A/N: Sadly, I don't own them. I just get to take them to lunch at Denny's and a baseball game one weekend a month, and every other Christmas.
The last thing Wilson had had on his mind as he sat down to lunch with House was fucking up the friendship; indeed, the only things given priority in his thoughts at that moment were the imminent refueling of his body via a half-decent hospital canteen lunch, and the abominable morning he had had that day, which was recounting to his companion in great detail.
"Now, I know this guy was upset, but he had the audacity to say to me that I wouldn't know cancer if it bit me on the bottom. He said bottom! Sometimes I think the internet was invented so people could look up their totally innocuous symptoms and convince themselves they have Hodgkin's, or toxoplasmosis, or their... spine's... wet. Just so they could then come in and hassle their overworked doctors. You know? I swear, days like these, I'd – "
"Give your left testicle to never actually have to deal with the public ever again?" offered House.
"Bingo," sighed Wilson, in what might be best described as bitchy exasperation.
"And they say you're The Nice One, of the two of us. Must've been some morning." House shook his head, taking another bite of rotini and, whilst very much still chewing continued, saying "So, what do you want to order in tonight? Chinese? Pizza? There's that curry place down the road that looked kinda – "
Before he could extol the virtues of Tandoori Palace, Wilson cut him off: "Actually, I have a date tonight, House," he stated, apologetically.
"Oh. Is she coming over? I'll be sure to be on my best behaviour," House waggled his eyebrows playfully.
"No, she isn't, and no, you won't. Given the chance, you'll do the same thing you always do," Wilson grumbled, with no small measure of irritation at the memory of disastrous date derailments past.
"Who, me? Don't be ridiculous!" exclaimed House, holding up his hands in mock defensiveness.
Wilson rolled his eyes. "Seriously, House," he asked, "when will you stop trying to sabotage every attempt I make at a relationship?"
"I will when you finally admit it," House grinned playfully.
"Admit what?" Wilson squinted at House.
"Oh, come on," House lowered his gaze at Wilson.
Wilson's patience had worn as thin as that useless single-ply toilet paper they invariably stock in public restrooms. "What, House."
"You're in love with me," House shrugged.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," Wilson rolled his eyes at the suggestion.
"And THAT'S what's sabotaging your relationships with women, not me! It's as plain as the nose on your boyishly charming face. You're in love with me." House smiled sweetly, batting his eyelashes. Normally, their pseudo-flirtatious banter would at most take Wilson's mind off the funless grind of the morning's work, but in this instance, he surprised even himself, saying
"Yeah, I am."
Yeah, he was. He hadn't meant for it to come out that way: somewhere in-between his brain formulating a glib, sarcastic response to House (whose comments, Wilson surmised, were clearly redolent of the heady fumes of freshly-brewed snark and were clearly intended to wind him up, and nothing more) and the words actually escaping his mouth, an uncomfortable measure of sincerity managed to tiptoe in, and lodge itself there. The words hung between them, about as easy to brush off or ignore as a flashing neon chimpanzee that had elected to crouch over their table and begin shouting and flinging pasta salad at the hapless bystanders in the canteen.
Yeah, he was. He had been for a very long time. How had he not figured that out until just now, he wondered?
Wilson could see the mental gears turning in House's head as he processed the response. For an instant, he seemed as though he was very nearly about to respond as though Wilson's response had clearly been in jest, but stopped himself; instead, he sat slack-jawed for a minute, distractedly placing a stolen french fry back on Wilson's plate, while continuing to hold his gaze, searching for trace elements of sarcasm.
"You're not kidding," he concluded, raising an eyebrow.
"No, I'm not," said Wilson; his statement, though brief, were now heartbreakingly heavy with feeling. He had intended to be kidding in the first place, he was certain of that. Now that he had spoken it aloud, however – that he was indeed in love with House – the speech act itself was apparently what it took to make him unequivocally aware of his own feelings. A minute passed in silence as House continued to scrutinize Wilson's response. When he was apparently finally satisfied with the veracity of Wilson's statement, he simply gave a brief nod.
"Okay," he said.
"Okay?" Wilson was confused. What exactly did okay mean? Okay, House was never going to speak to him again; or, okay, House was in love with him too; or, okay, let us pretend this exchange never happened; or something else entirely that Wilson couldn't predict? "What do you mean, okay?"
"I mean, I knew it," House said at last, gesticulating toward Wilson with a forkful of rotini and a mouthful of french fries, "I just didn't think you did."
Cognitive dissonance! Wilson's brain struggled to assign some semblance of logic to his admission. It's not like he was suddenly gay or anything, he thought. Or bi, for that matter. It's not as though he had ever had any inkling of a desire to have gay sex and gay relationships with gay dudes and go dancing at gay clubs for gays. (Not that he went dancing at straight clubs for straights either, he conceded. At least not since college.) It was never that he was attracted to men, not that there was anything wrong with that. It was just that he was in love with House, that's all. There was just something there, he reasoned, that made him want to be with the man, indefinitely.
The rest of lunch was spent in relative silence: every once in a while, Wilson would almost attempt to ask a question, before giving up. Once or twice, when the two made eye contact, Wilson felt overcome by that warmth House always somehow elicited in him, that underscored the sort of exasperation and annoyance that more often than not were the hallmark of his apparent attitude towards his best friend. Yeah, he thought, this was love all right. Now, however, that warmth was accompanied by a nagging fear that he had, in fact, fucked up the friendship.
"House, should – " Wilson cut himself off again. House looked up from his food.
"You know, it'd be a lot easier for me to answer your questions if you, you know, finish asking them." House stared at Wilson, utterly deadpan. Wilson was at a loss for words. And thus, the two men sat, in weird silence, and finished their lunches – or rather, House finished his lunch, then he finished Wilson's lunch, too.
As they stood and began to make their way to their respective offices, it hit him, like a sackful of doorknobs, square in the face. The feeling was mutual. It had to be.
"Your turn," said Wilson, as the two waited for an elevator.
"My turn for what?" if House raised his eyebrow one more time during this conversation, his eyebrow would be touching his hairline.
"You admit it, House," said Wilson. "I mean, I'm right, aren't I? I mean, sure, there's still a good measure of what-a-fucking-ego and the-world-revolves-around-Gregory-House involved here, but that's not the only reason why you've never liked anyone I've been with: it's also because they weren't you."
This set off yet another whirlwind of confusing realization in Wilson, as the truth revealed itself to him, piece by painstaking piece. How long had House known, after all? Why had he never said so?
"Oh, don't look so surprised," House deadpanned.
"Why didn't you say anything?" asked Wilson, his voice a desperate, barely audible whisper. House went quiet, serious.
"What would you have done?" he asked.
"I... don't know." confusion had given way to curiosity, and curiosity to terror, and terror to an almost overwhelming sorrow. House was right, of course. He might well have laughed it off before now, or, worse, run from him. Now that the truth of them had made itself manifest, it all seemed as ludicrous as it was undeniable. The tension now between them was as thick as cold oatmeal, and Wilson was unsure whether they could push through it, into the elevator. Tentatively, he took House's hand in his, squeezing it gently. He let out an audible sigh of relief when House did not flinch at this contact. When the elevator doors finally slid open, the two entered, hand in hand.
Wilson hit the emergency stop button almost as soon as they had begun moving. He turned to face House, who gazed back at him, with uncharacteristic earnestness, searching.
"Shouldn't we talk about this? What do we do now?" asked Wilson, his face rife with nervous confusion.
"You're the one who's been married three times," House smirked, swiftly closing the gap between them. "You tell me."
"Oh," said Wilson, blushing. "Yeah. This is –"
He gazed at the floor, shuffling his feet. He struggled to finish his sentence, but found himself at a loss for a suitable adjective.
"Yeah," said House, pressing his forehead gently against Wilson's.
"So, I guess we should –" Wilson's train of thought was interrupted by House's lips coinciding with his own.
The first word that drifted into Wilson's consciousness – when his brain had recovered sufficiently as to form coherent words again – was normal. Not normal in the sense that this had ever happened before, because it hadn't; nor was there, for that matter, anything mundane about the hand pressed tenderly against his cheek, or the placement of his own hands: breath, skin, contact. It was not normal in that there was any suggestion that House was trying to make fun of him: rather, he seemed restrained, almost shy, pleading for validation. It was not normal in the sense that this moment, this simple gesture of intimacy, was anything less than profound. No, not normal. Comfortable, thought Wilson. That was the word he was looking for. It felt like home.
The elevator doors had just slid open when the two finally broke apart. Wilson could not help but notice how much his heart rate had skyrocketed. He let out a soft chuckle.
"That was – huh, wow." His head felt as though he were doing somersaults through a field of sunshine and pancakes.
House let out a contented sigh, leaning into Wilson's shoulder. "Yeah. Finally," he murmured. He gazed at Wilson, a little out of breath, radiant with truth and wonder. A moment passed. He smirked, turned, and limped out into the hallway, keeping a firm grip on Wilson's hand.
"So I assume you'll be canceling tonight's date?" he asked, punctuating the question with an exaggerated wink. Wilson rolled his eyes.
"Kinda goes without saying."
"And I assume we can skip the dating and get straight to the relationship? I mean, we're already living together and all."
"Makes sense," Wilson shrugged.
"And I assume that this makes you my girlfriend?"
Wilson stopped dead in his tracks. "Oh, hell no, House."
House continued undeterred. "Because let's face it, honey: of the two of us, I'm obviously the man-one."
"The man-one? What the hell does that even mean? You are an insufferable jerk-ass, you know that?" Wilson complained, raising his arms in protest.
"Yeah, but that doesn't change the fact that you love me," House smiled.
Wilson sighed in exasperation. House carried on.
"Tell you what, just to prove that I'm not totally unreasonable, I'll let you be the man-one after 7pm, and on weekends. Deal?"
Wilson threw his hands up in defeat. "What the hell, you got yourself a deal, House."
"In that case, I'll pick you up after work, you'll get the saag aloo, I'll get the butter chicken, you'll pick up the cheque, and we'll live happily ever after. Later, sweetie!"
And with that, House gave Wilson a playful smack on the bottom, and headed off in the direction of his own office. Wilson couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. He also couldn't help but notice that, in spite of the cane and the bad leg, there was an undeniable spring in House's step as he limped into the distance.