Disclaimer: House, his team, Wilson, Cuddy and all the quotes aren't mine. Bummer, huh?
Summary: If House really were dying, I think this might be how the world would remember him. Set sometime after Half-wit, but not directly connected to that episode. Slight Huddy. Strong House/Wilson friendship.
He Will Walk With The Immortal
"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve immortality through not dying." --Woody Allen
"And you're sure it's terminal?" Wilson kept his voice as steady as he could manage, under the circumstances. His eyes stung and his hands trembled, but Greg wasn't looking at him anyway.
"I'm sure." He said in a monotone, watching the graying clouds from beyond the balcony. "Guess karma really is a bitch." It would have been said jokingly, had there not been so much pain there.
"How long?" He croaked, not wanting to accept this truth. It was so much different this time. Before, last time he'd thought this was happening, it fit better. House didn't tell them, House hid his pain, and as it turned out, House had been lying.
And sure, James was disappointed in his friend, and yes, the faking of brain cancer did set off a variety of alarms in the younger man's mind and heart. But it was right. It was House. And it was tolerable, because House was, deep-seated emotional issues aside, going to be okay.
This wasn't House faking or curious or lying or playing games.
This was Greg. Defeated.
"I don't know." He said, sucking in a deep breath of the dying spring air.
James had always hated this time of year. Thought it was depressing, everything dying, fading away, forming a path for the cold and obsolete. He faced death too much as it was anyway.
"Not long," the words wafted away like the reddening and browning leaves above them; Wilson hardly heard it.
"You could-" His misplaced hope was cut dramatically short.
"I've done everything there is to do." He sighed. He didn't seem angry or scared; of course, that much could be expected of this stoic old man. Yet he didn't seem to be putting on a false front either, his jokes were gone, his sarcasm depleted, bitterness wasted away and, for once, it seemed as if his logic had failed him.
He looked tired. About to give in, take the free-falling plunge into the eternity that he dealt with and lived around everyday.
"I'm...sorry." It seemed like so little now, too small a gesture to encase something so significant.
"Thank you." After a short moment he rounded his head and smirked in his friend's direction, letting James know that at least some of the personality was still intact, a little of the shell remained.
James snorted a choked sob and tightly clenched his lip between his teeth. He was not giving in, not yet. Not ever.
Greg looked at him more closely, those deep blue eyes boring a hole in him the way no others could, the way no others were allowed.
When he spoke again it was into the wind, wafting downward to a world well-explored and understood; a place that had no secrets left to unravel.
"Thank you, Jimmy."
"Just a story of a kid, who gave his life to something to better than himself." --Just a story, Every Sunday
"What are you saying, House?" Lisa Cuddy wasn't dense, and she could certainly make a few inferences that might answer her own question. But she didn't want to.
"I'm saying," the older man growled, annoyed, "The Linden is the best Neurologist in the country and that you'll want Foreman finish his fellowship there."
The limping man took a step closer, "But," he went on, "Linden is also a conservative, conventional, asshole, and Foreman'd probably get fired in a week, if not less, and that if he went with Gray in New York he'd get a better experience overall."
Then House dropped the file down on her desk, it landed with a final thud. "Plus he'd be closer to Chase and Cameron. And you know what they say, 'if you separate the duckies too soon, they'll all fly into buildings.' Or something like that."
"I think it goes more like, 'If you take the ducklings away from their mother too soon, they're all doomed to fail.'" She studied her employee, her best doctor, her friend, closely. "Are you quitting?"
"I'm going on a permanent vacation." House nodded simply, sounding unconcerned. "And how the hell did I become the mother in that metaphor?"
"Greg." Her tone was full of pain and longing. And the pain of longing.
"Lisa." He raised his eyebrows mockingly, but the word came out true and laced with so many undefined, yet to be determined anomalies.
"Is there anything I can do?" She searched his eyes desperately, her own were shining and sad. A lump formed in her throat that she couldn't dislodge.
He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, changed his mind, then simply nodded. Yes.
"Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." --Leo Tolstoy
House crumpled that paper up immediately. His father had never been 'dad' and he sure as hell wasn't going to be dad now.
He began again and just as quickly as before ripped it out and baled it up in his fist. 'Father' was too formal, too outdated, and too not him. Plus, his old man might take it as an indication of some sort of respect.
Taking another swig of scotch and glancing at the clock, he started again. He didn't have much time before he had to leave to meet Wilson downtown.
He nodded to himself. That was okay.
You spent years trying to make me believe that you were boss, that you ruled over everything and nothing could go wrong while you were around.
I was scared of you when I was a kid. Terrified that I might do or say something wrong, that it would lead to more pain, more embarrassment. That it would hurt me more. You hurt me more than any father should be able to hurt their son. And I'll never forgive you for that.
I was terrified of you, when I was a child.
I hated you when I was a teenager. I hated you well into my twenties. Until I discovered that if I stopped caring, you stopped controlling me.
I had freedom then, and I still do.
So, fuck you.
That was undoubtedly the scotch talking. The writing was even a bit slanted, but he didn't care. His father deserved it. He took a deep breath and kept going.
I just wanted you to know, that despite your desire to rule over everything and control every bit of me, I turned out okay. I didn't know that until very recently, but it's true and I wanted you to know too.
And don't worry, I only ever told one person about your abusive tendencies. And I doubt very much you'll ever meet her.
Your secret dies with me.
He didn't give himself a chance to read through it again, just folded it up and stuck it in an envelope, sealing it before he could change his mind.
The next one was much shorter.
I love you. And I forgive you for never stopping him. I'm sorry.
He wasn't sure what he was sorry for specifically, but he knew there was a lot, so he left it at that.
He scribbled the last one almost as quickly as the one to his mother - it was simply instructions for when he wanted his parents presented with his final thoughts - but he didn't feel bad about the clipped words. He talked to Wilson more than he'd ever talked to anyone else.
He didn't need an extensive drunken scrawl for this.
He had one more to write, but left it for later that night, not letting himself worry about the 'what ifs' and the time restraints. The last one deserved more than time-crunched, scotch induced words and platitudes.
He knew that last one would be the hardest.
"Death? Why this fuss about death. Use your imagination, try to visualize a world without death! ... Death is the essential condition of life, not an evil." --Charlotte Perkins Gilman
"You sure you don't want to keep it?" House persisted one last time, shrugging off his leather jacket and enjoying the feel of the cool air as it wafted by and tickled his skin, raising Goosebumps.
"You think I wanna die on that thing?" James snorted, sounding almost like his old self.
A young man appeared before them, interrupting their bantering, he was holding a clipboard and looking grim. "Well," he started, "I can't give you even close to market value for it. The tires are worn, the gears have eroded slightly, there're a few dings that can't be worked out, and I doubt-"
"Just take it." House interrupted, fiddling with his keys and working the one off the chain.
"Wait, for nothing?" The young man started, changing tones at once. "It's still worth a few grand. Hell, if you get it fixed up you can probably sell it on E-bay for more than market value. I know this guy-"
"I'm dying." House said it factually, without care, still working his key away from its metal ring.
Wilson saw the man's eyes widen in shock and fright, before he lowered his head into his hands and rubbed his own eyes wearily. Even now Greg could act like an ass.
"And I'm a doctor." He finally managed to wriggle the key away from the rest and handed it over to the dumbfounded man with a smirk. Wilson looked up again. He couldn't help it, it was like driving by a train wreck. "I don't need the cash."
"Ah, I, ah, okay." He accepted the key with shaking hands. "It's ah, it's a nice bike. I-ah..."
Geez, the poor guy couldn't even get a solid sentence out.
"Keep it." Greg shrugged, not bothering to mock his stammering, and walked away like nothing out of sorts had occurred at all. Although he did call over his shoulder, "And if you ever need it, there's a place on the side to put a cane."
The post it read simply,
Take good care of Steve. Or I will come back from the dead and haunt your sorry ass.
It was a purple piece of paper with black sharpie writing.
For a guy who didn't want to make a fuss about his own impending death, he sure found a hell of a lot of ways to stick around after the mahogany coffin was six feet under and Greg was off finding out for himself if there really was a God.
At first he'd just wanted to leave the basics.
Will. Instructions on how and when to feed his overly spoiled rat. His ducklings new fellowships information. Something to Cuddy and his... Well, his one last request of Lisa.
His one last gift.
Then he'd gotten rather angry. One night in his apartment while Wilson was still at work, Steve McQueen was asleep and all was quiet.
He didn't want to die yet. He didn't want to leave all this behind. Surly there was a puzzle left to solve, a mystery out there somewhere only he could take on.
In his true and typical fashion though, he battled that anger with logic. Only to battle that logic with more anger. The loop was never ending, so he stopped it almost as soon as it had started, knowing and hating that he didn't have time to waste.
Logic and truth came out on top, they trumped everything else as they always did and always would. And by the time James returned home from the hospital that night, he was almost okay again.
"Some winters are harder than others." --Snow, The Innocence Mission
"I'm pregnant." Lisa spoke the words quietly, looking downward and studying the pattern on her desk quite intently.
"What?" James couldn't quite figure out how to react.
His best friend had died less than a month ago. He'd watched as Greg was laid to rest forever, wondering for the first time if rest was really what followed life.
"He wanted it." Lisa said, raising her hands sadly and looking at James with tears in her eyes. "Or he wanted to give it to me."
"I can't believe..."
"I know." She agreed, and they sat in silence while the sun came up.
A year later and James was still finding the post-its.
It was his own fault, really. He hadn't gone through Greg's apartment after it'd been left in his name. His small collection of things left over from his last marriage were stored there and he spent the night there now and then, alternating between it and the couch in his office; he fed Steve as he'd been instructed, cleaning the cage and forcing himself to wonder if the rodent even knew House was gone. But he hadn't moved anything.
The piano sat collecting dust on that side of the living room, all the food in the kitchen had long since gone bad and been disposed of, the things in his closet were left untouched - though his mother had insisted on taking some of the pictures Greg had had stored in a box on one of the shelves of his closet. Most of which were from his time with Stacy. That woman had been camera-happy.
If I don't have a son, my daughter better be one hell of a tom-boy
It was attached to a hockey stick under his bed and the message had brought tears to his eyes. Tears that molted into sobs that him curling up on his side on the still clean carpet in Greg's room, forgetting why he'd been searching under the bed in the first place.
Lisa Cuddy had given birth to a son four and a half months ago. Gregory Matthew House.
Finding that small sentiment stuck to that faded memory left an image of his best friend so vivid and outlined in his mind, that it was as if he and House had been standing in the waiting room together. Anxiously waiting to find out if it was a girl or a boy.
Or smoking cigars on the balcony after the fact. Greg relaxed and relieved, barley containing his excitement, James so happy for his friend that he felt like it all might burst and over power him.
Pulling himself together after his breakdown, knowing damn well what Greg would say at such a display in his bedroom, he placed the post-it in a shoebox where the other ones were already residing. An array of neon colors assaulted him as he lifted the top off.
House had used every color of post-it imaginable to make sure he'd be remembered.
Wilson shook his head, not really understanding his friend's logic, not even now.
It wasn't likely the world would forget Greg House.
Chase came back into the conference room one day not long after the funeral, looking dazed. He fell into a chair, both his hands were clenched up tightly in fists, he looked whiter than the white boy he was.
"Well?" Foreman snapped, he'd been holding onto a lot of anger since his boss had died. "Did you get the MRI machine?"
Chase shook his head back and forth slowly. Cameron reached out and placed a hand on his arm comfortingly, squeezing tightly, fighting back tears, sobs and a hundred other things that threatened to over-power her every day.
"What is it?" She said, voice scratched despite her desperate efforts for it not to be.
"I..." the youngest of House's fellows, the one that had been with him the longest, swallowed thickly, accent coming out more pronounced than it did in normal day-to-day conversation. "I don't think it's lupus."
"Why?" Foreman bit again, gnawing in his stomach that he'd grown accustomed to making itself more evident.
Instead of answering, the blonde doctor just unclenched one of his fists and let the small paper flutter a few inches onto the table.
The sticky note was bright yellow, the words were in purple marker, large and loopy, but undeniably House's.
It's never Lupus.
Cuddy found one at the drug store.
How Greg had managed that, she didn't even want to know, although she'd put money on the bet that it involved a bribe of some sort.
It was a store just outside city limits, where she occasionally did her shopping when she was buying things she didn't want anyone she worked with to accidentally get a peak at.
It was the third pregnancy test she'd bought from here that week. She knew she was looking awful, still dressed in all black, no make-up and hallow eyes, but she forced herself out of the house, when all she wanted to do was curl up in a little ball under the covers and stay there forever.
Because she had to know. For sure. Again.
Stopping in front of the section of home-tests she reach automatically for the most expensive one. She drew her hand back as if it'd been bitten violently just a moment later when it caught her eye.
It was sky-blue with thick, silver writing, like from that of a gel-pen.
You're a doctor, run a damn blood test already.
She looked up sharply after studying the note for several long minutes that could have been hours for all she knew. Expecting to see Greg standing at the end of the isle, smirking in that way he had, when he wasn't mocking anybody or getting his rocks off by making others contemplate some deeper meaning. When he was just... Being. And happy.
He wasn't there, of course, and she felt as if she'd been sucker-punched. Again.
Only House could make her feel like this after his death.
Only House would find a way to become immortal.
She went to rip the sticky note off, already picturing herself adding it the drawer-full she had at home.
An involuntary shudder on her part had the box on the floor a moment later, and Cuddy was almost glad for the distraction and the noise. It made her feel more connected to the real world.
Until she stood up from where she'd bent down to retrieve the box, and came face to face with the same silver smudge, in that same distinct scribble that she'd long-ago memorized.
And get some rest. That Anna Nicole Smith look is out. You look like you like me the day after St. Patrick's day.
"Probably the difference between man and the monkeys is that the monkeys are merely bored, while man has boredom plus imagination." --Lin Yutang
Three years later Cameron and Chase were living together in North East Ohio.
House had sent them to the Cleveland Clinic to finish their fellowships. Unknown to them, it was one of the best hospitals in the world.
They were unconditionally grateful that House intended for them to stay together. It paved the path for the rest of their lives, and they too were touched daily by the reminder that their boss was indeed one of a kind.
Chase proposed to Cameron one night in February three and a half years after Greg House had died. She'd said yes.
Two weeks later something arrived in the mail. It was addressed formally to both of them.
"I don't know," Chase shrugged when Cameron inquired as to who sent it. "Someone from your family? Your mum?"
Alison shook her head and nodded towards the envelope with her chin. "Open it."
Robert did so. Slowly he pulled out the thrice folded paper and opened it up, reading intently.
"Well?" She asked impatiently after a few minutes.
Robert Chase just smiled widely, shaking his head, adorable shaggy hair that he hadn't cut properly in months going everywhere as he plopped down in a wooden kitchen chair and silently handed the paper over to his fiancé.
Alison Cameron read.
Just wanted to say, Congratulations on the engagement.
If you want my advice, go to Vegas and get hitched, families mess up everything. Though Chase doesn't have any parents left to fight with. Lucky him. It'll make things a hell of a lot easier.
While I've got your attention: Cameron, don't work Oncology or hospice anymore. You can't handle the patients, and don't give me that look. You can't.
Chase, yes pediatrics makes you look like a big pussy wombat. Work there anyway.
Sorry I won't be able to make that drunken toast at your wedding. But if I ended up knowing you as well as I think I do, you should be getting a present on the big day.
"How?" Alison lowered the paper and took a seat next the man she'd unintentionally and unwillingly fell in love with. "How could he have possibly known?"
"He's House." Chase shrugged, accepting this twist of the unexpected as something akin to God's will. It was House's remembrance.
"Think he'll get the wedding date right?"
He'd been a day and a half off. And in the dead man's defense, it was due only to a massive blizzard that had delayed the proceedings of their wedding. They'd gotten married about a year after they'd gotten engaged. Five years after their relationship had begun. On Valentines day.
He sent them a Martini mixer and a baby names book with several options highlighted and various comments scribbled in the margins.
Three weeks later, Alison found out she was pregnant.
"Every man lives. Not every man truly dies." --Warcraft 3 Necromancer
Dr. House lived on in so many ways.
Through the people he had known, the patients he had saved, and the son he had fathered.
Greg House Jr. knew a lot about his dad. Through numerous stories told by his mom and Uncle Jimmy, mostly.
Greg resembled his dad more than anyone had thought possible, in so much more than physical appearance.
His attitude was of the same in spirit, if not a bit lighter in actuality. Greg Jr. was who Dr. House would have been had he not suffered an abusive childhood and the infraction. Of course, no one would ever know that.
A blonde woman in her early twenties strode across a college campus nearly twenty-five years after House had died, she had no firsthand knowledge of the crippled man, and certainly wasn't thinking about him as she complained vehemently to her friend.
"I just can't believe he did that," she sounded disgusted, and it was apparently obvious by her tone and attitude that she was a freshman. "I mean, he came in and said, 'Read Harold's book' there'll be a quiz on it next week." She paused dramatically. "But was there?"
Her older friend couldn't contain her smirk, knowing exactly where this was going. Still she played along. "I'm guessing no?"
"No!" She practically screeched. "Grant. He tested us on Grant. Grant wasn't even on the reading list!"
Her red-headed companion laughed as she steered them toward a nearby coffee place, she was used to her friend's overzealous personality, and she'd already known what to expect when Annie stormed out of the building scowling today.
"And do you know what he said when everyone got upset about it?" The blonde continued on, unaware of how many caffeine junkies were listening at this point.
"Everybody lies." Carol answered easily, ordering a black coffee to go for herself and Annie's preferred espresso without consulting her.
"How'd you know?" Annie finally gaped once they got their beverages and began walking again, the hot liquid warming them comfortingly on this particularly chilly late fall day.
"I had professor Foreman last year." Carol explained. "He's the best teacher here. Seriously be glad you have him."
"Seems a little jaded." Annie grumbled.
"He worked with Greg House for a few years when he was younger." Carol said as if that explained it all.
"I know that name," the blonde sipped her espresso thoughtfully. "Didn't he work Oncology at Princeton-Plainsboro?"
"No," Carol shook her head, being a fourth year med student and all around nerd, she knew these facts off the top of her head. "James Wilson was Oncology head there. I think he still runs the department, actually. House was head Diagnostician. Their names come up together a lot, though."
"You're such a freak." Her friend said fondly.
"I really got into his class." She admitted. "A lot of what he teaches comes from what House taught him."
"Like that 'Everybody lies' thing?" Annie still sounded bitter at the memory.
"It's true." Carol had to point out. "Everybody does lie."
"Yeah," she grumbled again, and the fact that she still sounded upset about it just proved to Carol that her favorite professor was still doing his job in full.
And it proved to the universe that House was still sending shockwaves though the cosmos.
"Important families are like potatoes. The best parts are underground." --Francis Bacon
For a long time no one was sure if Greg Jr. would become a doctor or some sort of pharmaceutical supplier.
The reckless boy with too much light brown hair and playful blues eyes had spent his entire school career flunking every class in existence. He flunked science because a few too many of his lab experiments had caught fire or just out-right exploded, and he'd liberated the lab rats.
He flunked English because he turned in every assignment written in either Elizabethan terminology or Latin.
He flunked Spanish because he would only speak German.
He flunked German because he'd only speak Arabic.
He flunked math because he never stopped staring at his teacher's generous cleavage.
A counselor at his school had come up with the brilliant deduction that Greg was simply bored. Lisa had snorted and violently resisted the urge to say, 'Well, duh.'
Greg more or less grew up in Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. He'd wander the halls after school and on holidays, sit in while his Uncle Jimmy talked to patients or his mom yelled at doctors. He'd listen while the older members of the staff reminisced about his father.
He got stories about his dad all the time. Anytime he wanted. His mom and uncle would tell him anything, however many times he wanted to hear it. And while all the tales rang true, they were also almost always muffled. Not false, just... Sugar coated.
It was from senior doctors in the hospital that he got the true truth about his dad. And while it wasn't always easy listening to these old men and women call his dad a narcissist asshole, it was the air of respect that surrounded the words, as insulting as they may have been, that always stuck with Greg more than anything else.
He longed to be on the same level as his dad. Longed to be an equal to the man his dad would be had he still been alive.
Dr. Chase and Dr. Cameron-Chase came to visit a few times every year, and Greg often gauged their reactions to his various comments and stunts to see if he was indeed living up to his namesake.
He also liked that he got paid to baby-sit their three kids whenever they were in town too, and took it upon himself to corrupt their children as much as possible. As much as the first Greg House would have.
Dr. Foreman visited less than the other two, but his appearances always stayed fondly with the growing boy. Because one day when he wasn't quite twelve-years-old, he'd asked a distracted Uncle Jimmy, "Who was more like my dad? Alison, Rob or Eric?" He'd always been on a first name basis with the three doctors. He wasn't much for open displays of respect or authority.
Uncle Jimmy didn't even glance up from his paperwork, so Greg doubted very much that he was formulating any sort of lie. "Your dad changed Chase the most, that goes almost without saying. But personality wise, Foreman and House always had more in common than either would admit."
Thus Eric Foreman's infrequent visits became various character studies throughout the years.
For a long time, no one was sure exactly what would become of Greg House the second.
In the end though, the lure of puzzles and mysteries and living up to his father's legend and his mother's expectations had won out.
Greg House was a doctor. Again.
"Death ends a life, not a relationship." --Morrie Schwartz (as quoted from Tuesdays With Morrie)
James Wilson had his bad days. When he missed his best friend so intensely that physical pain ate away at him, when he wasn't sure if he wanted to get out of bed because he knew there'd be nothing waiting for him. Days where it all seemed to topple down around him.
Then he's think of his Godson, of little Greg who was so much like his father - and mother, though Lisa would never admit it - that James forget sometimes the first Greg was dead at all.
He didn't know how, after all these years, it still managed to catch him by surprise. A med student saying, "Everybody lies.", a post it stuck to an old patient file, a rattling, twenty year old bottle of Vicodin stuffed into a book with a hidden compartment no one had known about, the smell of the expensive coffee he'd always went out of his way to keep in stock, the steady thump-thump of someone walking with a cane, Little Greg's sarcasm, an article published in a med journal, General Hospital, Coma patients, The Grateful Dead, a game of golf, a stubborn patient, the smell of Irish Spring soap and drug store aftershave, a rumpled shirt, an unsolvable case, and a million other little things everyday - Dr. Greg House would never truly be gone, he would never cease to be, because everyday, every second, somebody took it upon themselves to remember him, to teach what he taught and live how he had lived.
And James knew, even if his best friend ever did accidentally fade into the background somehow, that he would be okay. Because, as Greg had put it; scribbled in thin orange marker on a blood red post-it, stuck to bottle of whiskey on the very top self in his kitchen cabinet;
If you're reaching for this, then today was a bad day. Well, suck it up, because tomorrow's gonna be worse and another day's gonna be worse than that and you're gonna need this then.
But hey, if you can't help yourself, go for it.
All the really good liquor's still hidden anyway.