Summary: See prompt.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. *sniff*
Beta: The incredibly talented rslworks!
"You are certifiable," House muttered as he watched Wilson pull on a bright blue jumpsuit.
"Funny," Wilson mused with a glance at House. "I've heard that a lot since I became friends with you. Oddly enough, usually from you." He zipped up the last zipper and waved his hands in front of him. "I'm doing this, House, end of discussion."
"Oh, this could be the end of something, alright," House sulked. "I don't get it… you turn forty-one and decide that's your limit? No need for another birthday?"
"For God's sake, House," Wilson sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm going skydiving, not committing suicide."
"The two aren't mutually exclusive."
"Neither are suicide and racing along on a two-wheeled death trap, but that hasn't slowed you down," Wilson snapped. "Look, I told you before that you didn't have to come, but since you insisted, can you please try to be just a little supportive?"
"Hi, Greg House," he replied while thrusting out his hand. "And you are…?"
Wilson rolled his eyes and hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "I'm going to head over to the plane and get hooked into my harness. Would you like to come and be civil or wait for me here?"
"By all means, Geronimo, lead the way."
House trudged behind Wilson and tried to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as they approached the small propeller-driven plane. He never could understand why people thought jumping out of a plane that wasn't on fire or about to crash was such a grand idea.
"Ready to jump, Doctor Wilson?" the skydiving instructor, Kyle, asked as they approached the plane.
"Don't you have to be a little higher up first?" House sneered.
"I knew we were forgetting something," Kyle slapped his forehead in an overly dramatic gesture before looking at the grumpy doctor. "You want to join us?"
House held up his cane and cocked his head. "Might have a little trouble sticking the landing, Kyle," he said, making sure the last word was spoken with a derisive lilt.
The brown-haired instructor shrugged as he helped Wilson step into his harness. "I was actually thinking you could ride shotgun with Antonio up in the cockpit."
"Hmm, I think I'd rather ride on a shotgun, Kyle."
"House," Wilson hissed with an angry glare. He turned to Kyle and smiled. "I'm sorry, but my friend here gets a little cranky when he doesn't get his beauty sleep."
"That explains a lot," Kyle chuckled as he finished tightening Wilson's harness. He climbed into the plane and turned around, holding his hand out to Wilson.
The oncologist glanced at House and smiled nervously. "Are you going to wish me luck?"
"If you need me to do that then perhaps you shouldn't being doing this."
House thought he saw a flash of hurt in his friend's face, but he couldn't be sure as Wilson quickly turned and climbed inside, not bothering to look back as the plane taxied to the runway. House mentally kicked himself for not picking up on Wilson's obvious show of bravado earlier and desperately wished he could have the last few minutes back to try that whole being supportive thing.
"Good luck," he whispered to the departing plane, sincerely hoping late really was better than never.
He limped back to the car and pushed himself up to sit on the hood. He watched as the small plane lined up on the end of the runway and paused for a preflight pep talk. Okay, so it was probably paused while the pilot did a preflight check, but it sure seemed like the little craft needed all the help and well-wishes it could get.
House began twirling his cane, impatient for this whole little adventure to be over with so he could take Wilson home and start treating him to the birthday weekend House had been planning for the past three months; a two day affair that would put his infamous bachelor parties to shame. He was miserable on the ground, sitting in a deserted gravel parking lot, while Wilson got to soar through the blue skies above. If he was honest with himself, which didn't happen often, House would have to admit he was a little – okay, a lot – jealous that Wilson was able to do something as adventurous as skydive while he was stuck on the ground.
A loud noise jolted him out of his thoughts and House looked up just in time to see the little plane rushing down the runway, building up the speed it needed to defy gravity. As it neared the end of the runway, the plane's nose lifted up…
And something went terribly wrong.
Instead of continuing upward, the plane twisted hard to its side, shuddering as a wing crashed into the ground. The sheer momentum of the craft caused the plane to cartwheel at least twice before it landed on its roof in a smoking, twisted heap of metal.
House was frozen in place, his brain refusing to comprehend what he had just seen. There was no way in the world that Wilson had just been in a plane crash in front of his very own eyes. Things like that didn't – couldn't – happen in real life. House slowly closed his eyes and counted to ten, opening them again and gasping as the sight before him remained the same.
"Wilson!" he yelled in panic, launching himself off the hood of the car only to crash to his knees on the rough gravel. He pushed himself to his feet and climbed into the car, thankful that Wilson had left his keys with him. He cranked the engine and sped toward the crash site at a speed that would have impressed any NASCAR driver. With one hand he pulled out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1, hastily informing the operator that there had been a plane crash at the godforsaken airstrip that was home to Kyle's School of Skydiving. The operator began to ask for details but, having reached his destination, he ended the call and bolted from the car toward the smoking wreckage.
"Wilson!" He limped painfully around the wreck, having left his cane in the parking lot. He spotted an arm peeking out from between jagged metal and broken glass. House made his way closer and grabbed the wrist, placing his fingers on the pulse point. His heart froze when he found no pulse, but relief set in when he realized the limp wrist in his hands was far too hairy to belong to Wilson.
House shakily regained his feet and continued around the twisted metal frame, peering inside whenever he came across a gap in the wreckage. After two complete circuits around the plane, House realized there was no one else inside. A sick feeling washed through him as he eyed the line of trees several feet away.
"Wilson," he said again, only this time his voice was no more than a broken whisper. If Wilson had been thrown from the plane, was there any chance he had survived? "Wilson!" House called again as he set off toward the trees. He probably should have gone back the few feet to get the car, but instinct refused to let him turn away from the direction where his friend might be lying in pain or even worse, already…
House shook his head as he pressed forward, refusing to think the last part was possible. Not even five feet into the edge of the trees, House found a second body lying face down in the grass, a jagged piece of metal sticking out from its bright blue jump suit. His skull was misshapen and the brown hair was matted with copious amounts of blood.
"No," House pleaded aloud as he placed his trembling hands on the man's shoulders. He steeled himself for whatever he might find and carefully rolled the body over. Relief coursed through him as Kyle's lifeless face stared up at him. The feeling was short lived, however, as House began to realize that the chances of surviving this crash were almost nonexistent.
With a bone-deep weariness that was only partly due to his physical exertion, House stood on shaky legs and continued walking forward. He'd gone no more than ten more feet when he found the object of his search. His heart broke as he took in the sight of his best friend slumped next to a tree, his head hanging limply against his chest. Dazed, House stumbled closer, frowning as he noticed Wilson's blue jumpsuit was stained a hideous shade of purple where he had bled from a jagged wound in his shoulder. A few steps more and House could see the painfully impossible angle of Wilson's left leg and the way his left hand had been clenched in the fabric over his thigh.
The fact that it hadn't been a quick or painless death caused something inside House to snap. He sank to his knees as a wail tore its way from his throat, echoing off the nearby trees. He covered his face with his hands and fought back tears, knowing that if he started he would never be able to stop. "Wilson," he sobbed brokenly.
House froze, even his lungs pausing as he strained to hear in the deafening silence of the forest.
He looked up and almost fainted from giddiness as he saw a pair of glazed brown eyes staring at him with confusion. "Wilson?" House slowly crawled forward, refusing to tear his eyes from the too pale face lest he discover he was seeing things.
House was at his side before Wilson could finish the thought. He reached out and touched his cheek, delighting in the warmth he felt against this palm. "You're alive," he breathed, ignoring the wetness he felt on his own cheek.
"You're crying," Wilson whispered back, weakly trying and failing to lift his hand.
"Nah, it's all that smoke I had to walk through. Makes my eyes water." Now that he knew Wilson was still alive, House switched into doctor mode to ensure he stayed that way. He quickly removed his denim shirt, folding it into a makeshift bandage that he pressed against the sluggishly bleeding wound. Wilson grunted in pain at the pressure, eliciting a rare word of apology from House.
"S'okay," Wilson panted, leaning his head back against the tree hard enough to make his eyes water. "Help's coming?"
"On the way," House assured him as he glanced at his friend's left leg. "Safe bet that's broken but since you decided to bleed all over the forest it's going to have to wait."
"I know you like a challenge," Wilson weakly joked, trying to put his friend at ease.
House ignored the remark as he moved his free hand to Wilson's face, carefully lifting his eyelids one at a time to study his pupils as best he could in the dimness of the forest. "I think you can add a concussion to your list of injuries," he growled angrily, wondering what was taking the rescue team so long to arrive. Patience was not one of House's virtues, and he found himself wanting to take his frustrations out on someone, even if the only person at hand was his injured best friend. He opened his mouth to berate him for trying something as stupid as skydiving just because he was another year older, but stopped as his eyes locked onto Wilson's terrified visage. In that moment, with his broken body sagging between House and a tree, Wilson looked more vulnerable than his friend could ever recall seeing him.
"You're going to be okay, Wilson," he proclaimed in the tone of voice he usually reserved for gloating after a particularly complicated diagnosis. "We'll get you to the hospital and the nurses will fall all over themselves while they pamper you like you're their own personal sultan. I'll even talk Cuddy into letting you play with the twins."
"With y-you as… chaperone." Wilson squeezed his eyes shut as tremors began coursing through his body. "Sh-shock."
"Hey, I'm the diagnostician," House snapped, angry at how helpless he felt as he watched his friend deteriorating in front of him. Wilson moaned as the shivering increased to the point his teeth began chattering violently.
House took pity on the suffering man and sat next to him, carefully shifting his friend so that he was resting against him instead of the rough bark of the tree. He gently pulled Wilson's head down until it was securely tucked in the crook of his neck. House began running his hand up and down Wilson's uninjured side, ostensibly to help keep him warm. If the physical contact happened to provide some sort of emotional comfort, too, and Wilson's features happened to soften in relief…
Well, House supposed he could live with that, just this once.
Two days later, Wilson was lying on the couch and pondering how remarkably lucky he'd been, all things considered. Despite how severely his leg had seemed to be injured at the crash site, it turned out that he had a supracondylar fracture of his femur which could be treated without surgery. He'd also been lucky that none of the bones in his shoulder had been damaged so all that injury had required were a few stitches. The concussion had been the only thing severe enough to mandate an overnight stay, and even that had been more as a precaution than anything else. He'd been surprised and touched when House had refused to leave his side, even going so far as to order his fellows to move his recliner into Wilson's hospital room.
He'd been discharged late the next afternoon, delighted that he would at least get to spend the second half of his birthday away from the hospital. House had taken him home to their condo and helped Wilson get settled on his bed, where the weary oncologist promptly fell asleep. Wilson had slept through the night and late into the next morning without stirring. When he'd woken up, House had surprised him with a belated birthday dinner.
Wilson now lay on the couch with his injured leg propped on a pile of pillows fit for a king. He lightly rubbed a hand over his stomach, wondering if he'd overindulged on the delicious feast House had prepared for him.
"Do I need to get you a bigger pair of pants?" House teased as he joined Wilson in the living room.
"Only if you cook more often."
"Special occasions only," House reminded him as he perched on the edge of the coffee table.
"Why can't I use that excuse?"
"Because I thought of it first." House nodded at his friend's battered left side and whined, "Although I suppose until you're well again I'll have to keep doing the cooking."
Wilson grinned and snuggled into the couch cushions. "In that case, I sense a long recovery ahead."
"Don't even," House snarled as he stood and stormed across the room to stare out the window.
"Is cooking for me really that bad?"
"I meant don't joke about your recovery."
"Um, okay." Wilson studied his friend, observing the tension radiating from his rigid body. "Are you okay?"
"I thought you were dead," House whispered, his voice so quiet that Wilson struggled to make out the words. "When I found Kyle's body… all I saw was the jumpsuit and the hair and I… I thought…"
"House," Wilson breathed. "I didn't realize…" He trailed off, longing to go comfort his friend but knowing that was a near-impossible task with his limited mobility. "I'm okay, though. I'm right here."
"I realized something in that moment," House spoke softly, still keeping his back to Wilson. "You are the single most important thing in my life. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."
"You'd be okay after a while," Wilson insisted. "After Amber, when I left… You were doing okay then."
"Only because I had a private eye spying on you, so in a way you were still in my life. But if you had actually died in that crash…" House finally turned around and Wilson was shocked at the absolute despair etched in his haggard features. "I don't want to ever lose you or even think that I've lost you again."
Wilson nodded, at a loss for words. He couldn't believe that House was openly discussing his feelings about him with him. It was almost as surreal as the plane crash had been.
"No more of this mid-life crisis crap," House commanded as he wearily limped back toward the couch. He shook his head in bewilderment as he returned to his seat on the coffee table. "Why on earth did you choose skydiving?"
"I just wanted to try something a little out of my character," Wilson shrugged. "Prove to myself that I wasn't boring. You know, get the adrenaline going."
"You wanted adrenaline?" House snorted, his blue eyes regaining their mischievous twinkle. "You idiot! Next time just tell me."
"Why?" Wilson asked, his own eyes narrowing with suspicion.
"I'll give you a ride on my two-wheeled death trap."
"Hmm," Wilson stated thoughtfully, tapping a finger against his chin. "House, I think you just cured my mid-life crisis."