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All Good Things (3/4)

Title: All Good Things
Pairing: House/Wilson
Rating: R for language, adult themes and brief sexuality
Words: 23,000 (in four parts)
Summary: Life, death, and a double shot of irony.
Warning: character death, cancer, medical liberties
Works consulted:
here.

One | Two | Three | Four

They returned to Princeton General the first week of July to get more scans and see if making a toxic pâté of Wilson’s liver had been worth it.

“The chemoembolization is having an effect. There’s significant tumor necrosis.”

House studied the back-lit scans carefully. Dr. Abbott wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know, but he still wasn’t sure he trusted her or her good news. The tumor had let up some of its hold on Wilson’s liver, though perhaps not as much as her smile would suggest.

“It’s bought me some time,” Wilson allowed, eyeing the scans critically.

“Right now, that’s all we can really hope for. The longer you’re on the list, the closer you are to a new liver,” she said. Wilson glanced from House to Dr. Abbott, checking to see if either of them actually believed that. House did his best to school his expression into one of neutrality, unsure which would be worse if he failed: desperate hope or bitter skepticism.

“Yeah, no. Good,” Wilson said finally. “Let’s go ahead and schedule another course.”

* * * * *

 “Why don’t we do something?” Wilson proposed one evening, licking his index finger and turning a page. They were situated on the couch, feet propped on the coffee table, House had his laptop perched on his knees, watching video clips of skiers wiping out.

“Why, James! You know I’m saving myself for marriage.” A ski caught on a rock and the skier learned a harsh lesson about survival of the fittest. They never actually snowballed like in the cartoons, but instead tumbled down like a tennis ball in the dryer.

“Everybody knows oral doesn’t count,” Wilson leered at him. “But really, we could go out or something.” The way he said out made it sound like a rather foreign concept. He set his novel aside and turned toward House. “I think they’re having live jazz at O’Ryan’s.”

“How much could O’Ryan possibly know about jazz?”

“No, you’re right. It’s much better hanging out here. In your dank and dark apartment.”

“Hell yeah, it is.”

“I’ve been meaning to watch Gone with the Wind again.”

“…Point, set, match,” House yielded. “Does this mean I have to put on real pants?” He ran a hand down the leg of his pajama bottoms.

“I think you’d better,” Wilson said apologetically.

Neither of them moved too fast getting changed. House changed into a cleanish pair of jeans, an Aerosmith t-shirt, and his dark blazer. Wilson wore one of his work shirts, still pressed and starched, and charcoal slacks. At least he hadn’t gotten out his infernal ties.

The bar was dark and cramped, an impression enhanced by the smog of cigarette smoke. A low, makeshift stage had been set up in the corner. A quartet was already playing. They weren’t that bad, but House had to refrain from pointing out that he was better. House grabbed them a booth towards the back. He preferred tables or anything with chairs, really – maneuvering his leg in the cramped quarters of a booth was difficult – but it was the only thing open and Wilson didn’t look up to waiting for something better. House waved over a waitress and ordered a couple of beers knowing he’d probably end up drinking both of them.  

Wilson pushed himself up, lurching awkwardly before steadying on his feet. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he told House, squeezing his shoulder briefly. House watched as he made a beeline for the men’s room, nearly bowling an unwary waitress over in the process. After taking a moment to finish his gin and tonic with a grimace, House followed, pushing open the door. Wilson had both hands braced against one of the grungy sinks, staring into the drain intensely. He glanced up at House’s arrival, then ran the water and splashed his face. The water dripped from the strands of hair around his face and off his chin.

“You going to hurl?” House asked, leaning next to the empty paper-towel dispenser.

Wilson hesitated, trying to ascertain that very thing. “No,” he decided finally. “I just need a moment. It’s the smoke, made me light-headed. I’m fine.”

“You sure?” House put the back of his hand to Wilson’s forehead. As a diagnostic tool, it was largely pointless, but he let his fingers linger anyway. There was a flush and some shuffling, signaling they weren’t alone. A man in a green windbreaker and a trucker hat exited the stall, gave them a hard stare, and left without washing his hands. The doctor in House flinched and he could tell Wilson was thinking the same. “You feel a little warm. Do you want to go home?”

At first he thought Wilson would argue, irritated at being ushered home like the kid who’d eaten too many sweets, but then he sagged a little. “Yeah. Let’s go home. Sorry.”

“Why? The jazz sucks. I was just here since you wanted to be here.”

They exited together, slowly threading their way through the bar, House going first and clearing people out of the way with a quick jab of his cane. The night air was comparatively cooler than the stuffy bar atmosphere, and they both took an instinctive breath. They both took a seat on the bench right outside the bar, taking a moment to clear their heads.

House leaned back, draping his arms across the back of the bench, his cane resting against his knee. “I’ve been doing some research.”

“Yeah?” Wilson said guardedly.

“They’ve been running some trials in Tokyo. Initial results have been promising.” He watched cars pass; he could see Wilson watching him out of the corner of his eye.

“And you’re, what? Suggesting I travel around the world to try treatments that haven’t entered trial phase in the States, based on tentative results that are probably skewed anyway?”

“No, I think you should continue with worthless but FDA-approved treatments. Much better plan.” House held his breath a moment to steady himself. “I just…”

“Please, don’t.”

“Just consider your options, all right?” House finished, feeling defeated.

Wilson scuffed his toes along the pavement. “I have considered. And I just want to…to be at home.” House realized that be wasn’t Wilson’s first word choice.

“Okay.” They were silent a moment. House pushed himself up. “You wait here; I’ll bring the car around.” Wilson gave his cane a meaningful look. “Look, my chances of making it to the car are much better if I don’t have to haul your sorry ass when you collapse.”

Wilson half-smiled in concession. “Fine.”

House made his way to the car. They should have taken the bike; that way he wouldn’t even have to slow down if Wilson had to puke off the side. He fumbled for his keys, momentarily worried he’d lost them, but they were in his pocket after all. He started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, taking a moment to honk at an asshole for nearly clipping his front bumper. As he pulled up in front of the bar, he saw Wilson talking with the man from the bathroom. Had he followed them outside? Wilson seemed worried or concerned and he spread his hands in a gesticulation House recognized as an apology.

House had stepped hard on the gas, requiring an abrupt brake to bring the car to a stop in front of the bar with a squeal of unhappy rubber. House was out of the car, keys left in the ignition, and around to Wilson’s side with speed that clearly startled Wilson, who took a step back. House took that opportunity to insinuate himself between Wilson and Trucker Hat. “Right, Wilson, let’s get out of here. Wouldn’t want any trouble.” The smile he flashed at the man was all teeth.

Wilson was taken aback, but it was the man who answered. “Hey, cool it, man. I was just asking your boyfriend the time.”

“It’s time for you to move along, buh-bye!” House set a hand on the small of Wilson’s back, pushing him toward the car. He opened the door and Wilson let himself be guided into it.

“What the hell was that about?” Wilson asked as they pulled away from the curb. “He just wanted the time.”

“Right. Says Mister People-Are-Good-And-Noble.”

“No, I’m just not Mister People-Are-Evil-Incarnate,” Wilson countered.

“Maybe you should be.”

“What are you afraid of? That he was…hitting on me?”

“In one respect or another.”

“He wasn’t threatening, House, just drunk.” Wilson said tiredly.

“Which is even worse.”

* * * * *

House watched with growing annoyance as Wilson chatted with the pretty oncologist. He couldn’t quite remember her name. Something that started with M. Maria? Mendez? Whatever. He scowled and tried to get a better view through Wilson’s open office door without giving away his presence, hurriedly backing out of the line of sight when Wilson glanced in his direction. Not that he gave a rat’s ass who Wilson talked to.

He made a mental note to steal her personal file at the first possible opportunity. She flicked dark hair over her shoulder and laughed at something Wilson had just said. It had to be out of sympathy. No woman in her right mind could possibly be attracted to Wilson now. Except maybe Cameron, who would probably dig the wan, underfed look Wilson was sporting. But then Wilson returned whatsherface’s smile with his most disarming grin, and House realized she didn’t have a chance.

He waited patiently until the brunette had finished up the conversation and pretended to be making chart notations as she left, stealing another assessing glace as she walked past. A little on the short side, but with a great ass. He moved in and struck a pose leaning on the door frame. Wilson jumped when he noticed him, and House smiled smugly; Wilson shot him a brief glare. “So is the cancer as good a pity-sex card as the gimp leg?” House produced a package of Doritos from his pocket and opened them, popping one in his mouth with an audible crunch. “Is asking her for her advice like asking people to study anatomy in med school?”

“I’m going to stop seeing patients.” Wilson paused, allowing House to take in that seeming non sequitur. “Mendoza’s taking over most of my cases.” He looked up from the file he was reading over. House licked orange residue from his fingers one by one and wiped them down the chair’s upholstered seat. Wilson looked utterly repulsed but refrained from complaining. “It’s just too hard. Either I lie and they wonder what the hell is wrong with me and worry I’m not focusing on their treatment., or I do tell them and then they’re demoralized and also wondering if I’m not focusing on their treatment.”

“Or maybe,” House held up a finger to emphasis his point, “they find it reassuring to have a doctor better able to empathize with them and who really understands what they’re going through.”

“Do you really think that?” Wilson tone was careful.

“No. Of course not.” House munched contemplatively. “They have cancer—everything else is secondary, even their doctor’s cancer. People never trust the sick, especially the sick themselves.”

“Right,” Wilson agreed softly, unnecessarily straightening his desk.

“I don’t know what you’re upset about. An excuse not to deal with patients? I’m looking for that all the time. You can still do consults and the paperwork you love so much.” Wilson was examining his nails, absently picking at his cuticles. “But if you want to keep seeing patients, you should. Fuck what they think.”

Wilson chewed at a hangnail, eyes distant and unfocused. Finally he said, so quietly House had to lean in to catch his words, “I’m not sure I want to.”

House shrugged. “Then don’t.”

* * * * *

House waited for the scan, impatiently grabbing it out of the technician’s hand. The tumors stood out as stark white anomalies. They hadn’t grown, but they hadn’t shrunk either. His heart fell sharply and it was only then that he realized how much he’d been pinning on this. Wilson took the scan from his hand, reminding them that they were his in the first place, and put them up against the light. He looked at the scan intently for a moment.

“It’s no bigger,” House said. “Another course might still be useful.”

“No,” Wilson said quietly. “It’s not.” House turned to him slightly, strangely unnerved by Wilson’s tone. Wilson didn’t look at him but raised a hand to tap on the scan. House followed Wilson’s fingers, not to the liver but to the lungs. “It’s metastasized.”

It was funny, but the first thing House felt was annoyance. Annoyance that he’d missed the new growths on Wilson’s lungs. They were small, but still, he was worse than Chase. Then came the stark realization that there were more pressing concerns at stake than his medical reputation.

“Well,” Wilson said after a moment. “Looks like I’m officially fucked.”

* * * * *

Wilson’s garment bag was laid across the bed, an assortment of ties and dress shirts spread across the comforter in coordinating pair. “Exactly how long are you planning on staying?” House said, eyeing the display. “A fortnight? It’s your parents’—not an Antarctic expedition. ”

“Just for the weekend. I should be back Sunday night. I’m not taking all of these,” he said defensively. “I’m deciding what to wear.”

“As long as you’re not actually naked, I don’t see how it matters.” House considered a moment. “Actually­, I wouldn’t mind if you did go around naked. Be kind of creepy if your family felt the same, though.” He watched as Wilson picked up two nearly identical ties, holding first one up against a shirt and then the other. After careful consideration both were found lacking and he chose yet another identical tie.

“Have you done anything with the iron?” Wilson asked absently, absorbed in his selection process. House picked up one of the rejected ties and begun winding it around his fist like a boxer.

“Yeah, I ironed my underwear after I alphabetized the canned goods and arranged some seasonal flowers in a simple yet elegant centerpiece.” House pressed the smooth silk to his lips, enjoying the cool kiss of the fabric.

“I don’t know—you could have thrown it at someone,” Wilson shrugged slightly.

“No. I haven’t done anything with the iron. I didn’t even know we had one—”

“—why am I not surprised—”

“—But I’ll be sure to keep it in mind next time I need a missile,” House finished smugly. “Why do you need the iron anyway? You’re so anal you press things as soon as they’re washed.”

“But it’s been awhile since these have been. I just want to retouch a bit.”

“They’ve been hanging up in the closet. Do you think the wrinkle fairy comes around and wrinkles your shirts in your sleep?”

“Well, excuse me for wanting to look nice,” Wilson huffed. 

House rolled his eyes. “They’re your family; you shouldn’t have to look nice.”

Wilson gave him a long indecipherable look. “I just want to look nice,” he repeated stubbornly.

House returned the look. “Just how much do they know?”

“They know I’m coming home; they don’t know why.”

“Hey Mom and Dad, guess what—I have cancer! Surprise!” House waved his hands wildly.

“They’ll be surprised all right. The last three times I went home was to announce an engagement.” Wilson smiled ruefully at the memory, rolling a pair of dress socks into a neat ball and tucking it into a pocket of the garment bag.

“So it’ll be a relief, then. They don’t have to buy a gift.”

Wilson reached over and gently took the tie from House before he could knot it too badly. “But they’ll still have to buy flowers. And no hope for grandchildren.”

“Unless the tumor counts. You could name it,” House suggested brightly.

“I’m not naming my tumor.”

“Lisa for a girl-tumor and John—after my dad­—for a boy-tumor.”

“I am not naming—”

“Do you want me to come?” House asked abruptly.

Wilson didn’t have to think about it. “No.”

“Because I would love to win an all-expenses-paid trip to beautiful and exotic Saratoga Springs.”

Wilson laughed lightly. “I’m sorry; you’ll have to play again next time.” He sobered a bit. “My family will be easier to deal with if you’re not there. And they deserve to hear it without…interference.”

“I can’t imagine that you’re talking about me. I would be the very soul of—”

“I don’t care what you’re the soul of. You’re not coming.”

House spent the entire weekend watching crappy horror movies and trying to refrain from calling Wilson more times than was seemly. He limited himself to three times on Saturday. Well, actually six but twice Wilson’s phone was off, so they didn’t count and once was him returning Wilson’s call returning his call, so it didn’t count either. When Wilson returned Sunday evening, House was on the couch—a position he’d only left that weekend to make bathroom runs and meet the delivery guy. Wilson had enough energy to throw his bag over the arm of the couch before collapsing beside him.

“How was it?” House asked as Wilson scrubbed his face with his hands.

“It went as well as could reasonably be expected.” Wilson sighed, his head rolling against the back of the couch.

House waited for Wilson to elaborate. When he didn’t, House prompted, “…And the family?”

“Mom’s thinking about redoing the kitchen.” Wilson pushed his shoes off with his toes, letting them drop next to the coffee table.

“And?”

“Apparently she’s not as fond of puce as she thought she was.” Wilson’s eyes were closed.

“That’s it.” House hated it when Wilson decided to be difficult.

“Pretty much. I could tell you about the great drapes debate, but that would just bore you.” Wilson tucked his hands behind his head, stubbornly evading the question.

“Their son has cancer and they want to talk about interior design?”

“Everybody deals with it differently,” Wilson muttered serenely. “Some people talk. My mother decorates.”

“That’s not dealing—that’s indifferent.” House paused and considered. “You didn’t tell them.”

Wilson’s eyes opened and he turned a little to look at House directly. He seemed surprised. “Yes, I did.” He paused, “I may have watered it down a bit.”

“‘Watered it down’? How do you water down cancer?”

“I spared them most of the details. Told them I’m pretty sick but I’m just taking it as it comes—which is true. Besides, what do you care what I tell my parents?”

House shrugged. “It’s nothing to me.”

“Then can we talk about something else?” Wilson asked, a note of pleading in his voice.

“Sure,” House readily agreed. “Who do you think would win in a fight—Gandalf or Magneto?” 

* * * * *

 “I’m sorry,” Wilson said the next morning over breakfast table.

House looked up from his marshmallow-laced breakfast cereal. “For any particular reason? Or is this just general guilt?”

“About the time you’re spending on me.” Wilson picked the crust off his toast, making a little pyramid of crust bits on his napkin.

House went back to his cereal. “Unless your apologies come in monetary form,” he said between bites, “or sexual favors, I don’t want them.”

Wilson set his toast aside altogether. “House…”

“Pony up or shut up.” House made a face. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Come back when you’re really grateful.”

Wilson rolled his eyes and rose, picking up his largely uneaten breakfast plate. “Are you done with that?” He nodded to the cereal. “It’s soggy.”

Pulling the bowl in protectively toward him, House growled. “I like it soggy.”

Wilson shrugged. “Whatever. I’m going to take a bath.” He padded off in the direction of the bathroom. When he heard the water running, House got up and retrieved Wilson’s messenger bag from the closet. He set it on the couch and unzipped it, keeping a careful ear out in case Wilson made a sudden appearance. A spare shirt and pair of gym shoes, old paperwork, and a few books. House smiled to himself over Wilson’s poor taste in literature. Even with all the extra free time, you’d think he could do better than Stephen King. Another book caught his eye and he pulled it out. Dying Well. He held it in his hand, the cover cool to his fingertips, and flipped through it quickly, then set it aside. He pulled out another book. Grief and Grieving. Another. All designed with muted colors and natural imagery, the ocean, trees, the setting sun.

“Hey.” House looked up, startled. Wilson stood in the doorway, still damp from his bath, sweatshirt sleeves pushed up to his elbows.

House held up the book he was holding. “Interesting reading list. But, really, Jimmy, Getting to the Other Side of Grief: Overcoming the Loss of a Spouse? Are we really that close?” Wilson walked over and took the book from him.

“I already had it at the hospital.” Wilson looked a bit sheepish. “It has some good information, if you’d just look at—”

House snorted derisively. “I don’t need a book to tell me it’s okay to be sad.”

“I have the number of a couple of therapists. Hell, there are even support groups, if I thought you’d go.”

“I’d rather spork out my own eyes.”

“If that’s the form your grief takes.” He collected the rest of the books, stowing them back in the bag.

“Funnily enough, my grief takes the same form as a bottle of Maker’s Mark.”

Wilson winced and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Please, House.”

“What? You want me to read your stupid books, keep a grief diary, acknowledge my pain so I can let it go?” House shoved the bag so it fell off the couch with a thunk. “You know what this actually is? Your desperate attempt to manage my life. The reason every cubic inch of our refrigerator is filled with casseroles with idiot-proof directions, the reason you’re buying me how-to-cry books, is that you’re unwilling to yield control of my life. Dammit, Jimmy Wilson sure can organize, even from the grave. Guess what, Jimmy, the world turned before you entered my life, and it’ll continue turning when you leave it. So drop this charade. And. Quit. Worrying. About. Me.”

Wilson just looked at him, eyes dark and unreadable. “I’m just trying to make this easier, for both of us.”

“Nothing is going to make this easier,” House yelled. “It fucking sucks! And nothing you can do can make it suck less. So just lie back and enjoy the suckage.”

“Yeah, I definitely feel better now.”

“And you would if I read those useless books?”

Wilson blinked. “Yes.”

House sighed heavily and picked the bag back up.

* * * * *

It was late when House finally made it to the apartment after a grueling day of misdiagnoses. He shed his jacket and chucked it in the hall closet without bothering to fish out a hanger. Soon it would be too cold to ride his bike to work. Wilson was seated at the piano, and for a moment House thought he’d walked in on him about to play, but the keys were covered. Instead a beaten cardboard box sat on top, surrounded by photo albums and loose papers and the detritus that had been collecting in Wilson’s junk drawer before the move. A crystal decanter stood by, stoppered for the moment, but accompanied by a matching glass.

House flipped open one of the albums; this one dated to right before wife number 1. There were pictures of her and Wilson, laughing while she hung her arms around his neck, blond hair falling across Wilson’s shoulder. She wore a black and white jersey with orange accent, signaling a Flyers affiliation. With a start he realized that he’d taken this picture, over a decade ago. They’d all gone to get dinner and see a game. The Flyers had won, for once, but House had been distracted by Wilson’s pretty, new girlfriend. He’d completely forgotten about that evening until now.

He paged through the rest of the album, watching as years passed snapshot by snapshot. Wilson had stuck ticket stubs and receipts among the pages. The plane ticket from their ill-fated Vegas trip. Clippings from the paper announcing his first two weddings—he hadn’t bothered with the last—and obituaries of people House didn’t know. Former patients, probably.

House leaned on the top of the piano; he hadn’t even gone through half of this stuff. “You do realize that when they call it ‘baggage’ they aren’t being literal, right?”

Wilson took the album back from him, turning back to the picture of them at the hockey game, and traced the edge with a finger. “I just like having a record.” He set the album on the bench beside him and pulled the brandy closer. House watched as Wilson poured himself a double-shot and intercepted it.

“Not a good idea,” he said simply.

Wilson made an effort to take it back, but House downed it before he could wrest it away. “Oh, very mature,” Wilson spat. “I have an entire bottle. You going to drink that?”

House considered. “I can try.”

“The Seven-Eleven can sell me more.” Wilson was almost petulant, his brows drawn together in anger and annoyance.

“How you going to get there? I have your keys,” House reminded him.

“Dammit,” Wilson snarled. “Damn, damn, damn.” The obscene chant trailed off, becoming weak and breathy. “God damn.” Wilson sat heavily on the couch. “It’s not like it matters.”

House took a seat on the opposite end. “It matters.”

“Yeah, right. You never took care of yourself when you actually had a chance. And now that I don’t, I’m expected to abstain? It’s not fair. It’s not fair!” He flung the words at House, his voice raw and ragged. “The alcohol and Vicodin alone should have killed you. The infarction. Christ, you were shot. You’ve spent most of our friendship on the edge of death. I always thought,” his voice caught, “it would be me standing over your grave.”

House was silent a moment and then said quietly, “That can still be arranged, you know.”

Wilson looked at him, for the first time since he’d sat down. “Don’t you dare.”

“Just sayin’.” House shrugged slightly.

Wilson stared at him and then broke into laughter, the desperate peals of someone dangerously close to crying. House crooked a finger and patted the seat next to him on the couch when Wilson’s near-hysterical mirth subsided. Wilson hesitated, his expression unreadable, then carefully moved closer, clearly unsure of what he was getting into. He curled up next to House, their shoulders just barely touching, his feet tucked under him. House draped an arm over his shoulders, squeezing just a bit. It was a little strange—neither of them were used to physical affection—but Wilson relaxed a little, settling against House’s side. House let his thumb rub a gentle circle against Wilson’s shoulder.

“This is weird,” Wilson said, not quite looking at him.

“And bad?” House kept his tone neutral.

Wilson sat back enough to meet House’s eyes, his expression quizzical. “No, not bad. Just weird.” He considered House a moment. The kiss that followed was light, just the slightest pressure of Wilson’s lips against House’s, delicate and precise. House didn’t move or even breathe. He barely registered the feel of Wilson’s lips before it was over.

“Sorry,” Wilson whispered, their faces still inches apart.

“Don’t be.” House leaned in to kiss Wilson again, with slow deliberate movements, savoring the warm press of lips. This kiss was long, soft and sweet. Finally, Wilson broke it, sitting back with a final lick of his lips. He gave House a considering look, but House couldn’t tell what conclusion he came to before he stood.

“I’m going to bed; are you going to sleep soon?”

“Is that an inquiry?” House asked. “Or an invitation?”

Wilson hesitated and half smiled. “An inquiry. Are you disappointed?”

Now it was House’s turn to consider. He shrugged instead of answering. “I’ll be in shortly.” Wilson nodded and padded off to the bedroom. House turned on the TV so he could think.

* * * * *

 “I’m going to stop the chemo.” Wilson’s fingers were laced behind his head, feet on the coffee table. House didn’t stop flipping through the channels, barely pausing on any channel long enough to ascertain the show. “If the chemo was going to have had an effect, it would have already happened. But the only effects it’s having are the side effects.” Velociraptors ran across the screen, chasing humans who really should have known better by this sequel. “House?” He tore his attention away from the mayhem to look at Wilson. “Tell me you’ve been listening.”

He nodded. “Chemo. You’re stopping.”

“You’re not…mad, are you?” Wilson ventured cautiously.

“Mad? Uh. No. Why would I be mad?” He turned back to the TV. “What are you going to do next?” Wilson remained quiet. “Oh.”

“Sorry.”

“S’alright.” House watched as the people on the TV got picked off, one by one. Lucky bastards. He got to his feet without realizing he had meant to. “I’m going out for a bit. You need anything? Ginger ale? Ice cream? Any kind of comfort in food form?”

Wilson shook his head, his eyes dark as he studied House. “I’m good. I’m about to go to bed in a bit anyway.”

House nodded. “Right. Don’t wait up.” He grabbed his jacket and keys on the way out the door.

The squeal of tire on asphalt was loud in the still night, and House welcomed the breeze in his face as he tore down residential streets far too quickly. He didn’t have a destination in mind, but wasn’t particularly surprised when he wound up in the shady side of town. Worn women in spandex and heels called to him when he stopped at red lights, but he didn’t stop until he came to a particularly dingy bar. Its dying neon sign proclaiming “L VE NUD S.” The inside of the bar was dark and smoky, nearly empty. A tired dancer halfheartedly walked more than danced to Joan Jett. House’s sneakers stuck to the floor as he made his way to the bar.

He ordered cheap whiskey. No need to pretend this was anything other than what it was. He downed the whiskey, and the bartender obligingly filled his glass. He drank that a little slower, but only a little.

“Hey.” House looked up at the woman who’d taken the bar stool next to him. She dressed younger than she was: her neckline dangerously close to indecent and her pants too tight. Her make-up did nothing to hide her imperfections, seeming to enhance rather than hide them.

“Hey,” House returned before turning back to his whiskey. He could still see straight and that needed remedying. He drained the glass.

“I love a man who can hold his alcohol. I find it sexy,” the woman continued as he called for another, seemingly undeterred by his complete lack of interest.

“As a matter of fact, so do I.” His grin revealed more teeth than was quite natural.

She laughed far more loudly than his ‘joke’ deserved. “You’re funny,” she told him unnecessarily.

“Yeah. I’m fucking hilarious.” He glared at the bartender in an effort to hurry him.

“Do you have a special someone?”

“Wow, you sure are subtle.” He accepted the fresh drink gratefully as the bartender cleared away the old one. “But in a manner of speaking, yes, I do.”

“Oh? What’s going on, sugar? She can’t make up her mind?” She leaned forward, eager to be the shoulder he’d cry on.

“Actually he,” he put just the slightest emphasis on the pronoun, “is dying.” It was the first time he’d said it aloud. Every time the thought rose at the back of his mind, he’d pushed it aside, refused to acknowledge it was a possibility. Now it had been released into the world. By admitting it, he allowed it to be true.

She laid a comforting hand on his forearm. “I’m sorry, hon. AIDS?”

He shot her a withering look. “Cancer.”

“Ah,” she said knowingly. “Figures.”

He turned to her, incredulous. “How the hell does that figure?”

She shrugged, unperturbed by his anger. “Dunno. Just does.”

“Guess it makes sense to everyone but me.” Raising his glass, he toasted the world in general.

She rose. “You take care, now, honey.” He didn’t look up from his drink as she made her exit.

He didn’t leave until the bar closed at two. The bartender offered to call him a cab, but House waved him off mumbling something about a friend. He realized that he was in a pretty bad condition, but couldn’t quite care. The idea of becoming a red smear on the curb was oddly appealing. But somehow he managed to drive the bike back without crashing.

The apartment was dark when he staggered inside. House dropped his jacket, reeking of bar, in the bottom of the closet. He’d have to febreeze the shit out of it. He debated whether he was up to a shower to wash the cigarette smoke from his skin. The idea of spending more time upright was distinctly unappealing, but Wilson was sure to find his current stench offensive—Wilson was fussy like that. His head was spinning and he had to brace himself against the stabilization bar in the tub, but the hot water did feel delicious. He managed to towel himself off and even find his pj bottoms, which also proved tricky to slip on without face-planting.

Wilson was curled up on his side facing away from the door and didn’t stir as House sank into the mattress, fumbling with the covers. House couldn’t see Wilson’s face, but the shuddering sigh gave away that he’d been crying. House laid a tentative hand on Wilson’s shoulder, letting his hand run down Wilson’s arm to his hip and then back up to repeat the motion. He fell into a slow rhythm, appreciating the feel of cotton and hot skin under his fingertips. Eventually he changed his stroke to include the outside of Wilson’s leg down to his knee, pausing before working his way back up again. Gradually Wilson’s breath slowed and deepened. House matched the rise and fall of his own chest to Wilson’s.

House adjusted the pillow, his nose nearly touching the back of Wilson’s neck. He inhaled deeply, soaking in Wilson’s warm scent, tinged with soap and the slightest hint of sickness. House reached up to trace the rose-shaded shell of Wilson’s ear, pinching the soft lobe gently, then drew the line of his neck from behind his ear to his collarbone and then pressed the palm of his hand to Wilson’s chest, pressing them closer together. He noticed Wilson breath was again speeding up as he dragged his hand down Wilson’s torso. He was momentarily afraid he’d hurt him, hit a tender spot, but Wilson just caught his hand, squeezed it hard for a moment, and then dragged it down to settle against his stomach where his t-shirt had rucked up to reveal bare skin.

The touch was both utterly new and completely familiar. He let his hand rest there a moment, and then rubbed a light circle on Wilson’s stomach, feeling the flesh quiver ever so slightly under his fingers. He let his caress wander, pushing Wilson’s t-shirt up to trace overly defined ribs, then down to run along the waistband of his boxers. A moment’s hesitation and he slipped his fingers under the elastic, waiting for a protest, but none was forthcoming. His fingers encountered the coarse bristle of hair. First tentatively and then with a surer touch, House’s calloused fingers played along the length of Wilson’s cock. Wilson shivered, breath catching. He hardened under House’s attentions, and House took a firmer grip, finding a rhythm. Wilson stiffened, going rigid a moment before climaxing with a small gasp. House withdrew his hand to rest on a bony hip and pressed a kiss to the side of Wilson’s neck. Wilson shifted, rolling onto his back, and caught House’s mouth with his own. The kiss was slow, but confident, each taking turns exploring the other’s mouth, tasting lips and tongue. Finally House ended it, propping himself up on an elbow.

He kissed Wilson once more, a chaste brush of lips, then slid out of bed, going to the bathroom for cleanup and returning with a fresh pair of boxers. Skillfully skimming the soiled pair off Wilson, he tossed them in the general direction of the dirty clothes hamper. He slipped the clean pair on, pulling them up as Wilson lifted his hips off the bed. House crawled back under the covers and fell quickly asleep, his arm draped across Wilson’s chest.



Continue to Part Four

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
bironic
Feb. 11th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)
Mm. My favorite chapter, and not just for the kiss and bedroom scenes, but also for the pain in House's sudden shout of "Nothing is going to make this easier" and the strip-club epiphany, and now the Wilson-goes-home scene too, which is an interesting take on his relationship with his family (has only been home three times in the last, what, ten years?) and hesitance to share the bad news (probably had trouble announcing the divorces as well).

Not to be nitpicky at this stage of the game, but in that section, He watched as Wilson picked up two nearly identical ties holding first one up against a shirt and then the other could use a comma after "ties." Same down here after "back" in Wilson shifted, rolling onto his back and caught House’s mouth with his own.
rubberbutton
Feb. 11th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
Not to be nitpicky at this stage of the game

Somebody's got to be. And, God knows, it's probably not going to be me. Thanks.
bironic
Feb. 11th, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC)
*g*

So glad you posted this for everyone to enjoy (that is to say, sniffle) and so I can mem it.
asynca
Feb. 11th, 2007 08:00 pm (UTC)
This is even better on the re-read!

My new favourite exchange ever:

She laid a comforting hand on his forearm. “I’m sorry, hon. AIDS?”

He shot her a withering look. “Cancer.”
ignazwisdom
Mar. 27th, 2007 06:18 am (UTC)
You are amazing. Just ... completely amazing.
azdaja_dafema
Apr. 10th, 2007 12:56 am (UTC)
This chapter, oh the scene at the end was so, bittersweet. It was so gentle and yet, cancer. Eee.
everworld2662
Sep. 12th, 2007 11:09 am (UTC)
I love this. I love all of it, but I especially love the end because it's wordless. Absolutely no dialogue, and I can't help but think ... I don't know.

"He was momentarily afraid he’d hurt him, hit a tender spot, but Wilson just caught his hand, squeezed it hard for a moment, and then dragged it down to settle against his stomach where his t-shirt had rucked up to reveal bare skin."

I do not know why this is upsetting me so much, this one line, but it is (and in a totally good way, I hasten to specify). I just...isn't that the ultimate gesture, not of trust as it might imply, but of craving for human contact? When you purposefully hold someone's skin against yours...okay I'm stopping here before I start sobbing. Excuse me. XD
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )