"Remy? You have a visitor," the purple-clad attending nurse announced sweetly, making the young-ish woman look up from the book she was pretending to read. She wasn't fooling anybody; she knew that. She was pretending for herself and herself only. Pretending that she could read. Nowadays, she didn't even try to concentrate on the pages as the constant twitches and jerks of her declining body made it impossible for her eyes to stay in one place for long. She just liked the weight of the book in her hands, until she dropped it from a particularly violent jerk of the arm and had to work to pick it up again.
"Hi, Remy," an awkward male voice said to her left as her visitor sat in the chair provided for such occasions.
It was a few moments before she could actually force her head to turn in his direction and her eyes to match the face with the familiar voice. "Ch-Chris," she stuttered. "L-long time no s-see."
The grey-haired man nodded, smiling sadly at her. "Yeah, it's been awhile. How are you?" His weathered face fell when he realized the pointlessness of the question, but she answered it anyway.
"I'm – I'm okay," she replied, her hand involuntarily batting at invisible flies near her face. "C-c-couldn't be b-better, really."
Her ex-colleague nodded again, unsure of what to say as he shifted uncomfortably in his starch-white lab coat. He wasn't even entirely sure of his own reasons for visiting her; he thought he just needed an anchor. Something to remind him that the past had, in fact, happened. The hospital had changed so much with the years, and with it, the people working here had left, moved, died. Gotten sick.
"How's y-y-your wife?" Remy asked him, her once-striking eyes twitching back and forth between premature crow's feet. She'd cut her hair very short so it'd be easier to deal with, and it made her look alien and unfamiliar.
"She's fine," he answered simply. In truth, his wife was becoming steadily unhappy with the old age that they both faced, but there was no reason that Remy had to know that. His wife was upset over something that Remy would never be able to see or experience, and he wasn't about to rub her nose in that.
"S-so why the vi-visit?" she inquired, the book sliding off the bed and landing on the floor with a thud as her leg jolted with misfired nerve signals. Taub bent and picked it up, replacing it on her lap. "Th-thanks," she said.
He shrugged. "I had some free time; I thought I'd come see how you were doing."
She smiled, her mouth twitching by no fault of her own. "Th-three years and y-you're a no-show," she said. "W-why now?"
Taub turned his gaze to the floor, chewing on his lip. "I know, I'm sorry." He didn't really have an explanation for why he had refused to see her, at least none that he could say to her. He hadn't wanted to deal with the pain of watching the much younger woman die before everyone's eyes, he hadn't wanted to be reminded that he was the only one left. "I'm so sorry," he repeated.
"It's-s okay," she told him. He raised his head and saw that she was working to keep her arm outstretched in his direction. Quickly, he responded by standing and clasping her small, delicate hand with his own. "It's okay."
Taub was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness, and he began to cry. It was all he could do to keep her thin hand in his, to not let it twitch or move on its own. Remy saw this in fleeting glances and squeezed his hand consolingly.
They stood just so for several minutes, anchoring each other to a past when things had been good, when they had been friendly co-workers and hadn't needed to lean on one another for more than professional reasons. When they had gone about their days saving lives and solving puzzles, dating, living, loving and hating. That was gone now. No, now they had plenty of room for everything in their lives, but still lacked all of it for reasons unknown.
It was a while before Taub realized that Remy was asleep, her limbs still twitching occasionally and her hand still in his. He gently set it back down on the covers by her side, wiping his eyes and quickly tiptoeing out of the ward. Sighing, he headed for the elevators.
As sad as seeing Remy in her sorry state made him feel, the visit had also lifted a massive load off his shoulders. He was relieved, but why, he didn't know. His time was long past, and the mass of grey hairs on his head was only one of the many signals telling him so. But he felt better, and that had to count for something.
Out of the original cast of people he knew in his early years at this hospital, he was the only one remaining. Amber and Kutner had been the first to go, due to a bus crash and a hidden depression resulting in a sudden suicide. Taub remembered that even House had been shocked into silence when he learned of what Kutner had done to himself. Then, several years flew by and House himself had passed on, finally succumbing to Alzheimer's in his mid-sixties. It had been a huge blow to the hospital – and to House – when he'd been diagnosed, and Taub could have sworn that even Foreman had shed a tear before stepping up to take House's position. But that wasn't to last, either. It wasn't long until a mugging in a dark Brooklyn alley during a holiday visit to his parents had sent Foreman, then forty-five, to an early grave. Then the relentless grip of Huntington's chorea snuck up on Remy, and now she too was on her way. Wilson had stayed for only a few months after House's death and had finally retired with white hair and wrinkles. Cuddy had left the hospital when her daughter, then a teen, had been sent to rehab for alcohol abuse. And still, Taub remained.
He had outlived them.
He had outlived them all.
A/N: I wrote this in one sitting, so I apologize if it's not all that great, but lots of reviews would be lovely ;)