"Leave me alone!"

For a moment - just a moment - Wilson wondered if it wouldn't be a better idea to listen to him, and back off. Except that he had made his decision. The one he should have made...well, no, that really made no sense; they were talking about Cuddy. But, somehow, whenever moments like these with House occured, their words were never truly centered around the actual topic at hand. Their arguments went deeper. Always.

"No," he said firmly. "We are gonna talk about this, and we are gonna deal with this."

House looked at him, his blue eyes searching his face with perhaps not as much interest as they normally would have shown. Yes, the situation was severe. There was no way Wilson was going to abandon him this time.

They watched each other in silence, while anything but swirled around them in the crowded hotel bar. Wilson's stool was situated rather close to his friend's due to this, and he realized that when they weren't sitting at a table or booth, this happened quite often anyway. It was as if there was some, unseen, magnetic pull between them. He sat, half-turned toward House, and when they continued to not speak, wet his bottom lip, for these bouts often caused House's eyes to flicker in that direction. It was just instinctual for them both. Wilson waited patiently for House to take him up on his order; unless he did so, they would be here all night.

Eventually, House lowered his head, and leaned forward, so Wilson did the same - as two people were inclined to do when there was danger of their words being lost in the noise of a public place of gathered drunkards. But House's face was suddenly much closer, and Wilson felt a slight pressure against his lips before he was alone in his personal space once more.

He blinked, not entirely sure what had happened. He recovered from his silent, subtle feeling of shock in time to hear the words, "Deal with that," murmured in a low, gravelly voice.

He snorted quietly to himself to hide the sinking feeling in his stomach, never taking his eyes from House's profile; his best friend stared determinedly into his glass of Scotch.

"You think," Wilson murmured back after a pause, his tone determinedly laced with light amusement, "that after all the years of manipulation, blackmail, arguments, jokes, laughter, - murder - " he said that last with the joking air of simply trying to get his point across, "that I'm gonna finally get fed up because of a kiss?"

House looked up at these words, interest at last sparking his features - if only just a spark. And not an encouraging spark. It was more like he was receiving the result of some experiment that he had long forgotten, and no longer cared about. Or maybe it was disbelief...?

"You're right," he answered unsmilingly. "What's wrong with you?"

"Hey, you initiated it," Wilson said dully. His brown eyes raked over House's sad face, his heart clenching. He managed to refrain from reaching out to touch him, but it was difficult. Couldn't House see that he was right here? That he wasn't alone? That he would never be alone as long as they were both alive? Wilson couldn't believe that House felt so abandonded and depressed that he would risk their friendship by actually kissing him. He must feel very strongly that he had nothing to lose. A thick weight suddenly settled down upon Wilson's chest...there was no guarantee that he had the ability to get House out of this one...but that certainly didn't mean that he wasn't going to try. With a loud metallic screech, he moved his stool even closer to his friend's, his gaze fixed. Their shoulders brushed. House ignored him, staring hard into his glass, and Wilson swallowed.

"I - I hope you know..." he trailed off, not quite sure how to phrase his thoughts. He also began to stare at House's glass. "I'm always gonna be here, House. Whether you like it or not. Cuddy was not the only person in this world who ever loved you."

"Out of curiosity," House snapped suddenly to the countertop, "how far are you planning to go to convince me that I'm overreacting?"

Wilson shook his head, his eyes wide. "That's not what I'm trying to do at all. It's perfectly understandable, how you've been behaving - I - I'm not judging you. I promise. I am simply trying to let you know that I love you. And you don't have to suffer through this alone."

House whipped his head around, glaring at him. The intense fire in his normally cool blue eyes stunned Wilson for a moment. He blinked.

"I don't want your help, Wilson. I don't need your help. I need you to go away and leave me the hell alone."

"But why?" Wilson persisted. "Why are you so eager to be alone? Do you really think that you're going to be better off doing hookers and drinking yourself into a coma, than talking to a friend? Just for a little while? I'm worried...House, I'm so worried about you."

"Great." House was staring at the bartender's vest-covered back. "Go be worried somewhere else."

Wilson sighed heavily in frustration. "No. I'm tired of giving in to you. I'm tired of being scared that if I don't do what you say, something bad will happen. I'm not going anywhere."

"Yeah?" House shot back, slamming his glass down upon the countertop. "Well, you're an idiot. I do have legs." And with that, he got up, and, not looking at Wilson, limped right out of the bar. Wilson stared after him, his stomach in his throat. This wasn't normal. Well, it was normal for House to want to avoid the issue, but it wasn't normal for him to become too hostile in a conversation. Sure, they argued and even raised their voices at each other occasionally...House never got truly angry with him. Wilson always had the impression that they held perpetual soft spots for each other, which no amount of screwing up could...screw up. No, this was something deeper. It must be. And suddenly a thought struck him.

House meant for him to follow. He wanted Wilson to chase him out the door...of course he did. He was obviously craving attention at that point, especially according to the amount of hookers he'd been buying all weekend. He would never come right out and admit it...it was up to Wilson to figure that sort of thing out. And he almost never did.

Throwing a few dollar bills down on the counter to cover both of their drinks, Wilson walked quickly through the glass door and into the side of the eerily quiet lobby of the hotel. He headed for the elevator that was directly in front of him, and lit up the arrow that pointed toward the ceiling, wondering how House had managed to disappear already. However, when the elevator doors opened, there the man stood, banging his cane lightly against one wall. Wilson cleared his throat in surprise and shuffled his feet, debating on whether or not to join him; he wasn't entirely certain about House's intentions.

"Um..."

"You stubborn son-of-a-bitch."

The doors began to slide closed - Wilson threw out a hand to stop them. "No one really ever wants to be left alone."

House raised an eyebrow, his eyes still flickering with anger. "So you consider me to be under the category of everyone?"

"No, I just - "

"What do I have to say to get you to leave me alone? God, Wilson, I told you I'm fine."

Wilson wasn't about to listen to that speech again. With purpose he stepped into the elevator, allowing the doors to close behind him. They were plunged into total, ear-ringing silence.

"You are not fine, and you know you're not. The whole damn world knows you're not. This is me, House - what are you afraid of? Do you think I'm going to make fun of you for being hurt by this? You think I'm gonna take your emotions and paste them all over the hospital's notice boards? I just want to help you. Be a friend. It hurts me to see you like this."

In the space of a second that followed, House's anger melted just a little as he switched on his curiosity. He squinted his blue eyes, appraising Wilson, who stared determinedly back.

"Interesting."

Wilson rolled his eyes.

"You've never persisted for this long. What's driving you?"

"I already told you. There is no deeper meaning; you're just deflecting."

The elevator doors opened with a ping! and the two men got out. They didn't say a word until they reached House's room, which he unlocked with a card in his pocket, and went inside.

Promptly, House collapsed onto the full bed, fully clothed, closing his cold, hard eyes. His cane rolled off the edge of the bed, onto the carpeted floor. Wilson watched him from the middle of the room.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked quietly after a short pause during which only the sound of their breathing was heard.

"Nothing," House said through clenched teeth, his bad mood apparently returning full blast. "If I can't get rid of you, the least you can do is sit down and shut up."

Setting his jaw, Wilson whirled around and threw himself down onto a soft, cushiony, white couch. "...like dealing with a kid..." he muttered.

"Wilson, for God's sake, I never asked you to deal with me."

"I'm well aware of that."

This time it was House who muttered. "Stubborn son-of-a-bitch..."

Wilson had the urge to go over and punch him in the face. He had to remind himself that House was going through an extremely tough experience...it still did not make him any less angry. But he understood, and he hadn't the slightest inclination to leave. He had to stick it out, and, eventually, House would...at least acknowledge the fact that they really didn't hate each other. Damn, he was such an ass sometimes.

Breathing in deeply, Wilson closed his eyes, settling his hands over his middle. He crossed his ankles on top of the rather comfortable, squishy armrest, and realized that he was exhausted. His brain at that moment told him quite clearly to fall asleep and refuse to wake until hours and hours - perhaps days - had passed, but his gut told him that House needed to be babysat. Not particularly for himself, but because Wilson knew that if he fell asleep, he would wake up in a strip club across town, or something similar. So...he thought about...that kiss. There wasn't really anything to dissect from it...yet, Wilson felt that he might be missing something. He felt that it was staring him in the face - he had the answer - but he hadn't the key. House had kissed him because he didn't care anymore. Simple as that. He had only wanted Wilson to go away...but he hadn't...he'd wanted Wilson to stay. Right? So that must mean that a part of him had hoped that by kissing him...he - well, Wilson didn't know. Maybe he didn't want to know. Or didn't want to...hope.

The room was silent. Not uncomfortably so, which was odd given the circumstances, simply silent. Wilson would bet that House was equally as tired. Perhaps he would fall asleep. Somehow, he was doubtful of that.

Twenty minutes passed.

In his relaxed position, Wilson became very drowsy, his mind numbing pleasantly to all coherent thought, his body warming up physically to the idea of sleep, his eyelids heavy and cool. The silence of the room now seemed wonderful...it pressed upon him from all sides, making his head light and luring sleep closer and closer...

"Wilson."

Those two syllables reached out to him softly, gently, and managed to give him a thread on which to hold conciousness. He did not open his eyes (he was far too relaxed for that), but dimly he thought he heard a small sigh. That second sound pulled him further into the concious world. Enough to realize that he was still lying on a couch in a hotel room. Then there was a rustling of material. It was oddly soothing, and nearly tipped him over the edge into sleep again. However, next he felt a steady thumping...and proclaimed them footsteps in his mind. They got nearer and seemed to stop right next to him. Another rustle of material - something was thrown over him, causing him to finally open his eyes. He blinked slowly, clearing the light fog in his vision, in time to see House turn away from him. He swallowed thickly, wishing to speak.

"Hey - " he whispered. He cleared his throat, raising a hand to rub at his left eye. House stopped, not turning back, but Wilson noticed something peculiar; the muscles in House's back appeared to clench, and he stood a little straighter, practically rigid. Wilson frowned, his fingers now tracing the pattern that was stitched into the throw blanket with which House had covered him. He said nothing else, simply waiting to see what House was going to do. From behind, he watched his friend's head hit his chest, heard the heavy sigh, and witnessed the balled up fists. Wilson frown was of concern now.

"House...?" he said tentatively. His voice was raspy, but he still heard the note of concern and scolded himself. Surely, House was going to snap...

The older man suddenly whirled around. Just as Wilson was preparing himself for the verbal attack - he saw what was going on, and instead, inhaled in shock.

He was crying. House was crying.

Wilson drew his bottom lip into his mouth, staring up at his best friend with wide eyes, his stomach muscles contracting painfully. He could remember only too well the last and only time he had ever seen House cry; it was, of course, after the infarction. He'd been in a very bad place then too. Wilson realized that the situations were not so dissimilar. Stacy had left...now Cuddy had left; he'd taken Vicodin for the first time...now he was on Vicodin for the first time in two years; his leg hurt horribly then...it still hurt. Worse than it had been lately. House had every reason to - but it still didn't prepare Wilson for this. Doing what his gut told him to do without thinking it through, he reached out for House's wrist, pulling him gently forward. He didn't jerk away, or flinch - he didn't, in fact, do anything at all. He simply let the tears cascade down his cheeks, making no effort to stop them. He didn't look at Wilson; Wilson didn't expect him to. This was hard enough as it was.

He pulled House down onto the couch with him, their knees brushing. His hand automatically slid from his wrist, in that direction, patting at first in a comforting manner, and then rubbing soothingly. A tear or two dropped, landing on Wilson's forearm, warm and wet.

"I'm sorry," the younger murmured despairingly, apologizing for everything that had happened to him over the course of their friendship. "I'm so sorry."

House shook his head, slipping his hand, knuckles up, underneath the slightly sweaty one on his knee. Wilson drew it away, thinking that House was uncomfortable with the contact. Instead he clasped both of his hand in his own lap tightly in frustration. He was careful not to show it.

"Don't," House said gruffly. "It's - everthing's my fault. I'm screwed up. There's no fixing me."

Wilson shook his head, biting his bottom lip. "Hey. No one talks about my friend that way."

House shot him a look through his tears that might have resembled something close to amusement. Then he sighed. "Wilson...I don't deserve you."

Goosebumps erupted up and down his arms, causing him to inhale and throw his shoulders back. He looked at House with his eyebrows furrowed, wondering how on earth to successfully convey the way in which those words seemed to weaken him terribly. Never had he thought that to be true...never had that even crossed his mind.

"Oh, House," he said heavily. "Please don't be so hard on yourself. You are not this horrible monster you seem to think you are. If you don't deserve me, then maybe I don't deserve you."

"Right. You deserve a better friend than me."

Wilson shrugged. "I don't think a person of that description exists."

House turned toward him, knocking their knees together. Wilson was surprised to see him looking straight into his eyes. He fought back the urge to wipe away the wetness on his cheeks.

"Why do you put up with me?" he choked out.

"Because I love you. Why do you put up with me?"

House slowly blinked, his jaw clenching, but didn't break their gaze. Wilson recalled his seemingly irrational burst of anger earlier at the bar when he'd told him this. It had probably been something of a shock to hear it so suddenly, and in a crowded place they'd never been before. He could deal with it now. Though he ought to have known it already. Wilson had to come on very strong to get his point across - to let House know that he wasn't alone. This was extremely important.

"Okay," House said, tears streaming relentlessly down his face. Wilson was amazed at the silence House managed to keep when he cried. "I guess you are annoying sometimes."

Wilson chuckled.

They sat there, looking at each other. Wilson's hand, unable to stop itself, drifted onto House's knee again, squeezing it. House glanced down at it, but didn't comment. Instead, he covered it with his own rough, yet warm, long-fingered hand. Wilson turned his over, palm up, allowing House the option of gripping it properly. He didn't. He merely began to sweep his thumb over the soft palm, tracing sort of patterns that made Wilson's breath catch in his throat. He looked up into House's watery eyes. They'd never had this kind of contact...it felt good...right. But Wilson wasn't certain that it meant the same to his best friend. However, the softness of House's normally sharp and calculating blue eyes, despite the streams issuing from them at the moment, spoke volumes of how he was feeling.

"Make yourself at home," he said. Wilson smiled slightly, pulling his hand away. He shrugged out of his jacket and kicked off his shoes, loosening his tie simultaneously. Once that was done, he leaned against the back of the couch, his knees still pressed against House's.

"Do we need to talk? About anything?" he asked quietly.

House took a deep breath and let it out. "I'm upset that Cuddy dumped me, I've been sleeping around with hookers and downing Vicodin. Not really much to talk about there. I know it'll pass..." he trailed off, sinking down lower into the couch until his face was level with Wilson, who noticed that the tears were slowing considerably. Now they were conciously knocking legs; Wilson's sock-covered foot rubbed lightly past the older man's bare one every couple of seconds. He was beginning to feel exhaustion creep up on him again...with the comfort of House's warm weight to his right, and with neither of them saying anything more, he began to nod off, satisfied with the belief that if House really wanted to talk, he would. They had plenty of time. As his body was turned mostly toward the man next to him, his head dropped in that direction. They were so close that his forehead was met with House's temple. He didn't care. He breathed out softly into House's ear, his eyes closing. Two seconds later, he felt hands gently gripping his face, supporting it, as he hadn't the energy to hold it up himself. House ever-so-slightly kissed his lips while he still had his eyes closed. Wilson smiled softly, returning the feathery pressure, before his best friend allowed him to bury his head in the heat of his neck.

"I love you too. It's about time I said that without the pretense of you ordering up extra pain meds."

Wilson chuckled into his neck, pressing his lips to it. He could feel House's pulse, which sped up a bit. Despite appearing as if he were just about to drop off, Wilson was now very much awake once more.

"This is twice you've managed to keep me from much needed sleep."

"Oh, I'm so sorry."

"I've changed my mind. I have no idea why I put up with you."

House ran a hand through his hair; Wilson could feel his thin lips on the side of his forehead. "Hopefully...you'll be putting up with me for a long, long time."