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Fic: Going Home

Title: Going Home
Author: Mer
Characters: James Wilson, Greg House
Prompt: #73 - Return 100_situations
Word Count: 3045
Rating: G
Summary: Wilson discovers that you can go home again, as long as you know where home is.
Disclaimer: So not mine.


Wilson left the office directly after his last appointment of the day. For once it had been a happy occasion – he had just told a mother of three that she was officially in remission – and his good mood was only slightly dampened by apprehension over his next encounter. He glanced at his watch. He had twenty minutes to get there. Unfortunately, unless he wanted to skip out the back exit, he risked an encounter with House between his office and the elevators.

He strolled casually past the Diagnostic offices, sketching a carefree wave when he saw House haranguing his fellows, wielding the marker like a crazed conductor as he made some obscure point. House nodded distractedly at him and Wilson kept walking, tension stiffening his shoulders as he passed out of sight. He punched the elevator button, praying to the mechanical gods for a car to arrive quickly, but the mechanical gods, like all others, ignored his plea.

He heard the familiar tap-step and raised his eyes to the floor indicator, willing it to light on four. It remained stubbornly on two, changing to three just as Wilson heard his name bellowed down the corridor. At that point, ignoring the summons would be the far greater of two dangers, so he turned to greet House, a sardonic smile carefully arranged on his face. "Don’t you have staff to yell at?" he asked. The elevator door opened behind him and he backed quickly in, nearly ramming into an orderly, who barely dodged out of his way. "Sorry," he muttered, reaching to press the button for the ground floor.

"I like to spread the love," House replied, using his cane to hold the elevator door open. "Where are you going? It’s barely six. What kind of work ethic do you have?"

"The kind that started at eight this morning," Wilson replied, somewhat surprised that the words "work" and "ethic" co-existed in House's vocabulary. "Did you come to see me off? How sweet."

House’s face crinkled at the idea of anything sweet being associated with him. "It's Thursday," he said.

"Has been all day." Wilson wondered if he should just take the stairs. House might try to follow, but surely he couldn't keep up.

"I thought you were coming over for pizza and porn." House did pathetic extraordinarily well, but the feigned disappointment didn't quite settle believably on his features. "Why did you try to sneak past my office?"

"I didn’t sneak past your office," Wilson retorted. "I sauntered by and waved."

"Which only means you didn't want me to think you were sneaking out. Which means you're planning something you don't want me to know about." House cocked his head to the side thoughtfully. "It's not my birthday, so there's no need to surprise me."

"The last time I surprised you on your birthday you didn't speak to me for days. If I told you I was going home to bake you a cake would you shun me?" The elevator alarm beeped and Wilson tried to push the cane away, but not so hard that he risked knocking House off-balance.

"Not if you bake as well as you cook. Come on, spill before security comes up and helps me beat it out of you."

Hospital security was more likely to bundle House off to the psych ward with great glee, but Wilson had the utmost respect for the amount of damage House could inflict in the process. He bowed to the inevitable. "Fine. I'm meeting Julie."

"I thought you two were only talking through lawyers."

"I thought so too, but apparently she wants to try and do this amicably." The call had taken him by surprise. After weeks of anger and silence, Julie had been pleasant, almost warm, on the phone. She had asked to meet him after work at a bar near the hospital – the bar where they had first met. Wilson had agreed, hesitant but hopeful. Perhaps it was still possible to salvage something from the wreckage of their marriage.

"So you're dumping me for your almost ex-wife."

Wilson rolled his eyes. "Don't be such a girl. I’m going to have one drink and then I'll come over. You're not finished here anyway."

House's eyes narrowed. "You're going for a drink with her? Are you brain-damaged or just naturally stupid?"

"Gosh, you say the nicest things. I can't imagine why I'd prefer the company of my wife to you."

"Ex-wife. And if you really did prefer her company to me you wouldn't be getting a divorce. Of course, since we know she preferred the company of her golf pro to you, I can't imagine why she wants to see you now."

The barb sank deep enough that Wilson could almost taste blood. "Go to hell, House." He shoved the cane harder this time, forcing House to stumble backwards, and stabbed the close button until the door did just that.

---

An hour later he was sitting in his car outside the bar, his cheek scratched and stinging (Julie never had been one to act in half-measures), and wishing he'd had time to drink more than one beer before the manager had politely suggested they take their discussion elsewhere. And even then, the remnants of his first drink were drying in his hair and down his back. There was no way he could go over to House's apartment in his current state.

He didn't want to go home either, to an apartment with too little furniture and too much empty space. It wasn't a home, not really, just a way station between relationships. He could almost hear House chastise him. "Stop defining yourself by other people." But he didn't know any other way.

He thought about putting the car into gear and driving until he ran out of gas or highway or the will to continue. Instead Wilson just sat in his car, buckled in for the ride, but going nowhere. He might have sat there all night, but he was startled out of his reverie by a sharp rapping on his window. Jerking slightly with surprise, he looked out the window and saw a familiar face peering back at him.

House. Wilson considered ignoring him, but he knew House was perfectly capable of smashing his cane through the window to get his attention. He flicked the ignition and lowered the window.

"How long does one drink take?" House demanded, before he could say anything.

Wilson laughed bitterly. "Not that long at all," he replied. "And yet still too long." He stared straight ahead, unwilling to meet House's searching gaze. House saw too much as it was.

"Let me in," House said finally, already moving around to the passenger door.

Wilson sighed and unlocked the door, gripping the steering wheel tightly to disguise the slight tremor in his hands. He risked a quick glance sideways as House levered himself into the passenger seat, and then found a new point in the distance to study.

He couldn't stop himself from flinching, though, when House leaned towards him, sniffing loudly. "You smell like a brewery," House observed. "You'd better not have been planning on driving home."

Wilson had come to learn over the years that House expressed his concern through disapproval. There wasn't a rule House hadn't bent, broken or twisted to suit his needs, but he had always been responsible about drinking and driving – or at least making sure Wilson was responsible.

"There's more on me than in me," Wilson replied, running one hand through his sticky hair.

"What did she do? Pour a beer over your head?" House reached up and turned on the interior light. He clicked his tongue disapprovingly against his teeth when he saw the gouged flesh on Wilson's cheek. "It's too bad you weren't drinking whisky. It could have doubled as a disinfectant when she threw it in your face."

There was no hint of any emotion other than sarcasm in the words, but Wilson still heard the anger the sarcasm masked. "I'll remember that the next time I piss off one of my ex-wives."

"What happened?"

"Apparently New Guy dumped her. He's not a golf pro, by the way, but he was in her Thursday foursome. So now she needs to find a new foursome and a new lover. She asked if I was interested."

"What did you say?"

"I told her I'd be happy to play golf with her." It was worth having to explain his scratched face to the gossipmongers at the hospital just for the snort of laughter from House. Still, he was annoyed by how much surprise there was in that laughter. "What? Did you think I would just jump back into bed with her after everything that's happened?" Of course that's what House had thought. He had implied as much back at the hospital. "Why did you follow me down here?" he demanded. "Trying to save me from myself?" It was an attempt at sarcasm of Housian stature, but the slight crack in his voice ruined the effect.

The only response was silence, so Wilson finally turned his head to look at House. The older man was watching him, not with curiosity or contempt, but with contrition. Wilson could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen that expression directed at him. "Never mind," he sighed. "It's not like I haven't given you reason to doubt me."

The silence stretched longer, until House finally looked away. "It's not that I doubt you," he said to the side window. "It's just that I know you."

Wilson waited. When House started a conversation that way, it generally presaged a detailed analysis of whatever character flaw had captured his attention.

"You hate the idea of getting divorced for a third time," House continued, turning to face Wilson again. "You think it means you're a failure. Maybe it does."

This time it was Wilson who looked away, his mouth twisted in a bitter grin. House's tongue was as sharp as Julie's nails.

"Failing isn't always a bad thing. Not if something was never meant to succeed." House kept his eyes fixed on the side of Wilson's face until Wilson sighed and met his gaze. "Tell me the truth. When she called, you were hoping it meant she wanted to reconcile. That's why you tried to avoid me."

"Maybe," Wilson replied, because there was no point in lying to House now. "And maybe I was hoping there was a chance we could still be friends. And maybe I was scared that it would just be another opportunity for us to hurt each other." He touched his cheek ruefully. "Guess I was right about that."

"Why did you turn her down?"

And that was the $64,000 question. When Julie told him that the affair was over, his first impulse had been to ask for a second chance. But when he realised that she was more upset about losing her regular golf game than she was about losing the man she had risked her marriage for, it wasn’t difficult to calculate where he rated on her scale of importance. He had been hurt enough that he'd used his House voice on her. He hadn't really been surprised by the slap and scratch. He'd even thought he'd deserved it. But it was a waste of good beer.

"She doesn't love me any more," he told House finally.

For once House decided not to state the most hurtful truth. It had been clear for months that Julie didn't love him any more. He just hadn't wanted to believe it until now. Wilson suddenly noticed that House wasn’t holding his helmet, even though he was wearing his motorcycle jacket. He looked around the parking lot. "Where’s your bike?"

"Back at the hospital. I made Chase drop me off on his way home."

Wilson frowned. "How did you know I'd be here? I never told you where I was meeting Julie."

"Oh please," House scoffed. "This is where she spun her web around you the last time. Obviously if she wanted to trap you again, she'd lure you here."

"It's a little disturbing that you know that," Wilson commented. "You'd make an excellent stalker."

"What? I'm a stalker because I was listening when you went on ad nauseum about how you'll never be able to go back to this place because it reminds you of Julie?"

"Since when did you actually listen to me?"

"I always listen to you. I just choose to ignore most of what you say."

It would have been an insult from anyone else, but from House it was a minor victory. As long as House was listening, there was a chance something would sink in. "Now I really can't come back," Wilson said with a shrug. "I didn't like this place anyway. Too..." He waved his hand in the air, as if that one gesture could encompass his dissatisfaction with the bar.

House grunted in agreement. "Let's blow this popsicle stand. Home, James," he ordered imperiously.

"I don't have a home," Wilson said sadly.

"That's true. You have an anonymous, inadequately decorated box," House observed. He had visited once and refused to return on the grounds that he spent enough of his life in a sterile environment. "I, on the other hand, have a home. And pizza on speed dial and beer in the fridge, neither of which I will dump over you." He made another disapproving noise and shook his head. "Crime against alcohol." House nudged Wilson with his elbow. "Come on. Pizza and porn."

"I don't want to watch porn," Wilson muttered, but he put the car into gear and turned out of the parking lot in the direction of House's apartment.

"Well, you're no fun," House retorted. "What's wrong with porn?"

There were so many answers to that question, but Wilson chose one that House would appreciate. "I'm trying to limit myself. I don't want to become desensitized." That earned him another snort of laughter. Twice in less than ten minutes. The evening wasn't a complete disaster.

"Fine. We'll do pizza and some crappy black and white movie. It doesn't quite have the same alliterative ring, though."

They drove in silence for a few minutes before something occurred to Wilson. "What would you have done if I'd left with Julie?"

"What would you have done if I'd been waiting for you outside when you left with Julie?" House countered.

Wilson considered it. "I wouldn't have had to do anything. Julie would have taken one look at you and tried to scratch your eyes out." He braked for a stoplight. "But you weren't outside waiting for us," he realised. He glanced over at House, who once again was avoiding his gaze.

"I would have let you leave with her," he said finally. "If that's what you wanted."

Wilson kept looking at House, willing him to look back. Finally House turned his head, his expression guarded. Wilson quirked one corner of his mouth upwards in a half-smile and nodded his gratitude. House shrugged and turned his head away again, but some of the tension in his frame eased away. The sharp blast of a horn startled Wilson and he realised the light had turned green. He moved through the intersection, waving apologetically behind him and when he glanced at House again, he could see a smirk on the other man’s face.

"So why did you follow me, if it wasn't to save me from myself?" Wilson asked finally.

House shrugged his shoulders. "I figured if the evening went the way I suspected it would, you wouldn't be in any condition to drive yourself to my place." He looked thoughtful. "I'm not sure if I under-estimated your ability to piss off Julie or over-estimated the amount of alcohol it would take."

"I said I was only having one drink with her," Wilson protested.

"It wasn’t that drink that I was worried about," House replied dryly. "What happened? The bartender throw you out?"

"Manager," Wilson said. "I think it was dumping the beer that did it. Crime against alcohol, and all." A bubble of laughter rose in his chest and escaped through his mouth. "Now Julie can't go back there either." The laughter didn't last. "Thomas Wolfe was right, you know. You can't go home again." They weren't far from House's apartment and he started scanning for a parking spot.

"Thomas Wolfe died of tuberculosis of the brain," House retorted. "You going to believe anything he wrote?" He pointed to a gap just down the block from his building. "Besides, she's not your home. She never was."

Wilson wanted to protest. But wanting House to be wrong didn't make it so. Instead he concentrated on parallel parking and nearly missed House's next soft statement.

"Home is where you're happy." House was out of the car and limping towards the front door of his building before Wilson had turned off the ignition.

Wilson caught up to him as he was unlocking the door. "You should get that embroidered on a pillow," he sniped, relieved when House smirked back at him. "I want to watch North by Northwest."

"I thought you took the Masterpiece collection with you."

"I did. But I left the Signature collection behind for emergencies. I think shedding blood qualifies." Wilson took House's silence as agreement. "I'll grab the beer if you call the pizza in." He detoured to the bathroom, grimacing at the sight of his face in the mirror. Julie had long nails. He hissed slightly as he applied disinfectant, relieved that the cuts were shallow enough to have stopped bleeding on their own.

By the time he made his way to the kitchen and snagged two Grolsch from the fridge, House was sitting on the couch, feet propped up on the coffee table. He handed the remote to Wilson in exchange for a beer.

"Why do you always watch Hitchcock movies when you're depressed?" he asked, once Wilson had inserted the correct disk and started the movie.

"Why do you think I'm depressed?" Wilson replied, settling down next to House. Everything about the moment was soothingly familiar. "Maybe I'm relieved. Maybe I'm happy," he said. Maybe I'm home, he thought.

Comments

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nightdog_barks
Jul. 9th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)
Maybe I’m home, he thought.

*faintly* Oh.

This is so wonderful. Such a pleasure to log on, click on the Friends page and see something new by you.



mer_duff
Jul. 9th, 2006 06:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I tend to leave the money shot for the end - sort of like the pimp spot on American Idol :) I'm working on starting a story more interestingly...

I'm glad you stuck it through to the end!
topaz_eyes
Jul. 9th, 2006 02:31 am (UTC)
I love how House's concern for Wilson shines through in this. It's quiet and subtle, but it's there, and I love how Wilson recognizes it. This is wonderful, thanks!
mer_duff
Jul. 9th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it worked for you. HL does such a wonderful job showing House's concern for Wilson without words (and often despite words). The pilot defined it right from the start - it's not what he says, it's what he does.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 9th, 2006 02:56 am (UTC)
Robert Frost said it best: Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
mer_duff
Jul. 9th, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
That says it all - House will always take him in.
lazywritingbum
Jul. 9th, 2006 03:54 am (UTC)
This is the perfect illustration of their friendship. *claps* Magnificent.
mer_duff
Jul. 9th, 2006 06:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you! There's so much depth to their friendship that it's a joy to explore.
genagirl
Jul. 9th, 2006 05:14 am (UTC)
That brought tears to my eyes it was so lovely. You really get the connection between them.
mer_duff
Jul. 9th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It's funny where stories lead you sometimes - this one started off in an entirely different place in my head. House wasn't even supposed to be in the second part, but he insisted on tracking Wilson down :)
evila_elf
Jul. 9th, 2006 07:50 am (UTC)
Awwww!!
Lovely!
*adds to memories*
mer_duff
Jul. 9th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed.
cagedwriter61
Jul. 9th, 2006 08:56 am (UTC)
How lovely. :)

*mems*
mer_duff
Jul. 9th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
jdr1184
Jul. 9th, 2006 01:53 pm (UTC)
Very good story. I love that the way Wilson tries to avoid House but House seeing through it. You also managed to show House caring (while in character.) My love of Wilson angst makes me think therapy should be in my future, but you also gave me an "aww" moment without being cheesy. Great job!
mer_duff
Jul. 9th, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC)
I know therapy is in my future :) I'm glad I kept House relatively in character - I know he cares, but showing it is a challenge - and avoided too much cheese. Thanks for reading!
imsanehonest
Jul. 9th, 2006 07:06 pm (UTC)
The way you write the House/Wilson dynamic will never fail to amaze me. And this story was just the right ammount of fluff to not seem overly sentimental but at the same time give off that lovely 'warm and fuzzy feeling.' Suffice to say, another great fic. Thanks for writing!
mer_duff
Jul. 10th, 2006 02:46 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! One of these days I'm going to manage to eliminate the sentiment altogether and write something purely for fun - enough of the angst! Happy Wilson, relatively happy House (which would be prompt #24, fortunately enough)... Thanks for reading!
karaokegal
Jul. 10th, 2006 07:44 pm (UTC)
Angsty/fluffy/sad/happy/perfectly/perfect H/W fic. Awwwwwwww.
mer_duff
Jul. 10th, 2006 08:42 pm (UTC)
I feel like a Whitman poem - do I contradict myself? very well, then I contradict myself. Fortunately House/Wilson are large enough to contain multitudes!

Thanks for reading - I'm glad you enjoyed.
valn
Jul. 11th, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)
Ahh
Ahh, this is lovely--as usual. Although I don't think I've left you a comment before, I want you to know how much I admire your writing. I have found myself collecting copies of everything you've written. New fic from you is cause for celebration. Thank you!
--Val
mer_duff
Jul. 11th, 2006 07:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Ahh
Thank you! I'm glad you've enjoyed the stories - they're a pleasure to write, so it's nice to pass some of the pleasure along.
chwheeler
Jul. 25th, 2006 08:07 am (UTC)
I've never left a comment before on any of the LJ fics I've read. But this one definitely warrants one. It was very touching and really showed who House and Wilson really are. Very lovely and in character. Nice job.
mer_duff
Jul. 25th, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm honoured that you chose this story to comment on.
rosewillread
Sep. 5th, 2006 02:52 pm (UTC)
Fic: Going Home
Yayayayayayayayay!
Exquisite in a very down to Earth, gruff House way.
mer_duff
Sep. 6th, 2006 12:31 am (UTC)
Re: Fic: Going Home
Thanks! I'm glad it worked that way for you - I'm constantly battling my inner sap when writing :)
ltlredhairdgirl
Sep. 16th, 2006 04:30 pm (UTC)
Poor Wilson... and Chase being House's bitch makes me giggle. I am totally fangirling the fact that you used my favorite Hitchcock movie in this fic. Now I am going to go on and on having fantasies of Wilson and Cary Grant.
mer_duff
Sep. 17th, 2006 07:27 am (UTC)
Oh, Wilson and Cary Grant. Now that's a combination to make the heart beat faster. And now I'm thinking of that scene in "Fidelity" when Wilson is leaning against House's door (wearing those lying French shoes) and looking such the picture of elegant grace.

I think Cameron would have given House a ride, but she would have lectured him about spying on his best friend :)
(no subject) - ltlredhairdgirl - Sep. 18th, 2006 01:04 am (UTC) - Expand
tabakat
Sep. 21st, 2006 04:05 am (UTC)
AH I love the way you write the Wilson/House dynamic. I love that you see a friendship in the friendship. Don't get me wrong I love slash but sometimes a slash story just leaves out the depth of feeling that is invovlved in a true friendship.

Couse this story could swing either way.

Love it, friending you,

mer_duff
Sep. 21st, 2006 06:53 am (UTC)
Thanks - I'm glad you like it. There's a fine line between gen and slash where those two are concerned - what they got up to after the movie ended is completely open to interpretation...

Course this story could swing either way.

As can House and Wilson :)
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