Shades of Life

Pink Me Up – L'Oreal

He'd expected her to wear red.

He'd expected the perfect half moons at the tips of her long fingers to be bright and fiery just like her. But as Wilson stared across the small table, he realized how… hesitant, how worried she looked. If he hadn't watched the woman unconsciously worry her bottom lip, he would never have believed it. He'd seen his boss upset before, and he'd seen her nervous about things.

But never because of him.

They'd gone out together before. There had been the theatre and the art exhibit. However, both of those outings had been so… twisted by House that in retrospect, they hadn't counted as real dates. This was their first date. The woman across from him might not have agreed with that sentiment but looking into her blue eyes, watching her fingers fiddle with her napkin…

Wilson knew she realized there was something different about this date as well.

Yes, he'd expected her nails to be red. But as her fingers tentatively wound through his on top of the table, Wilson didn't need to see the soft pink polish to know it suited her and the moment perfectly.

Aqua – Sinful Colors

He'd bought her the polish as a joke.

It was a strange blue-green color that Wilson was convinced Cuddy would find obnoxious, unsuitable for a hospital administrator. What had begun as a secret she hid in her Prada heels had turned into a full-blown obsession with the color.

And now, as he sat in her office and watched as she waved her arms around in another anti-House tirade, all he could focus on were her bright nails. Well, that and her left hand.

Wilson had been married three times before. And he would most likely be married now if Amber hadn't died. But that was the past. And as Cuddy began to growl in frustration, James Wilson realized that he was ready for the future.

He didn't have a ring, and the moment was less than perfect, but he knew it was right.

He knew that it was time.

Taking a deep breath, the oncologist walked over to his girlfriend and took her left hand in his. No, he didn't have a ring, but he knew how one would look with the aqua polish. "Will you marry me, Lisa Cuddy?"

Timeless Red – Wet -n- Wild

Wilson wasn't sure how long he'd been standing there.

The chilly air had bit at his nose and ears to the point where the exposed flesh felt numb. It really wasn't all that cold out, but the tombstones standing around him seemed to have a drastic effect on the weather. He knew that it was a ridiculous thought and that cemetery couldn't affect the weather. But that knowledge didn't stop him from feeling slightly colder within its walls than out.

When Cuddy arrived, she didn't say anything, and Wilson was grateful for that. Instead of speaking, the woman simply slid her fingers through her fiancé's. He squeezed back, acknowledging the gesture. Their bare palms pressed together, warm despite the early winter air.

Unconsciously running the pad of his thumb over her polished nail, James realized that he didn't know what color the paint was. And though he knew it was unimportant, he cared. He couldn't help it. Nail polish was such an important part of the woman. She was rarely without it, and it was one of the little things he'd come to love about her. Unwilling to look away from the granite headstone, Wilson remembered a dark maroon color he'd seen on her nails earlier in the week.

He didn't really know if that was the color adorning her fingertips now, but he liked to think it was. It was a rich almost somber color, and it fit his mood. Even if it didn't fit hers.

Tightening his grasp on Lisa's hand, James turned and walked away from the grave marked Amber Volakis.

Crystal Mist – Cover Girl

He'd never seen anything more beautiful than the happiness in Lisa's bright blue eyes.

And James knew that that joy was reflected in his own. He wanted to stay lost in the woman's gaze forever, but with his hand's shaking, Wilson needed to look down if he wanted to place his new wife's wedding ring on the right finger. He wanted to slide the gold and diamond band over her ring finger once and only once.

Dropping his eyes, the groom ran his hand over the soft skin of Lisa's hand before slipping the ring on. With the symbol firmly in place, he should have looked up, should have proceeded with the ceremony. But he couldn't. He'd been in this same position three times before, but this felt… different. It felt final and right in a way the others never had.

Gazing at the ring, a physical symbol that could never compare to how he truly felt, James felt his smile widen a little more. At the beginning of the wedding, he'd looked at her plain fingernails. The lack of color, the small thing that had always revealed her moods had upset him. But looking at them now, he noticed the clear polish flecked with iridescent glitter that was sparkling just as brightly as her eyes.

My Private Jet – OPI Nail Lacquer

He had thought the house looked fine.

He had liked the color of the living room's walls.

But Lisa didn't. And because of that, everything that belonged in the room was currently sitting in the middle of the floor covered in drop cloths. His wife of two and a half months, dressed in old jeans and one of his ratty t-shirts, was standing on a stepladder, paint roller in hand.

James had wanted to hire a professional to do the job, but the woman had refused on the grounds that this was their home. And therefore, she wanted them to do the work themselves, together. Honestly, he had no desire to paint the walls. But he just hadn't been able to say no when he'd seen the look of anticipation in Lisa's eyes.

And looking at her now, he couldn't help but laugh. She'd only been painting for twenty minutes, and she already had more paint on herself than on the walls. Her arms, knees, and hair were flecked with light blue paint. Her nails, however, were the worst.

Painted a smoky gray filled with iridescent glitter, the polish had been a splurge at 8.50. But now, almost entirely covered in Mid-Morning Blue, her nails looked like anything but a splurge.

Candy Corn – Cover Girl

He could still recall the first time they carved pumpkins together with perfect clarity.

It had been a crisp autumn day, perfect to the point of being cliché. A cool breeze had whipped orange and red leaves through the air filling his ears with their gentle rustling. Driving over to Lisa's house, he'd been nervous, worried. But the day had ended up being perfect.

Even though they'd carved their first jack-o-lantern together years ago, his stomach always felt the same as that first time. It always seemed like it had been filled with tiny flapping bats when he'd come home to find a pumpkin waiting for a face.

This year, their annual carving day was different. There were no accidental brushes of fingers or shy looks. This year they were married. That, however, didn't change his feelings on one thing…

When Lisa had leaned forward for a kiss, he hadn't hesitated, and really, he should have known better. Even though their lips were pressed together, he couldn't suppress a groan as her cold, slimy hand pressed against his cheek.

Pulling back quickly, he caught a glimpse of her nails, pumpkin orange, before they disappeared into the gourd once again. Her amused voice brought his eyes back up to hers. "Relax, James. It's just pumpkin goop."

Lavender – Morbid Makeup

He knew that the shock, joy, excitement, and fear he saw in his wife's face was reflected in his own.

Wrapping his arms more tightly around Lisa's trembling frame, he pressed a kiss into the soft curls of her hair as the tears began to slip down his own cheeks.

Wilson had always wanted this, but after three marriages filled with numerous 'I'm just not ready'-s, he'd pretty much given up hope.

And Lisa had had her own fair share of heartache in this particular area as well.

They had tried anyway.

The box lay discarded on the bathroom floor, their bodies taking up most of the room between the toilet and the bathtub. Even with the proof in her hands, it still didn't seem possible.

His back pressed into the cool ceramic of the tub; James cradled his softly weeping wife to his chest. Looking over her shoulder, he stared at the white plastic strip clutched in her left hand. Her nails were soft lavender, calm and gentle just like she'd been before the first thought of this possibility popped into her head.

Now, the polish was next to invisible in comparison to the tiny pink plus sign on the pregnancy test that his wife was desperately clutching.

B. Outrageous – L'Oreal

All he'd asked was if hormones were the cause of her mood.

In retrospect, he knew he should never have uttered those words.

He didn't need the welt on his forehead or House's mocking glare to tell him that.

An hour ago, everything had been fine. He had been flipping through the new issue of his favorite medical journal in the living room. Lisa had been painting her nails a bright, pearly yellow next to him. There was an old dishtowel over her knees just in case she were to happen to spill. Her belly was just beginning to show, giving her the look of someone who was very bloated.

With a twist, she'd sealed the small bottle before holding up her nails to examine the color, the light glittering off the polish as she did so. Wilson had just been wondering what had possessed her to choose the shade when, out of nowhere, Lisa had started crying.

Like a good husband, he'd quickly asked what was wrong, her response a teary "nothing". It was then that he'd said it. Then that he'd asked if her tears were hormone related.

The small yellow bottle flying at his forehead the next second was the only answer he'd received.

Go Go Green – Maybelline

Sure she had other colors. But this one amused him.

Around her seventh month, Lisa had picked up the chartreuse polish in what was not a hormone induced shopping spree.

After raving to her husband about the shade, painting it on, and watching it dry, she'd realized she hated it.

A lot.

She'd never worn it again.

The Wilson's checked into the hospital early, Lisa's doctor had wanted to monitor her last few days before her due date. A precautionary measure given her problems conceiving. But now, lying in the hospital bed without even contractions to distract her, she was bored.

Bored and unpolished.

James had offered to paint her toenails and she'd agreed. She's requested some neutral shade, but he'd had one in mind himself. And with his wife very pregnant and hooked up to multiple machines… There was nothing she could do to stop him.

Practically growling as James stroked the green polish over her nails, Lisa managed one threat before the contractions began. "You'll pay for this James Wilson."

Red Revolution – Cover Girl

This time she wore red.

It wasn't their first date, but it was a first date. Of sorts.

Their son, Charlie, had been born four months ago, and this was their first night alone. The first night the baby had been allowed to stay with James' parents. The first night that it was just them again.

The color, like her, was irresistible. It was bright and sexy. Warm and fiery.

Yes, this was a first date, but the shy nervousness from so many years ago was long gone. She was even more incredible now than she was then.

They both knew it was silly, but they'd gone to the same restaurant and sat at the same table as their real first date. They both laughed at the familiar scene as they waited for the waiter to bring their wine. It too was the same as that night so many years ago.

James and Lisa spent the evening reminiscing over the events of the past few years. Mostly good. A few bad. There were none that they would have traded.

Not for the world.

Go Go Green – Maybelline

She had said she was going to pay him back.

He'd never really believed her.

James would have been content to stay in bed all day, but the pesky late morning sun seemed to think otherwise. His eyelids fluttered against the light as his nose was filled with the glorious scent of bacon and eggs. His ears, however, were treated to the best thing of all. Drifting in from the kitchen were the sounds of his wife and son's delighted laughter.

As far as Wilson was concerned, life didn't get better than Saturdays like this.

Anxious to join the happy party in the kitchen, the sleepy man threw his legs over the side of the bed. It was then that he noticed the chartreuse blur that was his toenails. Gasping in shock, the man ran to the kitchen.

"Lisa, you didn't!" He stood in the kitchen doorway trying not to marvel at the beautiful picture that was his family.

"Didn't what?" Her voice was sweet. Too sweet. Too innocent. It was confirmation enough.

Placing his hands on his hips, Wilson tried to remain calm. "Where's the nail polish remover?"

Once again, her voice was far too sweet. "We're out."

Mandarin – Sally Hensen

For the first time, he couldn't say the words that had always come so easily to him.

Even in his first year of residency, he'd never had this much trouble.

Wilson didn't sit behind his desk. Didn't hide behind the title of Dr. James Wilson, Head of Oncology. Right now he was just James. He was just a man holding onto his wife's hand, his throat tight with anxiety and fear. Stroking the light orange polish on her nails, he tried to find the words that had never failed to be there before.

She was only 62.

She wouldn't make it to 64.

The tears began to fall from his normally warm brown eyes. He couldn't bring himself to repeat what had been written in the folder. But he didn't need to. Lisa already knew.

Instead of him comforting her, she was comforting him.

Lisa Wilson had just found out how she was going to die and when. Right now she didn't have the energy to cry. With her husband sobbing into her curls, she prayed she never would.

Pink Me Up – L'Oreal

He wished she had worn red.

He wished her nails were as bright and bold as she used to be. Bright and bold as he would always remember her.

The soft pink that had once reminded him of the nervousness of a first date now appeared differently to him. Now he saw pink for what it was.

Red without the fire.

A pale echo of what it could be. What it should be.

James looked from his wife's face to his son's. So similar. So beautiful. The radiant smile on Lisa's face broke his heart for the millionth time in the past two years.

It was their anniversary.

Their last anniversary.

The three sat in a familiar restaurant at a familiar table. The Wilsons had gone there for first dates and birthdays. Graduations and holidays. Staring across the table at his dying wife, James knew that this would be the last time he would ever set foot in their once beloved restaurant.

When the waiter asked what they would like to drink, James ordered the same wine that they'd had on their very first date.

Aqua – Sinful Colors

When he saw the half empty bottle of aqua polish in her frail hands, James knew that it was time.

Knew that this was the end.

The nail polish was over twenty years old, and it had the consistency of tar, but she'd used it anyway. Despite its age, the dusty bottle had survived all of her makeup drawer purges. Not because it was still good but because James had picked it out for her. Even if it was only as a joke.

Placing the bottle on the bedside table, Lisa kissed her husband goodnight for the last time before lying down in his gentle embrace.

For the next twenty years, the small, half empty bottle of aqua nail polish remained on the table next to Lisa's side of the bed. It was cried over and clutched desperately in the middle of the night, but it was always placed back on the table. It was never moved anywhere else.

The only time it was moved, it found a new home.

After his father's death, Charlie Wilson took the half empty bottle of aqua nail polish that his dad had bought so many years ago and buried it gently between his parent's graves.

Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- Originally written for Round 2 of "cuddyfest" on lj. (Prompt: Wilson/Cuddy - Nailpolish)
- Also written for the lj community "alphabetasoup" (C is for Curious)
- Quack: Thank you so much for all of your help and input. I really appreciate it. :duck: