The next morning Wilson woke up confused, partly because he couldn’t actually recall falling asleep
in the first place, and partly because House was gone.  The confusion kept on coming when House
appeared in the bedroom doorway fully dressed and ready to go.

“It’s seven o’clock,” said House.  “Rise and shine, sleepy-head, I need a ride.”

“A ride where?” asked Wilson, propping himself up on an elbow and rubbing his eyes.  They felt like
they’d been poached in their sockets, and if he felt this bad, he had no idea how it was House
managed to look so…peppy.  Especially after everything that had happened the night before.

“We’re going cane shopping,” House answered.  “Know of any good early-morning cane shops?”

“None spring to mind,” said Wilson.  “Why the urgency?  This couldn’t wait until, oh I dunno, say eight
o’clock?”

“Don’t want to be late for work,” said House, and he disappeared from the doorway before Wilson
had a chance to sputter uselessly at him.

Wilson quickly got out of bed and followed House to the kitchen, where he was already sipping at an
enormous mug of coffee.  House’s eyes scanned him from over the rim of his mug.

“Are you planning on wearing that?” he asked.  “Don’t get me wrong, I think your jammies are
adorable, but that fashion trend went out with those teddy-bear backpacks.  Don’t you keep up with
these things?”

Refusing to be evaded, Wilson crossed his arms and frowned at him.  “I thought you said you weren’t
going back to work.  You said you were faxing in your resignation first thing in the morning.”

“I had a change of heart,” said House casually.  “I am allowed to do that, aren’t I?”

“Yes, but after last night…”

“Go put on some clothes,” said House, cutting him off mid-sentence.  “There’s a pair of your jeans
in the bottom drawer of my dresser.  You can borrow one of my shirts and whatever else you want.”

Wilson decided to let it drop.  If House didn’t want to talk about it, that was okay for now.  But he’d
be keeping a close eye on him, nonetheless.  He started back towards House’s bedroom when his
friend’s words finally sank in.  “Wait a minute…why do you have a pair of my jeans?”

“You don’t remember?” asked House, his pale blue eyes wide.  “I’m hurt—if you honestly don’t
remember, then I’m not going to tell you.”

“Please—I get enough of that at home, I don’t need it here, too,” said Wilson and he wandered back
to the bedroom.  Sure enough, there was a pair of his jeans neatly folded in the bottom drawer of
House’s dresser.  It really did bug him that he had no idea how they’d got there.

Wilson drove around, stopping at every pharmacy in a twenty-mile radius until they found one that was
open and also sold canes; or, to be more specific, a cane that House deemed worthy of him.  As
they drove to Princeton-Plainsboro, Wilson would shoot the odd glance House’s way, just in case
he’d changed his mind again.  But House seemed resolute; his cloak of imperviousness was fixed
firmly in place.  It was like nothing had happened at all—even the bruise on his jaw had all but vanished
behind an extra day’s growth of beard.

Wilson pulled up in front of the hospital’s main entrance and watched House dry swallow a vicodin
with his usual flair.  

“Do you want me to come in with you?” asked Wilson.

House gave him a ‘now why would I want you to do that’ look and got out of the car with a painful
grunt.  Wilson winced, imagining how uncomfortable the car ride must have been for him, and for once
he was kind of glad his friend had the painkillers.  He waited until House had made it safely through
the front doors before pulling away.

This was the part he had been dreading all morning…it was time to head back home.  It was nearly
eight-thirty, and Julie usually didn’t leave for work until nine o’clock, so if he drove slowly enough, he
might time it so they missed each other.  Of course, that would only make things worse when she got
home from work.  There was no sense putting it off; he figured he might as well face the music before
it became loud enough to deafen him.

As he pulled into his driveway, he saw Julie coming out the front door.  She gave him a cold, thin-
lipped glare as he got out of the car, which told him she hadn’t failed to notice he was wearing House’
s clothes.  Wilson shrugged back at her with an apologetic smile.

“Don’t forget to put the roast in the oven at four-thirty,” she said.

“Roast?  What’s the occasion?” asked Wilson, remembering too late that tonight was the night her
parents were coming for dinner.  “Right.  Sorry.”

Julie’s lips thinned even more, if such a thing were possible.  “And make yourself useful—the
dishwasher’s flooding again.”  And with that, she was gone.

Wilson sighed.  He wished she’d just put him out of his misery and ask for a divorce.  This daily
erosion of their happiness had them both so thin-skinned that every little thing got on their nerves.  
So when a big thing came along the effect was positively acidic.

He spent the day fixing the dishwasher and cleaning an already spotless house, knowing all hell would
break loose if Julie thought he’d been slacking off all day.  But the entire time he kept expecting the
phone to ring and to hear House on the other end, distraught and begging him to come get him.  He
had to restrain himself from phoning the hospital to check up on him.

When the phone finally did ring it was almost six o’clock.  He assumed it would be House calling to
get a ride home, so when he heard Cuddy’s voice he felt a moment’s panic.

“Is Greg alright?” he asked before she could get out more than a ‘hello’.

“House is fine,” she said, sounding both annoyed and amused.  “More than fine, actually.  I thought I’
d call to give you the good news—you’ve got your job back.  Vogler’s gone.”

“Why?  What happened?” asked Wilson, almost afraid to find out.  He had images of a big, Vogler-
shaped corpse spread out under a thin sheet in the hospital morgue.

“Vogler moved to have me fired.  I had a chat with the board and managed to persuade them that
between House and Vogler, House was the lesser of two evils.”

“You have no idea,” Wilson mumbled.  “How did House take the news?  Have you told him yet?”

“I just came from his office,” she answered.  She paused a moment, then asked; “Wilson, is there
something going on that you’re not telling me about?”

“Why do you ask?” he countered cautiously, avoiding her question.

“You just seem unusually concerned about him,” she said.  “Is this about the fight he picked with
Vogler in front of the clinic today?”

Oh God, he lost it at work, thought Wilson.  “How bad was it?” he asked.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen House that angry before, which is saying something.  He completely blew
a gasket when Vogler pulled his patient from that clinical trial.  Anyone else would’ve had to change
their pants afterwards,” said Cuddy.  “But Vogler just laughed and shrugged him off, and that
seemed to put an end to it.”

“Mmm,” said Wilson, filling the conversation gap while his mind busied itself with images of Vogler and
House duking it out at the clinic.  He knew the fight had been about a lot more than a just his cancer
patient, and it worried him that Vogler had defeated him so easily.  “Is he still in his office?” he asked.

“As far as I know,” she answered.

“Can you do me a favour and tell him I’m coming to pick him up?”

“Alright,” she said, but he could tell she was fishing for an explanation.

He wasn’t about to give her one.  “Great.  Thanks,” he said, and hung up.  When he turned around,
he nearly ran into Julie, who had somehow managed to sneak up behind him.

“Did I just hear you say you were picking someone up?” she asked, the furrow between her raised
eyebrows providing more than enough punctuation.  She knew exactly who the ‘someone’ was.

“I drove House to work this morning.  How else is he supposed to get home?”

“He’s a big boy.  I bet he could figure it out,” said Julie, her voice taking on an edge he’d become all
too familiar with of late.  “My parents will be here in half an hour.”

“I know, and I’ll be back in time, I swear,” he said as he headed for the door.  Only then did he realize
he was still wearing his friend’s t-shirt—hardly appropriate attire in the eyes of his in-laws.  He quickly
weighed his options.  He could stay home, change into a jacket and tie and make Julie happy, or he
could go and pick up Greg from the hospital.  In his mind he kept remembering the way his friend had
looked at him, lying in bed in the dark.  House needed him; he trusted him.  And hell, Julie was already
pissed at him, so what difference did it make if he gave her one more reason?

It had been one hell of a day.  House was in a lot more pain than usual, but he’d be damned if he’d let
it show.  An extra pill or two…well, who’s counting, really…had made everyday things like leaning and
sitting down bearable, but for the most part he’d tried to stay on his feet.  By noon his right leg was
bitching at him incessantly.  And to make things worse, Foreman kept throwing accusatory looks his
way over the ‘Cameron quitting’ issue.  Without Wilson, he had no allies to turn to at the hospital.

The only thing that had been getting him through the day was the fact that, because of him, his patient
might live long enough to see one or two of her son’s birthdays.  But then Vogler had happened.  
With one little phone call he’d effectively sentenced his patient to death, and stripped House of his
usefulness as a doctor.

That was when he’d lost it.  He’d hunted Vogler down and chewed him out in front of patients and
staff alike.  It felt good.  It felt cathartic…until Vogler laughed in his face and dismissed him.  It was
then that House had realised he would never have the upper hand against Vogler.

The rest of the day had been pretty much a disaster.  His patient did die, leaving behind a terrified
husband to take care of their premature baby.  The board would be meeting again to have him fired,
and he had no way of defending himself.  But until they’d physically booted his ass out of the
hospital, he’d intended to do his job.

He’d caught Cuddy as she was heading into the boardroom and handed her the file on baby Olive,
‘The Incredible Shrinking Vegan’.  It would be his last act as a doctor at PPTH.

Or so he’d thought at the time.

It was now less than an hour later and he was back in his office, job secure, with Vogler nothing more
than a page in the history books.  And as an added bonus, his newly reinstated best friend and ally
was coming to pick him up.  For the first time since Vogler had reared his humungous bald head at the
hospital he felt like things were looking up.

When the phone rang, he answered it with an almost cheery “Yup?”

The crackling static on the other end nearly whited out the sound of the man’s voice, but House
heard it clearly enough to instantly recognize it.  “This isn’t over.  He said to tell you it’s personal
now.  He meant it when he said he’d destroy you.”

The line went dead, but it was several seconds before that fact registered in House’s shocked
brain.  He slowly set the phone down, as if he was afraid it might turn on him.  When a knock sounded
on his glass door he nearly jumped out of his skin.

Wilson peered at him curiously from the hallway for a moment before letting himself in.  “House—are
you okay?”

“I’m fine—I didn’t see you there,” House answered dismissively.

“You don’t look fine.”

“Since when have I ever looked fine?” he countered.  “I just want to get out of here.  Hospitals give
me the creeps,” he said, throwing in an exaggerated shudder for effect.

House remained silent the entire drive home, and Wilson knew it would be a mistake to try and draw
him out of his shell.  As he pulled up in front of his condo, House got out of the car.  But when he
noticed Wilson wasn’t undoing his seatbelt to join him, he leaned back in through the window.

“Aren’t you coming?” he asked.

Wilson’s brown eyes frowned up at him in apology.  “I would, but Julie’s parents are coming over for
dinner.  I’m already late as it is.”

House looked over his shoulder at his dark condo.  It looked the same, as always, but tonight it
seemed more malevolent somehow.

“I can call her; say I’ll be late…” Wilson suggested, sensing his friend’s nervousness.

House was tempted, but he knew that missing dinner with the in-laws would be a ‘straw/camel’s back’
thing in Julie’s books.  “No.  You go on.  Have a nice slice of roast beef for me.”

“How did you…?  Never mind,” said Wilson.  “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“’Course I’m sure,” said House.  “Now move it, before Julie decides to roast your weenie and serve
that to her folks instead.”

“Now that’s a disturbing image,” said Wilson.  “All right, I’m off, then.  But call me if you need
anything.”

House grunted in reply and backed away from the car.  He watched his friend drive away, feeling a
cold lump of dread forming in the pit of his stomach.  His condo seemed to loom up above him,
imposing and large.

Opening the door, House reached his hand inside and flicked on the lights before daring to set foot
inside.  Once in, he quickly locked the door and went room to room, turning on every single light along
the way.  He felt like a bit of an idiot, but at this point he didn’t care.  When he was finally satisfied
that there were no murderers lurking in the shadows, he got comfortable on the couch and reached
for the remote.

But just as he was about to turn on the T.V., his phone rang.  The lump of ice in House’s stomach
churned over, sending out cold tendrils of nausea.  He stared at the phone, willing it to shut up.  
Finally the answering machine fielded the call, and the tinny little speaker burst forth with the same
crackling static he’d heard earlier in his office.  No voice this time, but the message was clear…he was
being watched.

House turned his eyes to the front window and saw that the drapes were still open.  He cursed
under his breath and got painfully to his feet.  He limped over as quickly as possible and drew them
closed, and as he did, he could swear he heard a dry, humourless chuckle coming from the static on
the answering machine.  Three limping steps later, he reached a shaking hand out and silenced the
offending machine.  

His heart was pumping so hard it hurt his chest.  He picked up the phone, hitting ‘speed dial 1’, and
heard the familiar tune of Wilson’s home phone number beeping out through the receiver.  

Julie picked up, and for a moment House was afraid he wouldn’t be able to speak—his mouth had
completely dried up.  He heard her annoyance as she asked who was there, and knew she was about
to hang up.

“Julie, it’s me, Greg,” he said, finding his voice at last.  “I need to talk to James.  It’s important.”

“He’s not home yet,” came the curt response.  The sound of clinking dishes and muffled voices in
the background told him that they’d started eating without him.

“Can you have him call me when he gets in?” asked House.

“We have company tonight, House,” she said, her voice brittle.

“And I have a crazed rapist stalking me,” House answered bluntly.

“He’s busy tonight,” she said, ignoring what she’d assumed was his flippant remark.  “He’ll call you
tomorrow.”  And she hung up.

House blinked at the phone like it had personally insulted him and hit the redial button.  Not
surprisingly, Julie didn’t answer.  He parked the phone back in its cradle and stood, lost, in the middle
of his own living room.

He stood there watching the minutes tick by on his watch, waiting until he knew Wilson would be at
home.  Then he hit redial again, knowing that Julie couldn’t just let it ring with Wilson there.  Sure
enough, he soon heard Julie’s crisp voice on the other end.

Wilson had just finished changing into something a little less comfortable when he heard the phone
ring.  He trotted down the stairs and entered the dining room in time to hear his wife say, “we’re
busy,” into the phone and hang up.

“Who was that?” he asked, and received identical reproachful looks from Julie and her parents.  So
that’s where she gets it from, he thought to himself.

“Telemarketer,” said Julie with a forced, polite little laugh.  “They always seem to know when you’re
sitting down to dinner.”  Her breezy answer rubbed him the wrong way—she was either putting on a
show for the sake of her parents, or she was hiding something from him.

Wilson sat down at the table and started loading his plate with the scraps left over in the serving
dishes.  One bite of roast was all he managed to eat before his beeper went off.  All eyes turned to
him in unison and it was like facing a firing squad.

“Sorry, I’ve got get this,” he said.  The little display showed two simple words: ‘come back’.  Wilson
excused himself from the table and picked up the phone, dialling Cuddy’s number, in case Julie
thought to hit redial.  Her voice mail picked up.

“Uh-huh? … Yes, I understand…  No, of course I don’t mind, Dr. Cuddy.  I’ll be right there.”  He hung
up the phone and turned to face Julie and his in-laws.  Julie had a murderous glint in her eyes, and if
her parents hadn’t been there she would have torn a strip off him.

“I really am sorry,” said Wilson.  “But this is an emergency.”  Technically speaking he was only half
lying—this was an emergency… just not a medical one.  He left quickly for fear of being hit by flying
daggers.

House saw the headlights of a car slow and stop in front of his condo and risked a peek through his
drawn curtains.  The relief he felt seeing Wilson step out of his car was palpable and it gave him
pause for thought.  Even as a child he’d never felt this needy, this…vulnerable…and there wasn’t
another soul on Earth he’d rather have with him than Wilson.  He didn’t know what that meant, but for
the moment he was willing to forgo analysis and simply be thankful his friend had come.  House
unlocked the door, ushered Wilson inside, and hastily locked the door behind him.

“That wife of yours is a real peach…or something that nearly rhymes with it,” said House.  “It’s a
good thing you never let her touch your beeper.”

Wilson narrowed his eyes.  “I’m gonna pretend you meant that in the strictly literal sense.”  When
House didn’t even attempt a comeback, Wilson started to worry.  “What happened?” he asked.

House took a couple of long, limping strides across the room and hit playback on the answering
machine.  Wilson listened to the crackling sounds coming from the little speaker.  When it ended he
looked at House, who was watching him expectantly.

“Is that supposed to mean something?” asked Wilson.

“Of course it means something.  It means I’m being watched,” said House.  But the look in Wilson’s
eyes said that wasn’t enough of an explanation, so he decided to start from the beginning.  He filled
Wilson in on the phone call he’d received at the hospital, and the threat Vogler had made a few days
earlier.

“He said he would destroy you?” asked Wilson.  “And you never thought to tell anyone?”

“If I went crying to the authorities every time someone threatened me I’d have to set up a cot at the
local precinct.”

“Okay; granted that’s true,” Wilson agreed.  “But you have to get the police involved now.”

“Why?  So they can come over and listen to my scary static?” said House, his eyes going wide with
mock horror.

“It might not mean much on its own, but if you tell them the whole story…”

House’s eyes darkened as if someone had dimmed the lights behind them.  The conversation was
over.  Anything Wilson had to say would just bounce off House’s shield of imperviousness.  Wilson
sighed and changed tactics.

“Have you had dinner yet?” he asked.

“Not hungry,” said House, sitting down gingerly on the couch.  The pills came out automatically, and
two of them found their way down his throat.

Wilson shook his head.  “You have to eat something—and I’m starved.  Do you want to order in?”

“It would be a waste, what with only one of us eating,” said House, although the real reason he didn’t
want delivery was that he couldn’t bear the thought of some stranger knocking on his door tonight.  
“If you’re hungry, there’s food in the kitchen.  Knock yourself out.  And get me a beer while you’re in
there,” he added as Wilson took his advice and headed for the kitchen.

Wilson returned, a short ten minutes later, with two bowls of steaming chicken noodle soup and no
beer.

“I can see how you’d confuse ‘get me a beer’ with ‘get me a bowl of soup’.  They sound so much
alike,” House quipped.

“Just shut up and eat it,” said Wilson, imbuing the words with more kindness than they had any right to.

House grudgingly accepted the bowl, allowing the salty steam of the broth to waft up to his face.  
To him, soup was comfort food, and chicken noodle…well, that was the stuff Mom pulled out on
those really bad occasions.  Kind of like a culinary ‘kiss it better’.  A smile flickered across his face
as he looked at Wilson.  His choice in soups had been no accident.  Wilson looked back at him with
just the tiniest raise of an eyebrow—acknowledgement of his role as surrogate Mom for the evening.

They were both yawning at the T.V. by the time their bowls were emptied.  The meaningless drone
of football and commercials had worked its magic, lulling them into a state of numb complacency.  
Wilson was dozing off, his feet stretched out on the coffee table, his head doing one of those slow
tip/sudden jerk things that never let him fully fall asleep, when House shook him by the shoulder.

“Fine company you are,” said House.  Wilson looked up at him apologetically, but House stopped
him before he could say anything.  “Don’t worry.  You can make it up to me by staying over tonight.  
As bodyguards go, you’re no Lou Ferrigno, but you’ll do in a pinch.”

Wilson thought about it for a second.  His options were to stay here and sleep on the couch, or to
go home…and, well, sleep on the couch.  It wasn’t a tough choice—at least here he was welcome.

“All right.  But I’ll have to borrow something to sleep in.”

“I’ll do you one better,” said House.  “Second drawer down in my dresser,” he added, nodding
towards his bedroom.

Curious, Wilson went to check it out.  Pulling open the second drawer of House’s dresser, Wilson
shook his head in disbelief—a pair of his pyjamas was neatly folded next to a small stack of underwear
and a few pairs of socks that he also recognized as his.  He turned to find House standing in the
doorway looking smug.

“What do you do, break into my house at night and steal my clothes?” asked Wilson.

“You still don’t remember?” asked House.  “Too bad.  It must be driving you nuts.  By the way, I call
dibs on the bathroom.”

Wilson used the time alone to change into his P.J.s, and he was just digging through House’s linen
closet to find a couple of warm blankets and a pillow for the couch when House reappeared.

“What’re you doing?” asked House, like he was chastising a five year old.

“Uh—I’m getting my bed ready,” said Wilson matter-of-factly.

House rolled his eyes.  “What good are you as a bodyguard if you’re not even in the same room?  C’
mon,” he said, and he pulled a pillow down from the top shelf, carrying it under his arm down the hall to
his bedroom.

Wilson followed him back to the bedroom and watched House fluff up the pillow and place it next to
his on the bed.  No clarification needed—House wanted him to sleep with him.  Not just in the same
room, but in the same bed.  Again.

Something deep in his gut told Wilson the wise thing to do would be to refuse and go sleep on the
couch, but he couldn’t.  House was scared.  He would never go so far as to admit it out loud, but his
actions spoke for him.  And if House needed him close to feel safe, then Wilson intended to be
there for him.

Wilson made quick work of turning off all the lights House had left on, and got ready for bed.  He
was only mildly surprised to find a brand new toothbrush and a fresh tube of Colgate waiting for him
in the bathroom—they were his brands, not House’s, judging by the half flattened tube of Crest
sitting next to the sink.  By the time he returned to the bedroom, House was already in bed, lying on
his side just as he had the night before.

Wilson hesitated briefly before turning off the bedroom light; with the curtains drawn, it was pitch
black.  He had to feel his way around to the other side of the bed, and when he finally found his way
under the blankets he heard House’s sigh of relief, like he’d been holding his breath waiting for him to
get in.  The next thing he knew he was being pulled into a tight hug, his back pressed up against
House’s chest like he was a giant teddy bear.

It was a little more closeness than Wilson had anticipated, but he went along with it, telling himself it
was only because House needed it.  But in a strange way he thought it was kind of nice.  It had been
a long time since anyone had cuddled with him like this.  Julie had never been the cuddly type, which
bothered him more than he cared to admit.  In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he realized
just how much he missed simply being hugged.  It felt good—even if it was House doing the hugging.

Then he found himself wondering if House was always this cuddly in bed, or if his recent trauma had
brought it out in him.  The thought then crossed his mind that he’d really like to find out, and suddenly
sleep was the farthest thing from his mind.  And so, for the second night in a row, Wilson lay blinking
sleeplessly into the darkness as House slept soundly next to him.

Chapter 3

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