A/N: Wow. Well, I think – that is the last and closing chapter of this story. It's been great writing it, and it's been great getting your reviews. I hope it was all right. I'll be thinking about writing a sequel, but nothing's for sure yet.
Please Read and Review! This chapter means a lot to me, so I would appreciate all regular readers to review and tell me what you think about this chapter and the story in general. Thank you.
If you haven't already, please go check out my new House fic: Cotton Candy Baby.
In the morning, the ducklings were back and tired. It seemed that a troubled House made them all restless. Chase brought the coffeepot to the table, passing through the pale light of morning. Cameron and Foreman sat in similar poses, looking sullen. The difference was that Cameron was worried for House, while Foreman was annoyed that his boss bothered him at all.
"Rough night?" said Chase, pouring coffee into his Styrofoam cup. He would drink it black today.
"Yeah," said Foreman.
"Why are we even here when we don't have any cases?" asked Cameron, more to herself than anyone else.
"Because we have no lives," said Chase. "And because – we're all worried about House."
"Doesn't make any sense," Foreman added.
"Well," said Chase. "As much of a bastard as he is, we've spent a lot of time with him."
Foreman scoffed. "So?" One eyebrow cocked. "If you spent half your life with Satan, that wouldn't make him anymore likable."
"He's a good man," Chase strained. "Even you have to see that. He's given me my fair share of grief too, but he's a good doctor and a good guy, even if you have to dig deep to see it."
"Good doctor, yes. I don't know if he's a good man."
"Oh, come on," said Chase, a little angry now. "He hasn't killed anyone."
Foreman raised an eyebrow again.
"Not on purpose," Chase added. "It's not his fault that things happened the way they did."
"Yeah, and it's also not his obligation to act the way he does."
"Don't you ever think about what he could have been like before his leg?"
"Wilson knows," said Cameron.
"Whatever," said Foreman. "I don't want him dead, I just don't think he deserves our concern."
Chase rubbed his brow and sighed. Foreman looked from him to Cameron, who sat quietly with a half-troubled, half-thoughtful expression. The light and shadow in the conference room was all dim and constant. Cameron couldn't help but look beyond to House's empty office. Even with all of his bullshit, she missed him. She missed working with him and she missed being around him. She didn't care if he liked her or not, though she believed that he definitely felt something for her. All she wanted was to have him around, speaking to her, looking at her, acknowledging her existence. That's all she needed. Even if she wanted more.
"Can you really believe it?" Chase asked, leaning on the back legs of his chair, coffee steaming.
"What?" said Foreman.
"This," said Chase. "All of this. House trying to kill himself and Wilson in a car crash and all of their complications."
Foreman shrugged. "Is it so unbelievable?"
"I don't know. I guess no one really expects it to happen to someone they know. Ignorant, isn't it?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Foreman. "Is it ignorant to be optimistic?"
"No," Chase clipped. "But believing you're untouchable definitely is."
"People don't know how to be balanced," said Cameron, still staring at House's office.
"That's for sure," Chase said. "God, can you believe those two? House and Wilson? Damn, I wish I had a friendship like that. Any relationship like that."
"I guess I don't either," said Foreman, sounding a little sad.
"It's rare," said Cameron distantly. She felt over the leather chair, the blue light, the shadows and the carpet and the computer screen. Her eyes made love to his abandoned things, while her heart ached for the man himself. It ached for understanding too. She wished she could understand House, all the inner workings of him. "But only Wilson can."
"What?" Foreman said.
"Wilson," she said. "He's the only one that knows House on the inside."
"How scary is that?" Foreman said. "Knowing House's insides."
"Aren't you ever curious?" asked Chase. "He says he has no personal life, but you know that's gotta be bullshit. Even if it's just his own thoughts or feelings, it's a personal life."
"I dunno," said Foreman, shaking his head. "I don't think I want to know what House feels. It'd make it a hell of a lot more complicated."
"Work would be insufferable," Chase confirmed. "Of course – not like it's not now, right?"
Foreman grinned. Cameron's eyes reached the cane propped up against House's desk. They would bring it to him when he was released, she was sure. Hell, did he even need it anymore when he had Wilson? But hadn't he always had Wilson?
"Not like this," she breathed.
"Huh?" Chase sounded.
"Wilson and House. It's different now."
"What do you mean?"
"They're finally being honest with each other," she pondered aloud. "They're finally admitting they need each other to live."
"Uh, okay." Chase shot Foreman a wrinkled look.
"You really think it's like that?" Foreman asked her.
"Why not?" she said. "Have you ever seen them? Really seen them? Together? Have you really thought about all this? House came down here in the middle of suicide for Wilson. He gave up his own blood for Wilson, put himself in a coma, died."
The men digested her words, searching the air below them.
"And Wilson?" Foreman prompted.
"What about him? Haven't you worked here long enough to see him when he's around House? He couldn't be more obvious if he tried."
"So you think it's a romantic thing?" Chase questioned seriously.
"No," she said softly, shaking her head. "Much, much more than that."
House burst through the swinging doors again, in the same hallway with the same life-like lights. He was running again, free from his disability again. But he was faster this time, better this time. His Nikes squeaked on the tiles, his breathing was the only music left. The next door grew closer and closer.
He pushed through them, met the same masked faces, the expectant and lifeless eyes. He strode toward them, shoved them apart and away, didn't watch them disappear. Wilson's heart monitor was still beeping. He was here early.
"I'm here," he announced, almost shouting because he needed Wilson to listen, even if the man was unconscious. House reached into his pocket and took out a full bottle of Vicodin, his death, his release, the most important thing in his life for the last five years.
He ripped off the cap and tipped the bottle over, white pills raining down and bouncing along the floor. And he laughed.
"That's it!" he said. "I'm through! I'm living for you!"
Beep, beep, beep.
"You're not dying. You hear me?"
He tossed the surgical trays to the ground, and they clattered amongst the Vicodin.
"I'm living – and you're living too. We don't go anywhere alone."
He stepped closer. Beep. Beep. Beep.
"Now wake up. I've got the 'vette waiting outside."
The heart monitor's flat line rang loud in his ears, unyielding. He blanked out, the doors swung open, the sound penetrated the white light.
Wilson smiled at him, legs mirroring House's. He was wearing an old monster truck T-shirt, the same faded black as House's Rolling Stones' one.
"Race you to the lot," he said.
And House had a feeling his two good legs would remind him of victory.
Wilson lifted his eyes open slowly, hesitant for the possibility of bright light, but he found himself in a dimly lit room. The blinds were drawn and filtering. It must be morning. He looked over at the digital clock on his bedside table. 8:52 AM. He'd slept through the night. He sighed. He was faintly aware of the ache in his belly, where two sets of stitches made it harder to breathe than if he'd only had the broken ribs. Morphine was in his drip now, which was good. He wouldn't argue this time about the drugs.
He shut his eyes again. He was fatigued – enough that when his worries for House surfaced, they were worn out past desperation. He felt the soft coverlet with his right hand and wanted the comforting cotton of an old T-shirt, but he was stuck in the hospital gown. He listened to his own machinery – the heart monitor and the ventilator. The multi-colored lights blinked all around him.
"House," he murmured. His left hand found the beeper. He pushed the button with his thumb and waited. He remembered dreaming about a lot of things. He wondered if House dreamed at all.
House's heart monitor beeped lifelessly, as empty as he had been these five years. Every sound seemed to ring with duty and not will. And Cuddy listened – leaning in the doorway and watching. She listened and she knew and she understood. She just wished she had realized his unhappiness sooner. She wished she had forced herself into his life long ago, intervened and saved him this whole ordeal. She wondered what she would do now. What would she do with this man once he was up?
If he ever woke up.
She couldn't get ahead of herself. She shut her eyes painfully. She didn't think she could walk the halls of this hospital without House's harassment keeping her on her toes. She didn't believe Wilson would ever live again if House died. She didn't know if House could ever live again.
Didn't know if he wanted to.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Rise and fall.
Slow and unconscious.
Every heartbeat, every breath, every fizzle of brain activity. All involuntary.
No gladdened choice from House.
She tried to remember things, tried to remember what he had been like before the infarction. She tried to remember what Wilson had been like before, how they had been. It was with riveting surprise that it finally occurred to her – Wilson's love for House, House's love for Wilson, their friendship had all deepened, strengthened, cemented because of that pain. The destruction of House's previous life, his personality, and his joy had been the birth of his now living love with James. They would never need each other this way if they hadn't been through that hell together.
House hadn't chosen the infarction. He hadn't chosen to lose Stacy. He hadn't chosen the pain, the disability, the anger, the depression. He hadn't chosen Wilson's love.
But it had come. It had all come. And it stayed. But Cuddy didn't know if one side could survive without the other.
And even through his pain, his exhaustion, his hopelessness, his suicide – House had come for Wilson. House had stayed for Wilson. House had given his blood, risked the life he didn't want.
She smiled, staring at House.
He knew somewhere, deep down, about everything. He always had. And the salvation was there – a seed inside him. She wanted to laugh. He knew about the love. He knew it's whole story. And he understood. And that could only mean one thing.
She wondered if she should be surprised that he knew it all.
Wilson concentrated on exhaling, as a nurse arrived in answer to his call. He was familiar with her, as he was familiar with most of the staff in the hospital. She always treated him well, but then again, he couldn't think of anyone that didn't. His chest sunk with its thin cover – standard hospital gown. He wanted a battered, old T-shirt. He'd even settle for one of his dress shirts that he wore to work. He felt bare in these gowns, and he didn't handle exposure well.
"Good morning, Dr. Wilson," the nurse sang cheerfully. He smiled faintly at the ceiling.
"Hello," he said, trying to sound as all right as possible.
"How are you today?" She started checking his pulse in the wrist that harbored all the tubes.
"Tired," he admitted. "And a little sore."
"I heard your surgery went well last night," she said, scribbling down on his charts. "Congratulations."
He smiled again, trying to control the way his chest and belly moved when he breathed. She shut down the ventilator, satisfied that his breathing and stats were stable enough. All he had now was the oxygen mask.
"I'll see if I can get you something for the pain, okay?"
He nodded, breath seeping in and out stealthily. She smiled at him and disappeared just as she had come. He sighed in her absence, wincing. Now that he was more awake, everything felt sharper. Fuck. He closed his eyes again. It's okay, he told himself. Focus on breathing. Focus on something else.
Greg, Greg, Greg.
His chest rose, and his lungs expanded like a rising hill. He clenched the sheets loosely.
Every broken rib twanged, and he nibbled on his lip. His belly burned, and he squeezed his eyes tight, pursed his lips. He already had morphine; he couldn't take it all. He didn't know what she planned on bringing him, but he hoped she was fast.
He was surprised Julie hadn't called or shown up by now. God. He didn't want to think about Julie. Definitely didn't want to think about explaining things to her, especially when they involved Greg.
He exhaled, blew out, slowly – resisting nature's push to fly downhill.
He hated hills. He hated roller coasters. Fuck.
The nausea crept up on him. He swallowed.
"All right, here we go. I'm switching you to Demerol for now. It should kick in any minute now."
She maneuvered his drip, and he didn't bother watching. He kept his eyes closed and tried to focus, gripped the sheets a little more.
"Greg," he said weakly. She looked at him. "Dr. House – how is he?"
"Oh, I wouldn't know, sir. I'll find out for you, okay?"
She talked to him as if he were a child. He almost liked it. He nodded. She smiled even though his eyes were shut and left him again.
House breathed deep, opened his eyes as if he had just been asleep. They glowed in the dim light, glassy with disorientation and ebbing visions. The monitor noises began to sink in, the room began to slide into focus.
Who was it? She approached, peering at him intensely. He struggled for a name, a label. Cuddy. Lisa Cuddy. That's right.
"House? Can you hear me?"
He grappled for his voice. "C-Cuddy."
She sighed into a smile.
"Why won't you leave me – the hell alone?" he said, flat and exhausted. She kept grinning.
"I enjoy hassling you," she said.
"Sentiment – returned."
Cameron lost her breath in the doorway, Foreman and Chase skidding to a halt at her shoulder. They gaped at their boss, though he didn't notice them. Cameron's heart fluttered.
"He's back," said Cuddy in deep satisfaction. House squinted at the ducklings.
"They've been – sitting on their asses – this whole time, haven't they?" he said.
"Of course," Chase smirked. House sighed and grumbled. Foreman only stared, and Cameron couldn't find her composure. She gawked open-mouthed at House, overwhelmed with a variety of emotions. Cuddy beamed at House in a way that unsettled him.
"Do you want to see Wilson?"
Several hours later, when the day was coming to a close, an anonymous nurse wheeled House slowly into Wilson's room because the doctor was too tired to wheel himself. His drip followed, escorted by another nurse. He began to think of them as zombies. Couldn't imagine why Wilson liked them so much.
Speaking of Wilson, the oncologist cracked his eyes open wearily, but when he glimpsed House, a smile spread on his face no matter how drugged and exhausted he was. It could shine to its fullest now, ventilator and oxygen mask removed.
"We have done this – too many damn times," House said. Wilson kept smiling. The nurses pushed House as close to the bed as they could, and House stared steadily at Wilson even as they left.
"You made it," he said. He didn't touch Wilson's hand. He just sat slack in the chair.
"So did you," Wilson replied.
The light in Wilson's eyes flickered. House's blues stared the light down, until they stifled. The silence seemed to fill too many hours, but their gaze communicated volumes until they were moved. House licked his lips.
"You know – even when I took the pills, all I could think about was you."
Wilson stared at him painfully.
"I was worried about you," House said, laughing into a toothy grin.
Wilson lost a tear.
"I was worried about – who would take care of you instead of me." His grin glistened for a minute before fading. "Even though you're the one that's been taking care of me all along."
Wilson's second tear.
"It was never about -- hurting you," said House, blue eyes swirling in Wilson's brown. "That was my only regret the whole way through."
Wilson wanted to look away, wanted to stop listening. His heart hurt. But he couldn't pull away from House's eyes.
"And when I was in a coma – I dreamt of you. How fucking sentimental is that, huh?"
House laughed strangely, but Wilson remained silent and sullen, lips tight.
"Did you really – did you really go to that church and pray?" House dared to ask. Wilson scoffed and buried his face in his hand, hiding his blush as his shoulders gave their first wobble. House bit his lip, eyes watering. Damn it.
"I remembered – the – the bar and the day you came over after your second wife filed." Wilson was shaking his head in his hand, face trembling like the tears caught in his eyelashes. "And the infarction and the cherries."
"God," Wilson gasped.
"We've been through a lot of shit, huh?" House remarked deadpan.
"I dreamt of you too," said Wilson, voice fragile. He looked up at House, whose expression matched his surprise. Wilson offered a faint smile that died when he looked away. House lowered his head and searched his lap, right side of his body lit up by the lamp and the left side in shadow.
"I had this nightmare thing," he began, turning Wilson into his shrink. "My leg was normal again – but you died."
He looked up at Wilson, whose brow was mildly knit and eyes discreet in their tear output. House finally gave up his own too.
"You died – and I killed myself. Really killed myself. That's when they lost me for a minute…"
Wilson suppressed the words in his head, like last time.
"And we were dead – together. But I wasn't satisfied."
They shared a hard and heavy gaze.
"I was just glad to have you back again."
Wilson was only a cloudy shape in House's sight, as the elder man stared with streaming eyes. He had never been so undone, not in five years. It scared him – like falling in the dark and not knowing where the bottom was. Wilson mirrored him, face an ocean bed in the light. Even through all that water, House knew what Wilson wanted.
"You just had your second surgery within a week. Your ribs are broken."
Wilson shook, fighting back a sob. "Jesus, Greg. Just give me a damn hug."
House inhaled sharply, as Wilson moved his hand over the bed. House beat him to it and took down the metal bar. He hoisted himself out of the wheelchair and onto the bed, Wilson's eyes following him and hand rising. House reached out and helped him up, into his own embrace. Wilson hissed, more tears flowing for both the pain that rippled throughout his torso and the overwhelming satisfaction of at last reuniting with Greg – for good. House tried to be careful, but he couldn't stop himself from cradling Wilson close against him. And Wilson didn't care if his ribs were further damaged or if his belly ripped open. He would bleed for Greg's love any day. He would suffer for the comfort over and over again.
He shut his eyes against more tears, as Greg started rocking him. His fingers curled into House's hospital gown, while House's hand moved over his back restlessly. He hid his lips in House's shoulder, and House finally closed his eyes too because they stung too much to stare into space. He rubbed Wilson's back soothingly, traveling over his spine again and again because circles reminded him too much of irreversible habits. Wilson was shaking anyway, and he felt as if his heart really was about to rupture.
"Wow, you're bad for my cold bastard image," said House, and Wilson shook into a smile.
"I really love you, you know that?" he said. "You need to know that."
House was still falling at 100 mph. "I know," he whispered. "I know." And he was a flaming star.
Wilson cried on, listening to their papery breaths and afraid that House would leave him hanging. But he got an answer this time, the one he'd been praying for all along.
"I love you too," House said, heart exploding like an atomic bomb. "Christ."
Wilson hiccuped into the climax of his flood, and House half-laughed because it was cute.
"I do," he said, voice failing. "Damn it, I do." He caressed Wilson's spine as if he'd find the other half of his soul in its knobs. Or maybe he needed to make Wilson feel his love instead of just hearing it. "I love you." Wilson wept quaking against his heart, a boneless and beautiful jellyfish. "I love you, and I'm so sorry for everything. I never meant it – any of it. I didn't know what I was doing. I was a dumbass. I love you so much – Christ, Christ. I can't live without you."
Holy shit. Did he really just say all that?
But it was true. And Wilson deserved to know. And House couldn't keep it in when the feelings were bursting for release. Wilson was making a strange gulping sound, and House's shoulder was completely soaked. He felt heat rise in his face from the inside out. But then he plunged into memory: Wilson smiling at him. Wilson laughing with him. Wilson getting drunk with him. Wilson eating dinner with him every night for weeks once he came home from the hospital so he wouldn't be alone. Wilson at his side every minute through his recovery once Stacy was gone. Wilson on his couch and Wilson in his car. Wilson in his office and Wilson next to him in the hallways. Wilson having lunch with him every day and Wilson yelling at him over his addiction. Wilson with him every year for Christmas and Wilson remembering his birthday. Wilson crying for him and Wilson holding him together. Wilson letting him win at arguments and Wilson escorting him to monster truck rallies and rock concerts and basketball games. Wilson hugging him, loving him, teaching him how to walk again, understanding and persisting and listening to him. Wilson giving him that annoying worried look and Wilson hiding out with him in empty exam rooms, answering his every page, answering his phone calls at 2 AM, taking care of him when he was sick, defending him when everyone else turned their backs, losing his job for him and still doing him a favor afterward, teasing him and falling asleep on his couch, praying for him, pretending to be happy for him. Wilson. Wilson.
"I love you so much," he whispered again. To hell with shame.
Wilson gave shuddering breaths, lost for words and unable to describe anything he felt. He hadn't been this happy or this emotional in years, so many long years. Overwhelmed didn't even begin to catch it. No one had ever shaken him like this, touched him like this, meant this much to him. He couldn't possibly answer, couldn't even think. All he was, was feeling – all glorious, uncontrolled emotion. He thought maybe he should answer or move, as House stroked his back, but he was frozen. He had never loved losing so much.
"James," said House, heart pounding into Wilson's, kicking the monitor's ass. He pushed Wilson away and took the oncologist's face in his hands, wetting them. He searched those busted eyes with his own, as Wilson's lip quivered. "You have to know that," House said, echoing Wilson. House had always known James loved him. He wasn't so sure Wilson had always known about his love. "You have to." Wilson stared at him, and House swore he saw pain even if that didn't make sense. James nodded after a long pause and pulled House back into their embrace. He lay his head on House's wet shoulder, wanting nothing more than to sleep there, heal there.
"You have to know how much I love you – how much I've always loved you."
Wilson just lay against him, almost silent now, tears running away from him. And House held him. He could've said more. He could've thanked Wilson a thousand times, apologized ten times more. But nothing seemed to feel right now, after love. He stayed shut up and hoped Wilson just knew. And Wilson knew. Didn't care. All that mattered were the spoken words and the feeling that threatened to split these walls and the glass and their flesh. Love. Their fucked up, once-in-a-lifetime love. Life force of their friendship.
Oh, God. He knew. He knew for sure now. House loved him. House loved him just as he loved House. It made all the exhausting emotion and physical pain worth it – a hundred times over. He wanted to pass out right here, in House's arms, finally relieved. Elation spread through him from his core like ink in water. This was better than sex, better than romance, better than porn and winning Head of Oncology. Better than anything he could think of now, in his liquefied brain.
House rubbed Wilson's back, rested his head on Wilson's. He sighed, shut his eyes. Fuck it. He would live.