It's almost noon, by the time Wilson realizes that House hasn't come to bug him yet today.

Which normally means a case tough enough to take up his friend's time, but not so hard that he reflexively comes to Wilson to talk.

Wilson walks out onto the balcony, expecting to see House cracking the whip over the kids, or the room empty except for his friend.

What he doesn't expect is what he sees, the kids sitting at the table, bored, and Foreman behind his newspaper.

Wilson frowns, and then thinks that maybe Cuddy made House do clinic today.

He waits in the lobby for a while, but with no sight of his friend.

Wilson goes into Cuddy's office, asks her if she's got House consulting in the nephrology wing, or something.

She looks at him, and seems to be trying to decide something, before finally telling him, "he called in sick. Asked me not to tell you."

Wilson frowned, "why not?"

Cuddy shrugged, wearily, "I asked, he said because he didn't want you to know…which was kind of obvious, but I couldn't get any more out of him before he hung up."

"Did he say what was wrong?"

"No, he didn't…but… he sounded like he was in pain, and when I asked him he sounded embarrassed. So maybe he slipped and sprained his ankle, I don't know. He was awake and able to speak, so I didn't push it."

Wilson nodded, sighing, "I'm gonna check on him…and don't worry, I won't tell him you told me."

Cuddy nodded.

Over the last ten years, Wilson has perfected the art of slipping into his friend's apartment silently.

Other than the slight click from the lock, he can make the otherwise squeaky door open in perfect silence.

He usually doesn't bother, but if House isn't feeling well, but managed to get to sleep, Wilson doesn't want to wake him.

House isn't in the living room, and the bathroom reveals no inhabitant.

Wilson pads to his friend's bedroom, and silently nudges the door open a few inches.

House isn't asleep, but Wilson thinks it's good he's been so quiet, because if he hadn't been, House would look perfectly fine, and not have tear tracks on his cheeks.

His chest wouldn't be moving in ragged bursts, and he wouldn't be making soft, pained, desperate sounds.

His hands wouldn't be clenching the sheets, one to the side, one on the fabric over his leg, knuckles white.

His face would still be as pale and sweaty as it is now, and he wouldn't be able to hide his no doubt rapid heartrate, except by not allowing Wilson to check it, which wouldn't do wonders for his inevitable lie of being fine.

Wilson pushes the door open further, and it squeaks, which he knew would happen.

House barely even starts, but shuts his mouth in a hard line, gritting his teeth, and automatically wipes his face.

Wilson comes in, and sits on the bed, gently taking hold of his friend's hand.

"Damn Cu…" House seems to run out of breath for words, momentarily, and Wilson's concern goes up several notches.

House's lips are still trembling slightly, no matter how hard he presses them together.

"Cuddy didn't tell me. She lied and said you were consulting in nephrology, but I didn't believe her."

House closes his eyes, nodding slightly.

Wilson gently moves his fingers up his friend's arm, taking the older man's pulse.

It's through the roof, and Wilson knows it didn't get like this right away.

This is exhaustion and dehydration, as well as pain.

"You had anything to drink? Eat?"

House shakes his head, eyes still closed.

"Go…seriously Wil… Wilson… leave."

Wilson frowns, "House…"

House's eyes snap open, and he's unable to stifle a sharp.

Wilson reaches, starting to pull the blanket off, but House grabs his hand, fingers shaking, stopping him.

"You don't…need to see…see this…"

"See what? You're in pain…"

"Ya…ah…think…ah….ha…"

"House? Hey, House?"

"Ah…" House's breathing is becoming more rapid and uneven.

Wilson rests his hand on his friend's forehead, then slides it up, smoothing the older doctor's sweat-soaked hair.

"Ne…need… leave…"

"Hey, shh. Shh, it's okay. Calm down. Shh, slow down. Slow down, shhh."

"Go...p…please…"

Wilson swallows, "House… how is this any different than ten years ago?"

House closes his eyes

"House?"

"Fuck, Wilson…" says House, quietly, seeming to recover a little, "I pissed myself…okay…you don't need to see this…"

Wilson's eyes soften, and he gently rubs his hand over his friend's chest, "okay… okay, I'm sorry. But… it's okay. I'm not going anywhere…except maybe to get some towels."

"…"

"House?"

"You…you sure?"

Wilson blinks, "what? Yeah, House. Yeah. I'm not leaving. I'm not going anywhere, I promise. Okay?"

House closes his eyes, tiredly, "mmm-hmm…"

Wilson smiles, sadly, getting up, "I'll get the towels."

"Wilson…"

"Hmm?"

"Nothing's changed?"

Wilson blinks, "changed…oh…oh, House… you didn't think… no, House. No, nothing's changed. I promise. Nothing's changed. And this? My caring for you? That didn't even change when I tried to *make* it change."

"…okay."