Tick tock, tick tock. House is starting to wonder if this whole challenge thing wasn’t an incredibly stupid idea -- not seriously, because of course it’s not a stupid idea, he definitely thought things through for two or three seconds before throwing the sex gauntlet down at Wilson’s feet.
It’s not that the countdown isn’t a great idea, it’s that it’s more inevitably a countdown to Wilson figuring out why a countdown, and then what the actual countdown is to. And honestly he has no idea how Wilson’s going to react to any of that, or he has some idea and that’s even scarier.
It’s unpleasant. But it’s way easier to be worried about your best friend’s reaction to finding out you’re getting married than to be worried about getting married and being married.
“You have got to tell him,” Cuddy says, resting back on her elbows, appraising House as he shaves. “This is getting completely ridiculous.”
“And we never do ridiculous!” House declares. “We’re such serious people.”
“This is different, House.”
“It’ll be fine,” he says directly, keeping on. “He may be firmly ensconced in horrible bachelorhood right now but he’ll soon find his way into the loving embrace of a woman who will inevitably marry him because of his warm lovable blah, blah, blah.”
“So you want him to be married because you’re going to be married,” Cuddy concludes, slowly.
“I want him to be married because he wants him to be married. I’m a good friend like that.”
“Then why don’t you just tell him the truth? I don’t get the run-around.”
House looks at her reflection in the mirror, raises his eyebrows at her, and says, “Little insensitive, isn’t it? 'What about that epic proposal fail, huh? By the way, I’m marrying my girlfriend out of nowhere.'”
“Your pregnant girlfriend,” Cuddy pronounces. “It’s different.”
“I’m not even sure why we’re bothering,” House says. “Why don’t I just move in?”
“We’re not having this argument again. I already won it.”
He sighs, an only half-faked long-suffering groan. “Fiiiiine, god. He’s got a day and a half, then I’m just going to tell him.”
“I’m glad you’ve finally reached the obviously non-insane approach to this, after a week and a half,” Cuddy says, and lounges back. He takes in more than an eyeful, and groans when she pulls the sheet over her body. “No. Not until you’ve stopped wussing out on being open with Wilson. He deserves this.”
“I thought you’d want me to use the soft touch, not the bad touch,” House says, and makes a face at her. “Fine. I’ll get around to it.”
Spoiler alert: he does not get around to it. It’s too much fun needling Wilson and setting him up with as many women as possible as often as possible, and also he really doesn’t want to see Wilson’s face, not yet, even though it’s inevitable.
This is really stupid. This whole thing is really stupid.
He goes to check on Wilson and report on the newest available pussy when Wilson raises his hand and regrettably answers with, “One more pussy joke and you can buy your own damned lunch.”
This is incredibly frustrating, probably even moreso than Wilson not having gotten laid except with Sociopath Sam, but he puts up with it. “Just updating you on the Lady Count,” he says, “I count four eligible bachelorettes who you haven’t fucked yet and who would happily fuck you. I haven’t checked, yet. Do you want me to?”
“House, you are not my -- ” Wilson throws his hands up. “Why is it so important to you that I get laid?”
“Because you’re moping, it’s depressing, it takes you months, and it’s boooooring,” House complains, with much emphasis, especially on the last word.
Wilson’s got that look on his face like he’s finally puzzling it out. Damn, damn, damn. “But why ten days?” he presses. “Do you know something I don’t, or are you keeping something from me?”
House rolls his eyes and refrains from the obvious deflection. “I wanted your dry spell to be over as fast as possible. Two days seemed a little optimistic, your game is really, really off, and I’m too busy to wing-man.” Oh, that wasn’t the right thing to say, Wilson is glowering. Yeah, I have a girlfriend, who cares? No wonder why he’s so guilty about being happy while Wilson’s miserable. “So can you seal the deal or not?”
“You didn’t just pick ten days,” Wilson says, leaning forward, his eyes narrowing. “You were trying before that, then you chose ten days. What’s happening tomorrow?”
“Hopefully your blue balls will turn back to a rosy shade of whatever,” House says flippantly.
“You want me to rebound by then.” House sees it hit Wilson, first the idea, then he knows, then he sees it in House’s face, and there it is. “You’re proposing to Cuddy.”
If he weren’t Gregory House he’d wonder if he was projecting the you son of a bitch tone he just heard, but he is Gregory House, he hears that one a lot, so he knows what he just heard. Shit. He leans back in the chair. “We’re getting married at two o’clock tomorrow,” he says. “Small thing. Courthouse. Immediate family.” Well, none of this is helping. The awkwardness is stifling even him. He watches Wilson instead, then realizes what he hasn’t said. “And -- ”
“Congratulations,” Wilson interrupts him. House looks at him, searching his face for clues, but none but the obvious that he really doesn’t want to think about show up.
“And you’re welcome,” House says, once he trusts his voice to manage casual. “Can’t make you my best man, it won’t be that kind of thing, so I can’t pay you back, but…” Please come. Please come, he feels himself willing at Wilson, who is just sitting there stunned and cool and forcing a smile. “...Just let me know,” he says. “When you can.”
He flees, as ever.
Cuddy tells him that Wilson figured it out when they meet in her office. House wants to snark back at her about of course he did, I was there but then her hand goes to her stomach, the tiniest swell there, and he exhales.
At least he wasn’t there for that.
He should probably have some shame about fucking the hell out of Cuddy an hour or so later like nothing’s changed, but he really, really doesn’t. Except he does, that’s the fucked up thing. Cuddy is his girlfriend. Fiancee. Soon to be his wife. Mother of his child. He’s going to be Rachel’s stepdad. And he feels like he’s --
Woah, no. Enough jokes were made about that when Wilson was with Amber for his and Wilson's collective lifetimes.
He feels like he’s cheating on Wilson. Wilson’s never felt like he’s been cheating on House. This is bullshit. House lays beside Cuddy and resents him, briefly, before sitting up. “Gotta go.”
“I should check on Rachel,” Cuddy agrees, softly, and catches him for a kiss, searching his eyes for something he hopefully doesn’t give away. “Everything okay?”
“Oh, yeah. I just need to throw myself a bachelor party. I found an escort service who lets you order by cup size,” House says. “How many, do you think? I think I need at least three, and you, well… one? Two?”
She shoves at his arm. “Go talk to him,” she tells him, and touches his face. “It’s important.”
“Yeah,” he says, and turns away from her. He can’t look her in the face when he thinks about this, about him. “I’ll be back.”
“Yeah,” Cuddy answers, and sighs as he leaves.
Amazingly, Wilson appears to be home, and he hasn’t latched his door. All the better. House slips inside, and is really kind of offended to not hear any sex noises, not even the bound and gagged quiet choke-y ones. Wilson is just glaring in his direction with a bottle of bourbon and his cat on the couch and hell this is depressing.
“This is so depressing,” House says aloud, because it really just covers all of it. “This is what we were trying to avoid.”
“You were trying to avoid feeling guilty about getting married while I’m a bachelor,” Wilson corrects him.
House makes a face. “I don’t feel guilty about that.”
“Bullshit,” Wilson says. “Why else would you even bother?”
Well, this is annoying. “You never feel guilty about me,” House points out.
“Wow, Cuddy and her mom are rubbing off on you,” Wilson says.
“You are not drunk enough to be this much of a jerkoff,” House says casually. “You really do need to get laid. I think you have four hours. More than enough time if you pop a Viagra -- ”
“The bet’s not on, you jackass,” Wilson fires back. “You were just trying to put me into a box to have someone else deal with me before you went off and married your pregnant middle-aged girlfriend.”
“Ouch. Do I have a pregnant young girlfriend somewhere or was that dig really necessary?” House brushes it off. “It’s still early in the pregnancy. Obviously. She has a history of complications.”
“Now I get it,” Wilson says, fatally dryly, “you have an exit route.”
What the fuck. “What the fuck,” he says, because sometimes your brain gets it right the first time. “What the fuck are you implying?”
That snaps Wilson out of it. “Nothing. No, I’d never -- that’s not what I meant. I don’t know why I’d even...”
“Yeah you do,” House says, dispassionately, holding Wilson’s gaze.
“No, I know you love her, I know you’d never, even if it’s -- ” Wilson falters. “House. I know you care about her beyond the sex, no matter how much you’re trying to convince everyone otherwise.”
Something’s shifted. Majorly. House is waiting for the puzzle pieces to click in both their heads. “And you?”
Wilson hesitates. “What?”
“How do you feel about Cuddy?”
“You know I -- I’ve always liked her. She’s probably too good for you, honestly, and I just hope you two are ready to work at -- ” Wilson falters again under House’s gaze and a lift of his eyebrows. “What?”
“If you think I’m making a mistake then tell me,” House says. He feels strangely detached, which makes it easier to pretend that this is not a huge fucking sea change sweeping over their lives. “Like you always do. Why stop now?”
“House,” Wilson starts, annoyed but obviously vulnerable, then cuts himself off. He looks down, and takes a few ragged breaths. He looks miserable. “You know why.”
This is his fault, he thinks, before he can think anything else. It’s always his fault. Anyone around him who he isn’t fixing medically or professionally, he’s breaking personally, and even when he’s about to take himself off the market and trying to help his friend move on he’s already broken the guy by --
He touches Wilson’s shoulder. This is a mistake. Wilson touches his hand, and there’s something that’s undeniably a Moment, and he feels like the worst person in the universe, not for the first time and probably not for the last. This is not what a bachelor party with your best friend is supposed to look like.
(Probably you’re not supposed to be half in love with your best friend, either. Whatever. Greg House has never suffered from an abundance of normal anything.)
“Yeah,” he says, when the Moment stretches into what feels like a desperate eternity needing to be broken, and pulls away. “Gotta go.”
“Yeah,” Wilson echoes, and watches him go, his poker face telling more than he means to but more than House wants to consider right now.
He’s not sure he’ll ever be able to look back. (He's not sure he'll ever be able to help looking.)