DISCLAIMER: The song lyrics to "Without You" were taken from the RENT Soundtrack.
Without you, the ground thaws
The rain falls, the grass grows.
Life goes on. That's what Wilson had said. House hadn't said anything, though, staring at the x-rays – one of the few moments in his life when his brain, scarred with scorn and cynicism, could come up with nothing sarcastic to say. There was no differential, no need to bounce ideas off of his team. The words "metastatic pancreatic cancer" said enough.
It was raining on the day he found out. He remembered because when Wilson had paged him, he'd half-hopped, half-limped over the barrier between their balconies to get to Wilson's office, entering the room completely soaked. He could've taken the indoor hallway route, but when was it ever his goal to be normal?
"See what I do for you?" he'd muttered, shivering as he closed the door. "This better be important."
"I think you'd better sit down, Greg."
He should've known it was bad. Wilson never called him "Greg."
Without you, the seeds root
The flowers bloom, the children play.
It had started with a stomachache, abdominal pain that eventually radiated to his back. But Wilson was too busy caring about patients to bother looking after himself – that was House's job. It had been House's job for a while, taking care of Wilson.
But Wilson had been firm. "I'm not sick, I'm just stressed. A little more sleep and I'll be fine."
He should've said no. He should've insisted on running tests, on treating him like any other patient. But for once in his life, House ignored the symptoms. For the person who mattered most, he had simply let it go.
Instead, he'd bought him flowers, much to Wilson's surprise and delight. Roses were too cliché for House's taste, but he'd figured that lilacs could be romantic while still diagnostically appropriate. Their fragrance was supposed soothe away stress, and the purple color was a nice touch in Wilson's earthy office.
But then the pants that Wilson had always worn were suddenly becoming too loose, and when the nausea left him doubled over by the toilet, House couldn't let it go anymore. And so there he was, staring at the scans on the wall, suffocating in the lilac-heavy air and leaving cold puddles all over the couch and the floor.
"Here, put this on before you catch pneumonia."
He'd felt his jacket being peeled away before a warm blanket was draped over his shoulders. Leave it to Wilson to worry about everyone's health but his own.
The stars gleam, the poets dream
The eagles fly, without you.
He remembered how it all began, how a few beers and a few porn tapes had led to a night of burning ecstasy. They could have left it at that, but they'd both known there was more to it than sex and drunken confessions of love. Funny thing about drunken confessions – they were almost always true.
They spent a lot of nights on the hospital's rooftop together, fingers intertwined as they talked and kissed and unwound from their day. Wilson would point out constellations in the sky, tracing the shimmering stars as he rested his head on House's shoulder. House blamed it on Wilson's sappy side, never wanting to admit that he actually enjoyed finding beauty in the parts of life that he'd previously ignored.
But it didn't matter, because Wilson knew. That's why he was Wilson. And as he sat there on the couch, cold and wet and breathless and scared, House felt like he was being pushed through a black hole, that time was racing away before his eyes and soon there would be none left for him to hold Wilson's hand and look at the stars and buy him lilacs and even just lay by his side, watching him breathe.
This was so typical of the Universe, to bring him happiness after decades of misery and then snatch it away again. You can't always get what you want, but taking away Wilson would be taking away what he needed, too.
The earth turns, the sun burns
But I die, without you.
Life goes on, Wilson had said. But he'd said other things too, stupid things, like "too far advanced" and "don't want treatment." They both knew that surgery was no longer an option, but chemo would have bought him some more time.
"Why bother losing my hair and puking my guts out, just for a few extra weeks? I'd rather spend the time that I have being able to enjoy life with you."
"Forget your hair. At least I won't have to suffer through your blow dryer at 6 in the morning anymore."
It was his one lame attempt at changing Wilson's mind. And he'd failed.
He vaguely remembered Wilson sitting beside him – a soothing hand on his knee, a gentle kiss on his cheek.
Life goes on…but House wasn't sure he wanted it to.
Without you, the stars roar
The breeze warms, the girl smiles, the cloud moves.
Cuddy had cried when they told her. House had been expecting her to, but Wilson's eyes had widened in surprise as he leaned awkwardly over her desk to pat her hand.
"Lisa, it's okay. I've accepted it."
For Wilson's sake, she'd managed a small smile through her tears. "You're awfully calm about this."
"My whole career revolves around what I'm about to go through. I know what I'm up against, and I'm not afraid. If it's alright with you, I'd like to pass my cases to Roland by the end of this week."
"Of course. I'll take care of everything; you don't have to worry about your patients. Just…take care of yourself."
"If he'd taken care of himself, we wouldn't be here talking about this in the first place."
Wilson had turned to face House. "Right. I really wanted to grow a tumor in my pancreas, and then I really wanted it to spread to my liver. It was all my doing."
"You knew something was wrong, and you thought a little more sleep would make it go away. Our Boy Wonder oncologist ignored the symptoms and now he has terminal cancer – typical."
"House…" Cuddy's red-rimmed eyes had flashed in warning, but he'd been too far gone.
"Of course, the other irony is that I ignored the symptoms. World-renowned diagnostician fails to diagnose his partner. I'm shocked."
He'd felt Wilson's cool, familiar hand grasp his own. "This isn't your fault."
But House had only stood up in response, jerking his hand away. "I should've known," he'd said quietly, and limped out of the office.
Without you, the tides change
The boys run, the oceans crash.
The crowds roar, the days soar
The babies cry, without you.
And so here he was, sitting alone in his long-neglected apartment. He'd been without Wilson for a week, ignoring every phone call and every rap on his door. Foreman was probably in charge of his cases and Cuddy was probably her usual mixture of anger and worry, but who the hell cared? Certainly not him.
Wilson was giving him space, because that's the kind of person Wilson was. But after an entire week, even he folded eventually.
"House, it's me. Open the door."
He didn't budge from his comfort position on the couch. His leg hurt too much. Or at least that's what he told himself.
"I'm not leaving until you open the door, House."
He waited. He waited longer than he thought he needed to, and the silence told him he was in the clear. But then he heard Wilson's voice again, floating quietly through the wall.
"House, I…I miss you."
And suddenly the dull ache that had been building in his chest ever since he'd seen the x-rays became unbearable, and there was only one way to ease the pain, one person he needed to see if he was ever going to breathe again.
He opened the door and found Wilson's brown eyes brimming with patience and love.
"It was getting a little lonely in the condo," Wilson joked.
House swallowed, trying to find the words. "I'm sorry," he finally managed.
"It's okay - "
"I couldn't make it without you." The brown pools that stared back at him suddenly began to gleam with sadness, and it hurt him to know that he was hurting Wilson. But he needed to let it out, to say it, to relieve the pressure in his chest.
"I thought I could do it, but I couldn't." Why did he still feel like he couldn't breathe?
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Wilson said, gently ushering him to the car. "Let's just get you home."
The moon glows, the river flows
But I die, without you.
Crossing that bridge came sooner than either of them expected. Six months was optimistic, but by the three-month mark Wilson could barely make it to the bathroom by himself.
"This whole leaning-on-a-cripple thing isn't really doing it for me."
"This whole dying of cancer thing isn't so hot, either."
The pain was bad. It was supposed to be Wilson soothing away House's throbbing leg, but now it was House who comforted Wilson, holding his hand and smoothing back his hair as he administered morphine. Foreman and Taub carried the flatscreen into the bedroom so Wilson wouldn't have to expend his energy moving to the couch, and House would lie in bed by his side, being angry at a God that he didn't believe in.
For a while, they managed, quietly enjoying life together the way Wilson said they would. They talked and kissed and mocked stupid TV shows, just like always. They even sat by the window sometimes, tracing constellations. Cuddy kept them supplied with food and meds, and House clung to the feeling of staying there with Wilson forever, never having to leave.
But life goes on, and cancer doesn't wait.
It wasn't until they finally moved Wilson to PPTH that House allowed himself to finally acknowledge how small he looked in the bed, how his skeletal frame was engulfed in the blankets, how sharply his chest rose and fell as he struggled for each breath.
When he wasn't taking a bathroom break, he was holding Wilson's hand, the one that gripped the morphine pump. He wanted to know how bad the pain was, to allow his leg to reach the same level. If they suffered together, then maybe he wouldn't feel so alone.
The world revives, colors renew
But I know blue, only blue
Lonely blue, within me blue…without you.
"You look so…sad."
Wilson's voice was weak, raspy. House glanced over at him. "I think I have a pretty good excuse."
Wilson smiled and closed his eyes. "You know what's funny?"
House hoped this wasn't another one of Wilson's intermittent bouts of delirium. "What?"
"Your eyes…they're blue."
"And yours are jaundiced. Your point?"
"Blue's the color of sadness. But did you know? It's also the color of new beginnings."
Without you, the hand gropes, the ear hears, the pulse beats.
Without you, the eyes gaze, the legs walk, the lungs breathe.
Wilson looked like he was sleeping peacefully in the morphine-induced coma, and even though House was thankful for that, his stomach was still churning. His eyes traveled from Wilson to the vitals monitors and then back again, making sure that he was still alive.
He remembered their final moments before Cuddy administered the drugs, before he watched Wilson's eyes close for the last time.
"Shhh. Don't talk so much."
"But I need you to know that I - "
But House had hushed him again. "I know, Wilson."
The mind churns (the mind churns)
The heart yearns (the heart yearns)
The tears dry, without you.
He'd pressed his lips to Wilson's forehead, closing his eyes and pretending it was just like always, that Wilson's healthy body was in that bed instead of a body riddled with tumors and drugs. He wasn't saying good-bye; he was only kissing him good-night. And in the morning they'd wake up and go about their lives like nothing had happened, the way they would until they were ninety years old. They'd sit side-by-side in rocking chairs, wrinkled hands clasped together, telling stories about their days at Princeton-Plainsboro and how they overcame broken hearts and damaged souls to finally feel alive again.
Life goes on, but I'm gone.
Cause I die, without you.
He'd opened his eyes, giving Cuddy permission to press the trigger.
"I love you, Jimmy."
"I love you, House."
He continued to hold Wilson's hand, to grit his teeth against the fire raging in his leg, anything to feel like they were one and the same.
And if he could have died with Wilson, he would have done that, too.