A/N: Takes place directly following last year's Thanksgiving episode "Last Resort". – Some post-Wilson's Heart angst as well, but nothing too serious this time… ;)

House/Wilson centric – Hope you enjoy! :)

"Throwing yourself a little party?" Casually standing in the doorway to House's office, Wilson's expression was unreadable as he nodded towards the pill bottle in his friend's hand.

Looking up from his recliner, House schooled his own features to indifference, before raising an eyebrow. "You're surprised? Nothing like spending hours in the hands of a gun-carrying lunatic to get you in the mood…"

It was only when he then almost self-consciously placed the pill bottle onto the floor and out of Wilson's sight, that the younger man bothered to step into the room to get a better view of the label.

"Diazepam?" Despite all his self-instructions, he couldn't keep a small frown from entering his face. A second later, he had regained his former cool, regarding the other man with a level glance. "So… Did I miss a new addiction?"

House already seemed tired of the conversation, definitely not in the mood for an extended lecture. He simply indicated a nod, while slowly leaning back in his chair again. His light tone contrasted sharply with the exhaustion vibrating off of him. "Uh-huh… Thought I'd let you know as a New Year's surprise."

Wilson nodded slowly. "Seriously though. Can't believe you'd need any more sedation…"

No reply.

"Don't seem all that anxious either…"

House rolled his eyes at the other man's annoying insistence. If he intended to methodically go through all the possible indications for the use of diazepam, they'd be going for a while… – He finally gestured somewhat impatiently towards his extended right leg. "Leg's been… cramping a little, okay?"

Wilson nodded with a slight huff, wearily rubbing his forehead. "Think that might have anything to do with you wandering around without your cane for hours today?!" The words came out testily; definitely more harshly than either of them had expected.

House unconsciously sat up a little straighter, as if preparing himself for a fight. "Well, I didn't exactly initiate the whole thing," he finally snapped back.

Wilson didn't miss a beat. "But you sure as hell didn't do anything to stop it, either!"

"Don't know why you get all cranky over it. Not like it was you in there..."

For a very brief moment, Wilson looked as if he had just been slapped in the face. Then his expression reflected an odd mix of anger and hurt that House couldn't quite place.

Without another word, Wilson stiffly turned around to leave the room.

Already outside the office, he then suddenly turned around again, regarding House for another long moment.

When he finally spoke again, his voice was flat: "You know what, House? It might as well have been."

. . . . . . .

To Wilson's surprise, House stormed into his office not 10 minutes after he had left the other man on his recliner. Or he 'stormed' as much as a man could storm, with one apparently practically useless leg…

"So!" The older man demanded, as soon as he had taken his position in front of Wilson's desk, towering over him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Wearily leaning back in his chair, Wilson glanced up at the ceiling in unconcealed frustration. – Of course House wouldn't just let this go…

He finally chuckled slightly, but it was a pained sound.

"It's typical really, that you need to ask that. You probably have… 3 billion IQ points, but as soon as a statement contradicts your screwed-up self-perception, a sentence with really only one logical meaning doesn't make any sense to you."

Then, bravely making eye-contact with the other man: "Just because you can't love yourself, doesn't mean nobody else does."

House looked stunned for a second, apparently taken by surprise by the other man's unusually open words.

He finally replied with a clipped nod. "This didn't have anything to do with me not loving myself… – This was about – "

"A diagnosis. Yeah; I know…" He sounded almost resigned.

"I was going to say: A patient. – I didn't do it to annoy you."

"You didn't annoy me…" Tone disbelieving. Wilson used one hand to somewhat hectically gesture into House's general direction. "You scared the crap out of me!" Then he took a deep breath before reluctantly looking up at House again, who was watching him somewhat curiously by now.

"You know what I did, when I heard what happened?" He didn't even wait for whatever witty retort House might have come up with. "I went to Mickey's. – And you know what I had there?"


Wilson simply ignored the dry reply. "My…" He gave a slightly bitter half-laugh, then seemingly forced himself to continue: "My very first panic attack."

House reflexively raised an eyebrow at the unexpected information. Then the diagnostician in him immediately came to the front, supplying almost dismissively: "It's not that unusual, Wilson. 30% of people have one at some point in their life. And given what you've…" He hesitated briefly, apparently searching for, well, not the wrong words. "…been through lately…" He let the rest of the statement hang in the air.

Wilson snorted at that. "This had nothing to do with Amber. Or her death. Or anything that… happened around that. This…" He quickly averted his gaze, before continuing more slowly. "I really thought," he gave a tense half-shrug, still avoiding House's intense gaze, "...this is it! This time he really does it. – This time, there won't be three doctors with him in a heartbeat, slowing the bleeding before he's actually dead. I thought – " He suddenly inhaled audibly, then simply held his breath for a moment.

"I thought," he finally continued slowly, deliberately, "that today, I'd actually, finally lose you." With what seemed like a conscious effort, he only now forced himself to meet House's stunned gaze again.

House just stared at him for a long moment, apparently completely taken by surprise by his emotional outburst. – When he finally replied, it was in his usual gruff inflection. "Well, you didn't."

Completely ignoring the weak attempt at a pacifying response, Wilson started to once again shake his head. "You've already survived an infarction; two bullets; a knife in a power outlet…"

He hesitated briefly, before bravely continuing in a slightly unsteady voice: "And even a stupid best friend, who almost killed you in his…" He didn't finish the sentence, instead quickly averting his gaze again, his voice breaking slightly. – Then, quietly: "You're not a cat, House. Sometime, something will actually kill you."

For a very brief moment, House seemed too stunned to reply anything. When he finally found his voice again, he tried to sound firm. "Sometime, something will kill all of us…" Then, unusually mildly: "Stop thinking about it, Wilson. I'm fine; and that's hopefully not gonna change anytime soon…"

As if on cue, he suddenly tensed, canting markedly to the left side. Before Wilson even realized what was going on, his right hand already shot to his thigh, cane all but forgotten, left hand quickly catching the edge of the desk in order to keep himself upright.

Reflexively pushing himself to his feet, Wilson made a somewhat hesitant step towards his friend, medical instincts kicking in despite his own emotional turmoil.

House jerked his head slightly in a nondescript gesture, trying his best to breathe through the spasm. "Just… another cramp. I'm okay…"

Wilson nodded but now rounded the desk and quickly pulled a chair towards them. "Sit down, House." Hand hovering just above the other man's arm as he awkwardly lowered himself onto the chair.

When the spasm didn't seem about to let up over the next couple of minutes, Wilson regarded the other man critically, a small frown starting to crease his forehead. He finally nodded slightly towards the couch. "Do you want to…?"

House followed his gaze, still folded over the leg, still breathing harshly. He seemed to be judging the distance, before finally replying with an almost imperceptible nod.

This time, Wilson did support him by lightly holding onto his arm as he took an awkward half-hopping step towards the couch, right foot barely touching the ground. He still hissed sharply as soon as it took some of his weight, involuntarily grasping Wilson's arm for additional support.

Once he was sitting again, he turned slightly and had to use both hands to support his bad leg on its way onto the couch. Right now, it looked as if he were moving a foreign object, the cramped thigh muscles apparently unable to even partially support the movement. He suddenly bit back a moan, both hands firmly rubbing his leg again, while trying to stretch it out completely.

His voice was rough, when he finally made a weak attempt to distract them both: "See? I'm always telling you more PT wouldn't do me any good…"

Wilson rolled his eyes at the comment, deciding to simply sit down for now in the chair House had occupied just a minute ago. "It's not PT if you pretend your leg is whole and march around without support all day, placing 190 pounds on half a thigh muscle with every step you take…"

House just shrugged at that, wincing slightly and quickly biting his lip. "PT, exercise; same thing…"

Another eye-roll. "It's not the same thing and you know it… PT is controlled exercise. It means strengthening muscles without making them snap!" Then, nodding slightly towards the revolting limb: "Do you need me to get you something for that?"

House simply ignored the question. "Clearly coming from someone who has never even seen the inside of a PT gym in his life…!"

"Attended a seminar. I think I've gotten down the basics… - Seriously, House. Do you need me to get you an injection?"

House just shook his head somewhat angrily; definitely frustrated. "Already maxed out on the Valium. I'm surprised any of my muscles are still able to contract at all…" He studiously kept his gaze anywhere but on Wilson. "Just… give me a minute. – Don't you have any nasty little cancer cells left to kill?!"

. . . . .

Half an hour later, House had finally started to relax a bit, the combination of medication and rest finally succeeding in breaking the spasms. His right hand was still lightly rubbing his thigh, but his movements had lost most of their urgency.

When he saw House's eyes slowly falling shut, the sedative effects of the diazepam apparently finally catching up with him, Wilson felt some of the tension that had threatened to crush him all day gradually recede, replaced by a sudden surge of affection for the other man.

The sudden emotion surprised him; this was something he hadn't really felt in months... Hadn't allowed himself to feel in months. – Sure, he had come back. Sure, things hadn't really changed between them. Hadn't outwardly changed at least… But Wilson's feelings had just still been a little too raw, his protective shields still a little too fragile to open up completely. To House; or anyone else for that matter…

But today… Today had changed things. Today had brutally reminded him of just what he could have lost; again. – Life was painful; life was dangerous; but if you didn't grab any chance at happiness, any chance at establishing some sort of meaningful connection, you were already lost.

. . . . .

When House woke up again about an hour later, he slowly sat up and then waited a minute before carefully pushing himself to his feet. He threw Wilson – who was working behind his desk again – just a cursory glance.

When he had already reached the door, he suddenly hesitated, one hand lightly gripping the door knob. Without turning around again, he finally declared in a calm voice: "She was half my age, emotionally stable and healthy. – Asking me to try and save her was the best decision you've ever made."

For a moment it took Wilson's breath away when he heard his friend's awfully rational tone; the complete lack of hesitation in his words. He swallowed hard a couple of times.

When he finally managed to reply, his voice was unexpectedly hoarse. "No, House… Even if we'd have been able to save her, risking your life for it was the most stupid decision I've ever made. – The most abusive one…" He slowly shook his head. "If I could – " He once again didn't finish the sentence, instead now lifting a hand to briefly rub his face.

Then he suddenly searched House's gaze again, his expression – and voice – unwavering. "It wouldn't. Have been. Worth it." He emphasized every word. "I know that now. – I'm so sorry…" He sounded completely miserable by the end of his little speech.

House stood with his head bowed by now, gaze still on the door knob. He finally just gave a clipped nod in response, once again about to leave the room. "It's fine, Wilson; let's just forget about it…"

Wilson immediately shook his head. "No. No, it's not, House… I know I can't just make this go away, no matter what I say. – God, I've been such an ass…" Briefly closing his eyes, he just shook his head again, before finally finishing with an uneasy half-shrug: "I just hope you'll give me another chance."

At that, House finally turned around again, reluctantly meeting the younger man's unusually insecure gaze. He replied with a somewhat tense shrug of his own and a self-deprecating half-smile. "Couldn't do anything else…!" Tone unfittingly light.

Wilson winced slightly at the painfully honest reply, but bravely held his friend's gaze. "I mean it, House… I know I screwed up; but I will make it up to you."

House just silently regarded him for an impossibly long moment, before finally giving one firm nod and turning towards the door again. "Why don't you start making it up to me with a large pizza. – I'm going home now, so feel free to join me any time… Preferably sometime around 7. – And use your key, 'cause I sure as hell won't be getting up..."

When he had already left the room, he suddenly turned around again, holding the door open a moment longer. "And, Wilson…" He waited for his friend to meet his eyes again, his expression, for once, completely unguarded. "I wanted to save her as well."

Two seconds later, Wilson was left staring at his closed office door, the sound of his friend's uneven steps gradually dying away as he walked away from his office.

He suddenly huffed out a laugh, pain, guilt, relief, hope, and sheer gratefulness all warring for dominance inside his chest.

One step at a time. That's how he'd deal with this.

Pizza; he could do that.

It was a start.

He'd be okay.

They'd be okay.

He knew that now.

The end :)

Thank you for reading!