Disclaimer: House and Wilson sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Understand now why I write prose? Oh, and they don't belong to me, either.

House and Wilson continued to text. Wilson wanted to think their communication, such as it was, made the time go by faster. Of course, that was anything but true. The last three weeks of House's time in rehab were as much of a grind and a test of endurance for Wilson as they were for House.

Wilson "celebrated" Labor Day by volunteering to work. There was a skeleton crew, which made things even more tiring, rushing from exam room to exam room. He probably shouldn't have said he'd take some hours after work in the clinic, but he wanted to occupy himself as much as possible.

He got home, bone weary, and ready to go straight to bed. He was about to unlock the front door when his neighbor appeared on the other side of the porch partition.

"Hi, Doctor Wilson!" she called.

"Hi, Ashley. And please, call me James. You're making me feel like my father," he said as he approached the waist-high wall.

"Well, you are about my Dad's age, I think," she offered helpfully.

"Thanks," Wilson replied, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. So nice to know he'd slipped over into the "father figure" category with college-age women. Another reason to be depressed.

She wasn't bad looking – tall and leggy like Amber was, but with light brown hair and blue eyes, and a more angular face. Still, he wasn't interested in her. He'd finally come to accept that most of the women he'd thought he was attracted to were substitutes for men. Or, one man in particular, House. House . . .

"Are you okay?" Ashley questioned.

"Just missing my fiancé," Wilson responded.

"How long has he been in the hospital?"

"Two weeks for the surgery and next week will be six weeks of rehab."

"So, most of the summer and early fall, then? Too bad."

"Yes, especially given how short the warm weather lasts here."

"I know. We used to have moderate weather all the way to December back home."

"Where are you from?"

"Kentucky"

"No offense, but you don't sound like it."

"I've tried to tone it down since I got here. No one could understand me, between all the students from other countries and the people with New England accents. And Ryan used to tease me about it unmercifully."

Wilson did his best to hide a wince. House had said he thought the boyfriend was abusive. Not that this was necessarily abuse, but, still . . . Wilson became aware Ashley was speaking to him.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

Ashley smiled, "I said, where are you and Doctor House from?"

"I was born and raised in New Jersey, and I went to college in Canada. House was a military brat and lived all over the world. We moved here from New Jersey after having lived there for fifteen years. Did you come here for college?"

"Yeah. My parents weren't too thrilled with my moving to 'liberal' Massachusetts. But, I got a scholarship, which was the only way I could ever afford college."

"It's gotten really pricey, even the state schools. So, have you become a left-wing radical?"

"Seeing as how I couldn't care less about politics, nope. Listen, we had some people over for a party earlier today and we have a lot of food. Want to come over and help us with the leftovers?"

"I'm kind of tired."

"Just grab something and go home, then. At least you won't have to cook."

"Okay. Give me a couple of minutes to get changed."

"See you in a few."

Wilson went in and changed out of his work pants. He thought about grabbing a polo shirt, but that seemed rather ridiculous with the shorts he was wearing, so he took one of House's t-shirts.

He went out the front door, locking it with his key. He hesitated a moment and considered climbing over the partition between the porches, the way he and House used to between their office balconies at Princeton Plainsboro.

It would definitely be an impressive entrance. He quickly decided against it, seeing as how he'd had enough difficulty doing that at the hospital, and that was when he was younger and before he was weakened by cancer and chemo.

Climbing over the wall only to fall on his ass would definitely not be a smooth move. Especially in front of these people – a woman who thought of him as old enough to be her father and an "arrogant piss-ant," as House referred to their male next-door neighbor.

So, down the stairs of their unit he went, across the few feet of sidewalk and up the stairs to the adjoining unit. He found the young couple sitting in Adirondack chairs on the front porch. He was greeted by Ryan.

"Hey, Jim!" Ryan called, motioning for him to come over to the seating group.

Wilson cringed inwardly, remembering how Tucker and his young wife had used the same appellation. "It's James," he said as he walked towards them.

"Sure," Ryan half-heartedly acknowledged. He could hardly keep the condescension from his voice. Wilson assumed that Ryan probably dismissed him as nothing more than some middle-aged queer.

Ryan had no idea the hours Wilson spent getting his education and his training. How much it took just to become a doctor, let alone specializing in oncology. How hard he had worked to become a department head at such a young age. How many people he saved or how many he had comforted when he couldn't save them, or the number of kids he had helped, both in his previous specialty and in his current position.

Well, it didn't matter. Wilson was there for some free food, not the scintillating company. And he knew House would approve of his taking advantage of the situation.

"Hi, um, James," Ashley greeted him. "We have clam chowder, steamers, mussels, chorizo, lobster, and some sides - coleslaw, baked potatoes, and Caesar salad."

"Hmm, sounds like someone over-ordered from Legal Seafood," Wilson postulated.

"How did you know?" Ryan asked.

He seemed genuinely surprised that Wilson had figured it out, like it was some great mystery, Wilson thought with irritation.

"House and I got take-out from there once." Wilson refrained from adding "duh" at the end of his sentence.

"Well, it's not like we could rely on Ashley's cooking," Ryan stated defensively. He must have heard the dismissiveness in Wilson's voice, and it made him lash out. "She'd have poisoned everyone."

"Ryan," Ashley protested feebly, "I'm not that bad."

"You know you burn water, Ash," Ryan mocked her.

"No, I don't, I mean, I . . . " she blushed.

Wilson was feeling really uncomfortable, so he deflected. "House, um, Greg couldn't make anything more gourmet than a peanut butter sandwich or heat a can of soup before we took a cooking class. After that, he pretty much achieved the level of a professional chef. He made Sakura Jelly last Christmas, and he's amazing with a blow torch."

Wilson decided Ryan deserved to have his head played with a little bit, and that if Ryan wanted to look at him as some kind of old, degenerate fag, well, why not embrace the stereotype? Although he did it less frequently and was more discriminating in his targets, Wilson, when he applied himself, could be equal to House when it came messing with people.

Wilson especially liked it when he could get people by their own prejudices. It had a "hoisted on their own petard" aspect to it that he thoroughly enjoyed. Well played he thought as he saw Ryan's flinch.

"So, how is Greg these days?" Ryan asked, attempting to move on from the mental image Wilson had successfully and diabolically planted.

Wilson was pretty sure Ryan didn't care at all, but at least turning the conversation in this direction took it away from the painfully awkward taunting of Ashley. "He'll be out of the rehab facility next week."

"So, he's off whatever drugs he was abusing to get high?" Ryan asked, with a sneer in his voice.

"The rehab is for him to learn how to walk with a prosthesis after an amputation," Wilson stated, unable to hide the hostility in his voice.

He hadn't intended to sound so harsh, but, honestly, this guy had it coming. Regardless of House's actual drug issues, a man who had struggled against constant, intense pain for a decade and a half, and who, in spite of that agony had been able to save lives that no one else could, didn't deserve to be mocked by this jerk, who'd obviously never had a moment's pain or want in his entire privileged, empty life.

"Why did he need, um, that. . . ?" Ashley hesitated.

Wilson wasn't sure why she didn't just ask outright, but maybe she had a modicum of compassion or restraint.

"He had an infarction in his thigh and it killed a large section of the muscle. It was surgically removed - " Wilson decided neither of these people deserved to know the anger and betrayal House felt about the circumstances - "And that resulted in muscle and nerve damage, giving him constant, intense pain."

"Couldn't they do anything to help his pain, so he wouldn't have to . . . ?" Ashley inquired. She sounded genuinely distressed by House's predicament.

"No, and believe me, he tried everything." Again, these people had no need to know the extent and desperation of those attempts.

"That's so sad," Ashley commented.

"Uh, yeah," Ryan dismissively acknowledged. "So, what should Ashley nuke for you? Think you can handle that, Ash?"

"Ryan, stop," Ashley smiled.

She still looked uncomfortable to Wilson, but he let it pass. He selected the food he wanted and Ashley heated what needed to be warmed up.

"You can eat it next door or you can stay here," Ashley informed him.

"If you stay here, Ashley will clean the dishes," Ryan noted in a smug voice.

Nice to know this idiot thinks his girlfriend is also his scullery maid, Wilson thought. He somehow refrained from scowling at him.

"I'll head next door, if you don't mind. I'm really tired. Thanks for the food." Wilson beat a hasty retreat and was back inside their unit in five minutes, including the time it took him to unlock and re-lock the front door.

Wilson sat at the kitchen table and ate his meal, pondering what he'd observed that evening. He knew he shouldn't be judgmental about other people's relationships, given his own abysmal track record. Still, he couldn't help but notice the way Ryan ridiculed Ashley. Maybe he was splitting hairs given his cheating, but Wilson had certainly never disrespected his wives like that to their faces.

It went without saying that he never would have gotten away with anything close to that with Amber and lived to tell about it.

And even though his relationship with House was hardly gentle, there was a respect on both sides that simply couldn't be denied, even with all the sarcasm and the pranking that had gone on.

House. God, he missed him. Well, it was less than two weeks now. Wilson ate his dinner and went to bed.

HWHWHW

Finally, finally the day came. It was Thursday, and fall had started to make itself known at night, although the days were still quite warm. With all the extra time he'd spent at work as a distraction in the last few weeks, he had managed to get the rest of the day and Friday off, so they had a long weekend. Wilson didn't know if House was ready to spend the next three and a half days fucking, but he sure was. God, it had been forever.

Well, he had to check House out of rehab first. He thought it would consist of House dealing with paperwork, and there was a lot of that. What Wilson didn't expect were all the discharge instructions.

As a doctor, he should have known there would be some things they needed to do, but he didn't think it would be this extensive. Well, his specialties were oncology and pulmonology, not orthopedics.

Wilson met the "evil" Shaquille, who turned out to be a large black man, but was otherwise nothing like House had described him.

His actual name was Larry, and he smiled almost constantly and chuckled frequently, especially at whatever insults House threw his way. He seemed to particularly enjoy the ones dealing with his race, some of which brought genuine laughs.

"I'm gonna miss this guy," Larry stated. "He keeps me on my toes."

""Never a dull moment, I'm sure," Wilson responded dryly.

"You got it," Larry acknowledged with a smirk. "Now let me show you what you need to do."

Larry did a very quick overview of wound care, seeing as Wilson was a doctor and also that House was nearly, but not completely, healed. He assumed Wilson knew the signs of infection and inflammation, but also went over those briefly as well.

"One more thing," Larry said. "He has to keep the skin and muscle at the end of the stump flexible. So, he needs to massage the area first thing in the morning and before he goes to sleep at night."

"Do I have to?" House whined, doing his best impression of a put-upon nine-year-old.

"Not if you can get your fiancé to do it," Larry chuckled.

"Sounds like a plan," House agreed.

"What do I do?" Wilson sighed. He had added a tone of resignation to his voice, more for the benefit of House's dignity than anything else. He certainly didn't mind doing pretty much anything to help the love of his life. Especially if it involved touching him.

Larry proceeded to demonstrate and then had Wilson do it to make sure he got the technique down. Much to House's chagrin, he had a, well, physical reaction to what Wilson was doing.

"Hmm," Larry observed, "He never did that when I massaged the limb." He couldn't keep the smile from his face.

"In most normal males, fear tends to dampen things," House replied.

This caused Larry to laugh outright. "You're not afraid of anyone - certainly not me. Try again, House."

"I don't have to justify my reactions to you," House attempted to sound indignant.

"No, you don't. But your fiancé might want to know why this is happening."

"I think he can figure it out," House sneered. "Anyway, all this talk about it, and it's gone."

Larry laughed again.

"What's so funny?" House questioned testily.

"All the outrageous stuff you've said to me, without the slightest hesitation," Larry noted, "And you can't even tell your fiancé that his touching you near your junk makes you hard. You're too much, you know that, House?"

Larry exchanged a look with Wilson.

"I have to get the rest of the paperwork," Larry turned to House. "Get ready to go."

After the therapist left, Wilson had a difficult time looking House in the eye. "If it makes you feel any better, I had a similar reaction when I massaged you. Or, with your keen powers of observation, did you already notice that?"

"I noticed it," House admitted reluctantly. "I just don't understand it."

"It's pretty simple, House. If a mature male finds someone sexually attractive, he's very likely to get an erection."

"After four years of college and medical school, an internship, a residency and almost twenty-five years in my former profession, I am aware of the mechanism, Wilson."

"Then what don't you understand?"

"The cause."

"I touch the person I love very near his genitalia and you can't figure out why I had a reaction that involved sexual arousal? Seriously?"

"Yeah, but what you were touching should have at least induced shrinkage, if not downright disgust."

Dammit, Wilson thought. Here we go with the self-loathing. Better at least try to nip this in the bud.

"Okay," Wilson sighed. "We're getting married in a little over a month, and I am not going to be spending the rest of our time together – the rest of our lives – explaining this to you. So, listen up, because this is the last time I'll say this. I love you, all of you, in whatever state you happen to be in, including scarred, amputated, going gray or bald, or sagging with age. I've loved you since the day I met you, and, even though it's taken me twenty years to admit and accept it, it is not going to change. Ev-er. I'm not leaving you, no matter what happens to your body or how you try to push me away. And if I have to spend the rest of my life proving that to you with my actions, so be it. But, I never want to hear again that I don't want you. I do, all the time. I jumped your bones in this very room and I'm going to do when we get indoors after our car ride, and I'm only waiting for that because we'd get arrested if we did it in the car on the way there. Got it?"

House's face showed genuine surprise, something Wilson had rarely seen. Apparently, Wilson had also been convincing enough (or angry enough) that House had decided not to challenge his statements. He simply gave a quick nod.

House wordlessly reached for his prosthesis and attached it. He sat on the bed and put on his jeans. He stood up and pulled them to his waist and buttoned and zipped them. He sat back down.

Even though Wilson was proud of how easily House seemed to do all that, he kept his expression neutral. After just having given a speech about how nothing to do with House's body changed his feelings for him, Wilson couldn't exactly heap on the praise.

Luckily, Larry entered the room and ended the awkward moment.

"Last of the paperwork," he announced. House signed in about six places and they were done.

They waited a few moments while an orderly brought a wheelchair.

"Six weeks of putting you through hell so you can walk on your own, and you leave the damned place in a wheelchair. Moronic," House grumbled as he walked the few steps from the bed to the chair and sat down in it.

Larry and Wilson walked behind House and the orderly pushing the chair as they headed for the exit.

"I have to tell you," Larry stated in a voice low enough that House couldn't hear him, "I caught your little speech there about your wanting House regardless of how he looked."

"Sorry." Wilson responded quietly. "I probably got a little carried away. And I'm not sure it'll even do any good."

"He reminds me of my wife," Larry stated.

"Really? In what way?" Wilson asked.

"We've been married for ten years and we were together five years before that. I couldn't count the number of times over the last fifteen years I've told her I like a little meat on the bones. So, what does she ask me constantly? 'Does this make me look fat?' " Larry chuckled.

Wilson couldn't help but be amused. Apparently, regardless of the genders that made up a couple, some things were universal about relationships. One spouse had to reassure the other. Hmm, spouse, Wilson thought. Their wedding ceremony was about six weeks away. Between the adjustment they both had to make with the amputation and House's prosthesis, and the stress the wedding would no doubt cause, there was no way this was going to be easy.

Still, they were going to get married. Married. And as bad an association as that had held for Wilson in the past, he was finally marrying the person he genuinely wanted to. The actual love of his life. And it did make him happy. He hoped House felt the same way.

HWHWHW

House eased himself into Wilson's car. Wilson had purchased it after he had totaled that ridiculous car on their road trip. After they obtained the results from the first chemo treatment in House's apartment and Wilson had decided to proceed with the surgery and further chemo, Wilson realized he wasn't going to die anytime soon, and he needed to be concerned about safety again. So, he'd bought another Volvo, of course.

House put the bag containing his discharge paperwork and spare clothes on the back seat and he noticed something.

"A picnic basket?" House asked

"Yes," Wilson responded. "With a cooler next to it."

"What's that for?"

"The obvious answer is that we are going on a picnic."

"Why?"

"Well, it's a nice day, and it seems to me someone spent a major portion of the last six weeks complaining about not being able to go outside."

House became quiet, and Wilson knew that wasn't good.

"What's wrong?" he questioned.

"Nothing." House grunted.

"Come on . . . " Wilson put just the right amount of annoyance in his voice, he hoped.

"It's just . . . I'm not sure . . . " House hesitated. "I haven't had the chance to walk on a lot of uneven surfaces for a while . . . " House looked down, as though he were expecting to be either chastised or mocked.

Wilson fell silent as well. He was trying to understand what would possibly make House think that Wilson would make him walk over rough terrain, knowing House probably wasn't that steady yet.

It made Wilson realize two things. The shadow of John House was no doubt still being cast over his son in at least some ways, and the rehab must have played into House's inadequacies quite a bit. More reasons House didn't want Wilson to see him while he was there, Wilson supposed. Well, that was over and there was no point on dwelling on it now.

"And I haven't exactly been mountain or rock climbing since I was sick, either." Wilson noted. "The place we're going won't require a ten-mile hike through vegetation we have to bushwhack."

"Good thing, since between the two of us, there are no bushes to whack. "

Wilson couldn't help but smile at that comment. God, he adored that crude and acerbic wit. And yes, House had hardly kept his comments politically correct when they were texting for all those weeks, but it simply wasn't the same as House saying it in person, with just the right tone, inflection and expression, not to mention the occasional perfect hand gesture to accompany it.

They were quiet for a while after that, with House looking out the window and attempting to figure out where Wilson was taking him. Wilson decided further conversation was not necessary, but he did lace the fingers of his right hand through the fingers of House's left hand and rested them together on the console between them.

When they got off of I-93 and were heading toward Route 3, House asked, "Are you taking me to the Cape?"

"Too far."

"Long car rides don't bother me anymore, Wilson."

"Good to hear. But this is about my laziness, not your comfort, if that makes you feel any better," Wilson noted sarcastically.

"Thank God," House responded. "I couldn't take an entire weekend with Selfless Wilson."

"The way I'm going to use you for my own pleasure this weekend means Selfless Wilson will be nowhere in evidence, believe me."

"Yesss!" House exclaimed. He sounded like a kid who just been told he had $500 to spend in a toy store.

They spent the remainder of the trip in silence.

They arrived at a cottage by early afternoon. Wilson told House they were renting it for the weekend. It was nondescript from the front and the yard was somewhat overgrown. The inside was nicer – a small country kitchen with Dutch door, a chambers-style stove and big windows. There was a sun porch off the kitchen, facing the ocean and a deck, with a decent size yard.

The backyard featured a hammock hanging between two of the trees, and a path to walk down to the ocean. Even though it was no longer a necessity for House, the master bedroom was on the first floor and had a king-size bed and a window seat. The attached bathroom was all white, which was a little clinical, but it had a large glass stall with benches so they could shower together.

There was a yoga room, which House and Wilson decided to avoid (too many bad memories of Cuddy), and a living room with a large flat-screen TV. Since the cottage slept thirteen, there were several bedrooms upstairs that would remain unused during their stay. It was at least quiet this time of the year, since all the kids, including college kids, were back at school.

The décor featured a little too much flowered wallpaper, frilly curtains and overly-puffy comforters for House's taste, but at least there wasn't much in the way of cliché beach-themed items and colors.

The living room was paneled with dark wood, which was a nice contrast to the rest of the cottage and its pastel colors and sunlight.

Wilson had packed a bag with clothes and toiletries for both himself and House, which they brought to the master bedroom.

Despite Wilson's claims that they would be going after each other as soon as they made it to their destination, they decided to wait, so they could eat. They were going to have the picnic out on the deck. As Wilson located flatware in the kitchen drawers so they wouldn't have to use plastic utensils, House checked out the cupboards. They were well-stocked.

"Wilson, why is there so much food here?"

House looked around and saw Wilson had slipped out of the door. He was setting the table on the deck and removing the food from the basket and the cooler.

House assumed he'd have to repeat the question, so he was mildly surprised that Wilson answered him as he walked out on to the deck.

"Because I wanted to have enough food here so we wouldn't have to get take-out."

"You mean you stocked the place?"

"No one was renting after last Sunday, and the owner was accommodating enough to give me the key so I could," Wilson explained. "There's food here. Why do you care?"

"I don't."

"So, why did you ask?"

"I don't know. I just . . . thanks, that's all."

"You're welcome," Wilson uttered quietly, doing the best he could to hide his surprise.

The picnic Wilson had made consisted of fried chicken with a cornmeal chipotle crust, a pasta salad with cucumbers, sun dried tomatoes and creamy dill dressing, a German potato salad with vinegar and bacon and home-made apple pie, which Wilson warmed in the microwave to melt the cheddar cheese on top. They washed it down with Newcastle brown ale from the cooler.

House noticed the fully-stocked refrigerator when they put away the leftovers, which consisted of significant quantities of beer.

"Again, what's with all the food, Wilson?"

"I thought you might have missed my cooking . . . or your own."

"So, you don't plan on us going out to eat much, then?"

"I'd rather eat in, and I assumed that was your preference as well," Wilson responded coyly.

"As long as you don't think we're going to be spending the entire weekend in the kitchen."

"I think once on the countertop and once on the floor should be sufficient," Wilson deadpanned.

House smirked in response. "Why don't we get started in the bedroom?"

"Lead the way."

As House entered the bedroom, he realized there was a huge potential for awkwardness and discomfort. Unless the defective leg he used to own was collapsing under him, he could at least do his business in the bathroom and limp back to bed. Now, he had to do everything first, go back to the bed and make a spectacle of himself removing his prosthesis.

Well, this was his life now and he had to get used to it, or, rather, they had to get used to it.

Wilson finished in the bathroom and then it was House's turn. When he emerged, Wilson was lying naked on top of the covers, with his legs spread apart. House's cock twitched even as he realized he was going to have to undress in front of Wilson, with all that entailed.

House hesitated and began to slowly remove his clothes. Very slowly. First, he unbuttoned his button-down. Then he took his time pulling his t-shirt over his head. Okay, nothing too embarrassing there. In fact, judging by the way Wilson was looking at him, all the weight lifting he had done in PT to strengthen his upper body had paid off.

Of course, any workout was easier now that he wasn't in constant pain. And the absence of pain was not surprising to him intellectually, but the difference it made to him on an emotional and psychological level was significant. Hell, it was beyond significant - it was life-altering. It had been so long, he'd completely forgotten how much less of an effort his entire life was without incessant pain.

Not that the stump wouldn't be quite sore and achy when he pushed himself in therapy. And, he imagined it would feel the same way on the days he pushed himself at work, too. But, that searing pain that burned through his leg like a white-hot knife hour after hour and day after day was gone. Finally, blessedly, gone.

"House." He was pulled out of his reverie by Wilson. "I know we don't have to be anywhere at any particular time, but I would like to get the chance to fuck you at least once in the next three days, if that's all right with you."

"What?" House asked, a little confused.

"Clothes. Off. Now." Wilson insisted.

"Oh, right." House took off his shoes and sock, unbuttoned and unzipped his pants and then pushed them, along with his boxers, to the floor and stepped out of them. He hesitated again.

He realized that standing there dazed and naked with his prosthesis made him look like a character in a David Lynch movie, and, in order to keep Wilson from weirding out entirely, he should probably sit on the bed and remove the artificial limb, which he promptly did.

The minute he propped it against the nearby nightstand, Wilson had his arms around House from the back and he was kissing and nipping his earlobes, the nape and sides of his neck and his shoulders.

It had been since before the infarction that House didn't have any love handles, but the PT workouts had gotten rid of them. So, when Wilson's hands began caressing his lower back and waist, he actually felt good about the attention for a change.

Wilson stopped, all too soon as far as House was concerned, took House's hand and put the other arm around him, using it to ease him on to his back on the bed. He released House's hand and brought his hand up to caress House's face.

"Babe," Wilson murmured as leaned down for a long, slow kiss. He draped his body over House's body. House wasn't sure, but it felt to him that Wilson wasn't holding back at all, at least compared to the times he would do this when he was afraid of putting any pressure on House's leg.

They kissed and moved against each other, their cocks sliding and stiffening. They'd have to move eventually, but they both wanted maximum contact for a while.

Wilson pulled back and reached for some lube. He began applying it to House's opening, which was intensely stimulating in and of itself. House's body shuddered, letting Wilson know House was enjoying what he was doing. Wilson slipped one, and then two fingers inside. It was tight, which he was expecting, given that they had sex only once in eight interminably long weeks.

Wilson began to caress that spot. House responded by grunting with pleasure. His cock stiffened even further. Wilson applied some lube and began stroking House. He was now at full attention. Happily, so was Wilson.

"Jimmy," House whispered, "I want you inside me. Now."

Despite the low volume of the plea, it was quite insistent. Not that Wilson needed much encouragement. He removed his fingers and quickly replaced them with his cock.

Wilson began slowly and then picked up the pace, his own need beginning to overtake him. House hardly protested – his need for release was just as urgent.

Wilson came first, and when House felt Wilson filling him, he exploded in between their bodies. Wilson collapsed on top of House and they held each other. House had a fleeting thought that Wilson would get up and get a towel to clean them, until Wilson pressed against him even closer.

"Aren't you going to . . . " House's voice trailed off.

"Going to what?" Wilson asked, not sounding particularly interested in anything but the languorous kisses he was placing around House's face.

"Nothing," House sighed softly as he luxuriated in the attention he was receiving from his lover.

They gradually drifted off to sleep, thrilled to be in bed together, each quietly reveling in his own thoughts that it would be for the rest of their lives.

HWHWHW

They woke up, ate a dinner that they cooked together and went into the living room to watch some TV. After a while, Wilson got up, and a few moments later, he returned. Empty-handed, House noted.

"Where's my beer?" House questioned

"What?" Wilson responded with his own question.

"I said, where's my beer?"

"Why would you ask that?"

"Well, what other reason would you need to get off the couch?"

"I . . . I'll go get some beer."

"Wait a minute. What were you actually doing?"

"I . . . "

"What?!"

"Just locking the doors."

"Locking the doors? Wilson, this has to be the safest neighborhood in the state. A state, I might add, that is one of the safest in the country."

"I know. It's just . . . "

"What?"

"The world isn't always safe for us, is it?"

There was a pause. House felt a flash of irritation. It wasn't like he hadn't contemplated that they were making themselves targets by being a couple, and even more certainly by getting married and declaring it publicly. Still, this was Massachusetts. Yes, every state had their share of bigots, but, surely, they were as safe here as they were in Canada or Europe?

"We don't have to deal with that," House insisted gruffly. "Not here."

"I know, babe," Wilson admitted. "Not here . . . I don't think. It's just my need to cocoon, I guess."

"Cocoon? As in be very, very close to me?"

"Something like that." Wilson couldn't stop himself from smiling.

"Come on, then," House insisted.

They walked, hand in hand, to the bedroom. House did his business in the bathroom first, removed all his clothing and his prosthesis and moved under the covers while Wilson was getting ready.

Wilson entered the bedroom a few moments later. He slid under the covers and pressed himself up against House. His hand reached down and he began massaging the stump.

"What are you doing?" House asked, startled.

"You need to have this messaged twice a day, right?"

"Yeah, but you don't have to do it for me."

"How about I want to?"

"I suppose it feeds your excessive need to help."

"No doubt. Not to mention it gets me very close to one of my favorite parts of your anatomy."

One of Wilson's hands left House's leg. He cupped House's balls and worked his thumb under the foreskin to lightly rub the tip of his cock. House shuddered with pleasure as he let out a small moan.

Wilson bent down and replaced his thumb with the tip of his tongue, rimming House under his foreskin and licking the slit.

House's moaning was much louder now, and it was accompanied by grunting, too. Wilson loved the sounds House made when he pleasured him, and it motivated him to work even harder. He slid up and down on House's cock, taking him in and out as House's foreskin pushed back and pulled forward.

Wilson's mouth was turning House into one giant nerve ending, even as Wilson continued to massage the stump. It was the most intensely pleasurable misdirection he had ever encountered.

House felt the tingling in his balls that he always had when he was about to orgasm. It came surging up through him, into the back of Wilson's throat. Wilson swallowed all he could and licked away the rest, causing House to moan and shudder as his now post-orgasmic, hyper sensitive penis was caressed by Wilson's tongue.

A fleeting thought crossed House's mind that he should make Wilson stop. His body shaking would make the muscle cramp in his leg. It took a moment for him to realize he didn't have to worry about that any more. So, he let Wilson continue until his senses overloaded and he couldn't take any more stimulation.

"Wilson," House said softly, "Stop."

"Am I hurting you?" Wilson had moved his mouth away and looked up at House with concern.

"The opposite. It was getting too good."

"I didn't know that was possible."

"Then I'll have to demonstrate."

House proceeded to give Wilson the same treatment he had just received. Leaving Wilson a shuddering mess, too.

They held each other and waited for sleep to come.

HWHWHW

House was awoken by the demands of his bladder. Wilson was no longer in bed with him. So, he sat up, he attached his leg, put on some sleep pants and went to do his business.

He headed for the kitchen, hoping Wilson had gotten a head start on making breakfast. He entered the room to find the morning sunlight flooding it, creating long, slanted rectangles on the floor.

House saw a pan with liquid in it sitting in the sink. The smell of bacon grease filled his nostrils. Tendrils of steam rose from it, so it was still too hot to touch, hence there would be no expectation that House should clean it. Not that there would be otherwise. That was neat freak Wilson's job.

Wilson stood at the stove. He was barefoot and, like House, he was wearing only sleep pants. He was removing the last of the pancakes from the griddle, turning the handle on one of the oven doors to open it, and placing the pancakes on a plate inside to keep warm.

House stood behind Wilson and gently put his hands on each side of Wilson's waist. He felt the muscles tense momentarily, no doubt in surprise, but then relax into his touch. House then slid his hands around Wilson's waist, making sure to caress every inch.

Once his arms had fully encircled Wilson, he pulled him back to rest against his chest. He thought momentarily of Wilson feeling his prosthesis against the back of his leg and wondered if it would make him pull away, but when Wilson sighed contentedly he stopped worrying about that.

They stood there for a moment, just enjoying the feel of each other, bare back to bare chest. House had his nose in Wilson's hair. It was a silly thing to find attractive, House knew, but he had always loved Wilson's hair. It had completely grown back and Wilson had let it get longer since House was in re-hab. It was thick and luxurious and completely touchable.

However, House didn't want to move his arms from around Wilson. So, without thinking about it, he began to rub his nose into Wilson's hair. Wilson, like House, hadn't showered yet that day, so his hair didn't smell like shampoo, it smelled like Wilson. That caused House to begin to rub his entire face into Wilson's hair, like a cat rubbing against its owner's leg when it wants food.

Wilson let out the tiniest of moans in response. House couldn't see it, but Wilson's eyes were closed in bliss. House didn't know when it happened, but after a moment he realized that he and Wilson were swaying slightly. All of this felt impossibly good.

God, he loved this man. He had probably loved this man from the moment he saw him throwing a bottle into a mirror in a bar in New Orleans. He loved him as he was bailing him out of jail. He'd loved him when he and Wilson first started working together at Princeton Plainsboro. He'd loved him all the years since.

But, there was Stacy and Wilson's marriages and the infarction, House's drug issues, Amber, House's breakdown, Sam, Cuddy, House's imprisonment, Wilson's cancer, and House's amputation. Somehow, they'd come through all of it, and now, they were here, renting a cottage near the beach and spending the weekend just being together.

And they were getting married. House had always scoffed at marriage, even when he was married. But, he had also recognized its emotional power. It was the reason he had refused to have sex with Domenica. He didn't realize it at the time, but he was, in his own, unique, completely ass-backward way, saving himself for marriage - the only genuine marriage he could ever imagine, to Wilson.

And that realization brought his emotions boiling up to the surface. Deep, intense emotions. Things he preferred not to feel. But, he couldn't stop it. He realized his hands had migrated upward from Wilson's waist. He felt Wilson shudder as House lightly caressed his nipples. His hands then found the scar on Wilson's chest. He began stroking it. And that did it. The damn finally broke and he found himself crying into Wilson's hair, trying not to feel ashamed.

Wilson, despite the thickness of his mane, must have felt the dampness because he slowly and carefully turned himself around to face House. House braced himself for either anger or mocking.

"What is it, babe?" Wilson asked softly, touching the wetness on House's face with his fingers.

"I didn't want you to die." House gasped throught his tears, sounding like a small child.

Upon hearing House's declaration, Wilson felt a sudden surge of pain inside. What House said had triggered memories – of Wilson's feelings of helpless, anger and denial when Amber was dying, and the brutality of his grief afterward. He hadn't felt this depth of emotion in a long time and it nearly overwhelmed him.

After a moment of just letting everything wash over him, he realized something. House had been forced to feel what Wilson had - the same helplessness, anger and pain when he found out about Wilson's cancer diagnosis, especially when Wilson had told him he wouldn't continue treatment if the heavy-duty chemo didn't work.

Son of a bitch, Wilson thought. Did I put House through all that agony? I must have.

"I'm so sorry." Wilson blurted out, forgetting that house hadn't been privy to his thoughts.

"What?" House asked, taken aback by what appeared to him as an apology from nowhere. "You wanted to die?"

"No, that's not . . . I meant, um, I'm sorry for putting you through all that pain when I got the cancer diagnosis."

"You didn't get cancer intentionally, Wilson."

"No, but that whole Hamlet thing about whether I was going to get treatment or not . . . whether I was going to give up or not . . . "

"That was excruciating," House admitted.

"I'm sorry."

"And I'm sorry for every crazy-assed thing I pulled over the years to make you think I was going to die."

"Why did you do it?"

"I was bored. I was frustrated that I couldn't have . . . who I wanted. I was lonely. Why did you not want to live?"

"I thought . . . when I didn't know you loved me . . . the work and the wives . . . the relationships didn't make me happy, but, you were still in my life, not in the way I wanted, but I thought it was enough. Until . . . the cancer."

House waited for Wilson to continue.

"I realized that it wasn't what I had been doing – getting up every day, going to work, coming home and dutifully having sex with whatever wife or girlfriend was there – it was what I was missing. My heart's desire."

"And that was – " House hesitated.

"You."

They weren't completely sure how they wound up naked on the kitchen floor, but it didn't matter. House was inside Wilson, making him feel so terribly wanted and loved, and Wilson was giving House some intense pleasure as well. Then, they were lying on the tile, spent and in each other's arms.

"Does the floor bother you?" Wilson asked.

"With the leg gone, no, not really," House replied.

Wilson pulled House in for an intense kiss.

"What was that for?" House inquired.

"For your choosing to deal with your problems. For your committing to me and our relationship. I'm sure I don't know how tough it was for you. But, I think I understand a little."

"Bullshit. You understand."

"I've never had an amputation, House."

"No, but you had cancer surgery and chemo because you wanted to be with me." House hadn't intended for his voice to break when he said it, but he couldn't help it.

Wilson pulled House even closer and they held each other for a few moments longer.

"The pancakes will be as dry as dust and the bacon will be burned to a crisp if we don't get up soon," Wilson warned.

"The food will be fine. And even if it isn't, we'll just go out for breakfast," House replied.

"By the time we get showered and dressed, it'll be brunch."

"So? You have someplace else you need to be?"

"No. And no place else I'd rather be, either."

House rolled his eyes. "Okay, time to get off the floor now."

The pancakes and bacon were still edible. In fact, they were pretty good. And the fact that they were able to eat in the nude was an added bonus. They kept touching each other, and by the time breakfast was done and the dishes were cleaned up, they were ready to go back to the bedroom for more.

They spent the rest of the day in bed, talking a little, but mostly luxuriating in their physical closeness – having sex as often as they were able, but also holding, touching and kissing each other. They were re-connecting after a period of separation and they took their time to enjoy each other.

Late afternoon found them getting hungry, so they decided to make dinner. When House reached for his clothes, Wilson indicated rather strongly that House shouldn't bother.

They prepared the dinner in the small kitchen, with the top of the Dutch door open to let in the warm breeze from the ocean. Despite its small size, and both of them getting used to navigating with and around House's prosthesis, dinner preparation went off without a hitch. They had already established a rhythm when working together in the kitchen, and it worked well even in unfamiliar surroundings and with their new challenges.

They sat down to sole almondine, asparagus with garlic, and rice pilaf.

After dinner, House rinsed the dishes and Wilson stacked them in the dishwasher. It was still light out, and the cool of the evening hadn't settled in yet.

"Let's go try out the hammock" Wilson suggested.

"I'm not sure . . . "

"We'll put the leg under the hammock within reach, House,"

"Okay. Let's go get some clothes on, then."

"Nope."

"What do you mean, 'nope'?"

"We don't need clothes, House."

"Wilson, as much as I appreciate your showing me your exhibitionist side – see what I did there – I think the neighbors might have a problem with two middle-age queers putting themselves on display in the backyard."

"We don't have to put ourselves on display."

"I guess you haven't figured out yet that no clothes equals naked, which means putting ourselves on display."

"I guess you've never heard of blankets." Wilson practically ran to the bedroom and when he quickly returned, he was carrying a giant blanket. He threw it over his and House's shoulders and let House close it in front of him.

It took some doing to get themselves out the back door, down the stairs and over to the hammock, with House threatening to stop several times until Wilson informed him that he was not going to give up the blanket, so House would have to flash the neighbors on his way back to the kitchen door.

They finally made it to the hammock, and, with much maneuvering, including the removal of House's leg, wound up lying in it wrapped in the blanket.

They had their arms around each other and their bodies making contact from shoulders all the way down to their feet.

House felt Wilson's cock stiffen against his own, which caused a similar reaction.

"You're not thinking we can fuck in this thing, are you?" House asked with irritation.

"Of course not. We're just getting using to lying in it together. Maybe by the end of the weekend . . . "

"You're delusional."

"Don't take away my dreams, House," Wilson pleaded in an over-the-top plaintive voice.

House couldn't help but chuckle. "So, since we're not going to fuck, what do you plan to do now?"

"Well, we've been fucking all day, and we could take a short break."

"And do what?"

"Talk."

"Oh, God. What about? The wedding?"

"As you know, all the arrangements for that were done months ago. With no help from you."

"Hey, I made the decision to wear our tuxes and not rent."

"Well, that was just huge," Wilson stated sardonically.

"And I picked the band and the music," House defended himself.

"And I took care of the rest."

"Not true. I made sure there were no hideous vegetarian choices for the dinner."

"Luckily, none of our guests are vegan."

"So, you admit I did something!" House proclaimed triumphantly.

Wilson rolled his eyes. They settled in again.

"So, if you didn't want to talk about the wedding, what did you want to talk about? The house?"

"If you want to, sure."

"Whatever you want to do is fine, Wilson, as long as . . . "

"What?"

"There's a bench in our shower." House looked down at Wilson's chest, unable to meet his eyes.

Wilson knew from House's behavior, House was thinking about the amputation and diving into the feelings-of-inadequacy-pool. Wilson's instinct would be to comfort and reassure House, but he knew well enough by now that would not be well-received, to say the least. So, he decided to keep the emotion out of things and give House the facts.

"Well, it just so happens that, when you were in re-hab, I spoke to an occupational therapist, and she recommended a shower with bench seats, so that was one of the changes I submitted to the architect."

"You did? Are you sure you want that? I mean, it won't be a traditional shower any more, Wilson."

"Yes, and seeing how I'm marrying a guy, I'm just so much into the traditional," Wilson snarked.

"Okay," House acknowledged.

"Besides, you and I have had some great sex on shower benches, and I see no reason not to continue that tradition."

This brought a smirk to House's face. "Fair enough."

There was another pause.

"So, you don't want to talk about the wedding, and you don't want to talk about the new house, what do you want to talk about?"

"Larry."

"Who?"

"Your physical therapist."

"Why the hell would you want to talk about Shaquille?"

"I thought he was interesting."

"He's a sadist."

"I've yet to meet a physical therapist who isn't, so that's not what made him interesting."

"What, then?"

"Didn't you notice how completely, well, accepting, of our relationship he was? That the idea that we were engaged didn't seem to faze him at all?"

"First, it's not up to him to 'accept' anything."

"I'm aware of that."

"Second," House let his irritation show at the interruption, "This is Massachusetts. They've had almost ten years to get used to the idea of two men getting married."

"Also true," Wilson acknowledged. "But I'm pretty sure there are still some people who haven't quite caught up to that yet. Especially if they are religious."

"Wilson, are you saying that Shaquille's black church might not be one-hundred percent supportive of same-sex marriage?"

"Well, Prop 8 in California was passed with the support of black churches."

"It's kind of weird, isn't it?" House digressed. "You would think with all the centuries of crap they've had to put up with just because of who they are, they'd be willing to cut someone else a little slack, wouldn't you?"

"It's been my observation, based upon personal experience as a Jew, that people tend not to be that understanding of other people's problems when it comes to discrimination."

"What do you mean? Jews were all over the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner got themselves killed over it."

"Yes, but that was going somewhere else and "fixing" things. Once the movement came up North where most of the Jews actually lived, they were just as resistant to integrating their neighborhoods as anybody else was. And forget about busing."

"True."

"So, I still found Larry's acceptance surprising. Nice, but surprising."

"Well, it may have had something to do with his stint in the army."

"No wonder you hated the guy - he was retired military."

"Do you want to hear about this or not?"

"Go ahead."

"Well, it was the Don't Ask Don't Tell era. They had a medic who everyone in the unit was pretty sure was gay. He was a very good medic and had risked his own life on several occasions to help the other guys."

"So, he knew a gay man he respected, and he's learned to embrace marriage equality as a result?"

"There's more to it than that, if you'll let me finish the story."

"Sorry."

"Anyway, some young, career-minded, newly-minted-from-the-military-academy Second Lieutenant became their CO. Apparently, the military academies have become right-wing Christian enforcement zones, and this CO bought into all that bullshit. So, he was a religious zealot looking to further his career – a dangerous combination for a not-outed gay soldier. He tried questioning everyone else in the unit to get them to roll over on the medic. When they wouldn't, he took matters into his own hands, got the medic drunk and tricked him into admitting it."

"I didn't think they could do that under Don't Ask Don't Tell."

"Yeah, well, apparently it happened. More than once, I'm guessing. Anyway, he was dishonorably discharged. When Shaquille got discharged a while later, he looked up the medic. He found out with the dishonorable discharge, the medic had been unable to get a job. His family had rejected him because he was gay - more 'good' Christians there - and his only friends were in the military and he'd been cut off from them."

"That's awful."

"Thank you, Dr. Insightful."

"So, did Shaq, um, I mean, Larry, help him?"

"He couldn't. The medic had killed himself."

"Wow."

"Yeah. And Shaq, being one of the few blacks with the guilt complex of a Jew, blamed himself."

"But he wasn't the one – "

"No one ever said guilt was rational, Wilson. Take your attitude toward Self Important Jerk."

"Or, your attitude toward Amber's death."

"Are you saying I had nothing to do with it?"

"No, I mean, you couldn't help what happened. And you sure as hell didn't cause it."

Wilson saw those blue eyes looking into his own with laser-beam focus.

"You really believe that, don't you?" House asked softly.

"Of course I do," Wilson insisted.

Wilson assumed House believed him because he pulled him into a tight embrace.

Their conversation ebbed and the light faded slowly as they drifted off to sleep, still wrapped together in the big blanket in the hammock.

It was dark when Wilson woke with a start, feeling House moving erratically next to him.

"No, please, I won't do it again, I promise," House spoke out.

Wilson, even as he was coming out of the fog of sleep, realized House wasn't talking to him and that he was dreaming. Wilson didn't have the chance to figure out what to do before House spoke again.

"Please, don't leave me out here," House begged. He sounded like a terrified little boy. "It's dark and cold."

It was then that Wilson realized House must be having a nightmare and reliving one of John House's crueler punishments – locking him out of the house at night. It was already an awful thing for anyone to do to anyone else, and judging from the tone of House's voice, he wasn't very old the first time it happened, which made it even worse. How could anyone do something that would be utterly terrifying for a child?

Wilson decided it was time for him to end this particularly horrible trip down memory lane.

Wilson used one hand to rub House's back and the other to softly rub his face.

"It's over," he intoned softly. "It's time to wake up now."

House moved erratically for a moment longer and then stopped. He opened his eyes with a start. He stared into Wilson's eyes for a moment.

"Jimmy," he said softly as he buried his face into Wilson's neck.

"I'm here, babe," Wilson whispered as he enfolded House into his body.

They stayed like that for a while, until House pulled back and looked into Wilson's eyes.

"I'm sorry for so much reality on a Friday night," House apologized.

"It was what it was," Wilson responded. "What happened can't be changed or wished away."

"Thank you, Dr. I-Specialize-in-PTSD," House snarked.

"Nope," Wilson replied, "Just wheezy asthma kids."

"Can we go inside now?"

"Yeah, I think we should before we freeze our dicks off."

Wilson felt House stiffen. "What's with this?" he asked as he gave House's penis a stroke, making it stiffen a little more.

"It's just so hot when you say the word, 'dick.' "

"You're ridiculous, you know that?"

"Re-dick-ulous?"

"And you have the sense of humor of a nine-year-old."

"Well, you're marrying me, so what does that make you?"

"Very happy."

Wilson was rewarded with an eye roll. House re-attached his prosthesis and they made their way back into the cottage.

HWHWHW

On Saturday morning, the weather had turned cooler as the sun had disappeared behind a gray sky.

"This is great, Wilson," House proclaimed happily.

"Why?" Wilson questioned.

"We can stay inside and fuck each other until we're unconscious."

"While that's an admirable goal," Wilson responded dryly, "We don't have that many warm days left and I'd like to take a little time enjoying this one outside."

"I am not boinking you or having you boink me in that hammock," House declared.

""I'm seriously disappointed. But, I'll make a deal with you."

Wilson had that gleam in his eye that always made House nervous.

"What deal?" House asked warily.

"I won't be upset that you refuse to have sex with me in the hammock if you take a walk on the beach with me."

"Those are my two choices?"

"Only if you want to make your fiancé happy." Wilson face's sported his best version of puppy dog eyes.

"God, lay off the guilt."

"But I'm so good at it."

"And that face!"

"I thought you loved my face."

"I do, dammit!"

"Well, that was a tender declaration of affection."

"Shut up, Wilson."

Wilson fell silent but he was smirking.

"Fine," House conceded. "We'll take a walk on the damn beach, then."

"Good. It'll be warmer this afternoon, so I think that would be the best time to go."

"So, what are going to do this morning?"

"Memory serves, someone said something about fucking until we were unconscious ."

"But, if we do that, we won't be able to do the walk."

"It's a risk I'm willing to take."

House smiled in spite of himself, took Wilson by the hand and led him to the bedroom.

They spent the morning doing anything and everything they could think of to pleasure each other. Both men were completely comfortable, hence totally uninhibited.

As noon approached, they were lying in bed in each other's' arms, very pleasantly spent.

House spoke first. "James Wilson, do your parents know how naughty a boy you can be in bed?"

"No. And they're never going to find out."

"Just think of the looks on their faces when they found out their perfect Jewish son was a kinky fag fucktoy."

"Thanks for that lovely description."

"What? It's true. You are a purely sexual being from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, and every delicious inch in-between."

"You're pretty good in that area yourself. And you're in actual shape, unlike me."

"Oh, God, here we go."

"What?"

"The Imagined Inadequacies of James Wilson."

"It's not imagined! Compared to your body, my body is a giant white marshmallow!"

"First of all, you haven't been flabby since . . . the, um, chemo . . . "

"But I have no muscle tone!"

"You can work on that, Wilson. If you want to."

"You don't think I should?"

"I honestly don't care."

"Riight."

"After the way I just went after you, you have no idea how much I want you exactly the way you are? Seriously?"

"Well, I guess – "

"No guessing, Wilson."

"Okay. Still, I should – "

"No 'shoulds,' either. Do what you want to do to make yourself feel better. If you do it for any other reason, it won't work, at least long-term."

"Maybe we could work out together?"

"I do like the idea of you and me all sweaty from a tough workout hitting the showers for some good clean fun."

House reached down and gave Wilson's cock a tug, with the inevitable reaction apparent.

Wilson cleared his throat. "Not sure how that would work in a public shower, but I'd be willing to consider it."

Wilson was rewarded with one of House's most lecherous smiles. Wilson dipped his head and smiled shyly back.

"Let's go get some lunch and take our walk."

They found themselves on the beach in the early afternoon. The sun had returned, although it hadn't really warmed up much.

As they walked, they kept away from the edge of the ocean, staying on the firmer sand.

Wilson insisted that he and House hold hands. House resisted at first, thinking it was some kind of girly-man romantic thing.

He gave in quickly, because, really, he couldn't deny Wilson anything. He found out Wilson had a larger plan – moving from hand-holding to arm-in-arm to arms-around-waists as they ventured nearer where the water washed up and the sand was softer and more challenging. It would have looked like a natural progression to anyone observing the scene, not that Wilson was providing more and more support and assistance. And House was very grateful for that.

House had no idea if he should get the prosthesis wet inside the sneaker he had on it, especially with salt water, so they didn't actually walk through the waves. The water would have been too cold on their feet, anyway. House didn't want to bring on a bout of neuropathy for Wilson.

The happier news was that they were able to walk four miles down the beach with no worries that they couldn't make it back because of House's leg.

By the time they returned, Wilson was a little tired.

"Are you okay?" House asked warily as they arrived at the back door of the cottage.

"We know both my scans and my blood work in July were clean, and I'm asymptomatic."

"Fatigue is a symptom of . . . " House's voice trailed off. For all his unvarnished honesty, House couldn't bring himself to say the word.

"We just walked about eight miles. Fatigue is also a symptom of being out-of-shape," Wilson noted, avoiding the word himself, for House's sake. "I never was a jock like you, and I haven't spent the last eight weeks working out every day like you have."

"More reason for you to come to the gym with me," House noted gruffly. In his best medical judgment, he knew there was nothing wrong with Wilson, but he decided to keep a close eye on him, not that that was anything different than he always did.

"Okay," Wilson reluctantly agreed. He knew that meant several days of sore muscles. Days? Who was he kidding – he wasn't twenty any more. More like several weeks.

House pulled open the refrigerator door and stared for a moment.

"Beer's on the bottom shelf," Wilson stated dryly.

"I know that. I was just wondering what else is in here." House pointed toward the open refrigerator.

"There's boneless chicken breast and filet," Wilson noted.

"As in really good steak?" House questioned eagerly.

"Yes."

"Does that gas grill on the deck work?"

"I'm pretty sure it does."

They had grilled chicken, filet and vegetables for dinner.

They lingered on the deck, drinking beer and watching the sun slip below the horizon.

"It's going to get cold again soon," Wilson noted wistfully.

"Not for another few weeks. The real cold should hold off at least until after the honeymoon."

They both looked down, avoiding each other's gaze.

"It's really happening, isn't it?" Wilson asked.

"The sunset? That happens every stupid night, Wilson."

"Thanks for the astronomy lesson," Wilson noted sardonically. "I meant, we're really getting married."

"What do you want me to say here?"

"I don't know. I just know I'm really happy about marrying you. And I wondered . . ."

"Oh, God. Here we go with the mountain of insecurities."

"I'm not insecure. If I'm even the least bit honest with myself, I've wanted to marry you for twenty years. "

"Okay."

"That's it? 'Okay'?"

"Are you expecting me to shout from the rooftops that I've waited twenty years to marry you, Wilson?"

"Not expecting it, but it wouldn't be bad to hear. And not shouting, but in your indoor voice."

"Fine." House moved out his chair and stood in front of Wilson. He went down on his left knee as the prosthesis bent at the knee on the right, at least with the jeans on, giving a decent approximation of his former leg.

"Jimmy, marrying you is the best thing I could ever do, because I love you more than . . . " House's voice caught, "My own life."

Wilson's hands were on the sides of House's face in an instant, and his lips were on House's lips a moment after that.

They kissed until they were forced apart by their dire need of oxygen. Their foreheads rested together.

"Wilson, I know the mangled leg is gone, but I still have a fifty-something knee. Can I get up now?"

Wilson smiled, remembering their first kiss at Princeton Plainsboro in House's office and his knees warning him that he wasn't eighteen any more.

"C'mon."

They left the dishes in the sink and headed toward the bedroom. They took off each other's clothes and stood there naked, looking at each other.

"This . . . " House waved his hand, indicating his prosthesis.

"May I?" Wilson asked, not needing to elaborate further.

"Um, . . . yes," House agreed.

Wilson maneuvered House to the edge of his side of the bed. He stared for a moment. House was about to make a snide comment when he realized Wilson was waiting for him to say something. "I said it's okay, Jimmy."

Wilson, gently removed the prosthesis and with great care set it within House's reach next to the nightstand. He kissed the end of what was left of House's leg full on, with a resounding, sloppy smack.

House sat there, looking at the opposite wall, trying to collect himself. Wilson got up and went to the other side of the bed. He waited for a moment, and then he pulled House down to the bed.

Their lovemaking was both tender and rough, gentle and intense. It was a tangle of limbs and torsos pressed against each other as though there was no space allowed between them. And their orgasms were prolonged and intense and utterly physically and emotionally fulfilling.

They held each other until past nightfall.

"We have to go back tomorrow, don't we?" House questioned.

"We can stay until the evening, if you want."

"You don't really want to be on the road on a Sunday night heading back to Boston, hitting all that traffic, do you?"

"No, not really."

"Work is going to be intense the next few weeks. I have to get caught up and ready to leave again."

"Are you worried about, um, people's reaction . . . ?"

"Do you know me at all? Do you think I can't verbally defend myself?"

"I was kind of hoping you wouldn't have to."

"Because I would have hired, kind, caring, compassionate people? Please."

"Well, you did hire Cameron."

"And we know how well that worked out."

"It wasn't that bad, was it?"

"She was in her late twenties and she was crushing on me like a thirteen-year-old, Wilson."

"And your ego loved it."

"Yeah, because I was in such a good place mentally and emotionally then that I could see it as something other than a pain in the ass. Not. And when she left, it was all rainbows and kittens."

"Well, she obviously doesn't hold a grudge, or she wouldn't be coming to the wedding."

"She's doing that for you, Wilson, not because of me."

"Still, if she didn't approve, she'd never have agreed to attend."

"Like your father, you mean."

"Yeah" Wilson sighed in resignation.

"Don't feel too badly. At least with your father, it's only passive aggression. If John were alive, he'd probably have rounded up some of his old marine buddies and conducted a raid on the hotel."

In full camo, with rifles at the ready."

"No doubt."

The conversation stilled for a moment.

"Why did, why do . . . ?"

"It's just prejudice, and in your Dad's case, resentment."

"That I get to live the life I want and he didn't?"

"Pretty much. All the religious and cultural claptrap is just his justification."

"I know."

"But you're okay – "

"Better than okay. Actually happy, for once in my life."

"Let's hope it's more than once."

"If this weekend is any indication, I'm going to be made happy again and again."

"We are a couple of old horndogs, aren't we?"

"And don't you forget it."

They left after brunch on Sunday.