The hand that crept up to touch Wilson was pale and shaking

The hand that crept up to touch Wilson was pale and shaking. He was the only one to notice House's attempt to comfort. He usually was.

For the first time since they'd boarded that bus, everyone else's eyes were fixed not on House, but on Wilson. They were all as still as the photographs on their chests.

Wilson felt them all watching him, waiting for him to say something, to do something. They were all there around him, but only House was there with him. The bastard had damn near killed himself to try to tell Wilson Amber was hurt.

Atropine. House needs atropine, an anticholinergic, to counteract all that physostigmine, Wilson's mind dictated. Atropine would increase his heart rate. Of course, the medicine would be his first intelligible thought.

His mind was torn between a placid lake of numbness and a tilt-a-whirl of thoughts such as if Amber was alive, if House was going to make it, what it meant that House thought it so important to retrieve this memory or why House and Amber were on the same bus.

Amber, he had to go find out if she was okay. But House, House was definitely not okay, and he was right here. Thinking was getting too hard, he needed to do.

Wilson came to his knees and brushed the hand that had rested on his leg. He wanted to give House a look that said, "we're going to have to actually talk about all of this later, thanks for figuring this out, this fucken sucks, and I can't believe you almost died…again," but ended up giving him a look that just said "what the fuck?" instead.

"I think," House said quietly, his breathing irregular. "I think, I need to be admitted."
"That's probably a good idea," Wilson replied in a tone that was much steadier than he felt. "Your pulse is still slow," he said tightening his hold on House's wrists. "How much physostigmine did you take?" he began to ask, but House's eyes were already shutting, his task now complete.

Wilson rose and turned to Cuddy. "We need to admit him."

"I'll take care of it," she put a hand on his shoulder. "What else can I do?" she asked.
"Just take care of him. I need to go to Princeton General."

"Of course. Call me if there's anything I can do. I'll come over when things are stable here," she said, giving his shoulder a squeeze.

"I'll be okay. Just, take care of him Lisa," he implored, calling on their bonds of friendship.
"I will. Go."

She waited for him to exit the bus before springing into action. "Okay people, back to work. Paula, Susan," she said pointing to a couple of nurses, "get a stretcher, we need to transfer Dr. House. Dr. Cameron, Dr. Foreman, atropine to counteract the physostigmine, an EKG, and a repeat head CT stat. Find me as soon as that's done.

"Come on, let's go," she shouted at the statue garden of staff members before her. Those closest to the door began filing out and others followed suit. Fellows, old and new gathered around their boss.

"Cameron, Foreman keep him stable and get those tests done now. Foreman, when he regains consciousness, I want a full neuro eval. Taub, Hadley make sure your team's patient is recovering and then you can go. Kutner, find me an ICU bed and then you can join them."

The stretcher arrived. They transferred House, and then scattered to do her bidding. Only Chase remained. He stood looking at her. "What?" she asked, taking a seat on the bus.

"He almost died," Chase said quietly.

"Yeah," Cuddy half laughed, half sighed. "He seems to do that a lot."

"Wilson shouldn't be alone," Chase said sitting next to her.

"No, he shouldn't, but like you said House almost died, and he still could. And I need to stay here and make sure that doesn't happen."

"Would it be okay if I took the rest of the day off? Wilson should have someone with him, in case," Chase asked, studying the floor of the bus.

"Go," she said tiredly.

"And Chase, thank you," she added as he exited the bus.

He was out the door with a nod.

Cuddy looked around the empty bus before burying her face in her hands. She forced herself to inhale and exhale, deep even breaths as she pressed her fingers against her eyes, her temples, her mouth; the mouth that had just worked fervently to breathe air into House's lifeless body. Thinking of him, she knew she had to leave this refuge soon.

House needed her, and Wilson needed her, and her hospital needed her. And damn it, she was going to make sure they all made it through this all right. If her willing it could make it be, it would be.

Hospital administration, being friends with House, it was all like running toward a burning building. Cuddy knew this, but she also knew what she was running from; tacit acceptance of the world as it was, loneliness, boredom. She studied the empty bus for another moment, allowing its desolation to spur her forward.

A quick stop in her office told her House was in ICU bed four. She gave her assistant instructions before speeding off. She saw House in a semi-upright position and realized the CT results were not good, but not dire. If it were dire, his bed would be in a fully upright position to try to relieve the increased intracranial pressure. Cameron and Foreman were both hovering close, but the monitors appeared stable for now.

"How is he?" she asked as she entered the room.

"Still unconsciousness. CT showed some progression of the cerebral edema. I've got another scheduled in a couple of hours. If it shows progression, or he's still unconscious then, I think we should consider bolting him," Foreman answered.

Cuddy shut her eyes as she nodded. Bolting a patient always seemed like medieval torture, though drilling in was the quickest and best way to relieve the pressure. The opening pressure would also give them a better sense of how severe this injury really was.

"And the EKG?" she asked.

"The bradycardia seems to have resolved after 2 doses of atropine. Monitor is showing occasional irregularities that are self-limited," Cameron answered.

"I don't want to put anything else in his system if we can avoid it, but I want those monitors and him followed closely. We're going to let the Unit staff do what they do, but I don't want you two going far." Cuddy stated with an authority that allowed no argument.

"Sure," Cameron answered for both of them.

"Good, how's his breathing?"

"Better now. We had him on a face mask, but switched him to the nasal cannula after he got a neb. His sats are in the 90s on three liters. He's written for round the clock nebs too."

"Okay, the Unit knows how to handle breathing better than any of us, we'll leave that to them. You can sign House out to them, but expect a page when he wakes up."

"Right, I'll be back when he's due for that head CT if he's not up before then," Foreman said before exiting the room.

"Okay," Cuddy said taking her seat next to House's bed.

"He's going to be okay," Cameron said before parting.

He damn sure is, Cuddy thought to herself.

She studied him, completing her mind's clinical assessment before allowing the gentle rise and fall of his chest and rhythm of the monitor to comfort her. They lulled her mind. She couldn't remember the last time she had simply sat still for so long.

The fear that House still might not make it began to creep into her consciousness though. She had to stamp it out. So, she did what she enjoyed most about her relationship with House. She picked a fight.

"Of all the idiotic stunts you've pulled, risking your life like that? How could you? You're lucky you didn't herniate. Yes, I know physostigmine lowers your heart rate and BP and that's technically protective against herniation, but cardiac arrest tends to screw things up now, doesn't it?" Cuddy said with all the gusto as when she was verbally sparring with House.

"How many times do you think your heart is going to stop before it decides not to restart again? God damn it. Where did you even get the physostigmine? Haven't you had enough trouble with taking medications that were not prescribed to you? Don't think for a second I've forgotten how big you owe me. I'm calling in that favor," she said grabbing his hand.

"Yes, I'm holding your hand. We're not in junior high. Deal with it. So, about that favor, you are going to regain consciousness, and your heart rate and breathing are going to return to normal. You are going to rest and take it easy and let your brain and your skull heal. And, you are going to stop playing these damn games with your life," she ordered.

"I'm aging fast enough without your help. And you, my friend, are aging way too fast. So get back and get better, and stop taking these stupid risks. I know you think the world itself would stop spinning if you didn't solve one of your damn puzzles. And I get that figuring this out for Wilson was important, but he would have eventually figured out that Amber was on that bus. It wasn't worth this," she said sincerely.

She sat with him in silence a while longer. "I'm going to find out how Wilson's doing, but I'll be watching the central monitor. So, no slacking off," she said when she saw respiratory therapy approaching to give House his nebulizer treatment. She gave the hand she held a light squeeze before exiting.

She was transfixed on House's monitor as she waited for Wilson to answer.
"Doctor Chase," came the answer.

"Oh, Chase, how is he?" Cuddy asked.

"She's critical, in a coma, intubated, splenic rupture, head trauma, unstable cardiovascular status, renal failure, she's had several surgeries already including an ABK right leg amputation. It's bad," Chase said in summation of Amber's laundry list of afflictions.
"Jeez," Cuddy said sadly. "But how's Wilson?" she asked again.

"He's a bit shell-shocked. They haven't given her a great chance of survival. He's with her now."

"Okay, well let him know I called."

"Sure, how's House? Wilson's been waiting on an update."

"He's holding his own. Breathing's stable, occasional arrhythmia, but they've been resolving without intervention, he's still unconscious and scheduled for a repeat head CT soon. If there's a progression or he doesn't wake soon, we'll probably bolt him. Call my cell whenever Wilson wants an update."

"I'll let him know."

"All right," Cuddy said in conclusion. The respiratory therapist was exiting House's room.

She took up her spot by House's side again. And focused on willing things better for her boys.

"Wilson," came a whisper from the bed.
"House, it's me Cuddy, you're in the ICU," she said orienting him with a sigh of relief.
"Wilson," he said again, eyes still shut.
Cuddy pushed the call button and told the clerk who answered to page Foreman.

"I need to…tell Wilson," House said so quietly Cuddy had to strain to hear him. "Need to tell him what I saw," House said before gurgling a bit.

Cuddy switched him from the nasal cannula to the face mask. "Nice deep breaths House, come on. You told Wilson you saw Amber, he's with her now. You had a cardiac arrest. You're in the ICU. Just rest. Foreman will be here soon to do a neuro eval."

House wanted to express his frustration, but felt himself drifting again. He was unrousable again by the time Foreman arrived.

"It sounds like he's improving, but I want to get that head CT and make sure," Foreman said.
"Of course," Cuddy replied as her phone began vibrating.

"I'll find you in Radiology," she told Foreman when she saw Wilson's name in her caller ID.

"Hello?" Cuddy said, wondering if it was Chase or Wilson on the other end.
"How is he?" Wilson asked in a voice so raw it transmitted his pain.

"Better. He just regained consciousness for a minute. He's getting that repeat head CT now."
"I'm…I'll be back soon," Wilson said, each word a struggle.

Cuddy knew there was only one reason Wilson would be coming back so soon.
"James, I'm so sorry."

"You and me both," he said sounding as broken as he ever had.

Amber was gone. There was only one place for Wilson now. There only ever was one place. He returned to House.

Cuddy embraced him as soon as he arrived.

"She's gone," he told her, tears in his eyes.

"I'm sorry," she said, holding him close.

Wilson let himself be held, comforted. Cuddy did this well.

"How's House?" Wilson asked, pulling away.

"Out again, but the CT showed no worsening of his injury. He should continue to improve."
"I wouldn't have gotten to say goodbye if he hadn't…" Wilson trailed off.

Cuddy hugged him again.

"You know he was asking for you, when he woke," Cuddy said stroking his back.
"That figures, I'm usually the one waiting around when he nearly dies."

"He's not going to die," Cuddy stated assuredly.

"Not today," Wilson said in a voice filled with pleading.

"I've arranged for an airport transfer and hotel for Amber's parents. Is there anything else I can do?" Cuddy asked.

"How did you? Thank you," Wilson said unsurprised by Cuddy's efficiency.
"What else can I do?"

"Nothing," Wilson said, turning to enter House's room.

He took the chair Cuddy had been in and rested his elbows on the bed, laying his head in his hands. And so he sat.

"Ow, fuck" House announced with a sharp intake of breath.

"Well, hello to you too," Wilson answered with relief at having his friend back. He'd been sitting there for unending hours in wait.

"Wilson," House said, opening his eyes to see him.

"It's me."

House looked at him with pain he couldn't hide and confusion. He was slowly trying to piece things together.

"I'm going to have them give you some pain meds, hang on," Wilson said as he strode across the room.

"You okay?" House asked when he returned, realizing that if Wilson were here, then Amber was gone.

"No," Wilson responded simply.

House tried to nod, but stopped abruptly when it set off a searing pain in his head.
"You?" Wilson asked.

"No," House answered sounding as miserable and pained as he looked.
"Well, here comes the nurse with the meds, that should help. Foreman's on his way too."

"I need to tell you what I saw," House said in a quiet strained voice, a reminder of how frail he was right now.

"You already did. I got to say goodbye," Wilson said, knowing some confusion and memory issues were to be expected.

"No, what I saw when my heart stopped," House said, before waiting for the nurse to exit.

"Okay," Wilson said curious.

"I saw feelings," House said. "No, I can't explain what I saw, but what I know is you were love," House said, realizing he sounded insane.

"Okay," Wilson said slowly, reminding himself House had a head injury.

"I mean, I love you," House said looking into him.

"I know, especially when I get you drugs, or you're drunk."

"Wilson, I'm saying I love you," House said seriously.

"Foreman's here," Wilson said annoyed and ready to get out of there. All he wanted was a little compassion. His girlfriend just fucking died. But could House do that? No. True, House clearly had problems of his own right now, but this was too much. He was only one man.

"Whoa, whoa, where are you going in such a hurry?" Cuddy asked, concerned.
"Outside," Wilson said thinking fast. Fresh air sounded like exactly what he needed.

Cuddy said nothing, but walked beside him. She followed him to his office and out to his balcony. She stood by as he flung all the coins from his pocket off the side of the balcony with all his might.

"He's impossible," Wilson said angrily. "My girlfriend dies and he has some great revelation about being in love with me."

"He has a head injury. He's been unconscious for quite a while. He's been hallucinating," Cuddy offered.

"No, he knew who I was and what he was saying. He was serious. I get it, I get that House has had a bad day, but my day's been pretty shitty too," Wilson said, staring off in the distance.

"I know," Cuddy replied.

"But does him telling you he loves you really make it shittier?" Cuddy asked knowing the answer already. House and Wilson were the loves of each other's lives. She knew it, and on some level they knew it, hell even Stacy had known it. If House was ready to admit it, Cuddy was all for that.

"No, it doesn't." Wilson responded honestly.

"Does it make it less shitty?" she pressed.

"Cuddy," Wilson stated in his, 'don't go there' tone.

"Wilson," Cuddy countered.

"Fine, maybe it does," he replied with a sigh.

"He's an ass, but he's your ass," she said, and then couldn't suppress a smile realizing what she'd said. She was glad for her faux pas though when she heard Wilson laughing despite himself. She joined in.

"Oh come now Cuddy, he's our ass," Wilson said, smiling sadly.

"Yeah, he is," she said, sobering.

"I can't handle this now though," Wilson said remembering his hurt.

"He told you how he feels, doesn't mean anything has to change right now. He's a grown up, he'll understand."

"Did you really just call House a grown up?" Wilson asked incredulously.
"I haven't slept in a while," she said in her defense.

"You're not the only one. I guess we should go see how our grown up's neuro function's faring," Wilson said feeling calmer than he felt he had a right to.
"You go. I'll get the play by play from Foreman," Cuddy said knowing that House and Wilson needed some one on one time.

They had so much they'd only show and share when they were alone, or thought no one would notice, like House's comforting touch to Wilson on the bus when he remembered Amber was injured. Cuddy kept her notice to herself, letting the boys have their privacy. They came to her when they needed her. And the two of them didn't need her to work out House's declaration of love.

Wilson knew Cuddy was right. She usually was. He just had to make peace with the fact that while this was clearly too much, it was what was before him.

"You look better," Wilson said as he entered the room. House was less pale and breathing easier than he had been.

"Pain meds help the pain go away, who'd have thought?" House said with a yawn, clearly tiring.
"Well, the snark function is still intact, how about everything else?" Wilson asked, sitting back down.
"Better ask Foreman, I might not remember," House said, trying to make light of his memory issues in true House fashion.

"You okay?" House asked quietly because really he was too tired to think of something else to say.

"You're asking once was surprising enough, but then my girlfriend did just die and you've got some brain damage, but twice? Please, don't hurt yourself. You're already in the ICU. Wait, do you not remember asking me earlier?" Wilson asked both because he was curious and he wanted to offer House an out in case he wanted to take it back.

"Having trouble remembering concrete objects, conversation's not a problem," House said, fighting sleep to challenge Wilson.

"Well then, about what you said. Me too. I think, in the end, but not today," Wilson said getting flustered. "Has anyone ever told you your timing is crap?"

"Yeah, but clearly it didn't make it any better," House countered. "Look, I just wanted you to know and now you do," House said, his eyes shutting.

"I know House. I know. Just get some sleep. We can talk more later," Wilson said, folding himself so his arms were resting against House's trunk and thigh. His body would be mad when he woke, but he wasn't sleeping anywhere but here tonight.

Wilson was just starting to drift off when he heard someone enter. It was Cuddy, directing an orderly where to place the large reclining chair he had wheeled in.
"Thought you might need this," she said gently.

"Thanks," Wilson replied sincerely, marveling at their little family. They were like one of those little puzzle balls you buy for a quarter at the super market. He and House fit together almost perfectly, but they needed Cuddy too. She was that last piece that at once holds everything together and lets it function as a ball, propelling ever forward. Without that single piece, it all collapsed under pressure.