The drive home was quiet and awkward, though not quite as much so as Wilson had expected. Neither man said much -- neither really sure what remained to be said at that point. Wilson had made his feelings clear on the matter, and House...

Well, House never made his feelings clear on any matter.

When they arrived home, House immediately made his way to the refrigerator, getting a beer before returning to the sofa and flopping down carelessly onto it. In the same motion, he reached for the remote control, turning on the television and turning it up loud, in an obvious ploy to combat the uncomfortable silence.

Wilson went to the kitchen and looked in the refrigerator to see what they had that he could prepare for dinner -- then gave up and went to the telephone instead to order a pizza.

Deliberately giving House his space, Wilson kept himself occupied with various domesticities in the kitchen -- cleaning, organizing, and making a much-needed grocery shopping list -- while he waited for the pizza to arrive.

Thirty minutes passed in silence that was only slightly less awkward than the drive home had been, punctuated only by House's occasional huffs of sarcastic laughter at whatever sitcom he happened to be watching. Wilson smiled to himself as he worked, thinking that House's amusement was most likely aimed at moments the writers had not intended to be funny.

When the pizza arrived, Wilson paid for it and brought it to the coffee table, sitting down on the sofa beside House and opening the box. A moment later, however, he changed his mind and pushed the box closed again, sitting up a little straighter on the sofa and quietly, firmly taking the remote control from House's hand.

House raised a single, questioning brow in his direction as Wilson turned the volume on the television all the way down, his dark eyes focused on House's face as he did. House's expression was trying for casual, but not quite succeeding, betrayed by the anxious insecurity in his all-too-expressive eyes.

Wilson's voice was quiet and gentle as he said by way of explanation, "We need to talk, House."

House returned his gaze to colorful images on the silent television as he replied evenly, "We already did."

"No, I did," Wilson corrected. "You were completely silent. Much the same as you are right now."

"Hmm," House mused with a falsely thoughtful frown, glancing toward the ceiling. "Wonder if there's a reason for that."

"House," Wilson pressed with gentle insistence, reaching out to take House's hand in his, inwardly cringing even as he did so, at how utterly sentimental and sappy House probably found such a gesture. "I need you to know that I meant what I said, in your office. And... and in my office."

To Wilson's relief, House didn't pull his hand away, and finally returned Wilson's gaze with mild speculation in his eyes.

"You said that before."

"I know, but there's a reason... I mean... I just... need you to know. I'm committed to you, House. I... I love you, and... I'm not going to let you down again."

A faintly sarcastic smile formed on House's lips, and he looked away as he responded quietly. "I bet you've said that before, too. At least... oh, I'd say... three times?"

Wilson winced slightly, but tried to ignore the defensive jibe, well aware that House was still hurt, still in self-protective mode, despite Wilson's attempts to draw him back to a place of trust.

"I mean it, House. I'm not... not perfect. I've made a lot of mistakes... among them, getting married -- to women -- three times, when I knew all along that was... not where my interests lay."

House let out a rude snort of derision, giving a little half-shrug of concession to Wilson's point, and Wilson allowed himself a rueful, self-deprecating smile.

"But this time -- this time is different. I'm dedicated to doing the best I can with this -- with you -- and I promise you that I'm going to be faithful to you, no matter what. I don't want anyone else, ever. I'm... actually... not sure I ever have. And... and I'll do whatever it takes to prove that to you."

House studied Wilson's face closely as he gave his earnest speech, glancing away whenever Wilson attempted to make eye contact, but looking back again as soon as Wilson looked away -- trying to gauge his sincerity. When Wilson was finished, House was quiet and thoughtful for a long moment, his gaze downcast as he considered Wilson's words.

"I've... heard all that before," he softly confessed at last. "From more than one person. And... eventually, they all proved themselves to be liars."

Wilson felt a pang of mingled guilt and sympathy at House's words. He knew his friend well enough to suspect that there was a closet romantic, hidden somewhere beneath the harsh, pragmatic exterior. Even before the infarction, before Stacy, House had his protective walls in place; so Wilson also suspected that, somewhere along the way, someone else had broken his sensitive heart as well. Stacy's betrayal had simply been the final nail in the coffin.

The thought that his own carelessness had reawakened those fears smote Wilson's heart with a sense of regret that was almost a physical pain.

"I... have to be realistic," House continued in a carefully even voice, his eyes downcast, avoiding Wilson's perception. "You seem to take great pride and pleasure in proving the fact that you could have pretty much anyone you wanted. I... wouldn't blame you if you eventually get tired of the novelty, or mystery, or whatever, of the... aging, drug-addicted cripple..."

Wilson's eyes narrowed with a protectively defensive anger, though even he wasn't quite sure at whom that anger was directed. Abruptly, he leaned in to silence House's self-deprecation with a forceful, thorough kiss.

House froze for a moment, stunned by the suddenness of the gesture, hands raised in a half-finished movement of automatic resistance -- then slowly allowed his arms to fall around Wilson, his lips parting in surrender to the possessive onslaught of Wilson's mouth.

Finally, Wilson pulled away, meeting House's eyes with a dark intensity that sent a shiver down House's spine. His voice was low and tinged with a dangerous fierceness as he held House's head close to his, his eyes drifting between House's eyes and lips with visible hunger.

"That's possibly the stupidest thing you've ever said in your life," he quietly declared. "Gregory House, you... are all that I could ever want."

"Yeah," House breathlessly retorted, swallowing painfully, his eyes averted in uncertainty and insecurity. "Right now. Because right now, I'm what you've got, so..."

"Shut up," Wilson muttered angrily, his hands rising to rest on House's shoulders and push him down onto his back on the couch. "Just shut up. If you really have no idea how I actually feel about you... then you're not half the genius everybody thinks you are."

House let out a soft groan at his commanding tone and the soft heat as Wilson slid his hands slowly, possessively, up under House's button-down and t-shirt, expert fingers playing over his ribs and stomach.

"I'm going to prove it to you, House," Wilson informed him softly. "I'm going to leave no doubt in your mind... that you are the only one I want..."

"Right... now," House repeated, grinding out the words, eyes closed as he struggled not to respond to Wilson's touch. "Because you're thinking with your dick. Because all it's thinking about is finding a place to..."

"Shut up," Wilson hissed, raising one hand to cover House's mouth and still his continued attempts at rationalizing away Wilson's behavior. "I mean it, House. That's an order, in case you're wondering. Shut. Up." Holding his hand over House's mouth, he lowered his own to House's throat to lavish it with lips and tongue, before raising his eyes to meet House's wary gaze again. His voice softened with affection, eyes glistening with adoration, as he whispered, "And listen."

He slowly removed his hand, and House did not speak, just held his gaze wonderingly, breathing hard, waiting obediently for Wilson to make the next move.

"You think I'm just... settling for you..." Wilson shook his head with a soft huff of disbelieving laughter. "You have no idea."

He glanced down for a moment, lifting up off of House to hurriedly unfasten the buttons of his shirt, then returned his gaze to House's face, maintaining eye contact as he continued to speak in a soft, intense voice of undeniable passion.

"This morning... waking up, with you gone... not knowing if you would even speak to me when I saw you again..." Wilson kissed House again, a desperate need in the kiss that mirrored his voice when he went on in a hoarse, shaky whisper. "All day... not knowing if you were going to let me come home with you tonight... wondering if you were finished with me for good, and this was over..."

House's expression softened, eyes widening in awe and disbelief, and he shook his head slightly.

"No," he whispered. "No... I couldn't..."

Wilson raised his hand to House's mouth again, this time pressing only a single, gentle finger against his lips in a silent reminder to silence.

"I wanted you... so badly... all day long..." he whispered. "All day, all I wanted was to just... walk into your office, in front of all of them, and just... just take you, right there... just... just to claim you, to leave no doubt in their minds or in yours... of the fact that you're mine... and I'm yours..."

House's eyes closed and his breath quickened, a slight catch in it betraying the effect of Wilson's words and the suggestive images they carried. As he spoke, Wilson pushed House's shirt back over his shoulders, but did not give him room to rise and take it off completely -- leaving his arms trapped, useless, behind him. House drew in a sharp breath, letting it out in a gasp as Wilson's hands moved freely over the hot, bare skin of his chest and stomach, the gentle restraint of his own clothing adding to the intensity of stimulation.

"Thinking... that I might lose you..." Wilson punctuated his breathless words with tiny, fervent kisses as he moved slowly down House's torso, hands sliding down eagerly toward the fastenings of House's jeans. "It killed me, House... I couldn't... couldn't stand it... thinking... that I'd gone too far... messed up so bad... that I'd lost you..."

He raised his head as his lips reached the waistband of House's jeans, meeting House's eyes with a soft, adoring smile.

"I'd do anything it takes to keep you, House... anything you ask of me..." He hesitated, his voice almost shy as he added, "I... I love you..."

House stared at him in wonder, his breath catching in his throat -- caught off guard by the unbelievable words, no matter that he'd already heard them more than once from Wilson's lips. With a supreme effort, he swallowed back the hard knot of emotion in his throat, looking away and closing his eyes in silence as Wilson unfastened his jeans and began to slide them down.

"I love you," Wilson whispered again, sensing House's uncertainty. "Get used to hearing it... because it's the truth... and you deserve it... and it's never going to end, not this time... I love you..."

Wilson swiftly suppressed the traces of disappointment he felt that House did not verbally return the sentiment, as he shifted down the sofa, pulling House's jeans with him as he went. He met House's eyes with a wicked wink as he left the jeans around his ankles, winding them around to form a loose restraint. Careful not to hurt House's thigh, Wilson moved back toward him a little, pushing his knees gently apart and settling between them.

House let out a sharp gasp of alarm as Wilson's hand slid up from his knees to his thighs, and instinctively tried to clench his legs shut. Gently but firmly, Wilson refused to allow it, pressing slightly and keeping his legs parted, running light, soothing fingertips slowly up and down the insides of House's thighs.

Even as House's burgeoning erection twitched in response to the tantalizing contact, House turned his head away from Wilson, shaking it slightly in a silent plea -- though, for what, Wilson had no idea.

"Shh," he whispered soothingly, concern in his voice. "House... what is it? What's wrong?"

House just shook his head, swallowing hard, tucking his head toward the back of the sofa in what appeared to be a reaction of shame and embarrassment.

All at once -- Wilson understood.

His scar... he doesn't want me to see it...

"House... it's okay," he assured him gently, fingertips trailing cautiously outward to brush the edges of the puckered mark on House's right thigh. "It's all right... you have nothing... nothing to be ashamed of..."

House seemed to disagree, burying his face in the upholstery with a quiet groan of dismay, fists clenched at his sides, where his own shirt held them helplessly pinned.

"Don't," he whispered, his pleading, desperate voice muffled by the couch against his lips. "Wilson... please..."

"It's all right," Wilson repeated. "House... look at me..."

House just shook his head in refusal, his thighs trembling against Wilson's hands, taut and defensive, wanting nothing more than to shut Wilson out, but prevented from doing so by the presence of Wilson's body between them.

"House..." Wilson's soft voice took on a firm note of command. "Look at me."

Reluctant but resigned, House turned his head to face Wilson, apprehension bordering on panic in his wide blue eyes. He shook his head in a silent plea, swallowing back a sob he would not allow to surface.

"You're safe," Wilson assured him, barely over a whisper. "Safe with me. It's all right."

As he spoke, repeating soothing words of reassurance, Wilson's hand ghosted lightly over the surface of the scar, and House flinched, instinctively bracing himself against the exposure of his most vulnerable part. Yet, as Wilson's gentle hand brought him no pain, caressing the marred skin with soft, loving strokes, House's trembling gradually began to subside, the near-panicked tension easing back to a wary unease.

"I love you, House," Wilson repeated at last, when House seemed to have calmed, no longer expecting pain -- or disgust -- to come from Wilson's attention to his scar. "And that means all of you. I love this, too," he whispered, his hand passing over the scar once more before sliding away, "because it's a part of you -- a part of who you are -- and to me... that makes it... beautiful."

Without another word, Wilson lowered his mouth to slowly engulf House's erection, and House's back arched in a shock of pleasure, as he drew in a harsh, tremulous gasp.

Wilson's fingertips trailed along the insides of House's thighs in light, teasing touches as his mouth worked with loving precision over House's cock, expertly caressing it with lips and tongue to draw out his pleasure as long as possible. Finally, he brought one hand to cup House's balls for a moment, giving them a gentle squeeze as he swallowed around House's erection -- and brought him to completion with a strangled cry of overwhelming pleasure.

As House lay there trembling with the aftershocks, Wilson slowly, slightly raised his head, allowing House's softening cock to slip from between his lips, and returning his attention momentarily to House's scar.

In a moment of sentimentality so extreme that he half-hoped House wouldn't remember it later, Wilson brushed his lips against the scar in a tender ghost of a kiss, raising his head to whisper again.

"I love you."

Wilson rose up on his knees, anxiously taking in House's reaction to the whole affair -- stunned to see that House was trembling, his face buried in the sofa again, his throat moving convulsively as he swallowed, apparently struggling against tears.

Tactfully ignoring the tears, Wilson carefully settled his body over House, wrapping his arms around him and holding him close, caressing his throat with slow, tender kisses that trailed their way toward his mouth. A firm but gentle hand turned House's face back toward Wilson's, but Wilson kept his eyes closed to spare House's pride as he captured House's mouth with his own, enjoying a slow, languorous kiss.

"Wilson," House whispered his name again and again, his voice breathless and trembling, thick with the tears that glistened on his face. "Wilson... Wilson..." As he spoke, House tilted his head forward to rest on Wilson's shoulder in an unusual display of vulnerability.

Touched, Wilson tightened his hold on the older man, pulling him closer, as he pressed a kiss to his temple before whispering in a hushed voice of tenderness and affection, "What? What is it, House?"

In a halting whisper, choked and uncertain and barely audible beneath the sounds of their labored breathing, House uttered three words that were not the ones he'd hoped for, but nevertheless melted Wilson's heart with the warmth of relief and gratitude and breathtaking joy, as he understood precisely the meaning behind them.

"M-me... me, too."