DISCLAIMER: Only the imagination—and any errors—belong to me, more's the pity… .© mj falango 2006 feel free to rec/link/reprint/whatever, all of that nifty electronic stuff, but please give credit as well

PRELUDE: House at Home

Wilson remains on the couch and watches as House stands across the room and fights through the spasm, watches as he tries to bring his contorted features under control. So far, Wilson's been winning his own inner struggle not to go to him. But when House fails to smother a thick, involuntary groan, Wilson is by his side rapidly. Briskly, loudly, to be heard over the pain and growing panic, he says, "Sit down." House tries to protest, but can't pull in the air to form the words. Wilson gentles his voice, places his hands firmly on the trembling shoulders--he can feel the fine tremors of the muscles through House's t-shirt.

"Now… House…," he says quietly, slowly. "Sit." He pushes down lightly, and House collapses into the chair. His jaw is still working to gain control over the anguish on his face, control over the ugly sounds that the pain has pulled from him. Wilson doesn't look at that face; House's privacy is tantamount. He simply kneels by his friend and slips warm fingers around his wrist--House's pulse is well over 100.

Wilson's hands move to the cramped right thigh and, before House can protest or guard against the touch, he firmly kneads the wasted muscle. As he works, he says in a conversational tone, "Breathe, House. Breathing is good. In and out. Breathe." His voice has a soothing, sing-song quality as he repeats those words over and over.

He never looks up from his work on the thigh, but he feels it when the spasm finally ends. Again, his fingers go around House's wrist, and he counts out 64 strong beats per minute before he finally stands and looks directly at his friend.

House's eyes are boring into his. Those bright blue eyes, no longer so clouded with pain, are probing and defiant as they search Wilson's face for any hint of sadness or worry or--worse--pity. But Wilson, after so many years, is an expert on House. So the warm, clear brown eyes looking back at House reflect nothing but empathy. House glares into him for a few moments more. Then, satisfied, he sighs and allows his head to tilt back against the chair as Wilson reaches over and works the reclining mechanism. "Thanks," House says quietly, grudgingly, on an exhale.

"Wait'll my bill comes before you thank me. Good news is, I'm cheaper than Ingrid," Wilson grins wickedly and waggles his eyebrows at House, waiting for the biting comeback which will normalize things once more. But House is silent as he closes his eyes. "Can you rest?" asks Wilson. A solitary affirmative nod is the only answer, and his eyes are closed now. So Wilson allows himself the luxury of dropping the "I'm not worried; you're just a pain in the ass" posture. House doesn't see the sadness and worry now clearly etched on his friend's face as Wilson quietly takes the blanket from the couch, covers him, dims the lights, and sits back on the couch to watch over him. House is asleep.