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It starts off as a joke.

“I don’t think they know that we’re married.”

House looks up from his desk, clearly amused. “And?”

Wilson hesitates, caught off guard by his response. “And…” he trails off, waiting for House to pick the thought up. He doesn’t, so Wilson continues. “Don’t you think that’s maybe something your team should know about you? About us?”

House sits back, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Maybe,” he says. “But how long do you think it’s going to take them to figure it out on their own?”

“Long enough for it to become a problem?” Wilson guesses, his tone knowing, but then he takes another look at his husband and sighs. “Or long enough for it to become a game?”

House pretends to consider it as though he’s never considered it before. “Well, if you want to make a game out of my employees obliviousness, Wilson, I’m not going to stop you.”

Wilson gives him a look, so House continues. “Do you think we should bet weeks? Months?” he asks, sitting up straighter. “Or should we play the long game and go years?”

“I think it would take me thirty seconds to point to the ring on my finger and open my mouth,” Wilson says.

“Well, that’s just no fun,” House says.

Wilson hesitates. “Six months.”

It takes three days of Wilson dropping subtle hints for him to realize six months is not enough time.

“I want to change my number,” Wilson says when he gets home.

House acts shocked. “Why would you say that?”

Wilson gives him a look. “A year.”

“A year!” House says. “Drastic change. What could have possibly made you change your mind?”

“Don’t you think it’s a little concerning that your hand-picked team of medical experts can’t figure out that their boss is married to someone who works in the same building as them?” Wilson asks.

“You’re avoiding the question,” House points out. “And no. I don’t. They’re trained to be experts in medicine, not my personal life.”

Wilson hesitates. “A year and a half.”

“Good morning, Wilson,” Cameron says cheerily the following week.

“Good morning,” Wilson says back, not looking up from what House has asked him to look at.

“How are you?” Cameron asks, making small talk.

“Fine, you?” Wilson returns.

“I’m good,” Cameron says. “How’s your wife?”

Wilson falters, almost dropping what he has in his hands. “My what?”

He looks at House, who shows no indication of curiosity except for the flicker of his eyes in Cameron’s direction.

She looks surprised by his response. “You’re… married, aren’t you?” she asks, pointing to the ring on his finger.

Wilson looks at his ring, then at House, who raises his eyebrows at him but offers no help. He looks back down at his ring and then back up at Cameron. “… Yes?”

Cameron gives him a weird look. “You don’t talk about her much, sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude.”

Wilson looks at House for help, but again he offers none. When Wilson can’t find a response at all, House says, “Why do you never talk about your wife, Wilson?”

Wilson gives him a look, his eyes wide, then looks back up at Cameron. “Well, I guess I… forget… all of you… don’t… know… her. It almost feels like we’ve all been working together for years .”

Cameron smiles softly. “That’s sweet. What’s her name?”

Wilson hesitates. “Her name…”

“Sam,” House provides.

“Sam,” Wilson agrees immediately. “Her name is Sam.”

As soon as Cameron leaves, Wilson throws the file back down on House’s desk. “That’s cheating!”

“She asked,” House reasons.

“She asked about a wife who doesn’t exist!” Wilson argues. “I don’t have a wife! I have a husband! She works for my husband!”

“I’m well aware who she works for,” House says. “But we never established rules, so I can’t be cheating.”

“We’re establishing rules right now,” Wilson says. “Rule number one - you can’t lie about me being married to a woman! Cheater!”

“I didn’t cheat!” House says. “That rule was established after I said you had a wife, so I didn’t break it.”

Wilson rubs his face. “You’re killing me.”

In the next two months, Wilson almost forgets about the game. That is, until Chase speaks up as Wilson is leaving House’s office. “Are we ever going to get to meet your wife, Wilson?”

He hesitates, closing the door he had only just opened. “… No.”

Cameron, Chase and Foreman all frown at him; House continues to offer no assistance when he says, “Why not?”

He looks at his team. “I’ve met her; she’s lovely.”

Wilson scowls at him. “We’re getting divorced.”

Everyone in the room looks at him; after a moment, Chase says, “I’m sorry to hear that, Wilson.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Wilson says, throwing a look at House. “But I’d appreciate if you didn’t bring it up again.”

“So we’re getting divorced?" House asks later that night.

“Can we just tell them?” Wilson asks.

“And take the fun out of this little game?” House asks. “Sounds to me like you’re worried about losing.”

“It sounds to me like you just don’t want to tell your team that you’re married to me,” Wilson shoots back.

House hesitates, looking considerate. “You have to stop wearing your ring to work now.”

Greg,” Wilson says.

“I don’t wear mine,” House points out.

“Which is more evidence to my not wanting to admit you married me theory,” Wilson argues.

“You know I do it for sanitary reasons,” House says. “I’d have to take it on and off all day. I’d lose it. On the contrary, I love you very much.”

Wilson hesitates. “I love you, too.”

“So we’re not getting divorced?” House asks.

“I have a game,” House announces the following day.

“Oh, boy,” Foreman mutters, turning around to face him. “What kind of game?”

“A kind of game Wilson and I have been playing for a while,” House says; Wilson looks up at him, intrigued.

“What’s the game?” Chase asks.

House holds his left hand up; he’s wearing his ring. Wilson perks up a little bit; so does House’s team, but in a very different way.

“Is that a wedding ring?” Foreman asks. “Why do you have a wedding ring?”

“It’s mine,” House says; all three of them laugh. He lowers his hand. “Don’t mock me; I’ll have you know I’ve been happily married for several years.”

Wilson shifts in his seat, enjoying the conversation immensely.

“You are not married,” Foreman says, grinning. “No woman in her right mind would put up with you like that.”

“Maybe so,” House says, making eye contact with Wilson for a split second. “Wilson has been just as puzzled as you are. He’s trying to figure out who it is.”

“Wilson doesn’t know?” Chase asks, startled, looking over at him; Wilson just shrugs.

“That’s the game,” House says. “You can play, if you want.”

“What’s the prize?” Foreman asks.

“Negotiable,” House says.

“What’s Wilson getting?” Foreman presses.

“Assuming he ever figures it out?” House asks, looking over at him; Wilson raises his eyebrows, waiting to see what he says. “Something personal.”

Something personal and very, very intimate, but Wilson decides not to share that part.

“Sounds vague,” Chase says, looking back over at Wilson. “What’s he giving you?”

Wilson just shrugs again. “I don’t think House would want me to say.”

Chase narrows his eyes and looks back at House. “That’s suspicious.”

“So come negotiate,” House says. “Or don’t play the game.”

“Wait, wait,” Foreman says. “That’s so vague. You have to give us something to work with. What does she look like? What does she do? We can’t just go around town looking for people who might’ve married you. Which, should be no one, if people are sane.”

House ignores the gibe. “You don’t have to go looking around town,” he says. “You can stay right here in the hospital.”

All three of them protest loudly. “There’s no way you’re married to someone who works here!” Cameron exclaims.

“Oh, but I am,” House says, amused. “You’ve even worked together! How fun.”

All three of them are speechless; finally, Foreman says, “What’s today’s date?”

“November 30, why?” Wilson tells him.

“Because it must be the first of April,” Foreman says, giving House a look. “I’m not buying this crap.”

“You don’t have to buy it,” House says. “But it’s not crap. As for the description - brown hair, brown eyes, white, is that enough for you to go off of? Or do you want a medical history as well?”

“Cuddy,” Cameron says, standing up suddenly. “It has to be Cuddy.”

Chase and Foreman both look at House expectantly; he just laughs. “That’s a good guess, Cameron, but Cuddy has blue eyes.”

Cuddy knows; of course Cuddy knows, she’s their boss. She catches House in the elevator bank three days later, “Why is Cameron asking me if we are married?”

House chuckles. “I told her we weren’t, you don’t have brown eyes.”

Cuddy gives him a skeptical look and steps into the elevator with him. “Why am I being asked in the first place?”

“Wilson is concerned that my team has not deduced our marital status,” House explains. “So I’ve sent them on a little side trip to see if they can figure it out.”

“Interesting,” Cuddy says. “But do you know what I find more interesting than your personal life, House?”

“No, what?” House asks.

“Your work life,” Cuddy says.

House ignores her. “Wilson started off betting six months and then bumped it up to eighteen. I’m betting that my team isn’t able to figure out I’m not married to a woman. Care to put in?”

Cuddy hesitates. “Six months.”

 

They get through four major cases with no progression on the mystery of House’s marital status. On a quiet day, Foreman, Chase and Cameron corner House in his office.

“Have you come to demand something?” House asks.

“Yes,” Cameron says. “Come to demand you stop this stupid jape.”

House holds his left hand up; the ring is still there. “Not a jape.”

“That’s obviously not yours!” Foreman argues. “We’ve spoken to every brunette who works in this building, none of them are married to you.”

“Did you stick to the brown eyes criteria?” House asks. “Because Cameron strayed from that pretty fast.”

“Every. Single. Woman.” Foreman insists. “You’re lying.”

“I’m not lying!” House insists, amused. “You’re just looking in the wrong places.”

“What about where we’re looking is wrong?” Cameron asks.

“I gave you a criteria,” House says, listing each off on his fingers. “Brown hair, brown eyes, works here, white.”

“We have asked every woman - !” Chase starts to say.

“Well, there’s your problem!” House exclaims. “You three are thinking with such a heterosexual mindset. Honestly, can you take a moment to reconsider your pool of candidates?”

All three of them are stunned into silence for a moment, before Cameron narrows her eyes. “That’s not your ring.”

House raises his eyebrows. “Why would you say that?”

“That’s Wilson’s ring,” Cameron says. “From his marriage with Sam. You're wearing it to screw with us.”

“Wait, what?” Foreman says. “Wilson’s wife was named Bonnie.”

“No,” Chase interjects, “her name was Julie.”

“No, her name was Sam,” Cameron argues.

“House said - ” Foreman and Chase say at the same time, then immediately catch themselves and turn to look at House.

House raises his eyebrows, then says, “Wilson is a good guess, Cameron. You should run with that.”

They find Wilson in the clinic; he notices they’re walking towards him with intent and stops. “Hey - ”

Cameron grabs his left arm and lifts it up to look at his hand; he’s wearing his ring. He forgot to not put it on today.

Cameron looks from the ring to his face. “Are you and House married?”

Wilson hesitates, clearly at a loss of what to do. Finally, he pulls his hand gently out of Cameron’s grasp. “Can you excuse me for one moment?”

He gets lucky and catches an elevator before they can stop him.

“What am I supposed to say if they ask?” Wilson asks as he comes into House’s office.

House looks up at him. “Isn’t that the game?”

“We never talked about it,” Wilson says. “Should I deny it?”

“Well, do you not want to tell them you’re married to me?” House asks, feigning hurt.

Foreman, Chase and Cameron burst into House’s office. “You’re married to Wilson?” Chase exclaims.

“Oh, my God,” Wilson says, putting his head in his hand.

“Why are there so many people in my office?” House asks, exasperated.

“How could you not tell us this?!” Cameron exclaims.

“How could you not figure it out?!” House asks in the same tone.

“Oh, my God,” Wilson says again, sitting down.

“What do you mean how could we not figure it out?” Foreman asks. “You have never given a single indication - !”

“I like Wilson more than I like any of you, surly you could have figured that out,” House says.

“Oh, my God!” Wilson says again, finally looking up. “Please stop!”

“Oh, so now you’re embarrassed by me?” House asks.

“What is going on…” Chase mutters, putting his head in his hands.

“Calm down, you twink,” House says, pulling a piece of paper out of his drawer. “I win!”

“What?” all four of them ask, looking at him.

“Not you three,” House says, waving them off; he points at Wilson. “Our little bet.”

“Uh, no,” Wilson says. “You bet they would never figure it out. I bet six months.”

“Then you changed to eighteen,” House says. “And because you got nervous it would take so long, I changed to four months. And Cuddy bet six, so I win.”

“Cuddy knows?!” Cameron asks, at the same time Wilson asks, “Cuddy was betting?!”

“Of course Cuddy knows,” House says. “You think she wouldn’t know two of her employees are married?”

“I didn’t even know my boss was married!” Chase exclaims.

“And whose fault is that?” House asks. “You won the game, now can you get out of my office?”

“You said Wilson was playing the same game as us,” Foreman says. “That’s not fair, you were trying to throw us off.”

“You said Wilson had a wife!” Cameron adds.

“I did not consent to that lie,” Wilson interjects.

“I said Wilson and I were playing a game,” House says. “And that game didn’t have any rules about making up pretend wives.”

“Well it should!” Cameron says. “You were trying to throw us off!”

“It was a game,” House says, exasperated. “And there are still three too many people in my office. I’m not getting up and neither is my husband.”

Foreman, Chase and Cameron leave eventually; it only takes several minutes of House ignoring the rest of their questions. Once they’re gone, Wilson rubs his face, and says, “Playing this game was a bad idea.”

“But it was fun,” House teases, tucking the paper back into his desk drawer. “Should we discuss the terms of my win?”

“Can’t we do that at home?” Wilson asks, embarrassed.

“Yeah, but they’re all sitting out there watching us talk to each other,” House says, nodding his head towards his team, who are doing exactly that. “This will be more fun.”