A/N: Have a wonderful festive season everyone! Here's your present from me – the final chapter for this saga. Enjoy!
They'd been driving for about thirty minutes and House still hadn't explained where they were going and Maddie hadn't asked. The silence had started out uncomfortably, but as time had worn on, they had both settled into it. Maddie contented herself with staring out the window – it was just like being in her apartment except the view kept changing.
Soon enough they reached what looked like a park surrounded by a high stone fence and House pulled the car into a parking spot.
Maddie was confused for a moment – the picnic idea was just a random thought, surely he wouldn't? – but then she saw the sign next to the ornate wrought-iron gate.
"No," she said, shaking her head and shrinking back into the car seat. "No, no, no, no. I'm not going in there."
"Oh yes you are," House countered, matter-of-factly. He got out of the car and went around to the passenger side, opening Maddie's door.
"Come on." He tugged on her hand, pulling her up.
Maddie stood and let House pull her coat around her, wondering what to do. She could sit back in the car and refuse to budge; with his leg there was no way he could carry her. But he was so determined and, as she took in the set of his face, she was sure he'd find a way to make it happen.
"Are you really going to make me do this?" she asked, just to be sure.
"Yes I am. But we're both going to do it – together," he answered. He could see her confusion and fear, but he was still convinced this was absolutely the right thing to do.
They walked along the stone wall and through the gates, past the large gilded sign: Municipal General Cemetery. Heavy clouds dragged across the sky, giving the graveyard a gloomy and oppressive feel.
Inside the gates, House stood for a moment, checking the map board against the information he'd got from the internet.
"There," he said, pointing at a spot towards the middle. He turned and looked at Maddie, somehow shrunken in her overcoat and scarf. He reached out and grabbed her gloved hand in his. "Come on."
After five minutes of walking and a little time to locate the right headstone, they were finally standing in front of a grey, granite slab, the earth in front of it still showing the signs of its recent upheaval.
Jack Cooper, Loved Husband And Father, Now Resting In Heaven, 1945-2007
House watched her carefully, not sure what to expect. He'd thought there'd probably be tears, perhaps even anger, and he was prepared to let her take it out on him if she needed to. But for the moment he just stood to the side and let her think.
Maddie stood in front of the cold, frosty stone. She waited for a chill, or a release, or some kind of tsunami of emotion to overcome her, and was faintly disappointed when it failed to materialise.
The anger, grief, whatever she had expected just wasn't there anymore. Absent. In its place she was surprised to find was a dull blankness – the realisation that nothing significant had changed, her life would continue now as it had before. Jack Cooper had played a part in forming her life, but his influence had been over a long time ago, and his death hadn't really altered that.
She spoke softly, although loud enough for House to hear.
"Hey Dad," she whispered, "you really were a crappy father, you know?"
Maddie stepped back from the graveside and turned to House.
"He's really not part of life anymore," she said, trying to explain. "He hasn't been for a long time. I don't know why I've only just realised that."
House nodded, knowing what she was getting at. He'd worked hard to put miles between himself and his own father, he understood her thinking.
"Should I feel bad for not feeling bad?" Maddie asked him, hesitantly.
House put an arm around her shoulders and leant in to kiss her quickly on the cheek.
"No, you shouldn't. You should feel good that this is behind you."
A massive clap of thunder made them both start, interrupting their moment. Icy rain started falling and they hurriedly made their way back toward the entrance, House stepping carefully on the wet and slippery ground.
By the time they got back to the car they were both soaked and shivering and after peeling off their wet outer layers, they made their way back to Maddie's apartment with the car's heater blasting.
In contrast to the long journey to the cemetery, the trip home seemed to take just moments and they were walking in the door as dusk fell.
When they entered her apartment, Maddie wandered around, turning on lamps, fidgeting. She was so touched that he'd come to find her, that he'd taken her to the cemetery. But now what? Had he done that out of concern for her? Did he still see a future for them, or had he just wanted to make sure she was OK before he said goodbye for good? Maddie just had to know.
For his part, House watched Maddie wander, he could practically see the cogs turning in her head. He started to feel a little anxious, unsure now what she wanted. Now that she seemed to be feeling more settled about her family, what would she want from him? Would she want him at all? Or had he just been a useful crutch during a difficult time? He walked to the kitchen and poured himself a drink.
"How can you forgive me for what I did? Will you ever trust me again?" Maddie blurted out at him from the lounge.
As always, unsettled by probing questions he didn't know how to answer, he responded with a joke.
"I might need a couple more drinks before I let your mouth near my private parts again." He downed his scotch in a smooth gulp and moved to join her in the lounge.
Maddie exhaled forcefully. "But that's exactly what I mean. I don't want you wondering when I might next go psychotic and hurt you. I don't ever want to do that again – for both our sakes."
"I don't want you to either," he said bluntly. "But you won't will you?"
He looked into her eyes for the answer he knew was there. The past week, perhaps also the visit to the cemetery, had changed her. That edge of mania – something just a little bit dangerous that he'd always seen in her – was gone. He briefly wondered whether he was going to like her quite as much without it.
"I promise that I will never intentionally hurt you, but I can't promise that everything is behind me." She looked at him, a slightly desperate look in her eyes. "I put all this to rest years ago and I never imagined it'd be back to haunt me after all this time. So I feel … I don't know … scared, I guess, about making any promises about the future."
House shrugged. "Isn't it enough that we make a start? No one can promise anything about the future."
Maddie gave him a little smile. How had two such damaged people ended up together? she wondered. How can we possibly make it work? But how can we possibly not give it a try?
She shivered, her rain-soaked clothes now making her feel chilled and uncomfortable.
"I'm going to take a shower to warm up," she said. Apart from holding hands and his kiss on her cheek, she realised, they hadn't really touched each other yet. She moved towards him, tentatively putting her hand to his face.
"There's room for two if you'd like."
House stared at her. Somehow the realisation of what he'd said to her was just hitting him. He was actually volunteering to have a go at a proper, grown up relationship with a woman who was almost definitely more screwed up than he was. But – like Maddie had been at the cemetery – if he was waiting for a tide of regret or panic, it didn't come. His leg was aching from the cold but his body was aching to touch her, to be pressed against her, to be inside her. Before that, though, there was something he had to do.
"One thing first," he said. He walked over to her shelves and located the little box of drugs. He removed the bag of white powder and took it into the kitchen, emptying it down the sink. Maddie watched as he ran the tap until it dissolved, making no move to stop him.
"Let's not go here again, OK?" he asked her frankly.
Maddie nodded. "Good idea," she said softly.
House smiled wryly and they shared a look before Maddie turned and headed into the bathroom. There, they shed their damp clothes and got under the jet of hot water as quickly as possible.
She poured a generous amount of shower gel into her hands and began soaping him, covering every inch of his skin from his toes to his eyebrows except his groin. He was straining towards her, every nerve ending tingling, impatiently awaiting her more intimate touch.
She stood back a little, letting the spray wash over him. She smiled, looking at him, his skin shiny and slick from the water, his obvious arousal the result of her handiwork.
"What's so funny?" asked House cautiously.
"You look like a statue," Maddie giggled a little. "Like the Greek god of lust or something."
"Come here," House growled, grabbing the bottle of gel. He started the suds at her fingertips, working his way up her arms to her shoulders, then turned her around, soaping her back and massaging her shoulders briefly. He reached around her to run his slippery fingers over her breasts and hard nipples, eliciting a sigh that encouraged him to continue. Maddie pressed back into him, loving the feel of his chest hairs on her back, his hard cock pushing against her.
After a few moments, Maddie turned around and stood under the spray to wash away the soap.
"I think that's enough washing for now," she said, a little breathlessly.
"But I haven't got to the really dirty bits yet," House said with a pout.
"Oh, you'll definitely be getting to those," Maddie said. "Just give me a minute."
She switched off the water and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel for herself and handing one to him. They dried off carelessly, Maddie stopping them halfway through, succumbing to her overwhelming need to feel his body against her. She held him tightly, arms around him, her head buried against his shoulder. She could literally feel an ache in her chest as feelings of gratitude and desire threatened to overpower her.
House wrapped his arms around her, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. He gave her a moment, sensing her need to pause and gather her thoughts, enjoying the warm comfort of her now familiar body.
Releasing him, Maddie looked up into his face, trying to communicate everything she was feeling with her eyes. She wasn't ready or able to put it into words yet, but she knew he understood.
They walked into the bedroom, wet skin drying quickly as they pulled the covers over themselves to keep warm.
House took up where he'd left off in the shower, teasing her breasts. Maddie reached down and took him in her hand, stroking and teasing him in the same way while her mouth sought out his nipples. Her touch made his need stronger and he moved his hand down her body, caressing her intimately, wanting to ensure she was ready for him. Maddie groaned and arched back, letting his pianist's fingers play over her, in her, building a crescendo.
After a moment, she stilled his hand, pushing on his chest to roll him onto his back. She reached over him, straddling his hips, pushing down onto him. He closed his eyes and let out a breath as he felt her smooth warmth surround him. They moved together in the oldest dance in the world, Maddie leading the way.
House tried desperately to hang on, but when Maddie started lightly raking her fingernails down his chest the electricity of her touch and the friction of her movement proved to much. With a low moan, he surrendered to the sensations.
Maddie felt him tense and come apart within her; a moment later she followed him with a hoarse cry.
She collapsed on his chest, resting while they both recovered their breathing.
Finally, tenderly, they kissed. It was as if they had both been putting off this most profound of connections, waiting until they were both sure that everything was going to be all right.
Maddie slipped off House, lying out next to him. She pulled the quilt tightly around them both and snuggled into his warmth. Wrapped around each other, they slept peacefully in the space they'd created for their beginning.
A/N: I don't normally like the device of putting song lyrics into stories. But this whole thing was inspired in part by a song called Space They Cannot Touch and it just feels right to provide you with the lyrics as a sign off.
But somehow I'm with you
Let's leave now
Let's leave them, their point of view
My favourite place is me and you
wake up in the darkest night
Watch you breathe in shadow light
A perfect world lies next to me
And I don't need to sleep to dream
Morning sun warms our skin
And distant sounds
The day begins
Soon their world will come calling for us
But this is the space they cannot touch
I just hope
I am good enough
to keep you
Thank you so much to my lovely loyal reviewers, especially: Sokerchick, Gypsy71 and RavenDiesel1! This story has been difficult to write, so your encouragement has been immensely valued.
PS – I am working on a sequel to a previous story, Too Much Too Soon. If anyone enjoyed that and would be interested in being a beta or just giving me a second opinion before I post I'd value some input. Send me a message.