Wilson had always been a bit anal, especially it came to such trivial things like organization. He alphabetized his books first by genre, author, and then title, and saw fit to lecture House on the importance of it every time House moved the books around. House did it on purpose, knowing it irritated him. The way he organized his movies was even more anal, and House always lectured him on getting a life because really, his classification system was just beyond pathetic. He started out with directors he liked, then alphabetized the movies within each director section--after that, if he stopped caring about the directors, he went into genre, then alphabetized that. It was ridiculous, actually, the length Wilson went to in order to keep everything in order.
His blotter was filled with different coloured ink; blue, red, and black. The red was like blood and usually involved patient stuff--who was dying, who wasn't, who he thought was the most attractive should he feel the deep need to start sleeping around with dying chicks again--and the black was usually reserved for boring, work stuff--like meetings, lunch with Cuddy, financial board meetings . . . yadda, yadda, yadda, House really didn't know what constituted the difference between boring work stuff and boring cancer stuff because he really didn't care. He normally focused on the blue because that made him laugh the hardest; the blue ink usually involved him--taking House out to lunch, taking him out to dinner . . . House had the suspicion that Wilson knew House looked through his things, because once he had labelled 'pretend to do work while House interrupts me' in the eleven-thirty spot, and 'laugh as House wastes his time trying to find blackmail material in my blotter' in the five-thirty section.
House had a feeling he had a secret blotter somewhere else where he kept all of his really personal things, like one-night stands and psychiatric appointments. Hell, it wouldn't have surprised him if he scheduled in masturbating.
House wasn't really all that surprised to find that he was even anal about his ties. He had boxes (plural) of them; boxes full of argyle ones, silk ones, striped ones, ones with silly patterns of Disney characters, and others that seemed to be filled of boxes with just one colour.
It wasn't that House purposely made a mess of them so much as the fact he could care less if he did. They were just ties, after all, and eventually Wilson was going to have to put them away, so the way House saw it, he did him a favour by dumping them all over his mattress and sifting through them. If he had a blotter that he actually used for purposes other than drawing crude, violent, and sexual comics, he would remind himself to tell Wilson to get rid of some of them. Really, it was just a bit pathetic he had over one-hundred ties. He didn't even have that many suits. House didn't even recognize half of them, and surmised that Wilson had never actually worn them.
When he found the tie he wanted, he grinned and hobbled out of Wilson's bedroom, leaving boxes upturned and ties tossed all over the bed and floor.
Crumpled papers scattered the floor and the counter, half-drawn pictures all over them, and blank sheets were plopped on the counter. House sat at the counter, pressing his hand to the scar briefly while he situated himself, and then placed the tie delicately next to him.
He looked at the waxy crayons he had rolling around over the counter, paper torn off of them and curling around his feet, and grabbed the green ones. There were three different greens and he wanted to see which one matched the shade of the tie best. He compared them, and then settled with the darkest shade, and began drawing on the first blank sheet of paper he saw.
He had half finished his drawing when he heard the door open.
"Honey, you're home!" House called, the returned to picture. "And it's about time, too--I'm starving."
"You didn't have to wait for me," Wilson called from the foyer.
"I wasn't going to cook for myself. Honestly, what do you think I am? A Stepford wife?" House remarked loudly, then grabbed the brown. There were three brownish colours, and he sighed. "Would you come here a second? I need to check something."
He practically heard Wilson sigh and roll his eyes, and watched as he entered the main room of the loft. They'd set everything up quite nicely, even thought they still had some unpacking to do. It was mostly trivial things, like trinkets and stupid crap that somehow accumulated but never got thrown away, and House had a feeling that those boxes were going to stay packed for a few more days, until the both of them could have a day off. He didn't know why Wilson wanted them to both have days off; it wasn't like House was going to help . . . Well, maybe a little. Wilson had just had surgery, after all.
Wilson tripped over an empty box in the room--the box where House had grabbed the printer paper and crayons--not to mention some lefty-scissors and some rulers--but those were on the floor somewhere. He only cared about the paper and crayons.
"What the . . . House, what are you doing?"
"Because I was bored. General Hospital was a rerun, and you had this box just lying around."
"It was in the closet. On the top shelf."
"Which is why I unpacked the ladder."
"Which was out in the garage," Wilson pointed out, his eyebrows raised and mouth lifted slightly in amusement.
"I wanted to colour," House reminded, punctuating the words heavily while he stared over his shoulder at Wilson, whose lips were pursed and he stood with his hands on his hips. "Now come here, I have to check which brown matches your eyes the best."
"You're drawing a picture of me?" He sounded pleased with the information.
"No, I'm drawing a picture of stool samples, and I naturally thought of your eyes," he replied smoothly, then indicated for him to come closer with a jerk of his head.
Wilson rolled his eyes and stopped his hands from his hips, just as House peeled the paper wrapping off the wax. "No! House! What are you doing?" he cried, rushing over to his side and yanking the crayon out of his hand. "You peeled off the paper!"
"Well, duh. It's easier to see the colour that way, without all that paper covering it. Now give it back," he ordered, then yanked the crayons out of Wilson's hand, then held it up, comparing it to his irises.
"But--those were my--"
"Didn't your mommy ever teach you how to share?" He turned back to his picture of Wilson, and began colouring brown circles for eyes.
"Why is my tie on the counter?"
"I needed to compare greens," he muttered, then started scribbling lines for his hair.
Wilson turned on his heel and hurried off in the direction of his room. House waited silently for the door to open then close, and then he heard; "HOUSE!"
"Yes, honey?" he called sweetly over his shoulder, then snickered when Wilson left his room and stormed into the living room and towards the counter.
"You--you went through--" He clenched his jaw briefly and then practically thrust his hands onto his hips. "Do you know how long it took me to organize those ties?"
"About three hours longer than it should've. They're just ties, Wilson."
"No," he spat, then yanked the green tie away from House, then pointed at him, fist clenched around the silk, put one finger haughtily shoved in his direction. "House, you can't just--God, do you honestly have no concern for anyone's things? You just stroll into my room and throw things around; screw up my ties, ruin all the effort I put into--"
"Oh, please. Effort? What's the point of organizing them in boxes, anyway? You were gonna have to unpack them eventually. I did you a favour--just throw 'em in your closet."
Wilson clenched his jaw together and squeezed his eyes shut. With the hand still holding the tie, he covered his eyes and brought it down his face, letting out huffs of annoyed air. "You don't . . . understand," he clenched out, then shook his head, pressing his palm to his forehead. "I needed--I can't--" He cut himself short, then shook his head. "You know what, House? I don't care. I just don't care anymore," he grumbled, then stalked off, clenching his silk tie in his fist.
House stared at Wilson's retreating back, confused at his reaction.
It wasn't like he had ruined his ties. Maybe he had crinkled them, but it wasn't anything a small iron-job couldn't fix. Maybe Wilson had just had a rough day at work; he'd had to stay longer due to one of the children having issues--nothing dire, but then again, House had a different meaning for the word 'dire' than Wilson did. Wilson considered a child coughing dire, especially if mucous was involved. House didn't even consider it more than 'interesting' unless there was blood spewing forth from at least one orifice.
He was overprotective of his ties, but no more than his other clothes. Patients had vomited on him before, pissed on him, had their skin slough off and stain his silken nooses, and he'd never reacted that way in front of them. There was that one time one of his patient's children or grandchildren or small kids in some way related to him had coloured on his ties, and he'd laughed and played along, perfectly happy, and only growled and moped after they had left. But he hadn't yelled.
House frowned then returned to his picture when he heard Wilson's door slam, and drew a frown on the picture's face. This would take further investigation--something had happened at work that he didn't know about, and he was going to find out what.
House managed to dodge Cuddy in the clinic, and so his first destination was Wilson's office. Without knocking, he waltzed in, and Wilson didn't even look up or jump. He continued looking at his paperwork, lips pursed.
"You didn't leave me any breakfast," House said as he sat down in the chair across from him.
Wilson kept looking at his paperwork. "Hmm. Must have slipped my mind."
House raised his eyebrows. "Still pissed about the ties, then?"
"You're going to help me reorganize them tonight."
House scoffed. "Oh, am I? And what makes you think that?"
Wilson looked away from his paperwork and met House's eyes. There was an evil gleam in them. House felt his heart skip a beat in fear. "I just have a feeling you'll be inclined to help by the end of today," he revealed vaguely, then broke eye contact so he could focus on his paperwork.
House tried to read Wilson's mind with just the power of concentration, but the room remained eerily silent. The scratching of the pen was like nails on a chalkboard, and he narrowed his eyes. "What did you do?" he demanded.
"Who, me?" Wilson asked innocently, meeting House's eyes again, his face blank of any expression.
"Honestly, Wilson, it was just a bunch of ties. I didn't ruin any of them. No need to do anything drastic."
"Drastic measures? Me?" He even pressed his hand to his chest and widened his eyes in shock. "I've done absolutely nothing."
House glared at him, and Wilson's face remained impassive. He wore a grey vest with a blue collar, and his tie was a dark purple. It didn't match, but then again, Wilson's sense in style had always been flawed. He stared at the tie in question, then flicked his eyes back up to Wilson's. "I'm not going to help you organize your ties."
"If you insist," Wilson dismissed, then turned back to his paperwork.
House tried to force Wilson to reveal whatever it was he'd done with the power of his vicious glare, but any time Wilson did glance up, he blinked at him and returned back to his work.
When House finally figured out that he couldn't control Wilson with his mind, he slowly stood from his chair stared at his bowed head.
It was with a heavy sense of foreboding that he left Wilson's office and went towards his own.
Sitting the differential room was normally something he avoided doing because, for some unfathomable reason, whenever he did it people assumed he wanted to do work. Today, he made an exception. He held his large ball in his hands and whacked it against the wall that he shared with Wilson's office.
He threw it against the floor, watched it ricochet off and into the wall, and then fly back into his hand. He seared holes through the walls with his eyes, uneasiness filling his abdomen with each toss. The thunk-thump-whack had become some sort of mantra while he mulled over Wilson's behaviour in his mind.
Wilson had always been uptight, and every now and then he did get frustrated with House, but not over something as simple as unloading his box of ties. Normally when Wilson lost his temper it was deserved, even if House didn't like that it was usually directed at him. He usually lectured him, yelled at him a bit, and then moved on with his life as if it didn't really mean anything. It took a lot for him to get upset, but when he did, it wasn't fun for anybody.
Thunk, thump, whack.
It was possible that House had been the last straw, but Wilson wasn't due for any last-straw-bitchiness for awhile. If Wilson bottled up his anger long enough, he would explode, and he usually did so all over House's face and maybe he wanted to rephrase the whole exploding metaphor. Still, the point was, he had just bought a loft as a way to get back at Cuddy, which should've unleashed enough of his frustrations out. When Wilson got stressed, he started showing signs that he was slowly filling to the brim--he would start rubbing his temples more often, start hitting snooze, and even locking himself in his office and avoiding House.
Wilson had seemed perfectly fine yesterday--well, until House had ransacked through all of his boxes and made a mess of things.
Thunk, thump, whack.
That wasn't necessarily true. He'd been a little annoyed before he found out about the ties. Had he been annoyed at the mess? House thought back on it. No, he'd seemed amused until House peeled off the paper to the crayons--the crayons he only used whenever he coloured pictures with his little cancer kiddies.
Well, he could see how that could annoy him, seeing as he was always so protective over the dying children, but . . . But that had just been general annoyance. He hadn't become upset until he realized House had been through his ties.
But why? House insulted the ties, mocked them, 'accidentally' squirted mustard on them or yanked on them, leading him from place to place. He'd never become angry over it, though.
Maybe it had something to do with personal boundaries.
Thump, thunk, whack.
"Could you quit doing that?" Chase asked irritably.
House caught the ball. "Why?"
"That's sort of the point," House told him, then threw it at the floor and watched it thwack against the wall and fly back at his hand.
"What did I do?" Chase inquired with a resigned sighed.
"It's not you I'm distracting. It's Wilson. He's planning something. I need to stop him from scheming before I end up with a kidnapped guitar or carrots for lunch." The mention of food made his stomach growl as he remembered that he'd missed breakfast.
"What did you do?" Chase asked, raising a pale eyebrow.
"Why do you assume I did something?"
"Uh, because you always do?"
House narrowed his eyes, his eyes swept across the room quickly. "Where is everybody else?"
"You should probably go and join them."
Chase raised his eyebrows, then realized he was being dismissed. He grabbed the newspaper and a half-masticated pencil and left the differential room as House resumed throwing his ball against the wall in an attempt to befuddle his friend into admitting what he had done or was planning to do.
It wasn't until House finally gave up on his plan to smoke Wilson out through annoying noises that he went into his office, deciding to find ways to waste time. He checked his chair for anything sticky or poky and searched the walls for any ransom notes before sitting down and booting up his computer.
The desktop background was black, but the large words in the centre were bright red.
'I have taken your iPod hostage. If you wish to see it again, await my instructions.'
"Oh, you son of a bitch," he grumbled, then pushed out of his chair.
He limped out of office and across the hall into Wilson's, who was still looking at the paperwork strewn across his desk.
"Hand it over," he demanded.
"Hand what over?"
"Your iPod is missing?" he asked, and damn him, it actually sounded like he was curious. "Did you check your backpack?"
House narrowed his eyes, and felt fire surge in his chest. "Don't play coy with me. I know you have it. I'm supposed to await your instructions."
"I honestly have no idea what you're talking about." He scribbled something down.
In fear for his iPod, House strode across his office and lifted up the cushions, tossing them over his shoulder and running his hands along the insides. He even knelt on his knees, which strained his thigh muscle, but dammit, it was his iPod. He had to find it before something unthinkable happened.
"Maybe you haven't unpacked it yet," Wilson suggested lightly, and House shot a glare over his shoulder at him.
House stood up, and didn't bother putting the cushions back. "Okay, I get it. I'll help you organize your ties again. Now, hand it over."
Wilson hummed. "Well, that would certainly be nice if you helped, seeing as you're the one who messed them up." He scribbled his signature on something, then completely ignored House standing there.
"Come on, I said I'd help, now give it over."
Wilson glanced up at him, face completely impassive. "Hand what over; your iPod? I've already told you I don't have it."
"I get it. You're not going to give it to me until I actually organize the ties."
Wilson blinked. "House, you don't even know why I'm upset."
"Because I ruined your precious categorical system. Your anal retentive attention to detail never yields positive results."
"Remind me to hide your Dogma DVD," Wilson muttered, then closed the folder of the paperwork he'd be going over. "Unlike you, I actually do my work. Feel free to search my office." He stood out of his chair and left the room.
He didn't smirk as he left, or give any indication that it was all some sort of prank. If House didn't know any better, he'd say Wilson really didn't have a clue as to what was going on--but he did know better, and so he did just as Wilson had suggested, and started to scour his office.
It was too easy.
The iPod had been in the bottom drawer, hidden underneath a stack of colouring books and crayons. House had opened the box crayons to see that they had all been used, but were still in the original order that they'd come in, starting with red and fading to purple, in the same order as a rainbow, except for black, white, grey, and brown--at the very end of the spectrum. It didn't really surprise him that Wilson kept everything in its original spot--Wilson always told him it was easier to put everything in the same place he'd gotten it, although House never really understood that explanation.
Still, he'd happily grabbed his iPod and went into his office, smug and cocky, and it wasn't until he'd plugged in his Skullcandies and pressed shuffle that he realized something was horribly, horribly wrong.
The high pitched belting of Mariah Carey assaulted his ears, and he nearly vomited. His poor, innocent iPod had been defiled, and as he skipped from song to song he realized his iPod was full of Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand, and classic show-tunes he had mocked Wilson for knowing hundreds of times over.
His world came crashing down around him when he realized that over one-thousand rocktastic songs had disappeared, and had been replaced with the tortuous sounds of crap.
"That bastard," he grumbled, and yanked out his headphones.
House didn't stalk. That sounded like a criminal begging to be thrown into prison. What he did, however, was quietly follow Wilson from afar, and watch him closely as the sneaky, evil bastard smiled at the nurses, greeted patients, and generally acted like he was an innocent angel. They all blushed and smiled and giggled at his courteous-bordering-on-flirtatious behaviour, and he could practically hear them wondering to themselves how someone so nice and sweet could become friends with such a bastard.
If only they knew that he was the truly evil one. House was an innocent in all this; all he had done was find a green tie to he could get his damn picture to look somewhat presentable, and Wilson had thrown a little bitch fit. Perhaps it was some sort of unwritten rule, like women with their shoes and hair. People didn't screw with women's hair, and maybe people just didn't mess with Wilson's ties.
Except he had screwed with him plenty of times before, and it had never pissed Wilson off.
Except for maybe he wasn't angry. Maybe he was just playing a prank. Except Wilson never did things like that for no reason--he always did it to prove something. To give him his mojo back, to get him to hire fellows, to pay him back for making him pee all over the couch . . .
When Wilson was finally done conversing or discussing politics or whatever it was he told himself he was doing so he could pretend he wasn't flirting, House strode over to him and smacked the iPod into his palm. "Fix it," he ordered in a growl.
"Oh, you found it? Where was it?"
"You know where it was. Now put all my songs back on."
"Are some of the songs missing? Why don't you just load up iTunes, then?"
"You know why," House grumbled. Wilson blinked innocently at him. "You changed my password."
His eyes widened comically. "You mean someone somehow managed to figure out your password, log into your iTunes, and download songs you absolutely hate onto your iPod? With your credit card instead of the one you usually use? God, you're dealing with a real mastermind, here--I'd worry about your safety. This could get ugly."
"Bought them? You actually bought songs instead of just illegally downloading them like any sane person would? What's wrong with you?"
"Once again, I point out that I had absolutely nothing to do with this. It takes someone far cleverer than I to pull off such a horrific deed." He pressed the iPod back into House's hand, and smoothed down his tie with a small shake of his head.
"Wilson, come on. I'm bored, and I need to rock out to some Pantera."
"Would if I could, but I'm at a total loss here."
House stomped his left foot a little, and didn't care that it made him look like a petulant child. "All this over some ties? I don't know why you care so much; it's not like any of them are any good."
Wilson narrowed his eyes and his jaw clenched briefly. He looked about ready to say something, but didn't; instead, he just turned on his heel and walked towards the elevators.
House hobbled after him, curiosity sparking around his brain like bits of lightning hopping from one town to the next. "You're really upset about those ties, aren't you? I didn't ruin any of them."
Wilson pressed the call button, lips pressed tightly together. "It's not about you ruining them, House."
"What is it, then? Because I went through your things? Oh, come on, I go through your medical records and little black book and you never care about that. It's not like I read your super-secret diary or anything."
"House, you just--" He snapped his mouth shut and looked down at the ground, shaking his head as he rested his hands on his hips. "Did you ever stop to wonder why I organized my ties?"
"Because you're borderline OCD and are somehow hoping that by organizing everything little thing around you then you can control all the things you can't," he retaliated with a fixed glare on Wilson.
Wilson finally caught his eyes, and House saw something there that felt almost like an admission of defeat. The doors dinged open and Wilson stepped inside with two other doctors already standing there. House stood beside him and waited for the doors to close.
"You organize everything around you because it makes you feel secure. Nothing is out of its place; nothing can sneak up on you. You don't ever lose your keys, but you never get to see all the cool places they could hide in, either."
"Yes, House. I organize my ties in an attempt to whip this world into shape."
"You're always trying to control everything. Control all the hopeless cases, hoping against hope that maybe some miracle will happen and Mister Terminal Case will have a random remission. You can't save everybody, you're friends with a total ass with no sense of boundaries, and you're sucking down anti-depressants like candy. I screwed up your ties; I screwed up your false delusion of being in control of something you can't possibly be in control of."
Wilson didn't shift or clear his throat; he just stared ahead of himself. The other people in the elevator who coughing discreetly and clearing their throats, though.
House waited for Wilson to deflect, or argue; instead, he just stood there, lips slowly pursing, and cheeks turning a slight shade of pink. When the doors dinged on their floor, Wilson didn't hesitate to leave, walking at a brisk pace that made it slightly difficult for House to catch up.
"I'm right, aren't I?" he called before Wilson made it to his door.
Wilson turned around. "No, House. You're not right. Once again, you've managed to turn everything into some--some sort of--" She gesticulated wildly and vaguely at the same time. House had no idea what he meant to say, but he had a feeling Wilson didn't know either, so that was okay.
When it seemed that no words would be coming to his mind any time soon, he turned back to his door and pushed it open. House followed him, knowing that he was close to what had upset Wilson--he loved picking his brain, if only because Wilson constantly psychoanalyzed him, and it was about damn time he got a taste of his own medicine. "Admit it--you can't stand where your life is. You're having a big ol' midlife crisis, and instead of doing something wild and crazy, you've gotta tone everything down. Keep everything in order because God forbid the great Saint Jimmy does something reckless."
"House, it's not--it's not about control; it's because I'm--" Wilson wasn't speaking to him--he was speaking to the couch with House behind him, clutching his iPod in one hand and cane in the other. Wilson snorted suddenly, then turned around, laughing humourlessly, his lips pulled back in that smile that meant he wasn't actually happy, but frustrated and trying to hide it behind a stupid grin. "You know what? It's nothing. I just overreacted because you went through my things. Happy? I overreacted."
"Damn skippy you overreacted."
"I thought it would be fun, you know? Stealing your iPod, putting songs you hate on it, and I . . . I push you, you push me, we all laugh about it later over a bottle of beer . . ." He pinched the bridge of his nose, then held out his hand wordlessly.
House had been close to figuring it out. Wilson had been running form him, and in a way, he was running now--giving up the fight, offering to save his poor iPod form its horrible defilement. House took a step back, and tilted his head. "I'm right. You're giving up because I'm right."
"Fine, you're right," he conceded, lowering his hand from the bridge of his noise. "I'm forty years old and I live with my male best friend. I have no wife, no children, I'm a doctor and I don't have anything to show for it except one asshole of a friend who just waltzes into my room and goes through my things like they're his. And you wonder why I feel like I have to control everything."
House almost wished Wilson would have yelled it, because then he could tell himself it was just shouted out of anger. That he didn't really mean it. Instead, he spoke with shame, and the harsh edge to his words let House know that Wilson wanted him to hurt; wanted him to feel the pain.
"You offered. Don't pull this whole martyr crap. You don't want me living with you, then don't offer a place to stay. Don't buy us a house to get back at Cuddy. Don't tolerate me so you can feel all special and warm and fuzzy inside when everybody tells you how you deserve better. You wanna take control of your life? Don't act like I'm the one pushing you off-balance. You were screwed up long before you met me, and it's gonna take more than just organizing your damn ties to take care of that." He shoved the iPod into Wilson's hands. "Fix it," he ordered, turned on his heel and left, slamming the door shut behind him.
He didn't remember he'd turned all of Wilson's drawers upside down until he heard everything on the inside clatter to the floor.
House didn't feel guilty for saying what he had to Wilson, but he was humble enough to admit that maybe he had gone a little too far. Wilson really was his only friend, and he'd taken him in when no one else could have--would have. Wilson always put his neck on the line for anybody he cared about--and sometimes, even for the people he didn't.
He'd donated a lobe of his liver for a friend he only saw once a year for crying out loud--God knew what he'd do for someone he actually cared for. House had seen how much Wilson cared first hand, and so sometimes, after a hurtful comment or scathing insult, House did wish he hadn't opened his big mouth.
It wasn't so much as guilt as regret.
And over a box of ties, too.
House actually did his clinic duty if only because he wasn't in the mood to hide from Cuddy, and because he needed to work off some steam by insulting idiots, and there was always an idiot or fourteen waiting to be diagnosed with colds.
Wilson had seen him at his worst and best, and he had to admit, he was more often at his worst, and still, he'd stayed beside him. That wasn't to say Wilson was perfect--of course not. But it just went to show that House had managed to stay with him, despite all of his flaws and hang-ups.
In retrospect, trying to control one's life by being organized wasn't the worst crime someone could commit. It wasn't any different than House obsessing over puzzles in an attempt to control his own life--by throwing the rule book out of the window and doing as he pleased, to make most of what time he had left. Sometimes he wondered if Wilson forgot that he was actually ten years older, and his liver was probably half-trashed. He didn't have as much time as Wilson did, and he'd experience near-death more times, too.
Perhaps his lack of a control was a way of being in control.
He hated arguing with Wilson if only because it always made him start introspecting.
After awhile, patients grew boring, and he ditched clinic to go back to his office. He reached into his pack and pulled out his PSP, taking out his frustration by beating random civilians with baseball bats and earning points for running them over with cars.
The door to his office opened and he glanced up to see Wilson, who almost looked sheepish. It had been awhile since their little argument. House glanced at his computer screen to see the time--it was almost two o' clock, and his stomach rumbled with hunger he hadn't had anything to eat all day; he was too preoccupied with Wilson and his iPod.
He sat across from House and placed the iPod on his desk, the headphones wrapped around them securely. House glanced at it, but didn't touch it. He kept playing his PSP, and as far as he was concerned, he was alone in the office because he wasn't sure he wanted to talk to Wilson at the moment.
He was vaguely aware of the fact Wilson was playing with his purple tie, or smoothing down his grey-and-blue vest, and how he looked very much like a schoolboy sitting in front of the principal. Aware that an apology was coming, House turned off his PSP without bothering to save, and silently put it back in his pack.
The words still rung through his mind, and he hated that Wilson could actually make him feel unnerved. If Wilson felt like he wasn't accomplished or that his life had gone nowhere, than it wasn't anybody's fault but his own, and yet he managed to hurt House with the information.
"I've never seen a rainbow," Wilson told him.
House blinked, trying to piece together what he'd just said. At first, it felt like maybe he had misheard, but he had spoke clearly. When he ran the words through his mind a second time, everything clicked.
He thought of the way he'd organized the crayons in the box, and how he'd been upset when House had pulled the paper off. He thought back to all the clashing ties he'd worn, and how he'd bustled about his day, acting completely unaware, which just added to the charm--and he realized, he hadn't been acting at all. He thought of the colours Wilson used in his blotter--black, red, and green--and how none of them were similar to another. It wasn't orange and red, or green and blue. Colours that were not alike in any way. He thought of how little Wilson commented on the colour of people's clothing, and how he had not once ever pointed out a rainbow to House after a rainstorm. He thought of the way he'd organized the ties--how all the blues had been in one box, all the greens had been in another, and how damn upset he'd been at House rifling through his stuff. Not because he'd had upended a box on his bed and made a mess, but because he'd mixed the colours together.
"You're colour-blind," he realized aloud.
Wilson nodded. He didn't blush or apologize; he just stared at the iPod.
House felt like an idiot, and wondered why he hadn't picked up on it before. Then again, it wasn't really anything worth getting excited over. Once he realized that, he wondered why the hell Wilson had been so damn upset over the whole issue.
"I just see the sky," he continued after a few silent seconds.
"Why didn't you just tell me? It's not like being colour-blind is a hell-worthy trespass."
Wilson furrowed his eyebrows, and began tugging at the end of his tie. "I didn't even realize something was wrong until I was about seven. I mean, I knew I mixed up colours sometimes--blues with purples or greens, or reds with oranges--but it never really struck me as something I continually did until then. I guess I didn't want people to know. It made me feel . . . stupid."
"Does anyone know?"
Wilson nodded. "My parents. My brothers. My ex-wives."
Wilson shifted in his seat, and looked down at the tie he was currently tugging.
"Peter was just a baby, and Danny was constantly in trouble when I was in elementary school," he continued, and House had the feeling he wasn't explain for his benefit, but for his own. "He was in and out of the principal's office, always in detention . . . My parents were so busy with Danny and Peter I don't think they noticed. I didn't want them to. I was the good kid; the perfect child. Everywhere we went, they introduced me first, and I . . . I liked it. I liked being the good kid. I liked being the one who could spell, who could do math, who was always getting the good grades and all the teachers loved me. I guess I thought that they'd think I was stupid. So I organized my crayons and clothes by colour, and then it just became habit to organize my things. They never complained."
House nodded. He supposed that made sense.
"I was about ten when they figured it out. I remember thinking I was going to get into trouble--I'm not saying my parents were abusive, but they liked things the way they liked them, and if things weren't how they were supposed to be . . ." Wilson shifted in his seat awkwardly in a way that made House a bit more curious about his upbringing, but he supposed he wasn't one to talk--his father had been less-than-satisfactory and he didn't much like bringing the subject up, either.
By the way Wilson was staring off at something that wasn't actually there, House had the feeling he wasn't done talking. People liked to think that House was the secretive one, and maybe he was; he didn't like delving into his past very often, but Wilson was just as much of a mystery to House as House was to others.
"After that, they were constantly helping me. They picked out my clothes, told me when things matched, told me what colour the pens wrote with were and the colours of the cars that drove by. It was embarrassing. I get that they were trying to help, but I'm not monochromatic. Eventually they stopped, but . . . Well, I wore the wrong colour of tux for my prom, and . . ." He let out a long sigh. "I still have to ask people if I match sometimes."
"You always did dress better when you were married," House joked, although it wasn't a lie.
"I hated asking, every time," he admitted, brows furrowed deeper.
"You feel like a failure."
"I graduated in the top ten percent of my class, I had at least a 3.5 all throughout high school, but I can't tell the difference between orange and red. Kindergartners are smarter than I am."
"They're not smarter. It's not your fault you're colour-blind."
"I know that," Wilson stated, giving House a 'don't patronize me' look, but then he sighed. "I know that, but . . . it still feels that way."
It was an idiotic thing to feel. Wilson couldn't help being colour-blind anymore than a dyslexic person could help the fact he couldn't read very well. The fact he would feel shame in the fact was stupid. It wasn't like he'd raped a choir-boy or anything. Yet, he could tell by the way he spoke--the barely stilted phrasing, or the soft undertone of guilt--that he did. Hell, the fact he threw a fit and kidnapped his iPod instead of telling House that the reason he was upset was because he couldn't differentiate between the ties proved it, too. And yet, somehow, House understood where Wilson was coming from. It wasn't much different than House refusing to ask for help on the days where his leg felt like it was going to gnaw itself in half, the fact he wanted to punch people in the face who dared look at him with pity, or the burning sensation that filled his chest whenever he couldn't reach up and take something from the top shelf and Wilson instinctively knew and did it for him.
"When it rains, I always look. I think that maybe, this time, I might see a glimmer. That this time, with this particular shade of sky, the rainbow will show up." He shifted, then met House's eyes for the first time since he entered. "Sometimes I can't see what's right in front of me."
House understood just what Wilson meant when he spoke, and he nodded.
Wilson stood out of the chair. "Lunch?" he offered.
House stood as well. "Sure."
He wondered if he should tell Wilson his tie didn't match his clothes, but decided to let Wilson wander around in ignorance. The bastard deserved it for stealing his iPod.
Wilson had pretended like he didn't realize House was helping him in an obscure fashion; actually, they both knew what was going on, but they didn't really call attention to it. Wilson was grateful, though. It was different when House helped him--he didn't tiptoe around the issue sympathetically, or just do it for him. He sat on the couch and read a Seventeen magazine, and remained silent until Wilson grabbed the wrong colour of tie. He'd take it back and hand him the right one, or mock him. Bonnie had always had that look on her face; one that was more suitable for him telling her his mother had died rather than just because he'd put on a clashing tie, and Julie had always picked the ties for him and laid them on the bed beside his suit, as if he were a child that couldn't figure out his own categorical system. Sometimes, just to unnerve her, he would pick out a green tie although he knew it clashed. It had taken her awhile to figure out he was doing it to annoy her--by then, though, their marriage had been crumbling, so it didn't matter.
He hadn't even been all that bothered when, after they had finished, House had randomly said; "You like being needed. You don't like being the one who needs." It was true and they both knew it. House had a way of being uncomfortably right often; he wasn't wrong with his little comment about control, either.
He thought of how stupid it had been for him to feel so ashamed over such a little thing as he secured the tie around his neck. Growing up, his parents had always told him to be his best. He'd lived in a very black-and-white family; there were no shades of grey, only the wrong and right choice. If he got a B, his parents didn't congratulate him--they told him to try harder next time so he could get and A. If he was second-best in his class, they would ask him why he wasn't first. It wasn't that he didn't understand--his parents wanted him to be the best, but he wondered if maybe it had done more harm than good. Rather than accept his flaws or realize he'd made mistakes in his past, he tried to ignore them. Being colour-blind wasn't something he should feel the need to hide; and yet he did. He wasn't his best if he couldn't see.
It wasn't that he consciously hid the fact from House. It wasn't something people discussed. Nobody asked him if he was colour-blind, and especially if he was out of college. People had other things on their minds. He had never really thought to tell House--not really. It wasn't an important piece of information.
A part of him had assumed (or rather, hoped) that one day House would just piece it together on his own, and they would laugh about it. It wasn't anything he dwelled over.
In fact, he hadn't ever purposely hid it from him until he'd found his ties, smothered all over his mattress and on his floor. He'd been upset--angrier than he should've been--and it wasn't until he saw the confused, what-the-hell look in House's eyes that he realized that House didn't know. It seemed like something so obvious that House should have known, and then the fact he had managed to go fifteen years without making a point of telling House made him feel ashamed--not at the fact he was colour-blind so much as he was at the fact he felt ashamed to be, as odd as that was.
He strolled out into the kitchen, knowing that House was still asleep, and probably would be for about two more hours. He went to the fridge to grab the milk, and stopped short when he saw there was something stuck to it behind a large, gaudy magnet.
It was a childlike picture drawn of both him and House. He could differentiate between the two of them because House had a cane, and Wilson was wearing a lab coat. They were drawn in black, with the exception of their eyes. Wilson had brown circles, and House had huge, bright, neon-blue eyes that Wilson felt were probably over-exaggerated so that he could see them. There was a huge, brightly coloured rainbow above them, with thin black lines separating each colour.
'Can you see that?' was etched in bright red at the very top.
Wilson reached into his pocket and pulled out the blue pen he used to mark House-related activates in his blotter, and scribbled his answer.
A/N--This fic is dedicated to my brother. Over the summer, when I pointed out the most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen, he calmly looked at me and said; "I've never seen a rainbow. I can't." He's seventeen, I'm twenty-one, and I didn't know until he told me.