"Twenty-nine year old female, first seizure one month ago… lost the ability to speak, babbled like a baby. Present deterioration of mental status…"
Not particularly interested in the patient his best friend was describing, House did his best to change the subject, before Wilson managed to rope him into taking a boring case that would take him thirty minutes to solve. He nodded over his shoulder toward a patient he had just passed, glancing speculatively toward Wilson again.
"See that? They all assume I'm a patient because of this cane."
Wilson shrugged. "So put on a white coat like the rest of us."
House smirked, his gaze focused on the floor in front of them. "I don't want them to think I'm a doctor."
Wilson's expression didn't quite manage to be disapproving, a smile barely suppressed on his lips. "You see where the administration might have a problem with that attitude."
House's smile faded away as he shrugged and casually pointed out, "People don't want a sick doctor."
"Fair enough. I don't like healthy patients," Wilson retorted with a rueful grin, before deftly turning back to his original topic of conversation. "The twenty-nine year old female…"
House suppressed a sigh of resignation, already aware that he would end up taking Wilson's patient before all was said and done. Still, he kept up the façade of resistance, responding with a smirk, "The one who can't talk. I liked that part."
"She's my cousin."
House didn't allow Wilson's remark to faze him, immediately knowing by Wilson's expression, the inflection of his voice, that it was a lie. Wilson was just trying to manipulate him into taking the case. Still, it didn't matter. House knew he would end up treating the young woman, regardless of Wilson's dishonesty.
Lately, it seemed he couldn't deny the younger man anything.
Letting him think that he would, however – that was an entirely different matter.
"And your cousin doesn't like the diagnosis. I wouldn't, either. Brain tumor. She's gonna die. Boring."
Wilson kept arguing, and his lack of response to House's calloused words only confirmed his suspicions that Wilson was lying; the patient in question was not his cousin. Wilson was making up a story to gain House's sympathy, to manipulate him into doing what he wanted.
And it didn't matter.
As Wilson persisted, House found that he was far more focused on the motion of the younger man's lips than he was on the actual words they were forming. He caught himself casting glances in Wilson's direction, eagerly observing the pleading warmth in his dark eyes with more interest than a mere friend should have taken.
When he realized what he was doing, House quickly averted his gaze before Wilson could notice, swallowing nervously as he tried to put the disconcerting thoughts and feelings out of his head, tried to pretend they didn't exist – but realized almost immediately that it was a losing battle.
His feelings for Wilson were… changing.
You've just been spending too much time together is all, House told himself. Becoming too attached. When you've only got one important relationship of any kind in your life, your feelings for that person are bound to get a little… confused. That's all this is. You're just… confused.
"Come on," Wilson urged him, stopping to face him with a smile so irresistible that it made House determined to resist it at all costs. "Why leave all the fun for the coroner? What's the point of putting together a team if you're not going to use them? You've got three overqualified doctors working for you. Getting bored."
"They should get used to it," House snapped, aware that there was just a touch too much irritation in his voice as he turned and started toward the elevators again. "Ninety-five percent of the cases they take in their careers are going to be boring. This is just… good practice."
Wilson stood still a moment in the hallway, watching House go, before hurrying after him, catching up to him as he was waiting for the elevator doors to open.
"I thought you said the case was boring. So… wouldn't that type of practice be just as effective? And also – more cost efficient?" Wilson pointed out.
"You're thinking this will be as interesting as the cat woman?" House gave Wilson a pointed look – which he seemed to miss.
Amusement in his voice and eyes, Wilson shrugged, shaking his head slightly in confusion as the elevator doors slid open. "Her doctor was treating her for a heart attack, and you diagnosed a cat allergy. Over the phone."
"My point is… that was your cousin, too," House reminded his friend with a knowing smirk as he stepped into the elevator, mentally congratulating himself on a successful escape.
Ha! Not so far gone, after all. I haven't lost my touch yet… can still say no to him, even if he's…
The thought cut off abruptly as House was pulled off balance, and his breath caught in his throat as he reached out a hand to steady himself. Recovering, he turned in indignant surprise and alarm to see Wilson gripping the other end of his cane, holding him there, and the elevator doors open – refusing to let him leave.
"Would you grab somebody's leg?" House demanded with more outrage than he felt – while trying to figure out why he didn't feel more outraged.
"This is important to me," Wilson stated simply in response.
The dark intensity in Wilson's ordinarily soft chocolate gaze nearly made House lose his breath again, but he managed to maintain his composure, returning the younger man's piercing gaze without hesitation. He felt his heart pounding, his breath quickening with an odd combination of alarm, excitement, and admiration, at Wilson's sudden display of assertion.
"Everything is important to you," he scoffed. "It's your pathology. It's why you've been married three times. Let go of my cane."
Still holding onto House's cane, he informed him with a soft, sly smile, "I already had her transferred from Trenton County."
House hesitated a moment, torn between his indignation at Wilson's assumption that he would take the case, and the temptation to give in to Wilson's request, if only to spend more time with him – to have the chance to get to know this intriguingly assertive and seldom-seen side of his friend. Finally, lowering his head with a sigh of amused resignation, House reached out his hand to take the patient file from Wilson's hand – and Wilson finally released his cane.
The last thing House saw before the elevator door slid shut was Wilson's triumphant smile of smug satisfaction – and House had to wonder if he'd really lost, or won… or if some new and unfamiliar game was only beginning.
Hours later, Wilson waited in terse, impatient silence with House's team, outside Cuddy's office. Unexpectedly adding to the tension of the "boring" Rebecca Adler whose case had proven to be anything but boring, Cuddy had pulled House's medical authorization within the hospital, in an attempt to get him to fulfill his obligations to the clinic.
Wilson had his doubts as to whether or not it would work.
Getting House to do anything he doesn't want to do isn't exactly easy. His lips formed a barely perceptible smile of secret satisfaction, however, at the next thought that crossed his mind. Seems I'm pretty good at it, though, apparently.
Wilson thought back to the conversation they'd had near the elevators, and the brief flash of excitement, the light of intrigue he had seen in House's eyes, before the other man had managed to conceal it – as he always seemed to do so well. For just a fraction of a moment, Wilson thought he had seen something more than the affection of friendship in House's eyes.
Is it possible that maybe… he's starting to see me as more than a friend? That maybe, just maybe… he's starting to feel… the same way I do?
Cuddy's office door was suddenly flung open, and House came out into the hallway with a smug grin on his face.
"Do the MRI. She folded," he announced with triumph. He waited in silence while his team dispersed, before turning to Wilson, his smile fading into mild annoyance. "I've gotta do four hours a week in this clinic until I make up the time I've missed. 2054. I'll be caught up in 2054." He stared at Wilson for a moment longer, before looking away a bit self-consciously and starting to walk away, grousing over his shoulder, "You'd better love this cousin a whole lot."
Wilson didn't respond, just watched House walk away with a slowly softening smile of affection.
Fifty years of clinic duty… yeah… I'd say maybe that's more than just a friendship is worth…
Wilson's thoughts were still centered around House the following evening, as he was doing a routine check on Rebecca's reactions to her treatment.
Lately, there was something – different – in the looks House cast in his direction… an added layer of meaning to the jokes and insults he dealt out to Wilson during the course of their workdays. However, since he had taken this case, House seemed to have been the same as usual, only… more. If House was developing any feelings for him, then it seemed as if he was also trying harder than ever to maintain the image of normalcy in order to conceal them.
And that probably makes no sense in anyone's head but mine.
"Am I ever gonna meet Dr. House?"
Rebecca's question drew Wilson out of the muddle of his swirling thoughts, and he tried to focus on her question – then let out a soft laugh. "Well, you might run into him at the movies, or on the bus…"
"Is he a good man?" Rebecca asked, her curiosity about the elusive physician clear in her eyes.
Wilson could relate.
Lately, House was an even more infuriating mystery than ever, even to him. He considered her question for a moment before adding with a sort of non-committal half-nod.
"He's a good doctor."
"Can you be one without the other?" Rebecca persisted with a puzzled frown. "Don't you have to care about people?"
"Caring's a good motivator," Wilson replied. "He's found… something else."
He continued Rebecca's tests, though he became distant again as he thought about House, and his own theories about how much the obnoxious, distant doctor really did care about his patients. Wilson believed that House's gruff, cold exterior was nothing more than a wall to protect him from the potential pain that came with attachment.
Any attachment. He frowned as the implications occurred to him. Which is why even if he does feel what I do… he'll probably never act on it…
"He's your friend, huh?"
"Yeah," Wilson replied automatically to Rebecca's question, his tone distant and pensive.
"Does he care about you?"
"I think so," Wilson replied.
Rebecca frowned. "You don't know?"
"As Dr. House likes to say, everybody lies."
"It's not what people say," Rebecca pointed out. "It's what they do."
Wilson smiled slowly as he thought of the reasons why House had even taken Rebecca on as a patient. House had agreed to treat her, for no other reason than because Wilson wanted him to do so – despite his usual practice of rejecting anything that might prove he had a genuine connection with another human being.
Wilson nodded and met her eyes for a moment as he responded with soft surety.
"Yes. He cares about me."
The morning after Rebecca's recovery, Wilson and House sat in an empty exam room, House, enjoying his favorite soap opera – Wilson… enjoying House. Wilson sat slightly behind where House sat perched atop an exam table, stealing glances at him out of the corner of his eye, and just… wondering.
"You said she was your cousin," House stated abruptly, surprising Wilson with the realization that House's attention was not entirely focused on his show. "Why would you lie?"
Wilson shrugged. "It got you to take the case."
House was quiet for a moment, but he was not finished. "You lied to a friend to save a stranger. You don't think that's screwed up?"
Wilson let out a quiet scoffing sound. "You've never lied to me?" he countered dubiously, studying House's reaction to the not-quite-question.
House's tone was one of deliberately exaggerated innocence as he replied without hesitation, "I never lie."
Wilson wasn't convinced in the slightest, and didn't pretend to be. Both men were quiet for a few moments, House smiling slightly at something amusing on the television – as Wilson came to a calm, calculated decision. He watched House closely as he rose to his feet and walked around the exam table to slowly, deliberately switch the television off – never taking his eyes off House as he did.
House looked up at him, startled. "Hey!" he protested. "Five minutes left!"
"Forget it." Wilson's tone was slightly sharp as he shrugged, uncaring about House's missing his soap. "Someone dies, someone has sex with someone else's secret love child, someone's long lost evil twin shows up – it's always the same thing."
House frowned, opening his mouth to protest Wilson's dubious explanation, but froze, tensing when Wilson smoothly closed the distance between them, moving to stand between House's parted legs, taking his slightly rocking cane from his hands and setting it quietly to the side on the exam table.
"You never lie, huh?" Wilson echoed House's earlier words, a single brow raised. "That's funny. 'Cause I'm pretty sure you're lying to me right now. Pretty sure you have been for months now, in fact."
"What are you talking about?" House sputtered, backing up as much as was possible from his seated position, a wary look in his searching blue eyes as he studied Wilson's almost predatory expression. "You're the one who just got finished manipulating me with your deceitful emotional blackmail, and you're trying to blame me for…"
Whatever else House might have said was cut off, his voice muffled as Wilson's hands threaded gently through his hair, Wilson's mouth covering his in a thorough, searching kiss. House's eyes widened in stunned bewilderment for a moment, and he stared down at Wilson, not quite daring to respond, or even to move – before finally yielding and closing his eyes, returning the kiss as his arms slid around Wilson to draw him closer.
Wilson pulled back at last, leaving House staring at him, breathless and open-mouthed, still stunned by his sudden, impulsive advance.
"Now," Wilson whispered, his face still a bare inch away from House's, dark eyes intent and searching, locked onto House's blue gaze. "Tell me you haven't been wanting to do that for at least the last two months." Wilson's lips turned upward slightly, revealing the barest hint of a smile as he added, "Or… you can lie to me again."
House said nothing, finally closing his mouth with an effort, his lower lip caught between his teeth as his eyes trailed uncertainly back and forth between Wilson's eyes and his lips, his head drifting slowly, unconsciously nearer to Wilson's again. Wilson followed his gaze, his breath quickening, his hands finding House's waist and shifting in closer to him, his faint smile becoming a self-satisfied smirk.
"I take it you've decided that honesty is indeed the best…"
This time, it was Wilson's words that were swallowed up in House's kiss, as he surrendered his control and returned Wilson's advances, deciding that while relationships were scary and vulnerability was bad, just this once… human connection might not be all that bad.