Author's Note: This is post-"The Softer Side," because I felt it needed another scene. A really long, smutty one. And Wilson's reaction to House ending his methadone treatment really should have been addressed. Warnings for angsty goodness!

"I told you once that being miserable didn't make you better than other people. I seem to recall saying that you were afraid of change; that you admired yourself, and so anything that would change you—that would make you happy—you immediately denied yourself."

"I remember. Rooftop, starry night. You also informed me that being miserable just made me miserable. Should I record these conversations so you can just hit play when you want to reiterate your incorrect assumptions? Besides, I've already gotten this speech tonight. Neither of you know anything."

They were facing each other across the piano: House seated, his fingers trailing lightly and soundlessly over the ivory keys; Wilson standing, his palms pressed against the polished black surface, his face a little tight. House lifted a hand and rubbed his mostly smooth chin. Good thing it took him no time at all to achieve the rough, unshaven look. He liked looking the part of someone with whom you should not fuck.

"I assume you're talking about Cuddy."

"Who else?"

"Tell me why you're making this choice, House."

"Why? You've already told me."

"Let's say…I'm tired of making incorrect assumptions. Enlighten me."

"You won't believe me. Or if you do, you won't believe it's a good enough reason."

"Give me a little credit."

"Earn the credit, Wilson, and I'll give it."

They stared at each other, locked in a stalemate. Wilson broke first, letting his eyes drift to the glowing ebony beneath his fingers. The only light in the room was a warm glow from the lamp in the corner, but still the light managed to hit the piano and make it shine. He saw the faint damp outlines of his fingers and lifted them, rubbing the cuff of his shirt against the spots absently until they vanished.

"You're allowed to be wrong, you know."

Wilson's voice was so soft that House could have pretended not to hear him. He chose not to pretend.

"That's a matter of opinion."

Wilson lifted his eyes, and they were dark, intense. House swallowed and hoped it went unnoticed.

"You're very, very good at what you do," Wilson murmured, stepping slowly around the piano. He hesitated beside House, forcing the seated man to crane to meet his eyes. House decided instead to stare at the keys beneath his fingers, and Wilson spoke to the soft curls of his hair. "You're brilliant, and no one would dispute it. But these past few days…you were also kind. You were human. You weren't just a brilliant man; you were a good doctor." He drew in a breath. "You have a team to help you, support you. Four extra sets of eyes—twice that, if you include Cuddy and myself, and Chase and Cameron. You're not alone. You don't need—" His voice broke off, trembling, and House risked a glance. Wilson's eyes were glistening with emotion. "You don't need to suffer…if you have the option, the choice. And clearly, now you do."

"No, I don't," House enunciated clearly, watching Wilson's face fall. "Support isn't enough. None of you—none of you—can be counted on to see what I see. Arrogant? Maybe. But true."

"And you're sure that the pain makes you better? More brilliant?"

House ducked his head again, as if to hide from his own words. "No. The pain makes me—it makes me cruel. It makes me thoughtless. It makes me ignore the human equation, and avoid emotions that might make me compromise." He met Wilson's gaze again, allowing the other man to see just a hint of regret behind the steely blue of his eyes. "And that is what no fellow or friend I've ever worked with has: the ability to diagnose and treat disease without treating people." He released a painful, acknowledging breath. "If I'm not in pain, I'm too human to do what I need to do. So I've made my choice. And, well, let's not forget the almost-dying. Even you can't wish that on me just to make me a nicer guy."

"House." Wilson breathed out his name as if someone had punched him in the stomach, and House dropped his eyes.

"Feel free to disagree. You usually do. But I'm not changing my mind." He played a few sweet, trilling notes. "You know where the door is, if you need to use it."

"How long before the pain comes back?" Wilson asked quietly. House glanced up in surprise.

"It's—back. A little. I skipped my last dose today, when Cuddy brought it in. By tomorrow morning…probably back to normal, more or less."

"So you have tonight." Something strange and foreign was twining itself around Wilson's words, some note in his voice that made House wary. He stopped touching the keys and got to his feet, bracing himself slightly on the edge of the piano.

"Yeah. I've got tonight."

"Good." Wilson's voice was firm, decisive, and House shied away from it. He did not understand what was whirling through his friend's brain, inspiring that tone, and he was not sure he wanted to find out. He nodded brusquely, at what he was not sure, and started for the couch.

"TV and pizza, or old movie and Thai?" he asked casually. If Wilson was not going to argue or leave, they might as well keep up the façade they had been working so hard on since Wilson's return: that Everything Was Okay. He hated knowing that the comfort had not quite returned, that forgiveness was still only partial, but he settled for Wilson's almost because, well, it was better than nothing. Better than being alone.

"You want to waste tonight on food and mindless entertainment?" Wilson inquired, following him to the couch, sitting down a little too close. House drew in a deep breath as inconspicuously as he could manage.

"Sounds about right."

"Nope," Wilson replied shortly, and shifted his body so he was half-facing House. His fingers made an aborted movement toward House's face, hesitating in mid-air as a mosaic of emotions colored Wilson's expression, and then gently brushed against an almost-smooth cheek. House bit down on the inside of the other cheek, wondering if there was enough methadone left in his system for him to be polite with Wilson, or if the ghost pain creeping back into his body and head would force out a general what the fuck?

"Um…what?" he asked finally, as the back of Wilson's knuckles grazed his collarbone, feeling that it was a nice balance between the two. Wilson smiled a dark, strange smile that had House's insides aching and curling in on themselves in terror and anticipation.

"It's been years since you shaved. I never expected you to take my obviously sarcastic compliment literally."

House rolled his eyes as Wilson continued to stroke his cheek and jaw. "It had nothing to do with you or your opinions. It's too much trouble to shave twice a day, like you."

"But just enough trouble to use a trimmer twice a week," Wilson mused, and House nearly growled. He pulled back from Wilson's caressing fingers.

"By tomorrow, I'll be able to sandpaper the skin right off those fingers again, so quit while you're ahead."

"A lot of things will change tomorrow," Wilson observed, his eyes a little distant, as his fingers followed House's withdrawing face, sliding around to cup the back of his neck. "Or rather, go back to being as they always are. Tonight, however—"

House met his gaze directly, hiding nothing in the clear blue of his eyes or the set of his mouth. "Don't do something you'll regret."

"I eat neediness, remember?" Wilson muttered, pulling House just a little closer. "But tonight may be the last night you're not entirely needy, maybe forever. Minimal chance of you nearly dying again; less pain, less bitterness at the world…This might be the only chance I have to do this." He leaned in, his eyes starting to flutter closed.

House stopped him with a shaking hand pressed to the center of his chest. "This is not healthy," he insisted. "You barely even like me anymore."

Wilson hesitated, his mouth inches from House's, his face taut with conflicted desire. "Liking you, wanting you, loving you—they are all very separate things, House, none of them particularly controllable." He watched as House's eyes widened at the words want and love, continuing on without acknowledging the confusion or fear on the other man's face. "You're wasting time. And I—" Wilson moved close enough so that his words brushed House's lips—"am tired of all the wasted time."

House tried to pull back, but Wilson advanced slowly, easily, as if pursuing a frightened animal. Their lips met, still and warm, and House let his eyes fall closed, let himself stop moving away. Wilson's mouth took his gently, inexorably, coaxing out a response until House could not help but kiss him in return, hesitantly, his lips hardly parting. The kiss was slow and chaste enough that neither needed to part for air, but Wilson drew back anyway, his pupils dilated and his expression just a little haunted.

"I thought of this, while I was gone," he admitted, and House exhaled sharply. "I couldn't think of Amber—it made me want to kill myself. I couldn't—be with anyone. I could barely respond to my own touch. But when I did, you kept…coming up, coming back. No matter how much distance I tried to get, I could never get away. You're in here," he touched his temple, "and in here." He pressed his hand to his chest. House watched him, slightly stunned, and Wilson took advantage of the moment to caress House's cheek again, to shift a little closer. "You have no idea how hard it is to hate you when I'm moaning your name."

House grabbed his shoulders abruptly and dragged him closer, initiating the kiss this time. Wilson responded almost gratefully, parting his lips when House's tongue urged him, trembling under the restless clenching of House's hands on his shoulders, his arms, the back of his neck. They broke in desperate need for breath, and House spoke in a low growl.

"This is tonight. This is not—you're not making me into the fourth Mrs. Wilson. I'm not doing this again."

Wilson nodded shortly, unwilling to analyze whether House's dictation lined up with his desires, and leaned closer again. House pulled back.

"Tell me you've done this before."

"Does it matter?" Wilson asked a little carelessly. House arched an eyebrow.


"Then…yes. But it's been a long time. Since…since before Sarah."

"I suppose I'd better let you fuck me, then." The statement was so blunt, so matter-of-fact, that Wilson was torn between the urge to silently gape, or moaning at the surge of arousal that left him a little lightheaded. He opted for an offhanded reaction instead.

"We have all night. Why limit ourselves?"

House's eyes darkened slightly. "Why, indeed?" he mused, and Wilson pulled him into another kiss, biting his lower lip until House groaned and parted his lips. The kiss grew hotter, more desperate, and Wilson tried to remember the last time he had wanted something, someone, so badly. Amber danced through his mind, all cornsilk and periwinkle and ivory, and he pushed the memory and the ache back as far as they would go. It simply was not the same; comparison would be fruitless.

"I'm not doing this on the couch," House growled breathlessly the next time they surfaced for air. Wilson sucked in a breath and studied him. Not I'm not doing this; just I'm not doing this…on the couch.

"Still not boring," he muttered, and House shot him a look.

"Never was," he retorted, getting carefully to his feet, and Wilson followed him down the hall to his bedroom, feeling vaguely like a loyal puppy following its master, trying to fight off the awkwardness and a general oh, god feeling lurking somewhere below his sternum.

They faced off across the bed, as if from opposite sides of a strange sort of boxing ring. House's hands curling into loose, nervous fists only perpetuated the surreal perception. Wilson decided to make the first move, loosening his tie and unbuttoning the first few buttons on his shirt.

"Leave the tie on," House said abruptly, and Wilson arched an eyebrow.


"Because," House responded, and Wilson could find no argument. He obeyed, leaving the tie loose but still knotted around his neck and continuing to unbutton his shirt. He left it hanging open over his white tee while he fumbled with the cuffs, and glanced up awkwardly a few times to see House watching him intently.

"What are you looking at?" Wilson demanded finally, as he shrugged off his dress shirt. House smirked.

"Possibly the least sexy striptease I've ever witnessed," he replied. Wilson scowled.

"I suppose you can show me how it's done."

"Nope," House said cheerfully, arranging himself into an artful sprawl on the comforter and tucking his hands behind his head. "I'll just take notes for later. Constructive criticism can be so helpful."

Wilson glared, grabbed the hem of his tee shirt and tugged it up slowly, revealing inch after inch of soft, creamy skin. When it finally cleared his face, it left his hair slightly ruffled, and he noticed—finally—a look of appreciation cross House's face briefly. Trying to remember what Bonnie had once said regarding his undressing techniques, he then undid his belt buckle as slowly as he could manage, allowing each clink of metal to echo in the still room. The faint whoosh of leather sliding against cotton as he drew the belt out of its loops made House wet his lips.

"Better," House muttered grudgingly, and Wilson allowed himself a small smile. Fingers on the button of his khakis, he hesitated, glancing up at House through long dark lashes.

"Your turn," he said suddenly, dropping his hands and taking a few steps back to lean lazily against House's dresser. The other man gave him a look, half shock and half disbelief.

"I'm not putting on a show. One of us is definitely gayer than the other…and that's the one who should be into the performing arts."

"Gayer?" Wilson cocked his head, dredging up House's former comment. "Please tell me you've done this before."

House narrowed his eyes. "It's been awhile. But…yeah."

"Then, I'm really not sure where the 'gayer' comes in."

House began ticking things off on his fingers. "Hairdryer. Hair products. Lotion for non-masturbatory purposes. A thousand ties. Cooking. Cooking well. Cooking well for other people…"

"Stop it," Wilson snapped. "You…have two ties."

House leered. "The better to tie you up with, my dear."

Wilson rolled his eyes and strode to the edge of the bed, unbuttoning and unzipping his pants as he moved. He shoved down khakis and boxer briefs in one swift motion, letting them gather around his ankles while exposing his cock to the slightly cool air of the bedroom. House let out a sharp breath, and Wilson wrapped his fingers snugly around his half-erect cock and began to stroke.

"Hmm," he murmured, as the ministrations of his own hand gently urged his erection to life. "Just think," he added pointedly in House's direction, "this could be your hand. If you wanted."

House looked torn between a sarcastic comment and the desire to replace Wilson's hand with his own. Finally he shifted and reached forward silently, his body moving closer to Wilson's. Wilson slapped his hand away.

"Undress," he said, and House glanced at him sharply.


"Seriously," Wilson retorted, and House shied back. Wilson ignored him, continuing to glide his hand along his cock in a slow, tantalizing fashion.

"If all we have is tonight," House said suddenly, and Wilson's eyes darted to meet his, "then I'm not interested in watching you jerk off." He rose, undoing his tie and unbuttoning his shirt, and Wilson stepped back to watch, biting his lip. It was the closest to an admission of desire that he imagined he would get from House tonight.

It was close enough.

House let his dress shirt drop to the floor and crossed to Wilson's side, his limp still slight enough to forgo a cane, but more noticeable than it had been the night before. Wilson winced, feeling as though he could visibly see House's pain returning. House touched his shoulder lightly.

"Don't think about it," he said, as though he had been reading Wilson's mind.

Wilson nodded slowly, then gasped when House shifted behind him and threaded his fingers between Wilson's, encircling his cock from the opposite direction as each man used his dominant hand. Wilson felt the heat of House's skin against his back, and tried to keep his head from falling back to House's shoulder. He was unsuccessful.

"Why now?" House whispered roughly into his ear. Wilson shivered at the warmth of his breath. "Why start this now, after all these years? After—"

"Don't say it," Wilson said harshly, stilling his own hand and, thus, House's. "Don't say her name."

"I wasn't going to."

"Besides, I told you why."

"Because you think it's best to fuck me when I'm slightly less screwed up?" House's tone was faintly incredulous.

Wilson pulled House's hand from his erection and dropped his own, turning to face the other man with a determined expression. "Yes, actually. Because this is the only time, maybe for the rest of our lives, that I can do this and have a hope of proving to either one of us that it's not just another in a series of really shitty choices."

House threw his head back and emitted a sharp laugh. "You can't honestly believe that. Tomorrow, I go back to being in pain. You know that. Nothing has changed. This is not a good choice."

"Maybe not good," Wilson confessed. "But absolutely necessary."

House stared at him. "You really…want this. Want me." His voice was colored with wonder and a touch of dismay.

"Yes," Wilson said firmly, reaching out and curling his fingers into the top of House's pants. "I really do." He swiftly undid the button and zipper and slid the fabric down until gravity took over. He sucked in a breath at the sight of an erection pressed against the dark green silk of House's boxers. "Apparently, so do you."

"Too much talking," House growled, bracing himself on Wilson's shoulders to step out of the puddle of his clothes, dragging their hips together so that Wilson's cock rubbed against his through the silk. Wilson moaned, his eyes fluttering closed. House's fingers closed around the length of tie still loosely knotted around Wilson's neck and tugged him closer.

"Knew you…secretly loved the ties," Wilson panted, shoving House's boxers down so that his arousal could touch House's skin. He arched into House's body, eliciting groans from both men, and House used the tie to pull Wilson's mouth to his.

"They're fucking ugly, but useful," he muttered against Wilson's lips, and Wilson proceeded to kiss him while pushing him back onto the bed. House grunted when Wilson's thigh applied pressure to his own damaged one, and Wilson drew back with a grimace.

"God, sorry."

"Forget it," House snapped. "I have better things to do than listen to your self-flagellation. Come here."

Wilson lost himself in the heat of House's kisses, as arousing as they were unexpected. When he had approached the other man, unable to resist the shaven jaw, the almost-even gait, the pressed clothes, the absence of pain, he had expected House to rebuff him thoroughly and mockingly. The momentary hesitation replaced by obvious desire was honestly the last thing for which he had been prepared. He had avoided House in the wake of the ketamine treatment, feverishly jerking off to thoughts of House fucking him at least once a day, because he believed approaching his friend once he was potentially 'better' would only reaffirm to House that no one could want him in his damaged state. This experience might wind up telling him the same thing, but Wilson's desperate desire prevented him from caring enough to give up the chance, again.

"Please," he groaned against House's mouth, feeling House's left thigh working its way between his and pressing himself against it shamelessly. "House…"

House's hand was on his own erection, stroking it slowly as he ground his thigh into Wilson's cock. "Lube's in the nightstand with the condoms. Make yourself useful."

Wilson whimpered but drew away from the delicious torture of House's body urging arousal from his own and found lubricant and condoms amid the mess of House's nightstand drawer. He clutched them tightly, staring down at House who was sprawled somewhat erotically across the mattress, his skin faintly tanned over nicely curved biceps, paler at the softness of inner thighs, sprinkled with dark hair trailing down his abdomen. He swallowed, and knew that experience be damned; he wanted House to fuck him. He wanted all those pain-free masturbatory fantasies to manifest, and he was willing to ignore all of his hesitations to have that happen.

He handed the preparatory items to House and lay down beside him on his stomach, feeling the softness of the comforter rubbing against his cock, resting his face on his clasped hands. House gazed at him with an indecipherable expression, his fingers curled around the condom and lube.

"Really?" House said slowly. "You're sure."

"Hmm," Wilson murmured.

House set down the lubricant and condom and turned onto his side, facing Wilson. Wilson closed his eyes and shuddered at the trail of skilled, callused fingers bumping their way over the vertebrae in his spine, the faintest scratch of nails occasionally connecting with his skin. "You want me to fuck you." Again, the wonder tinged with dismay.

"Yes," Wilson breathed.

"All of this is crazy. You know that."

"Yes," he agreed. "I know that."

House let the palm of his hand rest, large and warm, over Wilson's right buttock. "How many times have you thought about this?" There was none of the expected mocking, just genuine curiosity dusted with a hint of shock.

"More than I could possibly count," Wilson answered honestly.

"Three years ago?" House asked, and they both knew what he meant.

"A lot, then," Wilson admitted. "But before. And after."

House simply nodded, trailing his finger down between his friend's buttocks. "And since it's just tonight…" He applied a little pressure in just the right spot, and Wilson made a soft sound halfway between a groan and a whimper. "You're thinking this will probably never happen again."

Wilson sucked in a breath, feeling his heart thud against his chest several times before whispering, "Maybe. Yeah."

House drew his hand away and only returned it when it was cool and slick, pressing again against the small opening. "You're right." He leaned over and bit down on Wilson's shoulder blade, sliding his finger slowly inside.

Wilson hissed, wiggling his hips slightly against the intrusion, and House smoothed his other palm awkwardly down Wilson's side. "Are you sure?" he asked House, cursing his voice for trembling. All their talk of tonight, because tonight would be the last night of bearable pain, of House with ties and smooth skin, of Wilson's lectures falling silent in the face of change and the absence thereof, and yet he wanted to know if there could be more, other, someday. House drew his finger out slowly and then pressed it back in, and Wilson moaned.

"I'm sure," House said quietly, and Wilson let out his breath. All right, then. He closed his eyes and gave in to the burning sensation of House slowly fucking him with one finger and then two, shifting up so he was no longer lying beside Wilson but kneeling over him, his thigh nudging between Wilson's own, his erection heavy against Wilson's ass. House twisted his fingers slightly and then nudged them higher, brushing against Wilson's prostate, and suddenly Wilson was ready, so ready, and he bucked back against House's hand.

"Now," he whispered, feeling a hot flush creep up his face at his needy-sounding plea, but unable to hold back the request. "Now, please, House."

"Please what?" House asked, and his voice should have been teasing or mocking or purposefully obtuse, but instead it was dark and lustful and trembling, and Wilson groaned and pushed back against House's fingers once more.

"Please fuck me," he breathed, and House's breath caught, and he practically yanked his fingers out of Wilson's body in his haste to position his cock in their place. Wilson yelped at the swift withdrawal, and then sucked in a hard breath at the blunt pressure of House's cock pressing against him. He pushed back, just a little, and House's left hand curled around his hip.

"Wilson," he breathed, and Wilson slammed his eyes shut at the wanton sound of House's voice, the roughness and the desire and the slightest hint of affection coloring the syllables of his name. House pressed forward, slowly, inexorably, until his hips were pressed tightly against Wilson's ass and they were both panting.

Wilson wanted to say a thousand things in that moment, as he gave up his body and a tiny piece of his soul to a man who had never expressed a desire for either before this night and was apparently not in favor of taking them ever again. He wanted to tell House that he was sorry, that he hated the effects of the methadone but wished House could take it without potential repercussions, that he was in love with the feeling of House taking him, filling him…that he was irrevocably in love with House. But he knew none of these things would change anything, and that House might not even believe them, considering the circumstances. He bit down on his lip, and focused on the delicious sensations flooding his body, and told himself silently, firmly, Just tonight.

He got caught up in the ebb and flow, the rhythm of House's body drawing away from and plunging into his own, until everything surged hot and electric up the length of his spine and threatened to explode behind his eyes. House apparently noticed a change in the timbre of Wilson's groans and pleas, biting out a strangled, "Touch yourself," and Wilson did. The barest wrap of his fingers around his erection, the slightest of tugs, and he was crying out into House's pillow, babbling about God and House as if they were one and the same. He felt House tighten up behind him, heard his breath catch in a ragged gasp, and then House was following him in orgasm, forgoing the blasphemous litany for a repetitive panting of "Oh, fuck."

They collapsed in a sweaty heap of tangled limbs; Wilson still on his stomach with House rolling over to collapse onto his back just barely off to the side. Wilson turned his face away from House and dug his teeth into his own arm to fight off the sudden, ridiculous wave of tears threatening to spill over and become audible sobs. House, eyes closed in endorphin-induced bliss, seemed not to notice.

This was it. He had said tonight, and House had agreed, had even emphasized the point. He did not dare tell House how good it felt, or how much he wanted it again. In the morning, Vicodin would be back on the daily menu, and sex would definitely be shoved off the list along with the meatloaf surprise. They would probably never even discuss it again. Wilson decided, as he swallowed past the lump in his throat, that he could do this House's way. House had given in to his ludicrous suggestion; he could play by House's rules.

"Well," House said quietly, and Wilson started a little before rolling over on his side to face his friend. House's face was mostly lost to shadows, but Wilson caught a flicker of contemplation in familiar blue eyes. "That didn't suck."

"No real time for it," Wilson agreed, sticking to the lighthearted, deadpan tone he used when countering House's blatant sarcasm or inappropriate jests. House flicked a glance at him, then returned to gazing at the ceiling.

"I'm glad—" House hesitated, almost stuttering over the words. "Glad I got a chance to do this before the methadone cleared my system or someone—hopefully more attractive than Foreman—had to choose another vicious method of hitting the restart button. Definitely a worthwhile experience."

Wilson tried to find the compliments hidden thoroughly in House's statement, choosing to focus on what he had received, however briefly, instead of what he was losing. "Glad to hear it."

There was a long silence, and Wilson was almost certain House had fallen asleep. He moved slowly and gently to get up, gather his clothes and slip out, when he heard the faint sound of House's voice. "Glad it was you."

Wilson dressed in the dark and let himself out, ignoring the tears slipping down his cheeks.