Disclaimer: Don't own House. Smeg. Any factual errors are accidental and apologised for in advance. Contains implied slashy House/Wilson, an evil Tritter (yeah, that's new) and ambiguous consent.
AN: Here it is - the Last Chapter. Lol, in all honesty I don't encounter these very often when writing. So this is definitely cool, actually finishing the fic. A milestone, perhaps. Thank you very much to my super reviewers! The reviews were so positive, it was really great to hear that people liked the last chapter –and even Cameron too! - as much as I did. I'm actually not too sure what people are expecting from this chapter, so I hope it lives up :)
V: My Blue Heaven
\ Is this all too familiar?
Does it happen all the time?
I'm just asking you to hear me.
Could you please, just once, just hear me?
More than anything you wanted to be right.
Still it's you, you, it's you I can't deny…\
- My Blue Heaven, Taking Back Sunday
One more signature to go.
"Right there, on the last line," said the docile receptionist, gesturing helpfully. He followed her direction, without saying anything although he might have liked to, and signed his name on the said line. His signature looked messy and unfamiliar to him, like the penned alias of someone that was not himself.
What the hell is wrong with me?
Scowling down at his name that was not his name, he pushed the papers away and looked expectantly at the receptionist.
"Thank you, Doctor House," she said brightly.
As if I didn't just sign all my goddamn rights away.
"I still have the rest of today," he said, not a question.
"Good." House turned away from her, using his cane as support. He spotted Cameron leaning against the doorway, arms crossed over her pressed white labcoat, watching him with a funny expression. There was a lingering sadness on her face and in her eyes – he knew her well enough to see it – but as soon as their eyes met, the trace was gone and she smiled at him.
Why is she pretending so hard?
Something had changed though. Before, she'd clearly harboured affections for him that he could neither understand nor return. But now she looked at him with a different sort of emotion emanating from her facial features, a distant kind of pain that she was trying to hide but didn't seem quite able to. It was different to how it had been before, and he wasn't sure he fully grasped why.
"This is the right thing," she said softly, her light voice barely indiscernible from the muted background noise of the rehabilitation clinic. It was an ambiguous statement.
"I suppose so," House said begrudgingly, glancing around somewhat distastefully. "If it's this or jail, I suppose this scrapes by narrowly."
"Have you talked to Wilson?" she asked, and the pain she was hiding (poorly) was suddenly clearer. House frowned ever so slightly, despite the fact that he didn't like showing any sort of concern about anyone or anything.
"No," he said aversively, taking a step to get past her and walking out into the hall. She didn't follow him, didn't even turn, but her voice carried, suddenly a bit louder, a little more urgent.
"Are you going to?"
He paused, resting on his cane, his leg hurting and his mind hazy.
"Yeah," he said.
Let her interpret that however the hell she wants to.
He still didn't know what he was going to say.
Wilson played absently with a pile of paper clips strewn across his desk, pushing them across, into a heap, then spreading them out again. His mind wasn't really working properly; it just kept thinking: House goes into rehab today. It was his fifth day back at work, the sixth day since House spoke to him, the seventh day since Tritter…
Well, he didn't need to think about that.
He'd been having nightmares the last few nights, reliving that night with Tritter in broken flashes which was bad enough, but the detail that pushed it over the edge, the part that made him wake up in a cold sweat with his heart pounding and his eyes burning, was seeing House's face at the end every time with a mixed expression of loathing, disappointment and disgust, looking down at him on the bed for what seemed like forever until, finally, irrevocably, he turned away.
It was too much like how the reality was playing out – weren't dreams supposed to be the opposite of reality? He'd read that somewhere. That dreams weren't a premonition at all of what was going to happen, but the subconscious' subtle reminder that dreams are just dreams.
It was New Year's Eve tonight, and what did he have to celebrate? Nothing at all. The loss of a friendship that had been on shaky ground for years – that many years not by his choice but because House had always kept him at a distance, a closer distance than he kept most but still far enough away for them to keep going in the same circles around each other, nothing changing.
Well, something had changed now.
Will he even say anything to me before he goes into rehab?
Somehow their paths hadn't crossed very much in the last few days, and he wasn't foolish enough to believe that House hadn't intended it. They'd been caught out in the same hallway once in the last four days, and what had happened? House had shuffled past as if Wilson were invisible.
Wilson had come to a stop when he saw House, his mouth half open in a hello, but the words had died on his tongue as House, with a determined look, walked right by him.
God, that hurt.
Why did he make all the wrong choices when it came to House? Tritter - it had seemed like the only option, the only thing he could do to stop his best friend from going to a place he didn't deserve to be, the only way to stop the merciless detective from crucifying someone who saved people on a daily basis as if it were nothing.
It wasn't nothing. It was something.
It was true enough though, that something had needed to be done. Maybe he couldn't make House look him in the eye and maybe he couldn't even expect to be forgiven. But now House wasn't going to jail, he was going to rehab, and perhaps he'd get clean for good.
Maybe that could be enough.
I'm kidding myself again, aren't I?
It would never be enough to be this close to House and stay at a resentful distance forever. But that was okay. He could go – move away – run to the ends of the earth if he had to, away from House, and maybe if he was gone long enough he would forget House had ever existed, had ever taken up more space than he should have in Wilson's head.
He could go to Nepal, perhaps, or the central icy regions of Iceland. Somewhere far away and foreign enough that nothing of what was real would be real anymore.
Then, maybe then, he'd forget.
I don't even know how long I've loved him.
It felt like forever.
The silence in his head seemed too loud, like it was roaring around him like an empty sea with no oceans to fill, buzzing around aimlessly inside his head and outside it, everywhere at once.
I can't stay here.
In a blind kind of daze, he scooped together what he could, into his bag, and hurriedly got up, nearly running from his office, from the hospital – from House – and back to the safety of the hotel room that held the dirty secrets he didn't want anyone else to ever find out about.
It's too close, all of it.
This may be the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
It might be the hardest thing I ever do.
Wilson looked up at the sudden series of raps on his door.
His stomach turned – he wasn't sure why but he could probably make a wild guess – and he slowly got up from his sitting position on the bed and made his way towards the door.
A glance through the peephole made his heart suddenly beat faster.
This is it - he'll either forgive me or renounce me.
And then he remembered that this was House that he was dealing with, and suddenly he felt like crying. Nothing on earth was more important to House than his dignity and pride – having those taken away from him all those years ago by the people he'd loved had ensured that such things became vital. He blamed that time for all the pain he felt now, in his leg and everywhere else in his life.
He hadn't even been sure if House would take the rehab deal – like, maybe that was still beyond him too, like admitting a defeat. He supposed Cuddy or Cameron had convinced House to at least do that much.
He guessed – and it hurt – that forgiving him would be something House mightn't allow himself to do because it would be some sort of justification of Tritter in this abstract, twisted sense. Another sort of defeat – like admitting he'd been wrong in some way.
More than anything, you've always wanted to be right, haven't you?
He opened the door, and looked at House, and House looked at him.
House was the first one to break the gaze, dropping his clouded blue eyes and brushing past Wilson into his hotel room. Wilson watched as House looked around the room, his eyes scrutinising the bathroom, the kitchen bench, the floor, the ceiling – taking in everything, a look of concentration on his face.
Wilson's brow furrowed in puzzlement.
"What are you doing?" he asked finally, pushing the door closed behind him and keeping his eyes on the very strangely behaving House.
Well, more strange than usual.
House paused, staring at the bed with a mixed expression.
"I'm memorising," he said, with a vague gesture around the room.
House shuffled over to the seat – the same seat of course, always the same seat – and sat down, looking a weird mix of completely at ease and extremely uncomfortable at the same time. Something only House could pull off well, no doubt.
Wilson silently walked over, and took a seat on his bed, facing House and waiting for some sort of explanation or condemnation. Whichever came first. He felt his ears burn under House's critical gaze, and couldn't find it in himself to look House in the eye.
This could be it, couldn't it? House would go into rehab, and it would be the end of some final stage in their friendship, and when House came out everything would be different, wiped away, faded, broken.
I have to say something – I'll regret it if I don't.
For so many years, they'd been moving through the same old motions, the hospital and its patients and its staff moving around them like a washed-out backdrop offering the stage but not the way forward. Wilson had always wondered if House felt for him anything other than friendship, saw it hinted at in the little things that House said and did, the reluctant ways in which he showed they were something, that they had something together. But it had been unspoken all this time, maybe because both of them feared that admission would change things only for the worst.
Wilson looked up in shock, his mouth opening in response but his mind unable to find words.
Was that… an apology?
House looked more uncomfortable than not now, shifting uneasily in the chair and both hands fiddling with his cane. His eyes, though – his eyes were watching Wilson carefully, intelligently, not showing any of the doubt that the rest of his body language gave away.
"I…" Wilson began, but trailed off. "I don't know what to say."
House breathed out slowly, as if some great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He looked down at his cane, a wave of pain and regret and sorrow and loneliness passing over his lined face like a shadow.
I wish I could fix it all for you.
But when he looked up at Wilson, his expression changed. There was still pain, but it was dimmer and mixed in with some tentative sparks of hope, and fear, and affection, and a genuine look of apology.
Wilson wanted to say something, he did. But he couldn't find the right words – words were failing him again and for the first time he wondered if maybe that was because they were inadequate sometimes, in some situations.
I hope you can somehow hear everything I want to say to you.
They sat there, looking at each other, House in the chair and Wilson on the bed, neither making a move or saying anything. Just being there, in the moment, silent, perhaps unable to find things to say or maybe because there was nothing to say.
Finally, House half-smiled, a look in his eyes that softened his expression and made him look younger and more unguarded than Wilson had seen him for a long time.
He got to his feet, standing in front of Wilson, looking down at him sitting on the bed, and for all his fears it was nothing at all like his nightmare.
House held out his hand, the other gripping his cane and keeping him steady. Wilson's heart felt like it was going to burst with relief and happiness and joy, but he managed to keep it in tact as he looked from House's familiar but different face to the proffered hand.
He took it.
It was the right thing to do.
They don't know, but I'm looking at them right now and I can see that the path I chose was the only reasonable one. I can see the connection between House and Wilson so clearly now as if it were hanging tangibly in the air between them. They are each other's counterpart, some sort of yin and yang, a contemporary Holmes and Watson, complementing each other in this abstract, seamless way.
Sometimes, no matter how much we love someone, it isn't enough to change the way they feel about someone else. It can't always be mutual or the world wouldn't be the way it is – cold, lonely, falling apart small pieces at a time. There is hope for a lucky few in the world and it surrounds those two so brightly; it brings out a happiness in House that no one, not me, not anyone but Wilson, can come close to giving. I couldn't have done anything else.
I had to let House go and it still hurts. Maybe it will always hurt. But I don't care. I'll take the hurt and keep it somewhere and learn from it and possibly one day I'll heal. Life is the summation of our experiences – good and bad alike – and House was a mix of many things for me. If he can make Wilson happy and if Wilson can do the same for House, then I can't do anything but accept it and try to move on.
I can't help wondering now if everything that Tritter did was negative. He certainly intended to hurt House, to take something precious to him and break it into little pieces. He thought what we all did – that House would be too stubborn to let a friendship survive a war.
But Tritter underestimated the strength not of Wilson or House individually, but together. Wilson needs House just the same as how House depends on Wilson, and together they are all the stronger for it. If not for Tritter and the terrible things he did, House and Wilson may have continued dancing around each other forever, never daring to push the boundaries until it was too late to change anything.
Despite the circumstances, there's a strange innocence and purity to what House and Wilson have. This will be their last day alone together until House gets out of rehab, and they aren't off in the depths of some dark room – they're here, in this park near the hospital, standing on a bridge, completely content with each other's presence. It's simple and it's enough.
I still love House in a way that I'll never be able to let go of. But seeing him like this, not angry or bitter or resentful, is worth more than that, means more than a crush I will get over.
It's perfect, in a way. Them – together. Some sort of vague evidence that ideals can maybe, just maybe, prevail in the world – that the metaphorical glass isn't half empty or half full but whatever people want to believe about it, that you can believe in something and it might just be true.
I don't believe in magic, not anymore.
But I can believe in this.
Looking out from an arched wooden bridge, Wilson's eyes were on the ripples of the water spreading across the lake. But House's eyes were elsewhere; leaning on the railing of the bridge, he watched his best friend thoughtfully, taking in everything, his dark brown hair, his pensive eyes, the way he always looked as if he cared about everything that happened to the entire world.
I couldn't have let him go just like that.
Wilson finally looked back from the water, having been aware for a while that he was being studied by House, and his intelligent eyes met House's light blue ones. Wilson smiled a little, hesitant and awkward and shy but familiar and warm.
House felt his face crease in a smile back, and he knew his eyes said what his words couldn't.
\ It's you I can't deny. \
I didn't expect this to happen.
I thought I had read Doctor Gregory House perfectly, that his stubborn pride would determine the outcome of the situation and he'd cast Wilson off in the same way he exploited and discarded everyone around him for too long already. But I seem to have misjudged him, and I admit his actions surprise me, if they are indeed genuine.
I don't hate him, I never did - not really. I wanted him to suffer, yes, but only because of the way he made other people around him suffer. There are many people like House in the world, causing innocent people - the undeserving collateral damage - pain and anguish, and when I became a detective I swore I would make the world a better place: without such people, couldn't it be? Shouldn't they pay for the things they do wrong, the people they hurt? Some dissident part of me regrets what I did to Wilson in my vengeance against House; he is foolish for having stuck by House for so long, but perhaps he did not deserve the cruelty I inflicted on him.
In any case, I am satisfied to leave things as they are, because it appears that something has changed about House. Actions have consequences, and perhaps he has come to realise that he has the power to determine what those consequences are – the power to encourage or crush the people he encounters on a daily basis, to be an asshole or someone better. Maybe it has truly, sincerely changed him.
I'll watch him for a while, of course, from afar but not too far away, and I'll ascertain just how much really has changed. It is true that one incident rarely changes the habits of a lifetime, as Wilson observed. So I'll be watching, waiting for House to slip up and revert to his old ways, to make the same mistakes again, and if he does then it will begin again and this time I will destroy him.
I hope I'm wrong about you, Doctor House.
(Final) Endnote: Finished! It feels so great to have finished a fic in completion, and to have actually stuck to my goal of keeping it fairly contained. It really doesn't happen often so this rocks. I started this with some vague idea that maybe I'd complete it, and if it weren't for such great feedback I mightn't have! So – thank you x 100000 to everyone who has reviewed so far, there are such nice reviewers out there and you guys are the best.
Of course, I'd absolutely love to hear what everyone thought of this chapter and the fic as a whole, so please review if you feel so inclined! Thanks also to everyone who read it, even if you didn't review (it's not too late! ;)) – it's brilliant there are people reading this all the same!
So yeah – this is it for HoC, but maybe sometime in the not too distant future… :)
- Amalialia -