A couple of days passed in relative peace, and House was pleasantly surprised to find that he didn't need any of the extra pills he had obtained, which remained safely tucked away in his secret hiding place, untouched. The slight change Wilson had made in his daily medication regimen proved to be thankfully not enough to make any difference in the way he felt each day; and for House, just the knowledge that he had the extra Vicodin if he needed it was enough to keep his feelings of panicked vulnerability at bay.
He was just starting to wonder if he had been worried for nothing – when nothing abruptly became something.
Wilson had a patient on the verge of death – which was nothing new, House was quick to point out to him. However, this patient was not expected to make it through the evening; and she was a patient Wilson had spent a lot of time with, enough time to develop a certain personal bond. House was irritated, but not surprised, when Wilson decided to stay late, to look after the patient and make sure she was comfortable and well taken care of until she passed.
House caught a cab home, where he spent a couple of hours watching television in peaceful solitude, until Wilson arrived home.
It was also not surprising to House that Wilson did not say much as he made his way through the living room, a grim expression on his face, mumbling something about a long day and a headache as he retreated to the bedroom. Concerned, House rose and followed him, lying down on the bed beside him and asking about his patient with uncharacteristic gentleness.
Wilson merely turned his back, eyes closed, thumbs pressed against his temples.
"Headache," he repeated a bit irritably. "Just… give me some space, okay? I'll be fine, but I don't want to talk about it." He paused, his voice softening as House rose from the bed without a word and made his way toward the bedroom door. "Could you… just turn out the light, when you go?"
House complied without answering, a bit put out by Wilson's rejection, but understanding and accepting his explanation for it.
In the morning, however, House awakened to find that Wilson's headache had apparently vanished at some point during the night, as he had risen early and already left for work, leaving House a brief note telling him to ride his bike today, as Wilson needed to get an early start at the hospital. House accepted that, knowing that such behavior was not unusual for Wilson – until he noticed something else that was more than a little unusual, and frowned, a sinking feeling settling in the pit of his stomach.
Wilson had neglected to leave his morning Vicodin dosage on the nightstand, as was his usual habit.
Unsettled and uncertain as to what was wrong, only sure that something was indeed amiss, House hurriedly prepared for his day and made his way to the hospital at a speed which would surely have cost him a heavy ticket, had he happened to pass any police officers on his way.
Fortunately, he didn't.
By the time he reached Wilson's office, House's discomfort was bordering on pain, and his stomach was sick from the worrisome thoughts circling through his mind. He was relieved to find Wilson at his desk, engaged in his usual work, with a calm, completely ordinary expression on his face. When House entered, Wilson looked up at him with a bright – if vaguely cool – smile.
"Morning," he greeted him cheerfully, looking immediately back down at his work.
House was not fooled for a moment.
"What's going on?" he demanded. "Why didn't you wake me this morning?"
Wilson frowned, feigning puzzlement – but not feigning it well. He casually shrugged off the question, replying without hesitation, though not quite making eye contact as he spoke. "I just thought I'd let you sleep in for a change, that's all."
Swallowing hard, reluctant to bring it up because of the vulnerability it made him feel, House's voice was quiet when he finally spoke again.
"You forgot something this morning."
Finally, a dark light of challenge and warning in his eyes, Wilson met House's gaze, suppressed anger in his own. "No, I really didn't," he stated with a cool determination that set a chill of apprehension in House's stomach. He smiled up at him, calmly gauging his reaction as he went on, "I've decided it's a good time to… test your endurance. To see just how long you can go without the pills before you really need one. One pill every hour and a half, House…" Wilson shook his head with a grim smile of disapproval, returning his eyes to his work as he concluded, "… that's really ridiculously excessive. You know that."
Unable to disguise a slight tremor in his voice, House protested with false calm. "You know that's a terrible idea. And… it's not what we agreed upon…"
"What we agreed upon," Wilson cut him off sharply, looking up to meet his eyes again, "is whatever I decide is best." He was quiet for a moment, his mouth twisting into a cold, ironic smile as he asked softly, "Don't you trust me, House?"
Immediate understanding dawned on House, and he turned without a word, stalking out of Wilson's office and making his way down the hall to his own. Not bothering with secrecy – certain that his secret had already been found out – House withdrew the secret book from the shelf with trembling hands. When he opened it, his breath caught in his throat, and his mouth went dry, though what he found was not exactly a surprise.
The book was empty.
He was aware of Wilson's presence, close behind him, the moment before his friend spoke in a low, quiet voice that trembled slightly with repressed fury.
"Yes, I found your secret stash, House. Yes, I took them. And I can't believe that you would deceive me like this – after all we've gone through already." Wilson's voice lowered further, a dark accusation in his tone as he added, "Liar. How am I supposed to trust you now, House? How am I supposed to…?"
House spun around abruptly to face him, trembling, shaken, defensive, allowing the book to drop onto his desk as he took a backward step against the shelves behind him, realizing with an uneasy sensation of claustrophobia that he was trapped, his only route of escape blocked by Wilson.
Ordinarily, that would not have been a frightening thought – but Wilson looked furious. His dark eyes blazed with outraged betrayal, his hands balled into fists at his sides, not caring for a moment that he was completely in House's personal space, intimidatingly close.
Defiant nevertheless, House demanded in a voice that shook with defensive anger, "Give me my pills! They're mine, Wilson! You can't do this; I need them…"
Wilson's abrupt step forward caused House to stumble a step backward against the bookcase, but Wilson's rough hand in his hair cupped the back of his head and prevented his escape. House's breath caught in his throat with alarm as Wilson edged in closer, cold anger in his dark eyes as he spoke in a low, dangerously soft voice that made House's stomach lurch.
His nearly frenzied protests died away as House swallowed hard, eyes closed against the piercing fury in Wilson's gaze as he shifted yet closer, leaving almost no room between them. The glass walls of House's office offered little concealment, and House knew that anyone happening by in that moment would have clearly seen the compromising situation in which he had found himself, and the frighteningly dominant manner in which Wilson was behaving.
The thought was somehow as exciting as it was unsettling.
"You are going to keep control of yourself, House," Wilson declared in a tone of quiet command. "You are not going to draw attention to yourself and cause something that's personal and private and between us to become public knowledge. Are you?"
His mouth dry, his heart pounding, face flushed with anger and embarrassment and defiance and excitement, House's hand clenched around the handle of his cane for a long, tense moment – and then relaxed, as he shook his head hurriedly in response to Wilson's challenge, lowering his head as Wilson released his hair and removed his hand.
Some of the anger in Wilson's voice faded with House's submission, and he continued in a voice that was softer, but still stern. "Give me ten minutes. Then, come to my office, and we'll discuss this."
Wilson didn't wait for an agreement before turning and stalking out the door. House's obedience was assumed, given their current arrangement.
House really wasn't quite sure how to feel about that.
Torn between outrage at Wilson's calm, confident commands, and a strange sense of excitement and arousal at the possessive control Wilson had displayed, House just stood there for a little while, allowing his breath to return to him, and his heart rate to slow to something resembling normal, as he considered his options – and quickly came to the conclusion that he had none.
Wilson had his Vicodin – all of it – and he had already gone all night and half the morning without it. If he expected to get a dose anytime before his leg started screaming at him in agony for the forced neglect he was imposing upon it, House had no choice but to do as Wilson had commanded.
Fighting back a trapped sensation of panic, House waited the interminable ten minutes Wilson had requested, pacing back and forth across his empty office, glancing at the clock on his desk every few seconds and willing the time to pass more quickly. Ten minutes had never crawled so slowly as these ten minutes, as House waited in mounting curiosity and desperation until he could make his way to Wilson's office, and make his case for receiving the pills he was, by now, in nearly frantic need of.
Finally, a few seconds after the clock told him nine minutes had passed, House turned on his heel and made his way with swift, purposeful steps toward Wilson's office. He paused outside the door, his hand on the handle… then froze, swallowing hard… torn. He frowned as he raised his hand from the handle in a slow, halting motion, then instead used his cane to rap sharply on the door.
Wilson's voice answered from inside without hesitation.
House opened the door with far greater hesitation than usual, biting his lower lip uncertainly as he stepped into the dimly lit office. Wilson was standing beside his desk, facing it, a thoughtful frown on his lips. He was slowly running his finger idly back and forth around the top of his lamp, casting strange moving shadows in a rhythmic circular pattern on the wall.
"Close the door," he ordered softly. "And lock it."
House stared at Wilson for a long moment, looking away at last to turn and obey the quiet command. He turned again to take a tentative step nearer to Wilson, frowning as he studied the younger man's inscrutable expression. Wilson still wasn't looking at him, his pensive gaze locked on the desk in front of him, and House found himself following Wilson's eyes to their focus.
Instantly, House's stomach dropped, and his mouth went dry.
Wilson's desk had been cleared of the usual supplies he kept there, files and calendars and pens arranged in neat stacks on the floor beside the desk instead, leaving it bare except for the lamp – and the strange assortment of unsettling implements laid out in a neat line beside it.
House looked up at Wilson with startled, apprehensive eyes, swallowing hard and trying to maintain his composure. Attempting to ignore the disturbing sight he had just taken in, House set his jaw in stubborn determination and spoke in a quiet, nearly steady voice.
"I need my pills, Wilson."
"You'll need them more when I'm finished," Wilson replied without hesitation, and the unyielding certainty in his voice set a strange quivering sensation in House's stomach.
House tensed, steeling himself as Wilson crossed the short distance between them in a couple of smooth strides. Wilson caught his arm in a firm but not painful grip, pulling him forcefully forward until his legs brushed the front of the desk, then moving in close behind him. House felt trapped, claustrophobic, his heart hammering in his chest as Wilson leaned in close to speak softly next to his ear.
"You've lied to me. You've gone behind my back and deceived me in order to break the rules about your Vicodin regimen – which is the most important point of our whole arrangement." Wilson paused before adding, "Lying to me is among the worst offenses you could commit against our agreement. And you know what that means."
House shook his head slightly in denial, opening his mouth to protest.
Wilson shook him slightly, pressing him forward against the desk and causing him to bite back his words, closing his eyes momentarily with a sharp, shaky intake of breath. House opened his eyes, staring down with dread at the various implements of punishment laid out before him, awaiting his own decision, as per their contract. A grim smile on his lips that House heard and felt rather than saw, Wilson decreed his sentence with a note of finality that let House know it was useless to argue his defense.
"Go ahead," Wilson commanded quietly. "Choose."