Disclaimer: House M.D. and it's characters are the property of David Shore, Fox and others. No money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Just something I put together after seeing episode 5.8 "Emancipation." I was pondering Wilson's silence and all the different things that it could mean and I came up with this version, which is actually just my wishful thinking. ;) Enjoy!
It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. He was practically begging for me to say something. Anything. It went against my nature to not have a comment at all about it, but what could I say to him? Not the truth. I couldn't say the truth even to myself. It was too powerful.
I will say this though: the months I spent away from House and the hospital were the most painful of my life. And part of it was losing Amber, of course. The rest though… In all the years I've known House we've never gone more than a couple days without talking. Even when I went on my last honeymoon he called me half-way through it on the pretext of a consult. No wonder Julie hated him. After Amber died we spoke once, long enough to tell him I didn't want to talk. I didn't see him again until I resigned from the hospital. During that time all the pain mixed together. Sure, I missed him, but I was too consumed in my grief to worry about that. After I left it was something else entirely.
I will never forget the look on his face when I left him standing there in my office. I'll never forgive myself for breaking his heart after spending so many years protecting him. Even as I spoke the words I hated myself for them. They weren't entirely untrue. There have been many times when House's madness has nearly gotten to be too much and I have truly felt that way. But I would have never said it to him until that night. I've never admitted it to anyone before, but I didn't even make it out to my car after leaving him. When the elevator opened on the first floor I sprinted for the nearest bathroom and vomited.
I hated myself every day I stayed away from him. We don't get to choose our friends. That's what I told him. It would have been to cliché and sounded too girly to say "you can't help who you love." He would have never let me live it down. But it's true; I do love him. I didn't know just how much though. It took Cuddy to know for sure.
I've always had a soft spot for Cuddy. Who wouldn't? She's beautiful, intelligent and successful. There were times when I thought that maybe I would want to date her. But when I walked into her office and told her that, actually dating her was the furthest thing from my mind. Truthfully, all I could think about was House. I know they've flirted for years-- I believe they even had a fling back in college, but neither one will confirm it. But the attraction and flirting isn't enough to make a relationship. And what would happen if they slept together and it didn't work out? They couldn't work together. Yes, I told House he should ask her out, but how could I say anything else? That's what a friend should say. Especially when said friend has been complaining for years that the man never wants to get close to anyone.
I told him to do it, but when I went home that night I couldn't sleep. I kept wondering if House had done it and for some reason it scared me. My reactions up until that point had be automatic, but now I knew without doubt that I did not want him to date Cuddy. I remained silent when he told me, but only because it might have given me away if I'd jumped up and down cheering. It's a bit ironic that not even a year ago he was the one jealous of my time with Amber. I told him he was being ridiculous, that this was what a grown up relationship was supposed to be and he needed to get used to it. Now I'm the one who can't bear the thought of sharing him. So I stayed silent and he never guessed the real reason for why.
House is known as the selfish one. People pity me for all I've had to deal with by being his friend, as if I don't get anything out of the relationship. They're so wrong. I'm selfish because I won't share him with anyone. The only difference is he doesn't bother to hide it. And I do get something out of this crazy relationship. I get him. And I was determined to keep it that way.
I wasn't surprised when he showed up at my place that night again. It was nearly midnight and I had just begun to fall asleep when the familiar knock startled me awake. I didn't figure there was any use arguing with him, so I let him in and we sat down wordlessly. After several moments of awkward silence he started.
"You want me to ask her out."
I chose my words carefully. "I want you to be happy. I can't tell you how to do that. If I tell you to ask her out and it doesn't work you'll blame me. If I say don't ask her out then you might always wonder if it would have made you happy. Either way, it's something that you have to find out for yourself. You can't… rely on me to make you happy."
Especially when I made you miserable, I added mentally. I was never going to forgive myself for that.
"What if…" He uncharacteristically trailed off. Deciding to abandon that thought, he shook his head. "I need you to tell me what to do."
"That's why I can't."
He let out a frustrated sigh and scowled at me. "This is very un-Wilson of you."
"Fine. I'll walk you through the pros and cons. Pro: You deserve to have a relationship with a woman you don't have to pay. She's gorgeous and has put up with you for longer than any woman aside from your mother. Not in the context of a romantic relationship, but there is something to be said for tolerance.
"Con: If it didn't work out you'd be risking your professional relationship with the only hospital administrator in the country who will probably never fire you."
"Oh goody. I'd be out a girlfriend and a job," he said sarcastically. "How 'bout I just forget the kiss ever happened?"
I nodded. "Good for your career, bad for the loneliness problem."
"There is no loneliness problem."
"How many people actually visit you?"
I rolled my eyes. "Me. And maybe a few random acquaintances once a week for poker."
"What else is there? I have a friend. Do I really need more?"
"Some people would say yes."
"Some people believe that they are BFF's with everyone they meet. They're lying. People only have one or two real friends ever-- if they're lucky. Everyone else is just someone you talk to, to pass time."
I didn't really like the analysis. "There are several people that I can really talk to. I can share feelings with them and I could count on them when Amber died."
"Feelings? That's not a real friend- that's therapy. You find someone- like Cameron- who you know is sensitive so you can whine to her about your troubles and she'll cry on your shoulder if she ever needs it. But do you hang out? Go to dinner? Do you know the name of the Teddy Bear she carried until she was eight? I don't need a therapy-friend, I just need you."
The instant the words were out of his mouth he looked like he wanted to take it back. But truth cannot be erased. House was notorious for speaking his mind but he almost never spoke from his heart. This was one of those too-rare times.
He got up as quickly as he could and headed for the door.
He did, but didn't turn around.
"If you really don't believe that you need it, don't ask her out. I meant what I said; I want you to be happy."
He nodded and walked out. I sat, staring at the door for a long time after he left.
I was late for work the next morning and not in the mood to be bothered, but that's exactly what happened the instant I came through the hospital doors. After House left I couldn't get back to sleep, so I stayed up thinking for a while, eventually falling asleep in the armchair. When I woke up, it was nearly an hour later than I normally wake and my back was sore from the odd position I had shifted into. I drove to work scowling at everyone and everything that seemed too cheery for me. I'm usually a pretty happy person. I go out of my way to greet people, even as I'm walking through the parking lot. This morning, however, I just grunted in irritation when an O.R. nurse asked how I was doing. Unfortunately, the automatic doors hadn't even shut behind me yet when I was spotted by Cuddy, who followed me to the elevators.
"You need to talk to House."
I sighed. "All I do is talk to him. He showed up at my place last night."
"Well talk to him again. He's driving me nuts."
"He's here already?" I frowned at her, confused.
"He was here before I was this morning. In fact, he was waiting for me in my office. It was a little creepy actually."
"So what did he want?"
"He told me he needed me to go out with him."
It was going to be one of those days. I rubbed my forehead, hoping the headache could somehow be rubbed away. I know it had been a long time since House dated anyone, but surely he knew that asking was better than telling.
"He told you?"
"Yes. So this isn't one of those things he filled you in on because you both enjoy talking about me behind my back?"
"He… I told him he should ask you out if he wanted to. He's been obsessing ever since the kiss--"
She cut me off quickly with slap on the arm and looked around nervously. No one heard me, I was pretty sure, but it was reckless of me to have said it.
"I'm sorry. Look, I didn't get much sleep. I'll talk to him."
The elevator door opened and I went in and pushed the button I needed. Just before the door closed she gave me one more piece for the puzzle.
"He seemed almost desperate. I don't know what that means, but he seemed like he really did need me for something."
I didn't even go to my office before heading to the Diagnostics department. I didn't know where his team was, but House was sitting alone in his office throwing the ball straight up in the air. He didn't look over when I came in.
"I just talked to Cuddy." He threw the ball and caught it effortlessly. "You do realize that if you want a girl to go out with you, you have to actually ask them. They tend to get offended when you make it sound like a demand."
"But I don't."
"You don't… know that? I know you lack certain social graces, but--"
"I don't want her to go out with me," he clarified.
I set my briefcase down on the chair, knowing that I wasn't going to make it to my office anytime soon. "Why did you--"
"I told her I needed her to go out with me."
"Yes," I said, prompting him to continue because at this point I was completely lost.
"I wanted to prove that I didn't want her."
"You needed her to go out with you just to prove that you don't actually want to go out with her after all?" It was starting to make more sense in a House sort of way. It was some sort of experiment to work out his true feelings. "Sure. Why not? You may as well make her think that you're interested while you analyze your own interest."
"She doesn't want to date me anyway."
"Maybe she would if you actually acted like a normal human being." Although a very selfish part of me hoped that she didn't.
"Why wouldn't you tell me what you thought I should do?"
"I… I told you that already."
"No, you told me a pathetic story that had nothing to do with the real reason. Which is odd really, since you've jumped at every opportunity to tell me what to do since we've known each other. That means you're hiding the real reason you won't tell me."
Busted. "I'm not hiding anything. You're paranoid."
"I don't think I am. You've been acting funny ever since I told you about the kiss. You made a good show of telling me to ask her out and get a life, but your heart wasn't in it. So that leaves us with a couple options. Either you have a thing for Cuddy, which let's face it, isn't entirely implausible. Or it has something to do with me. That option alone could take different directions. Maybe you're afraid that if I got a girlfriend we wouldn't hang out anymore. It's too soon after Amber died and you need your most pathetic buddy around to remind you that your life could actually be worse."
"Yes," I said in what I hoped to be a convincing tone. "It would be horrible if you actually got a life. I might be able to sleep through the night without getting a knock on my door."
"It's either that or there's some other reason why you're acting weird about this. Want to enlighten me?"
"You're the one who thinks he has it all worked out. Why don't you enlighten me?"
House considered me for a moment, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. "I think you're jealous," he finally said quietly.
"Cuddy is a beautiful woman, but I'm not interested in her."
"I know. That's not what I meant."
For just a moment I forgot how to breathe. I was so busted. Even though I couldn't even admit it to myself, I knew he was right. God, the way House was looking at me just made it worse. He was right. I wasn't jealous because I wanted Cuddy. Was that how he felt when I was with Amber? I couldn't say it though. I couldn't say anything. I picked up my briefcase and went to my office without saying another word.
The day was a blurred mess. I remember seeing patients, making notes in charts, but the details were fuzzy. Somewhere in the back of my mind House's voice taunted me for being so pathetic. I thankfully didn't see him much that day. I skipped lunch and he didn't show up in my office. I saw him standing out on the balcony alone at one point, but he didn't notice me watching him. He was staring off into the distance until Kutner interrupted him and they left together. I wondered where he was going and if he had a patient. Was he having as bad a day as I was? Was he even thinking about our conversation at all? Twenty minutes later I remembered that I was supposed to be looking over Mrs. Weatherby's chart in preparation for her appointment.
It was seven when my office door opened. Without looking up I knew who it was. He sat down silently on the couch. I set my pen down, but didn't look up from the paperwork. He had this way of reading me and I was trying desperately to avoid any further embarrassment. Apparently he didn't need eye contact for it to work though.
"So it's true," he mused quietly.
Then he laughed harshly, which startled me.
"I must be."
I finally looked up then. He was rolling his cane between his hands and seemed to be studying the movement carefully. He was every bit as uncomfortable as I was then.
"So you didn't really want to ask Cuddy out this morning?"
"I wanted to know if I was right and that's the only way to know for sure."
"Right about what?"
"I think she's hot, okay? But we would make each other miserable. I want to look at her, but I don't want to be with her. At least, that's what I was trying to find out."
I nodded, although he wasn't looking at me to notice the motion.
"You were wrong," he said. "I'm not afraid to be with her or afraid that if it doesn't work out with her then there's no one for me. When I went to her house the other night I had every intention of asking her out. But when I looked in her window and saw her I knew that she was best appreciated from a distance."
"Because she's not the person for me. She's not the person I wanted to see. I can live with or without a lot of people in my life, but there's only one person who makes my life better by being in it."
That was more emotion than I'd gotten him to confess to in years and it seemed clear that he was done with it for now. Yet I didn't have a clue what to say or where that left us, so there was an awkward silence that filled the room for about a minute. Finally I cleared my throat.
"What does that… mean?"
He still didn't look at me, but frowned at his cane. "It means that I have no idea what it means."
Oh, yes, he was very uncomfortable indeed.
"So you… like me?" I couldn't keep the amusement out of my voice. Really we were both in the same boat and I should have taken pity on him, but most people will never know how enjoyable it is to see Greg House ripped completely out of his comfort zone and forced to show some form of human emotion.
"Don't act so smug!" he snapped. "You started this!"
"I'm not smug," I said apologetically. "I'm just trying to understand."
"Fuck it." He pulled himself up off the couch and headed for the door.
"House, just stop it. We've been friends for how long and we can't have this conversation without you running away?"
His hand was on the door when he changed his mind and spun around. He leaned heavily on his cane as he glared down at me.
"That's right, I'm running away. You have a problem with that? You have advice for nearly every situation of my life; you must have something for this. Tell me, Dr. Wilson, what is the proper etiquette for the conversation where you tell your best friend you think of him as more than a friend? I'm dying to know. Surely you've worked it out by now, since I know you've been thinking about it longer than I have."
"I'm sorry. I just… Don't run away from me."
House scowled and leaned against the door as if to say that he would stay for now, but he wanted a handy escape route. I cleared my throat again, mostly to buy time to think.
"So… how do we have this conversation?"
He was looking at the floor, his shoes, anything but me. "I don't know."
"I didn't mean to…" But I didn't really know how to finish the sentence. I didn't mean to anything. It just happened. House had always been the most important person to me, but somehow it was different now. I hadn't felt so nervous since high school. Feeling this way about another man… It wasn't that it had never happened, just not to this degree and certainly not with my best friend. You know how you can go through an entire lifetime believing you feel one way about a person until something happens to make you see them in a completely different way? That's what happened to me and House. But I couldn't just come out and say it. It was a side of me- the only one I think- that he had never seen before. Nobody had.
"Have you ever…?"
"What do you think?" House snapped. He continued scowling at the floor, but then looked up at me with unsure eyes. "You?"
"I knew I… but I never… did anything… I don't know why now. And I wouldn't have said anything. I wouldn't have screwed up everything, but you have to figure everything out. You have to know everything. Your friendship means more to me than anything else in my life and I didn't want to ruin it."
"Shut up, Jimmy."
I did immediately and without question. We were both out of our element and House especially was uncomfortable talking about his emotions. I waited, barely breathing, for him to speak again.
"I gotta get home." He turned back to the door and opened it.
"Wilson, don't. Not now."
I let him go, but I certainly couldn't get any work done after that so I returned to my apartment with a bag of Thai takeout. It took hours to fall asleep that night. Every time I was almost there another dream stopped me. When I finally had drifted off, too exhausted to keep my eyes open, I woke up to a knock on the door. At first I thought it was another dream; they all had started that way. The very real feeling of the wood floor under my feet as I went to open the door told me that I may have actually woke up. House was standing there hesitantly.
"I was just falling asleep."
"So wake up."
Before I could answer that, he took two steps forward and grabbed my shoulders. My brain was so foggy from sleep that I didn't understand what was happening until I felt his lips on mine. Despite my slowness, I reacted right away, kissing back, encouraging him to deepen the kiss. God, it had been so long since I'd kissed anyone and House's mouth just felt so right to me. He ended the kiss abruptly and looked down into my eyes for a moment. I don't know what he saw there, but he said goodnight and left. In that moment, I couldn't help but compare myself to Cuddy. From what I'd been told that was pretty much how their kiss happened just a few nights ago. I gave up on sleep that night.
The next morning I went straight to my office. I was even early to work. Since I hadn't slept, I didn't have to worry about getting up on time. After cleaning the entire apartment and surfing the internet for a while, I was showered and dressed for work by five. The problem with getting to work so early is that there wasn't much to do to keep busy. Patients were asleep, the clinic closed and my appointments didn't start until nine. I currently had only three patients who were actually admitted and it didn't take long to check in with the night nurses on their statuses. That left me with catching up on my mail and reviewing paperwork for a new clinical trial, which didn't do much for keeping my mind from reliving the previous night over and over again.
First, of course, was the kiss. It was unlike any kiss I'd ever had before. Of course I'd never kissed another man before. I'd thought about it at times. There was always that thought somewhere in the back of my mind since I was a teenager. Of course, as a teen, that feeling wasn't normal and I've made a life out of being normal and socially correct. I love women and always have, but by marriage number three even I began to think that maybe I was compensating for something. Maybe I was trying to make up for something I never really knew I was missing. From the second House's lips touched mine I knew what it was.
To test that theory I sat down to my laptop. It was about three a.m. at that point and I tried to ignore all the clichés that I fit: a single, lonely man hiding his attraction for other men in the dark of night with the anonymity of the internet. But this wasn't an effort to merely conceal fact, but to discover it for myself- to allow myself to think about things that I'd shut out for so many years. I'd carefully avoided gay porn in the past. Honestly, I didn't watch too much of any kind of porn in the past. It never really interested me, although now I had to admit that maybe I just hadn't been watching the right kind.
I didn't really know where to start, so I headed to google first and typed in "gay men." I figured the search was too broad, but I didn't know what else to use. The results were varied. There were singles web sites, video links and more than a few sites that had to do with HIV, which sent a chill down my spine. I clicked on one of the videos. It wasn't anything hardcore of course. Just some kissing and fondling. The men were muscular and had their shirts off and I could feel myself getting aroused almost immediately. Thank god for loose-fitting pajama pants is all I can say. I stayed a little longer on the website than was absolutely necessary to confirm my thoughts and then got in the shower.
It became obvious that I wasn't going to get any work done thinking about that, so instead I headed out to the balcony to sit and think. Despite the chilliness of the pre-dawn morning, I managed to doze off and eventually moved to my couch where it was warmer. When I woke again it was to a gentle nudge on my shoulder.
"Wilson, wake up."
It was Kutner. I didn't know why he was in my office, but the next thing I noticed was my coat draped over me. I didn't remember doing that myself and it obviously wasn't Kutner since he was waking me up. House? Talk about out of character.
"Nothing," Kutner responded. "House just told me to come over here and make sure you were awake. I figured he just wanted to bother you, but you were actually asleep."
"Yeah." House must have been in there at some point. "Thanks. What time is it?"
"Eight-thirty. He said you needed time to fix your hair before seeing patients." He said it with a roll of his eyes. Little did he know I probably would spend several minutes making sure that there were no noticeable side effects of sleeping on the couch.
House avoided me most of the morning. Or maybe I avoided him. Not that there weren't plenty of legitimate reasons for not walking past his office. I just didn't have any patients in that direction.
Around lunch time he barged into my office while I was on the phone. Oddly, he sat down quietly and waited until I hung up before demanding that I buy him lunch.
"That's it? We're not going to talk about it?"
"Nothing to talk about."
"No, of course not. So, the kiss? It was just a test to see if you liked me like that and now that you know that you don't we'll just forget the whole thing."
He took a deep breath. "No. It was a test, but you're wrong about the results."
"Huh?" I muttered unintelligently.
"I don't not like you like that."
My head hurt working out his meaning that he apparently couldn't or wouldn't state plainly.
"So you… do like me like that?" I felt like we were in sixth grade the way we were talking about it.
"I don't know how this works," he admitted. "I don't know how to… be gay."
I laughed a little. "I think you just be you. I don't think there's any real trick to it. It's not like you have to start styling your hair or wearing glitter."
"And I'm not going to any parades either," he added, but I could see the small hint of a smile.
"I think parades are optional." I was feeling a million times better about the situation, but there were still butterflies fluttering around in my stomach.
He got a very stern look on his face then. "I'm not going to be the fourth Mrs. Wilson. I'm not one of your vapid little trophy wives. You're still my best friend and that's not going to change."
"Okay," I agreed, even though we both knew we may not have a choice.
It was quiet for a few moments. Now what? Were we supposed to kiss now? Was House going to be… my boyfriend?
"So, lunch?" he asked.
I put my papers away in a drawer and stood. He met me at the door, but just as I was opening it he put a hand up to stop its progress. I looked up at his face and could see the same confusion and fear and lust that I felt too. He leaned his cane against the door and put his hands on either side my face. I wasn't sure what to expect. He didn't really look like he wanted to kiss me, but rather diagnose me. He was looking for something.
"It's okay," I assured him. "We'll figure it out, you know."
He nodded and the next thing I knew we were kissing again. Somehow it felt even better and exciting than it did the night before. I wrapped my arms around him, trying to make it last. His tongue explored my mouth hungrily and soon I found myself being pushed back against the door. Even though I'd just jerked off a few hours ago, it had been months since I'd actually been this close to someone and my body started to react. I tried to will the erection away. It was too soon for that with House and it would probably just scare him off. Thankfully, he pulled away, slightly out of breath.
"Damn," he muttered.
He shook his head and I thought I saw a hint of pink in his cheeks. He had the same problem. At least I wasn't the only one.
"Let's just go to lunch," I suggested.
He nodded. We had plenty of time for the other stuff.