A/N: I 've lost my mind. Actually, I had this idea for a story and it was too good to pass up. So I wrote it in the last few nights, had no idea it'd get this long.
SPOILERS: For House fans who don't watch Supernatural or Supernatural fans who don't watch House -- this follows the apocalypse storyline currently going on in Supernatural. House and Wilson are both doctor who work in the same hospital and have been best friends for several years. Sam and Dean Winchester are brothers who hunt the paranormal all over America and are inadvertantly responsible for the apocalypse.
Absolutely no slash intended.
Soundtrack for this Fic:
"Wild is the Wind" by Nina Simone
"Any Other Name" by Thomas Newman (American Beauty OST)
"Nocturne in C Sharp Minor" by Chopin
"You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers
Beyond Our Means
by Marie S. Crosswell
"If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it."
-- Ernest Hemingway
The world ends slowly. Gregory House would compare it to the breakdown of a human body. Dean Winchester would compare it to the breakdown of a human soul. Both men wake up on Saturday, December 26th, 2009 and are no closer to knowing why they, of all people, are still alive.
House wakes in a room on the seventeenth floor of an apartment building on the Upper East Side. Wilson's standing at the window holding a cup of coffee, hair mussed, wearing the t-shirt he slept in and a pair of boxers. House looks at him in silence for a minute, Wilson's face soft in the light.
"You should get dressed," Wilson says. He sips his coffee.
"Why's that?" says House.
"Time to move on."
House sits up.
"Out of the city."
Wilson looks at him. House nods, throws the blanket and sheet off, and eases his bad leg over the side first, then his other leg. His cane leans against the nightstand, and he takes it, pushes himself up to stand. He limps past Wilson and into the bathroom, flips the light on and sets his cane against the wall next to the doorway. He turns on the faucet to wash his face.
"There's a car parked on 64th and 1st," he says. "We'll take that."
"What is it?" says Wilson.
"You'll see when we get there."
House turns off the faucet and dries his face with a hand towel. He looks at himself in the mirror, scrubs his hand against the stubble.
"You want coffee?" Wilson says.
"Sure," says House, squirting toothpaste onto his toothbrush. "You have any idea how many idiots I'd kill for a donut right now?"
"Grocery store donut or bakery donut?"
"At least ten. Fortunately for them, they're already dead."
"Yeah," says House, after he spits into the sink. He looks into his own cold eyes. "Good for them."
Dean watches over Sam. His brother doesn't sleep well anymore, stuck until Dean wakes him if a nightmare doesn't do it first. He sleeps, but he doesn't rest. Dean figures it's a combination of guilt over Lilith and residual withdrawal from the damn demon blood. He thanks God Sam survived the detox, but his brother still isn't the same. The more time passes, the more Dean thinks Sam never will be again. He tries to forget about it because they have to focus on surviving and doing their job, but he's made a habit of this: watching his brother sleep in the mornings, once we wakes up. Watching for the crease above the bridge of Sam's nose, for the way Sam fists his hands in the sheets.
Dean draws on his beer, sitting in a chair at the bedside. He checks the time on his watch.
"Sam," he says. His brother shifts in bed but doesn't wake. "Sam."
Sam rolls over onto his belly, into Dean's half of the bed, arm hanging over the side.
"Sam," says Dean. He reaches out with his empty hand and strokes Sam's hair. "Sammy. Wake up."
His brother inhales and wakes, peering at Dean, who combs his fingers through Sam's hair over and over.
"Time to get up," Dean says.
"What time is it?"
Sam blows out a breath through his nose and shuts his eyes, the sound like a balloon deflating. He lies there for a minute, Dean's touch soothing him.
"Where we goin?" he says.
"I dunno," says Dean. "But we should get outta this town. Nothin here."
"Nothing anywhere, Dean."
"Yeah, well – this place gives me the creeps. We should find more food anyway."
Dean gets up from the chair and saunters out of the room, finishing his beer. Sam rolls over onto his back and lies in bed a little longer, staring at the light and shadows on the ceiling.
House and Wilson walk from the apartment building, ten minutes down 64th St. until they reach 1st Ave. House limps slowly now, his leg always in more pain than it used to be when he took Vicodin. It aches worse in these cold months, stiffens up. Wilson matches paces with him, no need to hurry anymore, and they make go without much talk. The city's silence – the world's – settles on them like the snow on all the abandoned, parked cars lining Manhattan's empty streets.
It used to keep Wilson awake at night: the silence. Their New Jersey neighborhoods are just as deserted, but New York City is a disturbing ghost town. All the stores, the hotels, the apartment buildings, the restaurants, the banks empty. Times Square just as pitch black at night as everywhere else. Grand Central Station motionless, inside and out, Mercury rising above them with arms outstretched into the sky and the sky always the color of cigarette ash. The streets littered with paper and all the smells gone, except rain and smoke.
No bodies, not anywhere. Not even the dogs and cats.
Wilson stays close to House, ready to catch him in case he slips on the snow and ice. Sometimes House will have to stop because of the pain, and he leans on Wilson then. Not today. Not yet.
They stop in front of the 88 Laundromat in between 1st and York, and Wilson sees it: the muscle car he knows House has in mind. Snow blankets the top, but Wilson can see it's maroon, where the body's clear just above the tires.
"'67 Mercury Cougar," says House, a grin flashing across his face too fast for Wilson to see. "You drive."
"Me?" says Wilson.
"I'm not going to trust this baby to my leg."
Wilson purses his lips and rounds the car's front end to the driver's side. House leans against the car and pulls out a small metal rod from his jacket pocket. He picks the lock open on the passenger door, sinks down into the seat and opens the driver's door from the inside.
"How long have you known this was here?" Wilson says, squatting down beside the driver's seat.
"Since we walked past it a week ago," says House. "You remember how to do it?"
"I think so."
House watches Wilson hotwire the car just the way House taught him.
"Rev the engine," House says, once Wilson sits behind the wheel. Wilson does, and the engine roars loud and strong. This time Wilson sees House smile.
"Lucky the battery's not dead," House says, as Wilson pulls the car out into the street.
"It knew you were coming," says Wilson.
House unzips his bag and reaches in, pulls out a cassette, and sticks it into the stereo. The Who's "Young Man Blues" floods the car. House slides on his sunglasses. Wilson shakes his head.
On their way out of Sleepy Hollow, Sam and Dean stop at the local graveyard, a place they avoided on their way into town a few days earlier. Dean parks the Impala on the street below, and they walk up onto the grounds, hands stuffed into their jacket pockets. They look in different directions but don't stray too far from each other.
Sam brushes snow off the top of a headstone, and Dean looks behind him at their tracks, the only break in all the snow on the ground. Dean doesn't know why Sam wanted to come here, but they don't argue much with each other anymore. It isn't worth it. The end of the world's come and gone and now all Dean wants to do is drive Sam around until they both get tired of living. And Sam – Sam's still waiting to feel forgiven.
"You know," says Dean, breaking that thick silence. "When you left for Stanford – I thought I would never be whole again."
Sam looks up at him from a few yards away. Dean stands near a headstone, his jacket collar popped up around his neck, his face flushed in the cold (a little pink in his cheeks). He looks over his shoulder at Sam, and he's the only other living person Sam's seen in the last three months. Their eyes meet, and Sam thinks his brother is the most beautiful reason to live he could ever have.
"I put you on that bus," says Dean. "Didn't know when I would see you again or if I would at all. Didn't know if you would call or anything. And I know it's selfish, but—"
His voice cracks, and he bows his head. Sam feels his eyes burn.
"I couldn't help it, Sammy. I couldn't be happy for you, I couldn't even be pissed at Dad or sad for him. All I could think was: how am I going to be whole again?"
Dean looks at Sam again, and a tear spills down his cheek and out of sight. Sam takes a few steps toward him but stops. Dean sniffs and wipes his face with the back of his hand.
"I don't know why I'm telling you that now," he says. "I guess maybe it's because enough time's gone by that I can't keep telling myself anymore the world will come back. I'm pretty sure it's not, Sam. I'm pretty damn sure it's not."
Sam lets a tear go to match his brother, but he doesn't look away.
"I know you still blame yourself for ending what I started, but you gotta stop doing that. Shit, look around."
Dean lifts his arms and drops them again.
"It's over," he says. "And I'm a cold son of a bitch for saying it, but I think I can be okay with that as long as I've got you. So promise me—promise me you'll stay, Sam."
"I'm right here, Dean."
A second tear leaves Sam's other eye. He nods. They stand still for a minute more, then Dean begins to head back to the gate. Sam follows.
Once House and Wilson leave New York City behind, House asks where they're going. Wilson doesn't know. House watches the city recede behind them, in his side view mirror, and knows he'll never see it again. They cross into New Jersey on the 495 west, merge onto I-95, and House switches the music off. They don't speak, and House stares out his window as they merge onto I-80, the NJ-17, I-287 back into New York, and finally I-87 North. He watches the deserted landscape run alongside them, white and gray, his hand pressed to his bad thigh. Wilson looks at him.
"We'll need to stop at a pharmacy soon, won't we?" he says.
"For what?" says House.
House doesn't answer at once, just looks outside. It still irks him: the emptiness of the highways. Theirs is the only car here.
"I thought we weren't going to talk about that," he says, always quiet now.
"We should take some," says Wilson. "We don't know what'll happen or how long we'll go before seeing another stocked pharmacy, once we get out far enough."
"I got clean for a reason."
"You don't have to develop an addiction to every pill you put in your mouth."
"No," says House. "But what's stopping me?"
They're silent again for a while.
"I don't want you to be in pain," says Wilson, staring straight ahead at the road.
"I know," says House, not looking at him.
Dean takes the I-87 without knowing why or where he's going, and Sam doesn't ask. Sam never asks anymore, unless he wants to go somewhere specific. Otherwise, he lets Dean decide. Now, he slouches against the passenger door, head on the window, just like when he was a kid in the backseat. They ride in silence; Dean finds that the longer they go on this way, just the two of them in the world, the music he loves feels more like an intrusion. He's almost afraid of upsetting someone with it – even though there's no one left to upset.
"I felt that way too once," says Sam, after twenty wordless minutes on the highway.
"What way?" says Dean.
"As if I would never be whole again."
Dean waits a few minutes, then says, "When Jessica died?"
Sam shuts his eyes.
"No," he says. "When you did."
Dean doesn't know what to say, so he doesn't say anything. He didn't want Sam to say it. And he did. Half-afraid Sam wouldn't. Completely desperate for his brother to feel the same way about him as he feels about Sam. All of it, at once.
They don't talk about those four months. Sam knows the bare minimum of what Dean experienced in Hell. Dean knows next to nothing about Sam's summer alone, besides Ruby pulling him to the dark side. They're two men with each their own private agony, shame and holes and darkness that they just can't – can't – bear to speak. Can't even keep it to themselves without growing sicker and sicker.
"I couldn't—," says Sam and he chokes on the words. "Jesus, I couldn't."
Dean wants to tell him to stop. Don't tell me, Sammy. Don't say it. I don't have enough room for my own pain.
"I'm sorry," says Sam. "I'm sorry I did that to you."
Dean squeezes the steering wheel and swallows. Sam keeps his eyes closed, trying not to unravel. He's not sure anymore how it will happen if he does. He tries to focus on breathing, on the motion of the Impala like the ocean rocking.
"Me, too," says Dean, throat tight and palms sticky.
House remembers the days when the apocalypse washed over Princeton-Plainsboro. He remembers the dying people. He remembers the storm. He remembers the wrecking of everything. Losing Cuddy. Looking for Wilson and not finding him, then going home to die.
He didn't take anything from his office. Just gave it a last look. He rode his bike through the streets of panicked drivers, crashed cars and stalled traffic, the rain coming down from an amber-colored sky. For once, he didn't question. He knew he would never work again, didn't understand why and didn't need to understand. He knew, and he found himself alone.
He shut himself up in his apartment, left the door unlocked, didn't turn on the television to hear about what he'd already seen. He poured himself a glass of scotch with ice and sat at his piano. He started to play everything he knew by memory: jazz, blues, classical, rock. The music he wrote in high school, the music he wrote in college, the music he wrote in med school, the music he wrote for Stacy when they were in love, the music he wrote after the infarction. Anything that popped into his head. He played for hours, as the sun sunk down.
The door flew open in the middle of sad, slow blues. He turned to see Wilson standing in his doorway, out of breath.
"Where the hell have you been?" Wilson said.
House didn't answer. He limped to his bedroom, threw clothes in a bag, limped back into the living room, packed the bottle of scotch. He stood still for a moment, Wilson watching him in the doorway still. He reached out and touched the piano, ran his fingers over the keys. He shut his eyes, then pulled his hand away, turned his back on it, and followed Wilson outside to the Volvo.
House remembers that once he and Wilson shut themselves into the car, Wilson grabbed the lapel of his jacket in a fist and pulled him, flung both arms around him, and fisted his left hand in House's back.
"You idiot," he said.
House remembers he took a few minutes to wrap his arms around Wilson and how they sat like that in the dark for a long time. Wilson pulled back, gripped House's lapels in both hands, and they looked at each other so close. House could see the tears on Wilson's face.
"God damn it," Wilson said.
House remembers his arms still around Wilson, then leaning into him, laying his face down in Wilson's shoulder. Wilson's hand on the back of his head.
House never said a damn thing.
Bobby Singer's buried on his own land in South Dakota. Sam and Dean took him there when he died a month ago, hunting a demon. After they buried him, Dean took a bottle of whiskey from Bobby's liquor stash and sat outside in the middle of the salvage yard, and Sam went down to the panic room, curled up on the bed where he had his first demon blood detox six months earlier. They each cried alone, orphaned all over again, and in the morning, they packed up the Impala with whatever things of Bobby's they thought they could use and left the house in the rearview mirror for the last time.
East – they started driving east, nowhere to go and no one left but each other, emptiness for mile after mile, across state lines. They couldn't see straight, like looking through the windshield in a hurricane.
Dean drives up I-87 at 80 mph because it means nothing now. Sometimes, at night, he'll roll the windows down and break 100, secretly thrilled by the knowledge that if he collided with anything, it would mean instant death. Thrilled also by knowing that he lives in a new world without rules, no need to hide who he is, no one to answer to but himself.
A mist slips over the highway, and he wonders if it'll snow again. He looks over at Sam and finds his brother smiling to himself.
"What?" says Dean.
Sam shakes his head.
"Come on, what? You were smiling at something."
Sam shrugs a little.
"Yesterday was Christmas," he says.
"Two years ago, we had a real nice one – and I thought it'd be the last time I'd get a Christmas with you. I was wrong."
"Shouldn't you have thought that last Christmas instead of this one?"
"I did. But this year, it's the end of the world. Christmas doesn't mean anything. And I was just thinking – how I felt better about yesterday's Christmas than I did two years ago."
Dean doesn't reply and can't work up a smile. Sam can't stop smirking, slouched on his side of the bench seat, head laid back.
"That's pretty fucked up," he says.
"Yeah," says Dean. "But you're right."
Sam looks over at him.
"Where are those porn magazines I got you?" says Dean.
Sam chuckles a little.
"After you died, I burned them," he says.
"You know what I'll miss?" says House.
"We really going to have another one of these?" says Wilson.
They're just past Woodstock now, still on the I-87. Wilson peers at the gas gauge and sees they'll need to pull over and fill up soon. House rests his left hand on the arch of his cane, as it leans against his seat. He shuts his eyes and tilts his head back.
"What will you miss?" he says.
Wilson frowns a little, hating dead memories.
"Lunch in the cafeteria," he says.
"How could you miss that crap?"
House stretches a little, relaxing into the vinyl, his face like a cat's. He can hear brilliant piano in his head and see those egg rolls he and Wilson have been ordering from the same place for five years.
"Not the food," says Wilson. "Just—getting lunch there. With you."
House curves his mouth a little.
"Wilson," he says.
"We'll never see another monster truck show together."
Wilson swallows. Ahead of them, the road is swathed in gray and white, as if they were looking at a pile of ashes under a magnifying glass. He reaches over and turns on the radio, not House's cassette but the FM radio, and he moves the dial through silence and silence for twenty stations. House doesn't bother telling him it's pointless. But on 103.6 – sound tumbles out of the speakers.
House opens his eyes. Piano.
"Some poor bastard's still trying," says Wilson.
House doesn't answer.
Sam and Dean tried to save the world. They tried so hard. Thousands of years worth of men's toil, straining for survival and freedom and against their own mortality, against oppression and their own hunger, their own failure – every muscle in their bodies infused with it as they fought. But in the end, their own fears unfolded: it just wasn't enough.
"This means we're going to hell," Sam said once, months ago.
Dean shook his head and said, "No. Sammy, we didn't know. We didn't know they were using us."
"It's our fault. Christ, Dean – I know I deserve it. I'm going to get what I deserve."
"God will understand."
"After all this, how can you still think there's a God?"
Dean still thinks so, even now. He was never much of a believer in anything other than what he could see, but he couldn't help believing in a God now. If angels exist, God should, too. And if God does – he must have seen everyone leading Sam and Dean astray. God's the only one left who still knows they're innocent, and Dean will be damned if he gives up on that.
What he won't tell Sam, what he thinks about and dreams about every day, is how glad he is their father's dead for this. John Winchester's shame was always too much for Dean to bear.
Dean blinks back into the Impala and I-87. It's hard to see far down the road through this fog. He glances over at Sam and sees his brother dozing off. They need to find food soon. God help him, maybe coffee too.
He looks out his own window on a whim and almost jumps in his seat. Across from the Impala, in the far left lane, is another car. Another car driving. He reaches for Sam and shakes him.
"Dean, what?" Sam says.
"A car!" says Dean. "Dude, there's a car!"
Sam looks past Dean and out the driver's window.
Dean sounds the car horn and looks over. No response but the car is parallel to the Impala, riding at the same speed. He tries again and begins to slow, watching the other car. It slows with him. They take a few minutes to reach a standstill, then Dean shifts to park. He and Sam look out his window together.
"Who do you think they are?" Sam says.
"I don't know."
"Maybe. We'll be careful."
Dean checks his .45, and Sam does the same beside him. Dean tells Sam to stay close, and they get out of the car, squinting reflexively at the cold fog. Dean pulls his jacket collar up around his neck, and they begin striding toward the other car. People begin to emerge, two men, and Dean sees that the one getting out of shotgun has a cane.
He and Sam point their pistols, as the driver rounds the car to his companion. As they draw nearer, Dean can see the passenger must be around Dad's age, and the driver's a little younger. The driver holds his hands up, but the man with the cane just stares at Sam and Dean.
"Don't shoot," says the driver. "Please."
His puppy brown eyes remind Dean of Sam's, all earnest innocence. Even if it's bullshit a good portion of the time.
"Who are you?" Dean says, rough and assertive.
"James Wilson," says the driver. "And this is my best friend Greg House. We're doctors."
"Who are you?" says House.
"Special agents Malcolm and Young, FBI," says Dean.
"Nice try, but I'm pretty sure AC/DC kicked it in the middle of a concert few months back. And since when did FBI know anything about survival past wiping their own asses?"
"My name's Sam," Sam says. "Winchester. This is my brother Dean."
"So what's your real job?"
"None of your damn business," says Dean.
"Look, we were just driving," says Wilson, hands still in the air. "If you go your own way, we'll go ours."
"Despite the fact that we're obviously going the same way," says House.
"Where you headed?" says Sam, lowering his gun.
"We don't know," says Wilson. "We just left New York City."
"Decided that if we're going to kill ourselves over all this, there's a manlier way to do it than jumping off one of those tall buildings," House says.
Dean lowers his gun. Wilson drops his arms.
"We were in Sleepy Hollow, ourselves," Dean says.
"Murder by ghost is way cooler," says House.
"We don't know really know where we're going either," says Sam, taking a few steps forward from where he stands behind Dean. "Do you—do you want to maybe go with us for a while? You can keep your car, we can just head the same direction or something, if that's okay."
He looks at Dean. "Is that okay?"
Dean looks at his brother, then at House and Wilson.
"Sure, why not. We're getting off the highway in about half an hour, if you can keep up."
"So you do know where you're going," says House.
Dean turns and stalks back to the Impala. Sam nods at House and Wilson, before following his brother. Wilson gets back in the driver's seat, but House stands where he is, watching the brothers go, leaning heavy on his cane with a weak wind brushing at his long coat. He closes his eyes and feels the cold, listens to the infinite silence of a lifeless highway. He doesn't get back into the Cougar until Sam and Dean disappear into the Impala.
Victory, NY. That's where Dean takes them. The one in Saratoga County. A small, know-nothing town that might have emptied out because of the crashing economy just as easily as for the apocalypse. Dean parks in front of the town's only motel, and Wilson parks behind him. The men get out of the cars together, and Dean stands on the sidewalk, looking up at the motel's sign.
"Great place you got here," says House. "The woods not taking guests?"
"Is he always this much of an asshole?" says Dean, scrutinizing the building.
"Yeah," says Wilson. "Basically."
Dean takes out his pistol again and leads the way inside, Sam falling in line behind him, House and Wilson keeping their distance. Sam and Dean holler for anyone to come out, once they're inside, but nothing shows. Sam steps behind the check-in counter, runs his fingers through the thin layer of dust on the top, counts the room keys – all of them hung up on their hooks.
"I think it's clear, Dean," he calls out. House and Wilson stand watching him in the middle of the lobby. Dean reappears from the stairwell, tucking his pistol back in his pants.
"I'm going for food," he says, heading for the entrance. "Sammy, get the master suite."
"Hey, wait," says Sam, an edge to his voice. "You can't go alone."
"This town's been clear for a long time. Don't worry about it. Keep guard over Jekyll and Hyde here."
He pushes his way out into the cold, and Sam can see it's snowing again. Wilson recognizes the look on Sam's face—the once irrational fear that letting the person he loves out of his sight for even a minute will mean eternal loss—and doesn't say anything. Sam turns away quickly and picks two keys off the wall. He starts to go upstairs, and House and Wilson move to follow. House stops at the bottom of the stairwell.
"Damn," he says. Wilson slinks an arm around House's waist and grips the railing at his left.
"Come on," he says, tugging at House.
The men hole up in one of the rooms at the back of the second floor, a wide window overlooking the little town disappearing in snow. House lies on the bed with a pillow tucked under his bad leg. Wilson sits on the floor next to him, back against the mattress. Sam sits in one of the chairs, feet propped up on the table, and Dean sits across from him.
They drink beer kept cold by the elements and microwaveable pizzas Dean cooked on a gas stove in someone's abandoned kitchen. Lots of beer. Three Budweiser six packs Dean threw into the backseat of the Impala. All of them are on their second bottle.
"So you're ghost busters," House says. "And I thought my job was cool."
"You save lives no one else could," says Sam.
"So do you," says Wilson. "I guess you and House have more in common than he'd like to think."
"Demons are real?" House says.
"Demons, vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, ghosts. Hell, even angels are real – and I didn't believe that one until they showed up," he says.
"House isn't going to believe you until he sees it all himself," says Wilson.
"I'm considering it," says House. "I didn't think the world could come to an end, but it did."
"You're still trying to rationalize it."
"Angels are dicks," Dean says, drawing on his beer. Sam snorts.
"Well, I could have told you that," says House. "If the boss sucks, you can pretty much conclude that his minions suck too."
"Except for one," says Dean, quietly.
"What?" says Wilson.
Sam gets up from his chair and makes for the door.
"I need some air. Going for a walk," he says.
"I'll go with you," says Wilson, standing up.
"Be careful," says Dean.
Wilson follows Sam out of the room, and House watches them go, clear blue eyes hooked to Wilson's back until the door shuts behind him.
"Your best friend, huh?" Dean says, stretching his legs out and up on the table.
"He's all I got. That's been true for a long time."
Dean studies him for a moment.
"Sam's all I got," he says. "Been true for a long time too."
"Didn't take the apocalypse."
"No. The apocalypse just made it easier to admit."
House gazes at Dean in silent agreement. They drink.
Sam and Wilson stand outside, next to the Impala, the snow falling light around them. It's cold, but not too cold, with Sam's jacket zipped and Wilson's coat buttoned up to the collar. Their empty hands, they stick in their pockets, and hold the beer bottles in the others. Sam inhales deep, cold air soothing his lungs, and blows out white.
"You were an oncologist," he says. Wilson nods. "Must've had a nice life."
"It was all right," says Wilson. "I took pride in my job."
"Made a hell of a lot of money."
"Yeah – but that thing about money not being everything? Isn't total crap."
"My brother and I got by on credit card fraud and hustling," says Sam. Wilson barks a laugh, and Sam grins.
"Tell you the truth," he says. "I got used to it."
"Did you ever think about doing something else?" says Wilson.
"What, you mean, like something normal?"
"I didn't mean—"
"No, it's ok. It's a fair question. There was a time when I thought I could get out of it. Went to Stanford on a full ride. Fell in love. The plan was law school."
Wilson raises his eyebrows and sips his beer.
"Wow," he says. "What happened?"
Sam gives a sad smile.
"Someone else's plan won out," he says.
Wilson nods and looks off into the distance, into the empty white street.
"I'm sorry. If it's any consolation—marriage and honest work isn't all it's cracked up to be."
"Yeah, I figured that out."
Sam tosses his empty beer bottle into the snow and sticks his other hand into his pocket.
"It sounds like you saved a lot of people," Wilson says. "I wish I had that kind of purpose."
"You're a doctor."
"I'm an oncologist. I don't save anyone, I just slow them down. Saving lives, that's House's job."
"You ever get married?"
Now, Sam's brows rise.
"I tried," says Wilson. "Never figured out how to get it right. Last woman I loved was my girlfriend…. She died a year and a half ago."
Sam scrapes his shoe in the snow and stares at it.
"I know what that's like," he says. "Sorry."
They stand together in silence for a while, looking in different directions. Sam walks around the back of the Impala and stands in the road.
"I just thank God for Dean," he says. "He's—he's just everything, you know?"
Wilson turns his head to consider Sam. Then he looks down the road with him.
"When my girlfriend was dying," he says. "House almost killed himself, trying to save her. Because I asked him to. Once she was gone, I tried to leave. But he wouldn't let go."
Sam smiles into the distance.
"I don't know what I would have done if he had," says Wilson.
That night, Sam and Dean shut themselves into the room across the hall from House and Wilson's. The brothers lie in one bed, Sam's arm curled around Dean and Dean lying against Sam's side, head on Sam's shoulder. They've been doing this the last few months. They never asked each other; they don't talk about it. It helps them sleep. And cope.
House lies on the same side his bed, dozing off, and Wilson sits in a chair next to him. Wilson finds House's bad thigh in the darkness and begins to massage the muscle. House grunts in his sleep, and Wilson hushes him a little. He works without needing to see. Several minutes pass, and Wilson loosens the thigh steady, slow, and tender.
He stops when House touches his hand but doesn't take his own from House's leg.
"Wilson?" House says.
"I love you."
Wilson doesn't answer for a moment. Then he says,
"I love you too."
House curls his fingers around Wilson's hand, and Wilson sits still.
Dean wakes up in the dark without knowing why. Sam's asleep next to him. He doesn't hear anything. He rolls over carefully, trying not to wake his brother, and that's when he sees Castiel sitting across the room, illuminated by the starlight falling through the room's one window. Dean sits up in bed.
"Cas," he says. "What are you doing here?"
"Where else do I have to be, Dean?" the angel says.
"I haven't seen you in weeks."
"I know. I wanted to give you and Sam some space."
"I think we have enough of that. What do you want?"
Dean doesn't know how, but he can see Castiel's eyes clearly. The angel stares at him, and there's something strange about it. Dean realizes the angel's a little sad.
"Company," says Castiel.
"I'm a dog without a master, Dean," the angel says. "A servant with no one to serve. My brothers are gone. I can't reach them. I'm alone."
"Okay," says Dean, gently. "Okay. Just don't sneak up like that so much. It'll creep out the new guys across the hall."
"House and Wilson." Castiel looks toward the door. "Good men."
His eyes find Dean's again.
"Good night," he says, and disappears. Dean watches the empty chair, until Sam says his name. Dean lies down, and Sam rolls up against him. Dean falls back asleep, holding onto his brother.