After the funeral, after all the mourners have said their last words, and the last plate of food has been pressed on him (as if he's the bereaved husband or father of the guy, still he takes the food because well, free food). After all the crap, and the stupid speeches, and everything else he doesn't want to be there for but has to because it would have mattered to Wilson, after all that he stands in his bedroom alone and takes down his battered suitcase.
Wilson's things are gone, he'd stayed here for the last few weeks, when he was too weak and fragile to be left alone, when he needed House to 'be there for him', when he was dying. House had taken all his clothes, taken all the medicine, the medical equipment that Wilson had hated, and that had tethered him to this life, he'd taken all that and dumped it. He'd packed up everything else that had belonged to Wilson and given it to the parents that hadn't deserved a son like Wilson, who'd politely looked the other way while their second son was dying. House didn't want that stuff, he didn't need it, let them deal with it.
So he takes down his suitcase and he crams some clothes into it, he wants to ask Wilson how many shirts he should take but instead he just takes a handful. They'll be creased of course, when he gets where he's going but it's not like it matters, no-one is going to care. Even Wilson wouldn't have cared. He leaves his watch behind, and all his other stuff because there'll be no-one to give it to and he goes. Just goes, he doesn't think he even bothers to lock the door behind him, he can't remember doing it anyway, guess he'll find out in a few weeks, or maybe he won't.
He goes for a modern place this time, none of the gloomy architecture of Mayfield, and hopefully a few less lunatics. Just a sad handful of people, shuffling around, trying to pretend that they're not spending every waking moment thinking about the drugs they're not taking, and how they're going to score when they get out of here.
He talks to the people here, he has to, or he'll never get out of here, never get his shiny pass to go back to the real world. Of course he's here by his own choice so he can walk out whenever he wants. It's not like it's going to make a difference either way. He's only doing this because he promised Wilson that he'd be clean and sober before he decided what to do. Damn stupid Wilson. Kyle Calloway wouldn't have cared either way. Wilson had.
When they sign him out they're all look doubtful, like he's going to be one of their failures, and he'll be coming back in the door before the week is out. He wants to tell them that he won't, that he has his escape plan all ready to go but he doesn't want them stopping him so instead he smiles in what he thinks might be a reassuring manner. They don't seem very reassured but they let him go. One of the doctors even hugs him. She's pretty, and young, and a brunette and he thinks maybe it would be fun to do her, but it's not like he's really interested so he just stands there and she backs off, doing that last clasp of the hand thing as she goes away.
When he gets back to his apartment it turns out he did lock the door, and it's all still sitting there where he left it. He'd cleaned out the booze and vicodin before he left so there's nothing there anymore for him. Just the box at the top of the wardrobe.
He takes it down and opens the lid to stare at his father's gun. He's got the sword, that would do the job as well, but the gun seems more fitting, more final. That's what Kutner did, gun to the side of the head, pull the trigger, simple. If a klutz like Kutner could do it House should have no trouble.
He thinks about putting on that stupid blue shirt that Wilson always liked but rolls his eyes at himself, Wilson's not around to care what he looks like, and anyone discovering the body is only going to see a blue shirt with some interesting red staining.
He picks the gun up, his father's gun, hearing his father's voice - be careful with that son, it's not a toy . It's heavy, Wilson must never have handled a gun in his life to have thought this thing was fake. He remembers his friend standing there, so sure he'd uncovered House's secret gun arsenal, and then his confusion and horror when House started waving the thing around. He quirks a small smile, he'd won that round.
He lifts the gun to his head, heart pounding now, it's so close. One shot and it will be over, all the pain, the misery, the struggle. Everything. There will just be darkness. He'll know nothing about it. He won't be here, without him. His finger twitches on the trigger and he feels a tear prickling at his eye. He wants to do this he does, it's not giving up, it's not losing.
"I need you to tell me my life was worthwhile, and I need you to tell me that you love me."
He puts the gun down, with a trembling hand. He rests it on the table and stares down at it. Wilson had wanted to know that he'd made a difference during his life, that there would be something left of him when he was gone. The one thing Wilson had always wanted was the one thing that House had never been able to give him, he'd never been able to change for him, to live for him.
It's hours later when he takes the bullets out, dismantles the gun and puts the whole thing in the trash, buried beneath the debris from the fridge that he'd forgotten to clean out before he left. He goes out for a while, walks the streets of Princeton. His feet take him past the dive where he knows he can score, he can get handfuls of drugs if he wants them, he can kill himself a little slower. He keeps walking.
He goes into the hospital the next morning, straight to Foreman's office. He doesn't even know if he still has a job, he'd taken off during the later part of Wilson's illness and then spent weeks at rehab. The last time he'd seen Foreman was at the funeral and if Foreman said anything to him then House didn't hear it.
Foreman stares at him, surprise written on his face and then for some odd reason he looks pleased. Foreman roots around in his desk and hands him a file, gives him a small nod, says 'welcome back' and that's it, he's back.
After that case, there's another, and then another. The cases are interesting, it's as if Foreman and the team are scouring the world for the most obscure cases they can find. He tears through the cases, and they go looking for more.
It's not easy, going on without him. Every time cancer is brought up as a diagnosis they all stare at him, and their eyes flick towards Wilson's now vacant office. He hurls the word back at them, until it becomes just a word again and they go find him an oncologist who isn't stupid, and who isn't Wilson. He insults her and tries his best to drive her off, but she sticks around and one day he finds that instead of looking for Wilson he's looking for her.
He doesn't go to the hockey with Foreman, because really, he's still Foreman but it turns out he's less of a pompous ass when he's shit faced in some bar in Princeton, so they do that. And sometimes House goes into Foreman's fancy office, and makes himself at home on Foreman's fancy furniture and well, it amuses him and passes the time, and Foreman doesn't seem to mind getting the stuff dry cleaned and even replaced every now and then.
He goes through Wilson's laptop, turns out Wilson unlocked everything before he died so there's plenty of things to find. House discards the obviously false (Wilson used to be a woman, Wilson was a serial killer who ate people's brains, Wilson has twin daughters, living in London) and puzzles over the rest, the diary is probably fake, but the emails from ex-patients seem nauseatingly real. He discovers some research, and some papers Wilson had been working on for years, but never finished, probably because he spent all his time holding the hands of his dying patients. House takes it to the new oncologist and she's all over it like she's found the holy grail. She'd going to finish it and publish it and put Wilson's name on it, and House tellls her to put Jim Wilson on it, because that was his preferred name and she smiles softly at him and thanks him, and House goes away grinning.
It turns out that Wilson had a shit load of money he never bothered to tell House about, and he left it all to House. House thinks about blowing it all on hookers, and gambling and fast cars, because obviously that was what Wilson would have wanted. One day though there's a pile of money on Foreman's desk and then a little while later there's some sort of scheme to allow parents to stay at the hospital while their little baldies are getting their bodies filled with poison. There's a James Evan Wilson memorial scholarship for cancer survivors and who knows what other sentimental crap, he's thankful that at least there isn't a new Wilson Wing. House vets the scholarship applicants every year and weeds out the ones who prefer opera to monster trucks, because there have to be some standards to the thing.
The one day it's five years since Wilson's last five months and House is still here. He's clean, if not always sober, and he's in some sort of muscle rebuilding trial, it's early days but the pain is a little more bearable and the leg is a little bit stronger. There's some new people on his team, people who never knew Wilson, but Foreman and Park are still there and they go out together and remember.
The next morning he goes out to the cemetery, where he's never been before, by himself. He rides his bike right up to the grave and stares down at it. He wants to tell Wilson that he regrets every minute of their friendship that they wasted on stupid shit, that he's sorry for the mistakes he made. But he knows that doesn't matter now. Instead he takes his cane and lays it on the grave.
"You made a difference, your life was worthwhile," he tells Wilson. "And I loved you."