A random idea that popped into my head some time ago that I finally decided to write down. I'm far from the best at this and frankly think my story is schlock compared to what some people have contributed to the Contract's growing storyline, but it's worth a shot to see how things turn up. Flame if you feel it necessary, but they will be completely ignored ;) Constructive criticism and reviews are very much welcome.

Disclaimer: I don't own House or any of its characters, blah blah tittyfuck.

"Ever wondered what it was like looking after a 45 year old toddler?"

Wilson remembered saying that a long time ago. He shocked himself by remembering it was nearly a year ago that he'd sat in the psychiatrist's office with House, and made that remark upon discovering his shoelaces had been hijacked.

It had been a full year since Wilson had taken House into his care. A year since that god-awful ordeal finally ended, and with it House's torment.

He still wasn't the same. House had never quite returned from the far recesses of his mind, and at this point even Wilson doubted he would. There had been good progress made as it was- he was more comfortable around people(well, certain people), he still didn't speak but on occasion he would make small sounds, he pointed to things he liked or wanted, and Wilson had even seen him smile- it was a tiny, lopsided smirk that had gone as soon as it came, but it was still something. Wilson tried to convince himself it was the little things that mattered and it was all a sign of House's very slow, but steady recovery… but the fact of the matter was, it had been a year and House had barely changed. Still a tiny child in the body of a man. A weak, terrified excuse for the arrogant genius that once stood there.

Wilson had always wanted children. Boy or girl, he didn't care, he loved kids and dreamed of the day he'd be a father. Having the career he did would make things difficult, but he would find a way to make it work. He wanted a family. After three failed marriages and a few teetering relationships, it seemed House was his family here. He was loud and obnoxious and made a sport of terrorizing the younger doctor, but what is family for? A strange laugh escaped him as the thought crossed his mind that now House was his child. His best friend was his kid.
Except he couldn't quite think of it that way. Children were very dependant and had to have almost constant supervision to ensure they didn't break something, particularly their bones, and were usually afraid of the dark and loud noises and strangers… and House was very much the same. But children talked to you. Children trusted you. Children were loud and creative and often downright selfish, but they openly expressed themselves, and laughed and cried…

And House sat silent, unmoving. Dead, all of the arrogance and intelligence and noise and creativity literally beaten out of him. House wasn't even a child. He was a zombie.

Wilson had taken him in because the thought of his best friend in an institution was too much to bear. He, like everyone, was more than grateful for what House, the seemingly heartless bastard, had done uncomplainingly for them. He had spared their lives at the possible expense of his own. In a vain attempt to pay his friend back for his sacrifice, Wilson agreed to take care of him, rather than see him shipped off to a strange building where god knows how he'd fare in his current state. He had fixed up his own apartment so two people could comfortably live there, gave House the tiny room he'd once used as a study, and attempted to make his life as comfortable and peaceful as possible. House was with him day and night, and Wilson cared for him, always patient, always smiling and reassuring, as was his nature. Friendly, comforting, reassuring Wilson with that beatific smile on his face. He didn't always want to be patient and calm, though. In reality, after personally seeing to House for a year, he didn't even want to look at the man anymore- just seeing him made Wilson want to scream. Not because of House himself, but what he had become. What had been done to him, and the sheer injustice of it.

Wilson couldn't scream, though. He knew he couldn't make a sound much louder than a whisper around House.

But he wanted to. He wanted to scream, he wanted to rail and yell and cry in his frustration that he couldn't bring his friend back, that once again his efforts for House weren't enough somehow and that in some way he'd managed to fail yet again. He wanted to scream that he hated having to bathe and dress the most fiercely independent man he'd ever known, that he hated that fucking leash he had to tie House to like a dog anytime they went outside, that he hated talking to the walls as House stared vacantly in his direction, not making a sound, leaving Wilson to wonder if House was taking anything in, if anything was actually getting past that fortress in his mind. He hated seeing the scars and the wounds, and being capable of feeling every rib and tracing every vertebrae. He hated seeing House flinch at every sudden movement and shiver every time he was touched, it only made the horrors he had endured more real, more prominent. It made Wilson hate humanity for finding pleasure in such evil, and he wanted to lash out against it.
He could only smile patiently, though.

He had been talking to himself a lot lately.

Wilson didn't necessarily talk to himself, but the person he was talking to never responded, so he figured it wasn't much better. He found himself filling the endless silent spaces with mindless chatter, figuring House wasn't listening but not caring. He knew House didn't like noise, but total silence made him uncomfortable too, so he chose to simply talk to him in a quiet voice. A small part of him did it in desperate hope that it might spark life into whatever was left of Old House in his friend, and his pointless monologues about what he saw on tv that day or the nurses' gossiping would be interrupted some fateful day by House yelling at him to shut up as he hobbled over to the stereo and put The Doors on full-blast. Another part of him just wanted to talk to someone. Needed to talk to someone. He'd caught himself at the hospital, launching into conversations with people he barely knew just because they'd given him a cordial greeting. Hours spent in his office with nothing to do, mumbling random things to himself, wondering what House would have to say. He laughed and shook his head at the thought that work was the one place he always tried to avoid House, and now he'd give anything to see that crippled idiot jumping over the wall onto his balcony.

He was glad to be able to get back to the hospital though, thanks to Clarence- that man was a godsend. House took to him immediately and Clarence treated him like a little brother. He was surprised that such a bond was created so quickly given Clarence's intimidating build, but he had a kind face and a warm voice and House probably liked that. Knowing his friend was in good hands while he was gone, Wilson returned to PPTH. Thank God for small favors, he thought to himself, going back to those little things that matter so much. Wilson loved his job, and he also saw it as a reprieve from the task of making sure House didn't kill himself somehow- a break from having to walk on eggshells for fear of something triggering a panic attack in his friend. House had calmed down a bit over time- the ice machine no longer terrified him, but certain tools still freaked him out and clattering pans or falling objects still made him head for the hills. But, he had gotten better.
Wilson found out quickly, though, that the hospital was awash with memories and images that made it difficult just to walk around, knowing that the House in those old thoughts was no longer there. It was particularly difficult to eventually see House's office taken over and changed by the new head of diagnostics, whom Wilson still had yet to meet. And even a year later, talk of House could still be heard from time to time- everyone from doctors to his own patients would bring him up casually on occasion, and ask about him- how he was doing, whether he was coming back to the hospital. Oh, if only, some sad voice echoed through Wilson's mind. Even when he was away from House, he couldn't escape him or the reality of his fate.

Wilson loved House. He still did- his love for his friend was as strong as it ever was. But a whole new strain put on their already messed up friendship was causing Wilson more stress than he could handle, and it was showing. The circles under his eyes were almost frighteningly pronounced from many nights spent awake, trying to calm House down and give him some inkling of comfort after one of his many horrifying nightmares. They were hardly noticeable yet, but lines of stress and worry were already beginning to form on the young doctor's face, and while he kept his calm but bright demeanor among his colleagues and patients, it was clear to those who were closer to him that he was listless, exhausted and depressed. He never mentioned a word of it, but it was clear a part of him was dying. House was living with him, but he wasn't truly there. Wilson had lost his friend, and it didn't seem reasonable to think he'd be coming back anymore. He seemed to have finally given up hope.

But, for as ridiculous as it sounded, even to him, Wilson still hadn't completely given up. It had been a year with close to no improvement, but he still saw reason to believe that House was still somewhere inside that shell of himself in the littlest things- he nearly had a heart attack the day he saw House fiddling with a statue of a piano he had on a shelf, looking it over and poking it, trying to depress the keys. He still loved pancakes with a fiery passion, and still didn't seem to take any interest in Hitchcock films(It was worth a shot, Wilson thought with a snicker). House put his full trust in Wilson for once, and Wilson was determined not to let him down by making him feel as safe and loved as he possibly could. To Wilson, the little things really did matter. Seeing a smile. A full night's sleep. An obsession with pancakes and pizza. Getting a hug back. Wilson would take them as they came, sure that they were slow-coming but steady steps of improvement for his friend.

Wilson helped House into bed, and as was his nightly ritual, hugged him and pecked him on the cheek.

"Goodnight, House. I love you, and I'm only a few feet away, okay?"

And as Wilson got up, he saw the trademark tiny, fleeting smile on House's face. One more little thing.