Gravitational Collapse

"It's strange," Wilson airs after a long, companionable silence, "that so many of the stars aren't even there anymore. They've been dead for hundreds of years. We don't even know." He pokes the crackling log, the dying flame sparking with renewed vigour for a few seconds.

House turns his golden marshmallow, inching it closer to the glowing embers. He likes his burnt to a blackened, crispy husk. "Guess it's better than not being seen at all."

At Wilson's frown, he adds; "The stars. There are billions we can't see."

Wilson is across the pit, red washing his face into flickering shadows. "It doesn't bug you? Whole galaxies, gone, and . . . what, we can't even acknowledge or, or even notice at all?" House shrugs. "When things die, it should matter."

His marshmallow bursts into flame. He blows it out. "What matters is life, Wilson. Not death. If the only time you matter is when you die, then you don't matter at all. There are stars still burning that don't exist to us." He slaps the marshmallow on a graham cracker and squishes a piece of chocolate on top.

"So they're useless when they're living and it doesn't matter when they die."

"We're not stars." He puts another cracker over the chocolate.

"You're the one who anthropomorphized it."

"Hey, I'm not the one who got all existential."

Wilson doesn't reply, so House stuffs the smore into his mouth. The charred log pops, spitting golden streaks and cracking apart. Smoke fills House's nostrils and burns his eyes. He licks his fingers clean.

Wilson stands from his stone, walking around the pit. House moves to stand from his own, but Wilson clasps his shoulder to stop him. His eyes are dark; they always are, but in the firelight, past midnight, House can't differentiate between the pupils and irises. He swoops down, lips chapped and sticky. He pulls away, leaving House frozen. Wilson stands still before him, hand moving from his shoulder to his cheek. After that, nothing.

House sucks in a breath, the way a just-born infant might. He exhales shakily. He's been expecting this, but also not.

"Do that again," he whispers; pleads.

Wilson obliges with a grin. He tastes like smoke and fire; sweet and bitter.

Somewhere in the vast black, planets spin and form around a yellow giant, with nary a sound and no one to see, and Wilson undresses House beneath the stars.

With nobody around to complain about the noise, neither of them stifle their cries. House maps every inch of Wilson with his hands, lips, tongue. He's spent far too long not buried deep inside Wilson, sweating and confined to a sleeping bag, and he doesn't have long to remedy that. He's never seen the nearly invisible spiderwebbing stretch marks on his inner thigh or the veins beneath the smooth skin of his shaft. Before now, he hadn't the need to count the freckles or catalogue how Wilson's breath caught every time he touched the space beside his right pelvis bone. He's never been able to render Wilson wholly speechless with sloppy kisses; drag wordless vowels and cries and tears from him, shaking and clutching and coming.

Wasted years of wanting with no time to make up for it left them filling every moment with touch. Kissing, caressing, fondling. Desperate or slow. Whether Wilson had wrapped himself around his wives the way he does with him, House doesn't care to know, but House whispers affections and holds him far more than he ever has with anyone else. He tells him stories he's never shared with anyone and gasps like a drowning man being pulled to freedom when Wilson pushes every inch into him, as if no one ever had.

This is their own world, their own life and time. They cling and pull each other in, and somewhere out there, entire systems grow and revolve and soak in light from suns.

They don't keep track of time. They don't keep track of days. They keep track of nothing. They sleep when tired and wake when their bodies decide. House stays awake later and sleeps longer, though that's nothing new. They eat whenever, whatever, they please. They wash in a nearby stream; clothes, bodies, each other. The water is cold but the sun is hot. Whatever month it is doesn't matter, but it's summer. They use sunblock every day, but still need soothing aloe at night.

House had wakened with his chest to Wilson's bare back. He'd buried his nose in his floppy, product free hair, until he, too, awoke. House kissed him until they fell into each other. Like most days, they spent it naked. As far as House is concerned, this is how life should be. It will be until the end, at least.

However, they had had to go into the nearby town. Hedonistic living in the middle of the woods didn't provide for everything. Shopping went well, save for the noisy children in front of them in line. Wilson had stared at them the entire time they waited.

Now they are naked again, and House watches at the sunset reflecting on the surface of the stream. Blankets beneath him and Wilson behind, arms wrapping around his chest and legs on either side of his own, he learns back into Wilson's embrace.

"It's weird, being around people," he says. They haven't been for so long.

"It's noisy. And . . . crowded. Everything smells strange." Wilson's voice is low in his ear and his hand dips beneath House's navel and gently strokes the skin.

"And kids," he adds, though he regrets it. Maybe he should stop asking questions he fears Wilson might answer.

"I don't want kids, House."

Is he saying that just because he can't have them? Is that his answer because House wants it to be? "You used to." He can never drop anything, even when it would be best for himself.

"I did. Well. I thought I did. I don't, House. In fact, I didn't. Not really." His hand sinks lower—grasps House, caresses life into his cock, slowly. "I'm where I want to be. For twenty years, I've—I've put you first. Even with Amber, if she hadn't . . . . She would have wanted to stop sharing. You, too. And we know how that goes. I don't wish I had a wife and kids. I just want you." He pressed a soft kiss to House's neck. "And to have my body weight in Oreos and apple juice."

Somewhere, someone sees a star shine for the first time, though it's always shone, and House weeps when they make love.

Weeks, months, ago, before the sun had started reddening their shoulders, they had hiked for hours, taking many breaks for House's leg, though neither had any idea of their destination. They hiked because they could, and because they would no longer be able to do so.

House's will had split everything equally between Wilson and his mother. How Blythe chose to use her half, he didn't know. He didn't want to know. For all intents and purposes, he was dead. It wasn't necessarily a lie, to be honest. Wilson used his half on them—food, provisions, motorcycles. He had updated his will, splitting all he was worth between his parents and siblings. As they had discussed this while hiking, Wilson had turned to House, hands entwined, to say; "I know you aren't going to be around for long after me."

House hadn't told him, but Wilson, despite how often House said otherwise, wasn't an idiot. "I suppose you're going to try and convince me to move on after you, then? Steal an identity, set up shop in Canada?" He'd dropped their belongings, overlooking the forest and focusing on the fiery sky, sun low and wind blowing cool.

Wilson had only cupped his face and kissed him. "No," he'd said, staring at him with wide eyes and a smile. "Just wanted to tell you that I knew."

After swelling heat came comfortable breezes and their kisses no longer tasted of sunblock. Whenever Wilson coughs, House thinks of that moment, and of the moments to come. It doesn't happen suddenly, but it's not progressive either. It simply gets worse. They both are doctors; it's plain as day. They don't discuss it, but they meet and keep each other's gazes. They make love less often, but slower and longer. Wilson shakes after, sometimes for an hour. He never cries; just clings.

Twenty years is a long time to collect memories. Enough to reminisce for hours every day, limbs entangled. They never leave each other's side, eyes alight with memory. House retells the story behind each scar as Wilson kisses him. Wilson does the same.

House and Wilson had kissed before, at Wilson's bachelor party. Karamel had dared them. For sixty seconds, he'd tasted giggles and vodka on Wilson's tongue. For ten seconds after, they had stood too close, laughing, and House could have taken it further. He hadn't.

The first song House had played on the piano after the infarction had been Two Thousand Years by Billy Joel. Wilson had butchered the second verse, but House had said nothing.

House had convinced Wilson to smoke weed with him—or at least, he allowed Wilson to pretend he had to be convinced. Laughing at infomercials had turned to their wet, too-open mouths colliding, and they'd gone to bed together, pyjamas sticky and sweaty. Wilson had disappeared before House woke. Perhaps he shouldn't have acted as if nothing had happened. They never smoked together after that, not until after the cancer.

Dinner with Danny hadn't been as horrible as House had predicted. Danny had laughed at all the right times. He'd been kind to House. Wilson had been so thankful he hadn't complained about House making him pay for lunch for a month.

On one occasion, Wilson had come into House's room when they lived in the loft to share his bed. Though there were no tears, his eyes had been red and puffy. They'd only held each other and House never asked why.

All of those memories had led to them, sitting together and staring at the crimson sun, in late spring, and Wilson saying; "We can go together."

They aren't stupid. Between them, they have more knowledge about obscure diseases and tumours to put a few hospitals to shame. The weather worsened as did Wilson. They locked eyes one night, on their sides with chests pressed together, tears flowing. The next, they packed their things and wordlessly hiked to their motorcycles.

Once, when they had returned from town, House had mounted Wilson the moment he'd put down his kickstand. Clothes shucked, and careful not to topple the bike, he rode himself to a slow, but hard, orgasm.

On their way to town for the final time, Wilson had leant House over the seat, pushed his jeans just under his rear, and pulled himself free of his own. Buried deep inside, he thrust and howled and House, keeping his eyes on the side mirror, could not tell if Wilson's expression was one of pain or pleasure.

Wilson had family he needed to see. House had medical supplies he had stashed away. The end came barreling, faster yet slower than he had ever anticipated.

Hotels and motels on the way to Princeton were more comfortable than he remembered. The traffic was worse. The boredom with Wilson gone was tenfold, and when he returned from visiting, so was House's relief.

Now, it's time.

He sets up the poles and intravenous fluid. Wilson sheds his clothes and House does the same. Wilson crawls over him, kissing and nipping his chest, ears, lips. Wilson is thin, pale. He wheezes when he breathes and his lips are chapped. House runs his fingers and palms over every inch of skin. He caresses his face and thighs. They taste each other, feel each other.

Wilson straddles him, takes every inch of House inside him. He's slow, agonizingly so, but he's weak. The bed creaks, the wall thumps, and they moan. Living in the wilderness did not teach them silence.

Perhaps they'd been silent too long.

It's somehow refreshing, making love and not only knowing Wilson is the last person he'll be with, but that this will be the last time at all. There is comfort in certainty. There is solace in having one last love, in having control of knowing how and when and who with. His final moments of existence, his final shout of pleasure, his final time digging his heels into the soft mattress and clutching Wilson's waist, before drifting into nothing, and it was, in every way, perfect.

Wilson collapses, smiling and gasping, and mouthing words of affection against House's throat.

Wilson's made peace with those he needed to, and said his goodbyes. House had done that months ago. They have now left their marks, on each other, on their acquaintances. The world. This, then, is final.

The morphine waits in the bags, patiently. It doesn't loom, it's not heckling. It doesn't croon or cry. It simply sits, while they hold one another, brushing hair from eyes and whispering memories into each other's mouths.

Having no time left is having all the time in the world.

Hooking each other up to the morphine is filled with soft smiles and loving touches.

House has pictured his death hundreds of times over.

He's pictured bright, flashing lights on a rain-slicked road, losing control of the wheel and shattering glass.

He's pictured drinking and swallowing, bitter pills and burning whiskey, falling faster and faster into a foggy haze, his last coherent thought a harsh, striking worry of maybe going too far.

He's pictured gunshots and redhot pain.

He's pictured gravel scraping into his skin, the metal of his bike screeching like sirens, bones snapping and copper in his mouth, warm and sticky.

He's pictured felating a gun.

Sometimes they were painful, and violent, though sometimes it was quiet and slow. However, in all of the many times death had crossed his mind, no matter how it came about, there had been one constant.

He was always alone.

Except when it is finally time, he isn't. He gazes into Wilson's large, beautifully dark eyes, and kisses his red, dry mouth. Wilson's large hands cover his own, and the people that stay in the room beside theirs have turned on music; something House can almost identify. The light from the moon and the electric blue motel sign glows ethereally through the window.

"Why did you come to my bed, Wilson?"

He smiles, pressing his lips to the tip of his nose. "I'd asked Sam on a date. And I knew that, well. I'd thought that meant we—this—was, um. Impossible."

House chuckles, bringing their mouths together. There is a hint of tongue. "You're a moron."

"I know."

"We were always possible."

"I know."

He holds the side of Wilson's face. He brushes his cheek with his thumb.

The morphine is working quickly.

There are no more whys. No whats. No puzzles, no women, no men. Just them, as it always has been. As it was always meant to be.

"I love you, Wilson," he breathes, tears stinging the corner of his eyes, smile stretching his mouth. "I've always loved you."

Wilson's smile cracks his lips, but fills House with warmth. "I love you too, House."

Somewhere, light collapses and a star dies, though its shine reaches eyes an impossible distance away for centuries on, and housekeeping find two men embracing in death, eyes locked for eternity.