As always, please read the warnings before continuing with the actual drabble.

This was written for my own personal 'Alphabet Challenge', which I am still taking suggestions for.

WARNINGS: Character death, angst, drug overdose

The Buddy Collections

Chapter 63: 'H' is for Heartbeat

They'd been - partners? lovers? - for a while, and friends even longer. It was nearly impossible to think back on a time when the other wasn't a part of their life, back when Wilson's life was so incredibly dull and normal or when House's was just a huge mess of loneliness. They would have been fine staying friends, at least that's what House used to tell himself. Up to a certain point it really had been enough for him, the meals shared at each others homes with a shared guilty-pleasure show turned on, and being fortunate enough to work at the same hospital and, eventually, with their offices side-by-side. Even their arguments were enjoyable for House. He'd been more than delighted to find out that, when push came to shove, Wilson could be unexpectedly clever or witty and knock House onto his ass, sometimes literally. He was never too mean or too gentle; he'd always been the right balance between the two, the lukewarm constant in House's world. And he always seemed to know, whether that meant House needed a reality check or he needed the space to ease his mind with a case or a tune on his guitar.

It had been awkward at first when they'd started up the romantic portion of their relationship, never mind the sexual aspect of it. The adjustment it took on both their parts to get past greeting one another with words, as had been their norm for years by then, and on to something as simple as a hug or a kiss had been enough of a struggle on its own. Plagued by personal experiences and social expectations, dates were equally stiff and unsure. Both men pondered and worried over expectations and the inevitable change until they had very nearly called the entire thing off. It had been sheer luck, then, that they seemed to come to the realization that they didn't have to take away from what they already had, but rather could add in the very acts and words that took their relationship beyond friendship. They continued to bicker like always, played pranks on one another, and didn't shy away from calling the other an idiot when it was, or wasn't, completely justified. And that worked for them for many years to come.

They had been comfortable around each other and were made aware of character flaws early on in their friendship. House had gotten used to picking up the pieces after each of Wilson's marriages fell apart and Wilson got used to the drug abuse. Of course, both got better as time passed, as their relationship grew, and eventually those parts of their lives had disappeared almost completely.

Which is why it was such a great shock to Wilson when he came home to find House in a very familiar spot on the floor, vomit drying on his lips and the floor boards. There was an empty pill bottle - expired Vicodin House had kept "just in case", Wilson would later discover - and a near-empty bottle of scotch on the coffee table. He dropped to his knees next to the unmoving form, his mind suddenly blank as the horror spread through him like wildfire. At some point he called an ambulance, that much he knew; in his daze, as he checked House's vitals and prayed, he could hear the 9-1-1 operator trying to talk to him, but he'd tossed the phone somewhere and he wasn't sure where that was anymore. He felt no pulse, saw no signs of breathing. As he lay his head against the man's chest, hoping to hear the strong heartbeat he'd fallen asleep listening to countless nights, his eyes were transfixed on the blank face. House's hair had grayed more throughout the years, and as always it had been an attractive attribute many people admired about his appearance. His features, emotionless as they were at the time, were still handsome in House's own rugged way.

Wilson wasn't sure how much time had lapsed from when he laid his head down to when the EMT's came rushing in and tugged him away. He couldn't figure out how he'd failed to hear the sirens that now blasted in his ears. There was chaos all around him as House's body was surrounded by people trying to help him, and it seemed like, impossibly, more people crowded the room to help Wilson. Amidst their attempted calming gestures and soothing words, Wilson realized he'd been screaming, for help, for God, for something to make it all stop.

He would have given anything to do the day over again, to have taken the day off and stay at home like House had asked.

And suddenly there were police officers in the apartment, and the EMT's slowly flooded out of the room once the body had been covered with a sheet. They asked Wilson careful questions, saw the bottles and the raw terror on Wilson's face, and that was the end of their formal investigation. The body was carted off to the morgue for a proper autopsy; "standard procedure", they'd told Wilson when he tried to protest. He swallowed around the thick heat in his throat as they zipped the body bag shut and, like a dam breaking, everything came out of Wilson at once. He screamed, he cried, he got angry and yelled at anyone in his line of vision, but nothing brought House back to him.

-...-

A few weeks after the funeral - and god, everybody came, didn't they? - Wilson was packing up their stuff, avoiding the area where House had been.

"How did we collect so much shit over the years?" he muttered under his breath, shoving piles of photographs, old and new, into a box. He took more care with the things that mattered: House's personal effects. At some point he knew people would start nagging him to sell them. They always did, like they really understood what the grieving party was going through. He packaged box after box, careful to keep their things separate, until he came upon the guitar House had managed to keep in good condition the entirety of their relationship. One lazy summer day, House had tried teaching Wilson how to play it and Wilson, aggravated that his paper work had been interrupted, shoved it back at him after about twenty minutes. He frowned at the memory, only to smile when he recalled how he'd made it up to the older man later that evening.

After a minute passed in silence, Wilson sat down in the room filled with boxes and old memories, took hold of the guitar and, with a new found determination, set out to teach himself how to play.