Disclaimer to Fox: I don't own 'em. Wish I did. Most of them, anyway.
Disclaimer to Readers: To any professional or amateur architects (I'm still trying to get an accurate picture of the new loft), psychologists, whatever other specialty out there that this fic touches on, I apologize for any errors that inadvertently slipped past me. Try to enjoy the story anyway.
AN: This is a short one-shot postep to Remorse. House/Wilson friendship, no slash. The fourth fic in the Pranks universe is still stuck in creation; any time I try to work on it, the central thought is what errors I'm making this time that I will get jumped for. Research apparently is no help in avoiding them. I'm trying to focus on the characters to shake it loose, since it's the characters I enjoy most anyway; hopefully things eventually will get rolling again. Meanwhile, I might throw you a short one-shot here and there as they strike me and if my muse takes the bait. This is definitely just a one-shot. Hope you enjoy it.
Wilson had long since eaten by the time House got home. The oncologist was sitting at the table eying his empty plate and wondering where House was and if it involved Vicodin. With the case solved, no need for him to be at the hospital this late, although Wilson had called, getting a bored-sounding Foreman who said he was pretty sure House had left. Wilson didn't want to hover, but he took his assigned duties by House's psychiatrist seriously, even in weeks like this one when House himself was being annoying. By the time House opened the door, Wilson was in the process of taking out his cell phone again to call, and never mind how his touchy friend reacted.
House limped heavily in, his wet shoes squeaking slightly on the floorboards. "Where have you been?" Wilson demanded.
"Out," House replied shortly. He shrugged off his coat and tossed it untidily over the back of the couch before limping around to the front to fall into the hideous orange cushions. His hand groped down the side, and then the couch reclined, with House flinching slightly as it carried his leg up.
Wilson pushed back from the table and came over to the couch, compulsively picking up the discarded coat. "You could have called."
House tilted his head. "Mother, you're looking different these days. New hair style?"
"Seriously, House. Where have you been?"
"I already told you. Out. Although the details like the coat and the wet shoes and the walking in the loft door might have tipped you off." House's tone was his barbed usual, but one hand lightly rested on his thigh. Wilson saw it and relaxed slightly. If House's leg was hurting more tonight, it could mean a lot of things - weather, Cuddy, med school acquaintance - but it almost certainly did not mean Vicodin.
House read the changed expression and answered directly. "NO, I didn't take Vicodin. Satisfied?"
Wilson turned to go to the coat closet. "You still could have called. I fixed dinner, since I thought we'd both be here. In fact, your share is still on the stove. Want me to heat it up?"
"I'm not really hungry." House picked up the remote and started channel surfing, and Wilson came around to the other side of the couch and sat down himself.
"Let me guess: You went to see Cuddy? No, you would chicken out on that. You took your friend that check again instead. Might as well fix something while dodging the main thing."
House ran the volume up on the TV. "What was that? I can't hear you."
Wilson stood up, walked over to the set, and pulled the plug. The sudden silence was deafening. "I said . . . "
House abruptly closed the footrest and stood up. "Sorry, we already had my psychotherapy appointment earlier today. I wouldn't want to take up more of your time. Surely you have other clients." He started limping toward the hall toward his bedroom.
Wilson sighed. "Right, you obviously have nothing you need to talk about. I hope your substitute apology finally worked out, anyway, even if you should have been apologizing to somebody else."
House stopped so suddenly in the hall that he slipped slightly with his wet shoes and put out his left hand to steady himself on the wall. He turned around to face his friend. "Maybe I picked him because I was trying to apologize to somebody I thought might actually accept it."
"What? Cuddy would . . . well, okay, I can see where that would have been awkward, but I would have accepted one from you."
House's blue eyes were locked on his face, looking into him. "Do you really think so?"
"What? House, what are we talking about here?"
House turned back to the bedroom door. "We aren't talking about anything. I'm going to bed." The door closed with a thud, leaving Wilson out in the hall staring at the firm barrier between them.
The oncologist finally wandered back out into the living room. What on earth had that been about? Of course he would have accepted an apology from House, would have been thrilled to actually get one after all these years. Why back in therapy would House have questioned that? Cuddy, okay, maybe that was a valid point. Still too many raw emotions and too much shame tied up with the hallucination. Cuddy probably would have accepted a House apology letter, but House himself couldn't have written her one just then. But why did he doubt Wilson? Wilson sat down on the couch, feeling suddenly like he needed a whiteboard.
Somebody I thought might actually accept it. But with no previous experience, how could he have doubted Wilson's response? In all their long relationship, House had never . . .
Wilson's thoughts abruptly slammed to a halt. That wasn't true. House had apologized during the DBS. Immediately, in front of Chase, with actual tears, he had sobbed out a hopeless, repeated apology to Wilson the minute he remembered what was wrong. And Wilson had stood there numb, helpless, locked in Amber's situation, even as House had started seizing. Chase had had to prompt the oncologist several times for help. The next time House saw Wilson, the oncologist was staring at him in cold accusation through the glass ICU doors. Then he had walked away, and a few months later, after their return from bereavement/convalescent leave, he had actually walked away. Even during the funeral trip, he had been sure to emphasize as many times as possible that their friendship was over. Even when he came back afterward, he had phrased it almost as a helpless force, questioning if he even had a choice of his friends, as if his choice if he had had one would have been to abandon House and keep on walking.
Damn. How rare were apologies from House, much less actual tears? And when he had given one, not caring that Chase was there, not caring about his own health, just needing to convey to Wilson immediately how sorry he was for Amber's upcoming loss and his role in it, Wilson had just stared at him without a word and then walked away. Why on earth would House choose to repeat that experience? Why would he think an apology might be accepted?
And was Wilson himself the one who needed to apologize? The DBS had been an insane idea, with House already badly hurt and fresh off a heart attack and full cardiopulmonary arrest. But Wilson had asked in desperation, and House had agreed out of friendship. Not out of guilt, as there had been no guilt at that point with details still missing. Just out of friendship. Had Wilson ever once acknowledged that? He ran his mind back over almost two years, unable to think of a single time.
Wilson stood up suddenly and walked back down the hall. He knocked on House's bedroom door, waited a few token seconds without expecting a response, and then opened the door slowly. "House?"
House was on his bed, eyes open and fixed on the ceiling, hands linked behind his head. He didn't even look over, and Wilson realized after a minute that he hadn't heard his entrance, lost in whatever differential he was running on the ceiling patterns. "House?" he repeated louder.
House's eyes clicked into focus and turned to meet him. "You could have knocked."
"Could have waited for an answer."
"Would it have done me any good?" Wilson came over to sit on the side of the bed. "I've been thinking."
"Here we go again. Okay, hurry up and get your last comments on my screwed-up life in for today so we can both get to sleep."
Wilson took a deep breath. "House, I'm sorry."
That got his friend's attention. House turned to face him, propping up slightly on an elbow, the blue eyes startled. "You're sorry?"
"Yes. I'm sorry for asking you to do that DBS. I'm sorry I stood there like a rock when you tried to apologize for Amber - although that wasn't your fault, and I don't blame you for it. I'm sorry for walking away. I'm sorry for being so distant and closed-off on the way to the funeral. I'm sorry for not actually telling you why I wanted to come back." He saw the question mark there behind the stunned eyes. "I came back because I wanted to. Not because I didn't have a choice. I came back because I missed you. I should have come back sooner. And I'm sorry for pushing you about Cuddy when she was with Lucas. I really didn't know." House looked almost in shock. Wilson stood up. "I'm sorry for everything, House." He turned to leave.
His hand was on the door knob when House's voice came from behind him. "Wilson?"
Wilson turned back around. "What?"
"I'm . . . sorry I didn't call earlier and let you know I'd be late."
Wilson smiled. Baby steps. "Apology accepted. Good night, House."