by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: This is the first of the answers to the fic requests of a couple of days ago. This request by Aurelia Priscus: "House and Wilson fluff [snip] would be sincerely appreciated. Possibly involving air ducts... or ironing, in other words one of those silly, pointless bunnies we'vediscussed but never put much serious thought into."

The storage closet wasn't House's favorite part of the clinic--actually, he didn't really have a favorite part of the clinic--but it did have the advantage of being the only place Cuddy had never yet found him. After all, it was neither comfortable nor well lit, and his portably TV got terrible reception there. Why squirrel himself away in a storage closet when he could duck into an exam room?

Because no one ever looks here, House snorted softly to himself. No one ever followed the train of thought to that final logical conclusion, so no one found him.

The door abruptly eased open a few inches. Wilson stuck his head into the closet and raised his eyebrows. "Ah. There you are."

Well, almost no one, but House wasn't convinced Wilson's success had anything to do with logic. Either the man had some mysterious form of radar or they'd simply known each other too long. "Come in and shut the door," House said impatiently, "or you'll give me away."

Wilson smiled and shook his head, but he stepped into the tiny storage room and closed the door behind himself with a click. "Running out of hiding places already?" he said. "At this rate you'll never make it to 2054."

"I'm not out of hiding places," House corrected him. He reached behind himself and retrieved a bucket, which he upended at Wilson's feet to serve as a second makeshift seat. "I prioritized them based on Cuddy's mood. The storage closet is for when she's feeling particularly determined to torture me with hypochondriacs and chest colds apparently masquerading as the flu."

Wilson flicked his lab coat out of the way of the bucket like a pianist arranging his tails over the bench and settled down on the stool. There was, House reflected, something bizarrely endearing about Wilson, perfectly pressed and creased, sitting with his knees all akimbo thanks to the shortness of his perch.

"You don't think Cuddy will find you here?"

House shrugged and fidgeted with his cane, but he couldn't spin it in these close quarters. If he knocked something off the shelves someone would hear and come to investigate. "She never has before," he answered. "What on Earth possessed you to poke your head into a janitorial storage closet?"

"You've been in the closet for years," Wilson said dryly. "Why come out now?"

"Well, now that you're in here with me, it's getting a little crowded," House tilted his head and smirked a little. "Maybe we should both come out."

Wilson snorted and shook his head. "My wife might have a problem with that."

"You can't stay in here with me forever, James. Eventually Julie's going to figure out that something's wrong."

"Julie figured out that something was wrong a long time ago," Wilson said. "Personally, I'd just as soon wait until she's out of the picture before making any life changing revelations."

House blinked. "Who was talking about life changing revelations?" he asked innocently. "All I meant was that she'd probably miss you if you never left this little room."

Wilson shot him a dirty look and started to lean back, forgetting that his bucket had no back. He wobbled for a moment before regaining his balance on his seat. "How much longer are you going to lurk in here, anyway?"

A quick glance at his watch answered that question. "Three more minutes."

"Even Cuddy isn't going to make you take a new patient less than five minutes before you're due to go," Wilson said earnestly.

"She would if they'd been waiting for an hour and a half," House shot back.

A pained expression crossed Wilson's face. "I swear, House, you do more work avoiding patients that you would have to if you just saw them."

House shot him a suspicious glance. "Had Cuddy recruited you to her crusade?" he demanded.

Wilson held up his hands. "I plead not guilty. I just thought I'd get you out of range of the bleach fumes."

"I rather like the bleach fumes," House said contemplatively. "The more brain cells they kill, the less actual clinic duty hurts."

"If you wanted a personality change, you could have had syphilis," Wilson said, a smile spreading across his lips. "Mrs. Poetry would have been more than happy to pass it along."

"James, I'm shocked," House gasped theatrically. "You forgot a patient's name!"

"Not my patient," Wilson shot back. "And it's not the first time. Rebecca, Rachel, remember?"

"You said that just for the alliteration."

"No, that would be petty."

House raised an eyebrow. "No, petty would be reading bad love poetry aloud in second floor reception for the sole purpose of embarrassing a friend."

"No," Wilson returned, "that would be amusing."

"You've been spending too much time with me, James," House said, amused. "I'm starting to rub off on you."

Wilson chuckled "If there's been rubbing, coming out of the closet would be a lot more dramatic."

"You don't have enough drama in your life?" House asked, then smacked himself upside the head. "Of course you don't. Why else would you weasel your way into so many of my cases?"

"Be careful who you compare to a rodent," Wilson warned, pointing a finger at House, "or I might stop contributing to those cases."

"Oh no," House said confidently, and waggled his eyebrows. "You wouldn't. You never can resist."

Wilson sighed and ostentatiously checked his watch. "It's two minutes after. You're safe."

"You're between me and the door."

"And that's the only reason you're not leaping up off your bucket, I'm sure," Wilson said dryly, but he stood and turned to open the door anyway. House watched idly while Wilson grabbed the door knob and twisted.

Nothing happened.

Wilson paused for a long moment, then tried the knob again. Still nothing. Irritably, he twisted it back and forth a few times. Some mechanism rattled and clicked, but the door didn't open. "House," Wilson said, not turning around, "did you lock this door?"

"No. But then, I wasn't the last person to come in here."

Wilson shot a look over his shoulder and tried the door again, as if the lock would have magically released while his attention was diverted. Alas, no such luck. "Well, I didn't lock it. I haven't got any reason to lock myself into a janitorial closet. It must be automatic."

"Uh oh." House couldn't keep the trace of amusement out of his tone.

Wilson spun around and put his hands on his hips. "Greg."

"You know," House pointed out, "most people use last names or full names to chide someone. What do you think it says about you that you use my first name?"

"I don't want to be locked in a storage closet all night," Wilson said adamantly.

They wouldn't be locked in all night. After all, the janitorial staff would need to get their supplies to clean up. But who was House to point that out when Wilson was working up such righteous anger? "I guess you'd better find some way out of here, then."

"I had better?"

House shrugged. "I'm quite comfortable," he tapped his bucket with the end of his cane. "You're the one who wants out of the closet."

Wilson released an explosive breath. "Sometimes I can't believe you," he muttered, and started examining the ceiling. House followed his gaze and found a good size air duct at the top of one of the walls. Tilting his head to the side, he considered. Yup, Wilson's shoulders would just about fit.

"Air duct," he said, and pointed.

Wilson stared at it for a moment and then looked back at House. "You're kidding."

"You wanted out of here. I'm just pointing out the options."

Muttering, Wilson considered the position of the air duct, the contents of the shelves, and the breadth of his own shoulders. House could see the precise moment when he realized it was possible and held out his hand for Wilson's lab coat just as the man stripped it off.

Draping the coat over his knee--James would kill him if he just dropped it on the floor--House watched appreciatively as the other man's ascent of the shelves began. It really was too bad Wilson was so attached to the lab coat. It concealed some of his best...assets.

At the top of the shelves a little improvisation involving a nail file (and why had he been carrying a nail file?) released the flat slotted screws securing the grate over the duct. Wilson laid the grate and screws carefully aside on the top shelf, presumably to be replaced later, and contemplated the inside of the air duct.

"How are you going to get in there?" House asked curiously, leaning forward on his cane. James had gotten much farther than he'd really expected. Maybe he was living out some secret childhood spy fantasy.

"With great agility," Wilson replied, voice echoing a little inside the duct. "Which means it's a damn good thing you weren't locked in here own your own."

House let that go. He was having much too much fun watching Wilson squirm into the narrow opening of the air duct to spoil the show now. Arms, head, and shoulders disappeared into the wall in sequence, leaving Wilson's ass and legs hanging down over the shelves. He scrabbled a little with his feet, blindly trying to find the next highest shelf to push off of.

Naturally, this was when the door opened.

House grinned at the janitor who looked in on them and waved him away. Frowning, the janitor glanced from House to Wilson's lower half and back, and opened his mouth to speak, pointing at the mop and Wilson's abandoned bucket. House shook his head and mouthed, five minutes. The janitor shrugged, spreading his hands, and left. Behind him, the door swung shut again.

At the audible thump and click, Wilson's twitching feet stilled. "House?"


"Was that the door?"

"Yes, why--oh!" House grinned broadly, but of course, Wilson couldn't see him. "I'm sorry, I forgot. Well. Just as well you're most of the way into that duct."

Wilson's answering curse echoed.