5.

There was something terrifyingly beautiful in the way House's body took forever to fall.

Like a Roman candle waxing in its brilliance before bending earthward and in its death throes slowly fading from the night sky, Remy witnessed House's long, lean form straighten and rise up, momentarily hanging suspended in the air until finally and with an agonized groan he arced back, crumpling face down to the floor.

Both the violence and deafening thud with which he connected to the hardwood shook her from her temporary reverie. She forced her heretofore frozen limbs into action, leaping over the ottoman in her haste to kneel by House's prone form mere seconds after he'd hit the ground.

"House?" she called without even the faintest hope of receiving an answer.

She bent down next to him laying her cheek against the cool floor in order to see his face. The angle at which he was positioned however made it impossible for her to properly examine him. But even the way he was currently situated, Thirteen could discern that House's eyes remained resolutely closed, the skin on his face and hands appeared to be pale and damp. More ominously, he still had made no attempts to rouse himself or otherwise show signs that he had either heard her or had begun to regain consciousness.

Summoning the medical professional within her to action, she moved herself closer, placing one hand on his shoulder and the other on his ribcage. From this posture she leaned into him, using the entirety of her body weight to gently roll House over onto his back.

Although he had so obviously lost weight, he was still considerably larger than she so that the force and momentum of his rotation obligated her to roll over with him. When they had ceased their collective movement, Remy found herself lying on top of him, her legs straddling his lean hips.

She blushed furiously while also feeling a pang of guilt at her fleeting gratitude that he had not yet woken up. Once again, she induced her mind to compartmentalize his close proximity, the heat from his body and her own heart's quickened pace as she assessed the current situation at the same time as she quickly raised herself up and off of him.

Hushed and anxious, Remy took hold of the small metal tag of House's leather motorcycle jacket and yanked it down toward his beltline. The zipper opened with a harsh, ratcheting sound, revealing his thinly t-shirted torso all the way from his Adam's apple to his navel.

Wanting to remove even this feeble impediment to her endeavors, she lifted the light cotton material, folding the shirt up toward his collarbone, fully exposing his chest and stomach. She was unable to prevent a horrified gasp escape her lips as she saw for the first time how emaciated House had become. His ribs stuck out on either side of his chest and the bones of his clavicle seemed barely blanketed by his pale skin.

Shunting these other thoughts regarding House's general health aside, Remy returned to the matter at hand. She leaned low over him again, pressing her right ear against his broad but sunken chest, holding her breath as she strained to listen for signs of life.

Though faint and slightly thready, the comforting drumbeat of House's heart sent a thrill of relief through her.

This respite was short-lived however. As the seconds ticked by and she continued to press her ear against him, her apprehensions grew for she could not detect any discernible breath sounds.

Remy raised her face away from him. "House? House?" she called, her second entreaty sounding louder and more shrill in the subsequent, maddening silence.

The seconds seemed like hours as so many emotions jockeyed for position within her, fear and anger, love and hate, comfort and isolation, assuredness and confusion. Yet overall her training as a doctor somehow took precedence and kept her from buckling under the feelings of overwhelming panic. Remy clung to her medical persona, gratefully acknowledging it by allowing its objectivity to quiet every other thought, every other emotion she felt for and about House. As soon as all of that other noise was diminished, her next move revealed itself with startling clarity.

There was no doubt that House's life now hung in the balance. By some cruel trick of fate, her reluctant savior's life had been placed into her hands at this point in time to save.

Remy did the only thing she possibly could do.

Locking her embarrassment behind a door in her mind, she purposefully straddled House's hips a second time. She leaned down again, even further than before so that his face was only inches from her own. Taking one hand and placing it behind his neck, she tilted his head back while placing the fingers of her other hand on either side of his lips. She pressed her fingers inward and down, opening his mouth as wide as it would go and peered inside, satisfying herself that there was no obstruction to his airway.

Remy knew what she needed to do next but something deep inside her made her hesitate. But it was only for a millisecond. Then she shook her head, dissipating any further thoughts of delaying the inevitable. She inhaled as large an intake of breath as her lungs could possibly afford and inclined her head forward, pressing her lips against his as firmly as she could, creating an airtight seal.

Though her grounds for joining their lips at this juncture was for a wholly different reason, Remy realized that she did not feel all that different from when she'd previously kissed House, the kiss that he on his part had so eagerly returned just a short while before. She still felt herself trembling inside, still felt the warmth and softness of his lips juxtaposed against the roughness of his unshaven face and the apprehension she felt regarding the outcome of her actions this time around.

As she exhaled, she closed her eyes, breathing life into House - just as he had most assuredly breathed life into her when he'd returned her kiss in the open doorway to her apartment.

She breathed out until her chest burned, emptying her lungs completely. Then like a swimmer breaking the surface of the water, Thirteen released his mouth and tilted her head back, grabbing another lungful of air. Down she went again, forcing air, pushing life into him, willing him with all her might to breathe, to live.

This time Remy did not have the luxury of disconnect or objectivity, of merely being a doctor and performing artificial respiration on a nameless patient. As she breathed into House and leaned back a third time, she felt her lips burn while hot tears of fear and frustration stung her eyes and ran down her cheeks.

"Dammit House. Not now. Not this way. Live. LIVE!" Thirteen hardly knew if she were only thinking these things or saying them out loud in between her desperate gasps for air.

She was no longer counting her exhalations as she filled House's lungs over and over. It didn't matter. She knew that whatever happened she wouldn't, no couldn't, stop - not until House awoke or both she and House had stopped breathing forever.

Once more her body slid across him, dutifully engaged in nothing else but struggling against her own fears and possibly House himself in her solitary battle to save his life. This last time however, as she pressed her lips against his, her ears met with the most wondrous sound imaginable.

House moaned.

The sound was low yet powerful, filling not just her ears but her entire body with its vibration. It heralded the expansion and contraction of his lungs. She heard the whoosh of breath as House breathed through his nose and her heart welled up, as did her tears, with the reverberation of his second moan as she slowly opened her eyes.

At the same time, House's closed eyelids fluttered open. The look of surprise that was there at first suddenly shifted to something softer and denser. For in her excitement and relief at House's revived breathing, Remy had not yet moved back and away from him. Her lips were still tightly pressed against his.

She saw him close his eyes again at the same time she felt him shift slightly beneath her. And then his hand was gripping the back of her head, locking them together as he greedily plunged his tongue into her mouth.

It was Thirteen this time who couldn't have breathed, even if she'd wanted to. She was suddenly consumed with her need for the kiss, his kiss. Her hands went to his face as her tongue danced with his. And now when she heard and felt him moan, she knew it was not just with life, but with passion.

She allowed herself to become lost with him, in him, his physicality and masculinity, in the dichotomy of strength and softness existing in his kiss. Oh God, his masterful kiss. She felt his other hand move to her face, his long fingers gently brushing the hair behind her ear before returning to stroke her cheek.

Remy shivered. There was nothing in her entire being that wanted anything more than to stay with him this way, never moving, forever lying together until their bodies became as completely merged as their mouths and hearts were in this moment.

She sighed and House answered her with a sigh of his own.

But no amount of moans or sighs could possibly change their existing circumstances. House needed further medical attention. He was still only a hairbreadth's away from death, his own destruction and possibly the annihilation of anyone else within a 10 mile radius.

Suddenly and without warning she pushed herself off him so forcefully that her rear end slammed against the front of her couch. She curled her legs beneath her, scooting further onto the area rug in order to place the ottoman between herself and House.

"Okay, so you're alive," she gasped.

"So far," House said. He spoke quietly and both his tone and his features remained unreadable.

"Your heart was beating but you'd stopped breathing," Remy said by means of an explanation.

"Had I? Well I guess I should be thanking you then? If not for saving my miserable life then for at least using a more preferable technique than Foreman did last time I stopped breathing. I gotta say I like your method better than purple nurples."

House closed his eyes again missing as he did so, the color that rose to Remy's cheeks.

At first glance, she thought he might have closed his eyes in an attempt to shut out both her and any uncharacteristic feelings of embarrassment he had about the kiss. All her excuses and hastily contrived explanations died in her throat however as she saw an unmistakable wince of pain cross his features immediately followed by a small grunt.

"How's the pain?"

"I don't know. How are you?"

Remy sighed impatiently. "Just answer the damn question."

House opened his eyes again and glared at her. "Well I don't know. You have to be a bit more specific since I have so many to choose from. Which pain are you talking about?"

The simple honesty of House's answer made Thirteen recoup some of her patience. "The one that made you pass out," she said softly. "My guess is it's your leg."

"I did NOT pass out. I lost consciousness when I tripped over your stupid carpet and had the wind knocked out of me. I should sue."

"I'd like to see you try. Dead men tell no tales OR testify in court. They don't need money either."

"This one does."

"Yeah whatever," she said as she ran trembling fingers through her long, dark hair. House blinked, trying not to think how soft her hair felt touching his face as she leaned over him only a few moments before, how soft and pleasant ALL of her felt.

"I SAW what happened," she continued. "You were unconscious BEFORE you hit the floor. So did you pass out because . . ."

"For the last time, I did NOT pass out," House said raising his voice slightly.

"Suit yourself He-Man. But stop deflecting. How bad's the damn leg?"

House sighed. Unable to escape her direct question he asked, "Scale of one to ten?"

Thirteen nodded.

"I'd say it's way past z."

"Wait here," she said as she climbed unsteadily to her feet.

"Where the hell else am I gonna go?" House said once again closing his eyes to her and the scattered thoughts whirling about in his own mind.