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Wilson didn’t bother waiting for House to come to the door. He simply knocked once and let himself in with the key House had given him years ago. He felt a thrill of satisfaction and affection each time he used it, pleased with the trust and easy familiarity it represented. House wasn’t on the couch when he entered, although the TV was silently playing a Johnny Depp movie to the empty room, and the bedroom was dark. Wilson set the groceries he had picked up on the way back from work on the kitchen table and put them away, keeping an ear out for House’s distinctive shuffle as he did so.

Wilson was in a good mood today. Two of his patients had gone into full remission this week and he had been able to tell one patient that the tumor in his abdomen was completely benign and harmless. The man’s wife had wept with joy and relief and had hugged him to her ample bosom before he had even discussed a date for surgery. And House had been particularly frisky today; Wilson had high hopes for a steamy make-out session on the couch before retiring to the bedroom for some more satisfying activities.

He and House had been together for over two months. Truthfully, the tension between them had been there for years, but Wilson hadn’t recognized it for what it was until Julie had divorced him and he had run to House’s couch. He had only meant to stay with House for a few days or a week at most until he found a place of his own, but the days had stretched to weeks and to nearly two months before he had finally packed up and left abruptly one weekend, unable to deal with the strange feelings and thoughts he was having for his best friend. It wasn’t until two miserable weeks later that he had come to what at the time had seemed like a devastating realization in his faceless hotel room: he was truly attracted to House.

Of course, Wilson had long since known that he loved House, but despite their teasing, flirtatious banter, he hadn’t factored in a romantic facet to their relationship. When he had finally realized the depth of his feelings for House—and how they had possibly affected every one of his relationships he had tried to have ever since meeting him—he had panicked. He had never been good at hiding his feelings from House and once the man cornered him and demanded an explanation, Wilson had just blurted it all out. He had been certain it would be the end of their friendship.

But House had simply stared for what had seemed like an eternity; his intense blue eyes boring into Wilson’s own distressed eyes, dissecting him, peeling away the layers in search of God knows what. He seemed to find it, however, and he rolled his eyes before saying, “Well duh. Took you long enough, you moron. Are you sure you went to college?”

Wilson smiled at the memory. They had agreed—somewhat reluctantly on House’s part—to go rather slow with the new direction their relationship had taken. Wilson hadn’t moved back in and they had done little more than kiss, give each other hand jobs, and sleep in the same bed. Neither was willing to risk the deep friendship they had over sex. Wilson had made the mistake of moving too quickly far too many times before not to be cautious and this was the first sexual relationship he had had with another man (not counting drunken gropes or frotting during college). And besides, it was House. That summed up the real importance Wilson placed on this relationship and how seriously he was taking it. There was far more at stake here than an unhappy wife or more alimony. Far, far more.

So far, no one else knew about them except for Cuddy, who was required to know when two of her employees were in a relationship. To Wilson's chagrin, Cuddy hadn't been the least bit surprised and warmly congratulated them. House had just been happy for one more thing that he could needle Cuddy about. House and Wilson agreed that they wanted their private life to be private for as long as possible and so far no one had guessed the change. 

That wasn't quite right. No one guessed the change because there hadn't really been a change, at least not where anyone could see. They still interacted the same—House played practical jokes, Wilson lectured some and played along, they argued and ate lunch together—and at least at work there hadn't been anything to see. House despised true public displays of affection and Wilson refused to have a quickie in the janitor's closet, so if House was more affectionate or if Wilson took every opportunity to be close to House, then it was in the comfort of House's apartment. 

Lost in his thoughts, Wilson was startled when a pair of warm, strong arms wrapped around his waist from behind and a lean body pressed against his back. House hooked his cane over Wilson's left forearm, untucked Wilson's neatly pressed work shirt, and ran his right hand under it to stroke his soft, warm skin. Wilson sucked in a short breath and released it in a sigh when he felt rough lips latch onto his neck and a hot, wet tongue lave his skin. He stretched his neck and tilted it to allow for greater access and leaned hard into the counter, welcoming House's warm weight. 

"Mmm, I didn't see you when I brought in the groceries. Where were you?"

"Bathroom. Taking a piss." House grunted against his skin and Wilson chuckled. 

"You sure know how to turn a man on," he said sarcastically. He carefully turned around in House's grasp and gave him a welcoming kiss before slipping away. "I've got to put these away before I get distracted or it'll never get done. What d'you want for dinner?"

House turned and leaned against the counter to watch his lover bustle around the kitchen. "Not hungry. For food, anyway," he added lasciviously and waggled his eyebrows. Wilson rolled his eyes.

"You sure? You didn't eat lunch with me today. And you’re always hungry."

"Don't worry, mother, I swiped half of Chase's tuna sandwich during the differential. Gave me indigestion."

Wilson rolled his eyes. "Serves you right."

"Are you jealous, Wilson? Don't worry, his ass isn't nearly as big as yours."

Wilson blushed deeply and scowled. "My ass is not big," he said petulantly, forcing himself not to twist and try to look at it. House shuffled up and slapped it on his way into the living room. Wilson jumped.

"No, but it is fine."

Wilson shook his head at the backward compliment and put away the rest of the groceries while the sound was turned on in the living room and the apartment was privy to Johnny Depp's bad accent and House's guffaws. Wilson fixed himself a plate of leftovers and carried it to the couch next to House. They made fun of the movie and laughed while Wilson ate, House reaching over once or twice to swipe a piece of chicken from his pasta. Wilson didn't protest. 

He carried his plate back to the kitchen when he was finished and managed to ply House with some ice cream. Johnny Depp was bare-chested on the screen when he returned holding two bowls of ice cream and he didn't look away as he handed House's bowl to him. 

"He may have a crappy British accent, but it's not like anyone cares what he's saying when he looks like that."

House eyed him narrowly over his spoon and snorted derisively. "I guess, if you like feeling up mannequins. He's faker than the Olsen twins."

"Says the pervert that had a digital countdown in his office for a month until they were legal," Wilson shot back.

"That's different. I was testing Foreman's--"

Wilson hushed him, his attention caught by Johnny Depp sidling back onto the screen, still bare-chested and glistening with sweat. House scowled and pouted, stabbing his spoon into his ice cream and swirling until it was thick and smooth. He glanced over at Wilson and saw that he was still staring fixedly at the TV, absently eating his ice cream, and House felt a sudden surge of jealousy. Glaring down at his bowl, he had an idea.

He scooped up a soft mound of ice cream and slowly ran his tongue over it, making a low sound of pleasure as the sweet cold melted over his tongue. He closed his eyes and slid the spoon into his mouth, sucking hard to be sure all of the ice cream was gone. Then he removed it and licked it thoroughly before burying it in the ice cream for more. He repeated the slow, sensual movements, making it a point not to look at the other man on the couch. 

When he was nearly finished, he carefully slid his eyes over to Wilson, looking up at him from beneath his eyelashes. Wilson was completely ignoring the TV and instead had his entire attention focused on his lover's movements. Wilson was sure his mouth was gaping open and the erection pressing insistently against his fly was glaringly obvious, but he wasn't able to tear his darkened eyes away from House's wet, sticky mouth. House made a considering sound, removing the spoon from his mouth to point it at the TV.

"Hm, you're right; he is kind of hot."

Wilson made an indistinct noise of disapproval and lunged for the remote, snapping the TV off with a hard jab.

"Hey, I was watching that—" House's whine was cut off by Wilson's mouth covering his, hot and insistent. House fumbled to set his nearly-empty bowl of ice cream on the coffee table (he wasn’t willing to bet that Wilson was anal enough to stop making out if he dumped the bowl on the ground like he wanted to) before turning into the kiss and allowing Wilson to straddle him. One of Wilson's hands carded through House's hair to the back of his head, holding him in place, while the other clutched his shoulder to help Wilson keep his balance. It was one of the things House loved and appreciated about him; even in the throes of passion, he was instinctively careful not to hurt House’s leg. 

Wilson eagerly swept his tongue into House's mouth, tasting cool ice cream underlain with the bitter Vicodin that was always present. He concentrated on drawing House's tongue into his own mouth to gently suckle the tip, barely feeling it when his now-wrinkled shirt was unbuttoned and his undershirt was pushed up. He gasped into House's mouth when those long, nimble fingers found his nipples and he couldn't resist pressing his hips down onto the other man's, feeling an answering hardness against his that never failed to make him shudder. The fingers moved away from his chest and to the fly of his black work slacks. Wilson moaned in encouragement, redoubling his efforts on House's mouth and tongue when the button was deftly opened and the zipper slid down. 

"Mmph, oh God--"

Wilson tore his mouth away and panted hotly into House's neck when the hands moved to grasp his hips and press them tightly together again. House growled into his ear, his voice low and rough.

"So responsive, Jimmy... love that about you. So fucking hot, I can barely stand it." Wilson moaned louder—the first time House had started talking dirty to him, he had been so surprised and turned on that he'd nearly come without a touch—and thrust his cock against House's flat stomach. The hands moved from his hips past his loosened waistband, dipping beneath his boxers to grab handfuls of his ass firmly. 

"I love your ass, Jimmy. It's round and perfect and I bet it's tighter than a virgin’s daughter. I’m gonna pound into your sweet ass someday; so hard and deep you won’t be able to fucking think.”

“H-hah, House, fuck… need you. Can’t—” Wilson grunted when House removed one of his hands to stroke Wilson’s throbbing erection through his boxers. As he took Wilson’s cock out, Wilson scrambled to do the same for House, forcing his trembling fingers to carefully lower the fly on House’s jeans and reach through the slit in his boxer briefs. House groaned out an expletive when Wilson wrapped his fingers around House’s long cock and pumped once, squeezing gently to force a large bead of pre-come to emerge from the tip of his penis. Wilson swiped his thumb through it and spread it over the shining head and shaft, making House’s hips twitch. They jerked each other just the way they liked it—House slow and smooth on Wilson’s cock and Wilson hard and fast on House’s.

Wilson felt the slow build starting at his spine and sending rockets of electricity shooting through his nerves, making his hips and thighs twitch rhythmically. He ripped his mouth away from where it had found House’s lips and he panted harshly, barely hearing their frantic breaths and the creaking leather over the pounding in his ears. He looked down and scooted over to bring his thicker cock into alignment with House’s longer, thinner one. He nudged House’s hand away and took the two cocks in hand, hearing them both moan in unison at the incredible feeling of slick, smooth skin over hard heat and white-hot nerve endings.

House’s hands had returned to his ass, pushing and pulling and kneading the firm flesh and Wilson could tell that he was close; that they were both close. He let out a startled cry when two of House’s fingers slipped down his cleft and pressed against his tight hole. He froze for a split second, eyes wide and pupils blown, before his entire body shuddered. He moved his hands to House’s shoulders and threw his head back, letting his back arch to press back against the sensations. A couple more strokes and a gentle press inward was all it took.

Mmph! Oh GodfuckHouseyes!”

House loved to watch Wilson orgasm. His body would stretch in a beautifully erotic way and he would cry out loudly, eyes tightly closed and body tight and trembling while his cock shot thick hot strands of come onto his fist and House’s stomach. Even before they had gotten together, House had known it would be a beautiful sight and now he was hard pressed not to follow immediately at the sound of his name intermingled in Wilson’s impassioned cries.

Fuck me, Wilson, you’re hot as fuck. So fucking gorgeous.”

As he slowly came down from the high, Wilson’s body slumped as bonelessly as a puppet with its strings cut. His body shivered and twitched with aftershocks as he opened drowsy brown eyes and looked down at his lover. He smiled at House in hazy satisfaction and swiped his hand through his rapidly-cooling ejaculate to use as lubricant as he returned it to House’s hard, leaking cock. The sight and feel and very idea of it made House close his eyes and groan, thrusting his hips as best he could into Wilson’s tight, slick grip. When he felt his orgasm approach, however, his eyes snapped open and speared into Wilson’s eyes with an intensity that still unnerved Wilson a little. Despite House’s constant dirty talk during sex—and opposed to Wilson’s own noisy ejaculations—House was almost completely silent when he came. His body tightened and curled inward as his breath hitched and a low growl escaped his throat, but his eyes remained fixed on his lover’s, unmasked and open.

Wilson encouraged him with low murmurs, flexing his muscles under House’s bruising grip on his hips. He milked House’s cock until he could tell that he was becoming sensitive and stopped. He smothered House’s short pants with a deep, slow kiss that communicated their mutual feelings quite clearly. Wilson pulled away for air, eyes half-lidded and dark, lips wet and swollen red, hair disheveled and sweaty. House pulled him in to another deep kiss, mumbling something that could have been “beautiful” against Wilson’s lips.

They laid together for several long moments, exchanging slow kisses and sighs against each other’s mouth and skin. Finally, House pulled his hands from where they still rested on Wilson’s ass and slapped the firm flesh. Wilson jumped.

“That’s enough. Any longer and you would’ve been cuddling with me,” House said. Wilson scowled, swinging his leg to the floor and lifting the other one free of House’s body.

“And that would be so terrible,” Wilson said sarcastically. “Miserable, misanthropic jerk.” He muttered under his breath as he tucked himself back into his boxers. He grimaced at the sticky feeling and left his slacks undone so that he didn’t have to bother when he took a shower. House was reclining on the couch, still mussed and rumpled—his t-shirt was pushed up his chest and his soft cock was laying complacently in the semen drying on his stomach. Wilson resisted holding out a hand, knowing House wouldn’t accept it.

“Come on, let’s shower before your penis is glued to your abdomen.”

“I thought I was a miserable, misanthropic jerk,” House pointed out petulantly. “What do you care if my dick is glued to my abdomen?”

“I might want to use it later,” Wilson said flippantly. House grunted as he hauled himself to his feet.

“Always knew you just wanted me for my body.”

They showered quickly despite wandering hands and wet, slick bodies and managed to stumble into the bedroom to change into more comfortable clothes before collapsing on the bed with exhausted sighs. House stretched out on his back and absently reached for his nightly pill, dry swallowing it and closing his eyes. Wilson laid on his side facing House, his eyelids already at half mast and in danger of closing, but he slid his hand next to House’s cautiously, as if reaching out to a skittish animal. He wanted to cuddle, but House rarely tolerated it unless he was in the mood, too.

He waited and before too long House had slid his hand to rest it on top of his, squeezing once in assent. Wilson immediately scooted closer and lay his head on House’s shoulder and snaked his arm around House’s midriff, settling into his warm body with a contented sigh.

“G’night, House.”

His eyes closed and just as he dropped off to sleep, he felt a warm press of lips on the crown of his head.

“Night, Wilson.”

Wilson was slowly getting used to the feeling of waking up entwined around a hard, masculine body instead of a soft, curvy one. He hadn’t been sure that he liked it at first, but when his nose was buried in House’s chest and he breathed deeply, smelling the mixture of cologne, soap, leather, and House that had somehow become intimately familiar over the years, he found that he liked it more than he had with any of his wives. The smell meant home and comfort and permanence despite hardships. It was… House.

He breathed in deeply and stirred a little, absently rubbing his morning erection into House’s bony hip. His left hand was crushed between their bodies; his right hand was shoved up House’s undershirt and his feet were tangled with House’s. Even in his sleep he somehow managed to avoid House’s injured thigh. House’s face was buried in the nape of Wilson’s neck and an arm was wrapped protectively around his waist. The other was resting on top of his shirt where Wilson’s hand had taken up residence. It was warm and comforting and almost disgustingly domestic, which made him smile. It was one of the things that had surprised him when they had begun seeing each other; there was a side of House that was tender and sweet—even loving—towards his lovers and he could be romantic in his own twisted way. Wilson, who was naturally affectionate and loved to touch or be close to the person he was involved with, had resigned himself to losing that aspect of a relationship to House’s acerbic demeanor. It had thrilled and pleased him to learn that House often allowed or instigated closeness as long as it was unspoken.

Wilson rubbed again, wondering if he should wake House up for an early-morning romp, but from what he could tell House wasn’t hard and it was so rare that he slept through the night that Wilson reluctantly discarded the idea. Maybe later… he couldn’t stop his hips from thrusting slightly against House’s warm body and his eyes fluttered closed at the sensation, his breath hitching. Okay, definitely later.

Slowly and carefully, he extricated himself from House's loose grasp and slid out from beneath the warm covers. He took a quick, cold shower and started making omelets for breakfast. Twenty minutes later, he silently opened House’s bedroom door and peeked inside. House was sprawled under the blankets, hand outstretched on Wilson’s side as if searching for something that was missing. Wilson felt a flush of affection and smiled. It was unusual for House to sleep this long without his leg waking him—and subsequently Wilson—in the middle of the night, especially considering that they had gone to bed early last night, but Wilson didn’t hesitate to shake House’s shoulder and tell him to wake up. They couldn’t be late to work, after all.

House groaned and blinked owlishly up at him, clearly disoriented for several seconds before he managed to flap an annoyed hand at Wilson to indicate that he was awake. Once he was assured that House wouldn’t fall back asleep, Wilson returned to the kitchen. Finally, House emerged from the bedroom, but by that time Wilson only had time to rush through his breakfast, kiss House goodbye (House showed his disdain for the domestic scene by shoving his tongue in Wilson’s mouth in a lewd manner before slapping his ass hard), and rush out the door, warning House not to be late or else he wouldn’t protect him from the Wrath of Cuddy.

Wilson worked steadily through the day, only interrupted by House twice before lunch, at which point they went down to the cafeteria.

“I’ve got a new case,” House said as they went through the line. He didn’t pick up a tray for himself.

“Oh yeah? What’s up?”

“Thirty-eight year old woman presenting with excessive salivation, bloody nose, fever, and distorted vision.”

“Distorted, how?” Wilson reached for his wallet and paid for his lunch. He followed House to “their” table near the windows. There was a scuffle as Wilson tried to take the seat with his back to the window and House warded him off with his cane before stealing the seat for himself. Wilson rolled his eyes and pulled his tray toward him.

“No depth perception. She’s the worst person I’ve ever played catch with.” House eyed Wilson’s fries contemplatively, but only ended up stealing two.

“You mean… you actually threw a ball at a person who has no depth perception? Aren’t you supposed to be hiding in a closet somewhere before her lawyer shows up?”

“Maybe. Wanna join me? I hear closets can be really fun places.” He grinned roguishly and Wilson couldn’t help but smile. House pulled himself to his feet, swaying slightly to the left as he did so and wincing beneath his expressionless mask. Wilson let a tinge of his concern show as he glanced at House’s bad leg. He let the unspoken conversation fall between them in their body language. Are you okay? Then House’s answering nod. I’m fine. Stop worrying.

“Maybe later. Some of us actually have work to do, you know,” Wilson said, smoothly continuing the conversation as if nothing had happened. House snorted.

“Yeah, well my time is better spent with Coma Guy,” he said over his shoulder as he limped away. Wilson didn’t bother to reply, but he couldn’t stop himself from watching House’s white-knuckled grip on his cane and the light touches of his right Nike to the floor from beneath his lashes. He frowned faintly, looking down at his plate and noticing that both of them had barely picked at it.

He finished eating and bussed his tray before heading back to his office. He sat behind his desk and pulled a stack of papers toward him, bending his head to them and beginning to work. He told himself that he wouldn’t let himself worry about the fact that House most likely hadn’t eaten in nearly two days because if he started worrying about every little thing House did or didn’t do then he would drive himself insane within the hour. Becoming House’s boyfriend did not give him free reign to monitor or take over House’s life and it also didn’t automatically turn House into a puppy-loving, flower-giving ray of sunshine—House didn’t change, and that was one of the reasons why he loved him. Wilson reminded himself that he recognized the signs of House’s bouts of depression or obsession and House was not showing them. That would have to be enough.

After he put a sizeable dent in the paperwork, Wilson rolled his sleeves back down and slid into his white doctor’s coat to make his afternoon rounds. He had seven patients who were required to stay at the hospital for an extended period of time; four were terminal and one of those would die within the month. He made sure to visit him last so that he would have the most time to visit. House thought it was a waste of time, but then again he couldn’t understand the use of spending time with someone who was going to be dead in three weeks anyway. But Wilson cared deeply for each of his patients and was forever conscious of the fact that there was more to a patient than their illness; something he had tried to explain to House, citing his crippled leg as an example. House hadn’t mentioned it again that night.

Wilson approached the glass door to James Burton’s room. Seeing two teenagers and James’ mother inside, he knocked lightly before sliding the door open and stepping inside. James was dressed in sweats and a t-shirt on top of the covers of his bed, the black beanie that normally covered his pale, bald head scrunched between his thin fingers. He looked up and his eyes brightened at seeing Wilson.

“Hi, Jimmy,” James said from his bed with a warm smile.

“Hello, James, how are you feeling today?” Wilson asked with a quirk of his lips. He slid the door closed behind him as the room’s occupants turned their attention to him.

“A lot better than yesterday, thank you.” The seventeen-year-old turned to the other teens. “This is my doctor, Jimmy. He’s the oncologist in charge of me. Jimmy, this is Stephanie and Charlie; they’re some friends of mine from school.”

“James Wilson, pleased to meet you,” Wilson said, shaking their hands. “You can call me Jimmy, if you’d like. When I met James five months ago, I let him choose who got which name so that we wouldn’t get confused. He chose the mature, adult-sounding name and I got stuck with the name I haven’t been called since I was eight.”

They laughed. Stephanie, a slightly chubby girl with brown hair and dimples, said, “That doesn’t surprise me; even back in elementary school he made all of his teachers call him James.”

“We’ve heard a lot about you, though, so it’s nice to put a face to the name,” the boy with shaggy brown hair and tight jeans added, exchanging a meaningful glance between the three teenagers that made Stephanie break out into a giggle. James’ mom intervened at this point, approaching Wilson with a stern glance at the teens.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Wilson, do you need us to leave? I know James hasn’t had an examination in a while…”

“Oh no, don’t worry about it. I’m just dropping by to catch up since it’s been a few days since I saw him last,” Wilson reassured her with a warm smile. “James has been doing very well and I don’t see a need to bother him with another exam today unless he feels under the weather. How about it, James?”

“No, thank you. I’d prefer not to be stuck with needles today,” he said dryly and they laughed.

“We were just heading out anyway,” Stephanie said, grabbing Charlie’s sleeve to pull him along. She stopped by the bed and gave James a gentle hug. “It was great to see you. We’ll come back again in a couple of days, alright?”

Charlie knuckled James’ bald head lightly but enthusiastically. Wilson remembered that James used to have a full head of thick, wavy black hair. “Don’t tell my mom we skipped the pep rally to come see you, okay? She’d have me stuffed and put over the mantle.”

“I won’t tell her. Those rallies are dumb anyway.” With a final goodbye wave, the two teens left.

“Is there anything I can get you, honey? They were here for a long time,” his mother said, resting her hand on his sock-covered foot.

“Actually, can you get me some fruit and a Sprite from the cafeteria?”

“Of course. I’ll be right back,” she bent down to give him a kiss and grabbed her purse before leaving the room. Wilson pulled up a chair next to the bed and smiled. He nodded to an unopened can of Sprite tucked behind a box of tissues on the mobile table.

“It looks like you’re starting up a collection. Is there something you need to talk to me about, James?”

He didn’t look surprised or embarrassed at being caught out. James was an unusually serious teenager, but he was very bright. When he had first come to Wilson five months ago, it had seemed that his leukemia could have been significantly slowed by chemotherapy, giving him another few years to live. But then it had abruptly accelerated and morphed until it was clear that he would only have mere months to live rather than years. His mother had been divorced from his father for over a decade and she had taken an extended leave of absence from her job to be with her son for his last few weeks. Wilson admired the strength of both of them. They were very close and it would obviously kill James’ mother when he passed, but she did not let it affect her strength and determination to be with him now.

“Can you close the blinds, please?” James asked now.

“Certainly,” Wilson murmured, standing up and doing so before returning to his bedside. He waited. James hesitated, obviously debating something, before turning to Wilson.

“Um… Well, I’ve been having this pain in the small of my back,” he blurted, avoiding Wilson’s eyes. “I thought maybe I just bumped it or something, but it’s been a few days now and it hasn’t gotten any better. Can you..?”

“Of course I can. You should have mentioned it earlier if you were in pain,” Wilson scolded gently, but it was half-hearted at best. James had withstood several rounds of chemotherapy and nearly constant pain for months. Wilson doubted that he wanted to talk to him about a bruise now; most likely he was just stalling. Wilson stood and placed gentle hands on the boy’s hip and shoulder to help roll him onto his side. He lifted the t-shirt up and tugged the sweats down an inch to bare his lower back and was saddened to see that every one of James’ vertebrae and ribs were visible through his thin skin.

He probed the warm, raw skin at the base of James’ spine and concluded that it looked like the beginnings of a bed sore. “It doesn’t look like anything to worry about,” he said as he straightened the boy’s clothes. “I would say that a bit more moving around and lying in a different position while you’re in bed will clear it up right away. The skin is being irritated by being rubbed into the mattress for most of the day.”

“Okay,” James murmured. Wilson frowned, concerned, as he sat down again and leaned closer. He reached for the boy’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze to let him know that he could turn over again. He was caught off guard when James suddenly turned, threw his skinny arms around the oncologist’s neck, and kissed Wilson full on the mouth. Wilson froze, arms stuck half-way between pushing the boy away and supporting his frail body so it didn’t collapse. His eyes were wide in alarm and his lips parted automatically to speak. He felt a foreign tongue swipe through his mouth and begin exploring enthusiastically. That finally shocked him back into action.

He gently used his tongue to push James’ away and closed his mouth. He drew away slowly, grasping James’ elbows to guide his arms away from his neck and help support his weak body. Wilson’s brow furrowed as James settled placidly back onto his pillows as if nothing had happened. Though he was horrified that he hadn’t reacted quickly enough to avoid being kissed by the dying boy, he was more concerned about what this meant for James’ state of mind.

“James,” he began slowly, “What was that about?”

James looked up with a faint smile over his slightly-red mouth. “I’m attracted to you,” he said simply, though a blush turned his cheeks and ears red, betraying his embarrassment. “You’re very good looking and you’ve been so nice and supportive to my mom and me. I… wanted to thank you.” Wilson hesitated, trying to reply in a tactful way.

“I appreciate your thanks, but you know there are more… appropriate ways of expressing it than kissing. You’re my patient and I could lose my medical license if anyone had seen that. It’s not that I don’t care for you—”

“I know,” James interrupted. “That’s why I had you close the blinds. It’s not like I’m stalking you or anything and I’m sorry if you’re freaking out by being kissed by a dying kid half your age. I just…” he looked down and blinked hard, taking a long breath. “I just… wanted to know what it felt like to—to kiss a man. I wanted to know what it would have been like if I had been able to grow up and find a man I could… be with.” He blushed but set his jaw defiantly. “I’m not going to apologize for that.”

“That’s okay, I’m not asking you to,” Wilson said with a slight smile. “I understand what you’re going through, James, and you aren’t the first person to feel that way. Not many of my patients were as bold as you are, though. I hope you found what you were looking for.”

James shrugged with a slightly bitter smile. “Sort of. I’m sure it would’ve been better if you were an active participant, but it’s not the same. It never will be.”

“How long have you known you were homosexual, James?” Wilson asked curiously.

“A couple years now.” James shrugged. “Are you freaked out?”

Wilson shook his head with a rueful smile. “No, I’m just impressed that you were able to discover such a vital part of yourself so young. After all, it took me nearly forty years to figure it out.”

James’ eyes widened, shocked out of his brooding mood. “Are you… I mean, do you—you’re gay?”

“Bisexual, actually,” Wilson corrected. “My… er, boyfriend and I have only been together for a few months and we were best friends for fifteen years before that. You and him and my mom are the only people who are allowed to call me Jimmy, by the way.”

“Why did it take you so long to get together?”

“I don’t think I ever viewed our friendship as anything other than platonic and… really, I don’t think either of us were ready for anything more. These things get a lot more complicated as you get older, I’ve found.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” James said with a self-deprecating smile. Before Wilson could respond, the door was sliding open again and James’ mom sidled in with a concerned expression.

“Is anything wrong, Dr. Wilson?”

“No, not at all. James mentioned that his back was giving him some trouble, so I was checking it for him. It looks like the skin has just been rubbed raw from lying in one place for too long. I told him to try and move around more if possible and lay in different positions to help prevent it developing into a full bed sore.”

“Of course. Thank you, doctor. You’ve been so kind and helpful; we were lucky to find such a wonderful doctor for James.”

“It’s my pleasure, Ms. Burton. You have a very fine, mature young man for a son and I’m honored to have met him.” He turned back to the teen on the bed. “Is there anything else I can do for you, James?”

“No, I’m okay, Jimmy. Thanks, for—for everything.”

Wilson smiled and reached over to squeeze his shoulder, trying to communicate his comfort and reassurance. A few minutes later, he left the room and headed back to his office, his shoulders feeling heavy and tired. Sometimes, his job felt like it was too much. It tore at his soul and he wished that he was back in bed with House, buried under the warm covers and wrapped tightly in House’s embrace, feeling his heart beating under his ear. But even if House was feeling benevolent enough to indulge in Wilson’s selfish insecurities, that fantasy would be hours away. For now, it was back to work.

“Dr. Wilson!”

Wilson skidded to a stop outside of the elevators on his office floor and turned to face House’s fellows, cocking his head curiously at their rushed demeanors. He felt a brief stab of worry for House, but it wasn’t solemn doctor-urgency that covered their expressions, just mild dissatisfaction.


“Have you seen House lately?” Cameron, the person most interested and concerned for House’s welfare, dove right into asking. Chase tried and failed to hide his boredom and Foreman didn’t bother trying to pretend he wasn’t annoyed and impatient. Wilson furrowed his brow.

“No, not since lunch. What’s up?”

“He started looking bad about an hour ago—in pain, I mean. When we tried to ask if he was okay, he just said that he was going to go find you and we haven’t seen him since.”

Well familiar with House’s antics, Wilson could picture the scene perfectly. House would have been trying to carry on a differential while in pain and Cameron would have pestered him with questions about his health until he would snap and limp out of there faster than a Mexican running for the border. He barely prevented himself from rolling his eyes and instead tried to give a concerned frown.

“Did you check my office?”

“We tried, but all of the lights are out and your door’s locked. Your assistant said she didn’t see anyone go in.”

Now Wilson did roll his eyes. It had been almost three years, but it was obvious that these kids hadn’t been around House long enough if they didn’t know his tricks by now. “Listen, I’ll take care of him. How is his patient? Do you need him right this minute?”

Foreman spoke up, looking relieved that things were finally going somewhere. “No, not necessarily. We’ve got a few good ideas and she’s stable enough for us to run some tests to figure this thing out.”

“But we should really—” Cameron tried to protest, looking like Foreman had kicked her dog.

Chase intervened smoothly. “Nah, I’m sure Wilson can handle him. House has been in pain before and he’s never needed or wanted our help, so let’s go help someone who needs it, okay?”

Reluctantly, Cameron allowed herself to be led away and Wilson watched for a moment before turning back to the direction of his office. He nodded and smiled at his assistant, unlocked the door, slipped inside, closed it behind him, and pulled his white lab coat off to put on the coat rack. Then he turned and peered through the blue-shadowed darkness at the long, thin lump sprawled out on his couch.

“Hey,” he said simply. “They fell for it. Either they’re dumber than they look, or you really—”

“Don’t care. Shut up.”

“Oh-kay…” Wilson frowned and his hands automatically drifted to his hips. He waited a few seconds before speaking again. “Just so I’m clear, I’m not speaking because my tongue was cut out in punishment for giving Cousin Louie up to the feds, right?”

House groaned. “I have a headache. I’m suffering. Shut. Up.”

Wilson continued to frown, but he relaxed his stance a little as his concern started to eclipse his sarcasm. If House was telling the truth—and Wilson could see no reason for him to lie despite his normally incomprehensible behavior—then it must be a bad headache if light and sound was painful. Wilson could sympathize with migraines—he tended to suffer from them a few times a year as a result of extreme stress, highly emotional situations, or being overworked. Being House’s best friend, there was plenty of fodder for all three.

But House rarely, if ever, got migraines.

“I can still hear you caring. Shut up.”

“Here, move over,” Wilson murmured, nudging House’s shoulder. The diagnostician levered himself up on his elbow with a strained sound and even Wilson could see his face pale in the dim light from the shuttered windows. He quickly took his seat on the couch and House allowed his head to rest comfortably in his lover’s lap. Wilson rested his hand on House’s abdomen and rubbed slightly. He wouldn't normally do something like this--he and House had their own unique boundaries that were hard to cross at times--but the encounter with James had left him longing for House's touch and the comfort and reassurance he got from it. In his condition, House wouldn't be likely to complain, either.

“Did the Vicodin help at all?” He asked in a low voice.

"'m maxed out." Meaning, of course, that he had reached the point that taking any more wouldn't reduce his pain. 

Wilson ran his hand up to the base of House's neck and rubbed there slightly, playing with the short hairs at his nape. The room was dark and silent except for House's occasional grunt or sigh. Wilson let his head fall back against the couch and closed his eyes, running his hands through House's short, curly hair and massaging lightly. He listened to House breathe, felt the warmth of it against his thighs, breathed in House's smell, and felt himself relax into the peace of the moment. He rarely shared moments like these with House; the man was all tightly-bound rage and frustration and wielded a boundless curiosity with a mind that pierced like a javelin. Wilson treasured the times when House was warm and soft and quiescent against him.

A light snore pierced the silence and Wilson opened his eyes, glancing down at the heavy head cutting off the circulation to his legs. A soft smile crossed his lips. He glanced at his watch. 3:39. Enough time for a power nap, he thought, shifting slightly to get a bit more comfortable. His eyes drifted closed and he slipped into sleep.

He wasn't aware of the door opening fifteen minutes later or Cuddy striding inside with her mouth already open to speak. She stopped abruptly in the doorway when she saw House stretched out on Wilson's couch, his head pillowed in Wilson's lap, one hand grasping Wilson's on his abdomen and the other trailing on the ground. Wilson's other hand was buried in House's hair and his head was tilted back against the couch in slumber. She stood frozen, taking in every nuance of the scene. She could hardly believe seeing either of these men in such a vulnerable...loving position, though she couldn't deny that she had once wished to see House in such a way. But now that she did, she had to admit that they looked like they belonged together, as natural as breathing. 

A small, sad smile lifted her lips and she pulled her hi-tech Blackberry from her pocket. After all, she was not above blackmail, and this opportunity was far too good to pass up for a "rainy day" when House was being particularly childish. She snapped a few pictures and left, closing the door silently behind her. She informed Wilson's assistant that the oncologist wasn't to be disturbed unless in an emergency and strode out of the oncology department as confidently as she had strode in. She would tell Wilson about the department head meeting later.

Though Cuddy's little visit didn't waken Wilson, the vague pleasure stirring in his abdomen ten minutes later did. He stirred a little and his hands grasped reflexively, tightening in short, soft curls. Damp heat against his stomach made him breathe in sharply through his nose and open his eyes, looking down at his lap. House was nuzzling Wilson’s stomach, sealing his mouth over a gap between the buttons of his ironed shirt and exhaling hot breath through his thin undershirt. Wilson shivered.

“House, what are you doing?” Wilson said softly, his voice gravelly from sleep. House didn’t respond, but he didn’t have to because really, it was quite obvious. Wilson’s heart began beating faster and his penis hardened slightly. When he felt the movement beneath his cheek, House turned his head and moved lower, pressing open-mouthed kisses down Wilson’s stomach and over his fly. The position was kind of awkward since House was still stretched out on his back and side on the couch, but the contact was still electrifying.

Wilson couldn’t hold back a choked-off moan when House finally mouthed his hardening cock through the fabric of his slacks. They hadn’t done this yet. Truthfully, Wilson was eager to taste House fully and feel him in his mouth, but he was nervous that House would be disappointed. After all, Wilson had never given a blowjob before and he was wary about doing it without triggering his gag reflex and vomiting all over them.

His thoughts made him flag slightly and he suddenly remembered that they were in his office, where anyone could come in and find House blowing him on the couch. The diagnostician blew hot, damp breath through Wilson’s slacks, trying to reawaken his rapidly-fading erection.

“House… we can’t.” He ran this hands through House’s hair apologetically. House stilled and let out a frustrated groan into Wilson’s lap, dropping his head down hard. Wilson yelped.

“Damn it,” his lover cursed, turning his head to glare balefully up at Wilson. “You think too much. Even your dick remembers when it’s supposed to be the Head of Oncology.” He paused thoughtfully. “Except that would be a lot more impressive if it could remember when it’s supposed to be married.”

“My dick is brain-damaged.” Wilson motioned for House to sit up and slid out from under him when he did so. He checked his crotch to be sure there wasn’t an obvious damp spot from House’s mouth. “Is your headache gone?”

“Mostly. Your voice doesn’t make me want to take a pickaxe to my skull, anyway. At least, any more than usual.”

“Har-har-har.” The jibe was poor by House’s standards and Wilson couldn’t help but notice the tightness around his eyes and mouth. House was still in pain and Wilson hadn’t seen him take any Vicodin. He was still maxed out.

A pager went off and both men reached for their belts. It was House. He checked it and grimaced. 

"Patient's coding." He still didn't move.

"Well?" Wilson said finally, gesturing to the door. "Are you going to go see what's going on before she becomes even more brain-damaged than she is by now?"

House hesitated, about to say something, before he suddenly went still. He looked at Wilson--through him--with an expression that was very familiar to the oncologist. His friend had just realized something vital to the case. 

"Don't bother closing the door," Wilson called out as House gimped to the door and left without another word.

Wilson didn't wait for House to emerge from the diagnostic's conference room; judging from House's expression earlier, it would be a late night. Instead, he went home—back to House's apartment, that is—and made dinner after changing into worn, snug jeans and an old McGill sweater. Wilson knew that House loved it when he wore casual clothes, though he never said it out loud.

House often pointed out that it was infinitely cheaper and more convenient for Wilson to just move back into House's apartment rather than paying for a hotel room that he barely used to sleep in. The useless waste was incomprehensible to House, but it was important for Wilson to feel like he had some scrap of independence, especially after his final divorce and the subsequent upheaval of sexual confusion. He had enough uncertainty in his life right now that the security of having a faceless hotel room to run to was comforting. 

He left the soup on the stove for House and sat on the couch in front of the TV. He didn’t turn it on, however. The asinine drivel on the screen was nearly more than he could stand when he was alone, so he often substituted crossword puzzles or good books—his choice of entertainment—when House was gone. Two hours later, he was still deeply engrossed in his new novel when he was startled by his phone ringing shrilly in the silence. He fumbled for his phone and flipped it open.

“James Wilson.”

“Dr. Wilson? It’s Cameron.”

“Dr. Cameron? What’s wrong?” Wilson’s eyebrows lowered, a brief flash of panic darting through his chest at her hesitant voice.

“Nothing… I think,” she said. “It’s Dr. House. He’s been more… irritable than usual. He shouted at Chase and threw our test results in the trash and then he left without taking his coat or backpack. I just wanted you to know that he had left the hospital, so that…”

She trailed off, but Wilson knew what she was going to say. So that if he didn’t show up soon, then I’d know he either crashed or went to a bar. Wilson sighed, kneading his forehead.

“I understand. Thank you for letting me know.”

“Dr. Wilson, do you know what’s wrong with him? I noticed he was in pain earlier today.”

Wilson rolled his eyes. “He had a migraine this afternoon, but I think he slept most of it off. The stress of the case might have brought some of it back. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I’d better call him to make sure he’s okay. Thanks again.”

“See you on Monday.”

He hung up but didn’t bother calling House. He wouldn’t answer if he was on his bike or if he was in a pissy mood and wanted to drown his sorrows at a bar. Wilson didn’t let himself think about the possibility of House crashing his bike. Too nervous to wait placidly on the couch, he grabbed his dirty dishes from the couch and walked over to the kitchen. The apartment door opened just as he was passing it and his heart jumped into his throat with relief.


But just as he started to speak, House suddenly stumbled and nearly went down. The dishes shattered on the floor while Wilson leapt forward and caught his lover under the arms, taking House’s weight. House grunted, one hand reaching up to grasp Wilson’s shirt hard. He buried his face in Wilson’s neck.


“House, what the hell happened? Are you alright?”

“S-Something’s wrong…” House groaned and Wilson felt his veins turn to ice. He half-supported, half-dragged House to the couch and helped him sit down, ignoring the sharp pain in his foot as he accidentally stepped on a piece of broken porcelain.

“House, stay here. I’ll be right back.” Wilson ran to the bathroom and grabbed the well-stocked First Aid kit he had stashed here when House had moved in. It had everything from Band-Aids and ACE bandages to penlights and muscle relaxants. House was a walking disaster of Murphey’s Law, after all, and Wilson was always prepared.

House was mumbling to himself when Wilson returned and dropped to his knees in front of the diagnostician. He grabbed the penlight and started checking House’s vitals, listening closely.

“Presenting with… drowsiness, leth-lethargy, pruritus, sudden onset of headaches…” House slurred, falling silent when Wilson tipped his head up to check his pupil reactions. It was good, but a little slow. His heart rate was good as well. House was sweating slightly, but he had no fever. His head tipped forward and his eyes closed as he slumped against Wilson.

“Come on, House, stay with me!” Wilson called, trying to remain calm. He was forcing himself not to panic, falling back into doctor-mode instantly. “Don’t fall asleep. House? House, tell me if you’re feeling nauseous.”

House shook his head against Wilson’s shoulder. Wilson grabbed his shoulders and tilted him back to see his face.

“Okay. Do you feel cold?”

Another head shake.



“How’s your leg?”

“Leg..? Oh. Leg’s’okay. Goood…”

God. Add confusion to the list. House was deteriorating rapidly.

“Jimmy?” House said suddenly, sitting up straight. His eyes refocused abruptly and stared at Wilson with the familiar intensity House got while he was on a case. “Jimmy, get me to the hospital. Something’s not right. Something’s… ah, fuck…” He suddenly shut his eyes and groaned.

“House? House?” Wilson said urgently. House flinched from the sound with a whimper.

“Ow, owww... Shut up! S’too loud. S’too bright…” He moaned. He seemed to have faded back into confused lethargy. Wilson set his jaw determinedly and grabbed his keys from the table, shoving his bare feet into some worn tennis shoes. He helped House to the car, whining and flinching all the way, and drove like the devil himself was after him. Despite House’s phonophobia, Wilson called ahead for Cuddy to tell her to ready a gurney in the ER. She didn’t ask questions. It was likely that she had been preparing herself for a call like this for years. Wilson knew he had.

Three burly orderlies and a gurney were waiting for them at the sidewalk when Wilson pulled into the ER. They had House out and on the gurney before Wilson had even got out of the car. He hurriedly followed behind as they wheeled House into the ER, his eyes fixed on House’s form and ignoring all else. He had the vague impression of Cuddy striding strongly next to him while he absently answered the nurse’s questions, outlining House’s symptoms.

“J-Jimmy? Jimmy, where’d’you go?” House said loudly, moving his head restlessly and wincing despite the pain assaulting his senses. Wilson leapt forward and clasped his hand, running his fingers over House’s brow and down the side of his face comfortingly. House turned his face into the touch blindly, his eyes shut tight against the bright lights.

“I’m right here, Greg, right here. I’m not going anywhere.” Wilson murmured, ignoring the bustling movements of the nurses around him. House seemed to relax a bit. Wilson rarely used House’s given name except during moments of passion or concern and House simply refused to call Wilson anything more intimate than “Jimmy”. It was simply something that had become habit; normal to their relationship over the years, even when the relationship had changed to something deeper. In a fit of ardent possessiveness House sometimes displayed, the diagnostician had declared that only Wilson’s wives called him “James” and House refused to share anything with “those hatchet-faced, money-pinching hoe bags”.

With Wilson’s fingers still tightly entwined in his own, House tugged their hands down to his ruined thigh.

“Don’t let them take it, Jimmy. D-don’t let them take—m-my leg,” House gasped, sweat beading at his brow. Wilson sucked in a breath of shock. “You understand, don’t you? You… always unnerstand…” His voice drawled off in a slur and Wilson shut his eyes tightly, nodding and pressing a kiss to House’s cool forehead despite the other people in the room. Propriety or secrecy be damned, House was in pain and his confusion had taken him back to the days before the infarction. Wilson hadn’t been there then, but he sure as hell was here now. He wasn’t about to deny giving House any of the comfort he could give.

“Yeah, of course I understand, Greg. They won’t take your leg away,” Wilson assured him even as he watched House slip into sleep. The nurses had been taking House’s vitals and inserting an IV while they had been talking. The medication they had pushed into the IV—Ativan or some other sedative he had nodded to when they asked—had made House go out like a light.

“Dr. Wilson? James.” Wilson blinked and looked up as if rousing from a deep sleep, only now aware that he had been staring at House’s sleeping face for several minutes. Cuddy was standing next to his chair, watching him with deep concern in her eyes.

“Dr. Cuddy…” Wilson said quietly, standing up but not relinquishing his contact with House.

“You look like a wreck. Let me take you to get some coffee in the cafeteria so you can process this.”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Wilson protested immediately. “I’m… I’ve got to stay with him. His disorientation…” He didn’t finish the sentence, but he didn’t have to. Cuddy nodded reluctantly, apparently aware that she would not be able to move the oncologist from his lover’s bedside. She wasn’t about to give up so easily, however.

“You’ll need to talk to House’s team. I’ve called them in for a differential diagnosis and you’ll have to provide the history. Besides, you’re his medical proxy; you need to know their ideas and treatment plans.”

Wilson’s very being rebelled against the thought of leaving House’s side, but his rational mind won out and eventually he nodded. “Of course, I understand.”

He swallowed hard and turned his attention back to House, not saying anything else when she left the room. Time passed. Wilson didn’t know how much, exactly, since he was occupied with going over every second he had spent in House’s company the past several days, wondering how he could have missed this disease that had struck House down so suddenly. His physician’s mind couldn’t help but sort through House’s symptoms over and over again, matching them against every cancer or fatal disease he had ever learned about. Once he realized that he was actually coming up with matches, he forced himself to think different thoughts.

He flinched when the curtain separating House from the rest of the bustling ER was pulled aside and admitted a couple of nurses, who informed him that House had been set up with a private room and needed to be moved. Wilson nodded silently but didn’t move from House’s side while they wheeled him to the room. Wilson sent the nurses away and carefully reattached all of the monitors to House’s body himself, keeping an eye on all of the readings. He had been resettled with House for only a few minutes before the glass door slid open and House’s young team filed in with House’s whiteboard between them. He noticed that Cameron’s eyes instantly filled with tears at the sight of their boss (Wilson could imagine House’s reaction to that), while Chase looked vaguely concerned and Foreman was, as always, stoic and stone-faced. They all looked tired from the long hours.

“How is he?” Cameron finally asked after the solemn greetings. Wilson sighed and ran a hand through his hair, further mussing it and making it stick up in places.

“He’s stable at the moment. He’s sleeping, but it’s fitful.”

“We need to get started on diagnosing this thing before anything changes,” Foreman said. Wilson nodded at the whiteboard.

“I see that you came prepared.”

“We all know that House is stubborn enough to want in on his own differential,” Foreman said. “We’re just cutting out the middle man.”

“Dr. Wilson, if you could go through the last few days for us, we’ll just add the symptoms as we come across them,” Cameron suggested gently.

“I know how a differential works, Cameron. I’ve been best friends with House since you were passing notes in elementary school,” Wilson said sharply, bristling at being treated like the clueless family member of their usual patients. Cameron blinked in shock, her mouth opening and closing soundlessly. Chase looked impressed and Foreman was hiding a smirk. Wilson let out a sigh and rubbed at his forehead. His natural kindness and composure seemed to have abandoned him at the moment.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” he said. “This is all so sudden… Look, can we just…?”

Foreman nodded and picked up a marker expectantly.

“I would say that the first time I noticed something being off was yesterday. He didn’t eat all day except—” he glanced apologetically at Chase, “—he mentioned that he had stolen half of Chase’s tuna sandwich.”

“I knew it!” Chase blurted. Wilson ignored him.

“He didn’t eat today, either. House only forgets to eat when he’s on a case, but he didn’t even eat anything when we went to lunch today.” Foreman added loss of appetite to the top of the board. Wilson continued. “He also slept deeply through the night, which is unusual for him. When his insomnia doesn’t keep him up, his leg will usually wake him up at least once.” Although Wilson had noticed a marked decrease in House’s insomnia ever since they had started sleeping in the same bed, but he didn’t mention that. Foreman added drowsiness to the board. No one asked how Wilson knew House hadn’t woken up, but he noticed Cameron give him a curious glance.

“Then this afternoon he had a migraine and hid in my office to sleep some of it off. He rarely has headaches.” Foreman wrote it down. “I went home at five, so you probably know what he was like before he went home.”

“He seemed like he was in pain, but he was fine other than that. Pissed as hell, but…” Chase shrugged eloquently.

“Well, sometime between leaving the hospital and arriving at his apartment, the rest of his symptoms showed up. He started diagnosing himself in the living room, saying he was presenting with drowsiness, lethargy, headaches…” Wilson squinted up at the ceiling, trying to remember everything House had said. “And pruritus, but I didn’t see him scratching anywhere. After that, the migraine came back. He became disoriented, confused, photophobic and phonophobic. The onset seemed very sudden. It’s amazing that he was able to make it home on his bike without crashing.”

Foreman was busily writing everything Wilson said and Cameron added that his blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart rate were normal.

“Has he gone anywhere or done anything different lately? It could be environmental; something he ingested or inhaled,” Chase suggested.

“No, and he hasn’t done any drugs lately, if that’s what you’re asking,” Wilson said dryly, but the edge in his voice was clear. Chase backed off but didn’t look convinced.

“We’ve already sent some blood to be screened for toxins and STDs. We’ll know what we can rule out then,” Foreman interrupted impatiently.

“I force House to let me give him a full work-up every year,” Wilson said. “I gave him his most recent one two months ago. He was clean and I know he hasn’t contracted anything since then.” As doctors, both he and House had always been very aware of what unexpected surprises unprotected sex could yield and so they never failed to be careful when it came to having sex. Even though they hadn’t planned on having sex right away, they had given each other physicals when they decided to take their relationship further.

To Wilson’s chagrin, his statement didn’t convince them of anything. Foreman and Chase stared at the whiteboard in thought while Cameron searched diligently through a copy of House’s file that they had gotten a hold of. Wilson knew she wouldn’t find anything useful. Both of House’s parents were relatively healthy and nothing in his family looked like this.

“Could be an infection,” Chase spoke up, breaking the silence.

“No fever,” Cameron countered absently.

“There are several kinds of tumors or cancer that could cause these types of symptoms,” Wilson admitted reluctantly. Foreman nodded gravely.

“It’s obviously neurological. Something, whatever the original cause, is messing with his brain,” he said in his blunt manner.

“We’re already running his blood through all of the tests; we should MRI him now and scan his brain,” Cameron said firmly and it seemed everyone agreed. Wilson, of course, refused to move from House’s side during the tests and several long hours later found him, exhausted and bleary-eyed, next to House’s bed once more while the rest of his team alternately rested and searched House’s apartment for environmental causes while they waited for the results. Despite his vigilance, Wilson found himself quickly succumbing to the exhaustion that plagued him. He rested his head on the bed next to House’s hip and watched his lover’s face in repose while he allowed the comforting, steady beep of the heart monitors to lull him to sleep.

The feeling of fingers running through his hair woke him an indeterminate amount of time later. He leaned into the comforting feeling with a soft murmur of pleasure, still mostly asleep. Long, slender fingers belonging to a pianist or a surgeon or an artist, Wilson thought dreamily. Tipped with calluses from guitar strings. Familiar fingers.

“Greg…” he breathed. The fingers stilled for a moment and he mumbled in protest, pressing closer to the warmth beside his head. The fingers began their gentle movement again.

“I’m right here, Jimmy.” House’s rasping voice brought some awareness back to the oncologist and he opened his eyes to see House looking down at him with an almost affectionate expression. “This scene is a bit too familiar for my tastes. How long have you been sitting there?”

“Ever since you were admitted. Nearly seven hours, probably.” He sat up, groaning as his stiff muscles protested at the change in position, and grasped House’s hand in his own when it fell from his hair. He stretched and sighed deeply, bringing House’s hand to his face and nuzzling against it with a soft smile. He closed his eyes and pressed a kiss to House’s palm, savoring the feel of his skin, warm and alive beneath his lips. “It’s good to see you awake.”

The expression on House’s face when he opened his eyes made him blink in surprise. House’s face was entirely closed off, shuttered and expressionless in a way that Wilson hadn’t seen directed toward him since the debacle with Vogler. His eyes, always the most expressive part of his face, were wary and curious, examining Wilson as if he were a particularly interesting puzzle. His body was stiff.

Wilson’s brow furrowed. “What? Did you draw on my face while I was asleep or something?”

“I’m hallucinating,” House stated calmly. A thrill of alarm shot through Wilson.

“What? What are you seeing?”

“Interesting. You look like Wilson, you sound like Wilson, you even have that annoying concerned look in your eye like he does, and yet you can’t be him.”

“House? Greg, what are you talking about? I’m right here; I’m real!” Wilson said emphatically. He reached out, but his fingers only brushed House’s cheek before he jerked away like a skittish animal.

“Of course, my hallucinations have always been realistic, but I’ve only dreamed of us getting it on. And I’m not dreaming now,” House continued in that infuriatingly level tone. He looked Wilson over carefully. “I wonder why now.”

Wilson frowned and released House’s hand. He fought to hide his concern as he leaned over to grab a cup of water for House, glancing over at the shadowed white board in the corner of the room. It must be nearly dawn by now, he thought absently. House glanced at it curiously as well, but didn’t comment.

“House, do you know what day it is?” Wilson asked, forcing his voice to be calm.

“Does it matter? Even if I don’t know, you—as a manifestation of my mind—obviously knows, which means that I already know what day it is.”

“It’s June 14th,” Wilson said. “Well, 15th, now.” House obviously hadn’t been expecting that; surprise flickered in his eyes, quickly followed by the first hint of uncertainty he had shown since waking.

“Of 2001?” He asked. “But the infarction was only five months ago. That can’t be right…”

Wilson flinched and closed his eyes. House still thought it was fall of 2000. No wonder he thought he was hallucinating; in his mind, he had just broken up with Stacy and Wilson was still married to Bonnie. Wilson opened his eyes and glanced at the whiteboard again. House’s symptoms were getting worse.

“House, you’re disoriented,” he explained calmly. “It’s 2006. You’ve been sick for the last couple of days.” House had followed Wilson’s gaze and was staring at the whiteboard in the corner of the room. No doubt he had already guessed that he was the patient the symptoms applied to. Wilson resisted the urge to sigh and stood up, needing to do something with his nervous energy. “Let me take a set of vitals. You’ve been asleep since you were admitted and you should be evaluated.”

“Are we together now, Wilson?” House asked in that deadened voice. Wilson hesitated for a split second, feeling a blush rise on his cheeks, but kept his expression neutral as he checked House’s pupil reactions.

“Yes. For almost three months now,” he said. House snorted rudely.

“Amazing. I can’t believe we haven’t torn each other apart by now. You must be a great fuck.” His eyes met Wilson’s, cold and cruel. Wilson flinched back, shocked at the harsh words.


“Or maybe I’m the one that spreads my legs and takes it up the ass for you. Am I good, Jimmy? I’m sure I try real hard to make sure I can keep you. After all, we all know about how your dick likes to wander across—”

“Stop it! Just shut up, House, you don’t know what you’re—” Wilson stopped, took a deep breath. House is scared and frustrated, he reminded himself. He doesn’t know what’s going on. House was scrutinizing him again, watching his reactions. “Look, we haven’t even done… it yet. We’re just taking it—”

“What, taking it slow? Don’t try and sugarcoat it, honey, you’re just trying to put off doing the nasty with the ugly old cripple who—”

“I love you. I loved you back then just as much as I love you now,” Wilson interrupted firmly. “You know that I would do anything for you. Don’t cheapen this. We have more respect for each other than that.”

House was finally silent, his eyes dropping away from Wilson’s compassionate gaze to the IV in his hand. He scratched at a slightly reddened bump between the knuckles just above the injection site. Wilson remained silent, too, making notes on House’s chart and checking the readings on the monitor even though they didn’t need to be checked.

“Sorry.” House finally mumbled, so quiet that Wilson barely heard him.

“It’s alright. You’re an ass—a confused ass, but still an ass—and I don’t expect that to change,” Wilson said, letting a little bit of warmth and humor return to his voice. House dipped his chin to his chest in a familiar half-nod, his eyes dropping down and to the side before returning to Wilson’s eyes. His version of a thank you. Wilson reached over and—keeping in mind the boundaries that had been in place six years ago—settled for squeezing House’s shoulder.

He jerked his hand back a split second after contact, startled at the nearly searing temperature of House’s body beneath his hand. He switched on the thermometer reading on one of House’s monitors. 105.8.

“Jesus, Greg—!” He swore and jabbed the nurse call button. “You’re burning up, dammit, why didn’t you tell me? Get me ice packs and a cooling blanket, stat! And page the diagnostics team!” He barked at the nurse that rushed in. He ripped the blankets off of House’s body and started placing the ice packs around House’s legs, groin, chest, armpits, and neck once they arrived. House’s skin was dry and tight as the fever raged unchecked and his eyes began to look a little glazed as they stared at the board in the corner.

“Headaches, confusion, drowsiness…” House was mumbling to himself. “Do I have a concussion?”

Cameron, Chase, and Foreman arrived, panting. “No, you don’t have a concussion,” Wilson told House as he watched the temperature reading. It hadn’t even gone down a degree. Foreman stepped forward.

“We got the test results back. Tox screen was clean, no STDs, no cancer. No abscesses, but there’s some swelling in the brain. Raised white cell count. It’s an infection.”

“Why didn’t his fever present until now?” Cameron asked.

“It’s his damn Vicodin,” Wilson said, kneading his neck frantically. “He takes enough acetaminophen every day that he never would have presented with a fever until we replaced it with morphine and it worked out of his system.”

House was still rambling to himself. “Photophobia, phonophobia… well, not now since that morphine is fantastic. No rigidity, but that doesn’t mean anything. Pruritus? What the hell?” He squinted and seemed to be thinking before his expression cleared. “Ah. Of course. And with the fever… Wilson, you’ll need to do an LP. Looks like Dracula was a Capitalist.”

“God, House, this really isn’t the time to be diagnosing yourself,” Wilson groaned.

“He has a better chance of figuring it out than we do, even while his brain is frying,” Chase pointed out.

“’Cause I’m just that good,” House piped up, his focus obviously beginning to falter. His temperature was still at 105.3.

“He isn’t cooling down fast enough,” Foreman said. “Who knows how long his temp was this high before we discovered it? We have to get him into an ice bath before his brain completely fries.” Wilson’s eyes widened and he blanched.

No!” His cry was echoed by House, who suddenly looked as alarmed as his team had ever seen him. “Wait. We just have to wait a little longer.”Wilson continued, trying to keep his voice steady and not entirely succeeding.

“Wilson, who are these quacks?” House barked, glowering fiercely at the young doctors. They glanced at each other with wary looks.

“They’re your team of fellows. Cuddy made you hire them in 2003. He thinks it’s 2000,” Wilson added for the team’s benefit.

“Well, they’re idiots!” House spat. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard, his cheeks flushing with effort and distress.

“House, you’re headed straight for hyperpyrexia. We need to get you cooled down immediately,” Foreman urged. House stubbornly ignored him, turning his head away like a child. Foreman looked at Wilson, his eyes pleading with him to see reason. Wilson hesitated. He was torn. As a physician, he knew exactly what the dangers of an uncontrolled fever were, but as Gregory House’s best friend and lover, he also knew exactly what it would do to House to put him through that.

“Jimmy,” House said suddenly, looking lost and glazed. “I… I don’t think I’m gonna…” He trailed off and his head slumped to the pillows as he slipped into unconsciousness.

“Greg!” Wilson leapt to House’s side and grabbed his hand. The fever was at 105.1. He bit his lip, debating, before he turned to Foreman. “Let’s do it. Hurry, and you’d better pray to God that he stays unconscious for it.”

Instantly, the doctors leapt into action, ordering for a bath to be filled and detaching House from his monitors. Wilson lingered for a moment after they transferred House to a waiting gurney and pressed a kiss to his lover’s forehead, clutching his hand.

“God, Greg, I’m so sorry. Forgive me,” he murmured against his skin before straightening and helping the other doctors push the gurney to the waiting ice bath. He pocketed two syringes of Ativan on the way out. The thin gown House was wearing barely covered his upper thighs and Wilson could see Cameron—positioned at House’s right hip—looking at the dark, heavily puckered seam of scar tissue that was left after the infarction. Chase, at House’s other hip, avoided looking at it and Foreman concentrated on getting a good grip on House’s left shoulder. Between the four of them, they managed to lift and lower House into the ice bath. The moment his skin was enveloped by the freezing water, however, his eyes flew open, pupils constricted in terror, and he gasped.

“Hold him!” Wilson warned a split second before House began struggling. House’s team looked startled, especially when he began talking.

“No—no!” House cried, his voice cracked and strained. He sounded very young to Wilson’s ears. “Oh G-G-God, not again! Not again… I didn’t mean to, I swear!”

“Wilson…” Chase said slowly, his brow furrowed in confusion. “What’s going on?” Wilson ignored him.

“House! Greg, it’s me, Jimmy Wilson!” Wilson attempted to get House’s attention, but he doubted that it would help. House was lost in a past that was long before he had ever met James Wilson. “Greg, you’re okay. You’re safe, we’re just trying to get the fever down, do you understand? We’re trying to help you, you’re safe.”

Water and ice seemed to be splashed everywhere. Wilson’s entire torso was already soaked through and he was starting to shiver along with House as he kept up his steady stream of comforting murmurs. House’s movements were becoming more sluggish even as he continued to struggle, still protesting the “punishment” in that lost little boy tone. Cameron’s face was streaked with tears.

Suddenly, House’s right leg slipped from Cameron’s grasp and slammed against the side of the metal tub hard. House let out a keening whimper and froze, the hot spike of pain seeming to trigger some kind of trained response. He went silent and still, his eyes closed and his jaw clenched tight. His fingers curled around the edge of the tub and his knuckles went white. His breathing was fast and shallow and his body was shivering heavily by now.

Wilson didn’t relax from his position wrapped around House’s torso from behind even as his arms began to go numb from the cold. His head was aligned next to House’s and so he was the first to hear when House began mumbling under his breath.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” He repeated over and over. “I’ll b-be a g-good boy. I’ll be the b-best boy. You’ll never n-need to punish m-me ever again. C-can we please stop now, Dad? I d-don’t n-need this lesson, I promise…”

Foreman and Chase were looking at each other from across the tub, comprehension giving way to a dawning horror. Cameron removed her hands from the water and turned away, hugging herself tightly around her waist. Wilson just held House tightly and pressed sloppy kisses to the side of his face, tasting the salt of tears. His own or House’s, he didn’t know.

“You’re a good boy, Greg. Don’t worry, you’re safe, we’re trying to help you,” he repeated, trying to drown out House’s child-like apologies and pleas for relief. Finally, when all of their hands had been thoroughly numbed and House had trailed off into exhausted silence, Chase took House’s temperature and noted that it was down to acceptable levels. They enlisted the aid of two more nurses to get him out of the tub and back onto the gurney. House blinked lethargically as they wheeled him back into his room.

Wilson dismissed the two nurses after they helped move House back to his bed and stepped closer to the head of House’s bed, rubbing his reddened hands as the feeling returned with a stinging sensation. Suddenly, his hands were caught between House’s and his breath caught as he looked into guileless blue eyes.

“Are your hands cold, too?” House asked with a childish solemnity that was incongruous with his deep adult voice. Wilson nodded, not trusting his voice. House chafed Wilson’s hands slightly. “You’re not used to it yet. That’s okay, I figured it out forever ago. When the pins and needles come back, you have to hold them in really, really hot water, even though it hurts, okay? ‘Cause if you don’t then it’ll hurt for a lot longer.”

Wilson smiled weakly. “You’re a smart kid, aren’t you?” He said, reaching up to brush the wet curls from House’s forehead. No one in the room missed the way the diagnostician flinched away. Foreman made a disgusted sound and turned away. Cameron started crying again. Chase looked green.

“Look, we’re all tired and wet,” Wilson finally said, stepping away from the bed. “I suggest we all take a hot shower and change our clothes before we do anything else. I’m going to help House change and I’ll inject an anti-pyretic into his line. Hopefully, that’ll take care of the fever.”

House’s team nodded absently in silent acceptance and silently filed out of the room with final glances at House. Wilson sighed and closed the door after them, shutting the blinds for privacy. He helped House into a new gown and settled him underneath the covers before reattaching all of his monitors. By the time he had finished, House was asleep again and Wilson was nearly dead on his feet. His wet clothes still clung to him and he knew that if he didn’t get changed soon, he would get sick.

For the first time that night, Wilson left House’s bedside and ventured up to his office for a clean shirt before retreating to the men’s locker room. He slowly shed his wet shirt, jeans, and the blood-soaked sneakers he had been wearing since he had dashed out of the apartment. He winced in pain as the shallow cut stung in the warm water from the shower head. Sighing, he tipped his head back and let the hot water stream over his skin, coursing streams over his shoulders, down his back, over his stomach and thighs. It was here that he let his tears come, if only for a minute or so. God knew House didn’t need his pity or his sadness or his anger, and Wilson had already spent those tears in secrecy long ago. He only cried now for causing House pain.

Wilson wandered past the diagnostics department on his way back from his office and stepped inside when he saw House’s team there, looking clean but exhausted and not a little disillusioned. It was clear that they weren’t going to rest until they had some answers. Wilson nodded his thanks as Cameron set a fresh cup of steaming coffee in front of him and he wrapped his fingers around the familiar red mug, inhaling the scent and letting it relax him.

“Wilson, what the hell was that in there?” Foreman asked, apparently tired of waiting. He got up and paced angrily in front of the table. “I mean, a little warning would have been nice. Maybe a ‘be careful, he’s going to freak out,’ or ‘watch out, you’re going to learn shit about your boss you never dreamed’!”

Wilson shook his head. “It wouldn’t have mattered; you wouldn’t have understood.”

“I would’ve liked to know that I was endangering the Hippocratic Oath we take as doctors,” Cameron spoke up. Her eyes were red and Wilson could already see the depths of pity firmly rooted in her gaze. Oh, House is not gonna like that one bit. “We’re supposed to cause no harm. Forcing an abuse victim to relive their experiences is hardly—”

“Oh, please!” Wilson snorted, his anger stirring on House’s behalf. “Do you remember who you’re working for? You all break laws regularly, not to mention the Hippocratic Oath, while you’re working on a case, so don’t try to act self-righteous. In this case, the benefit to the patient far outweighed the damage. House understands that. Trust me, it was far more difficult for me to see him that way than you.”

“What happened to him?” Chase broke in unexpectedly before Cameron could respond. He seemed genuinely concerned. Wilson leaned forward on his elbows with a sigh and kneaded his forehead with one hand.

“House was physically and emotionally abused by his father when he was a child,” he began tiredly. “He was often told how useless and imperfect he was as a son and a man. His father masked his abuse as ‘punishments’ or ‘lessons’; locking Greg out of the house to sleep in the backyard or on the doorstep during winter nights, smacking him around, or forcing him to stay in a tub full of ice water until he was in danger of hypothermia.”

The young doctors blanched, something within them recoiling at the thought of something so horrible happening to someone they knew and respected, however grudgingly.

“But… why?” Chase finally choked out. “I mean… we met the guy. Yeah, he was a little—er, robotic, but… normal.”

Wilson shook his head and shrugged, at a loss. “Greg was obviously a very gifted child from a young age, but even back then he didn’t like to conform to other people’s expectations. And John House is nothing if a strict conformist. He was a military man—a man’s man—and he was ashamed that his son never seemed to fit the mold. Now, they rarely have much to do with each other anymore.” Wilson didn’t mention the spiteful comments John House directed towards his son about his disability or Blythe House’s guilty silence or the way House’s palms would come away bloody from an encounter with them.

“When did you find out?” Foreman asked, finally coming to a halt.

“A long time ago,” Wilson said thoughtfully, his eyes sad. “Little bits and pieces at a time. Signs I picked up after being so close to him for so long. He’s really very good at hiding things that hurt him.”

“You’re… with him, aren’t you? I mean, you’re together,” Cameron said haltingly, the words seeming to be dragged from her with reluctance and dismay, but she couldn’t help herself. Wilson wasn’t surprised that they found out; they were clever doctors after all and he hadn’t bothered being discreet about holding House’s hand or kissing his cheek. Still, he felt himself blushing a little but he nodded firmly, his eyes level with hers and his chin tipped up in confidence. He refused to be ashamed of his relationship with House.

“For a few months now. No one else besides Cuddy knows and we would appreciate it if it stays that way as long as possible. I… trust that won’t be a problem?” He challenged them with his eyes. Cameron shook her head, looking like she might start crying again. Chase looked surprised, as if he hadn’t suspected anything or at least hadn’t expected his suspicions to be proven correct, but he shook his head anyway. Foreman obviously didn’t give a damn one way or another who House or Wilson slept with as long as it didn’t affect his job.

“Good,” Wilson said, feeling a possessive sort of satisfaction curl in his chest like a sated jungle cat. “Then we should try to diagnose him again. With the fever, it’s definitely an infection of some kind.”

“It’s obvious House had some idea of what it was when he was awake,” Chase pointed out. “What was he saying?” Wilson tried to recite as much of it as he could from memory.

“He wanted an LP?” Foreman asked, his brow furrowed. “We would have to MRI his brain again to make sure that swelling hasn’t gotten any worse to avoid damage. What would he want us to test for?”

“There are only so many infections that would appear in cerebrospinal fluid,” Cameron said. “If we look at his symptoms… sudden onset of headaches, loss of appetite, confusion, drowsiness, sensitivity to light and sound, brain swelling…”

“He also said ‘no rigidity,’” Chase broke in excitedly. “The classic triad of symptoms for meningitis is sudden high fever, altered mental state, and nuchal rigidity. But all three present in only half of patients; that’s why he said it didn’t matter. It fits all of his symptoms!”

“He doesn’t have a petechial rash or sepsis. If it’s meningitis, we’ve caught it very early,” Cameron said doubtfully. “It could just as easily be encephalitis, or even encephalomeningitis.”

“All of which are treatable and confirmed with an LP,” Wilson said quickly. “This is good news, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Foreman said cautiously. “But it doesn’t cure the underlying problem. What’s the bacteria or virus that’s causing the meningitis?”

“And what about the pruritus? That doesn’t fit any of the diagnoses,” Chase pointed out. Wilson frowned, frustrated, but forced himself to think.

“I… never saw him scratch constantly anywhere in the last few days,” he admitted. “But he may have thrown it out. I mean, itching isn’t really a symptom of anything, is it? He’s not even allergic to anything.”

“What was the last thing he said?” Cameron asked. “Something about Dracula?”

“’Turns out Dracula was a Capitalist’,” Foreman snorted. “Another one of his damn metaphors. You’d think that he’d just tell us outright what the disease is when he’s the one who’s got it.”

“We are talking about House, aren’t we?” Wilson said dryly.

“Dracula, Dracula…” Chase mused. “Obviously, he’s not talking about an actual person. Something that bites or sucks blood…”

“Capitalism is all about trade; giving something up in exchange for something else,” Cameron said, continuing her own train of thought.

“…Something like a Vampire bat? House was bit by a bat?” Chase muttered.

“Pretty sure I would notice that,” Wilson said. Chase ignored him, continuing.

“Something that sucks blood and leaves something behind… possibly causing itching…” Chase froze, his head snapping up. “Like a mosquito. He has West Nile Virus.”

“Damn,” Foreman said, shaking his head. “It fits. I can’t believe he figured it out while his brain was practically fried.”

Wilson shrugged, unable to restrain a smile of hope and relief. “It’s House.”

“You should’ve seen Cameron’s face—she looked like I’d chopped off her puppy’s head and stuck it on a spike in her front yard.” Wilson chuckled, popping some more fries into his mouth. “She probably hates me for taking you away from her. I wouldn’t be surprised if my coffee is spiked with something from now on.”

“Hm, maybe I can give her a few suggestions. It’s nice to have a willing love slave to boss around,” House said, quirking his lips in a crooked leer. Wilson scoffed.

“Oh, and what am I? Chop suey?”

“Well, you’re hardly my love slave. You wouldn’t even consider trying that one position with the chair and the couch cushion.”

“House, I’m pretty sure Olympic gymnasts aren’t flexible enough for that position, much less two middle-aged men starting their first homosexual relationship.”

“Necessity is the mother of invention, Wilson.”

“Well, I’d like to keep all of my limbs—and genitals—in nice working order, so I doubt we’ll be abusing the furniture like that in the near future.”

“Not any more than we usually do, anyway,” House growled and Wilson felt a warm twist in his belly despite himself. House had been at the hospital for a full week by now and with the proper antibiotics and treatments, his symptoms had almost completely vanished. Recovering from West Nile would definitely be a long convalescence, however; House would find in the coming weeks that he would often become drowsy and his muscles would be weak while he slowly recovered. He was on a strong cocktail of antibiotics and anti-virals for the encephalomeningitis as well as the West Nile. Luckily, Cameron had been correct in guessing that they had caught it quite early and would most likely resolve itself with no further complications.

“How long have I been in here?” House asked with a tone that Wilson couldn’t immediately recognize.

“A week. You nearly scared me to death.”

“But you’re alive. And I’m alive,” House mused, a wicked glint in his eye. “And it’s been over seven days since you’ve had sex. You must be nearly bursting, Jimmy.”

Wilson instantly flushed hotly and glared at his lover, glancing around to make sure they were alone. “House!” He hissed.

“Nothing like some hot, life-affirming sex to kick off a long convalescence.” He waggled his eyebrows outrageously.

“In the hospital? I’m pretty sure that violates our ‘no sex at work’ rule.”

“We’re not working, are we?”

“No, but we’re also not exploring your exhibitionist tendencies.”

“Aw, come on, Wilson…” House whined in a pitchy voice. A thought suddenly occurred to Wilson and he looked at his lover carefully, dropping all signs of humor or teasing.

“Greg, why are you doing this?” he asked hesitantly, keeping his expression serious. “You’re not trying to get me to sleep with you as a way to keep me from… from cheating on you or something, are you? Because I’m not going to, you know—cheat on you, I mean. ” Wilson cleared his throat and fiddled awkwardly with the hospital-issue bedspread. This wasn’t coming out as smoothly as he’d hoped it would. He took a deep breath. “I mean, I love you. I was too blind and in denial before to see the full extent of it, but now that I’ve found what I’ve been looking for, I’m not going to give you up. Not for anything. Or anyone. Because I love you.”

He glanced up through his lashes as his speech came to a stuttering halt. House had actually pulled his head back and was looking at Wilson as if gauging his sanity. His face was scrunched in incredulity and suspicion.

“What the hell are you babbling about, Wilson? Are you on drugs?” Obviously, he didn’t remember his confused state of mind during his illness.

Wilson rolled his eyes but leaned forward, taking House’s hand in his. “This is serious! It was something you said while you were disoriented. You thought it was 2000—right after Stacy left—and after I told you we were together now, you… were saying something about how you would… bottom for me just to make sure I wouldn’t cheat on you. If you feel like—like that, then I think that’s something we should talk about before we take this any farther.”

Something in House’s face softened as comprehension dawned. His voice was exasperated and affectionate when he spoke. “Wilson, you melodramatic, overly-sensitive boob! I was sick! I didn’t know what the hell I was saying or what was happening half the time. Stop over-thinking it.”

Wilson frowned and his expression didn’t waver. He was unconvinced. House sighed and squeezed Wilson’s hand. “Look,” he said quietly, catching and holding Wilson’s eyes despite his obvious discomfort at the conversation topic. “If I thought Stacy had just left and you were suddenly claiming to be my shag monkey, I was probably confused and pissed as hell. Even though she betrayed me, I still loved Stacy and a part of me always will, even though I know that a relationship with her will never be possible again. I could never trust…” He trailed off and closed his eyes for a long moment before continuing. “Point is, back then I thought that I could never be in a relationship again, with anyone. And considering your track record, I probably thought there was nothing to stop you from cheating on an old, useless cripple.” He shrugged at Wilson’s wince as if to say, Well, it’s true. And Wilson knew it was.

“I’ve changed a lot since then, and so have you. I don’t know if we would’ve lasted if we were the same people we were back then. It took me a long time to get over Stacy and I don’t know if I would’ve ever been with someone again if it wasn’t you.”

Warmth spread through Wilson’s chest and he felt a hot stinging sensation at the corners of his eyes. From House, that was practically a declaration of love on bended knee. Before Wilson could give in to the huge, watery grin he could feel tugging at his lips, he ducked down and pressed his lips against House’s. The diagnostician’s mouth opened under his immediately and several long seconds passed as they devoured each other’s mouths. Wilson let out a sound when House bit his lower lip and swiped his tongue over it soothingly. Wilson pulled back long enough to gulp some air.

“Lucky me,” he panted against House’s lips before he dove in again. His hand slid up House’s chest and buried in his short hair as House slanted his lips over Wilson’s and mapped out every centimeter of Wilson’s mouth with his tongue. Wilson groaned and pressed closer when House’s hand crept down to grab a handful of Wilson’s ass. He kneaded the firm flesh hard, prompting Wilson to let out a gasp and press hot open-mouthed kisses from House’s jaw down to his neck where he continued to nip and suck on the sensitive flesh.

“Damn it, Wilson,” House groaned, tilting his neck back to facilitate his lover’s eager movements, “I’m gonna fuck you through the fucking mattress once I’m out of this hellhole and back on my feet.”

Wilson felt a shudder ripple from his scalp to the tips of his toes at the husky need in House’s voice. “God, Greg…”

The sound of a stifled gasp and a clearing throat behind them abruptly brought Wilson back to Earth and he remembered where they were. He froze for a heartbeat, one hand gripping behind House’s neck while the other snaked up his hospital gown beneath the sheets and his face buried in House’s neck, before he quickly stood and tried to straighten his clothes. His face was burning, but he couldn’t turn around until his erection had faded some more.

“Oh God, this is not happening,” he muttered to himself. He yelped when House’s hand, still groping his ass, lifted to land a hard slap. He scuttled out of House’s reach and sat down in the visitor’s chair once more, glaring at his lover. House looked completely unrepentant, shamelessly smacking his kiss-swollen lips and winking at Wilson.

“Ah, magically delicious.”

Wilson covered his eyes with his hand. “God, House, just shut up.” He finally turned to the audience at the door, cringing inwardly when he saw House’s team as well as Cuddy herself. He licked his own reddened lips in an unconsciously nervous gesture. “Uh… sorry. Can we help you?”

“Yes, not traumatizing everyone on this floor would be just great,” Cuddy said with a smirk. Chase and Foreman were looking anywhere but at Wilson or House, Chase looking deeply embarrassed and somewhat traumatized while Foreman wore his carefully-cultivated expression of nonchalance. Cameron was helpfully pulling the blinds closed over the glass walls so Wilson couldn’t see her expression.

“Oh, come on, they loved it. Seeing the puppy-faced, pretty boy James Wilson all hot and bothered probably set back their recovery by at least two weeks. That’s more money for you.”

“Thank you for always having the hospital’s welfare in mind,” Cuddy said dryly. Cameron, apparently, thought it was safe to look again at this point, her eyes still wide and slightly betrayed-looking. Wilson thought that she should get over it already. Cuddy continued briskly. “Now, I wanted to go over some administrative papers with you regarding your team, House. This is obviously the best time I’m going to get you since you can’t leave. And no, Wilson can’t get you out of it.”

Indeed, House was trying to signal Wilson to step in, but Wilson was already making his excuses, having been threatened by Cuddy earlier when she had told him about this.

“I’ve, er, got to go do rounds, anyway,” Wilson said, holding up his hands defensively and shrugging apologetically at House. “I’ll see you later, House.”

“I’ll try to keep him intact,” Cuddy added dryly.

“You’d better make it up to me, Wilson!” House shouted as Wilson slipped out the door. “And pancakes won’t cut it anymore! You have to do that thing with your tongue and whipped cream!”