A/N: An odd little thing, written in the middle of the night under the influence of Tylenol PM and a couple of Twinkies…. x-posted to LiveJournal.

KNOWING

House pretends that the pain in his leg hasn't exceeded the ability of the Vicodin to control it, but he knows that Wilson isn't buying it. He continues to pretend anyway, because he must.

House's eyes are shuttered against Wilson's compassion; he won't meet Wilson's eyes with his own, because he knows that if he allows himself to feel the empathy radiating from his friend, he'll break. He'll let the pain pull him under, and then he'll have to admit how bad it is, and then they'll both hurt, they'll both drown in it, and Wilson will know that House is weak and scared and overwhelmingly grateful that he isn't facing down the pain alone. And then House will, figuratively, crawl into that warm, soothing, safe embrace that Wilson is offering with his eyes. And he'll exhale, in the shuddering hitch of a child who's been crying for too many hours, and who finally admits exhaustion, finally embraces the comfort that's been there all along. And then Wilson will know how weak he is, how tired. Wilson will know how strong the pain is, and how very hard House has to fight it. And then, House knows, Wilson will know exactly how much protection House really needs, how damaged House really is, and Wilson will go away.

So, as Wilson silently offers everything that keeps House alive, that keeps him safe, House tries very, very hard to pretend that he's unaware of it. Because House knows that—as long as Wilson isn't aware that, without him, House would allow the pain to drown him—Wilson will stay.

As long as House can continue to pretend that he's alone, he'll never be alone. As the pain continues to swirl in tightening, angry, smothering circles around him, House knows only this one good thing—Wilson will always be here, because House will never ask him to stay.