Wilson gets up at six-fifteen every morning. The light gets in your eyes and the kitchen noise rattles in your head and the blow dryer, well, you solved that problem -- and they'll never find the body -- but still.

The smell of coffee is the one thing you don't mind. The point is, though: you don't want to get up when he gets up.

It's such a simple thing to pretend to get ... up instead. To get accidentally caught. On his sofa, that's really her sofa. Scratching your stomach, that's all. But Wilson doesn't need to know that.

You let him assume; you tell a lie and then tell the truth (you weren't picking belly-button lint) and let him think the worst of you, the way he so often does. Your carefully cultivated reputation has its uses.

This time, it gets you the room, and the bed, that you want. It's not that the sofa's all that bad, because this one works fine. The thing about sofas isn't that they're necessarily uncomfortable. The thing about sofas is that they're temporary.

Now you're getting a bed, and if you don't break into triumphant song, it's only because you don't want him to realize what you're doing until it's well past done.






Sometimes -- and it always surprises you, although it shouldn't after all these years -- sometimes, your carefully cultivated reputation, the assumptions you've taught him to make, explode in your face.

He blows up in your face, bright and sudden as a firecracker.

All you wanted was a little safe ground, not for yourself but for him, this time. Say you were going nuts, say you were afraid, let Wilson's natural Wilsonness drive him to open up. You wanted him to talk to someone who's still got a pulse.

You'd assumed he didn't notice you standing at his door last night. He hadn't stopped talking to Amber's ghost, hadn't turned over, had given no sign that he knew you were there. And you'd figured he couldn't act well enough to have faked that.

He'd figured you were an asshole, getting your jollies by toying with him.

Now your assumptions and his have collided like matches and gunpowder, and you're not sure you even have a home here anymore.






"I'm not talking to you about it," he says, but he's here, in your domain, holding two coffee cups. You don't want coffee, but you do want coffee-from-Wilson, because it means you're not homeless after all.

Not that you'd be homeless if he threw you out. You'd be fine, except in every way that matters.

"Well, that's a relief." You curse yourself and your big stupid mouth as he stops, pulling his coffee-holding hand backward, away from you. "Wilson. I wasn't trying to screw with you."

"You were trying to manipulate and trick me."

"Into talking to your living best friend. I'm obviously a monster."

"If I still thought you meant to be an asshole, I wouldn't have brought lattes." He steps forward again, puts the coffee in your hand, and walks out. He's not smiling, won't be for a while, but the cup is warming your fingers. You'll be all right.

It's Wilson who's homeless.






"I really did think I was still nuts," you say. Two days have passed; that's the standard turnaround time for rational discussions after you've jabbed Wilson in one of his few truly sore spots. Just to be safe, you've chosen to start this conversation over a saucepan full of penne alfredo with pancetta and olives. "I should've told you."

"Yeah," he agrees. He's just come in, it's way past dark, and he's covered in raindrops; he brushes a wet yellow leaf off his jacket. "You should have. That smells good."

"It smells fantastic." You scoop up a little and hand him the spoon, watching his blinking appreciation. Bait, then switch: "You ever tried sleeping in the Shrine?" you ask. "With her staring at you from all sides? Hearing whispering in the night and --"

"And if you'd told me before you eavesdropped --"

"It wasn't eavesdropping. I needed to know I wasn't crazy. Yeah, I could have told you. It was too ... I wanted to know first." Wilson needs something to do other than get mad at you again, so you nod at the oven. "Garlic bread's about to burn."

Instantly he's grabbing potholders and taking care of it. You can hear him breathing in the warm, buttery scent. "You haven't cooked in two weeks," he says. "What do you want?"

"I want you to drop your suspicions for five minutes."

He drops the hot tray of toast instead -- gently -- on the stove top. "You mean the suspicions which, whenever I do drop them, you pick them up and bludgeon me over the head with them?"

"Yep. Those." No, it isn't fair to him. It never is. He's right, so you smile rather than argue. "C'mon, load your own plate. I cooked for your paranoid ass; I'm not waitressing too."






"Okay, yeah," you concede, because after umpteen years of pounding it into his head that you're a selfish bastard, you can't deny it now. "Yeah, I want more space. I want out of the Sacred Shrine, and I'm not saying you shouldn't have one if that's what you need. I'm saying it's not good for my mental health to live there. It just so happens that it's not good for yours, either."

"You ... want to trade bedrooms?"

"What did I just say? This whole place, for you, is the Shrine."

"It's my home."

"It's a home. What's yours here? What's yours?"

He doesn't answer, and you know he's thinking because his fork has halted in midair, hovering between acceptance (another bite) and denial (going back down to the plate and staying there). Wilson Sign Language. You feel like you were born knowing it, except for the times you misread it completely.

He's pretending to watch the news -- something about idiots who think they'll catch swine flu from a bacon cheeseburger -- so you push forward.

"You like green better than yellow, but you won't repaint the walls. You hate that chair of hers, but you haven't bought your own. Your collection of photography is ... where?"

"In storage." He shifts and squirms in place on the couch. "I don't need --"

"Yes, you do."

"This is just because you heard me."

"This is because you've never had a place that was yours, and you still don't, and you need one. Talk to her all you want once you get there; I don't care, but get there."

He looks at you, and you know you've got him. It won't be instant. He wriggles into difficult truths like a kid gets into a chilly ocean, an inch at a time, running out, tiptoeing back in. Maddening.

"I can't start looking right now," he says. "But ... I'll think about it. There'll be more time after the conference."

"Cool," you say, and really what you want is to shout your victory and dance around the living room until your damn leg makes you fall over. "Want seconds?"

He smiles just a little, and hands you his plate.