Summary: Wilson quits his job, and only sometime later does Wilson realize that maybe he is the one that should ask for forgiveness.
Again, many thanks to Juliabohemian for being the beta for this story! Any errors or medical inaccuracies are entirely my own.
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed my story. I hope you enjoyed it.
When Wilson walked into the hospital room, he immediately recognized House, despite the fact that the man had no hair, he had clearly lost weight, and his skin was already sporting discolored patches from the chemo.
"House." Wilson couldn't think of anything to say. He finally settled for, "how are you?"
"I have pancreatic cancer. I've had two months of chemo. How the hell do you think I feel?" House's voice dripped with sarcasm. He looked over at the younger man with undisguised scorn. "Why are you here?"
"It was by accident that I saw your file. I wasn't even sure it was you. I just..."
House interrupted him. "I don't care how you found out. I want to know why you are here, standing in my hospital room."
Wilson was confused. "Why wouldn't I? You're my friend."
House snorted. "News to me. I guess the post office lost the change of address card you sent. The answering machine must have deleted your messages."
"I'm sorry I haven't called," Wilson apologized. House didn't even bother to listen, as it was a perfunctory apology at best. Wilson continued, "I could stay and make sure you got the best care."
"Why would you want to? I'm just the guy that steals your food and borrows money from you."
Wilson was trying to come up with a reply when House continued. "And why would I want you to oversee my care? It's really served me so well in the past. I can see it now. 'Your veins really aren't on fire from the chemo. It's all just in your head.' And then if we had a disagreement, well we all know that anti-emetics are a good bargaining chip. Or why not detox during chemo? Might as well, given that I'm already puking." He looked intently at Wilson.
"With friends like you, who needs enemies? You should go back to wherever it is you live now."
"I can't just leave!"
"Why not? You've had plenty of practice." House was merciless, for once not holding anything back.
Finally Wilson was prepared to defend himself.
"I had to leave. I couldn't stay in Princeton where everything reminded me of Amber. It was too painful."
House sneered, "you know, most people would buy that story, but this is me you're talking to. It's complete bullshit. The sympathy and the sadness, you wallow in it like a pig in shit. Poor Wilson, so dedicated to his dying patients. Poor Wilson, his wife left him. Poor Wilson, look at who he's friends with. Be honest with yourself for once! The reason you couldn't stay in Princeton was that every time you laid eyes on me, you wished that I were the one that had died in the bus crash. You can't handle that, because it is completely at odds with your own view of yourself, because Mr. Niceguy couldn't have such a mean, nasty thought."
Now Wilson was mad. "It's your fault that she died!"
"Now that's honest," House snapped back, almost proud that he got Wilson to admit it.
"Was what I did really so bad? I didn't get drunk and drive a car. I didn't practice medicine while drunk. I didn't force her to take the pills...or to get on the bus. She chose to do those things."
"You were the reason she was there in the first place."
"Yeah. But she could have been there for any reason. Sometimes people just die. Life's messy, and things don't have a reason. They just happen. Do you think I wanted her to die? I risked my life to try and save her. But I guess that doesn't count because it turns out there was nothing anyone could have done. At least you got to say goodbye, which is more than most people get. Of course, the final goodbye just proved to be the perfect ending to the Wilson-Amber tragedy."
For a moment, both men glared at each other. Then Wilson looked at his watch. "I have a plane to catch."
When Wilson failed to say anything else, House deliberately turned over. With House's back was now facing him, Wilson had no choice but to turn and leave.
For the first time in a long time, Wilson didn't look at the paperwork on his flight home. He closed his eyes and leaned back in the leather seat. He put on his headphones to listen to some music, but it wasn't loud enough to drown out the voices in his head. Portions of the conversation with House kept repeating themselves, reminding him of other conversations from over the years. For so long he had justified so many of his actions, saying that he really was doing things for House's benefit. But for the first time, his brain forced him to look at them as House would. Conversations he had thought were lost to the fog of memory were replaying themselves in his mind.
His thoughts were interrupted when a hand touched his shoulder. "Sir, are you alright?"
It was only when he opened his eyes did he realize that his cheeks were wet with tears. The hand on his shoulder belonged to the stewardess. He managed a weak smile.
"Fine, thank you."
He turned to stare out into the darkness, unable to stop the flow of memories now that they had finally begun.
When the plane finally landed, he collected his car and drove home. Somehow he made it through the rest of the week at work. At random times he would find his mind drifting, making it impossible to concentrate on the papers in front of him. It seemed that after months of numbness, he had finally developed a conscience, and it spoke with House's voice, pointing out every weakness, every flaw.
Friday evening found him fumbling his way through his front door, juggling his briefcase, the pile of mail from the mailbox, and a box of Chinese takeout. The briefcase ended up in the corner, and the mail and the food on the table. He grabbed a plate and sat down to read his mail while he ate. The first few envelopes were bills, which he opened and then set aside to pay later. The last was a padded envelope, and he squinted at the return address. It appeared to be from a real estate agent in Princeton, New Jersey. With a feeling of dread, he ripped open the envelope. As he pulled out the sheet of notepaper that it contained, a key fell out. Intrigued, he opened the note. "Dear Dr. Wilson. This key was on the ring of keys you handed over at closing. For months, we've tried to figure out what lock it fit. We are returning it to you in case it was given to us in error. Bob and Nancy Morales."
He held the key in the palm of his hand. It was more than a silver key; to Wilson, it was a sign from a benevolent god. Maybe there was some small hope for redemption.
Twenty-four hours later, he was standing in front a familiar wooden door in Princeton, feeling extremely foolish. What were the changes that House even still lived here? What if he knocked and someone else answered? He pulled the key from his pocket, and slipped it into the lock. To his immense relief, it turned easily, revealing House's apartment, looking like nothing had changed since the last time he'd been here. Before he could figure out what he was going to say, House was coming out of the kitchen, a glass of something in his hand. When he saw Wilson, he merely raised his eyebrows and waited for Wilson's explanation of why he had suddenly appeared in his apartment.
"I'm sorry." Wilson spoke fast, knowing he didn't have much time before he was kicked out of here on his ass. "I had no right to blame you for Amber's death. I had no right to ask you to do the deep brain stimulation, knowing the risks, and I should have been grateful for the fact that you risked your life to save her. You were right. Every time I looked at you, I was angry. But it wasn't just that; I also saw my own guilt, for what I had done to you. I've been a crappy friend, and even more than that, I've been a crappy doctor. You didn't deserve it, any of it. I don't expect your forgiveness, but you deserve my apology."
For a long time the two men looked at each other, not speaking. Finally House looked away. "You want something to drink?"
Wilson sagged with relief. House would never say the words, but by letting Wilson back in, he knew he'd been forgiven. "Whatever you're drinking is fine."
House looked down at the glass in his hand. "Ginger ale?" He shrugged and handed over the glass. He limped off to the kitchen to pour another glass. When he returned, Wilson was already seated in his customary spot. They watched movies for the rest of the night. At midnight, House pushed himself off the couch. "You want to sleep on the couch?"
Wilson smiled. "Thanks. I didn't make a hotel reservation, because I didn't think you'd let me stay."
House glanced over his shoulder. "Blankets are in the usual spot."
The next morning, Wilson investigated the contents of the cupboards, and then made a quick trip to the grocery store. House woke up to the smell of coffee and pancakes. He passed on the coffee, but began to eat the pancakes. For the first time in a long time, he felt like eating. He looked over at Wilson, who was looking morose. "What's with you?"
"I need to take off soon and catch a flight back to San Diego." He sighed. "I hate my job. I hate my house; it doesn't feel like a home. I even hate San Diego."
"All that sunshine? Are you nuts?"
"There are no seasons. And what is the point of sunshine if you work eighty hours a week? I hardly ever get to see patients anymore. I thought I didn't mind paperwork, but these days, that's all I do."
House thought for a moment. "Maybe Cuddy would give you back your job."
Wilson smiled happily at the thought. "What about you?"
"Well, my final chemo treatment didn't kill me, so I guess the only thing on my calendar is sleeping a lot for the next few weeks. Maybe by then I'll won't feel like I'd been run over by a truck."
Wilson suddenly looked concerned. "How are you, really?"
House shrugged, and looked away. "It was caught fairly early, but I don't need to tell you how nasty adenocarcinoma is. Bill Schweitzer resected the tumor, and it's been responding well to chemo. So for now, no more chemo, but that could change with the next blood test."
"So what do you plan to do? Sit here and stare at the walls? Maybe you'll be back in treatment in a month, but maybe you won't."
House shrugged. "I quit my job, so what else is there?"
Wilson pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number from memory. "Hey Lisa, I was wondering if you had any openings for two former department heads."
House smiled, and didn't even bother listening to the conversation. Things were so many things that were far from certain. At almost any time, the cancer could be back ravaging his body, and there were still a lot of fences to mend with Wilson. There was no guarantee that Cuddy would choose to rehire them, or if he'd even feel well enough to work. But either way, things were finally starting to feel right again.
Thank you all for reading!