And the Borders of Old Cities Get Redrawn



"You've got ... candles? Since when do you even ... I don't want to know." It's disorienting and familiar, both at once, being back here. There are rags and bottles of various cleansers lying out on House's kitchen counter, not too far from one of the lit tapers, which is held upright by a wad of aluminum foil scrunched around its base.

"From the emergency kit you insisted I should have. A guy can't be romantic?"

"A guy, sure. You, on the other hand -"

"Calm down, Jimmy. You and Little Jimmy will leave here unmolested. Candles help mask the cleaning fumes. Also, reveling in my new-found non-prisondom. No open flame on D-block."

"How about moving the open flame away from the flammable rags before D-block burns to the ground?"

House makes that stupid hand-puppet sign for nag nag nag, but he picks up the candle in its tinfoil base and limps out of the kitchen. There is, Wilson notices, more dust settled into House's hair than there is on the counter, or the piano. The floor still hasn't been swept, and the place smells of disuse, Windex, and laundry detergent, except of course for the three large boxes of food in Wilson's arms. "Coffee table's cleared off?" he inquires, but he's already heading that direction.





The hurricane candle adds a bit of lowbrow ambiance to the Styrofoam boxes and tubs on the coffee table. It's ridiculous, bizarre, a prop for a white-trash date night, and it's making Wilson smile.

"Oh my God." House has shut his eyes, leaned back, and he looks like ... like he's in the middle of something a lot more personal than dinner. "Oh my God. Where'd you go for this?"


"They do carry-out?"

"They do if you know how to ask. You thought I'd sock you in the jaw and then, what? Head straight for Applebee's? Pass the potatoes."

House is too busy enjoying himself to argue. "This is almost good enough," he says, once he's washed down a bite with the beer Wilson brought. "Almost good enough to make up for you having abandoned me in there."

"Don't make me hit you again."

"Why did you? Abandon me, I mean, not hit me. Sure you were pissed; I get that, but - "

"You jackass. Yes, I abandoned you, didn't I? Just left you standing there on the sidewalk with your wrist broken, and limped off into the sunset without another word, and then I fled the country and left you, my supposed best friend, not knowing if I was alive or dead. Fuck you."

House, amazingly, has no reply, no joke for that, so Wilson continues. "You didn't call me when you came back. There was never so much as a note from you after you went to prison. You abandoned me, House, and I ... decided to stay abandoned. You ever accuse me of that again and I swear I will break your nose."

"I didn't ... it wasn't ... "

"It wasn't what? Convenient?"

"I didn't have any right. Calling you after I ran from the cops. Making you choose, one more time, whether to rat me out or try to cover for me."

"Also, you didn't want to talk to me."

"I knew if I called you, I wouldn't stop calling. I'd get us all tangled up, and I was trying to ... sort myself out."

"After the first two weeks I was pretty damn sure you were dead. 'Tangled' would have been a relief." He spears another piece of steak, with a much harder jab than the tender meat needs. "So did it work? The sorting out?"

"Don't know. Only so many days you can hang out drinking beer and getting sand in your ass-crack before Cabo starts to seem like its own kind of hell. That mean I went sane again?"

"We can hope."

"Wilson." There's that expression he knows, those pleading, hopeful eyes, House trying to say it and not say it, at the same time. A tinge of mischief creeps in and Wilson feels House's leg begin to jiggle, the big bony knee bumping against his own, because House has scooted close enough to do that.

"I know."

House leans across him to reach the remote, pressing into Wilson's side and then staying there while he looks for something other than Shawshank Redemption to watch. Wilson approves, and he's not even sure he wants House off him. There's something comforting about the pressure, and there's been very little closeness in Wilson's life these past ... two years. Two years, if he thinks about it, ever since Sam, and it turned out he hadn't been as close to Sam as he'd thought. If he had been, he could've seen it coming.

"Let's see it, Slugger," House says. Satisfied for now with some softly-narrated wildlife show, he's picking up Wilson's right hand, gently manipulating the finger bones and the metacarpals. "You fracture anything this time, it isn't my fault."

"Your excessively thick skull appears to be made of titanium."

"You're fine, though. Must not have hit me hard enough."

"Won't make that mistake again." He's smiling, whether he meant to be or not. It doesn't even feel all that strange when House gives the hand back and leans further in, his heavy shoulder against Wilson's.

"You lied," House says. He's so close that Wilson can feel the vibration of his voice.

"Everybody does, or so you say. Be more specific?"

"You like me." House's knee is bumping at him again. "You have fun with me, and you like me."

"I wasn't lying at that moment."

"Were so." The jiggling ceases. "I'd tell you to just admit it, but I don't want you launching that beer bottle at my TV."

"Okay, I didn't think I was lying, at the time. And an empty beer bottle's not heavy enough. Get your whiskey, if you have any, and then we'll talk property damage."

"Potential property damage. You know where I keep the good stuff, and I know that was a pie you put in the fridge. Fair's fair."

"Fine," Wilson sighs. He knows House is in pain, but this is not the night they'll talk about that. "You've got me jammed into the corner. Lemme up."





Wilson dumps the shattered remnants of dinner - the boxes and the few sad scraps - into the trash. He's eaten so much that he ought to feel like a beached whale, but no; he still wants dessert. And whiskey.

If there were dishes to do, he would be doing them, but there's only the knives and forks, and that's good. Not so much because Wilson would mind doing dishes - he hasn't forgotten what it looks like when House is short on both pills and sleep - but because House's dish soap hasn't fared well in his absence. The contents of the bottle have congealed into an unnatural, thick blue gelatin. It won't even budge when overturned. Wilson unscrews the top, adds some water, caps it again and shakes; now he has a lump of gelatin at the bottom of a bottle full of foam. He shakes again, with no better results. Dish soap has a shelf life, he thinks. Who knew?

"Leave it," House calls to him. "Pie gets stale. Dishes don't."

House's fridge has nothing in it other than the pie and a few bottles of moribund condiments. With the ankle bracelet, House can't go shopping, and for a moment Wilson thinks that's something he could do. Then he remembers that it's neither his job nor his problem. Plenty of stores deliver, and House did all this to himself.

He sets the pie on the counter, finds two nice-enough tumblers in House's cabinet, and rinses out the dust with a bit of the foam from the soap bottle. There's no fresh dish towel, only the cleaning rags, so he dries the tumblers on his sweatshirt; House won't care. It's in keeping with the night, anyway.





They've wiped out half the lemon chiffon pie, and more single malt than they probably should. Nothing has changed: Wilson has barely had any whipped cream because House keeps stealing it all. His chin is flecked with fluff.

House is back where he was earlier, wedged up against Wilson's side, pushing into Wilson's space just as far as he can get. He never used to be this blatant about it, but Wilson isn't pushing him back. It's still weirdly soothing, and anyway, somewhere between the kitchen and the liquor cabinet, it occurred to Wilson that House hadn't even been touched in a year. Handcuffed, shoved around, hit, restrained, God knows what else, but not touched, and for someone as needy and tactile as House, that would ... it would explain a lot.

The only real trouble (if he doesn't count the fact that he's even here as "trouble") is the way his brachial artery is being pinched by the angle of House's shoulder. He puts down his dessert.

"I'm pretty sure the laws of physics state that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time," he gripes, "but if they insist upon trying, the second object needs to arrange itself so that the first still has blood circulation."

House shifts - sweet relief - and then his arm is around Wilson's shoulders, loosely, like this is no big deal.

And maybe, Wilson thinks, it shouldn't be.





At the point when he punched House and then offered to buy dinner, Wilson had stopped lying to himself about a number of things. There was the obvious stuff, the anger and the mad, intractable need to still have House in his life.

There were the less obvious things, like the fact that once he showed up here tonight, he was going to eat and get buzzed, if not outright drunk, and he was not going to leave until morning. It was too soon to be doing this again, and he would do it anyway, because he wanted to. He hasn't mentioned this to House, but he figures House knows. It's how they do things.

House splashes a little more whiskey into Wilson's glass, and he looks pretty tense for a guy who's been drinking a while. "You're not driving," he says. "Call a cab or call a pillow, I don't care, but I already hid your keys."

"Those would be the keys I need to unlock the condo."


"Also to get my clothes and toothbrush out of the car."

"You sneaky bastard."

"Trust me, or go get my stuff yourself."

"Your keys are where you left 'em, spoil sport. I'll be in the shower. In my own, glorious shower, alone, where I can indulge in personal soapy pleasures without -"


"What? Without someone yelling that my time is up before I've even scrubbed my back. Jeez, Wilson."

"At least leave me some hot water," Wilson says. He blows out the trailer-park candle and goes to find his keys.





The problem is definitely not House's sofa, which isn't at all bad, as makeshift sleeping arrangements go. The problem is, he's too tired and too drunk to be this awake, but tell that to his brain. Someone. Please.

Every time he dozes off, he hears people calling his name. Sometimes the voice is House's, and Wilson snaps to attention, but all he hears then is restlessness from the other room. Blankets moving, wood creaking, the kind of sighs and grunts that come from a large, unhappy insomniac.

He should go to House. He shouldn't go to House. The noise quiets after a while, only to begin again with a muffled exclamation that might be leg pain or a nightmare or both.

Fully awake now, Wilson does a quick mental calculation and realizes House hasn't slept in something like 36 hours, unless he managed a catnap in the MRI. And then he realizes it's been about as long for himself, because of his patient and because of House, and even now he's faking sleep although there's nobody there to see him.

Okay, scratch that. It's hard for House to be Stealth Cripple in an apartment with wood floors.


"Nope! Tooth Fairy. Now move over."

Wilson sits up, but not without a heavy sigh of protest. It ... wouldn't be right, otherwise. "Fine. I'll take the bed, then."

"Why? You're not sleeping, either way. You think I couldn't hear you out here?" House has snatched the TV remote. He clicks it to life, scrolling until he finds something he doesn't mind.

"The ... Weather Channel? At three in the morning?"

"White noise," House replies, turning it down to a murmur. He's leaning sideways, further and further, wedging himself behind Wilson as he lies down with his back against the cushions. "I learned to be still while I slept. In a narrow bunk, with a wall."

"And white noise. Okay. Mind if I channel surf?"

"Yes. Go take the bed if you want, lie down here if you want; long as you shut up, it's all good."

And there's the clue. If House wanted him off the sofa, it would be a mandate, not an option. Up to him now: a big, empty bed that smells of fresh sheets and House, or the presence of the man himself, entirely too close, but here.

Wilson's slept, or not-slept, in too many beds like that, with sheets that smelled of someone who was never coming back. Just like he thought House wouldn't. He wants to be good, be stronger than that, take his pillow and go - the way any normal, straight, sane, middle-aged guy would naturally do.

It would seem he's lacking, at least in the "normal and sane" department. He arranges himself with his back to House's chest, because that's the only way it's going to work. "For what it's worth," he offers, while he's yanking his share of the blankets out of House's grip, "I was happy when I learned you were alive."

"It would have been easier for you if I wasn't." House's breath ruffles the hair on the back of Wilson's head, such a gentle thing from such rotten words. Wilson's never known how to respond to this shit, not really.

"Simpler, in some ways," he says at last. "But that's not the same thing. And you know it."

"Didn't I tell you to shut up?"

"Or what? You'll shank me with the pie server?" He relaxes a little, letting himself lean backward and rest more of his weight against House, instead of holding himself to this precarious edge where it feels like he could fall right off. He keeps expecting what seems inevitable, that House will want to get comfy and he'll throw his arm over Wilson's side, and it'll be weird, and wrong, and soothing. Like the safety bar on a rollercoaster.

When House doesn't do it, Wilson takes a breath, lets his body fall more heavily against House's chest, and waits.