"I'm sorry," she whispered, accepting the steaming mug of tea and clutching it tightly with both hands, watching as Wilson lowered himself across from her. She had been on the edge, and when her bags had been packed, Stacy hadn't seen another option but going back to Princeton, where she had always felt most 'home'… and somehow that was what she felt she needed most now.

"Stacy, what's going on?" Wilson carefully questioned, open concern in his brown eyes upon taking in the state in which Stacy Warner currently was. She somehow looked about two decades older since those actual two months he hadn't seen her. She tried to smile, but it wasn't working. She looked incredibly miserable: her hazel eyes were blood-shot and dull, and she didn't even seem half as fierce and alert as everyone had always known her to be. He had only seen her that way at the end of hers and Greg's relationship. "Where's Mark?" he asked, going with his suspicions in hopes to get to know something more like that. Oh, he noticed the similarities. Memories flooded immediately back.

"Short Hills," Stacy said, smile faltering. She gently lifted her mug to sip from her tea, then lowered it once more. She averted her gaze. "We're getting divorced. We aren't so great together anymore."

"W– What?" he stammered. Wilson eyed her quite surprised. He totally hadn't seen that news coming, and as such he had no clue at all what to say either. Stacy merely eyed him in return, wishing he could see the pain and hopelessness, maybe helplessness, she felt –– the need to leave Mark, rather than the want. "Why come here?" Wilson eventually uttered when she didn't say anything.

"I didn't really have…" she began, sighing, "anywhere else to go to…"

Wilson just shook his head in disbelief, just watching her before saying anything. Upsetting Stacy more was the last that he now wished to do, given that she seemed to be more than slightly upset already. "I have a really hard time believing that the fact that House is here in Princeton doesn't have anything to do with it," he said, not able to rid himself of that one thought.

"Maybe it isn't unrelated. I couldn't tell ya," she whispered nearly inaaudibly. Stacy Warner lowered her head into her hands, shaking it hopelessly now. "If only I had fought harder when Greg told me to go back with Mark to Short Hills, all this crap wouldn't have happened. We would have been divorced already, and he would be there alone now… and I here with Greg."

"Do you really believe Mark would have let go that easily and that being with House would have made the great difference in your world?"

"I couldn't tell ya," she whispered. "Greg's incredibly trying, but I'll somehow always love him. He's got something I can't resist."

Wilson slowly downed his coffee, sighing deeply. What a situation again. He loved her. She loved him. Yet there they were, both rather obviously miserable by their terribly foolish decisions and actions –– one single and screwing hookers goodness knew how often or not, one divorcing her limping still-rehabilitating husband. Great. He wondered whether it would have maybe made any difference had they known both sides of the story like he himself did. He wondered just how long he would be able to do it. House had already looked after him suspiciously when he left Princeton Plainsboro to meet Stacy, and last time he had gone to meet her, it hadn't taken him very long to get the pieces together either.


House looked as if he was calm and relaxed as he sat on the edge of the desk, watching his old yoyo go down, but anyone who knew him –– even if knowing was very relative to him in any case, as there was no one on earth who could anticipate his reaction to anything –– was well aware that his mind must be racing then, for he usually did this when he had bumped onto a strange impossibility and was looking for answers to this or that mystery.

There was currently a pseudo-mystery he would very much like to solve now as well. He had seen Wilson disappear suddenly during work hours yesterday… which was not a usual for him in any way, and he had dodged all questions almost obsessively, his answers seemingly prepared, to ensure House certainly wouldn't succeed to get the info from him with his neat tricks. He pulled at his yoyo forcefully, wincing as it hit his fingers hard. He would keep an eye on Wilson and follow him if necessary next time he left unexpectedly, because somehow he felt something was going on that would result in more than a one-time trip.


He wasn't quite sure what he had expected, but he had expected a woman or maybe women involved. He had not expected for Stacy to be involved at all, though. At least he knew the woman involved and Wilson weren't fucking. Stacy would never do that. He was left wondering what she had come to Princeton and to Wilson for, though. House wondered whether she had left Mark like she had left him six years prior.

The M.D. winced slightly as pain shot through his thigh, clutching it as he tried to remain hidden between the bushes, gazing through a corner of the window into the bistro where they didn't appear to be talking much. A crease formed between his eyebrows as he saw how old and exhausted she looked –– definitely not the sort of appearance that lead to an erection, he thought, even if his member seemed to betray him at that, hardening slowly. He suspected the real reason was that he had good memories of how Stacy Warner looked naked, of how she looked when fucking him… of how breath-takingly beautiful she could be. She had always been a very beautiful woman.


Oh, crap.


"Will you let me go now, you bastard?! Don't you have any single shred of respect for the cripple?!"

Oh, dear heavens. While everyone's heads immediately shot to the loud screams coming from the bistro's small entrance hall, two customers eyed each other in what resembled alarm. They knew the voice too well, and in hindsight maybe neither of them was very surprised to hear it right then and there. Gregory House had always had the tendency to show when and where you least expected, especially if you were trying to keep something from him in any way –– as if he detected the smell of secrecy somehow.

"Wilson! I know you can hear me there!"

Wilson lowered his head in his hand, sighing deeply. Knowing him, House would keep shouting until they came to save his sorry ass again. They hadn't even been given the chance to take a look upon their menus and order something yet, no food or even aperitif. House was 'trying' for sure… and exhausting.


Wilson's eyes were on the road as he stubbornly refused to look at House, sitting beside him in and seemingly eyeing him with expectancy, obviously hoping that it would make him uncomfortable, until he hopefully spoke. "Oh, come on!" he exclaimed, sounding childish, "Don't ignore me! I promise I won't do it ever again, dear Mommy and Daddy!"

When that didn't elicit anything either, House slightly turned in his seat and looked at Stacy, who only raised her eyebrow and stared right back at him. "You just can't help yourself, can you?" she said, bitterly. It had taken half an hour to finally convince the manager of the bistro that Gregory House was not a thief inspecting the next possible address to rob, nor a weird stalker… even if that last one had not sounded all that convincing. To keep the most fuss down, Wilson had ensured House wouldn't ever bother them again, and so the three of them had left without even a single bite of food.

"What?" House said innocently. "You two even looked at the walls? You should be grateful; now you won't have any food poisoning."

"Yeah, aren't you the hero here?" Stacy muttered under her breath, then averted her gaze to look from the window again.

"You should see it like this," House began, quite seriously. "We'll get dinner with the three of us, nicely together. The more the merrier, isn't that what they say? Plus, it does have the great side-effect that people won't instigate any rumors about you secretly having an affair now that I'm here as well… Unless people believe maybe we're having a threesome affair together, which would be totally hot if it was at all possible to exchange Wilson for that hot momma on that medicine show at eleven PM. What are you saying, Stace?" No reaction. "Oh well! I can dream! Wilson, pull over at that McDonald's over there. I would die for a Double Cheese, and the rule's that the cripple one can choose."

"You're impossible!" Wilson spat. As if it was an insult to him in any way –– House just looked back at him with a smile from ear to ear, in fact thrilled to have gauged a reaction at last.


"So," House said, looking quietly from one to the other. He seemed to be thinking about what question to pose who. He took a bite from his double cheeseburger, chewing and then swallowing before letting his gaze fall upon Stacy, who was slowly nibbling at a French fry. When she sensed the M.D.'s eyes upon her, she looked at him. "What are you doing here and where's Mark?" he wondered at last. This seemed to be the question he wished to see answered the most.

"Mark's in Short Hills," she said.

He grinned while pointing his forefinger at her like a child that had just won a prize on the local funfair. Gregory House was but a large child in a great many ways, after all. "Oh, you sly foxy woman you are, only responding to the last question, just ignoring the most crucial one!" he said. "I'll rephrase then. Why are you here and is he still in Short Hills?"

"They're getting divorced," Wilson said. Stacy's foul glare didn't intimidate him all that much. "What? He was going to discover sooner or later anyway, and I wasn't going to listen to him prying it from you for the next hour –– believe me, I just did us a favor," he added.

"Why, don't you like your guys cripple?" House rhetorically asked, turning to Stacy again. "I mean, we all knew that from when you left me already when you did… I'm actually surprised you've still stayed with him for so much longer than you did with me back then. After all, we all know you two don't have sex even if he undoubtedly isn't half as good as I always was, and last I knew, you liked to have sex."

Whereas House had a strange talent to insist and to pull on someone's last nerve until they told him all that he wanted to know, Stacy usually could fight him off for very long. She was the only person his 'charm' had sometimes not worked on at all. That's why both House and Wilson were quite surprised when she slammed her fist on the table, then stood. He had, however, hit a sore spot, a very sore one. House never could have guessed. "We have sex," she said, her voice unusually low so that they barely heard her. "In fact, Mark chose to force himself on me before I left, and yes, it hurt, if you would like to know, which I know you do." With that, she left. She really needed air… and a cigarette as well.


"Stacy," House muttered under a groan, his voice calm and full of actual concern –– an emotion that was often considered one he had never mastered. "Stace, please," he said, limping after her as fast he could with his painful thigh.

When Stacy had left them in need for air and he had moved to immediately follow, Wilson had held him back and said that he thought she needed some time alone first. House had listened for once, and they had continued eating quietly even if they weren't hungry anymore. After a couple of minutes of nibbling at what still remained of their fries and burgers without really eating, an understanding had between them. In silence, they had cleared away the rest of the food and had gone to find Stacy. She had been leaning against Wilson's car, smoking again.

Without looking at them, Stacy had said that she would like to go back to her hotel. They hadn't said as much as a word, until Wilson's car had halted and Stacy moved to leave the car and them. House refused to let her 'escape' like that, though. Telling Wilson not to wait on him, he had exited the car as well and gone after her. Wilson had waited a little while, then sighed to himself and gone home. He knew House would stay and wait at her door all night if absolutely necessary. If anything, he was incredibly determined.

Stacy, however, kept walking on steadily, so that House could only reach her when she got to the elevators and needed to wait for one to take her to her level. She sighed deeply without looking at him as if she knew she had no chance of ignoring Greg any longer. The grin he usually wore at small victories like that was curiously missing, and he kept the silence as they entered the elevator and left it on the same floor, walked to the same room. She didn't even bother trying to fight him, it seemed. She left the door open for him as soon as she had slit the electronic entry card into the slot of the door and walked into the room herself.

Quietly shutting the door, House watched from a distance as she undid her warm coat and draped it over the wooden chair beside the bed, her handbag following suit, before she sank down on the bed itself and kicked off her high-heeled pumps, finally looking at him. "Maybe you are more alike than I thought. After all, you don't appreciate the meaning of the word no either."

House limped a little closer to the bed. "I would, and could, never force myself on you, Stace. I'm quite sure I could kill him with my two bare hands for what he did."

Stacy obviously didn't know what to say. When she opened her mouth, no sound was heard. She looked at him as if in quiet surprise; he merely looked back. When she couldn't bear it any longer, she averted her gaze, looking down into her lap at her shaking hands, biting down on her lower lip if only to try and stop it trembling. "I know," Stacy eventually whispered. "I know that you would never… do that, but the Mark I so loved and married wouldn't have either…"

House seemed to consider for a second what he should do next then –– very rare for him. When he apparently had decided what he would do, he slowly limped closer, leaning heavily on his cane, and sat down on the bed beside her, laying his warm hand upon her shaking ones, clasped together very tightly. He felt the shaking increase, but then as he ran his thumb across the tender skin, it decreased once more, and she exhaled deeply, as if trying to convince herself not to freak and be calm.

Then she turned to him with her eyes suddenly very clear.


House slightly tightened his grip on her, brushing away a tiny wisp of loose hair from her cheek. He had definitely not intended for the night to end that way when he had exited Wilson's car; he hadn't thought about it even. Instead, when she had leaned over and captured his lips with hers, seemingly wanting Greg to merely shut up and kiss her, maybe expecting him to, he had wondered very fleetingly whether it was a good idea to let her continue. However, he hadn't really been able to ignore the need in her actions, the urgency of the touches and kisses. He couldn't have stopped her even if he had truly wanted to.

Clothes got easily shed between the kisses and the touches. Stacy had seemed to be… fine with only that, so he hadn't pushed her to do anything more than that, silently letting her take the lead, the shred of humanity he owned, and which often only came to the surface with her, letting him know she might need to be the one in charge after the debacle with Mark.

Maybe House himself had needed her to do so, too. Maybe House had needed to see the look of acceptance, of fearlessness, in Stacy's hazel eyes as she bent down to kiss him, unafraid to let him touch her even when she seemed so fragile, too. She still loved him with all that she had, he knew. She had loved him and he had sent her home to be with Mark again. What a fool he had been. If he hadn't let her go back to that asshole, all this wouldn't have happened. Of course, the simple fact that it would have made him happier in addition stubbornly refused to cross his mind.

She began to wiggle suddenly in his embrace, but House held her instinctively closer. "Stacy." Even if he didn't allow himself to show it and came across as an absolutely insensitive person, House was good at reading people –– even emotions. He was incredibly good at reading Stacy, the only woman with whom he had ever shared his house and… his heart. "Stacy, I made a terrible mistake letting you go back to him. I'm never letting you go again."

"I hope so…" she replied, her voice sounding choked suddenly. "I'm not sure I'd survive."

At that, he pulled her closer and kissed her hair like he used to when they still were a couple. Then again, had the two of them ever truly separated to begin with?