Although he'd washed Amber's lipstick and DNA off of her mug-and a fork, and a wine glass-she was still present here. Wilson saw her lingering like shadows or dust on edges of bookshelves, on magazines under the coffee table, in their bedroom closet, their bed. The clean mug was no less a reminder of her since he'd replaced it, shiny and streak-free, in the cupboard than it had been before, when it had stood out as she'd left it. It was still hers, lipstick or no lipstick, and Wilson knew he hadn't wiped his memories or grief away with a swipe of a dishrag.

Wilson knew the telltale signs of grief, of hanging on and refusing to let go; he'd seen them worn on the sleeves of his patients, families of patients, House, himself. His experiences with death never made him exempt from feeling the crushing weight of loss, but he was aware of the signs, and he knew how to cover them all with a brave face. It never stopped the sorrow-lines from creeping across the edges of his mouth, the corners of his eyes when he stepped over the apartment's threshold, and he swore he could still catch the scent of Amber's perfume in the air. He could imagine her fingerprints dotting everything she'd ever touched, and he wouldn't clear out the whole apartment, or wash it, or fumigate it until all the traces of her were gone. He couldn't, but he could tidy up the surface. He specialized in surfaces.

For months he'd been trying to convince himself-and House, and Cuddy-that fleeting happiness, blink-of-an-eye companionship, was worth this pain. Worth the prickly ache that slammed through Wilson's chest as he stood at the foot of the bed they'd bought together. Worth the burning stall of his lungs as he toed off his shoes and set them beside hers in their closet, hearing lost echoes of her heels tapping across the floorboards, carrying her to greet him with a kiss. Wilson stretched himself along one half of the bed, staring at the ceiling, aware of the vast empty space beside him. It had to be worth it, though at times like this Wilson wasn't so sure.