Categories > TV > House

Like Ashes

by cryptictac 3 reviews

This is what grief feels like.

Category: House - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst - Characters: Gregory House, James Wilson - Published: 2006-07-14 - Updated: 2006-07-14 - 2304 words - Complete


Like Ashes


The room's always dark when you enter it now. Dark, dark as night, dark as death. The curtains are always drawn over the small windows and the lights are almost always off. It's just darkness and silence and the strong, sterile scent of disinfectant that all hospitals carry that greets you these days. You used to be greeted with something that resembled a smile if it was a good day, or something that resembled a sign of life when you entered the room. Sometimes a snide comment, sometimes something rude, something cutting, something that was typical of him. Anything, anything was better than silence. Because even in the most hurtful comments he used to make to you when he was angry about being here, about the unfairness of it all, about dying. it was still /him/.

But it's only silence now. Cold, dark silence.

Ashes to ashes.

You used to come with food because he's always loved food. Even if he didn't feel well enough to eat it, he always appreciated it in his own way. If he did feel well enough he'd sit up in the hard, rigid hospital bed, sometimes with you perched on the side by his good leg, and you'd share a meal together. Sometimes Chinese or Indian, though he could never eat much of it; sometimes something that you made at home, sometimes McDonalds, sometimes a reuben sandwich. You'd laugh, the way you both used to when you shared meals together before he got sick. His laugh had become scratchier and hoarser over the months but it was still a laugh. The way his tired, ashen face would light up when he laughed with you made your day, made your absolute day. Because you knew back then that you weren't going to enjoy that laughter for much longer, just like you know right now as you walk up to the curtains surrounding his bed that it'll be any day now, any day. Any moment.

You push the curtains aside and step into the small hidden space around his bed. You draw the curtain shut again and turn to look at him. His bed is propped up and he's resting back against pillows that cradle his head, and you watch him, just watch him. Each breath he makes can be heard -- raspy, gurgly, his lungs filled with pleurisy -- but apart from that, with how pale he is, how thin, how deathly thin, he might as well be dea--

You look away and press your lips together. That ache in your chest, the one that you manage to suppress by being busy when you're not here, is quickly rising to the surface, but you're trying hard, you're trying very hard to push it back beneath the surface where it belongs. It's hard, though, god it's hard. It's hard because sometimes, sometimes you feel like you can't fight that ache anymore and you want nothing more than to just fall to pieces.

That's what it feels like now -- as though clawed fingers are slowly closing tightly around your throat, squeezing and squeezing like the beast of grief is trying to suffocate you. It's moments like these that make you realise the depth of loss that losing Greg will bring, the fact that any day now, any day it'll all be over. And you can't tell if you're terrified or if you're hanging out for that day. Because at least when it's over there'll be no more suffering for him, but for you... for you, the suffering will have only just begun. God, that feels selfish, /god/.

You swallow hard around the lump in your throat and for a brief moment your face crumples. For a brief moment tears sting your eyes and you feel the tidal wave of pain wash over you. It's consuming, soul-consuming, like you're being eaten from the inside out. Your hearts starts to beat faster and those claws around your throat seem to tighten even more.

What am I going to do without him? you think helplessly to yourself. What am I going to do?

It's gone almost as soon as it surfaces: you manage to pry those claws off and forcefully shove it all back beneath the surface, and you take a deep breath; a deep, shaky breath. Now would be a good time for Greg to talk. Now would be a good time for him to open his eyes and give that pale, weary smile that he only ever saved for you. Because maybe if he did, you'll be able to hold onto him just a fraction more. Because maybe if he did all of this won't seem so agonising.

You finally turn your eyes back to him. You doubt he even knows if you're there anymore. How long has it been like this, with him in this comatose state? A week now? Two weeks? It feels like an eternity. Feels like an absolute eternity since you last heard him talking to you. Since the last time he looked at you, looked right at you and recognised you. You've worked with so many people that have died of this very same disease and yet nothing has been more painful than the day you came into this very room and your best friend no longer recognised you. He'd looked at you with a vacant expression like he was supposed to know who you were, but he couldn't quite place it. And you'd looked right back at him and tried to talk to him, but he didn't know who you were. Cancer does that in the last stages -- makes sudden, fast progress, so fast the person can lose themselves within a matter of days. The nurses had told you he'd been like that since he awoke in the morning and, fuck/, you'd thought to yourself. /Fuck, Greg, no. No, no, no, don't do this to me.

You're sure you'd never cried as much as you did when you left the room that night; left the hospital and sat in the quiet darkness of your car. That was the only time you cried like that. The only time, and damn it you're not going to cry like that now. You need to hold it together or you're sure you're going to fall apart like glass shattering on a tile floor.

You heave another sigh and slowly make your way around to the right-hand side of the bed, and you stand there and stare down at him. Never enough time, you think to yourself. There is never enough time, never enough gratefulness, never enough of anything and you never realise that until it's gone.

/Dust to dust/.

"Hey," you murmur to him.

Silence. Except for the sickening crackle of his lungs as he breathes in and out.

Say something, god damn it. Say something. Something. Anything.

You force your lips into a smile that looks more like a grimace than anything and you're not the touching type but you can't help it -- you stretch your hand out and lightly brush his hair back from his forehead.

He would have slapped your hand away and made a sarcastic remark to you if he'd known you just did that. You smile properly for a brief moment. You're going to miss him so much.

The smile is gone from your face and you can almost feel the beast of grief trying to claw back to the surface again. You force it back down with another deep breath.

You turn and carefully sit down on the edge of the bed, keeping your eyes on him the whole time. You keep watching him, watching him, wanting to talk but not wanting to feel like you're talking to the dead. Instead you just keep watching him and watching him, listening to each gurgly breath he takes and after a while you stretch your hand towards him again. You're not the touching type at all but what else have you got left? You touch his bony hand before taking it in yours. You squeeze it gently and it feels so fragile you think that if you squeeze too hard it'll crumble like ashes in your hand.

/Like ashes/.

Any day now. Any day. Any moment. You feel that beast of grief rising to the surface again and you wonder how much longer you're going to battle with it before it utterly consumes you. He's not gone yet, he's not gone yet. You're not going to let it consume you while he's still here. You're /not/.

But still.

It feels like it's going to.

You squeeze his hand again.

/Ashes to ashes/.

You keep a hold of it and you try to remember him before he got sick. You try, you try so damn hard but you can't remember. You /can't/. All you can hear is the crackling of his breathing, smell the scent of disinfectant in the room, see the look of death on his face and you just can't remember. You can't even remember how he looked before he got sick.

That beast is rising again, rising fast and you feel those claws start to wrap themselves around your throat. Squeezing, tightening, suffocating, squeezing so hard your eyes start to burn with tears.

Damn it, you don't want to cry. You don't, you don't but you can't remember him before all of this, you can't and you have nothing left to hang onto but memories. And if they aren't there then what else have you got left? You've got his hand in yours but that's not going to last. None of this is going to last. None of it.

Damn it, damn it, /god damn it/, you don't want to cry. "God damn it, Greg," you say under your breath and you hear your voice crack.

You press your lips together hard and you can feel them quivering, so you press them together harder. Suddenly your eyes are blurry and you know that if you blink you're going to squeeze those few tears out. So you stare at him through your tears, trying to push everything back under the surface but you're losing. You're losing. Your chest feels like it's swelling with water, like you're drowning, like you can't breathe. You can't help it but you blink and those first tears are squeezed out of your eyes, and they roll down your cheeks.

You suddenly crumble.

Gripping his hand, you bow your head and your face pulls into a grimace of pain as you start to cry. You're trying to holding back -- the pain in you feels so great that you want to unleash a sob or cry out in anguish, but you don't. No, you just hold his hand and you silently cry. You taste salty tears seeping into the corners of your mouth and you feel a thin drizzle of clear mucus start to run from your nose, and you're so far gone right now you don't care. You just don't care how messily you cry because you're in so much pain you feel crippled. Greg would tell you to stop it but you don't care about that, either. You love him, damn it. He's your best friend and you're going to lose him and you've never known a pain like this in your whole life.

You cry until you have to pull your hand away from his and fetch a tissue to wipe your nose and dry your tears. Just the act of that helps you get yourself under some measure of control and when you toss the soggy tissue into the bin by his bed you feel purged and drained. You don't feel any better but you feel like you've temporarily cleaned away some of the pain, leaving you with a deep sense of numbness. You wipe your eyes with the back of your hand and then slowly push yourself up from the bed wearily.

You watch him for a moment, lying there completely oblivious to your pain and suffering, completely oblivious to his, and you decide it's time to leave. It's time to go because you need to let go, as much as you don't want to. As much as you feel you can't. You know you have to.

/Ashes to ashes/.

You sigh deeply, tiredly, and then lean over him, and you've never kissed him in your life but you do now -- you press a kiss to his temple. A lingering kiss with your eyes closed and you breathe in and catch a waft of Greg's scent -- you don't know why but right then and there this moment burns itself into your memory and you realise that you're going to remember this exact moment for the rest of your life. Not because you kissed his temple but because you caught a snatch of his scent, something about him that you remember and smells evoke powerful memories; maybe powerful enough that one day you'll be able to remember him for who he was before he became sick.

You then stand back up and watch him for another moment before you turn away and start to walk away from the bed. Any day now, you think to yourself. Any day. Any moment. He could pass away the moment you step out of the room, you think, but you can't bring yourself to say goodbye. Because goodbye means forever and maybe, maybe he'll still be here tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Maybe. /Maybe/.

Pushing the curtain aside, you step out and then shut the curtain closed behind you, catching one last glimpse of Greg before you do so. You then walk to the door and silently let yourself out of the dark room.

Yes. Maybe you'll see him tomorrow.


Ashes to ashes.


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