Disclaimer: House MD is the property of David Shore.

--

I walk into House's office. Music is blaring. It's not his normal music either. It's some sort of foreign song, words mixing together in some high-pitched noise, incomprehensible to me. I wonder at his strange taste in music.

"What is that?" I ask, leaning against the doorway. My hands are shoved deep in my pockets and I don't meet his eyes. I'm not sure why.

He glares at me. I rack my brain for any recent arguments we've had - I can't think of any that would instigate a glare though. An annoyed grimace maybe. Or an amused smirk, or maybe a single eyebrow raise. But the glare didn't fit. Although, I'm sure it did to him. He still hasn't answered me. So I repeat myself. "What's the music?"

"Opera." He says. His voice is flat, void of sarcasm or snarkyness. I wonder what his joke is, what his plan is. He is always plotting. This is just some confusing, weird, unfortunate scheme.

"Oh." I respond.

He lowers his eyes back to the book he has in one hand. The other hand moves to his I-pod player, turning up the music so that the room shakes and I can barely make out my own thoughts. He wants me to leave.

I won't.

"You want to get some dinner with me? There's this new place at -"

"No." He interrupts me. He doesn't want to see me, hear me. He is in his bubble. He always hides in his bubble. I wonder what caused him to hide this time. I wonder at a lot of things concerning House.

"Oh." I say, again. Words seem to be evading me, for now. I have nothing to lecture him about, as far as I know. He obviously isn't in the mood for one of our very random, weird conversations like the one about which animal has the largest penis. So I don't know what to say. So I stand there, staring, and saying nothing.

He reads his book. The music is hurting my ears. The lady is singing about a boy named Constantine. And a girl called Gabrielle. They are dead.

I leave. The door banging shut is inaudible as the woman hits a high note. It trails after me as I walk down the hallway.

--

House has been acting strange. He didn't meet me for lunch. I am ten dollars richer, his reuben and soda conspicuously not on my receipt. I add up in my head how much money I have spent on him over the years. It's futile.

As I'm walking back to my office, sandwich settling in my stomach, I spot Chase a few paces ahead of me. I run up and grab his arm. "Hey. Have you seen House?"

He flinches in surprise, and then gives me a polite smile. "Sorry, no. Didn't show up for work today, actually. You don't happen to know why, do you?"

I shake my head, turning this revelation over in my head for a moment. Chase asks, "Should we maybe ask Cuddy?"

"No, if anyone should know why… it'd be me. House tends to skip over the whole calling in thing when he's sick. I'm sure he just has the flu or something." I reply, trying to make myself sound reassuring. It was a stupid thing to try to do, Chase is pretty good at seeing past fakeness. He doesn't let on, just nods his head and turns into the conference room, of which I just realized we were next to.

House's office looks very empty without him in it, without him tossing his lacrosse ball around or playing a video game.

I shake my head and start for my office.

--

"House? It's me… I'm coming in." I yell half-heartedly through the door. I don't know why I bother.

The spare key is neatly tucked away in my jacket pocket. That is its resting place, always there, even though I haven't lived with House in forever. I find it reassuring though, and keep it on my keychain.

I pause before finally gripping the cold doorknob and letting myself in. House isn't in the living room… or the kitchen.

I'm worried.

I call out his name – only silence answers me – and then head further into his apartment. There are a few empty beers on the coffee table, forgotten. The TV blinks, lighting up the apartment in colorful spurts. It's turned on mute. There is no noise.

His bedroom door is shut. I feel like an idiot, getting worried, searching his apartment like this. He's probably not even home.

Or is asleep. I glance at my watch. It's seven PM. Oh well, worth the try anyway. I knock against the smooth wood of the door, barely audible. I whisper softly, "House? You in there?"

No answer. I push the door open, smirking at the loud creak. Why does it seem like I have been flung into a horror film?

I roll my eyes at the sight that greets me. House is collapsed on his bed, his face smashed into the pillows. His limbs are thrown every which way, tangled in the bedding. He looks quite uncomfortable, actually. There's no light in the room. His blinds are shut tight.

I think about leaving. I should leave – I have no purpose here. I have no right to even be here. If House wakes up… well, I don't want to see that.

But… going to bed at seven. An early night for House is sometime before one AM. This is just another thing to add to the growing list of odd behavior. Maybe I should spend less time watching over him, watching out for him, and more time paying attention to my own life. But I can't seem to stop.

He mumbles something in his sleep and rolls over violently. He is all sharp edges and flying limbs and awkwardness. No wonder his leg hurts in the morning.

I peer closer and notice his face is flushed. It is freezing cold in the room and yet a sheen of sweat covers his forehead. I see the curtains swaying from the breeze and find the cause of the chill. I tread softly across the room and shut the window closed, wincing at the squeak and resultant slam. I glance at my sleeping friend, sighing in relief as I deduce that he is still completely dead to the world.

Maybe he actually is sick, I think. Maybe he has a fever.

I continue to not make a sound as I make my way over to the bed. House twists a little more, his hands gripping the sheets. Maybe he's having a nightmare. I lean over him, feeling like a fool for being here. I am always the fool. I lower my hand to his forehead, gauging the temperature.

He's warm. Very warm. I want to wake him up and take his temperature with a thermometer, but then he would know that I was here. Which I definitely do not want. I sigh, considering the idea of staying the night on his couch. I have this very strange urge to take care of him. To protect him, even though he is a grown man and doesn't need my help. I like to think that he needs me, sometimes.

My hand is still on his forehead and I'm surprised when he turns into my touch. I smile at this unconscious sign of affection and run my fingers through his mussed-up hair. My thumb does slow circles at the spot in between his eyebrows. I can hear him sigh softly. And then I think, oh shit. Because I can tell he is waking up.

Uh-oh.

I try to withdraw my hand but somehow House has trapped it underneath his head. This is a very bad situation indeed. My pulse quickens in panic, truly fearing the wrath of House. I tug my hand out, finally. I'm free.

I look over the sleeping form of my friend one last time before I start to leave. He has kicked off his blankets and is covered only by a t-shirt and boxers. Tented boxers.

…Uh.

So that was what he had been dreaming about.

I gulp.

I trip over my own feet in my haste to get out of the room. I crash to the floor, my face making acquaintance with House's midnight blue carpet. It smells like feet.

I get up cautiously, fully prepared to continue in the race to my car.

Of course, now bleary blue eyes are staring up at me unblinkingly. House's eyebrows wrinkle together in confusion. His voice crackles from disuse. "Wilson?"

He lets out a long, slow breath and closes his eyes again. I hope that he is starting to fall back asleep. No luck. His eyes are still closed, but he has grabbed my hand from where it lay next to him on the bed. He runs his thumb over the skin, dare I say caressing it. I shiver. I blame the winter cold.

"Um." I respond.

I can't quite remember why I am here, or how I got to be in this situation. This seems to be an alarming omission on my part. My mind struggles to comprehend, and rectify, the situation.

I can tell that House is starting to actually wake up, so I transform my face into one of cool indifference, rather than one flustered and panicked. He grumbles something before opening his eyes to look up at me. And then he looks at my hand, which he is still holding. Back at me. Then my hand. His voice clearer, he says, "I have your hand."

"Yeah," I say, hoping that this apparent confusion lasts a bit longer.

He doesn't loosen his grip but asks, "And why do I have your hand?"

"You kidnapped it. Or handnapped, should I say. But my hand definitely did not force your hand to take it. Rather, it – "

"Oh, shut up." House interrupts, rolling his eyes at me. Damn, my attempt at utilizing his confusion to my advantage did not work.

He is still holding my hand. His hand is very warm, I think. And surprisingly soft.

"Why are you here?"

Ah, the question I was trying to avoid in the first place.

He sounds annoyed.

I try to tug my hand away but he holds it tight. I answer, "I was worried, House. I called and you didn't answer. The last time this happened I found you lying in your own vomit on the floor. I… I have a right to be worried when you don't answer your phone."

He sighs, and I know he wants to argue over that point. He doesn't, though. I'm grateful.

"I've been avoiding you," he says out-of-the-blue.

I don't know quite how to take that confession. So I say simply, "I know."

He grins. "I knew that was where the conversation would inevitably go anyway, so I thought I'd just get to the point. So – you hate the fact that I have been avoiding you and you want to find out why. Your curiosity is the real reason you came here."

I tug at my hand, angry that he was able to do his mind games even after just waking up. He just grabs it with his other hand as well. My hand is starting to sweat.

"Okay, so I'm curious. Don't I have a right to be? You're my friend and you are exhibiting antisocial tendencies. Well, even more so than usual. You're… treating me like everyone else, I guess. It bothers me, yeah. But I did come here because I care if you kill yourself."

"When did we start talking about me killing myself?" He asks, irritated.

I didn't actually mean to say that. It was my intention to stop after "care" but my brain and my mouth were having communication issues. Damn.

Because… I live in this constant fear that House is going to die one way or another. Rightly so, I suppose. It is not a completely irrational thought – he has had some near death experiences, most by his own doing but still.

But, anyway, this fear plagues me, always. And I find myself obsessing nonstop about him. And I watch over him. But I'm not his fucking guardian angel.

He doesn't like help anyway, and I find myself being pushed away.

I don't want him to know about this fear though. I just didn't want a repeat of last Christmas. That's why I'm here.

I don't tell him this, though. I just shrug. "Can I have my hand back?"

"No."

"And why not? Do you have some special interest in my hand or do you just like to be irritating?" And boy am I becoming irritated.

"You're the one who broke into my house to watch me sleep. I think you're the one who has to do the explaining." He gives me his superior look, believing he has one upped me.

"First, I used a key. And, second, I didn't come to watch you drool into your pillow and… and…(the reason for the pause is that I have just suddenly remembered what it was he had been dreaming about and the state in which he had been in when I was watching him… and also he must be quite uncomfortable at the moment) just give me my damn hand back!" I shout, becoming very nervous and finding my eyes starting to roam down his body, which doesn't have a blanket to veil it.

House notices my gaze and… smirks. If someone had found me in that state I would be embarrassed out of my mind and he has the audacity to… smirk. I'm more flustered than he is. Although, maybe that's because he has started to stroke my hand again. He bugs me. A lot. Always, actually.

I scoff, trying to hide my nervousness. "If you don't want me to be here then why won't you let me leave?"

It's too dark to really be able to read his expression, unfortunately. I want to know what he's thinking, what he's feeling. I glance at the clock and am surprised at how long I've been here. I don't want to leave, for some reason. I do want to get out of this position though: me half leaning over House on the bed with my hand trapped in his. And there's the certain other problem that I definitely do not keep glancing at. House, thankfully, interrupts my thoughts. "I didn't say I wanted you to go. I'm just wondering why you're here."

We're talking in fucking circles.

"We're talking in circles, House." My back starts to cramp from being forced to bend over, so I collapse heavily on the bed next to House. As I sit next to him I begin to inexplicably feel like I am at someone's death bed – holding their hand as they die. This feeling doesn't surprise me. That it doesn't surprise me is surprising, though.

House raises an eyebrow and I realize how close we are right now. "Something you hinting at here, Wilson?"

I am about to tell him off, since he's the one who put us like this, but he continues automatically to, "I have to pee."

He lets my hand go and the air cools it. Without a second glance he rolls off the bed, limping into the bathroom without the help of his cane. I don't watch him go.

I am uncertain as to what he wants me to do, if he wants me to leave. I'm not going to, anyway. Instead, I scootch over so I'm in the direct center of the bed, legs stretched out and my head cushioned by one arm. I stare at the ceiling and my mind seems to wander. My thoughts trail on without me and I find myself thinking about House jerking off in the bathroom, which I know he is. I blush.

His mattress is insanely comfortable and I find my eyes starting to close, my mind starting to quiet. I drift off into a half sleep.

When I wake up House is watching me from across the room, giving me this weird, intense look. He's now fully dressed, and even has his cane in hand. I guess I've succeeded in waking him up for the night. And now, ironically, I am exhausted. I'm tempted to just go back to sleep but when my eyes drift close my skin tingles from the knowledge that he's watching me.

I open my eyes and give him a sleepy gaze, accompanied by a giant yawn. He smirks. "And it seems I have found the real reason you came – to steal my bed."

I shake my head and sit up, trying to gain the energy to move. I run a hand through my hair and yawn again. I mumble an apology.

I am unsteady as I become upright, swaying slightly. House watches me curiously, following me with his eyes. For a moment we just stand there. In the dark. Staring.

I don't know why I am staring but House's eyes are mesmerizing - I can't look away. They glitter and dull and pierce all at the same time. It is a sea of a million hues that is bombarding down on me – who knew such power could come from only those two eyes. I am amazed.

And a bit scared.

I am scared because House's stare can mean a million different things, each with its own potential of destruction. House is… unpredictable (at best) and my ordered and neatly-wrapped life threatens to collapse at the mere stare of the impulsive evil genius, House. He has the ability to destroy lives… and save them, obviously. All in a myriad of ways.

His stare is causing me to think too much. I am overanalyzing and it is never good to overanalyze my and House's relationship. Actually, it's better to lean towards the vague with us. Never look beyond the surface. Who knows what is lurking in our relationship. I, myself, never want to find out.

Apparently House does.

He blinks and the spell is broken. My mind becomes serenely blank. He walks a few steps forward.

I step back quickly. I am quite disturbed at this violation of personal space. Neither House nor I are much for the huggy, personal contact type of friendship. We like our space, we need our space. Come to think of it, in all of the (many) years I have known House, I can barely think of a time we have truly touched more than a brush of the shoulder when walking down the hallway. In a strange, far away place of myself I ache for just simple human contact. From a friend I have known forever. From someone who I know hurts just as deeply as I do. I always tell him how to not be miserable. Maybe he just needs…

He blinks again. And in that brief moment that those intense eyes are concealed, I am able to breathe. They open again far too quickly and in a panicked response I close my own.

I have no idea what is going on.

Maybe I should leave.

Yeah, leaving would be good.

And dump these troubling feelings in this empty, dark room for House to deal with. Maybe he will have reached a conclusion by tomorrow and then can tell me what the hell I am feeling.

I open my eyes tentatively and lower my gaze to the floor. I shuffle to the door, intensely glaring at my shoes. I say, "We all need someone, House. You push away the people who care, who give a damn about you. You are so cynical, you know. You don't think that anyone can truly love someone, unconditionally. That no one can love you unconditionally. But, really, how do you know if you don't try?"

At the end of my hopelessly sappy speech my mouth remains open in the gaping-fish sort of way that makes me look like all my brain cells have been knocked out. I am too surprised at my own words to even continue on my (strangely long) journey out of this freaky bedroom that is causing me to say strange things. I don't know where those words came from, honestly. Or what I meant.

Maybe, on the surface, what I said was normal, because House didn't look like what I said had any sort of undercurrent of emotion. Or maybe he hadn't picked up on it.

Oh wait. He picks up on everything.

I shake my head. I give him a small smile (everything's okay) and then I start to leave.

But he grabs my arm. And he holds on for dear life.

He moves in close and speaks into my ear. "You want to know? You really want to know?"

"Know what?" I pull on my arm uselessly – he seems to have acquired superhuman strength tonight.

"Why I've been avoiding you, dummy. Don't you want to know why?" He sounds patronizing and I have the feeling that I'm being reprimanded. For what, I don't know.

"Well, I think I just said…"

My words trail off and fall flat as he moves in closer. His face is inches, centimeters in front of mine. I can feel his breath. It's funny that I still don't realize what he is doing.

Not until his lips press against mine and my whole being seems to implode.

It is a very cautious kiss, which is so unusual for House. I think I would feel more comfortable if he had shoved me against the wall and had his way with me.

He kisses me harder.

I groan against his lips and I can tell he's surprised by my reaction. I'm surprised by my reaction. And by the unmistakable feeling of lust that is running through my body.

I am all too aware of his hands starting to move – through my hair, along my arms, across my stomach. I had never particularly concerned myself with the intricacies of his hands, and now I realize what a mistake that had been. He has terrific hands.

He breaks the kiss, only to free his mouth to move across my jaw and neck. What we are doing is slow and hot and tantalizing and… somewhat awkward. But it feels so, so good because it is House. It's House.

It's House.

It's House, my friend, who is kissing me and touching me and making me feel things that can only be described in the corniest, most clichéd ways.

I tense up without thinking about it. My hands still from where they were running through House's hair and down his back.

He stops in response, taking a step back and observing my expression, which must have been very strange with the many conflicting feelings that are fighting for dominance.

I bite my lip and shake my head, my hair falling in front of my face and veiling my scared eyes. I give him a quick glance. "We shouldn't be doing this. You know we shouldn't be doing this."

"And yet I did it anyway. How unlike me to do something that I knew you'd disapprove of." He responded with a smirk.

I nod my head. "Yeah."

He doesn't say anything for a moment, quietly contemplating the situation. Probably plotting his next move. He's always plotting.

He raises an eyebrow. "You are the one who came here. You are the one who didn't want me to push you away. This seems to me like the opposite of pushing, Wilson."

He's right. It annoys me to no end that he's always right.

I'm suddenly very angry, and defiance runs through my veins. I shoot fire with my eyes and yell, "House – you know perfectly well what will happen with this. You think this will strengthen our relationship, our friendship. It'll destroy it. You are pushing me away. You're just choosing a different method in doing so."

He grins wickedly, completely and totally ignoring what I had just said. "I like my method better."

I roll my eyes but can't help but grin. I wonder at what point in my life I suddenly decided to become friends with a psychopath like House. I remember that there was a blissful few years where House was just that annoying guy who had the office across from mine. When that simple relationship morphed into the screwed up thing it is today, I do not know.

All I know is that I want to kiss him.

So I do. I give him a quick peck on the lips that doesn't really mean anything at all.

But I know things that I don't want to know. And I know that what I said held at least a grain of truth, and that it wasn't just me freaking out. Really. Well, maybe I'm freaking out a little.

But still.

I shoot House a careless grin and then let my eyes grow dim. "I do love you, House. Just know that. And I won't let you push me away, by any method. I'll see you tomorrow."

I leave and don't look back.

I'm happy when no voice calls out to me in protest, telling me to stay.

Maybe House, for once, has decided to listen.

--

A/N: I revised this a couple dozen times so hopefully there aren't too many mistakes, but feel free to point out any I might have missed. I have the next couple chapters already typed up, so hopefully I'll get them up soon. Thanks for reading and please review.