'I don't love you,' House told Wilson.
'I know', Wilson sighed, and tilted House's head upwards to allow him access to the wound he was trying to suture.
'I am not in love you.' House cruelly enunciated every word.
Wilson stilled the hand touching House's jaw bone and breathed deeply.
'Jesus House, I know...I heard you twice the first time.'
He both felt and avoided House's glare, not needing to be reminded of his stupidity. Even though the heavy feeling in his stomach was making it difficult for him to forget, the whole scene was much more painfully replayed when both central characters were in the room. Telling House that he loved him this morning had been completely idiotic, a classic example of his heart and his penis tag-teaming his already overtaxed brain…and fuck, for one nano-second, it had seemed like a good idea. Stupid, stupid, stupid… in fact Wilson hadn't done anything this spectacularly stupid since… well, since the night before, when he had fallen into bed with House.
'Just so as we're clear.'
'We're clear.' And Wilson went back to the suturing.
'What were you…'
'House!' Wilson barked, 'This would be so much easier if you kept your mouth shut.' He held up the needle for emphasis. 'And if you shaved more often', he muttered.
If House had anything to say about how little Wilson seemed to mind his open mouth and stubbled jaw last night, he kept it to himself. Wilson approached with the needle once more.
'This is all your fault anyway.'
'Of course', Wilson answered magnanimously.
He didn't need any clarification. Obviously his ridiculous confession of love had pissed House off so much that the latter had come to work this morning spoiling for a fight. And he had found one. With the father of a sick patient, who had the double advantage of a thirty pound weight difference, and two good legs. Wilson didn't know what exactly House had said to the father that resulted in the punch, but whatever it was, it was certainly Wilson's fault.
Ergo, it was also his fault that House was currently sitting on an exam room table, his left wrist sprained and bandaged, right index finger hooked to a pulse monitor and his eyes still somewhat out of focus from the penlight that Wilson had shone rather manically into them. It was also Wilson's fault that House's cheek was throbbing and his chin was bleeding all over the collar of his button down.
Just so as we're clear.
Wilson settled on two stitches and moved the collar to clean away as much of the surrounding blood as he could.
House shook his arm away.
'Stay easy', Wilson scolded, while he opened the top two buttons of the ruined shirt to examine House's neck. 'You've another bleed here...and there's something lodged in it...what is …did you fall on glass?
'Probably. The fucker knocked me into a meal trolley.'
Wilson nodded and turned to get a small forceps.
'Take your shirt off.'
House glowered while holding up his two hands, one injured and one hooked to a finger clip.
Oh. Wilson stepped closer.
'You don't have to take it off. Just open a couple more buttons and pull it off the shoulder,' House ordered.
The 'ping' that sounded in the silence may have been the sound of the two buttons popping off House's shirt when Wilson pulled at it furiously. Or it may have been the sound of Wilson's patience finally snapping.
'For crying out loud', his tone was clipped, 'now you're shy?'
His touch was no gentler when he pushed the shirt off a House's shoulder, ignoring the other man's outraged 'Hey', and hurriedly placed a hand on the collar bone for better leverage to examine the injury. Which he then immediately retracted, as though burned, uncovering his very own handiwork - a large purple bruise that his mouth had oh-so-carefully and oh-so-deliberately designed last night. Without thinking – and damn, if this wasn't the theme of the last twenty-four hours – Wilson gently ghosted his thumb over the injured flesh. How long he might have continued this before House pushed him away was a moot point. Before he could stop or be stopped, House's pulse monitor beeped alarmingly, recording 94 to 106 bpm in the space of five seconds.
Wilson did a series of what were, on reflection, overly-dramatic double takes - looking from the monitor to the bite mark, to his hand that had touched House, to the monitor and back to House. Who was staring incredulously at the small screen.
Well, wasn't this interesting? Wilson, a man of science, felt compelled to investigate further. He was subconsciously aware that he only had a short window of time before House would compose himself, and ridicule Wilson in the process. Slowly, he reached out and caressed the bite mark, and the monitor applauded enthusiastically. He looked back at House, who had, predictably, composed his game face.
'What?' he snarled.
'You do realise that you're well into tachycardia?'
'So, what?' House had sneered. 'You think this,' he nodded towards the monitor 'is you? Seriously? Get your head out of your ass, Wilson. Last night I did a really stupid thing, half an hour ago I got punched, you've just stitched me without anaesthetic and now you're coming at me with a forceps to dig inside my neck. I'm stressed and,' he finished scathingly, 'in case they didn't teach you this on, oh let's say, the first day of med school, stress elevates heart rate. Now get this fucking thing off me.' He waved his right hand at Wilson.
Wilson almost asked him what he meant by 'stupid' – the sex, or Wilson himself. It was also on the tip of his tongue to remind House that it was his own choice, or rather insistence, not to have a local anaesthetic. But now was not the time.
'Ok,' he held his hands up in a placating gesture, 'And no, that stays on until I'm fairly sure that you're not going to have a heart attack. In case they didn't teach you this on, oh let's say, your first day of med school, a resting pulse should not be,' Wilson glanced at the monitor, '116'.
House set his face, all steeliness and open contempt.
'I know what you're thinking,' he said quietly.
'I don't love you', he added.
And this might be true, Wilson thought. In which case they might soon need a cardiologist. And a crash cart.
'Then we may have something to worry about,' he mumbled.
Of course Wilson knew that stress elevated heart rate. But then, so did dopamine. And adrenaline. On this subject, he wisely kept his counsel, for a shut mouth catches no flies. Or fists. Still, Wilson had an idea and with no time to reflect on the idiocy of his last few House-themed ideas, he stepped forward and cupped House's face.
'Wilson,' House warned and Wilson saw something wild flicker in those blue eyes before they clamped shut. 116, 117, 120, the monitor announced. Wilson gently caressed the frozen face in his hand. 122. Anticipating House's move, he caught his friend's arm before House could use his bandaged hand to try pull the clip off his finger. House opened his eyes.
'I'M NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU', he shouted, shaking both his head and his arm to remove Wilson's offending hands. Wilson hadn't heard him sound that desperate since…well, since last night, just before he came in Wilson's mouth.
He stepped back, smirking at the memory and the corollary. The machine fluttered. The smirk, seemingly of its own volition, grew until it became a full on toothy smile that invited dimples, shining eyes and laughter lines to join in. House just gaped at him in open-mouthed horror, while the pulse monitor made more and more insistent and erratic noises. Wilson didn't look at it but he could hear the rapid beating and the butterflies and the arrhythmias and the tummy flips.
A look of epiphany came over House, and Wilson realised that House was not in denial. He just hadn't known until now that he was in love with his friend. At least not consciously. Wilson made a vow to smile more often
'Give it up, House,' and he almost felt sorry for his bewildered, horrified, mortified and completely busted friend. Almost. House opened his mouth and then closed it and then opened it again. Wilson laughed at the sight, folding his arms and leaning forward, and laughed even more when he caught the panic on House's face fighting with a smile that was begging to answer Wilson's own.
He leaned over, and now laughing at House's flinch, removed the finger clip.
House, for all the world, looked like someone who had just climbed out of a totalled car and can't quite believe he is still alive.
'Fuck', was all he could say as he stared at a spot on the wall while flexing his hand. 'Fuck.'
Wilson, for all the world, looked like someone who was far too delighted with himself.
'You love me,' he accused.
House ducked his head. 'No...I…I...no...it's…shit.. .' And for some long seconds Wilson wondered what was going on in the head of the man seated before him. House signalled his defeat with a slump of his shoulders. He stretched his arm out slowly and Wilson took a step forward to meet it. One long finger gently caressed the fabric of Wilson's shirt between the buttons that were fastened at his stomach.
'I… yeah…yes…I love you,' he breathed in notes of awe, fear and resignation. He bunched a handful of shirt fabric in his fingers, desperately pulling and clutching it. 'I love you, I love you, I love you.' One for each time he had denied it.
Wilson took another step forward and rested his chin on House's still bowed head.
'This is all your fault,' House muffled into Wilson's chest after a few minutes.
'Just so as we're clear.'