Disclaimer: I don't own House, M.D., or any of the characters. I don't own anything by the Gin Blossoms, either.

Chapter 1—Crash.

"Damn it," James Wilson grumbled, slowing his car and reaching under the brake pedal for his pack of gum. His fingers closed around the little cardboard box, and he sat up and picked up his speed. He turned on his blinker and began to turn at the stop sign, the last turn before reaching the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. A speeding truck flew through the intersection and slammed into the passenger's side of Wilson's car, sending it careening into the roadside ditch, upside down. He tried to reach for his cell phone, but his arm was pinned down by the caved-in roof.


"Where the hell is Wilson?" Greg House demanded, stopping in front of Cuddy, and leaning on his cane. "I have a question for him."

"Wilson hasn't checked in yet," Cuddy said, "is there a problem?"

"I was wondering if he'd noticed how fast your ass is growing."

House limped away from the clinic and went to his office. He sat down in the recliner and picked up his ball, bouncing it off of the empty stretch of wall in front of him, lost in thought.

"House," Chase called, throwing open the glass door to House's office. "We found Wilson. Come with me, it's important."

"Why so urgent?" House asked, tossing his ball into the air once more. It bounced off the ceiling and fell into his open, waiting hands.

"Well, Wilson was involved in a car accident this morning, and is currently bleeding out in the ER, waiting on an anesthesiologist. Just thought you'd like to know. But seeing as you're preoccupied…."

House's ball fell to the floor and rolled under his desk as he snatched up his cane and slowly stood up. Jimmy. Goddamn it, what has he gotten himself—watch yourself, House, Chase is right in front of you. "Where is he?"

"In the ER," Chase said, slightly taken aback by House's sudden display of caring emotion.

"Well, I don't know what bed he's in, now, do I?"

House followed Chase down to the ER, easily keeping pace with his younger colleague's quick walk. The thought of Wilson dying without him blocked all thoughts of the pain attacking his leg. He followed Chase all the way down to the ER, taking the stairs when other people occupied the elevator, through the waiting room, and up to a bed, whose curtains were drawn.

"I think they're still changing him," Chase said, "it was pretty terrible. They had to cut him out of the car. A few deep gashes on his left arm, severe abrasions to the torso, and a good portion of his windshield and dashboard cut into his legs. They're going to have to remove most of it surgically, but he should be able to walk without rehabilitation."

Two nurses emerged from the curtains, carrying a red biohazard bag. House could see the light shining through the thin plastic, illuminating patterns of splattered blood. A piece of fabric flopped out of the corner of the bag. Wilson's god-awful Wednesday tie. House felt his stomach clench, then walked through the curtains, leaving Chase to his own devices.

"House?" Wilson said weakly, lifting his head.

Why isn't there someone with him? House wondered. Someone needs to be in here with him.

"House," Wilson repeated, "is it that bad?"

House looked down at Wilson and forced his face to remain blank, despite the emotion welling in his chest. His head was throbbing, he could feel his pulse rise. Wilson had been stripped to his waist, from what House could see, and most of his chest and left arm were obscured by bandages that had red dots slowly seeping through them. Blood.

"There's definitely been worse," House said. "Someone should be in here in a couple minutes. You're going into surgery."

"What's wrong with me?"

"I don't know." House stepped closer to the bed and impulsively held the younger man's hand.

"What the hell?" Wilson mumbled, looking up at House, pain clouding his vision.

"I have a secret for you," House said, "but there's one condition. You have to live until tonight. Got it?"

"House, what are you talking about? Spell it out. Too many painkillers."

"I meant exactly what I said."

Two male nurses pushed back the curtains. House quickly dropped Wilson's hand and took up his usual, grimacing behavior. The nurses pushed a gurney up to Wilson's bed, and lifted him onto it.

"House come with me," Wilson said, his voice obviously straining to maintain a higher volume than a faint whisper. "Please"?

"Cuddy's about to explode; I have to get to my case. You'll be okay."

"House, please."

"Don't worry. You can't get much worse."

A handful of tears rolled down Wilson's face as House left him yet again. He looked up to find some sort of reassurance in the older man's face, but all he saw was House's retreating back, limping towards the exit. Well, it obviously can't be worse, Wilson thought, he'd be here if I were dying. Then I would be interesting.