Note: In this story, the whole thing with Dominica never happened. Thank me with reviews!
Disclaimer: Do I own House M.D.? I highly doubt it.
House had thought about this. And thought about this. Until what he considered to be his abnormally large brain seemed full to bursting with all the thinking. Granted, that is what he usually did in his spare time, and even in the spare time between having spare time, but never quite like this. It wasn't heavy, how-will-this-mystery-be-solved? thinking; it wasn't gee, wonder what's for lunch today? thinking; it wasn't even one of those rare thoughts that popped into his head because he actually allowed it to do so, such as Wilson looks nice today - Wonder if it's appropriate to make an inappropriate comment? thinking.
No. This was more along the lines of Should I tell my best friend what I've been thinking? Because he was done with the truly difficult part - now the thinking was coming from having a decision to make about what he'd been thinking, and it was no easy task.
Sadly, but really not so sadly, Cuddy was finished with him. Oh, he had loved her - he still did love her - but they were never meant for all that baggage that automatically comes with a relationship. She was a friend that he hoped he would always have, despite her telling Wilson that they couldn't go backward. As he ought to know, words don't have to mean anything; it was actions, and lately, Cuddy had been behaving perfectly usual around him, giving him extra Clinic duty, telling him he couldn't carry out some of his more insane medical procedures, ecetera...and he was fine with that. He was comfortable with it - it felt like old times, which he hadn't realize he had sorely missed.
Wilson had asked House to move back in to the loft that dreadful weekend of the break-up. He'd refused, partly due to cold indifference to his friend's concern, and partly due to extreme annoyance at his pity. How he could be both indifferent and annoyed simultaneously was beyond him, but there was no satisfactory way to explain away human emotions. The day after the incident with the pool and the college kids, House had finally left the hotel and gone back to his apartment. Wilson still came by every single day, undeterred by the seemingly suicidal act. In fact, he acted as if it had never occured. Perhaps his over-worked up brain had subconciously blocked out the event - just another thing that they would never talk about because, honestly, just being around each other told them all they needed to know. It was all in their eye contact, their body language, their...harmless touches. And it was all so familiar...House really appreciated the wonderful, warm, comforting feeling of familiarity now. Like he was in his own little world with his best friend and his team (he had been feeling great affection for Foreman, Chase, and even Taub these past couple of weeks), and his boss with whom he argued over simple matters...it was nice. And the Vicodin was a special comfort as well.
The nicest part was that Wilson had asked him again to move back into the loft, and he had accepted. It was lonely in his apartment, now that he had known and been reaquainted with the knowledge of what it was like to share living space with another person - for nearly three years. House didn't like being alone. So, yes, he had accepted, and he had been living with Wilson for two weeks. He'd been thinking for two weeks. Maybe longer.
His best friend was...very helpful in his situation. Most of the time they spent together was enough to distract House from his pain, and, if he wasn't mistaken, it distracted Wilson from his own. He frequently dwelled on the fact that the both of them were, once again, bachelors...and the fact that they were getting on in years and he could see no hope for either of them. Well, there was probably hope for Wilson, as all he had to do was give a woman that puppy-dog simper, and she was his, but House had no special technique unless there was a particular woman who swooned over sarcasm and scruffy features. At the moment, however, they were both single. And while House was perfectly content with having the old duo back together, he couldn't help but wonder if...maybe...they could try a little something different. It was this he had thought about, long and hard, and now, he debated over whether or not he should bring up the subject with the one person he trusted, the most important person in his life - in his entire life. On one hand, he was terrified that Wilson would abandon him just as Cuddy had done. On the other hand, he held a firm belief that the worst Wilson could do would be to simply reject him. Their friendship was so set-in-stone that there was really nothing that had the ability to break it except death. Wilson would probably even let him down gently, his brown eyes apologetic for not being able to give House the kind of happiness and companionship he desired. This image caused a small, affectionate smile to cross House's face, and he decided that he would do it. It would be okay. It had to be okay. He couldn't live the remainder of his life, not knowing. He always had to know.
It wasn't that he had been harboring repressed romantic feelings for his best friend ever since they first met or even a couple of years after. In fact, House didn't harbor repressed, or any other types of romantic feelings for him...it was just that the feelings he did harbor, such as particularly strong platonic love, were intensifying day by day. He found himself almost clinging to Wilson as if he were the very last person on earth, and to House - he might as well have been. The idea of beginning a romantic relationship with someone he loved very much, even if it wasn't in that way, didn't seem too bad. The thought of kissing him, among other things, was a little odd, but not unpleasant. He figured it would simply take some getting used to, and he was totally willing to try if Wilson agreed. Many of the staff around the hospital already thought that they secretly wanted to be with each other - it wasn't like it would be a big scandal that Cuddy would be forced to cover up, and it wouldn't completely shock anyone. Everyone knew how close they were. The more he gave the matter plenty of thought, the more he became drawn to the idea. He only hoped that Wilson saw it the way he did...
As he slowly pushed his way through the wooden front doors of his condo, Wilson noticed, because of his exhaustion no doubt, that the place was utterly silent. No blaring television, no grating notes from House's organ, and no sizzling sounds from the stove top. All of this indicated that his friend was not home yet; they had driven in seperately that morning due to this. In all of the chaos of the work day, Wilson had forgotten that House had been planning a visit with Doctor Nolan late that afternoon. He sighed, shrugging out of his overcoat, and hung it on the coat rack that Sam had insisted he buy, along with his keys, and made a beeline for the couch. It was time for some peace and quiet.
He didn't bother with the TV; he grabbed a magazine that was laying on the coffee table, sat down, and began mindlessly flipping through it, hoping to rest a bit before House got back so that he had enough brains and energy to interrogate him about his session...and beg him to get dinner. As he flipped, a small smile appeared on his face and slowly grew until he had stilled over some page or other, feeling proud that House was making the right decision on his own just as he had nearly three years ago. It proved that the older man was mentally healthy enough to realize that he needed the help of another human being to get him through his depression so that he didn't do something destructive like overdose on the Vicodin. It troubled him, the amount of time House seemed to spend just sitting there with deeply contemplative expressions on his face these days. He knew what House was thinking about and it was going to get him nowhere; from the few conversations he'd had with Cuddy about the situation, it did not appear as though she planned to change her mind anytime soon. On the brightside, House seemed genuinely grateful and relieved that Wilson had asked him to move back in again. Hopefully, they would continue to grow closer until they had achieved that level of a couple of years back - at the rate they were going, it was bound to happen any day now. Then maybe he would be able to get a good, meaningful conversation out of him...help ease his pain a little...
Shaking his head, Wilson returned to flipping through the magazine that lay across his lap, but merely four minutes passed, and his eyes began to droop. Another five, and he was out like a candle that had been burned down to its holder.
Something hard banged into his shoulder, jerking him awake. He shot forward, eyes wide, and saw nothing there. He looked up at the ceiling, briefly wondering if the roof had fallen in - perhaps there was some lasting damage from when those fire sprinklers went off - but nothing was there either. He felt hugely disoriented...until he heard a chuckle behind him. He whirled around. House was standing there with his cane raised as if to strike once more, but lowered it as soon as Wilson turned.
"Idiot," he muttered, his blue eyes shining.
Wilson turned back around, rubbing a hand over his face, and stifling a yawn. "Nice...to see you too. Oh - hey - " he whirled around again to watch House limp around the couch to have a seat next to him, dropping a plastic bag into his lap. Judging by the delicious smell that was coming from it, Wilson supposed it was a Chinese dinner. His stomach growled loudly in response as he, in turn, set it in front of them on the table. "How were things with Nolan?"
House shrugged, leaning forward to dig into the bag. "He's still fat, I'm still an ass...the only difference is I'm back on the pills. He wasn't, you know, very excited when I told him, which was a huge disappointment. I was so sure he would be proud."
Wilson leaned back into the imprint he'd made against the couch, rubbing his face now as if he were trying to put feeling into it. His eyes were still so heavy...he stifled another yawn. "Good," he said.
House glanced at him while twirling a few noodles around a plastic fork. "Good?" he asked with a note of amusement, and...if Wilson wasn't mistaken, a concealed note of disappointment? Maybe House actually wanted to talk about it. Wilson yawned again, shaking his head, and sat up.
"No, uh, I mean - do you think you'll start going to regular sessions again?" He grabbed a container of food.
House appeared to think about this for a moment, sucking on his fork with a curiously blank expression, before speaking. "I...don't think so."
"What? Why not?"
"Because I didn't go. Never scheduled an appointment in the first place."
Wilson froze, his fork halfway to his mouth, and stared at his friend. "Why...not?" he asked again, slowly. He was going to refrain from being disappointed until House explained. He'd been trying this new thing lately where he didn't lecture, and he didn't let loose exasperated sighs or shake his head; instead, he gave House his full support because that's what friends were for. As long as the older man had someone to back him up, he would be fine. It was then that he realized House hadn't turned the television on - something he usually did as soon as he walked through the door. That meant that he really did want to talk. And with this confession, it was sure to be about something serious...Maybe he wanted to talk about Cuddy. Or maybe, instead of going to see Nolan, he had done something else that he had initially wanted to hide. What could that be? He watched House carefully as the older man remained silent, avoiding his gaze. They had both ceased eating, but Wilson noticed the odd tension in the air from this, and so picked up his fork again.
A few more tense moments passed. Wilson finished off his container of food and set it back on the table. Eventually, House cleared his throat gruffly.
"I've been avoiding you."
Wilson blinked, not at all certain that he had heard correctly. So he repeated his words back to him in question form, raising his eyebrows to convey his increduality. House nodded curtly in response.
"Uh, okay. Why have you been avoiding me?"
House refused to look at him; he looked in the general direction of the flatscreen instead, falling silent once more. Wilson didn't want him to close up like this. He wanted him to talk. Did House feel that he couldn't trust him? Tentatively, he asked, "Did you...do something?"
Wilson frowned. "House...what did you do? It's okay, you know, you can tell me."
Wilson put up his hands in surrender at House's sharp tone. "Alright. So...did I do something?"
Inhaling deeply, House turned his head to look at him properly. His blue eyes scanned his face quickly, but Wilson caught the anxiety in them. Worry seized him around the middle and held on tightly. "House," he said firmly. "You're making me nervous."
That appeared to do the trick for whatever reason. House probably thought that if they were both nervous, it wouldn't be so bad...or something. Who knew what went on in that rat-maze of a brain?
"I've been thinking about...a few things."
"I haven't been thinking about the things you think I've been thinking about."
Wilson nodded again, more slowly this time. "So what...?"
House, who had been clutching his container, seemed to realize this and set it on the table next to Wilson's. "Well, yes, Cuddy and - that whole thing. But I've been thinking about you too."
"Sure," Wilson said, surprised that House was volunteering that information when he was usually so reserved when it came to things like problems and emotions.
House squinted at him as if trying to figure out his features, then continued, "You're gonna take this the wrong way."
"Why would you assume that?" Wilson asked with a stab of annoyance. House needed to trust him.
"Because I know you," House shot back. "You're prone to overreactions."
"I won't overreact," Wilson promised soothingly; he didn't want an argument right then. "I won't get upset over whatever lunatic thing that's happened now."
"I think we should try something," House blurted after a pause, as if he wouldn't have the courage if he waited any longer.
"Try what?" Wilson asked curiously, if not a bit impatiently, though he tried to keep it in check.
Letting out a chuckle of disbelief, Wilson settled back into the couch. "Right. Let's get right on that."
House stared at him for a moment, scrutinizing. Wilson stared back, almost glaring but not quite, willing him to come out and say what was really on his mind. He couldn't help House if he didn't know what was going on. And then, to his utter shock and amazement, House's jaw clenched, and he stood, snatching up his cane, and limped out of the living room.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute!" Wilson called out, getting up to follow him. "House - " He caught up to his best friend easily before he had the chance to baricade himself in his bedroom. House turned to face him, his cheeks tinged with a shade of red that could possibly indicate anger or humiliation, but with an otherwise blank expression. Wilson locked eyes with him. "Just tell me what's really bothering you."
"I did," House told him in a low, flat voice.
"You don't really expect me to believe that you want us to try having a relationship," Wilson scoffed. "First of all, you just got out of a bad one with Cuddy. You're on the rebound. And while that is normally my thing, according to you..." he trailed off jokingly.
A corner of House's mouth twitched, then his face was blank once more. "Wilson..." he said, seeming hesitant. Wilson waited, but House just shook his head as if deciding that whatever it was wasn't worth it, and started to turn toward his room.
"No," Wilson said firmly, grabbing the crook of his elbow. "I am your best friend. You can tell me anything, do you hear me? Anything. You ought to know that at this point."
Closing his blue eyes, House faced him again. "Why do you care about this?"
"Because it's obviously affecting you, and I want to be there for you in case you decide to start firing shots from the clock tower."
"This isn't - that's not what - " House cleared his throat. "It isn't that sort of thing."
"Then what is it?"
"Wilson," House said, stunning him momentarily with the intensity in his voice. "I don't know how else you expect me to phrase the words 'I already told you.' You, apparently, do not agree with the idea, so it would be great if you would let me go cry myself to sleep."
Placing his hands on his hips, Wilson tilted his chin forward as him challenging him to take back that statement within the next three seconds before some sort of explosion took place. When he didn't...well...nothing happened. Literally nothing. The two of them stood there, staring at each other so silently that all that could be heard was the sound of one lone drop of water escaping from the faucet in the kitchen next to them. It was surprising that House didn't attempt to run away or, at least, break eye contact - and it convinced Wilson more than words ever could that his friend wasn't joking around. He felt a crushing guilt when he realized that House had probably been planning this moment for a while...this is what he'd been thinking about underneath those contemplative expressions...and his reaction was most likely the very one House had been anticipating. Dreading.
"Oh," he said softly, somehow not breaking the thick silence.
All at once, House's blue eyes filled with anxiety as they had earlier. Such horrible anxiety that Wilson was going to speak again, but the older man interrupted him.
"You don't understand," he said harshly. Wilson winced. "You think that I'm suggesting this because I'm in love with you. You're wrong."
"Actually..." Wilson started, unsure of what to say. For a reason he hadn't yet discovered, the thought that House was in love with him hadn't crossed his mind. He shook his head. "I'm kicking myself for turning this into exactly what you hoped it wouldn't turn into. A big deal."
House looked genuinely stunned. "You - you don't think this is a big deal?"
"Not from this moment on. Once you elaborate - then we'll see."
House tilted his head, squinting at him, then glanced down at the floor between them and swallowed. "While we're not in love with each other now...I think that we could be."
Wilson watched him carefully, feeling as if he'd just swallowed a large ice cube. He waited for House to look up and meet his gaze so that he could nod his encouragement. Even if nothing came of this idea, he would still be there for House. Nothing was enough to make him want to leave. If anything, this would make their friendship even stronger.
"There's - there are no other relationships we could get into that would mean anything to us," House continued, now staring at Wilson's left shoulder. "And while I'm not suggesting that I want to kiss you all the time, or sleep in your bed - I don't want any other relationships. I would rather live here and argue with you over nothing, than start something new with some woman that would end up in disaster anyway. Because with you...disaster is impossible."
Blinking back the slight dampness behind his eyes, Wilson breathed in deeply. This was House bearing his soul to him; this was a side he had very rarely been able to witness, and it had never been directed at him. Not in this way. House was...trusting him. He couldn't screw it up. He was quiet for a moment, processing and deciding on the right thing to say, while House continued to look at his shoulder, his eyes practically burning a hole into it.
"I never knew that you felt safe here," Wilson eventually said, gently. "That makes me feel like that much more of an ass for kicking you out before."
"No, it's not here, here. It's...you," House explained. "I'm safe with you. Because you'll never leave, no matter what I do."
Wilson nodded, licking his bottom lip. "Just keep reminding yourself of that fact."
House met his gaze briefly before returning it to Wilson's shoulder. He now wore the ghost of a smile on his gruff, anxious features. "We don't have to jump right into anything big - we don't have to change anything - I just wanna know that we're together. And...maybe...one day we'll feel comfortable enough to, you know, have a hot and heavy makeout session because we've fallen in love. Who knows?"
"And what if we just can't?" Wilson asked curiously. "What if we really are just friends who happen to love each other in a particularly strong, platonic way?"
"If we're brave enough to open up our other option, then it's there. And it will always be in the back of our minds. And we'll always wonder...what would it be like? Could it work? And...we'll have to eventually try it out. And I think that if we're brave enough...we could make each other happier than we've ever been. But if those types of feelings just aren't there - then we'll simply remain friends who are closer than any two people on earth, because we'll know, and there will be no more questions or wondering, but that affection will still linger because...we cared about each other enough to try and make it work."
Wilson didn't bother to pause and think about these words. They instilled emotions in him so deeply that his brain automatically knew what the answer was, and he blurted it out as soon as House stopped speaking.
"Okay," he said, blinking furiously. "Okay. It makes sense - I'm willing if you - I - I do care that much - just promise me that we - "
"We won't," House said firmly, blinking as well. "We can't. We've been through too much."
"Mm," Wilson said thickly, attempting to control himself. There was a lump the size of two tennis balls in his throat. "So if we are just friends - what will you do?"
"We'll cross that bridge if we see one," House told him, looking at him with more intensity than he had ever noticed before. Wilson found himself unable to look away, caught up in the moment, feeling as though nothing else in the world mattered but those blue eyes that he saw much more clearly than ever. How many times had he looked at those eyes, vaguely noting that they were a pretty shade of blue, but never really putting any thought to it? Why were they now the most beautiful things he had ever seen?
House slowly took a step toward him, putting a hand lightly on the side of his face, and pressed a very gentle kiss to his forehead. Wilson closed his eyes, his breathing shaky, every muscle tense as if he were ready to spring. When House began to speak against him, he noticed that his friend was breathing in much the same fashion.
"We'll take it day by day," he murmured, his thumb rubbing circles over Wilson's temple. "Minute by minute. If we're going to do this, don't be afraid of it...go with your insticts. If it doesn't feel right, we won't push it."
"Does this feel right?" Wilson whispered, voicing what he knew they were both wondering. House pressed another kiss to his forehead as though he were taking another taste of apple pie that had potential to win first place in the state fair. Wilson tried to force his muscles to relax, but was unsuccessful, though...there was something thrilling about House's closeness. It felt forbidden. House pulled away from him, seemingly reluctant, and Wilson was surprised to find a frown on his face.
"You're uncomfortable. You're supposed to tell me that, not suffer through it."
"No," Wilson assured him quickly. "I mean - a little - but that's normal, I'm sure. It's not you."
"How can you be sure?" House asked with a small grin. "This whole situation is not normal."
Wilson grinned back, somewhat shyly. "Well, can we just - watch TV?"
House nodded, his expression relaxing into what seemed to be relief, and the two of them genuinely smiled at each other for the first time that evening.
In light of what was happening, it was then that Wilson allowed himself to find House's real smile rather attractive.