House knows he's being ridiculous. They've been sleeping together off and on for fifteen years; now isn't the time to get shy. But this is different. That was just sex. This is about... something more.

He still isn't quite sure what prompted him to ask Wilson on a date. All he knows is that Wilson is the single most important person in his life, and that he wants his friend to be happy more than anything. Even though it looks like 'anything' is going to include his dignity.

They've stuck with each other through two marriages, Stacy, Amber, countless other girlfriends and hookers, the infarction, the gunman, the breakdown, Volger, Tritter, and a million other things that should have torn them apart. They've stayed 'best friends with benefits' because that's all House has allowed them to be.

Wilson has made it clear more than once that he wants more. When they first got together, he tried to force the issue, but backed down when House said it was what they had or nothing. He's given up talking about it, but sometimes House can see him literally swallowing back the words. The last time he tried to say it was just after Julie left: he curled up against House and breathed 'I love you' against House's neck in a fit of post-coital tenderness, and got banished to the couch for his trouble.

A lot has changed since then. He thought he'd lost Wilson for a while, and that's when he realized how much the other man meant to him. Sitting in that diner hours after burying his father, when Wilson agreed to come back to work, House promised himself he was going to do things right this time. But before he could figure out what exactly 'right' entailed, he started hallucinating Amber.

In Mayfield, he not only got rid of Amber, he did some serious reevaluating of his life. He had a lot of time to think, and more importantly than that, he had a shrink who wasn't an idiot. A shrink who instantly zeroed in on Wilson as the center of House's world, and insisted on discussing their relationship. She not only helped him let go of his guilt over Amber, she convinced him that it was worth the risk to show Wilson how he really felt.

So here he is, standing in a department store agonizing over whether he should buy a new tie to go with the blue shirt he knows is Wilson's favorite, or a new shirt to go with the red tie Wilson gave him a few years ago.

Finally, he spots a display of silk ties that seem to change colors as the light hits them. He's childishly amused by them, and spends a few minutes waving them around just to watch the colors change. There's a dark grey/ silver one that will look good with the blue shirt. He picks it up and begins looking around for the exit.

The suit display catches his eye, and he wonders if he needs a new suit. He has tons of sports coats, but he only owns one suit. It's plain black and he's always thought it makes him look like an undertaker at a low budget funeral home.

Groaning even as he does so, he walks over to the suit section. He looks around for a moment before deciding he's completely overwhelmed. He has no idea where to even begin looking.

Resigning himself to the teasing he's going to endure for it, he pulls out his phone.

"Cuddy?"

"What have you done now, House?" She sounds wary, but resigned. He spares a second to wonder why everyone always assumes he's done something, but presses on.

"Nothing." She snorts. "I promise! I..." This is going to be harder than he thought. "Ineedyourhelp."

"What, House? I didn't quite catch that." She's obviously enjoying this. He doesn't think he's ever asked her for anything before. Demanded or ordered, yes, but polite requests have never been his thing.

'I'm doing this for Wilson,' he reminds himself. "I need your help. I'm at Quakerbridge, and I need some fashion advice."

"And you called me? We don't exactly have the same taste in clothes, House. You'd have better luck with one of the teenagers that come into the clinic every day trying to get notes for school."

There's no way to get the help he needs without admitting why he needs it, so he decides to just bite the bullet. "I need your kind of fashion. I asked Wilson to dinner and I was going to buy a new tie, but now I think I need a whole new outfit, and I don't know where to start."

There's a stunned silence on the other end of the line. "Okay." She seems to be having a hard time wrapping her head around this, and it occurs to House that she might not have known he was bi. Or that Wilson was, for that matter. "What store are you in?"

"Sears. Does it matter?" It was the first one he came to when he turned into the mall parking lot. He doesn't buy his normal clothes here, but he doesn't usually buy his normal clothes in stores anyway. He prefers to shop online. But there isn't time. The date is tomorrow.

"Don't buy anything. Go sit in the food court and wait for me. I'll be there in twenty minutes." That sounds like the administrator he knows. Brisk, no nonsense, and totally in control. Just what he needs.

She hangs up, and he goes leaves the store and finds the food court. He buys a pretzel with cheese, and sits down to wait. Cuddy actually takes something like half an hour to get there, but she's doing him a favor, and she does have a baby with her, so he doesn't say anything.

She motions for him to stand up. When he does, she looks him up and down and makes a circle with her finger, indicating that he should turn around. He does, very slowly.

"Okay, let's go," she says, and House follows her through the mall, somewhat nervously.

"Where are we going?"

"Macy's, first. We're going to find you a good suit before we worry about shirt and tie combinations." She's walking quickly, so when she stops suddenly in the middle of the mall, House nearly plows into her.

"Why'd you stop?" Instead of answering, she points into a store window. The store is called Express Men. It looks like somewhere Chase might shop. And, in the window, there's a model wearing a grey suit.

Cuddy turns and walks into the store, and House follows her. By the time he finds her amid the racks of clothes, she's found the pieces of the suit they saw and is looking through them. "What size are you?"

He recites his sizes obediently, and she passes him a suit jacket and a pair of pants. He balks at the vest, but she says, "Just try it on." and he takes it. Next, she pulls a white shirt off the rack. "You aren't getting this, but you need a collar so we can see what the suit looks like. Go try them on."

House walks back to the fitting rooms obediently, examining the suit. Up close, the material is actually striped. Two tones of grey alternate in thin stripes to create the color you see when you look at the suit from a distance.

House puts the suit on, stupid vest and all, and looks in the mirror. He has to hand it to Cuddy: he looks pretty good. He would never have found this suit himself, but he really likes it. He's impressed- he expected it to take a lot of tries, and arguments, before they found something.

When he comes out of the dressing room, Cuddy whistles. He grins in spite of himself, posing a little. She examines him closely, making him spin around, looking at the jacket buttoned and unbuttoned, with and without the vest. "Get it," she says decisively, and he changes back into his street clothes.

As they're walking towards the counter, Cuddy suddenly grabs a dress shirt. It's a bright navy blue, much more interesting than a standard dull navy or a french blue, and it's cut differently than most dress shirts he's seen. She hands it to him, and he obediently goes back to the fitting room.

When House looks in the mirror, he's surprised. The blue really does make his eyes more intense, and the shirt is fitted, following his body much more snugly than the oxfords he usually wears, but not looking too tight. He comes out and shows it to Cuddy, who just smiles at him.

He brings the pants, the jacket and the amazing shirt to the cashier, waffling over the vest he's still holding. "Buy it," Cuddy instructs. "Depending on the tie we find, you may not wear it tomorrow, but it'll be good to have." He complies. The clerk hands him a bag with the shirt and the suit on a hanger, and they leave the store.

"It looks good on you," Cuddy says as they walk to Macy's. "Now, you need a tie. Do you have good dress shoes?"

"I've got a pair of black shoes, but they're old and uncomfortable, which is why I never wear them."

"Okay, shoes too. And a belt to match the shoes, and trouser socks," she lists. "Stop looking at me like that! Do you have a dress cane? Which one do you usually carry with your tux?"

"My Alpacca one." Okay, shirt, tie and shoes he can see, but why does it matter what his belt or his socks look like? Thank God he called Cuddy. Women know these things. He checks his watch. 6:19. He'll have to buy her dinner when they finish shopping. He'd worry about what it'll do to his reputation to be nice to her, but he's already asked her for help today, and he's obediently following her around the mall and following her instructions, so it probably won't make things any worse. And she deserves it. If she uses it against him later, well, Wilson's worth a little humiliation.

"Alpacca? Like the animal?" Cuddy looks vaguely alarmed.

"No, like the cane company. I bought it for Wilson's third wedding. You've seen it. I bring it to those ridiculous benefits you make me wear a monkey suit for."

Cuddy seems to be wracking her memory. "Black, silver handle?" He nods. "That'll work. We have to make sure your belt buckle is silver." He gapes at her. He has to coordinate his cane?

They've arrived at Macy's, and after consulting the store directory, Cuddy steers him up the escalator and into the men's department. When they reach it, House is briefly distracted by a display of gadgets that includes something called a floating shooting gallery. He decides to come back for it later, knowing buying it with Cuddy will probably get it banned before he even gets to have any fun with it.

When he turns back around, Cuddy's gone. He looks around for a moment, then hears a baby burbling nearby. It's Rachel, and she and her mommy (House still isn't used to thinking of Cuddy as a mother) are in the tie section. As he walks up, she holds a tie over her shoulder to show to him. It's diagonally striped light blue, white, and a brighter blue, but some of the stripes are textured with black, navy, and grey.

He holds it up to the shirt, and it looks great. He pulls the bag over the suit up and looks at all three of them together, then turns to Cuddy and grins. With her along to help, he's actually enjoying himself, and he's very excited that they seem to have found his outfit. "No vest," she notes, and he agrees. The outfit really doesn't need it.

Next, Cuddy holds up a belt she apparently found while he was changing. It's simple but classy- soft black leather with a silver buckle. It's Lacoste, so there's a small alligator on it, which House finds amusing. He takes it, adding it to the pile that's growing in his arms. As they move from clothes to shoes, Cuddy grabs a pair of plain black trouser socks, which he takes. He doesn't understand why it matters what his socks look like. It isn't like he'll be taking his shoes off. But Cuddy thinks they're important, and she knows more about this kind of thing.

When they reach the shoes, he looks at her helplessly. She smirks at his obvious helplessness and points to a bench. "Sit, and watch Rachel. I'll be back with some shoes." Before he can protest that he doesn't know what to do with the baby- what if she starts crying?- Cuddy is gone.

He looks at Rachel dubiously. She gazes at him in wonder, reaching out with one hand. He's not sure what she wants, so he carefully pics her up. She reaches out to touch his face, giggling at the feel of his stubble. He makes a few faces for her, enjoying her laughter. Bringing her close, he does the "Brrrrr" trick he's seen other adults use with children, and she claps her hands, giggling happily.

House begins to laugh too, having at least as much fun as she is. Maybe babies aren't so bad. Cuddy clears her throat then, and he jumps. Rachel finds his deer-in-headlights expression as funny as everything else, and starts giggling again.

House settles her back into her stroller, being careful to be extra gentle with her. "Sorry. She was reaching for me. I didn't know what she wanted." He doesn't look at Cuddy, sure she's angry with him for picking Rachel up. What if he'd dropped her? He's not exactly the type of person you trust with a child, especially a baby.

The last time he tried to pick up a baby without being forced, he was still a kid himself, and it was his cousin. His aunt screamed when she saw him, and he nearly dropped the little boy. The whole family had been furious with him. He's never made that mistake again until now, but he's far more used to Rachel than most kids. Cuddy's let him hold her supervised a few times, so when she reached for him, he reacted without thinking.

"Greg." Cuddy's voice is oddly gentle. He chances a look up, and realizes she's smiling. There's something a little sad in her eyes, but she sounds completely sincere when she says, "You're good with her. I was just thinking about how cute you two looked. You can always pick her up or play with her. I trust you." House keeps his face carefully impassive, trying not to show how much that means. "Besides, you're at about the same maturity level, so you ought to get along great." They both chuckle, back on even footing after that unexpected personal moment. "Here."

Cuddy hands him two boxes of shoes. The first is a boring, stuffy pair of shiny black shoes with laces. They pinch uncomfortably, and he quickly puts them back in the box. The second pair are gorgeous. They're less shiny, although the leather is supple. They're loafers, with silver buckles on either side of the decorative strap across the front. They're also extremely comfortable, which surprises him. "These," he says decisively, changing back into his regular shoes and getting up.

"I thought so." Cuddy begins pushing Rachel as he carries his purchases and the things from Express. As they pass the fragrance counters on their way to the checkout, she asks, "Oh, do you have cologne?"

He looks at her blankly for a minute. He hasn't worn cologne since Stacy left. "I wear Axe deodorant?" he answers uncertainly. She raises an eyebrow, and he sighs. "Do you think I need it?"

"Depends. You know Wilson loves you the way you are. Given that you're wanting to get dressed up, I've been assuming this is some kind of special occasion?" She looks at him for confirmation.

"It's our first date. We've been..." For once, he's too embarrassed to be shocking, and he tries to figure out how to word it subtlety. "...involved, I guess you could say, since we met, but it's been a two guys hanging out and..." He's blushing now, he can feel it. "...you know... from time to time. He wants more, or he used to at least, and he deserves it."

"So this is more of a big romantic statement than a date?" He was blushing faintly earlier, but he's fairly sure he's at least bright red, if not purple by now. This might be the most embarrassing thing he's ever done. He manages to nod, and Cuddy smiles. He can tell she wants to 'Awww', and he appreciates it greatly when she resists the impulse. "Well, my advice is, if you're going all out, go all out. Get the cologne. You can wear it on all of you guys' dates, and for benefits and things. Do you remember what kind Stacy used to buy you?"

He thinks about it for a minute. "The sunglasses people." Cuddy looks at him blankly.

"Ray Ban?" He shakes his head. "Gucci? Prada? Coach?" All negative. "Dolce and Gabanna?" That sounds right. He nods uncertainly. "Let's go see if they have it."

The counter does indeed have Dolce and Gabanna cologne. Three different kinds, actually. After smelling all three, Cuddy recommends the original, which is the one he's pretty sure he used to wear. He gets a small bottle of it, and adds it to his pile. Luckily, the people at the fragrance counter can ring him up. He hands over his credit card dutifully, trying not to add up the total cost of everything he's bought today. It's basically a total makeover, but Wilson's worth it.

As the clerk bags his purchases, he turns to Cuddy. "Thank you for helping me out, Lisa." She smiles at him as he takes his bag from the clerk. "Really. I don't know the first thing about... these things. I want this to be special for him, and without you, I wouldn't have been able to pull it off." He pauses for a moment. This is going to be awkward. "Let me buy you two lovely ladies dinner and show my appreciation?"

Cuddy smiles at him. There was a time when that offer would have been rife with innuendo, but now he means it as a friend, and she knows it. 'Lovely ladies' means her and her daughter, not her breasts. They're still as fabulous as ever, and he'll probably still make comments about them, but he's in love with Wilson, and he's pretty sure she's figured it out. That changes things, a lot. It also enables her to say yes. "I'd like that. Do you want to grab something in the food court?"

He shakes his head. Too many people. "There's a Cheesecake Factory down the street," he suggests, and she nods. They part ways outside of the store to find their cars, and meet back up at the restaurant. They're seated relatively quickly, and place their orders almost immediately. Cuddy orders some kind of pasta, and he gets a steak with mashed potatoes.

While they wait for their food, they talk, enjoying each other's company and Rachel. House plays peek-a-boo and 'got your nose' with her, and Cuddy laughs, enjoying his antics. Playing with Rachel, House is a little sad he's missed so much of her life so far. She's fourteen months old already, and a bundle of fun and energy. He's invented a new version of peek-a-boo, which basically involves him ducking his head under the table, when she turns to Cuddy and says "Mamma. Husss?"

He's so startled he bangs his head on the table on the way back up, which makes Rachel laugh even more. "Hussss!" she giggles, while he stares at Cuddy wide eyed.

"Did she just..." Cuddy's eyes are shining as she looks at him.

"That's right baby. House." He gapes at them for a moment. He knows Rachel has begun talking. She can say "Mamma" and "No!" and "Mow", which means more, and Cuddy mentioned earlier that she's begun to say "Meh-un" for Megan, which is her babysitter's name, and "Issn", which they think is Wilson, but those are people she's spent most of her life around. He knows that while he was gone, Wilson spent a lot of time with Cuddy and Rachel, even watching Rachel sometimes when the sitter was busy. It makes sense that Rachel can say their names. Saying his though... he's torn between fear and awe.

Tentatively, he reaches across the table, offering her his finger. She takes it and pops it into her mouth happily. "Yep, I'm House." He must sound as awestruck as he feels, because Cuddy reaches over and covers his hand on the table with her own.

"You're going to have to visit more often. She really likes you." He knows she means it, and he manages a weak, but very genuine, smile. He's remembering the first time he held Rachel, when she was new and tiny, and he's overcome by a wave of tenderness. Luckily, he's saved from any more awkwardness by the arrival of their food.

They enjoy the meal immensely, talking about movies, music and books and feeding Rachel little bits of food. She gets some of Cuddy's pasta, but she seems to prefer House's mashed potatoes, so he winds up handing over most of them, a bite at a time.

It's the most enjoyable meal House has had in a long time. He'd almost forgotten what it's like to enjoy spending time with someone besides Wilson. In the past few years, he's forgotten that Lisa was his friend before she was his boss. It's nice to reconnect with her, and he enjoys playing with Rachel immensely. When they finish dinner and part for the night, he picks Rachel up and hugs her goodbye, and manages to give Cuddy a smile and a genuine, "We should do this again. It was fun."

"It was." She pauses, seemingly weighing her words. "I've missed you, House. Not just while you were in Mayfield- it's been a long time since I've spent an evening with my friend Greg."

"It's the first time I've just hung out with anyone but Wilson in a long time," he agrees. "He's- I've," he corrects himself, "missed you too." They part ways, and he goes home for the night.

Once he gets there, he can't resist trying on the whole outfit. He's impressed. It's been a long time since he was proud to look in a mirror. He rubs his jaw, wondering idly if he should shave. He'll ask Cuddy tomorrow.

He eventually makes it to bed, but it takes a long time to fall asleep. For once, it's not the pain keeping him up. It's the excitement. House doesn't remember the last time he felt this strange mix of excitement and nervousness. He feels like a kid about to ask the girl he likes to prom. House didn't actually go to prom, of course. His dad was reassigned the week before the prom at his old school, and the one at his new school had already happened. But this is what he always thought it would feel like. He finally drifts off to sleep, dreaming of Wilson in a pink prom dress and dancing in a high school gym.

The next day, House is so nervous he can barely stand it. Thirteen asks him three times if he's alright. When he's late for clinic duty, Cuddy shows up to personally escort him, reminding him in the elevator, "Tonight's going to be fine. You already know Wilson loves you."

The problem is, House isn't so sure anymore. He knows Wilson loved him, but that was before Amber. They've spent a few nights together since the bus crash, but none in the two weeks since he got back from Mayfield. Oh, they've had their normal takeout and beer nights, but if Wilson's slept over, it's been on the couch. House can't decide if Wilson's given up, or he's waiting for House to make the first move, or if he's well and truly over him. House is putting it all out on the line tonight, because, as he keeps reminding himself every time he gets cold feet, Wilson is worth it.

House is worried. He still sees that look in Wilson's eyes sometimes, but he hasn't initiated anything since House has been home. Granted, neither has House until tonight. The problem is, Wilson has no idea what House is initiating. He told Wilson yesterday, "I'm picking you up at seven tomorrow," and Wilson nodded and they went back to their lunches.

It suddenly occurs to House that he probably should have given Wilson some clue as to what he should wear. Normal evenings out with House do not require a suit and tie, but tonight he's booked a table at a classy restaurant he knows Wilson likes. He tries to think of a subtle way to tell Wilson he needs to dress nicely without giving away the surprise, and ultimately decides there isn't one. Oh, well. The restaurant is about ten minutes from Wilson's apartment, and the reservation isn't until 7:30, so Wilson can always change if he needs to. House wanted to leave plenty of time to get there, because he knows Wilson hates having to rush. He's trying to make the whole night perfect.

By four thirty, House is a wreck. He's seen Wilson once today- at lunch- and he reminded him he was picking him up at seven. "I know," Wilson had responded. "Hey, what're we doing?" House distracted him by pretending to see a hair in his green beans, and got away as soon as he could.

At four forty, House gives up and leaves. He doesn't have a case, he's done his clinic hours, and he's not doing anybody any good sitting in his office panicking. He can do that much more effectively at home.

On the way home, he stops at a florist on a whim and buys Wilson a dozen red roses. He gets a vase for them, afraid that any vase in Wilson's apartment will remind him of some occasion he celebrated with Amber.

When he gets home, he puts the flowers in the refrigerator and gets in the shower. He's still drying off when he hears a knock on the door. "What?" he yells. He's not dressed, and he has no idea who could possibly be at his door. No one but Wilson shows up uninvited, and he and Wilson already have plans.

"It's me," Cuddy calls. What is she doing here? House grabs a pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt from the bathroom floor and pulls them on.

"I'm coming!" He opens the door and lets her in. "I was in the shower."

"I can tell," she smirks, and he notices that he's still dripping. "I thought you might need some help getting ready. I asked Megan to stay an extra hour."

He sighs in relief. He'd forgotten to ask Cuddy about the shaving question, and he's been wondering silly things like how much cologne he should wear and if he needs to fix his hair. She'll know what to do. "Come on in. Hey, I meant to ask earlier, do you think I should shave?"

She looks taken aback by the question, and thinks about it for a moment. "What's the purpose of tonight? I mean, are you just trying to get back in the sack, or make some kind of statement, or what?"

"I... Wilson always used to press for what he called a 'real relationship'. At first, I hadn't really come to terms with the idea of being involved with a man, and then after Stacy, I didn't want to get that involved with anyone. So I refused. And he didn't deal with it very well. It's just one of the many ways I've hurt him over the years. So tonight is part apology, part proposition," he drops his voice so that she can barely hear it, "part I love you. I guess, what I want him to get out of it, is to know how much he means to me. Stuff like going on dates and being more open... If it means that much to him, well, he means that much to me."

Cuddy is smiling at him like a proud mother. "Is shaving included in 'that stuff' if he wants you to?"

"Well, I won't shave every day, but I know he likes me better that way."

"Then I think you've answered your own question. Do you even own a razor and shaving cream?" she asks with a smirk. House is ridiculously glad that this new 'friends' thing they're doing isn't going to change their relationship. Snipping and snarking with Cuddy is fun.

"Of course I do. I shaved when I was on the methadone, remember?" Not wanting to dwell on that- the last time he shaved, it was for a job interview, because she'd temporarily fired him- he turns and goes back into the bathroom. He shaves carefully, amazed by how different he looks without the stubble. He goes back into the living room.

"What do I do with my hair?" It's almost dry, but it's it's usual unruly self. House isn't even sure how to style his hair, much less what it should look like.

Cuddy smiles. "I thought you might ask that." She pulls a bottle of hair gel out of the duffle sized bag she's carrying as a purse. "Do you have a comb?"

"I should. I think Wilson keeps a spare in my drawer for when he spends the night." Sure enough, there's a comb in his drawer, along with Wilson's spare toothbrush and a travel bottle of mousse. "He's such a girl," he declares, holding up the comb.

Cuddy looks up at him for a moment, uncertainly. He's too tall for her to fix his hair. She disappears for a moment and comes back with the chair from the hallway. "Sit." He complies, and she puts a little gel in his hair, working it in. She combs it forward, not styling it, per se, but making sure it's neat. "It's already six fifteen. You should get dressed if you're going to be there by seven."

House is in the bedroom changing when his cell rings. He left it on the kitchen counter when he put up the flowers, so Cuddy picks it up. Before she can say anything, Wilson says, "House, I'm still at the hospital, and I'm not quite done. I can be ready by seven, but can you pick me up here?"

She smiles. Wilson sounds tired, but there's quite a bit of barely concealed excitement in his tone. He doesn't know what House is up to, but he's obviously excited to spend time with his friend. "Hang on a second and I'll ask him."

Before she can yell for House, Wilson answers her. "Cuddy? What are you doing on House's cell phone? Is he still here?" There's something agitated in his tone now, although she's not sure what it could be.

"No, he cut out a little early actually. He thinks I don't know," she tells him conspirationally, trying to get him out of whatever funk he seems to have fallen into, or at least find out what's wrong.

"Well, you two are probably busy. Don't bother asking him about picking me up. He probably forgot we had plans. Do you need someone to watch Rachel?" Wilson sounds pathetically sad and hurt, but he's manfully trying to hide it, and Cuddy's heart goes out to him.

"He didn't forget. He's planning on leaving to get you in a few minutes," she reassures him.

"Oh. Are you coming with us?" He's brightened a little, but not much. Cuddy realizes, even though she knows that Wilson would never admit it, that he's feeling resentful of the idea of sharing House with her tonight.

"No, I'm going home to Rachel in a few minutes," she tells him, hoping to reassure him again.

"Oh. Right. What are you doing at House's? You are at House's, I assume?" He's digging. Cuddy feels bad for him, because he's obviously upset, but she's enormously reassured. She knows House has been afraid that Wilson's gotten over him and isn't going to respond well to the date, but the jealousy she's sensing off of him reassures her that that isn't the case. If Wilson's stepped back, he's doing it because he thinks it's what House needs or wants.

"Yes we are. I just stopped by to say hi. We're friends." She stresses friends, but Wilson's already talking.

"He told me he took you and Rachel to dinner last night." Cuddy curses in her head. Why would House do that? Wilson's obviously taken it the wrong way. Which, given her history with House, is probably the only way he could have taken it. "Are you two," Wilson hesitates a little over the word, "seeing each other?"

She laughs, wanting to make it clear that she has no designs on House. "House is not my type, and trust me when I say I'm not his either."

Wilson argues, "A beautiful, intelligent woman who's not afraid to stand up to him? How could you be any more his type?"

"Just trust me Wilson. House and I are not an item, nor will we ever be one again. He's a very dear friend, but that's all." She won't say anything more for now- she doesn't want to risk ruining the surprise. "Let me go tell him what you wanted."

She knocks on his bedroom door. "House? Wilson's on the phone. He wants to know if you can pick him up at the hospital instead of his apartment."

House's "Sure," is muffled by the door, so she repeats it into the phone for Wilson, tells him she'll see him tomorrow, and disconnects the call. She's sitting on the couch with House's phone in her hand when he comes out of the bedroom.

He looks fantastic. She knew he would, but seeing the whole ensemble together is just perfect. "Okay?" he asks uncertainly, and all she can do is nod, making an approving little noise in the back of her throat. He smiles uncertainly. "Um, I wasn't sure how much cologne to use." He holds up the bottle. She takes it from him and lightly sprays it twice in the air.

"Walk through it." He obeys, and the result is just the right amount of scent. It's a nice scent. Very masculine and very, very House. She's sure Wilson will like it.

House looks at the clock nervously. It's only six fourty. If he leaves now, he's going to be early and spoil the surprise. He needs to wait at least five more minutes. "Do you think Wilson will think it's too girly if I give him flowers?" He's looking down at her like a little boy with his first crush, and she can't help smiling. It's all too adorable.

"I think that's a wonderful idea, but I'm not sure you have time to get them," she cautions. She's also having a hard time imagining him carrying flowers on his bike. Actually, the bike is probably a bad idea altogether. It'll wrinkle his clothes and mess up his hair. "While I'm thinking about it, do you need a ride to the hospital? You guys can take Wilson's car, and that way you won't mess up your outfit or your hair."

House apparently has it all taken care of, though. "I've got a car, remember? I even got it cleaned and detailed yesterday. And I've already got the flowers. I bought a dozen red roses on the way home. But he may think they're too sappy."

"No, he won't, House. That's really sweet, and I'm sure Wilson will appreciate it. Now go on. You should go up to Wilson's office and get him and escort him to the car like a gentleman. That way he gets the full effect of the outfit the first time he sees you. If you're sitting in the car, you won't be able to show it off as well."

House seems to agree with her logic, because he gets the flowers out of the fridge, grabbing a vase that's sitting on the counter, and walks towards the door. "Cuddy." He stops, looking uncertain. "Thanks. A lot." She impulsively reaches out to pat him on the arm. He smiles at her a little awkwardly, and they walk out together. She can't help her grin as she watches him drive off.

On the way to the hospital, House desperately tries not to panic. He's tried to convince himself not to worry because it's just Wilson, but that's the problem. If he were going on a date with anyone else, even Cuddy, he wouldn't be this nervous. But Wilson is the most important person in his life, and he desperately wants to get this right.

When he gets out of the car, he straightens his jacket, fixes his tie, and checks his appearance in the mirror. He can't see enough to tell, so he checks in the car beside his' dark passenger's side window. He looks fine, he thinks. He debates a minute about what to do with the flowers, finally deciding to bring the roses but leave the vase in the back seat. Wilson won't want to leave them at work, so the vase will just be one more thing to carry back out if he brings it.

He checks his watch as he steps into the elevator. 6:56. Right on time. He walks down the hall and stops in front of Wilson's office. Now that he's here, he's too nervous to go in. Wanting to buy a couple of extra seconds, he knocks. Wilson calls a slightly confused sounding, "Come in," and House opens the door.