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Jack had banged up his band pretty good while he was building furniture for Peggy and Steve. It was par for the course, though, and so he headed for the clinic to get it bandaged up, maybe splinted just in case. He'd told Logan where he was going and then headed off to the compound, thinking for the millionth time that he'd liked living in Bohemia just because it was closer.

He was smiling as he walked into the clinic and spied House. For a moment he thought about how unpleasant this was going to be. And then he moved forward and everything just kind of shifted...


Jack was all smiles...

Jack was all smiles when he walked in with a cup of coffee, almost exactly halfway through House's clinic shift.

"Hey, gorgeous. When do you get off?" he asked, the flirtatious tone stronger than ever.

House turned and looked at Jack. That smile, the fucking gorgeous smile, a slight gleam in his eyes that House had always thought was reserved for him.

He thought of Jack's record player, all those old Cole Porter songs. You're just so easy to love.

He balled up the sheet of paper and tossed it into the waste basket behind Jack. Nothing but net.

"Funny you should ask, because I was sitting here wondering when you get off."

He glanced at the clock, then back to House. "I was kind of hoping I'd only have to wait a few more hours," he replied as he half sat on the edge of the desk and handed the cup to House.

"What do you say? We can make a night of it. Like a date. We haven't done that in a while."

For a moment, House really had no idea what to say. He imagined himself sitting there staring at Jack, mouth hanging open in disbelief at the size of his big brass balls.

Anything that he could have said in response to that would have been sarcastic, cruel, or possibly comical, so he settled on five easier words instead.

"Look. We need to talk."

His smile faded incrementally, but he didn't look away. As his expression fell, a knot grew tighter in his gut, but that...that, he didn't let show.

Worst sentence in the world. Since he knew House wasn't pregnant, it really only meant one other thing. He wasn't stupid. He'd figured that eventually the man would decide he really wasn't comfortable with this whole arrangement.

"Okay," he shrugged, his voice as nonchalant as could be. "What do you want to talk about?"

As if he couldn't guess.

There was no point in beating around the bush. House just wanted to know exactly what he was dealing with, and he wanted to know now.

"How many other people are you fucking?"

He blinked, cocked his head, and looked confused for just a second.

"Six."

Minus the one he'd promise he'd never, ever mention.

House felt like he'd been punched in the chest. But he didn't leave any time to let it digest.

"Who?"

"I'm not telling you," he scoffed. That was the most ridiculous question ever. "It's not like you didn't know I was going to."

"What? Whatever happened to you'll never lie to - "

Then House stopped, wrapping his head around the rest of what Jack had said. "Did you just say... it's not like I didn't know it would happen? Jesus, Jack, I thought you wanted me to trust you!"

"I do, but I kind of figured out a long time ago that you're never going to. Not really," he said, deceptively calm. This was what he'd been avoiding last Thursday...even though it seemed like everyone saw it coming.

"I didn't lie. I just didn't tell you. You said that as long as I didn't leave you..."

"You think I don't trust you? How long as this been going on? Since after you kissed Alcuin? I've realized that something was off but I didn't say a damn word because I do trust you. The only reason I can't ignore it anymore is because I found a fucking condom wrapper in our bedroom. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it fell out of your pocket because I hope to God you're not bringing anyone else into our bed." He felt a little sick. "And I don't know what you're talking about, I said. I said nothing of the sort."

"I know you don't trust me, you insecure jackass. You're always assuming that eventually I'll leave you for someone younger, hotter...nicer. You've been like this since before we left the Doctor's place." He'd just had an easier time ignoring it before.

"I wouldn't bring anyone to our bed; don't be an idiot," Jack sneered. "When you broke your hand, after Alcuin, you said you wished I'd fuck whoever I wanted as long as I didn't leave you. I always come back, Greg. Always have, before."

Jack stood up and smoothed his shirt over his chest. He didn't want to do this here. Not in front of an audience. Greg hated having an audience.

...Or maybe this was the perfect place to do it, after all.

House just listened to all of this calmly, no real expression on his face. Then after Jack stopped talking, he waited a moment, his face reading clearly: Are you done? Want to call me any more names before I go?

"That's not what I said, Jack, and you know it," he said quietly, ignoring all the other stuff, because really, it just wasn't relevant. Not now. "Maybe you've convinced yourself that that's the case because you needed to so that you could go off and do what you wanted to do without guilt." He paused. "I have a very good memory, and I know what I said."

He took a deep breath. It wasn't like it was a conversation he could forget. "I said that the worst part of it - it of course being seeing you suck face with Alcuin - was that a part of me wanted to tell you that you could fuck whoever you wanted. That's when I broke my hand, remember? I had to punch the bed when I said that because admitting it made me feel like I'd completely lost all respect for myself."

For a second he actually thought he felt his hand throb with the memory. "You said that I should think carefully about if that was how I really felt. And then I told you that it wasn't. That I couldn't feel that way because I didn't want to have to sacrifice my self respect for your happiness."

He shook his head. "So you can think what you want, Jack. You can twist my words around in your memory to justify what you've done, but I think that deep down you really knew. You knew that it would hurt me, and that's why you didn't say anything. You would have just let me go on in my ignorance forever... until someone finally took pity on me and told me the truth."

"You haven't sacrificed a damn thing for me, Greg. Not your self respect, nothing. Every once in a while you get your ego bruised when I act like myself. You know what? I'm not having this conversation here...I'm done justifying shit."

He turned on his heel and headed for the door, flinging his hand into the air in the most dismissive goodbye ever.

You haven't sacrificed a damn thing for me.

Even if that was true, House knew that the one thing Jack was asking of him was just too much. Did Jack really expect him to just sit back and say, okay Jack, you can put your cock in whatever you want, just come back to me at the end of the day?

... actually, yes, that seemed to be exactly what he expected.

House had no intention of following him, especially after that flippant exit. He'd said his piece, squashed Jack's stupid justifications. Maybe it would do Jack some good to dwell on it for a little while.

He had no idea if Jack would be at the hut that night when he returned. He honestly wouldn't have been surprised if he'd just taken off into the woods or something instead.

But he went anyway, ready to face whatever was there or not there.

* * *

Ianto had seen it coming. The Doctor had seen it coming. He'd heard it from more than one person that House desrved someone better and Jack should be happy. Happy. For the longest time, he'd been happy...and he couldn't exactly pinpoint when it had changed.

He felt vaguely sick as he left the clinic and went back to the hut. It was so hot, so close, and everything inside made him think of Greg. Sex and conversations, breakdowns and detox. Everything. And it was almost like he was watching it fall apart before his eyes.

Eventually Greg would come home. Every other time they'd worked it out. A little bit of fighting, some cooling down, an 'I'm sorry', and things went on like normal. Maybe that's how it would go this time. Maybe.

Probably not.

It was several hours after their previous conversation that House finally made his way back to the hut. He didn't know if Jack would be there or not, but when Padfoot greeted him at the door he braced himself.

He stood in the doorway, leaning on his cane and looking pretty defeated already. "I hope this won't be long and drawn out," he said quietly, not sure if he could handle it.

Jack looked up from the chair where he'd been carving a bit to keep himself busy. Long and drawn out...he'd already been waiting for hours, unsure if Greg would even show up or if he'd simply remain in the clinic.

"You think it might be?"

"I'm not sure," House said truthfully. "Either this is incredibly complicated or laughably simple." He closed the door and sat on the edge of the bed.

"I don't think it's really that complicated. I'm not happy. You know it," Jack said evenly. He swallowed hard before he stood up and moved to stand in front of Greg. He'd been thinking this over for weeks, trying to find the balls to just face it.

"But have you been happy lately? When you've been - " He nearly said 'fucking your way through the island' but stopped himself in favor of trying to make this as civil as possible. "Sleeping with other people and - " Deluding yourself into thinking I didn't care? "And assuming that it was okay with me?"

"No," he answered. There wasn't a hint of guilt to it. Just a flat, honest admission. "I haven't been happy for a while. Being here. Being...this."

He paused, giving himself time as he slid his hands in his pockets to keep from reaching out.

"You gave me enough rope to hang myself. Obviously, I did."

House sighed. "Well the other option seemed to be to strangle you with it, which would have been worse."

He dropped his head a little, pushing his hands through his hair. "So you weren't happy with just me. And you weren't happy with me and other people. So is it me altogether that's making you unhappy? Or is it just that you're going to be unhappy no matter what?" It wasn't like that was a foreign concept to House.

"Yeah. It's you." Jack took a step back so he wasn't looming over House. He took a breath and another step, then leaned against the wall.

"You and trying over and over to make this work. You and the fact that you don't care if I have friends, but you make no effort to know them. You and your insecurity. You and your attitude everywhere except in here where it's safe to be a great guy. You and what you expect of me, when you know it's not realistic. I tried for you, Greg. I tried really hard...and I can't do it anymore."

House looked honestly surprised for a moment... because he was. He'd thought that the root of the problem had to do with sex, monogamy, infidelity...

He looked pained, and then finally said, "I'm not going to defend myself, Jack. I don't want to sit here and try to convince you how I've changed. I'm not going to tell you for the hundredth time that I've never expected you to change for me. So the only thing that remains is if you love me more than the sum of all those things you just said. I don't think that there's much else to be said."

"Oh, no...you've never asked. Way to cover your ass with that," he snapped. "You haven't changed, Greg. You're the same miserable person you've always been and it's just gotten worse. No students, no council, no drugs...all you've got is me, and we both know I'm no fucking prize."

He couldn't stay still, couldn't just stand there. Everything he'd heard from everyone else, along with the things he'd mulled over after he'd admitted them to himself, all of it was jumbled up and he wasn't sure what to say. He loved House...he loved him so much sometimes he could hardly breathe. The thought of him hurting or in danger--or disappearing--just the idea could bring him to his knees. But was it enough? He'd been dreading this.

"You should be with someone who can actually be a decent boyfriend, Greg. Someone who is better than a good lay who makes you feel young."

Jack being so jittery was making House even more so, but he didn't have any trouble sitting still. He felt too numb to move.

He shook his head. "Is that really what you think you are to me? Now who's insecure?"

"I think a lot of things about you, Greg," he answered quietly. He stopped pacing, ran his hand through his hair, and sighed. "I don't think I can do this."

Rather than agonizing over what "this" was, House took a deep breath and without looking up at Jack said, "I don't know what's about to happen, if this is finally something we can't push past, but I still have to tell you... I don't know how I can make you believe it, except to just swear that it's true, but... you are more to me than you realize, Jack. You always have been. I know I'm shit at expressing my emotions, but I fucking love you, all right? That's real. Maybe more than I've ever loved anyone. That might not be enough but there it is."

"I know," Jack nodded. He closed the distance between them and leaned over, cupping House's face. He hesitated a moment then lunged in, kissing him slowly. He committed to memory the mouth he'd kissed so many times before, the taste of him, the warmth.

All House could think was - how could anything that feels like this possibly be the wrong thing?

Maybe Jack thought he was miserable anyway, but House honestly didn't know how he could be anything but miserable without him.

"I love you," he whispered against Greg's lips. It took everything he had in him to breathe when it was done. Everything in him to pull away and stand up.

"I really love you."

Everything in him to take a step back.

"Get out."

House's stomach sank to his feet. Between that and his mind whirring so fast, a million thoughts at once (it's over? really over? he cheated on me and I'm the one getting thrown out? over? never? what?), it was something of a miracle that he didn't throw up.

He had a sudden flashback, seven years ago, Stacy holding a suitcase full of his clothes. "I love you, Greg, but I just don't like you anymore. Get out."

He grabbed his cane and shakily got to his feet.

Jack wasn't certain what to do. He was always the one who walked away. Always. He took another step back, watching Greg rise. The whole thing felt horrible. It hurt.

It was the right thing to do.

House wasn't sure if it counted as walking away if he was being forced to leave. It was Jack's hut, after all; he'd built it with his own two hands.

The bed was his. Hell, Jack could go sleep in the jungle and it probably wouldn't bother him. House might even be in his rights to demand to stay.

But he wouldn't.

Though the fact was, he didn't have anywhere to go. Where would he go? The treehouse? Gwen had moved back in with the baby, probably taken his old bedroom, and she hated his guts anyway. He thought of Phedre, but climbing that rope ladder would be murder on his leg, and her boyfriend probably wouldn't take kindly to his showing up anyway. Mark? He lived with Maureen, and House would have put good money on her being one of Jack's six people. Cameron probably had a roommate in the compound somewhere.

It wasn't as if it was unusual, House not really having friends. But there were times when it really sucked.

Especially when he realized that if it were Jack? There were probably a dozen different places he could go.

In any case, that left the clinic. Which meant...

"Padfoot can stay here for the time being," he said. Even though he kind of hated the idea that Jack was getting his bed and his dog... he couldn't just traipse into the clinic with a dog.

"I figured that."

Jack nodded, crossed to the door, and held it open. "Let me know when you've got a place. I'll get some help and move your bed," he said flatly. "And the rest of your stuff."

His back stiffened and he stood straighter as he held onto the edge of the door tightly. His stomach ached, his heart felt like it was about to stop, and he didn't trust himself to speak much. He knew his voice would crack. He clenched his teeth, sure he looked more hard and detached instead of completely broken.

It all seemed so goddamned neat and tidy. Maybe they loved each other too much for it to be any other way. Still, House didn't know how this had started out with his confronting Jack about cheating on him and ended with him being the one kicked out. But what was he supposed to do, throw a tantrum and scream, you're not breaking up with me, because I'm breaking up with you first? You can't fire me, I quit? You're the one who fucked around, you move out?

Maybe later he'd work out some righteous indignation. But by then there wouldn't be anyone to punch. Maybe that was a good thing. Though the other side effect of not having friends was that there wasn't anyone to get all pissed off on his behalf.

He reached down and scratched between Padfoot's ears.

He felt like there should be some momentous last words to close the door on something so huge, but as he stepped through the door, brushing right past Jack, close enough that his breath hit Jack's skin, all he could think of before disappearing into the night was:

"I hope you're happy now."

Date: 2012-03-29 08:54 pm (UTC)
misanthrope_md: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
It was several hours after their previous conversation that House finally made his way back to the hut. He didn't know if Jack would be there or not, but when Padfoot greeted him at the door he felt a wave of cold anger wash over him.

He stood in the doorway, leaning on his cane and staring coldly inside at Jack. "Are you in there alone? I'd hate to interrupt anything."

Date: 2012-03-29 09:02 pm (UTC)
misanthrope_md: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
House shrugged and closed the door behind him. "I mean, I'm just working on pure probabilities here. If you're fucking six other people there's only so many hours in the day."

Date: 2012-03-29 09:10 pm (UTC)
misanthrope_md: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
"I think you're very good at making excuses for yourself, and that if you want to fuck someone you'll fuck them, damn the rest of it." House paused, and then spat, "Damn me and my feelings."

Date: 2012-03-29 09:16 pm (UTC)
misanthrope_md: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
"Oh, bullshit," House snapped. They'd already covered the 'as long as I didn't leave you' argument. "You knew I'd find out. Or you're just a dumbass, leaving condoms laying around our house. Who did you have that condom in, anyway?"

Date: 2012-03-29 09:21 pm (UTC)
misanthrope_md: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
"Oh, right, because I can see how they start to blur together after a while."

House stepped closer to him, a hard expression on his face. "Hmmm I wonder if I can remember who I slept with last. Let's see... well, there's you. And you. You on the bed, and you on the couch, and you bent over my motorcycle... you, you, you."

Date: 2012-03-29 09:32 pm (UTC)
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From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
"Maybe not, but you knew you were," House said. "You knew it, don't pretend you didn't. So what does that even mean, that you love me? Clearly you can't be happy with just me. Or else you're just a cold son of a bitch."

Date: 2012-03-30 10:26 pm (UTC)
misanthrope_md: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
House swallowed hard, trying to tamp down the fear and pain that was threatening to bubble up over his anger. "So you're not happy with me alone, and you're not happy with me and other people, so clearly it's just me making me unhappy. That's good to know. Glad we've got that out in the fucking open."

He paused. "And the only time I'm not miserable is when I'm with you and you damn well know that."

Date: 2012-03-30 10:37 pm (UTC)
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From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
"So, what, your solution is to fuck around until I was bound to notice and then break up with you?" He felt like he was going to be sick. "When did... when did you become such a coward, Jack?"

Date: 2012-03-30 10:56 pm (UTC)
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From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
"Fine," growled House. "Fine. Fuck you, Jack." And then he shoved him, hard, before turning back to the door. "I'm sure it won't be long before you find someone to warm my bed."

Date: 2012-03-30 11:09 pm (UTC)
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From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
It was several hours after their previous conversation that House finally made his way back to the hut. He didn't know if Jack would be there or not, but when Padfoot greeted him at the door he felt a wave of cold anger wash over him.

He stood in the doorway, leaning on his cane and staring coldly inside at Jack. "Are you in there alone?"

Date: 2012-03-30 11:17 pm (UTC)
misanthrope_md: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
House looked at him for a second, then stepped in and closed the door behind him. "Yes. I'm mad. I just found out that my boyfriend has been fucking half a dozen other people and trying to keep it from me."

Date: 2012-03-30 11:24 pm (UTC)
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From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
"I'm not sure I believe you," House said, and wished it weren't so hard to be angry with Jack when he was standing so close to him like that. "It would be more compelling if you said you weren't going to do it anymore, and meant it."

Date: 2012-03-30 11:45 pm (UTC)
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From: [personal profile] misanthrope_md
Honestly House didn't really want to fight either - it felt, strangely, like they'd been doing a lot of it, even if that wasn't really the case, at least not until this afternoon, not about this.

So even though he was still angry, he let Jack kiss him, and Jack did know how to kiss. He always had.

"You're trying to distract me," he mumbled against his lips.

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