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Title: Aeternus
Author: iridescentZen
Disclaimer: I do not own House.

Author's Notes:

This is a dark fic, focused on an alternate ending of season 7's season finale, "Moving On." This fic contains major character death and graphic, violent imagery. It also contains spoilers, specifically for the season finale. If you are sensitive - ironically - move on. I normally do one-shots with a beginning, middle and end. This fic demands to be written in segments, which is unusual for me.

Again, this fic is dark; its main theme is (accidental) murder/suicide (not an accident.) Please consider yourself warned.

- )-( -

Part I: Aeternus ( Eternity )

There is nothing wrong at first aside from the obvious. House has crashed his car into Lisa Cuddy's home, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they all could have been sitting back at the table. Seemingly or despite that fact.

Maybe, Cuddy thinks sorrowfully, maybe that was what he wanted.

House gets out of his car, after having a bit of trouble opening his jammed door. He looks emotionless like a scorned angel at the carnage before him. Smug blue eyes look at the sister, her husband and the new guy. The smug look disappears the instant he looks at Cuddy, replaced with terror. Overwhelming, abject terror, because there's a white two foot piece of wooden window panel sticking out of Lisa Cuddy's rib cage and there is blood blossoming out over her pink shirt like an ugly flower. How Lisa Cuddy is still standing, no one knows.

Julia's cry of fright registered in House's ears. "Oh my God!" new guy exclaims.

A whispered, "Jesus," from Julia's Catholic husband as though he is off stage.

Cuddy's stormy blue eyes follow the path of their gazes, and for the first time registers the splintered piece of window pane impaling her. "Oh," she says, shocked by the image. "Oh, no." How could this be? She hadn't even felt it.

"Get out!" House orders. The new guy hovers uncertainty, before recognizing the glint of madness in House's eyes. "Get out!" he yells again, this time to Julia and her husband.

"Jules, go ..." Cuddy says. "House and I need a minute."

Words want to escape Julia. Things like, "You don't have a minute!" and "I can't leave you," are on the tip of her tongue, but she sees two things in her sister's eyes: realization and determination. "I love you," she sobs, not quite sure what else to say.

"I love you too," Cuddy says. "Take good care of Rachel."

Julia scrambles to the find the phone lost in the rubble of her sister's dining room. She takes one last lingering look at her sister and the man who killed her, as her husband ushers her to the sidewalk, now easily accessible through a giant hole in the wall, with his cell phone already out and dialing 911. New guy follows, shocked beyond belief.

The brush House wanted to return falls weakly from his fingertips, as Cuddy slides down the wall she is leaning against, unaware of the thickly streaking trail of blood she leaves as she sits heavily amidst the debris. House falls with her, the pain from his leg not even registering, as he grabs her hands tightly in his. She's too cold, he thinks. She is way too cold.

"House ... H ..." she cries. "I'm sorry."

He laughs, tasting his own tears, not even sure of when he started to cry. "What are you sorry for? I'm the idiot that did this."

"I love you," she says, her voice sounding weak and far away, twin trails of tears dripping from her eyes. "I never ... stopped." She breathes in and it sounds thick and wet like she has emphysema.

"Cuddy, you have to hold on!" House says, knowing how stupid his advice is, but this can't be happening, she can't ... he couldn't have. It is all wrong. A small stream of blood trickles out of the corner of her mouth. A mouth just months ago he rained kisses on, so gently, so lovingly. A mouth he has spent years studying, coveting from afar. "Cuddy!" She loses the valiant fight to keep her eyes open. House shakes her violently. "Lisa, please!" he begs, his voice full of desperation, "Please don't! Please don't go. I'm sorry!"

House is unmindful of all the blood, of the piece of wood jutting from her flesh, of everything as he embraces her, feeling her take one last shuddering breath. Death is a crocodile and she is in its jaws, caught in in its roll with no escape. "I love you," he sobs. "I love you. I love you, Lisa," he lets out a half strangled cry of despair, of rage.

This wasn't supposed to happen. A white hot rage fills him. He lowers her body against the wall reverently and takes the entire picture in. It's absolutely ghastly. He's a doctor, he saves people, he doesn't drive his car into a home and murder the only woman who ever stood by him. He looks at her, his beautiful Cuddy, his friend, his lover.

The sirens are roaring loudly in his ears, and he knows he doesn't have much time.

Awkwardly, he makes his way to her kitchen and finds her set of keys on the counter, right where she always keeps them between the banana stand and the bread box.

House has an exit plan, but it doesn't involve running.

Taking one more look at Cuddy, at the wreckage he caused, House makes his way up to her bedroom like a soldier on a death march. Once there he realizes everything is muted, that there is only the heavy sound of his undeserving breath.

He shuts the bedroom door behind him and locks it, before moving her dresser in front of it. There can be absolutely no distractions.

His hands are shaking as he opens her closet door, finding the fireproof lock box easily. The key is easy to spot, smaller than all the other gold and silver keys that dangle off the ring of the novelty Eiffel Tower key chain that he bought her in France. The heavy, gray box is opened quickly, and he stares at the revealed Beretta 92 pistol Cuddy's father bought her as a gift when she left the nest. The only time it has ever been shot, he knows, was on the firing range when she was learning to shoot. She never liked the gun, but she always kept it in case of an emergency, and House believed she kept it for sentimental reasons. Her father trusted his then 18-year-old daughter to take care of herself.

Unfortunately, House thinks, she wasn't able to use it to protect herself against him.

"Police!" he hears, over the thunderous sound of police boots in tandem running up the stairs.

House clicks off the gun's safety, makes sure it's loaded then holds the silver and black pistol to his head. He doesn't need the urging of the police barreling down the door to make him pull the trigger.

Gregory House killed Lisa Cuddy.

That's enough for him.

Clearing his mind of everything tragic, House thinks of them together. Cuddy and House, Lisa and Greg, cuddling on the couch; he hears her sweet laugh in his ears. "I love you," she whispers in his ear, and for just a moment, he believes that he can truly hear her; that she is really there. His skin breaks out in goosebumps when she appears in front of him, a translucent silhouette. When he looks into her eyes, and she repeats the words, "I love you," he knows she still means it. House gives her apparition a sardonic smile then pulls the trigger. The bang startles the officers; it seems obvious to them what just occurred. They stop trying to break down the door quite so ferociously.

The slug tears through House's unique brain, burrowing like a worm in a rotten apple. Genius gray matter explodes out the other side; his blood sprays thickly against sharp business suits and high heels, his body falling backwards to hit the cream colored carpet, a single spent bullet casing softly landing beside him.

It's all over but the crying.

At least, it should have been.

Fade to black, and Gregory House is standing over his corpse. Lisa Cuddy is standing next to him, and the world seeps in from gray-scale to color. House is so blindingly happy to see Cuddy again that it doesn't dawn on him that they aren't alive and well. She looks radiant, whole.

Taking her offered hand, they walk through the door and the officers that are still attempting to break it down. The officers stop and shudder at the strange coldness that radiates through them. Cuddy and House pay them no mind. They ignore the wail of sirens, the wreckage of the dining room, and make their way to her couch. She laughs, and brings him down with her to sit, her head cradled by his shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Lisa," he says.

"Shh!" she holds a finger to his lips, and it feels so real. It shouldn't feel so real. House thinks that he shouldn't feel heavier, more human as a ghost than he did in life. "I know. Apology accepted."

"What? You can't just accept an apology. I killed you."

"I wasn't really living anyway," she says, "Not without you."

"I killed you!"

"You killed yourself," she offers as a means of defense. "It's already done. Stop worrying about it."

So he does. House stops worrying, and sits there with her on her couch.

They have eternity to work through their issues.

Part II - Umbra ( shade or ghost )

Both House and Cuddy leave the crime scene cleanup crew alone, watching eerily as blood stained hardwood floor and carpeting is removed. The bio-hazard crew is efficient and respectful with what they do. They are there for six hours erasing and removing copious amounts of blood, brain and other bodily fluids from furniture and walls that might be contaminated.

The house is thoroughly cleaned out, boarded up and in the beginning stages of being repaired.

The constant hammering drives Cuddy insane, and more than one construction worker hits their thumb with an unforgiving hammer head. Cuddy doesn't seem to be aware that she's the one that causes the squeals of pain until the foreman shoots himself in the foot with a nail gun, seemingly against his will, no less than five times.

A darkness holds over the house. The workers are suddenly quiet and respectful, trying to do their loud work like little boys trying not to fart in church. House finds it all amusing, but it just makes Cuddy sad.

They talk all day and all night. With whispers, cold spots and large electromagnetic fields. Their energy swirls about the house on a completely different spectrum, and they are okay with it, almost happy for it.

The new window fixture lets in the natural light, but the constructor workers are obsessed with a stain on the wall in the dining room. Giving up, the construction company removes that section of wall and replaces it with a new one. Within twenty minutes the stain is back again. The workers huddle around it, no one daring to touch it this time. After all, it had been a very real fight between them as to who was actually going to remove the place where the pretty doctor died.

"Aquí murió la bonita doctora," a Spanish speaking worker says softly. "Lo siento, señora," he apologizes, because he was the only one brave enough to touch the wall.

They treat the stain as though it is an accursed thing. Their hushed words float around in the air: murder/suicide. House doesn't like the reminder of that day, their "death day," so he thinks of the loud firecracker-like noise the gun made when he shot himself. To his intense satisfaction, the sound resonates through the home and the workers scatter like cockroaches caught in the halo of lamplight. Some of them cross themselves or pray under their breath on the way out.

House thinks that Cuddy's going to be mad at him for the stunt, but instead she smiles indulgently and they enjoy the peace that comes with the emptiness of the home.

They never try to leave because they are both afraid to test the boundaries of their condition past the front door. They are bored easily and endlessly; their curiosity at their ghostly state didn't take long to work through. They feel real to each other, solid, but they sometimes linger alone eating time with the memory of their lives. House pacing in the upstairs closet, a hostile presence. Cuddy loitering in the room that used to be her office, so very sad.

The house is in limbo just as much as they are.

Arlene Cuddy is the first visitor to the house after the construction.

"Mom!" Cuddy exclaims, forgetting, momentarily, that she is not of the living. She puts her arms around her mother and hugs her tightly.

"Good lord, it feels like the Arctic in here," Arlene says to herself, zipping up her fashionable coat in order to ward off the chill.

The old woman painstakingly works her way upstairs despite her constant sore hip. She is satisfied that everything in the house looks brand new. The hardwood floors sparkle with no hint of trauma, the carpeting is fresh and still stinks of plastic.

Arlene unerringly makes her way to the small closet in Cuddy's bedroom. House understand her motives and to her shock, the door clicks open wide in invitation. As he knew she wouldn't be, Arlene Cuddy is not scared by a few supernatural happenings. She takes in the interior of the closet, her hand moving over the freshly painted wall to find exactly where the bullet hit. House doesn't know how she finds it, there's no hole or any kind of tell. She sighs deeply before stating, "You idiot!"

Disgruntled, House slams the closet door shut on the old biddy; Arlene is startled, but her opinion doesn't change. "You're still an idiot, Greg," she says, as though she knows it's him and not Lisa. She bows her head, deep in thought, "I know you loved her," she says begrudgingly.

House's anger deflates, and the door snicks open.

"Idiot!" she says again, before making her way back downstairs.

House finds himself smiling sardonically at Arlene's wry sense of humor. Both House and Cuddy follow her from room to room like puppies in desperate need of attention.

Arlene reaches the dining room and stands still. She stares at the stain on the wall with a frown, her hand hovering over it, before she finally places her fingertips lightly against it. There is deep regret in her steel blue eyes. "I wasn't the greatest mother to you," Arlene says, clearly speaking to Cuddy. "I tried, but I know I did and said hurtful, unnecessary things. You weren't a bad mother, Lisa. You weren't a slut. Please don't think I ever meant those words. I'm sorry. I was, and am, so proud of you." Arlene takes a few deep breaths, until she can compose herself. "The construction workers had some interesting things to say. I would like to believe that you're with your father, but I know you, baby ... you're here with that jackass." Tears trickle down Arlene's face. "You never stopped loving him."

"I love you, Mom," Cuddy says. "I love you." House hears it, but it's barely there. It's only a whisper caught in howling wind.

Arlene sharply turns her head looking in the direction of the voice, but sees nothing; she wipes her tears, looking at the moisture on the back of her hand as though it is a foreign object. Slowly, she makes her way to the front door. Opening it, she steps half way out before looking back in, her expression showing her deep grief, "I love you too, Lisa."


Julia Cuddy visits the next day, toting a sleepy Rachel with her.

Julia's in tears the minute she unlocks the door, trying to cry quietly so as not to alert Rachel to her overwhelming distress.

The toddler seems oddly out of place in the home, seeming to recognize it is not the same place it was the last time she was there. House watches in appreciation as Cuddy's lips turn up in a radiant, soul-searing smile upon seeing her little girl healthy and in the flesh.

Rachel looks right at her. "Hi, mama!"

Cuddy shoots an amazed glance at House, who merely shrugs and says, "You know what they say about kids and pets."

"Hi baby! I've missed you. I love you very much," Cuddy says, not attempting to hug Rachel despite her overwhelming desire to. Suddenly, she feels very cold and lost herself. "I'll always love you."

"Love you too," Rachel's distracted momentarily by House.

"Boo!" House exclaims when the little girl's gaze lands directly on him.

"House!" Rachel exclaims, excited and not at all scared which was the effect he had been going for. "Avast ye, scallywag!"

It's obvious that Julia is terrified with Rachel holding a conversation with her dead mother and her dead deranged ex-boyfriend.

"Rachel, there's no one there!" Julia says, not unkindly. Though it is clear that she is only saying it to comfort herself. She places a stack of pamphlets and business cards on the kitchen counter, and clasps Rachel's hand tightly, ready to leave the house as quickly as possible.

"Mama!" Rachel cries to empty air. "Mama!"

Julia locks the door with shaking hands behind her as she leaves.

Cuddy looks like she's been slapped in the face, and the lights flicker on and off with her mood. House lets her work through it for a while before finally stepping in. "Come on, Cuddles. You don't want to scare the neighbors," House says, knowing deep down that she truly wouldn't want to scare anyone, but her frustration sometimes gets the better of her.

The stain on the wall gets darker, blood-like fluid wells up and drips to the floor.

House reads the business cards with something akin to dread. "The house is up for sale."

Part III: Tristis ( Sad )

The oppressive heat of summer is giving way to the chill of fall before the house finally sells. Arlene Cuddy's realtor is a total shark, managing to avoid telling anyone that two violent deaths occurred in the residence. If asked directly, she would have had to fess up or break the law. It didn't come to that because no one was curious enough to ask or didn't want to know.

Connie Smith, realtor extraordinaire, didn't even bat an eyelash at the stain on the wall. Instead, she found a hand woven tapestry to hang over it. She sprayed Febreeze in the closet, and deftly avoided any supernatural talk. House found her frustrating as she refused to budge to even the scariest of his tricks.

The gunshot sound resulted in Connie narrowing her eyes to slits as she addressed House directly. "It's not going to work on me. This house is getting sold!" Connie was as good as her word uttered from between her porcelain veneers.

The house gets sold, and House and Cuddy watch together as the for sale sign is changed to a SOLD! sign.

Cuddy stays by the window, watching the days and nights go by in a rush. House thinks she looks like a statue, pale and motionless. They don't fight here. Mostly because they are not working in the hospital. There are no crazy procedures that need to be performed, no lives needing to be saved. Without this constant conflict they are broken.

"I bet you miss paperwork," House says for no other reason then to break the silence and hear the sound of his own voice. "I know I miss my Vicodin." He doesn't really. It's just a joke, because he doesn't feel pain.

Cuddy finally turns her eyes away from the window before answering him, "I miss being alive."

House sulks alone in his closet until the new people start moving in. It wasn't a fight, he tells himself, because it was just a statement on Cuddy's part. He feels utterly responsible because as much as he loves Cuddy, he killed her and damned her to this walking death; even if she doesn't say it, he knows that she is here only because he is, in limbo like the last twenty years of her life. If he hadn't been so selfish in killing himself and actually faced the music for once, maybe she would have moved on ... without him. Maybe she would be in a better place.

The movers get everything moved in over the course of one day and the new people spend their first night in what was formerly the Cuddy residence.

The new people are Jennifer and Richard Little, a young couple in their late twenties with a six month old baby boy named Oliver. Jen is an artist who is currently a stay at home mom. Rich is a chiropractor, a pathetic ass and a workaholic. House hates him immediately, because he is handsome, because he is rich and because he is exactly the type of man Cuddy would have, should have wanted in her life. Not that she ever had a chance with House around. No, their dysfunction stayed between the two of them. Two doctors past their prime with no rings on their fingers or biological children to attest to the fact that they were ever alive. Jen and Rich's life is a sick little fantasy that never saw the light of day for either one of them.

The Littles are the perfect family they never had and would never have in every way.

House absolutely loathes them from their pretty blond heads to their disgusting taste in furniture.

"Seriously," House asks Cuddy, "Who buys leather furniture?"

"Apparently, they do," Cuddy says frowning at him over the horrible orange-red atrocity of a couch.

"Richard Little. Cuddy, you know what that translates to? Dick Little! Ha!" House smirks upon seeing the small smile grace Cuddy's features.

Cuddy is in love with baby Oliver. She stays with him at night just staring at him, sometimes singing sweetly. Instead of being angry with Cuddy for showing the baby attention, House lets her have time with him because he knows it makes her happy. She adores the blue eyed boy and spends most of her time engaging him when he's awake. Small things like moving the planets on the milky way mobile above his crib, making his stuffed dog squeak. Anything and everything that allows her to interact with him without the baby being scared.

The second week the Littles live there, Jen Little hears a woman singing over the baby monitor. She thinks nothing of it, brushing it off as interference from the radio or someone's cell phone. A few days later, she hears the woman again, this time in a long melodic laugh that is actually quite beautiful. When Jen investigates, all she finds is a happy, smiling Oliver staring at a fixed point on his space mobile that hangs above the crib. It's when she's doing laundry one day, that she truly gets scared. She hears a man's voice as clear as day over the monitor. It's not just what he is saying, but how he's saying it that causes her green eyes to widen with terror.

"Lisa, please!" the man begs, his voice full of anguish, "Please don't! Please don't go. I'm sorry!"

Jen feels sickened, the hair on the back of her neck rises and her flesh breaks out in goose bumps; she immediately rushes to Oliver's room, picking him up from his crib and holding him close. That clearly wasn't the sound of a cell phone conversation. It was an entire phrase. With Oliver cradled to her chest, Jen makes a sweep of every room, turning on the lights, checking closets and under the bed. There is no one there with her. She stares at the Uniden cordless phone in her hand, aware of the white-knuckled grip she has on it. Slowly, she relaxes her hand even though she knows she couldn't have possibly imagined that.

House and Cuddy watch Jen and Rich unwind for the night, laying in their bed, the TV playing softly.

"I think there's something in the house," Jen whispers to her husband, as though they can't hear her.

"Don't be ridiculous, honey. It's just you and me and Oliver," Richard is clearly a skeptic.

"No, I mean, I've been hearing some weird stuff over the baby monitor the last few days," Jen clarifies.

Rich sighs, a drawn out drama queen - I'm only listening to humor you - sigh. "Like what?"

"Usually ... it's just a woman. She's singing or laughing. But today, Rich, today I heard something that scared me more than I ever have been in my life. I heard a man begging someone not to go, saying he was sorry. He sounded so scared, so desperate. It can't be any of the neighbors. We met them all, we know what they sound like ..." Jen is close to hyperventilating.

"Calm down, honey," Rich says, rubbing her back affectionately, "calm down. It's okay. I'm sure it was just interference. You're home all day with Oliver, you're lonely ..."

Immediately Jen is angry. "Don't blame it all on being bored, Rich. It's not that. It's not that at all!"

"Okay, okay. I'm sorry," Rich tries to placate her but the I'm sorry brings back the memory and Jen turns pale. "I didn't know it bothered you that much."

"Whoops," House says. "Accident!"

"I just ..." Jen continues, "I just feel like I'm being watched. All the time. All day, all night. Are you sure nothing bad has ever happened here?"

"No, no. I'll call the real estate agent tomorrow, Jen. I promise."

Cuddy stays away from Oliver that night. Rich doesn't make good on his promise to call the realtor. The next few weeks Jen gets increasingly hyper alert, jumping at every noise. She is not sleeping well. When she does sleep she has dreams filled with blood, the smell of pennies invading her nostrils when she wakes up. In an effort to relax, she takes out her paints and a fresh canvas.

The brush strokes come easy to her. Jen is in the zone, not even aware of what she is painting but the black and the flesh tones meet at the slope of a determined jaw; blue and gray merge like the sky before a hurricane into two haunted eyes and in between there is slightly imperfect nose. She paints the dusky rose of the woman's lips caught in a generous, wistful smile and Jen is finished. As if waking from a stupor, she realizes she has drawn a woman she doesn't even know. Above it she painted the woman's name, "Lisa."

As she runs to the bathroom to throw up, House gazes thoughtfully at the painting. "It's pretty good," he tells Cuddy. "It looks just like you."

"Did you make her paint that?" Cuddy accuses, glaring at him.


"Are you lying?"

"Maybe," House answers playfully.

"Not funny!" Cuddy fumes.

"It wasn't meant to be. I wanted you to see what I see when I look at you," House tells her, averting his gaze from hers. Neither of them registers the sounds of Jen Little being viciously ill in the bathroom.

After staring at the picture for a while, Cuddy says, "I look so sad."

House stares at her intently. "Exactly."

Part IV Metus ( fear, anxiety )

Richard stares at the painting the next morning with a spoon full of Cheerios turning sponge-like in 2% milk. As a skeptic, it is in his nature to be absolutely logical. In the case of the painting, he is not sure he can be. Maybe Jen knew the woman in life. Maybe she passed by her at a store, at a gas station and her features imprinted in Jen's memory. Instead of putting the spoon in his mouth, Richard drops it into the bowl heavily, ignoring the splash of milk on the table from the force of it.

Getting up from the kitchen table, he makes his way to the office and finds his Rolodex searching for their realtor's phone number.

He dials the phone as he walks back into the kitchen. "Connie, hi. This is Richard Little. I just have a quick question about the house my wife and I purchased from you ... did someone die here?"

There is a pregnant silence on the other end of the conversation. "I'm not sure," Connie glosses over like a pro, "I've heard some things but ..."

Richard sighs before asking, "Does the name Lisa mean anything to you?"

Connie immediately looks for a quick exit, "Hey, I'm sorry Mr. Little, I'm super busy. I'll have to get back to you."


Just like that Richard is listening to silence.

"Don't say her name! You don't get to say her name!" House yells angrily, before slapping the bowl of cereal off of the table.

To his surprise the bowl actually moves. It looks like slow motion as the blue glass bowl descends from the tiled table top to the hard wood floor beneath it, before it shatters into a million pieces.

Richard's heart is in his throat. There is broken glass and Cheerios all over the floor; the metal spoon still seems to be ringing from the force of the fall in his ears, but all Richard can do is stare dumbly at his cell phone which is still open. He feels a deep, upsetting coldness in his bones. If he exhales from his mouth, he is sure he will see the puff of his breath like he's standing outside on a cold winter morning.

The phone is silent, but the peaceful beach wallpaper goes black. A woman's face appears on the small cellphone screen. She is beautiful, appearing to be in her early 40s with wavy black hair, limpid blue eyes full of resignation and a smear of blood staining the corners of her pink full lips.

"I'm sorry!" she whispers, her eyes fixed to the side as though she is staring at someone to her right. The screen flickers, fuzzy static but then it's clear again. "I love you," she says.

Richard drops the phone like a hot potato. It falls to the floor another victim among the glass, Cheerios and rapidly souring milk. He can hear the sound of his own breath in his ears, anxious, panicked and afraid. The small cell phone screen goes black, then shatters like a window under the force of a misdirected baseball.

There is no picture, but he hears her voice, unique and sexy like it's in his head. "I never stopped," she says.

Richard can't ignore it. He can't brush it under the rug and tell his wife it's all in her head. His adrenaline is working over time, but he tries to calm his breathing down. He feels like his entire body is caught in a tar pit, the fear suffocating him like the black muck. As quickly as the feeling comes, it goes.

His eyes wide, all Richard Little can say is, "Well ... shit."

Jen is feeding baby Oliver when House tries it the first time. He jumps into the little boy's body, opens his mouth and uses his senses to taste the first food he's had since he died.

Unfortunately for House, it's carrot baby food. Jen's been slowly introducing her baby to solids. Much to Jen's dismay, Oliver's face scrunches up and he spits the food everywhere.

Jen scowls. "What's the matter, Ollie? You love your carrots!"

"You shouldn't do that," Cuddy admonishes House. "It's not right."

"You're not the boss of me," House quips, now out of the baby, who only giggles up at them innocently and eats his carrots with no fuss and no muss. "You should try it. I'd wait until the bananas because I don't remember carrots tasting that terrible."

"You could really taste again?" Cuddy asks, intrigued.

House's blue eyes widen comically, "Really and truly!"

"Where did Oliver go when you were in there?" she asks. Typical Cuddy worried about the kid's welfare.

"Kid was still there. Just in the background ... like the radio playing in an elevator," House explains.

"Interesting." Cuddy furrows her brow, appearing to be deep in thought. "Jen's hired a paranormal investigators to come and check out the house," Cuddy tells him, being the only one privy to that conversation. House was too busy at the time loitering in his closet, trying to give Richard the willies while he got dressed for work.

"Oh, that's gonna be fun!" House rubs his hands together and gives Cuddy his best impression of an evil laugh.

After a long day at work, Richard unwound for a while, ate dinner with his wife and rocked his son to sleep. The nursery seems like the only place in the house that is free from darkness. Jen's asleep in the bedroom, the covers pulled up and half covering her face as though the quilt can protect her. Quietly, he makes his way to his office and turns on the computer, ready to investigate on his own.

Cuddy stares at the man as he makes himself comfortable in his expensive office chair. His features are Nordic, natural blond hair cut close in a conservative style to suit his professional work standard. His eyes are so blue they are almost silver. She finds him attractive, but boring. He is in her space, sitting in her office, in her home. Despite being dead, she finds she is still attached to this room. She misses the clack of the computer keyboard's keys beneath her fingertips. It's sad that she even misses the long hours of analyzing spread sheets and payroll documents.

She watches intently as Richard brings up Google and types in the address of the house.

The first link that shows up is for a newspaper article from The Princeton Packet, Princeton's local newspaper.

Richard's eyes widen as he reads the headline.

World Renown Doctor Kills Dean of Medicine, Self

Google gives Richard dozens of links, all with the same type of macabre headlines.

Crazed Doctor Kills Girlfriend then Self

Princeton Plainsboro Rocked by Murder Suicide

Two Dead in Apparent Murder/Suicide

The accompanying photos show Dr. Lisa Cuddy, Dean of Medicine at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, the same woman Jen painted and the same woman Richard saw on his cell phone. There is also a picture of Dr. Gregory House, world renown diagnostician. In the photo the man has a smirk on his scruffy face, his blue eyes alight with intelligence.

Richard thinks he looks slightly disturbed despite his distinguished features.

On one site he is able to find a picture of the doctors together. The setting is casual and when Richard looks a little deeper he realizes that the wallpaper matches the wallpaper in the house. They are sitting on a couch, Lisa curled up on Greg's side like a cat, her arm around his shoulders, a soft smile on her lips. Greg House has an arm wrapped around her back, his fingers spread on her rib cage in a comfortable but possessive manner, their free hands are interlocked with one another in a tight hold, his long fingers twined with hers. Both looked like they never wanted to let go.

Their love transmits through the photo as though it is solid.

Richard is baffled that it ended in such a tragic way.

Cuddy watches as the man shuts down his computer and turns off his dimmed office light. The reminder of the photo Wilson snapped at a weekend get together churns in her gut. It was one of the few times both she and House were completely relaxed, happy just to exist. She follows Richard to the bedroom, where he gets under the covers and snuggles close to his wife, as though he's afraid he's going to lose her.

Cuddy finds House in his closet, a loitering heavy presence. His eyes are full of anger for reasons unknown, and she takes his hand in her own and watches him calm from a lion to a lamb.

They don't speak, neither of them wanting to ruin the moment. Having one another close is enough for now. Their fingers twine together. House's talented piano fingers mixing with her thin, delicate fingers. This, their hands, their fingers, have always told the story of their love, of their connection.

They never want to let it go.

Part V Numquam ( Never )

A Poem written on the wall at Bobby Mackey's Music World, located in Kentucky, that was allegedly written by a person who now haunts it. Some people refer to it as, "Johanna's Poem."

"My love is as deep as the sea
that flows forever
You ask me when it will end
I tell you never

My love is as bright as the sun
that shines forever
You ask me when it will end
I tell you never

The world may disappear
like a castle of sand
But I'll be waiting here
with my heart in my hand

My love, I love you so much
now and forever
You ask me when it will die
I'll tell you NEVER

My heart cries
My love is / I tell you never."

House enjoys the paranormal investigators from Ghost Chasers. He does everything he can to give them the evidence that they so covet. All the normal bases are covered. He spikes their electromagnetic frequency devices to the max, focuses his energy on giving them a fantastic man shaped cold spot on their thermal camera and he even answers most of their questions through an Electronic Voice Phenomena session.

The four person investigation team each have a look of intense concentration as they listen for any sign that someone from beyond the grave is with them.

Marcy Halloran is a 22-year-old college student who sometimes indulges herself with her paranormal obsession. Her voice from the digital recorder booms in the otherwise quiet room during playback.

"Are you dead?"

"Yes!" House says as though they are morons. What kind of dumb question is that? And she is a college student?

The investigating team's eyes all go wide with the clarity of the response. Usually EVPs come out garbled or distorted, but the answer and even the tone is crystal clear.

The next question is slightly better. "Who are you?"

"Greg House," he says simply, like he is introducing himself in the flesh.

"Oh my god," Mitch Grenfield, the units technical director, says. "It sounds like he's saying 'Get Out.'"

"I can't work with these idiots!" House rolls his eyes. "I'm obviously saying my name. Greg House! Greg House!"

"Is Lisa here?" Mitch asks, finally joining the EVP session.

"Yes." It's a whisper, just as clear and precise as the first EVP, but this time it's a woman's dulcet tone.

Yes. Yes. Yesss. Marcy plays it over and over again, nearly flinching with each replay, her fingers trembling as she hits the button on the digital recorder. "I can't believe we established two spirits."

Bang! The sound is thunderous like an exploding missile. The investigators don't even have time to recover from the shock of the noise before the sound of glass shattering fills their ears. Everything with a battery turns off as the energy stored in them inexplicably drains. Despite the loud noises, nothing has actually exploded or broken. The rest of the EVP session is forgotten in lieu of the present developments.

"I'm sorry!" House's voice booms through the home, and House the ghost is a little intrigued by the fact that he hasn't actually said it. "Cuddy, my dear, I think that's what we ghostly types might call a residual haunting. Strange, because we are right here."

Cuddy is against him, her essence lingering with his. Photos from full spectrum cameras will only show two small white orbs hovering together.

"I don't like this," Cuddy reveals to him.

"Lisa, please!" Again, it is House's voice like the great and powerful OZ, omniscient and intangible, caught in a fracture of time. Cuddy flinches at the words, vividly reminded of the moments before her death; she swears she can taste the coppery tang of blood in the back of her throat. "Lisa, please!" It repeats, like the uncontrolled force that it is. One more time in a whisper it sounds, "Lisa, please!"

If the investigators were scared before, it is nothing compared to how they feel now. None of them have ever experienced anything so strong in their entire pursuit of truth.

An image appears over the wall right on the spot where the tapestry was removed, where the liquid sometimes forms and drips. It's the size of a 50 inch television but appears grainy as though shot on film that had been ravaged by time. It flickers, but it is clearly a woman sitting alone in what looks like a bright yellow nursery, a white crib filled with baby items sits beside her, almost mocking her. She looks devastated, crushed by the weight of the world. It's her misery projected on mute, particles of silver slashing through in random intervals.

For an instant, the investigators stop breathing. No one exclaims anything, no one even picks up a camera to document the moment. They are stuck in the icy grip of the paranormal, their parasympathetic systems working in overdrive.

The scene changes. Now there is a man with the woman and instead of looking depressed, she looks angry and is steadily invading his personal space. He looks like a cobra caught writhing in the grasp of a snake charmer's melody, wanting to bite but all he can do is dance. They lean in toward one another as though they are drawn by a force more powerful than themselves. The gap between them closes and their lips meet, clashing together like thunder and lightning.

Just as suddenly, he backs off and she stares at him, bewildered and aroused.

"Good night," the man says, his voice soft.

"Good night," she replies, her lips swollen from kissing and her eyes transmitting how she feels as though she is transparent.

Which is funny, House thinks, because now she is.

The image projected lingers on the woman's face displaying her feelings for them all to see. Desire, yearning, love, confusion and anger all merge together in her expression with an undercurrent of sadness. The fabricated screen goes blank, leaving the wall with a strange green square glowing in the inky black of darkness. The investigators are scared, having never been confronted with such a strong impression of spirit activity.

"I don't understand," Cuddy says, "That never even happened here."

For once, House doesn't have an answer for her.

Mitch scurries out of the room, runs down to the basement and quickly finds the circuit box, giving the house electricity again. The lights come on, glaringly bright, and the investigation crew is bathed in fluorescence. They are safe and sound but forever changed. Together they search the room for possible projectors, cameras or anything that could explain what just happened but there is nothing.

House joyously proclaims, "Now that is a way to end a a ghost hunt!"

Jennifer and Richard are fully informed that they own a haunted house. It isn't exactly news to them, but it is a relief to hear it from other people. Jen wants to move, but Rich is stubborn, convinced that the activity will stop and fully aware that they simply do not have the money at this point. They fight about it for a tense three days, before Richard compromises with his wife and visits a new age metaphysical store where he buys their entire inventory of sage bushels in order to prepare for a cleansing ritual, known among experts as a "ghost smudge."

Richard waits until Jen takes Oliver to the park, then meticulously cracks every window in the house. "I wouldn't have to do this," he says, addressing the ghosts, "if you guys would just ... I don't know, go to the light!"

House smirks, and even Cuddy cracks a smile at the young chiropractor's slightly sarcastic attitude.

"You're not going to go to Hell if you move on, you know ..." Rich continues on with the ritual, lighting a bushel of sage with a match, and holding it over a small garbage can. Slowly walking from room to room, he feels like an idiot.

Still, the stoner behind the register at Dream Crystals said it was the only way to truly get the ghosts out. It was absurd, really. A stain was a stain, and let's face it, some stains just won't come out no matter what kind of detergent you use. He would try though, for Jen and Oliver. "This sage is cleansing all the negative energy. Leave through the windows and do not return." His voice is calm, unwavering. He is determined that people from beyond the grave will not have power over him.

"Hey, I feel kinda funny," House says, his blue eyes appearing to dilate.

"He wants us to leave," Cuddy tells him, letting out a short chuckle, "but I think he's drugging us!"

"Oh my god, I hate him a little less for this ..." House says with a sigh. "This feels so good! Like ... vicodin."

Cuddy lets out a sweet little laugh that is like music to House's ears. "I think I like him a little more than I did before he lit that sage, too."

Neither doctor could figure out how sage could make them high when they didn't even have human senses. Emotions, yes. Senses, no.

They follow Richard around the house listening to him ramble on. He tells them to follow the light, find their bliss, leave through the windows and so on. There is so much smoke from the sage it billows around him like a puffy, off-color cloud.

It's weird, but House feels that it's truly relaxing him. He can see it has relaxed Cuddy. The entire house feels as though it is at peace.

House contemplates telling Cuddy that he feels like he could just escape through the windows like vapor. Finally, against his better judgement, he does so. "You know, we could leave right now. I don't feel any kind of barrier."

She shakes her head, the wide goofy smile never leaving her face. "I know."

Richard's voice is in the background like white noise. "In the name of the Lord, this house is now fully cleansed."

They can feel Richard's hope that the ritual worked, but they know better. He is not the one with the power here.

"Do you want to go?" House asks, his voice hesitant, unsure. He is as afraid of her answer as he was of the look on her face when she visited his apartment after her surgery to tell him she was breaking up with him.

Cuddy's face looks serene, positively angelic. With a solemn look in her eyes, Cuddy answers House's question, "Never."

Part VI: Mortalitas ( being mortal )

House has caught Cuddy jumping into Jennifer here and there. She says she doesn't like it, but the urge to experience with senses once again is too much of a temptation for her to resist. She doesn't loiter. Her violations are for small things. She violates for a thirty second co-habitation to share the smell of lilies as Jennifer dips her nose close to a bouquet of flowers and inhales, not even aware of the invasion. She sneaks in to taste a spoon full of Ben and Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream or an expensive chardonnay on the tip of her tongue. Once, she even did it just to feel the sensation of holding a pen in her hand again.

They each experienced it in gender opposite bodies. House jumped into Jen, Cuddy into Richard but they were each uncomfortable and awkward as it was not a perfect fit. It was like trying to force a puzzle piece into a space it wasn't meant for.

Neither of them try it again. House stays out of Jen, Cuddy gives Richard a wide berth.

"It doesn't feel right," Cuddy says, when they discuss their body snatching.

"But it feels so good!" House quips, not feeling at all guilty about stealing precious moments from Richard's life. The moments he takes are things that Richard won't even miss or will experience a million more times in his life. House is dead, and each moment he takes from Richard is a moment that he spends alive again, being human again.

House is much more of a man about it. He all but pushes Richard to the side to devour an 8oz steak, inhabits him to take command of the remote control and takes him over completely in the shower during his morning masturbation ritual. It's amazing how good an orgasm can feel when it's technically not even your own. So far, Richard hasn't noticed anything unusual with his own behavior.

Since the ghost smudge, the activity has calmed down to a non-existent level. He doesn't even realize that they are still there.

"What if something is here with us?" Cuddy suggests, her tone a little hesitant as if broaching the subject at all frightens her.

"Relax, Cuddy. We're not in starring in The Others," House mocks.

"I don't mean them, you ass! I mean, something like us. Something not quite living. Those projected moments of our lives ... we can't be causing that. Can we?" Cuddy's brow furrows with the thought. It just doesn't seem right that something like that could be beyond their control. It doesn't seem right that something or someone else could be causing the paranormal behavior. "That was a personal memory. What if that keeps happening? What if it shows things I don't want to it to show?" She frowns, clearly upset by the concept.

House is still stuck on body snatching, so he ignores her questions in favor of his own. "So, about the jumps? Let's do it at the same time," House suggests his voice laden with innuendo, when he spots Jen and Richard snuggling on the couch.

Cuddy pretends to think it over, but House knows she will cave. Just like when she was alive, her will is practically non-existent when it concerns him.

House quickly shifts into Richard, wearing his body like a second skin; he feels like the ultimate puppet master. Seeing with Richard's eyes, feeling with Richard's hands, tasting with Richard's tongue. Possession, the darker form of a haunting or so he's heard. It doesn't matter. All that matters to House is that it is possible and therefore it must be explored thoroughly.

When House takes Richard over, Cuddy can only see House: vividly alive. He has a heart-beat, a pulse, the need to breathe. The thought of being able to touch him for real, to feel the texture of warm skin beneath her fingertips, is what seals the deal for her. She quickly merges with Jen, and instantly feels a jolt of emotion as House tenderly caresses the side of her face with his hand. Cuddy leans into the warm, loving touch, craving it in the familiar way she had while living. If she were a cat at that moment, she would purr.

"You feel so good," It should be Richard's voice Cuddy should be hearing, but all she hears is House.

House traces her lips with his fingertips, the softness of them. It feels wonderful. The warm heat of her breath is almost too much for him. She leans in kissing him lightly, almost chastely. Before she starts to feel guilty for this weird flesh violation, she dives in the deep end and pours all of her feelings into the kiss, transmitting them from her lips to his. The spark between them is passionate, unbearable, and before she does something she'll regret, Cuddy flees Jennifer's body and House is left making out with a stranger.

House notices the instant Cuddy leaves.

Jen turns back into Jen.

Without Cuddy the kiss goes from liquid fusion to a bucket of ice water. The way Jen kisses is unfamiliar and unwanted but her husband must enjoy it; House can't leave Richard fast enough. Better to leave them to their vanilla sex.

House is disgusted that the last lips against his belonged to a woman that wasn't his.

Cuddy is overwhelmed and has retreated to her office. The door practically has a do not enter sign on it. House goes back to his closet and tries not to think about how wonderful it felt to kiss her again; how it felt great to truly be alive with her again.

How could he have been so stupid with so many things?

How could he have wasted the last twenty years of his life not showing Cuddy how much he loved her, every way and every day?

Why had it been so much easier to let them both sink in their own misery-filled quick sand?

What in the world did he think ramming his car through her house would accomplish? Obviously manslaughter wasn't on his mind. It wasn't premeditated, but House knows the paper deemed her death a murder anyway. A Manslaughter/Suicide headline wouldn't make newspapers fly off the shelves quite as much as a Murder/Suicide headline would. House never meant to kill her. Ever. Not in a million years. Alive he was a self-abusing masochist, a drug addict and a jerk, but he was no murderer. Especially to the only woman he ever gave one hundred percent of himself to besides his mother. He remembers begging her not to break up with him. "I can do better," he said. Though the tragic outcome of their relationship proved him wrong.

Cuddy appears beside him in the closet. She sits on the floor and he immediately moves to sit next to her.

"I didn't meant to leave," Cuddy explains. It's not exactly an apology, but House doesn't want one.

"I know," he says. "Kissing Jen was gross. I only want to kiss you."

Cuddy stays silent at his romantic declaration.

House has an insane idea and why not go for it? "I'm not trying to pressure you, but they don't seem to know when we're there ..."

"What are you suggesting?" Cuddy asks, wanting him to be direct, her steel blue eyes connecting with his ice blue eyes.

"The next time Jen and Rich have sex we jump into them and then jump each other," House says with a salacious wag of his brows.

Cuddy is intrigued and dismayed at the same time. "I'm not even comfortable kissing you in her body. They will know. They will feel used ... they might move."

The truth is, she is worried about losing Oliver. The baby is who she devotes most of her time to. There is no hospital, no paperwork, no meetings, no emergencies ... but there is cute as a button Oliver, who she can spend her time with just watching, protecting and even loving him like her own.

Only there is something about House's eyes when he is asking her to move outside her comfort zone that makes Lisa Cuddy turn into a pile of goo. She bites her bottom lip gently in a nervous, unsure gesture. It's a sure sign that she is stressed. "I'll think about it."

Cuddy hopes they won't be breaking some kind of unwritten rule.

That night Jen and Rich are in bed making love, completely unaware that they are being watched. The bedroom seemed to be free of paranormal activity and it had died down completely after the smudging.

They are finally comfortable in their own home.

House and Cuddy watch them with longing, each wanting to be able to show the other how they feel with a physical connection.

Jen and Rich have a boring sex life.

House and Cuddy have twenty years on them. Perhaps, Cuddy thinks, it might be good for their marriage to have a little variety. Without any kind of cajoling, Cuddy makes her way with House to the writhing couple on the bed.

"Don't make me feel her. Not even for a second," House says in a pleading tone.

"I won't," Cuddy answers firmly. She has no intention of House having sex with someone who is not her. Not even for a second.

Instantly they are controlling the body of the lovers, already physically connected. They still all movement just to bask in the feeling of being one again. House slowly starts the movement of Richard's hips, wanting to cherish this time with Cuddy completely. She lets out a moan of pleasure, her lips curling into a brilliant, sensual smile.

"House," she sighs into his open mouth, eagerly battling his tongue with her own. "House ..." his name is like a mantra. She says it over and over again with each thrust of his hips.

House is enjoying the youthful vigor of Richard's body as well as the fact that there is no leg pain accompanying his movements. Most of all, he's enjoying Cuddy. Her throaty alto moans have been something he's missed immensely.

Cuddy feels it first. There's a sensation that is like whiplash, the feeling of Jen knowing she's been imprisoned in her own shell, recognizing that her mouth is saying words she isn't thinking, that her hips are rolling in a way that is not natural to her body. House feels the same thing when Richard seems to realize things are a little off, that he's not fully enjoying his union with his wife.

"She's trying ... to push me out," Cuddy says sadly between moans, tears dripping from the corner of her eyes. She needs this, she needs House more than Jen can possibly understand.

"No," House says, feeling the same thing from Richard. "No!"

They each steel their resolve. They painfully lash out on the inside to keep Jen and Richard's souls trapped and impotent while they use their bodies.

They aren't leaving until they are finished.

Their hips roll to meet one another, the buildup nearly unbearable. The sensations are phenomenal. The taste of Cuddy's lips, the feel of her breasts against his chest, and the overwhelming feeling of love that radiated from her were all too much for House to handle. For Cuddy it is the gentle way he holds her to him, the way he works her body like an instrument that makes her feel so loved that tears fall freely from her eyes.

They both climax at the same time. It's romantic and yet not, because it is at the cost of their hijacked hosts.

As they both ride the aftershocks of their bliss, House leans in and whispers in her ear, "I love you, Cuddy."

He hears it repeated back to him just as softly. "I love you, too, House."

A dark shadow looms over the pair of lovers. Instantly, they remove themselves from their human hosts, and stare up at it in terror, not quite sure what to do or what it is.

An angry woman's voice, not Jen's, booms through the room. "You SLUT! Doctor SLUT Bitch! Did you enjoy fucking my husband?"

Cuddy looks both alarmed and ashamed at the words, holding herself as close to House as she possibly could. She wonders if this is her punishment for their violation.

The voice continues on, "Well, did you? We've been married for 12 years! We have three kids! Did you think of that when you were spreading them?"

It's clearly a voice from a memory. One that Cuddy doesn't like.

She leaves the room and heads for the den, and House makes his way to his closet.

The night is officially ruined, and House thinks Cuddy might be onto something about the fact that there is someone or something else there with them. There is no way she would have shared that moment of her life with him. He didn't hear her side of the story but sleeping with a married man didn't sound like something Cuddy would do. Then again, he never thought she would be the type to sleep with her father's best friend until Wilson informed him otherwise. He would give her some time alone then he would pick at her until she told him her side.

Richard and Jen are still wide-eyed and panting on the bed, so deeply disturbed they don't even respond to the bellowing voice they just heard.

"Yeah," Rich says to Jen, "It's time to move."

Part VII: Abstrusus ( Secret )

House watches Cuddy despondently watching the Littles pack up their belongings. When Jen was in the shower earlier in the morning, Cuddy made it a point to apologize. She wrote, "Sorry" in the condensation on the bathroom mirror's surface. She even included a little sad face. Her guilt eats at her. House thinks it's stupid. He waited until Cuddy left and wrote beneath her script, "I'm not!" and added a happy face.

The Littles are moving. There's nothing they can do to stop them.

Cuddy spends as much time with Oliver as possible, keeping the baby in a constant state of smiles while House glowers at her from across the room. Jen and Richard don't seem to notice that Oliver is not being entertained by the television as much as he is by a ghost.

"You haven't explained that audio in the bedroom," House says churlishly.

Cuddy's shoulders stiffen and she doesn't move to look at him when she answers. "I wasn't aware I had to explain it. How do we know it's not your memory?"

"Yeah, I've been called a lot of things but a slut isn't one of them." It's a low blow, but he's angry by her silence. He just wants to understand. Cuddy should know more than anyone that he can't stand not knowing; he can't stand it when the puzzle is missing pieces.

"Are we fighting?" Cuddy asks, turning around to look him in the eye.

"Do we have to label every interaction?" House asks, answering a question with a question. It is the easiest way to get Cuddy angry.

Cuddy's anger is simmering. It's not at a boil, but it's still being cooked. "I didn't know he was married, okay? I dated him for three years and had no clue that he had a wife and kids. No clue that I was his ..." She trails off, overwhelmed with the memory. "His wife stalked me for a year. She vandalized my car ..."

An image appears on the TV, a black screen at first, before clearing up for House to see. If they had been paying attention, Richard and Jen would have been able to see it too.

It's a white 1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. The windows are smashed out, the seats are ripped to shreds. The word, "Slut" is spray painted on both sides in a bold red. It's also written on the hood of the sweet little sports car, super imposing itself over the black painted bird, the letters lining up with its wingspan.

"Oh." Now that he knows it's kind of a let down.

"I just don't want Rachel growing up thinking you're a slut," Arlene Cuddy's omniscient voice blares out for everyone to hear.

"I can't wait to move!" Richard exclaims, throwing the packing tape he was holding to the floor. He's sick of hearing voices, of everything. "This is ridiculous! I can't deal with these dead people's issues! I have my own issues!"

Jen merely sighs.

Moments from Cuddy's life blur together alarmingly for them all to hear. This time there are no pictures to accompany the drama.

"My sister's such a slut!" From a teenage Julia who didn't know Cuddy was still in the room while she talked to her friend.

"You're a slut, Lisa Cuddy." From the head cheerleader of the school, the pot calling the kettle black.

"Everyone knows you're a slut. So, what do you say? You wanna go out with me? I hear you give BJs." From a pimply faced sixteen year old boy.

"The parade of boyfriends can't be as amusing as it was ..." Mom, again.

"Dean of Medicine? More like Dean of Slutsville." Dr. Wang in Pediatrics to his fellow Doctor.

"You're not going outside wearing that, Lisa. I don't need the neighbors telling me what a slut I have for a daughter." Mom again.

"Slut." Random teenagers walking the halls of high school. "Slut." It never seemed to stop. "Slut!"

"Stop crying! I know you want it. Take it like the little slut you are!" Her father's best friend, Robert Elliot.

A very real scream of anguish echoes from wall to wall. It is just a memory, a phantom scream. It doesn't stop Cuddy from flinching at the sound of her own voice.

Baby Oliver tenses his entire body at the sound of the scream then bursts into tears of his own. Jen quickly moves to pick up her bawling infant; Richard moves to hold her to him, his arm across his wife's shoulders protectively.

"She's lying, Ed." The man's voice is distorted and sounds evil.

"I'm your best friend." The same man, his voice booming through the house like an old walkman from the 80s when the batteries ran low. "I-I'mmmmm yooour beeestfrieeend!"

"I know you're her father, but I also know you know that I wouldn't do that to you or to her!" Robert Elliot, obviously lying.

"Stoooop crying. Ssstop crying. Stop CRYING!"

Jen sniffles, knowing that what they are hearing is a disturbing moment of evil brought alive by memory.

Richard is just angry.

Oliver continues to cry.

Cuddy flees the living room with the hope that the words will stop. House didn't think it was possible for a ghost to look that pale. He follows her, this time for support instead of an interrogation. Those were private memories, things that she had obviously never felt the need to share with him while he was alive, never mind now. He had no idea that her issues went that deep or that she was that damaged but he was always too self-absorbed to recognize when someone else was in pain.

"Let's hire movers for the rest of the stuff, Rich," Jen says. "I want to leave now."

The house is quiet. Too quiet. It's just House, Cuddy and whatever darkness is messing with them.

Three's Company.

The house is empty. There is nothing left. Everything has been moved out.

"So, our relationship was crap, huh Cuddy?" House snaps at her in a fit of boredom.

"What do you mean?" she asks, her eyes narrowed with her thousand yard stare.

"You never told me anything. You never trusted me. About that word, about your mother, about your father's best friend raping you ... ring any bells?"

"It was in the past," she says, her voice tinged with sadness. "I preferred that it stayed that way. My dad believed him. He never forgave me for my 'allegations.' It was always a bone of contention between us right up until the day he died."

House sighs. "If I had known, I would've been ... I don't know ..."

"Nicer?" Cuddy laughs. "It wouldn't have changed anything. I didn't want it to change anything!"

House envelopes her in his arms anyway. He feels her relax without actually feeling anything at all. "I'm sorry." It is genuine, said from the heart and he can see it affects her right away.

"Okay," she says, burying her face in his shoulder.

For a while, with each other, they can forget about everything.

They stay in that position all night.

The house is playing tricks on them. They both know it. They each get caught up in memories that didn't belong to them. Their pasts merge together in audio and video segments like a film and they are left wondering: who is the editor? It is making them on edge. Neither of them are willing to stay close to one another because it's easier to stay apart and not have to explain uncomfortable moments away. They each have dozens of slights, of hurts, of betrayals that can play over and over again and that was excluding the ones they have caused to each other.

Cuddy sees House laying on the floor, a halo of blood and brain matter around his head, his body so still and his eyes wide open. At that moment of death he was completely accepting of his fate because he had chosen it for himself, leaving life on his own terms. It doesn't make it any easier for her to see it. She thinks their relationship must have been tainted somehow for it to have ended up like this.

It's ridiculous that they are now haunting not only the house, but also each other.

"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, Daddy! Please ... please let me out! I'll be good. I promise!"

Cuddy is lulled out of her state of inertia by the pleas of a little boy. The black shadow is in the corner, and she swears for a moment that she sees it smile in blood red with the eyes of a rabid dog. It is not a memory shown like a video. Instead the little boy's voice sounds like it's nearby. Cuddy feels like she is living in the memory. She is lost in the inky black of timelessness. The little boy is right beside her, curled up in a ball, no more than six years old.

"I'm sorry, Daddy! Please!" The boy is banging his tightly curled up fist against a door. Cuddy sees a smear of blood across the white paint from the boys knuckles repeatedly begging to be free by knocking against hard wood.

"Hey," Cuddy says, "It'll be okay." It is instinct to calm this little boy.

"It's dark in here. I don't want to be here! Please let me out! OUT!" The boy is all tears and it is at that moment that Cuddy realizes that they are in a closet.

A man's suits from the 60s are hanging from cedar hangers, neatly pressed. There are black polished boots in order on the floor. It's when her eyes fall upon a dress uniform from the Marines, shiny metals glinting unnaturally from the lapel of the jacket, that she feels her mouth drop in shock. There's a name across the tag on the inside of the jacket. The name glows in the dark: John House.

"It's okay. You'll be okay!" she tells him in a whisper. She meets the little boy's bright blue eyes, laser like, even in the darkness of a closet and instantly knows that she's looking at a six year old Gregory House. A vulnerable little boy who has been locked in the closet by his father. She doesn't know how it's possible. She cannot possibly be traveling in time. It's the evil in the house that wants her to get lost here, that wants them both to get lost in each others tragedies until they can't find their way out.

The boy looks up at her or perhaps through her and sobs loudly, "I don't ... want ... to die in ... h-here!"

You won't, Cuddy wants to say, wanting nothing more than to reassure him. You won't! She opens her mouth to say the words before she remembers that decades later that's exactly what he will do.

Part VIII: Fleo ( Weep )

Only a day has gone by before the new realtor stops in.

"Oh, this house will never sell!" House says upon spotting Bonnie Wilson, ex-wife of James Wilson, step past the threshold of the house.

"You aren't kidding," Cuddy chimes in, knowing Bonnie's reputation.

Bonnie Wilson is desperate. She needs the money or else she never would have touched this house with a ten foot pole. She decides, for now, to keep the fact that she's selling the home a secret from James. While they are on friendly terms, she isn't sure how he would handle the fact that she is responsible for selling the home his best friends died in.

The house is cold. Which is funny, because though James has always told her otherwise, Bonnie believed that was exactly how Lisa Cuddy's home would feel; that the home would match the woman she's met in the past. While Lisa had always been nice enough, Bonnie has never been trusting when it comes to James. As if Bonnie would believe James is capable of having a female friend he won't try to have sex with.

There was always something a bit off about Lisa Cuddy to Bonnie Wilson. The fake smile, perfectly manicured nails, expensive clothes and shoes. James would tell her that it was all because Lisa had to present a flawless image of the hospital because to look at her was to look at PPTH. She was their ambassador. The "Leader" to aliens freshly landing on Earth. Bonnie knows otherwise. Lisa Cuddy loved the attention, but if someone dug beneath the surface they would have been able to easily identify a sad, miserable forty something beneath all that sparkly exterior. It was like she was trying too hard.

Bonnie tugs her coat tight against her small frame as she does her initial walk through. The Littles didn't live at the address for very long. Their long-winded stories at her office were dismissed as the nattering of crazy people. She thinks they learned people died at the property and got spooked. It happened from time to time in the business.

"Thank God there aren't kids involved," she hears, clearly in Lisa Cuddy's voice.

Bonnie feels like she's jumped out her own skin, like she's had an out of body experience.

Surely the place couldn't be that haunted, could it?

The sound of a woman sobbing reaches her ears, but Bonnie knows for a fact that the house is empty.

A window slams shut, breaking the silence and Bonnie hurries out of the house, the walk-through completely forgotten.

House is in his closet when he hears the sound of sniffling.

The walls morph around him into Cuddy's bathroom at her old house. He sees her, crouched on her bathroom floor, one hand firmly pressed against her lower back, the other curled up in a ball and white knuckled against her leg. She is panting with the stress and pain of contractions as her body tries to force out rejected DNA.

House closes his eyes. Oh no. This is something he has no desire to witness. There are many things he's willing to witness again rather than see this for the first time, but he is stuck in place like a deer in head lights.

"It'll pass," she whispers to herself. "It'll pass."

Cuddy's body cramps up again and she lets out a keening, pathetic wail. "Why?" she asks, her voice full of despair. "Why am I being punished?"

She makes it in a slow crawl to her toilet, pulls down her cotton yoga pants that were once light blue but are now saturated a dark red and sits down heavily. She is unaware of all the blood streaked across her floor, her toilet and her hands. She wipes herself a few times because she is bleeding profusely from between her legs. Her body is expelling large, dark blood clots that are almost black.

The toilet paper displays the pain of being a woman like a vicious, sick piece of art. It looks like death: messy and violent.

Quickly, she grabs the small garbage can to her left and throws up until there's nothing left but dry heaves.

"God, Lisa!" House says, watching this nightmare like a twisted voyeur, unable to escape the moment of time just like she couldn't when it actually happened to her.

House hears her phone ring but she makes no move to get it. The ringing is incessant. It is probably the hospital phoning her non-stop with its emergencies, her employees unaware that she is facing one of her own. With each loud ring she winces slightly. "Shut up!" she whines, frustrated and in pain.

The answering machine turns on. "Lisa, it's your mother. No one important. Just the woman who gave birth to you. You never call me. I know you hate me, but for god's sake Lisa, you could at least pretend to love me like your father did when he was schtupping all those nurses behind my back. You could at least answer my phone calls!"

She sits on the toilet like sadness personified. Her bloody hands are covering her face, palms resting on her sweaty forehead and her fingers twisted in her long, dark hair. She is leaning slightly forward, exhausted beyond belief, her legs touching one another at the knee and her pants around her ankles. It's not dignified, it's not regal, but it's utterly human and devastating to see.

"You never told me," House says to her image like a petulant child.

Alone, she is sobbing, broken. Another cramp hits her and she doubles over with the pain. She can't leave her throne as the Queen of Misery. Not just because she is bleeding but because sitting upright is the only way to alleviate the pain that's shooting up her back, in her belly and through her thighs. She finds herself nodding off between cramps, jolting awake momentarily with each one before her eyes close again.

There is no measure of time to see how long the pain is lasting. House sees that each time her body finally relaxes she stiffens again, tears escaping her eyes even when she's sleeping.

Cuddy's startled awake by the worst cramp of them all as she feels the intense urge to push and passes the gestational sac with only a whimper. The amniotic fluid that fills the globe that was purged from her womb is remarkably clear. The tiny fetus is barely the size of her thumb and not completely formed. She cries just looking at it, physically already feeling better but still unable to stop the stream of tears.

Cuddy's face crumples with more emotion then she usually revealed in a year. "I'm sorry!" she sobs to it as though it is her fault personally that it has happened and not nature itself working against her.

House stares at her while she stares at her hopes and dreams currently dead in the fluid it was supposed to be protected by, resting in her shaking, bloody hands.

That's when Cuddy seems to no longer fit the memory, her image flickering, skin darkening with thick, black veins. The shadow is up to its tricks. It's what this whole nightmare is about. Cuddy's gray-blue eyes turn black as coal and her lips turn in the corner to resemble something of a snarl. It is a look House has never seen on her face in the twenty plus years he has known her. It's inhuman, shimmering with a glaze of evil.

The sac in her hands turns black. It starts to smoke like it's on fire before filling with writhing white maggots that begin to fall out of it to plop on the floor. Her hands tighten around it until it bursts, turning its contents into slime that drips over her hands and wrists, coating her limbs thickly to the elbow before it falls to the floor burning the tile like it's made of acid.

She cocks her head and addresses House directly, speaking with his own voice which sounds slightly distorted and so very angry. "It's a good thing you failed to become a mom, because you suck at it!"

Cuddy frowns at House as he paces back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room. Something has happened with the shadow, she knows, but she's not so sure she wants to actually know. He's not talking to her, just glowering like a dark cloud on the horizon.

"What's the matter?" she asks, hoping that he will open up to her.

"You kept so much from me," he reveals, his frown lines in place. "Why didn't you tell me you had a miscarriage? I knew you stopped the IVF but you never told me why ..."

They are startled by the sound of the newspaper hitting the front door. The Littles must have forgotten to cancel their subscription.

She bites her bottom lip nervously and approaches him with hesitation. "It was private. My own personal failure. I didn't want to share." Cuddy's shoulders slump. "I don't know why we're having this discussion. We already know bad things happened to the both of us in life. We can't change it. We can't let this evil consume us."

His voice wavers with his next words, "I watched it like some kind of horror film, Cuddy. It was like I was there in your bathroom with you while it was happening."

Cuddy decides to be honest. She places her hand on his arm gently, wishing she could actually feel his skin against hers. "I've been there for some of your memories, too. I think it's feeding off of our fears, our failures, our misery. We can't let it win, House."

House snorts. "Yeah, well at least you didn't let it in!"

"It's not your fault," she says softly, always placating him.

It makes House angry. "Bullshit, Cuddy! I killed myself. I put a bullet through my brain ... intentionally. It's evil. Forbidden. It goes against all of human nature. The one goal when we're born is to survive at all costs."

Cuddy sighs, disturbed by the human behavior when she isn't even capable of taking a breath. Normally, she would love that House feels so passionately about something again. "Oh, well! You can't perform a differential diagnosis on something you don't understand to begin with."

The shadow looms over them. House moves away in no mood for another show, but Cuddy stays where she is. "Go away!" she demands of it.

It doesn't move. It just laughs sounding like the ominous rattle of a rattlesnake, like the wails of starving children, like lions feasting on an injured gazelle.

Cuddy stiffens her shoulders and addresses the shadow directly. "I'm done being a victim!"

To their surprise, the shadow skulks off, taking its death rattle with it. It proves her theory that it is feeding off of them. If they starve it, maybe it will die and go back to wherever it came from.

"How long do you think it will be gone for?" she asks House, her eyes lingering on the spot it inhabited.

House feels relief from an inexplicable pressure. "Not long enough."

Bonnie Wilson has spent the last few months trying to sell a haunted house to no avail. Every open house she holds, every appointment she keeps has been sabotaged by ghosts who are overstaying their welcome. She has waged a war against invisible people. The smell of pennies, fluid dripping from the walls, random gun shots, cold spots and moments of pure terror have made up most of her visits. She has struggled trying to make the home warm and welcoming. She's baked cookies and bread in the kitchen only to have the delicious aroma turn into the smell of burnt toast. She has contacted every connection she has only to be left weeping with the frustration of it all.

She hasn't even had a bid. Bonnie's not stupid. She knows she is not the best realtor in the city but the house is nice. It should sell itself!

It's romantic in a way, she thinks with a wistful smile. Not the whole murder and suicide thing, but the staying with each other forever thing. It's beautiful. It expressed a deep love that Lisa and Greg had for one another while alive. Which is weird, because she never thought either of them was capable of loving anyone but themselves.

After reaching too many dead ends, Bonnie calls the only sucker she knows that will take the house off of her hands.

James Wilson walks up the drive of his new home remembering the last time he visited here with far too much clarity. His wrist throbs at the thought and his throat closes up with the panic he felt upon seeing the front of Cuddy's house with House's car sticking out of it. That was the day he lost his two best friends, his only friends.

He opens the door with slumped shoulders. The things he's heard about this house are absurd but he also knows House and if anyone could be responsible for that much mischief when dead ... it was House. Bonnie's rambling about supernatural happenings combined with her tears and her truly abhorrent realtor skills had him signing a check before he even thought it through. How much of that check writing is residual - I married you, cheated on you, then divorced you - guilt? Or is he just naturally this masochistic?

Wilson makes his way to the dining room where he last saw Lisa, up against the wall and impaled with a splintered end of window pane. His eyes well up with tears, because the image is so vivid and not at all a faded memory. Her shell looked so empty and so still after having died a violent, sudden death. He remembers he rushed from his crouched position on the lawn into the house through the hole in the wall going right by a shocked Julia who was clutching a cellphone with a bloody hand and struggling with her husband who kept saying, "You don't want to go in there, man. You don't want to see her like that. Don't go in there. Don't!"

He can hear Julia's voice. "Something's happened. Please ... I think my sister's dead. Her boyfriend's still in the house! He drove into the house. Oh god ... she's really dead. This can't be happening ... Please!" Julia sobbed on the line with 911.

All Wilson registers is the word sister and the word dead. The two words collide together with all the impact of a meteor hitting the Earth's surface. The realization that Lisa is the sister and that Lisa is dead leaves a crater where his heart used to be. He has to see her! He has to make it real or he will never believe it later. Then he does ... see her ... and his life is never the same again. His sleep is never restful, each meal is tasteless and his mind is always occupied with a vision of her death mask. His memory is much better at capturing her face in death than the wax mold technique of pre-technological times.

The next few moments are full of Wilson being pushed out of the home by police then getting him "seen to" by an EMT. His back is to the house when he hears the gun shot. It makes sense to him even when his flesh breaks out in goose bumps, the hair on the nape of his neck rises and tears leak from the corners of his chocolate brown eyes. House would never be able to recover from being responsible for Cuddy's death.

There is simply no moving on from that.

Not for House. Not for Cuddy. Not even for himself: James Evan Wilson, because here he stands at the threshold where it all happened willing to jump into shark infested waters so long as he gets one last chance to say good-bye.

Part IX: Bellum ( War )

At first House and Cuddy are shocked by Wilson's appearance. They hover around him like children in a toy store previously warned not to touch anything. The desire to touch is so strong. House gets giddy imagining all of the great pranks he can play on his best friend. Cuddy finally gives in and hugs Wilson as soon as he's within her range, not even caring at all that she's going to give him a case of the chills. She wraps her arms around him, wishing for all the world that she can take some of his sorrow away and make him feel loved.

Wilson drops his duffel bag full of clothes to the floor. He swears he can smell Lisa's favorite perfume all around him and despite the frigidness of the air, he is somehow warm. "Lisa?" He squints his eyes as though it will somehow help him spot her better. "Is that you?" His face crumples, tears flowing freely and his shoulders move with the force of his sobs. "I've missed you so much!"

"What a girl!" House says, more for the want to fill the air than for the need to insult.

"Shut up, House!" House looks surprised at the directness of Wilson's words. It's like Wilson is looking right at him when he says it. "I know you're probably hovering around calling me a big girl. I can cry! I have to cry," Wilson admonishes the empty air.

Cuddy bites at her bottom lip nervously, not entirely sure how this will work. How will Wilson's presence affect the shadow? How will it affect them and their memories? Is this a good turn of events or a bad one?

It's always been the three of them: the screwed-up triumvirate. They were so ingrained in one another they might as well wind within like strands of DNA. Wilson was never their brother, never their friend, never their boyfriend but always something in between that left them both feeling like they couldn't live without him. Cuddy understands just how much their deaths must have affected him. He probably feels estranged, abandoned, alone. She hugs him again.

Wilson feels a coldness seep into his bones; he feels Lisa so very there and a moment later he feels what can only be House, a begrudging sort of love that lights him up, smiling dumbly in an empty house, his arms wrapping around what anyone else would be perceive to be thin air. He ignores the cold, he ignores his own breath puffing out of him like he's outside on a winter's morning.

For the first time in a long time, James Wilson feels like he's home.

Cuddy is the first one to notice that something is off about Wilson's behavior. He seems to have moments where he completely zones out. Usually it's for a short moment of time, a heart beat, maybe two and he blinks and continues about his business, completely unaware. Today he is staring in the bathroom mirror intently, his eyes glazed over as he gets ready to shave with an old fashioned barber's razor that was handed down to him from his grandfather. The blade is open and glinting sharply in the bathroom light, nestled in his hand.

Cuddy doesn't know why but she's drawn to watching him shave in the mornings. There is something about the act that is so human, so alive. She's not a voyeur, she tells herself, she's just an observer. There is no eroticism in the act but it feels somehow wrong to be such a willing spectator. She is keenly paying attention like the good student she has always been, waiting for the sound of the first scrape of blade against skin; the sound is always amplified like each hair follicle is a blade of grass snipped beneath a lawn mower. That sound, combined with the sight of James' face covered in white shaving cream is irresistible. She smiles wryly at the sight he makes, her expression warm and full of love.

The light blinks out, the bathroom becoming much darker than it should be for seven o'clock in the morning. It flashes back on and she sees the glint of the sharp metal razor at his throat. His warm brown eyes are vacant and it is clear that something is inhabiting him. His hand is steady, the blade pressing down into skin drawing a bead of blood right over his jugular. James smiles wolfishly at his own face in the mirror, a stranger to her. Cuddy watches with horror as his hand tightens around the mother of pearl handle of the straight razor. Before it can press down and end his life, Cuddy moves and feels for an instant like she is solid as she knocks the blade from his hands. It lands in the sink, clacking slightly as it hits the porcelain.

Wilson comes out of his stupor with a jolt, looking around the suddenly sunny bathroom in a daze. Noticing the small trickle of blood running down his neck, he thinks he's cut himself shaving.

If only, Cuddy thinks.

"Again? Seriously?" Wilson asks himself in the mirror. Wiping the shaving cream off of his face, he grabs a piece of toilet paper to seal the wound, pressing the small tissue against the superficial wound on his neck.

The shadow roars at Cuddy, its hiss not unlike that of a crocodile, angry to have been denied its meal. It moves directly through her, giving her the strange feeling of her flesh crawling when she no longer has flesh to crawl. This is serious, Cuddy thinks, because the battle lines have been drawn. The shadow is actively trying to get Wilson to join their ranks, and Cuddy will not have him murdered in her home. For the first time in a long time the thrill of competition runs through her, lighting her eyes with a steely determination. However, she is more than relieved when Wilson leaves for work just a few minutes later, jangling his keys and whistling a happy tune.

House is busy watching daytime TV, happy to have a TV to play around with again.

"It's trying to kill him," Cuddy tells House, ignoring the morning news.

"Pfft, please. He has nine lives," House scoffs, pretending to think his words over, "Or is that nine wives?" He shakes his head. "Hmm, I can't remember."

"House, I'm not kidding. I was watching him shave and It took him over. He was going to slit his own throat ... he would have if I hadn't interfered."

House, like always, focuses only on what he wants to hear. "You watch him in the bathroom? That's just wrong!"

Cuddy frowns at him, her eyes showing how disappointed she is at his response. "I'll be in my office."

Cuddy opens her eyes an indeterminate amount of time later and sees Stacy Warner, her hand clasped with that of Gregory House, who is in a hospital bed surrounded by machines. It's obvious that the surgery on his leg hasn't been performed yet.

"You didn't tell me Doctor Cuddy went to Michigan with you," Stacy says. "Did you sleep with her there?" Stacy doesn't pull any punches. It's why she's such a great lawyer.

House grimaces from the pain, not really wanting to deal with explanations to a jealous girlfriend. "Everyone slept with her there," he says, in an attempt to get Stacy off the scent.

Cuddy feels a sharp jab of emotion slicing through her at House's words. His words, though painful, were accurate of the time. She went through man after man searching for one that would stay in her bed the next morning, too free with her body and desperate for someone to love her. None of them ever stayed. Not even House. The "I love you" that she yearned to hear translated into, "You have great tits" or "fuck, yeah." They wanted her body, but didn't want her with it. At that point it had been rare to get a man who would look her in the eye when having sex.

"She doesn't seem the type," Stacy says, her hazel eyes playful and her sharply pointed eyebrows arched.

"Trust me, everyone called her The Big Easy," House explains, kneading his hurting thigh muscle with white knuckled fingers. "You have nothing to worry about, Stace."

Stacy chooses to ignore his last words and focus on the first. "I didn't know she was from New Orleans."

House stares at her with direct eye contact, the innuendo in them clear. "She's not."

An invisible light bulb goes off over Stacy's head, a light blush coloring her cheeks at her slowness. "Oh my." She lets out a huff of breath. "Then what was the appeal?"

House sighs. "Three words, Stacy: Deep Throat Lisa."

Cuddy flinches at that. If blushing and crying were possible then she would be doing both right now, watching this moment between former lovers, hearing the name that had followed her around all her life because of one boy that she loved at nineteen had made it his personal mission to tell every person he met male or female within a hundred mile radius. She remembers with painful clarity that he broke up with her almost immediately after the act had taken place.

Stacy rolls her eyes at the name. "Did they really call her that? That's horrible."

"Yeah, well ... everyone earns their moniker. You have nothing to worry about," House moves his hand to Stacy's upper arm and rubs gently. "She's smart," House acknowledges. "Certainly smarter than any of the fools here. If anyone can help me, it's Cuddy."

Oh how wrong he was, Cuddy thinks.

The scene shifts with white hot beads of light nearly blinding her. She sees herself digging into House's thigh, right through the NOT of the words that made up NOT THIS LEG EITHER. That isn't right, she thinks, because she didn't do the surgery personally, she only suggested it. She's carving at him like he's a turkey on Thanksgiving that she hates, blood spraying her white coat, her face, his body. The blood erupts from his leg like a water fountain, a steady burst of upward motion before it splatters everywhere like it's raining blood. He is screaming in pain, but she doesn't stop, just continues ripping out his dead muscle with all the surgical precision of a chainsaw. Abruptly, she stops. The scalpel in her hand is thickly coated with House's blood. Not Cuddy smiles, eyes distant and licks the blood off of the scalpel like a starving vampire, her expression positively orgasmic.

House locks eyes with her while his body shifts in and out of phase, and tells her with her own voice. "I don't love you!"

Cuddy stays as still as possible letting the moment pass and doing her best not to react to it. She can't help feeling emotions, but she isn't going to be afraid.

That's what the shadow wants, and the shadow isn't going to win here.

Wilson is beyond exhausted. He goes home, grabs a beer and lays on the couch. The days and nights have been hectic since he's lost his friends; he has seen far too much death in this lifetime and the constant flow of terminal cancer patients seems endless. Sometimes he is not sure why he chose to be an oncologist when there's no cure for the disease his patients suffer from.

"Lisa, please!"

Wilson jerks upright on the couch, not even noticing the copious amount of beer he spills all over his shirt. That was House's voice so raw and full of desperation.

"I love you," House sobs. "I love you. I love you, Lisa!"

Wilson's eyes go wide; he knows he's not hearing House at the moment, but it is definitely House's voice. He gets up from the couch like a zombie and makes his way to the wall. Once there, he turns his back to it and slides down until he's sitting on the floor. He closes his eyes for a moment, not sure he wants to open them, because he can feel how cold the room has gotten. When he opens his eyes the first thing he does is look down and sees himself as Lisa that night wearing a three quarter sleeved pink shirt over her perfect curves, a piece of wood jutting out from between her ribs. He swears that he can feel it, deep inside of her and splintered, the ribs it pushed and broke turned inward, completely piercing her lung. He feels her, drowning in her own blood, in shock and in the final moments of her life. He shakes his head, her dark curls bouncing lightly against her face and looks up into the eyes of despair: House's eyes.

"Lisa, please!" House begs, his voice full of desperation, "Please don't! Please don't go. I'm sorry!"

Wilson can feel her love for House, her acceptance of her fate as her body tenses up to an unsustainable tightness. He can feel House's arms around her, warm and comforting like a blanket on a cold night and then he tastes the coppery tang of blood, way too much at the back of her throat and struggles to take that last, wheezing blood-filled breath. It is wet and full of pain and then there is nothing. Wilson feels her body go limp in House's arms.

"I love you," House sobs. "I love you. I love you, Lisa," he says, letting out a half strangled cry of despair, of rage.

In an instant Wilson's point of view has shifted and now he is in House's body, tight as piano-wire as he moves with purpose to retrieve a set of keys and then up the stairs: a dead man walking. There is only dread here totally encompassing House, an inky darkness covers him and the feeling is thicker than soot. The keys are clutched between his fingers, the Eiffel Tower key chain drawing blood at three different puncture points in his hand. House is no nonsense here, completely in control and methodical as he blocks the bedroom door and makes his way to the closet.

Wilson feels the gun heavy in his hand. Its presence is almost obscene in the hand of a healer.

"Police!" he hears along with banging at the door.

The gun feels like lead, weighing down his arm, but House brings it to his head anyway, pointing the muzzle to the side of his head and clicking the safety off.

"I love you," Wilson hears Lisa say through House's ears. Then she appears in front of him as the last sight House ever sees before pulling the trigger and says it again, "I love you."

Instantly House's finger depresses on the trigger and he is content with his choice because he chose it. Finally, what he considers to be the right move.

Wilson can feel the bullet's heat against his head as it ejects from the gun. It's like he's watching and feeling this in slow motion. There is a white hot burning sensation, and Wilson sees something wrap itself around the metal casing of the bullet, gelatinous and black with beady red eyes. It hisses slowly as it lodges itself fully against the bullet as it tunnels through House's brain splitting apart grey matter as easily as a knife sliced through butter.

House's body falls to the closet floor, James goes with it, looking out from unfocused eyes and seeing as the blackness that rode the bullet starts to leak from the wall where the bullet's stopped. He sees House and Cuddy both looking over House's body, their hands entwined, their expressions morose.

The evil leaking from the wall is now gushing like a black waterfall, landing on the floor next to blood and brain matter. It seems to solidify before relishing its bath in blood and brain. Wilson watches as it takes on a vaguely human shape, feeding upon the blood splatter on one of Cuddy's navy blue business suits, holding the sleeve to itself with a kind of reverence evil shouldn't be allowed to have. It licks at some pooled blood in a matching high-heeled shoe, its red eyes glowing bigger and brighter than before. Finally, it moves over House's body and thankfully Wilson is no longer trapped in it. He's watching on the sidelines, unsure of what to make of the evil. It touches House's feet, seemingly on some great mission to cover the body with its essence. Wilson sees his friend's corpse covered in the oily substance until the vague-man shape is satisfied. It then drops to its knees at House's feet and genuflects.

Its small, rabid eyes land on House and Cuddy's ghosts. It growls at them, despite the fact that they don't seem to realize that it's there and then it crawls up the wall before hovering on the ceiling on all fours. With a final snarl that makes Wilson's skin crawl, it gets absorbed into the wall before disappearing all together.

Everything returns to normal and Wilson finds himself in his bedroom closet laying on the floor in the dark. He begins to cry, deep sobs that come from his very soul. Tears are soaking in the beige carpeting of the closet floor, but Wilson doesn't care. The tears don't feel cathartic at all, because he just relived House and Cuddy dying and nothing feels good about that. He feels violated even though he was the one who was seeing things he shouldn't have been able to see.

Wilson's not sure how much time has passed, but he smells Lisa's perfume and feels her comforting presence beside him like she's laying right next to him and through his tears he smiles, wide and genuine. "I know you guys aren't alone. I'll be careful. I swear it, I will."

"This is my space," House says, pouting at the image of Cuddy and Wilson cuddling on the floor where he died. "Fine," he says at Cuddy's glare, perfectly high-lighted even in the dark. "Just this once." He lays on the empty side next to Jimmy, one arm slung over the stomach of the oncologist. House grabs Cuddy's hand, also draping her arm over Wilson and they stay there, hugging him until he calms.

Part X: Appareo ( Manifest )

If House could feel physical sensation he knows his teeth would be grinding and his jaw would be clenched. Without anything to do besides haunt a house, he has felt his energy becoming more hostile the more time goes on. Flatware begins to crack, cabinet doors begin to open and close harshly and ceramics start falling to the floor to smash into a million unrecognizable shards. It is all House's fault, because it is the only thing that makes him emotionally neutral.

Cuddy has tuned all of her energy to saving Wilson's life. It's her new baby, making sure Wilson is okay. She devotes all of her attention to this as though it is a full time job. House fills his time by cracking mirrors, ripping wallpaper and generally being angry. The situation is hopeless; Wilson is grasping at straws and putting himself in danger while Cuddy is picking a fight with an entity she knows nothing about.

Despite everything that has happened and everything he has witnessed, House refuses to believe that he is trapped by religious hypocrisy. Whatever existence they are currently stuck in is of his doing. Despite not believing in a higher being, House can still recognize that there is good and there is evil and there are things in between. While he hates that he has cursed Cuddy with his actions, he is glad that she is with him.

House is glad that he's not alone.

James Wilson is on edge. Since moving into Cuddy's haunted house, his life has suffered. He loses too much weight, and is running on very little sleep and far too much alcohol. He spends his nights on a comfortable bed; a warm little nest where he talks out loud to his dead friends, bombarding them with memories, with all the reasons why he loves them. House probably tunes him out. Cuddy probably listens to every word attentively. He stops going to work ... eventually, he resigns. His job and his patients are lost in a tsunami of supernatural. He spends his days going from library to library, finally skulking in the New Age aisle at Barnes and Noble at the Princeton Market Fair. Nothing really tells him much.

It barely registers when wakes up with scratch marks all over his body. Long and deep the scratches are just shy of needing stitches. They look less like nail scratches and more like they were made by teeth. Sometimes he wakes up to phantom caresses along the bloody marks, as though Cuddy is attempting to doctor him from beyond the grave. There is a slight poking and prodding which signals House's touch. Despite the violence of the home, Wilson feels loved.

With each night spent in the house, Wilson learns more about his friends than he ever wanted to know. He dreams of abuse in all forms: emotional, verbal, sexual and physical. It hurts his heart to know his friends suffered so much in life.

James is stuck in a dream where House sitting in a bath of ice water, his body is pushed beyond the limit and no longer needs to shake. His lips are tinged blue from the cold. It was, Wilson remembers, John House s favorite way to punish the innocent. It kills him to see House this way: an adult still trapped in the icy abuse from the past.

Lisa is alive and breathing despite the fact that her body is engulfed in flames; her skin is fractured like an over-cooked hot dog with orange embers peeking out from blackened flesh. From within her own torment, Cuddy sees House sitting in an ice bath, popping Vicodin with wrinkled fingers while being completely unmoved by his punishment. It is in House's nature to deflect, pretend to be cold and uncaring. Lisa runs hot, cares too much and is bitter like ash.

House seems to come out of his stupor when she sits down inside the tub with him, her body smoking as the flames are snuffed out beneath the freezing cold water. Orange skin cracks and pops like she is made of magma. The bath water they are sitting in begins to boil as Lisa's skin begins to turn back to normal. The color comes back to House's face as Lisa s heat transfers to him. For a moment his skin heats up red hot, before settling to a neutral tone. Lisa s heat is in perfect balance with House s cold. He cradles her on his lap to his chest, fire and ice disappearing as they take in each others pain as their own and their dysfunction turns into something resembling normalcy.

As the image of his friends slowly fade away, Wilson is left standing in a small cave by himself. It smells dank; he's sure something has died in there. The soil crumbles around him, stalactites hanging from the ceiling and stalagmites from the cave floor begin turning into bone before sharpening into points. The cave has become a giant mouth, complete with razor sharp teeth.

Ever so slowly, the teeth reach into Wilson's skin, piercing him through as tightly as if he were trapped in an iron maiden. Piece by piece he is pierced by these teeth like a piece of meat in a ravenous wolf's mouth, bleeding and torn asunder until he is swallowed whole by the large jaws of evil with a hollow laugh ringing in his ears. He's not sure where his soul is being taken, but it is definitely not a place he wants to go.

Wilson wakes up with the haunting, mournful cries of the dead filling his head, his body lying in a pool of sweat and the breath robbed from his body. It takes him a moment to realize that he's woken up caught in a full panic attack.

It will be hours before James Wilson realizes he hasn't woken up at all.

Lisa Cuddy has been on terror alert red since Wilson has moved into the house. Of course, her partner in crime could care less. All House seems to appreciate is the fact that more often than not the TV channel is set to skin-a-max. Not that he can do anything but enjoy the view anyway. The shadow has been quiet and like House's former diagnostic department, quiet never means anything good.

Cuddy wonders if Rachel's birthday has gone by. Wilson doesn't seem to own a calendar. The deep sadness she feels settles over her incorporeal shoulders like a heavy shawl. It has never been this bad.

They are witnessing a friend's slow decline into madness. On top of that, Cuddy is babysitting Wilson as much as she can, saving him from death nearly every day. The shadow is especially persistent around the stairway, somehow always managing to make Wilson stumble. For every misstep, Cuddy is there to stabilize him, but she is not sure how much natural disaster she can avert. Not when every innocuous object can be so incredibly deadly. It is stressing her out being so vigilant, like Wilson is starring in his own version of Final Destination and doesn't even know it.

House is no help at all. Cuddy thinks he wants Wilson to die, to join them in the madness just like when they were alive.

Wilson is asleep on the couch, the effects of too much whiskey on an empty stomach. Cuddy watches the slow rise and fall of his chest. When she's comfortable he's safe, she makes her way to the den, hoping to get lost in time.

In the morning she comes out of the den to the sight of the living room bathed in sunlight, giving her a clear view of a very still, very dead James Wilson. She gasps when he appears and she sees him watching over his corpse warily as though he's not sure the situation is real.

"Ho-ho!" Wilson exclaims, staring at himself. He nudges his body on the shoulder, freaking out when his hand goes right through it. "What the hell is this?" He narrows his gaze, squinting his eyes and drawing his bushy eyebrows closer to one another. His warm brown eyes fill with confusion.

Cuddy approaches him slowly. "James?"

"Am I? Oh my ... I am, right? I'm dead? Huh!" He scowls. "I'm actually dead right now."

Cuddy nods her head in affirmation, biting her bottom lip nervously. This wasn't supposed to happen. She didn't do her job. She made a mistake. It s her fault he s dead.

"Well ... how did it happen? Did I have a heart attack?" Wilson asks, circling his body.

"Wow!" House says, finally making his way to the living room. "No way! You're dead, too? Seriously? How cool is that?"

Cuddy s cuts into the conversation, admonishing him with a terse, House!

"What? House asks, his features innocent. I'm just sayin ..."

"It killed you," Cuddy whispers. "The shadow killed you!"

Wilson sighs, flabbergasted by his current reality. "I had a theory ... I've been reading up on my demonology," House snorts, "Shut up, House. There is a demon here. You brought it in when you killed yourself."

House averts his gaze, not willing to own up to the fact that it's his fault that thing is in the house in the first place.

"It was just a theory until last night. That dream ... Wilson trails off.

"What dream?" Cuddy asks, her eyes widening slightly with alarm.

"It was pure evil. I was trapped in its gigantic jaws, skewered by its teeth. I think ... I'm pretty sure it tried to eat me," Wilson holds up his finger at House. "Not a word, House. This isn't funny." House can't keep his smirk hidden, but Wilson ignores him. "I read about him somewhere ... his name is Mot."

Cuddy hovers around Wilson, her mind going through the scattering of Hebrew she s carried along with her over the years. Hesitantly, she asks, "Death?"

"Wow, Wilson. You just went Old Testament on our asses!" House says as though he is proud.

Wilson ignores his obnoxious friend in favor of finishing the tale, "He's a soul eater. I think he's here ... House ... to specifically swallow you to Hell."

"Why hasn't he done it before now?" Cuddy asks, her keen eyes alight with curiosity. "Why wait all this time?"

Wilson's gaze softens. "You're here, Lisa. You're protecting him."

House's shoulders slump with dejection. It is his fault they are being tormented. It is his fault that they died. His fault now that Wilson has died. "I should let it take me. I deserve it."

"No!" Cuddy says adamantly. "It's not going to happen."

The shadow appears then, its form vaguely human. Its jaws are wide and set in an elongated face that looks like a shark. It screeches like a banshee as it moves towards House. Its red eyes scowl dangerously, its evil intentions clear. It blinks in out, moving great distances in one moment to the next, like it is in and out of phase. It stands in front of House as though waiting and opens its mouth, its pointy teeth glistening in the morning sun.

Cuddy moves toward it without fear. "We know your name, Mot! We know why you're here. You're not taking him."

Mot turns all of its ugly toward her, screeching, its mouth sucking at her energy like it is a black hole and she is its debris field, destined to be overcome by the gaping chasm. They all watch, awed, as a memory turns real and House's car barrels through the wall, this time driver-less. Lisa is flung against the wall, impaled with a piece of wood and oh god, she can feel it.

"Annngh!" she screams in a way that she hadn't the first time. Blood gushes from the wound, spurting out from behind splintered wood. "What is this? What's happening?" She knows she can't die again, but it feels so real.

"Cuddy?" House asks, concern coating his voice. Before he can blink, the heavy weight of a gun is in his hand. It's the same gun he used to kill himself. Instead of the simple weight he is expecting, he also feels the sensations. The gun's cold, smooth metal feels heavy beneath his fingertips. His arm is forced up against his will until the gun is at his head. "Wilson?" he yells, not sure what is going on.

"I don't know!" Wilson yells back, confused.

"It can't take you!" Wilson says. "You can't take any of us, Mot. You broke the rules!"

House's finger twitches on the trigger. It curls up against the crescent of metal like a python slowly crushing a rabbit to death. It is forced against it and the explosion is loud as the gun repeatedly fires. A bullet tears into his head over and over again. The pain is excruciating. The first time House did this he felt absolutely nothing. Why is the pain real now?

Dimly, he is aware of Cuddy's screams each and every time the bullet discharges. Finally the supernatural beast seems satisfied with its work and House falls to the floor and lands with a heavy thud on his back.

"Wilson?" Cuddy begs, wanting her friend to know all the answers.

"I-I ..." Wilson shakes his head. "I don't know. I just don't know!"

Like a crow, Mot spreads a pair of grotesque black wings and instantly is in front of Wilson, screeching in his face. To his credit, Wilson doesn't even bat an eyelash.

"You killed an innocent. You killed me. You can't take me. You can't take us. Leave this place!" Wilson demands.

Mot starts to seize, his evil face breaking apart into a million pieces and he wails. It is not a sound of agony but a sound of defeat. His form once again turns gelatinous and black, a humanoid shadow before moving to Cuddy to scream impotently in her face. Tears roll from her eyes, wet and real as Mot's large teeth glisten, his jaws unhinged and wide open as though he is going to devour her. She is overwhelmed with the empty pang of starving bellies, the suffering of the hungry that are denied the smallest crumb of a meal while others dine on the feast of Kings.

The feeling holds for what seems like infinity.

"Get away from her!" House demands from the floor, unable to get up because of the supernatural chains that bind him.

The gelatinous form bows out and away from Cuddy, before heading to House. It genuflects at his feet once more before it appears to jump inside him. Mot's form breaks against House like a crashing wave, saturating him and then the floor beneath him with ectoplasm.

"That was just ... gross!" House exclaims from his spot on the floor.

"I don't feel anything." Cuddy watches, relieved, as the piece of wood holding her hostage crumbles to dust.

A peace comes over the house, settling into the foundation. There is no longer any evil there.

"You tricked it," House says, awed. He stands up, glad to no longer have sensation. His blue eyes meet Wilson's brown eyes. "You died to save us?"

Wilson smiles and nods his head. "I didn't know it would work." He frowns then. "How did I die, anyway?"

Immediately, they start searching the house for possible ways of death. They hover around the oven, where one knob to the gas burner is turned on. It's something they never would have been able to predict or safe guard against.

"Carbon monoxide poisoning," House states officiously.

There was no way they could have smelled the gas.

"You didn't fail, Lisa," Wilson says, practically reading her mind. "I know you saved my life more times than I can count."

"It makes me sad. You shouldn't be with us, James. You should be out there enjoying your life, saving lives," she clasps her hands with his. "You should be alive."

"I needed to know you two were safe," Wilson says, the honesty of his statement reflected in his eyes.

"We're not stuck here anymore. We can leave," House says, feeling the heaviness in the air disappear. "What do you say, Jimmy? Want to hang out with me and Cuddy for eternity? I don't know about you two but I really want to make Foreman crap his pants. I think a good fellow-haunting is in order!"

A genuine smile appears on James Wilson's face and an excited gleam emits from his eyes. "I believe there's a cut-throat bitch waiting for me somewhere."

"She might be more cut-throat now that you hooked up again with an ex-wifey whose name rhymes with ham," House feels the need to point it out.

Wilson grins. "A risk I'm willing to take." Wilson touches House's shoulder, before pulling him into a complete hug. "Good-bye, House."

The hug goes on for an uncomfortable moment.

"Awkward!" House cheerfully declares a moment later.

Wilson rolls his eyes, before moving to hug Cuddy. "Good-bye, Lisa."

"We'll miss you," Cuddy tells him, holding him to her close and feeling him solid against her despite not having sensation.

"We will meet up again. I promise," Wilson says. He points an admonishing finger toward House. "Be good!"

A bright blue light envelopes Wilson and in seconds he is gone. To where, neither of them know but where ever he went, it has to have been a very good place.

The sacrifice their friend has made humbles the lovers.

House grabs a hold of Cuddy's hands, threading his fingers through hers. It is always through touch that they communicate. Even without the feel of her hand beneath his, soft and welcoming, House remembers how it did feel. Once upon a time, when their hearts beat and they had all five senses ... when they weren't an example of the sixth sense.

Blue eyes meet blue eyes, each filled with a sense of relief but also a sense of wariness.

House decides to take them back to the beginning, full circle so to speak. "So ..." he asks, "now what?"