Fire and Ice

Chapter 6: Epilogue (Six Months Later)

Time heals all wounds – that's what Wilson's mother used to say. But in his 40-odd years of life, Wilson found that time had never actually healed much of anything. As it trudged onward, he could only watch as time took away his youth, destroyed three marriages, ravaged his brother's health, and killed the only woman he'd ever truly loved. Time wasn't a healer; it was a cruel son of a bitch.

So it was only fair that now, Wilson was getting his dues. Time had made him wait for House, and time had finally paid up.

There was something strangely perfect about a relationship being beautiful and ugly, wonderful and terrifying all at once. They'd had their ups and downs –good days and bad days, whatever you wanted to call them – and there had been times when Wilson had wanted to walk out the door with a "fuck it all," because who wanted to love a crippled bastard, anyway?

But you don't get to choose your friends, and you don't get to choose whom you fall for, either. Despite the typical Housian craziness that sometimes left Wilson questioning his own sanity, there was a reason why the past six months had been, in their own way, healing.

Sometimes he wondered if, somewhere in the vast unknowns of the universe, there really was a bigger picture drawn out. Why not think of Sam, Bonnie, Julie, and even Amber as mere stepping stones, laid out by a Higher Being on a pre-conceived path that eventually led him to House? He imagined Stacy and Cuddy on the diagnostician's own road, running parallel to Wilson's before they finally met and forged a new trail together.

House, of course, had rolled his eyes at the idea, King of Metaphors or not.

"If there's some greater plan, what kind of sadistic moron decided we should first be miserable for half our lives and then get together?" he'd scoffed.

"Because now I don't take you for granted," Wilson had wanted to say. "Because now I know what it feels like to lose you."

But he didn't say that. He didn't say it because it would've been too sappy for House to hear, but he was also pretty sure that he didn't have to say it. House already knew.

If their new relationship had come as a surprise to them, their colleagues seemed less taken aback. The team had even been taking bets on how long it would take for them to hook up (much to House's displeasure that even "those romantically-challenged idiots" had figured it out first), although they'd had to renew their guesses every now and then. It seemed that Foreman had made some passing remark about House sleeping with Wilson before Cameron would sleep with Chase, but when the latter couple came out into the open, so had their wallets. Even the newcomers had been in on it, though Taub assured Wilson that Amber had bluntly refused. Thirteen would have won, but given her absence, Chase was a very happy runner-up.

But although House's distaste for PDA kept outward discussion at a minimum, Wilson knew that people talked. He'd overhear hushed discussions in the hallways and the cafeteria, doctors and nurses murmuring about poor Dr. Wilson being brainwashed into caring for that asshole diagnostician.

First of all, he'd been caring for that asshole diagnostician for a very, very long time. But no one knew how much House took care of Wilson, how much Wilson's own comfort and security depended on hearing the tapping of the cane and the uneven footsteps that meant that House was on his way. No one could possibly understand how much he needed to come home to the one crazy bastard who made the world make sense.

The only one who knew, perhaps, was Cuddy. She was dealing in her own, quiet Cuddy way, even going so far as to ask Wilson how things were going with House. Her coping mechanism was to act as though nothing had gone wrong, although no amount of professionalism could hide the sadness in her eyes. Wilson had wondered if she'd beg Lucas for a second chance, but House had pointed out that her willingness to leave him in the first place said enough about that. Instead, she'd simply gone back to playing the role of boss, which was just fine with Wilson.

"Easy for you to say," House had muttered. "You're not the one who has to deal with her bureaucratic idiocy all day."

"Far be it for me to actually play by the rules."

"And far be it for me to actually try to save my patients' lives."

It really was just like old times.

Cuddy had even hired a new doctor for the team, a socially awkward but admittedly brilliant med student – Martha Masters, or something like that. Wilson had only talked to her once or twice, but she seemed like a nice girl. House, of course, had rambled on and on about how she was just Cuddy's way of pissing him off. That may have been partially true, but they both knew that Masters was also Cuddy's way of showing that she wanted things to go back to normal. She'd warned him about hiring a female, and she'd followed through on her word – it was exactly what Cuddy the boss would do.

And anyway, House owed his life to that girl. Wilson still wasn't sure what had been worse – sitting with House through the worst of his infarction pain, or sitting on the other side of the isolation room as he desperately bargained with God, terrified as he waited for House to show symptoms of smallpox. At least Wilson had been there to hold his hand through the worst of the infarction, but to be utterly helpless behind the glass walls, not even able to touch him…if Masters hadn't come up with rickettsial pox, well, Wilson didn't even want to think about what that would have meant.

But that was all part of the package, wasn't it? Being with House meant being with a guy who liked to almost die at least ten times a year. It meant being with a guy who was sarcastic and manipulative and rude, and honest and funny and brilliant, and astonishingly kind in the most unexpected moments. It meant sprawling on the bathroom floor through hours of agonizing leg pain one night, and letting him comfort you after a death in peds with a gourmet dinner and an organ concert the next. It meant raging fights and pure, unadulterated happiness, and the most mind-blowing sex he'd ever had.

And being with House meant finally, finally, being loved by him in return.

Tonight, Wilson decided, was going to be special.

He'd asked House to meet him at the nice Italian place a few blocks down, where House had once taken Nora during what they now called one of their "typical phases of denial." The restaurant was just as Wilson remembered it – dimly lit, with golden curtains and tablecloths casting their own illuminating glow against the dusky stone walls. He peeked in through the window, watching as House impatiently tapped his fingers on a half-occupied table for two. Already a bottle of their favorite wine had been poured, and House was staring grumpily at the healthy (God forbid) salads that had been served as appetizers.

Okay, so maybe tonight was going to be a little cliché…and possibly a little lame. And House was probably going to go off on another one of his rants about how pathetically cheesy and hopeless Wilson was.

But screw it all. He'd made up his mind to do it, and by God, he was going to.

Taking a deep breath, he entered the restaurant, much to House's obvious relief that he no longer had to sit there by himself.

"It's about time," House grumped as Wilson made his way over to the table. "Why'd you pick this shack, anyway? Thought we wanted to try that new burrito place."

"It's a nice restaurant, House. And I thought it had some…sentimental value."

House frowned, unconvinced. "Sentimental? Why, because this is where I took Nora and you…"

He stopped mid-sentence, eyes suddenly wide. "You wouldn't."

Wilson grinned down at him, his hand reaching into his pocket, and House's stunned expression soon turned into a knowing smirk. "James Evan Wilson, you wouldn't," he said, but they both knew that, in fact, Wilson very well would.

His voice loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear, Wilson repeated the words that he'd once wished he could say without pretending that every hint he dropped was a joke, without pretending that he hadn't spent every night wishing that the woman laying beside him in his bed was House.

"I love this man, and I am not wasting another moment of my life denying that!"

The small black box in his pocket came out as he knelt down on one knee, opening it to reveal a ring. "Gregory House, will you marry me?"

"Say yes already!" a woman shouted, and the restaurant broke into applause as House leaned in for a passionate kiss.

"That should be 'yes' enough for you," he smirked as Wilson slid the ring onto his finger and took his place across from him at the table. "You do realize that the state of New Jersey still frowns upon our evil misdeeds."

"So we take a road trip to Canada. Or Massachusetts – isn't it legal in Massachusetts?"

"And you also realize that just because you proposed to me doesn't mean that I'm agreeing to be the woman in the relationship."

"Wouldn't dream of it, House."

Apparently satisfied, House leaned back in his seat, playfully eyeing his new fiancé. "You're still a sentimental idiot, you know."

"And yet, you still love me," Wilson pointed out, "so what does that make you?"

Smiling a little, House reached out to trace his finger along Wilson's hand. "It makes me…a happy idiot."

"Well," Wilson said, smiling back as he squeezed House's hand, "that makes two of us."