Title: Red Skies
Characters: Wilson, House
Summary: Set during "Body and Soul," Wilson breaks the news to House.
Disclaimer: So not mine.
Thank You: deelaundry
, and nightdog_barks
. You rock my world.
A/N: Hard to believe it's been over a year since I've written fic, but life's crazy.
This time he cuts out the middle man. The X-ray feels as foreign and perverse in his hands as the bright spot to the left of his sternum, but this time there are no long faces across the table. No “I’m so sorry’s.” No one to thank him for catching this in time. Just time.
The odds are good. The odds are always good when the patients are weak, when they’re tired and they’re ready for the odds to not be good. 82 percent sounds inspiring on paper, but Wilson has told the parents of the 82 percenters that he’s sorry, and he has given the spouses of 94 percenters the long face, and he’s seen a 79 percent chance be a death sentence and a 5 percent chance be a future. Sitting at his desk, where he’s looked at thousands of other people’s scans, less fortunate people’s scans, he wonders if his surgeons will discuss tuile-cooking techniques over his open chest cavity as he once did.
House never understood why people see it as a shock. "Everybody dies."
Yeah, everybody dies. But nobody expects to die right now. Nobody expects to be in the middle of something important, nobody expects to still have ties to the world. Nobody expects to be looking forward to baseball season, Hanukkah, lease renewals.
Nobody expects to see their death on an X-ray. But it happens.
He fills out paperwork as storm clouds gather (because the truth does not always set you free), and he imagines the light hearted jokes dissolving with the roots of his hair, being replaced with a thousand different definitions of irony.
An oncologist should not get cancer. A diagnostician should not be misdiagnosed. Two men with nothing in common should be able to stay away from each other, but when things fall apart, they fall hard.
He could fill a book with all of the things they’ll never say to each other if he only had the time.
But now, an hour ‘till House comes knocking for lunch feels like a precious commodity. It’s an hour to pretend that anything’s okay before it won’t be (but how many times did he hold someone’s hand and tell them that it would be okay when he knew with 100% certainty that he was lying?).
The rain begins falling in listless sheets. He doesn’t make any calls. His season tickets to the Drew University Shakespeare Company seemed so fucking important last night, but today they’re just slips of paper on his desk. Titus Andronicus seems lightyears away, an extra mile to the marathon and he’s already spent.
House will be disappointed that there isn’t a puzzle. No epiphany-drawing left earlobe twitch. No paralyzing mold on the bathroom wall. Cancer is boring; death is boring. The body breaks down, organs fail, years of painstaking evolutionary development is undone the instant the heart stops beating, and for what? A line of poignant observation carved on a headstone. A decent Stones song at the funeral. A month of well-intentioned Facebook memorials before people slowly forget he ever existed. Wilson puts the X-ray in his desk drawer beneath a small mountain of insurance papers and pediatric drawings. We are dead so much longer than we’re alive, he thinks, so why do we fight it?
He stands, makes his way over to the credenza beside the light box. Sits without bothering to move the volumes of cancer epidemiology.
The door swings open without a cautionary knock and he watches as House slinks into the room 20 minutes early. He sees his eyes scan from the other desk to the couch, notes a shade of perhaps panic on House’s face as the thought of “Where’s Wilson?” creeps through him. But then their eyes meet and House straightens, and Wilson is sure he’s imagined this fleck of unwanted emotion.
“Adams defied me,” says House. He slumps down on the couch and Wilson is shocked that he hasn’t noticed, hasn’t picked up on some nervous I-have-cancer twitch. Mostly though, Wilson’s just disappointed it’s still his secret to reveal. No matter what, this burden will always be his to carry.
He vaguely registers House carrying on the conversation without him. “There’s one more zealot in the world. Dominika moved out.” He says this last bit like an afterthought, but Wilson can see the devastation in its wake. For House, loneliness is like a drifting anchor in stormy seas—overwhelming , dangerous, vast. “She was fun. She was hot. Fixed my blender…that is not a metaphor.”
House drums his fingers against the armrest; it is the only sound in the room. Outside, the rain shoots down in strands against the window, but all Wilson hears is the nervous patter of House’s fingertips against the leather, and he knows then that he has to tell him. He has to tell House how this will end. Because otherwise it’s just another puzzle, just another chain of evidence leading to a miraculous conclusion (and there are no miracles here).
House says, “Know any good fake divorce lawyers?” and Wilson again meets his eyes. “I’m surprisingly depressed by this.”
And he is, Wilson can see the hurt, the love; he wonders if House sees the same things in his eyes. And Wilson can see an almost undetectable innocence in House—it is the innocence of a man who has been through hell, yet doesn’t know that worse is coming. Worse is looking him straight in the face. But still, he stays, and he talks. Sometimes he listens, because he knows it’s easier to die alone than to live alone.
Wilson clears his throat, looking everywhere but at the man on the couch. Living alone is an idea 20 years gone to him, a practice rusty and unfamiliar like House to a triathlon. It’d be a shame to waste 20 years on three words.
But House has taught him to be reckless. Grand theft auto sprees and overly-friendly prostitutes and extreme ideas about the sharing of food have made the last 20 years neither good nor bad, but simply: not boring. There are a million things—a million people—worth dying for. There are very few worth living for.
House glances up, and in that instant Wilson can see that he knows. Everything.
“I have cancer.”