The actual problem was that there were two James Wilsons, and the one of them had been slowly killing the other, suffocating him under snowdrifts of quiet, fluffy down. And no one had ever understood this, not even Wilson himself, who knew only that something was wrong with him, the way an animal might know that something is wrong as it feels the euthanasia drug spreading through its veins.

Everyone had always known what Wilson was. The teacher's pet, back in grade school. The Boy Scout, the Nice Guy, the Cute Kid who Never Got Into Trouble. That was Wilson. He had become a steady, nice, Volvo-driving doctor with only the usual, acceptable flaws. Marriage problems, that sort of thing. The stuff people kind of expected, anyhow, from someone with a job like his.

Everyone knew Wilson, doling out treatment and concern to all and sundry. Everyone liked him; and they all shook their heads at his friendship with House, that exotic dragon-creature who scorched the earth in his path and for whom kind, patient Wilson, inexplicably, would do pretty much anything.

Those who gave it much thought at all, figured that Wilson did this because Wilson was screwed up, a little self-destructive. Or gay and in love with House, or some combination of both. They were wrong about the gay part, and entirely correct about the other things, but not for the reasons they imagined.

Because there really were two Wilsons, and the one everyone knew was not the genuine article. The visible Wilson was little more than a walking mannequin, built out of the best, or at least the most socially presentable, elements of the real man, with plenty of prefab components to round out the form and make it lifelike. He was nice to look at and pleasant to be around, and he would give you what you needed and you would never, ever know, as he smiled at you with his charming face, that he was made of fiberglass. The James Wilson you saw was such a beautiful, masterful, monstrous liar that even the other Wilson had become convinced that there was, in fact, only the one of them.

And then he met House. And finding himself fixed beneath that inevitable, merciless, clinical gaze, his first thought was: Oh, shit.

For ages all he knew was that he was drawn back, and back, and back into House's presence because there was something odd that happened when House was around, that never happened any other time. It felt sort of like guilt and even more like freedom and it hurt and it was fun. It was deliciously fun. Everyone told him it was sickness, but he simply loved House, loved the man and could not resist following that leering, playful, lopsided leader. It wasn't sexual; it was something else. But what it was, Wilson himself did not know, not for a very long time.

It wasn't until Julie left that Wilson the First, the Real Jimmy, became painfully aware of the mind-numbing, deadly tyranny of Wilson the Second, the Fake. That was when it dawned on him that he was friends with Greg House for a very, very good reason. That his friendship with Greg was probably the only halfway healthy thing in his whole existence. Because what happened in the presence of House was that Wilson--the first, real Wilson who had been swallowed whole by the fiberglass monster--started coming back to life at last. House was fun because House alone could coax the Real Jimmy outside. And if the Real Jimmy didn't show up on his own, House would hunt him down, pin him beneath the weight of that brilliant mind, and hack away without pity at the lovely shell of the Fake. No one else in Wilson's life, not even Wilson himself, had ever been able to do that. His wives had married the mannequin; his girlfriends had slept with it. He shaved its face in the mirror every morning. They all thought that was Wilson. And the mannequin, which was supposed to ensure that his life would be easy and safe and good, had destroyed him. It had left him so hollow and numb, so desperate that he couldn't help cheating; turned him into the worst kind of fraud.

And so he went to House, walking into the dazzling wonders of the dragon's lair, instinctively and almost against his own will. It looked like self-destruction, felt like it sometimes, but Wilson couldnĂ­t get enough. And the onlookers saw House beating the hell out of the mannequin, and shook their heads, because they didn't know that House was saving Wilson's life. He was the only one who ever could have done it.