"Wilson. Come take a walk with me."

Wilson looked up from his desk. House was standing at his doorway, face serious enough for Wilson to stop what he was doing and take a walk with him.

"Where are we going?" Wilson asked as they both navigated the hallway, Wilson weaving around people in order to keep pace with House.

"I want you to take a look at something," was all House said.

They finally came to a stop in front of a patient's room. Wilson peered through the glass walls - a small girl, probably around nine, was sleeping a bit fitfully, and her head was bald, her skin unnaturally but familiarly wan. Some unspecified cancer. She reminded him of Andie.

"How long do you think she has?"

"House, I have no idea. I'd have to look at her chart."

"C'mon. Use that oncology-fu and make an educated guess."

"She's thin, she's pale. She's obviously undergoing chemo. She's having trouble sleeping - she's sweating, she's not breathing easily. If you're going to make me take a shot in the dark, I'd say she has some sort of lymphoma. Beyond that - Jesus, I don't know. Why are you making me do this? Is there something wrong?"

House wasn't looking at him, but staring intently at the girl. "You're right," he finally said after a while.

"Right? Right about what?"

"She has Hodgkin's lymphoma."

"Okay..." Wilson drawled out, waiting with lessening patience for House to clue him in.

"You're a good doctor, you know that?"

Wilson's look at House was getting stranger by the minute. "House... uh, thank you. It's good... that you think that...? It would be a shame if the hospital's best doctor consulted the opinion of someone who rather sucked at his practice?"

House smirked, but absently. "I'm glad to have known you, James."

He never calls me James. Something was wrong - Wilson felt the edges of his vision begin to blur.

"You missed something, though."

"What, House?"

"The fact that I'm dying."

Wilson jerked out of his dream and fought to catch his breath. Jesus Christ, he thought.

xxxxx

He'd only felt it for maybe a few hours - the weight of the idea of House dying. Something about House's response to their talk, his response to everyone, tipped him off as to there being something Not Quite Right. Apparently his House instincts had evolved into something almost scary: when he finally got a chance to peruse his file, complete familiarity with the details came to him, and it had nothing to do with House. All the tests ordered, all the results, the treatment - everything was familiar, because he'd personally overseen it not just two months ago. House probably knew he'd find out sooner or later, and also probably trusted that'd keep his mouth shut. If he was going to go so far as fake brain cancer, there had to be a good reason.

And it was a good reason. To House.

He felt like his anger over the whole matter was sitting in a little box in the attic of his mind - he had no reason to open it, he could let it rot there for all eternity, but it would always be there. Wilson was a pack-rat in that respect; he never threw out anything.

He wasn't expecting this, though - the dreams. It was a shock when they happened, and too ugly to deal with. Wilson wondered vaguely if he were suffering from a mild form of PTSD: he'd experienced an extremely traumatic event, one that completely destroyed his view of the world, and now it would haunt him until he found a way to deal with it. Which was never going to happen. The best he'd managed was practically begging House for some damn company. Always, things went from Wilson to House, and never the other way around.

It was weird, what initially went through his head: the practicalities. How was House going to inform his parents, how was he going to inform his fellows, what arrangements were going to be made at work - would he worked until he literally died, or would he quit and coast on the gobs of money he must have accumulated because he never did a damn thing and he must have some sort of fucking dreams, things he'd want to do and see before -

Wilson blinked and tried to focus on the Law & Order episode he'd been following. ADA Jack McCoy had been laying down their defense strategy, but Wilson had missed it entirely. Now he was going have to pick it up as the show progressed.

Wilson was sitting upright in his hotel bed, everything around him ostensibly neat and sterile, but not (he'd seen the Dateline report), and cheap A/C kept everything frigid and damp. Wilson hated it, and he wished he were on House's couch, watching Law & Order, but with House in the other room so he could follow along with distraction. He liked the distinct beginning, middle, and end the show provided, everything wrapped neatly narrative-wise with a bow. Which is probably why the show was on its umpteenth season: nearly everyone wanted something in their lives that could be wrapped up tightly, known securely. They could move on with their lives, knowing that at least one part of it was safe.

What the hell was House doing right now, he wondered. He'd received a phone call earlier - House, mock desperate, begging Wilson for an excuse to ditch his fellows at the bar. Wilson humored his joking - refused him any solace, something about making his bed and lying in it, and Wilson had hung up with a slight smile on his face. It didn't bother him that House chose to hang out with them and not him tonight. It would be good for House, in the long run, to do this. He'd just wished he weren't so bored, or so lonely.

"Jimmy. What are you wearing?" House had asked, affecting a low, raspy tone.

"T-shirt and boxers. Want to know what I'm doing with them?" Wilson monotoned.

"Uh, yeah - yeah. Just - lemme get comfortable. Yeah."

"Someone is watching you right now, aren't they?"

"Uh, yeah - I like it like that," House replied, holding steadfast onto the character.

"I believe the kids are using a newfangled slang word these days to describe you, and that word is 'retarded.'"

"Oh - how dare you. I happen to have a serious medical condition that affects my brain - "

Shut the fuck up, House.

The room's silence pressed in from all four walls. Wilson felt cold. "House - I'm sorry. I have to go now."

"What, Jimmy? Nooo... stay and play with me a little longer."

"Jesus, House - I'm tired. Go play with the kids. It'll make them ever so happy."

"You make me cry, Jimmy, you really do - they talk about cars, they talk about magazines. Magazines that talk about cars. What the hell am I supposed to do?"

"I'm assuming Cameron's not part of that conversation."

"Too busy trying to be colder than a witch's tit."

It was funny to Wilson, and the laugh escaped despite the hatred he was feeling toward House at the moment. Always, House would find a way in.

"Good night, House. Don't sleep with any of them - they may be young, but they're inexperienced. Never fun at all."

"By that logic I should sleep with you. You're old, you have tons of experience, and that oh-so-gentle bedside manner. You'd take good care of me, Jimmy."

"Yeah, by throwing you down a flight of steps. Good night, House."

"Nighty-night, Jim."

Wilson scrubbed his face and looked at the alarm clock: 9:50 PM. Wilson figured what the hell and got up to get ready for bed.

Shower, pajamas, covers, bed. The whole time he felt some echo of House lingering, like he was actually in the other room, waiting.

House, sitting at the utilitarian table, leaning his hands and his head on his cane, mouth wry, about to say something he found amusing.

Gone. Dead. Never to return. A blank. Something would have been cut out of Wilson's life, and things would have been no different - he'd go to work the same, greet Cuddy the same, attend to patients the same, but there would just be words he'd never speak, looks he'd never give, because the person to receive them was not there. He'd go through the rest of his life with that blank white space following him, walking slow but never far behind.

Wilson didn't realize he'd been crying until he'd felt the breeze of the kicking-in A/C cool his face. He wiped at it, sniffed, and looked around.

Four blank, beige walls. It was enough to drive anyone to suicide. He needed to switch hotels. There was the Sheraton down the street - he hadn't been there in a month; they wouldn't notice if he'd stayed again. Wilson shut off the TV, and there silence was there, so heavy as to be a noise itself, a steady hum. He shut off the light and the hum turned into the silence of water.

Wilson lay on his side, staring straight ahead of him. He imagined House's weight making the bed dip a little as he sat at the edge of it, and House's hand to be large and warm on his shoulder. "Wilson, I'm here," he would say, in that low, rumbling voice of his, shaking his shoulder a little. "I'm all right. Go to sleep." Wilson knew he must be going insane, because since when has House said a word of comfort to him in his life? He imagined it, though - he imagined a House that would want to make him feel better, just like he had imagined a House that would not let him think that he was dying.

fin