The Living

The first few days everything makes Wilson cry.

Her yogurt in the refrigerator. Her name on the electric bill. Her cell phone ringing; an unfamiliar number that goes to her voice mail. Her clothes: clean ones in the closet, dirty ones in the laundry basket.

Everything hurts him. Everything cascades in at once. She's too present to be absent.

He spends long afternoons and mornings lying on the bed, either crying or half-asleep. He forgets to eat until Cuddy shows up with sympathy food. He doesn't want to eat afterward.

She's named him medical proxy, updated her will, taken care of all the other legal matters. He has to choose what outfit she'll be buried in. The casket. Where to bury her.

Cuddy brings some of this news. Some of it comes over the phone.

He finds himself in the crying room at the funeral home, unable to make decisions, with an uncomfortable attendant offering him Kleenex. Later he lies on the bed until the sun goes down and everything turns dark.

She's there when he sleeps. He doesn't sleep much.

Her shampoo in the shower recalls to him the sight of her naked body under the spray in the morning or after lengthy sex. Her fiery eyes teasing him. He opens the bottle, sniffs, and the smell makes his chest hurt. When he reaches for a towel, he avoids choosing her favorites. Her toothbrush in the slot next to his. Hairdryer. Tampons.

Grief dominates the first day. After that, anger vies with loss and longing.

His stomach burns when he thinks about the pills she'd hidden. He hates her for not driving home. Hates her for going to pick up House. Hates amantadine and kidney failure.

Hates House.

Hates him for being drunk and selfish. Hates him for being jealous of their relationship. Hates him for risking himself to diagnose her.

He wants to believe that House wouldn't have cared at all if not for the mystery. He knows it's true. It must be true because he needs to hate.

He doesn't want to think about House, and for the most part, he's successful.

On the third day he misses the phone and the answering machine picks up with her voice on it; he wants to stop feeling.

When Cuddy knocks on his door with more food for him that evening, he realizes he can't stop feeling. She sits with him for a time. He doesn't know how long. He appreciates her visit. He doesn't ask about House and he's grateful she doesn't mention him. Wilson knows House is fine. Cuddy would say something if he weren't.

When it's time for the funeral, he's at the end of the crying phase. He's becoming numb.

It's a small funeral. Not many relatives. Taub, Thirteen, Kutner, Foreman, Cameron, Chase, Cuddy, and a few of his oncology acquaintances arrive and sit through the rain. He's glad it rains. But he also wishes the sun would shine. He can't attach meaning to the weather any longer. He's withdrawn, saying little when others speak to him. He doesn't hear them. He doesn't want comfort or consolation. He wants her.

Cuddy says House doesn't come because he's still in the hospital. He doesn't know why she says that. House wouldn't come anyway. And since House is fine—he'll be released tomorrow, Cuddy says—Wilson doesn't have to care.

He drives himself home from the burial and sits at the kitchen table for hours.

When Cuddy arrives with food again, he eats.

--

By the time he goes back to work a week later, he's rationalized her death.

She went to pick up House because House meant something to her. She was a good person. She knew that if he hadn't been on call, he'd have gone to get House himself. Such was the burden of other people.

It doesn't make sense, but he's created enough meaning from it to solace himself. Bus crashes happen. Influenza happens. Leaving her wallet in the bar because she was trying to catch the bus happens. Jane Doe happens.

Part of him hurts, but most of him feels nothing. He's become accustomed to seeing her shampoo in the shower. He's spoken with the landlord about keeping the apartment. Hospital staff have stopped staring. House's lackeys have each spoken with him, also rationalizing. Cuddy's been very generous with her time. He keeps the necklace she was wearing that night in his pocket and rubs the stone with a thumb when he feels like crying. He's soothed. No longer raw.

He hasn't been back at work for two days when House barges in spewing the details of a case.

He doesn't listen. "I'm surprised Cuddy's letting you work," he says.

House stops mid-sentence, annoyance and frustration on his face. No snappy comeback. Wilson watches as those emotions give way to uncertainty.

We need to talk. Neither has to say it.

House nods to himself and sits down.

Wilson doesn't know what to say, so he waits. House can't stand silence. He'll talk.

House fidgets, stares at the door, then looks over to him. "Are we okay?" he asks.

His eyes move back to the door. Wilson doesn't know how to answer.

"I mean, I guess I need to know if I should consult someone else," House adds, shaking the file in his hand.

"Why were you out drinking so early on a weeknight?" Wilson asks. Emotions flare inside him. He's spent hours trying to answer that question.

House shrugs. "I was thirsty. I like to drink."

Wilson wishes House sounded more sarcastic. He can't get properly angry at House when House is busy punishing himself. He wants to be angry.

He realizes House is staring at him.

"You blame me?"

Now Wilson looks away. "Yes," he says. "No."

When he looks back, House is staring at the carpet. A sympathetic impulse seizes him and he wonders how House has been dealing with her death. He crushes that impulse. Not yet. He barely has the resources to get out of bed in the morning; he can't be House's doormat right now.

"I don't blame you," Wilson says. "You didn't cause the crash or give her the flu. You did everything you could to save her."

House nods to the carpet. After a moment, he stands and looks tentatively at Wilson.

"So should I go to someone else?" he asks, again waving the file between two fingers.

Wilson reaches for the file.