i. Remedies Refusing
It's vomit that Stacy smells the moment she walks into the apartment. It's sharp, recent, not the dull leftover stickiness that makes her feel like she's still spending every night in the hospital. Her hand tightens on the doorknob and she clamps her teeth into her lower lip. There's a fiery ache in her trapezius muscles, digging deep under her shoulder blades. She's spent too many hours hunched over her desk, resolutely ignoring the idiots stopping by her office with their sympathy and understanding. There was a time when Greg would give her a post-work massage, naming the muscles as he went, explaining in a soothing voice all the horribly painful and disfiguring things that could go wrong with each one. Stacy remembers his long fingers, the heat and pleasure and pressure of his touch, but that is not going to happen tonight. It's better to think of subpoenas, affidavits, depositions; of the client she has tomorrow, the case next week, and the partnership she'd set her sights on before-- Before. Stacy closes her eyes and lets her head fall. Anything's better than thinking about Greg right now. She's still holding the door handle. It would be so easy to go back to the office, as if she'd never come home at all.
But the living room and kitchen are dark, and she can't hear a thing--not running water, not voices, not even breathing. The time she spent sleeping in hospital visitor chairs, not knowing how he'd be when she startled awake, taught her not to ask what if. She closes the front door, softly enough that she can pretend for a few more seconds that she doesn't have to deal with this yet. She sets the briefcase by the closet, steps out of her heels, and moves noiselessly to the bedroom. Maybe he's asleep. Maybe nothing's wrong at all.
The bed is empty, a sweaty disaster zone of tossing and turning, the sheets and blankets torn out from the home nurse's careful tucks. Greg's crutches are missing, and now she really is worried because so far he's refused to touch them, or even acknowledge them. Her pulse flares in her temples, pain pushing into her skull, and she moves faster now, a bit frantic although there's only one last place where he could be. The crutches are abandoned in the hallway, lit by the harsh line of light under the bathroom door.
"Greg!" She rushes to the door and slams her fist against it. Behind it, she can hear breathing, short sharp gasps with a rough edge of sound to them, and the smell of vomit is stronger. "Greg, let me in," she says--begs--because she can't imagine that he left it unlocked. Then her hand fumbles to the handle and it's not locked at all. She nearly falls in on top of him when it opens.
He's sprawled on his left side, his chest heaving with each strangled breath. He's holding himself half-upright, leaning his elbow on the toilet. The muscles in his forearm stand out harshly, fist clamped. His right hand clutches spasmodically at his thigh, just above where she knows the scar starts. His t-shirt and pyjama pants are spattered with vomit, and the floor's a mess.
Stacy carefully doesn't say anything, doesn't give him an opening, just gets down on her knees beside him and tries to help him into a more comfortable position. Greg bites down on a yell and scrabbles back, shoving her away as hard as he can. He loses his balance and drops to the floor. He starts to curl into a knot, but his leg stops him, and he lies there, eyes squeezed shut, his knuckles white where he's still gripping his thigh.
"Where the hell is the nurse?" Stacy asks, giving up on trying to get through this without a fight. These days, it's an impossible goal, unless they're moving through one fight and on their way to the next.
"Sent her home," Greg grunts, and he opens his eyes. They're bloodshot and damp with tears he'll never admit to. His hair is matted with sweat, and the five-day stubble looks almost respectable as a beard. He grins fiercely at her, little-boy-daring behind the pain.
"When exactly did the meds cause the brain damage that led to that brilliant decision?" Stacy gets up long enough to get him a glass of water and to wet a washcloth.
"She was looking at her watch." Greg pushes her hand away when she tries to wipe his face. He takes the water, though, his face contorting as he pushes himself up enough to drink some and spit the rest in the toilet. "Didn't want to stand in the way of her hot date. Why should we all suffer?"
Stacy sits back on her heels. She can feel a heaviness in her throat, her eyes turning hot, but she won't cry. He hates it when she cries. "So you decided it should just be the two of us?"
He looks away, then. That's as much repentance as she'll ever get from him, and that much only when he's too exhausted to keep up his end of the fight. When she follows his gaze, it's the crutches he's looking at. He thought he could make it this far, the bastard. Ten steps from the bed to the bathroom, ten steps back, and she does not want to know how long he's been planning this little foray, how much he bribed or goaded the nurse into leaving early.
"Here," she says, and positions herself on his right side. "Put your arm around me."
There was a time when that would have been enough for a stupid pick up line, or a lewd joke at least. Now she has to wait for him to release the death grip on his thigh. To trust her. It takes so long that she almost gives up and snaps at him again. Then he's done it, and with one hand levering against the corner of the sink and the other crushing her shoulder, he manages to get his left leg under him and thrust himself up.
She lets the whimper he can't quite stifle pass without comment. He's thinner than he was and she can feel his ribs through the washworn cotton as she wraps her arm around him, but he's long and awkward and still heavier than anyone with his build has a right to be. Every step is agony, for her as much as him. She tenses every time he can't hold back how much it hurts, and the lump in her throat steals her breath until she can barely stand, let alone hold him up as well. Finally, finally he's back in bed, in clean pyjamas. He's taken another pill, and she tucks the sheets in again, not looking at him. She can't look at him.
She can't, so she goes back to the bathroom, scrubs the floor, rinses with bleach that never completely covers the stink. The apartment smells like a hospital, and she can't escape. How long was he lying on the floor? How long did it take him to reach the crutches, to get out of bed, to make those few stupid pathetic steps? Did he fall? Did he crawl? Why can't he just let somebody fucking help him? All she wanted, all she wants is to help--
He hasn't, not once, not in all the time in the hospital, not since she's brought him home--he's never said the words fault or blame. Not out loud. Not yet. It hasn't stopped him from saying a million other unforgivable things that somehow weren't so unforgivable before.
When she can't avoid him anymore, when all she wants is to sleep, she goes back to the bedroom. The lights are off now and the room is dim. Maybe he'll let her pretend that he's asleep. He'll wake her in the night, needing his pills, needing her--and hating that he needs anything from anyone.
He clears his throat as she's undressing, and she freezes, silently begging him not to say anything. Not now.
But Greg was never one to listen, even when she asked out loud. "I love you," he says into the shadows. His voice is perfectly steady, perfectly normal. "Marry me."
"For God's sake, Greg--" She wants to slap him; she wants to turn and run out of the room. Instead she just stands there, staring at him, and she doesn't try to hide the fact that she's crying. Why shouldn't she cry? It's not guilt--it's him-- Because she can't handle this right now. She can barely come home to him after work, and he's asking her to stay with him forever.
His eyes slide towards her and the pain-lines on his face deepen. A moment later, he turns his head and looks away.
She sleeps on the couch. He never mentions it again.
ii. Emergency Broadcast
"Fever, rash, abdominal pain," House says, standing next to the whiteboard and watching his yo-yo sleep on the end of its string.
Cameron jumps when he twitches his fingers in a come-here gesture. The yo-yo wakes up and climbs smoothly into his palm. She realizes she's been staring blankly, and she tries to sit up straight again. She's muzzy and distant with too much caffeine and not enough sleep, which makes it the perfect time for House to launch into one of his games. Cameron forces herself to go back to the chart and the piles of test results that she's been shifting around in increasingly pointless patterns for the last hour. If she comes up with a solution that interests House enough, they can get back to Jenny Malucci instead of playing puppet for his amusement.
But there's nothing, just like there's been nothing for the last thirty-four hours, and it's too late anyway. House takes a few steps across the conference room and stops in front Chase. Cameron closes her eyes and thinks, Here we go again.
Jenny's boyfriend is sleeping at her side, worn out from pacing and bad coffee and too many questions Cameron couldn't answer. Jenny's parents drove down frantically from Boston at Cameron's phone call, only to walk in on their daughter seizing and the code team scrambling to keep her alive. Now House has made his diagnosis, and he's as certain as he always is until he isn't. Cameron's too tired to tell sense from hope, and all she can think is how relieved she is that it's Chase that House is staring at like he's found something new and noteworthy under his microscope. Most of all she hates the part of herself that's almost amused, wondering exactly how Chase is going to get ripped apart.
"Fever, rash, abdominal pain," House repeats, his voice going slow and deep. He swings his yo-yo back and forth in front of Chase's face. Chase's eyes follow it warily. House has clipped him with it more than once, and none of them ever believed it was an accident. "Vomiting. Delirium. Grand mal. And bowels tighter than one of Cuddy's scarlet negligees."
"Yeah, we can read the symptoms," Foreman says, impatient, exasperated, chafing at the delay. "That doesn't mean you're right, House. This is crazy--"
House ignores him and concentrates on Chase, the yo-yo swaying between them. "When you wake up," he intones, "you will realize my brilliance and start the treatment." He stops the yo-yo's pendulum and snaps his fingers under Chase's nose. "And...go!"
Chase leans back in his chair and stares up at House. "I'm still not doing it."
"Hmm, didn't work," House says, narrowing his eyes. He flicks the yo-yo out again. It whizzes as it spins out its string, a breath away from Chase's left ear. "And that David Copperfield special promised me results."
"You aren't going to hypnotize me into thinking this is a good plan."
The yo-yo slaps back into House's palm. "You mean I don't have the awesome power of Mesmer come again? Maybe that's why they called it medical school and not clown college." He frowns thoughtfully and taps a finger against his lower lip. "Hard to tell sometimes."
Jenny's boyfriend's name is Todd. He's painfully earnest, and he looks so lost when he's anywhere but at Jenny's side. He had meant to propose at dinner the night when she first collapsed. Cameron drops her glasses on the conference table and rubs her eyes, trying to dig away the fatigue. House could be right. Or he could be killing her. She says, "We should do it."
House blinks. "Pardon me?"
"You're joking," Chase says, turning his chair around to face her. "Her pressure is bottoming out. Her white count's barely there. We only just got her back last time."
Foreman raises his eyebrows. "And you do remember the part where this goes explicitly against the patient's wishes?"
"Not to mention what Cuddy will do when she finds out," Chase adds.
"Never!" House bellows triumphantly, shaking one fist in the air. They all stop and stare at him, and he says loftily, "Cuddy has much better things to worry about tonight than my appropriation of hospital equipment." Then he leans towards them and whispers confidentially, "I finally hacked her password to DocMatch.com. Oh, by the way, Chase," he adds, "you have a date Friday. I'm sure those skills you learned from Annette will come in very useful."
Foreman rolls his eyes. Chase looks nervous in a way the yo-yo hasn't really managed for months. Way too satisfied with himself, House turns back to the whiteboard and grimaces at his printing.
"The risk isn't worth it," Chase starts, just as Foreman says, "She already signed the DNR. She doesn't want to suffer any longer if this is just going to kill her anyway. Her parents agree. And this definitely counts as an invasive procedure."
House gives them his best 'well I never would have thought of it that way, how silly of me!' face. He inclines his head towards Cameron, the very picture of sarcastic patience. He's waiting for Cameron's defence of medical ethics before he shoots them all down.
"I just happen to think that House is right," Cameron says, not meeting his eyes.
House shakes his head and turns back to stare at the list of symptoms. "No, Foreman and Chase are right."
Cameron's mouth falls open. She can't help it. He's the one who's kept them here, beating his pet theory to death, instead of letting them ease Jenny's pain. He's the one who was so sure his way is the only possibility. "What?"
"Not about the treatment. I still have this distressing tendency to make people stop dying more often than them. I mean about you." He turns to Cameron, and there's that microscope look again. "No bedroom eyes, no indignant moral stands. But you're still here, not out treating..."
"Jenny," Chase supplies.
"Whoever," House says. "You'd like to think I know the answer. But you don't think I'm right."
"We don't have time to debate this," Cameron says, straightening her spine and folding her hands in front of her. "We need to start the treatment if we want to see any effect before the symptoms get worse."
"Oh, come on." House starts pacing back and forth, swinging his weight on his cane at each turn. "That isn't what you think. You're sucking up. And you still can't match Chase even on his worst day. It's not the treatment. It's not even the patient. If you want to insist on the high school romance, why don't I just give you my class ring and ask if you wanna get hitched after the prom?"
Cameron can't say a thing. She was wrong. It's not Chase. She's the one he's playing with. House stares at her, waiting. She's tonight's distraction, something to take his mind off--whatever. That he can't solve the puzzle. That his patient's dying. That his leg hurts. And if he can use her feelings against her then at least somebody else will be hurting too. Chase looks like he's swallowing a nervous giggle. Foreman seems caught between mild annoyance and mild interest. But it's all just games, and Jenny's the one paying for it.
"That is not what this is about," she sputters at last. "I'm--I'm acting professionally, it's my medical opinion--"
"Great," House says. "Then go and start the treatment."
Cameron hesitates for a moment, and then stalks out of the room. "Chase," House says behind her, and he suddenly sounds as tired as she feels. "Go with her, and try to save Jenny when she crashes. Foreman, schedule the OR for seven o'clock."
"For what?" Foreman says.
House shrugs. "We'll know by the time you drag Jackson off the ninth green," he says.
"It's the middle of the night," Foreman says.
"Yeah, doctors, huh?" House says. "Always on the links when you need them."
Cameron doesn't stay to hear any more. It's hours later that Jenny is finally out of danger, because apparently House was right again. Cameron returns to the conference room and lets herself collapse into a chair. Jenny's test results are spread across the table like a jumbled jigsaw, but her chart is gone. Cameron can see House in his office, sitting at his desk and leafing through it slowly.
Jenny will live. The case is over. Mystery solved. Cameron knows she should go home, sleep, shower, anything in order to feel human again. Instead she puts the results in order, trying to make sense of them, trying to follow House's path to the solution. Everything is there in the tests, if she only understood how to see it. But there's nothing at all, and Cameron's somehow certain that she's still missing the answer that was being offered all along.
iii. Shotgun Morality
"Definitely the pick of Princeton-Plainsboro," House says, "not that I've personally conducted a survey. There's something in the rulebook that says I can't. I'm pretty sure it's in those darned sexual harassment seminars someone keeps signing me up for behind my back."
Cuddy doesn't ask what he's going on about. It's pretty obvious, given that she's bent over her desk, her skirt hitched up to her waist. House's palm, resting cautiously on her lower back, is sliding lower by degrees, as though he's daring himself to risk the consequences of cupping her ass.
"Maybe it's a bit soon to go pro, but you'd be a feisty amateur. If you were up against the stars of Anal Chiropractor, I think you could hold your own."
The painful double entendres are worse than the needles, worse still since Cuddy can't stop herself from feeling flattered. The last thing House's juvenile lechery should be is complimentary, but here she is, pumped full of hormones and starting to think that it's actually sweet. She needs somebody to admire her figure, since she's bucking to lose it as soon as possible, and she may never get it back. And this is as close as she's going to get to a loving husband: the sudden touch of cold and the sharp smell of antiseptic as House starts the alcohol wipe. It's pathetic, really. Maybe that's why House is being--God help her for being grateful--distracting, in the most inappropriate way he possibly can.
"In fact," he says, as if a particularly wonderful idea has just dawned on him, "if the hospital sponsored a Finest Ass Competition, I'd make sure you had some clout on the judging panel."
"And call on Dr. Wilson to be your co-judge?" Her voice should be acid, but instead it's amused, and she can feel House smirking through his hand on her back.
"Consultation is one of a diagnostician's most powerful tools," he says in his pompous 'I'm a doctor' voice. He's over-doing the alcohol again; the rough-pleasant circling of the cotton ball verges on the obscene. Cuddy grits her teeth and tries to unclench her hands on the surface of her desk--he can see how white her knuckles are over her shoulder, of course; she's pretty sure that's how he calculates just how far he can push her.
"Yes, Wilson and I, doing our part to lay to rest one of mankind's most niggling questions..."
"You mean, how you two manage to stay department heads with priorities like those?" Cuddy would like to believe she's gotten used to it, that she can snap back at House faster and sharper than anyone except perhaps Wilson, who doesn't really try that often. The truth is, though, she reacts. She knows she does. Because the day she stops reacting will be the day House finds yet another way to poke and prod at her and generally drive her insane.
"Detailed physical exams would be involved. But we wouldn't back down. Even if it takes hours." The cotton ball lingers, excruciatingly slow.
"House. Get on with it." And there, he's gotten to her again. Of course. He doesn't give a sign that it's what he was waiting for, but a moment later the cotton ball lands in the garbage can across the room.
"Or days," he says blithely, uncapping the syringe. "Weeks, even. I'm a dedicated professional, Dr. Cuddy--"
It's then that he slides the needle in, and she almost flinches, more at the surprise than at the pinch. It's always a shock that House can be deft at medical procedures. She's certain she has no idea where he gets the practice.
"I'm willing to sacrifice myself to the cause." The needle's out, and he's pressing a bit of gauze to the injection site, and there is no way in hell that Cuddy heard what she thinks she just heard. Behind the useless attempts at being clever and the adolescent leering, House is serious.
Last time, she'd walked out of his office before she could say anything more than thank you, her heart hammering at how close she'd come to going down that path. She'd opened her mouth, seen just how certifiably crazy she'd have to be to even consider asking House for his DNA, and promptly covered for herself, painfully and awkwardly. Now he's the one bringing it up, and of course he's figured out what she meant to ask him.
For an instant, his fingers on her ass are gentle in a way that's decidedly not medical--and then they're gone. Cuddy hates him, quite clearly and suddenly. She hates that she's interpreting the way he cleans up after the injection, tossing the bits of paper wrapping from the gauze, capping the alcohol, and tapping the needle into the sharps container. Silently, and Greg House is never silent unless he's waiting for someone to crack.
Cuddy turns around, smoothing her skirt down and straightening her spine and remembering that this is her office. "Is this why you chased away all my potential donors?" she demands.
The shocked-innocent face, like a gaping fish, stopped fooling her about half a second after he first showed it to her, and that was seven years ago. "Why, Dr. Cuddy, perish the thought!"
"What the hell are you saying, House?"
"I'll make an honest woman of you," he said. "I don't care about the odds the orderlies down in Radiology are quoting; I still say it can be done."
He shrugs, smirks, leans sideways on his cane. All his stupid little tricks for getting someone else to slip up first.
Cuddy considers it.
It's a split-second, maybe-it-could-work moment of idiocy, and she's known House long enough to see the complete terror in his eyes that makes it all too real. The thing is, she knows it would work--long enough to bury them so deep in shit that they'd never recover. Wilson's been House's friend for ten years, and look what it's done to him. But he's offered, and she is, once again, grateful that he's trying. That he cares. It's not something House shows often, so she repays him in kind.
"You are unbelievable," she says, and if she's not yelling, it's a close-run thing. "What did you expect? That I'd start crying and confess to my secret unrequited love to you? Oh, I know, I'll buy my own engagement ring and show it off to everyone who passes by the admit desk. I wouldn't want the rumours you've probably already started to be totally unfounded. Will that help you get the cheap laugh you're looking for?"
House ducks his head, and for a second Cuddy's stomach drops and she thinks she's completely miscalculated. But then he's grinning at her, and his glance dips down to her chest before meeting her eyes again. "New Jersey would fall at your feet. At least in the hope of a better view," he says.
Cuddy stalks forward. "Out!"
"Call me when the hospital sponsors that contest," he says as she shoves him backwards out her office door. "My copy of Poetic Just Ass is a bit worn out, but you can come over and ogle your competition with me any time!" he shouts, for the sake of whatever audience the hallway provides.
Cuddy slams the door behind him, but she can hear him through it, explaining, "Can't commit to me, can't leave my porn collection alone."
If she laughs so hard she starts crying, once he's gone, it's probably best to blame the hormones.
iv. As Many Nights As Days
The jar full of tens is the last thing Wilson takes when he moves out. Two people living together should have built more memories between them in the time they've had, but Wilson's stuff has somehow never mingled with Julie's. The separation's as clean and sharp as a bandage ripped off in one grand yank. It's Julie's house now, according to the lawyers. Even before the paperwork is finished, Wilson has erased the parts of himself that managed to stick here. The jar's the exception, but then, he's ignored it so carefully, for so long, hidden at the back of the hallway closet's top shelf, that Julie never knew it was there at all.
It probably holds enough money to cover most of the debts House owes him. Not the big ones, but the daily annoyances. Cheques he's walked out on in restaurants, meals Wilson buys him in the cafeteria, all the times he walks in without knocking and says something like, "Hey, gimme twenty bucks, I'm betting Foreman that the woman with the TIA in exam one's got Fabry's." Cameron once asked him why he lets House get away with it. Wilson only shrugged at her and smiled a bit, but a big part of it is that House never welshes on the jar.
Because he has a choice of his new apartment or House's, Wilson turns off all conscious thought as he drives. Instead, he remembers House, leaning on the door of the patient's room, the day Wilson made the bet. David, his name was David. Wilson was nervous about bringing House along, but he made no move to interrupt or make jokes. He nodded when Wilson said, "This is my colleague, Dr. House," and then he was actually quiet while Wilson talked. Outlining the treatment plans that had failed. The aggressiveness of the cancer. Explaining angiogenesis, metastasis, the palliative care options the hospital offered. David nodded in all the right places. His wife, Andrea, held his hand and was silent, although her shoulders were shaking and slow tears tracked down her face.
"Thank you, Doctor," David said at last, when Wilson's words finally ran dry. "Maybe you could give us a minute."
"Of course." Wilson stood up. House was already out of the room and stalking down the hallway as fast as he could.
"Hey!" Wilson called after him, and followed him into the elevator. "Well?"
House looked at him, his expression unfathomable.
"I won," Wilson added, trying not to show how much he was crowing. House loved to stack the odds in his favour.
House didn't answer. He limped ahead of Wilson to his office and sat behind his desk, frowning off into space.
"So where's the money?" Wilson asked. "Come on, fork it over."
House immediately pulled out his wallet and held up a ten between two fingers. Wilson reached for it, certain that House would jerk his hand back at the last second.
"Hey, sore loser," Wilson teased gently. "I told you I could do it."
Finally, House looked up and met his eyes. "Very compassionate, doctor," he said coldly. "Thank you. Maybe you could give me a minute." And he turned his chair around to look out the window.
After that, Wilson's never been able to spend his winnings. It's worse than morbid, and he hates himself for making the bet in the first place. He never tells House to pay off, but the money just appears. Tucked between the pages of charts on his desk. In his suit jacket pocket at the end of the day. Once, the bill was folded neatly in his wallet when he opened it to prove to House that he didn't have enough money that day to cover lunch.
It always hurts, and House always knows. Maybe the nurses gossip. Maybe House sneaks into his patients' rooms and interrogates them. Maybe he reads Wilson's face, the way he reads his ties or his shoes--as clearly as if Wilson's made a note in each chart for every thank you. It hurts, every time, and maybe that's what House intended all along. There's no way Wilson can become jaded now about offering death sentences. House might be the only reason he still cares so deeply for each patient.
It's no surprise at all that the trip is a blank in his memory when he pulls into his usual parking spot outside House's apartment. He barely remembers ordering the bag of kung pao chicken and sweet and sour pork that's sitting on the passenger seat next to the jar.
House glances at him when he uses his key and walks in, and then ignores him. He takes a drink from his beer, his eyes glued to the TV. Wilson dumps his stuff on the table and grabs the beer that's waiting for him. He sits back with a sigh and puts his feet up. House's place always has the heat cranked higher than Julie would ever allow the thermostat to go. Wilson relaxes into the warmth, the taste of the beer, and the spectacle of East Texas co-eds flying through the air and snapping their femurs like twigs. He smirks at the sight of so many perky breasts rushing around in blind panic. The solemn tones of the voice-over describing the disaster fall just short of ecstatic.
For a few seconds, Wilson thinks he's going to have the chance to unwind, to forget about Julie and divorce attorneys and all the patients he'll eventually mourn with House's money. Then House stops paying attention to the TV, and Wilson sees him staring in his peripheral vision. That's never a good sign, so Wilson drinks his beer and ignores it.
For all of two seconds. He glances sideways at House, whose eyes are bright with analytical curiosity. Wilson tenses again, feeling defensive for no good reason. "What?"
"Is your dance card full this evening?" House asks.
"No," Wilson says, confused. Showing up with Chinese and watching When Cheerleaders Fall is about all he's up for, although he can't really call that having plans. It's just the way things work out, more often than not.
"So we aren't the ones dropping the ransom to little Betty Mae's kidnappers?" House asks, opening the takeout containers and grabbing a plastic fork. "What about a big drug buy, with the narcs rushing in at the last moment, and us ending up strip-searched and thrown in the drunk tank with a three-time loser ironically named Twinkles?"
The jar is sitting on the coffee table. Wilson carefully doesn't look at it. The surest way to keep House picking at a scab is to tell him it'll bleed if he does. "You've...really put a lot of thought into this, haven't you?" he asks instead.
"Our escape from the New Jersey State Prison can't go wrong," House replies, rolling his eyes with exaggerated glee. "You'll distract the guards with your boyish charm while I steal the spoon you'll use to dig our way to freedom." He waves his fork, illustrating, and his cheerful act is nothing short of terrifying. "Then it's only thirty years of no clinic duty and me trading your sexual favours for cigarettes before we find our way to a lonely beach on the Pacific."
Wilson allows himself a smile. Tangents have always worked wonders on House. "I think I liked your movie references better when you were watching Attack of the Killer Tomatoes obsessively," he says.
"In those scenarios we never survived."
"But 'death by tomato' just sounds cooler."
"There was never enough sodomy, though."
"Oh, what was I thinking? Leaving the sodomy off my to-do list."
"It's an understandable omission. Between the nurses and the prettier residents, your to-do list is long enough."
Wilson snorts and grabs the container of sweet and sour pork. "So many affairs, so many future acrimonious break-ups. It's a wonder I've worked you into my schedule."
House nods thoughtfully. "When's the divorce final?"
"Ah, yes, the part of the evening I was most looking forward to," Wilson says, though he's too tired to resist for long.
"Hate isn't the enemy," House says, putting on his dignified face. "Silence is."
"That isn't an excuse for nosy questions--it's a caption you read off a domestic violence poster in the clinic."
"And you're avoiding the question."
Wilson sighs. "Two weeks."
House grunts. On the TV, a giant pyramid of nubile cheerleaders has just collapsed into a writhing mass of shapely limbs. They both sip from their beers at the same moment, deeply appreciative.
When the commercials come on, House says, apparently out of nowhere, "That looks like enough cash to keep me in the style to which I've become accustomed."
"I'm the reason you became accustomed to that style in the first place," Wilson points out.
"Exactly. We need to stop fooling ourselves."
"House," Wilson says warningly. Tired. He's tired. God.
"I'm not going to get down on one knee for this," House says. "I can play the cripple card all night if I want to."
Wilson blinks, realigns his worldview, checks in with his id and his superego, and says, intelligently, "Oh."
House opens his mouth, and Wilson knows he's about to be massacred for stupid responses and for believing that House is ever serious, about anything. I really had you going that time, didn't I?
"Fine," he adds quickly. "Get me the spoon. I'll start the escape tunnel."
"Make sure you dig up," House says. He's trying to hide it, but he's smiling, and Wilson feels something twist inside him at how welcome the sight of it is.
"That's the only way this will work," he agrees, and they're both laughing too hard to care when the rest of the cheerleaders fall.