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HOUSE M.D. FIC: Three Months, 2/3

Title: Three Months
Author: Flywoman
Fandom: House M.D.
Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual references
Pairings: No noncanonical pairings
Warning: Character death

For additional notes, see Chapter 1: March Goes Out Like a Lamb.


The day came when he had to admit defeat, not so much because of the nausea, weakness, and increasing pain as because the chemo drugs were befuddling his brain, making it impossible to remember the details of his cases or to judge whether he had just come up with something insanely brilliant or simply insane. He stuck with it stubbornly for as long as he could, but the day after a particularly challenging case, Foreman came to see him in his office.

“We have to talk.”

House glanced up from the lounge chair where he’d been nodding off under the soothing warmth of a heating pad. “What were the results of the mammogram?”

Foreman closed the door behind him and drew the blinds, then turned to face him. “Someone has to say something. There is no excuse for what happened yesterday with the McDonough kid. I don’t know whether it’s the pain or the chemo, but your judgment is impaired, and it’s compromising the safety of our patients. You just can’t hack it anymore. I’m sorry.”

House regarded him for a moment with unreadable eyes, then levered himself to his feet. “You’re right.”

*

Cuddy didn’t glance up as he entered her office. “Was the mammogram clean?” she asked.

“Yeah. But that’s not what I came to tell you,” House said, placing an envelope on her desk. “This is my letter of resignation.”

Cuddy looked up sharply. “You’re right in the middle of a case.”

“Wilson and my team can handle it without me. I would be on a flight from Singapore right now if I’d felt up to speaking at the WHO conference.”

“But-“

“Cuddy. Please.” She stopped short, stunned by this sign of the seriousness of the situation. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

Cuddy hesitated, nodded, then quickly rounded her desk to place her hand on his arm. “I’ll consider it a temporary leave of absence. Until you’re feeling better.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” House rasped. He twisted away from her and limped slowly out of her office.

*

He found his team in the conference room, their conversation stilling immediately at his approach. “I have an announcement,” he said. “I’m resigning. Effective immediately.”

“I think that’s a good decision,” Foreman said. The other two turned to stare at him in reproach, but he only shrugged and folded his arms. “We almost killed that kid yesterday.” He and House exchanged glances. I am generous enough to allow you to save face in public. Go to hell. And thank you.

“I know,” House said. “It’s time.” He took a deep breath, wondering whether he was up to a speech about how proud he was of their progress and how selfishly sorry he would be to see them move on to bigger and better things. In the end, though, all he said was, “I’ve put your reference letters on file. I’m sure that Cuddy will help you all find new positions as soon as possible.”

Chase lingered after the others had left, Cameron crying openly, Foreman’s face as still as stone. After a few minutes’ hesitation, he followed House into the office and stood next to his desk. House continued to peck at the keyboard for a few seconds without looking up, although Chase could tell from the tightening in his shoulders that his presence had been duly noted. At last House heaved a long-suffering sigh. “What now?”

“I’d like to drop by and see you at home. Maybe a couple of times a week. In case you want to, you know. Talk about anything.”

House twisted his head around to look at him over his reading glasses. “I thought you left the seminary.”

Chase almost smiled. “No proselytizing, I promise.”

*

On his way out, he spotted Wilson talking to Robin and beckoned him over.

“I’ve resigned.”

“Oh.” Wilson paused, biting his lip. “Did Foreman speak with you?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” They stood quietly for a few seconds, not looking at each other.

“I need a favor.”

“Anything.”

“Could you clean out my office and bring my stuff by later this week?”

“Of course.”

“Thanks. And take care of Fran. You can trust my team.” House allowed his gaze to flick towards the young woman who was still waiting for Wilson to return. “Have you told Robin that Fran doesn’t have breast cancer?”

“I was about to.” Wilson lowered his voice. “Does something seem a little… off to you? She seems kind of awkward whenever I ask about their relationship.”

“Working girls can’t afford to get too attached to their clients.”

Wilson’s eyebrows drew together. “Robin is a hooker?”

Wil-son. I believe the PC term is ‘ejaculative assistant.’”

*

The Department of Diagnostic Medicine was dissolved. Cuddy pulled a few strings and got Cameron into the ER and Chase a fellowship with one of her top surgeons. Foreman was more difficult to place. It seemed that he had earned something of a reputation as House’s protégé and could no longer be trusted to practice conventional medicine. In the end, he decided to join his former mentor’s practice out in Los Angeles.

He personally delivered the news to House at home.

“I see.” House was quiet for a few seconds. “And is the love doctor leaving any broken hearts behind?”

“I’m not dating any women right now, if that’s what you mean.”

“Hmm. Wait – you’re not doing Chase too, are you?”

Foreman raised his eyebrows. “To think I’m giving up all this.” But there was a deeper sentiment lurking beneath his half-lidded eyes.

House regarded him steadily for a few seconds, making up his mind to take the plunge. “You’re sure that you want to move so far away? Your mom is getting worse.”

Foreman gave him a startled, angry glance. “What do you know about how my mom is doing?”

“If Alzheimer’s patients got better, it would be called a neuroregenerative disease,” House quipped, but his voice was colored by a rare tinge of sympathy.

“She probably doesn’t even remember you from day to day. Must be tough, after turning your life around so drastically to make her proud.” Foreman compressed his lips and said nothing.
But judging by the grateful flicker in his dark eyes, House’s former fellow recognized that this was as close as he was going to get to an acknowledgement of his accomplishments.

“You should visit them before you go. Your dad will appreciate it even if your mom can’t.”

“I can hardly stand to be around her anymore,” Foreman admitted. “I honestly don’t know how my dad does it.”

“He loves her,” House said simply. “If you love someone, you do stupid things.” He unexpectedly extended a hand. “Best of luck in California, Dr. Foreman.”

Foreman hesitated, then reached out and shook it firmly. “Thank you. I’ve learned a lot from-“

“Yeah, yeah. Save it for the Academy.” House withdrew his hand and limped back to the sofa. Foreman stood there a moment, then nodded and left.

*

Stacy stopped by soon afterwards, taking in the unkempt states of House and home with one sweeping, derisory glance.

“You’re going to need a full time nurse soon.”

“Sweet of you to offer, but I’ve already decided to hire someone.”

Stacy allowed herself a bark of laughter. “I wasn’t offering, believe me. Been there, done that, brought home the lousy t-shirt. But Wilson will want to do it.”

“No way,” House said emphatically.

“Oh Christ, Greg, why not? He’s already seen you at your worst.”

“No way,” he repeated.

“That is not an argument,” Stacy said. “What are you so afraid of? That he’ll see you helpless? That having him feed you and change your diapers will be too humiliating?”

“In a word, yes,” House said.

“You’re a proud man, Greg. God, nobody knows that better than I do. But haven’t you always said that no one dies with dignity? At least you’ll live your last few weeks with love.”

“Since when did you start writing for Hallmark?” House gibed.

“All I’m saying is that it would mean a lot to him to have your company for the time you have left. And if you let him, he’ll make you a little happier, too.” She stood and slung her purse over her shoulder. “Plus, I seem to recall that the man can cook.”

“I’ll think about it,” was all he would allow.

*

Wilson dropped by the next day with a carload of boxes from the office. House let him in, nodded briefly, then limped back to the kitchen where he was making peppermint tea. Wilson followed him and watched quietly as he reached into the cupboard, wincing.

“I’d like to move back in,” Wilson said.

“What for?” House responded without looking up. “Hotel getting too expensive with all those alimony payments?”

“Yeah, that’s it. Also,” Wilson added, “it’ll be a lot easier to hold your hair and wipe your ass if we’re living in the same place.”

House looked up sharply at the choice of words, but his friend’s expression was determinedly bland. His pride smarted for a minute. Then he thought, what the hell. Stacy was probably right. Having Wilson around more might be the only silver lining in this whole fucked-up situation. “Okay,” he said.

“Okay?” Wilson repeated, taking a little half-step forward like a man who had been prepared to push with all his weight against an invisible barrier that had suddenly given way.

“Yeah. You get the couch, though.”

“There goes my master plan to worm my way into your bed,” Wilson shrugged, straight-faced.

“Sorry, I just wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off you, and I need my beauty sleep-”

“Now more than ever,” Wilson finished with him. They smirked at each other, and that was that.

*

Chase didn’t come to visit that first week. When he finally did appear at House’s door one evening, his face looked puffy and fragile, and there were faint lavender shadows under his eyes. He sank onto the couch next to House, shifting himself uncomfortably against the leather.

“How are you doing?” he asked at last, noticeably summoning the semblance of strength and good cheer.

House shrugged. “As you see me. How are you doing?”

“Fine,” Chase said automatically, his eyes sliding away.

“Right,” House said. He leaned back, looking up at the ceiling. “If it were about a patient, you wouldn’t be concealing it. So it’s personal. You don’t have any parents left to lose. Am I to infer that you are no longer in the good graces of the decorative Doctor Cameron?”

“None of your damn business,” Chase said, but his expression told all.

“Maybe not. I really don’t give a shit one way or the other whom she’s fucking. But, and correct me if I’m wrong – no, just kidding – you seemed really into her. Metaphorically speaking.”

“I was,” Chase said in spite of himself. “She-“ He fell silent.

“I see,” House said. “Well, glad we cleared that up.” Beat. “Want to talk about my cancer now?”

*

House fidgeted on the exam table, his back aching dully and his thigh beginning to throb in protest. At last Wilson returned, House’s blue file folder in his hand.

“Your CT showed that the primary tumor has stopped shrinking, and it looks like the cancer has spread to lung as well as the bile duct and liver. The gemcitabine isn’t working anymore.”

“What do you recommend?” House asked, although they both knew the answer.

“Hospice,” Wilson answered honestly.

“No thanks,” House said. “I’d rather die at home.”

“We do that now,” Wilson said with the ghost of a smile. “It’s the 21st century version of house calls.”

“How would that work?”

“I can handle a lot of it myself, but I’m going to have to hire a nurse to help out during the day,” Wilson remarked as neutrally as he could.

“No one from PPTH,” House said shortly.

“Are you kidding? I couldn’t pay one of them enough. I may even have to go outside of the tri-state area.”

“I have been told that I have something of a national reputation,” House mused.

“There is another possibility,” Wilson said slowly. “I could take some time off.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Those little bald kids need you.”

“It wouldn’t be for long,” Wilson said, refusing to meet his friend’s eyes.

“That sounds ominous,” House observed. “How long are we talking?”

“I’m thinking… a few weeks. Maybe a month at the most.”

“I see.” House was quiet for a minute. “So I can quit the chemo?”

“Yeah.”

“Good, because Mrs. Merkowitz keeps hitting on me after my appointments, and one of these days her husband is really going to kick my tookus.”

*

“Have you told your folks?”

“No,” House said, without looking up. They were eating dinner in front of the television set, something soft and inoffensive that Wilson had managed to whip up without leaving the apartment. “I don’t want them – I don’t want him here.”

“House, I know that your relationship has been… strained… but you should make your peace with him. Believe me, you don’t want to leave this until it’s too late.”

“Why, afraid I’ll live to regret it?” House parried with a ghoulish grin.

Wilson sighed. “He’s your father.”

“Actually-“ House paused, as if discarding whatever he’d been about to say and setting off on a different tack. “Doesn’t matter. I’m taking my secret to the grave.”

He held up a hand as Wilson half-rose from his seat in protest. “NO. I’m serious. And that goes for you, too. You go behind my back on this, and I’ll kick you to the curb. You’ll be back to room service every night and strangers laundering your towels.”

“Gosh, that sounds terrible,” Wilson said, straight-faced. House glared, and he raised his hands in self-mocking surrender. “Okay, okay. I won’t say anything, I swear. But… you should. Even if it’s just a note. Even if it’s just to your mom.”

“She always did like you best,” House grumbled. They finished the rest of their meal in silence.

*

“Have you thought about therapy?” Wilson asked.

“You know I think all shrinks are charlatans.”

“Mine has been helpful.” House looked at him sharply but decided to let it go.

“Would there be cool new drugs delivered directly to my brain? If so, count me in.”

“Seriously. Depression is one of the main symptoms of pancreatic cancer, even without the terminal diagnosis. A good therapist could make it easier for you to deal with your grief.”

“I already know all about the stages of grief,” House snapped. “Stacy was a good teacher.”

“All of them except for acceptance,” Wilson said.

“Acceptance and resignation are just two words for the same thing,” House answered.

*

“I’ve got the final version for you to read over,” Stacy greeted him.

“In person? Stop spoiling me or Mark will be jealous.”

“Right, because your position is such an enviable one.” She followed him to the sofa and sat down. “I hear that Wilson is living with you now.”

“Yes, but the rumors that I’ve bought his body are completely baseless. Actually it’s the other way around. Wilson’s a closet necrophiliac.”

Stacy rolled her eyes. “That does explain his choice of specialty. Well, as long as you’re still speaking to each other, I’ll just assume that the arrangement is working out.”

“There’s no need to gloat.”

Stacy looked amused. “Hey, if I’d wanted to say ‘I told you so,’ I would have just said, ‘I told you so.’”

She waited while he skimmed over the papers and finally signed them with a flourish. “You’re good to go. By the way, who’s your medical proxy?”

“Fool me once, shame on you-“

Stacy spread her hands. “Again, not volunteering,” she said.

“Aw, are you sure? Because that went so well the first time.”

“God, Greg, can you really not let it go? How many times can I say that I’m sorry?”

“I’m not sure that you’ve ever actually meant it,” House replied.

What?

He leaned forward, staring at his stiff hands. “Tell me this. If you had it to do over again, knowing what you do now-“

“I’d still do the same thing,” Stacy said fiercely. “I’d rather have you alive and hating me than the alternative.”

“You see? You’re not sorry.” House paused. “I don’t hate you.”

“Really? Why make me such an exception?”

He had no answer to that. Stacy cleared her throat. “So is Wilson your medical proxy?”

House recovered enough to retort, “Well, I was thinking Cuddy, but I’m afraid that she might secretly harvest my sperm without my consent.”

“I’ve already strongly advised her against that,” Stacy smirked. “So it’s Wilson, then. This isn’t going to be easy for him, you know.”

“Making medical decisions on behalf of his patient? Gosh, maybe becoming a doctor was a poor career choice on his part.”

Stacy shook her head. “You know what I mean. I still don’t really understand it, but you’re the closest thing to family he has around here. Giving up on you is going to be really difficult for him.”

“I know,” House said roughly. “But he’s the only one I trust.”

Stacy cocked her head. “Seriously? You do remember that Wilson’s the one who suggested that I let them put you under so I could make the call on your surgery?”

“Wait… what? Wilson wasn’t even there.”

“Yes, well, there’s this amazing invention by Alexander Graham Bell that’s all the rage now,” she said dryly. “You wouldn’t let him see you. That doesn’t mean he didn’t follow every detail of your case once we got you admitted.” House had gone pale but said nothing. “Greg, I wasn’t the one with the medical degree. Wilson was your best friend; I asked for his recommendation.”

“I’d always assumed that my surgeon persuaded you to remove the muscle.”

“Your surgeon wanted to amputate the whole damned leg, as you should recall. It was all Cuddy and I could do to persuade him to take the half measure that would at least allow-“

“Half measure! I’m a cripple! I told you what I wanted-“

“To just leave you in a coma? We discussed it. Wilson thought that it was too risky and-“

“Wilson thinks that leaving the house without two umbrellas is too risky!”

“-and so did I,” she finished. “Greg. I wasn’t willing to run the risk of losing you.”

“Yeah, well, you lost me anyway,” House said heavily.

They stared at each other for a few seconds. Finally Stacy picked up her purse. “For the last time, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I disregarded your wishes to save your life. I’m even sorrier about this whole shitty situation. Greg? Please don’t blame Wilson. It was my decision.”

“Don’t worry, there’s more than enough blame to go around,” House said.

“There always is,” Stacy replied pointedly, and walked out of his apartment.

*

“Look, it’s Philippe Petain. Who the hell said that you could come in?”

“I live here now, remember?” Wilson said. He switched the light on and stepped forward. “House, are you okay?” As his eyes adjusted, he took in the bottle of Scotch and half-filled glass on the coffee table. “Are you… drunk?”

“Stacy stopped by.”

“And this prompted you to down half a bottle of Dewar’s because…”

“She told me that you were the one who advised her to remove a big chunk of my thigh while I was conveniently unconscious.”

Wilson’s boyish face had BUSTED written all over it.

“I blamed her, you know.” House’s voice was deceptively casual. “It wrecked us. She was the one who left, but I drove her away. I could never forgive her for disregarding my decision.”

“If she hadn’t, you’d probably be dead.”

“Yeah, and so what? At least it would have been clean! I wouldn’t have had months of PT, years of unrelenting pain and drug dependence.” House paused, then shook his head, laughing bitterly. “I should have known. All that Stacy knew was what I’d said I wanted. And then she got a recommendation that wasn’t even close to being objective-“

“Stacy’s job as your medical proxy wasn’t to be objective.”

“That’s right!” House shouted, banging his fist on his thigh with frustration and hissing at the jolt of pain. “We let family members make decisions for their loved ones because we figure that they have the best chance of knowing what the patient would want. You both knew what I wanted!”

“We were acting in your best interests.”

“Yeah, well, you can quit doing that right now. Get your things and get the hell out.”

*

House woke up on the couch with one of the worst hangovers of his life, apparently having failed to make it to the bedroom at all. He spent most of the morning on the bathroom floor worshipping at the porcelain altar, the combination of alcohol, cancer, and chemo aftereffects wrenching his guts with nausea. Only well after noon was he able to hold some fluids down. He rested uneasily, his mood as foul as his mouth, and wondered, with Wilson gone, how long he’d be able to last like this.

When he heard the knock, he was disgusted by the ridiculous surge of hope that propelled him to the door.

But it wasn’t Wilson, of course. It was Cameron, her face falling at the sight of him. House raised an eyebrow, stepped aside for her, and shut the door. She waited just inside the apartment as he lurched back over to the couch and slumped into it. He did not offer her a seat.

Cameron continued to stand there, twisting her hands together and valiantly attempting to summon a smile. House intuitively understood that the answer to her planned opening gambit, “How are you feeling?” was so obviously “Like unmitigated shit” that she was, at least temporarily, at a loss for words. Between his splitting headache and his dashed hopes, however, he was in no hurry to help her. The awkward silence stretched.

“So how’s the ER?” House asked at last.

“Great, actually,” Cameron said slowly. “I think that it was a really good move for me.” She looked at him sidelong. “Kind of makes me wish I’d resigned from your team a long time ago.”

“You did,” House pointed out. “I wooed you back with my masculine wiles. So it’s working out for you. Good. I figured it would. Emergency medicine is all about grand life-saving gestures with no expectations of follow-through. Or is that follow-up? I’m sure you know what I’m getting at here.”

“Let’s change the subject,” Cameron said, rolling her eyes.

“Sure. How’s Chase?”

“I… I have no idea.”

“No? No more snogging in supply closets now that I’m not around to catch you?”

“It had nothing to do with that.”

“I’m sure it didn’t.”

Cameron was starting to look a little desperate, which cheered him up immensely. “I broke up with him.”

“I know you did.”

“It wasn’t fair to him. I was leading him on when I didn’t see a future for us.”

Bullshit,” House fake-sneezed, then immediately regretted it as the dull ache in his abdomen flared with the pressure. ”You were scared.”

“I was not-“

“You were terrified of letting it become real, of making any kind of commitment.” She stared, silent, as he warmed to the topic. “You have a history. Falling for me was safe; you knew that I would never reciprocate. Your husband had already been diagnosed when you decided to marry him. You must have known that he had six months ahead of him, two years tops.”

“I thought that we agreed to change the subject-”

That was the kind of lifelong devotion that you felt you could handle.” House twisted around to take in her white, still face.

Cameron exhaled sharply. “You son of a bitch,” she said, and showed herself out.

*

The next day seemed interminable. Nothing held any interest for House, not the bland food in the fridge or his video games or the latest additions to his porn collection. Cameron stopped by again sometime after his solitary lunch. He didn’t hear her at the door, but when he opened it to hobble downstairs for the mail, the card was waiting on the mat.

He slit the envelope open with his thumb and unfolded the card, which had a design on the front of a great blue heron looking inquisitively into its watery reflection, a spirit animal in the Pacific Northwest Native American style. “Dear Greg, Neither of us believes that there is a God watching over us, or that there will be anything at all after this life is over. But I am sure that if there were a God, He would see that you are a good man who, in your own imperfect way, always did what you knew was right. All my love, Allison. P.S. Everything you said was true. I just haven’t decided what to do about it yet.”

House crumpled the card in his fist and bit his lip. Forgetting about the mail, he shuffled back inside and sat thinking until darkness fell. Then he picked up the phone. He almost hung up between rings three and four. But just as he was pulling the receiver away from his ear, he heard a distant click.

“Wilson?” he said, too quickly.

“What?” The voice on the other end managed to sound simultaneously aggrieved and hopeful. He imagined he could hear Wilson running a hand through his hair and loosening his tie.

“I’m an ungrateful shit.”

“Is this supposed to be news?” But Wilson’s voice had softened.

“Come back.” They both waited to see whether he would follow up that command with the word that would transmute it into a plea. He didn’t.

Nonetheless, Wilson responded, “I’ll be right over.”

*

“You told Cameron,” House greeted him at the door, pretending to offer to take his luggage so that Wilson could wave him away.

“She talked to you?”

“She dropped off a draft of my eulogy,” House said.

“Oh. Was it… fit for family viewing?”

House grinned. They were going to be all right. But what he said was, “Doesn’t matter. There isn’t going to be any funeral. No funeral, no eulogy.”

“Funerals are not just for the benefit of the deceased, House. Besides, if you’re right about your lack of an immortal soul, it shouldn’t make any difference to you what we do since you won’t even know about it.”

“No,” House agreed, pointing a finger at him, “but YOU will. I am telling you that I do not want a funeral service under any circumstances. Now I leave you to the tender mercies of your own conscience.” His eyes bored meaningfully into Wilson’s for a moment before he turned away. “You can mourn me privately any way you want.”

“What about a wake?” Wilson called after him.

“Sure,” House replied, stumping off, “as long as it involves you losing your pants, and that stripper from your last bachelor party.”

Go to Chapter 3: What Dreams May Come

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
flywoman
Oct. 20th, 2010 11:46 am (UTC)
Better late than never, absolutely. (Actually I'd like those words on my tombstone.) It's wonderful to wake to unexpected feedback - thanks so much!

I really like Stacy as a character and understand why House would fall for her. I also get why it wouldn't have worked out long-term between them. She lacks House's combination of rigid (if unconventional) moral code and brutal honesty. (Insert lawyer joke here.)

I was certainly not the first to suggest that Wilson had a hand in the decision to remove the thigh muscle - I think I got the idea from Involuntary Commitment by ignazwisdom - but it made a lot of sense to me, both in terms of Wilson's character and because of how House has sidestepped any discussion of where Wilson was during the infarction. But man, those conversations with both Stacy and Wilson were tough for me to write and rewrite.

The balance between humor and pathos is probably what most attracts me to House as a show and as a character. And this is simply how the characters spoke to me for this story, for which I am grateful!

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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