A/N: Following is the beginning of a new, post series finale story. Why on earth I'm starting a new House story when I still have several House fanfics currently in the works (not to mention my own original material) is really quite beyond me. Apparently I am a glutton for punishment.
However, this story has taken hold of me and will not let go. So the only way to get this monkey off my back, theoretically, is to write it down and post it online. I do this in the hope that I may capture the fancy of some readers (those already accustomed to my tales and hopefully a few new ones as well) and even perhaps some positive feedback.
So without further ado (except for the reminder that this story begins about a year after the last House episode), this writer humbly gives you:
There it was . . . after so many months of waiting . . . of watching . . . of obsessively scanning the papers each morning for any hint of news.
And after dreading that particular news for so long, the inevitable had come at last.
She stared down at it, this small, unobtrusive article printed on the third page of the "local" section in the Register News. Only a few paragraphs long, the sad nearly buried report heralded the closing of a door in her life.
And in her heart.
It was the end of a journey she began nearly six years ago, a journey that had originally been filled with so much hope and promise but had sputtered out and crashed leaving nothing but sorrow and regret.
So much regret.
Her delicate hand shook slightly as she reached for her reading glasses. She always trembled a bit more first thing in the morning before she'd had a cup of coffee.
That's what she told herself anyway.
Unfortunately, her need for glasses at so young an age could not as easily be explained away upon the pretense of caffeine withdrawal.
The truth of the matter was that her body had begun to fail her. Preordained through genetics, its first symptoms had perhaps been sped up from the more imprudent choices of her former, reckless lifestyle. The shaking, the weakened vision, so many little changes signified the beginnings of her health's inexorable slide downward.
She may have bought herself more time by altering her way of life but the damage from her previous foolhardy decisions was already done.
Ignoring the gathering darker clouds of thought forming on her mind's horizon, she placed her half-moon "Dumbledore" spectacles on the end of her nose and took up the newspaper once more. She read again the name and studied the accompanying photograph, the one that had caught her attention in the first place.
The picture was several years old at least, showing the familiar, boyishly handsome visage. Taken during happier times, long before he'd been stricken with the disease that would one day claim his life and certainly years before the strain of his best friend's untimely death would make their indelible marks.
James Wilson, former head of oncology at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital was found dead from complications arising from cancer. He was 44.
She looked again at his face, until this moment simply a year-old memory in her mind's eye. The warm brown eyes, fuzzy eyebrows, puckish nose and shock of dark brown hair spilling across his forehead made her eyes suddenly burn with unshed tears.
She leaned across the couch and grabbed a box of tissues that was placed strategically on her side table. After unceremoniously blowing her nose she read on.
She wanted . . . no needed to know the details.
Dr. Wilson's body was found late last week in an isolated cabin just outside the town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
For the first time that morning, for the first time in a very long time, she smiled to herself.
To her mind there was perhaps no more beautiful spot anywhere than Jackson Hole. The small western town, situated at the foot of the Grand Tetons, marks the exact spot where the mountains rise up like pillars for the sky. The clouds in their turn cover the high, jagged peaks as the light paints everything in the broadest strokes of eye-stunning color.
Yes. She was happy that Wilson was there, surrounded by that glorious scenery when he breathed his last.
But she was sad too when she remembered that he had died alone, his best friend predeceasing him nearly a year before.
It had been a long time since she'd said his name aloud. It had not been long however since she'd thought of him. His name, his face, his affecting eyes, the memory of him lingered within her thoughts like the last rays of light on a late Autumn afternoon.
Like ice water running through her veins, she remembered that House too had died alone. He had been consumed by a ghastly fire in an abandoned warehouse, his body so badly charred that he had to be identified with dental records.
Was it suicide? That was a strong possibility. But no one had ever really known how wretched he'd been until his death.
No. She HAD known.
Because House had told her.
Not in so many words of course. House was never one to be verbose about his feelings. But contrary to the opinion of many, he did in fact have them. She knew that without a doubt.
And House's emotions ran close to the bone, intense, strong and abiding.
It was because he felt so deeply that he hid and more often denied his feelings. His armor of hardhearted self-protection was nearly as great as his emotions and infinitely more practiced.
Yet someone who cared as much as House, who felt as much as he did, could not forever hide that sensitivity. He had slipped up, had opened his heart to her, revealed to her and perhaps to her alone that he truly did care about the people in his life. Hell, House even cared about his patients who were relative strangers to him. Over the years through innumerable observations and personal experiences she perceived within the myriad of his reactions and expressions, the real soul of the man.
House's heart beat steady and true. What he felt was honest and profound and in the end, undeniable.
She remembered as if it were only yesterday how she had revealed to House her greatest anguish. House pushed and prodded at her, until there was nothing else but to divulge her darkest hour and her own, true feelings to him.
And he had reciprocated in kind.
Once again, not in words but in his soul's windows, through the heartrending look shining in his vivid blue eyes. She had turned away at first and mistakenly chastised him. But when she finally recognized the truth of his revelation, she felt somehow honored, blessed really, to be someone who saw past his deflections and apparent misanthropy to the truly vulnerable individual that resided within.
They each experienced the heart of the other. They'd bonded. And there existed between them an unspoken understanding. The abhorrence of pity or rejection of any appeal for sympathy was just one of the commonalities they shared.
But typical as it was with House, as they began to draw closer together, the harder he started to push himself away. So that by the time of his disappearance, they were no longer in regular contact with one another, on the surface, becoming almost like strangers once more.
Yet she herself had never felt that way, not in her heart, not about House.
House was inspiring and infuriating and heroic and maddening and brilliant and damaged. She felt so many things about the man, as a mentor, boss, opponent, confidante and friend. He was certainly not someone she, or anyone else for that matter, could remain ambivalent about. House was someone you either hated or loved. Knowing him was either an all or nothing at all proposition.
Because that's the way House himself functioned in his day-to-day world. So that was how, in complementary reaction, everyone around him operated as well. House's very nature necessitated it, demanded it.
She'd grown close to him then, despite all her own reservations and fears. She couldn't help herself. She respected him, admired him . . . perhaps in her heart of hearts even loved him.
Then suddenly he was gone.
Was it suicide? No one knew for sure.
She'd kept her own opinions about his death to herself. Better that than hurt all those others who assumed they could have intervened, could have helped House, turned him around, gotten him out of his pit of misery if they'd only known.
The fools. No one had that kind of power over another really, especially over House and especially over his self-destructive depression.
Yet the glimmer of hope House had shown her only the year before by offering to help in her time of greatest need had made her believe that if anyone could have interceded on his behalf, it would have been she.
It was all too late though, for House, for Wilson, even for herself. House and Wilson were dead, forever lost to what may have been, forever lost to her.
Her tears fell freely now, obscuring her vision and making it impossible to read anything further in the short article. She put the paper down for the time being, her memories continuing to whirl about her like fallen leaves in a chill wind.
Although it was nearly a year ago, she remembered it as if it were yesterday. They had all gathered at the funeral parlor. House, the great instigator, the supreme catalyst had once more brought everyone together.
Even people who had long ago left House's sphere of influence; Allison Cameron had come and so had Stacey Warner, House's great love who he hadn't seen in years. Everyone who had ever loved him was there. They were all trying to understand and at the same time support each other with the heavy burden of grief brought on by the unimaginable loss of one Gregory House.
Noticeably absent had been the woman to whom House had more recently given his heart. Lisa Cuddy it seemed did not have the courage or the graciousness to make an appearance at House's funeral.
Perhaps Cuddy would not let go of the past. But by refusing to attend his funeral she doomed only herself to never being rid of the lingering misgivings she continued to harbor, denying those resentments to be buried along with the man himself.
In the end however, Cuddy's singular absence did not matter. All of House's loved ones who had gathered there stood up one by one and shared their memories of him, commiserating together in a futile attempt to fill the gaping hole his death would forever leave upon their lives and hearts.
Finally, they all felt the impact that House had had upon their lives. He'd pushed, cajoled, frightened, threatened, inspired, broken all the rules and traversed the narrow border between sanity and insanity so many times that it seemed like he, House had never really been of this earth to begin with.
But after all was said and done, House had been a positive force for good in everyone's life. He'd touched so many people, healed so many lives, of his patients and even those around him. House had made them all, ALL, even the bitter and unforgiving Cuddy, better people for having known him, for having been a part of their lives.
And he had never known it, never realized how important he was to all of them.
Nor did he know how very much he was loved.
Her tears were flowing quite steadily now as she blew her nose again into the tissue. She turned her thoughts to Wilson remembering him as he rose to give the eulogy for his best friend.
Wilson began slowly, speaking in the abstract before his anger had gotten the better of him as it somehow always did when he'd been around House.
But Wilson's anger was misdirected. He wasn't really angry at House for being who he was as he began to explain. At that point, Wilson already knew he had the cancer that would one day claim his life. Wilson had been angry at his best friend for leaving him behind to die alone.
Which the newspaper's article explained he finally had.
It was over. All over.
She turned back to the article as her shock bled into an uneasy acceptance. She hastily dried her tears and continued to read:
"Investigators discovered evidence that at least one other person inhabiting the cabin had cared for Dr. Wilson for the amount of time he resided there. While no one has come forward to claim responsibility, investigators emphasized that no evidence of foul play had been uncovered."
She read and reread these sentences over and over, trying to make her brain grasp the irrational. She just couldn't make any sense of it. Who else did Wilson know? Did he pick up a woman in his travels? That didn't seem possible. After all, how many relative strangers would take up with a sick man and agree to care for him as he slowly wasted away?
The only person who would have done that, held Wilson's head as he vomited, held his hand as he died . . . the only person who would have been there for Wilson, who deeply loved him enough to keep him from dying alone was the same person who had made a similar promise to her, the one who was willing to stay with her, care for her and end her suffering when the time finally came.
But that was impossible.
House was dead.
All thoughts of House flew from her mind as she heard a knock on the door. She wasn't thinking clearly, had not slept well the night before and still had not had her first cup of coffee. And the announcement of Wilson's death along with the remembrance of how House had also been so suddenly stolen away from her made her reckless.
Because Dr. Remy Hadley didn't even pause to look through the peephole before she forcibly flung open the front door.