"You know, they tell you not to feed the ducks for a reason."
"Geese. They're Canadian geese." He ignored Wilson's comment about what to do about the geese as he chucked another piece of the roll he'd swiped from the cafeteria at the gaggle swimming close to shore. On the far end of Lake Carnegie, the Olympic rowing team was training, the coxswain's commands echoing over the water. "You know, I'm always surprised one of them have never come through our doors." He pointed towards the rowers.
"It's not as though rowing is a dangerous sport. Worst injury would be getting hit upside the head with an oar." He watched his friend unwrap the hoagie, and poached a tomato from it. "Besides, they're Olympic level athletes, I should hope they're good enough at their sport to avoid injuring themselves in something that compared to most sports has a limited range of injuries to incur. Aside from shoulder problems, they can't tear much."
"I don't see why you love Hoagie Haven so much." Wilson rolled his eyes at the complete change of subject.
"Wawa's three blocks further away." It was true, Hoagie Haven was much closer to the hospital and the park where they were both sitting, but if there was one thing that House missed whenever he was out of the state it was the ability to get a hoagie at any hour of the day and know that it was good.
"They don't put enough oil and vinegar on these."
"Not everyone thinks that a sandwich that's dyed brown from the amount of balsamic vinegar on it is the greatest thing on the planet."
"You like them."
"I eat them because you make them that way. Not because I particularly enjoy them that way. Besides, Hoagie Haven is a Princeton landmark. It'd be like if they got rid of the theater, or the Frist building, or the churches on Nassau street. Speaking of which, I got tickets for the Dark Star Orchestra show-I figured you'd be interested."
"Sure." It sounded noncomittal, but they both knew that every year when the band showed up at the little theater squashed between the train station and the university that House went. And he thought it was a nice gesture-touching even, for the tickets to already be purchased. "And just because something's a landmark doesn't mean it's good. This part of the Delaware is a landmark, but just cause Washington crossed here doesn't mean that it's not filthy and polluted."
Wilson just rolled his eyes and took another bite of his sandwich, watching the rowers make their way across the lake. "Enjoying oogling the men in the tight spandex?" He gives a little exasperated sigh.
"I'm not oogling. It's something more entertaining than the ducks. Unless of course one starts chasing you."
"Geese. And they're an endangered species. Only because they all live in New Jersey and not Canada, but they're still endangered."
"Since when were you Mr. Eco-knowledgeable?"
"I watch Animal Planet." Of course.
From a distance, no one would notice anything about the two. They were simply sitting on a bench, looking out at the lake. Their backs were to the joggers and dog-walkers, and no one could see two legs, one in denim and one in khaki pressed against one another. A subtle expression that there's more there, but not one they want to openly share.
It's just banter in the park while they're both at lunch, nothing more. Any one of the soccer moms pushing her toddlers in strollers, any of the roller bladers going by, any of the dog walkers would simply think it's two friends having a laugh. And they like it that way.
No one knows. There's the little things that they do. The ability to communicate without words. The way one leg presses against another. Emphasis added where it shouldn't go on words, to give them a different context than most would assume. The little things that let each other know how they feel, without letting the rest of the world know.
Wilson didn't want the rest of the world to know. House didn't want the rest of the world to know. Both of them had a certain image they were expected to maintain. They both spent all their lives building up what they were-they weren't going to ruin the carefully constructed facades for something silly like emotion. House certainly wouldn't. And Wilson, Wilson was simply afraid. His reputation as a womanizer was something he was comfortable with. It meant that no matter what, he could always find empty, shallow sex because all the girls knew that he wasn't going to become attached.
But he wasn't going to tell them the reason why he wasn't going to become attached. He wasn't going to admit that it was because he already had someone. There were three words that were tiptoed around by both of them. Well one word, and the phrase that went with it. Neither of them would say it, because it would make what they felt real. And neither of them wanted it to be real. It was supposed to be just a diversion.
It was never supposed to become what it was.
It had started with a nightmare. And it progressed into something that neither man could decide was a nightmare or a dream.
It had been when he was staying on House's couch. And all he could hear was the sound of House whimpering. Screaming. Not knowing what else to think, he'd bolted up to his friend's room, to find House tossing and turning, still asleep, but gripped by some sort of terror. And he'd wiped a wrinkled brow, put a comforting hand on a shoulder, and had been clamped on to with a "don't leave me." mumbled out.
And from the death grip on his wrist, there was no way he was going to be able to even if he'd wanted to.
But he hadn't wanted to.
He'd woken up the next morning utterly confused as to why he had a strong arm around him, and why more importantly than anything, he felt safe, snug, and...content. And House had woken up that morning to ask him what the hell he was doing in his bed. No motion had been made to remove the arm around him, but the question had been asked. And Wilson had told him. The muffled "oh" had been rather ambiguous as to it's meaning. He knew now that it was equal part embarrassment that he had been seen vulnerable, and equal part disappointment that he hadn't climbed into the bed of his own free will.
He's broken from his memories by a sharp elbow digging into his ribs. "You've got a bit of mayo right-" a hand reached out and brushed against the corner of his mouth before the finger disappeared into House's mouth, licking clean the offending condiment. "-there." There's a cheeky grin on his face, and Wilson can't help but grin in return.
A pager goes off, breaking their quiet, private lunch, and House groans. "You wanna do pizza for dinner?" Wilson asks, and House nods.
"Pick up some Aljon's on your way home." Of course House would make him go and fight through traffic just to go to get his favorite pizza. And of course his choice of pizza was right over one of the most backed up roads in all of Princeton. He tried to mentally plot a route to take him out to West Windsor without having to go over Alexander road, and came up completely blank short of going all the way through Plainsboro and around, and he decided that would take longer than waiting for traffic.
But he'd sit through the traffic of everyone getting off the trains at the Princeton Junction station, he'd drive through the parking lot that might as well have been gravel it was so poorly maintained to fight for a spot, and wait to get a pizza with special sauce, just because House liked it the best. At least Route 1 going back towards Plainsboro wouldn't be nearly as backed up as heading away from it. He'd deal with a good hour's worth of traffic for a two mile drive because it was House.
They never go home together. It would be too obvious. Whichever one of them is done with their day first-they leave, just like normal. They have all night together, after all, they don't need to go home together and raise suspensions. Instead they leave normally, they run errands normally. Or rather, Wilson runs errands for the two of them. Trips to McCaffery's to refill House's meager fridge, to the dry cleaner's for them both, to the post office. And he did it willingly. He didn't mind doing House's errands for him. If it meant that he'd have more time with House, and House wouldn't spend their time bitching about things that still needed to be done, of course he'd run errands for him.
Truth be told, he'd grown to enjoy their nights together. Eating dinner on the couch, one head against a shoulder-who's head was resting where was never a steady thing, an arm around a shoulder, and something cheesy on TV. He'd grown to enjoy the way House would play with his hair, or the way that House's head fit just right against his shoulder. The way that he fit just right against House, and how content he felt when he woke up to one strong arm wrapped tightly around him.
All this, from one nightmare. It had continued innocently enough. Them sharing the couch for a movie, rather than one on the couch and one on the chair. Which moved to House's arm around his shoulders. And he never objected. He was hesitant, he didn't want to risk over a decade of friendship for something silly, and at the time he wasn't even sure if he was getting the right signals. But each night the hand behind him got bolder and bolder until it was comfortably draped around his back, and not the back of the couch. And he'd leaned into House, pulled in tightly to him.
They had sat like that for what felt like an eternity. He could still remember the way that House's heart was hammering a thousand times a minute, and how he thought that the echo of that heartbeat was actually kind of cute. That the fact that House was actually nervous was cute. It was then that he crossed the moment of no return. He'd looked up to see House looking back down at him.
Time had stood still for an agonizing minute as House had dropped his head, and Wilson hadn't moved. He'd knew it would happen-he'd known it would happen from the moment that House woke up and didn't pull his arm away when he saw who was in bed with him. And as hesitant as he was, he didn't do anything to stop it.
And when their lips met, the first thing that he thought of was that he was never going to kiss anyone else without shaving again-stubble felt roughly like sandpaper against his cheek. The first kiss was slow and gentle. Exploratory. Feeling the waters. And when they finally broke away, it was House who spoke, something that still surprised Wilson. "We-I-we-" He'd never before seen House speechless, and he'd made it one of his goals in life to see it happen again. "-this shouldn't happen. You're a straight man, I'm supposed to be screwing one of the OB nurses, I'm not g-" House never got the chance to finish the thought, as Wilson decided to take charge in return and kiss him back.
House wasn't Wilson's first, but he'd be the first that wasn't part of a larger group. He knew what to do, vaguely, but he hoped to god that House knew what he was doing. He was not going to have this be a bumbling experiment like when he'd lost his virginity at the age of 16, both of them having absolutely no clue how to do anything beyond "insert tab A into slot B".
And House had been glad he'd never finished the thought. It was something that was going to be said in a vulnerable moment. And the fact that Wilson had kissed him back allowed the facade to slip back into place. He would never admit that the words that had been so graciously cut out were an emotional admittance that Wilson deserved far better. Deserved, perhaps, but even if he deserved more, House was what he got.
And that was why House had flipped them, pinning Wilson beneath him, sucking the breath out of him with a hard kiss. "How long have you-"
"Shut up and kiss me again." House had cut him off before he could ask him something that would give away vulnerability rather much like his daydreams as a car swerved out from a road that Wilson had always sworn never actually got any traffic, taking what should have been his spot in the long line of traffic snaking down Alexander road.
Why on earth had he agreed to get House pizza? Conte's was walking distance from the house, he could have gone there and grabbed a pie, but no, instead he was driving out of town, picking up a pizza, and driving back into town. Love made people do strange things. He winced slightly at the word. Love. Love was a useless emotion, it only set up hurt afterwards. No, he didn't love House. He just thought that the man was comforting, safe, reliable.
So he sat in the rush hour traffic, watching the trains roar into the station underneath him, sitting on a bridge where the word "fuck" was hastily painted over in a color that didn't quite match the rest of the concrete, and the outline of the word was still visible to all who drove by. He inched along until he could finally make the left and pull into the little parking lot. He stopped by the ATM that charged outrageous fees for some bank that he swore wasn't a chain, and ordered a special sauce pizza, sitting in the dim light of the restaurant until the burly Italian barked his order was ready.
He pulled out of the parking lot, making a left this time, and pulled onto Route 1, glad that all the traffic was for the opposite direction. He took the sharp left around the jughandle, and drove up the tree-lined road, looking out at the lake as he waited for the light to turn green. The rowers were still out there, like they were every day that the lake wasn't frozen over. He wondered briefly if they ever got a break. And thought about the canoe rental place down at the far end of the lake, and considered asking House if he wanted to go sometime.
The pizza was half-cold by the time he got a parking spot and walked in. "What, did you have to fly to Sicily to get Gio to make you a slice?" Of course House would be on a first-name basis with the staff of his favorite pizza place.
"Traffic. You know Conte's is only a block that way-" He gestured vaguely towards the back wall.
"If I wanted to eat grease, I'd chug the remnants of the deep fryer." He took the beer that House handed to him graciously, sitting down in his usual spot on the couch, rolling his eyes when House's legs found themselves across his lap.
"But greasy pizza is the best."
"Ya wanna go to the bar later?" Wilson looked at the other man curiously.
"What bar?" That would be the deciding point for him.
"Depends. Where do you want to go?"
"Someplace we could walk home from."
"But that rules out all the bars with the cheap drinks and the ridiculously easy girls." He couldn't help the chuckle. There was a point there. "Well, if we're not going somewhere where I can get plastered and hit on blonde girls all night, make me a drink, Jimmy."
"Fine then." He wouldn't admit that he felt sad when the legs swung off of his and House hobbled over to the bottle of Maker's Mark sitting on the mantle.
It was a routine. Something that they'd done for ages now. Three years now. Three years exactly. Wilson's eyebrows raised as he realized just what the date was. "House?" He saw the smirk on House's face, he knew that the man could read his thoughts just by listening to his tone of voice. "Why'd you want to go to the bar anyway?"
"Why does anyone want to go to the bar? To get good and drunk." He leaned his head against House's shoulder when the other man sat back down.
"Are you sure it wasn't because of something else? Oh, I wonder what the occasion could be."
"I almost think you didn't notice." It was quiet, betrayed a bit of the Greg that was inside, vulnerable. This wasn't House that had spoken, but Greg, the lost little boy hidden by the harsh facade.
"Of course I did." It was only a half-lie, but Wilson was good at those. He was good at soothing ruffled feathers, and making people feel better. "But it's not as though I'm going to go hanging a 'happy anniversary' banner from your office door. People might get the wrong idea." And instantly the glimpse at Greg was gone, replaced with the cold front of House.
"Should I decorate your office closet with a giant sign that says 'I'm a metaphor!'?" He treated House to a gentle elbow in the ribs.
"You know, there's something I've always wondered."
"The man thinks? Pinch me, I must be dreaming."
"How long before-well, when did you decide on me?" He saw the blue eyes flicker, as the two opposite sides of the man fought for control.
"You know. You didn't just kiss me out of the blue, after all. There had to be some reason for it."
"You were there. If I remember correctly, right there, with your head on my shoulder. Where did that come from?"
"It came from you sitting closer and closer to me on the couch every night." It had been slow, exploratory. Neither of them had wanted to do anything at first. Even after they had kissed, it still went slower than a relationship in middle school. First one kiss. Then another. Then they got comfortable at second base-hand fumbling under clothes, but neither of them making a move to do anything more than sit on the couch, necking.
Eventually necking moved into heavy petting-it had taken a good solid month to get there, both of them too full of trepidation to move things along too fast. Neither of them had wanted to take the next step, for fear that it would push the other one away. And heavy petting had turned into Wilson finally getting greedy for more, and pulling House's pants off, one hand rapidly bringing pleasure to the man who he found himself embroiled with.
It was still another month until they actually had sex. Sure there had been handjobs and blow jobs, and they'd taken to sleeping in the same bed, but it had taken a horrible day for House for the sex to actually come into play. And it had been hard, and rough, and Wilson wouldn't have had it any other way.
"If you really want to know, it happened because my horoscope said to 'try something different tonight'. So I did."Wilson chuckled, brought out of memories that had given his skin a bit of a flush. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were positively daydreaming."
"Just reminiscing. About us." He could see the the cold glint in blue eyes falter a bit, making them look more like the sea than the arctic, but it was only for a second.
"That sounds positively maudlin. Have you considered writing soap operas?"
"Do they have anyone as annoying as you on General Hospital?"
"Do you really think you could write me well?"
"I'd like to try." There was the smirk, and the lightness in the blue eyes, but only for a second before it was replaced by an intense look of desire.
It was later, when they were lying in a heap on the bed, that he rolled over to look at House. There was an odd, tender expression on the man's face that lasted until House realized that he was looking at him, before it was replaced again with the cold, hard shell. "House I-" He knew what he felt, but fear wouldn't let him say it. He was afraid that if he admitted it, that he would get pushed away. Or worse, mocked. So he settled on something much easier to say. "Happy anniversary." The gentle kiss he hoped expressed as much as his words didn't.
House just pulled him closer. And it was as he was drifting off to sleep, he heard what made his heart skip a beat. "If you have to ask, it was always. And will be always." The words were mumbled into his shoulder, and he didn't dare roll over to face House. He was happier when the facade was down, and Greg was showing through. And he wouldn't shove Greg back into hiding, not quite yet.