A/N: OMG guys. Okay, do you want the good news or the bad news first? I'll start with bad, that's always better. I wrote this and when I looked at the finished chapter I sent it to Alias424 in a panic. Because it was the final chapter. We hemmed and hawed but eventually we both agreed - this really IS the perfect ending chapter for this fic. So. The end. There are some plot points not quite resolved. They WILL be carried forth into P3. I do not forget things, trust me, and my massive notes. So it's the end, and yes that's sad. But good news! I'll be posting the pre-quel tomorrow and this means my new fic start next Tuesday. And really, it's kind of poetic that Prism ends the day House comes back, right? Agree with me anyway peeps. And comment. Because I need it. deep breath OK HERE GOES:
She pressed her hands into fists as she sat stiffly on the porcelain edge. She shouldn't be alone – not while doing this. But it seemed somehow appropriate as she held her breath – idly counting down the seconds in her head. A human could survive up to five minutes without oxygen. 300 seconds.
She only needed 120.
Her fingers tightened, her nails digging into her palm in an effort to remind herself to breathe, but she couldn't. She should have flipped it over, hidden it from view. It would have been easier that way, but for some reason this time – this time – she wanted to watch.
Watch the small white square as if it held the answer to life's most important question. Glue her eyes to it (don't breathe) and watch as the color slowly bled from white to cream to canary. She strained her eyes, praying (don't breathe – 60 seconds to go) and ignoring the burning in her lungs that threatened to pierce through her very skin and bone. Does that look blue?
She frowned – resisting the urge to flick on the light for a better view – in less than 40 seconds she wouldn't need to wonder if she was imagining the pale shades of pigment or not. It would just be there. Her nails bit more deeply and she felt the sting – but it was a mere elusive wisp of an idea of pain – taking a seat at the back of her mind as she counted down silently in her head.
30 seconds – don't look, don't breathe. Her eyes trained on the countertop, studying the small cream and gold flecks there – mentally noting that the tiny specs of azure reminded her of –
She drew a deep breath – the oxygen burning her lungs as she inhaled and exhaled sharply. Breathing – not breathing, either way it hurt in ways she couldn't quite vocalize as she stared fearfully at the white stick on the counter.
It hurt to breathe, to hope.
It hurt to look, but she pressed her feet into the floor and propelled herself forward anyway. She had survived worse than this half-painful, half-anticipatory state of being. She closed her eyes for a second's reprieve as her hands curled around the cool countertop. She took one painful breath – too big and too deep – and then another just like it. The oxygen was making her light-headed as she internally debated.
What was worse? Absence of color – a blank canvas – or deep vivid hues that would take over her very life – her entire soul? She took one final deep breath before forcing her eyes open.
One, two, three, four – she counted the heartbeats that thundered through her chest as she looked down.
It's a silent agreement that you share – you don't tell Wilson. You somehow manage to swallow your guilt every time you see Stacy in the halls or across the table at meetings – and it's almost perfect, really. He comes to see you at least once a week, sometimes more if he can convince her he's working late. It's actually harder to keep Wilson from finding out than her, because he is still keeping an eye on you, concerned about your emotional well-being.
Eventually you convince him that you're seeing someone – outside of the hospital – and he is happy for you, which makes the guilt settle that much more deeply. But the nights when House is with you, you think it must be all worth it. There was one weekend when Stacy had a conference and he didn't disappear the next morning, and you cling to that night with a childish glee. Your mother would be appalled, and when you allow yourself to think about it too much, you are too.
'You're thinking too much again. I can hear you.' His voice is rough in your ear and you smile before rolling over to face him. 'Poor Cuddy and her guilt complex.'
'You're the one that gave it to me,' you mutter and he grins, before pulling your closer and resting his chin on your head.
'If it's too much….' At least once a month he offers this – to let her leave, to let her go. He offers because it's how he deals with his own guilt. You stay because it's the only reward for yours. Twice you had kicked him out – angry with him for putting the two of you through this – but both times he came back, and you let him because you couldn't stand the alternative.
'Stop it,' you finally mumble, and he laughs slightly, the sound wrapping around you gently. He has to know, you think – has to know why you stay. He's never promised you anything, never even told you that he loves you, but you have to believe he does, deep down. If you didn't...
'Make me.' He is taunting you now, shaking off the sombre mood that has fallen upon you, and your hands reach out until his breath catches, and you smile in the dark.
You always knew, given the right circumstances, you could control him.
"Do I get my own key?"
"You already have a key," she pointed out mildly – as nervous wings beat a tattoo in her stomach. She allowed herself a tiny smile at the thought – not nervous wings for long –
"Yes but technically I stole that – " He spoke around a handful of chips, and she sighed in disgust before snatching the bowl from his lap and stalking to the kitchen with it. When she came back, he was glaring at her petulantly.
"No. I told you no food in the living room."
"But Mom – "
"House!" The reprimand came out shorted and harsher than she had meant it to. She had simply reacted – and he fell silent as she fought for control – over something, anything around her. She couldn't control him – she couldn't control what was about to happen. She took a breath – willing her blood to calm down and not pound so carelessly through her veins. She stared down at her arm as she fought for a grain of courage on this fear-filled beach.
When she blinked, he was in front of her, his fingers tracing the cerulean shadows that lined her arm. She shivered when his meandering fingers traced the inside of her elbow lightly.
"What is this about? Because we've eaten in here before – "
"Rules shouldn't be followed on an as-needed basis," she managed to whisper – her voice sounding strangled as his eyes met hers and she wondered what he saw. She found herself reaching out for him blindly, her hand twisting around his forearm as she grasped desperately for the help she so clearly needed.
She needed to breathe.
She needed to not drown right now.
She needed to swallow her fear before it reared its ugly head and swallowed her whole – a great blue whale of insecurities and irrationalities.
"Cuddy." His voice was soft and she stared at his shirt front – rumpled cotton so faded it was almost white, but if you stared hard enough at the opaque buttons, you could see the faint glow of long-faded azure.
It was an important color. It was his – and hers – blue eyes, hers like a faded rain and his like a bright burning summer sky. Which one would dominate? Maybe some amalgamated form – baby blue. She laughed as he stared at her with growing concern.
"I'm not crazy," she finally choked out – closing her eyes to the sight of him as she dug through the sand frantically, flinging aside fistfuls in her mind, searching for anything – something – that resembled bravery.
"You'll forgive me if I don't take your word for that, psycho." His voice was rough and heavy in her mind – falling down around her like a blanket. Maybe she didn't need to find her own courage. Maybe she could just borrow his.
"House – I have something to tell you – "
"Finally," he muttered, leading her over to the couch and pushing her down until her knees gave out and she felt the fabric against the backs of her thighs.
"Finally?" Her ever-procrastinating mind latched onto his word with vicious glee. Anything – anything to just not have to do this.
"You told me – a few weeks ago, you told me you'd tell me – " She sighed heavily at his words, the air rushing out of her like condensed fear – brushed stainless steel and faintly glowing as she watched it slide away.
"Not that," she bit out – finding it suddenly easier to breathe when his hand gripped her own as he frowned across at her.
"Then what? Because frankly, you're scaring the crap out of me – "
"I'm pregnant." She tried – really she did – to temper the inherent joy she felt in saying those words. She had practiced all day – staring at herself in the bathroom mirror as she repeatedly attempted to say them without the joy pouring out of her soul as she grinned.
She – at the very least – managed not to grin. This was her dream – her reds and yellows and blues melted together in a vivid splash as it coloured her body, her smile and soul. It wasn't his – and she didn't know what to expect now, so she swallowed the fear and watched as he took one breath, and then another, deeper.
He let the air out in a rush – staring at his hands and knees as he contemplated her words. When he looked up, he seemed lost – as though she had stolen every single grain of fortitude from him and given him nothing but her terror in return.
"What now?" His voice was soft, and she felt herself deflate at his words – her shoulders dropped and she sank a bit further into the couch – no longer bursting with her individual joy.
"That's up to you." When she finally spoke, her voice was thick, and she felt as if it were dragging her down – under the inky waters where she would drown alone, gasping for air and receiving only navy water.
"It's not up to me, Cuddy – " His voice was biting – like the slap of stinging waves as they washed over her.
"Isn't it?" She finally turned to him, looking into his eyes as she forced the question out of her throat – hurling it like a flare into the sky – man down, needs rescuing. "It's – this was what I wanted, House. I got what I wanted – the only question now is what do you want?"
She sat waiting – treading water desperately as the fire faded from the sky and she fought to breathe – waiting for a response.
'He's trying to kill himself, you know that, right?' Wilson's voice is high-pitched and frantic as he stares at you with censure. 'Twice now I've found him passed out because he's drunk off his ass and took too many pills – you cannot seriously stand there and tell me you won't help!'
'He doesn't want my help.' You speak tightly and he rolls his eyes before glaring at you.
'He might not want it but he needs it. It's just not getting through to him, Lisa – so for the love of God, please, help me with him.'
'He won't listen to me.'
'He doesn't listen to me either but if you're there maybe he'll – '
'What, have someone else to take it out on?' you snap and he sighs heavily, looking at you beseechingly.
'You said he could hate you and live. Let him hate you – so he'll live.' You glare at him through your tears, thinking that people didn't give Wilson nearly enough credit for being the manipulative bastard he was.
She barely dragged herself to the door in time to see a very haggard-looking James Wilson with her spare key in the lock and a determined glare on his face. He didn't smile or nod when she opened the door, simply pushed past her, yanking the key out of the lock and pocketing it.
"That's not yours – " she protested weakly, and he turned on his heel, hands on his hips as he glared at her.
"It's not yours either." He spoke significantly and she bit her lip as she listened.
"He would never – "
"I stole it from him. He was too drunk to notice." The words were ground out in such an un-Wilson-like fashion that she had to rub a palm across her eyes to compose herself. "How could you do this to him?"
"How could I do this to him?" She laughed – and the sound wrapped around them, echoing eerily in the too-empty hall. "Is that what he told you? That I somehow kicked him out – that he – " She stopped, taking a deep breath to calm herself before she said too much.
"He told me about the baby."
"Nice." She laughed humourlessly and crossed her arms. "Did you come here to lecture me? He volunteered – "
"Because he loves you, Lisa – surely even you can see that!" Wilson waved his arms tiredly and held one up when she opened her mouth to speak. "No – I was with him all last night. He misses you and frankly – I mean, yes he's House and probably the worst possible influence you could have chosen – but it's his child too and he – "
"Wants nothing to do with it!" she finally shouted across him, her words bursting out of her involuntarily. He stopped mid-gesture, his arm flung out, frozen as he blinked at her.
"What?" He frowned, tilting his head slightly as she glared.
"I asked him, Wilson – I asked him what he wanted." To her extreme annoyance, she felt the tip of her nose tingle as she spoke – tears filling her eyes that she brushed away as quickly as possible. "Apparently it wasn't a nice, cozy family scene."
"What did he say?" Wilson was grasping her elbow gently now, leading her to the dining room chairs and sitting her down like she was a small child with a scraped knee.
"Nothing." She spoke thickly, sniffling as she cursed her own weakness. "Not one damn thing. He left."
"Cuddy – I mean, maybe – this is a lot to take in. Maybe he doesn't think you want him here." Wilson's words were quiet, reassuring – like a soft puff of air, blowing the sting away. She blinked away her tears and looked up at his concerned face.
"He's had days…." She trailed off hesitantly – hope bubbling forth – a beam of light piercing the murky depths.
"If it were me – " Wilson's voice snagged there, and she smiled across at him, pressing her hand against his shoulder as he kneeled in front of her. "I wouldn't think that someone like you – "
"He has to know, Wilson – "
"Have you ever told him?" Wilson words were strong and sure – he tossed the question out casually, like a life preserver. Her hands tightened on his shoulder and he blinked up at her reassuringly.
"I need that key." She spoke quickly on an indrawn breath, and he reached in his pocket, handing it over to her without question. The metal was cool on her skin and she rose, pressing down on him for balance.
"Good luck." His voice was soft, and it belied the effort the words must have taken. Sometimes she wished... but his brown eyes were wrong as she stared at him too hard, the silence dragging out too long. And no matter how much she wished – she couldn't turn them blue.
His door wasn't locked – thank you Wilson – and she slipped in silently, moving through the dim until she was just standing in the doorway to his bedroom. The fact that he wasn't at his piano had shocked her. But it seemed somehow right to see him amid his tangle of navy sheets – the old guitar in his hands gleaming like gold in the nonexistent lighting.
"Wilson, just go away – " His voice was a sigh, and she felt the reassuring press of her house key in her hand as she stared at him contemplatively. Her mind ran light-years ahead of her as it spun out fifteen different things she could say. In the end, she just tossed the key on the bed, halting his words at its muffled thump as she stepped closer and stared at him.
"I believe that's yours."
"Not anymore, remember?" His voice was bitter as his fingers danced gracefully across tightened strings.
"I'm sick and tired of bullshit, House. Here's the deal." She spoke forcefully – the tone alone stilled his hands as he looked up to gauge her level of seriousness. When his eyes met hers, he pulled the instrument from his lap and placed it beside the bed before spreading his hands in invitation.
"You're an ass. An arrogant, idiotic, stupid, moronic ass. You think you know what I want? Better than I do?" Her anger laced through the words, colouring the air as they poured out of her.
"You wanted a baby. Last time I checked, you got that. Was I needed for something else, master?" He stood as he spoke, striding around the bed to stand in front of her – their anger always seemed to magnetize their souls, plucking and pulling until his negative aligned with her positive and they snapped in place.
She wanted to caress him – or smack him. Her hand faltered somewhere in between the two until it rested against his chest, stilling there as it rose and fell in time to his laboured breaths. "When this is all over – you're going to say it to me, House." The words were breathed out of her, halfway between a promise and a victory cry. "You are needed for something else, actually." Her hand lifted and she pointed to the bed where the brass key glowed among the sea of deep blue, an honest-to-goodness treasure, sitting at the bottom of this ocean with her. "It's yours." I'm yours. "The question is if you want to take it."
His eyes followed her hand and he shook his head as she spoke. "This isn't about what I want – "
"Why not? It's the only factor present but unaccounted for," she pointed out. "I knew – House, I knew when I asked you that it was – well, you." She ran her now-shaking hand through her hair as nausea rolled through her, strong and bitter. "You are a pain in the ass, stubborn, egotistical, manipulative... completely worth it bastard. I didn't ask you without knowing – our history and my feelings..." She trailed off, suddenly unsure under the bright glare of his gaze, pinned down and frightened.
"Cuddy – "
"When I asked – I knew what I wanted. I knew what I hoped for – and I never thought it would happen. I knew who you were, just like you know who I am. And I wanted it to be you anyway. If it hadn't been you – this wouldn't have ever happened." Her hands dropped down, brushing against her abdomen briefly, but his eyes followed the movement. "I wanted it to be you. I still do." She took a deep breath, feeling the heaviness ease out of her as the words escaped.
Silence reigned, the atmosphere turning cumbersome as her heart raced and her stomach rebelled – what if she had said too much?
Or not enough.
"I need you to want this – us – too." The words were expelled before she had time to think about them, clutch a hand over her mouth and force them back against her tongue until they could be stomached.
She closed her eyes, taking refuge in the blissful black relief, her ears registering the sounds of their breathing – harsh and out of time with each other. When his hand brushed against her, she almost jumped out of her skin. After the initial shock though, she felt her face tingle as the weight of his palm settled there. When she finally scrounged up the courage to open her eyes, he was standing there, one hand pressed between them as he waited.
"I'm not going to be any good – "
"I know. Luckily I'm a perfectionist." She smiled tremulously, her heart rising as the light that danced across the surface seemed to be rushing toward her as she ascended.
"I can't promise – "
"Promise me anyway." Her voice was shallow and breathless and she wanted to lift a hand – shield herself from the light that wasn't even there with them as the water around her warmed, its blacks and navies swirling away into azures and bright greens.
"Cuddy…." His voice was a warning, even as his hand gripped her hip, pulling her closer.
"I need you to promise me this time, Greg." Her words hung between them like a final war cry, and he stilled before pulling her flush against him, so close she could smell the sweat and whiskey and that smell that just made him him.
She inhaled deeply, pressing her face against his neck as she felt his heart beating against his chest. "I promise." His voice was muffled and she had to strain to hear him, but when she smiled against his skin, the darkness was suddenly replaced by something brighter than sunshine.
She closed her eyes, and her hands gripped his shoulders as she counted her breaths and clung to the lifeline.
When she looked up, all she could see in the blindingly bright darkness, was the blue of his eyes as his mouth lowered to hers and the joy filled her again, causing her to smile brilliantly just before he made contact.
His blue, her blue, baby blue – none of it mattered, only that the blank canvas was overflowing with vibrant colour.