Summary: House is looking for meaning, but maybe it's been right there beside him the whole time.
Fandom: House M.D.
Pairing: House/OFC, House/Wilson
Disclaimer: Not mine. *sniff*
Spoilers: Takes place between "No Reason" (2x24) and "Meaning" (3x01), with spoilers for "No Reason."
Original story: Looking Right Past by topaz_eyes
Notes: Section titles taken from Bruce Cockburn's Bone in my Ear.
Betas: Big, big thanks to nightdog_barks for sticking with me all week and answering question after question, daasgrrl for enthusiasm and beta on two drafts, perspi for providing the last-minute tie-breaking vote on the ending, and synn for encouragement as always.
There's a bone in my ear keeps singing your name
Morphine, ketamine, gunshots, drug-dreams. Moriarty, swollen tongue guy, Cameron and sharp steel. Wilson. Anger. Epiphany.
The fog slowly clears, and two weeks after the freak assault, House is left flexing his pain-free thigh under the hospital blankets, hiding his smile from visitors. The itch of healing wounds barely registers against the memory of pain; he dials down his drip and almost cries with the forgotten joy of a clear mind unfettered by agony.
The labyrinth of hallucinations from which he so recently emerged has left him subdued, in the mood for brooding. They don't trust him yet to run his damn department (not that it stops Chase and Foreman dropping in for consults), so he spends his days teasing apart the puzzle of his own brain. Dissecting his hallucinations. Analyzing his new philosophy.
Meaning through relationships, faux-Wilson told him. House has more than enough time at the moment to think about his relationships, or lack thereof.
First to mind, every time: Stacy. Stacy... is no longer an option. What the two of them had he'll probably never have again; if he'd been holding on to the belief that they could overcome the memory of their last few months together and try again, last year proved him wrong. She hasn't come up from Short Hills anyway, hasn't made the drive to confirm in person whatever Wilson or Cuddy told her over the phone.
There's Cuddy, who, spurred on by guilt and tense with hope—as though the success of this experiment will absolve her for what happened six years ago, not to mention the more recent lapse in hospital security—visits a few times a week, carefully keeping things polite, formal, professional. No; too much water under the bridge. For all their flirting and clash of wills these days, whatever chance they might have had was left behind at Michigan.
Then there's Cameron. Cameron, to whom he woke that first morning exactly as he had in his hallucination, rising from her plastic chair with eager eyes and unwashed hair. She's visited every day since then, impervious to her colleagues' teasing and his own indifference. Deflecting her questions and tuning out her chatter, he subtly appraises her more attractive features and imagines (not for the first time) what it would be like to take her to bed. But every time he closes his eyes he sees the robot—cold metal sliding down taut skin—a sterile operating room. Nothing but simple lust, tempered by the age difference and naïveté and irritating moral righteousness. She can't give him what he needs; he can't give her what she wants. Finally, he can't stand it anymore and sends her scurrying.
Which leaves Wilson.
Wilson, who has always been there since they've known each other. Wilson, who is always a few steps away at work whenever he needs a consult, a companion or a conscience. Wilson, who is always there now, once or twice a day, bringing food and gossip and journals with trashy magazines tucked inside. Wilson, who's there even when he isn't there. Lecturing him in his hallucinations. Little angel-Jimmy sitting on his shoulder when he thinks about doing something reckless. Phantom voice in his head when he's drunk or high enough to jerk off to thoughts of liquid brown eyes and sure, steady hands.
Wilson, who won't always be there. Not for certain. Not unless House makes a move.
He touches his leg gently beneath the blanket. Too soon after the treatment for hope to outweigh failure, so he isn't hoping. He isn't.
Sometimes it's like pleasure, sometimes it's like pain
She introduces herself as Desirée, and she's desirable enough, all right: long-legged, high-breasted, slim and smooth-skinned, eyes wide and green with naturally dark lashes, her black hair just long enough to brush her tight nipples as she kneels to part his thighs. He's been out of the hospital for a month and ready as hell for some stimulation that doesn't come from his own hand. Ready, too, to enjoy sex again without the burning pain or numbing Vicodin, even if the girl's gaze still lingers on his scars.
His dick, however, has other ideas.
She tries her hands, and then she tries her mouth. She tries with lube and without. She tries relaxing him with a massage and exciting him with filthy words and sinuous moves. He tries to do it himself while she watches. They try half a dozen different positions. They even try a few of her tamer toys.
A voice in his ear sings a name he doesn't want to hear. When he starts to think that the girl's coloring is wrong, that her hair is too long and her hands are too small and her voice isn't deep enough, he throws her money at her and shouts until she flees.
It's one a.m. before he accepts that plinking out the melody to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" with his right index finger while sipping from the generous glass of whiskey in his left hand isn't what he needs tonight.
It's one-thirty before he admits that hookers and alcohol and an apartment reeking of self-pity aren't what he needs, period.
It's well past two before he picks up the phone.
It's a small voice and quiet but I hear it plain
Wilson's at his doorstep by three, rumpled and concerned as he pockets the key House never reappropriated and runs a hand through his sleep-tousled hair. He's wearing jeans and sneakers and what looks like the tee shirt he was sleeping in. His gaze seeks House's in the dim apartment, but the moment they make eye contact, House looks away.
"House, what's going on? Are you okay?" Wilson takes a step towards where he stands between the couch and the coffee table. "Is...the ketamine...?"
The leg. Of course. Wilson would think there's no other reason for House to call him here in the middle of the night. House turns and sits heavily, then stares at his hands. This was not the greatest idea he's ever had.
"House?" Behind him, Wilson's voice is a little closer, more anxious.
By the time House answers, Wilson has moved around the edge of the couch and is hovering at the end of the coffee table. "I had a hooker here before," House begins more roughly than anticipated. At the risk of losing his nerve, he glances up.
The worry lining Wilson's face shifts into irritated disbelief, all raised eyebrows and gaping mouth. "You... You woke me up in the middle of the night and demanded I come here just so you could tell me you scored with a hooker?"
Yes, he could say, I want to give you the lurid details in person before they start to fade, and Wilson would be furious and storm out, and he'd purse his lips the next couple of times he came over, and then Wilson would forgive him, and life would go on as normal.
It's the easy way out, and House never chooses the easy way, not when it matters. He takes the next step. Says, "I didn't score."
"You didn't score." Now Wilson's holding up his spread hands, the way he does when he's pretending something is incomprehensible. "How could you not—? What, wasn't she hot?"
"She was hot," House says quietly. "I couldn't..." Whiskey and apprehension leave him fumbling for words.
Obviously interpreting his silence as embarrassment, Wilson shifts modes again, this time into surprise and then quickly into sympathy with a doctorly edge. "Oh. Could be a lingering effect of the detox—"
"I don't have E.D.," House interrupts irritably. "Shut up and let me finish."
Wilson, who knows him so well even when he doesn't seem to know him at all, must register the urgency beneath his snappish tone, because he keeps quiet.
After another interminable pause in the dark, House picks his way forward. "I couldn't...feel anything. I didn't trust her. I kept thinking of... She wasn't..."
He lifts his gaze to Wilson's, willing him to acknowledge the unspoken "you" hanging heavy in the silence.
Wilson blinks a few times. Wets his lips. Shifts. "I don't understand," he says. "I thought—you said it didn't matter."
He's hesitating, but he's not balking.
House knows that if he lets this chance pass him by, he won't try again. It's tonight, or it's his late-night fantasies forevermore.
He schools every muscle in his face to convey how serious he is.
"It matters now."
Brown locks on blue. House holds his breath.
In my heart there's an image like looking through glass
House will start forward, and Wilson will meet him halfway; they'll embrace, and kiss, and that will be the final barrier broken between them.
Wilson will move back in and forsake the couch in favor of the bed.
Their toothbrushes and razors and shampoo and Wilson's ridiculous collection of hygiene products will intermingle in the bathroom; white shirts, pressed pants, ties and shined shoes will populate his closets; oncology references will claim their own shelf in the living room; the kitchen drawers and cabinets will fill with gadgets and specialty ingredients that House will mock right up until he tastes what Wilson produces with them (and then he'll mock them a little more for good measure).
Their thighs and arms will press together when they watch TV. Late at night, Wilson's head will loll against House's shoulder, and House will absently stroke Wilson's hair.
They'll still fight over Wilson's precious homemade meals. Wilson will devise increasingly devious methods of protecting his food, and House will crack build-a-better-mousetrap jokes as he dances a step ahead of him. Eventually Wilson will give up and make enough for two even if House says he doesn't want any. House will compensate by eating enough to satisfy someone Vogler's size.
They won't need to fight over his Vicodin use.
House won't be able to stop himself from playing the occasional practical joke and making Wilson do more than his fair share of household chores, but Wilson will have an entirely new and delicious array of options with which to wreak vengeance or convince House to cooperate.
In time, House will learn how Wilson's body fits against his own.
There will be a lot of sex. Oh yes. Some nights they'll play-wrestle for dominance in bed, nipping and twisting and holding each other down until one of them gives in; other nights they'll take their time kissing and stroking and exploring with a gentleness neither will admit he enjoys. His leg won't hurt; arousal will never be an issue; they'll fuck again and again in positions that would make a Hindu god jealous, and they'll fight smiles when they catch each other rubbing sore muscles the next day.
Weekday mornings he'll be startled out of sleep by the sharp sounds of grooming; weekends he'll drift awake to fresh muffins and a hand job.
They'll drive each other nuts and get each other off and know each other impossibly more than they already do, and Wilson will always want to talk-with-a-capital-T, and the bed and the couch and the laundry and House himself will smell of him, and they'll never say the "L" word (though they'll show it in a thousand different ways), and Wilson will break it off a few times in utter exasperation but he'll always come back.
And it will be perfect in its imperfection.
Could be looking at me, could be looking right past
In the end, it's Wilson who moves first. He licks his lips again and jounces his hand at his side, then takes the few remaining steps to the couch and sits cautiously beside House. His eyes search House's for some sign of discouragement as he draws nearer, until finally they're too close to see each other anymore. And then, at last, they're kissing.
Their lips simply press together for a few moments, and Wilson's stillness makes House wonder whether he should pull away and find them both a way out of this. But then something gives—Wilson shifts closer, House tilts his chin up ever so slightly and parts his lips—and the kiss deepens. House closes his eyes; Wilson makes a soft noise as his hand comes up to tentatively cup the side of House's face. The hurdle cleared, within minutes they're touching wherever they can reach: caressing cheekbones and jaws, threading through hair, thumbing pulse points, venturing lower, pressing, gripping, unbuttoning, tugging, lifting, unzipping with all the fumbling tension of a first encounter. If their hands shake and they make sounds suspiciously close to whimpers, they don't say a word about it; their lips and tongues are otherwise occupied, anyway.
House pushes and Wilson yields and they slide down onto their sides, chest to chest, half-undressed, Wilson's weight pressing him back into the cushions. His leg doesn't protest. They kiss all the while; each time Wilson starts to pull away, House follows him, wanting to take as much as he can get in case this never happens again. After a few collisions and some awkward shifting, they get a decent grip on each other and begin to stroke. Wilson breaks away in favor of burying his face in House's neck, panting.
It's weird, but it's good. Though not as skilled as the sort of company House is accustomed to, Wilson proves to be as apt at sex as he is at medicine; he quickly finds a rhythm with his fist that has House shuddering and rocking his hips in a way that makes it patently clear the problem wasn't with him earlier in the evening but rather with his choice of partner. As far as he's concerned, hookers are for taking and not for giving; now he rediscovers the pleasure of touching as he's being touched.
Aside from that one night with Stacy, he hasn't brought another person to climax in years, let alone another man, but he finds that stroking Wilson is a lot like stroking himself, and Wilson seems appreciative, if his hitching hips and the noises he's making against House's trapezius are anything to judge by.
"Yeah," Wilson breathes, voice strained. "Yeah, oh God, feels so good—"
For a moment, House is troubled at not being able to see Wilson's face; he can't tell whether Wilson is here with him or imagining someone else. Whether he's thinking of one of his latest conquests or, God forbid, an ex-wife. If he's pushing blindly into the fist of some nameless, faceless body.
A quick squeeze puts that to rest as Wilson moans his name.
In return, Wilson presses his bare chest harder against House's rucked-up tee shirt and tightens his grip on House's dick. "Yes," House groans into Wilson's hair, yes, this is what he's wanted, this could be the meaning he's searching for.
Then Wilson pushes his free hand between House's legs and does this thing with his fingers, and House stops thinking.
I don't like it when I can't tell which is true
They doze on the sofa afterwards, sticky and sated. House floats somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, Wilson breathing deep and steady beside him.
It would be too easy to think that Wilson has envisioned the same future for them that House has constructed since the shooting (and even before that, if he is honest with himself). This thing between them, then—if indeed there is a "thing" and a "them"—is it a matter of convenience, a friend helping a friend to stave off loneliness? Is it the natural culmination of a decade-long friendship in which so much has gone unspoken? Or is it another manifestation of Wilson's emotional vampirism? House knows more than anyone how much Wilson needs to be needed, in the moment, of the moment, all consequences be damned—that Wilson will give anything, everything, for that thrill. It wouldn't be the first time he's latched onto House for a fix.
If the ketamine—
If the ketamine wears off, what will happen to them?
Reality has fooled him before; will he wake to find that this has all been part of the same hallucination?
As if sensing House's troubled thoughts in his sleep, Wilson murmurs and rubs his cheek across House's shoulder a few times before settling down, tightening his hold around House's torso.
House breathes out a long sigh.
Eventually, he sleeps.
But I wouldn't trade the world for that picture of you
Another six weeks. The ketamine keeps. Wilson shares his bed after all.
House wakes in the middle of the night; a habit not easily broken after six years of learning to swim up to consciousness before the pain got too bad. Tonight, instead of closing his eyes or rolling out of bed to watch TV, he props his head up with the arm he's resting on and looks at Wilson with an intensity he has only rarely been able to indulge.
Sound asleep, limned in midnight gray, Wilson lies on his back with his left arm across his chest and his right arm curled beneath House's pillow. Further down, House can just make out the outline of his own hand under the blanket where it rests on Wilson's warm, soft stomach. Their entangled bodies play host to a silent dance of orange light: breeze-rustled trees backlit by a flickering street lamp. Wilson's eyelids shine in the soft glow of moonlight through the window screen. The Wilson equivalent of stubble shadows his upper lip, and the incline of his head gives him a double chin. His Cupid's-bow lips are slightly parted. House could touch or kiss those lips, now; but he holds back, unwilling to disturb the picture, and contents himself with a slow stroke of Wilson's belly.
Last week of August. Summer's in decline. Outside it's still warm, but the light breeze carries a crisp promise of autumn. He can't keep the windows open at night much longer.
For once, he doesn't want to see the metaphor.