Beep. Beep. Beep.
The sound won't go away. He tries to go back to sleep, but the sound is there, crowding into him.
He opens his eyes, turns his head and looks for the source of the noise. His vision is fuzzy but he can see that it's a heart monitor. Beeping out a rhythm.
The pain hits him as he awakens, tearing him up from the inside. He gasps and hears the beeping quicken.
A hand covers his, soft and gentle, and then he feels a tug on his elbow and hears a quiet murmur of reassurance. He can just make out a shadowy shape as they inject something into him. The hand squeezes his and he waits for the pain to recede.
Someone is talking, the words fading into a background of white noise. He tries to focus.
"...Wilson, please Wilson, can you answer me? James, please wake up."
It's Cuddy, she sounds desperate, and her voice is strange as if she's fighting back tears. He struggles to answer for her.
His voice is weak, his tongue slurs the words.
"Oh Wilson, thank God. We've been so worried."
"...what...what happened...what's wrong...?"
"You were in an accident; you've been unconscious for a couple of days. You're badly hurt but you're going to be okay."
He fumbles a hand up from the bed, trying to feel his body. His chest feels heavy, every breath is painful, and he can see a cast on one arm. His eyes seem swollen and his vision is still blurry.
He doesn't remember an accident. The last thing he can remember is working in his office. He rolls his head on the pillow, trying to look around the room.
House should be here, House was here when he woke up from his liver donation surgery. He looks at Cuddy, concentrates hard to form the words.
"House. Where's House?"
He doesn't know why he's panicking, House probably has a case. He'll come and see him when he can. House will come.
Cuddy is crying. Why is Cuddy crying?
"Oh, Wilson," she holds his hand.
"No," he pulls his hand away; he doesn't want to hear what she's going to say. The beeping picks up pace. "No, don't... "
"House was in the car with you. He didn't make it. I'm sorry James, I'm so sorry."
"No," he says again. He wants to close his eyes and forget she said that. House can't be dead. If House is dead, he's alone. He doesn't want to be alone.
Cuddy brushes his face with her hand and he realises that he is crying. He goes to wipe the tears away and is stopped by a spasm of pain that leaves him breathless.
When the pain loosens its grip he asks about his injuries while his mind repeats as if on an endless loop - 'House is dead'.
"We can talk about this later, you need to sleep."
"No," he insists, he needs to know, "tell me what they did to me."
"Your right arm is broken in two places, your left leg was badly lacerated, there was some muscle loss - you'll need some therapy for it. Your spleen has been removed, there was some bleeding into the abdomen, a little damage to your liver," she hesitates and he grimaces impatiently. He knows there's more.
"Chest...my chest is sore. My heart..."
"Your heart was very badly damaged. Wilson, you've had a transplant."
A heart transplant. He fingers his chest, feeling the dressings there. That explains the pain and the heaviness of his chest. He was lucky that a donor heart could be found on short notice. He wonders how they got it past the transplant committee, it sounds like he was in bad shape, a poor candidate for an emergency transplant operation.
Cuddy is holding his hand again, what could be worse news than she's already told him? Nothing could be worse than House being dead.
"James, you need to be strong. He would want this. House would have given you anything."
"James, you have his heart."
He doesn't understand what she's saying for a moment, he has whose heart?
"It wasn't optimal of course, in the condition that you were in, but there was no other choice - you would have died. Foreman and Chase insisted on trying it. It's what House would have wanted."
"I have House's heart," he says blankly. It's overwhelming; he can't make sense of it. It doesn't make sense. "We're not compatible. House is AB." House was the universal recipient, and Wilson was the universal donor, House took and he gave, that was the way it was. That couldn't change.
Cuddy shakes her head, "No, House was compatible, there was no mistake." She waves a chart, his chart he guesses, as if to prove it. He knows she's wrong but he is so tired, he can't think and House is dead and what else matters?
His fingers go to his chest again, as if he can feel House there.
"It's what he would have wanted," she says again. Why does she keep saying that? House wouldn't want this. House doesn't give people things, not without something in return.
She's crying again and he wants her to go. He turns his head away and closes his eyes. She touches him and he shrugs her away, as much as he can. He doesn't want her pity.
He pulls on the cannula in his arm, ripping it brutally out of his skin. There are shouts of alarm and the sound of feet running, the machines beep. Hands reach for him and he fights them until there's a prick against his bare skin and he goes under.
The last thing he hears is the beat of House's heart coming steadily through the monitors.
"You went to the funeral?" he asks, his vision is clearing up and he can focus on Cuddy now, she's draped in black, as if the colour of clothes could show the depth of her loss. Her eyes are red, she's been crying again.
"I'm sorry you couldn't come, Wilson. I know you would have wanted to have been there."
"Funerals are a waste of time," he says, cutting through her grief. "It's not like it would bring him back." Nothing will bring House back. HIs hand goes to his chest, his fingers straying to the dressing that still sits there, he presses down until he can feel the steady beat of his friend's heart. Cuddy is still saying something but he turns his head away and ignores her. After a long while he hears her high heels clicking down the corridor.
He holds his hand against the heart for a long time, until he reaches down and presses the button on his morphine drip; the painkiller gives him the oblivion he wants.
He reads both of their charts. House was dead on arrival, his body kept breathing long enough for his heart to be ripped out and given to Wilson. Their blood types match. It's wrong, he know's it's wrong, but this heart is beating inside his chest, and there's no sign of rejection. He tries to tell them but they won't listen. He stops caring, it doesn't matter. He watches the video of the transplant and sees the heart jerk back into life, settling into his body as if it belonged there. He falls asleep to the steady beat of the heart on the video screen.
The nurse's aide hovers beside his bed, her manner hesitant; people have been treating him like he's fragile since that accident, as if he's going to fall apart because his best friend has died.
"Would you like a nice shave, Doctor Wilson?" She waves the electric shaver around as if he would have no idea what she was talking about without the visual aid.
He reaches up and feels his chin. The growth is noticeable. A few days without shaving has left a layer of stubble on his face. He doesn't want a nice shave and he tells her so in no uncertain terms.
Her eyes go wide in consternation, and then there's that damned pity again. He turns away and eventually she leaves.
He graduates from a wheelchair to crutches, and then to a standard hospital quad cane, shuffling with it slowly along the hospital corridors. He thinks of how House would have mocked his unsteady gait, how they would have walked, two cripples, side by side through the hospital.
When he returns to his room there's an old wooden cane propped up in one corner. One of the fellows must have brought it up for him. He picks it up, and tries a couple of steps. The handle fits nicely into the curve of his hand.
Time heals, they tell him. Time releases him from the hospital bed, still limping and still in pain. The limp might go, they say, with more therapy, but he can see the doubt in their eyes. He doesn't care, it seems fitting somehow. Even the pain is familiar, comforting, an old friend newly welcomed back.
The rattle of his pills in the pocket of his jacket reassures him as he leaves the hospital.
People look at him oddly now. They stare at him as he limps through the corridors of the hospital, and when he yells at them they look at him with concerned eyes and frowns. They try to tell him about the six stages of grief and how he's stuck on anger. Cameron tries to hug him, once, but he waves his cane at her and she retreats, vanquished.
He goes and sits in the conference room and listens to the differential. The kids are trying but they're floundering without House to guide them. The whiteboard is a mess of different writing and they're at a standstill - and at each other's throats.
He goes to the board and wipes it clean. Hooking his cane over the edge he points a marker at Foreman, indicating he should go first. They all look at each other but then after a moment of hesitation Foreman dredges up a new idea and he writes it down and turns to the others for more. They're slow and hesitant and he berates them for being idiots but between them they have a couple of decent ideas and he sends them to run tests.
When he returns to his own office, patient diagnosed and on the way to recovery, he finds House's giant tennis ball there, waiting for him on his empty desk. He sits down on the floor and throws the ball hard against the opposite wall; it bounces in time with every beat of their heart.
He sleeps in House's apartment now. The first time he came here he took the couch; after a couple of sleepless nights he took the bed. When morning comes he follows his usual routine, shaking out a couple of his pills and lying still until they can take the edge of his pain - they never take all of it. His hand works at the muscles of his leg, trying to reassure, and to quieten.
He limps to the bathroom and relieves himself, and then slips on the jeans and t-shirt he's taken to wearing, they feel so much better than his suits. Grabbing his cane from its resting place, he limps towards the door; he's late for work again.
On his way out he glances in the mirror.
His eyes are blue.