Eight Bells: Chapter One

Disclaimer: An other fic, same disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me, they're all David Shore's and Fox's.

A/N: The strikes of ship's bell clocks do not accord to the number of the hour. Instead, there are eight bells, one for each half-hour of a four-hour watch. At midnight the clock strikes eight times.
The term "Eight bells" can also be a way of saying that a sailor's watch is over, for instance, in his or her obituary. It's a nautical euphemism for "finished". [Wikipedia


The warm autumn sun cast a golden light upon the trees and the colored leaves. The white of the tombstones glistened. It was a rather new part of the cemetery and everything looked neat, even welcoming. The white gravel paths, the low cut grass, the wildflowers under the trees and the benches gave the place the appearance of a park rather than a cemetery. A place for the living, not for the dead.

The sunlight was reflected in a small golden cross on a tombstone and fell on Gregory House's face. He did not blink, he did not move. Throughout the service he had stood rigid like one of the tombstones, ignoring the pain in his leg. It was easy now, because his whole body and mind were filled with a dull pain.ouseHou

„Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

Someone nudged House, urging him forward a little. It was time to throw in some dust. He made a step forward, his right leg buckling a little under his weight.

This was not right. He couldn't throw dirt on the polished coffin, didn't want to lock him in. He might want to get back out.

"House," Cuddy whispered behind him and put a hand on his arm. Even though the touch was very light, he could feel the cold of her shaking hand. He did not need to turn around to know that she was crying.

Reluctantly he took the shovel and stared down into the grave. Dust to dust. No! There was no way he was gone, he was not dust.
With a clatter the shovel fell on the ground. House turned around and hobbled away, leaving the the mourners around Wilson's grave behind.

-----

His apartment was empty, just as empty as his life. And that hollow feeling that had washed over him some days ago would not subside.

House knew his friend was gone, but still couldn't believe it. During the wake Wilson had looked battered, but his bruises had been mercifully conceiled by the undertaker. His young boyish face had lain peacefully between the silken lining of the coffin as though he had been asleep. Family and friends had shuffled past him, the room filled with a low murmur and occasional sobs.

Wilson's hands had lain on his stomach and House had felt the urge to touch his wrist to make sure there still was a pulse, that there still was life. He had leaned on his cane a little more and had bend slightly over, his fingers twitching, ready to reach out, when someone had beaten him to it. A pale hand had taken Wilson's, arranged a white lily underneath and patted it softly. House had looked up into the blood shot eyes of Wilson's mother. Even to his own surprise, he had been angry at her for breaking the illusion.
More people had been waiting to see Wilson and House finally moved on.

It had been the last time he had seen his best friend, draped in silk, sleeping in a coffin. House needed time to let go. He had never been good at that and letting go his only friend was the hardest thing.

-----

Everything had happened so fast. There had been a call at the PPTH: Dr. James Wilson had been in a car accident, peril injuries. He had died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. House had never felt this helpless. There had been no illness to cure, no time to help and definitely no time to say goodbye.

The hours after he had left the funeral past slowly and House went up and down in his apartment. And even though it might have looked to an observer as if he was brooding, his mind was blank except for some blurred visions of Wilson.

Finally the pain in his thigh became unbearable and he let himself fall into the cushions of his sofa. He took two pills, one for the pain in his leg, one for the pain in his chest. The blanket that still lay on the arm-rest smelled like Wilson and House buried his face into it, lying there motionless for a few hours.

It was almost dark when House got up again. His face still wore the impressions of the blanket, his eyes red from tiredness. The street outside was deserted and he thought it save enough to go outside.

He had to see Wilson.

-----

The drone of his motorbike and the fresh air soothed him. House took some empty streets along the outskirts and ended up in front of Wilson's hotel. The place looked uninviting with it's bleak grey walls. And the dark windows looked like hollow eyes, that stared down at House. He quickly put in the gear again and drove off.

There were only a few street lights on the path that lead up to the cemetery. House tried to hold his heavy bike steady on the loose gravel. Even the caretaker's hut was dark as House parked his bike in front of it and opened the large iron gate. Everything was pitch black there, only a few candles were little light spots in the darkness, illuminating only their own graves.

House did not need any light to get to the grave he was looking for. He had always known how to find Wilson, this had not changed.

Suddenly House stopped. There was a slight smell of fresh soil and flowers. He reached out a hand and his fingers brushed over a polished stone. He swallowed hard as his fingers ran over the tombstone, feeling for the engraved name.
Dr. James Evan Wilson. His right forefinger followed the writing, his left hand rested on the top of the stone like it would have rested on Wilson's shoulder.

Come back, he whispered silently. He wanted to say it out loud, wanted Wilson to hear it, but only a low gurgling sound left his mouth. Please, come back.

A single tear rolled down his cheek and House stubbornly wiped it away with his sleeve as he turned around to leave the place. He could not say goodbye. Not yet.

-----

Back in his apartment he took his guitar off the wall, the old one, the one he got in eighth grade. He had been lying to himself when he thought he could overcome his dislike of changes. The new guitar could never take the place of his old one, that lay smooth and comforting in his hands. House put his fingers on the strings, feeling the cold metal on his fingertips, but did not play. The tune of a slow, sad song played in his head alone and he started to hum along with his eyes closed.

The clock on the wall clicked softly and House looked up. Midnight.
Wilson had given him the ship's bell clock for christmas last year, a more or less subtle hint that he usually was late for work in the morning. It was suppose to strike eight times at midnight, but except for the clicking sound nothing happened. House had refused to ever wind up the bell.

He stopped humming and stared at the clock, remembering the day Wilson had given it to him.

---

"It isn't very pretty," Wilson had said, handing him the brass clock, "but it'll call you for your 'watch'."

"What am I supposed to watch?" House had eyed the clock suspiciously as it began to strike.

"Your back," Wilson had whispered quickly as Cuddy came bursting into House's office.

---

House smiled a little as he remembered the scene. Cuddy had been furious about something and he and Wilson had kept on grinning.

"We've been a good team, Wilson," he said softly.

A low snort came from the other side of the room.

"Only if you didn't throw a tantrum about one thing or the other."

"Huh?" House looked around to where he heard Wilson's voice. "Wilson?" he asked into the silence.

"House."

First it was only a kind of reflection, then House saw Wilson's face appear. It became more and more solid and his body followed. The transparency was still there but he looked just like Wilson. House gaped at him.

"You look like you've seen a ghost," Wilson chuckled.

"Well, I -," House stared at him. "You are a ghost, aren't you?"

"I guess so." Wilson looked down his body as if seeing it for the first time.

Out of words for this appearance, House kept gaping and staring. He could not believe that Wilson was here with him, talking to him. This was impossible. He pinched his arm very hard and looked at the bruised skin that turned red. Reassured that it had hurt and that he was not asleep, he turned around to Wilson again.

He was still there, looking at him expectantly.

"What now?" Wilson started to walk up and down the room, examining the bookshelves and furniture as though checking if anything had changed.

"What now?" House repeated bluntly. "You cannot just appear in my apartment and ask 'what now'!"

"Well, you asked me to come back. You know at the," Wilson paused. "At the cemetery."

"And you came back?"

Wilson opened his arms to say 'here I am'.

"It's easy as that?" The frown on House's forehead told Wilson that he was thinking frantically.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Easy as that. I've always come running when you called. I scolded myself for it everytime though."

"You're my friend," House explained.

"You haven't always been there for me."

Wilson's words hurt. Now they hurt, now that he was gone. But he wasn't gone! House got up from the piano stool and went over to Wilson.

"I opened the door when you left Julie. You lived here for some weeks."

"You wanted to kick me out right away the next morning," Wilson grinned, obviously not bearing a grudge against House.

"I -, well, I wasn't used to someone living here with me."

Wilson took a step back as House came over and stopped only inches away from him. House cocked his head, examining the half transparent Wilson.

"Can I touch you?" he asked finally.

Wilson snorted. "That's just the weirdest thing you've ever asked me."

House smirked uneasily and lifted his hand to touch Wilson's arm. His fingertips brushed over the smooth fabric of Wilson's dress shirt and then his cheek.

"I can touch you," House noted in bewilderment. He drove his hand over Wilson's arm again, this time a little firmer. His hand sank into the arm and House pulled his hand away, his face turning pale.

"No punching and no shoving around, hm." Wilson grinned at the horrified expression on House's face.

"Did that hurt?" House now held one hand behind Wilson's back and watched it right through his body.

"Uhm, no, but I would still prefer if you'll keep your hands out of my body."

"Now that is the weirdest thing you've ever told me!" House retorted and smirked.

Wilson shook his head in amusement. "You haven't changed."

"It's been only a week." But it felt like a month, House thought. He had missed Wilson sorely.

They both stood there grinning at eachother for a moment.

"Wanna watch a movie?" House finally asked, still confused about this unreal situation.

Wilson shook his head. "Sorry, I don't have that much time."

"You're gonna leave again?" House grabbed Wilson's arm and his hand went right through him. He did not want him to go.

"I have to. Witching hour. I have to leave at one o'clock," he shrugged his shoulders apologetically, his sad brown eyes looked House.

The bell clock clicked and Wilson turned his head.

"You haven't wound up the bell, " he said reproachfully.

House ignored the remark. Only half an hour left, before Wilson would leave him again. Half an hour to say goodbye. He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing would come out.

"We never had to say goodbye before," House looked down at his hands. "None of us ever went away."

Wilson watched him. "There's a first time for everything, I guess."

"I don't like changes." He knew this confession wouldn't surprise him, Wilson had always seen through him. House's blue eyes were fixed on Wilson now, pleading for him to understand those things he couldn't say.

"Send the guitar back then," Wilson answered, but nodded to show that he had understood.

"The old one's still good." House picked up his guitar again and pulled the strap over his head. He started to play a few notes just to see if it was still tuned, then stopped.

"Go on," Wilson demaded, leaning against the piano. He closed his eyes as House started to play a tune.

His eyes closed lightly, completely absorbed in the music, House plucked at the chords. Slowly the classical melody changed into Carole King's You've got a friend. He looked up to Wilson's smiling face.

"You won't get all soft and drippy now, will you?" Wilson's laugh lines around the eyes showed and House automatically skipped to a lighter song.

"Nah, already told you I dislike changes," smiled House.

He glanced at the clock on the wall. Only a few minutes left until Wilson would be gone again. His presence felt good and the thought of losing him again frightened House. He stopped playing and grabbed the guitar strap looking for hold.

"Just a few more minutes," House said softly.

"You could slip in another song." Wilson was still in a good mood and House wasn't sure, if he was just trying to cheer House up or if he did not care at all that they would not see eachother again. But to imagine that Wilson did not care, just didn't work. Wilson always cared.

House turned to the clock again. One more minute. And there was something he had to tell Wilson.

"I -," he started, then stopped again. Wilson smiled at him encouragingly , but House could not look him in the eyes. Instead he let them drop to his fingers that were now twiddling with the guitar strap.

"You know I've always loved you," House finally said and lifted his head again to see Wilson.

A low click from the clock announced that the hour had passed, Wilson was gone.


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