Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Disclaimer: House M.D., its characters, locations and storyline are the property of David Shore, Bad Hat Harry Productions and the Fox Television Network. All Rights Reserved.
A/N: Something I had been thinking of writing for a while but was inspired to actually do it after watching Season six, episode 11: "The Low Down". I never thought I would be one to write a slash fic but here it is. Please review and let me know what you think!
Warning: H/W pre-slash/slash.
Rated T for language and sexual language and innuendo.
On Monday afternoon, the fifteenth day of February, Dr. Gregory House sat in the office of his therapist, Dr. Darryl Nolan, during one of his regularly scheduled sessions. They both sat in leather upholstered chairs facing each other. House sat stiffly, looking exceedingly uncomfortable, something deeply agitating the diagnostician. He rapped his fingers anxiously on his armrest. Nolan sat relaxed, looking comfortable in his seat, one leg resting on the knee of the other and his hands folded calmly in front of him.
"Why don't you tell me what has you so anxious, Greg," the psychiatrist said smoothly. "I haven't seen you this way in quite some time. Is something wrong?"
House wasn't certain that he wanted to tell his therapist what was truly bothering, so incredibly personal it was. He knew he had to, but it wouldn't be easy, partly because he was afraid of what the psychiatrist would advise him to do about it. This was one of the most confusing and painful things ever to happen to him and the repercussions could break his heart.
"I don't know what to do," the diagnostician told him, shaking his head. "This is one of the worst things ever to happen to me and I'm at a loss what to do about it."
Nolan nodded. "Perhaps we can figure out a solution together. Tell me."
House met the psychiatrist's eyes for a brief moment and had to quickly look away again, to some unfocused spot on the back of the other man's chair just above his left shoulder. He found it much easier to talk about the difficult things if he didn't have to meet the other person's eyes.
"It started last Friday," the diagnostician began. His mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton. "There was this inane fundraiser for the clinic that Cuddy planned. Since on Sunday it was Valentine's Day, a booth was set up in the hospital lobby where passers-by could purchase Chocolate heart Candy-Grams for their sweethearts in the hospital and volunteers from the clinic would come around to the appropriate rooms to deliver them. The proceeds from the sale went towards the Pre-natal Health program. For ten bucks you could buy a heart-shaped box of cheap chocolates with a love note attached.
"It was sickeningly saccharine and I was going to have nothing to do with it. I didn't have a sweetheart to send one to and I hadn't expected to receive one, either. However, during a differential with my team, one arrived, addressed to me. I received the usual razzing from the idiots who work for me, demanding that I read the card out loud. I told them to shut up and threw the box into the waste basket unopened."
"Why?" Nolan asked quizzically, spreading out his hands in front of him. "Someone thought enough of you to send a gift. Why was that a bad thing?"
House sighed. "Because I figured it was one of them playing a practical joke on me. 'Ha ha ha! We'll make fun of House by sending him a heart when everyone knows he's too much of a bastard to have someone send one to him for real'. Since it was true, I didn't feel like having it rubbed in my face.
"Anyway, Thirteen grabbed it out of the waste basket, insisting that I should at least open it. When I refused and demanded we get back to work, she opened the card anyway. Before I could snatch it out of her hand she read it aloud.
" ' 'To the most important person in my life,'' she read, grinning like a Cheshire cat. ' 'Thank you for making my life worth living.' There's no name for the sender. Looks like you have a secret admirer.'
" 'That admirer had better remain secret if he or she wants to keep this job,' I told the team. I was certain it was one of them.
" 'It's not one of us,' Chase insisted, and Taub and Thirteen chimed in their agreement. I looked over at Foreman. He gave me a look that told me I was out of my mind if I suspected him. I took the box and card away from Thirteen and threw it back in the garbage with a warning that this subject was closed. I thought it really was until later in the day.
"I was working on a paper I was preparing for JAMA when Wilson popped into my office on his way to the cafeteria for lunch and wanted to know if I wanted to join him. It was a stupid question since I always want to join him if for no other reason than to poach his French fries. When we got to the lobby, instead of heading in the direction of the cafeteria he kept walking towards the exit. I asked him what was going on, and he said he wanted to take me to lunch somewhere nice for a change. First of all, it was completely unpredictable and Wilson is a very predictable man. Secondly, I didn't have a jacket and it was lightly snowing outside. I mentioned that to Wilson, but he just shrugged and said I wouldn't need one. When we reached the doors, I saw his car sitting in the loading zone no more than three paces from us.
" 'Am I dying or something?' I asked him, completely mystified. He just chuckled and climbed into the driver's seat. I climbed in to shotgun position and stared at him in bewilderment as we drove away from the hospital.
" 'What are you staring at?' Wilson asked me with a smirk on his face.
" 'Who are you and what did you do with James Wilson?' I demanded trying to make light of the situation even though I was wondering what it was he was up to. Wilson laughed and told me that I was being paranoid and wanted to know what was wrong with him taking me to lunch because we were friends. I didn't know how to answer that, because there was nothing wrong with it, except for the funny feeling I had that something wasn't right.
"He took me to Le Plaisir."
"Isn't that one of the most expensive restaurants in Princeton?" Nolan asked, surprised.
"It's the most expensive and the waiting time to get a reservation for a table at lunch is currently at four weeks. He had planned this a month in advance. That's when I knew there was something wrong. I couldn't enjoy the food because I was waiting for the hammer to fall. Our conversation was normal until halfway through, when I couldn't take it anymore, and I demanded to know what was going on.
" 'There's nothing going on,' Wilson told me earnestly. 'I just got to thinking about the things in my life that I'm grateful for and one of them is my friendship with you. I realized that I had never really told you that before and decided that I should. That's all this is—it's my way of telling you that I'm grateful that you're my friend.'
"I wasn't convinced that was the real answer. He was withholding something from me. All sorts of strange and frightening scenarios of what it could be were spinning around in my head.
" 'Bull-shit,' I told him and then I asked, 'Are you dying and this is your way of trying to break it to me gently?'
" 'Yes, Greg," Wilson replied, straight-face. 'I'm dying.'
"I just about lost it. Just as I was going to ask him what it was he'd been diagnosed with and demand to know why he hadn't come to me and given me a crack at it, he grinned that stupid grin he gets when he's pulled one over on me. I could have knocked him cold at that moment. He had no idea how scared I was."
Nolan nodded thoughtfully. "Did you tell him the impact his joke had on you?"
"I told him he was an asshole," House answered, frowning. Just recalling the event brought back echoes of the fear he had felt when Wilson had given a dubious friend a living organ donation. "He laughed and then sobered, giving me what I can only describe as a soulful look.
" 'I care about you, Greg. What is wrong with me trying to show you that once in a while?' he said to me. He sounded so sincere that I decided to let it go and accept it for what he said it was.
" 'I'm glad you're my friend, too,' I told him brusquely, trying not to sound stupid. I was able to relax a little more for the rest of our meal.
"On the drive back to the hospital he started a strange conversation that got me wondering again."
"What was the conversation about?" Nolan inquired. He appeared to be fascinated by the story his patient was telling him.
"He asked me where I figured my life would be ten years from now." House shook his head and exhaled loudly. "I told him that I didn't know and that I'm just trying to get to next week without falling on my ass and swallowing a handful of Vicodin with Scotch to wash it down. Ten years is a long time.
"Wilson got this pensive look on his face, like there was something he was struggling with and debating whether or not to say anything to me.
" 'I picture myself pretty much the way I am now,' he told me, staring straight out the windshield, not glancing, once in my direction. 'I've got it pretty good. There are a few things that I'd like to see change, but for the most part I'm generally happy.'
"I scoffed at that saying, 'You're telling me that ten years from now you still want to be womanless sharing a condo with a surly, sixty year old bastard leaving clothes lying around, messing up the kitchen and making enemies with the neighbors?'
"He looked at me, very seriously, and said, 'There are a hell of a lot of worse things that could happen to me.'
" 'Like what?' I asked, thinking that he was either crazy or he was pulling my leg.
" 'Like I could end up without you around to waste my time with,' he told me. He was silent for the rest of the drive and I just wanted the hell out of the Twilight Zone."
House grabbed the bottle of water on the table between therapist and patient, guzzling it down thirstily. He noticed the pensive expression Nolan wore and the fact that he hadn't spoken up with another question right away.
"Greg," the Psychiatrist said slowly, "What do you think James meant by what he said?"
The diagnostician pondered the question. He knew now what Wilson had meant but he was still having difficulty accepting it. Even thinking about it tortured him.
"I wasn't sure," House answered. "But things got a lot stranger. I spent the afternoon finishing my paper and going over some lab results on my patient with Chase. I didn't see or hear from Wilson until five o' clock came around and I headed to his office to see if he was ready to go home yet. His office door was wedged partially open because the heating system throughout the hospital was on the fritz again and it was hot as hell in there. He had his balcony door open which allowed a cross-breeze to occur. As I approached I could hear him talking with someone, but I didn't know who until I got closer. I figured that if it was confidential he would have shut his door, regardless of the heat. So I stood where he couldn't see me and listened in, hoping I'd hear something that would explain his strange behavior.
" He was talking with a woman and it didn't take me long to recognize the voice as Thirteen's. That was strange because he doesn't usually have much to do with her. I caught their conversation in the middle.
" '…So he asked you if you were dying?' Thirteen asked. 'Why would he ask that?'
" 'because he sensed something was wrong and figured that was just as good an explanation as any, I guess," Wilson replied. 'The entire meal I was sweating bullets. I wanted to tell him but I couldn't find the courage. Remy, I'm afraid that if I tell him the truth I'll ruin the most important relationship I've ever had.'
" 'You don't know that,' she told him. 'You never know how he may react. He's your best friend and everybody knows that you're his. He's not going to throw that baby out with the bath water. Wilson, he might even respond favorably.'
" 'I should just stop now and say nothing at all. I'd rather have things stay the way they are right now than risk losing him altogether.'
'Living in denial like that is no way to spend the rest of your life,' Thirteen argued. 'You're just as entitled as anyone else to express your true feelings and be free to be who you really are. Trust me, I know. When I was in high school I tried to deny the fact that I dreamt about making out with my girlfriends just as much as with the boys. I was terrified of anyone finding out my 'dirty little secret' and being ostracized. I spent my entire senior year miserable trying to pretend I was someone I wasn't. Don't make that same mistake and condemn yourself for the rest of your life.'
" 'What if I alienate House to the point that he wants nothing to do with me ever again? I think that would kill me! If you told me a year and a half ago that we would be having this conversation I would have laughed in your face. I've always been attracted to women. Never have I ever had the slightest urge towards men. It wasn't until House walked into my office with Cuddy literally holding him up that I realized just how much I loved him, and seeing him in such distress tore my heart apart. The entire time he was in Mayfield, all I dreamt of at night was holding him in my arms and promising that everything was going to be alright. When he was discharged and he moved in with me as a condition of his release, I was thrilled but I was also very troubled. Knowing that he was sleeping in the next room so near-by and not being able….' Wilson sighed heavily. 'When House came back ready to pursue a relationship with Cuddy, it hurt worse than anything. I found myself irrationally jealous and I began to take it out on both House and Cuddy. I acted distant with him, like I was too busy with my life to waste my time talking with him when the truth was I didn't want to talk to him because almost every conversation had to do with her. I was short tempered and rude with Cuddy at work because just seeing her reminded me of how much House wanted her…and not me. I found myself becoming aroused when he walked around in just his boxers in the morning. I've tried to hide it all from him because I'm terrified of his reaction if he finds out.'
"I had heard about as much as I could handle," House told Nolan softly. "I quietly went back to my office and sat in my recliner and tried not to think about what I had just heard but I couldn't stop. At first I thought it had to be some kind of joke and any moment Wilson was going to barge into my office and yell 'Gotcha!' After that came the anger. I was furious that he was betraying my trust, that he had been lying to me for years about who he really was. I was disgusted at the thought of him getting a hard on watching me get ready in the morning. Part of me wanted to march back to his office and beat the hell out of him for lusting after me, for being gay and not warning me. Underneath the anger, though, I was incredibly upset. There was a lot of self-pity, but I couldn't stop thinking about how sad he had sounded when he was talking with Thirteen. He was heartbroken. He was in love with me and he was terrified that I would react exactly as I just had. I began to think about all of the ways he has been there for me over the years, about how much he means to me. I remembered how terrified I was that he would die when he donated half of his liver to that jerk who didn't really give a damn about him, or anyone else for that matter. I remembered thinking that if Wilson died, my life would be over, too. I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that what it all boiled down to was that…I…love him, too.
"Oh god, I'm so fucked up right now!" The diagnostician sat forward in his seat and bent over, hiding his face in both of his hands. He didn't know if he wanted to cry or laugh at how preposterous it all was. Everything he had thought was real and true was now in question. He didn't even know if he really knew who and what he was. Nausea hit him with waves and he felt like he might vomit. His entire body was trembling and he wondered if this is what it felt like when a person had a nervous breakdown.
Nolan spoke to him very softly and carefully. "What are you feeling right now, Greg? Can you describe it to me?"
House shook his head, his hands hiding the fact that he was crying and he knew that if he spoke Nolan would know.
"Greg, I know that right now you are feeling very overwhelmed by your emotions. You have every right to feel that way. This is a safe place for you to express your emotions, to take a look at them for what they are and figure out what they mean. If you try to repress them they'll only end up coming out explosively when you aren't in a safe place, and that could be very dangerous. I want you to give yourself permission to let them out right here and right now."
That was all the diagnostician needed to hear. The dam broke and all of his anger and fear and sadness burst out of him. He sobbed loudly, gasping for breath between painful heaves. Groans that came from the pit of his soul pour forth up from his gut and out of his mouth. He pounded the armrests of his chair in fury, his whole body rocked back and forth. He grieved so hard for so long that when he began to calm down, all of his energy spent, he felt lightheaded and disoriented. For a few minutes he wasn't certain if he knew where he was. Nolan instructed him to begin to take slow, deep breaths and center himself as he had learned how to do in prior sessions. Gradually House began to relax, his mind started to clear, his heart stopped beating rapidly and loudly in his ears.
When Nolan felt the time was right, he asked him, "Greg, I want you to tell me what you are thinking about at this very moment. What are the most immediate thoughts you're having?"
House lifted his head and wiped the tears off of his face at first with his hands and then with tissues from the box Nolan offered to him.
"I don't want to lose my best friend," he answered, his voice hoarse from his groaning. "I love him, and I don't know what that means. I don't know if I'm in love with him or not. I've never had sexual thoughts and feelings for any man, but I know I love Wilson more than I have ever loved anyone, man or woman, in my life. I'm so confused, and all I want to do right now is get drunk and stoned and forget about all of this."
There was silence for about fifteen seconds but to House it seemed to last for an eternity. The silence only left him alone with the cacophony playing over and over again in his head. He wanted there to be external noise to distract him. He wanted to be told what to do because he just didn't have an answer for himself.
"I know, Greg," Nolan told him gently. "I know. But we both know that once you come down from that high and you sober up you'll only be in a far worse situation than you already are. We have to come up with a healthier way of answering your questions and surviving this crisis."
House looked at the therapist and shook his head in utter bewilderment. "How? How do I do that?"
"I think it's obvious that our first step is to define exactly how you feel about James," Nolan told him. "You have to allow yourself to be completely honest with yourself, even if the things you discover are absolutely the opposite of what you expect or think are right. This is not about how you wish you feel or how you're supposed to feel or not even about how you've always felt before. It's about raw honesty, about right here and right now and no bull-shit. Can you do that?"
House considered his question very carefully. It was possible that whatever it was that he would discover might terrify him, turn him upside down and sideways, but if it meant being truly happy, he would do it; he had to.
"Yes," the diagnostician answered with certainty.
"Okay," Nolan said, nodding. "Let's begin."
* * *
When House arrived home he found Wilson in the kitchen, preparing their dinner.
"What can I do to help?"
Wilson looked up at him with an unreadable expression. "You can slice those carrots." He nodded to a bowl of the orange roots sitting on the counter by the sink. House went over and got them; the carrots were already washed and peeled and were ready to be cut. He washed his hands thoroughly with soap and hot water at the sink, found a chef's knife and a cutting board and set to work. It was silent for a few minutes except for the sound of chopping; Wilson was finely chopping shallots.
"What are we making?" House asked, absolutely needing to break the silence. The tension in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife.
"Shepherd's Pie," Wilson answered simply.
"Really?" the diagnostician asked, smiling in pleasant surprise. "We get comfort food instead of rabbit food?"
Wilson looked askance at him. "Are you complaining?"
"Nope," was the quick reply. "I'm so stoked I'll even eat a salad if you make one."
"You are stoked," Wilson said sarcastically, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Yeah," House said because he couldn't think of anything else. The atmosphere around them sucked. There wasn't the camaraderie, the sarcasm, the ease that he had grown so accustomed to. He couldn't imagine living the rest of his life with this kind of tension between them.
"Wilson," House said, setting the knife down. "I think we should talk, now."
The oncologist refused to meet his eyes, continuing his work. "We can talk over dinner. Let's finish this first--." He stopped in mid-sentence when House put his hand over his to stop the chopping.
"This can wait. Talking can't." the older man told the younger. Wilson looked up at House at last and met his gaze.
"Alright. We'll talk."
"First of all," House said with a smirk, "Let's put all of the knives out of reach."
Wilson smiled at that and handed his knife over. The older man took them and put them on the counter next to the sink and then joined Wilson at the island again.
House took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself and then spoke first. "I know, Wilson. I overheard your conversation with Thirteen last Friday. Before you get angry, I was coming to see if you were ready to go home. I wasn't trying to spy on you."
Wilson looked away. House could tell that he was angry but there was something else. Was it shame?
"I…was going to tell you," the oncologist said quietly, every muscle in his face tensed up. "I just had to get the courage. That's why I was talking with Thirteen."
"Because she would understand," the older man commented understandingly. Wilson nodded curtly.
"I'm sorry that I've been so unapproachable in the past that you didn't feel safe enough to tell me," House told him.
Wilson looked at him quizzically. "House, this is more than just telling you that I hate it when you leave your underwear on the bathroom floor. I never expected you to hear what I had to tell you and not react. You haven't been any more unapproachable than I have."
"Well I'm here right now and I'm prepared to listen," House told him. "I want you to tell me what you've needed to tell me. You're my best friend, Wilson. I don't want you to be afraid to tell me how you feel."
The younger man searched House's face to see if there was any sign of mockery or duplicity but he found none because there wasn't any to find. House's heart was pounding so hard he couldn't understand how the other man couldn't hear it. Speak, Wilson, please speak.
"I…I'm in love with you…Greg," the oncologist said at last. House could tell that it was taking every ounce of courage his friend had to do it. "I don't know how, or exactly when it happened. It knocked me off of my feet and it took me a long time to acknowledge it. I've never thought of myself as gay or bisexual. I've never had these kinds of feelings for another man in my entire life. But the more that I accepted the fact that I not only loved you but I was in love with you, the other…feelings began to make sense. They felt…right. I would probably never feel this way again with any other man. I know that you don't understand, and that's alright, because I still don't fully understand myself."
House listened to his words, trying hard to remain impassive so his friend wouldn't withdraw and stop talking. When Wilson was quiet, he said, "I think what you're saying is that it's not so much that you are in love with me as a man as you are in love with me as Greg, no matter what my gender may be. Am I right?"
Wilson thought about that, looking at the diagnostician in wonder.
"Yes," the oncologist said, beginning to nod slowly. "I think so. All I know for sure is that I can't imagine living without you in my life. Likewise, I can't imagine loving you the way I do and never being able to express it, to show you. These last few months have been nearly unbearable. That's when I knew I had to tell you and risk losing you, your friendship and respect--because I can't live the lie anymore."
There were unshed tears in Wilson's eyes and it killed House to see them there. When he thought about how long his friend had suffered with this secret it broke him. The younger man deserved so much better that that. House wanted him to have better than that.
He saw Wilson set his jaw in preparation for the painful response he anticipated from him. House took a few moments to gather his thoughts and find the right words to say.
"I won't lie to you and tell you that my first reaction wasn't anger and rage," House began carefully, establishing and then maintaining eye contact. "But that wasn't all I felt. I felt afraid that I was going to lose the most important person in the world to me and end up all alone. I thought my whole world was crumbling down around me and I spent quite a bit of time feeling sorry for myself—surprise, surprise! After fear, I felt sad. I began to mourn you and our friendship. Perhaps the worst of it, however, was the confusion over how this had impacted my feelings for you. I was ready today to throw away months of sobriety just to stop feeling as miserable as I did. Nolan and I spent a double session trying to work through it all to get to the bottom of how I really felt and what I genuinely wanted to see happen."
"God, House," Wilson said with a pained grimace on his face, "I never meant for you to have you go through all of that! I'm so sorry."
House exhaled through his mouth to release some of the tension that had been building up inside of him. "I know that. I don't blame you. In fact, I'm kind of glad, now. It made me think through a lot of things that I've been avoiding. Here's what I discovered: I love you so much that I can't risk losing you. If wanting to spend the rest of my life with you, share my life with you, wanting you to be happy and secure and being willing to sacrifice my own pride means that I'm in love with you…well, then, I am."
"House--!" Wilson spoke up with a look of astonishment on his face but the older man cut him off.
"You're going to have to be patient with me," he warned the younger man. "This is uncharted territory for me and to be honest with you, I don't know how ready I am for a lot of physical intimacy yet. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I'm in love with James Wilson, who just happens to be a man. And I need this to be a private thing right now while I get everything worked out, but if you're willing to let me take this slowly…I want to be…yours."
House forced himself to keep eye contact. He had never felt this vulnerable and afraid before, but at the same time, he knew that it was honest and he didn't have to go through this all alone. It felt right. The expression of Wilson's face was priceless: his eyes were wide with astonishment but sparkled with hope. His mouth was still agape but a smile was on the cusp of emerging.
The older man smiled and rolled his eyes. "You're going to catch flies if you don't close your mouth."
Wilson closed his mouth and smiled, saying, "You never cease to amaze me!"
House smiled almost bashfully. Taking a deep breath, he stepped around the island, leaned in and wrapped his arms around Wilson, pulling him close and holding on tight. When Wilson wrapped his arms around him in return, House allowed himself to rest in the embrace and admit to himself that it felt good. He pulled away slightly and leaned his face in to place a soft, tentative kiss on his best friend's lips. Wilson kissed back, just as gently; House felt a twinge of arousal that at first startled him but then he allowed himself to feel it without analyzing and judging. He loved James; that's what mattered.
"How about we finish dinner now?" Wilson said, pulling away. His face was wet and he went to brush his tears away but House beat him to it, touching his face softly.
"Sounds good!" the diagnostician said with a sheepish grin. "I'm starved."
As they returned to work House said, "Happy Belated Valentine's Day, James."
Wilson smiled with no reply, but he didn't have to; House knew.