A/N: at the end of the fic, so as not to ruin the story.

Human after All

Wilson catches him in the elevator. Despite the whir as the car moves, he hears House curse under his breath. Wilson doesn't say anything, hasn't said anything since he saw his friend duck into the hospital, sporting a large pair of shades.

If House's reaction to seeing him is anything to go by, he was trying to go unnoticed – failing, of course. Shades always make everyone look more conspicuous. The idea of celebrities wearing shades to disguise themselves is either a sneaky way to get more attention or they're incredibly deluded, but since neither of those sound like House, Wilson's sure there's something going on.

For now, House is vaguely safe – he's still wearing the glasses and the only person with the power to make him remove them is Cuddy, and he hasn't seen or heard her click-clacking across the tiled floor at all this morning.

The cogs are turning in Wilson's head as he thinks of something to say, but House isn't stupid; he can read Wilson like a book. As Wilson subconsciously chews on his bottom lip, staring at nothing in particular in front of him, House spots the slight squint in his eyes and can imagine Wilson's head sorting through what is and isn't appropriate – House knows he does it, even with him Wilson still feels the need to lightly censor what he says.

Wilson stays looking forward, all nonchalant with his hands in his pockets.

"Good morning Agent Johnson. I trust you have the documents?" There's a hint of a smile on his face – one he's so desperately trying to hold back – but when House doesn't react, Wilson realises he doesn't want to play and drops the game, turning in House's direction. "And by documents I mean an explanation as to why you suddenly think you're the Terminator."

"I'm a doctor. If anything, I'm the Un-terminator," House retorts and steps out into the corridor as the doors open. Wilson follows on, eyebrows raised, eyes wide and lips pursed together in a peculiar smile that screams, okay...go on...stop deflecting...

When they reach House's office, the ducklings are busy chatting next door, drinking coffee and flicking through magazines. House sinks into his recliner, glaring at Wilson, willing him to leave if only for the morning.

It'll be better soon. Give it an hour, it'll be fine, House says to himself.

Wilson stays put with his arms knotted together - he sees nothing of House's death-glare through the dark tinted lenses.

"So...what is it? Hang over? Fashion statement? What?"

"D'aw Jimmy, is that your way of telling me I look good today?" he says, a hint of frustration tainting his voice.

"House..."

"Is there a law against looking cool now?" He narrows his eyes, taking in the pale flecked-yellow colour of Wilson's tie. "That'd make a lot of sense actually."

"Yeah, I get it, my ties are ugly." Wilson rolls up his shirt sleeves and looms over the recliner.

House shifts his body in the chair, craning his neck away from Wilson's prying eyes.

"Don't you have your own office to hover in?" House grunts.

"So you're not going to tell me?"

"There's nothing to tell."

"So there's nothing to it? You just...woke up this morning and thought, I know, it's raining outside, it's time to bring out the sunglasses?"

"Yes. I don't see you lecturing Angelina Jolie...and she wears hers when she's grocery shopping," House says, sounding like a petulant child, before mumbling, "and baby shopping." Wilson shoots him a glare.

"That argument might be valid if you were actually Angelina Jolie. You know, you may be world renowned, but wearing shades around the hospital is taking the fame a bit too far..."

"If the blind can do it –"

Wilson huffs. "House... you're impossible!" Wilson says, laughing to himself and throwing his hands in the air. As the laughter stops, he whips round and points in House's direction. "And you're lying to me. Don't think I don't know that." He lets a smile play on his lips for a moment as he gauges House's reaction.

"Have fun torturing yourself."

Concentrating on House's light-hearted (if not a bit agitated) tone, Wilson realises just how difficult it is to read his friend when his eyes aren't on display. From the moment they met, Wilson was captivated by those swirling baby blues and the way House's eyes seemed to dull and droop when he was sad, and shine brightly when he was wired – like his entire face would light up. It's funny; they've only been hidden for a matter of minutes, but Wilson already misses them.

"Well," he sighs, "fortunately for you, I've got patients and if you're not planning on telling me...then..." He shakes his head. Looking defeated, Wilson slowly turns towards the door, reaching for the handle, but before House can react, Wilson lunges at him, grabbing the glasses by the bridge and almost toppling into House's lap.

Regaining his balance, Wilson takes one look at his friend, at House's angry form sat tensed in the chair, and the smug grin drops from his face. He doesn't even feel the glasses slip through his fingers until they land on the floor with a clunk.

"I-I'm...W-w..." Wilson stammers. House's red-rimmed eyes look glassy. The whites are laden with little branches of blood, forked like lightning from the centre. His lids look sore and puffy, the mottled pinky-red completely outshining his blue irises. And his eyes are drooping. "W-what happened?" He bends down and scoops the glasses from the floor, questioningly holding them up.

"Nothing happened. I wore the shades because I knew you'd act like this," House growls, pushing himself up from the recliner with a groan. He makes a grab for the shades, but Wilson jerks his hand away. House averts his gaze when he notices Wilson staring, unblinking, a sickening look of pitiful confusion on his face, making House feel nauseous.

"I-I don't..."

"My allergies, you idiot." Wilson's eyes instantly narrow. "The rain, it brings the damn pollen down."

"Oh," Wilson says. "It looks bad. What have you taken?"

"Antihistamines and eye drops. They'll kick in soon. Now gimme my shades."

House snatches them out of Wilson's hand and quickly puts them back on. Feeling stupid for making such a big deal out of it, Wilson doesn't know what to do but leave. "See you at lunch," he says and decides to go back to his office. House grunts his goodbye, surreptitiously pulling a tissue from his pocket, stuffing it under his shades and wiping his eyes.

*

By lunchtime, the glasses are off and House is feeling much better. He sits with Wilson in the cafeteria talking about his patient through a mouthful of Wilson's turkey sandwich. Mid conversation, he almost subconsciously feels through his pockets in search of his Vicodin, but instead he openly cringes as his hand manoeuvres through a clump of soggy tissues.

"What's up?" Wilson asks, noting the strange look on House's face. He looks squeamish.

House isn't usually squeamish...

"Nothing. Are you coming over tonight?" he says casually, carefully pulling the familiar orange vial from his jacket pocket, detangling it from the mass of tissue. When he looks up at Wilson, he's surprised to see that he's stopped eating. It almost feels like the whole cafeteria has come to a halt, all waiting to see what's on Wilson's mind. House has been on edge all morning, so naturally his heart starts doing leaps and bounds in his chest. When Wilson speaks, his tone is playful, but his expression is deadly serious.

"Did you actually just invite me to your apartment?"

House puts on his best confused expression and replies, "I think that's what I said."

"No, no. You tell, you don't invite." If it were any other person, Wilson wouldn't have noticed, but it's like he has a sixth sense because mistakes quite simply don't happen with House. Every muddled or incongruous word he says is like a unique Freudian slip, saying more than House consciously wants to give. So when House asks instead of telling, there's a huge amount of subtext behind it...and Wilson sees it as his duty to filter through it.

"I knew you loved my authoritarian streak," he says, pointing at Wilson from across the table. "Well, that explains Amber –"

"House –"

"Fine. You are coming over tonight. That better?" comes House's gruff reply, and he tosses back two Vicodin before leaving the table. "Bring beer!" he shouts from the door, not bothering to look back at Wilson. Wilson's eyes linger on the door as something niggles at his brain – the trouble is, he can't quite place what that something is. Letting out a frustrated sigh, Wilson picks up his sandwich and eats the rest of his lunch alone, allowing his mind to drift through thoughts of his unusual morning.

*

Wilson stops off at the gas station on his way to House's apartment. He finished work earlier than usual, so he takes his time choosing the beer and rummages mindlessly through the basket of old, cheap DVDs – all low budget and released in the ice age. He picks up some tissues along the way, knowing that House is rarely prepared for anything – allergies included – and if Wilson didn't remind him to go to the supermarket; he'd probably starve to death or be found after a long weekend, buried knee deep in thin, soggy, used and re-used hospital tissues.

He has work in the morning, so he's tempted to go for the box of Coors Light. It's only when he gets to the counter and hears House's voice in his head complaining, "Light beer? That's not even beer. You might as well piss in a bottle and make me drink that," that he puts it back and opts for a six pack of Bud instead.

When he lets himself in House's front door, there's no sign of his friend, but the place looks like the aftermath of an airstrike. He hears the soft hiss of the shower and realises that House must have only just got home himself. After wandering around aimlessly, he pops the beers in the fridge and attempts to blitz the place. He breaks down the old Chinese cartons and pizza boxes that House has stored in an empty cupboard, throwing them into the recycling bin. He runs the hot water in the sink to soak the crusty pots and pans – he's done this since the infarction. After his leg, it took much time and effort for Wilson to encourage House, to get him to do things and try things again. This often meant that, without Wilson's help, the cleaning would be left until someone else did it. Now, however, House can do these things himself, but with Wilson around he realises that he just doesn't have to.

It's astounding, the number of tissues strewn all over the floor. Even House's beloved piano was harbouring a sufficient collection of screwed up hankies.

After neatly stacking the piles of old medical journals on the coffee table, Wilson even decides to go and check Steve McQueen's cage, hoping that House has at least had the decency not to make him live in his own filth.

It's the familiar rustle of newspaper that gets him first. It's not there. On first look, he sees and hears nothing, and the room suddenly feels too quiet. Wilson shakes his head when he sees that House has haphazardly thrown one of his suit jackets over the cage – hardly fair on Steve.

Slowly peeling back the jacket, so as not to scare poor Steve, initially Wilson doesn't notice anything wrong. But rats aren't supposed to sleep like that. Bending down, he watches for the tiny rise and fall of its chest, but sees nothing. He opens the little hatch and reaches in, cautiously running a finger down its back, letting out a sigh when it doesn't move. Leaning in a little closer, he feels his heart sink when he notices Steve's wide eyes, staring, vacant.

"Oh," he says in a half whisper and everything seems to make sense. With all that goes on around House, this seems so small, yet House's reaction to it is verging on heartbreaking. House had always said that when he was a kid, he never had any pets. Moved around too much. It didn't seem fair, he'd said. But something about the way he'd said it strongly affected Wilson. He couldn't place the feeling then, but it's the same feeling that's welling up in his gut right now.

Through the quiet of the apartment, he hears the whir of the shower stop and he panics. Closing the cage, he takes one last look at Steve before frantically throwing the jacket back onto the cage and hastily dropping himself onto the couch.

Later, when House emerges from his room, they talk about Wilson's obsession with cleaning, they talk about Cuddy, they talk about beer, they talk about the hot new nurse in paediatrics. They don't talk about Steve.

The next day, Wilson's late for lunch. He says he had a consult. House is just happy that he can steal some food. After wolfing down a cream cheese bagel, he picks up his cane and a handful of Wilson's fries, smirking as he leaves the table.

When he returns to his office, his body stills in the doorway. He can hear his team mumbling away in the room next door, but somebody's pulled the blinds closed. Eyeing the large package in front of him, he steps towards his desk with an unusual amount of trepidation, irrationally thinking how a bomb doesn't sound quite so farfetched when someone has already tried to shoot you. There's a sheet draped the thing, whatever it is. He doesn't hear ticking, that's a good sign, he thinks. Shaking his head, he hesitantly reaches out a hand, catches the sheet on the crook of his cane and gives it a swift tug.

Between the stainless steel bars, a little nose pokes out from under a mass of shredded paper. Emotions push and pull him left, right and centre as the creature fully wakes and begins to gnaw on the bars. A part of him is reluctant to do anything – somewhere in the back of his mind he thinks that people might be watching, that maybe someone's set up cameras – but he can't help stepping closer, relishing the familiar rustle of bedding. Sitting down in his chair, he brushes his fingers up and down the cage, feeling a smile tug at his lips as two beady eyes stare up at him.

"Nothing gets past Wilson, does it?" he says, laughing lightly when the rat goes back to gnawing the cage.

He feels content to sit there, watching its nose wrinkle, listening to it nuzzle through paper – a sound that reminds him of tiny ocean waves lapping against the sand, soothing and gentle. Eventually, he manages to tear himself away from his new friend long enough to gather up the sheet from the floor, realising that Wilson might actually want it back. That's when something pink catches his eye, tangled in amongst the white sheet. A post-it note. No name, just a simple message:

I would have got James Dean,
but you've already got a Jimmy in your life.
So here's Paul Newman.
He needs a home.

House quickly puts the note in his pocket, swallowing down a mixture of embarrassment and gratitude. He laughs, rolling his eyes at Wilson's undying need to romanticise everything. He has to laugh; else he might need the shades again.

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A/N: I'm sure similar things have been done, but I needed a plausible reason for the shades. Originally, he was going to have had the shades on to disguise the fact he'd been crying BECAUSE he woke up and his eyes were jaundiced. But I just couldn't do it. D: On the subject of Angelina Jolie AND the blind, I mean no offence, it's just fiction and I'm trying to get into the mind-set of the characters, not of myself.

I had to refrain from writing, "...wolfing down Wilson's toasted bagel," because it sounded too much like a euphemism to me. And my dirty mind is nothing compared to some other people... XD