Brief one shot, postep for Brave Heart. I'll return to Desperado imminently (big chapter coming up there, rolling on to the climax). Sorry, I just couldn't leave that very unsatisfactory exchange on Wilson's part alone.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Wish they were, though. All except 13. David Shore can keep her. I'll substitute Kutner to complete my set.

Rating: T.

***

Damn! He had forgotten his briefcase. House jerking him around this morning and pretending he hadn't eavesdropped on that very private conversation last night had knocked him off routine, not to mention irritated him. Wilson opened the door to his apartment not 5 minutes after he had left it, then froze for a minute. Was he hearing things himself? No, it was House in the kitchen, on the phone. Wilson could see his back just through the doorway. House didn't turn around.

"I need another option . . . I know you don't think I need to live alone, but he resents having me here. . . it's like I'm violating his church or something. He finally offered me something besides the couch, but that whole room is a shrine. Pictures of her all over. . . well, of COURSE it bothered me. What do you think? I was hallucinating her, remember? . . . I thought I was hearing things after moving in there, too. Really thought I was losing it again. . . no, I'm fine. False alarm. It was Wilson talking to her every night. . . I finally heard him last night and left him alone to finish, but this morning, I mentioned hearing whispering, and he didn't even say it was him. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING CRAZY, damn it. All I wanted to do was talk this morning, but he just said fine, he'd drive me back to Mayfield, and then when I realized he'd heard me open his bedroom door last night, he said I was just an ass and only wanted to jerk him around. . . he said talking to me doesn't do anything . . . it isn't as helpful to him as talking to his dead girlfriend. If he wants to talk to her so much, why couldn't HE be the one who couldn't get her to shut up three months ago? . . . No, I can't stay here. I'm not wanted here, just annoying him. I've overstayed my welcome. . . no, I have no idea where else I'd go. . . it's NOT that I always want to be alone, damn it. It's that he wants me gone. He even said outright he didn't think I'd be here this long . . . he's the only real friend I've got. I don't want to push him past tolerance . . . maybe if I leave now, he could still put up with me at lunch now and then . . . yes, I probably could come in this afternoon for a session, but I need to go to work and un-quit first. . . yes, I quit. I told you, I've thought I was losing it again. Got my hearing checked, tried ruling out all rational ideas, and then decided I was crazy, version 2.0. At least I didn't try to continue practicing this time. If I hadn't found the real answer last night, I really would have gone back to Mayfield today. When I quit yesterday, I was planning on asking him to take me today. I'm sure he would have been glad to drive me, just to see me gone. . . At least I'm showing a little more common sense on when to seek professional help now, even if I'm still a worse friend than somebody who's dead. Only so much you all can fix, I guess . . . OF COURSE I realize that. . . okay, I'll come in later."

Wilson smiled slightly to himself. House wasn't going to fool him this time. Nope, he was done enabling his friend's manipulative behavior. He grabbed his briefcase and closed the door, hearing the very quiet click that obviously had alerted House to his re-entry and made him pick up the phone quickly to feign a call to Nolan.

Yep, House was only jerking him around as usual.

***

Wilson was deep into analyzing a chart, considering alternative chemotherapy options, when his phone rang. He picked it up. "James Wilson."

"Dr. Wilson, this is Dr. Nolan."

"Hello, Dr. Nolan."

"Dr. House called me earlier this morning. I cannot tell you exactly what he told me, of course, but I'd like to talk to you yourself in the office about the current living arrangements. Could you come in some time today or tomorrow?"

Wilson was still staring at the phone. He finally retrieved his voice. "He actually did call you?"

Nolan hesitated. "You overheard that conversation?"

"Only his end. I forgot my briefcase this morning and came back in. I figured he had heard the door reopen and just decided to try to make me feel guilty for earlier, jerking me around some more."

"Yes, Dr. Wilson, what you heard was an actual phone call."

Wilson shook his head. "You mean he wasn't just manipulating me?"

"No, he wasn't. Nor was he earlier. Dr. Wilson, I think that perhaps you are trying too hard in your assignment to not be enabling to your friend. Perhaps you need to make your definition less strict. He still needs a friend, just not an enabling one."

"He really did think he was losing it again?"

"Yes. Do you mind having him staying there with you?"

Wilson hesitated, considering it. "No. Not really. It's kind of nice, actually, not being alone. The apartment is too quiet . . . since Amber."

"Have you ever actually discussed Amber with Dr. House?"

"No. He wouldn't want to."

"Has he ever tried?"

Wilson sighed. "Yes. He said some really jerky things, like replacing her with a plant, typical House comments, but yes, he's also apologized and seriously mentioned her a few times. He apologized first thing as soon as he remembered everything, actually. Right before he went into a seizure."

"Perhaps he isn't the one reluctant to discuss her. Tell me something, Dr. Wilson, your conversations with your girlfriend, have they become more frequent since Dr. House moved in with you?"

Wilson reached out to rake the sand in one of his patient gifts/executive toys. Scarred tracks and then recreating the smooth surface. "Yes," he said finally.

"I thought they might have. You mentioned earlier that you thought Dr. House was trying to make you feel guilty. Do you feel guilty?" Wilson was silent. "It's all right to start moving on, Dr. Wilson. That, too, is a part of grief." Wilson thought about it. Yes, damn it, he felt guilty. It almost felt like a betrayal of what he and Amber had had to enjoy House's company in the apartment, to feel a bit less lonely. "Is it too hard to have Dr. House staying with you?"

"Noooo." Wilson drew out the word into about four syllables. "It's different. House changes things, influences whatever he touches."

"Different is not necessarily a bad thing. Dr. Wilson, I'd advise you to talk to your friend. Reassure him you don't mind him being there, and realize that he is still learning how to open up to people himself. When he genuinely wants to talk to you, he might be somewhat awkward or creative in leading to that, but that doesn't make him insincere. My advice to you not to enable him doesn't mean to stop treating him as a friend."

"Thanks. About coming in, um, I'd like that, I think. But not about House. Not just about House."

"I think that would be a good idea," Nolan replied. They made the appointment for the next day, and Wilson hung up.

***

House was in his office, reading glasses perched on his nose, deep in some journal. Wilson tapped on the glass door and entered, looking around carefully to make sure the team was elsewhere at the moment. "Hey. Want to do lunch?"

House looked up at him, and there it was, the unmistakable flicker of hurt in the blue eyes before shields quickly clamped down. "If you want to," he said, sounding completely disinterested. Only the eyes gave him away.

"Wouldn't have asked otherwise. Listen, I'm sorry for this morning. I know something has been really bothering you. I shouldn't have taken your eavesdropping last night in isolation from the past few days and assumed you were only jerking me around."

"I wasn't eavesdropping," House insisted.

"I know. You were investigating."

House removed his glasses. "Do you have any idea what it's like to lose your mind? To not know what reality is and isn't anymore? To wonder if people you see are real, if you're really having the conversation you think you are? To not be able to believe anything your senses tell you? And then after three months spent locked up in an asylum trying to fix things, to think it's happening all over again even though you've been trying to do everything right?" His voice was rising throughout, and when he stopped, he quickly looked away, embarrassed at the outburst.

"No," Wilson said. "I don't. If you'd mentioned hearing whispering a few days ago, I would have put it together and told you without the assumptions involved. About your comment this morning that you were available, though, I think I would like to talk to you sometime. Not now," he said quickly, looking around the hospital. "Maybe when we get home tonight?"

House tilted his head, looking back at Wilson, replaying the words. "When we get home tonight?"

"Yes. Actually, it's nice having somebody around. Things were . . . too quiet."

House was still studying his expression, running a silent differential. "I've got . . . an appointment later this afternoon, but I'll be home after that. Let's get lunch before the Three Stooges return for their next act." He stood up.

"But you're paying for yours," Wilson insisted.

A flicker of humor lit the blue eyes. "Maybe I could just pay for my own dessert? Don't want to change things too quickly. We might upset the balance of the universe."

Wilson laughed and followed him out of the office, thinking that maybe the balance of the universe could use a good spin now and then and glad that House was back from Mayfield and around to provide the needed push.