Disclaimer: I don't own them. *sniff*
Beta: The awesome and incredibly patient rslworks!
A/N: Based very loosely on my car accident from last year, only the concrete barrier mostly held together and kept me from flying off the bridge. My car was totaled but I walked away without a scratch. Couldn't let poor Wilson be that lucky though. *eg*
"For God's sake, Wilson, you drive like my grandmother!"
"Did you happen to notice the storm around us?" Wilson shot back, his eyes never leaving the road ahead. "I can't see anything for all the rain which makes it hard to steer the car straight when the wind blows it around. So why don't you shut up and let me concentrate on what I'm doing?"
House remained silent, but sulked as he peered through the darkness ahead. He had to admit that the car's headlights seemed to be useless for illuminating anything more than an inch in front of them, but he wasn't about to let Wilson know that. He glanced at his friend again and guilt washed over him as he took in Wilson's tense posture and the white-knuckled grip he had on the steering wheel.
"At least there's not a lot of traffic tonight," House offered by way of an apology.
"No," Wilson agreed with a sigh. "But I suspect most people decided to stay home after all the hype about this storm front coming through."
"You mean the ones lucky enough to not have an insane boss who insisted they attend a fund-raising dinner out in the boonies?"
Wilson barked out a tense laugh, agreeing whole-heartedly with House's assessment of Cuddy. "She owes us big time."
The two men lapsed into companionable silence as Wilson cautiously navigated the rain-slicked interstate. A green informational sign loomed in the darkness and as they got closer, both men breathed a sigh of relief that their exit was only three miles up the road.
"I'll be happy to get home out of this crappy weather," Wilson sighed, breaking the silence in the car.
"And I'll be happy to get you home out of those wet clothes."
Despite his tension, Wilson grinned and nodded. "You too, although you look incredibly handsome in your tux."
"I think I look even more handsome without it," House leered.
"Hmm," Wilson pondered aloud as he steered the car into a rather sharp bend in the road. "Maybe you could do a little modeling for me so I can make an objective decision."
"Sounds like a-"
Before House could finish his thought, the Volvo swerved hard to the left, throwing him against the passenger door. The car continued to careen out of control, spinning in circles as if it was floating on a cushion of air. House was vaguely aware of Wilson cursing next to him as he fought to gain control of the hydroplaning vehicle. For a moment it seemed as if he had, as the spinning ceased and left the car barreling forward in a straight line.
That's when House realized that the car's headlights were illuminating the concrete divider of the interstate, which was getting closer at an alarming rate. Before he could fully process what that meant, the car was connecting with the barrier, shuddering fiercely as its momentum carried it through the concrete amidst a cacophony of screeching metal. Once again the car seemed to hover in the air and House briefly wondered if they were hydroplaning again, this time on the wrong side of the interstate. He soon discovered the truth was even worse as the car suddenly dropped like a stone, into the pitch-black darkness below.
He was somewhat aware of Wilson calling out for him, but before he could respond the Volvo slammed to a halt, jarring him enough that he lost consciousness.
He wasn't out for long, jolting awake to the sensation of ice-cold water covering his lower legs. He looked down and confirmed that the floor of the car was quickly filling with water. He glanced out the window and was shocked as he realized the Volvo was slowly sinking in the middle of a wide river. A sense of urgency rushed through him, clearing the cobwebs from his brain and kicking his instincts into high gear. He looked to the driver's seat and saw Wilson slumped unconscious against the steering wheel, blood oozing from a gash in his head.
"Wilson!" House called, placing his hand against his friend's neck, relief flooding through him as he found a pulse. "Wilson!"
The oncologist let out a low moan but made no effort to move.
"Damn it," House swore in frustration as he grabbed Wilson's shoulder and shook him. "Wake up!"
"H-house?" Wilson mumbled in a daze as he groggily dragged his eyes open.
"Let me sleep," he whined, starting to close his eyes again.
"Oh no you don't," House growled as he pinched Wilson's cheek hard enough to leave a bruise.
"Ow!" Wilson yelled, jerking awake and immediately wincing in pain. "My head…"
"Focus, Wilson," House ordered, waiting until glazed brown eyes met his. "We need to get out of the car."
He nodded as he turned and reached for his door handle, stopping to press his face against the window. "There's a lot of water out there," he whispered.
"There's a lot of water in here, too," House quickly shot back.
Wilson looked down, gasping as he met House's gaze. "I don't like the water," he confessed in a broken voice.
That was a new revelation, one which House planned on exploring in the future – if they managed to escape. "Open your window!" he barked.
Wilson vehemently shook his head, moaning at the pain the movement caused.
"Yes!" House bellowed loudly. When Wilson still didn't obey, House relied on his friend's pathological nature to help anyone in need. "Damn it, if you don't do it then I won't be able to get out and I'll drown in here with you. Is that what you want?"
"Then do it before we lose power!" He let down his own window, relieved when he heard Wilson doing the same. "Leave your seatbelt on until we're completely under and you're able to open your door. Take a deep breath when I tell you."
Wilson stared at House, abject terror written on his face.
"I won't leave you, no matter what," House promised, softening his voice as much as he could given the urgency of their situation.
Wilson gave a shaky nod. "Love you."
"Love you, too," House replied as the water level reached their shoulders. "Deep breath!" As the water rose to cover his nose and mouth, House spared one last glance at his lover and desperately hoped it wouldn't be the last time he saw him. Then he took a deep breath and gritted his teeth as the force of the water painfully pounded into his shoulders and face. It seemed like an eternity before he was finally able to wrench his door open. The watery assault and lack of oxygen were taking their toll on him and he barely had the strength to release his seat belt. Once freed, he quickly pushed against the dashboard and seat, thrusting himself out of the would-be coffin.
Despite the burning in his lungs and leaden feeling in his limbs, House remained true to his word and pulled himself along the roof of the car until he was floating just above Wilson's door. Unable to see anything in the murky darkness, he held on to the car with one hand while he felt around with the other. It was only when he reached inside the door of the car that he encountered Wilson's limp form, still buckled in his seat. House pulled himself closer, ignoring the burning in his lungs as he focused on the one thing in the world that mattered to him. He fumbled in the dark until his hand brushed across the buckle, which he unfastened with trembling fingers. House slid his arms under Wilson's as he braced his legs on either side of the car door. He pulled with all his might, relieved when the unconscious man shot loose from the car. He wrapped an arm around Wilson's chest and began kicking his legs for all he was worth.
House broke the surface with a loud gasp for air, followed by several more breaths as he tried to chase away the black spots dotting his vision. He couldn't see the shore in the dark, but figured if he swam perpendicular to the current he would eventually reach some sort of safe harbor. As he tightened his grip around Wilson to begin the journey, he was horrified by the absolute stillness of his friend's chest. Fear flooded him with adrenaline and he began swimming faster than he ever had in his life. Soon his kicking feet made contact with ground and he was able to stand and wade out of the river whereupon he carefully laid Wilson on his back.
He knelt beside his friend and checked for a pulse, finally finding one although it was so faint as to be almost undetectable. He tilted Wilson's head back and began rescue breathing, even though his own lungs were loathe to give up any of his newly-discovered oxygen supply. For several nerve wracking seconds, House ignored the rain pelting his face as he tried to coax the man lying lifelessly beneath him back to the world of the living. The black spots had just begun to dance across his vision again, when Wilson let out a loud, choking cough. House immediately rolled him onto his side and pounded on his back, amazed at the amount of water that spewed from his friend's mouth.
"Atta boy, Wilson," House praised as his lover's coughs changed into a raspy wheeze. House gently brushed a hand through Wilson's soaked hair and leaned over him, shielding him from the violent storm raging around them. He allowed himself a moment to enjoy the fact that Wilson was still alive, before focusing his attention on what to do next.
He wearily stood, almost crashing back down as his right leg protested with some of the worst pain he'd ever experienced. Once again, his concern for Wilson overcame any messages his own body was sending him. He gripped the unconscious man under the arms and began tugging him farther away from the water's edge. As his eyes adjusted to the dark House could make out a steep rock face ahead, with a small alcove carved in its base. He summoned his strength – idly wondering when the seemingly unlimited supply would run out – and dragged Wilson with him until they reached the natural shelter. He slumped against the rock face and hauled Wilson to lie between his parted legs.
Now that he was out of the rain and wind, House's adrenaline started to fade and he had to fight to keep his eyes open. He knew he needed to examine Wilson closely, certain that his friend was suffering from a pretty severe concussion as well as some degree of hypothermia, but his bone-weary body was starting to shut down. Knowing if he gave in Wilson and quite possibly he himself would never wake up, House let out a loud growl and lightly punched his friend's arm.
"Wha'?" Wilson mumbled, his head lolling against the chest behind him.
"You need to stay awake," House demanded, silently repeating the words to himself.
"'m tired," Wilson protested irritably.
"Pretend we're in med school and you're pulling an all-nighter to study."
Wilson pried his eyes open and took in their surroundings. "Not in a dorm or library," he countered sleepily.
Remembering that the guilt trip had worked earlier, House opted to try again. "I think I have a concussion so you need to keep me awake."
At that revelation, Wilson seemed to become slightly more aware. "Blurred vision?"
"Hard to tell over everything else that's aching," House snorted. "Seriously, Wilson, I can self-diagnose."
"'Kay." Wilson blinked sluggishly, shivering in the cool air. "Tell me what happened."
House tightened his embrace around the trembling man in his arms, and leaned close to his ear. "You drove us off a bridge," he teased, hoping to lighten the moment.
The genuine regret and despair in his friend's voice eliminated any further attempts at humor. "We hydroplaned," the diagnostician softly corrected. "By the time you got us out of the spin, we were already hitting the concrete guard on the bridge."
"Where are we now?"
"We're on the shore of the river."
Wilson's eyes widened and his breathing sped up. "R-river?"
"Shh, it's okay," House soothed, gently combing his fingers through Wilson's sodden hair. "We're a long way away from the water."
His attempts at calming his friend failed as the oncologist's chest began heaving beneath his hand. "We landed in the water. I remember," Wilson panted fearfully. "You… We had to let the water in…" He trailed off in shuddering sob, weakly clutching at the hands braced across his chest.
"Shh," House soothed, gently rocking his lover in his arms as he pressed gentle kisses on his temple. "You're safe now. We both are."
"I was so scared."
"So was I, but we made it, Jimmy."
Wilson nodded, closing his eyes and focusing on the security of House's embrace. His adrenaline wearing off, he started to give in to an overwhelming desire to sleep…
He jolted awake and glanced up at House with a sheepish expression. "Sorry, but I'm just so tired."
"I know, but we both need to stay awake, remember?" House craned his head over Wilson's shoulder to get a better look at the gash on Wilson's head.
"The bleeding's stopped," Wilson assured him, trying to erase the flash of concern he'd seen cross his friend's face. "It just looks bad with all the dried blood."
"You're going to need a lot of stitches," he mused aloud.
"After all we've been through, I think I can handle a little needle and thread." He smiled as warmly as he could, relieved when House returned the gesture. "I don't suppose our cell phones made it out of this alive?"
House was completely taken aback that he hadn't even thought to try their cell phones. He quickly pulled his from his pocket, cursing when the screen remained blank even though he repeatedly pressed the power button. "No go. What about yours?"
Wilson shook his head. "It was in the console."
"Doomed to a watery grave," House muttered. He felt Wilson tense up at the word 'watery' and decided now was as good a time as any to address his lover's fear. "Why are you so scared of water?"
Wilson ducked his head so that his wet bangs flopped over his eyes, as if he could fend off House's inquiry by hiding his face.
"Wilson," House whispered soothingly as he held him close. "You can tell me. I promise I won't make fun of you."
"Right," Wilson drawled.
"Hey, I'm serious," House insisted. "You scared the hell out of me with how freaked out you were. It'd be nice to at least know the why behind it."
"You're not going to let this go, are you?"
"What do you think?"
Wilson let out a resigned sigh. "I went to see a cousin in Atlanta when I was ten."
"Go on," House softly urged.
"He was one of those Huck Finn types who liked to spend all summer on the water, so as soon as I got down there, he wanted to take me to his favorite swimming hole on the Chattahoochee River. I thought it sounded like fun so I agreed to go along with him. I remember…" Wilson trailed off as he fought back a wave of emotion. "His mother yelled at us to be careful because the water level was up due to all of the rain they'd gotten over the past week. He didn't seem concerned, so I wasn't worried either. When we got there, he dove right in, yelling at me to jump in with him. I was about to, when…"
House tenderly rubbed his hand over Wilson's rapidly beating heart. "What happened?"
"The raised water level had created a suckhole… uh, like an underwater whirlpool. I guess he'd swum into the edge of it, because right after I jumped in, he yelled and disappeared under the surface. I thought he was just messing with me, but when he still didn't resurface after a minute I… I knew something bad had happened."
House nodded silently, waiting for Wilson to continue. When he didn't, House cradled his head on his shoulder so that his lips were practically brushing against Wilson's ear. "Did he die?"
"In a manner of speaking," Wilson tremulously. "By the time I found help and they pulled him out, he'd been without oxygen for over six minutes. He… he was permanently brain damaged."
The older man carefully shifted Wilson, turning him so that his right side was pressed against House's chest. "I'm sorry you had to see something like that," he stated ruefully as he held his lover tightly in his embrace.
Wilson lifted his head and tucked his face into the crook of House's neck, drawing strength from his warm, solid presence. "Me, too."
House was content to sit there in silence, savoring the fact that Wilson was alive and safely tucked in his arms. A few minutes later, it dawned on House just how silent their surroundings were. "It stopped raining," he commented.
"A little too late to do us any good," Wilson groused.
"True, but we should take advantage of the break in the weather and try to find help. I don't think the interstate can be too far away."
"That's good because I'm really not up for a hiking trip."
"Think you can be a human crutch?" House asked, only half-joking.
"Oh yeah," House grunted as he rubbed the offending thigh muscle. "I'll be lucky if it doesn't give out as soon as I stand up."
Wilson took a deep breath and ever-so-slowly pushed himself to his knees. He swayed for a moment but managed to continue on until he finally stood on shaky legs. He cautiously reached down and managed to help House to his feet beside him. Wilson draped his friend's arm over his shoulder and squinted into the darkness. "Which way?"
House thought hard about which way the river had been flowing when he'd emerged onto the shore, knowing they should head upstream to find the road. "Left," he announced with a confidence that left no room for discussion.
They slowly hobbled forward, a unique pair of cripples supporting each other as they took turns stumbling on the uneven ground. After several exhausting minutes and a short distance later, they saw bright red and white lights flashing in the sky ahead of them.
"Rescuers," Wilson cried with relief.
"Only if we can get their attention," House pointed out.
Wilson nodded and the two lurched forward, hope having renewed their strength. As they drew closer, House was thrilled to see a large spotlight sweeping the area below the bridge. Just a few feet more and they would be in the path of the searching light. He began to think things were going to turn out okay when Wilson dropped to his knees beside him, emptying the contents of his stomach on the ground.
"Get up," House ordered as he tugged at Wilson's limp arm.
"Can't," he panted just before he vomited again. "Go on ahead."
"I said I wouldn't leave you," the diagnostician reminded him. "I'm not going to break my promise."
"You're not," Wilson assured him as he sagged against his lover. "You're going to bring help."
House wanted so badly to be able to scoop Wilson into his arms and carry him to safety, but reality was a cruel bitch. "You'd better be here when I get back," he threatened, the gentle kiss he pressed to Wilson's lips belying his harsh tone.
Wilson nodded as House gently laid him on the wet ground. With one last kiss, House forced himself to walk away, resorting to crawling when his right leg collapsed under his weight. Finally the searchlight swept over him and then quickly back. He peered up into the brightness and frantically waved his arm in Wilson's direction. Another second spotlight followed House's gesture, stopping when it landed on the unconscious oncologist.
"Stay where you are," a booming voice called over a loudspeaker. "We're coming to get you."
Satisfied that help was on the way, House lowered himself onto the soaking ground and finally allowed his eyes to close.
An annoying beeping noise dragged House from a comfortable sleep. He opened his eyes, immediately wincing against the bright whiteness of his surroundings.
"House? Can you hear me?"
He blinked to clear his vision, rolling his head to the left so he could see who was talking to him. "Cuddy," he grumbled. "Turn off the damn monitors so I can sleep."
"Those damn monitors are necessary for now," she argued as she studied the data on the offending machines.
"How long have I been here?"
"A little over a day. How are you feeling?"
"Too sick for clinic duty," he shot back.
"For once I believe you."
House grinned, wishing Wilson was with him to hear… "Where's Wilson?"
"He's okay," she assured him, placing a hand on his shoulder to keep him from sitting up. "He had a nasty concussion but the swelling was minor enough that Foreman was able to treat him with diuretics alone."
"I want to see him."
"I'll page him."
"Not Foreman, you idiot," House growled in frustration. "I want to see Wilson."
"He's in the ICU right now," she said, immediately cutting House off as she added, "Only as a precaution though. In fact, if all goes well, Foreman's going to have him moved to a regular room this afternoon."
"I want him moved to my room."
"Ask Wilson what he wants then."
"He hasn't woken up long enough to string together a coherent thought."
"Well then you'll have to take my word that he'll want to room with me."
"You realize you'll have to play nice with the doctors and nurses treating him. Are you sure you can manage that?"
"Look, either have him moved in here with me or I'll disrupt this whole damn hospital until you do." When she still looked doubtful, House swallowed his pride and confessed, "I promised I wouldn't leave him. I need to be there when he wakes up."
House thought he saw tears form in her eyes as she slowly nodded. "I'll tell Foreman."
House spent the rest of the day playing on the Gameboy his fellows had smuggled into his room as he tried not to think about Wilson lying alone in the ICU. Just before dinner time, House looked up to the sound of his door opening and beamed when he saw a hospital bed bearing Wilson's unconscious form being rolled into his room by a grumpy-looking Foreman.
"I know he's your friend," the neurologist spoke as he set up Wilson's monitors and IV, "but he's my patient and I expect you not to hassle him while he recovers."
"Me hassling him would be the best medicine for him."
"I can have him moved to a different room," Foreman warned.
"Try it and I swear I'll get out of this bed and kick your ass."
Foreman bit back a smile and shrugged. "Just wanted to make sure you were doing okay."
"Your concern is touching," House sneered, eliciting a loud sigh from his fellow as he exited the room.
Now that they were alone, House turned on his side and studied Wilson's still form. He looked far too pale under the glaring hospital lights, which made the dark stitches along his temple stand out even more. House wanted nothing more than to wake Wilson up and hear his voice, but he couldn't bring himself to do so as he thought of how much pain his friend was likely to be in when he regained consciousness. He settled for sneaking out of bed and settling himself in a chair by Wilson's side, grabbing hold of his hand and squeezing it tight as he drifted off to sleep.
House was having a wonderful dream, where he was straddling Wilson and pounding into him as the younger man writhed and moaned with pleasure beneath him. As he neared his climax, Wilson began screaming his name over and over. House suddenly jerked awake, startled when he heard Wilson's voice softly calling his name. He quickly opened his eyes to discover a pair of twinkling brown ones staring back at him. "Hey," he greeted softly, his voice gravelly with sleep. "About time you woke up."
"You were moaning," Wilson mumbled around a yawn. "Dreaming something naughty?"
"No, dreaming of something very nice," House smiled at his lover. "I promise I'll show you when we get out of here."
"Sounds like a plan."
"How are you feeling?"
"Pain meds are my friends right now." He blinked sleepily and glanced down at his hand, smiling warmly when he saw it was encased in House's strong grip. "You really didn't leave."
"I made a promise to someone I care about," House shrugged, his cheeks flushing with embarrassment.
Wilson turned his hand in House's and laced their fingers together. "Thanks."
"Any time." House suddenly grinned suggestively and he offered, "Hey, I might even have an original form of therapy to offer you as part of your recovery, but it'll involve lots of sweat and hard work. If you're up for it."
Wilson laughed out loud as he nodded his assent.
House leaned back in his chair and smiled. "As long as you're being so receptive to my ideas, I have another one to throw at you."
Wilson cocked an eyebrow in curiosity.
"Given your driving record and the fact that you're going to need a new vehicle, I was thinking you should get a duck boat. You know, one of the bright yellow ones with a duck painted on the side that you can drive on land or in water?"
House barely had time to duck as Wilson's water pitcher sailed past his head.