My tribute to Double Dog

Mine? I wish. House and Wilson belong to David Shore and FOX and probably a lot of other people, none of whom are me.

The alley was dark and it smelled of urine and spilled gasoline and, now, blood.

Wilson's blood was trickling steadily toward the rusted sewer grate, making a thin glossy line across the rough asphalt. He was still breathing, but he was so pale he almost shone, lying there in the shadows.

The dog that stood above him was huge and black and it was paying no more attention to Wilson. It had taken him down effortlessly and its hazel eyes were now fixed upon House.

House, who was desperately trying to reach Wilson. Trying and failing to climb the old chain link fence that ran across the alley. The gate was locked, the chain too thick to break. What was Wilson doing here anyway?

By the time House looked down and saw the unfamiliar key in his own left hand, it was too late. His shaking fingers managed to open the lock, and his wobbling legs pushed him headlong through the gate, but he reached Wilson just as Wilson stopped breathing. House went to his knees at Wilson's side and he felt warm liquid seeping through his jeans. He didn't look down. He knew what it was.

The black dog stood quietly by, a little blood still clinging to the fine hairs around its mouth; it had ripped open Wilson's jugular vein and seemed satisfied.

You locked him in here, he thought he heard it say, just as he raised his cane. If he could, he was going to kill the dog. His chances weren't good, because the animal was solid and massive and obviously deadly, but just then, House didn't much care.

He awoke before the cane could make contact with the canine skull. For a moment he thought he could smell blood and gasoline and fur, and then it was gone.

Every night the Black Dog returned. Sometimes it killed Wilson, and other times it attacked Wilson so viciously that he probably wished he would die. House found himself napping in the daytime, because the Black Dog stayed away then; unfortunately, Cuddy was not so considerate.

He found himself wondering how a dog could break bones. How it was that he would find Wilson not merely torn by teeth but bruised all over his body as if by fists. Then he'd remind himself that these were dreams, and since when did dreams make sense?

House took to sleeping with a light on, but it didn't help. It served only to make him feel ashamed, as if he were a frightened kid all over again. He hadn't had recurring nightmares in a long, long time. Certainly never recurring nightmares about someone else getting hurt.

And still it continued. Once, House watched in horror as the Black Dog bounded upward and pushed Wilson back, back over the balcony wall. It was a moonless night and House couldn't even see the spot where Wilson fell; he could only hear the sound of it, so real that it woke him.

Once, he found Wilson drowned in a bathtub, naked, and the Black (it was becoming just the Black to House, by then) dripping wet. It had somehow held Wilson under until he died. House grabbed a single-edge razor blade and went after the murderous dog, which vanished as he struck at it. The razor sliced into House's leg instead, just above the right knee. House couldn't feel the cut, but he woke up anyway.

The next night, he found Wilson alive but repeatedly stabbed, on the floor of a patient's apartment, a place he'd sent his team to search. Of course Wilson was in the kitchen, splayed out across the ugly green linoleum. There was no explanation, but the Black was there, staring at House. It bounded silently away as House knelt, again, in a pool of Wilson's blood. House awoke then, not knowing whether Wilson would live or die.

He began to be able to remember the previous dreams, even while asleep and suffering through the current one. Strangely, it didn't help much, because he found himself unable to wake up. His body went into paralysis as if some heavy animal were pinning him. To struggle against it was horrific, suffocating and fruitless. The only escape was back into the dream, and so House went, hating every moment. As often as not the dream would pull him in so far that he would forget again, and think it was real.

At last, on the night when he remembered long enough, he approached the creature and simply asked, "Why?"

It was already too late for Wilson that time. Wilson was lying beneath an old yellow streetlight with his neck broken. It was a dream anyway; House made himself remember. And being that it was a dream, perhaps the Black could talk. Perhaps it would tell him.

"Why do you keep doing this?" House meant it to come out as a demand, and it didn't. It came out as something more like a plea, or even a prayer. "Why?"

Because, said the Black, and its voice in his mind was quiet and clear, If I don't, sooner or later you will.