They check into a family-run ryokan – a tiny, charming Japanese inn – that has only three rooms. House instructs Wilson to remove his shoes before stepping onto the tatami flooring, and venturing into the room. It is a little small, with the living area doubling up as the sleeping area at night. But the highlight is the view – the room opens up to a large balcony that overlooks a valley with a little stream gurgling through it.
"I came back out to look for you," Wilson says. "But you were gone."
It's a chilly spring day with a light drizzle, so they are sitting out on the balcony, cups of the homemade ocha – green tea – warming their hands, raindrops audible on the hollow roof. Wilson sips at his tea, savouring the nutty aftertaste that lingers on the palate.
House glances at him. "Your opinion was made clear after you broke my nose."
"I… broke it?" Wilson is trying to sound apologetic, but he's mostly pleasantly surprised that his left hook cut such a mean punch.
"So the crunching sound of my nose being broken wasn't loud enough. Sorry about that," House shoots back sarcastically. "And yes, you don't punch like a girl. Congratulations."
House's droll expression tells Wilson that he's not really succeeding in hiding his pleasure. He honestly isn't sorry he punched House. It was much needed, considering how much the man had put him through the wringer after the… fiasco.
But he is sorry that it drove House away, for whatever reason it was. He's not entirely sure. He still can't figure it out.
"I didn't mean… It just came out of nowhere."
House casts a sideway glance at Wilson, sobering suddenly. "You were angry. Understandably."
"You should have persisted. Like you always do. You should have continued bugging me."
For a moment, disbelief and frustration flashes through House's face. But it disappears soon enough. House pulls the blanket tighter around himself, and leans back into his chair.
Wilson is just about to doze off in when House says abruptly, "I made a wager."
Wilson is a little lost. "Uh…?"
"Did Nolan tell you how I came to be his… patient again?"
"You know he can't tell me that."
"Yay for patient confidentiality."
"I would like to know."
House exhales heavily in a half-laugh, and sets down his cup of tea. "The local gangs came after me."
"They knew I was a doctor."
"Drugs." Then he gets it. "Vicodin."
House states matter-of-factly, "I stocked up."
Wilson kneads at the tense muscles of the nape of his neck. "You weren't intending to come back at all."
House continues as if he didn't hear it. "They held a knife to my throat. Wanted me to get more."
To any other person, it isn't obvious, hidden in the natural creases of the neck. But the scar is as clear as day to Wilson. He hesitantly extends his arm, and gently traces the scar that runs just along the carotid artery. He represses a shudder.
"I wasn't scared at all." House shifts away, and tugs his collar up to cover the scar. "I should have been."
"You weren't scared when you got shot. Or when you were held hostage and staring down the barrel of a gun."
"And I ended up in the loony bin." House pauses for a while before adding, "Sticking a knife into a socket, going into insulin shock, ODing… they were all personal choices. It's different from being shoved up against the wall, four vs one, knife against throat."
Wilson gets it. It wasn't just about the knife at the throat. House, always so in control, so restrained, finally unleashed all his hurt in the most destructive, mindless way possible. And it must have been terrifying for the man who prided himself on being logical and rational all the time.
"So you called Nolan."
"I came back a month later."
"You didn't even get a lawyer."
House shrugs. "What I did was wrong."
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Wilson demands in a low voice, setting his cup of tea down on the table in between them, "This is not like you at all, running away and being a coward!"
"I came back and served my time," House replies testily. "I ran away. Past tense."
"You disappeared off the grid for the past two years! And in the end, it was Nolan who called me!"
"You punched me, Wilson. I didn't even get a chance to open my mouth!"
"And you… you gave up too easily!"
"What about - you shouldn't have punched me." House shoots back. "I told you. It was a wager. I told Nolan that I would have to grovel. I told him I was better off doing my PhD, in physics and dark matter. I told him there was nothing for me to go back to... That everything, and everyone, was just fine without me. And you proved me right."
Wilson freezes. "So what? It was some kind of test?" he says incredulously.
"Yes!" House shouts, banging his crutch against the floor. "And you failed it!"
"What the hell, House!" Wilson cannot quite believe this stupid, stupid man in front of him is supposedly one of the most brilliant doctors in the world. "You can't base it all on one split-second reaction from me!"
House stares defiantly right back at him, incredulous that he just doesn't get it."If you, even you, hated me, then I had nothing left there! Don't you get it? What else did you think was left for me? Cuddy?"
Wilson can only stare, his mouth agape. He blinks once, slowly, painfully aware that he has no answer.
"Yeah, well," House mutters as he gets to his feet. "You couldn't have been more wrong."
When Wilson finally garners sufficient composure to re-enter the room, House is asleep in a corner, his bedding – futon, House had said - haphazardly laid out on the floor. Wilson stares at House for a while before tip-toeing to switch off the lights.
He steps out onto the balcony when his phone rings. It's Cuddy. For the millionth time in the past two days.
He stands there for a while, looking down at the screen. It is Rachel's face on the screen, and she's grinning happily despite her missing front teeth.
He rejects the call.
Almost instantly, a text comes in. Cuddy, of course.
Where are you?
It's a reasonable question, since Wilson left within a few hours of getting Nolan's call in the middle of the night. In fact, because it was the middle of the night, he only managed to send in a hasty email to Cuddy and his department, before packing his bags and rushing to the airport. He had only managed to call Brown right before boarding the plane to delegate his work and patients before hastily rushing onto the plane, already one of the last passengers to board.
Still, Wilson is irked by it. Maybe five, six years ago, things would have been different, and he would have been touched by her concern. But things have changed. Their relationship has changed. He and Cuddy used to have a common topic – House, and how to save him from himself. With House becoming the new He Who Must Not Be Named in the hospital, it was just work. And Rachel.
And somehow, Wilson couldn't find it in himself to reconnect with Cuddy.
He switches off his phone, and heads back into the room.
There is a knock on the door when he steps out of the shower, toweling his wet hair.
The innkeeper's wife is standing outside together with her mother-in-law, both carrying trays and baskets. Wilson vaguely recalls a conversation between House and the innkeeper discussing what time dinner would take place. He smiles at them, and invites them in.
Miyako-san and her mother-in-law, Hiromi-san, are quiet as they set dinner up on the low table. There is no dining table or chairs – sitting on the floor is a traditional custom.
Out of the baskets and covered trays come immaculate lacquered boxes and plates with exquisitely arranged food. Wilson watches, fascinated, as they arrange the plates on the table. It's a kaiseki meal – the Japanese equivalent of haute cuisine. Each meal consists of the freshest produce of the day; each small dish is prepared to enhance their natural flavors and put together to form the most delicate balance and a symphony for the tastebuds.
Miyako-san, noticing Wilson's fascination, smiles and murmurs quietly an introduction to each component of the elaborate meal. There is a small plate of sashimi, just a few slices of the day's freshest fish. There is a small claypot containing clear soup, and a little burner that keeps the it bubbling hot. There is chicken simmered in stew, broiled fish that is incredibly fresh and barely requires any seasoning, vegetables that have been cut beautifully into various shapes and arranged precisely on the plate, various other small plates containing bite-sized portions of food, as well as a steaming hot bowl of rice that is covered in fish flakes, seaweed and various other condiments.
Miyako-san glances at House for a while, a slight frown on her delicate features. Before Wilson can say anything, though, she leaves the room, and comes back ten minutes later with a hot compress.
"Family recipe," she says quietly as she passes it to Wilson. It is just the right temperature, with a pleasantly herbal smell. "Help House-san leg."
Wilson nods and smiles before hesitantly saying, "Arigatou gozaimasu."
Miyako-san hides a smile and asks in her lilting accent, "First time in Japan?"
Wilson smiles sheepishly. Evidently, his attempt at the Japanese language left much to be desired. "Yes. But my friend lived here when he was a child. I'm just… tagging along."
"He speaks very good."
"He can speak many languages," Wilson chuckles. "He reads manga at work sometimes."
"Boys like manga very much," agrees Miyako-san. "My boy read them everywhere."
They share knowing looks and secret smiles. The moment fades away, though, when Miyako-san gestures at House and states quietly, "House-san is sick." It is not a question, but a statement.
Wilson glances over at House, and nods. "He is not well."
"You take very good care of him, Wilson-san," Hiromi-san joins them, patting his forearm soothingly with her small, wrinkled hands. It reminds Wilson of his grandmother. "I can see."
He shrugs and says wryly, "I try."
Hiromi-san raises her eyebrows, an understanding, almost hawkish, glint in her eyes. Wilson feels a bit like a small boy in front of this tottering, grey-haired lady who is a head shorter than him. "Difficult man," she proclaims, albeit in a hushed tone.
Oh, Wilson thinks, that barely even scratches the surface.
He settles for an inadequate answer that hardly sums it all up. "Very."
Hiromi-san breaks into a smile, and nods approvingly. "You are good man, Wilson-san," Hiromi-san pats his arm again as Miyako-san nods in agreement. "Very good man."
When Wilson turns back towards the room after letting Miyako-san and Hiromi-san out, House is awake and leaning against the wall, salt-and-pepper hair sticking up at all angles.
Wordlessly, Wilson passes the hot compress to House, who accepts it with a muttered "thanks".
The food is wonderful, just as Wilson expects it to be. The hot soup leaves in its wake a trail of warm goodness. Each delicately plated dish is small in quantity but big on taste. They are a play on textures, a symphony of flavors, delicate and heartwarming. Even the rice, simply garnished with the condiments, is delicious, with each pearly grain just the right texture.
They eat in silence, keeping their gazes fixed on their own food.
House attempts to tackle the fish but sets it aside after a few half-hearted attempts at removing the small fiddly bones. He eats slowly, ladling the soup onto his rice to ease its way down.
Wilson watches apprehensively: he knows House hates that. He remembers cooking chicken porridge for House once, when he came down with an awful bout of the flu. It was the only thing Wilson cooked that House rejected outright. He'd deemed it unpalatable and mushy and disgustingly unappetizing.
"You okay?" he asks hesitantly.
House nods before clambering to his feet and making his way into the bathroom. Minutes later, he comes out and heads straight to his futon. He curls on his left side, right leg supported by the left. Soon, his breathing levels out and he is sleeping again.
A niggling feeling in his stomach, Wilson sits down next to House and lays his hand over House's forehead.
He's right. House is running a fever. A very slight one, but it is still a fever. Probably triggered by the exertions of the past few days.
Wilson knows to expect this – things going swimmingly well would be just plain wrong with House– but he still is dismayed.
He fetches House's backpack, and rummages through it. It's scary how organized it is, how seriously House is treating this. Wilson locates the antipyretics and pours a glass of water before coaxing House awake. House takes the pills without protest, and curls up asleep a few moments later.
Hiromi-san and Miyako-san make an appearance a while later to clear the leftover food and trays. He murmurs to them an apology for the unfinished food, and they nod in understanding before starting to lay out the futon for him. Once again, they work so quietly that House doesn't stir at all.
Weariness enshrouds Wilson like a heavy cloak even though the sun has only just begun setting. His futon is a few feet away from House's, and he lies down on it for a while before standing up again, and dragging it closer to House's. It's less than a foot between them. House's chest rises and falls in the dark, and Wilson resists the urge to reach out to touch House.
But it seems almost instinctual, how House turns around and curls up facing Wilson. To compensate, his right leg comes to rest in an awkward position that will viciously take revenge in the morning. Wilson winces, then goes to retrieve the memory foam pillow. As he's positioning House's right leg on the pillow, House stirs, mumbling, "You didn't blow dry your hair."
Wilson blinks. "You're running a fever."
He lies down on his back, looking up at the ceiling.
House blinks back. He's quiet for a moment before saying to Wilson's left ear, "'m sorry about your wrist."
Wilson finds himself shifting his body, and curling up on his side, mirroring House. He recalls one particular trip with House where there had been a blackout. They'd spent the night laughing away as House told frightening ghost stories that had freaked them both out so much it was bordering on ludicrous.
Wilson flares his nostrils, an ironic smile tugging at his lips at the memory.
He draws himself back to the moment. "I broke your nose with the same hand, by the way. It seemed… appropriate."
House chuffs. "Yes it was."
"I'm not sorry I punched you." He can feel on his nose the gust of air that comes from House's heavy exhale. "But I am sorry that it ended up driving you away."
"I made up my mind before that."
"Talking about the past doesn't change things."
They lapse into silence, the darkness slowly encroaching upon the room. The only sounds are that of the heater and their breathing.
"Relish this moment, BFF," House mutters. "I feel like we're about to paint each other's toenails."
It does feel like they're best friends at a sleepover, curled up and facing each other, confessing their deepest and darkest secrets.
"Tell me," House whispers theatrically. "How many ladies have fallen prey to your irresistible charm?"
Wilson can't help but giggle. He's actually been waiting for House to ask this question since the start of the trip. Because he's lying on his side, he lets out a rather undignified snort. House stares at him for a while before dissolving into giggles of his own.
"Two," Wilson manages to gasp out. "And I didn't propose to any of them. This is where you say, well done, Wilson."
They chortle for a good minute or two and Wilson lets out a contented sigh as their laughter trails off, hand holding his aching side.
The silence that ensues is comfortable, and Wilson is almost content to let it go on until he remembers that there is so much to find out about House in the past four years.
"Why dark matter?" he blurts out.
House pauses, and then says, "It's the greatest mystery of all time. No one's ever proven its existence."
"And it's pure science - cold, hard science with zilch humanity."
"Me and humanity… we got together too young."
The implications of that statement, and that matter-of-fact way it is delivered, are astounding. Wilson doesn't quite know how to respond. "Is that all you did? Along with the online consultancy?"
House shrugs with a low non-committed hum, eyes falling close.
"Then where did you stay? Before… Fiji. Before I punched you."
Wilson sighs, and thanks his lucky stars that Nolan somehow could get through to House. He was an equal to, if not better than, House at his game.
"You know… Taub has two daughters. Called Sophie and Sophia." House snorts and almost chokes on his saliva. "Foreman is… what you would call boring. Thirteen got married to her girlfriend. Chase… is, you know, walking again. And Adams… she's like Cameron 2.0, with hints of cutthroat bitch."
Wilson fingers his pillow, resisting the urge to change the subject. He nods and confirms, "Like Amber."
"Your team misses you, you know," ventures Wilson. "All of them."
"I've been away before."
"It's been years." Then, realizing something, he adds, "And they don't miss just Housethe doctor."
"Tell them to suck it up."
Wilson's turn to roll his eyes. "That's… nice."
"And WWHD." House, with his eyes closed, offers a lazy smile.
"You are comparing yourself to Jesus."
"Mmm." House burrows himself further into his blanket, on the verge of sleep.
"Were you happy?"
Wilson waits, patiently, holding his breath, but the only answer is the silence. He stares at the sleeping man's long lashes, and pulls the blanket up to better cover his thin frame.
Then he allows himself to fall asleep.
Wilson anxiously hovers as they trek down the narrow cobbled streets. His attempts at trying to take House's backpack have been obstinately rebuffed with a dangerous glare.
They are looking for a place for lunch, having overslept breakfast by hours. Wilson can feel his stomach protesting, growling.
They don't admit it, but Wilson knows it's the most comfortable sleep both he and House have had for years. And waking up with House pressed against his shoulder - seeking warmth despite the blankets and coats he had piled on House's shivering form in the middle night – with mouth open and drooling on his shoulder…
He was content to just lie there and wait for House to wake up of his own accord.
"House…" Wilson sighs. "Look, that restaurant is filled with people. It must be good. Let's just eat there." Actually, he hasn't had a bad meal in Japan yet. It just seems impossible here in this country.
House only continues heading down the narrow street, going deeper, deeper, deeper in to the maze of quaint little shops, determinedly looking for one specific shop.
In the end, Wilson succeeds in hijacking the backpack. It makes him feel better, like he's actually doing something.
They walk past rows and rows of shops filled the quaintest things – food that look so real, but are miniature in size, some of them the size of his little finger's nail; gleaming knives of all shapes and sizes; chopsticks and lacquered bowls with the most ornate designs; a thousand varieties of hand-held fans and kimonos and wooden slippers and lanterns. Then there are the ubiquitous toyshops filled from floor to ceiling with all sorts of paraphernalia, especially that of a white cat with no mouth, Hello Kitty.
Finally, House stops in front of a nondescript shop. From what Wilson can see, it sells noodles.
Like many of the other shops that they had trekked past.
Wilson is about to ask what is so special about this shop when House is ducking under the banner hanging in the doorway of the restaurant, and somehow gracefully maneuvering his way in despite the crutches.
Wilson sighs a long-suffering sigh before following House in. The show is tiny, empty, and can sit six people at the most. It looks just like any other noodle shop.
But House is standing there, a strange look on his face.
"Isao-san," House says quietly, bowing slightly to the short, silver-haired man who comes to stand in front of them.
That is all Wilson can catch. Wilson listens to the stream of words that seem to flow languidly out of House. He's heard House speak the language several times over this trip, but here, with this wizened old man, it is different. The Japanese language is slow but melodious, and it seems almost surreal to hear the mellifluous language flow out of House.
The old man in front of them wipes his hands on his apron, stunned, as House speaks, before enveloping House in a hug. A small smile, a really genuine one, appears on House's face, and Wilson watches, amazed, as House hugs back. Not tentatively patting Isao-san's back. No, House is embracing Isao-san.
Isao-san steers them both to seats at the counter. Wilson finds himself sitting at the counter of the hole-in-the-wall shop. Before him, Isao-san chops and dices and cooks all at the same time, the sole musician of a mini-orchestra in the tiny kitchen.
A bowl of noodles is served up to them: yellow, springy noodles in a milky, rich broth with slices of char-grilled pork, bamboo shoots, spring onions and a kind of black fungus that Wilson has sometimes seen in Chinese soups.
"Ramen," House says with almost what can be termed as a deep-seated reverence. "The authentic kind."
The gourmet cook in Wilson can see the high quality of pork, and the perfect way in which it has been grilled – charred just enough for a crisp skin, but not enough to overwhelm the natural sweetness of the pork that comes with the streaks of fat.
Before he can even pick up the chopsticks, though, House whips the bowl away from him. "Jews," House says pointedly, "can't eat pork."
"I can try the soup," Wilson says hopefully.
"It is made from boiling pork bones on the stove for days." House passes to him a bowl of rice instead. "Oyako-don," he introduces with a flourish. "Broiled chicken with scrambled eggs and onions."
Wilson looks down at his bowl in slight disdain. It pales in comparison to the steaming bowl of noodles, which House has begun tucking into with much gusto.
Once he tastes some of his oyako-don, though, all his disdain dissipates into thin air. Brown and gooey and unappetizing-looking, the oyako-don is a supernova of flavours on his tongue. The onions are sweet and tender, the chicken juicy with the right bite. The perfectly balanced sweet-salty sauce coats the al dente rice grains. It is so simply, and so flavorful.
House says in an undertone, his eyes on Isao-san, who is still cooking, "There is a reason I never agree to Japanese take-out."
Looking back at the kind of Japanese take-out they have home, and what he's tasted in the past few days, Wilson cannot help but agree. Even the trendy Japanese restaurants he used to bring his dates to are incomparable.
It is comfort food. Pure and simple, one-bowl meals with no frills.
Isao-san comes out and leans over the counter, watching them with an indulgent smile as they tuck in. He wipes his wrinkled face with his white hand towel, and stares intently at House.
"Greg," Isao-san says. There is a lilt, courtesy of the Japanese accent, in the way he says it. "How are you?"
To Wilson's disappointment, House answers in Japanese. But he listens in wonder. There is a respect in House's tone that Wilson has hardly ever seen. And it is not grudging respect – it is a sincere respect tinged with rare warmth and affection.
Isao-san picks up the cue from House, and continues the conversation in Japanese. Wilson can only continue making headway into his oyako-don.
He almost chokes on a piece of chicken when he sees Isao-san reach out and gently clasp House's wrist with his own wrinkly hands. House's eyes remain steadfastly fixed on his half-eaten bowl of noodles.
"Nana korobi, ya oki," Isao-san says gently. "Anata wa tsuyoidesu."
House only shakes his bowed head and mumbles something Wilson can't catch. He can only watch as Isao-san's eyes convey a sadness that even Wilson can feel in his very bones.
Isao-san takes House's seat as House heads into the kitchen, and he too, watches as House starts to soap the bowls. Wilson can see a slight smile on Isao-san's face. There is fierce pride and affection there, though it is mingled with the sadness that Wilson spotted earlier.
He can identify with that feeling, he realizes. It's something he has felt for House many times over.
Isao-san seems to come back to himself abruptly, and shakes his head with a soft chuckle. "You are Greg's friend? Doctor too?"
"Twenty years. We work – worked – at the same hospital together."
"Good. Very good. You are nice man." Isao-san adds, "Greg is a good boy. He teach me English."
Somehow, Wilson is charmed by the idea of a young, precocious House teaching Isao-san English. "He was good teacher." Then, with a mischievous glint in his eyes, he adds, "Teach me bad words too."
And he proceeds to demonstrate enthusiastically.
Wilson, hiding his smile behind his cup, chokes, spitting out his tea. Isao-san laughs out loud, and claps Wilson on the back heartily.
"Isao-san," Wilson says a while later after he has managed to stop snorting tea. He sets his cup down, never taking his eyes off House's hunched figure in the kitchen. "What did he say to you just now?"
Isao-san doesn't need Wilson to specify what he's referring to.
"Here in Japan," he muses, "we have a saying. Nana korobi, ya oki. Fall down seven times, get up eight."
Wilson glances over at House, then back at Isao-san. He's not answering the question.
"It was what I tell Greg when those bad boys beat him up." Isao-san refills Wilson's cup of ocha as he continues, "Gai-jin, they used to call him. Foreigner. White boy. So I told him that every day."
Wilson can picture it vividly – a young, inquisitive Gregory House, exploring the nooks and crannies of the quaint cobbled streets to satisfy his curiosity, mocked for being different with his lanky stature and white skin, being rescued and steered into this tiny shop, a steaming hot bowl of noodles placed under his nose, cuts and bruises tended to by a younger Isao-san.
"I think," Isao-san checks that House is out of earshot, then confesses in a low whisper, "the bruises not always from those bad boys."
Wilson inhales sharply.
"But Greg always say no. He is very strong."
"He is very strong," Wilson agrees. Perhaps strong is an understatement. House has gone through things that most people wouldn't have been able to withstand. And he has emerged, still somewhat unscathed. "He has to be."
Isao-san pauses, thinking for a moment, before answering Wilson's original question. "He says he is tired. That it is very hard to get up so many times."
Wilson turns to look at House, who somehow manages to balance on his left leg, supported by his crutches, and still dry dishes with both hands.
He closes his eyes, and tries to imagine the House from before. The House who had a brilliant future as an up-and-coming doctor; who used his wit and intelligence to entertain and amuse, and not only to insult; who thrashed everyone at every sport; who would teach Japanese chefs English, and find comfort in the kind gestures of random strangers.
The House who was whole, and had not yet been betrayed by his treacherous body, setting him down a path no one ever deserved to have to take.
"They say that this is the spot that has the best view!"
House stares rather incredulously at the map Wilson insistently brandishes before grabbing it, crumpling it up into a ball and flinging it into one of the dustbins that seem to appear every hundred yards. "Stop it. You look every bit a tourist."
"I am a tourist!"
"I'm not," House snaps back. "This way." He leads Wilson towards a small path, away from the middling crowd of tourists who brandish cameras and giant tourist maps.
It is a small, winding path that goes uphill. Wilson's offers to take House's backpack are met with an impatient wave of the hand, so he settles on glancing at House anxiously every five seconds.
The path is almost deserted. It isn't well maintained, with sticks and large stones scattered all over. Wilson gets a heart attack more than once when House nearly loses his battle to find firm footing with his crutches.
Finally, they reach the end of the path, coming to a clearing.
Wilson walks to the end of the clearing, and looks down the edge of the cliff onto the sandy beach below. Right ahead of him is just the sea – blue, so blue, with white foam outlining curls in the waves. It's quiet, with just the sounds of his and House's breathing, the faintest sounds of lapping waves, and the rustle of the cherry blossom trees as the gentle wind dances across the air.
He turns around. House is standing a few steps behind him under the grove of cherry blossom trees, shrugging off his heavy coat and laying it on the floor. Wilson follows suit, removing his light windbreaker and placing it next to House's.
They lie down on the grassy incline, arms folded behind their heads.
It literally takes Wilson's breath away. He's seen cherry blossoms before back home in New Jersey. But seeing them here, so lush in multitudes, entire trees just beautiful shades of pink and purple, wild, covering the entire hill, juxtaposed against the sea… All around them are just colors – bright, vivid, glimmering colors. It is breathtaking.
House hums contentedly and gazes straight up at the cherry blossoms that are so impossibly pink, stark against the blue sky. They lie there in the gentle warmth of the sunlight for an indeterminable amount of time.
"We're going home tomorrow," Wilson says to no one in particular.
House is silent.
"Do you want to visit the base?" It's a long shot, but Wilson can at least try. "You did spend several years there, and we are here anyway."
A shake of the head is the only answer.
"Then why did we come here?"
House seems to contemplate his answer before saying, "Being away from it is enough."
The way House says it is enough to make Wilson drop the subject. But there is one last thing.
"Will you bring me to the hospital?" He asks hesitantly. "Where you met the baraku."
"Buraku," House corrects. "What for."
Wilson shrugs. "I want to see for myself."
"I highly doubt he's alive, unless he is a hundred and ten years old."
"This is the country where living to a hundred is not a rarity."
"Wilson," House turns and finally looks at him. "Why."
It's so sappy Wilson can imagine House mocking him for it. "It's where you decided you wanted to become a doctor."
House gives a pained half-laugh instead. "It's where I decided that being right is all that matters. People will do anything when they're desperate – buying organs on the black market, talking to the untouchable…"
Then House says softly, almost to himself, "He was just their tool."
Wilson mouths tool silently to the open sky, blinking almost dazedly. "House… You weren't a tool."
House interrupts, wearily. "I'm tired, Wilson." He closes his eyes, and tilts his chin up to inhale fresh air before muttering, "I'm just… tired."
Wilson nods mutely. The silence is thick and heavy, but he just can't find the words to cut through it.
"When we go back…" Wilson clears his throat as his voice wavers dangerously. "After the surgery, maybe we'll go on another long holiday. Take a break. Explore new places. You can bring me to India, or Egypt, or some other far-flung exotic place." Wilson is relieved to see a ghost of a smile on House's face. "Then… then we'll figure out where we go from there."
House doesn't respond to that.
Wilson moves towards House until they're lying next to each other, their shoulders touching. House doesn't move away or object.
Then, Wilson realizes something.
"You are going back, right?" House hasn't actually said that he is going back to Wilson. And Wilson booked his tickets separately from House's. He's seen House's return ticket – ends sticking out of the passport – but he hasn't actually seen the destination specified on it. "For the surgery." When House doesn't respond, Wilson sits up, leaning back on his elbows, his heart starting to beat faster. "You need the surgery, House."
When House avoids his gaze, Wilson says sharply, "House."
"Yeah," House says distractedly. Reluctantly. He glances almost nervously at Wilson, searching for something. "Yeah."
Wilson knows – House didn't intend on going back.
But he also knows what House is looking for. "You're coming home with me," he says firmly. "You have something to go back to. Have. Present tense. Will always have. Future tense."
House chews on his lower lip, almost anxious, still trying to read Wilson's face.
Wilson can feel it when House finally relaxes. His hand still on House's forearm, he squeezes it slightly before letting go.
"I think you would have a stable career as a Prescription Passion scriptwriter."
Wilson winces. "It wasn't that bad."
"Was – "
"Shut up, House."
They fall back into silence.
But something remains niggling at the back of Wilson mind. Then, he remembers his question that was never answered.
"Were you happy?"
House lets his eyes fall close again. He is still for so long that Wilson thinks he's drifted off to sleep. Wilson doesn't dare to move, an irrational fear of destroying this moment gripping him.
House looks, really looks at Wilson, and there is something soft, a spark once missing, in the blue eyes. Wilson knows the answer before House even says it. Now – this, them, here – is all that matters.
"Now," House finally answers, "I'm happy now."