amber taught him, and he'll prove to her—and to himself—that her brief life, and her even shorter time with him, meant something. He'll make her proud, and if, in the process, he finds that he makes himself happy as well, he knows that would please her.
Sarah wasn't meant to happen, but then, many of the best relationships aren't. Wilson had stopped into an antique shop one day, with a vaguely formed idea about finding House a new cane. He'd been drawn by the store's name, Second Chances, and by its whimsical slogan—Rekindle an old friendship here! Of course, he knew that the motto referred to the concrete, tangible things the store sold, but he couldn't help feeling that it was somehow a message, directed straight to his healing heart. House might not appreciate the sentiment, but Wilson did. So he'd entered the high-end shop with love on his mind. Not the romantic kind of love that seemed always just out of reach, but the enduring kind, the friends-for-life kind he felt for House—the kind that finally, after so many months, seemed maybe just within reach again.
He never found that special cane—but he'd found his own second chance, in the person of a petite redhead with cool green eyes and a quick wit. Sarah's enough like Amber that Wilson had felt immediately at home with her, yet different enough that he didn't feel he was chasing a ghost.
Sarah's independent, too. It turned out that she owns the shop. She sets her own hours, thinks for herself. Amber would approve, Wilson knows. And the euphoria of this new and unexpected love would be enough, but there's more; even House accepts her. No; not just accepts—he actually appears to approve. He's giving Wilson room, and time to develop this relationship, and he's treating Sarah as if she belongs. At first, Wilson had a hard time believing it, until he reminded himself that House was, and always would be, an unfathomable puzzle. So he finally decided to simply accept this heretofore unheard-of behavior. As Wilson sees it now, it's just icing on the cake.
Wilson had, of course, waited the requisite three weeks before introducing Sarah to House. Three long weeks of hiding, lying, skillfully ditching House. It had been stressful and intense—and fun. The bonus had been discovering Sarah's wonderful sense of humor. The evening she'd donned a hat, a trench coat, and a fake mustache, and waited for him in a library two towns over, Wilson felt the first stirrings of love.
But the day she'd actually met House… well, that's when Wilson knew.
Sarah had marched up to House in the restaurant they'd allowed him to follow them to, on week four, day two. She'd stuck out her hand—her left hand—and introduced herself to House as Seymour Butts, Wilson's live-in accountant. And House had laughed; he'd actually laughed. The resulting dinner-for-three had gone off without a hitch, and at the end of the evening Wilson had virtually floated home, thinking, this is it. Sarah's the one.
The next weekend, House had invited the new couple to dinner at his apartment. He'd stopped by Wilson's office and issued the invitation off-handedly, and in typical House fashion. "Hey. You and your flavor-of-the-month interested in dinner at my place Sunday? I'm not cooking or anything, but I found this cool Italian place that delivers. I'll even sweeten the pot by sticking a candle in an old Chianti bottle."
"House, you've never drunk Chianti in your life; you therefore have no old Chianti bottles."
House had grinned. "I'm a resourceful fellow; just leave it to me."
Normally, these words would've made Wilson's blood run cold—with good reason. But this was a different House, almost a chastened House, following Amber's death, so Wilson had simply matched House's grin with one of his own, and asked what time they should arrive.
"Make it 8:45; that way I won't miss the end of the Miss Monster Truck swimsuit-and-essay contest." Yeah, House had changed—but not too much, Wilson noted happily.
At the appointed hour, Wilson and Sarah stood at House's door. Sarah carried a fussily-wrapped package. Wilson had been shooting the mysterious parcel dark, worried glances on the trip over, but Sarah had refused to reveal its contents to him. So he gave her the standard lecture on House not being the standard host. He warned her not to expect a 'thanks'—but to almost certainly expect ridicule. Sarah just smiled, though, and Wilson shook his head and eyed the package again.
At best, he'd thought, it's a bunch of weirdly-wrapped bottles of liquor. At worst—oh, God, no, not a fruit basket. If it's a fruit basket, please no salami, no nuts—no fruit. Gonna be a long night.
House opened the door with a flourish. "Welcome to La Casa del… um… Casa!" House grinned triumphantly and ushered them in.
Wilson saw House wrinkle his nose briefly as Sarah held out her gift, but he took the parcel and set it on the coffee table without comment.
"No; open it now," Sarah said. "Please; it's for tonight, and I think you'll like it."
Here we go, thought Wilson. Nice while it lasted, though.
House had approached the oddly-shaped gift with the same enthusiasm he'd have shown a soiled diaper. He pulled away the curly pink ribbon keeping it closed, and stared thoughtfully at the wads and wads of newspaper he'd uncovered. "Thanks," he said dryly. "As soon as I get the cleaning lady to iron it, I'll dive right into yesterday's news."
Sarah reached over and swept the paper balls to the floor, revealing a record album—and a look of pure awe on House's face.
House had reached out almost reverently to pick the album up, and was cradling it with the type of care normally reserved for newborns. "Aiuto!" he whispered in perfectly-accented Italian. "The Parlophon label. Red. Still sealed." He looked worshipfully at the giver of the gift. "You," he informed Sarah seriously, "are my new hero."
Wilson looked at the record; it was the Beatles, the Italian issue of Help! He took a deep, deep breath, and wondered how life could possibly get any better than it was at that moment.
The dinner House had ordered was perfect, the conversation flowed easily, and House had even found the promised Chianti bottles and candles. When they were finished eating, House stood up and grabbed his new prize. "Crime to open this," he muttered, "But treasures are meant to be enjoyed."
After placing the record on the turntable, House went to the piano. Eyes wide, Wilson watched as House smiled at Sarah and gestured for her to join him on the piano bench. Wilson listened for the next hour, stunned, as House played along with the album and sang the familiar songs to her—in Italian.
On the ride home, Wilson had approached the cost of the amazing gift carefully. "Must have set you back a few hundred dollars," he mentioned casually.
"Nope. Not a penny, really. It was part of a bulk buy at an estate sale. Figured it should go to a good home, and when you told me he collected old vinyl, it just seemed to fit." And Wilson, scarcely believing his good fortune, had beamed at her.
In the next few weeks, Wilson played things carefully, making sure that neither House nor Sarah felt neglected. And the one time that a call from House had interrupted an evening at the theater with Sarah, well, Wilson couldn't really blame her for that cold frown that had briefly crossed her face as he left. After all, he was a little annoyed too, but he had to admit that House really was making an effort.
There was another incident, but Wilson tried not to examine it too closely. Sarah had met him at the hospital for a quick lunch in the cafeteria. It had been a busy week for both of them; this was their only chance to get together. And House had stalked in, interrupting their conversation in mid-sentence, demanding a refill of his Vicodin prescription.
Since Amber's death, and Wilson's return to PPTH, House had been circumspect about the scrips, usually just leaving a short note on Wilson's desk a day or two before he needed a refill. So Wilson had known that the rude interruption of their lunch was simply House's way of declaring a pain emergency. Wilson had taken one look at his friend and believed him. House was still skittish about Wilson's past responses to his claims of increased discomfort; Wilson knew that it had cost House something big to search out Wilson and admit to trouble, especially in front of Sarah.
So he'd had House sit at the table on the pretense of having to speak with the pharmacist himself concerning the need for an early refill; it was clear that House had barely managed the walk to the cafeteria. When Wilson returned with the pills, House had been sitting alone. He told Wilson that Sarah had remembered an estate sale she wanted to attend, and would talk to him later.
Wilson had wound up driving House home that evening. He'd called Sarah to tell her he thought he should stay the night; House was in far worse shape than he'd let on earlier, and Wilson was worried. Sarah had said it wasn't a problem; she had new inventory she needed to catalogue. As he'd hung up, Wilson wondered to himself how he'd gotten so lucky; Sarah understood about House.
Over the next two days, his calls to Sarah had been picked up by her voice mail, and she didn't return his messages. But on the third day, she was warm and welcoming, explaining away her absence as business that she'd had to handle personally. Wilson had resolutely pushed away a few flickers of doubt, and tucked his arms more tightly around her.
Tonight's the second time that Sarah's agreed to spend the night at Wilson's place. Actually, things are going so well that he's thinking about asking her to move in, over breakfast in the morning. Drowsily, he spoons his body more tightly with hers, careful not to awaken her.
When the phone rings at 2:24am, Wilson knows who it is, of course. He disentangles himself from Sarah and reaches quietly for the phone. "Yeah, House, what is it?" he whispers into the receiver. He listens for a moment, and frowns. "You're not drunk? High?" Another pause, and then, soothingly, "Try not to move, okay? I'll be right there." He dresses and scribbles a note to Sarah.
When he lets himself into House's apartment, House calls out, "In the hall," and Wilson hears the pain and the frustration in his voice. As Wilson approaches him, House tries a feeble joke. "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!" House's fingers are clutched white over his cellphone.
Wilson rolls his eyes, but as he kneels next to House, he can already see a significant swelling in House's right ankle. "How'd you manage this?" he asks.
"Wasn't hard." House attempts to move his right leg and winces before he continues speaking. "Meant to get a new tip for the cane; hadn't got around to it yet." Wilson knows what that means—as the rubber cane tip wears down, the traction's decreased. And if House doesn't move carefully, the cane slides right out from under him; Wilson's seen it happen.
Wilson carefully straightens the twisted leg while House tries unsuccessfully to suppress a groan. He slings House's arm across his shoulder, and they make their way slowly to the couch. Wilson props the right foot on the table and checks for a pedal pulse. Then he gently maneuvers the foot, eliciting no more than a few pained expressions from House.
"I don't think it's broken, but that's a nice sprain," Wilson observes. "I'll get some ice."
Returning from the kitchen, Wilson notices for the first time how pale House is, how drawn his eyes are. "How long were you down?" When he gets no answer, he says warningly, "House…."
House looks away. "Didn't want to bother you. A… while."
"It's not a bother," Wilson scolds. "Sarah will understand. You should've called sooner; we could have prevented most of this swelling."
"Figured you were with her. I also figured I'd be able to get up by myself, wanted to give it a while to settle down." House takes a deep breath as the ice pack begins to relieve some of the pain. "So, how goes it with your flavor—with Sarah?"
Wilson smiles. "I'm going to ask her to move in with me. In the morning, I think." He doesn't miss the split-second look of insecurity in House's eyes. "It's okay, House; she likes you. And I think you even like her, too." He looks to House for confirmation, and is rewarded with a grudging nod.
The next two hours pass peacefully enough, but Wilson's concerned. House is clearly in a lot of discomfort, and he isn't very talkative. Wilson knows he's thinking about how difficult the next few days will be at work, trying to move around on a damaged leg and a badly sprained ankle. But… something else is bothering him too. So Wilson dutifully refills ice packs and drink glasses, adjusts the wrappings on the ankle—and waits.
Finally, "Isn't Sarah going to be waiting for you? Don't want to get you into trouble with the boss."
Wilson repeats what he'd said earlier. "It's okay. I left her a note, and I'm sure she'll understand." He smiles. "She's incredible, House. I'll bet right this minute she's worrying about you, and wondering if she can call without waking you. I'm sure she'll be over here later with chicken soup, or a first edition Rolling Stones album, or something."
House still looks doubtful, maybe a little guilty, but he relaxes a little, and even dozes for a while. Wilson watches over him fondly, wishing that House could truly understand that Wilson's right where he wants to be right now.
At 5:00, Wilson is handing House a couple of ibuprofen and a Vicodin when his cellphone rings. "Hey, hon," he says. "Did you find my note? House is gonna be—" The rest of his sentence is interrupted, and he listens with a deepening frown on his face. He turns away from House, says low into the phone, "What do you mean you don't care how he is? You're kidding, right?"
There's another pause as Sarah responds. Wilson tries to tune out her increasingly strident voice, and sneaks a glance at House. He's looking guilty and miserable, but when he sees Wilson watching him, he quickly schools his face into a smug expression, and mouths "hen-pecked" at Wilson.
Wilson had learned a lot about House in the aftermath of Amber's death, though, and he knows which expression is real. So he takes a deep breath and says firmly into the phone, "I have my priorities straight, Sarah. You're the one who should do some thinking. Next time, you might want to get involved with someone who doesn't already have a family." He pushes the 'off' button with a little more force than necessary, and turns to House.
Wilson wishes that—just once—he could hug the scared, needy, insecure little boy who's sitting in front of him pretending that none of it matters. House's smug expression is still firmly in place, but Wilson easily sees the fear, and the apology, behind it.
"Aw, Dad, do I have to give the lady back my new toy?" House drawls.
"No, House, keep it," Wilson says quietly. "You've earned it." He accompanies his words with a warm and honest smile. And as he watches the tension leave House's shoulders, the defensiveness leave his posture, Wilson realizes that he'd found a way to give that little boy a hug, after all.