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All Good Things (4/4)

Title: All Good Things
Pairing: House/Wilson
Rating: R for language, adult themes and brief sexuality
Words: 23,000 (in four parts)
Summary: Life, death, and a double shot of irony.
Warning: character death, cancer, medical liberties
Works consulted: here.

Betas and thanks: Thanks to elynittria and bironic for their thorough and insightful betaing and to nightdog_writes for help and encouragement



One | Two | Three | Four

House’s mouth was opened to demand where Wilson had hidden the good cookies—that all-natural health crap was not cutting it—but he closed it when he saw Wilson was on the phone, sitting on the bed facing away from the door. House backed up and stood in the hall, out of sight but within easy earshot. 

“No, I’m doing pretty well.” Wilson was using the polite but oddly formal tones that usually indicated he was talking to his family. “We got some rain yesterday. How are the kids?” Had to be his brother, Ben. Wilson waited doubtlessly enduring some exaggerated tale of his brother’s brats’ academic or athletic achievements. House had met Wilson’s nephews at a barbeque a few years back. They’d stolen his cane as a prank and he’d never forgiven them. He didn’t think Wilson had either.

“Good, good,” Wilson continued. “And Sheila? Wow, VP of the PTA—that must keep her busy.” He laughed hollowly. “No, nothing’s up here. I’m good; House is good. Yeah, I’m still staying at his place. Nothing wrong with the housing market—I’m not actually looking for a new apartment. I like living here.” There was a long pause. “It’s not that weird. We’ve been friends a long time. We’re not… No, I know, she asked me to move back in when I went up there. I said no. I don’t need her to take care of me; I’m doing okay on my own. Yes, with House.” Wilson was getting agitated. “I’m not quite the invalid you seem to think I am, plus he’s pretty good about saying what he wants—he’d have no issue with evicting me. But that’s not really the problem, is it.” It wasn’t a question. “Ben, I don’t have to justify my decisions to you. Please let’s talk about something else.”  Wilson’s voice was tired and resigned. House fought the urge to get up and confiscate the phone. “What? Okay, I’ll talk to you later then. Bye. Give my love to everyone.” Wilson looked at his phone a moment and shut it slowly. “Are you coming in or not?” he called.

“Apparently my ninja skills are not as great as I had thought,” House said, leaving the hall to fling himself dramatically onto the bed.

“They’re certainly nothing against my psychic mind-reading powers.” Wilson set the phone gently down on the bedside table. “How much of that did you hear?”

“Why don’t you read my mind and find out?” House challenged. “What did your darling brother have to say?”

Wilson leaned back against the headboard, eyes fixed on the ceiling. “Not much really.”

House gathered a couple pillows to prop himself up. “He wants you to move back home.”

“Yep,” Wilson sighed, a slightly wistful affirmation. “Mom has him lobbying.”

“What? Doesn’t he like me?” House pressed a splayed hand to his chest, shocked that anyone could possibly find him objectionable.

“Of course not. You take a special joy in insulting his intelligence,” Wilson pointed out.

“But he’s not smart enough to catch it,” House countered reasonably. “You can’t dislike someone for a slight you don’t know about.”

Wilson smiled wryly. “He doesn’t have to get the joke to know one’s being made at his expense.”

“He wouldn’t have liked me anyway. I just gave him a good excuse.”

“You’re thoughtful like that,” Wilson agreed. “Always thinking of others.”

“You should go home,” House said abruptly, worrying a hangnail with fierce determination. “Back to the loving bosom of your family.”

“The fact that you can say that with a straight face says a lot about what you know about my family.”

The hangnail came off, leaving the cuticle bloody. “No, really. You’d be better off there. Your mom’s better at this nursing the sick thing.”

“Except for the medical degree.”

“And you’d probably be better off with them,” House finished. 

 “House.” Wilson took House’s chin in his hand. “I’m not moving out.” Instead of coming in for a kiss as House had hoped, Wilson pushed him gently away. “So quit trying to get rid of me.”

* * * * *

House settled himself into one of the guest chairs, without waiting for acknowledgment or permission from Cuddy. He wondered briefly just when she’d developed the faint wrinkles around her eyes. And she seemed tired when she asked, “What can I do for you, House?”

“I need a leave of absence.” He rolled his cane between his palms.

She set down her pen and sat up straighter, putting on her Concerned Superior face. “How is he?”

“Great. Fantastic. Cancer is like having rainbows inside you.” She flinched, and he regretted the harshness of his tone. “He’s okay. Dealing, I guess. Still trying to get me to take care of myself. Quit drinking. Take up yoga.”

“He never did know when to quit,” Cuddy agreed. She almost smiled, but then it was gone. “You have the leave.” She hesitated. “Are you sure you don’t need any help? Caring for him is only going to get harder-”

“I can do it,” House said quickly, his fingers tightening around his cane.

“You’ve never had to do anything like this before, House.” She sounded painfully sincere. “The kind of attention he’ll need…It’s exhausting.”

“I can do it.” House was loud enough this time to make her jump. He could feel her gaze on him, but he refused to meet her eyes, instead studying the toes of his sneakers. Finally he rose. “You can come see him. He’d like to see you and the twins. Dress them up in something nice.”

Wilson was curled up on the couch when he got home, cocooned in an old patchwork quilt.

“Have you eaten?” House asked, throwing his keys on the table and draping his coat over the chair.

“Ate some toast earlier,” Wilson confirmed.

“Do you want anything else? Some eggs maybe? Tea? I’m glad to see you’re edifying yourself.” The last was in regard to the Baywatch rerun Wilson was engrossed in. House went out to the kitchen, getting the chamomile tea out.

“Yeah, you’re a real judge of quality entertainment,” Wilson said when he returned. “Anyone who watches shows about overprivileged, self-absorbed teenagers has no room to criticize.” He accepted the tea with a slight grimace. Soothing it may have been, but it still wasn’t his beverage of choice.

“The fact that I like crap just means I know it when I see it.” House took his usual place on the other end of the couch. Wilson wiggled his toes in between the couch and House’s legs.

“My toes are cold,” he explained when House shot him a look.

“So glad I can be of use,” House replied, but tucked the quilt more firmly about Wilson’s feet. For a moment they watched Pamela Anderson stretch her acting chops in a run down the beach. “I went in to see Cuddy,” he said when no longer distracted by gravity-defying boobs. “I’m taking a leave of absence.” Wilson turned to him, but he held up a hand to forestall protest. “I already had Cameron fill out the paperwork. I’m taking it and you can’t stop me unless you planning on dragging me physically to work every day. Nothing you can do. So there.” House crossed his arms across his chest and fixed his gaze on the TV.

“You shouldn’t have to put your life on hold because of me, House,” Wilson started, undeterred by House’s distraction.

“Who said this is for you? Arrogant, much? Hanging out at home watching crap TV is what I’d do every day if Cuddy wouldn’t finally fire me. You’re the excuse. If she’d said ‘no’ she would have been a bad person. Now there’s nothing between me and elastic waistbands every day all day. I swear, I’m never going to change out of my boxers from now on.”

“I really hope you’ll reconsider that,” Wilson winced.

“Sorry, nope. Boundaries are overrated.”

Wilson sighed heavily. “Then I really, really hope that you’ll at least change the boxers.”

“But these are my lucky pair.” He pulled the waistband of said boxers from his jeans. “See?”

“Aw, dammit. I liked that boundary.”

“Says the man playing footsie with my ass.”

“Only out of necessity,” Wilson protested, wiggling his toes to underline his point. “Besides, your ass kind of likes it.”

“Baby, you know just what my ass likes.” Wilson laughed, amusement and embarrassment bringing color to his cheekbones. Cheekbones which had become painfully prominent in the last few months. “Hey, if I fix something, do you think you can eat it?” Wilson sobered, and House regretted breaking the mood.

Wilson nodded half-heartedly and House got up. “Aw,” Wilson complained, “I need your ass, bony though it may be.”

* * * * *

Wilson was in bed when House got out of the shower. There was a time when this would have been unusual, but no longer. House found himself up first most days now. He toweled his hair roughly and hung the towel over the doorknob.

“Morning, sunny boy.” The bed dipped as he sat at the foot. “What’s the plan for today?” He shook out the pre-sorted pills from the weekly pill counter and grabbed the water glass from the bedside table. When Wilson didn’t immediately take them, he set them back down.

Only the top of Wilson’s head was visible above the covers, but he moved in a way that was probably a shrug. “Same as yesterday.”

Picking a bump in the covers he hoped was Wilson’s knee, House reached out to rub it. “We didn’t do anything yesterday.” Whatever it was, it was definitely a part of Wilson, so he squeezed a little; he’d given up his fear of overfamiliarity a long time ago. “Which I suppose is your point.” Wilson’s silence was assent. “Come on, you’ve got to be bored out of your skull.” Wilson shrugged again.

“No,” Wilson corrected. “You’re the one who’s bored. You go do something. I’m fine.” The knee moved and House picked another bump to stroke—hip, maybe.

“Yeah. You seem just peachy.” House tugged on the covers, exposing Wilson, who shivered and angrily yanked them back into place.

“House.” Wilson’s teeth were gritted in a way that suggested he was particularly annoyed.

“Yeah?”

“Leave me alone.”

“Okay.” House stretched out on the side that was now most definitely ‘his,’ disregarding the damp spot on the pillow his wet hair was making.

“House.” Wilson turned over enough to look at him.

“Yeah?”

“Do I need to define the word alone for you?”

“I am leaving you alone.” House rolled away from Wilson and tucked his hand under his pillow.

“Right. You don’t have to spend every minute of every day with me,” Wilson said, aggrieved.

“Shhh, I’m sleeping.” He tried snoring softly.

Wilson laughed bitterly. “I can imagine how much fun this is.” He took a visible breath and held it before saying, more gently this time, “You’re allowed to have a life beyond babysitting me. I can manage my own meds. I can even dress myself, tie my shoes. You’d be amazed.”

“I know.” House swallowed; he could feel Wilson’s gaze on the back of his head.

Finally, he felt Wilson roll back over. “You go do something. I’m fine.”

“You’re going to lie here and mope?”

“No, I was going to write poetry about the specialness of each and every day.”

“Dammit, Wilson.” House sat up suddenly, grabbing Wilson’s shoulder and flipping him onto his back, pressing him down into the mattress. “Stop. This,” House growled. After a moment he let go, taking several steadying breaths. “I’m sorry.”

But instead of looking upset, Wilson smiled wanly. “Why? It doesn’t make a difference. I spent most of my life putting off things I wanted to do. Now it’s too late; I don’t have time. It’s not worth going to movies I don’t want to see or sitting in the park feeding the fucking pigeons trying to enjoy life to the fullest.”

“What do you want to do?” House asked. “What were the things you put off?”

Now that the demand had been made, Wilson was at a loss. “I wanted…to, to have a family. Kids.”

“I can’t help you there.” Wilson smiled a bit at that. “What else?”

“I don’t know,” Wilson managed helplessly. “Mostly I didn’t want to die young.”

“You’re not that young.” House held up his hands to protect himself from the pillow now flying toward his head. “I’m just saying.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“I’m sorry.”

Wilson rolled his eyes. “It’s not the worst you’ve ever dealt me.”

“No. I’m sorry you’re dying,” House corrected.

Wilson looked at him sharply. “That makes two of us.”

* * * * *

 “Hey,” Cuddy’s movements were quick and nervous, but her smile was genuine. House was a little disappointed to see that she hadn’t taken his clothing advice and was wearing a modest dress-suit, whose neckline revealed delicate collarbone but nothing else. Still, the way the tweed skirt skimmed over hips and thighs was rather pleasing, he noted when she walked past him into the apartment.

“Come on in,” House swept an arm grandly, ushering her in. “He’s having a good day.”

“Any day with Cuddy is a good day,” asserted Wilson, meeting them in the foyer.

“How quickly you’ve forgotten,” Cuddy smiled wryly. House caught her giving Wilson that judging look she usually saved for patients and people deciding whether to donate to the hospital. Her lips pressed into an unhappy line before resuming a smile. Seeing him every day, House had forgotten how much Wilson had changed.

“Side effect of the drugs,” House interrupted Wilson’s charming rejoinder. Wilson shot him a look that implied he’d be nice if he knew what was good for him. House was unfazed. “Memory’s the first thing to go.”

“Lucky for you,” Wilson answered. “How about if you make coffee? I’m not sure if I remember how.”

“Bitchiness,” House directed at Cuddy with a helpless look. “Another side effect.” He escaped to the kitchen before Wilson could make a rejoinder about the apparent effects of House’s drugs on his own mood. House putzed around in the kitchen while the other two settled themselves in the living room. He tried to make sense of Wilson’s stainless-steel, espresso-making monstrosity, but finally gave up and pulled his old piece-of-crap coffee maker out from under the sink, where it had been relegated when Wilson moved in. He dumped a generous amount of overpriced, gourmet coffee ground into the filter and filled the reservoir, and set it to brew. He moved to join Cuddy and Wilson as the coffee began to trickle through, but stopped when he heard Wilson’s voice.

“…some better than others. One day at a time, you know. Of course, that’s pretty much how life with House has always been.” Wilson laughed a little weakly. “He’s been great, though.”

Cuddy’s voice, cynically: “I find that a little hard to believe.” House bristled, even knowing that she had good reason to be skeptical. He didn’t have much of a history of taking care of Wilson.

“Strangely enough, it’s actually true.” There was a pause and House could visualize Wilson’s fidget, filling it. “It’s been really hard on him.” His tone was grimmer and softer; House strained to catch his next words. “Not that he’d admit it. I worry about him. He doesn’t exactly have a lot of people to fall back on. It’s going to be…hard for him.”

Another pause and House imagined Cuddy laying an unsure hand on Wilson’s hand or elbow. “For all of us.”

“Yeah, but…” Wilson voice trailed off.

“Yeah,” Cuddy agreed.

There was another silence and House heard the sputter of the coffee maker, reminding him why he was hiding in the kitchen. A few minutes more and his absence would surely be remarked upon.

“If you could keep an eye on him for me, keep him from doing something really stupid, I’d appreciate it.” Wilson’s voice again.

“I’ll try. Though I would like to point out that I have been trying, without success, to keep him from really stupid things for years.”

“I have faith in you. He respects you, more than you probably know.” Wilson paused and then said a bit louder, “And don’t let him play ‘Highway to Hell’ at the memorial. It’s not, as he’ll probably insist, my last wish.”

Cuddy actually laughed, and House smiled to himself, pouring coffee into the mismatched mugs he’d taken from the cupboard. Sugar and cream for Wilson, sugar for Cuddy, black for him.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Does someone want to come help the cripple with the coffee or is it more fun to watch me scald myself?”

Cuddy made a quick entrance, looking chagrined, as if she had personally failed. “Sorry, House, I’m a terrible guest.” She swept up two of the cups, nearly spilling it herself.

“And I’m a terrible host, so I guess it works out.” He picked up the third mug and followed her into the living room, taking up his accustomed spot on the couch next to Wilson. “So how are things at the hospital?”

“Pretty much the same. A lot quieter without you two around.” Cuddy took a drink of her coffee, wincing as it burned her tongue. “Foreman’s doing pretty well with the department. Probably not as well as he’s been telling you, but still not as bad as you. No lawsuits so far.” House only half-listened as she gave them the latest gossip, detailing every last sordid rumor; House was a little surprised that the rumor mill continued to churn without him to feed it. He kept up a running commentary, doing his best to earn glares from Cuddy or Wilson, and on one memorable occasion, both. He kept an eye on Wilson, stealing sidelong glances to check his color, his breathing, whether he seemed to be tiring.

When Wilson’s energy flagged and he seemed to go a bit gray around the edges, House collected their cups and hauled them out to the kitchen. Cuddy took the hint and followed him.

“Do you need help with those?” she asked, but he already had the last one in the dishwasher.

“Got it, thanks.”

She hesitated, then picked up a dish rag, wetting it under the faucet and wiping a dried puddle of coffee. “Are you doing okay?” Her mouth twisted around the question, realizing how ridiculous she sounded. “I feel bad that I haven’t been around as much as I probably should.” House waved a hand dismissively and took the rag from her before she could rub a hole in the counter. “No, really. He’s not just an employee. He’s a friend. I should be here.” The self-recrimination was clear in her voice, though she wouldn’t meet his eyes.

House shrugged. “Then he would have just worried about burdening you, too. He knows you care. Mindless hand holding isn’t required. Maybe you’d feel better, but he wouldn’t.”

She bit her lip and nodded. He watched as she bid Wilson goodbye with an awkward hug and quick peck on the cheek, and was surprised when she gave him the same treatment. “It’s been nice to see you,” she told them from the doorway. “It’s not the same without you boys.”

House was dramatically affronted. “I should hope not.”

“Thank you for visiting, Lisa. I really appreciate it.” Wilson managed the part of gracious host.

With one last, enigmatic smile, she was gone.

“That went rather well,” Wilson said after the door had shut behind her.

“Yeah,” House agreed. “I’d forgotten she could be fun when she’s not ordering me around or assigning clinic hours.” He shuddered at the memory and collapsed back onto the couch.

“You always were too hard on her,” Wilson admonished gently.

“She likes it rough,” House leered, snatching up the remote and propping his feet on the coffee table. “The both of you—gluttons for punishment. I just give you what you want.” Wilson snorted to show what he thought about that and reached over and collected the remote. House made a token protest but yielded it anyway. “We better not end up watching TCM,” he warned.

“But they’re having a Mae West marathon. I know you’re a great admirer.”

“That is true,” House conceded, “but I feel something more along the lines of gratuitous violence. Or sex.” He added the last on second thought.

“Possibly both,” Wilson suggested.

House nodded. “But not at the same time. There are limits to my kink.”

“Never seen proof of this.”

“I could tell you stories to make you hair curl,” House assured him.

“Now that would be truly horrifying,” Wilson replied dryly.

* * * * *

 “Why, God, why?!” House demanded with a skyward glare, as Wilson collected the pile of small change in the middle of the table. He’d been sure he was bluffing

“If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” Wilson cackled, carefully stacking his gains into neat little columns of nickels, dimes, and quarters. “You’ve given God plenty of reason to hate you; I don’t know why he’d help your poker game.”

House collected the cards, shuffling them with a practiced hand and dealing. “I keep thinking that he’ll come around, but alas.” Wilson was currently in the lead, but House was closing ground. House peeked at the cards he’d been dealt. Eight of diamonds and five of clubs. The cards already down were three of hearts, six and two of spades. He studied Wilson’s face for signs as to his hand, but it was a seamless mask, giving away nothing. All those years keeping up an emotionless front for desperate patients had really honed his ability. House threw in twenty cents. With a last careful look at his cards Wilson put in a dollar.

“Whoa there, big spender,” House said, and Wilson’s eyebrow quirked in challenge. House considered; he was dangerously close to out, but surely Wilson’s luck was close to turning. “I’m in.” He pushed the required change into the center of the table. Drawing back his hand, he realized his mistake as Wilson’s expression broke into one of exultant triumph.

“Well, lookee there,” he crowed in a way that made House want to strangle him, slapping down his cards to reveal a straight. “You may bow down and call me the god of chess!” He threw his hands out as though trying to embrace his victory.

“Aw, shuddup,” House grumbled.

“You’re just sore—” The rest of Wilson’s sentence was cut off by a sudden coughing fit brought on by his outburst. He wheezed, desperately trying to suck air into his lungs, half bent over, forearms braced against the table as his body tried to shake itself apart. House made it to his feet faster than he had in years, sending his chair over backward.

“Do you need anything?” House asked, helpless to do anything but run a useless hand up and down Wilson’s spine. “Just calm down. Slow breaths,” he reminded the struggling Wilson. “It’ll be over in a minute.” Even trying to bring up a lung, Wilson was able to shoot him a who-are-you-kidding look.

Wilson took House’s hand, squeezed it once, and released it. “I’m not dead yet.”

House smiled a little desperately. “Too bad. I’d’ve taken your winnings.”

“Yeah, a haul like that, I can’t blame you being jealous.” He accepted the glass of water House brought back from the kitchen, taking a careful sip, and then set the glass down. “I’m going to lie down a bit. All right?” House nodded, mumbling something about his intention to watch over-inebriated, underdressed girls on TV.

When House checked in on him a bit later, Wilson was already asleep or at least pretending to be.

* * * * *

For the first time in nearly three months, House found himself at Princeton-Plainsboro. He hadn’t been sure on the ride over whether he expected it to be exactly the same or completely different. Now, standing in the foyer, he realized it was both. Some things had changed: the STD awareness posters, the seasonal decorations, the organization of the nurses’ station. They’d painted the trim in a teal that was probably supposed to match the old color, but some moron was color-blind and it had come out rather blue. But much was the same: the sounds, the milling patients, the nasty looks he got from the nurses. His office was exactly as he’d left it—even the issue of People was on the same page; it was as if he’d merely left to go to the bathroom. He ran his fingers along the surface of his desk. Someone had dusted, though. But it didn’t seem like home anymore. This had been the place where he’d spent almost every waking hour, his domain, his territory, and now it was almost foreign. Just some hospital he had once worked at.

He browsed through his bookcase, pulling out a few of his more beloved tomes, and then pulled out a drawer of his filing cabinet, digging through the definitely unfiled paperwork until he found a thick, white envelope.

“Hey.”

He turned, slipping the envelope into his jacket pocket. Cameron stood watching him, hands on her narrow hips, looking unsure whether she was happy to see him or not. The feeling was entirely mutual.

“I’m just grabbing some of my stuff,” he explained, trying to justify his presence in his own office. He picked up the books, substantiating his story. “Don’t mind me. Foreman doesn’t have to worry about losing power just yet.”

“Maybe not because of you,” she snorted, “but I’m definitely gunning for him.” They shared a slight smile that was hardly even forced.

“I’ve trained you well, my young apprentice.” He paused; his conversation skills had gotten even rustier. “Have you seen my Gameboy?”

“I think Chase stole it.” She took another step into his office, feeling more sure of herself.

“He always did have that shifty look about him. I guess that’s what happens when you’re descended from criminals.”

“Mm, I’d love to see you say that in front of him.”

“You think I wouldn’t?”

“I know you would. And it would prove entertaining.”

“Where is he, anyway?”

“He and Foreman are running some tests on a patient. I can go get them,” she offered, but House quickly held up a hand to stop her.

“Don’t bother. I’m leaving just now.”

She seemed genuinely disappointed. “You sure you can’t stay a few minutes?”

“What, did you miss me?”

“Forgotten just how big a jerk you are and need a refresher course to put things in perspective.”

He nodded his appreciation. “Careful. A little perspective is a dangerous thing.”

“Are you okay?” she asked, never one to worry about her transitions into awkwardly personal inquiries.

He shrugged. “Peachy.”

“You’ve been doing really well. Dealing with all…this.” Her eyes were painfully earnest.

“Oh God,” he groaned, clapping his hand to his forehead. “You’re proud of me.”

“What you’re doing? That’s something to be proud of. I know how hard it—” she started.

“Don’t be. You want to know how I am? Really? I wish it was me. Not because I’m noble. I think we both know I’m not. But because he’s got it easier. I wish I was the one who got to lie around dying while he had to worry and agonize and make arrangements. That he was the one left behind.”

His words didn’t have the desired effect, however. She reached out to put a hand on his shoulder or elbow, possibly even move in for a hug. He backed up rapidly enough to probably cause offense, but at least he was out of range. Her face fell a bit as she realized hers was not a shoulder he wanted to cry on.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he managed awkwardly. “That I told you not to talk to Wilson. You were just trying to help. I…appreciate that. But there’s nothing you can do for me. There never was.” He pushed past her saying, “Tell the boys hi,” and made his escape.

* * * * *

 “I need a bath,” Wilson said. “I smell disgusting.” He sniffed the front of his t-shirt and made an excessively disgusted face.

“Pish. I enjoy your manly aroma.”

“Yeah, not sure I’m going to take hygiene advice from a man whose jeans can stand on their own.”

“You’re just fussy,” House harrumphed, pushing himself up and going to draw the bath anyway. He watched the tub fill, debating whether to add bubbles but not wanting to take the title of fussy from Wilson.

“You know, I can actually do that myself.” Wilson entered and sat heavily on the side of the tub, dipping his fingers in the water and apparently finding the temperature acceptable.

“Uh huh. Arms up.”

“You’re kidding.” House gestured impatiently for Wilson to lift his arms. Wilson rolled his eyes with a put-upon sigh, but complied, letting House peel off his t-shirt over his head. Wilson’s skin nearly was as smooth and pale as the tile, his ribs sharply pronounced.

“Pants too.” House said, dropping the t-shirt for Donna to pick up later.

“Spare me that indignity.”

“Since when have I ever spared you indignities?” House replied, but Wilson was adamant about depantsing himself and warned House in the strongest language possible not to look.

“Right, like I haven’t seen it before,” House reminded him, but kept his eyes on the soap dish, not turning until he’d heard the slight splash signaling Wilson was in the water.

“It’s different.”

* * * * *

House looked up when Wilson squeezed his hand lightly. “Hey.” He managed a smile, which House found himself automatically returning.

“Hey, yourself,” House answered. “I can’t believe I’m sitting here holding your hand. Do you realize how unbelievably gay that is?” He made a face, imagining the damage it would do to his reputation.

“Yeah, I think I’m embarrassed,” Wilson agreed huskily. “Don’t worry—your secret’s safe with me.”

House reached out with his free hand to brush the back of his fingers down Wilson’s cheek. “How’s the pain?”

“Okay.” Wilson’s eyes were glassy. “They break out the good drugs when you’re dying.”

“Good to know. I, uh…” House tried to think of something to say that wasn’t maudlin or banal and utterly failed.

Wilson noticed his discomfiture. “You don’t have to say anything deep. I’d be surprised if you did.”

“Shut up.”

“Exactly my point.”

“Remember the day we first met?” It was an attempt. A lame attempt, but an attempt.

“Yeah. You welcomed me to PPTH with a rant about the inefficacy of oncology. And you stole my cappuccino.”

“Not the memory I was going for.” House gave him a cross look.

“Oh, sorry. Carry on.”

House sniffed, affronted. “Nope. You ruined it.”

“Aw. Let’s see. You accosted me later at lunch. I’m still not sure why. Either you hadn’t finished your earlier rant, or there weren’t any tables left. Anyway, I remember thinking as you slapped your tray down across from my mine, ‘Wow, this guy, who I haven’t even known half a day, I feel like I’ve known my whole life. And he really is an absolute bastard.’”

House smiled fondly. “And I thought you were an easy mark. Such good times.”

Wilson smiled his most heart-breaking smile. “Yeah, it’s been fun.” He quieted, his eyes closing, and he drifted to sleep. House must have too, because he woke up with his leg throbbing and a serious crick in his neck when Wilson called his name.

“House…” Wilson called again softly, a note of panic in his voice. “House.”

“Right here, buddy.” House reached out to grip Wilson’s hands with his own.

Wilson swallowed with difficulty. “We’re going to be late,” he managed, struggling to focus on House’s face. “You promised you wouldn’t make us late.”

“Late? For what?” House kept his voice low and calm.

“It starts at seven; you said you’d be ready.” Wilson voice was small and accusatory, almost petulant.

Heart catching, House replied, “I’m ready to go whenever you are.”

This seemed to calm Wilson a little. “But what about your jacket?” he seemed to remember.

“It’s at the dry cleaner’s,” House improvised, his tone slightly chiding. “We’ll pick it up on the way over. I’ve already got my tie—that ugly blue number you picked out.”

Wilson sighed, a familiar sound of relief and resignation. “Okay. S’okay, then.” He smiled vaguely at House. “You look nice in blue.”

House smiled. “Thanks. It’s because I’m a summer. Enhances my complexion.” House brushed hair off Wilson’s forehead.

“House?”

“Yeah, Wilson?”

“I’m glad you’re coming with me.” Wilson’s eyes closed slowly as he drifted off again.

“Me too, kiddo, me too,” House said, tucking the blanket in a little tighter.

Wilson never regained consciousness. At 2:47 p.m. the next day his breathing quickened and then stopped altogether. House struggled to swallow and wet his throat. He stood, his legs shaky from the hours of vigil, but he made it to the dresser beside the bed. Kneeling was even harder on his bad leg, but he pulled out the bottom drawer. It was a mess of papers, odd ends, magazines, toys. To the casual observer it looked like the junk drawer of an immature adolescent. Wilson would claim that it was the junk drawer of an immature adolescent. Would have claimed.

House faltered a moment in his search and paused until his hands stopped shaking enough for him to move a stack of magazines (three Hustlers, a Cosmo and a Wizard). There was the gray metal box. His stash tin. He hadn’t gotten it out in years, but it had been enough to know it was here, waiting for the time he would need it. His fingers closed on the cold surface now, and he drew it out. He took it back to the bed with him, setting it on the nightstand. He picked up the yellow legal pad and ball point pen he’d been using to keep track of Wilson’s symptoms and meds and flipped it to a fresh page. He put the pen to paper and hesitated. He’d been anticipating this moment for months, but now he wasn’t quite sure what to say. Finally he just wrote: I know I said I wouldn’t do this. I lied.

He debated whether to add and tell Dad to go fuck himself but decided that would probably cause his mother undue stress and set the pad back down, pulling out the drawer of the bedside table and pulling out a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide, between the pages of which he’d stuck the envelope he’d retrieved from work. His will. It wasn’t particularly complicated, as wills went. He didn’t really care where his crap ended up. What he’d amassed—his ill-gotten gains from work and Wilson and gambling—he’d donated to the hospital. Cuddy would figure it a fair trade.

After carefully arranging the note and envelope so they wouldn’t be missed, House spun the combination on the box, opened it, and removed the syringe and small bottle of clear liquid. He set those aside and took out the tourniquet, working it up his arm and using his teeth to help tighten it. 170 mg would be enough, but he upped it just in case. He flicked the syringe and set it to his arm, the cold, familiar sting of the needle more comforting than anything else. With the syringe empty, he set it back in the tin. Stretching out on the bed, he settled in next to Wilson.

“Hey, shove over, Jimmy,” he draped an already leaden arm across Wilson chest. “You’re hogging the blankets.” His head lolled against Wilson’s shoulder, cradled against his neck. Talking became too exhausting, and House let himself lapse into silence and, finally, into nothing at all.

Comments

( 148 comments — Leave a comment )
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purridot
Feb. 5th, 2007 04:05 am (UTC)
*bursts into tears*
purridot
Feb. 5th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC)
*wipes tears off keyboard*

I feel bad for thinking the ending was absolutely perfect. It sounds awful, but that is how I would *want* things to end for them -- together like that.

The story was devoid of sentimentality, and felt so natural. We're just studying in myth class this week myths of life, death, and rebirth (Demeter, Inanna, Isis et al). It's funny how this fits; Wilson has to face death so that his relationship with House can be reborn as something new and fruitful, and they can have a life together at last (though it is brief). And who knows? Possibly an afterlife as well. *sniffle*
(no subject) - rubberbutton - Feb. 5th, 2007 05:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - axmxz - Feb. 11th, 2007 07:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rubberbutton - Feb. 11th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
asynca
Feb. 5th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
I hate you for brutally forcing me to read this... with the blackmail and the flaming swords etc.

“Hey, shove over, Jimmy,” he draped an already leaden arm across Wilson chest. “You’re hogging the blankets.”

Perfect.

Also, you lied. This is very, very good.

rubberbutton
Feb. 5th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
I hate you for brutally forcing me to read this... with the blackmail and the flaming swords etc.

It was your own curiosity that did you in and you know it. :P My apologies for any trauma you may have sustained; I do hope you'll recover, m'dear.
elynittria
Feb. 5th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC)
Hi! *waves*

I've read the first chapter and can't wait to read the rest. Unfortunately, I'll have to do that in bits and pieces in between working the rest of tonight. I will definitely get back to you with feedback sometime tonight, though. Sorry it can't be sooner! (I'd much, much rather be reading this than working!)
delphinapterus
Feb. 11th, 2007 06:29 am (UTC)
*sniff* That was really sad but it sounded so natural because you didn't have them turn into smoopy-lovers. House and Wilson dealing with it by trying to be normal was really sad. I absolutely adored the ending, it was so sad but at the same time it was really lovely because they were together in life and death, which to me is perfect. *mem*
deelaundry
Feb. 11th, 2007 06:46 am (UTC)
I was supposed to go to bed relatively early tonight but instead I read this. It's perfect.
rubberbutton
Feb. 11th, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC)
My apologies for your sleep loss. :P Glad you liked.
arwen_kenobi
Feb. 11th, 2007 07:05 am (UTC)
Oh gods, tearing up here. Most of everything that I wanted to say has been said, I will reiterate that this was just a 'perfect' ending. Wonderful job
fatalisticrebel
Feb. 11th, 2007 07:20 am (UTC)
I've been intermittently shedding a tear or two here and there. Now, my computer is making some unhealthy sounds due to my water works.

This is perfect, and all it's other synonyms. But now I'm going have dreams riddled with a dying Jimmy.
axmxz
Feb. 11th, 2007 07:34 am (UTC)
Glad to see House didn't keep his promise not to do anything stupid.
sandssavvy
Feb. 11th, 2007 07:49 am (UTC)
*major crying at the end of the story*

Wow, I usually don't cry twice no matter how sad or good a fic is.

Poor Wilson and House. I really can't picture House going on without Wilson.
triedunture
Feb. 11th, 2007 07:59 am (UTC)
OK. I know this sounds stupid, but I am crying so hard, it's very difficult to breathe. And I held out until the very end.

Oh my god. I'm still crying. I haven't cried this hard in years. There are so, so many good things happening in this story. A beautiful tone, a heart breaking pace...

Geez, I can't even...just...it's good.
piss_and_ink
Feb. 11th, 2007 09:03 am (UTC)
OH my god. Not only are you a fabulous writer... you're a fabulous writer. This was a heartwrenching journey that couldn't have been more emotional and evoking - and a tear-jerker. I read this the entire way through, not even stopping to pee. What really killed me was the last thing Wilson ever said to House; and how casual House was about the whole... ordeal. Just, all of it was extraordinary. Your House/Wilson exchanges were perfect, and even the wee bits of slash didn't feel like slash but just, their friendship, the way they cared for eachother.

Irony is a bitter pill. See my icon? That's me right now. Tears.
cosmosmariner
Feb. 11th, 2007 09:25 am (UTC)
There's a lump in my throat. It was beautiful. Thanks for sharing. :)
daasgrrl
Feb. 11th, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)
This is just an incredible fic. I just thought I'd give it a quick look but was completely drawn into it, and by the end I was holding my breath just hoping nothing would happen to ruin the absolutely perfect balance of tone. You did it. I love so very much.
rubberbutton
Feb. 11th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
by the end I was holding my breath just hoping nothing would happen to ruin the absolutely perfect balance of tone

You weren't the only one. Er, not that I thought I had perfect balance of tone, but that I was afraid I'd really screw it up. There's always a real chance of that with me.

Glad you liked.
poorfrances
Feb. 11th, 2007 11:22 am (UTC)
You really captured House's voice. Perfectly.

I know I said I wouldn’t do this. I lied.

Ugh, just stunning! That line took my breath away.
roga
Feb. 11th, 2007 11:39 am (UTC)
Wow. A story like this is worth a far more comprehensive comment like that, but all I can think right now is wow.

You've made the entire relationship between them completely believable and in character. Wilson's deterioration was heart-wrenching to watch (and it actually felt like we were watching it), and House's dealing even more so. Like Cameron, I actually felt proud of him for the way he was coping (yes, proud of a fictional fictional character), and I the scenes you wrote with other characters - Cuddy, Cameron - were perfect.

The ending is, in a way, a relief. It really would have been unbearable to picture House going on after this. I do feel sad for Cuddy, though.

A last note - the sex scene you wrote in the previous part was one of the most touching, beautiful, gentle ones I've ever read.

Okay, off to rewatch a random episode now, just to remind myself that Wilson's still alive.
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