Warning: There are transgender themes in this fic. If you have issues with transgenders, please skip this one.

Much thanks to theletterv for cracking his whip and preventing me from getting sidetracked with unimportant matters such as my evil hair.

Doff Thy Name

"'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man . . . Romeo, doff thy name, and for that name which is no part of thee take all myself."

-Juliet, Romeo and Juliet

"Why do I have to be Nancy?" Wilson asked, tone tinged with complaint as he looked in the sink mirror.

"It's a paediatric oncology benefit. Since you might actually come into contact with the diseased toddlers, it's probably not best for you to waves claws in the donors' faces," House explained, waving his clawed hand at the mirror. Due to 'safety regulations' he wasn't allowed to wear a mask, but the red and green striped shirt and fedora declared him Freddy Krueger to the world.

Wilson stared at him, his rather realistic brunette wig to his shoulders, all bushy and curly and eighties. He had a stuffed bra underneath his baggy pyjamas-button-up long sleeved shirt and bottoms. He'd even thrown on some slippers to complete the ensemble.

"Besides, you make a prettier girl than I do," House added as an afterthought, then snickered. It was true; Wilson had softer features. In fact, if someone looked at him from a distance, he could probably pass as female dressed as he was, if it weren't for the fact his gestures, walk, and voice were masculine. This close, however, there was no mistake.

Wilson wasn't pleased with the compliment. "I do not," he insisted, turning to face the mirror. They stood side by side, and the scowl on Wilson's face was more suited for House's costume. "I won't put on makeup."

"Well, duh. Nancy didn't wear any to bed."

"I'm not sure I want to do this. This is-well, as you said, paediatric oncology. Going as a child murderer isn't . . . well, there's irony, House, and then there's inappropriate."

"And you've confused me with someone who cares? You're going as the hero. Call me a metaphor for cancer."

"Metaphor for a complete ass, more like," Wilson stated, still staring at his reflection with a scowl on his face, brown eyes darkening as he lowered his chin, running his hand through his eighties-fluffed wig as if he'd never encountered hair before. He moved to take off the wig. "We're not doing this."

House grabbed Wilson's wrist and prevented him from yanking it off, narrowing his eyes in Wilson's direction. "What's wrong with you?"

Wilson pulled his wrist free, but didn't pull away from House, so they were still only inches from each other. He opened his mouth, then closed it, shaking his head. "It's just-" He rubbed the back of his neck, which somehow dislodged his wig. "Cuddy is going to be pissed," he finally explained, but House could tell that wasn't his original excuse.

"So? We're not dating anymore; I don't care."

Wilson shifted, then stepped away, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "I just don't see why we had to go as Nancy and Freddy," he continued, then glowered at his reflection again.

"We might win the couple costume award."

"We're not a couple. And, come to think of it, neither were Freddy and Nancy. House, can't I just go as-as a vampire or something?"

House pointed one dramatic claw at Wilson. "Ha! This isn't about me being Freddy; you don't want to be a girl."

When Wilson turned to House, something in his brown eyes shifted; darkened. He withdrew slightly, as if House had raised a hand to smack him. Something about this was off; House could tell. Before he could really think much on it, the moment passed and Wilson rolled his eyes skyward. "Well, if we're going to go, we should leave now. I know you enjoy being fashionably late to everything, but I'd prefer to get somewhere on time for once," he said, then brushed past House and out of the bathroom.

House regarded his reflection; scruffy beard, dirty hat and Christmas sweater, and the faux-knives on his glove. In the mirror, he saw The back of Wilson's fuzzy hair bob out of sight, head bowed and a slump in his shoulders.

He retrieved his cane from its resting place on the sink, and limped after Wilson.

Despite the fact he wouldn't admit it, the paediatric oncology benefit wasn't too bad. They'd gone for a costume theme, naturally, because somehow children and costumes were synonymous in these sorts of things. Despite the fact it was for the children, though, there was of course watered-down alcohol, dimmed lights, and costumes he'd seen in a couple of his porn movies. Then again, children didn't actually go to these things; just the people who donated to the children, and doctors trying to flirt their way into the Dean's pants.

Cuddy had, of course, seen what he and Wilson were going as but other than a pointedly disapproving glare, she hadn't said anything, on account of the fact she hadn't been within twenty feet of House the whole night, and House wasn't a moron; she did it on purpose. He knew she did, because he did it on purpose, too.

Their relationship hadn't ended on the best of terms.

As for the other patrons, a few people laughed at them, although most didn't care. A few people had seemed offended, but House didn't care. What was the worst that could happen? They escort him out of the benefit? Yeah, that would teach him. House snorted at the thought, and watched as Wilson finished up a short chat with some nurse that had bigger boobs than she had last year.

When Wilson brushed off an attractive nurse with boobs larger than they had been a few months ago, House tilted his head and watched as he manoeuvred through the crowd, blithely and politely ending any conversation someone tried to strike up with him. His wig was slightly askew, but in the dim lighting, he looked like a frazzled, groggy woman who walked like a man.

Finally, he made it to House, who was standing in his usual place at these things-away from the crowd. Donors liked to mingle and House didn't like donors, which may have been why diagnostics benefits were scarce. Like usual, whenever children got involved, there were more people around than usual, and thus, a higher chance of bumping into some snob who would recognize him as the world renowned Gregory House, and leave in a huff when House was unimpressed with their sparkly jewellery and faux-polished accents that they assumed gave off the impression they were old money.

Despite the fact he'd secured the wig to Wilson's head with hair pins, it was still askew so he fixed it, brushing the hair away from Wilson's dark eyes. His breasts were lopsided, probably due to being unable to move properly with them and bumping into others, so House grabbed them and thumped them around until they were in an appropriate position. "You make a horrible woman," House teased.

Wilson smiled, then handed over the cup of punch House had sent him to retrieve. He took a swig of it, and looked at the big-breasted nurse who was now flirting with Thirteen. "I think they even watered down the punch," Wilson complained.

"You're gay," House accused.

Wilson choked on the punch he'd been attempting to drink, and coughed, spilling a little on his light-coloured pyjamas. House smirked; okay, he'd admit to have waited for Wilson to take a drink for that very reason. "Wha-? House, I'm not-I'm not gay," he managed through another cough, looking down at the stain.

"Tits Hemingway was hitting on you, and you brushed her off."

"She's a lesbian, House," Wilson informed, a bit ruder than House had expected.

In fact, his tone was sharp and angry enough that it caught House off guard; he'd been joking, which Wilson should have known, even if Wilson brushing off her advances had been strange. That was no excuse for him to sound so pissed off, unless he was upset about the fruit punch stain on the pyjamas specifically for this occasion. It wasn't like he'd be wearing them again.

House took a sip of his own punch. "What's your problem? You got your panties in a bunch?"

Wilson scoffed. "I have to go clean this up," he snapped, just loud enough to be heard over the music, and stormed off in the opposite direction.

He contemplated letting Wilson throw a hissy fit elsewhere by himself, until he saw Cuddy heading purposely in his direction, a pained but forcibly-pleasant smile on her face, and he decided that Wilson's bad mood was interesting enough for him to poke and prod it until he figured out what his deal was.

Hell, maybe he really was gay.

That only fuelled House on, limping quicker after his best friend. He placed his punch cup on a random table and then caught up with Wilson, who barely glanced at him, black eyes barely visible through the curtain of curly wig-hair. His punch cup was gone so House figured he must've deposited it as well.

"What's your deal?"

"It's nothing, House. I just want to mop up this-"

"Cassie!" someone shouted loud enough to drown out the rest of Wilson's sentence. House glanced in the direction of the voice to see some guy pushing his way through the crowd. "Hey, Cassie!"

"-bians hitting on me; not in the mood, House."

"Are you gay? 'Cause that really seemed to strike a-"

"Cassie!" the guy repeated, louder than before. This time it got Wilson's attention as much as House's and they both turned to look. The guy waved and smiled, heading straight for them.

Wilson tensed beside House. "Shit." Heclutched onto House's shoulder tightly, fingers digging through the sweater painfully. "House, whatever happens-"

"Cassandra Wilson!" the guy boomed and wrapped his arms around Wilson in a way that would only be excusable if he were drunk, which he clearly wasn't. Wilson didn't respond. He remained stiff, eyes wide as dinner plates, but the guy didn't seem to notice. It had knocked Wilson's grip off of House, and that irritated him even further.

The guy pulled away, holding Wilson at arm's length, who, even in the dim lighting, House could tell had paled significantly. "It's been forever since we've-"

"Who the hell are you?" House snapped, grabbing the guy's shoulder and forcibly pushing him away from Wilson. Wilson clearly didn't want this random asshole touching him, so where the hell did he get off thinking he could just hug him for no reason? He stood slightly in front of Wilson and placed his cane in front of him, hands clasped on top tightly.

The man raised his hands in what House assumed was supposed to show he meant no harm, but he'd seen the fear in Wilson's eyes; emanating from his paralyzed form. House would have assumed that Wilson hadn't known the man and had just been confused for someone else, but that clearly wasn't the case; Wilson wouldn't have panicked that way if it were, and the man had used his last name. "I didn't mean to upset you. I just-I used to date your girlfriend when we were in high school."

He heard Wilson swear quietly behind him, and House narrowed his eyes. "He's not my girlfriend," he spat.

The man scowled at House. "Excuse me. I assumed you two were dating. No need to be an asshole about it; I just haven't seen Cassandra since I graduated." There was no trace of irony in the name; complete earnestness and he heard Wilson swear again.

Wilson moved to stand beside House and grabbed his upper arm, as if trying to gently lead him away, and House pulled his arm free. "Hey, dickweed, his name isn't Cassan-"

"House," Wilson growled, tugging on his arm again, and with a resounding click in his head, it all fell into place.

He met Wilson's eyes and felt his snarl melt; his expression soften. Wilson's eyes glistened slightly and the pulsing, aggravating music dulled. The guy pretty much elbowed House out of the way, and House would have cared any other moment but he just took a step back, keeping his eyes on Wilson's as what's-his-face enveloped Wilson in another hug. Wilson half-heartedly returned the embrace, eyes wet and bottom lip trembling.

The guy pulled away and smiled. Wilson didn't smile in return, but he did look at his old friend. "Hello, Richard. It's . . . been awhile."

Richard took a rather large step back and furrowed his brows, scrutinizing every inch of Wilson, apparently. "Cassie, wha . . .?" He gestured vaguely at his own throat, then half-pointed at Wilson.

Wilson took off the wig, hair pins flicking off into the air, and he stared at the floor, fiddling with the hair awkwardly. "It's actually James now," he informed, and his eyes flickered up to lock onto House's, but only for a split second.

Richard's posture stiffened and his upper lip curled in a way that made House clench his hands into fists, squeezing his cane tightly. "I must have mistaken you for someone else," Richard snarled through clenched teeth, then stalked off immediately.

House turned back to Wilson and opened his mouth to say something, but for once in his life, he couldn't think of anything to say. Wilson attempted to look at him, but apparently gave up halfway there, sucked in a gasp, and then walked away, throwing the wig to the floor.

In a movie or book or some other fictional representation of his life, the scene would have ended there, conveniently relieving House of any responsibility of actually having to do anything, or House would have at least been randomly imbued with a sense of the absolutely right thing to say and do.

Instead, life kept going, and no instant words of wisdom or perfect consolation advice popped into his head. He debated going over and punching Dick in the face (oh, such an appropriate name; at least his parents had foresight) but, despite the very alluring prospect, even House knew that would be a mistake that he would regret.

Also, they'd arrived in House's 'Vette and House had the keys, so Wilson either had to wait for him, or take a cab.

If House didn't leave soon, Wilson would call a taxi. And, as enticing as it was to imagine House's fist crunching against that asshole's nose, his curiosity won out. So he pivoted on his cane after a few moments too long staring at Wilson's ex, chatting it up with some other doctor, laughing and looking for all the world like some kind, benevolent philanthropist, and hurried in the direction Wilson had gone.

Wilson had two good legs and more potent emotions fuelling him, so he was out of sight by the time House limped out of the benefit, but House knew where Wilson was going-he'd be waiting on the curb, calling a cab company.

House stepped out of the hospital and saw Wilson on the curb, his phone to his ear while he paced.

Without preamble, House walked up, took the phone out of his hand, batted away Wilson's swipes, and said; "Forget the taxi, he's got a ride."

Wilson glared at him when he hung up the phone, and stuffed it in his pocket so Wilson couldn't try and call them back. When House saw that Wilson's eyes were red and cheeks were glistening with tears, he immediately wondered if perhaps punching Richard had been the better option.

Wilson wiped the tears away and looked downward. "House-"

"You just have something in your eye, I know," House teased, mainly because although he had no idea what Wilson had been about to say, he knew it wasn't something he'd want to hear.

Wilson cleared his throat, still contemplating the sidewalk. "Just . . . give me my phone."

"Why? I'm driving you home," House insisted.

Wilson snorted. "You don't have to do that."

"Why wouldn't I?"

Wilson scuffed the sidewalk and briefly met House's eyes before staring at his shoes. His bra was lopsided again, and the pyjamas hung loosely on his wide-shouldered frame. He rubbed the back of his neck and the motion made his right breast bob around in what would've been a hilarious manner a few minutes ago.

"Don't act like you don't know, House." The hand transferred from his neck to the bridge of his nose.

House shifted his weight onto his other foot. Yep, he definitely should have punched Richard in the face. That was more his style, and less emotional. House scratched at his eyebrow.

After a few seconds of awkward silence, Wilson started in the direction of where House had parked the Corvette. House followed Wilson, trying to think of something to say-something witty and funny to break the tension, and not too emotional. He couldn't think of anything.

By the time they both slid into the car and slammed the doors shut, House had already envisioned another reality where he'd started a fistfight instead; a much better reality with Wilson driving home in a cab while House got thrown out on his ass, blood trickling from his nose, and an interesting story to tell Wilson the next day over lunch, both of them purposely ignoring the big, giant elephant joining the rest of their invisible circus.

Now, though-now he was sitting in the driver's seat, fishing through his pockets for his car keys, and it was much harder to ignore an elephant pressing in on his chest and crushing his windpipe than one galloping in the distance.

"Just . . . say it, House. Get it off your chest," Wilson grumbled, sinking lower in his seat.

So, House said the first thing on his mind.

"You dated that asshole?"

Wilson turned his head and look at House, still slouched incredibly low in the seat, and furrowed his brows. Apparently that hadn't been what Wilson expected to hear, but then again, House hadn't known what he was going to say, either. "I did," Wilson answered belatedly, looking away from House to watch the highly interesting dashboard.


"He was captain of the debate team," Wilson muttered.

"So . . . you are gay."

Wilson dropped his face into both his hands and sunk even lower. House shifted in his seat, still incapable of thinking of what else there was to say. He wasn't trying to say the wrong thing; then again, he didn't know what the right thing was. Wilson's groan was muffled through his palms. He tossed his head back so it thumped against the seat. "He didn't view it that way," Wilson gritted through his teeth.

"I've seen your dick," House blurted. One glare from Wilson proved that wasn't the right thing to say, and he quickly looked away, scratching at his eyebrow.

"Prosthetic," Wilson corrected, although the tone he said it made it sound as though it were a swearword.

"It looks . . . good," House said, rubbing at his forehead. What the hell was he supposed to say in this situation? He'd seen Wilson urinate before, and he'd never noticed anything off about his junk-and House would be lying if he said he hadn't looked in a more-than-just-passing-curiosity-about-his-size way.

"It's dual usage. Sam and Amber never seemed to care and Bonnie didn't know." House felt his stomach drop when he realized Julie's name hadn't been mentioned. "Julie . . . well. It's always about . . . sex."



"Oh," House realized aloud as he finally pulled out the car keys from his pocket. The jingling of him twisting them over in his hands was a pleasant distraction from the ear-shattering silence that seemed to drip into his chest and fill the car with fluid-y, sticky awkwardness.

"I don't want to talk about this."

"Duly noted," House chirped, sincerely glad of that, and started the car.

Despite the fact they were both single, they didn't live together. Wilson never asked House to move back in and House hadn't expected him to-House living with Wilson had been an arrangement of convenience, and because House needed support. He clearly didn't need it now although he had fantasized about Wilson asking him to move back in many times, even though he wasn't even sure he would've done it even if he had. How was he supposed to know that at the first sign of a pretty woman he wouldn't just kick House out again?

Now, he wasn't sure if Wilson just hadn't asked because he didn't want House to figure it out.

Wilson had always been pretty uptight about his privacy. He hadn't wanted House in his bathroom, he got uppity any time House tried to invade his personal life . . . All right, so they hadn't been strange characteristics, considering most people didn't like House up in their business over unimportant things, but . . .

House should have known.

House figured things out because somebody sneezed, or because of a dog they gave away, or any number of other unrelated things. How could something as important as this, from his best friend, go unnoticed? He'd had his suspicions about Wilson liking men, that wasn't anything shocking really, but . . . But this was a completely different level; this was something that he should have seen coming; something huge, massive, and interesting, and it had somehow escaped his notice.

The drive to the loft didn't get any less awkward, although the volume to the radio did get louder. It wasn't until I'm A Boy by The Who started blasting through the speakers that Wilson shut it off, rather quickly, with his eyes still shining with tears.

House understood why Wilson wouldn't want anybody to know. He was a secretive kind of guy, although now that House thought about it, maybe his past was a cause of that secrecy. Why Wilson felt the need to hide even the simplest things from House-why Wilson was often the only person who could actually lie to House and get away with it.

He didn't want to, but he lost himself in thoughts of what Cassandra Wilson had looked like. He glanced over at Wilson and tried to picture a more feminine face; longer hair, lipstick and eye shadow, a dress and a girly voice . . . staring at herself in mirrors with a completely bewildered expression on her face, as if she didn't recognize the reflection looking back. Watching men interact and walk and speak, and staring longingly while her mother nattered on about crafts.

Had he tried to be a girl? Or had he never attempted to fit? It was Wilson-of course he'd attempted to be a woman, despite it clearly not being who he truly was. Perhaps that was the only reason he'd dated Dick. He wasn't gay; he'd just attempted to be a normal, straight woman.

Or maybe he only dated women in fear that doing otherwise would denounce his gender.

House hadn't turned on the radio after Wilson turned it off, and neither of them spoke. He looked at Wilson occasionally, but Wilson's posture and expression didn't change. He stared out the windshield, sitting low in his seat, expression forcibly stony and eyes glistening.

The only time House actually spoke during the ride was when they'd stopped at a red light, and he'd said; "You know I don't care, right?"

It was silent in the car and House's voice wasn't quiet, so he knew Wilson had heard him. Wilson didn't say anything in response; just acted as if he'd gone deaf, and House hadn't pushed it.

House had seen pictures of Wilson growing up. Not a lot as House didn't care about all that scrap booking, family album picture bullshit, but enough. He hadn't looked girly, although he would admit there had been a lack of many teenaged-based pictures-just pictures of when he was in elementary school, and a handful through high school. He'd only had one yearbook, for his senior year, and the only reason House had ever looked through Wilson's album of pictures was for blackmail material. Wilson had always looked quite a bit younger than his actual age, but he'd never found anything really all that embarrassing. The book itself hadn't been very big-Wilson kept it in his closet-but that wasn't odd; hell, House didn't even have a picture album. Just a box full of pictures he had deemed worthy of keeping. His mother kept the hideous ones.

House hadn't known about Danny, hadn't known about Grace or the depression medication or Amber; he'd been duped by Wilson plenty of times through pranks. It wasn't a surprise that Wilson had managed to keep it from him nor was it a surprise why. Still, that didn't mean House had to like being blindsided by something like this; didn't mean he liked that Wilson felt he had to hide this part of his past. It didn't change who Wilson was anymore than sleeping with men would have; any more than finding out about Grace had changed him. It was just another piece to the puzzle that was Wilson-he hadn't changed, and neither had House's opinion.

He just had no way of expressing that to Wilson; he didn't know how. Normally he would make some inappropriate, insensitive comment as a joke and move on as if nothing had happened, but even House knew that doing that in this situation would be a mistake. Wilson had come bursting into his office years ago to regale information about the tranny nurse, but had to talk about that CIPA patient instead. Wilson had never been much of a gossip hen but he hadn't thought it strange that it had caught Wilson's attention. Now he knew differently. Wilson hadn't been idly encouraging the rumour mill; he'd wanted to see House's reaction.

Despite the fact that knowing this about Wilson entailed many years of self-hatred, confusion, painting a face with makeup and cursing internal organs and a God he might not believe in for putting him in the wrong body, all he could think about was Richard's disgusted face. The way the distaste had been apparent, dripping from each word. How could Richard date "Cassie" and not know? How couldn't he know "Cassie" was male?

And as for Julie . . . the marriage had been doomed from the start, but . . . towards the end, Wilson had been depressed; withdrawn. He wasn't having affairs, but he wasn't sleeping with his wife, either. He'd skipped Christmas dinners, been with House on multiple occasions when he shouldn't have been . . .

"Did it occur to you that maybe . . . maybe I'm going through something that I need to have an actual conversation about?"

House felt his stomach drop out from underneath him.

How many other women (and possibly men) had done the same? How many one night stands had been ruined when something slipped? How many disgusted looks had he gotten when he'd walked into the right bathroom, and everyone assumed it was the wrong one?

When he finally pulled in front of the loft and coasted to a stop, he realized how tightly he'd been clutching the steering wheel but only because he'd let go; his knuckles ached as he stretched out his fingers, uncomfortable in the Freddy glove, waiting for Wilson to get out of the car.

After a minute of silence and neither of them moving, House turned off the car; the gentle thrum of the engine died. Crickets chirped lazily in the distance and a soft breeze ruffled their hair, as the top was down. Faraway noises of traffic added to the late-night lull and somebody somewhere on the block was listening to jazz.

"I told my younger brother I lost my penis in the war."

House would have jumped at the suddenness of the noise, but he'd somehow expected Wilson to start talking. "What war would that be?" he asked after a moment's hesitation.

"I don't know. I was eight. Seemed like the thing to say."

As House was suddenly plagued with thoughts of how one would lose a penis during war, he opened his mouth to make a comment about grenades that surely would have earned him a punch in the face, but Wilson interrupted.

"It . . . wasn't always bad. When I was younger, I mean. I . . . My mom would curl my hair; put me in a dress. I'd come back with scraped knees and-" He let out a breathy chuckle and met House's eyes legitimately for the first time since Richard had hugged him, and the smile was almost genuine. "My dress would be covered in mud and dirt, but nobody acted like it was . . . out of the ordinary. Nobody said anything when I . . . wrestled with my brothers, or-or played football with the boys in my class. Everything was . . . fine. Simple."

The fond smile on Wilson's face faded and House looked away; stared at his lap instead.

"It was when I turned ten that things . . . " He drifted like he couldn't think of what word to use, then he just sighed. "I wanted one thing. That's it. A GI Joe. I didn't care which one. All of my friends had one, and . . . Well, Danny had one, so-and it's not like they were expensive. I didn't even think there was . . . anything odd about . . . well, about me asking for it. My family showed up; I got . . . training bras; dresses; Barbies. Just . . . things I didn't care for, but I just knew Mom and Dad got me that GI Joe. I'd been pestering them for months and I saved their gift for last."

House knew where this was going. "They didn't get it, did they?"

"No. They got me a porcelain Shirley Temple doll."

House's mind whirred with reasons why they would opt for that instead of a GI Joe, and he realized that despite all the musicals Wilson watched, he'd never once seen Shirley Temple in any of them.

"I knew then that . . . something was wrong; they'd never intentionally deprived me of anything. After that it was-well. Girls don't play football or-or get dirty. 'You're not being a very proper lady, Cassandra,'" he murmured, his voice taking on a higher pitch, and it cracked with emotion; it hit House in the chest, but he would never admit it.

A car backfired far enough away where it sounded more like a soft pop. The jazz drifted off and ended; only the crickets remained, and a streetlamp above them flickered.

Wilson fidgeted and a quick glance in his direction revealed that he was staring ahead of himself. "It was at my bat mitzvah that I figured it out. I asked for a Pinocchio piñata. I didn't get it. I . . . didn't get any piñata. Girls don't beat things with sticks."

Pinocchio was still something Wilson enjoyed, House knew. There had been several times House had caught him watching it in the middle of the night after a longer day of people dying. Once, after a particularly difficult case, House had put it in without asking or needing to be told, and had just sat beside Wilson and munched on popcorn until he had fallen asleep, head on House's shoulder. It had been during the glorious, yet brief, time after Wilson had bought the organ, but before he'd started dating Sam.

"That whole night, everyone kept reminding me how much of a woman I was. That I was finally . . . responsible; grown-up. I wasn't a little girl anymore. And . . . that's when I realized what was wrong."

House shifted. "Did you . . ." House began, and Wilson didn't turn to look at him; just kept staring out the windshield. "Did you take hormone blockers?"

"No," Wilson whispered. He folded his arms across his chest; shoulders drawing in, still sitting low on the seat; still staring ahead of himself, unblinkingly. "I did what I always do. I lied. I . . . I left all my friends. I made new ones. Girl ones. I went to Home Ec instead of shop, despite having no desire to . . ." He furrowed his eyebrows. "I didn't . . . menstruate until I was fifteen; I'd hoped that . . . that I had some sort of debilitating cancer that destroyed my uterus. I . . . I cried so hard when I . . ."

Wilson tilted his head in House's direction slightly, but his dark eyes remained on the windshield; the raw desolation etched there made House feel uncomfortable; he didn't do well with emotions. He didn't do well with people opening up to him. Any moment now he would say the wrong thing, and everything would shatter. He had no delusions about his ability at comforting others; Wilson knew this, too, and yet he insisted on telling him this. House's curiosity didn't mind, but it wasn't a question of if, but when, he would ruin this by opening his mouth.

He would ruin it just to end the discussion; to stop the emotional influx.

"Richard was two years ahead of me. He wasn't the first boy I . . . liked, but he . . . He was smart, he . . . He was older; he had a nice car. His father was in politics; I'm sure that's why he went into them. He-we dated for months, and . . . and he took me to his senior prom. We had-and . . . I'd never . . . He was my . . . The first I'd . . ."

When Wilson pinched he bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut, House reached forward as if to touch his shoulder, but then he hesitated. His long fingers were inches from Wilson; moments from caressing his jaw, or stroking his shoulder, or any number of disgustingly sentimental things. Although the urge he felt to touch Wilson; touch his face, shoulder, neck-anything-was strong, he pulled away. The plastic claws on his hand scraped against one another, and House focused on the gear shift instead of Wilson's profile.

"I . . . I panicked. It felt . . . dirty. Like . . . something had . . . rotted away. Crept inside me and . . ." When he trailed off, House was grateful for it. He hated that he was, but he couldn't help it. This was not his strong suit; he'd only managed not to open his big mouth so far simply because his curiosity outweighed his aversion to heartfelt sentiments and Big Talks. "I was young and . . . I thought I could trust him. He asked me out and I . . . I fell for him. He just, House, I-I thought I could tr-and I told him that-"

He made an odd choking noise and he squeezed his eyes shut, then slapped a hand to his mouth. He breathed heavily through his nose and House toyed with the sleeves of his sweater; the fake knives made it difficult to do that without bringing attention to the fact he was fiddling, so he promptly quit, and rubbed his thigh; it wasn't aching more than usual, but it gave him something to do besides try to ignore the fact Wilson was trying not to cry. Perhaps a better friend would have hugged him, but House had always been honest about his shortcomings.

"I said I was a gay man in a woman's body. He said that made me a straight woman, and I just-what if he's right? What if-what if I'm wrong? What if I-I just-what if I'm a . . ." He gestured at the lopsided bra, and then covered his eyes with his palm. "What if the surgeries and the-the testosterone-it doesn't matter? I just-it's all . . . all-names and gender markers and-and cutting my hair and-fucking prosthetics-"

"Wilson," House interrupted harshly, grabbing at his shoulder; claws barely touching the side of his neck, leaving tiny, white trails where they'd moved. Wilson flinched as if he'd been burned, or as if he'd thought House was going to attack him, and he turned his head; stared out the rolled up window, which was pointless at this juncture as the top was off. "You're not a girl."

Wilson sniffed loudly and wiped at his eyes. "I'm done talking about this, House." He jerked his shoulder out of House's grasp and pulled frantically at the door handle.

"You're running away from this?"

"House. Shut. Up," Wilson growled over his shoulder, unlocking the door.

"Wilson, he's a asshole. Why the hell do you care-"

"I had sex with him," Wilson spat, whipping his head around and glaring viciously at House. "He was inside me. In my-" he cut himself off and pinched his lips together. "You think this is funny, don't you? 'Oh, Wilson's a goddamn woman; oh, the hilarity.'"

"I'm not laughing."

"Oh, please. You-you make fun of me being a 'girl' enough as it is; what else should I expect?"

"Wilson. Calm down."

"Calm down? House, he-he recognized me. After-after all these years, all it took was-what, a wig? I-he thought I was-he called me Cassie. None of this-none of the sur-he had no way of knowing; he graduated before I-and none of it mattered." A click sounded as Wilson finally managed to unlock the door.

"Wilson-" Wilson opened the door and tripped out of the car; House expected him to face plant, but he didn't. "Wilson, don't be such a gi-"

"What?" Wilson interrupted in that irritating growl he did whenever he was angry. "Don't be such a what, House?"

House knew he was going to ruin it and he had. The fiery, black gleam in Wilson's eyes, brimming with tears, tore into his gut; ripped open his chest.

Wilson turned around and stalked off; hands balled into fists and shoulders hunched together as he stormed stiffly into the loft.

He heard the door slam; the streetlamp that bathed the car in light flickered like a cheap, dull yellow strobe light. If he'd just kept his mouth shut . . . If he'd let Cuddy walk up to him and start a conversation, instead of following Wilson; hell, if he'd gone with his original instinct and socked Richard right in the mouth . . .

Sighing, House started the car, plastic claws making it difficult to twist the keys. As the engine thrummed beneath him, he reached for the volume knob and everything went black; the streetlamp had turned off. The darkness weighed in on him for a moment, and then with a brilliant flash it turned back on as it was wont to do whenever it flickered.

The light caught on the knives and glinted; the click that followed had nothing to do with the plastic scratching at the volume knob.

When Wilson's alarm shrieked at him, he honestly had no idea how long he'd slept. It felt like he hadn't at all, although he knew that he had passed out at some point; the shadows on the ceiling had changed shape due to the lighting outside his window shifting.

He stared at the ceiling and listened to the alarm blare for what seemed like hours, but when he slowly tilted his head to look at the time, it had only been two minutes. Sighing, he considered calling in sick and staying home, mainly because he didn't want to look House in the face after last night.

However, if he avoided House today, it would be too tempting to just call in tomorrow, too. He couldn't avoid House forever, despite the fact he was conjuring up a million ways for that to happen. Still, even if he left the country, he'd know that one day, he'd open his door and House would be there, thrusting Thai food in his hand and saying; "I used your credit card. Hope you have beer."

Wilson smiled at the thought, and although it didn't fill him with joy, his depression and angst did wane slightly. House wouldn't let Wilson avoid him, even if he did call in to work.

Unless . . .

Unless last night was too much for even House.

He'd been awkwardly quiet the entire ride. Wilson had been friends with House long enough to know when he was uncomfortable, and he had definitely been uncomfortable last night. Perhaps because of the emotions, which was likely as House didn't do well with that, but perhaps because of the situation.

Wilson stood in front of the mirror and looked at his reflection.

Maybe he should just stay home.

And that was when he remembered that House had his phone.

When Wilson made it to work, he smiled politely at every nurse he passed and had a short, but somewhat awkward, conversation with Cuddy about House's inappropriate costume that served mostly as a thinly veiled complaint about how their relationship had ended and she was still pissed off about that. Wilson might have played into the undertones a bit more and subtly comforted her without choosing sides any other day, but he honestly wasn't in the mood, and ended the topic quickly with a lie about a meeting with a patient that wasn't even having complications.

He went through the halls, paranoia settling into his chest in a way it hadn't for years. What if they knew? What if Richard, or House, had told someone, and then it spread through the hospital like fire? What if every person he passed was mentally scrutinizing his every move; trying to catch a hint of femininity? He didn't want to think House would've done that out of spite or contempt-but he might do it just to play around, but even knowing it was done out of pranking purposes would hurt him; destroy him. He wished he could say he knew House wouldn't do such a thing, but he would; he'd pasted his damn porno posters all over the hospital; why wouldn't he make some elaborate joke over this?

He waited for the three other people in the elevator to look at him and start whispering, but they didn't even acknowledge his presence. He waited to get a page from Cuddy, demanding to know why he'd taken his testosterone shots in her clinic; disposed of the syringes in her hospital.

He slipped out of the elevator and headed towards House's office, expecting a jovial greeting and some vicious remark about his gender when he opened the door, but instead found nobody there.

That wasn't surprising; House hadn't come in on time since his relationship with Cuddy had ended.

Clearing his throat, he stuck his head in the differential diagnosis room. Chase was the only one who looked at him; he gave no sign of thinking differently about Wilson than he had yesterday.

"Did you need something?" Chase asked. "Consult?"

"Uh, no. Just . . . when House gets here, could you . . . um, send him to my office? It's important. He uh . . . has my phone."

Wilson hoped that he would get to House in time to prevent him from telling anybody.

"You don't know?" Chase's face scrunched up in confusion.

Wilson heart skipped a beat and his stomach twisted unpleasantly. "Know what?" he asked slowly.

"He called in sick. Said he had food poisoning. Probably a hangover," Chase explained with a shrug.

Everything stopped. All sound muffled in his ears, except his heart, which beat twice as loud, and he could hear the gentle whoosh of blood shooting through his veins, like water rushing by his ears. "Oh," he managed weakly, forcing a smile that he was sure looked as fake as it felt. "Well, if he changes his mind . . ."

Chase looked back down at the magazine he was reading. "I'll send him your way."

Wilson nodded and then headed towards his office, smile fading from his face. When he walked in, he half-expected the walls to be pink and the décor to be full of frills, but nothing had changed.

Of course. He should have expected. It had taken him years to come to terms with himself; how could he expect House to understand? He'd been lying to him for years. He couldn't expect House to continue to care about him. He was a disgusting freak of nature, and his own best friend couldn't stand to look at him after knowing his past.

He sat in his office chair and rubbed a palm over his face. Sighing, he grabbed his office phone and punched in his phone number, squeezing his eyes shut and pinching the bridge of his nose.

On the third ring, House answered with a loud belch. "Hello, you've reached Jimmy Wilson's International House of Man-Sluttery and Caning; how may I direct your call?"

Wilson hadn't actually been expecting him to answer, so when he did he sat up straighter and rubbed the back of his neck. "Please tell me I'm the only person's who's called my phone."

"Sure. You're the only person who's called your phone," House said with a thick layer of irony colouring each syllable.



"House, just give me my phone. I need it for work," he ordered, bright spots dancing in front of his too-tightly closed eyes. He opened them and opted to massage his temple instead.

"That's why we have pagers."

He swallowed and shifted in his seat, staring at his desk as his throat dried. The ringing in his ears replaced the sound of his heart, but it still wasn't pleasant. He rested his elbow on his desk, and held his forehead in his hands; pushing against the skin there. "About last night, um . . . look, if you want to just pretend nothing happened-"

"Hey, asshole! This is the fast lane, buddy!" House shouted, and the familiar sound of wind whipping past the phone assaulted his ears, along with a loud, and prolonged, car honk. "Ohhh you stupid co-" Another horn blast, and Wilson's eyes snapped open, without him remembering ever closing them. "Now, what were you say-"

"House, are you driving?"


Confusion settled in with paranoia; was House running away from him? If so, then why answer his phone? "House, what are-"

"You know, Pinocchio was stuck in a body once, too," House interrupted.

Wilson sighed. "I'd really prefer not to-"

"That giant ass whale, remember?"

Wilson shifted. He knew why he liked Pinocchio. He didn't need House making any smart-ass comments about being a real boy or wherever this was leading. "House . . ." he warned, looking around his office although he knew nobody was there to hear their conversation.

"He got out of that body, too. Do you know how?"

"The blue fairy?" he asked dully, then sighed loudly.

"Out of the whale, moron."

"By lying his ass off?" he muttered again, his heart sinking into his abdomen, and tears prickling at the side of his eyes.

"By catching his giant-ass nose on fire."

Wilson pulled his head away from the phone to frown at it. What the hell? He shook his head, then switched the phone over to his other ear, as if that would somehow make House make sense. "What? House, he turned into a real boy by being loving and selfless; not-not destruction and fire."

"Meh, my way's better."

"What the-House, you're not making any sen-"

"There's a cop. Gotta go."


"Dammit," Wilson muttered, then hung up his office phone with more force than necessary.

Wilson called five more times, and House never answered. Something was definitely amiss. House being strange wasn't weird at all; the fact he hadn't asked any questions was, however. He didn't ask how Wilson hid taking testosterone once a week, which was easy, actually. He just took them at the hospital and disposed of the syringes there; nobody noticed that in a hospital garbage. He hadn't needed to explain he'd been taking testosterone. He'd gone to therapy after Richard dumped him; that had lasted a little more than four months, and he'd been taking testosterone since his junior year. When he'd turned eighteen, halfway through his senior year, he'd gotten his top surgery done (his breasts had been fortunately small) and his gender marker changed as a birthday present; his school records proclaimed him male, and named James Evan Wilson. It had taken more than a year's worth of pay checks, as well as his parents' money, to get it done, but he had. He'd gotten his full hysterectomy later.

His father and brothers hadn't seemed at all surprised when he told the something was wrong; his mother had a hard time accepting the truth, and often slipped and used the wrong name and pronoun for awhile. She had viewed it wrong; she'd seen it as losing a daughter, not James being who he truly was. Eventually she'd come to terms with it and accepted it, but it had caused problems with their relationship for awhile.

He'd lost all of his high school friends, and had declined going to his ten- and twenty-year reunion because of it; House had wondered why Wilson hadn't gone, but he'd blamed it on being too busy with work.

It had even affected his love life; Wilson, although he could admit to finding the opposite sex attractive, had never been able to truly connect with women on an emotional level; love them in a way that mattered. Clearly, it hadn't caused any comments growing up but when he attempted dating men, they hadn't treated him the way he'd needed; they'd treated him like a girlfriend. Richard was the first person he'd loved; had a serious relationship with, but he wasn't the first man he'd dated. He was, however, the first he'd ever told of his condition, and to have it brushed aside . . . he knew, logically, that gay men and straight women were different, but . . .

He'd never been able to fully ignore what Richard said; every feminine trait he saw in himself stuck out as a reminder. Dating a man, loving him; what if that only proved Richard right? House was smart enough to catch onto that; understand that Wilson most likely only dated women to prove he was just a normal man; had discussed artificial insemination with Sam just to have a nuclear family, like any normal male would. So why hadn't he commented?

House should have asked about all of that; asked about his past. Wilson wouldn't have wanted him to, but that was in his character to ask; to want to know. So why hadn't he? Why and where was he driving? And why had he called in sick?

Wilson couldn't help but worry that something was going on; something that he didn't want a part of, but would, naturally, end up being a part of anyway.

Truth was, Wilson was afraid. He had no idea what House thought of this, and he was too afraid to actually find out; too afraid to ask. He didn't know why House was driving around or what the hell their conversation had been about. He had no idea how long he'd been driving; if he'd actually slept at all, or just started the moment Wilson stormed off and hadn't stopped since. He didn't know why he'd left, either.

And at the moment, he didn't care.

He just hoped he hadn't lost House, like he'd lost so many other people throughout his life; the scars on his chest had faded with time and were hardly noticeable now, but it hadn't always been that way. He'd had a realistic looking dual-usage prosthetic for a few years now, but he hadn't had the means, or the money, for anything more than something to put in his pants for his own comfort and a strap on when he was younger and he tried to forget those days as often as possible. Even with what he had now, it wasn't as if he'd managed to hide it from Julie; one tiny slip and she'd figured it out. She had tried, he would give her that, but it wasn't enough; he wasn't enough. She accused him of lying and perhaps he should have told her, but could he be blamed for keeping it a secret? He was afraid, and for good reason; not everybody in his life had been accepting. His parents and brothers were, luckily, but other relatives had disowned him and his family.

He didn't think House was the type of person to care, but maybe he was wrong.

Wilson stayed later than necessary, catching up on paperwork and clinic hours he hadn't needed to do. It had taken years for Wilson to get where he was; for people to accept and see him as male without questioning. Nobody in his life now knew, except House. He didn't want the stigma. He didn't want to be a poster child. He didn't want Cuddy panicking at every dirty look sent his way and huffing and puffing about discrimination laws; he didn't want to be harassed, or congratulated. Normal men weren't applauded for being born with the proper appendage, and that's all he wanted; to be normal. Not special, not unique, just James Evan Wilson, Head of Oncology, and male.

And he had absolutely no idea how House would treat him.

He only hoped it could be another elephant.

By the time he did manage to clock out and drive home, all he wanted to do was sit on his couch and watch something mindless. He wanted his phone back, he wanted House in his life, he wanted everything to be as it was before Richard had recognized him.

He should have realized it would've happened eventually. Richard was like his father, and went into politics, and gave money to charities and organizations and benefits. Wilson had seen him at one benefit, many years ago, and had completely avoided him. He hadn't thought he'd come again, or if he did, it wouldn't have been that specific benefit; the one where he'd dressed as a damn woman.

When he parked his car, he stayed still for a few moments, head tilted back against the seat. All day long, he'd been imagining all the hundreds of horrible things House would say to him; all the speculative glances every time he did something he deemed feminine; studious gazes, trying to find a spark of Cassandra. Saying the wrong pronoun to mock him; walking out of his life forever.

"Oh, quit being so melodramatic," he told himself, then got out of the car, trudging up to his loft.

Stressing out the entire day had taken a toll on Wilson; it was half-past seven, and he already wanted to just lie in bed and sleep; perhaps wake up to find out this was all a dream, and House hadn't found out.

All he had to do was walk into the loft, take off his tie and get out of his work clothes, turn on the television, and stop thinking. He could relax, think clearly, and everything would be all right.

He pushed open the door to the loft and his stomach dropped out of him and splattered on the floor by his feet.

Balloons. Pink balloons. With large, white words, declaring "It's a girl!" splashed on the sides. They lined the foyer, except there were none in front of his door. Wilson walked without telling himself to move; each balloon he passed was like a punch to the gut; a burning slash across his chest. His footsteps echoed as he walked down the foyer, which suddenly turned into a never-ending hallway, bile rising in his throat and stomach churning with each step.

The makeshift path ended at House, who was beside a coat-rack . . . with his prom dress hanging on it. Perhaps at the time it had been stylish, although he'd seen nothing but a vile, putrid strap of cloth then, and it was all he saw now; sparkly and pink with hideous shoulder pads and shaped like a bell. And there House stood, with a damn smile on his face, right beside the last thing he'd worn as a virgin.

"You-your-" Wilson sputtered, hands balling into fists as he felt tears start to burn his eyes; drip acid down his cheeks. "How could-how could you-you-why would you-" he barely gritted out between his teeth, then hastily wiped away the tears. Still, House smiled at him, with a blue button-up shirt half-done over a darker blue tee with some indecipherable design on it and blue, worn jeans; grinning and eyes sparkling and cocky, with his hands behind his back and rocking on his heels. "What the hell is this?" he demanded with a growl.

"Well," House began, dragging out the L sound unnecessarily, and Wilson imagined punching him in the face, "this is your prom dress, those are balloons, and this . . ." He pulled his hands out from behind his back, and a pair of scissors gleamed in the living room light. "Well, these are scissors." He held them outward.

Wilson glared at House; his heart hammered in his chest. "You-you bastard, how could you-" He stopped talking when House lifted the scissors higher and raised his eyebrows. "What are you doing?" Wilson asked, pushing House's hand away; pushing the scissors out of his face.

"I didn't think you'd actually let me burn things. Something about catching the loft on fire, jail time, being irresponsible . . ." He shrugged, then held the scissors in front of Wilson's face again.

The bile rising in Wilson's throat dissipated; the anger roiling in the pit of his stomach ebbed. Cogs in his mind began to whirl, but he couldn't make heads or tails of it; not when he was so frustrated. "What-what are you talking . . . ?" Wilson took the scissors confusedly and twisted them; watching the light glint off of them. Their conversation from earlier kicked into his head, and he met House's eyes, and the anger melted so quickly he almost felt light-headed.

"Destruction," House said, clearing his throat and looking downward. "I'd start with the balloons," he suggested.

Tears erupted, warm and wet, sliding down his face, but for a completely different reason. He covered his mouth with his free hand to hide a sniffle, but it came out as more of a muffled whimper anyway.

Sucking in a breath, he did just as House suggested; he went to the very first balloon beside the entrance; the one to the left. It bobbed tauntingly, pink and white and proclaiming him a girl. He reared back, then stabbed it; the resulting POP made him jump slightly, but he let out a chuckle instead of a yelp. The jagged, latex pink remains fluttered quickly to the floor, and he moved to one across from it and ripped into it, as well.


Wilson unleashed on the balloons; every POP was a memory he'd shoved aside; every pink bit of balloon that hit the ground was a derogatory insult tossed his way. Every sneer, every person who abandoned him, every moment of insecurity and second spent as Cassandra Lynn Wilson disappeared as he slashed, stabbed, poked, and cut into each balloon.

Tears streamed down his face, but at this point, he had no idea why; it didn't matter. Every "It's a girl!" that fell to the floor beside wilted string was vindication; every POP relieved pressure from his shoulders and around his chest. It was seeing the M on his driver's license; it was being call "sir" for the first time.

When the last pink abomination exploded, he turned to House, who was holding the prom dress out as if it were a dirty diaper.

Wilson took it delicately, and stared at the sparkly fabric; it was actually the little small, plastic circles sewed into it that made it shine. Some of them had been torn off through the years, so bits of string stuck out. The fabric was scratchy and pink and hideous; it had been too tight around his chest, he remembered. And rough against his skin.

"If you don't cut that to pieces, I will," House threatened.

Wilson snipped at some fabric; it was tough, but the scissors were made for fabric; he recognized them from when his mother had been into making their own clothes. He remembered walking into the prom, Richard on his arm; so young and naïve, and overwhelmed by the feeling of being trapped in the slightly-too-tight dress. It was supposed to make his waist thinner. He remembered the colours and lights swirling gently around the dance floor; music swelling around them as he tripped on his high-heeled shoes; stepped on the ends of his dress and Richard had gently laughed at his clumsiness.

He dropped the scissors when they snagged on something; wouldn't cut any further. He held the pieces of fabric and ripped; tore through it, the sound cathartic; music to his ears.

He remembered going to a hotel room; nervous and jittery as Richard undressed him. He remembered the feeling of violation; of disgust; of self-betrayal. He remembered the nausea and pain; he remembered locking himself in the bathroom and crying the rest of the night, dress haphazardly put on, being stained with tears as he'd sobbed.

He growled and grunted and he ripped that damn dress apart; hissed and swore as he remembered Richard's derisive comment and disgust when he'd explain that he was in the wrong body; when Richard told him he was just a straight woman.

Finally, the tattered remains of his former dress fell around him.

Wilson stood there, breathing heavily, relief and warmth flooding him. When he met House's eyes, the pang in his chest was far from painful. House looked away and scratched at his eyebrow, plucking his cane from the table he'd rested it against.

With his head bowed, he started down the foyer, cane ticking against the floor.

"House," Wilson began, somewhat breathless, and grabbed his hand to stop him.

House glanced at him, blue eyes glinting in the light briefly, then tugged on Wilson's fingers, but didn't let go. "Come on," he ordered gently, and led him down the hallway, fingers entwining through his.

He used his cane to push open the door, which must not have been shut all the way because it pushed open without any resistance.

House let go of Wilson's hand when they stepped into the room, and Wilson mourned its loss until he saw the package on his bed. It wasn't wrapped, but he figured that it wouldn't have mattered if it had been; he would've known either way.

"I couldn't find any piñatas," House explained softly behind him as he approached the unopened GI Joe. It was an original; not the new, fancier ones. Just a plain, rather silly-looking action figure inside a rectangular box. "I found it at Hot Topic."

Wilson hesitated for a few seconds, then touched the box, as if it might disappear any second; as if this were a dream, and touching it would wake him. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, and emotion swelled in his throat and chest; almost spilled over his eyes.

He turned around to see House, shifting his weight back and forth between his feet, and scratching at his eyebrow with his head lowered.

"House . . ." Wilson breathed, taking the few steps forward so that he was in front of him. "Thank you," he settled, and it sounded so stupid out in the air like that; it wasn't enough, but there was nothing else he could say; nothing that would give this justice.

House raised his eyes to meet Wilson's, and he visibly swallowed. "I can't promise I won't piss you off. I'm going to say the wrong thing one day. I'll . . . offend you; make some stupid offhand comment. It's who I am."

Wilson nodded so slightly he wondered if House even saw it.

House reached forward; the tips of his fingers trailed over the contour of Wilson's cheekbone; slid across his jaw and then across his mouth. "I know," Wilson whispered, lips catching on the pads of House's fingers.

"I can promise that I . . ." He faltered and his eyes averted to the left. "You're not a girl," he settled, voice rougher than usual. "I don't care about who you were. You're just Wilson. And that's who I . . ." His mouth worked like a fish gasping in air; blue eyes searching Wilson's face. "Fuck it," he muttered, then kissed him.

For a moment, Wilson froze, eyes wide open as House's fingers held his jaw, caressing his lips surprisingly gently, and then his lids slid shut; heat bloomed in his spine, worked its way through him, as House eased open his mouth; flitted his tongue against his parted lips.

Wilson tilted his head, and poured everything into the swipe of his tongue; House made a noise of surprise when he deepened it suddenly, but Wilson just swallowed it and clutched onto the buttoned-up over-shirt, tugging House closer. Years of tension fuelled him, but it was more than that; more than the lust and love that fluttered ecstatically in his stomach; bloomed in his chest, spreading through him like fire.

It was acceptance; complete and utter acceptance.

The scratch of House's scruffy beard; the powerful strokes of their tongues; the long fingers sliding around the nape of his neck, pulling him closer; it was everything he should have had, and everything that was taken from him at birth.

Wilson would never catch House staring at him with confusion and uncertainty in his eyes, like Sam had on a few occasions; looked at him like she wasn't sure she was seeing him right. He would never treat him with caution, like a fragile, little girl, like Richard. He would never abandon him, like Julie.

When he pulled away to breathe, House's pupils blown and blue irises stark in contrast, Wilson felt as if the world had stopped moving and rearranged itself to fit them, instead of him having to rearrange himself to fit it.

House looked him over, then dragged his fingers down his face; lingering slightly on the tip of his nose, then smiled. His fingers danced gingerly along his skin; across his cheeks, and he let out a breathy laugh before flicking a stray bang away from his forehead.

"So . . . you are gay, right?"

He didn't ask him if he liked men, which could be interpreted either way; just gay. A man.

Wilson smiled and kissed him chastely. "Yes, House. I'm gay."

House wrapped his arms around Wilson's waist and let out an exaggerated sigh of relief. "Good, 'cause otherwise, you would've had a hard time explaining all those coming out announcements I sent with your phone."

Wilson blinked. "You're a dick."

He shrugged, then kissed Wilson on the tip of his nose. "I am what I eat."

Dedicated to a great friend; you know who you are.