You couldn't call in an argument, it wasn't even an exchange of words. One sentence, scrawled in black marker over white fine-ruled pages of a cheap notepad. It's funny the things that get to you. Things you might have laughed at a few days before, if you'd even bothered reacting at all.

Wilson lay there, pale against the white sheets, shivering in a non-existent chill, still too numb from the news he had received to even try to follow what was going on in front of him.

He watched the scene through a pane of soundproof glass that created a distance between himself and his visitors that wasn't really there. House was angry. He banged his cane on the ground and shouted. The young doctor whose name he didn't even know flinched and took a step backwards. She answered, but whatever she said made no difference to House's mood.

Wilson supposed that he should be angry too, or at the very least scared, worried... something. He watched impassively, feeling as though he had retreated inside his own head, watching what was happening in the same way he might watch TV when he was in bed with the flu. Switched on and just about holding his attention because there was simply nothing else to do and he didn't have the energy to reach for the remote control.

The young doctor eventually gave up on the conversation and left, or House told her to go. Whatever the reason, her departure left them alone in the room. Wilson's eyes followed House as he walked slowly, more so than usual, across the floor. Wilson smiled uncertainly and House picked up the notepad and pen. He frowned as his eyes flicked over what was written there, and flipped the page, banishing it from view.

'You okay?' He wrote on a new sheet.

'No,' thought Wilson, as he shrugged and half nodded.

'Want anything?'

A shake of the head was his answer to that one. What he wanted, he couldn't have.

House nodded, sat down and tapped the tip of the pen on the paper thoughtfully, leaving large black dots as he did. He opened his mouth and said something, maybe a few words, a sentence. Wilson watched the movement of his lips and gleaned no understanding from them. He watched House watching his reaction, saw the anger in his friends eyes and didn't know what to do. House began to write again underneath his questions. He angled the notepad so that Wilson couldn't see it, paused, ripped out the sheet and began again. The discarded sheet of paper, he balled in his fist and shoved into the pocket of his jeans. When he was finished writing, he got to his feet, dropped the pad on Wilson's chest and started to leave.

Wilson reached for the pad and read what was written there. As the words sunk in, he finally found the anger he couldn't manage before. Gripping the pad in his left hand, he threw it as hard as he could. It passed no more than two inches away from House's head and hit the wall hard. House barely flinched, just limped out of the room and closed the door behind him, leaving Wilson alone.

***

When House finally came back, Wilson was almost asleep, slouched in bed, propped up against the extra pillows. House looked at the gifts from well-wishers filling the room. Cards covered every available surface, bunches of flowers - so many there weren't enough vases to hold them - lay there dying in their brightly coloured plastic wrappings. Teddy bears, grapes, chocolates. Some idiot, he noticed, had bought one of those musical cards that played a corny tune when it was opened. He picked up the card from the table and opened it. 'Get well soon, from Michael,' House snorted. Michael, whoever he was, was a moron. He absently tapped a helium balloon wishing the same empty sentiment that had been tied to the bed.

As though sensing the movement, Wilson's eyes slid open and focused on his visitor. House hesitated, then put the card back without comment.

"He's just a kid," Wilson explained in a voice that was half a whisper, "he doesn't get it."

House moved the cheap, hotel gift shop teddy bear and took its place on the chair by the bed. "If he's one of your cancer kids, he should be..." he stopped as he caught the lack of comprehension in Wilson's eyes, looked away and focused his gaze instead on the spot between his feet where his cane made contact with the ground. To his left, half open on the ground, lay the notebook Wilson had thrown at him during his last visit.

House lifted up his cane a few inches off the ground and dropped it down onto the floor a few times, keeping his eye on the tip. Wilson watched him silently, waiting. When he couldn't take it any more, House spoke, head down. Knowing he wouldn't be understood but not caring, needing to say something, anything, to fill the silence, "There are people, nosy, do-gooder, interfering people – not unlike yourself – who tell me I should apologise to you," Wilson didn't respond, he hadn't really expected him to, "Look, I'm not sorry, okay? I meant what I said...wrote. If you can't hear me, we can't have a conversation, and without that what's the point? Right now you're useless to me."

Wilson watched him warily through narrow eyes as House continued to speak, his gaze flickering between the half of House's lips that he could see and the distracting taping of his cane on the ground. Apart from those two things, his friend sat completely still. His body language was enough to show Wilson House's discomfort, but whether that was with the situation, with what he was saying or something else entirely, it was impossible to tell. He tried to focus his attention on House's lips as they continued to move wordlessly, watching the shapes they were making, trying to pull any meaning at all from the subtle movement, the brief flashes of teeth and tongue, the pauses where, for a moment he thought that House was finished, until he started again, but none of it meant anything to him.

Wilson pulled himself up into a more upright position and glared, "House," it felt so strange to speak, he wondered whether it would ever seem normal, he wondered how he sounded. Was he too loud? Too quiet? Was he forming his words properly? Surely a person wouldn't start to sound deaf that quickly. He should know that. Intellectually he did know that, but that didn't stop him wondering.

House looked up, for the briefest of moments he looked him in the eye, then looked away again. At least he'd stopped moving his mouth. The cane too. House now sat totally motionless, watching, waiting.

Wilson sighed and fidgeted with the bedsheets, "House, stop it, I don't know what you're saying. Just stop talking. Please."

House hesitated. He looked around the room, back down at his feet, bounced the damn cane a few more times, and then for the first time in days, he really looked at Wilson. Feeling exposed under the sudden scrutiny, Wilson fought the urge to look away. House nodded, "Sorry," he said. He enunciated clearly, spoke slowly, and Wilson understood him. Sorry for what; for his behaviour earlier, for the incomprehensible speech; for something he might have said just now that Wilson didn't hear. It didn't matter. Because he understood.

For such a simple thing, it was amazing how much relief it brought him. Half a smile began to force it's way onto his lips, and he saw it echoed in his friend's eyes. "You never apologise," he told him, "don't expect me to believe you'd start now,"

House shrugged his agreement and nodded, "I'm not sorry for that," he amended, still speaking slowly, maintaining eye contact. With the first word he touched his chest with his fingertips, on the second he shook his head. With the last he pointed a finger at the notepad, still laying where it had landed.

Wilson watched intently, concentrating, drinking in every aspect of what he saw.

"But," House added, "for..." he hesitated, trying to think of what to say and eventually giving up and settling for a vague waving of his hand next to one of his ears.

"Yeah," Wilson nodded, "Me too." He closed his eyes for a second as he fought to control the wave of sadness that flowed over him. He opened them quickly, not wanting to miss the next word.

"I... we..." House stopped, and Wilson could see the frustration written across his face. He got to his feet and started to make his way towards the discarded notepad, or maybe towards the door.

Wilson watched his slow progress as he tried to decide what to do. "Wait," House stopped and turned, his expression curious, "Don't. Just say it. Please."

He watched the sigh, a quick intake and slow release of breath, then House sat back down. "We're going to find some way around this, Jimmy." He placed a hand hesitantly on his arm, then pulled it away again just as quickly, "Don't know how, but I'll figure something out."

Wilson nodded, he thought he might have picked out a few words but without context they were almost as meaningless as the rest. He understood though. The message came across clearly even if the words didn't. He may have lost his hearing, but he hadn't lost House. He would never lose House, even if he wanted to.

Some things didn't need need to be said in words.