If you die, I'm alone.

He's scared. He's never had an operation before. He's never even been on this side of a hospital bed. The nurses have been kind, but he is alone as he lies on the table. This could be the last thing he ever does. He wants - he needs - to do this for Tucker, and himself, but he's afraid.

He tries to take in the people around him but everyone is shrouded, covered from sight. He shivers, the table is cold and the air is cool.

A nurse talks to him softly and he nods. It's time. He can do this. The mask comes down around his face. He looks up and away from what is about to happen, and sees the observation room above.

House is standing at the window, staring down at him. Afraid, but there.

He smiles and relaxes as the anaesthetic does its work. He's safe now.

House walked confidently into the recovery room at the hospital as if he belonged there. As far as he was concerned he did. Wilson was here after all. Wilson, who had given up half a liver for that jerk Tucker. Now he was being rolled back into the room on a gurney, looking small and fragile - broken .

A nurse came up to him, her stern expression suggestion conveying that she was taking no prisoners. His reputation, as always, had preceded him.

"Doctor House, you can't be in here. Only authorised personnel are allowed, no visitors, you know the rules."

"I'm his doctor. Go away." He turned away from her and towards Wilson's bed.

"You're not the doctor on this case." The nurse waved Wilson's chart in his face. "Dr Gilmore is his attending. You need to leave."

"No." House answered, looking around for a chair. Not finding one he hopped onto the bed next to Wilson's. Luckily it was unoccupied.

The nurse floundered, looking around for help and finding none. Short of calling security she had no way of physically removing House from the room and she knew it.

"I'll be reporting this," she threatened, rather weakly. House ignored her; his eyes intent on Wilson. His gaze flicked over the monitors, watching for any signs of distress, then back to Wilson. He'd never seen Wilson like this before; he'd never seen him in a hospital bed. It had always been House in the hospital and Wilson visiting. House didn't know why he felt compelled to stay here now. His being here was not going to make any difference in Wilson's recovery. It wasn't like he believed in the waiting room theory he had espoused to Stacy. He wasn't one of those pathetic people who thought that being closer to his 'loved one' would somehow help them.

He didn't leave.

Finally Wilson started to show signs of consciousness. House watched intently as his friend's eyes fluttered and then finally opened, his head rolling to one side. His gaze meeting House's. A bare twitch of a smile touched Wilson's lips.

"Doctor Wilson, you're back with us." The nurse came over to him, scowling at House as she passed. With gentle hands she checked Wilson's lines and patted his arm. Wilson stared at her through glazed eyes.

"You're doing well Doctor Wilson." She checked his pulse-ox and then turned up the flow to his nasal cannula. "Just a little oxygen to help you along. How are you feeling?"

House made a scoffing sound but she ignored him, focusing on Wilson.

Wilson's lips parted as he tried to speak. After a couple of false starts he managed to croak out a few words.

"Like a truck...hit me..."

"That's what happens when you let people take out parts of your vital organs, you moron."

"Doctor House! If you are going to stay then be quiet. Ignore him, Doctor Wilson."

"No..s'okay...he's right..." Wilson mumbled and then his eyes widened and his mouth opened.

The experienced nurse slipped an emesis basin under his mouth just in time and they both watched as Wilson brought up the meagre contents of his stomach.

The nurse wiped his face and then patted the blanket.

"You rest a little bit, Doctor Wilson. Doctor Gilmore wants to see you before we send you up to ICU."

With a parting look of disapproval at House she bustled off. House made a face and then turned his attention back to Wilson.

"So, was it worth it? Have you done enough now or do you want to give him some other body part? Maybe you're not doing anything with your heart?"

"Hurts..." Wilson slurred, his eyes still cloudy from the anaesthetic.

"Welcome to my world." House muttered. He got down from the bed and limped off to the nursing station.

"Up Wilson's morphine. Some moron set it too low, man's just had half his liver removed."

The nurse shook her head.

"Doctor Gilmore will be here shortly. You know I can't do that without his authorisation."

"I'm a doctor. I authorise it."

The nurse stared at him, seemingly ready to argue and then her expression suddenly softened.

"I'm sorry, Doctor House. Even if you were his doctor you couldn't do that. You're not allowed."

House looked away. He'd forgotten. One of the stipulations for his continued employment after his stint in Mayfield was that he couldn't prescribe narcotics. Never mind that the whole hospital knew he'd been an addict for years, once it was official a whole slew of restrictions had been put on him. Normally it didn't matter; he had minions to do the prescribing for him. Cuddy had eased up on his clinic obligations since he returned to the hospital – probably didn't want to expose the general population to the crazy doctor. This was the first time he'd really come up against the restriction.

He turned away from the desk.

"Get Gilmore here quickly then. Preferably before his patient strokes out from the pain." He looked back at her. "Get Wilson another blanket, he's cold."

He came back to Wilson's bedside.

"Not long, Wilson, Gilmore is going to come and turn up the happy juice."

"'s'okay...not that bad..."

"It will be."

Wilson met his gaze then, the tired brown eyes glazed over from the pain and the lingering effects of the anaesthetic.

The nurse came up with another heated blanket and House snatched it out of her hands. He spread it over Wilson and then sat back down on the adjacent bed.

"Dr Gilmore is here now, Doctor Wilson, won't be long." The nurse said.

"Hey, James." Gilmore checked the monitors. "Everything is looking good. The operation went well and the transplant went off without a hitch. Your friend is a lucky man."

House eyed Tucker who was in the next bed along. If anything happened to Wilson Tucker wouldn't be feeling lucky for very long if House had anything to do with it.

"How's the pain?" Gilmore asked.

"Bad," Wilson managed to answer, his face tight as he tried to fight it off.

"We'll up the dose on the morphine. It will hurt like a son of a bitch for the first few days but we'll keep it under control for you."

Gilmore gave the order to the nurse who adjusted the drip. House watched the lines on Wilson's face smooth out as the pain relief began to take effect.

"...'s the good stuff..." his friend slurred, a silly smile appearing on his face.

House snorted. "Yeah, just wait till they wean you off it. Then see how good you think it is."

"Don't care...feels good."

Gilmore turned to House as Wilson drifted off again.

"You know you aren't supposed to be in here."

"Wilson wanted me here."

Gilmore shook his head. "I'll never know what he sees in you." Gilmore shoved Wilson's chart at him. "Here, you might as well read this, I know you will anyway. It was a textbook operation. He'll be able to get up in a couple of days and be discharged in a week, he should be back to buying your lunch six weeks from now. "

Gilmore strode to the nurse's desk, stopping to make arrangements for Wilson's transfer and then left the area.

House flipped through the chart. Everything was looking good but House knew better than most people how charts could be deceptive. Wilson would have to be monitored closely over the next few days for any complications. One third of all live liver donors suffered some form of complication, usually just a bile leak but sometimes something more serious. One in five hundred died for their generosity. It was very unusual for anyone but a close family member to offer a donation, and the donor usually underwent extensive testing and counselling before the operation. Due to the urgency of the situation this had been compressed into a matter of hours for Wilson. The whole thing was idiotic. Wilson could have died just because he felt guilty. Moron.

When the orderlies arrived House watched eagle-eyed as they and the nurses transferred Wilson to the gurney. Wilson opened his eyes at one stage and looked around in confusion and then fell back asleep. House envied him. The operation had taken five hours and he'd stood and watched it the whole time. His leg was killing him and he wanted nothing more than to collapse somewhere with a bottle of bourbon. Instead he trailed behind the orderlies as they wheeled Wilson along the corridor and into the intensive care unit.

Wilson was hooked up to monitors and his drips were established by his bedside while he slept on. House was prepared to do battle again with the nurses here but they left him alone as he dropped into a chair by Wilson's bedside.

"How's he doing?"

He turned his head to find Cuddy in the doorway, her eyes tired and her normally smart appearance rumpled around the edges, apparently it had been a long day for her too. Good.

"Well he's had half his liver ripped out, no thanks to you. Is it mandatory for all your doctors to donate body parts? Not sure anyone is going to want any of mine. Maybe Chase can donate my share."

"House, I tried to stop him."

"Not hard enough."

"And what about you, didn't you have the magic words to stop him doing this? You're supposed to be his best friend."

House looked away, he had tried and failed. What he wanted hadn't been enough for Wilson.

"He wouldn't be Wilson if he didn't try and help people. If you had needed a liver, and he was compatible —" Cuddy said, her voice soft.

"I wouldn't have taken it."

Cuddy looked at him and sighed.

"I know. That's the difference between you and Tucker I guess." She went over to Wilson and checked the monitors, then ran a hand down his arm. "He's doing well; Gilmore said the operation went smoothly. There's no reason he shouldn't make a full recovery."

"Oh, that's good to know, it must be nice to have a crystal ball. Shouldn't you be running along home to the boy toy and the rugrat?"

"I'm on way home now. What about you? He'll probably sleep the rest of the night now; you don't have to be here."

House didn't answer, his eyes were fixed intently on Wilson. He hadn't spent a night on his own since leaving Mayfield. The thought of going back to the apartment, to Wilson and Amber's apartment, on his own held no appeal. He could go back to his place, and that thought was very tempting. There were bottles of Vicodin still stashed at his old apartment. Just a couple of pills would ease the pain in his thigh, and knock him out for the night after so long without taking any.

"You could come home with me."

House looked up at her, an automatic quip on his lips but then shook his head.

"I don't think that would be a good idea do you? I'm a big boy now, got a note from my doctor and everything, I can look after myself."

Cuddy sighed and then produced a bag of food.

"Here, have some disgusting greasy food. Make sure you get some sleep. I've told the nurses you can stay as long as you don't get in the way and don't bother them. If you do get in the way or bother them they have instructions to call security and have you turfed out."

House took the bag of food and nodded stiffly. His gaze turned back to Wilson and after a while he heard Cuddy's footsteps retreat down the hallway.

House ate his way through the food - it wasn't Vicodin or alcohol but it was something - and then stretched out on the chair, long legs propped on the edge of Wilson's bed. After a while he slept.

It was a long night for House. The nurses came in frequently to check on Wilson's vitals. At every visit House roused and watched them carefully to make sure they were being thorough. The first couple of times the nurses tried to make conversation but House quickly put them in their place.

After that the visits were carried out quickly and quietly, with just a few murmured words of reassurance to the sleeping Wilson. Wilson never woke up properly although he did mutter a few times in his sleep. House tried to make out the words, always interested in adding to his encyclopaedia of Wilson lore, but there was nothing intelligible. Maybe Wilson was calling out for his Mom. To the best of House's knowledge Wilson hadn't bothered to inform his family of his sudden urge to shed bodily organs. House wasn't surprised – Wilson had never seemed particularly close to his parents or his older brother. House wondered if they blamed him for Danny's disappearance, just as Wilson blamed himself.

By six in the morning House had given up even the pretence of sleep. His thigh was screaming at him in protest at the long night in a chair. He attempted to get up but staggered against the bed as he rose, his leg threatening to collapse.

"House..." Of course Wilson had woken up in time to see that.

"Bit busy here Wilson," he snapped. Holding onto the bed he pushed himself upright and got his cane underneath him. He took a tentative step and the leg held, just about. Fishing in his jacket pocket he got out his pills and swallowed a couple. As he slipped the bottle back into his pocket he thought, as he just about always did, that he wished they were Vicodin.

"Need to eat..."

Apparently Wilson had given up speaking in full sentences for the duration of his hospital stay. House wagged a finger at him.

"No food for people who have bits of their vital organs taken out and put into selfish jerks. If you're a good boy they might let you have some jello tomorrow. Something to look forward to."

" You need to eat House. You can't take ibuprofen on an empty stomach."

House rolled his eyes. Recovering from major surgery and Wilson was still nagging him. He pulled out his pager and pressed a few buttons.

House turned to Wilson to complain about his mother-henning but Wilson wasn't looking at him. Apparently he had moved a little too much and was now fighting off some major pain. His face was screwed up and he appeared to be trying to squeeze the life out his blanket with his hands.

House went over to the morphine drip to adjust it when a nurse came into the room.

"Dr House! Please step away from the drip."

"I'm checking the rate; your patient is in pain."

"You're not allowed to..."

"I'm not going to pull the needle out of Wilson's arm and put it into mine. If you were giving him a fistful of Vicodin I'd fight him for them but his morphine drip is safe."

"Please, could one of you just up the flow a bit." Wilson's pained voice came from the bed and the nurse finished checking the drip and turned to him. "I don't care which one."

"You should be feeling better soon, Doctor Wilson. It was set a little low."

Wilson nodded curtly, his customary good manners forgotten as he battled the pain.

They were interrupted by the arrival of Chase, who came running into the ICU.

"Dr Wilson? You okay?" Chase turned to House. "You paged an emergency. I thought something had gone wrong."

"I need some breakfast."

"You paged me to go and get you breakfast?"

"Apparently if I take ibuprofen on an empty stomach it offends Wilson. So I need you to go and get me some breakfast to chase it down with."

"Get it yourself."

"Well, I would but my BFF needs me by his bedside so he knows I care, the closer I am the more I care. So that leaves you."

"Give me some money then. I'm not paying for any more food for you."

House waved a hand towards the Bank of Wilson. "Wilson will give it to you when he's out of here. Now run along and get me some breakfast before I have to page Grumpy, Dopey or Bashful."

Chase made a rude gesture and stalked out of the ICU, muttering under his breath.

"You can't treat him like that now, he's a senior doctor." Wilson protested.

House shrugged.

"He's a lackey as long as he still thinks of himself as one. He made his choice to be here, he has to put up with the consequences or do something about it."

"I'm in awe of your staff management skills." Wilson's voice was fading out as he was struggling to stay awake, under the pull of the morphine. "Have you ever considered going into Human Resources?"

House watched as his friend fell asleep again. When he was sure Wilson was out for the count he started to pace around, trying to get his leg to loosen up. He couldn't help but keep glancing at the monitors and be reassured by their steady beeping.

"They're going to move him down to a ward tonight if he is still doing okay." Chase had returned with House's breakfast which he put on a small rolling table. "One of the nurses asked me to get you to clear out of here. You're making them nervous."

House ignored him in favour of staring at the other end of the ICU where there was a flurry of activity around Tucker's bed.

"Go and find out what that's all about. Wouldn't want the jerk to die without me being there to appreciate it."

"If he's in any immediate danger I'll be sure to let you know so you can come and watch."

Chase moved off and House sat back, propped his feet up on Wilson's bed and dug into his breakfast. Chase had done well, there was coffee, donuts and a little container of pancakes - not as good as Wilson's pancakes of course, nothing was as good as Wilson's pancakes, but decent enough.

The smell of the food must have woken Wilson up because next time he looked up from his food Wilson was watching him.

"Eating," House waved around a forkful of pancakes, "as prescribed by the great Doctor Wilson, provider of bodily organs for anyone who wants one on the East Coast."

Wilson rolled his head on the pillow.

"You're never going to let this go, are you? Tucker isn't just anyone, he's my friend."

"He's not your friend Wilson, he's a self-important jerk."

"That seems to be my definition of 'friend'," Wilson rejoined, a faint smile touching his lips but there was a warning in his eyes. For some reason it was important to Wilson that he define people as 'friends'. He probably thought House's various fellows were his friends.

Chase came back at that moment, sparing House from continuing to argue that Tucker wasn't Wilson's friend. Wilson had always been sensitive on the topic, he seemed to have very few actual friends rather than colleagues and acquaintances and he had a tendency to cling to those he had accumulated with great tenacity. Which must be why he was still House's friend after twenty years of House testing that friendship any way he could.

"Tucker's okay, blood pressure dropped a bit, but they've got it under control." Chase reported.

"Oh, I'm so relieved. Still, there's plenty of time for something to go wrong yet, we can live in hope."

"Yes, it would be great for Doctor Wilson's sacrifice to be in vain because Tucker died." Chase said. He turned to Wilson. "How's it going, Doctor Wilson? Do you need anything?" Chase picked up the chart where House had thrown it and flipped through it. "Everything looks good, they should be able to transfer you to a private room later today."

"No, I'm good thanks, Chase. Though if you could drag House away for a shower and a change of clothes I'd appreciate it, he's beginning to smell a ripe."

"You wanted me here," House pointed out.

"Yeah, I did." Wilson smiled a crooked smile at him and then grimaced. "But not glued to my side. I'm just gonna be sleeping and I'm sure you have better things to do than stare at me while I'm doing that." He closed his eyes and shifted around, trying to find a more comfortable position. Chase adjusted the bed and then checked his lines. Wilson managed to open his eyes again. "Come see me when I have a room, House, bring flowers."

Chase and House both watched as Wilson drifted back to sleep. House levered himself to his feet with the aid of his cane. He looked over to see Chase staring at him.


"Nothing. Just didn't take you as the camping out by the bedside type. The gift shop sells teddy bears you know, you could get one for him."

House scowled. The trouble with having the same fellows for too long was that they stopped being scared of you. Chase had been particularly sassy since his little foray into surgery, although adding a murder and a divorce to his CV has slowed him down a little.

"Make yourself useful and go and find us a new patient." He stalked off, pausing by Tucker's bed on the way out. Tucker's ex-wife and his daughter were there, standing on either side of the bed. Tucker was sleeping.

"Doctor House!" The ex-wife spotted him and came towards him, "how is Jim doing?"

" Wilson hasn't died yet. No thanks to Tucker."

"We can't thank him enough for what he did."

House looked back down the room at the sleeping Wilson. "You're right, you can't." He told her and walked off.

"Are you still here?" Wilson asked.

He'd been moved to a private room the day before, it was one of the best rooms PPTH had to offer, usually reserved for VIPS - Cuddy was pulling out all the stops. The inevitable flowers and stuffed animals had begun to appear on every free surface. House had done a quick sweep of the gifts earlier to see if there was anything useful but had only snagged a handful of chocolates which had been tucked into a floral display. He'd lobbed a particular cutesy teddy bear out of the window but had otherwise left them alone. He'd make sure to put out a rumour that Doctor Wilson disliked stuffed animals, flowers, and anything knitted but was partial to one hundred year old scotch and candy.

"Best place to hang out in the hospital, even better than coma guy's room. Cuddy isn't nagging me because she thinks I'm being all sensitive and caring by visiting you. The team won't disturb me because ditto. Win/win."

"How deluded of them." Wilson tried to adjust his position in the bed and winced at the pain. House saw him hit the PCA button for a hit of morphine.

"You're a moron," he said. "You're going to be in pain for weeks, all because you think you have to save everyone. Because you felt guilty that you tried so hard to save the jerk's life that you gave him liver failure."

"How many times do I have to tell you? I didn't do it because I felt guilty. I did it because he's my friend , House. He deserved another chance, a chance to get back with Melissa - all this happening made him realise that he still loved her. They're both my friends and it made me feel good to know I could do this for them. It's worth the pain." He relaxed as the morphine did its work and House scowled at him.

"People don't risk their lives for their friends. They go to crappy restaurants and movies and pretend they're having a good time with them. They don't give them half their liver. Tucker manipulated you into that, using your Boy Scout guilt against you."

"Like I manipulated you?" Wilson asked, interrupting House's tirade just as he was getting to the good part.

House stared at him. "I think you've been hitting the happy button too many times, you're not making sense."

"I asked you to risk your life." He looked down at the blanket on his bed. "And not even for me, for Amber, somebody you didn't even like. If you could do that for me, I could do this for Tucker."

House stared at him; Wilson had never once mentioned the deep brain stimulation that he'd asked House to undergo, in an attempt to save Amber's life. Amber's death and the events surrounding it were right at the top of the list of things they didn't talk about. Ever.

"I do crazy shit like that all the time," House said eventually, when the silence was becoming heavy. "You're supposed to be the sensible one."

Wilson grimaced. "It's one thing for you to do it; it's another thing for me to ask you to do it. I should never have asked."

"I've asked you to do stupid crap all the time for me, why wouldn't you ask me? And it didn't help anyway. Nice tries count for nothing, good intentions don't matter. All that matters is what happens. She died anyway." All the procedure had accomplished was to let Wilson know that she was going to die, and that it was House's fault that she was on that bus. What House had done for Wilson didn't matter then, and it didn't matter now. Nothing could ever change what had happened. Nothing could change what House had done.

"You gave me a chance to say goodbye to her and that counts. I should have —-" Wilson started to say but House grabbed the remote control for the television and flipped it on, turning the volume up high and pointedly staring at the screen. He didn't want to talk about this, not now, not ever. If they talked about it he'd say something stupid, or Wilson would and the whole thing would blow up again.

Wilson took the hint and stopped yammering on about it. Both men pretended to watch the show.

They got Wilson out of bed the next day and shuffling down the corridor. He was hunched over and walking at about the speed of a severely arthritic tortoise. He clung onto his drip pole like it was a lifeline and House mocked his crippled gait.

"Hurts doesn't it?" House said as Wilson stopped, his face screwed up as a spasm of pain hit him. House waved his cane at him. "Want to use this?"

Wilson's expression suggested that he'd rather hit House over the head with it. He started moving again, holding onto his side as if what was left of his liver was going to leak out.

"I'm sure you've told hundreds of patients to suck it up and keep moving. It's very important to improve the circulation after an operation." House said, his eyes never leaving Wilson. "Maybe we should get you some ibuprofen."

"The morphine is doing nicely, thanks."

"Yeah, yeah, mock the drug addict. Wait until they take it away and put you on the yummy pills. Don't come crying to me for prescriptions."

"I wouldn't dream of it. I'll just borrow your pad and write my own."

They completed a torturous lap of the floor and as soon as his room was in sight again Wilson headed for it, apparently one lap was his limit for now. House watched as the usual bevy of nurses descended to help Wilson into bed, adjust his lines, check his vitals and generally fuss over him in a display which would have made any other patient in the hospital envious. House made a mental note to badger Cuddy into assigning some male nurses to Wilson's care. Although even then Wilson probably wouldn't be safe.

Finally they all left and Wilson laid back on the bed, his eyes closed and his breathing heavy. He clicked on the morphine button like he was shooting the bad guys in Doom.

"The blonde has her sights set on you." House said, hoping to divert Wilson's attention away from the pain until the narcotic had a chance to work. "I saw her soothing your fevered brow."

"And I saw you giving her the evil eye." Wilson said wearily, opening his eyes again. "Being nice to people pays off, you should try it sometime - I thought they would have worked on that in Mayfield."

"I was in the 'quiet room' when they covered that."

"I bet you spent a lot of time in the quiet room."

"You'd be surprised."

Wilson shifted in the bed and then pressed his hand to his side as his eyes went wide and he tried to keep his breathing steady.

"Woman two rooms down had the op the same day you did, she hasn't even made it out of bed yet." House offered. He searched his pockets for his ibuprofen. Just looking at Wilson was enough to make his damned leg start reminding him of its presence. "You're ahead of the curve."

"You're...what? Keeping score? It's not a competition, House."

"Chase is running a book on when you get out of here." House smiled, Chase was one of his best hires, even if he did run to the odd homicidal episode. "He won't let me enter but I've got ways around that."

"So —", Wilson shifted around again, trying to find a comfortable position, and failing if the look on his face was any indication. "What's the prognosis?"
"Six more days, five if the nursing staff get sick of me before then and pressure Gilmore into letting you go early. Provided you don't have any nasty complications from your asinine decision to give one of your patients half your liver. Chase is also running a book on the next part of your body you're going to get rid of. I hear there's a lot of interest in Little Wilson."

"This again? Let it go, House. It's over, I'm done. I didn't die. My liver will be healthier than your liver in a few months' time."

"Nope. Somebody has to remind you of what an ass you were, to stop you ever doing it again. Or before you know it there will be little bits of Wilson in half the patients in this hospital." And nothing left for me , he thought.

Wilson was about to reply when a sound caught their attention. Wilson's assistant - Sandy - was hovering in the doorway.

"Hey, Sandy. Don't worry - House was just leaving. Goodbye, House. "

As House left he saw Wilson press the PCA button again, this time succeeding in getting another dose of morphine. He didn't hang around to see what Sandy wanted to discuss with Wilson. Sandy was one of the few women on Wilson's staff who could safely be left unsupervised around him - she was immune to his charms. Anything she had to say to Wilson would be concerning the running of his department and House had no interest in that.

As he left the room he found Foreman lurking outside.

"Don't we have a patient?" House asked. It wasn't that he wanted one particularly, but Cuddy tended to get antsy when the entire Diagnostics department sat on their butts and loafed.

"How's Wilson?"

"Why? Did you want to go and hold his hand as well? Half the nursing staff has beaten you to it, but who knows? Wilson might swing your way."

"Wouldn't want to tread on your turf, House. Taub and Thirteen are looking through files in the conference room now if you want to join us."

House glanced back at Wilson's room but then started walking, Foreman keeping pace besides him.
He'd look through the files now and work from Wilson's room once they had a patient.

Wilson was sleeping restlessly, as most patients slept in hospital. House had come in early this morning, his patient was being annoying, and Wilson's apartment held little appeal when Wilson wasn't there. House was supposed to be seeing Nolan today but he'd rung and postponed the appointment. Nolan hadn't been happy but House had pacified him by telling him that he was 'being there' for a friend. That should earn him brownie points in the next therapy session.

House's friendship with Wilson had come up during the sessions in Mayfield, but House had marked it as 'off limits' by diverting Nolan away from the subject as thoroughly as he could. Nolan had known enough to make a pre-emptive strike on Wilson and prevent him from aiding in House's escape attempts so House preferred to keep Nolan out of that corner of his life. He wondered what Nolan would make of a doctor who did what Wilson had done for his patient. Probably have him booked into a nice room at Mayfield as quickly as he could.
He glanced over at Wilson and frowned. He looked a little feverish. House levered himself to his feet, putting aside the file he was reading, and touched Wilson's forehead with the back of his hand. Yes, definitely a temperature.

Wilson stirred under his touch, and then opened his eyes blearily.

"House? What..."

House took his hand back. "You're brewing up a nice infection somewhere."

"I thought Mom..." Wilson trailed off, looking flustered. While House had openly hated his Dad and loved his Mom (as long as she was half a country away from him), Wilson and his parents had a perfectly amiable relationship with oceans of emotional distance between them. Finding out about Danny's disappearance, and then Wilson's part in it, had completed a part of the Wilson family puzzle for House.

"I can get Cuddy if you want, she'd be happy to soothe your fevered brow."

"I think Lucas would have something to say about that."

House didn't particularly care what Lucas had to say about anything. He stuck his head out into the corridor outside Wilson's room and hollered for a nurse to come.

"I do have a call button," Wilson said.

"Nurses are good at ignoring those."

When a nurse finally appeared House pointed at Wilson. "Take his obs."

The nurse glanced at her watch. "They're not due for another twenty minutes."

"He could be dead by then. Take his obs."

Of course Wilson flashed his trademarked smile at the nurse and explained that he wasn't about to die, but Doctor House suspects he might have an infection and wants his temperature taken. And of course the nurse complied with the nice Doctor Wilson's - who gave half his liver to his friend - polite request. And, of course, Wilson had a temperature.

An hour later House left Wilson's room to stretch his legs. Wilson had been hooked up to IV antibiotics and was being taken down for some precautionary scans. It was probably nothing to worry about but House wasn't taking any chances, and he wasn't allowing Gilmore to take any chances either. There had been a bit of a shouting match, but House had referred the matter to the referee - also known as Cuddy - and had won.
Standing by the vending machine contemplating his choices, he caught sight of Tucker's girlfriend, Ashley, carrying a coffee towards a room at the end of the hall. Casually he followed her and watched through the window as she approached Tucker's bedside and kissed him where he lay in the bed. Tucker's wife and daughter were nowhere in sight.

So the girlfriend was back now that Tucker was going to live. House wished he'd put some money on that outcome. Wilson was a sap with a poor choice in friends.

"Homicide is still a crime in New Jersey, even when it's deserved."

House looked up to see Cuddy standing next to him, looking into the room.

"I wasn't thinking of murder, just a little medical intervention." There were all sorts of medications he could put in Tucker's drip to make his life more exciting.

Cuddy sighed. "He saved his friend's life, because he could. Because he's Wilson. You can't really argue with that, House."

"Tucker isn't his friend."

With a last look back at Tucker in the hospital room House turned and walked away to go and check on Wilson.

"So, I suppose you've moved the piano in, and turned my fridge into a cocktail bar?" Wilson asked when he woke up from his latest nap. His fever was down, the antibiotics having done their work. The scans hadn't shown any problems.

House looked up from the file he was reading. Their patient was conveniently not dying too quickly so House had plenty of time to hang out in Wilson's room and avoid clinic duty. Cuddy wasn't heartless enough to drag him away from Wilson's hospital bed, at least that was what House was counting on.

"Thought you'd kicked me out." He'd ignored Wilson's ultimatum of course.

"And you chose that as the first time in our friendship that you did what I wanted?"


"Didn't think so."

House had always assumed that the living arrangement with Wilson would be temporary. That one day Wilson would have enough of him and kick him out. Moving his guitars in, and serenading Wilson at the crack of dawn, had been a test, to see how far he could push things before Wilson would break. Of course he hadn't counted on this little diversion to upset his experiment. But he wasn't about to move out while Wilson was in the hospital. He needed somewhere to put his jello shots.

"We need a bigger place," House said.

"No, I don't."

"You're stuck. You can't let go of that apartment because it was Amber's."

"How foolish of me to want to hold onto what I could of her. We're not all lucky enough to be able to hallucinate her."

As soon as he said it Wilson dropped his gaze to the blanket on his bed.

"Seeing dead people isn't as sexy as Bruce Willis made it seem." House said. The first time he'd seen Amber he'd nearly crapped his pants. Those few days had been some of the worst of his life, and they had a lot of competition for that title. Even now he still half expected to see Amber again. Wilson wouldn't have liked it any more than House did.

"I know." Wilson sighed. "It's not like it was really Amber, but I just..."

"She would have kicked your ass for doing this."

"I know." Wilson ran a hand through his hair and pulled a face. "I need a shower."

"I'll get a nurse, I'm sure there will be plenty of volunteers."

"No, just unhook me from this stuff and help me to the bathroom. I need to get up for a while anyway."
Wilson was unsteady on his feet, the pain was still pulling at him when he moved, but House got one of his arms around his shoulders and together they slowly went over to the room's bathroom.

"I'm not holding the soap for you."

"Thank God."

While Wilson was in the shower House made himself comfortable in the visitor's chair in his room, keeping one eye on the bathroom, just in case.

"You should go and see Tucker."

House had just finished a differential with his team, held at Wilson's bedside. Wilson had obligingly provided an epiphany and House had dismissed the minions to go and explain the patient's condition to him. Another soul saved. Now he turned his attention on the other soul that needed saving - from himself.

" You want me to go and see Tucker? You haven't... done something to him, have you?"

"Cuddy put a guard on his room; I can't get near the place. I'm working on an inside contact."

"I'll warn Tucker to stay away from the windows."

Wilson gestured to House to bring the wheelchair closer. He could manage short distances walking, but every step was still a struggle. Turning up at Tucker's room looking like he'd been through Hell probably wasn't the impression Wilson wanted to give.

He parked the wheelchair near the bed and then stood by as Wilson gingerly transferred himself to the seat.

"Want me to come? We could hang out together, you, me and the self-important jerk. Chat about which bodily organs you're going to do away with next."

Wilson settled himself in the seat and gave an experimental push to the wheels with his hands.

"Sounds like fun but some other time, House. Maybe you could go and do those clinic hours while I'm gone."

"Nah, I'm still playing the just-released-from-mental-hospital card . When that one runs out I'll play the-my-bff-is-in-hospital-and-I-must-stay-with-him card . "House's pager went off and he looked at it.

"Hooker in reception?" Wilson guessed, rolling the chair back and forth.

"No, they come straight to my office. Apparently Biff isn't cured after all. Started seizing."

"Oh well, better luck next time. See you later, House."

"You knew that he'd dumped Melissa again and was back with Ashley."

Wilson was packing his stuff up; he'd been discharged that morning. House had done very nicely in the pool - although he had to share his winnings with Sandy.

"Well I didn't know their names ." He sat back in his chair and put his feet up on the now empty bed.

"Nearly dying changes nothing, Wilson. Tucker's the same person he always was. You just didn't want to see it before. Thanks to you he'll live a long life with somebody young enough to be his daughter, while his actual daughter grows to hate him. Circle of life."

"I told you, I still feel good about what I did. It was the right thing to do. Another few weeks and I'll be back at work, and in a new home."

House looked up sharply. "You found a place?"

"The one that Cuddy was interested in."

House smiled. This was the sort of revenge he could get behind.

"It's got two bedrooms," Wilson said. "One's yours if you want it."

"I'll need to bring my guitars."

"Of course."

"And my piano."


An orderly came through the door, pushing a wheelchair which he placed beside Wilson's bed.

"I can walk." Wilson protested.

"Not very well," House said. Wilson was still walking at a pace that a geriatric snail could beat.

"Sorry Doctor Wilson, you know the rules." The orderly said and with a sigh Wilson transferred to the chair, wincing as he sat down.

As the orderly pushed the wheelchair House fell into step beside it. They went along the corridor and past
Tucker's room. Tucker was sitting up in bed staring into a hand mirror.

His hair was bright green.

"You got your inside man then?" Wilson said, a smile splitting his face.

"Oh, yeah." They passed Chase in the corridor and House gave him a high five.

"Thanks, House." Wilson said softly, and House knew that he didn't just mean for the hair.

He's scared. Having only five months to live is a difficult concept to grasp. He feels fine now, but he knows that one day, soon, things will be different.

Next to him House is putting on his helmet and getting back on his bike. Wilson does the same. There's a sense of reaching out to the unknown as he sits on this bridge. Princeton is behind them, the road is ahead.

"When the cancer gets bad..." he says quietly. He needs to know that House will have his back.
House looks over at him, smiling, years of pain lifted from him in his rebirth from that fire.

"Cancer's boring," he says, but in his eyes Wilson can see reassurance. House won't leave him alone.
House rides off, and Wilson follows him.

Tucker was wrong.

The person you want when you're dying is the same as the person you want when you're living.

~ End