Afterwards, as they lie there in post-coital exhaustion House places delicate, open-mouthed kisses on the skin of Wilson's neck, just for the pleasure of it and without any reason other than because he wants to. This lack of manipulative purpose makes these moments so rare and is the reason why Wilson treasured them so carefully. And it's in these moments, when House is completely relaxed, totally letting down his guard, that Wilson sees again why their screwed-up relationship is worth all the fights and heartaches and screaming matches it costs. In these moments he senses all the love he feels for House well up inside him until he thinks his soul might burst because then he clearly knows that he's loved right back, even if House usually hides it under his thorny exterior.

A gentle hand is brushing over his cheek, fingers caressing. "I love you, you know," House mumbles so quietly that Wilson rather feels the words ghost against the skin of his neck in the small movement of air they create than hear them and for a moment Wilson's heart stops. He isn't sure he's heard him right, so he lays there, silent, contemplating what just happened and lets House continue to run sleepy fingers across his face. Judging by the movements and the evenness of his breath, he's almost asleep, no longer aware of what he is doing or saying but that doesn't diminish the value of the words for Wilson. He knows that everything House says in this delicate state of twilight between dreaming and waking is nothing but the truth. But for all this knowledge his heart is filling with a flood of tenderness towards the other man when he finally does hear the words out loud.

After a moment, he lifts his own hand and places it lightly on House's tousled head, stroking in soothing circles. House sighs and snuggles closer to him, his nose brushing the side of Wilson's neck, air tickling the soft skin every time House exhales. Wilson turns his head slightly, kissing the crown of House's head. "I know," he whispers against his hair, inhaling the scent, "I love you, too." House doesn't hear him any more. He's already fast asleep, one arm trapped under his cheek, fingers no longer playing with Wilson's hair, the other laying limply across Wilson's chest.

Wilson watches the parts he can see of House's sleeping face. A steep curve of cheek bone, one eyebrow, the corner of his half-open mouth that had uttered those fated words only a few seconds ago. He doesn't know if what they have now will last forever but in this moment he sincerely hopes it will.