Chapter Seventeen

It wasn't déjà vu--it had happened before, just not for real.

Waking to the alarm on my watch and finding myself next to House--that had happened yesterday. This time, however, I'd known I would wake there. He hadn't dragged me there in the middle of the night, but we'd both climbed into his bed and necked and groped lightly and made out until we'd practically passed out, wrapped around each other like absurd, half-clothed pretzels. We'd laughed at each other; him at my eagerness, and me at his awkward comments thrown out in the middle of nowhere; as if I really cared to know that my ears weren't perfectly symmetrical with each other, or that the skin on my left collarbone tasted slightly different than the skin covering my right. He joked about the weird choking, pitiful moan I'd made when he'd scraped his teeth across the side of my throat, and I pretended like I didn't notice he giggled quietly whenever my fingers ghosted over his sides, right above his hipbones. I couldn't have been awake with him in his bed longer than a half-hour, but to me, it had seemed like an eternity.

I turned off the alarm on my watch and pulled my arm free carefully. Something I'd learned somewhere in one of my marriages was how to pull my arm free without making too much noise, and also how to curl up and tangle my limbs with someone without have my limbs fall asleep and threaten to explode into pins and needles and awkward not-pain.

I got out of bed as quietly as possible, listening to the rhythm of House's breath, and gently covered him again with the blankets that I'd knocked loose when getting out. I barely touched his face and almost kissed his forehead, then my Inner House waved his cane at me and mocked me for that, so I pulled away and left the room, standing in the doorframe for a second that could've been ages to look at him sleeping.

When I took my shower, I used the shampoo that only existed in this reality--shampoo that I was partial to, and only I used. Shampoo and conditioner I knew he bought specifically for me for the nights I stayed over and needed to shower in the morning. One of the many ways he showed he cared about me without ever actually having to say it.

While I soaped myself down, I checked my inner thighs for cutting scars and ran my fingers along my chest for the same reason. I was free of any self-injurious scars and felt familiar skin underneath my prune-y fingertips. As I dried myself off I looked in the mirror, checking my gums and lips for the slight cracks and redness that had existed in the other reality. My face was fuller, and yes, I did have some extra weight here that I could've done without, but I didn't have as many wrinkles around my mouth and eyes.

My pyjamas had disappeared from the bathroom floor, and my work clothes were folded carefully on the back of the toilet, and I smiled to myself. I towel-dried my hair, and wondered if House was eating a bowl of cereal, or if he was waiting for me to go cook something, or if he had gone right back to bed. Normally I would've cooked something for on the road, but eating at two in the morning had ruined my appetite for breakfast, since I was on a full stomach and I was getting to the age where I couldn't eat idly--not unless I wanted heartburn, indigestion, or even more unsightly love handles.

I dressed quietly and brushed my teeth, washing my mouth free of late-night (or early-morning) dinners and a taste that was just purely Greg House. Well, that, and early-morning breath that was never pleasant.

I could've gone out to my car and grabbed my hair-dryer, but decided against it in favour of not bothering House with the noise. I was tired, anyway, due to me staying up later than normal, and I was basically too lazy to go out, get it, plug it in, and then use it. I was probably going to be sucking down coffee like no other all day just to stay awake.

I stepped out of the bathroom to see House sitting on the couch, still in his pyjamas, still ruffled, and still staring at a muted television tiredly, his spoon scraping against a bowl while he stuffed his mouth with cereal. I leaned against the doorframe and watched him eat. He looked so . . . childlike; peaceful and content. As if nothing in the world could harm him, and although the very thought of that was stupid, I could feel it, too.

He looked at me and his eyes roved over my body casually. "Ugh, your tie sucks."

"You're the one who picked it out."

"I know how your taste is, so I picked the ugliest one I could find."

"How very thoughtful of you."

Some milk dripped down his chin and he wiped it away with the back of his hand, then stuffed another spoonful into his mouth, chewing obnoxiously. "Wanthoom ugly gars?" he garbled unintelligibly, eyes wide like a child's.

"I'm not fluent in whatever language you're speaking."

He rolled his eyes and swallowed. "God, didn't you ever talk with your mouth full?"

"Well, my mother always told me that was impolite, so . . ." I told him, pushing myself off of the doorframe.

He rolled his eyes. "You didn't seem to mind all that much last night when I was shoving my tongue down your throat."

"That was hardly carrying on a conversation," I pointed out as I walked over to the closet where I kept my coat.

"You said my name and issued commands. It's a conversation."

"All right, fine. Doesn't change the fact I still didn't understand what you said." I pulled out my coat and put it on, watching him place his bowl on the coffee table.

"I asked if you wanted some Lucky Charms." He got off the couch and stretched his arms over his head, his back popping.

I shook my head. "I'm just going to grab some coffee on my way to work. Are you going? I could wait until you get dressed if you want a ride."

"Don't need clothes for the type of ride I want," he replied with an impish grin, and I chuckled at him. "Nah, I'm just gonna finish eating my cereal and then go back to bed."

"I'll see you around noon, then."

As in the other universe, he limped towards my briefcase before I could even plan on grabbing it, and we met at the door. "Wouldn't want you to forget this," he said, handing it over--just as the other him had. I took it from him, our fingers brushing, and he stared at me expectantly.

Everything was the same--the pacing of his words, the look in his eyes, the situation . . . He wanted me to kiss him goodbye. He'd planned on meeting me at the door, planned on having our fingers brush together, and what had I done? I'd frozen, so caught up in what I should or shouldn't do that I'd missed such an obvious sign.

Realizing what he'd been trying to do, I laughed. Not loudly or obnoxiously, just briefly. His face fell, but then I kissed him--nothing exciting, but gentler than I'd intended.

"Oh my God," he said, eyes wide with fear and mouth slightly open.

"What?" I asked, and I sounded as panicky as I felt.

"I'm the fourth Mrs. Wilson," he whined, then dropped his forehead to my shoulder. His hand was at my hip. I remembered when he'd been with Stacy, and realized he'd always been touching her--a careful flick of her hair, or a gentle touch on her lower back--just tiny little moments, as if reassuring himself she was there. I smiled when I realized he'd been doing that with me for years--not as intimately, perhaps, but there just the same.

"There, there," I said comfortingly and patting him on the back as if I'd just given him some horrible news.

"It's terminal," he groaned into my collarbone, and I smoothed my palm across his back, counting the ribs I brushed as I did so.

"I'm afraid so."

He shrugged, holding onto my hip just a fraction tighter. "There are worse things," he admitted, then pulled away from my shoulder so that we could look at one another.

"Such as?"

"Being the second Mr. Cameron."

"Well, I'll warn Chase immediately."

"Do it when Cameron's there, and I'll sit on the sidelines with popcorn."

"I'll pencil it into my schedule."

"They'll probably just kiss and make up," he relented with a sad sigh, then he tilted his head. "Why did it take us so long to get here?" he added, as if those two sentences had the same thought--the same meaning. As if they weren't totally unrelated--and with the way House's mind worked, thoughts firing to one another at rapid speed, maybe they did connect.

"I didn't think you reciprocated," I told him, and I had a feeling that may have been the reason he hadn't done more, too.

"And what? Something about last night--or, well, this morning--gave the game away?"

I shook my head. "No. I just finally saw what you'd been trying to show me."

"You should see an ophthalmologist because you really need to get your eyes checked. It also explains your taste in ties. Or lack thereof."

Why did he have such an obsession with my ties? Honestly, even in the other reality he wouldn't shut up about them. I pulled my lips back tight, trying to stop myself from smiling, but I was sure I'd failed. He finally let go of my hip and he searched my face quickly.

He clapped my shoulder playfully, but his palm stayed on my arm for a fraction of a second longer then necessary, and a bit softer than needed. "See ya at work," he said.

He smacked my ass on the way out the door.

"I took care of it," came a random voice, filling the cell and his mind so loudly it couldn't have been his imagination, but Wilson considered the fact it was anyway.

He lifted his face away from his hands and stared at the stranger, and recognized him. He'd seen him here and there for the past few days; he stuck out because he was awash in a sea of suits and ties, and the man before him was wearing ratty, old jeans and a worn rock tee. That wasn't what he was thinking about, though. He was busy remembering the man pointing and laughing at him as the police pushed him into the backseat of the car, cuffed unnecessarily seeing as he was apologizing and blushing from embarrassment. He wouldn't have fled or resisted arrest, but still, he supposed they were just doing their jobs.

"I'm sorry?" he said, feeling like perhaps he'd misunderstood, or that the man wasn't really talking to him despite the fact he was alone in his cell.

"I took care of it," he repeated louder, standing on the other side of the bars casually, with his blue eyes wide and bright.

"Took care of what?" he asked tentatively, standing up from his cot, not allowing his mind to go anywhere. Getting his hopes up just to have them crash down again would be too much for him to handle at the moment.

"Uh, your bail?" he replied, as if it were obvious.

Wilson approached the bars cautiously, the man's face becoming clearer in the dim lighting now that he was closer. His vision was still somewhat blurred from half-crying earlier and pressing his hands to his lids to prevent himself from full-out sobbing, but after he blinked the fogginess subsided. "Is this a joke?"

"No, a joke would be if I showed up in a clown suit and made an inappropriate comment about soap."

Wilson fidgeted, looking the man over, as if trying to gauge the situation. Was he serious? Why would a man bail out a complete stranger--especially one that had thrown quite an immature fit and broken an antique mirror because of it?

Before Wilson could continue a conversation, the chubby guard whose accent was so thick he couldn't understand what he was saying showed up, keys to the cell jingling. What happened next went by so fast he worried it was a dream--he was being led away from his cell, being handed his effects, being led outside of the police station, the man commenting on everything and nothing all at the same time, and yet Wilson couldn't remember a word of what he said, at rapid-fire pace. It wasn't real--it couldn't have been happening--and yet it was. He knew it was. He was grateful--beyond grateful--but confused at the same time.

When the doors shut behind them, the sound tearing Wilson out of whatever trance-like state he'd been in, allowing himself to be pulled along like a child being dragged through a department store, he turned towards the stranger, who was eyeing the night like a kid eyeing the toys on display.

The reality of the situation hit him suddenly--the reality that, yes, a total stranger really had just bailed him out of jail, saving him from having to call his parents and explain the charges. It wasn't just that, either, though--he had shown him an extreme amount of kindness when everything had been going wrong--his wife was leaving him, his friend wanted nothing to do with him out of guilt, he had no money and he was so alone . . .

"Thank you; thank you so much. I can--I mean, just--I can't tell you how much this means to me."

"I'm sure it means boatloads," he dismissed with a hand-wave and an eye-roll.

Wilson had no idea why he was waving away his gratitude, but nodded in agreement. "It really, really does. I can't even begin to tell you how much it means to me, uh . . ." He tried to recall him ever throwing out a name, but when he realized he hadn't, he just settled with; "sir, it really means--"

"Ugh, don't call me that," he insisted, looking as if he'd just downed a glass of sour milk. For whatever reason, being called 'sir' really annoyed him, even though he had no idea what else to call him.

"I'm sorry, uh . . . What would you prefer I call you?"

"I think 'God' has a nice ring to it. So anyway, you were saying something about being forever in my debt for my irrational act of kindness?"

Wilson smiled and snorted back a chuckle. "Yes, of course. But, really, if there's anything I can do--anything at all--"

"How much cash you got?" he asked, face serious.

Wilson blinked. He wasn't used to people actually admitting to wanting something in return for kindness. Every time he offered to return a favour, it was always a polite head-shaking and a 'oh, no, I'm fine, don't worry about it' even if, on the inside, it was an entirely different matter. "Oh, um--I don't know; eighteen dollars, maybe? I'm not sure--if you could give me a number to reach you, I could pay you back--"

"I'm a doctor; I can afford bailing you out and scheduling an arraignment," he told him. Wilson didn't know what shocked him more; that he was a doctor, that he either had or was going to schedule his arraignment, or that he apparently hadn't intended to make him pay him back. "I was planning on getting shit-faced and you are coming with me."

"I'm . . . paying for the alcohol? That's it?"

"And lunch, the next time you come into some money." He looked upward at the sky for a minute. "Well, how many lunches would repay a bail? You might have to pay for more than one."

"Okay, sure, I--you're a doctor?"

"Only on Mondays," he responded casually, then grabbed Wilson's arm and started half-dragging, half-leading him down the sidewalk, his long legs striding with purpose. Wilson was still confused; everything was moving so quickly--the pace of the stranger's walk, getting drinks, being bailed out for no reason that he could see--that he would've sworn he'd passed out on the cot and lost himself to wonderful, but odd, dream, were it not so real.

"Hold on," he said a few seconds later, and pulled his arm free of the strong grasp. The man turned towards him, tapping his foot impatiently and eyes zeroed in on his face. It was going too quickly--everything about the man before him screamed haste and now, now, now and impatience--but he needed to stop. If only for a moment.

"Well?" the man urged a second later--a second too long for his tastes, apparently.

Wilson could have been offended by the man's edginess, or at least rankled, but he wasn't. Envious at his indifference maybe, grateful at the fact he'd done something incredibly kind, and more than a little confused, but upset? No.

"Why'd you bail me out?" he asked.

"What else was I going to do with all that extra cash I had just lying around? Waste it on some blow I can get anywhere I want? Besides, I'm bored, and I need a drinking buddy. We done talking, or should we examine our feelings, go back to my place, watch Steel Magnolias, and cry?"

Wilson laughed, if only because that was the exact thing his wife would've done. It was funny, even if it really shouldn't have been--even if he had no reason to laugh, he did anyway. The man seemed intrigued by his random laughter, but he kept it up anyway.

"I'd rather we not," he finally replied, still smiling. He stuck out his hand cordially. "I'm James."

The man stared at his hand as if it surprised him; as if he'd never been confronted with such a situation. With a shrug he shook his hand. "House," he introduced.

"House?" he repeated.

He shrugged. "My parents were hippies."

With that, House grabbed Wilson's tie and tugged, hurrying the both of them down the sidewalk, apparently with every intention of continuing this sudden, odd adventure (and getting shit-faced drunk.) His purposeful pace made it difficult to follow, even though he was practically being dragged, the silk digging uncomfortably into his neck, but he found that (given the fact the man had just saved him) he really didn't mind.

He would learn to catch up.

A/N--[wipes away tear] It's finished! I know I didn't do anything with the AU, but I thought it best to leave "is it an AU still or did it stop existing?" up to you. I also didn't anticpate so much interest in AlternaWilson coming home and what happens after. Jonic Recheio and my father suggest that I allow you guys to either a) play in the AU, as long as you stick to the "canon" of my story, b) ask me for a sequel or c) both.

And now, my father would like to say something:

I asked her for a Thirteen/Cuddy PWP but she denied. Her loyalties lie with Hilson. Damn you all for that. :D JK. No but really. Thirteen/Cuddy would be awesome.