Disclaimer I don't own anything to do with House, M.D. or its affiliates. All rights belong to David Shore.

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Clocks

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The clock on the wall in House's office ticks.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

House swivels his cane left to right in time to the second hand making it's slow revolution around the clock-face as he watches Wilson in silence. His heart feels as heavy as the burden of grief and his stomach churns in sickening knots. His face is expressionless, though. His face doesn't reveal what he's feeling inside. House is good at hiding things.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

With each tick of the clock, House feels his stomach twist tighter and tighter.

He watches Wilson sit forward and prop his elbows on his knees, hands clasped together. Wilson stares at the floor blankly.

House stops swivelling his cane and grips it firmly, hating the silence. The ticking clock seems to make the silence louder; suffocating silence.

At least it's not deathly silence.

But it will be, House thinks.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Every tick is like a goading voice, reminding him of the curse of mortality.

House takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. A random thought floats through his mind, No one knows when they will take their last breath.

He hears Wilson heave a weary sigh.

Wilson knows, House thinks, and his stomach churns ominously with another sharp knot. Wilson knows when he will take his last breath.

House clears his throat. "How long do they say you've got?"

Silence.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

"Four months."

He grips his cane so tightly his knuckles turn white. That can't be right, he wants to say. They've got it wrong. Doctors get it wrong all the time.

What an irony.

Wilson doesn't look up and House knows that anything he says to Wilson will simply fall upon deaf ears. Another random thought runs through his mind, Doctors are all liars. We tell people they are going to be alright when, really, each tick of the clock is one more second closer to death.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

"It's spread into the lymph system," Wilson says quietly. He pauses, as though he is reflecting on his fate. "It's in my bones."

House looks down at the floor. He thinks this is nothing but a cruel joke, the way the very thing that Wilson has spent most of his professional life trying to help people to beat is going to beat him.

Wilson speaks again, and this time he sounds lost and scared. "I don't want to die, Greg."

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

---

It's Wilson's last day at Princeton-Plainsboro. He'd handed his resignation into Cuddy not long after he was told his prognosis. House has been dreading this day.

He stands at the desk in Wilson's office, watching his friend pack his things into brown cardboard boxes. Those boxes morbidly remind House of a coffin.

His face is expressionless, but inwardly, House feels like he is going to be sick. He focuses every churn of his stomach towards the tight grip he has on his cane, gripping it to the point where his palm hurts. The pain in his hand, it's a tangible way of keeping everything he's feeling at bay.

"I can't believe it's my last day," Wilson says pensively as he takes down his university degree, which is displayed in a large wooden photo frame on the wall above his desk. It's next to the clock, which is ticking in a slow, methodical pace.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Wilson stares at the frame, running his finger over the glass. "I never thought I'd ever say it, but I'm going to miss this place."

House looks down to the floor. He doesn't do sympathy or sentimental conversation. He doesn't know what to say.

"This place is going to miss you," House murmurs after a moment of silence.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

He grips his cane tighter and thinks about smashing the clock with it. Smashing it until it dies. It would be poetic justice.

"I'm going to miss you, Greg."

He doesn't take his eyes away from the floor. If he looks up, he might start crying.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

"Yeah," House says to the floor after another beat of silence. He can't bring himself to say I'm going to miss you, too, because Wilson is still here and admitting such a thing feels like he's accepting that Wilson is sick, that he is going to lose him. So, he leaves it at that.

He hears Wilson give a tear-filled sniff and then the sound of another thing being put into the box.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

---

The nights that Wilson comes to his place for Chinese and a B-grade movie have always been House's favourite times. The beer always flows, just like the conversation and laughter, until the night is late and there is nothing left to do but slump on the sofa next to each other in a relaxed, drunken state.

It's quiet tonight. So quiet, House can hear the clock in the kitchen ticking.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

The silence in the room is thick, as though death is lingering in the air, waiting.

House digs around in the carton of Chinese takeout with his chopsticks, not really eating anything. He's not hungry. That churning feeling in his stomach won't go away.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

"This Chinese is good," Wilson says quietly, though House knows he doesn't mean it. He hasn't eaten any of it.

Silence. "Yeah."

Wilson sighs and tosses his chopsticks into the carton, and then leans forward and thumps it on the coffee table. "I lied. I'm not hungry."

House lifts a string of noodles out of the carton and then lets them drop back in. He wishes he had something to say.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

He can't help but think that if -- when, a voice at the back of his mind whispers -- he loses Wilson, he'll have so many things he wishes he'd said to him.

"I start treatment next week. On Monday."

House glances at him and sees Wilson staring ahead at nothing. "That's good."

What a stupid fucking lie.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

"I'm scared, Greg."

I am, too. "I know."

"Julie's not coping." He pauses. "She's drinking."

House still doesn't know what to say. He glances at his cane -- it's perched against the armchair on the other side of the coffee table, too far for him to reach and take a hold of, to grip until his palm hurts.

"I'm not sure if she's drinking because she's terrified she is going to lose me, or if she's mourning loss of the money I used to bring in."

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

House leans forward and places his carton of uneaten Chinese on the coffee table.

"I wish you'd say something, Greg."

What could he possibly say that would make anything better? He glances at Wilson again and his friend is staring down at his hands. There is nothing he can say.

There will be so many things I wish I'd said if he goes. If, not when. If.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

House hesitantly shifts closer to Wilson on the sofa. He stretches his arm out across his friend's shoulders and pulls Wilson tentatively towards him. Wilson presses his face into the crook of his neck and House feels him circle his arms around his waist, gripping him tightly.

He finds himself wondering how much time there is left.

When. Not if, Greg. When.

His throat feels tight and his eyes are stinging with the threat of tears.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

---

House sits by Wilson's hospital bed, swivelling his cane from left to right.

The room is cold and sterile. There is just a bed, a hard plastic chair for visitors to uncomfortably sit upon while they stare death in the face, and a small television secured to on a metal stand in the top left-hand corner, as far away from the bed as possible.

There's also a clock in the room.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

House never used to care about or even notice the clocks in patients' rooms.

He does now, though. House thinks that is just another sick, cruel joke that life throws at people; that patients that are dying have to lie in their deathbed and listen to the slow countdown of death looming over them with its claws bared.

He tries to ignore the clock.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

He stares at Wilson.

He's been having treatment for over two months. The chemotherapy is making him sicker than he was before he even started having it. As much as he tries to convince himself that it's not true, House knows the treatment isn't working.

Wilson has lost a lot of weight, all of his hair and his face is a skeletal shadow of what he once was. His skin is a pasty yellow colour -- his liver is slowly dying -- and there are deep, dark bags under his eyes. He's in a lot of pain.

House hates looking at him, because he looks so sick. Like death. But even though House hates looking at him, he's afraid to look away. He's afraid that if he does, he'll miss the last breath Wilson takes.

What was it that Cameron said? It's easier to die than to watch someone to die.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Wilson stirs restlessly on the bed, his bones aching from the cancer that is eating into them. "I've had enough," he says in a hoarse, pained voice.

House stops swivelling his cane from left to right.

"I can't take this anymore. The pain… The pain is so bad."

He sees a single tear roll down Wilson's cheek. Tears of pain. House knows the MS Contin isn't sufficient pain relief anymore.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

The clock seems louder. Each tick sounds like a mocking laugh to House, continually counting the seconds down in glee. He grips his cane and thinks about smashing the clock again. Smashing it and smashing it until there are only springs, cogs and shards of a clock-face shattered across the floor.

Even if he did, time would still keep counting the seconds down.

Like always, he doesn't know what to say. He's still refusing to believe that it will be when. He's still trying to bank on if. If Wilson loses the battle to live. If. If.

When, that voice whispers in the back of his mind again.

He stretches his hand towards Wilson's and clutches it. His friend's hand feels like nothing but bones wrapped in cold, leathery skin. It's like holding Death's hand.

A million selfish thoughts of Don't give up, and You're doing so well, and You can beat this race through his mind. They're all lies. He's holding onto if because it's the only shred of hope he has left and he knows that shred isn't even there anymore.

He grips Wilson's hand tightly and he feels his eyes burn. The shred isn't even there anymore.

"I'm going to miss you, James."

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

---

On the day that Wilson breathes his last, House leaves the hospital and goes home, and he hears nothing but the clock in the kitchen ticking.

He sits on the couch and stares down at the coffee table, hands clasped together. Wilson's hand was still warm long after he'd passed away. So was his cheek when House leaned down to kiss it goodbye. It was like he was just sleeping.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

House thinks about how fast it all happened. A matter of months, that's all. He remembers sitting in his office where Wilson told him about his prognosis. It feels like that was only last week.

He remembers all the times he sat here on the sofa with Wilson, sharing a meal of Chinese with him. That seems like a lifetime ago.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

He feels a tear roll down his cheek. Then another. It's the first time House has cried since Wilson got sick. In fact, it's the first time he's cried in as long as he can remember. He feels empty. Angry. Lost.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

After sitting there in silence for what feels like hours and listening to the clock tick away as though nothing has happened, House wipes away his tears and grips his cane. He stands up and walks to the kitchen.

He smashes the clock with his cane until he has no more tears.

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FIN

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