'It's funny how, the walk of life...

Can take you down without a fight.'

{Shannon LaBrie: Calls Me Home}

Letting himself into his and House's Condo, flicking on the light switch and dumping the newly bought Chinese takeout onto the less than hygienic kitchen worktop, Wilson could only stare tiredly at the state his slovenly friend had left the kitchen in, the place littered with dirty dishes and mugs from that morning that shone in all their filthy, practically molding, glory beneath the glare of the lights.

Well, maybe that was a tiny exaggeration…

But it was disgusting.

And Wilson really, really wasn't in the mood for it.

Oh, before his car had broken down in a cloud of chugging smoke eight blocks away, forcing him to abandon his beloved Volvo until morning, he might have been. Before he'd started walking, coat wrapped tightly around him against the cold, getting pissed wet through in the downpour when still at least six blocks away from their apartment, he would have resignedly got on with it. Hell, before he'd had to wait in a stuffy, sweaty, takeout queue for nearly forty-five minutes, feeling uncomfortably damp from the drying, grease tinged heat… well,a warm, dry, calm James Wilson would have stoically filled the sink with hot, soapy water and spent the next God knows how long scrubbing away until the kitchen that had fallen victim to one Gregory House and his breakfast was fit yet again for him and the stupid twerp to safely survive in once more.

As it was all Wilson really wanted, right now, was a hot cup of coffee, and a towel to dry his hair.

Was that really too much ask?

The simple answer to that silly question was a resounding 'yes', any mugs he'd washed recently having either gone AWOL (and were probably now rotting away in House's hovel of a bedroom) or were now residing once more in a sink that he was pretty sure had spawned hundreds, if not thousands, of bacterial colonies over the past few months thanks to his quite permanent lodger.

'Great,' muttered Wilson, his frustration boiling over as he haphazardly plucked any and all dishes and mugs from the work tops to lob them into the sink with an almighty crash, not caring if any broke as they hurtled in, 'Just fucking great.'

It didn't get any better when, less than a minute later and elbow deep in grime, he felt the inevitable sharp shock of broken glass slicing his hand, the swift extraction of his hand from the bubbles revealing a remarkably small cut by his thumb that steadily pumped an inordinate amount of scarlet blood down his forearm.

Wilson's somewhat surprised gaze lingered on his newly acquired tiny injury for a few seconds before he calmly took himself off to the bathroom, returning to the living room a minute or so later to lower himself onto the couch, a towel now wrapped around his hand and biting his lip hard against the sudden lump in his throat.

He sighed shakily, knowing quite well that the burn of tears behind his tired eyes had nothing to do with the practically self-inflicted cut on his hand, had nothing to do with the dishes, the queuing, the rain, the cold, his car, bloody House… it had nothing to do with any of them.

No, Wilson had been waiting for this all day, the past two days having seen him lose not one, but two of his brightest, youngest patients, their families distraught with grief as they'd wholeheartedly turned to him for help, for anything, desperate to take whatever support he could give them at what surely was one of, if not the most, horrific times of their lives. He could still hear six year old Sophie Tyler arguing with five year old Charlotte Adams in the playroom over him of all people, their weak, thinning bodies wracked with the effects of chemotherapy but the pair of them still managing to put most grown women to shame as they'd indulged in a slanging match over whom Wilson belonged to.

'He's my Doctor Wilson!'

'No, Sophie he's mine – I've been here way longer!'

'He gave me crayons-'

'He gave me a teddy!'

'He hugged me!'

'He hugged me too – OW!'

Wilson laughed softly to himself now, remembering how he'd chosen that particular point to quickly extract himself from his note-making at the Nurses' Station and enter the colorful room before all hell broke loose, dropping to his knees to catch both delighted girls in a tight hug, reminding them that he was there for both of them, whereupon, after much debate and negotiation, they'd reluctantly agreed to share him.

Five minutes later they were the best of friends again.

Seven days later they were dead, taking the light from their families' worlds with them, Charlotte having passed away yesterday afternoon and Sophie this morning.

Wilson had done all he could for their parents, siblings and grandparents, hugging those who turned to him, offering guidance on what would happen next, talking to them about Sophie and Charlotte for as long as they'd needed to, reassuring all of them that they had nothing to feel guilty for in Sophie's or Charlotte's passing, that there was nothing more they could have done, that they'd all been there for Sophie and Charlotte when both girls had needed them most, that they'd all done their best.

Yet he knew, as he himself felt, that both of those families would never be at peace with their youngest family member being taken so cruelly from this world. No matter what anybody said, he could never understand or accept any reasoning for a child passing away when they'd barely even begun their lives... he knew that no matter what he said to those families, they would never understand or accept Sophie and Charlotte not being in this world anymore.

Sophie's family had left his office this morning, having been in there for nearly two hours. Less than five minutes after they'd gone, House had hopped over the balcony and barged in to take his usual seat on Wilson's couch, pretty sure that his best friend had to be torn up over his two favorite baldy kids dying. Wilson's heavy sigh as he'd dragged his grief-laden gaze up to House's had only confirmed it.

House spoke gruffly before Wilson could get a word in, an uncharacteristic air about the scruffy Diagnostician just not sitting quite right with Wilson as he'd tried to work out what it was that, for a split second, seemed to have House bordering on… compassion? Empathy? Surely not.

'Dinner's on me tonight.'

Good God.

Wilson had stared at him dumbly for a few stunned seconds before pointedly averting his gaze to the window, craning his neck to catch a precious glimpse of something that House didn't quite turn around quick enough to see, the annoyance etched into every impatient feature on his face as he'd turned back to find Wilson still transfixed at what seemed to be precisely nothing.


'D'you know,' interrupted Wilson, squinting hard now as he stared, mesmerized, into the distant blue sky, 'I could've sworn I just saw a pig flying – yes, you heard right my friend – a pig flying past my window-'

'Okay, okay – cut the crap. Do you want dinner or not? Although if you're just gonna sit their whining and whinging about dying rugrats while I'm trying to get my fix of the L-Word you can take my offer and shove it where the sun don't shine.'

Wilson had had to smile at that one, knowing just how fortunate he was to not only witness, but actually benefit from, a genuine act of kindness from a man who, to the world outside his office door, must at times appear to be nothing short of a psychopath.

Luckily, the 'psychopath's' best friend knew better.

'Fine – and I don't whine.'

'Wilson, you're pre-menstrual sweetums, it happens to most women,' replied House cheekily, already up and limping towards the door without a backwards glance, 'but I mean it – one sniffle and I'm kicking you out on that sweet little ass you've got every Nurse in this place mentally dry humping.'

If he hadn't heard them before, then Wilson could most certainly hear them now as House stepped outside into the corridor – warning bells ringing steadily in his head, bells that were growing louder with every passing millisecond…


'What's that Wilson?' called House, his face the picture of wide-eyed innocence as he shouted through the open door to the ever more apprehensive Oncologist, his voice echoing horribly down the corridor, 'I simply have to know that your sweet little ass belongs to one man and one man only?'




Wilson, stupidly, as per usual, had reacted. Jumping quickly to his feet, he'd made to slam the office door shut on the crowing moron only to be met with the adoring gaze of his next patient – 76 year old Mrs Jenkins, recovering from a recent mastectomy due to breast cancer.

'Hello James, dear – have you two finally got it on then?'

She also appeared to have that innate ability that most elderly ladies had honed to perfection – the skill to simply say, without one iota of shame or subtlety, exactly what she was thinking.

Wilson had blushed furiously, standing back to let her into his office and glaring down the corridor at a gleeful House, who had promptly blown him a flamboyant kiss before spotting a purposeful Cuddy marching down the corridor towards him and swiftly stepping sideways into his office to avoid her thunderous glare.

What good he'd thought that would do, Wilson didn't know, seeing as she'd simply followed him in there anyway.

Resigned to the background hum of Cuddy's yells already emanating nicely from the office next door, Wilson had simply sighed before turning back to his nosy, but undoubtedly sweet, patient perched in House's usual spec on his couch, who had been waiting expectantly for his verdict.

'I'm not gay,' Wilson had quickly informed her, 'and neither is the idiot next door. He's just had a bit too much, er… coffee. Stressful job and all that, he overdoes it sometimes, gets hopped up on caffeine like a kid with candy. I can only apologize.'

Thinking back now, as he unwrapped the towel from his hand to scrutinize the small cut on his hand, Wilson realized that Mrs Jenkins hadn't looked entirely convinced at either explanation.

Speaking of which, he wasn't entirely convinced that House would actually be coming home any time soon given that it was almost 10:00pm… he'd said earlier that he might be late given the absurdly complex nature of his patient's mystery diagnosis, but this was bordering on ridiculous now.

Not that Wilson was surprised – if House's team couldn't work it out then there had been many a time when House had stayed in work, barricading himself in his dark office until the early hours when the diagnosis that had been taunting him all along finally decided to jump forth and smack him in the face.

Usually because the patient in question had failed to tell the whole truth in the first place.

That wasn't going to change just because House's best friend come 'pre-menstrual woman' needed a shoulder to cry on.

Which was the very reason why Wilson decided to have his dinner now before everything went stone cold – a dinner that House, apparently, owed him for.

Like that would ever happen.

His rummaging through the takeout cartons was interrupted almost immediately by the sharp rap of three solid knocks on the front door, eliciting a somewhat frustrated groan from Wilson as he accepted that he just wasn't destined to eat a warm Chinese tonight.

So much for the nice, relaxing evening spent in the company of his best friend after a hard day at work.

Wilson had barely even made it past the living room before three knocks rang again, loud and clear, through the apartment.

'Alright, I'm coming!' he called, rolling his eyes at the impatience of whoever stood on the other side, checking his watch as he went.

Whoever it was had a bloody cheek knocking this late – 10:02pm. He half hoped it would be that woman who'd moved in a couple of floors up, who, as House and he had simultaneously judged, was nothing short of hot.

Although, House had pointed out quite rightly that her ass wasn't a patch on Cuddy's, comparing hot girl's backside to the Titanic and Cuddy's to the iceberg that dwarfed it.

Wilson was pretty sure there was a compliment in there somewhere.

In that split second prior to swinging the door open to reveal his visitor, Wilson's stomach lurched stupidly at the sudden certainty that it wouldn't be hot girl standing there on the other side, but two Cops - probably there to let him know the increasingly morbid reason for House's absence… it couldn't really be anyone else at this time could it?

A second later and even he had to admit that might be a tad melodramatic – if anything, it was probably just another neighbor storming up here to complain about his cane-using friend yet again.

As it was, he opened the door to catch only a fleeting glimpse of a pair of dreadful, cold grey eyes framed by a thick, black balaclava before he was grabbed roughly by the hair, his unsuspecting face simultaneously smashed down hard into the knee that the intruder drove upwards, hot blood gushing from Wilson's nose and mouth instantly as he was shoved backwards into his own Condo, stunned and barely registering that he'd bitten his tongue hard on impact when the sickly crimson liquid started to pool in his hands, shaking hands that were doing nothing as he instinctively tried to cover his face, his heart thundering in his ears with every fearful beat it took.

Wilson didn't even get a chance to look up before the forceful punch to his stomach seemed to knock the very air from him, blow after vicious blow raining down on him as he stumbled backwards to eventually fall heavily against the back of the sofa, gasping and curling into a ball in a vain effort to protect himself, his arms wrapped tightly around his head as he slid limply to the floor, praying to God, to anyone, for this to be over, any attempt to cry out failing miserably in his winded state.


That was all Wilson could weakly think, numb now from the endless pummeling, his ashen cheek sticky with the warm blood and salty tears that had congealed onto the wooden floor beneath him, the iron scent overwhelming as it fuelled the swirling nausea.

Please don't come home… not yet… I need you safe… stay in w-

His mantra was forgotten in an instant as his aching brain registered in a fleeting, startling moment just where this attack was headed.

No… God, please no…

Somewhere through the haze, Wilson had come to faintly recognize the insistent tugging of his belt as it was roughly loosened, the pure, unadulterated horror that washed coldly through his battered body wiping all thoughts of House from his mind as he realized what was about to happen.

'No…' whispered Wilson hoarsely, barely able to move now as he feebly tried to pull himself away, the silver glint of the blade that seemed to appear from nowhere swiftly pressed, with well-practiced ease, just hard enough to his throat to draw a tiny trickle of blood, the icy terror that gripped Wilson's heart stealing any breath he'd thought he'd had as the weight of this utter scum who dared to call himself a human being pressed down heavily on Wilson's back, trapping his arms underneath him, his usually buoyant voice now barely more than a weak stammer.

'No, don't… p-please-'

'Are you fucking stupid?' hissed the faceless mugger, flecks of still-warm saliva spraying a repulsed Wilson's cheek as the knife edge was pressed harder into his bared throat, the helpless Oncologist sobbing now as he still struggled desperately against the calloused hand that yanked unforgivingly at his trousers and boxers, forcing them down past his knees, the panic choking in its hold as it drowned him.

'No, no, you c-can't… please – no, NO!'

His wracking sobs soon morphed into agonized screams as fiery pain billowed mercilessly through him, excruciating pain that seemed to rip him from the inside out over and over again, the suffocating hand that slammed into his face to cover his mouth muffling any tortured plea that a neighbor might have had some small, slim chance of hearing, the powerless tears that streamed down Wilson's bloodied cheeks seemingly never ending, his throat raw as he swallowed the waves of nausea amidst tortured cries that never made it past his lips.

Wilson had never been sure if he believed in God or not.

But in that one moment, as he closed his eyes to give in completely to the horror, Wilson wholeheartedly prayed that God would answer, just this once, and swiftly take him from this world.

This couldn't be happening… not now, not in his own apartment – not to him.

He'd never, in all his life, known what it was to be so utterly ashamed that you truly hated yourself…

Now… well, now he did.

After what seemed a hellish lifetime later, Wilson could only cry weakly with barely conscious relief as he felt the sweaty, rancid form of his attacker suddenly scrambling back off of him, the cool air that rushed over his exposed body chilling his violently shivering form, the thud of strange footsteps pounding the wooden floor as his rapist fled the Condo soon fading into ominous silence.

Wilson could hardly bring himself to open his eyes, to come back to the nightmare that was his reality, but open them he did, the panic-ridden vision of his front door still swinging wide open fuelling him to scrabble frantically at the blood covered floor, his shaking hands finding the back of the couch as he tried and failed to pull himself upwards to his feet, so scared now that he could hardly breathe past the absolute fear of his attacker coming back again.

It took all of Wilson's strength to finally succeed in dragging himself off the floor, staggering towards the open door with a pained cry and falling exhaustedly against it to quickly slam it shut again. He managed only a couple of shuddering breaths before he vomited, his twisting stomach unwillingly heaving as he broke down, unable to catch his breath now and dizzy with fright, the smell of blood and sick and him sending his searing head spinning as he curled up on the cold floor, frozen to the core and sobbing so hard that he didn't think he could stop.


That was the time his watch displayed, the clock face blurry through the traumatized tears that filled his once ever-optimistic chocolate eyes as he lifted a trembling hand to see it, eyes that now had self-loathing and, above all, pure terror swirling in their violated depths.

Nine minutes was all it had taken to ruin his life forever.

Nine minutes.

That was the penultimate thought that flashed cruelly through James Wilson's mind before he felt the welcome depths of merciful darkness beginning to creep into the edges of consciousness, allowing his shattered gaze to drift slowly shut as he hung on to one last, final thought:

You can come home now, Greg… please, please come home.