A/N: I wasn't thrilled with the ending to Post Mortem, but I figured that they would do something to make it meaningful in Holding On. I was arriving at acceptance (just like House), when David Shore and Company came up with the magical mystery ticket wad - it retains fingerprints even though saturated with water and raw sewage, while traveling through miles of plumbing, including up pipes in direct defiance of gravity - thus sending House back to prison on the most implausible, ridiculous pretext ever created just to deny him even one brief moment of happiness. I couldn't take it anymore. I've been meaning to write a House-Wilson story for a while, but this was the impetus. As of this writing, the finale has not been broadcast, but I'm not optimistic. So, I'm going to create my own AU where Wilson lives and he and House get on with their lives together. Take that, David Shore!
Disclaimer: Don't own these characters, otherwise I'd grant them something other than unremitting abject misery.
"House!" Wilson barked. "House!"
Wilson had just finished talking to House about why House hadn't gone after Chase. House had resumed watching Wilson's scans.
Wilson couldn't see anything, of course, and he had been watching House for clues. Suddenly, House's face had taken on a intensely distressed look. Just as Wilson was about to ask what House had seen, House hit the switch that sent the MRI bed to its original position, grabbed his cane and bolted from the room.
Wilson got up. He wanted to go after House, but it would have to wait until he saw the scans. He sat down at the console, anticipating the worst, given the look on House's face and the fact that House had run (well, moved as quickly as he could) from the room.
Wilson looked carefully at each image, trying to pretend he was a disinterested observer – a doctor, with professional detachment, looking at one of his patient's scans. It worked for a while. The scans revealed the chemo had worked – the tumor was reduced in size sufficiently to be operable. The moment the realization sunk in, Wilson could not maintain even the appearance of his professional demeanor any longer. His mind shut down and he became enveloped in a thick fog.
He was pulled out of the miasma by Foreman's voice calling his name.
"What are the results?" Foreman demanded. "And where the hell is House?"
It took a while for Wilson to show Foreman the scans, and have Foreman awkwardly hug him. The lecture Foreman gave him to "never to do anything like that crazy ass chemo again" must have only been a few minutes, but it seemed much longer. Wilson went back to the changing rooms to get dressed and put his used gown in the receptacle for the hospital laundry. He also stopped by the surgical department to schedule the surgery to remove what was left of the tumor.
It took additional time to endure the hugs and well-wishes of pretty much everyone he ran into. Wilson was fairly certain Foreman hadn't said anything, and he was positive House wouldn't have. (House wasn't the type to confide in anyone, even if he had someone besides Wilson to confide in.) Someone had said something. Possibly one of the MRI techs? Well, so much for HIPPA.
By the time he got to the fourth floor, it was at least an hour and a half after the scan, and it was past time to go home for the day. Wilson was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to get his keys and his briefcase and head out. Had he walked by House's empty office, he might have, but as he got off the elevator, he noticed the blinds were lowered and the office was dark.
The fact that the lights were out would usually indicate that House had left, but why the lowered blinds? As callous as House could be, Wilson didn't think House was in his office amusing himself by watching porn. Especially since he could easily do that at home, so there would no reason to stick around. (When House watched porn at the hospital, it was usually during the day to kill time waiting for test results or to avoid clinic duty.)
Wilson was pretty sure House was sitting in there, in the dark, brooding, probably sipping some kind of hard liquor. The strange thing was that Wilson didn't know why. Had the news been bad, it would have been perfectly understandable. But why sit and ruminate over good news?
As tired as he was, Wilson had been around House too long not to want to solve the mystery. And, if he admitted it, he was also a little hurt that House had left so abruptly. Again, had it been bad news, House might have booked to avoid any messy emotions on Wilson's part. Since it was good news, and House knew that, it didn't make a lot of sense that he didn't stick around.
Both the conference room door and the office door were locked. Was that to keep everyone out, or just those who didn't have a key, like House's team?
Since Wilson could access House's office through the balcony, he had never bothered with a key, until that time House had induced a coma using insulin in an effort to get rid of his hallucinations.
After that, Wilson decided he might need to get to House quicker than he could by going into his own office, rushing across the length of his balcony, climbing over the separating wall (Wilson imagined himself ten years older and fifteen pounds heavier) and then finally getting to House's office.
Since Rachel was an infant at the time and Cuddy had been both preoccupied with her and resentful of House for "making her return to work too soon," she had been happy to delegate dealing with House to Wilson. She'd agreed almost too eagerly to give Wilson a key to House's office.
Wilson reached into his pocket and had no trouble finding his keys. They had grown to be an enormous wad of plastic and metal, and not just because of his car key and fob. As a head of one of the largest departments in the hospital, he needed keys and pass cards to all kinds of places – labs, supply closets, the oncology pharmacy, and his staffs' offices.
Almost every time House saw Wilson's key ring, he managed to get in at least one snide comment about the size of it mirroring Wilson's "inflated sense of self-importance." So, it seemed only fair that Wilson could turn that around and use it to intrude on House for a change.
Wilson inserted his key into the lock as quietly as he could. Whether House was sleeping or brooding, he wouldn't take kindly to the interruption, and Wilson wanted to minimize the intrusion as much as possible.
Even as he tried to slip into the office quietly, a part of him wanted to be angry and burst through the door. God knows House had done that to him enough over the years. But Wilson knew that if he ever wanted to figure out why House had left him in the MRI machine that afternoon, he'd have to finesse the situation at least a little since House didn't take kindly to fulfilling the demands of others.
Wilson opened the door and pushed through as carefully and as quietly as he could. But House, having an ear better than any other person Wilson had ever known, not to mention quite a few dogs and cats, heard him, of course.
Wilson entered and immediately locked the door again. House didn't want any visitors, and Wilson didn't want any interruptions. And Wilson figured that if House wanted him out, Wilson could always use the balcony door, even if he wasn't thrilled at the idea of hoisting his weakened body over the concrete partition.
He turned from the door to face the room and waited for his eyes to adjust to the gathering darkness. Wilson began to make out House's form. He was sitting back in his chair with his feet on the ottoman, and, as Wilson had already guessed, holding a highball glass with some kind of liquid in it. Although it was impossible to guess in the low lighting, Wilson thought it was most likely scotch or bourbon.
"What?" House asked. His voice was sharp, but the thickness was noticeable as well, at least to Wilson.
"Are you okay?" Wilson ventured.
"Asks the cancer patient," House snarked back, although his voice didn't carry as much sting as Wilson knew that it could.
Wilson also knew that the comment was intended as a warning. Too bad. Wilson was staring down cancer and it seemed like he would win. What could House possibly do to rival that?
As soon as Wilson had the thought, he was sure there was something that House could cook up. But Wilson still wanted to know the reason behind House's quick exit. Well, here goes nothing, Wilson thought.
"House," Wilson began, "Why did you bolt out of the MRI room?"
"Cripple," House responded, rubbing his right thigh. "No bolting here."
"Well, pardon my terminology," Wilson added a slight note of sarcasm to his voice. "Let me re-phrase: why did you get the hell out of there so fast?"
"I saw what I needed to see," House replied.
Wilson was still hearing thickness, and he assumed that wasn't House's first glass of booze. Now he'd either had to give House a ride, or, if House refused, miss sleep because he'd be worried all night whether he'd wrapped his motorcycle around a tree. Great.
"And you couldn't stick around to tell me?" Wilson heard a slight whine in is voice, but he couldn't help it. It hurt that House wasn't there to share the news with him.
"You can read a scan as well as I can," House asserted. "No need for me to show you."
"It isn't about reading the goddamn scan and you know it, House!"
"No need to take the name of Our Lord in vain, Wilson."
"House, just . . . just cut the crap, okay?" Wilson insisted. "Just tell me why you left."
"The results were the same, whether I was there or not."
"House, I know that I have more uncertainty than you do regarding the existence of a deity and an afterlife, but I still know that you don't have magical powers to change test results. And I know that you know that wasn't why I wanted you there, anyway."
"Yeah," House admitted. "But it's still not important that I was there – "
"Seriously?" Wilson questioned. "You're the one who's always saying what a girl I am. How could you possibly think I wouldn't want to hear the news that I wasn't going to die from my best friend?"
"It might matter to you now, Wilson."
"What?" Wilson sputtered. "What the hell does that mean?"
"You'll have your surgery and go through your chemo and have a spectacular remission, I have no doubt. And then you'll 'assess' your life and find that it doesn't work anymore."
"I still have no idea what you're talking about."
"Oh, you'll try for a while to be an oncologist again, but seeing patients on chemo will remind you of your own ordeal, and every time a patient dies, you'll be wracked with survivor guilt. I give it a year at most before you give up your specialty and start looking for another way to use your mad doctor skillz."
"That just isn't true, House! My own cancer will make me even more effective with patients. I'll be an even better doctor – "
"One thing I've always admired about you, Wilson, is your utterly blissful lack of self-awareness. How you can delude yourself into thinking you'll be anything but a mere human shell, held together by nothing more than your own obsessive need to bleed for humanity is beyond me. In any case, it will still happen.
Wilson closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You know, House, even if I accept whatever you were saying just now as one hundred per cent true, it still had no bearing on why you weren't there."
House sighed as if he were trying to explain the latest research on molecular biology to a toddler. "When this epiphany takes place, you'll want to move into another specialty. And your overweening ambition will make you want to be a department head, no doubt. But it isn't likely there'll be an opening here. In fact, there isn't likely to be an opening anywhere on the Eastern seaboard. You'll find a job in California or Oregon – "
"No I won't!'
"Just give it up, will you, Cleopatra? You will change specialties. You'll get a job clear across the country and you'll leave me here like so much garbage at the side of the road."
"You could always get a job wherever I go," Wilson stumbled.
"A violent ex-con with a drug problem and a stint in a psychiatric ward? Gosh, they'll be lining up to hire me, won't they?"
"House -" Wilson continued his feeble protests.
House's exasperation was clearly evident now. "Let me put this in terms even you can understand, Wilson. You die and I lose you. Or, you live and I still lose you. Now do you see what I mean that it didn't matter whether I was there or not?"
The room was silent. Wilson had been so busy dealing with his cancer, he hadn't really thought beyond that, even to the impact on himself, let alone the impact on the people around him. Even though Wilson didn't want to believe it, what House said made sense.
Wilson had been in practice for almost twenty years. And he, unlike most department heads, had kept close contact with patients. And he'd even managed not to become detached, which was great for his patients, but the toll on him was enormous. Wilson was forced to admit to himself that he was facing burnout even before the cancer happened.
Wilson wanted to pretend that he would just keep going after he went into remission. The lure of "getting back to normal" was great. But, he couldn't simply brush aside the impact the cancer would have on him.
Wilson could only conclude House's prediction was correct, if not in its timeline (it might take two years instead of one), then almost certainly in the ultimate outcome. And House was right that if Wilson made a career change that he would most likely not want to become just a doctor on staff. So, that would require an opening for a department head, and those didn't come up very often, and, when they did, you couldn't afford to be choosey about where you had to go. Damn, Wilson hated it when House was right.
But, what about House? He'd been doing diagnostics almost as long as Wilson had been working in his specialty. While House pretended he didn't get attached to his patients, it had happened on many occasions. And even though House didn't lose as many patients as Wilson did, having only one at a time meant he had more invested in them when he did.
And just the intensity of his practice had to be draining. Working crazy hours, and spending every waking moment thinking about his patient certainly didn't make for a relaxing situation. Throw in the toll of House's chronic pain and the drugs, booze and other, um, behaviors he used to cope, and House had probably passed Wilson in burnout a while ago. A long while ago.
It gave Wilson an idea.
"House," Wilson ventured tentatively. He wanted to broach the subject carefully, so as not to spook him away. "You're probably right." Nothing like leading off with agreement.
"Of course," House acknowledged, but there was wariness in his tone. Wilson had come around a little too easily, and it made House suspicious.
"I am probably going to want to change my job, and I'll probably get a change of scenery along with it, whether I want that or not."
House grunted in assent.
"What about you?" Wilson questioned carefully.
"What about me?" House responded. Wilson heard even more thickness in his voice. That was odd. Wilson had been observing House even as he was working out what House was saying, and House hadn't had more than a small sip of his drink. Maybe he'd had a couple of belts before Wilson got to his office, and it was starting to kick in now.
"Well, you can't tell me what you do has the same thrill as it used to. I mean, it's been an, um, intense few years for you, too."
House snorted both in recognition of what Wilson was saying and of Wilson's sadly failed diplomacy in trying to say it. "Yeah, I've spent the last few years fucking my life up royally, Wilson. What's your point?"
"That maybe you need a change, too."
"I just told you no one else would hire me, Wilson."
"Maybe not as a practicing physician, but you most certainly could teach or do research, House."
"What the hell would I research?" House exclaimed more than asked.
Wilson's expectations raised a little. The fact that House didn't simply dismiss the whole idea out of hand was significant. "You have one of the finest minds in science, House. I'm sure you could get a university spot and some funding to pursue whatever puzzle interested you."
"I'd have to get a PhD."
"Again, your brilliant mind . . . " Wilson's voice trailed off. He didn't want to anticipate that House would actually consider this.
"Do you think it's a possibility we could wind up in the same place, then?" House asked in a small voice.
Something clicked for Wilson. House had said he'd lose him, and he'd sounded, maddeningly enough, reconciled to it. But House was good at misdirection. Could the reality be that House was simply scared and sad about Wilson leaving him?
"House, we'll work it out somehow," Wilson spoke barely above a whisper.
Without thinking he moved toward House's chair. He put his hand lightly on House's shoulder. House turned his face toward him. It was too dark to see House's expression.
Just as he was about to remove his hand, Wilson felt drops hitting it. It took a moment to register what was happening. House was crying.
So, maybe the thickness in House's voice wasn't from the booze - maybe he'd been crying for a while.
At first, Wilson had no idea how to react. His own eyes were filling up rapidly. Should he just drop the conversation and walk out? It would certainly be the easiest thing to do, especially since Wilson didn't trust himself to talk at the moment.
No. For once in his life, Wilson was not going to avoid his feelings; he was going to face this.
"House," Wilson croaked, "I'm not going anywhere without you."
"You left me before," House whispered.
"Yes," Wilson admitted. His breath hitched and tears began to slide down his cheeks. "But I'm not going to do that again. Not ever."
"Because I love you."
Wilson heard House suck in a breath, followed by the tiniest of cries. Wilson dropped to his knees in front of House's chair. He took House's face in his hands and felt the tears dripping between his fingers.
All those years of hesitating and denying his feelings melted at that moment, and he could no longer keep away. His mouth found House's and he latched on, almost like a baby searching and finding its mother's nipple for the first time. A little rough and achingly wonderful and very needy, and everything Wilson had ever wanted and never found his entire life until now.
And it sure as hell wasn't like House was a passive participant. His need was as great as Wilson's – probing, sucking, nipping. Their tongues found each other, and, even though they both knew in their rational brains it couldn't be true, their emotions told them that the world had stopped turning, and the universe was nothing more than the two of them.
They finally broke for air. Their foreheads rested together briefly until Wilson realized this wasn't the best thing for his knees. He pulled away to a grunt of dissatisfaction from House, only to be replaced by a satisfied sound as Wilson slipped into the chair next to him, putting his feet on the ottoman next to House's feet.
They spent several minutes passing soft kisses to each other, until something occurred to Wilson.
"House, do you have something to say to me?"
"Yeah." House replied. "Do I get to jump your bones later tonight?"
"Glad to see you're going to take the time to seduce me properly," Wilson snarked.
"What else did you expect me to say?"
"Well, it is customary when one person says they love another person that the other person reciprocates."
"You want me to declare my undying love for you, Wilson?"
"Not every day, or every week, or even every year, but it would be nice to hear it once, House."
"You already have, Wilson."
"What? When . . . Oh my God, you're talking about the time after you stuck the knife in the socket, aren't you? That was just you thanking me for giving you drugs, wasn't it? I mean, you were kidding, right?"
House was silent. It was more of an admission than if he'd shouted he loved Wilson from the hospital's roof.
"Dammit, House!" Wilson exclaimed. "Why the hell didn't you say something?"
"What should I have said, Wilson? When I told you I love you, it wasn't about scoring some good stuff, it was about my caring about you, needing you, wanting you more than I ever wanted anyone, that anyone else is a pale substitute compared to you, that you're the center of my existence . . . "
Wilson was grinning now, even as his eyes were shining with unshed tears. "House," he croaked.
"My God," House exclaimed, "Do you have any testicles at all?"
Wilson ignored the comment in favor of sneaking another soft, lingering kiss.
"Do you want to go back to your place or to mine?" House asked, trying to put at least some lecherousness in his voice.
"Well, your place reminds me of retching my guts out, crapping in my diapers and having every nerve ending in my body screaming in pain."
"Ah, the good old days."
"You have good memories of the loft, don't you?"
"Up to, but NOT including when you pushed me out to make room for Sam."
"I'm sorry about that, House."
"Water under the bridge, Wilson."
"No, I still blame you and hate you for it. Which why I was sucking your face off a mere two minutes ago."
"It's okay to admit you didn't like me when I did that."
"Didn't like you? What is this, third grade? You dumped me for that witch and stomped my heart to smithereens."
"Well, as long as we keep hyperbole out of the discussion."
There was pause.
"It hurt, Wilson. A lot."
"I know. Not to mention that it was stupid. There you were, living with me. All I had to do was - "
"Forget it, Wilson. Neither of us was ready then."
"We had to wait until after I got a fatal illness?"
"Among other things. Anyway, it was a nice change of pace, you have to admit."
Wilson snorted. "So?"
"So, we'll go to your place, provided that you agree to distract me."
"I'm a cancer patient, House."
"And I'm a cripple in chronic pain. Your point?"
"Let's just get the hell out of here."
Wilson scrambled out of the chair and gave House a hand up.
"I need to use the men's room," House announced.
"Yeah, me, too." Wilson acknowledged. Luckily, there were only offices on their floor, and everyone had gone home by now. Neither man wanted anyone else to see their tear-stained faces.
After a pee and a quick wash-up in the sink, they went back to their offices to collect their stuff. They went down to the parking garage, and to their respective vehicles. Wilson was still worried about House riding his motorcycle after drinking, but he didn't dare say anything or he'd never hear the end of House mocking his manhood. The only good thing was that Wilson would most likely be following the speed limit, which meant House would be way ahead of him, and Wilson would be able to see if anything happened and stop.
They made it back to the loft without incident. They took off their coats and shoes and made themselves comfortable.
"You want to order take-out?" Wilson asked after surveying the meager contents of his refrigerator. He'd hadn't exactly had a robust appetite lately, between the lingering effects of the chemo and the tension of waiting for the test results. Whatever had possessed him to try to eat that eighty-ounce steak was beyond him. No wonder most of it wound up partially digested on the floor of that dive.
"Sure," House agreed.
Wilson handed him the menu from his favorite Chinese place.
"Hmm," House commented as he read the front of the flier. "The Blue Lotus Blossom." I wonder if they're the least bit aware that their name sounds more like a Chinese brothel than a restaurant."
"Food's good, though."
"Really? How's their Kung Pao Beef?"
"The best I've ever had."
"Do you want any eggrolls? You're going to need to pack on some calories before chemo starts."
"Actually, the spring rolls are better."
"Yeah, no low-fat shredded cabbage as filler. Soup?"
"Hot and Sour, definitely."
"Are we talking about food, or the sex with me later?"
Wilson smiled. He knew he had to get through surgery and chemo, so, he didn't want to get ahead of himself. But, God, he could so get used to this. Coming home to House or House coming home to him. Eating dinner together every night, or, at least, most nights. And sleeping with him – hot sex and warm cuddling, he hoped. And, if Wilson wasn't careful with his thoughts right now, he'd find himself jumping House's bones right then and there.
Wilson cleared his throat. "Let's just order, okay?"
House noted the effect of his comment. Not that he didn't usually notice the impact of his comments on most people, particularly Wilson. He smiled inwardly as he reached for Wilson's cell phone to call in the food. This was going to be a good night, with the likelihood of many more nights to come, given the prognosis for Wilson's cancer. What more could anyone ask for?
A/N: Well, there you have the first chapter. A word of caution, my time is limited and my muse gets finicky, so please bear with me if I don't make regular updates. Thanks for reading.