Two Weeks and Change
"Thanks for lunch," Wilson said, but he was already turning and walking away. House owed him this, owed it many times over and so much more, and if he thought one Philly cheesesteak - one cafeteria Philly cheesesteak - was going to get him any traction, he was mistaken.
He was also, somehow, already in Wilson's path like a stubborn and unnervingly fast-moving tree.
"What's it going to take?"
"Nothing, House. Unless you have a time machine."
"I'd offer to fly around the world really fast and turn back time, but the cops seized my cape."
"Just as long as they took the tights, too." Damn it, Wilson thought. No joking with House, no getting sucked back in; he knew better. "I have a patient." Which was true, although not right this -
"In thirty-seven minutes, you do. Not now."
"If you'd rather I don't try to spare your feelings, fine: I don't want to talk to you." He shoved past House without swerving, almost pushing him over. For one moment he allowed himself a half-formed hope that it might remind House of what he'd done, but that was a stupid hope and Wilson didn't let it linger.
When he got to his office, he locked himself and his lunch safely inside.
"Whose credit card did you use?" That was the question. Not, 'Who sent all this stuff' or 'what the hell is going on here'; those were both foregone conclusions. Nor did he need to ask how it all got inside the condo.
"I could lie right now, but I'd have some 'splainin' to do when your statement arrived."
"Charming. Why on earth would I want to leave all this in my past?"
"Beats me. You don't treat yourself well enough, Jimmy."
"You're an asshole who almost killed six people, including me, and then fled the country without a shred of remorse. Telling you to get the hell out of my life is taking care of myself." Wilson hung up, but he was staring at the kitchen counter, where two dozen red roses kept company with a high-end cat bed, the interior of which was filled with toys and treats. The whole thing was wrapped up like an Easter basket, a job House must have done himself, since it came complete with a box of Godiva truffles.
Because bunnies aren't in season, Wilson thought.
There were three six-packs of imported beer, a remote-control toy sailboat, a Giant Coloring Book of the Human Body and a box of sixty-four Crayolas.
Wilson took a deep breath and opened the fridge. Nothing. Nothing else, and what he felt about that was definitely relief, and not disappointment.
"Get out of my chair."
"I'm hiding from Foreman."
"This is the first place he would look, if he were looking for you; ergo, he is not. Neither am I. Out." He might as well talk to a damn boulder. It would be easier; the boulder wouldn't stare at him like that.
"I can't offer you a reason."
"We've established that. Is it the 'get' part or the 'out' part you're unclear on?"
"Because there isn't one. I can accept that. There's nothing I can say or do that could undo what I did, and you're right. You should on no account allow me to be part of your life."
"So ... this is your new tactic? Some kind of lame attempt at reverse psychology?"
"You say tactic, I say truth. You shouldn't forgive me, for your own sake. But you will, ironically also for your own sake. Because as stupid and as fucked-up as it is, you still love me."
Wilson was out the door and halfway down the hall before he even remembered that it was House, and not him, who was supposed to leave.
"There's no point changing your locks if you're just going to leave your keys in your office while you do rounds." House was lounging on the sofa with one of the beers he left the last time he broke in. "Thought you'd have figured that out by now." He held the bottle aloft as if in a salute. "You look stressed; oughta grab one of these."
All at once, Wilson was very, very glad he didn't keep a gun in the condo. He slammed his briefcase down on the counter, to chase away the incredibly appealing vision he was having of blindsiding House with it. "I am through with this," he said. "I'm not going to move. I'm not going to quit. You are going to have to get used to the fact that I'm happier without you."
"Are not. I've been gathering data." House had pried himself off the sofa and met him halfway, in the middle of the room, doing that I'm-slightly-taller-than-you, looming posture he no doubt learned from his late lamented father. "You think Chase stopped talking to me just because you did? Or that anyone else stopped talking to Chase? Or, hey, it ever occur to you that I've known you twenty-odd years and I'm a world-class diagnostics guy and I might notice when you're -"
Wilson punched him in the mouth. Neither of them saw it coming.
"I'm not going to apologize." Now it was Wilson doing the looming over House, because House was on his ass on the floor, rubbing the right side of his face.
"If you did, I'd hit you back. I deserved that, but it doesn't change the facts."
Wilson felt like he could cry. Or laugh, or call the cops and have House dragged out, which wasn't going to happen because the fucking bastard son of a bitch was right. Wilson had no ties here. He could've done what Cuddy had done; he could've been in Chicago or Minneapolis by now, with a whole new life, but he wasn't, and there was a reason for that.
"I hurt you. I'd un-hurt you if I could." House was looking up at him, not pleading for mercy but simply talking. "It won't happen again."
"No, next time you'll find some even more outrageous way to try killing us both."
"You're not listening. It won't happen again because there isn't going to be another her. Another Cuddy, another Jane-Doe-whoever-she-is, another time I'll throw myself at someone else's mercy like that." House had started to get up, not looking for a hand. He really was tall, and imposing, and it really had been hard to see him flailing around that pedestal he'd placed Cuddy on, but that wasn't a train of thought Wilson cared to ride. Its next stop would be Samantha and the alarmingly similar pedestal Wilson had built for her.
"Not even your mercy," House said, and Wilson snapped to attention. "Not because you don't have any, but because usually, you do."
"I'm not even going to pretend to understand that," Wilson said. "That ... that part about me, I mean." Why was he barely even angry now? Was that all it took, throwing one punch? One whiskey bottle through a mirror or a stained glass window? Hell, maybe it was. "You're bleeding."
"I spent eight months in the slammer. I don't bleed at least once a week, I don't even feel normal. You hungry?"
"House, I just punched you in the-"
"And it was about time!" He was giving it the exasperated eye-roll and the cane-wave and everything, and it was baffling, but real. "I'm hoping that if I can keep your mouth occupied with food, you'll shut up about it. Are. You. Hungry?"
He was. Very. Or had been, before he found House in the condo and tried to punch his lights out; so he probably did need to eat something even if he didn't much feel like it now. At the very least he could use a good drink. The words tumbled out before he could stop them: "I ... I'm not buying."
House limped to the kitchen sink and began rinsing the smudge of dried blood from his chin. "That," he said, as he dried his face with a dish towel, "is not what I asked."
"This doesn't mean we're okay."
"Also not what I asked. You gonna leave that tie on?"
"I - no. God damn it, House, just ... go get in the car."
It would be another four days before Wilson admitted to himself that he'd missed this.