"This isn't working."

House froze at the soft, certain words that fell from Wilson's lips as he walked through the door of the apartment. His back was to Wilson as he sat at the piano, and the notes that flowed from his fingertips died away as he silently processed the words. A cold sensation of dread filled House's stomach at the finality in Wilson's voice.

It's over… He's leaving me…

He swallowed hard, not turning or looking at Wilson as he regained his composure and replied in a soft, even voice.

"No shit."

Without waiting for Wilson's response, he resumed the song he had been playing, his nimble fingers trembling over the keys as he struggled not to reveal his emotions. He was unhappy with the way Wilson had been treating him, nervous and insecure in their relationship – but he didn't want to lose that relationship. If the only way that he could have Wilson was on Wilson's terms, he was willing to make that sacrifice, willing to do what it took to please him.

But now, it appeared that Wilson was already lost to him.

He sensed Wilson's approach, though he did not acknowledge it, simply kept playing. He suppressed a flinch when he felt a warm, strong hand on his shoulder – not out of fear that Wilson might harm him, but out of an utter revulsion for the tenderness with which he knew Wilson would try to break his decision to him. He already knew that Wilson was finished with him, had decided that he was not worth the trouble; the last thing he needed was Wilson's gentle hands and tone lying to him while his lips spoke the painful truth.


House ignored him, his fingers stumbling over the notes as his vision blurred, but stubbornly continuing to play their haunting, melancholy melody until Wilson's free hand reached out to cover House's right hand, stilling it. House jerked away from him in defensive anger, but Wilson caught his hand and grasped it, refusing to allow him to escape.

"Don't touch me," House snarled, struggling as Wilson held onto him, pushing him over a little on the piano bench to sit down beside him. After a moment, however, his resistance faded away and he gave up, his arm going limp, held up only by Wilson's gentle but firm grasp on his hand. "Just… just go if you're going to go!"

Wilson froze, eyes wide with startled understanding. He shook his head slowly, his hand sliding up House's arm to draw him closer, his free arm slipping around House's waist.

"No," he murmured softly. "No, House… I'm not going anywhere. What makes you think I would leave you?"

"You said it yourself," House muttered, sullen eyes averted, unwilling to allow himself to hope, despite Wilson's reassuring words. "If I didn't do things your way… if I didn't let you have control…" His words trailed off and he shook his head in bitter frustration before finally continuing, his voice trembling with repressed emotion. "I did the best I could."

"I know you did," Wilson insisted, aware too late that the gentle patience in his voice was only serving to further agitate House. "This isn't your fault, and I'm not leaving you! That's not what this is about."

House finally looked up at Wilson through dubious eyes, but said nothing, just waited for Wilson's explanation.

"I… love you, House," Wilson quietly declared. "I want this to work between us, but… right now, it's not. And that's my fault. I'm the one who's been going about this all wrong."

House's mouth twisted into a barely there smirk, and he very deliberately stretched, arching his back, then wincing against the pain the motion caused to the lash marks there. He gave Wilson a pointed, accusing look, raising a single brow as he spoke with false surprise.

"Really? You think so? Because I thought you were doing a model job so far. Very loving and wise, not the least bit sadistic or abusive…"

"That's not fair," Wilson snapped, defensive and irritated – but instantly ashamed and regretful when House reacted to his harsh tone with an almost imperceptible but utterly genuine flinch. His tone softened as he continued. "I… never wanted to hurt you. I just… never should have let things get to this point."

Wilson sighed wearily, running a hand down across his face before rolling his eyes heavenward, shaking his head helplessly.

"I still think the original idea is a good one," he quietly insisted. "I think right now… you need someone to… to take over the tough decisions for you… to… to help you…" His voice trailed off for a moment before he stated softly, "We just have to be sure that we're going about this right, so I don't end up… doing more damage than good. I think…" He drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly before concluding, "I think we need to talk to a professional."

House's faint smirk became a full, obvious leer as he replied without hesitation. "I've got no problem with that, as long as she's hot."

"Seriously, House," Wilson persisted with forced patience. "I want to try this… but I want to do it right."

House was skeptical. "And you're willing to compromise your precious reputation if word gets back to anyone at the hospital that you saw this particular kind of… professional?"

"It doesn't have to be anyone in this area. We can go out of state, make sure there's no connection," Wilson suggested. "I can find someone, make some arrangements…"

House was quiet for a long moment, considering. Wilson fully expected him to refuse, and was therefore utterly surprised when he spoke in a quiet, even voice without a trace of argument.

"It has to be someone at least a hundred miles from here, and we don't tell her our names."

"Okay," Wilson replied, somewhat warily.

"And I don't have to agree to do what she says until after we've heard what that is."

"Of course."

"And she has to be hot."

"House…" Wilson rolled his eyes. "Seriously…"

"Wilson," House mimicked in an exaggeratedly whining voice, "seriously…"

"Okay," Wilson agreed at last, shaking his head, hands raised in front of him in a gesture of surrender. "Okay, fine. Whatever you say. I'll… make some calls."


"Here's where you've made your mistake."

Wilson nodded attentively, focused intently on Linda, the attractive woman sitting across from them, waiting eagerly for her response to the story he had just told her. House was focused intently on her bare legs, folded casually in front of her, swinging slightly and allowing him the occasional slight glimpse up the knee-length skirt she was wearing. Linda gave House an appreciative smirk when she noticed his attention, then turned her gaze toward Wilson, her expression becoming serious as she spoke.

"What a lot of people misunderstand about the dominant-submissive dynamic is this. The dominant only holds the illusion of power. In reality, the true power belongs to the submissive partner, because he has the right to call a halt to things if at any point he feels uncomfortable or unsafe… or really, for any reason at all. This entire arrangement is all about trust, and if he has no means of escape, then there's no way that he can really feel secure… really trust you. If he doesn't have the right to say, 'Stop, I don't want this anymore'… then what you're doing isn't really a choice, as far as the submissive partner is concerned. It really amounts to… well… rape."

Wilson was silent, his face flushing with shame as Linda echoed words almost identical to the ones Chase had said to him a few days earlier. He couldn't look at House, but he could sense the tension pouring off the other man as well as he finally looked up to meet Linda's eyes in a startled, intent expression.

"You told me about the contract you two signed, and that wasn't entirely a bad idea," Linda continued, her voice calm and nonjudgmental, moving swiftly past their discomfort and on to the solution. "You just have to be sure that the contract is fair." She paused before stating with quiet certainty, "You need to tear up the original contract and start over."

"Okay," Wilson conceded in a slow, thoughtful voice. "But… how can we be sure we don't make the same mistakes in the new contract that we made in the old one?"

"Simple." Linda smiled, her gaze passing between the two men as she replied, "The submissive partner needs to come up with his own terms first. He needs to present you with his conditions for submission to you… what he's going to need from you in order to be willing to surrender control… and the two of you can only proceed if you are willing to agree to those terms. At that point, you can add your own conditions if you like, but they can only be added to the contract if your submissive partner agrees to them."

Wilson frowned, troubled, and opened his mouth to protest, but Linda went on firmly before he could.

"I cannot be any clearer about this: The power has to be in the hands of the submissive partner. There has to be the understanding that, even once you've signed this contract, if at any time the submissive partner feels unsafe or trapped or is no longer willing to submit… he has the right to withdraw from the arrangement, without fear of repercussions. His needs have to come first in the relationship."

A satisfied smile spread across House's face as he took in those words, nodding slowly. He glanced at the clock on the wall behind Linda, noticing that their time was almost up, before turning his gaze toward Wilson. He steadied his grip on his cane as he rose to his feet.

"Well," he remarked with a smirk, "I guess I'd better get started. This might take a while."

With a silent nod in Linda's direction, House stepped out of her office and into the hallway, making his way toward the exit and the waiting car in the parking lot beyond it. Wilson watched him go for a moment with a troubled expression, before looking toward Linda beseechingly.

"I… I know you're the expert on this, but… I'm not so sure this will work," he confessed. "He doesn't like being under someone else's control. If the door is there for him to walk out of this, sooner or later he will walk out. I want to help him, and I think this is the way, but… I'm not sure he'll let me if he's given the option..."

"Do you love him?"

Wilson blinked, taken aback by the question. "Well… of course, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't care about him. The whole point of this is to save him from self-destructing…"

"That's not what I asked you." Linda's tone was sharp, and silenced Wilson instantly. Her piercing green gaze locked onto his as she repeated, "Do you love him?"

Wilson was quiet for a moment, swallowing hard. "Yes," he answered at last, his voice soft and heavy with emotion. "I love him."

Linda gave a solemn nod in response. "If that's true," she stated softly, "then you need to be willing to let him make his mistakes. You have to be willing to allow him to harm his own body at times, rather than break his spirit by trying to take too much control. Loving someone and controlling them are not conducive to each other at all, not really. What your partner needs is the illusion of being forced to make the choices that are best for him. The minute the illusion becomes real, and he loses his choice in the matter – you lose him. Do you understand?"

Wilson nodded, his brow furrowed with worry, but unable to deny the truth of her words.

"I haven't spent very much time with the two of you, but I have made some observations." Linda's expression relaxed into a warm, reassuring smile. "And if I'm right about him, as long as he feels like he has some measure of control over the situation… he's not going to walk out on you. He loves you, too… and he needs you. But if you're going to be able to help him, you're going to have to place some trust in that… in him."

Wilson's nod quickened slightly with understanding, his expression softening. "That… makes sense…"

"It's great that you love him." Linda's voice was gentle and encouraging. "But you're going to have to trust him, and give him some room to trust you, if that love is going to do either of you any good."

"Okay. Thank you."

Wilson rose to his feet, reaching out to shake her hand, as he headed toward the door. Linda had given him a lot to think about… and, he hoped, a better understanding of what it was he was getting into, and what his true objective should be.

Now, let's just see if it works…

He headed out to the car where House was waiting for him, steeling himself for the changes ahead – changes that would not be easy on their relationship, but hopefully would save it in the end.

Here goes everything…