James Wilson was tired, bone tired. He'd spent the day trying to keep people from dying and not always succeeding, as usual, and he'd had a thoroughly depressing meeting with Julie and their lawyers in which she made it plain that she thought him quite worthless except for the money she was going to wring out of the divorce.
And now he was in a cab with House, heading downtown to their favorite bar - a cab because House couldn't be expected to drive at the end of a day when his leg hurt and because Wilson, despite being responsible for the cooking and cleaning and practical activity in the apartment, wanted, for once, to not be responsible, to not owe anyone anything, and to get very, very drunk.
House was silent for once, and Wilson rested his head against the cool glass of the cab window.
"Boy, aren't we a barrel of laughs today, eh, Wilson?" said House suddenly, and Wilson jerked from his semi-relaxed stupor.
"Mmm," he said. "Yeah, we should go on TV or something. Monster Truck Mania With Greg and Jimmy."
House snorted. "Or better yet, we could solve medical mysteries together. We could be like Holmes and Watson. You'd be Watson, of course, the devoted hanger-on, and I'd be Holmes, the misanthropic genius."
Wilson smiled at the aptness of the comparison.
"Of course," continued House blithely, "Holmes and Watson were totally doing each other." Wilson choked on his own spit and spent a few minutes coughing.
"What?" he finally wheezed out, catching sight of the cabbie's smirk in the rearview mirror out of the corner of his eye.
"Oh, come on, Wilson. It's obvious. Two men, best friends, one of whom doesn't like anybody but strangely allows his friend to get close to him and the other of whom spends all his time helping his friend instead of staying at home with his wife? What other motive could there be besides suppressed lust and longing?" He said this last with obvious relish and Wilson couldn't help enjoying the warm feeling he always got when House was enthusiastic about something.
"Alright, even given your theories about the characters' motivations, what makes you think they'd have acted on them? Especially given the prejudices of the time period." For a moment, the cares of the hospital and the burdens of trying to make a respectable life for himself fell away as Wilson slipped into his customary 'playfully arguing with House and his ridiculous ideas' zone.
"Well, Holmes would have noticed the fiery heat of Watson's secret desire, of course, because he notices everything," said House, laying out his points in the same completely straight-faced manner as one might use to make a diagnosis. "And since he's an arrogant bastard, not without reason, mind you, he wouldn't be able to let an opportunity like that go by without doing something about it. And of course Watson is unable to resist him, despite the forbidden nature of their passion. Hence, they're doing it. From about, oh, The Empty House onward, I'd say."
Wilson leaned against the door of the cab and stared at his friend, eyes wide in an overdramatic gesture of surprise. "Wow, House," he said sarcastically, "I had no idea you were so up on Victorian homosexuals. Have you been taking a class?" House fluttered his eyelashes teasingly. "Let's assume that I grant your crazyass supposition about Holmes and Watson."
House interrupted, "Is that crazyass supposition or crazy ass supposition?"
"Either. In any case, what's your point? That our hypothetical hit medical mystery show would involve us faking a homoerotic subtext? I think I'm okay with that."
"No, my point is that in order for us to get started on the road to having more interesting Friday nights, not to mention having possible success in cable television, we need to deal with our existing homoerotic subtext, or more precisely we need to deal with the flames of your wild and burning passion for me, and my, uh, not insignificant fondness for you."
Wilson forced himself to laugh over the sudden lump in his throat, but quickly realized that House wasn't laughing. Despite the extravagant rhetoric of the words he'd chosen, House's eyes failed to so much as twinkle. Wilson peered at his friend's face in the darkness of the cab, waiting for the punch line, knowing he was missing something.
"You're not serious," he breathed finally, sure of nothing except his friend's ability to turn the world on its ear.
"I am. Oh, not about your flaming adoration," he smirked, "but about you and me."
Wilson boggled. How long had this been brewing? When he found out about House deleting the message from his prospective condo seller, he'd read it as "your cooking is worth the inconvenience of your presence" in House-ese, and had stuck around accordingly, but now he saw the action in a different light. Had House really been saying "your hot ass is worth the inconvenience of your presence"? Wilson sighed. This was the last thing he needed to worry about right now.
"House, in case you haven't been paying attention these past few weeks, I am in the middle of getting a divorce from a woman I used to love, a woman who is now taking me for all she can get; I've been sleeping on a couch for ten days; in the last week I've probably told four people they were going to die; and strangely, I think I may be having a little bit of a breakdown, here, so could you just not do this? Could you just not fuck with my mind for just a little bit?" He kept his voice from breaking but it was a close thing. The cab pulled up in front of the bar.
"Breakdowns come and breakdowns go," said House, pushing open the door. "What are you going to do about it? That's what I'd like to know. Pay the man, would you? I'll get us a booth." He got out and shut the door before Wilson could respond. Wilson sat in pained silence for a moment before the driver broke in gently.
"21.75, buddy." He handed over the cash, thinking, typical of House to stick me with the tab, and trying very, very hard not to think about anything else.
Clearly Wilson was going to avoid the issue, thought House, which did not suit his purpose at all. Despite the morning disturbances, he'd gotten kind of used to his friend's puppy dog eyes before he went to sleep, not to mention the food. And the more evenings he found himself sitting next to a tousled Wilson, sleepy-eyed, hair static-y against the couch, tie undone, stomach occasionally displayed when he reached for another beer, the more House found himself waking both with thoughts of lashing Wilson to the bedpost with his tie and with an utterly inappropriate hard-on. The fact that Wilson was his one remaining real friend had given him pause at first, sure. But he'd made a reputation out of doing inappropriate things and having it all turn out right, in the end, and he figured this would be much the same.
But Wilson wasn't cooperating, and House was actually beginning to wonder if he'd miscalculated. When Wilson had come into the bar from paying the cab driver, he'd started up a conversation about one of the British comedies he'd seen on House's Tivo, and some of his assertions had been so patently absurd House had been drawn into arguing. As he lay in bed that night, he realized he'd been manipulated.
Nice work, Wilson, he thought, giving due appreciation as he always did to anyone who outmaneuvered him (inwardly, because it wouldn't do to show a soft spot). But I'll get you.
Days later he still hadn't found a way to bring back the conversation without being blunt, and that method hadn't seemed to work that well the first time. So he watched, and he wanted, and he waited.
It was only two o'clock in the morning when the call came. One of Wilson's patients – a thirteen year old boy named Allen, had had an unexpected relapse. House came out of the bedroom just as Wilson was shrugging on his clothes.
"Paged me. Gotta go." Wilson paused, obviously struggling. "Listen, I…" He ran a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry about this. I shouldn't bother you in the middle of the night. I swear I'll find a place soon enough." He opened the door and slipped out.
"Wilson!" House hissed. "Wilson, you dumb son of a bitch!" But he was gone. House slammed his hand against the wall, hardly feeling the pain in the wash of loneliness. Just like him to be so goddamn nice and so cruel at the same time. He sat down on the couch and pulled the blanket up around his neck to buffer against the cold. It smelled like Wilson's slightly tangy aftershave. I'll just wait until he gets back. He might need something. House knew he was deluding himself but for once he wallowed in the sensation, allowed himself a moment of real, solid hope instead of the arrogant presumption that walled in the fear. Then he fell asleep.
The next thing he knew, the couch shook and Wilson was settling in beside him, pulling over part of the blanket.
"Mmmm?" he groaned, only half awake, and heard Wilson's careful sigh.
"Are you my problem, too, House?" Wilson whispered. "My responsibility? I don't think I can handle being responsible for anyone else's happiness. Not even my own." House made an encouraging grunt noise and Wilson laughed softly, the puffs of his breath sliding along House's arm and making him shiver. Wilson carefully tucked the blanket around them both and settled down. Their heads were touching slightly.
When the actual alarm went off, House slowly swam into wakefulness. As he registered his position, cramped leg stretched out below the coffee table and head resting on Wilson's shoulder, the memories of the previous night came back to him.
You think you can't handle happiness, Wilson? He was surprised, despite himself. Sure Wilson was fucked up – everyone was. But House had thought his friend to be reasonably well-adjusted, given the circumstances of divorce and working with dying people. But maybe that was a symptom and not the cause. Maybe Wilson was deeply fucked up in a more fundamental way. I can handle that, thought House. In fact, better that than someone normal and boring. At least I know Wilson can cope with me. As the alarm continued to play he nuzzled against Wilson's cheek, enjoying the play of smooth skin against his own leathery face. I'll inundate you with pleasure, Jimmy boy, and you'll fall right into my arms.
By this point it was clear that Wilson was awake. He'd stiffened against House's rubbing, then gently pushed his head away and stretched. House made a mumbling noise and shifted, bringing his shoulder under the barrier of Wilson's upraised arm and snuggling up against his chest.
"House, are you awake?" Wilson whispered. House thought it inadvisable to own up and stayed silent, focusing his energy on breathing long, slow breaths. Slowly, Wilson towered his arm and, very lightly, stroked his fingers down House's bicep. He shivered, involuntarily, and Wilson drew back, but already House was feeling a rush of hope. There was something here, between them, and he wanted more than anything to take that small spark and coax it into a full flame. Poetic today, eh, House? he mocked himself, and allowed Wilson to shake him into wakefulness.
Wilson sighed and scrubbed his hands through his hair. At first the gesture had been a deliberate taunt about House's slowly thinning mop, but lately it had become automatic, a symptom of his confusion and frustration, his carefully blow-dried coif a victim of House's war of attrition on Wilson's sanity.
When House had suggested that the two of them had some unresolved sexual tension, Wilson had protested, but underneath he'd known it not far from the truth. Practically the moment they met he'd found himself appreciating House's intense blue eyes more than was strictly wise, and even when he and Julie had first married he sometimes spent extra time in the shower thinking about the way stubble might feel against his inner thighs. But he had placed House firmly in the 'straight and unapproachable and it would only fuck things up' category of his mind, right up until the humorous but forceful ultimatum he delivered in the cab.
Since then, House hadn't brought the topic up again, choosing instead to press his suit with frequent touches – a hand on his back as they left the apartment, a brush of his leg as they sat on the couch – and a subtle but noticeable lack of cutting criticism on Wilson's morning habits. Wilson had to admit it was working. He was lonely, and he enjoyed his friend's company, and he woke up hard with House's name on his lips more often than not. But his good sense resisted the idea. House plus sex was a recipe for disaster, even if Wilson thought they could do it without him getting emotionally attached (or more emotionally attached, anyway). Surely they would fuck it up somehow, and then both of them would be alone and miserable.
Let's face it, he reminded himself, standing out on the balcony, you'd fall in love with him. And there's a distinct possibility that he'd never be able to love you. After all, this is just about sex. It's always about sex.
He sighed and headed for House's office, poking his head in.
"Certainly, Iron Chef Wilson! What'd ya bring me?"
Wilson couldn't help smiling. "Unfortunately you'll have to make do with faux-Emeril cafeteria food instead. I was in a rush this morning."
"Pah! Real Emeril is bad enough. Still, I suppose I haven't had my weekly dose of grease. My stomach might rebel against all that healthy shit you've been feeding me. Very well, lead on."
House, of course, was good to his word and got the greasiest bacon cheeseburger Wilson had ever seen. As they discussed the latest shortcomings of House's staff, he impatiently licked his fingers clean before waving them expressively in a gesture meant to imitate the placement of Foreman's head relative to his ass, and Wilson was completely and utterly turned on.
"…and so of course I had to fight with Chase to get what he owed me. At least Cameron's learned to pay up promptly or not bet at all." House smiled with immense satisfaction and Wilson's heart gave a leap. His friend was so charming like this – all friendly cockiness and intelligence and enthusiasm. Damn, thought Wilson, feeling his stomach flutter in a completely ridiculous manner, I'm already in love with him, aren't I? He frowned, upset with himself. Wilson, you fool.
He realized that House had stopped rambling and was looking at him with steely eyes; only someone who knew him as well as Wilson did could discern the tinge of hurt in them. House swallowed and looked away.
"Was the idea so completely disgusting to you that it's contaminated everything else?" he asked, voice flat. "Because I haven't even said anything objectionable yet and you're looking at me like dogshit on your shoe."
"What? No!" Wilson spluttered. "It's just that I… I…" House sighed.
"Save it," he muttered, pushing himself to his feet. "Just save it. I don't know why I thought you'd be different anyway." He turned away.
"House, stop," said Wilson impatiently, but his friend just kept walking out of the cafeteria. In his shock, it didn't occur to Wilson to go after him until House was out of sight.
It took him the rest of the afternoon to get House alone, but he finally managed it by emotionally blackmailing Cameron with concerns about House's welfare. The inside blinds were down in House's office, blocking them from view from the hallway as he slipped inside. House sat in his chair, twirling his cane and staring out the window at nothing in particular, and Wilson felt a bizarre nervousness.
"What's a nice doctor like you doing in a place like this?" he joked, but House didn't respond. Wilson sat on the edge of the desk and tentatively reached out for his friend's shoulder. "Hey."
"Don't you have some other misanthropic genius to torture?" asked House, but without the bitterness Wilson had expected.
"I'm sorry," said Wilson, and at last House swiveled to face him. "It wasn't about you, this afternoon. It was about me."
"But you're still not interested."
"House, it's not about—"
"Fuck you. I want an answer. I'm tired of waiting." House scrubbed his face with a hand and Wilson could see he really did look tired.
"Look," he temporized, "did you ever think a guy, no matter how open minded, might need a little time to examine his sexuality when his best friend comes onto him?"
House's brow furrowed. "Wilson, you fucked guys in med school."
"How the hell do you know that?"
"You talk in your sleep." Wilson looked surprised and House snorted. "So don't try to give me that line about examining your sexuality. If it's not sufficiently examined by now it never will be." Wilson shook his head, realizing that once again House was too smart for everyone else and really the only option that wouldn't necessarily fuck everything up right away was to embarrass himself by spilling the truth. Probably House would only hold it over his head for a couple of weeks and then they'd move on. Maybe. Possibly. Wilson bowed his head.
"Spit it out, Jimmy boy." At this, Wilson finally lost his temper.
"You asshole. Did you ever stop to think that maybe a guy contemplating having sex with his best friend would have a little trouble keeping his emotions out of the way? Not all of us are as mercenary as you." It was a low blow, but House didn't even appear to notice.
"So? Emotions get involved. What's wrong with that?"
Wilson sighed. "Well, I don't expect Holmes and Watson spent a lot of time skipping through fields of daisies and talking about their feelings. They were fucking each other. That's what you said. That's all." He slid off the desk and turned away, peering out over the edge of the balcony. "I don't think I can do that." Now his humiliation was complete.
"Holmes and Watson," said House, "were partners. They worked together. They supported each other. They braved the disapproval of society. And they sure as hell didn't do all of that just because they were fucking each other." Wilson heard the creak of the chair behind him as House stood.
"So what are you saying? That my appreciation for the finer points of gay subtext is lacking?"
"I'm saying," said House's calm voice now close to his ear, "that emotions may already be involved, here. That this – fighting, tiptoeing around the issue – has been hell. That I don't want you to move out." Wilson sucked in a breath as he felt House's lips just inches from his neck. "That I don't want you to move out ever."
Something broke in Wilson's chest and he turned, catching House's lips with his own. The kiss was hard and hot, and for a moment Wilson actually thought the words "flaming passion" before House began nibbling on his lip and all thoughts fell away.
House pushed him against the window, slipping his leg between Wilson's and rubbing their hips together, sliding his tongue against Wilson's when he opened his mouth to moan. House's nimble fingers jerked his shirt loose and raked over the skin of his stomach, popping the buttons as his arm moved far enough up to run his thumb over Wilson's nipples. He moved his lips to Wilson's neck, licking and nibbling along the jaw line, and Wilson's head fell back against the window with a thunk.
House swiftly undid Wilson's belt and moved to push down his slacks.
"Window!" gasped Wilson, only half-caring that anyone walking on the grounds would be able to see them. He could feel House's smirk against his collarbone, but thankfully House took the point. He rested his weight against Wilson's side and reached down, slipping Wilson's cock from his trousers and running his calloused fingers along the length. Wilson closed his eyes gave himself over to the sensation of House's perfect strokes. The pleasure built until he was moving frantically, panting and thrusting furiously into House's rounded fist.
"Look at me," commanded House, and Wilson obeyed without thinking. The sight of House, lips reddened from kissing and eyes blazing with intense concentration sent him over the edge, and he moaned House's name as he came.
A minute later Wilson had caught his breath and House was looking smugly pleased. Wilson smirked and dropped to his knees.
House was warm and silky and hard in his mouth, and Wilson remembered all the skills he hadn't put to use in years - how to run his tongue just so, how to cup House's balls and stroke his thumb over the skin just behind. He felt gloriously full of sensation, alive, like every nerve in his body had perked up and begun to pay attention for the first time.
"Jesus, Wilson… " he heard, then "Jimmy!" For some reason it felt intimate when House mangled his name in that specific tone and Wilson hummed with pleasure. "Yesss," hissed House, and came into Wilson's mouth.
Now Wilson enjoyed a smirk of satisfaction, wiping the edges of his mouth against House's shirttail. House grabbed the edge of Wilson's tie and hauled him upwards for another deep, searching kiss.
Wilson rested his forehead against House's and enjoyed the sensation of House's cheeseburger-y puffs of breath.
"Home," murmured House, "before the cleaning staff catch us with our pants down." Wilson snorted but helped House zip himself up.
"So we're… good?" he asked as they made their way out of the building.
"Unless you're going to stop me from tying you to the bedpost and fucking you senseless later on." Wilson laughed, but he felt himself harden again.
"I don't expect that any objections I might have would stop you."
"Glad to see you've learned your place." House smirked, but softened. "Yeah, we're good." He paused. "But if we ever do become famous TV stars, we're doing it on a major network."