Reasonable Suspicion

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: This is the third installment of what I have loosely called "The Law of House" series. It is intended to be able to stand alone or be a sequel to Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and Direct Evidence.

Warning: H/W slash, relationship established.

Rated T for language, violence and sexuality. Discretion advised.

Dr. Lisa Cuddy didn't bother to knock when she barged into the office of PPTH's prize diagnostician carrying a case file in her hand. She entered to see Gregory House perched on the edge of his desk facing the door and her head of Oncology, Dr. James Wilson was standing in front of him, facing away from her, his left hand rubbing the back of his neck and staring down at his feet. Both doctors looked uncomfortable at being walked in on; their faces were flushed.

Great, the Dean of Medicine thought to herself, I just walked in on an argument. House is sure to be cooperative now—not.

"House, I just received word that you've refused to sign off on Ms. Baker's request to have her son transferred to a hospital closer to their home in Northfield. He's been stable for nearly a week now! What's going on?"

House looked at the hospital's administrator angrily, "Next time knock before you just barge in!" he told her in no uncertain terms. "I'm busy right now. You can rant at me about this later—I'll even make it easy on you and barge into your office for it! Go away!"

Cuddy was used to being yelled at by the irascible middle-aged doctor but this time he was more than annoyed at her mere presence—he was upset. Very upset. Wilson hadn't even turned around to face her yet. There was something wrong and it was more than just House trying to avoid a confrontation with her. It was her hospital. She was the boss and she would damn well barge into his office whenever she felt like it, particularly when the diagnostician was being a pain in her ass—which was approximately ninety percent of the time, especially since he had found out she was in a relationship with Lucas Douglas.

"Is there something wrong?" she asked suspiciously, looking from House to Wilson and back again. "James? Can you at least acknowledge me, please?"

She saw House look up at the oncologist and shrug almost imperceptibly. After a moment longer, the younger of the two men turned around slowly. As soon as she saw his face she gasped and hurried up to him in concern. Wilson's right eye was blackened and swollen shut. His jaw was also a purplish black and his lower lip was split and bleeding down his chin and onto his expensive dress shirt, which had been torn open to expose more bruising on his chest. His grey suit was dirty, torn and tattered.

"My God! What happened to you?" she asked, wide-eyed, before turning to glare at House.

The older man realized the implication of her stare and grew defensive. "Don't look at me!" he shouted indignantly. "I wouldn't do that to him!"

Cuddy believed him. There was a strained quality to his voice she had only heard once or twice before, when he was in great duress, perhaps on the verge of tears and fighting it with all of his might. She looked back to Wilson.

"He's right, Lisa," the oncologist told her, appearing uncomfortable at the attention she was giving his face. She was studying his lip, her fingers barely brushing it as they moved up to his eye. "House didn't do this. In fact he's been trying to convince me to go to the ER."

"Who did this to you?" she demanded.

"Cuddy," House warned but Wilson stayed the rest of his friend's sentence by raising his hand.

"It's alright House. It's her hospital, she needs to be told."

"Are you sure?" House asked him softly, his brow furrowing in concern. There was more compassion in the older man's eyes than she had seen in a very long time, which only made Cuddy all the more anxious.

"Yeah," Wilson told him, his voice equally soft, "Unless….?"

"I'm not worried," House told him. "Whatever you want."

The Dean of Medicine was confused by their guarded language and simply wanted to know what had happened to one of her department heads and friend.

"Would somebody please tell me what's going on?"Cuddy asked again in exasperation. She couldn't stand to see him continue to bleed. She went into the adjoining conference room long enough to bring back a few napkins from by the coffee maker. Wilson stopped her when she went to dab at his mouth, smiled weakly in appreciation and took the napkins from her, sopping up some of the blood on his own.

Wilson moved over to House's couch to sit down. He did so slowly and stiffly, grimacing the entire way. She joined him on the couch and took his free hand in her own.

"I was jumped by a couple of guys in the parking lot," he told her, avoiding her eyes. "I ran out because I left a file I needed in my car. They came up to me, began to harass me. I told them to get lost and mind their own business and that's when they jumped me. I'm not much of a fighter but I can defend myself when it's one on one--two on one, not so much. After beating the shit out of me, they left me lying on the ground and took off. When I was able to get up, I came here."

"Here?" Cuddy echoed. "Why didn't you go to the ER right away?"

When Wilson didn't answer right away, House did so for him saying, "He was embarrassed." Usually there would have been a note of disdain or disgust in the diagnostician's voice, but this time there wasn't.

"Why?" Cuddy asked, frowning. "You're not the first person to be mugged, James. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. Besides, a formal examination has to be carried out for the police report--."

"There won't be a police report," Wilson told her firmly, still not meeting her gaze.

"Anytime a mugging victim is brought in to the ER we're required to fill out a police report," The Dean of Medicine reminded him.

"That's why I'm not going to the ER," the oncologist insisted. "Look, it happened, it's over. They didn't even take my wallet, okay? Black eyes heal—I don't see any need to create a big fuss over nothing! It looks worse than it is."

"We don't know that," House told him sternly. "We can't be certain that they didn't hurt you seriously without running some tests, taking some x-rays. You got kicked repeatedly in your gut! You could have internal injuries, hemorrhaging--!"

"He's right!" Cuddy told Wilson equally as sternly. She gently touched his face and turned it so he had to look her in the eyes. "Your pallid, you're sweating lightly, your lip needs to be stitched and we won't know if any serious injury was done to your eye until we can examine it. Stop being proud and come with us to the ER right now!"

"No!" Wilson protested angrily and jumped to his feet. Just as quickly as he was up, he was down again, grabbing his abdomen and groaning in agony. Before he hit the couch again, House was up and at his side amazingly quickly for a man with a disabled leg. The diagnostician wrapped one arm across his friend's shoulders while touching his cheek gently with his hand. The tenderness of the touch wasn't lost on Cuddy.

"James, easy!" he murmured. House looked up at Cuddy. "Call the ER and tell them we're on our way down and I'll grab a wheelchair." To Wilson she heard him whisper, "Please, don't fight this."

Cuddy didn't argue or hesitate and was up and on the phone to the Emergency Room.

House left Wilson's side to run to the nearest nursing unit for the chair, nearly running with his cane. He was back right away with it, parking it next to Wilson and locking the brakes.

Cuddy helped lift the oncologist into the wheelchair. The way the younger man groaned with pain scared her. She glanced at House. His brilliant blue eyes were clouded with fear. He strapped Wilson in, just to be safe. Hooking his cane onto the back of the seat, House began to push the chair out of the office, using it for balance and support. The Dean of Medicine offered to take over but the only response she received was a death glare from the diagnostician so she backed off and walked beside the chair instead.

Wilson was looking bad, very bad. He was slumped in his seat; he appeared terribly pale, his skin was clammy, and his breathing seemed to be quick and shallow, as if he were in the early stages of a panic attack. He seemed confused, occasionally asking along the way where they were taking him or where he was. All of these were signs that his blood pressure was falling quickly. A falling BP and abdominal pain almost certainly meant internal bleeding. From the look on House's face, he knew it as well; the older man looked like he was going to be sick.

By the time they reached the ER, Wilson was nearly unconscious. House pushed him to the head of the lineup of patients to be treated. Seeing Cuddy, the triage nurse asked no questions and opened the door into the treatment area for them to go right on through. Staffers were waiting for them, leading them to a treatment room where carefully Wilson was lifted out of the chair and onto the waiting examination bed. They set to work on the oncologist, wasting no time. House was right in there, eager to help but his concern was so great that he seemed to be lost and in the way. Cuddy immediately went to him, wrapped an arm around his back and tried to guide him out of the way and off to the side. To her amazement and dismay he didn't put up much of a fight. She had never seen him so overwhelmed in an emergency medical setting before.

"It's going to be okay," she told House comfortingly, wondering if he even heard her. She led him to the nearest chair and ordered him to sit down. The diagnostician, usually resistant to orders and other signs of authority, didn't argue with her, seeming almost relieved to have someone else take control for once. It was so unlike the man that it literally chilled her to the bone.

Silently they watched as the ER Attending quickly assessed Wilson while one of his residents acted to secure his airway and intubated him. It was an organized chaos around their patient but this was par for the course for these professionals whose specialty was treating the critically ill and victims of severe physical trauma of every kind.

Cuddy's heart was beating hard in her chest. She still didn't understand what had really happened to the Chief of Oncology or why both Wilson and House had seemed to be so…reticent to go into details with her. It was like they shared a forbidden secret that no one could find out unless it was absolutely necessary, and she didn't like secrets, particularly when it involved her hospital.

She squatted next to House's chair and placed a comforting hand on one of his, squeezing gently.

"You haven't told me everything," she murmured only loudly enough for the diagnostician to hear her. "What really happened to Wilson? What aren't you telling me?"

"Not now," House whispered, never taking his eyes off of the work going on around his friend.

"Yes," Cuddy insisted quietly, "now. Damnit, House, I'm not asking as your boss, I'm asking as his friend."

House hesitated a few moments, debating with himself whether or not to answer. When he did, he said, "Let's step a little further away from all these ears, but not out of sight."

Cuddy agreed. House rose from the chair and limped a few feet further away from the action and she followed.

"He wasn't mugged," the diagnostician told her, still keeping his voice low.

"What?" she reacted in surprise. "But I thought Wilson said--?"

"Wilson said that he was jumped, not mugged. You made the assumption that it was a mugging."

"Then why was he jumped?" Cuddy demanded, watching House's face carefully for any clue as to what he was truly thinking or, God forbid, even feeling. He usually kept whatever emotions he did possess deeply hidden beneath a façade of indifference but on very rare occasions he sometimes slipped up and allowed the truth to sneak out.

"Because some genetic throw-backs didn't like something they saw us do," House nearly growled in anger that wasn't directed at her, she knew, "so they decided they'd express their displeasure with their fists and feet. They picked on him when he was alone, I guess because I have the reputation around here of being the fighter and he's known as the good-natured pacifist who'd be easier to bully."

"I don't understand," Cuddy admitted, still very confused. "He was attacked by someone who works here at the hospital? Who? What did you two do?"

House paused a heartbeat and then met her gaze. His eyes were cold but she had seen them like that before. They were his "don't you dare say a wrong word or else" eyes and even she knew better than to ignore them. He then turned his gaze back to the activity in the trauma bay when he answered.

"We were kissing."

Cuddy lost the ability to talk—or think—for that matter. Her jaw dropped and her stomach flipped. Never had she suspected that House and Wilson, best friends for thirteen plus years, were anything more than just that: best friends.

Or, had she? She had never fully understood the connection the two men had shared through thick and thin. No matter what one did to the other, no matter what happened, they always ended up as close—if not closer—than ever. Heaven knew they had experienced many crises to their relationship over the years—Wilson's frustration with House just after the infarction that took half of the diagnostician's thigh and left him with chronic pain and long-term depression, when he nearly gave up on everything, especially his own recovery and return to real life; House's frustration with Wilson's string of marriages that usually ended up interfering with their friendship until the marriages failed; House's legal troubles with Detective Tritter and the rift that was formed when the cop blackmailed Wilson to make a deal with the D.A. in order to avoid jail time and lift the seizure of his financial accounts for abetting House with prescription fraud ( for which she wasn't all that innocent herself); Amber's unfortunate death due to a bus crash that may or may not have happened if House hadn't been drinking and called Wilson for a ride home, getting Amber involved instead; and Wilson's grief and difficulty in coming to terms with and forgiving House for what happened. There was also Wilson's rejection of House following her death which had driven the diagnostician to hire Lucas Douglas to track the oncologist's movements just to keep in touch with what he was doing and how he was coping.

She had noticed that during House's hospitalization in the asylum Wilson had behaved like a lost puppy, not knowing what to do with himself with his friend no longer around. He had been moody, and, yes, even depressed. Cuddy had also noticed how much closer the twosome had become following House's release from hospital and his moving in with Wilson to prevent the older doctor from falling back into old habits and relapsing; likewise there had been the nearly constant vigil House had kept at his best friend's bedside following Wilson's questionable living donation of a portion of his liver to a patient and during his recovery.

Yet, House's blunt confession of romantic behavior between the two men took her completely by surprise. Why-- Because they had hid it all so well? Or was it because she hadn't been paying close enough attention to what was happening under her own nose? Likewise, why did she care? She had cut short any romantic involvement between House and her when she chose to pursue a more stable and sensible relationship with Lucas instead. It was none of her business, really, and yet….

And yet she still had no idea how to respond to House's confession but still felt she had to say something; she decided to open her mouth and insert her foot by saying, "I've heard of rebound but turning gay is absolutely ridiculous, House!"

House turned his head to glare at her and the depth of the fury she saw in them frightened her. She hadn't just crossed the line—she had marched an army over it.

"That's right," House said softly, menacingly, "being dumped by Lisa Cuddy was devastating enough to not only turn me into a homosexual but my friend, who had to be goaded into dating you, into one as well. Because doing you is the ultimate privilege any red-blooded American heterosexual man could ever be given and not being blessed with your pussy would turn any man off of every other woman on earth forever! Yeah, it's all because of you. Keep believing that. Or maybe—just maybe—a sudden reminder of your fickleness and duplicity was the greatest gift I ever could have received and I dodged one giant cosmic bullet! Regardless of which is true, why don't you take your revolving vagina, your trophy baby and your domesticated moron of a boy-toy and fuck off!"

Cuddy recoiled from his verbal assault. Tears stung her eyes but they weren't tears of pain or regret—they were tears of anger and humiliation. How dare he say such vile and demeaning things to her after all of the second chances she had given him and all the ways she had saved his drug-addicted ass in the past? That was in addition to the fact that no matter what had taken place in their personal life she was still his boss and signed his paycheck and deserved to be treated with some goddamned respect!

"I'm going to forget what just happened here," she told him, barely restraining her rage, "and chalk it up to you being out of your mind with fear to be stupid enough to talk to me like that when I could fire your ass right here and now and have security drag your crippled body off of hospital property—but don't you ever speak to me like that again! Do you understand me?"

House didn't flinch an iota at her threat. "No, you remember it and you remember this well, Dr. Cuddy. Your little comment that earned you what I said could be taken as sexual harassment and I could have your ass fired, sue you and this hospital and destroy your credibility to the point where you won't be able to get a job managing a drug store! Then we'll both be out of a job, but I won't be the one smelling like a skunk. Don't you threaten or mock me or Wilson ever again! Don't look so surprised—setting boundaries was lesson number three in rehab. If you want me to respect your boundaries you're going to damned well start respecting mine!"

Cuddy felt the sting of fear against the skin of her heart and knew that it was time to back off. House had been aggressive, obnoxious and disgusting before but never had he ever drawn the line like he had just now. If it hadn't been laced with a threat she may have even been impressed. Not this time. However, he did have a distinct point. She spoke out of spite and it could come back to bite her if she didn't back off.

The Dean of Medicine spun on her ridiculously high heels and began to storm away.

"Cuddy!" House shouted after her, not pausing to see if she would turn around to look. "Kenneth Baker was beaten in the stomach and force fed fecal-tainted soil until no more would fit in his stomach by his mother because he has Pica and ate a mouthful of the dirt on his own. His splenic rupture was caused by mommy's fists, not some damned handlebars. I already contacted CPS on my own. If you overrule me and approve his transfer you're sending him back to hell. I charted it all in that file folder you're holding. Next time read all of it before you barge into my office without knocking!"

She didn't acknowledge him but Cuddy heard every word.

* * *

Down below him, beyond the glass, James Wilson underwent emergency surgery to repair two major tears in his ascending and transverse colon which had caused massive internal bleeding. House stood in the observation room above the operating theater, watching every single thing done by the surgeons and their team as they worked meticulously but efficiently to save his lover's life. Once again he stood watching and waiting in barely controlled panic as the most important person in the world to him was fighting to survive. A few months ago he had worried through the operation to remove a portion of Wilson's liver to donate to a supposed friend whom House had absolutely no use for. Now he watched in a cold sweat as the surgical team repaired injuries that never should have been incurred but for the savage ignorance and bigotry of two assholes who had the audacity to call themselves healers.

Wilson had been lucky that it was just his colon that had bled. It could have been his recovering liver, still not functioning at full capacity, or his spleen ruptured open, filling his abdomen with blood in a matter of minutes.

Even though logic said that it wasn't House's fault in any way, shape or form, he fell back on long established, self-destructive patterns and blamed himself. If only he hadn't been so impulsive by trying to sneak a kiss from Wilson at lunch; if he had only kept his damned hands to himself until they were in the safety of their Loft, alone; if only he had followed Wilson everywhere he went all day long to make certain than some unexpected assailants wouldn't catch him all alone and gang up on him to beat and kick the snot out of him…maybe he would be okay.

House knew that wasn't true even as he thought it. Both he and Wilson had discussed one night, while lying in bed after making love, the dangers that unfortunately came with loving someone in a relationship that didn't correspond to what some control freak Nazi wannabes figured was "right" or "socially acceptable". Who the hell were these people who believed that they alone had the right to decide what was an acceptable pairing and way of loving someone and what wasn't?

Both doctors had joked about same-sex pairings in the past while trying to define themselves by what other people believed it meant to be a real man because it was…easy, and acceptable, almost and most importantly because it had allowed them a way of avoiding assessing their own sexuality honestly and acceptingly. It had seemed harmless, a joke. They had never meant any real harm by it. House had considered himself quite open-minded and accepting; after all, he mocked everyone equally. Now he felt guilty. Bigotry thrived in such so-called jokes.

The diagnostician didn't look up when he heard the door to the room open.

"Hello, Greg."

House turned his head to the familiar voice. Darryl Nolan stood there. The psychiatrist joined him at the window.

"When I called and left the message," House said, turning his head back to the window, "I didn't expect you to drive all the way to Princeton."

"You called to cancel our appointment because the man you love, my friend, is undergoing emergency surgery," the African-American psychiatrist told him calmly. "The tone of your voice concerned me. I wanted to come. What injuries did he acquire?"

House told him. Nolan shook his head in dismay.

"Are you up to talking about it?"

The diagnostician shrugged. "Do I have a choice?"

"You always have a choice," Nolan reminded him, "but I think it may be helpful if you did."

House was silent for a moment and then said softly, "He was jumped because two staffers here caught us kissing; we thought we were alone. Wilson was getting something from his car in the parking lot and they cornered him there. Afterwards he dragged himself all the way up to my office instead of going to the ER because he was embarrassed. He collapsed from the bleeding there and Cuddy and I took him to Emerge."

Nolan was quiet, deeply disturbed by what he'd been told. He took a deep breath and exhaled, shaking his head. "What are you feeling right now, Greg?"

"I don't know."

"Yes you do."

House leaned his forehead against the glass and closed his eyes briefly. "I feel angry. All I want to do is find out who those assholes were and beat the shit out of them. They were fucking cowards—going after him, two against one. James was no match for them."

"Did he tell you who his attackers were?" the psychiatrist asked him.

Shaking his head, the diagnostician replied, "No. He refused."

"Why do you think that is?"

"I don't know. Maybe because he's afraid of retaliation if he does."

Nolan stared down at the surgery taking place below. "Feeling angry about this is okay, Greg. You deserve to feel angry. I know I do. I think you may be right about James—it wouldn't be an unusual reaction for him to have."

House didn't respond.

"Are you angry at anyone else?" was the next question.

House looked at his therapist again, searching the other man's face for a clue as to where he was going with this. "Cuddy."

"I see. Why?"

"She made a crack I didn't appreciate."

"And that was?"

"She implied that I'm involved with Wilson because I'm rebounding from her, calling it ridiculous."

Nolan frowned. "So she knows?"

"She does now," House answered. "She barged into my office unannounced and found Wilson with me, telling me about the attack. It was difficult to deny anything when she saw him all beat up."

"What do you think about what she said?" the Psychiatrist asked next, meeting the other's gaze.

"That she's a bitch?"

"Are you telling me or asking me?"

House sighed in frustration. "She's wrong."

"Did you tell her that?' Nolan asked him.

House half-nodded. "In not so many words."

"What were the words?"

The diagnostician smirked as he remembered his retort. He didn't regret saying it. "I sarcastically implied that she was full of herself if she thought I was so devastated by her refusal of me that I'd turn gay because of it. Then I told her to fuck off."

Nolan's eyebrows rose in surprise. "You do have a knack at being blunt. How did she react to that?"

"How do you think?" House asked. "She tried to pull her 'I'm your boss so don't screw with me' shit. I reminded her that her comment could be interpreted as sexual harassment. That shut her up for now."

"Her comment was sexual harassment," Nolan said. "You have a right to be angry, especially considering what has just happened to James. Anyone else that you're angry at?"

The diagnostician didn't answer. He didn't want to because he didn't want to get into it with the therapist just then. He knew from experience, however, that Nolan wouldn't let it alone until he confessed. He knew House too well.

"Myself," he told the psychiatrist resignedly. "I initiated the kiss. I should have been more careful. I should have somehow…."

"Somehow what?" Nolan pressed gently.

"I should have protected him," House said with a sigh. "I feel guilty, too."

"That's good self-awareness and ownership of your feelings. Did you have foreknowledge of the attack, Greg?"

The diagnostician looked at him, frowning indignantly. "Of course not! If I had known I never would have allowed it to happen!"

"I know," Nolan assured him, nodding. "Your guilty feelings are consistent with the way you view yourself, but they're misplaced. You had no idea that the attack was going to occur so there is no way you could have protected James from it. As for the kiss, you were discreet and there was nothing wrong with you showing affection for someone you love. If you had kissed a woman and then she had been attacked later as a result, would you be guilty?"

"I don't know," House answered, shrugging. "If I had kissed a woman, no one would have given a damn!"

"Is that a yes or a no?"

"No. I don't think I would, but that's because I know that the attack wouldn't have been motivated by the kiss."

"My point is," Nolan explained, "the guilt doesn't belong with you. It belongs with James' attackers. You didn't do anything wrong. James is down there because of others' bigotry, not because of you. Do you think James blames you?"

House shook his head, rubbing the back of his neck. "No. He told me as much before Cuddy interrupted us."

Nolan said nothing. He simply looked meaningfully at the diagnostician, catching his eye. House nodded reluctantly in acknowledgement.

"What else are you feeling?" Nolan asked him after a moment.

Considering that question, House answered, "I'm afraid of losing James. He hasn't completely recovered yet from the LOD and now this. For the past week and a half, things have been…good. He makes me happy. I can't stand the thought of losing him."

"Your fear is normal," the Psychiatrist assured him. "In fact it's very healthy."

"Healthy?" the diagnostician echoed bitterly.

"Yes," was Nolan's answer. "Your relationship with James is deep. You've formed a bond with him, something you've struggled with most of your life, and if he dies you will suffer a great loss. It's absolutely appropriate to be afraid of that happening. It feels terrible, but it's a sign that you're healing. How likely is it that James will die as a result of his injuries today?"

Shrugging, House answered, "Unless something goes wrong down there or there are complications like an infection or a bleed in his liver…his odds of recovering well are quite good. So my fear is irrational."

"I didn't say that," Nolan told him. "In fact, I just finished telling you otherwise. I simply want you to focus on the positive rather than obsess over the negative. Hope is a balm for our fears."

There was silence between them for two or three minutes before Nolan asked him. "Anything else you want to talk about concerning this?"

"No," House answered automatically and then thought again. "Actually, yes. Not about this. Something different."

"Oh? Go on."

The diagnostician gathered his thoughts. "It's about a patient of mine. A five-year-old child. We'll call him Kenny."

Nolan looked intrigued. "Umm hmm."

"He was brought in with a menagerie of symptoms. Neurological, gastrointestinal…turns out he was suffering from a splenic rupture and Clostridium perfingens infection. He had bruising over all four quadrants of his abdomen. His mother claimed that the bruising was from a bike accident where he landed hard on his handlebars. It looked more like he'd been used as a punching bag. I talked with him, asked him a few questions. He admitted that his mother had punched him several times as punishment for catching him eating soil from her garden. It had been fertilized with manure, hence the Clostridium. The thing is, the ER he was rushed to before he was transferred here reported that his stomach had been literally filled with soil and the child claims he didn't eat a lot. There were abrasions, small cuts and bruising on his lips. I asked him if his mother had force-fed him more of the soil and he broke down crying." House sighed heavily, still troubled by the memory of it.

"You reported it to CPS, I assume," Nolan said quietly. "I see that this troubles you a great deal."

"That's the thing," the diagnostician said. "I've treated people of all ages who were victims of child abuse before Kenny and have barely felt a thing. I usually avoid personal contact with my patients, especially children—I've told you that before. For some reason, Kenny's different."

"How, different?"

"When he cried…I felt strange. I was furious with his mother and…I felt like crying with him. I can't get him out of my mind. Before you suggest it, I do see the connection between him and myself as a child. In fact, he even evoked a nightmare…a memory, really, from when I was around his age. What's confusing me is why he moves me when the others didn't."

Nolan thought about it for a moment. "When was the last time you treated a child who had been abused?"

"I don't know…maybe a year ago?"

"Before Recovery began?"

"Yeah," House agreed. "Why?"

"A year ago you were still numbing yourself with drugs and alcohol. You were in denial of your past and your emotions," the psychiatrist pointed out. "Since then you've sobered up and worked on accepting your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them. You're learning how to connect to others, to build bonds and to empathize. Not only is your reaction to Kenny okay, it's an indicator of how much you've grown in a year. The next time you try to tell me that you'll never change, I'm going to remind you of this. I'm very pleased."

House avoided his therapist's eyes. He felt extremely uncomfortable when he received compliments or praise; he never knew what to say in response.

"I promised him I wouldn't allow his mom to hurt him again," the diagnostician said, frowning. "I had no right to make that promise…I don't know if I have the ability to keep it, but I want to. I don't want to let him down."

"It may not have been wise to tell him that," Nolan agreed. "However, I think making the effort to do as much as you can to protect him may be a very therapeutic thing for you, so long as you remember that there are some things you have no control over and you keep from beating yourself up if things don't turn out the way you want them to. Have you talked to James about this?"

House shook his head. "I planned to this evening, but that was before…this. Now it will have to wait." He sighed heavily. "Thank you."

Nolan looked at him and smiled quizzically. "For what, Greg?"

"For coming here…it helps," the diagnostician told him with a weak smile.

"You're welcome."

* * *

James Wilson opened his eyes in the Recovery room to see the face of his lover looking down at him with a combination of relief and concern. House held his hand and smiled.

"Welcome back."

"You're…here." the oncologist said drowsily.

"Where else would I be?" the diagnostician asked rhetorically, and leaned over to kiss his forehead tenderly. "Surgery went well. You're going to be okay. We've got to stop meeting here like this…people will begin to talk."

Wilson smiled. "I guess the cat…is out of the bag. I'm glad."

"Me, too," House told him honestly. "You need to tell who it was that hurt you. The police have to know, so this doesn't happen to you or anyone else again."

Nodding, Wilson replied, "I know. I had the…craziest dream."

"You were marching in the next Gay Pride parade naked?" House guessed hopefully.

"No."

"Damn! I was marching naked?"

"No," Wilson said, grinning. "I dreamt we had a kid."

House shuddered dramatically. "Okay, but you have to give birth."

"No," the oncologist replied. "We adopted. Weird, huh?"

House looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, and then shrugged.

"Que sera, sera."