Half My Life

Epilogue (Day 10, continued)

The way House sees it, he'd given Wilson an ultimatum.

The terms hadn't exactly been clear, but since when is he ever straightforward? He never offers information willingly – glimpses into the workings of his mind are privileged, rare, and hard-earned. Even his fellows are forced to fumble through his twisty metaphors during differentials, groaning as he sits back and enjoys their frustrated confusion. If you want to know what Dr. Gregory House is thinking, you can either work at it or you can leave.

So he hadn't told Wilson the point of getting laid in ten days, partly for his own smug satisfaction and partly because, for all of his blunt honesty, the truth of it all is just one of those forbidden facts of life that he isn't allowed to say.

The truth is that it wasn't so much about a random fuck as it was a chance for Wilson to see what's always been right in front of him. And the truth is that, as much as House had devised the plan for Wilson to figure out his life, he had also, in characteristic selfishness, devised it for himself to move on.

Life had been easier when it had made sense, when Wilson had been the one with his Sams and Bonnies and Julies and Ambers and whoever the hell else made it into his bed. It had been rational for House to justify his silence then, to make the decision not to screw with the order of the universe. But when the apocalypse had come sooner than intended, House had suddenly found himself with Cuddy while Wilson, of triple-marriage and multiple-affair fame, had suddenly found himself alone.

Not merely alone, but rock-bottom depressed.

It wasn't the first time a woman had told James Wilson to go fuck himself, and the man usually figured out ways to deal. But to try to find solace in a half-dead diabetic animal was just…House didn't even have the vocabulary to describe it, actually, which clearly said enough. Wilson was supposed to have turned to beer, or drugs, or hookers…or friends.

Granted, House had fucked up on his end there. But what should he have done, with Cuddy on the way over just as Wilson had showed up? It was a precarious line he walked with her – one misstep and he would fall.

He can't afford to fall; not this time. Because other than Cuddy, there's only one other person on the planet he knows he could find it in himself to love.

And since Wilson isn't an option, Cuddy is his only chance.

There have certainly been times when he's thought Wilson might be option, but they've been fleeting, shaky, and not exactly compatible with his trusty foundation of logical reasoning. Sure, he's left hints – some subtle, and some blaring – and more than once he's second-guessed the nature of the murky depths in Wilson's eyes. But what can you do, really, when the only guy you'd be willing to go gay for is busy floundering around from vagina to vagina?

Not that House can blame him, but…damn. He'd really thought the organ had meant more than that. He'd really thought twenty years had meant more than that.

And then Cuddy had happened, and Sam had left, and the opportunity was there and House had snatched it. It was a perfectly rational win-win, and he'd actually been pretty pleased with himself for coming up with it. Either they'd end up together or they wouldn't, but either way, neither would be alone.

It was one last shot, he'd decided. Ten days for Wilson to wake up and smell the damn roses, or ten days for House to get the fuck over it and devote himself to Cuddy once and for all.

So he'd tried to leave hints, at least once a day. Subtle hints, maybe, but hints nonetheless. He'd even saved the poor bastard from practically dying, for God's sake – leave it to Wilson to turn a cold into the freakin' plague. He'd wanted to go over earlier than he had, actually, but Cuddy's bitching had left him wobbling on his tightrope and he'd needed extra time to regain his balance again.

He'd almost thought, in the midst of it all, that there was hope. It's incredible, what happens to the mind in the throes of a dangerously high fever. The way Wilson had called his name, the way he'd leaned into House's tentative fingers brushing against his cheek, the way he'd flailed and kicked the sheets until their hands had met…in spite of the obvious effects of illness, House had almost felt more love in those moments than Cuddy had ever given him.

But the next day, Wilson hadn't remembered a damn thing, so House hadn't brought it up then.

And he certainly isn't going to bring it up now.

So here they are. Wilson's done sulking, House is done preaching, and the oncologist's hand is on the doorknob as he prepares to leave.

Wilson is actually thanking him. Thanking him. For what, God only knows. He seems like he might be waiting for an answer, but House has nothing left to say.

But even in silence, everybody lies.

Because he could say a lot of things. He could say that it's been twenty years and he's forgotten what it's like to live without him. He could say that it's been twenty years and he doesn't know how he could have lived without him. He could say that Cuddy is just a backup plan, an alternate solution, one he'd prefer not to have to choose.

He could say that he loves him.

But he doesn't say any of those things, and Wilson quietly turns the handle.

He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?

House lets the incoming noise from the hallway blur his thoughts, trying not to see this as the very bitter end. This isn't the last time, these aren't the final moments. There will be years more of Wilson, if House doesn't fuck it up.

But this is the last time he'll let himself have hope.

Wilson takes the first step, and in a split second of irrationality House almost reaches out to make him stay.

But he stops, steadying his limbs. He feels his heart beating and his leg screaming, and he purses his lips instead.

He grips his thigh. He takes a breath. He waits.

He watches half his life walk out the door.