Wilson had been living in the hospital-shared house for a week before he met the mysterious Greg House, who lived in the attic room.
"Met House yet?" people asked him.
"No, who's House?" he asked.
He quickly found people reacted with raised eyebrows, smirks and knowing looks, and he wondered what the mystery was.
The morning he met House, Wilson, hot and sweaty in T-shirt and sweatpants, was returning home from his early morning jog. As he slowed his pace before the turn into the driveway, he saw a man on a motorcycle approaching from the opposite direction. The bike vanished out of sight behind a large parked van.
Wilson turned into the drive and suddenly the bike was right behind him. The motorcyclist hit the brakes sharply, but not soon enough. The bike bumped Wilson hard enough to knock him down. He put his arm out to break the fall. He let out a sharp cry as he felt his skin rubbed raw against the concrete.
"Shit!" the motorcyclist exclaimed. He killed the engine, pulled off his helmet and hopped off the bike.
Wilson, sprawled on the ground, felt it was imperative to get up as soon as possible. He steadied himself with his left hand and managed to stagger to his feet. He looked up and saw a tall, lanky, unshaven man staring at him through piercing blue eyes.
"I didn't realize you'd turned in the driveway. I thought you'd gone on down the street," the man said in a tone of apology, though without actually apologizing, Wilson would realize later.
"I live here," Wilson responded.
"So do I," said the stranger, as he tilted his head to one side and peered at Wilson. "You must be the new boy."
"James Wilson. Pleased to meet you," Wilson said without thinking.
He realized how incongruous the phrase was to say to someone who had just run him over, and added awkwardly, "You must be Greg House."
"The same," House said shortly. "Now, I guess you're probably okay as you're on your feet and talking, but lemme see that arm."
"I'm fine," Wilson protested, but his knees chose that moment to buckle slightly.
House's eyes narrowed and he stepped forward. He grasped Wilson's right arm and turned it towards him. Wilson let out a yelp of pain.
House spent a couple of minutes examining first Wilson's scraped arm, then his leg. He made Wilson bend and flex his elbow and knee, and walk a few paces.
Wilson was pretty sure he was okay, but complied obediently. He knew House was a doctor; he himself just a newbie medical student. As he let House examine him, Wilson became uncomfortably aware of how hot and sweaty he was. He had pushed himself hard on his run, and his T-shirt was wet and clinging to his torso.
House was also sweating, though for different reasons. He was wearing biker's leather trousers and jacket. He stopped for a few seconds at one point to wipe sweat from his forehead and pull the jacket off.
House lifted the sleeve of Wilson's T-shirt up so he could examine Wilson's shoulder. Wilson found himself within inches of House's face. Wilson caught scents of oil, smoke and sweat, a smell that came from wearing the same clothes too long. That, combined with the fatigue etched on House's face, made Wilson conclude that House wasn't returning from an early morning ride, but coming back after a night working.
House put his hand against the side of Wilson's head, catching Wilson by surprise. Wilson's eyes closed as House ran his fingers through Wilson's hair. House lifted his fingers and waved them in front of Wilson's face; they were red with blood.
"Did you hit your head when you fell?"
Wilson hadn't noticed his head was bleeding, as his hair was so wet from the run.
"No, well, I guess I did, but not hard."
House stepped back a pace.
"I think you were lucky; it all looks superficial, though you're going to have a hell of a bruise on your leg. I think we both need to take a shower; you wash all that blood off, and I'll dress your arm. Also, I'm starving--I've been up all night with a case of kidney stones. I'll see you in the kitchen in twenty minutes."
He looked inquiringly at Wilson, who felt rather dazed by the list of instructions, but nodded.
House raised an eyebrow and asked, "You're not going to faint on me in the shower, are you?"
"No, no, I'm fine," Wilson said hastily.
House nodded, and headed into the house. Wilson followed slowly, his mind also moving slowly. Just for a second he had thought House had been proposing they shower together--but no, there was more than one shower in the house. There was one on the second floor, which Wilson had gotten in the habit of using, as it was closest to his room, but there was one on the third floor too.
Twenty minutes later, clean and wearing a fresh T-shirt and sweatpants, Wilson headed into the kitchen and found House sitting at the kitchen table. House was also clean, but still unshaven. He was wearing a short scruffy bath robe over T-shirt and boxer shorts, and consuming a bowl of Cheerios.
Wilson poured himself a tall glass of water.
"How's your head?" House asked, through a mouthful of cereal.
Wilson felt blue eyes sweeping up and down his body. He gulped down some water.
"Fine. Just a cut."
Wilson sat down at the table. House abandoned his breakfast bowl for a first aid box attached to the kitchen wall.
As House was dressing Wilson's arm, Wilson looked at the box of Cheerios on the counter, and realized it was his box of Cheerios that House appeared to be eating his way through. In fact, he'd thought all week that the level in the box was going down rather fast. And although he couldn't be entirely sure, he thought that the half empty gallon of milk sitting on the table was also his.
He realized House was watching him work all this out, and seemed to be waiting for some sort of reaction. Wilson wondered what to do--be outraged? Laugh? Ignore it, and keep all his food under lock and key in future?
When he simply looked at the Cheerios with his head on one side, House remarked casually, "Box is nearly finished."
"I guess I'll want to be replacing it then," Wilson said, deadpan. "I was thinking about getting the honey nut kind next time, what do you think?"
House's craggy features broke into what Wilson thought was a faint smile.
"I think... I like you, Jimmy Wilson."
House shut the first aid box, stood up and put his empty bowl in the sink.
"You should put some ice on that leg. I'm going to get some sleep," House said as he left the kitchen.
Wilson stared after him, and began to understand why House was considered--eccentric.
Years later, he would reflect on how appropriate it was that their first meeting revolved around House stealing his food.
The following evening, Wilson was in the hospital bar. It wasn't actually part of the hospital, of course, but so close as to be constantly populated by doctors, nurses and other hospital staff. Wilson had arrived with a group of other new students, none of whom he knew very well yet.
Wilson was standing at the bar waiting to be served when suddenly someone appeared next to him and leaned on the counter, bringing a fist down with a thump. Wilson turned and looked, and was surprised to see it was Greg House. He was dressed a little more conventionally than their last encounter, though still looked just as unshaven.
"Buy me a drink," House said, not making it a question.
Wilson raised his eyebrows. "The honey nut Cheerios not good enough for you?"
House grinned. It made him look like a wolf.
"Not enough milk in the fridge this morning to make them really swim."
Wilson shook his head, and bought House a drink. They made their way to a table and sat down.
House ascertained that Wilson was not suffering any major effects after his close encounter with the bike, and then asked, "So how's life in the smallest room?"
"It sucks being next to the front door… and next to the kitchen…and it's tiny," said Wilson. "Is it true that the rooms get progressively larger and nicer higher up in the house?"
House nodded sagely. "Everyone new starts in that room. Each time someone leaves, everyone else moves up a room."
"Until you get to the top? Bet that takes a while." Wilson had heard enough on the grapevine to learn that House was now into the second year of his residency at Columbia.
"Oh, you need to be in the house at least a year before you get to move up a room," House said solemnly. "And you're only planning on living there six months, until your fiancée arrives from Canada, right?"
Wilson was taken aback. House was either omniscient, or had taken the trouble to find out about him. Frankly the first seemed more likely.
"Er, yeah, that's right. She's finishing a course before coming out to join me. We'll find an apartment together when she gets here." Wilson felt he was blustering slightly, and changed the subject. "Anyway, I thought the hospital house was only for short-term leases. How on earth have you managed to wangle staying there longer?"
"Every so often the accommodation administrator remembers me and says I have to leave, then I go and screw her, then she kindly forgets about me for a bit," House said nonchalantly.
"No kidding? The brunette? She's hot," Wilson had been going back and forth to the accommodation office for the last few days, sorting out minor problems with his room.
"Yeah, it's no hardship. The blonde in that outer office though, definitely has the edge. But she won't give me the time of day."
"I thought she seemed friendly when I met her."
"I think she goes for younger men," House said pensively. "Play your cards right. You never know."
There followed a long and enjoyable conversation about the relative merits of the female accommodation office staff, followed by the finance office staff, and then the personnel staff.
At one point House peered closely at Wilson and said, "Should you be even noticing this sort of thing, with your fiancée n'all?"
"I can look," Wilson said defensively.
House looked speculative but said only, "Another beer?"
After the bar shut, Wilson and House headed back to the house. Wilson was rather drunk and regretting that he had to be in work the next day. He suspected House felt similarly.
"Coffee needed," Wilson said, heading into the kitchen and peering uncertainly into a cupboard.
House looked over his shoulder. "Oh God, you don't drink that instant crap, do you? Come up to my room, I've got some of the real thing."
Wilson followed House up the stairs. He hadn't been to the very top of the house before, and now saw that House's attic room really was an attic room, with a sharp flight of stairs up to it more like a ladder than a staircase. Once inside, Wilson was amazed; House's room was about four times the size of his own, with a separate bedroom from the living area. Books and journals littered the room. There was a large TV and even a rather bashed-about-looking upright piano in the corner. "How on earth did you get the piano up here?" he asked.
"Force of will. That's why I can't live anywhere else but this room, I got it in, but I'll never get it out again." House had a mini fridge, and a kettle and cafetière sitting on top of it. He produced a posh looking brand of coffee from the fridge and switched the kettle on. "I'm an insomniac; I play every night at 3AM."
"Bet your neighbors love you," Wilson said dryly.
"Being in the attic, I don't have any neighbors above or to the side; just the one guy underneath," House smiled rather evilly. "He knows if he bashes on his ceiling I just go on longer. I shouted at him once, and he's been scared to death of me ever since."
"You like having everyone scared of you?" Wilson inquired interestedly. He had only been at Columbia just over a week, but it was his strong impression that everyone seemed to be scared of House--his housemates, his hospital colleagues, people who had never even apparently met him.
"Scared is a bit strong," House said thoughtfully. "Intimidated, perhaps?" He poured water into the cafetière.
"And not everyone. You interest me, Jimmy Wilson, for various reasons, number one being that you're not intimidated by me," House pointed out
Wilson hadn't thought about this. "I guess not."
"So why's that?" House pressed. "How many more boxes of Cheerios do I need to steal? How many more drinks do I need to cadge off you? I knocked you down with my bike for Christ's sake, why don't you just tell me to fuck off?"
"Perhaps because you interest me," Wilson said, and he saw that House liked that answer.
The conversation drifted onto the merits of fresh coffee. House's coffee was indeed excellent, and Wilson eventually rolled down the stairs to his room on a caffeine high, musing on how curious it was that he seemed to have become friends with the man who notoriously had no friends.
A couple of days later, Wilson had bought his lunch and was walking through the hospital cafeteria, debating which group of people to go and sit with, when he saw House sitting in a corner. House most assuredly did not look like he wanted company; he was sitting in the only chair at a small table, Walkman ear buds in, and reading a journal article which together with his tray took up almost all the table space.
Feeling slightly mischievous, Wilson went across, pulled up a spare chair, and sat down. He put his own tray down on the table, pushing House's own tray several inches over in the process.
House looked up in surprise, and for an instant there was wrath on his face, until he saw who it was. His expression then turned amused and speculative.
"Hi, House," Wilson said casually, biting into his cheeseburger.
"Wilson." House savored the word. "Do you know what happened to the last person who interrupted me at lunch?"
Wilson had been soliciting stories about House for the last few days, and had been told many tales, most of which sounded like urban myths. He had not come across any horror stories about House being interrupted at lunchtime, though.
"Must have missed that one," he said.
"He was found shivering several hours later in a cooler box in the morgue," House said darkly. He reached over and grabbed a handful of Wilson's fries.
"Hey, you've got your own!" Wilson pointed out indignantly.
"Ah, but they taste so much better when they're stolen," House said, chomping them down.
Wilson defiantly reached out and snatched a handful of House's fries, and ate them. "Mmmm. I guess you're right."
House looked at him with an expression that seemed to say Do you have a death wish?--and leaned forward to see what else was on Wilson's tray. His eyes lit up at the sight of a chocolate brownie on a plate. He reached out--and Wilson's left hand clamped firmly down on top of House's right hand, pinning it to the table.
"Uh uh," said Wilson.
House relaxed his hand and Wilson loosened his grip momentarily; as soon as House tried to break free however, Wilson pressed down firmly. It felt rather as if they were engaged in an arm wrestle.
"Have I found your sticking point, Jimmy?" House said smoothly. "You'll do anything to defend the honor of your chocolate brownie?"
"Absolutely." Wilson picked up fries with his right hand and ate them. House did the same with his left. The two of them ate in silence for a minute.
"You know," House said presently, "If we carry on holding hands like this, people will say we're in love."
Wilson grinned. "Then they'll think otherwise when they find me in the morgue cooler, won't they?"
House couldn't help but grin back. He flexed his knuckles but Wilson didn't budge. Wilson knew that House could have broken free if he really wanted, was letting Wilson play this one out.
Wilson eventually finished his fries and burger, and surveyed the chocolate brownie contemplatively.
"I feel I've earned at least a bite," House said piteously, trying to move his hand.
"OK, we'll split it," said Wilson, and broke it in two. He slowly eased his hand off of House's.
As Wilson moved his hand back, House stretched out his fingers, and for a couple of seconds their fingers interlaced. House and Wilson looked at each other simultaneously, both startled by the unexpected shared intimacy, then each pulled their arm back sharply and looked away. House reached out and picked up the slightly larger half of brownie; Wilson meekly took the smaller bit.