By the time Wilson awakened the next morning to get ready for work, House already had the coffee made, breakfast prepared, and himself ready for work. All in all, it seemed a miraculous transformation from his usual habit of sleeping until around ten and then meandering into work at his own pace.

When Wilson walked into the kitchen, House was sitting at the table, fully dressed, reading the newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee. A mostly untouched plate of food sat on the table in front of him, and a completely untouched plate lay in front of the seat across from him. House glanced up at Wilson without speaking as he entered the room. Wilson noticed that he seemed unusually quiet and subdued, but seemed to be in a good mood for so early in the morning.

Naturally, Wilson was suspicious.

"Good morning," he greeted House in a slow, wary tone, eyeing him skeptically as he poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table across from House. "You're up early."

House just nodded, a bit self-consciously, not quite meeting Wilson's eyes. "There's gotta be the occasional exception. Otherwise what would prove the rule?"

Wilson smiled with a slight nod, accepting House's evasive explanation as he took a sip of his coffee. He looked House over subtly, over the top of his coffee cup, and his smile of affectionate amusement faded into a concerned frown when he saw the nervous way House was tapping his left foot, and the way his right hand rubbed absently at his thigh – his anxious gestures belying his attempt at appearing calm and in control.

House had taken two Vicodin before going to bed the night before, so he wasn't likely to be in any great pain just yet -- but Wilson knew that he had probably been up for at least an hour already. By this point, House was likely starting to feel his leg's constant call for attention.

Wilson got up without a word and made his way to the bedroom. Taking the vial of pills from the pocket of his coat, he quickly shook them out into his palm and counted them to reassure himself that House had not taken any during the night, before putting all but two back in the bottle.

He walked back into the kitchen and stopped at House's side. He reached down to take House's hand from the table, turning it up and placing the pills on his open palm. House looked up at him with an expression that was both grateful and uncertain, immediately tossing the pills down his throat and swallowing them dry.

Wilson rested a gentle hand on House's shoulder, running a casual hand through his hair in a gesture of affection, before taking his seat at the table again and quietly resuming his breakfast. Neither said much, each simply taking his time waking up, mentally preparing for the day ahead – but the silence was not uncomfortable, and Wilson felt a sense of peaceful satisfaction and optimistic anticipation.

Looks like I made the right move last night, he decided with a private little smile into his coffee cup. He trusts me now. He believes that I'm going to do what's right for him – and I will. I will, House. I promise. We're going to be just fine.

*****************************

When House walked into his office that morning – on time, well-groomed, and actually humming cheerfully under his breath – well, naturally his team didn't take long to draw their conclusions.

"Funny... last time we saw him like this was that night he spent with his ex, before she left town."

Chase whispered his suggestive observations to Cameron when House walked out of the conference room and into his own office to hang up his jacket, but was disappointed when his remark only gained an irritable frown from his girlfriend, instead of the amusement he had hoped for.

Cameron didn't seem to be particularly thrilled with this latest development in House's love life.

Chase and Foreman, on the other hand, were just happy to see anything that put their boss in a better mood than usual, and therefore made their work day a little easier. If that "anything" happened to be a new romantic relationship with his best friend, well – that just made things all the more intriguing.

Ordinarily, the extra attention would have been an annoyance to House; but today, even the curious stares and whispered comments from his team couldn't shake his good spirits.

For once, things seemed to be going right in his life.

His uncertainties about Wilson's feelings for him had faded away under the power of Wilson's impassioned verbal and physical reassurances, and he found himself, for once in his unhappy and cruelly ironic life, actually venturing to trust another human being.

And if there was anyone in the entire world who might be deserving of that trust, House decided… it was Wilson.

Wilson had seen the best and the worst of him, in every possible way; and yet, Wilson had still accepted him, in all his infuriating imperfections – had promised that he loved him, that he would keep loving him, that he would do everything in his power to prove it. Throughout House's day, that promise echoed in his mind, reassuring him against the occasional doubts and uncertainties he couldn't quite suppress.

Of course, an impulsive mid-morning rendezvous in Wilson's office helped quite a bit as well.

Hurried, fevered kisses and urgent touches, tempered with all the gentleness and romance Wilson had spent the last twenty years perfecting, made House's worries fade away into overwhelming affection and delirious desire.

Every word out of Wilson's mouth seemed perfectly designed to quell his fears, to cement his confidence in Wilson's intentions. Wilson seemed to anticipate House's doubts, and to be prepared for them, determined to do everything in his power to make House finally believe and accept that he meant every word of the promises he had made the night before.

Of course, House knew that it was intentional.

Nevertheless – it was working.

******************************

The next few days passed like a pleasantly hazy dream. House and Wilson were still in the "honeymoon phase" of their relationship, and neither could get enough of the other. They found themselves sneaking off at every available moment – during their workday, as well as after hours – to get a few minutes of privacy, away from the prying eyes of those around them, who lately seemed just as fascinated with their new relationship as they were.

House and Wilson were the talk of the hospital – but neither seemed to mind.

Wilson insisted on maintaining a certain air of professionalism during their working hours – at least, when they were where anyone could see; but that did not stop him from brushing his hand against House's leg as they sat in the cafeteria eating lunch, or giving him a quick kiss as they parted for the rest of the afternoon, despite the curious eyes of the other hospital employees.

House found himself feeling a sense of pride at the glances people would cast his way in the halls, enjoying the knowledge that they knew he was taken – someone as respected and desirable as Wilson cared enough to want to be with him, to call him his own. It filled him with a pleasant sense of warmth and security to know that Wilson was comfortable being so open about their relationship, willing to let everyone around them know that they were an item.

House was surprised to realize that he didn't even really mind allowing Wilson to dole out his Vicodin doses. After all, Wilson had kept him at the dosage to which he had become accustomed, and House found his fears of being subjected to the pain of having his medication withheld fading away, replaced by a growing sense of trust that Wilson did indeed have his best interests at heart.

That trust lasted until the day when Wilson decided to make the first adjustment to House's medication regimen.

House showed up at Wilson's office at the usual time, feeling unusually cheerful, and noting with light-hearted amusement that he was just as excited about the excuse to see Wilson in the middle of his day, as he was about the pill he was there to get.

Wilson looked up from the papers he was working on, his dark eyes lighting up with affection as he gave House a warm smile and rose to come around the desk to greet him. As House came within his reach, Wilson leaned back against his desk and pulled House forward, slightly off balance, smothering his laughing protest with a fiercely possessive kiss.

House's eyes were hazy when he drew back, breathless, licking his lips as he glanced downward and held out his hand expectantly. His heart sank with instant apprehension as Wilson's smile faded, and the light in his eyes was replaced with anxious uncertainty.

"Let's wait just a few minutes," he suggested gently.

"I've already waited an hour and a half," House reminded him, an edge of warning to his voice.

"So fifteen minutes more won't kill you." Wilson's voice was patient, but firm, as he gave House a slightly stern look. "It's just fifteen minutes, that's all."

"So now I'm gonna get a pill every hour and forty-five minutes, instead of every hour and a half?" There was a trembling note of panic in House's voice, and he swallowed convulsively, visibly fighting to conceal his anxiety. "Don't you think that's a little too much too soon?"

"Yes," Wilson replied softly, his hands resting at House's waist and pulling him gently, insistently closer to him. His eyes were filled with rueful, subdued amusement, as he explained, "I do think that'd be too much too soon." He paused a moment before adding, "That's why we're not changing your routine that much right now. You'll get your next pill in an hour and a half... and the next one an hour and a half after that. It's just this dose that's changing. That's all. And we won't change anything else, not for a week or so at least. That should give your system time to adjust."

It sounded perfectly reasonable. It really, really did.

And House still found the idea terrifying -- because it meant that, although this particular change was very slight, almost insignificant... eventually, he would find his daily Vicodin allowance much more substantially reduced.

Wilson doesn't understand... He doesn't know how much I need it... how bad it hurts when I don't have it... He won't believe me, he'll say I just think I need it, just think it hurts because I want the pills, but I need them, I need them...

With an effort, House fought back his rising panic, covering it with a brave, forced half-smile, and a nod of resignation. His voice was just hesitant and uncertain enough, as he replied after a long, tense moment.

"O-okay. That... that makes sense," he agreed in a quiet, reluctant tone. "Whatever you think is best."

He inwardly cringed, wondering if he'd gone too far with those last few words, so completely unusual and almost comical coming from his lips -- but Wilson didn't seem to notice anything amiss. House suppressed a pang of guilt at Wilson's warm, grateful smile, as Wilson gave him an almost coy shrug.

"If you'd like, I could think of a few ways to... distract you, for the next fifteen minutes or so..."

House forced his concerns to the back of his mind, returning Wilson's fervent, impulsive kiss, trying to focus on the sensation of his touch as Wilson pushed him slowly, cautiously backward and then down onto the sofa. House shut out his swirling thoughts, the plans already taking place in his mind, and deliberately lost himself in the moment -- aware that Wilson would pick up on his distraction in a moment if he allowed himself to think about it.

Fifteen minutes later, House forced himself to hold his gaze when at last the younger man drew back, reaching into his pocket and taking out the vial of Vicodin.

"You're doing so well at this, House," Wilson told him in a soft, reassuring voice as he took out a pill and pressed it into House's hand. "Thank you. For... trusting me on this. I promise you, you're not going to regret it."

House just nodded, tucking his head self-consciously, before gently extracting himself from Wilson's embrace and rising to his feet. He waited until he was outside Wilson's office before taking the pill. He paused for a moment in the hallway, closing his eyes and drawing in a deep, shaky breath, before making his way with firm, purposeful strides toward the elevator and down to the lobby.

**************************

It was a simple matter to make his way across town to another hospital, and just as simple a matter to gauge the timing and staff of that hospital's clinic so that he ended up with one of the younger, less experienced doctors working that afternoon. Within minutes of carefully innocent conversation, House had managed to procure a legitimate Vicodin prescription from the young doctor, and to get it filled at the hospital's pharmacy.

It's only for emergencies, he told himself as he tucked the prescription bottle into the fake book he kept on the bookshelf in his office, then carefully replaced the book, glancing anxiously over his shoulder to be sure he had not been observed. Only if I really need it, later on – once Wilson decides to move past the little, harmless changes and onto the bigger ones. I'll only take them if I absolutely have to.

He left the pill bottle unopened in his secret hiding place, then checked his watch.

Time to go to Wilson for his next dose.

Everything's going to be fine, he reassured himself as he made his way down the hall toward Wilson's office. Wilson will never have to know…