Warning: This is a sequel to my other fic, Of Mothers and Wire Hangers. Please read that first.

Of Tubs and Neck Rubs

The wonderful and horrible thing about a kiss was that it could mean absolutely nothing or maybe everything afterwards. Unless someone was stuck in junior high, a kiss was simply a meeting of mouths, and perhaps tongue. In fact, usually tongue. It almost became expected after a date, but at the same time, when and how and where could make it mean so many different things.

So what exactly did a soft, tentative kiss with gentle-yet-probing tongue in a bathroom with an aching head, stinging foot, and throbbing leg mean? Actually, slight edit--an aching head, stinging foot, throbbing leg, and strained shoulder. Did the scent of steam and spices from Wilson and the kitchen mean something different than if he'd been cooking bologna casserole?

House cleared his throat and almost shook the thought out of his head, the remembered that he'd given himself one hell of a knock a few moments before. Shaking his head would be stupid. It would probably make him nauseous, and he might actually puke again.

Besides, musing over a kiss he'd shared with his best friend and wondering if what food he was cooking actually had some meaning over it was pathetic. Concussions were prone to forcing loopy, unintelligible thoughts.

Wilson eyed the drying blood and probably still slick vomit on the linoleum, and placed his hands on his hips. Now that Wilson wasn't inches from his face, taking care of his wounds and kissing him, the unpleasant scent of puke filled his nostrils and he dry-heaved with a grunt.

Wilson looked over his shoulder face turned up into something like compassion and concern, but he (very smartly) covered it up with a wry smile. "Well, I normally don't get that sort of reaction after kissing someone, but . . ."

This time, House shook his head and let out a breathy chuckle. He regretted it because his head seemed to pound in retaliation, and he groaned. "Well, it seems that you either kissed very good actors, or really inexperienced kissers," he retaliated with a smirk, and Wilson actually chuckled.

The wonderful and horrible thing about his relationship with Wilson was that they didn't really talk about things--sure they joked and hinted and had a weird sub-textual best friend telepathy going on, but serious conversations were usually reserved when they needed to pull out the Big Guns, like fights that had been roiling in the air between them like storm clouds readying an epic thunderstorm, or death. And on one memorable occasion, a mixture of both. That wasn't to say they'd never had a serious conversation that didn't involve fighting or death, but House would put money on a pretty high percentage of it usually involving one or the other.

He wasn't sure if one small, tender kiss was Big Gun-worthy material. Which, once again, brought about the beauty and tragedy of the whole situation.

"You weren't too shabby yourself, House," Wilson said quietly, taking House's insult for what it really was, and gestured at the tub. "What did I tell you about that hot soak?"

"I remember you saying something about chicken," he responded lightly with a mocking eyebrow raise as he stood. He swayed and Wilson's whole body tightened, as if getting ready to bolt and help him if needed, but when House remained standing, he relaxed.

Wilson shifted awkwardly on the spot, then nodded, probably to himself because House hadn't done or said anything that warranted a head nod. House half-wished he could see inside Wilson's brain and know why he was nodding, but then thought better of it when the room shifted slightly. It wasn't as bad as the last time he tried to stand, but it was still there.

"Try not to kill yourself while I'm gone," Wilson said. He probably had meant it as a joke, but considering the circumstances, it wasn't really all the surprising that it didn't sound like it.

"Try not to--" he began to reply habitually, but when nothing came to mind (he blamed that on the concussion) he just nodded curtly at Wilson, who nodded in return, and left the bathroom.

House looked at the scene before him, and sucked in some breath between his teeth. There was some blood on the sink basin, which he knew had come from his cut foot, and some blood smeared down the cupboard underneath. His head had probably slid down it. There was blood on the linoleum, although not nearly as much as he'd thought. There was more puke than blood, really. A brown bottle of peroxide was still on the floor, surrounded by the wet shine of its contents, and Wilson had yet to pick up the bowl of pink-tinged water and the sodden rag inside. The newer bottle of peroxide was beside it, and House finished his glance-over by locking eyes with his cane, which was still leant against the wall, looking undisturbed and innocent, although it had started the whole thing in the first place.

Which, actually, wouldn't have happened if he hadn't started putting away his clothes--which wouldn't have happened had Wilson not somehow managed to make him do it. Of course, his clothes wouldn't have needed being put away if they hadn't needed to be washed because of water damage caused by Lucas. So maybe it was Wilson's fault, because Lucas wouldn't have pranked them had he not bought the loft . . . Then again, Wilson wouldn't have bought the loft if Cuddy hadn't been busy leading House on and going behind his back with Lucas, and trying to convince Wilson to go behind his back too by helping her buy a loft through the ex-wife that everybody knew hated House the most.

So, in actuality, it was all Cuddy's fault, and blaming her felt satisfying. For the past while, House had been blaming his general unhappiness and pain on a multitude of people and objects, but strangely, he'd never thought to blame her. Perhaps it was because it was too close to the truth which meant he really had felt violated by her actions--betrayed. Admitting that she was in the wrong made him feel . . . liberated somehow.

He took off his shirt, wincing at the slight pain in his shoulder, and wondered if he'd made some sort of mental victory by blaming Cuddy. It felt like it, anyhow, which was a strange feeling to have while being bombarded with random pain throughout his body.

He'd pulled the drawstring on his pyjama pants when Wilson re-entered. He stopped, rag in one hand and bottle of some sort of cleanser in the other, and eyed House. More specifically, House's chest. Maybe a more humble man would've been all atwitter with shyness, but House had always prided himself on his ego and boldness, so he pulled the other drawstring free and dropped his pants.

Wilson's eyes, very quickly, flickered lower, but then he, as casual as anything, said; "I see you're actually taking my advice for once. I have some salts we could add if--"

"Unlike you, I have testosterone, and so no thank you, I will not be adding salts to my bathwater," he said with an eye-roll. Another great and terrible thing about knowing each other as long as they had meant they'd seen each other naked countless times before--accidentally, purposefully, accidentally-on-purposefully, for reasons medically and non-medically related alike. Which meant that the big reveal of nakedness after a kiss probably didn't really mean much.

"They're lavender," Wilson stated, as if that actually made the salts more appetizing.

"Right, and that's supposed to make it sound manly or . . . Did you say we?" House asked as he carefully stepped into the tub. He was aware of the fact Wilson was on edge again, as if getting ready to rush to his side. He was annoyed, but considering he'd managed to injure himself three times in less than five minutes, he couldn't blame Wilson for reacting that way.

"What?" Wilson inquired distractedly, kneeling beside the puke in order to start cleaning. House noticed he'd knelt with his back facing the door, when he could've easily face it instead. He wondered if facing House while he was naked in the tub meant something that could possibly be attributed to their kiss from earlier.

About three minutes earlier.

He turned on the hot water, waiting for it to steam, and then added the cold. "When you were talking about the salts. You said you had salts we could add."

He put in the plug and listened to the water slosh and slap against the porcelain as it rose. He leaned back against the tub, arms draped along the sides, and determinedly looked at Wilson, who was staring at him in thought. The water had risen several inches, the nearly-painful-but-in-an-oh-so-good-way heat searing into his skin and soothing his thigh muscle, before Wilson made a humming noise. "I'm not the one with a Dictaphone for a memory, so . . ."

"I'm sorry; did you mention my dick?" House replied with a grin, because it was expected of him.

Wilson grinned, blushed, then looked down at the mess he was supposed to be cleaning. "It's possible I did," he admitted almost sheepishly.

"Mention my--"

"Say 'we,'" he corrected before House could finish.

"Thought so," House murmured.

He remained silent, smelling the strong scent of pine cleanser and hot water and steam. He sunk down a little lower into the water. His foot wasn't in pain anymore, and his thigh relaxed. His shoulder was starting to throb again, but it still felt better than it had before Wilson had given him that one-handed massage. His forehead still stung in one area though, where he assumed he'd cracked his head, and it seemed to fill with pain that waned slightly every few seconds.

It had been a very trying few days. Well, if House were to be honest, it had been a very trying few months. It had seemed that, for quite a long time, things had been going wrong. There had been Mayfield, and Kutner before that, and then Wilson had gone into his little bitch fit and left, and before that, there'd been Amber, and Tritter, and failed marriages and relationships and infarctions. Not to sound depressing, but life had a certain way of throwing obstacles at everyone. But, if House wanted to get specific, ever since he'd figured out Cuddy was with Lucas, things had been stressful for him.

So, it was a bit weird for him to think that since he'd left Mayfield and moved in with Wilson, his life had seemed far better. Considering that the woman he was interested in had been leading him on and dating the guy he'd hired to get Wilson back into his life, things hadn't been as trying as they should have felt.

He sunk lower, or the water went higher, or maybe both.

He thought about Wilson undercutting Cuddy, and how he'd smiled at House from across the apartment when he'd told Bonnie he'd take the loft, and how Wilson was always there for him, except for the one time he wasn't. The four months he'd left, and he'd never felt more alone and horrible in his entire life--not even when he'd found out that the woman he'd pretty much thought was a guaranteed relationship had gone and dated someone else.

Everyone had been there for him when Wilson had left, in their own little way. It hadn't made up for when Wilson was with him when it seemed like everybody else had abandoned him, though. Nothing could ever really compare to Wilson.

His head fuzzy and eyes heavy, he smiled contentedly at the memory of Wilson's mouth on his. Really, it had been so predictable, for them to kiss. And it had been absurdly easy to pretend to be in love with Wilson, to slip into that boyfriend mode, and the forest grew thicker around him, the scent of pine swallowing him whole, and Wilson's eyes were like chocolate and the concussion must be really getting to him if he was comparing Wilson's eyes to--

"House," Wilson snapped, and his eyes opened.

It was absurdly bright in the bathroom, the white walls almost taxing on his irises. The sound of the faucet filling the tub still echoed around him, and Wilson was standing above him, strong hand on his shoulder and looking at him with his eyebrows raised. "What?" he asked, forcing a bit of irritation into his tone although he couldn't be further from irritated at the sight of Wilson above his naked body.

"I can't let you sleep," he stated, then turned off the water, which House admitted had gotten a bit higher than was strictly necessary. "Because of your concussion," he added when the water stopped falling.

"I wasn't sleeping. I was . . . resting my eyelids."

"Okay, even you didn't believe that one," Wilson retaliated with a thin smile.

House was in a particularly flirty mood randomly. "Well, you might have to get in here and keep me awake, then," he suggested lightly, flicking a small bit of water on Wilson's sweater.

Wilson's eyes was drawn to a certain part of House's anatomy for a brief second, then he shook his head, rolling his eyes in exasperation that House was sure was forced. He opened his mouth to say something, but whatever it was House probably would never find out, because then Wilson just ran his hand over his head again, in that distractedly boyfriendish way, and House wondered if that meant they were dating.

He added it to his list of wonderful and at the same time horrible things; a simple touch could mean nothing, if he wanted. Or it could mean everything. He knew what he wanted, but Wilson . . . Well, he was sure he knew what Wilson wanted, but the sheen of House's need was particularly shiny that day; with Cuddy, Lucas, and his injuries, maybe Wilson was confusing his libido with his care-giving attitude.

House didn't believe that, but maybe he was a little scared, too. Falling back on old habits of finding excuses to be alone. Or something else profoundly irritating and psychoanalytical that Nolan would hint towards in their next session.

Wilson's eyes were determinedly on his, dark and wide and warm. When Wilson sunk to his knees, House leaned forward expectantly, trying to kiss him, but he'd missed spectacularly and ended up with his mouth half-open and tongue half-pressed against Wilson's cheek, who froze, much in the same way House did.

He pulled away, horrified at the odd sound the suction made, and they both looked at each other.

They both burst into laughter. Suddenly, the entire situation seemed hilarious. House tripping and hurting himself several times; Wilson thinking he was dead over a pretty small abrasion and tiny, insignificant concussion; their stilted, tender kiss from earlier; the fact House was naked in a tub with his best friend inches from him. Add that to the fact he'd just open-mouthed Wilson's face, and what wasn't there to laugh about?

Oh, his head pounded, but his body relaxed, and the bathroom wasn't awkwardly silent anymore. Cuddy and Lucas and pranks and injuries all floated away--miles away--and he just laughed, Wilson beside him, laughing with him. The stress from everything--from Tritter to Kutner to hallucinations and Amber and Stacy--it was all so stupid suddenly, and seriously, with Wilson beside him as often as he was, why hadn't this ever happened before? All the times House had fantasized and thought about it and it had taken a damn opossum and ruined flat-screen TV for them to wind up kissing on a toilet?

Elvis had nothing on them; not really. He'd ended everything on the shitter; they'd begun so much more.

The soft thud of Wilson's forehead hitting his forearm--the one draped over the edge nearest him--brought House's attention to his potential boyfriend, and he slowed his chuckles, still smiling in a way that he hoped Wilson wouldn't see. Wilson kept chuckling in that oh-god-I-can't-breath way and House ran his other hand through his hair, streaking it with water.

Wilson's laugh broke off with a contented hum and House, liking the sound an absurd amount, brushed his soaking fingers through his strands again. Wilson lifted his head and House traced the contours of his face with his already prune-like fingers. His skin was soft and dry and warm. He didn't seem to mind the fact his fingers were slick with water, either. Stacy had hated it when he'd touched her with wet hands.

When he tucked his fingers underneath his chin and ran his thumb over Wilson's lips, he realized that maybe when Wilson had run his hand over his head, he had been questioning him. Asking all that House had wanted to ask too, but they didn't talk about things, which made it difficult to, well, talk. Maybe this was House's answer.

He ran his thumb over his lips again, and Wilson flicked his tongue against his flesh, then sucked on the tip so discreetly House could have blamed it on his imagination if he'd wanted. Those dark, chocolate-y (no, not chocolate-y, House was not a thirteen-year-old girl) eyes darkening in a way that House had dreamt about but had always thought was impossible in reality. His groin tingled and his stomach swooped when Wilson bit on his thumb gently, his pupils widening.

Not for the first time, House wondered if they had a crossed a line. Then he remembered they'd crossed one earlier with the kiss. But the thing about crossing lines was that, inevitably, a new one was drawn. Perhaps they were crossing a new one. Or perhaps they'd never really had lines to begin with; just imaginary ones House assumed they had when they approached one.

Wilson kissed the palm of his hand, eyes still locked on House's; asking. Or maybe demanding. House didn't care either way--not when the slight nip to his wrist went straight to his lower abdomen, or when the flick of his tongue went to his chest and tightened, or how when House palmed the back of Wilson head, his felt shivers go up his spine.

They moved forward, and an alarm blared in House's head. Not the type that was imaginary and went off when crossing lines--no, this one was real, and pretty damn obnoxious, too. Wilson flinched at the noise and sighed.

"The chicken," they both murmured, House tracing circles on the side of Wilson's face.

The moment was ruined, so House pulled his hand away and dropped it into the water. He worried that it would be the last time it would happen, and Wilson would retreat back behind that line and never cross again.

Wilson stood up and House sighed, staring down at the clear water. He was laid bare for Wilson to see, and very rarely in life did the literal and metaphorical collide so obviously.

Wilson lingered over the tub for a second, then rubbed the back of his neck. He opened his mouth, scoffed at whatever he'd been about to say, and then turned around, leaving House alone. He didn't shut the bathroom door, but he felt closed off anyway. It was a stupid thing to feel, but he couldn't help it.

The ache in his shoulder intensified randomly, and he gripped it, squeezing experimentally. It didn't soothe him--in fact, it irritated him. He hissed between his teeth and squeezed again. A part of him couldn't believe it. In less than an hour, so much had happened. He'd been injured, comforted, and then thrust into a new, possibly life-changing experience that was equally frightening and exciting, which he supposed was the beauty and the horror that came with new, uncharted territory, and it had been possibly taken away from him with an oven timer.

He was sure that retreating and never treading past the imaginary line again was probably easier, but House had always been up for a challenge.

Dammit. He could hardly believe his kiss had been interrupted in a way that never happened in real life, except for on the rare occasions when it did.

Then he heard bare feet slapping against linoleum and he looked at the doorframe, shocked to see Wilson walking back into his life (well, technically, his own bathroom) with his sleeves still rolled up his arms and a soft smile on his face.

"The chicken?" House asked, although he was pretty much asking about them. He wondered if Wilson would get the memo.

He shrugged. "I turned off the oven. We can reheat it in the microwave if it gets too cold." So, either he was apologizing for interrupting their moment and promising they could get back to it if he so desired, or he was saying he had turned off the oven and they could reheat the chicken in the microwave if it did, indeed, get too cold.

House contemplated the clear water surrounding him and massaged his shoulder.

"Shoulder still bothering you?" Wilson asked, approaching the tub. House gave him a very pointed glare, then turned back to the water and continued massaging. Although, now that Wilson was back, it didn't hurt as much.

House probably shouldn't have been surprised that Wilson moved behind him and put his hands on both his shoulders. If he really thought about it, he wasn't. In fact, he'd seen it coming, but on the surface he was, and he was still at a loss at what it meant for them as a couple. He had a feeling he shouldn't be second-guessing Wilson's obvious hints at wanting him, but House had learned a long time ago to always question everything, because the obvious was never the answer.

When Wilson started digging into his shoulders, he found himself hoping, though.

The muscle in his shoulder loosened and he groaned, tilting his head back against Wilson's clothed abdomen. He didn't close his eyes, and stared up at Wilson's face, who looked completely nonchalant, as if he gave his naked possible boyfriend back rubs everyday. "I've been thinking . . ." House began, closing his eyes as Wilson continued his ministrations. He moaned at a particularly deep grind and his back arched.

"And this is something new?" Wilson asked, sarcasm colouring his tone.

"I've been thinking about what you said about the bath salts," he said, and he tried to imagine Wilson's face as he worked out what that meant.

His hands stopped moving, but remained on his shoulders. "You want me to go add some?"

House let out a huff of air and opened his eyes. Wilson was peering down at him curiously. "I was thinking less about adding them and more about that 'we' word you said." He stared into Wilson's brown eyes, begging for him to understand; begging him silently not to retreat.

Wilson's face showed nothing, and House worried maybe he'd actually gone too far, or that Wilson hadn't understood which wasn't all that likely because Wilson always understood. After a second, Wilson slid his hands up the side of House's neck, down onto his shoulders again, squeezed, and then stepped away.

House hadn't realized just how much his abdomen had been supporting his head until it was gone and he reeled backwards slightly, but the tub caught him an inch or so later. He turned awkwardly in the tub to say something, but then he stopped when he saw that Wilson was in the process of taking off his sweater--or rather, he had started. His hands were at the bottom and started lifting, but as soon as he saw House was looking at him, he stopped.

House wanted to tell him to keep going, but that sounded stupid in his head. He thought about making a quip about seeing him naked before, or that it was only fair since Wilson had been able to ogle his bits for the past few minutes, but still, he said nothing.

Their eyes locked and House tried not to smile--honestly, he tried to smirk--but he smiled anyway, and Wilson returned the gesture. Wilson hefted the sweater over his body and the soft, barely-there thud announced it had hit the floor.

Wilson's body wasn't perfect, but House didn't mind--neither was his. That wasn't to say Wilson wasn't attractive, though. He just looked realistically attractive; not like the airbrushed models on television. He had gained weight, but he wasn't fat by any means. He had a scar from when he'd given away part of his liver. He had some love handles, and a slight pudge, but something about that made it seem real.

Wilson's hand hovered when he went to undo his frayed jeans.

Although they'd seen each other naked before, this felt different. For a moment, House didn't know why, but then it clicked. This wasn't just because they needed to hurriedly get ready and got dressed in the same bathroom, or because they'd both been puked on by a patient and needed to wash off in the showers. He wasn't undressing in front of him; he was undressing for him.

The strange tightening feeling in his chest returned and he knew he was smiling contentedly like a moron but he knew Wilson was smart enough not to comment on it. House had bared himself for Wilson, not only by getting naked and soaking in front of him, but by allowing Wilson to help him fix up his cuts. House didn't like people helping him. He hated it, in fact; it made him feel pathetic. It only made sense that Wilson would also bare himself for his inspection, although it couldn't have been easy. House wasn't the only person who had trust issues; he knew Wilson had sex with the lights off if possible. Wilson compulsively hid himself from others, hid what he truly felt, but he didn't have to around House. And now, he was showing him that, in the way they always showed how they felt--through action, not words.

Pink splashed Wilson's cheeks and he unbuttoned his pants and the zipper descending sounded louder than it should've. House's throat went dry, but it wasn't from arousal.

Wilson pushed down his pants and stood there in his boxer-briefs--soft pink, almost white boxer-briefs. He would have thought he'd accidentally washed them with a red shirt, except Wilson didn't make mistakes doing laundry.

"Pink?" House asked, through a snorted chuckle.

"Shut up they were on sale," Wilson muttered quickly, shifting his weight from one foot onto the other.

"Right, because you're so poor you have to buy discount panties," he mocked.

"Well, if someone didn't swipe my wallet at every chance presented, perhaps I would be able to afford underwear deemed worthy in your presence."

"Damn right those things are unworthy. You should remove them from my sight," he suggested, and as he spoke, his voice lost that joking lilt to it, as he realized that what he was saying was actually pertinent to their situation. Wilson's eyebrows shot up in amusement or maybe fear or maybe both. "I can look away if--"

Wilson lifted one hand, palm facing outwards. "It's fine," he said, then looped his thumbs over the top.

When he removed the boxer-briefs, House looked over the body he'd seen a few times before, recalling the few times he'd allowed himself to look, telling himself that it was just natural curiosity and not something else although it very obviously had been. He looked just right and for some reason, so damn attractive in his awkwardness and normalness that House nodded, although he had no idea why.

"Scoot," Wilson ordered, rubbing the bridge of his nose before gesturing forward with his chin.

House turned around so that he faced the faucet again and scooted forward. He felt Wilson step in behind him and his throat dried again. His heart double-hit his chest and he hoped Wilson didn't notice him shiver.

Wilson sat behind him, legs on either side of House, securing him in between his legs, and the bathroom was silent, all except their quietly controlled breath and the sounds of water shifting and dripping around them. Wilson's arms tentatively wrapped around his abdomen, as if at any moment he might knock him away and demand he leave the tub this instant.

It wasn't awkward; not really. It was new and different, knowing that Wilson was behind him, naked, while they sat in the tub, but it wasn't necessarily awkward. He wasn't used to feeling another man's junk against the small of his back, and that was a little uncomfortable, but when Wilson tightened his arms around him, he figured he could get used to that. In fact, it was kinda nice already--like a reassurance that he was there and wasn't going to leave.

House liked to pretend that because Wilson had let his genitals touch House, that meant they were one person, and he couldn't leave half of himself behind. It was a stupid, illogical notion, really, but House thought it, anyway.

Wilson pulled him tighter against him, as if coaxing him to rest on his chest, and House stiffened for a second. "What if I crush your penis?" he asked.

Wilson chuckled against the back of his head, then pressed a kiss there. House closed his eyes against the feeling of Wilson's mouth against his hair, then settled against Wilson's chest when he pulled him in a second time. "You're not gonna crush my penis," he promised, kissed the back of his head again, and then rested his chin on House's shoulder.

Wilson's body was warm and sturdy. He could lean back without the fear of Wilson not being able to support him. Something about that felt very symbolic, but he didn't need to ruminate over it. He already knew, and he was certain Wilson did, too.

Once House settled against his chest, eyes closed and a pleasant smile on his face, Wilson released his hold around his abdomen, so he could draw lightly on his chest. It was an innocent gesture, he supposed; idly tracing invisible patterns across his skin. Everything that had happened between them, although the undertones could have been sexual, had seemed commonplace and almost naïve. Their kiss had been sweet and tender; they'd disrobed casually; they were simply bathing together, with Wilson sliding the tips of his fingers over wet flesh. There was something about the gentleness that House liked, and always had. Of course, only behind closed doors where nobody but those he wanted to could see, but he liked being able to trust someone enough that he didn't always have to be so harsh and demanding and rough. He knew that he could show that part of himself, small though it was, and that Wilson would understand not to show it to anyone else.

Wilson hands slid over his stomach, dipped into the water, and then moved over his chest, smoothing the hot water over his body. The sound of the water dripping was relaxing, and Wilson's breath stopped sounding so calculated, and more relaxed. He let his chest rise and fall against him, like a wave lulling him.

Remembering that he had a concussion, he opened his eyes, not wanting to be tricked into falling asleep. He knew Wilson would wake him if he did, but he figured he might as well skip the being woken up part by staying awake. Besides, he didn't want to miss a moment of this--it felt like if he blinked, something important would happen. Considering how quickly things had moved since he'd start putting away his clothes, it wasn't an unfounded worry.

Wilson dipped his hands in the water again and smoothed it over his chest. House tilted his head back so it rested on Wilson's collarbone, relaxed and slouched so that Wilson could be weirdly taller than him if he wasn't busy resting his chin on House's shoulder. He could sort of see Wilson's profile with his peripheral vision, but it wasn't enough.

He turned his head to look at him--at the slight red eyes and messy hair--and he most assuredly did not sigh. Mostly he just studied the side of Wilson's face--the way his lashes fluttered when he blinked, or how his eyes were focused solely on his fingers that traced House's abdomen--and realized it was okay for him to look, when so often before he'd found himself doing just that and he'd quickly avert his gaze.

House pulled his hands out of the water and slid them against Wilson's until their fingers slipped together. He squeezed gently, then pulled his fingers free, letting them rest on Wilson's hands, which were clasped across his stomach.

Wilson's eyes flicked to his briefly, as if noting his presence. Then he pressed a very light kiss to House's shoulder, but when the kiss ended, he didn't pull his head away so much as rest his mouth there briefly, before pushing his lips to his skin again, and again. Wilson's eyes fluttered closed and his tongue sneaked a taste, before he barely suckled on the spot. He gently bit down, scraped his teeth across his skin, then pressed another chaste kiss against him, and House watched with half-lidded eyes.

He reached up and put his wet hand behind Wilson's head, wet fingers slipping through his hair, and Wilson's pink tongue snuck out again, licking away a water droplet. House hummed his approval, and then Wilson turned his head, blindly seeking his mouth.

House met his mouth firmly, lips closed as were his eyes, and then he pushed his tongue through his lips and against Wilson's briefly, who retaliated with his own little lick. Mouths opened and tongues brushed tentatively, then probed firmly; circling and flicking and tasting. It was slow, but it was demanding too--different from their last kiss in that it wasn't tentative at all. They both knew where they stood at that moment, and what lines had been crossed, if there had been any between them in the first place.

He tasted like the spices he'd been cooking with, and House wondered if he'd sampled the chicken as the steam had risen, reddening his face, and he entangled his fingers through Wilson's strands more, forcing their heads together with an exhale. Wilson pulled away to breathe shallowly for a few seconds, then pushed his mouth to his again, just as firmly but not hastily--they had all the time in the world.

Eventually, although his heart was hammering bolts of electricity through his body and his stomach was swooping pleasurably, the way he twisted his neck and held Wilson's head began to irritate his neck and shoulder, so he pulled away, flicking a tongue against Wilson's bottom lip as he did.

He leaned back against Wilson's chest, allowing his arms to wrap around him again and hold him tightly, peppering kissing on his shoulder every now and again, his fingers and hands dipping into the water and across his abdomen teasingly.

As Wilson pressed a soft kiss to his shoulder and House most definitely did not smile in contentment, he realized that the wonderful yet tragic thing about life was that some things really were that simple.

Well, actually, there really wasn't anything tragic about that at all.

A/N--thanks to theletterv for being helpful!