Author's Note: Hello all! Just to let you know this story has major character death in it (is there any other kind?) so beware. I don't actually want this to happen, the show would end if it did, but the idea for it came to me and well what can you do?
Disclaimer: I don't own House, M.D. or any of the related characters.
Who Would've Guessed?
Everyone had thought it would be the Vicodin that would eventually kill Gregory House. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even in a year or so, but eventually, sooner or later, everyone agreed that it would get the better of him, and he would die. They may not have talked about it, and certainly only a precious few had ever said it to his face, but he knew it was what they all believed. Those pills are going to kill him some day.
Now, lying here on the cold marble floor, his blood pooling around him, he muses on how wrong they all were. In the end it had been his leg, not his Vicodin, that had been his downfall. His leg, and the itchy trigger finger of a jumpy teenage boy. He had done what they had wanted him to do, for once in his life deciding it would be better to listen. It was his leg that hadn't agreed, hadn't listened. And now here he was.
He had just wanted to cash his check in and get the hell out of there. He'd already been pissed off because the teller's window was out of order which meant he would have to go inside and ultimately deal with even more of the world's surplus collection of idiots as he waited in line with his leg throbbing its protests. Both of which he did not enjoy in the least.
Much to his dismay everyone and their brother seemed to have business at the bank and the line seemed to stretch into eternity. His leg, which never enjoyed standing still, was aching in pain after only five minutes and he was steadily becoming more and more irritable.
A toddler, presumably belonging to the woman behind him, was jabbering incessantly and running in circles around him as though all of hell was at his knees. "Can't you control the damn kid?" he finally snapped, whirling on the woman. "What kind of mother are you? You're just standing there while your kid pesters strangers!"
Scooping up her son she glared at him, "You could have said something if he was bugging you!"
"Oh no, he wasn't bugging me at all, what person wouldn't enjoy being made into a human merry-go-round? As long as the children of the world are happy, right?" he snarled sarcastically, dry swallowing a Vicodin and turning his back on the scowling woman, now clutching her squirming child.
Eventually the line seemed to move a little and fifteen minutes later he was almost at the front, his leg now screaming in protest and his knuckles white from the pressure he was exerting on his cane. The line had dwindled down to only a few remaining people, only two of which were in front of House, when it happened.
"NOBODY MOVE! EVERYONE DO LIKE YOU'RE TOLD AND NO ONE WILL BE HURT!"
House turned around and groaned, two idiots in black ski masks were waving guns around and shouting. Things never turned out well in situations like this and he was thoroughly annoyed.
"Hands where I can see them!" came the harsh demand.
"That goes for you too buddy!" said the other one, pointing to the clerk behind the counter, whose hands had been groping around suspiciously under the counter. "I want to see your hands, hold them high!" House noted that this one sounded a little shaky, unsure, and very young, probably his first bank robbery, a teen just learning the ropes. Great. Balancing his weight on his left leg House grudgingly lifted his hands in the air, right hand still clutching his cane.
"Everyone turn around, spread your legs out and keep those hands up high," came the gruff voice of the first man. "You, old man! Lose the cane!"
Gritting his teeth but deciding it was safer to listen he turned away from them and tossed his cane on the ground where it clattered loudly.
"I said spread your legs!"
"I can't," he snarled softly, trying his best to not sound rude. "My leg won't support my weight."
House could sense the hesitation behind him as Idiot Number One debated what to do now. "Stench, keep an eye on this one, I don't like his tone," he said finally, presumably to the young Idiot Number Two in the other ski mask. Stench? What the hell kind of name was that?
"Sure thing Boss," Stench replied, nervously cocking his gun.
"Just keep that thing pointed somewhere else," House said, remembering the last time a person with a gun had been this close to him (Who would want to hurt you?) as he concentrated on keeping his balance.
Idiot Number One was busy waving his gun in the banker's face and demanding his money and House could hear the sneer in Stench's voice as he responded, "Don't nobody tell me where to point my gun old man."
House expelled a breath, the pressure on his leg, which had been building up since standing in the long line, was fast becoming unbearable. "I need my cane," he said quietly, anger building up at being forced into a position where he had to admit this.
"Don't move! I mean it Gimpy!" Stench hollered, motioning frantically with his gun.
"Gimpy. Really intelligent Stench," House sneered mockingly. "I've never heard that one before."
"Shut up!" Stench shouted, a shrill note beginning to enter his voice. "Shut up and be quiet!"
House tried, he really tried not to respond to that but it was impossible not to. "By the very nature of 'shut up' I already knew that you wanted me to be quiet." Here he looked at the man who had been standing in front of him in the line, "Kid's not too bright is he?"
"I said shut up!" Stench yelled again, and House sighed, trying to shift his weight off his aching leg but there wasn't anywhere to go and he could feel it trembling slightly now. "Stay still!" Stench yelled again shrilly, waving the gun around.
"I need to rest my leg," House said through clenched teeth. "I can't stay in one position for very long. I'm just going to move to the counter so I can lean against something," he said quietly, trying not to provoke the kid but desperately needing something to lean on.
"No! Just stay where you are!" Stench shouted in sudden panic.
"Calm down boy," snarled Idiot Number One, turning around from his position in front of the clerk to see what all the racket was about, but Stench seemed beyond listening now.
"I told you not to move Gimpy!" he shouted again but House hadn't listened, the white-hot pain in his leg screaming at him that it needed support.
"I just need a place to lean," House said again, holding up his hands, a hint of desperation appearing in his eyes.
"No! I said stay still!" Stench screamed, squeezing off a shot, which slammed into House's chest making him stagger backwards, falling to the floor.
There was an instant uproar among the rest of the hostages as they began to panic in fear and anger. "EVERYONE CALM DOWN!" roared Idiot Number One.
Stench meanwhile, stared in horror at what he had done. "Boss, I-I-I didn't mean to, honest!"
"No one was supposed to get hurt!" Idiot Number One said now, ignoring Stench and addressing the hostages, "And if everyone listens then no one else will."
"That's what you said to begin with and now look at him," the man in front of House said, voice trembling slightly.
"He needs a doctor," interjected a woman who had been at the front of the line before all this had started.
Lying on the floor the irony of this did not escape House; the one person who was a doctor and could actually help was the one lying bleeding on the floor. Moving his hands weakly he pressed them to his wound in a vain attempt to stem the blood flow and presently he felt another pair of hands doing the same thing and tried to focus on the face. His vision didn't seem to be working quite right though, he seemed to see everything through a red haze and for a moment he felt a mild stab of alarm, he couldn't muster enough energy to keep it going though and the feeling soon passed.
"I think he's losing consciousness! Can you hear me Buddy?" yelled a voice in House's ear.
Startled, he opened his eyes a little (when had he closed them?), what was going on? He wasn't losing consciousness, was he? Why would he lose consciousness? What had happened? Why did he feel like he was lying in something wet? He shifted, trying to get out of the sticky something and groaned when the movement sent a wave of dizzying pain over him. Right. The kid. Stench. The gun. He remembered now.
"Stay still Buddy," came the voice again and House realized it belonged to the man who had been in front of him in line. He had blond hair that flopped into his face and just like that an image of Chase popped into House's mind. Chase, Cameron, and Foreman. What would they think when they heard about this?
He was dying, the realization came to him all of a sudden and it didn't even seem overly alarming, though a small and distant part of his brain knew it should. He couldn't quite muster up the strength to be alarmed though. Things seemed to be fading; the room he was lying in seemed far away, not really a part of his world anymore.
Cameron would cry, he knew, her devastation would be a matter of course for her. Even Chase may shed a few tears, mourning the loss of his boss. There would be no tears for Foreman though, always the most reserved of the three of them, but in his own way he too would be sad, and he would mourn the loss to the medical community. They would get over it though, the three of them would move on. Find new fellowships and new challenges. They had their whole careers in front of them and they wouldn't forget it. They would be great, he knew."Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital is closest…"
The words drifted around through a fog, belonging to a world that wasn't exactly his anymore, but he knew that place. Princeton Plainsboro… whining idiots… clicking heals… white lab coats… Cuddy… Wilson…
With a feeling of slight surprise he realized they were two people who would actually miss him. Cuddy's affection for him was something he could never quite comprehend the why of. Sure they had shared that one night, still though, despite her protestations to the contrary she was rather attached to him. She cared, and she would miss him.
Wilson… he spent so much of his time worrying about House. About the Vicodin, the addiction… never teenagers with guns… House would have snorted but couldn't quite pull it off; a strange sound of blood gurgling in his throat was all he could manage. No one had thought of teenagers with guns. Wilson's surprise would be outweighed only by his grief, and lying there House felt a stab of his own grief, his first since the realization of his own impending death.
Wilson, the one person who had ever stuck by him when everyone else had left, the one constant in his whole sorry existence, would be utterly devastated and there was nothing he could do.
Darkness was settling over him now and he realized there was no pain, not in his leg, not in the hole in his chest, not anywhere. Forgive me Wilson… he thought as he slipped into the darkness, Forgive me for not staying… I can't… hold on…
He sighed, it felt like he was floating, it had been so long since he had been without any pain at all and he reveled in it. Suddenly, the most ridiculously foolish thought drifted across his mind; maybe he was going to a place without pain… a place where he could run…
Foolish, because he didn't believe in life after death, when you die you die and that's it and that's all. That's what he believed. He wasn't going anywhere. Still… no pain… he hoped Wilson would understand…
Dr. Lisa Cuddy was hunched over the desk in her office filling in forms when the shrill sound of her phone startled her, drawing her back to the real world. Answering it she stated her name and listened, worry suddenly settling over her features like a blanket, to be quickly replaced by shock as her face drained of all color. Suddenly hanging up she sped out of her office and down the hallway.
Dr. Gregory House was rolled into Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital on a gurney, his body completely covered by a white sheet that was soaking through with blood and accompanied by three EMTs. "Oh my God!" Cuddy said, appearing on the scene, her eyes on the covered form of her best doctor. "What the hell happened?"
"Bank robbery. Witnesses say he couldn't stay standing, needed something to lean on and they shot him," answered the head EMT promptly. "I'm sorry Dr. Cuddy, he was D.O.A. There was nothing we could do."
D.O.A. Dead on Arrival, Cuddy thought numbly. Somehow she managed to tell them to take him to the morgue and she turned, she couldn't look at him. Not now. Later, she thought, making her way to her office, clinging to every remaining fiber of her strength to stay in control of her emotions for that much longer.
Entering her office she shut her door and drew the blinds closed and stood in shock in the middle of the room. Suddenly a choked sound like a mingled sob and scream escaped her and she fell to the floor as the tears came out. Oh God. House was dead.
Thirty minutes later Cuddy walked slowly into Wilson's office. He was bent over his desk, much as she had been not so long ago, studying patient files.
Hearing the door open he glanced up at her, taking in her pale and tear streaked face. "Hey," he said softly. "What happened? What did House do now?"
At those words a sob escaped her lips, "He died," she choked out. Perhaps not with the finesse and sensitivity she had wanted to tell him with, but hey, it was all she could manage just now.
"What?" Wilson said, stunned. This was not what he had expected. Not what he'd expected at all.
"House is dead," Cuddy said through sobs. God. She had promised herself she would stay calm for this.
"How?" Wilson managed hoarsely, his face ashen. "Was it…" he trailed off, seemingly afraid to voice his thoughts, "A drug overdose?" A flash of Christmas Eve. Blue eyes staring dazed and unfocused at the ceiling. The slam of the door as he, the best friend, walked out.
"No," Cuddy said, jarring him back to the present. "He was shot." Again. "By a teenage boy while he and a partner robbed the bank where House was cashing his check."
After crying in her office for ten minutes or so she had collected herself and went to find out all the details of what had happened and then had proceeded grimly to Wilson's office to break the news. Knowing she should be the one to do it. Knowing he shouldn't have to find out from some cold and uncaring morgue attendant who had only known House as some distant and manipulative bastard. Even if that was what he had been.
"They had wanted him to stand straight and still without his cane when he had already been standing in line for twenty minutes or so. When he told them he needed something to lean on they refused but he tried to go to the counter anyway and the kid panicked and shot him. Stench, I'm told."
"Stench?" Wilson interrupted in confusion.
"The kid's name," Cuddy explained. "Not his real name I hope, but what his partner called him. Anyway, after the shooting they freaked out and apparently stayed only long enough to grab a couple bags of money before they split. By the time the paramedics arrived House was already dead."
Already dead. House was dead. The words didn't seem to have any meaning in his head, they just repeated themselves over and over and over without making any sense. House was dead. How could House be dead? He had just seen him the night before; they had watched a movie and eaten Chinese take-out. Laughed. Joked. He couldn't be dead.
"Wilson?" Cuddy's voice broke in gently. "Are you alright?" When he only stared at her numbly she leaned forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. "James. James, talk to me." Urgent concern in her voice now. She never called him James. House had called him Jimmy on occasion, in moments of rare jovial good humor. Or in the even rarer moments when he was dead serious or concerned about something.
"James!" Cuddy said again, and with an effort he forced his attention back to her face.
"Yeah," he said, his voice empty, "Yeah, I'm fine." What a lie. In truth though, he didn't know what he was. He knew he wasn't fine though. All at once he stood up, startling Cuddy, who jerked her hand from his shoulder as though he had burned her. "I'm going to see him," he announced and strode out of the room. He didn't know where this sudden need to see House's body came from but he decided to go with it. House's body. The words rolled through his mind and he shuddered. Not House anymore. House's body. Entering the mortuary doors a blast of cold air hit him and he shivered violently. It didn't take long to find the blood soaked body of his friend. They hadn't even started to clean him yet.
Pulling back the sheet that covered him he couldn't help shuddering again. As a doctor he had of course seen much worse but this was his friend. His best friend. If truth be told, his only friend. Everyone always thought of Wilson as House's only friend, no one seemed to realize it worked the other way around too. Sure people liked him well enough, and they folded easily enough under his charming smile and warm brown eyes. But House was the only one who saw past all that. The only real friend he had. The only one he could really be himself with, no act and no mask. And now he was gone.
Gone because of some punk kid called Stench. Anger such as Wilson had never known before flooded through him. Now he understood what families of victims felt when they said they could kill the one who had taken their loved ones away. He had never understood how they could see and experience murder and it's effects first hand and then go and say they could do the same to someone else, but now he understood.
If Stench were standing before him now he thought he just may be able to kill him. The realization scared him a bit, but not quite enough to wipe the feeling away. Not that he would ever act on it, at least he hoped he wouldn't, but it was there nonetheless.
"Jesus House," he murmured softly now, and he didn't even believe in Jesus. "Look what he did to you." House would think he was being a sentimental fool, he knew, but he couldn't help it. "Who would have thought it would end this way, eh? I know you always told me you were fine but I had always thought it would be the Vicodin that would kill you." With the last two words his voice cracked suspiciously and he took a deep breath. This couldn't be real.
"I know that seems lousy to admit, but there you go," he whispered. Silence stretched and Wilson didn't know how long he had been here. Maybe hours. Maybe only a few minutes. "You'd laugh at me but I miss you already. How could you leave me here like this? What am I supposed to do now?"
Standing there the desperation he felt was almost more than he could bear, and just as abruptly as he had decided he wanted to be there he decided he had to get out and so he whirled and practically ran out the door.
"Wilson?" a startled Cuddy, about to enter the mortuary doors said in surprise. "Are you alright Wilson?"
"Fine. Just fine," he forced himself to say before brushing past her. He had to get out of here and a few minutes later he was in his car and driving away. He drove for a while, not really paying attention to where he was going, knowing only that he wanted to go home, wherever that was, wanted to have some small measure of comfort.
He wasn't really all that surprised when he pulled up in front of House's apartment building. This place was more home to him then his hotel room had ever been. Wandering the empty rooms it was hard to grasp the concept that House would never come here again. Never sit at his piano bench and tease out just the right melody again, never sleep in his bed or lounge on his couch and watch General Hospital or The L Word on mute again.
In his cage House's rat, Steve McQueen squeaked anxiously, perhaps sensing Wilson's state of mind, maybe even in some strange way knowing his master would never again walk through that door. Making sure House's bedroom door was closed Wilson fed and watered the distressed rat before lying down on the couch. As long as the bedroom door was closed maybe he could convince himself that House was lying in his bed sleeping.
Maybe this was all a bad dream. If he went to sleep maybe he would wake up in the morning and he and House would laugh a the ridiculousness of a kid named Stench killing him… maybe…
The weeks passed and Wilson never did wake up from his nightmare. The ducklings took to the news of their boss's death much in the same way that House had predicted they would. Not that they knew that of course. They moved on and they each went their separate ways. They finished out their fellowships under different bosses and they went on to become the great doctors that House, whether he admitted it or not, had always known they would be. They were each different for having known and worked under the great Dr. Gregory House though, and they turned out to be even better doctors because of it.
Eventually, and with a heavy heart, Cuddy had to give his office to someone else, because life did move on. Wilson never could get used to the idea of someone else in his best friend's office though. He avoided walking by it when he could, because when he couldn't he had to force himself to remember that House wouldn't come limping out, making some sarcastic remark.
He had never quite realized in just how many ways his life had revolved around his sarcastic and bitter friend and he was always surprised at the number of empty spaces his life seemed to hold now. Like at lunch when he always ended up with more than he could eat thanks to a long habit of buying extra so he could have enough when House inevitably stole some. Or when he was doing paperwork and had to force himself to realize House wouldn't come barging, unannounced into his office. He'd never thought he would miss that.
Sometimes the surrealism of the world without House made him feel like he was still standing in the cold mortuary, staring at his friend's lifeless body and yet not quite believing it. Sometimes he wondered if he had indeed ever left. Walking down the hospital corridors he always expected to hear the uneven thumping sound of House's unsteady gait behind him. To hear him shout out his name and come up beside him.
At night, in House's apartment where he had taken up residence, he would finger House's cane that a police officer had given him and he would wonder at how it had ever come to this. He would be all right eventually, he knew life did go on, but he missed his friend. Life wasn't the same without him.
He wondered if House had known just how much he had meant to him. He hoped, with every fiber of his being, that some part of him had. He thinks that he did, he just wishes he could tell him now.
The only thought that gives him any comfort anymore is that just maybe, House is somewhere without pain. Somewhere with no pain and no limp, somewhere he could be the physical person he always had been before the infarction had changed his life.
If only Wilson had known how close this was to House's own final thoughts on this earth. He knows he'll never have another friend like House again, and maybe that's not such a bad thing. House's life, everything about him, had been defined by pain of some kind. It had shaped and molded him into the person he was, changed him forever from what he could have been under different or better circumstances.
Wilson knows that he is changed from having met and sustained such a long friendship with the man, and he knows he's not the only one who will never be the same again. The entire medical community would never be quite the same. They had suffered a severe blow when that gun had went off, taking from them forever one of medicine's greatest minds.
It was strange... everyone had thought it would be the Vicodin that would eventually kill Gregory House. Who would've guessed it would be a gun-toting teenager named Stench? Wilson wondered if the kid had any idea what he had done, or just who he had killed. There would never again be another like Dr. Gregory House. Everyone had thought it would be the Vicodin… who would've guessed…