SWAN SONG

Fiction: "Swan Song" 1/1

Title: Swan Song
Author: Kids Nurse
Rating: PG-13
Characters: House, Wilson
Word Count: 1,287
Warnings: Angst and melodrama; no hurt/comfort--just hurt. Major character death.

Last time, he'd messed it up. He thinks that maybe he'd wanted to mess it up. He's never been one for clichés, but he's willing to admit that there's gotta be a grain of truth to them—how do you explain their popularity otherwise? So last time was a cliché—the proverbial "cry for help." And no one answered. Yeah, Wilson came, Wilson saw, Wilson scrammed, turning a deaf ear to the loudest cry House was capable of making.

So this time, he'll get it right. No coded farewell phone calls to the folks, who never returned the first one anyway. No pathetic pleas for help to Wilson, who'd only tell him to go to rehab—again. And no chance of vomiting up the poison; why waste the good stuff a second time?

He'd taken steps this time, steps to assure the desired result. Yesterday, he'd paid a locksmith $112.38, and had received in return a shiny new deadbolt installed in his front door, and just one key to fit it. The locksmith had been puzzled; everyone requested a spare key. For a friend, a relative, a roommate? "None of the above," House had answered tersely. Not this time.

And today, he hadn't tried to get out of clinic hours. Hell, he'd even offered to see the flu-ridden patient who'd already vomited on two nurses and projectile-spattered into the face of the hapless intern who'd stepped in to help. And that had netted him the syringe of metoclopramide currently nestled in his pocket, the strong anti-emetic which would see to it that the other stuff stayed down long enough to insure his safe passage outta here.

So everything's taken care of. He's even thinking differently this time. Last time, he'd just wanted the pain to stop. This time, he wants the pain to stop. Not the intractable leg pain, which had been the overriding concern on Christmas Eve; this time it's his life that hurts, and must be gotten rid of—although getting the damned leg to finally shut up will be a nice bonus. Too bad he won't be around to enjoy it.

While he waits for the metoclopramide to take effect, he reflects on the irony of his current situation. Cuddy and Wilson hadn't believed in the reality, the severity, of the leg pain. So they'd unknowingly watched him grow this new pain, ignoring it so they wouldn't be forced to diagnose it, to acknowledge it. They'd watched with cold eyes and calculating plans as the pain had spread from his leg, and had finally taken over his heart, his mind, his emotions. His life. Did they really think that he enjoyed being dependent on pills to give him less than half of the physical comfort they took for granted every day? And could they honestly believe that his diagnostic skills were really just luck? Yeah, to both questions. Screw them. Screw everyone and their smug pity.

He downs the first tumbler of scotch quickly. He fills the glass again, takes a leisurely swallow. He dumps half a dozen pills into his hand and smiles at them before he puts them in his mouth and downs them with a second slow swallow of scotch. Already, he's feeling the relief of knowing that soon, nothing will ever hurt again.

Everything's the leg? Nothing's the pills? Sure, Jimmy. See, I'm just confused; I thought the pills were to decrease the pain—you shoulda told me that they're fun too! Been missin' out all these years, thinkin' the only 'extra' they supplied was nausea.

It wasn't morphine; it was saline. I gave you a placebo. Yup, Cuddy, that was the day you laid the first brick into that wall of trust you expected me to build.

You're not always right, House; you've proven that lately. Yeah, buddy; go save someone else's wings from melting.

This hospital doesn't exist for your whims! Right, boss—and the paralyzed patient who walked outta there was a figment of your imagination.

He's been distilled down to two things; his leg, and his brain. And his so-called friends don't believe in either of them. So the two things that make him him don't exist? Follows, then, that neither does he. All that remains is to kill the shell that houses those things. He notes, with satisfaction, that the process is well underway.

As he swallows the last of the thirty pills, one more scene plays out in his head. He notes, with wry amusement, that there's no dialogue in this one, no verbal stabs from his own, personal Judases. The scene playing now, that Christmas Eve visit from Wilson, was the dress rehearsal for tonight—only tonight's final performance will end as scripted. When Wilson shows up—if Wilson shows up—he'll waste that inevitable disappointed, disgusted look on a dead shell this time, instead of inflicting it on a hurting, vulnerable friend who never wanted everything to break—no matter what Wilson believed that Christmas Eve night.

It won't be long now; being a doctor has its advantages when a life is ending. House figures ten minutes, maybe less. He rises unsteadily from the couch, tries to make it over to his piano, and fails. No self-played swan songs for him, apparently. First, he smiles at the irony of where he's fallen, where his life will end—even now, months later, he can smell a faint whiff of his own vomit where his head lies on the rug. Then he smiles because his life is ending; the pain is finally gone. The leg, the heart, the mind—they're all quiet now, even comfortable and warm. Damned leg hasn't been really warm for years, but it is now. So he closes his eyes, and enjoys the warmth, and he smiles again, although he's feeling the first real pangs of regret--not for what he's done, nor even for his choice now. This regret is for how things once were, for how they might, one day, have been again. If the pain hadn't won. He whispers into the empty room, "Sorry, Jimmy. Really. I didn't wanna push this, push us, 'til we broke. Least I can do now is… save you… won't break you…."

And when the heart stops pumping, when not only the leg but the rest of his body begin to grow cool, he's still smiling. For the first time ever, it doesn't hurt to be House.

The next morning, Wilson is perplexed when his key refuses to work the lock. Fortunately, the super remembers Wilson, and hands him the shiny new spare key that the bemused locksmith had insisted upon dropping off in the office yesterday when he left. As Wilson enters the apartment and spots House, the sense of déjà vu is so overwhelming that he pauses, considers leaving, pretending to House—pretending to himself—that he hadn't come here. Instead, he advances slowly towards House.

Even as he reaches out to turn him over, he's composing what he'll say to him. But as his hands touch the cold skin, as he sees the fixed and peaceful smile on the calm face, he knows that this time the stilled head won't lift, and the bleary, desperate eyes won't ever open again to meet his. Still holding the stiff hands, trying to warm them in his own, he lowers his own head, closes his own eyes, and whispers what he'd planned to say. "I didn't want it to break either. I'm sorry I let it happen. I… didn't know." And Wilson already knows that he never wants to raise his head, never wants to let go of those hands, never wants to open his own eyes, not ever again.