House laughed inside his head at how his apartment would look to most people; takeout cartons scattered around, the previous few days clothes hanging off the back of the couch, a glass of scotch, along with it's empty bottle, and two smooth round Vicodin containers. One was the empty from last night, and one filled with new little white pills. Droplets of water ran down the side of the scotch glass, making a ring on the dark wood of the table. The TV was the only light in the room, casting a flicking glow. The sound was down, and House, laid with his head on the arm rest, stared at the pictures as he drifted off to sleep.

The remaining muscle in his thigh twitched, jerking him back to wakefulness. The same show was on TV, still in the same segment, House had not been asleep for more than 5 minutes. The phone rang, sudden and shrill in the empty apartment, and House squeezed his eyes shut, willing away the pain that had begun throbbing in his head – a rhythmic accompaniment melody held by his leg.

He lifted the receiver and mumbled something between "House" and "Hello".

"Can I come over?"

"Why?" House heard Wilson sigh across the phone line. "Ok."


House sat up and rubbed his eyes, wishing he was more awake; if he had been more awake, at least he might have been able to tell if he really had heard something like a sob when Wilson hung up the phone.

The knock at his door came sooner than he expected. House checked the clock; Wilson must have been in the area to get here this soon. "Door's open."

Wilson didn't talk. House heard the door being opened, footsteps, then the door closing but Wilson didn't talk. If it weren't for the thickness of his breathing, House would've thought he had turned round and left again. He ran over possibilities in his head. The last time Wilson had been here, House had screamed at him and pushed him into the coffee table. Conversations at work had been stoic. Now Wilson was standing behind him for no apparent reason, without saying a word. Footsteps sounded again, and House heard the refrigerator being opened, beer bottles clinking and being opened. Footsteps returning, bottles being added to those already on the table, a pained sound from the back of Wilson's throat and finally material brushing material as his friend sat down next to him.

"You weren't at work today." House decided to go with the fairly safe observation.

"I had…things to take care of."


Wilson made a noise that was similar to laughter, only more painful. "No. I had to ID someone…a body…" House waited for him to continue at his own pace. "I didn't think I'd even be able to recognise him."

House felt Wilson's shoulder shaking, pressed against his own. "Your brother." Before he knew what was happening, House found himself wrapping his arms around Wilson. He wasn't crying, just shaking. Tremors ran through his body and his teeth clacked together between breaths. He felt so fragile. House was afraid he would break him.

Slowly, the shaking subsided and House was left with Wilson in his arms, neither man quite sure what to do. Almost reluctantly, James pulled away and instantly missed the warmth of another person's skin. He pressed his calf against House's.

"I'm sorry."

"I say that to people every day when I tell them they're dying. Never realised how lame it sounds." Wilson felt, more than saw, House smile.

"It might not be the best time to bring it up, but I'm sorry for more than just what happened to your brother."

"I know. I don't know why you think that's worth anything though," said Wilson sadly.

"Do you think it's worth something?" House's finger's rested softly on Wilson's thigh.

"Not coming from you. Over and over, you're always the same. If you were sorry you'd change things."

"It doesn't quite work that way."

"Then I don't wanna play anymore, ok? None of it…I don't want to have to care. I quit it all." Wilson was trembling again, his voice coming out in bursts of volume that diminished every time from the effort of holding back tears.

"You can't."

"Why the hell not?"

"'Cus who else am I going to find to put up with all my crap?" House looked down at his hands, and at Wilson's fingers clasped around them. "And because I don't want to let you go. I'm a spoilt brat, Wilson; I will get what I want."

"House, you can't deny how fucked up everything about our friendship is." Wilson pulled away his hand. He didn't move his leg.

"That doesn't mean it's not working."

"How is this working? Half the time I wish I didn't even know you. God! My brother died today and you still can't talk about anything but yourself, all you're doing is making me feel worse. Part of me is screaming that I just need to stay away from you." For the first time today, tears spilled down Wilson's cheeks. "He died without me getting to talk to him, to see him. I lost 9 years with my brother. And instead of grieving with my parents or talking to my wife I'm here, having a conversation that isn't even a real conversation because we're aren't really talking about it. How the hell is this working?"

"Because you aren't talking to your wife, or grieving with your parents. I don't care if you feel like your life is falling down, James. Things will stay as they are because we both need it. It is working. It's working because you're here."