"All of your rules are perfectly reasonable, and you haven't asked for anything that you don't rightly deserve."

Wilson's voice was hushed and softly reassuring as he wrapped a gentle arm around House's shoulders and drew him in closer to himself. The intensity of their emotional reunion had faded, for the moment replaced by relief at the fact that they seemed to be well on the way to fixing the problems that existed between them. They sat together on the couch, each quietly considering his own personal thoughts on the matter.

Wilson's considerations were somewhat less quiet than House's.

"If this is all it's going to take for you to be able to let me take the authority in this situation and actually submit to that authority, well… I'm more than willing to abide by those rules. I'll do whatever it takes to make this easier for you – to make it work for you. After all, this is all about you, House, not about me and what I want. I just want to do whatever it takes to…"

"You're sure doing an awful lot of talking about a subject that's not about you," House muttered, rolling his eyes and shifting uncomfortably under the acute focus of Wilson's concern.

"Well… it's a subject that needs talking about, you know?" Wilson pointed out, waiting until House met his eyes to continue in a voice of soft, earnest certainty. "This is something that needs to be taken seriously. I agree with what you put in your rules, and I agree that if you ever decide you want to back out of this arrangement, I'll let you without consequence."

Wilson hesitated, glancing away before meeting House's eyes again and continuing with slow, carefully measured words. "But… as long as you haven't decided that… as long as that's what we're saying we're doing… then… we need to actually do it. All or nothing. You understand? You can't just… jump in and out of it every time you don't like one of my decisions."

House was silent, his eyes solemn and downcast as he considered those words. At last, he nodded once, not looking up as he responded in a low, subdued voice.

"I won't. I'm not going into this on a whim, and I won't back out of it on one, either. So… as long as you can abide by my rules, too, then… I'll do what you say. I'll… submit."

House's expression as well as his tone suggested that the very word had an unpleasant taste in his mouth. Wilson's dark eyes softened with sympathy as his hand trailed up from House's shoulder to play affectionately through his hair, traces of an understanding smile forming at the corners of his mouth.

"Good."

All at once Wilson rose to his feet, and House watched with apprehensive surprise as his expression shifted in an instant from gentle to unyielding, the tenderness in his eyes tempered and darkened with lust. His light fingertips in House's hair became hard, gripping a fistful and tugging his head slightly backward in a gesture meant to emphasize House's vulnerability to him. His voice was low and silken when he spoke, barely over a whisper.

"Let's start now."

The dark promise in Wilson's voice made House's stomach lurch with alarm, even as his heartbeat accelerated with anticipation. Unconsciously he bit his lower lip in hesitation, searching Wilson's gaze. Uncertain, but unresisting, he remained silent, waiting to see what Wilson would do next.

Noting the hesitation in House's eyes, Wilson allowed his touch to soften again, feeling a tingling thrill of satisfaction when House instinctively leaned into his caress, very slightly pushing his head back into Wilson's hand. Wilson's voice lowered, and he shifted nearer, leaning in closer to House as he continued in a tone that was both reassuring and enticing.

"We've fought and struggled and gone back and forth over this… almost lost our entire relationship to this… but tonight… I just want to remind you how good it can be… if you'll let me."

House was quiet for a moment, his piercing gaze searching Wilson's eyes, a convulsive swallow visible in his throat. Finally, he nodded, ducking his head in an uncharacteristic gesture of submission and acceptance before quietly responding.

"I said I wanted to do this, right? So… let's do this."

Wilson nodded slowly, listening carefully for any hint of genuine fear in House's voice. He knew that House was not completely comfortable with surrendering control – possibly never would be – but he also knew that if House was going to achieve the level of trust and intimacy necessary for this entire arrangement to work, it was not going to come without a little inevitable discomfort.

Regardless, he wanted to leave no doubt in House's mind as to whether or not Wilson would respect his limits.

"You need to have a safe word," Wilson reminded his lover, his voice trembling slightly with the reality of what they were about to do. "So I know if things are getting out of control…"

"Don't give yourself too much credit," House scoffed. "As if you could ever make me use it."

"Making you use it isn't the point." Wilson couldn't keep a slight edge of irritation out of his voice, as it appeared that House was making a joke of the situation again. "This is serious, House – because once we start this, that's the only way you're getting out of it, and I need to know that you're okay."

All traces of mockery left House's face, and his tone was suddenly genuinely serious as he replied softly, with a single word that momentarily stopped Wilson's breath.

"Infarction."

"O-okay…" Wilson was uncertain. "Are you sure…?"

"It's the most thoroughly unsexy, unpleasant word I can imagine, and the least likely for me to use if I'm actually enjoying myself."

House's voice was quiet and subdued as he explained his choice, and Wilson felt a heavy ache building in his chest at the barely masked apprehension in his eyes and voice. He immediately chided himself for failing to recognize it earlier. House did realize that this was serious – incredibly serious – and he was only using his sarcastic sense of humor as a defense against baring the intense vulnerability he felt.

And there's nothing I can say that will reassure him… not now, when I've already damaged his trust. All I can do is show him that he can trust me now… that I'm not going to take advantage of that vulnerability and use it to hurt him…

"All right, then," Wilson agreed, his voice hushed to disguise the intensity of emotion he felt. "'Infarction' it is."

He allowed his hand to fall from House's head, taking a step backward and squaring his soldiers as he surveyed his waiting, apprehensive lover, deliberately closing off his emotions and presenting a cool, controlled façade for House to see. Wilson knew that if House was really looking for it he could easily see through his act, but reasoned that it was actually better for both of them if he did.

It's the illusion of control that matters. He has to be free to surrender himself safely to me… but he has to know that the real power is in his hands the whole time…

"Get up." Wilson's voice was cool and commanding as he gave the soft order. "And walk into the bedroom."

House stared up at him for a long moment, and Wilson thought he saw a barely perceptible shiver pass through him as he rose to his feet with reluctant, halting movements. Without a word, he obeyed, making his way across the room and to the bedroom door.

"Sit down on the bed."

House's eyes were wide, uncertain, as he obeyed the command, sitting down on the side of the bed nearest to Wilson, his cane clutched tightly in one white-knuckled hand and tapping nervously against the carpet. He visibly tensed as Wilson closed the distance between them at a slow, leisurely pace, clearly in no hurry. Wilson reached down to gently grip House's arm, stilling the rhythmic tapping, noting the tremor in the taut muscle beneath his hand.

Wilson held House's searching gaze, smiling slightly as he reached with his free hand to take the cane from House's grasp. It was then that he encountered House's first actual resistance, as House's grip tightened on the cane, his lips parted in an aborted protest as he shook his head slightly.

"No defenses, House," Wilson gently reminded him, sliding his hand up to House's shoulder and kneading slightly in a slow, soothing motion. "You don't need a weapon. This is all about surrender." His voice lowered as he leaned in, his lips near House's ear as he added in a hushed, intent tone, "Trust… that I am not going to hurt you… I know it makes you feel safer… but that's the whole point, isn't it? The only security you need… is me…"

House hesitated a moment longer, his internal struggle visible on his face before he finally released his hold on the cane, relinquishing it to Wilson's hand. Wilson's smile widened slightly with affectionate approval as he took a step backward. He held the cane in both hands and looked down at it for a moment before turning and crossing the room, leaning the cane against the dresser and walking back to stand in front of House again.

Wilson raised a hand to brush his knuckles gently down the side of House's face, his dark eyes soft with affection. His brow furrowed slightly in sorrow when House barely suppressed a flinch, but Wilson did not call attention to it in the slightest. He slid his hand around to the back of House's head, pulling him in for a slow, lingering kiss. House gradually relaxed into the kiss, raising a tentative, trembling hand to Wilson's waist and urging him closer.

When they finally parted, Wilson met House's eyes in a warm, reassuring smile as he issued a soft command in a tone of barely restrained anticipation.

"Take off your shirt."

Seeming to be somewhat reassured by the gentle contact, House nodded hurriedly, unbuttoning his shirt with trembling fingers and shrugging it off his shoulders and onto the bed. He swallowed hard, his eyes averted self-consciously, as Wilson reached past him to take the shirt and toss it behind him onto the floor, then headed toward the dresser, calling a casual command over his shoulder.

"Lie down on your back and put your hands over your head."

Once again, House obeyed, though he let out a deep, shuddering breath as he hesitantly raised his arms over his head, automatically clutching at the headboard with damp, trembling hands. He glanced up to see Wilson making his way back toward him, a familiar set of wide black leather cuffs in his hand, along with a second piece of leather – a long, simple strip for which he could only guess at the purpose.

"Just can't wait to get me all helpless and at your mercy, can you?" There was a note of subtle defiance to his trembling voice as he forced a taunting smirk to his lips. "Yeah. This is all for my benefit. It's got nothing at all to do with you and your massive control freak issues."

"Shhh," Wilson murmured, pressing a single finger to House's lips, then leaning down to replace it with his mouth. He drew back after a brief, tender kiss, meeting House's eyes to reassure him softly, his lips still bare inches above House's mouth. "In general – it's probably about a little bit of both." Before House could jump on his unexpected confession, Wilson hurried to continue, "But this – tonight – is all about you, House. All about me showing you that you can trust me."

He was silent for a moment, allowing his words to sink in before adding a hushed question.

"So will you? Trust me?" He paused, running a gentle hand down House's side as he added, "You don't have to let me do this, House. You can always change your mind."

House bit his lower lip, hesitant, but reassured by the reminder that he did have an option in the matter. Finally he nodded, closing his eyes for a moment and letting out a heavy sigh of resignation.

"No," he whispered, his jaw set with determination. "No… do… whatever it is you're gonna do. I… I can take it."

Wilson frowned, troubled by the underlying fear he heard in House's voice. He knew that House had every reason to distrust him, and no reason at all to believe that he would be safe at Wilson's mercy. Still, it hurt to consider what it was exactly that House thought he was submitting to.

I've got a lot of making up to him to do… but I'll do it. I'll make him see that he can trust me with his body… his heart… everything…

Aloud, he replied in a cryptically mild voice, "We'll see."

House opened his eyes, slightly alarmed, as Wilson fastened one of the cuffs around House's right wrist, then ran them behind the middle slat of the headboard to lock the other one around House's left wrist. When Wilson moved his hands, House immediately tested the strength of the bonds, drawing in a sharp breath when he realized that they held firm, and he would not be able to break them should he feel the need to do so.

"It's okay," Wilson murmured. His hand was resting on House's chest, and he could feel the rapid acceleration of his heartbeat under his palm. "House… calm down… I'm not going to hurt you… it's okay…"

House nodded, visibly trying to relax despite his misgivings. After giving him a few moments to adjust to the idea, Wilson picked up the remaining strip of leather now lying on the bedspread beside House, holding it up so House could see it.

A deep, convulsive swallow was visible in House's throat as he stared at it through wide, fearful eyes.

"What the hell do you think you're going to do with that?"

"Just trust me, House," Wilson persisted. "I promise you're going to like it."

As he spoke, Wilson placed the flat strip of leather over House's eyes, following the motion with his hands when House jerked away in an instinctive moment of panic.

"Hold still," Wilson instructed, his voice taking on a firm note of command – and to his amazement, House went still, though his lips were parted and he was breathing in rapid, shallow bursts, as if struggling to control his own fear. "It's okay, House… it's okay. Just trust me… and I can make this so good for you…"

House started to speak, and for one sinking moment of disappointment, Wilson was certain that he was going to invoke the safe word. Then, all at once, House closed his mouth, biting his lip as if to physically keep the word locked inside. He nodded shakily and stopped resisting as Wilson tied the blindfold firmly behind House's head – then covered House's mouth with his own; pressing past the barrier of his trembling lips until House hesitantly returned the kiss.

Wilson felt a stirring of hope in his chest at the response, however tentative.

At least House was trying.

And I'm going to make it worth it for him. He's not going to regret trusting me – not this time. I'm going to make this a night he won't ever forget…