Cold

.

.

"H'se," Wilson said. More of a strained exhalation than a word, but it clearly meant House, seeing as it was House he was talking to. He was staring up, eyes half-open, nasal cannula still in place like a set of surreal whiskers. Half his liver gone, although the gigantic incision for that was hidden now.

Wilson took a breath and another try. "House." Success at becoming coherent seemed to make him happy: There was this sloppy little grin that House had previously only seen when Wilson was astoundingly wasted, and about to either pass out or vomit.

"Brilliant deduction, Jimmy." He could call Wilson that or anything else, because this was going to be the Lost Time, the stuff Wilson would never recall.

"I'm ... not dead." The crooked smile slanted a bit harder, and Wilson's eyes shone. House felt a fleeting urge to say yes, you idiot, you're dead, we're both dead. Sadly, with Wilson such an unprotected target, there'd have been no sport in it. The old adage went that all was fair in love and war, and their friendship had always been both of those things, but no. Not everything was fair.

"Very much alive, if not kicking. You've been gutted like a trout." And for the sake of a guy who's worse than me, House thought. But he'd already said that and it hadn't mattered.

The smile slipped a little.

"'M ... cold," Wilson said. He frowned, a tiny line-dip between his eyebrows. "Cold."

Well, no surprise there. A blanket was already cooking in the warming cabinet, seconds ticking off, but House didn't feel like getting up, getting out of the almost-comfortable visitor's chair, limping over to the cabinet and getting it.

"You're in the Iditarod," House said. You're dead may have been going too far, but that didn't mean House had to be nice. "Look out, the dogs are getting loose! Help! Ikajunga!"

"Ika... whuh?"

House sighed. This wasn't as much fun as he'd thought it would be. He was running through his admittedly-limited Inuktitut vocabulary, picking another word he could try planting in Wilson's groggy brain, when Wilson suddenly spoke again.

"I told 'em the ice was thin," Wilson said, and immediately he had House's attention. "'M fuckin' cold, House."

Well. Ice, and seriously lowered inhibitions. House took it back. This was way more fun than he'd thought it would be.

"What ice? Out on the lake?"

"Pond. Gimme blankets."

The warmer had dinged a few seconds ago, and if that was what it would take to get the rest of this story, fine. He could walk and gather information at the same time. "You are so bitchy. Which pond? The one by the cabin?"

"Pebble Pond. Told you, they didn' listen. Play tag on the pond, they said. House." Wilson's left hand is waving feebly in the general direction of the blankets. "Give."

House did it, tucking the fabric all around Wilson's feet, pulling it up over his chest, but leaving the right arm - with its IV drip - exposed. He sat down at Wilson's side, leaning in close with his elbows on the bed. "So they were playing tag, like idiots, even though you told them it wasn't safe."

"Petey tripped on 's own scarf. Red scarf. Crashed. Yelling for Danny, and Danny ran the other way, and I had to." Wilson reached out, fumbling until he caught House's hand in his own, a startling move that House didn't fight. It felt okay, those drug-addled fingers with their soft, cold grip. Cold enough that he could almost believe Wilson had just fallen through the ice. "I had to," Wilson repeated. "His head went under. Don't be mad."

"You could have died."

"I was blue when you pulled me out."

"When I pulled you out."

"Could have been you. It was someone then, and now you're someone. I'm cold, House." He was gripping House's hand, still, not wanting to let go. More blankets would require getting up, going to get them. "Freezing."

"You're a regular Wilsicle." House shoved the end of his cane against his shoes to slip them off heel-first - a trick that worked well when he was too sore to bend that far, or when his range of motion was restricted by a doped-up oncologist. "Why do you think it was me who saved you?" House stood, loosened the edges of the blankets he'd tucked in, and managed somehow to arrange himself in the bed, against Wilson's side. For warmth, because Wilson's recently-anesthetized body wasn't producing enough heat of its own. If he clicked Wilson's PCA button and delivered a little extra morphine in the process, well. Wilson wouldn't thank him later, because Wilson wouldn't remember any of this. Already he was barely holding onto consciousness. "Wilson. Why'd you think it was me?"

"You ... are such an idiot," said Wilson. "You would."

He shut his eyes and was out again, and this was the Lost Time, so House would never get that answer. Wilson would never remember the question. But House was warm, and exhausted, and there was nobody to see him reach up to Wilson's forehead and gently twist that soft hair in his fingers. He could imagine it soaked, ice crystals forming clumps in it. A little, blue Wilson being dragged out of the water.

House pushed himself closer. Someone might find him here, but with all the rumors he'd already started about himself and Wilson? House guessed one more wouldn't make much difference.

He breathed in the chilly air and let himself relax into sleep.