SUMMARY: Pain is a strange bedfellow, and it had been his bedfellow and mistress for nearly eight years.
A/N This was originally written as a one-off, but turned into a series of linked short stories set post No Reason.
Epilogue: The Thing with Feathers
"Hope," said Emily Dickinson, "is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul."
House had marshaled all his forces, his considerable rational, logical forces, against the thing with feathers. But he never stood a chance.
There are those who think that love is the most powerful of human emotions, but they are wrong. You can keep yourself from loving. You can put up walls and moats and spikes, and if you work hard enough at it, as House had, you can keep the defenses from being breached.
But the thing with feathers can fly. And it's relentless. It "sings the tunes without the words and never stops at all." You can stop your ears with logic, but it won't work.
Ten million to one odds? You will still listen with bated breath when they announce the Powerball winner. Never published anything, anywhere? You will still feel that small flutter in your chest, there beneath the breastbone, where the soul resides, when you open the letter from the fiction editor at the New Yorker.
It's the reason why, year after year, you keep a bottle of champagne hidden at the back of the fridge in your research lab and always manage to be near a phone on October 19 when the Nobel Committee calls the winners. It's why, when you leave the oncologist's office, you can believe they might have read the x-ray wrong and the spot is just TB.
And it's why, even though it is as weightless and insignificant as a feather, hope can crush even the most well-defended soul.