“A house by the beach. Do I look like someone who deals with sand well?”

Wilson rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to force you to go into the water or anything. The view can still be nice.”

“I like the view from my apartment,” House grumbled.

“Oh, you mean what little of the boring street you can see through windows that haven’t been cleaned in a decade?”

House glared at Wilson. “You’re a real comedian.”

“I try my best,” Wilson said. Then he sighed. “Look, we don’t have to go if you don’t want to. I just thought it’d be nice to spend a week of our vacation at the beach instead of just sitting around here. Just the two of us, in a new place.”

House thought about all the reasons why he wouldn’t want to go: He would never again show himself in bathing shorts, because although he wasn’t vain, his leg was hideous. He didn’t want to live in a house that wasn’t as handicap accessible as his own apartment – other than the few steps up to the front door, his apartment was now comfortable for him. And he didn’t want to trip and fall in wet sand, making an ass out of himself in front of Wilson.

Yet the look of anticipation on Wilson’s face had him nodding. “Fine. But only for one week.”

Wilson broke into a huge grin. “Of course. And I’ve already checked – there’s cable so you won’t miss any of your soaps.”

“Good, ‘cause that’s important,” House said.

Two weeks later, they were on their way. House’s car had been filled with gas and the trunk had been loaded with a suitcase each. Really, House had only about half a suitcase and Wilson took up the rest, but he claimed the things he’d put into House’s were things they could ‘both use’.

“I’m never using—” House dug out some sort of face cream. “—this.”

“You should,” Wilson grinned. “Your skin’s probably really dry.”

“God, can you sound any gayer?”

Wilson grinned.

It took three hours to drive to the small town where Wilson had found the house for rent. The house itself was a white, one-story building that looked relatively new, with a large balcony over viewing the ocean.

“This looks nice,” Wilson said as they came inside. “Doesn’t it look nice?”

There was one bedroom, an office, and a rather large kitchen that opened up into the living room, where a huge plasma screen hung on the wall. House flopped down on the couch and decided that this might not be so bad after all.

“I’ll just go unpack, then,” Wilson said, sounding rather amused.

“And I’ll just figure out how the TV works,” House said.

“I’m sure that’s a real challenge,” Wilson said.

“Might take me all afternoon.”

“This is so wasted on you.”

“Hey – you’re the one who wanted to come here, and I was nice enough to come along,” House said. “You don’t have the right to whine.”

Wilson chuckled. “Fine. Enjoy your TV experience.”

House watched TV, his eyes sometimes traveling from the TV-screen to the large windows that showed the ocean, waves washing over the beach in a never-ending movement. It was enough to make him sleepy.

When Wilson woke him with a kiss, he had no idea how much time had passed.

“Taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon?” Wilson said, smiling down at him. “One might think you’re relaxed.”

House glared up at him. “I was tired.”

Wilson held up his hands defensively, still smiling gently. He was only wearing swim shorts, and the image was very inviting – whatever lotions Wilson used, they kept his skin smooth and soft. “Hey, I’m not complaining. You’re so quiet when you sleep – it’s a nice change.”

House sat up. “Was there something you wanted, or do you just want to play a game of Taunt the Cripple?”

“Well, I thought I’d go down and take a swim, and I was wondering if you might want to join me?” Wilson asked.

House wanted to – he hadn’t seen Wilson in water since before the infarction, when they still used to swim every now and then, and back then, he hadn’t been allowed to steal kisses whenever he wanted. He wondered what Wilson’s wet body would feel like against his own, and just how salty those lips would be.

Then he thought of his leg, his ugly, useless leg, which might well give out on the way down to the water when the cane sank into the ground. And though he and Wilson had been in a sexual relationship for years, he still feared that Wilson would be turned off by the sight of his leg, or by the sight of House’s weakness.

“No, thanks,” he said.

Wilson’s smile dimmed slightly. “Oh. Well. I guess I’ll be back in a while, then.”

He kissed House again, and House wanted to pull him down onto the couch and have his wicked way with him right there and starve off the dejection he’d put there, but he didn’t.

Wilson grabbed his towel, slinging it over his shoulder, and left.

House glared at the TV-screen. Perfectly sculpted men and beautiful women with too much make-up delivered bad lines for even worse plots, and House finally stabbed the off-button, and the screen became black.

He grabbed his cane and stood up, hating the feeling of it even more than usual, because here, it made him feel trapped. Here, in a picturesque little house by the beach, he felt like a prisoner.

Opening the door to the balcony, he walked outside. The weather was warm, and he felt sweat start to build up as soon as the sun’s rays landed on him. A warm breeze made it slightly more bearable. There were no clouds in sight, just blue skies over a blue ocean.

He walked to the end of the balcony, which marked the limits of his prison. There were stairs from the balcony down onto the beach, and House walked down three steps – there were perhaps ten – and sat down, leaning his chin on his cane.

Wilson stood in the ocean, water up to his waist, with his back against House. He must have submerged himself completely at some point, because his back glistened with pearls of water, looking even more inviting than it usually did. Then Wilson leaned forward slightly, falling graciously into the water, and disappearing beneath the surface. A second later, he reemerged, hair slicked back and hands wiping the water from his eyes.

He turned around, and his eyes found House immediately. House wondered if Wilson had some sort of radar, always pointing towards him.

It took Wilson a minute or two to get out of the water and walk the across the beach and up the stairs. The swimming trunks he wore clung to him, and House had to admire those muscular legs of his. They weren’t overly defined – nothing on Wilson was overly defined – but they were just right.

“You look hot.”

House glanced up at Wilson, standing before him. “You look wet.”

“The ocean tends to do that to me,” Wilson said. “Join me?”

House shook his head.

“Why not?”

House shrugged. He tried to come up with some comment to distract Wilson from his question, but Wilson was standing before him, half-naked and wet, water running from his hair down his shoulders and over lovely nipples. It was hard to concentrate.

“I can help you, you know,” Wilson said, when House had sat silently too long.

“I don’t need your help.”

Wilson’s face softened and he sat down on the step below House, leaning against House’s leg so that his pants became wet.

“Don’t you have a towel?” House asked, growling unhappily.

Wilson smiled. “I do, but you’re closer at the moment. I’ll go down and get my towel if you come with me.”

“I said no,” House said, and stood up abruptly.

He stalked inside, refusing to look back at what he knew was Wilson’s concerned and crushed face. He hadn’t asked to go here. He hadn’t asked to be imprisoned. He didn’t want to be here, and he didn’t want to swim – he didn’t want anything.

He went to bed, although it was only five in the afternoon, and though it took several hours and he got hungry, he finally fell asleep. He heard Wilson in the doorway and felt the change of the bed as he crawled in and pulled the covers over him, but he didn’t turn around.

The alarm clock showed 03:52 when House woke up. The sun had yet to rise, and from his place in bed, through the window, he could see stars sprinkling the sky. He sighed, turning around and facing Wilson, who lay curled up, face relaxed in sleep. There was something so young about a sleeping Wilson.

House got out of bed, the need to pee overwhelming. He hoped he didn’t wake Wilson as he stumbled his way towards the bathroom, still unfamiliar with the layout of the house, especially in darkness.

Once done, he walked into the living room. He thought about turning the TV on, but decided against it – there would be nothing of interest showing at this hour, and he didn’t want to wake Wilson. Instead, he caught sight of the dark ocean, waves still breaking calmly against the shore. It was hypnotizing, especially as the moon reflected against the surface, glittering in silvers.

He walked onto the balcony, hoping he was quiet enough for Wilson to stay asleep. Once at the end of it, he took one step down the stairs, then a second, and a third. When he’d descended all eleven steps, he hesitantly pushed his bare foot into the sand. It felt chilly and dry.

Testing it gingerly, he placed his cane into the sand. It didn’t sink all that far – a half inch or so. He’d be able to lean on it without it disappearing on him. The sand was obviously well-packed.

No one was out there now. No one would see him, and he wouldn’t make an ass of himself if he fell. Wilson wouldn’t be around to watch him fail at something so simple as to walk.

He took a step out into the sand, trying not to place too much weight on the cane. But it seemed to hold, and he took another step. And another. It wasn’t as hard as he’d imagined – it was heavy to walk, but then it was heavy for anyone to walk in sand, so that wasn’t because of his damn leg.

The walking came easier, and he found himself closer to the water. When the first wave hit his feet, it wasn’t as cold as he’d thought it would be, and he decided that walking there, where the water was no more than an inch deep at most, might be nice.

It was relaxing, to be out walking at the sea shore at four in the morning, before even the birds seemed to have woken up. There was little light – only the stray rays of the street lights a while away, and the moon’s shine, which bathed everything in a silvery blue. It fit House perfectly, because the whole thing felt slightly unreal, in stark contrast to the bright light of day.

A part of him wished Wilson was with him. He loved Wilson with all his heart – however much that was; House had always been pretty certain he didn’t have quite as much heart as other people, least of all Wilson – and time spent with him was usually well spent. Except, of course, when Wilson nagged him about his use of Vicodin, or tried to get him to be nice to someone, or something else House didn’t want to listen to. Although even those conversations were quite fun, really.

He was replaying a memory of Wilson, back when they’d first started—dating, although House didn’t like the word. They’d been out to dinner so many times before that it really shouldn’t have been anything special, but Wilson had made reservations at one of the nicer restaurants in town, and House had felt obliged to dress up, just a little bit. Of course, Wilson had outdone him, taking House’s breath away as he stepped inside, dressed casually in comparison to his work clothes – a button-down shirt that hadn’t been buttoned all the way, black pants, and a black jacket. He wore no tie, because he knew House hated those.

They’d stared at each other, and House had realized at that moment that he was in love with this man, his best friend. He wondered why it had taken him so long to figure it out.

House was so deep in thought, smiling slightly at the memory, that he didn’t notice that his cane sank too deep into the sand, its support disappearing, until too late. His leg gave out, and House fell down, hands first into the wet sand, his leg screaming in protest. He lay on his side, face in the sand. The very next second, a wave came up, soaking him. He coughed and spluttered as the water pooled around him and seeped into his nose, mouth and eyes, and he was struck by the sudden, horrible thought of drowning in inch-deep water.

A strong hand grabbed his arm, pulling him upright.

House drew a shuddering breath, coughing and spraying water all over the place. It didn’t really matter; everything was already wet. He didn’t turn around, already knowing who was kneeling beside him. He closed his eyes – this was exactly what he’d wanted to avoid.

He felt a hand on his cheek, running up through his hair and back down again.

“I’m not even going to pretend to understand how your mind works,” Wilson said.

“Good,” House said, “because it’s much too complicated for you to understand.”

He had yet to open his eyes, and he knew that he sounded like a petulant child. He felt rather like one.

“I’m sure it is,” Wilson said. “So are you done with this midnight excursion?”

“It’s way past midnight,” House said.

“Early morning excursion, then,” Wilson said.

House opened his eyes. Wilson sat before him, one hand resting on House’s cheek. There was a soft smile curving his lips, and the brown eyes were filled with a hint of worry, but mostly just so much love that it almost made House breathless. The moon created a silver halo around his hair, and his skin shone white. He was in his boxers and a t-shirt, the boxers soaked because waves of water kept rolling in over them.

Most importantly, Wilson wasn’t laughing at House’s failure. All at once, House was reminded, again, of why he loved Wilson so much. House’s stupidity would never bother him, his actions wouldn’t alienate him, his physical features wouldn’t disgust him.

Wilson would always be there.

“Yeah,” House said. “I’m done.”

“Good, because I’m cold,” Wilson said.

He leaned forward, kissing House soundly. House wondered how Wilson kept his lips so soft all the time – it was probably one of those moisturizers they’d dragged with them.

Wilson stood gracefully, and House wondered in passing what Wilson could possibly see in a miserable cripple like himself. Wilson helped House stand, wordlessly, because he knew that House wouldn’t accept the help if offered out loud.

Wilson took House’s cane, which was still stuck at an angle in the wet sand. He didn’t give it to House, but wrapped his arm around House’s waist so that House could use him to lean on instead. House tried to school his face into one that didn’t show just how much he loved the intimacy.

“Tomorrow, we’ll go swimming,” Wilson said. “And I won’t accept a no, because now you’ve been in the water once.”

House thought about feeling Wilson’s wet, warm body against his own again, with soft salty lips exploring his own, and thought that perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

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