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Title: Unexplored Possibilities
By: daasgrrl
Paring: House/Wilson
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 7,500
Beta: Thanks very much to evila_elf and topaz_eyes for their patience, criticism and insight.
Summary: Their attempt at a relationship had been doomed from the beginning.
Warnings: I'm not going to warn specifically for this one, although I guess it really needs something. Contains nothing graphically violent, but is ridiculously dark all the same. At heart I intended this to be satirical, but that might not help if you're of the famed "sensitive disposition". Read at your own risk, etc. *g*
Notes: Okay, so I was slightly aggravated over various issues, and the idea of wrapping up all my grievances in a tidy package amused me. This probably says bad things about my sense of humor.


Unexplored Possibilities


Holmes looked at me thoughtfully and shook his head. "I never get your limits, Watson," said he. "There are unexplored possibilities about you."
           -
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire


***


Their attempt at a relationship had been doomed from the beginning.

House thought that he should have seen it coming, and yet it still took him by surprise the day he arrived home to be greeted by a stack of cardboard boxes in the living room. He found Wilson in the kitchen, methodically packing saucepans, of which he had always possessed an unreasonable number. Stalling for time, House went over to the refrigerator and drank his customary post-ride helping of juice, straight from the container. Wilson had not yet bothered to acknowledge him.

When he was done with the juice, House stood in silence for a moment, empty container in hand, watching him. All he could think of to say was, "Where?"

"I found a place," Wilson said shortly. Which meant that this had been planned for some time, and wasn't some spur-of-the-moment decision based on something House had or hadn't done recently.

"Okay," House said, because over the past few months they had reached the point where there was little left to say. He was completely unprepared when Wilson turned on him.

"You're… completely insane, you know that?"


***


It had started with the box.

It was a beautiful thing, a brass-bound mahogany antique case about the size of a large shoebox, only flatter. There was a small brass plaque on the lid, clearly intended for engraving, but it was blank. House had seen such things before only in textbooks; in a different century it would have contained instruments intended for surgery, or post-mortem dissection. He knew Wilson had a taste for elegant things, people excepted, but why was it tucked away at the back of a drawer in the spare room?

The rest of the drawer was filled with sweaters of various shapes and patterns, carefully interleaved with moth-repellent pouches; Wilson's winter collection. House had just spent a good half-hour turning the apartment upside-down looking for one of his favorite well-worn T-shirts, the one with the spider web graphic on the front and only a couple of small, barely-noticeable holes in the back. Wilson had kept nagging him to throw it away, so House had hidden it for safekeeping. Somewhere. Now he wanted to wear it again, and it was nowhere to be found. He'd left a trail of deliberate chaos behind him in his search; if Wilson had secretly disposed of it, he was going to have to pay.

Clearly, it wasn't here. But the box was, and it called to him. That's Wilson's, a small voice in his head reminded him, but he'd never listened to it before and wasn't about to start now. He drew the box out toward him and undid the clasp. It opened smoothly and easily on its brass hinges.

Inside, he could see that it was lined with red velvet in crumpled waves. But the contents were baffling. He'd been expecting perhaps a collection of antique surgical tools, dull with age, but instead there was a jumbled miscellany of random objects. A bracelet of cheap glass beads; a football keychain; a blank ID tag; a yellow plastic horse that looked like it came out of a cereal box; a silver bracelet charm; a small stuffed frog; the lid from a plastic bottle; and a handful of other things, no more meaningful.

He picked up a couple of the objects and studied them, trying to place them in Wilson's life. The silver charm was something he'd once given Bonnie, perhaps; the keychain, probably an unwanted gift; the yellow horse a fragment of childhood. Holding onto such trinkets didn't make a whole lot of sense, but then people were annoyingly irrational, and Wilson was no exception.

He closed the box, stuck it back where he had found it, and went on rummaging through the room. He never did find the T-shirt.


***


In the wake of Wilson's predictable explosion over the state of the apartment, House had tactfully refrained from mentioning his discovery. However, the memory remained in the back of his mind; one more aspect of Wilson to add to the collection House had acquired in the last six months of living together. It was no more than a footnote, trivial in comparison to the other, more interesting complications of life with Wilson. But it was something House would return to, later, along with the conversation that took place maybe a month afterward.

"But she's going to live," Wilson was saying. It was late in the evening, and House's office was mostly in darkness. Wilson was leaning back in the corner armchair, the muted light from the standing lamp throwing his shadow across the far wall. "It still counts as a success."

House was still on his feet, staring through the balcony window, into the mirroring darkness. "But she'll never see again. Never paint again."

"People… adapt to circumstance, House. You of all people should know that. Maybe she'll… I don't know, sculpt. Learn to play the guitar. Write."

"Or string beads and weave baskets," House snapped, turning back to him.

"You don't know that."

"Fine. Maybe you're right. About her, anyway. But don't you think sometimes, it might not be worth it? To lose the one thing that makes you who you are? Maybe when she wakes up, she'd rather be dead. I don't know."

Wilson was silent, shaking his head. House rounded on him, suddenly furious.

"Well? Aren't you going to argue with me? Where's there's life, there's hope, and all those lies you tell your patients? When you buy your cancer kiddies six more months so they can go to Disneyland and die wearing their shiny Mickey Mouse ears?"

"That's enough," Wilson said sharply. "You have no idea what it's like."

House shut up, knowing he had gone too far. But Wilson hadn't finished.

"Some of us don't get the choice, House. Unlike you, I know what exactly what my patients are dying of, but it means nothing. It's not like I can wave a magic wand and make the tumors disappear. Maybe some of them get better after a while and go away, but sometimes dying is all I have to work with. So you can beat yourself up all you like, but don't expect me to commiserate with you."

"Okay," House said quietly.

He'd never taken much notice of Wilson's job, only inasmuch as Wilson's knowledge proved periodically useful to him. They spent far less time talking about Wilson's patients than House's; House knew intellectually what Wilson dealt with on a daily basis, knew about the occasional bouts of depression; but despite House's increased presence in his life, Wilson remained Wilson. He rarely let anything show.

"So, if you had the choice, what would you do?" Wilson insisted.

"About what?"

"Your patient. Josie. If you thought she really would be happier dead, would you help her die?"

"Of course not." There had been other patients of course, the suffering, terminal ones, and he remembered them as well, but there was, after all, a line.

"Then drop it."

House looked at him curiously. It wasn't like Wilson to get so agitated, much less over one of House's patients. He thought briefly of Ezra Powell, begging to die, his eyes gleaming like cheap glass beads.


***


A few weeks later, House had found himself in need of a consult. But Wilson hadn't been in his office, so House had gone looking for him down in the Oncology wards. House hated Oncology; it was like something out of one of the lower circles of Hell. And it was true that he could have paged Wilson instead. But he went all the same. Not because Wilson had left silently that morning, without waking him, or because House wanted to see how he was, or anything. It was just a consult, and it was even a genuine one at that.

He found Wilson with one of his younger patients, a little girl of about six or seven years old. Wilson was perched on the side of the bed, and he was palpating the lymph nodes in her neck as he spoke to her. They both turned toward House as he entered, Wilson with surprise, the girl with wonder in her eyes. House waved the patient file in the air.

"Time to turn your attention to someone a little older for a change. Twenty-six-year-old female came to the ER this morning presenting with stomach pains…"

"I'll be with you in a minute, House," Wilson said calmly, and turned back to his examination. He smiled at the girl. "Sorry. Almost done."

House stood there while the girl continued to stare at him. Like many of her species, she had only a few wispy strands of dark hair left on her head, which was surrounded with a compensatory ribbon, the color of port wine, that only succeeded in making her look like an elaborate Easter egg.

"Is Doctor Wilson your doctor too?" she asked.

"Yes," House snapped. "And right now I need him more than you do."

"I know. Don't worry, sweetheart. Everything's going to be okay," she said seriously, and although she was obviously only parroting something she had no doubt heard many times before, House frowned at her.

Wilson made some brief notes on the chart and took his leave of the girl, ushering House quickly into the hallway.

"You may have heard of this newfangled device known as a pager…" he began.

House ignored him and began his run-down of the symptoms. Wilson sighed and took the file from his hand, leafing through it as they made their way back to Wilson's office. There House managed to exclude a couple more possibilities and extract a promise from Wilson to look at the MRI results when they became available. Wilson agreed readily enough, but he still looked distracted.

"You're still thinking about little what's-her-name, aren't you?" House accused him as he was about to leave.

"Becky."

"I don't see why, she looked fine. For a cancer kiddie."

Wilson shook his head. "I don't know. Even if she makes it, she hasn't got much to go home to. She's a neglect case; mom didn't even notice anything was wrong for months, because she always looked pale and skinny. Father ran out on them before she was born. This hospital is probably the nicest place she's lived in the last two years. Warm, enough to eat."

"What has that got to do with anything?"

"Kids like Becky… they often don't really want to get better."

House shrugged. It was none of his business anyway. "Like I said, she looked better than most of them. My patient, on the other hand, will die if someone doesn't come up with something fast."

"Of course," Wilson said, finally seeming to refocus. "Get someone to give me a copy of the file, okay?"

House nodded curtly and left, his thoughts firmly on his patient.


***


In the end House got his diagnosis, and the next one, and Wilson went back, slightly confused, to blow-drying his hair noisily in the mornings. Despite their living arrangements, they had continued to commute separately most of the time. Wilson continued to regard the motorbike with suspicion, while House thought the Volvo cramped his style. But work permitting, they left at the same time as often as they could.

Today House had made it home first, and he left the door open behind him, already filled with anticipation. It had been the better part of a year now, so the initial headlong rush had subsided, but that particular day it seemed that it had been all Wilson could do to keep his hands off of House. There had been no sign of it in the morning; Wilson had slipped out of bed early according to his usual habits, but by the time House had looked in on him it was obvious he'd been missed. There had been the kiss in Wilson's office, a quick grope on the balcony when no-one was looking. Much to House's disappointment Wilson had refused to go any further on hospital grounds.

Wilson got home only minutes later, almost slamming the door behind him and heading straight for a slightly bemused House. He backed House up against the nearest wall, kissing him furiously.

"What is… with you today?" House said, when he could get a word in edgewise. "Not that I'm complaining."

"Good," Wilson said, and held out his hand. This was a side of him House had only seen a few times before - determined, demanding - and it turned him on more than he really cared to admit. House had already made the preparatory detour to the bedroom while he was waiting, and now he pressed the tube of lube and condom into Wilson's palm. The condom was there only because House wasn't fully prepped; he would have happily done without it, but Wilson was fussier.

There was very little in the way of foreplay; they'd both had a day's worth of waiting already. House supported himself on the back of the couch, head down, pants and briefs around his ankles. He began jerking himself off as Wilson gave him the barest minimum of preparation, entering him roughly. It was fast and furious, with only the slap of flesh, the whisper of clothing, the sound of their labored breathing in counterpoint. Wilson was always vocal; he was murmuring under his breath, not quite loud enough for House to hear, but what he knew from experience was a mixture of profanity and affection. As always on such occasions, Wilson came first, leaving House racing to catch up.

Afterward, House only straightened his clothing enough to fell onto the couch, stretching out across it, resting his leg. He shuffled back far enough for Wilson to perch on the edge beside him. Wilson gave him a perfunctory kiss, looking pleased but tired. He was loosening his tie, then stripping it off together with jacket and shirt.

"Going to take a shower," he said, standing up.

House nodded, unnecessarily. He watched as Wilson took off his shoes and the rest of his clothing, leaving them in a pile on the armchair. He tilted his head back to watch as Wilson made his way to the bathroom.

House closed his eyes and let himself drift on the endorphins for a while, soothed by the sound of running water in the distance. When he opened them again, he spent a long moment studying the ceiling, the walls around him; things he saw every day without noticing them, but which felt new and oddly disorienting from this perspective. Somewhat like the experience of falling for your thrice-divorced best friend after more than a decade. Eventually, he dragged himself up to a sitting position, and began to look around vaguely for the remote. In a little while he'd shower too, and then, judging from Wilson's mood, they'd get something delivered.

His glance fell on Wilson's clothing, which lay in a roughly folded heap. Part of the lining of his suit jacket was exposed, the material a satiny gray; but there was a small strip of dully contrasting color outlined against it. Remote now safely in hand, House switched on the TV, immersing himself briefly in the babble of evening news. But within five minutes, he was glancing over Wilson's jacket again, frowning. It was nothing, just a small scrap of some dark fabric that looked like it had once been tied decoratively around a parcel. Or an Easter egg, he thought, which made no sense, because it was October.

"Thai?" Wilson said from behind him, startling him out of his thoughts. He was barefoot, with damp hair and a towel wrapped around his waist. House nodded his assent, and Wilson began gathering up his clothes, hiding them from view. Then turned back to House, smiling. "So, do I have to fight you over the curries or can we get one of each?"

"Whatever you want. You're ordering," House said automatically, suddenly distracted by the memory of a little girl sitting upright in a hospital bed, Wilson’s fingers pressed gently against her neck. House glanced swiftly at the pile of jumbled clothing in Wilson's arms, where the scrap of fabric was no longer visible. But House was sure that if it had been, it would be the color of port wine. It bothered him for reasons he couldn't quite articulate. He blinked, and looked back up at Wilson. "But don't forget the pad thai."

"And the crab cakes. I know," Wilson said, disappearing in the direction of the laundry hamper. House got up slowly, thoughtfully, and headed for the shower.

Later, back on the couch, House ate his way steadily through his share of the crab cakes, before dumping a couple of spoonfuls of 'his' green chicken curry onto his plate. The food was as good as always, but it still seemed to be sticking in his throat. Wilson, on the other hand, was wolfing down noodles at a rate that suggested he hadn't eaten since breakfast. Maybe he hadn't.

House took a bite, chewed, swallowed, and then put his fork down. "Do you remember that kid, a couple of months back?"

Wilson barely paused. "Sure. Let me know when you have something more specific."

"My porphyria case. I remember I braved Oncology looking for you, and you were with this little girl. Kept staring at me and telling me everything was going to be okay."

That got a little more of a reaction. Wilson looked up, and studied House for a moment. House kept his face carefully neutral, and after a couple of moments Wilson reached for some more noodles. "Becky. Why do you want to know?"

House had the sense of shuffling forward onto dangerous territory, but he forced himself to relax. He put a tentative hand on Wilson's thigh. "I hope she was right."

Wilson smiled and kissed him, tasting of peanuts and coconut milk, and suddenly everything was normal again. House felt suddenly ridiculous, having given himself the jitters over something he couldn't even explain to himself.

He sat back, relaxed, and started eating again. His dinner seemed to taste much better now. "What happened to her, anyway? Did she get out alive?"

Wilson shook his head. "She… stopped responding to treatment." His tone suggested the inevitable outcome.

"So… when?"

"Last month."

By now House was thoroughly sorry he'd brought the entire subject up. "Never mind, there'll be more where she came from," he said cheerfully.

Wilson threw him a disgusted look, and then settled back to eating, although perhaps a fraction more slowly than before.


***


That night, however, House found it hard to sleep. With Wilson snoring softly beside him, he lay in bed and stared at the shadows on the ceiling.

First, he was almost certainly wrong in what he had seen. It was just the coincidence of the color that had thrown him. It was probably a bookmark, or some wrapping ribbon for something or other. Even if it had been Becky's ribbon, there wasn't necessarily anything in it. Wilson was so stupidly sentimental about things. His office was full of tasteless knick-knacks that had been gifts from patients or parents or whomever. It was inevitable.

But… a ribbon wasn't quite the same as a plaster statue or a stuffed animal. Was it? A ribbon was something more… personal. House tried to imagine Becky untying the bow with clumsy little fingers, pulling it off her head and then attempting to tie it around Wilson's neck, laughing. Wilson thanking her, his hand closing around it, putting it absent-mindedly in his pocket. It was possible. To leave it there, to carry it around with him for a month, no matter how much he had cared about her, well, that was decidedly odd. But still possible.

Then there was Wilson's behavior, his sexual aggressiveness. Again, nothing House hadn't seen before, rare though it was. And certainly nothing to complain about there, either. House smiled in the darkness for a moment, distracted, before getting back on track. So… nothing was wrong. It had just been an unusual day. That was all. Full of improbable angles that corrected themselves as soon as you sat up and examined them properly. Still, something bothered him.

Eventually, he fell asleep, his dreams full of dark red ribbons, unfurling before him.


***


Two days later, Thirteen slapped a patient file in front of him. She was obviously displeased at being used as a gofer.

"It's about time," House said by way of thanks.

"It makes it easier if you get your dates right. Or was this another of your little tests?"

House ignored her and picked up the file: Rebecca Lawson. He flipped to the back in order to scan it in chronological progression. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, predictable, Stage II at diagnosis, progressing to stage IV, according to successive notes written in Wilson's spidery hand. However, the file contained only the results of the initial biopsy, and a few successive blood counts suggesting a gradual improvement. There was nothing to indicate the progress of her final deterioration. That was the first unusual thing. The other was that the remission rate for her age and diagnosis should have been around 85%. She was certainly one unlucky kid. He remembered what Wilson had said about her fractured upbringing and her incompetent parents. It would have been a crappy childhood, even without the cancer.

Even if she'd gotten better.

"Well?" Thirteen was demanding. "House?"

House glanced up. "Are you still here?"

"I said, it's easier if you get your dates right. You said September. I went through half the files before I gave up and started asking around. There was only one patient anyone thought fit your description. But look at the date." She grabbed the file from House's hands, flipped back to the beginning, and stabbed an accusatory finger at the bottom of the page. "There."

House looked. Becky had died at around 10.18am on the 21st of October. Two days ago. Wilson had signed the certificate.


***


The apartment was oddly still and quiet in the middle of the day. Sunlight gleamed softly on the polished floors, and the traffic noise was dull, muted.

House half-expected the box to be gone, but it was still there behind the sweaters, exactly as he had left it. Or had it been moved? It was hard to say.  He'd mocked himself and his uncertainty all the way home, but kneeling here, on the bare boards, it made no difference. He had to know. He undid the clasps. The box opened as smoothly as before.

At first glance, the contents seemed unchanged. Except that in a loose curl on top of the other objects, lay a dark red ribbon, crumpled and creased from wear. House reached out reluctantly, and stroked a single finger along its satiny surface. Not his imagination, then.


***


The next few days passed in a haze of frustration. For the first time since this thing with Wilson had begun, House almost - almost - regretted it. Wilson was generally undemanding, self-contained, but he was no less there. Eating his toast, brushing his teeth, doing a load of laundry, lying in bed beside House, reading a book in a circle of lamplight. Time and again House caught himself covertly studying Wilson, looking for something, anything, but he was exactly the same Wilson he'd always been. It was ridiculous to think otherwise. House would trust Wilson with his life; actually had, on more than one occasion. He would also have sworn he knew Wilson better than any man alive. It was a simple box of keepsakes that meant nothing.

He should just mention it to Wilson, drop it casually into a conversation. And yet…

House's discomfort did not go unnoticed by anyone in a 10-mile radius. It manifested itself in snappishness and sarcasm, and more pills than he should have been taking. And the worst part about it was that there was literally no-one he could talk to about it, to bounce his theories off. It sounded insane; it was insane. That should have been the end of it. But the evidence, or lack of it, in the file was disturbing. And Wilson had lied to him about when she had died. Then there was the box, whose trinkets were suddenly taking on sinister connotations in House's imagination.

House had no doubt that Wilson wanted only what was best for his patients, as he did for everyone around him. But House also knew better than most that the practice of medicine invariably brought with it moments of playing God with patients' lives. Sometimes it was exhilarating; at others it felt like an unbearable burden. Wilson had joked about it in the past, but maybe, just maybe, it was something he had a little too much experience with.

"Kids like Becky… they often don't really want to get better."

It soon became clear to House that Wilson was evading his moods with well-honed techniques; early starts, late nights, retreating to whichever room House wasn't in. Their sex life had come to a standstill, although Wilson hadn't said a thing about that, either. In his less irritable moments House wondered whether this was the way all his divorces had begun.

But it couldn't go on for long, and it didn't. Before the following week was out, Wilson was in his office again, hands on hips in full-flown lecture mode.

"House. It's enough."

"Is this you talking, or Cuddy?" He peered pointedly above Wilson's head. "No strings. Wow, how does she do that?"

Wilson strode over to his desk and flung himself into a chair.

"Your team are this close to a mutiny, and worse, everyone thinks I should know what's going on with you. They've been visiting me for days, one by one, asking me if everything's okay. Meaning, with you. Then when I say, I don't know, I thought everything was fine, they give me this look, like I'm holding out on them. It's embarrassing."

"Well, we can't have that now, can we?"

"House, you know that's not… look, I knew, this is still weird for you. For…" Wilson waved a hand in the air, "…for both of us.  But you said you'd try it. And that includes talking to me occasionally. Is everything okay?"

House opened his mouth to say that everything was just fine, saw the expression on Wilson's face, and shut it again. He knew from painful experience that once Wilson had begun, he was relentless. He stared out the window for a moment, collecting his thoughts, and then turned back to Wilson.

"Did you kill her?"

"What?" Wilson blinked in disbelief, then recovered. "Who? Laci Peterson?"

House opened his desk drawer, pulling out a file and throwing it on his desk. "Rebecca Lawson."

Wilson barely glanced at it. "This is the same girl you asked me about a week ago, isn't it? Why are you so obsessed with her?"

"You told me she died in September. She didn't. She died a week ago. The day you came home…" House shook his head, and settled for repeating himself. "A week ago."

Wilson put his left hand briefly to his temple, as though fending off an incipient migraine, then brought both hands down in front of him. "No. I have no idea what hare-brained idea you've gotten into your head, but you're wrong. I told you she stopped responding to treatment. You asked me when, and I said September."

"But…" House thought back on the conversation, feeling less sure than he'd been. Maybe, just maybe, Wilson had a point there, but House was still tense and angry and frustrated. "But she'd died that day! That very morning. You signed the certificate yourself. And you didn't see fit to mention that?"

Wilson looked at him steadily. "No."

"Why?"

"Do you remember what you said to me right after that? Maybe I just didn't want to risk imposing on your empathic and compassionate nature."

That stung as well, but House shrugged it off and plowed ahead.

"I've been through her file. The tests don't add up. They're incomplete. She was getting better. Then no lab results for the last three months, just a few notes."

"And... that's why you've been biting the head off anything that moves? Because sometimes, unbelievably, my paperwork isn't completely up-to-date? This is… too much, even for you. I don't know what kind of game you're playing, House, but it isn't funny. Not for me, not for anybody."

Wilson was as angry as House had ever seen him, and to be honest, if he were telling the truth House couldn't really blame him. Occam's Razor stated clearly that House was an ass. An interfering, prying, insensitive ass at that. But still… he had to know.

"Did she leave you her lack-of-hair ribbon, too?"

Wilson's eyes widened, although it didn't look like fear or guilt, more like a look of understanding. It actually seemed to calm him down.

"I see. Were you cold?"

"I was looking for my spider T-shirt."

"Oh." Only now did Wilson's face assume a look of guilt. At least that mystery was solved.

"Yeah."

"Yes, House, she did. And I kept it. Where I hoped you wouldn't find it and mock me about it. Or get ideas about tossing it in the trash.“

His tone was pointed, and House remembered the weight of the mouse statue in his hand, the bequest of a dying 11-year-old, and the way it had fallen end over end into the wastebasket with a satisfying thunk.

Still, he wasn’t giving in without a fight. “You mean, like my T-shirt?”

Wilson's irritation immediately subsided into a rueful smile. “Okay, I suppose I deserved that. Look, I'm sorry about the T-shirt, House. Really. Can this be over now? Please?"

House hung his head a little, and then looked back up at Wilson. He nodded, slowly.

Wilson grimaced, and then got up, leaning over the desk to kiss him. "Sometimes you think too much for your own good," he said.


***


After that, things went back to normal for a time, at least for their baseline value of normal. House believed Wilson - of course he did - and yet something inside him was restless, uneasy. What had he expected Wilson to say? "Yes, of course I killed her"? As it was, the question didn't really dignify a response. Wilson had a simple, plausible answer to everything, while House was spinning fantasies from a few loose threads. And yet he couldn't help remembering that Wilson had lied to him in the past, time and again.

House had always had the knack of finding time enough in the day to do things he thought needed doing, whether that involved saving a patient or constructing an elaborate practical joke. And although the intrinsic conservatism of doctors often led them to rely on physical files, as it turned out nowadays a lot of information was stored in the computer system: names, reports, updates, outcomes. There was plenty of data available if you had the time and patience to learn how to access it. House would have delegated if he could, but it wasn't exactly something he wanted to explain to one of his minions. As a result, over the following months House got to know the inner workings of the system better than he wanted to. Especially when it came to Oncology.

He pulled the deaths within the last year first, comparing them with total patient numbers. The net survival rates for Wilson's patients by type and staging were only slightly lower than the national averages, an entirely reasonable and even commendable result considering he would only be involved in selected cases, often more difficult or unusual ones. But it also meant that an unexpected death here or there could easily go unnoticed. The only way to find what he was looking for was to skim the death records patient by patient, a long and painstaking process. But House's restlessness drove him on.

Almost everything he saw was unremarkable, the progression of the patients towards their respective demises orderly and charted. But here and there were anomalies - patients whose test results indicated their conditions were improving only to somehow succumb within months. Or maybe Wilson had just been neglecting their paperwork, too.

Joanne Kenworthy, eighty-two years of age, thyroid cancer, crippled with arthritis, no surviving family.

Benjamin Lawrence (Ben), thirteen, leukemia, Down Syndrome, congenital heart defects, repeated childhood surgeries, shortened life expectancy.

Georgia Lee, eighteen, multiple myeloma. Abusive father, schizophrenic, depressive.

There were one or two others possibilities; he memorized their names, reluctant to have them written down anywhere where Wilson might stumble across them. Hiding things from Wilson was now more difficult than it had ever been, and part of House resented that as well. He didn't even know what to do with what he had; to call it evidence was laughable. But he kept on going, trying to pair names with yellow cereal box horses, with silver heart-shaped charms, dates with any unusual behavior on Wilson's part, sexual or otherwise. Unfortunately he hadn't exactly kept track of the latter, but his memory mercilessly suggested that there were rough periods of correlation all the same.

In the rest of his free time he kept a covert eye on Wilson. Again, nothing he hadn't always done, but this time he extended the field of his observations to Wilson's patients as well, particularly those in unfortunate circumstances, or lacking external support. He'd stay back in the shadows, watching Wilson change an IV bag, or inject drugs into a patient's cannula, making a mental note of time and place. Deep down he knew it was futile, perhaps bordering on destructive, but still he kept watch.

As winter turned into spring, their relationship, fragile to begin with, began to deteriorate under the strain. No newly suspicious deaths turned up in the Oncology wards, but it didn't stop House from looking. Even though to the best of his knowledge Wilson had no idea what he was doing, House's newest obsession continued to lie between them, unspoken, an unbreachable wall. They continued to live together, eat together, even have sex on occasion when they both wanted relief, but it had become oddly mechanical, dispassionate. It was a subject neither of them wanted to bring up again, but it was Wilson who bore the brunt of trying to explain House's frequent mood shifts to others, and soon he too began to look pale and miserable.


***


And so, inevitably, it had come to this, standing in his kitchen with an empty juice container in his hand, watching Wilson sort and pack the things that were leaving with him. Clearly, Wilson had his own spies, probably on House’s own team, and had known for a while what had been keeping House so distracted. Long enough, anyway.

"You're… completely insane, you know that?"

House wanted to protest, but there was nothing he could really say to refute the accusation. He couldn't even explain his obsession to himself, much less to Wilson.

"You don't really believe I did anything to anyone, do you?" Wilson went on relentlessly. "Becky freaked you out that day because she noticed something - us - that you still have trouble dealing with. And since then, all you've done is look for any excuse to get out of this relationship - no matter how flimsy or desperate or pathetic it is. I'm just… making it easier for you. Like I always do."

House couldn't think of anything to say. In fact, it was difficult to think at all; everything felt numb, his head suddenly heavy.

Wilson was watching him, and his tone softened. "When we first… I knew you weren’t sure whether this would be a good idea. But I wanted it, so much, and at the time I thought… it's never too late. People can change. I thought we'd make it work somehow. But you were right. You were always right."

The world suddenly seemed to be spinning around him; House put out a hand, blindly, to steady himself on the kitchen counter. The juice, he thought, in a single startling moment of clarity. Wilson knew he always had a drink of juice after his ride home, straight from the container.

Then Wilson's arms were around him, catching him easily as he fell, lowering him gently to the floor. The carton slipped from his fingers and landed with a soft pattering sound on the boards. Wilson, House tried to say, but no sound came out.

Wilson sighed from somewhere to his right, the sound soft and regretful.

"About everything," he said.


***


House was slightly surprised to wake up again, dry-mouthed and aching all over. He was even more surprised to find himself sitting on the floor, stripped down to T-shirt and briefs, his legs tied together at the ankles, his wrists tied behind him around the wooden leg of the kitchen bench. With what looked suspiciously like - yes, Wilson really had used his own ties. Which would have been hilarious if they hadn't also been so very effective. Instinctively, House struggled against his bonds, but got about as far as he'd expected. Wilson was nothing if not thorough.

"Sorry," Wilson said from above and behind him, making him jump. Figuratively, at least. "It won't be for very long."

Somehow this completely failed to be reassuring. House licked his lips to moisten them, then nodded his head towards the ends of the fabric binding his ankles. "Interesting choice."

Wilson smiled, humorlessly. "Rope marks could be difficult to explain. If anyone even notices."

"Kinky."

"Something like that."

It was the utter calmness in his voice that struck House the most. Even now, House could feel nothing but a kind of morbid wonder, as though he had just discovered that not only was Freddy Krueger real, but that he had taken up temporary residence in House's apartment, fretting over his limited wardrobe, and how difficult it was keeping his blades sharp after all that slashing.

Wilson slowly lowered himself to the floor, so that he was sitting with his back against the refrigerator, eye level with House, but just out of his reach.

"You just couldn't leave it alone, could you?" he said sadly.

House felt that he should have been scared; terrified, even, but the hell of it was that it was still Wilson. How could you possibly be frightened of a man who blow-dried his hair, knew how to make puff pastry from scratch, and got absurdly sentimental over old movies? But he realized that this newly-discovered aspect had almost certainly always been part of Wilson too. Just a part that he had never let anyone else see.

"You remember what you said to me once," Wilson said. "'All persona.' And you were right. Even then, you were right. You just didn't know why you were right. Why it was so important to keep the 'real' me hidden away. Well, you finally got what you wanted, House. I wanted to give you that much, to see it for yourself, everything. What do you think?"

House studied him critically. "I was right."

"Yeah." Wilson looked at him fondly, and then crawled forward a little closer. He kissed House softly on the lips, and even then House didn't turn his face away.

"So…" House said, sounding a lot more composed than he felt. "I guess there's nothing I can say that would induce you to, say, untie me?"

"I don't suppose you'd be prepared to forget any of this ever happened. Or that I'd be stupid enough to believe you even if you said you would. Maybe you'd never tell anybody outright, probably you'd just struggle with your conscience for a while, and then you'd sabotage me in other ways. I know what you're capable of. You'd make sure I never got a job working with patients again. And you know that's all I have in the world, House. My patients. Us."

"You have the weirdest ideas about relationships."

"I never wanted this to happen. If I thought there was any other way… I never told you why Danny really ran away from home, did I? I told him that if he called me one more time, I'd kill him. Of course, I was kidding, but he didn't realize that at the time."

Wilson smiled slightly at the memory and House finally changed his mind. This wasn't Wilson. This was some insane thing wearing Wilson's face and body, and apparently had been its entire life. He began to struggle again, even though he knew that it was pointless. Instantly Wilson was in his face again, quiet and serious, almost reasonable.

"That's the other thing I wanted you to understand. Sometimes forcing someone to die is more merciful than forcing them to live. You never understood that."

"I understand when it's not my right to choose."

Wilson ignored him. "Like you, House. I've watched you trying to kill yourself from the day I met you. The whiskey; the Vicodin; the bike; pissing off patients left, right and center; sticking knives into electrical outlets. You've just been too scared to ever make a decent job of it. So now I'm going to help you."

Wilson was speaking faster now, more to himself than to House, working through his scenario. "You came home, I told you I was leaving, and maybe we tried having sex, but it didn't work out. We argued, and I stormed out of the apartment and went to a nearby bar. The Vine, probably. They know us there. Then, when I finally got home, I found you passed out on the couch from a morphine overdose. That should work, don't you think? You're a known addict, it's not like you haven't done it before. This time you just took too much. Maybe you really wanted to die."

Even in his insanity, the lucidity of Wilson's thought processes was compelling.

House knew unquestionably, then, that this really wasn't an elaborate setup, or some extreme attempt at manipulation. Wilson was, for once in his life, giving House the complete honesty he'd had always claimed to want. And yet, in that final realization, it wasn't his own life House saw flashing before his eyes, it was Wilson's. Wilson, weeping on Cuddy's shoulder, inconsolable. Wilson, giving a moving eulogy to a crowd that grieved for him as much as for House, as the one left behind. Later, Wilson finding his consolation in some nurse's bed, as she stroked his hair and told him how brave he was, how he must have suffered, how noble his devotion to House had been. And when all had returned to normal, one more quiet death, one more addition to the wooden box. Year after year. House saw all these things with shocking clarity, and wondered yet again at his own blindness.

Wilson got up then, reaching for something on the counter behind him, out of House's current line of sight. It was a syringe, filled with liquid, gleaming in the light. House didn't need to ask what was in it. The sight brought a mixed bag of emotions - fear, but also a kind of savage joy, the promise of relief. From his pain, from the thoughts that had troubled him for months. From everything.

"I knew this was never going to work out," House said, but his eyes were fixed on the needle. He wondered briefly what keepsake Wilson would choose to remember him by, but decided he didn't really want to know.

Wilson moved quickly to straddle House, kneeling, keeping just enough weight balanced over House's right leg to keep him still with the promise of pain if he moved. House fought anyway, as best he could, but Wilson just sat and waited him out, and eventually he had to stop, exhausted. Wilson didn't stop to gloat, or to ask House if he had any last words. He merely pushed the needle into the muscle of House's exposed left thigh, somewhere House would never have used as an injection site, not that anyone would ever know that now.

After all the pain and fear and struggling, the relief was exquisite. The initial sting passed, and was quickly replaced by a glowing, soothing warmth, spreading up House's legs, then into his chest and through his entire body. And now nothing hurt any more, not his scar, not his back, not his wrists. As he began to float away, Wilson's face was in front of him, watching him intently, and House smiled. He had been wrong. Wilson was right here with him, and always would be. He wasn't going anywhere. Everything was going to work out, after all. Through the haze of his vision he caught one last glimpse of Wilson, the glint of unshed tears catching the light as his mouth came down to press gently against House's own.

"I always loved you," Wilson said, sincerely, compassionately, and House understood the truth of his words even as the irresistible weight of dizziness pressed upon him. Yes, of course Wilson loved him. Had always loved him.

His eyelids drifted shut.


***


"Indeed, even after Shipman was charged with murder, many of his patients continued to express confidence in his caring treatment."
           - Brian Innes, Serial Killers

Comments

( 114 comments — Leave a comment )
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nightdog_barks
May. 28th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
Wow.

Nope, that's all I've got. Wow.
daasgrrl
May. 28th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
Hee - I'm kind of scared to asked whether that's a good thing or you're merely outraged. But regardless, I guess my work here is done ;D
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karaokegal
May. 28th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES!!!!!!

I was so afraid you were going to schmoop out on me, but you went throught with it and went all the way there.... and you do know that to me, this is the ultimate proof of my love/hurt H/W hypothesis....right down to the relationship not working out and House knowing House will go back to a female and of course the ultimate destruction.

Oh, am I gonna pimp this mutha!!!!!


B/T/W---please to be cross-posting this one to omni_fiction?

(And wait until you see exactly what I'm brewing for your birthday...mwahahahahah.)
daasgrrl
May. 28th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
YOU TOO ARE TO BLAME! ESPECIALLY YOU AND YOUR ANTI-FLUFF WAYS! I thought, "fine, you want to see a screwed-up relationship? THERE, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?". I'm... glad you approve ;)

Thank you kindly for everything, and I will! Hey, don't scare me like that. Birthdays are happy days, remember? Right? XD
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topaz_eyes
May. 28th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
Yay, it's posted! This nails House's persona vs character argument re Wilson.
daasgrrl
May. 28th, 2009 04:25 am (UTC)
Thank you again for helping shape the insanity XD
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ixquic
May. 28th, 2009 04:33 am (UTC)
WOW! This is how it's done! You take what is really there and you twist and turn and make it become something so extreme that it becomes real.

It was "espeluznante" if I may be so rude as to fall back on my native language. And thanks for not making it too graphic for wusses like me. This joins 3 other fics in my DarkWilson folder.
daasgrrl
May. 28th, 2009 04:45 am (UTC)
Hee, I looked up "espeluznante", and you're very kind! Thank you :D
mer_duff
May. 28th, 2009 05:53 am (UTC)
Oh, that was disturbing, in the best possible way. When House found the box, my mind went straight to serial killer (prompted by the warning and too many episodes of Criminal Minds), and then I thought, no she won't do that, because that's the twist, but then everything spiraled nicely down into hell. I can see how it was intended as satire, but ultimately it was just too believable.
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading! I'm very pleased about the 'believable', although - or perhaps because - it does rather conflict with my personal view of Wilson *g*

(And seeing as it's obvious in retrospect that I lifted the idea of the box from Dexter, it's probably not surprising you thought that earlier rather than later. Still glad you went with it, though!)
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joe_pike_junior
May. 28th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
OMG. THIS CANNOT BE! THERE'S NO WAY MY PERFECT WILSON CAN BE A MURDERAH!!!

No, but seriously. This is, just, wow. You don't give Wilson a "dark side" so much, and I love that. There's no muttering in dark corners, nothing that anybody apart from House could ferret out. I can see this Wilson crying about House, and that's what so great about it. House's investigation, his obsession, is the last thing Wilson could deal with, because even if he loves House he can never be found out, he can never let anyone see this "real" killer. And of course House would be driven to find out, even if he couldn't ever write anything down, even though it was something less intellectual that blew his cover in the end.

There are some descriptions I really love, as well: Becca's head like an Easter egg, Ezra Powell's eyes gleaming like cheap glass beads. Well done.
joe_pike_junior
May. 28th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
Oh, and it didn't real like satire for me at all. Not that I was scared as such, although it was kind of creepy. I'd just expect a satirical dark Wilson to, I don't know, weep over his patients. And rend his shirt. And go home to stab House. This was more refined than that.
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bironic
May. 28th, 2009 12:42 pm (UTC)
I skimmed this last night and didn't buy it, but read it thoroughly this morning and said, okay, given that the end is what it is, do I believe how we get there? And I do! Heh -- you make sociopath-serial-killer!Wilson and House's gradual case-solving work within the world you've set up here. Bravo. I don't think this is the same Wilson we see on the show, but that's okay; I like it.

Also I love the line about Ezra Pound. And Cuddy's invisible marionette strings. And the no-hair ribbon.
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 01:44 am (UTC)
Hee, thank you for believing in me. Wilson. Whatever. I'm not sure I personally see this Wilson myself, but I'm thrilled that most people are at least finding him believable. It was certainly very interesting to think about *g*
deelaundry
May. 28th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)
Scary! Eerily possible.

I now want to have a discussion about satire, because I think on its face this is too well-written, too finely written, to achieve a satirical purpose. You've made the whole thing too believable.

You're a wonder. ♥ ♥ ♥
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
Well, I'm really happy it was believable, at any rate ♥

I think... I just didn't know exactly what to call it. I would have said 'crack', but I'm not sure it exactly fits the commonly-held view of such either :)
daisylily
May. 28th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
BLIMMING HECK

(in a good way)

I took heed of your warning (because some stuff does trigger my depression) and read the last bit first, then read the whole thing, and my, it's creepy. Definitely a good creepy though :D

*mems*

PS - I wouldn't call it satire, either ;P It strikes me as a very believable AU.

Edited at 2009-05-28 05:16 pm (UTC)
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
Eek, I'm glad it was 'safe' for you to read despite the very vague warning. Regarding satire, I've decided that, that word, it does not mean, what I think it means *g*. Thank you for reading and I'm very pleased with the mem!
srsly_yes
May. 28th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
Amazing and unique. I kept hoping to the last that Wilson was just trying to teach House a lesson, but noooo...

This had the feel of Hitchcock's, "Suspicion." Joan Fontaine suspects her husband, Cary Grant, wants to kill her. The studio forced a happy ending onto the movie, much to Hitchcock's regret. The Master would squee in his grave if he could read your story.

Love how House and Wilson are more capable of understanding each other than themselves.

And then, Wilson ultimately proves he knows what House really wants.

Kudos.
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 02:06 am (UTC)
I haven't seen much in the way of Hitchcock, but that does sound like an interesting film - I can imagine he wasn't too pleased about having to change his ending, though! Normally I don't think I'd do anything this dark - I was driven to it XD

Thanks very much for reading and for your comment :)
dreamsofspike
May. 29th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
wow... that was simply incredible, hon... so very believable and realistic... dark and chilling and expertly written... i loved it, hon... have you considered posting it at dark_wilson? :)
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
Awww, that's very sweet of you! If you don't think it'd be too spammy I'd love to, thanks. I guess I should join, then ;)
arhh
May. 29th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
Creepy, yet excellent :) Thanks for sharing :)
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for reading! I keep feeling like maybe I should have saved it for Halloween ;)
(Deleted comment)
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
Hee - thank you very much! :D

If you want my personal theory, Wilson is going to keep the apartment. He's either going to buy it or take over the lease and live there forever, surrounded by memories of House...
(Deleted comment)
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diimmortales
May. 29th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
Oh shit dear god blaaaah! That was... *shiver* dark and wonderful and oddly appealing. Well done! Now I'm curious about the keepsake too. And... *shudder* Oh, dear dear dear.
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the comment! And as I was just saying above, if you want my personal theory... I think Wilson will find a way to hang onto the apartment ;)
ceruleanshipper
May. 29th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
Wowza. Now that's Dark!Wilson.
daasgrrl
May. 29th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
I think this may have turned out creepier than I intended, lol. Thank you for reading ;)
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