"Ready?" Chase called over the microphone.
"Ready," House called back, and Chase pressed a button, causing him to slide into the machine.
He needed to do this. The pain wasn't unbearable, but it still might be something. And if it was...maybe he would tell them to take the leg this time.
House lay in the machine, listening to the banging noises. He closed his eyes...
...He was lying in a bed when he opened them. There was someone next to him. A man. Who looked...sort of like...well, sort of like Wilson's father, the few times he'd met him. He opened his eyes. Warm brown eyes. Wilson's father's eyes were green.
It was Wilson. He looked like he was in his late sixties or early seventies, but it was Wilson.
House stared at Wilson.
Wilson smiled at him. "Good morning," he whispered, reaching a hand over to stroke House's hair.
"Morning," House heard himself whispering back. This wasn't him changing anything because this hadn't happened. It was either a dream or...it felt like another memory. A memory of something that hadn't happened...yet?
Wilson leaned over to kiss him, and House kissed back. He slid his fingers through Wilson's greying but still thick hair.
He was sitting alone at a table in a cafe. His leg didn't hurt and he didn't have his cane. He was looking at a menu. The bell attached to the cafe door dinged, and when House glanced over he saw Wilson entering. He looked older than House knew him, but not as old as he'd looked in the bed. Late fifties maybe?
Wilson smiled, brushed some snow off his coat, and sat down at the table across from House.
"Thanks for agreeing to meet me."
House shrugged. "What have I got to lose, right?" He frowned. "You're not taking my other leg, are you?"
Wilson chuckled. "As long as you don't have another infarction I don't think we need to worry about that."
Wilson's smile faltered a little, and he sobered. "Greg, I don't know if you've heard, but Amber and I divorced."
House stared at him. "What? Why? She's perfect for you—she's just like me."
That made Wilson smile again. "But she's not you," he pointed out, looking at House warmly. Then he sighed. "We've been fighting a lot," he admitted. "She...seems to think I'm using her as a substitute for you instead of loving her as her own person."
"Is she right?" House asked carefully, taking a sip of his coffee.
"That's the thing, Greg," Wilson sighed, looking at him. "I...honestly don't know. I love her, I know I love her, but I also know I'll always love you." He shrugged. "And...I think I'll always love you more."
House didn't answer right away. He stared into his coffee cup. "You...told me to move on," he whispered.
"I know I did," Wilson admitted. "And I'm glad I did because I still think if I hadn't left we'd both still be miserable. And...when I saw you in the restaurant with Cuddy all those years ago I was genuinely happy for you. But now...that was a long time ago, Greg. You and Cuddy broke up, Amber and I broke up...I'll understand completely if you say no but I...Greg, I want to give us another try," he finished, looking House in the eye.
"James..." House said eventually, "...you were the one who left, not me."
"I know," Wilson said. "And if you can't forgive me for that, like I said, I understand."
House shook his head. "It's not that. I...I didn't stop."
Wilson looked confused for a moment. "Didn't stop what, Greg?"
House wasn't looking at him. He was staring into his coffee cup and he shrugged at it. "You know...being in love with you."
House poured the last Vicodin into his hand and swallowed it. He would need to page one of his underlings for another prescription. He missed the good old days when he'd stocked up a pretty much endless supply, but that was a very long time ago. And he knew it was for his own good—if he'd had a lot of extra after Cuddy had left him he would have gone back to taking way too much and that would not have had a positive outcome.
He was in the process of extracting himself from his chair when he stopped and stared at the figure standing in front of the glass doors of his office.
Wilson pushed the door open slightly. "Hey," he said. "Is it all right if I come in?"
House shrugged and sat back down and Wilson entered, sitting in the chair in front of his desk. For a moment he didn't speak, so House decided so start things off.
"What do you want, Wilson?"
Wilson looked up at him. "I've been thinking about you a lot lately," he admitted. "I've missed you. Not just...you know...the relationship part, but the friendship part as well."
"Wilson, you..." House shook his head. "You come back after twenty years and now you say you want us to be friends? Isn't that part supposed to come after the breakup?"
"Well you wouldn't have believed me back then," Wilson pointed out. "Listen, I moved back to Princeton awhile back and have been looking for jobs in the area and PPTH has an opening in the oncology department. But I didn't want to apply for the job until I spoke to you first."
"What do I care whether you work here or not?" House asked moodily. "It's your life. Do whatever you want. I don't care."
"You don't think that'd be a little awkward?" Wilson asked, raising his eyebrows. "Running into your ex at work after twenty years?"
"Most of the staff here hate me anyway," House pointed out. "You'd fit right in."
"House, I don't hate you," Wilson said, rolling his eyes.
"But you don't love me, either."
"I care about you," Wilson said. He sighed. "I know it was my fault the relationship fell apart."
"Yeah, you thi–"
"–And not just because I cheated," Wilson said, looking at him. "The reason I cheated was because I was never really in love with you in the first place."
"Oh," House said with mock-realisation. "Well thanks for that, I feel better now."
"House, all I meant was..." Wilson struggled to explain. He sighed. "I always married the same girl. Insecure, in a bad place, needy. I marry her, help her to her feet, and thrive on the fact that she's completely dependent on me. But after awhile that changes. She becomes...more independent and I get bored." Wilson looked up at House, who was watching him carefully. "It wasn't you I fell in love with, House," he explained. "It was the fact that you needed me. Before the infarction that wasn't the case, but I loved you as a friend. Now, if you let me..." he shrugged. "...I can still love you as a friend. And maybe...one day...I can actually fall in love with you for the man you are."
House was quiet for a long moment, not looking at Wilson. "You know," he said eventually, "even if we try being just friends it doesn't mean it will work out."
"I know," Wilson said. "I understand. But if you're willing to give it a shot then I am."
Without looking at him, House nodded. "Talk to Cuddy. If you...get the job, then I'll let you buy me lunch once you start working here."
Wilson gave him a genuine smile. House had forgotten how stunning his smile was and couldn't help giving a weak smile in return.
House stared at the headstone. He touched the W of 'Wilson' with the pad of his thumb.
House turned to see a blonde seventeen-year-old girl holding out a white rose to him. He took it. "Thanks, Rachel," he muttered. He turned away from her and placed the rose delicately on top of the headstone. The air was still; the wind shouldn't blow it away, at least not yet. He stared at the grave marker for a long moment before finally turning around.
Cuddy was waiting for him, her hands on Rachel's shoulder's. When House approached her she let go of her daughter and put her arms around him instead. He hugged back. "Are you ready to go?" she whispered once they pulled away.
House nodded. Then he turned back for a last look.
House stared at his apartment door. He knew that knock. He hadn't heard it in years but he knew it. He used his cane to push himself off the couch and opened the door.
He stared at Wilson.
"Hey," Wilson said softly.
"Hey," House muttered back, still staring.
"Can...I come in?" he asked when House didn't move aside or otherwise invite him.
House nodded and stepped back, allowing Wilson to enter.
Wilson chuckled. "Everything...looks pretty much the same."
"Yeah," House said. "Well, I figured Cuddy and I weren't gonna last, on account of me still being in love with you no matter what you wanted to believe. So I figured it was pointless to cancel my lease or put anything into storage. It was all here waiting for me when I got back."
The younger man turned to him. "How long did you and Cuddy last?"
House shrugged. "We almost made it to the year-and-a-half mark, but she decided she just couldn't take it anymore. But hey, at least we made it longer than you and I did."
"House, I'm sorry," Wilson said, looking at the ground. "I don't know why I overreacted. I knew it was just a kiss."
House shrugged again. "If it had been you I'd have overreacted too."
"That's different," Wilson pointed out. "I have a history of cheating; you don't."
"So is that why you're here?" House asked. "To apologise?"
Wilson nodded. "Partly."
When he didn't say anything else, House looked at him. "You gonna fill me in on the other part?"
"Yeah..." Wilson said. "House, I miss you. We were friends for almost twenty years and I just threw that all away. I...I want it back. I want you back."
House smiled slightly. "I was wrong," he said quietly, more to himself than to Wilson.
Wilson looked confused. "About what?"
The other man looked at him. "After you left I told Cuddy you weren't coming back this time. It took you longer than I thought but you did. You came back."
"Yeah," Wilson muttered. "I did. So...will you take me back?"
"I'll have to think about it," House admitted. He was silent for about half a second, then he looked at Wilson again, taking a step closer to him. "I thought about it."
Wilson smirked. "And?"
"You..." House muttered. "You tell anyone I said this and I'll kill you in your sleep and make it look like an accident..." he caught Wilson's eye and gave him the tiniest of smiles. "...but I missed you too."
"House!" Someone was calling his name.
He opened his eyes.
He was in the MRI room. Chase was staring at him, and he looked relieved.
"You weren't answering me," Chase explained, handing House his cane so he could get up.
"Just dozed off," House said with a shrug. "MRIs are boring."
"Yeah, well the results are boring too," Chase said, leading him into the other room to show him the monitors. "Aside from the obvious, your leg's fine. That should be a relief, right?"
"You'd think so," House said, looking at the monitors for himself. "And here I was hoping for another dangerous and painful surgery." He smirked when his employee rolled his eyes.
Chase left and House went to go change back into his clothes and think on what he'd seen. Had that been real, or was it just a dream?
Well, for all he knew the whole thing could have been a dream...except for the fact that it was a week later than when it had started.
But what he'd seen this time was different. It was a glimpse into the future. Futures that...except for the one in which Wilson died...all ended with the two of them together.
House smiled to himself. So Cuddy was wrong about she and House being destined to be together. Well, even more wrong than she had been simply because there was no such thing as destiny.
But were those alternate universes still out there somewhere? Were there other Houses and Wilsons that would get back together one day?
Would he and his Wilson get together one day?
House shook his head—he couldn't know.
And he didn't want to know. Whatever would happen would happen, not because of fate or destiny but because of the decisions people made, and at least he knew he could be worse off. He couldn't have regrets because he didn't know that doing things differently would result in a better life than the one he had now.
And there was nothing wrong with the life he had now. Maybe he and Cuddy would break up in the next year or maybe she'd be the one he'd grow old with. Maybe Wilson would want to get married to Sam again, but get drunk at his bachelor party and confess love for House and the two of them would run off to Vegas and elope. Maybe one day they would be together.
Even if they wouldn't, at least House still had Wilson as a friend, and Cuddy as a lover at least for now. He had his leg, and yes, he had pain, but he also had the people he loved. His life wasn't perfect, but it wasn't terrible either. And it was his life.
House got off the elevator and headed for his office. He could see Wilson approaching from the other direction, either heading for the elevators or his own office, and the oncologist, as was his default, smiled at House as they passed. House opened the door to his office and glanced back, for a second, as his friend retreated.
"Hey, Wilson," he called suddenly, and the younger man turned around to give the older a questioning glance. House gave the tiniest of smiles as Wilson studied him. "C'mere a sec."