He was only at the shelter because one of his pediatrics case's parents had asked him if he thought the puppy they were looking at was a good fit for their daughter, or if it was too energetic. He hadn't told House about this extra service, for obvious reasons, instead waiting until House was distracted by a blood culture before making his escape. After checking on the beagle mix he had called the parents and told them that it looked like the mutt would make a great welcome-home present for Christine.

And maybe he was in a good (well, less depressed) mood for the first time in weeks because one of his cancer kids was going to get to go home healthy, instead of going home to say goodbye. Or maybe the constant echo of loneliness in his newly acquired apartment and in the back of his mind had finally started getting to him. Or maybe he was just a sucker for a sob story. Or maybe it was all three, because he found himself leaving the shelter down a patient and plus a Siamese kitten with three legs and electric blue eyes. So maybe he put Gregorietta down on the papers. It wasn't like anyone but him and some high school volunteer was going to see it. In fact, his only concern as he loaded the yowling and boxed cat into his car was that if House ever found out about this animal, he could kiss the final remnants of his dignity goodbye. Not that House had been around much lately.

So, of course, that night was the first time House came over since he was discharged from the hospital.

At least the bastard had brought over Wilson's favorite beer, in his stunted attempt at an apology (Labatt Blue, which Wilson loved and which House claimed tasted worse than piss and cafeteria coffee). And if Wilson gave him forty bucks for the carry-out curry House was clenching in one fist, maybe it was because he had some apologizing of his own to do.

Of course, all the pent-up grief in the world couldn't stop House from opening his mouth.

"Wilson, what the hell?" He was staring down at the kitten, who had scurried out of the bedroom to stare wide-eyed at the new arrival, drawn by the smell of shrimp curry.

"I'm taking care of it for a patient," Wilson lied, scooping the kitten away from House's extended cane.

"I thought you were just looking at that puppy?"

"How did you know about that?"

"Just for future reference, you have the lamest passwords ever - and this is including when you used your birthday and your anniversaries," House said. "If you didn't want me reading your e-mail, you'd make getting into it a challenge."

"Fine, okay - it needed a home and I thought it might be kind of nice to have a pet again," Wilson said, plopping himself and Gregorietta down onto the couch. "At least, a pet that doesn't chew everything it can reach. Besides, it was cute."

"You," House said, following him to the couch, "you are utterly pathetic and so is your jacked-up kitten. I bet it scratches the hell out of your couch. Leave it to you to find yet another limping creature to take care of."

"Well, you're a full-time job as it is," he said, eyes glazing over as House flicked through roughly two hundred channels before he could even open his mouth to demand he just. fucking. choose. something. "And-"

"Before you start, no, I don't want to know its name, sex, or feel its silky fur for myself," House interrupted. "I have passed through interest and landed solidly in total apathy."

"Fine," he sulked, letting the struggling cat down. "I didn't want to tell you her name anyway."

"Good. Now hand me the Pad Thai."

Letting Gregorietta lick one spicy shrimp drove her off for the rest of the night, her huge eyes glaring reproachfully as she beat a lopsided retreat back into the bedroom. Wilson didn't see her emerge for the entirety of their activities, including a quarter of an old Flyers game, the six-pack, the last half of a Daredevil rerun, part of a bottle of Grey Goose, halfway enthusiastic necking, and several rounds of stoic not-talking-about-it. Every woman in Wilson's life before had been a pause in what he had with House, but Amber had been different, and he still wasn't ready to let go of her; he stopped House before either one of them could descend below waist-level.

Secretly, Wilson thought House seemed relieved. His leg and a healing skull fracture probably didn't make for the sexiest combination. Leaving House to the couch and late-night infomercials, Wilson collapsed into bed next to a tiny ball of limbs and pointed ears.

The next morning he staggered into the living room to find House, now staring at The Today Show and absentmindedly petting Gregorietta, whose purring made him think vaguely of running MRIs and motorboat engines. He was also finding it helped to reduce his helpless thoughts of Amber when he had to listen to House bitch about waking up at five to find the cat perching on his chest and gazing fixedly with, if he recalled the phrasing correctly, "red demon eyes glaring at me while it tried to suffocate me in my sleep." All in all, this was shaping up to be one of his better impulse acquisitions.