Cased In Amber

This story starts a couple of days after Wilson's Heart and explores one possible way of how things might go from there on. Possible spoilers for all previous episodes and maybe some rumours of what is to come may make their way into this story, too. Updating may be slow due to time constraints, but I will try to write at least a chapter a week. Not expected to be very long.

I will let you down, I will make you hurt….

House was wearing a hospital gown. The moment he had properly regained his consciousness Cuddy had made sure he didn't have access to any other clothes. Surprisingly though, House had neither protested nor tried to discharge himself from the hospital. He had meekly stayed at the hospital and submitted to all the tests Cuddy had wanted to do. He didn't talk much, just enough to make it clear that he could and that there was no permanent brain damage. He did have some difficulties but no more than what could be expected as a result of exhaustion. He slept a lot, hardly ate anything and – this worried all who knew him – he took hardly any painkillers. Sure they wanted to believe that his close brush with death – once again – had made him more aware of his own mortality and that he therefore wanted to cut down on his Vicodin intake and other addictions, but Chase doubted that was the case. To him it looked more like House just forgot. Something - intuition, sixth sense, telepathy, whatever - something told him that right now the pain House felt most was not in his leg and therefore the chronic pain he had suffered all these years was secondary and of no importance. The pain House really felt did not respond to painkillers.

"The funeral is tomorrow," Chase finally spoke up as it seemed that House wasn't going to look away from the window and acknowledge his presence. "If you give me your key I could get you some clothes for it."

At first House didn't respond. Then he finally turned and leaned against the window frame: "Wilson will not want me there."

"You don't know that," Chase insisted.

"He knows where I am," House said. "This room is right on the route to his office from almost everywhere in the hospital. If he wanted me there he would have told me so."

"He isn't thinking clearly," Chase sighed. He knew better than to try and tell House that Wilson hadn't been in. Though he didn't see any patients, Wilson had spent most of his time in his office for the last couple of days. And House knew it.

"How clearly do you need to think to know Amber would be alive if not for me?" House asked.

"You did not kill her," Chase stated forcefully. "You didn't cause the accident, you didn't give her the medicine, you didn't even ask her to come and get you. It was an accident combined with some other unfortunate circumstances that killed her. You did everything you could to save her. You risked your life several times for her. You were close to death yourself!"

"Close doesn't count," House had no mercy. "Had I remembered her immediately, had I found her in time we could have pumped her stomach and we could have given her preventive medicine – we could even have got her an emergency kidney transplant before the poison destroyed her other organs. I did everything except find her in time."

"You had amnesia," Chase nearly shouted at House. "You had a cracked skull and concussion. You didn't do any of it deliberately. God, when I think how hard you tried to remember and we, the rest of us – Wilson included – told you to rest! To stop obsessing. If you want to blame someone then we are as much to blame for not finding Amber in time as you are. It was an accident."

"She wouldn't have been in the bus if not for me," House stated calmly. "All I had to do was accept her offer, let her take me home and none of this would have happened. She would still be living happily ever after with Wilson."

"Did you ask her to follow you?" Chase insisted.

"I left my cane in the bar," House pointed out. "She brought it to me."

"And she had to take the bus to do that?" Chase asked. "Most bus drivers would have let her just bring the cane to you and then leave the bus. Wouldn't have taken more time than for… say an elderly person to climb on and find a seat."

"Are you saying it's her fault?" House demanded.

"No," Chase denied. "Of course not. I'm saying that people chose to behave normally and an accident happened and nobody is to blame. Nobody."

"Do you think that if you repeat it often enough it will become the truth?" House scorned.

"She died because of the flu medicine!" Chase insisted. "You had nothing to do with that. It was just a coincidence. Unfortunate, but nothing to do with you!"

"You think?" House queried. "Do you know why she was taking the pills?"

"She didn't want to get sick," Chase was puzzled. "Who would?"

"She didn't want to get sick because she couldn't afford any more sick days or personal leave," House explained. "She had used all up when she was trying for the fellowship. That would not have been the case had I hired her. In fact, had I hired her Wilson would have had no reason to start dating her and none of this would have happened at all. She would still be alive."

"You once said that in order to think everything is your fault you need to think you are all powerful," Chase sniped at House. "Are you finally admitting that you think you're god?"

"It's not god who limps," House sneered. "And this is not about everything being my fault; this is acknowledging that I am at fault. This is about right and wrong."

"Then why are you the one who did wrong?" Chase wanted to know. "Why isn't Amber equally responsible?"

"Because Amber was being responsible," House sighed. "She wanted to make sure that her boyfriend's drunk friend got home safely. I'm the one who got drunk and then didn't call for a cab but expected someone to come and get me."

"Is that such a bad thing?" Chase asked. "Yes, in this case the end result was devastating, but still just an accident. You had no way of knowing what was going to happen. What you did was no different from what hundreds of people have done and will do again."

"Just because you don't know what is going to happen, does not mean that you're not wrong," House sighed. "Right and wrong do exist, you know. Just because you don't see the future, don't know exactly what consequences your actions have – even if they have any, does not make things right. They may be ok, lots of things in life are just ok, but they are still not right. I got her out of her safe apartment into a bus when it wasn't necessary and she died because of it. That really is just the long and the short of it."

"Fine, so you're guilty of killing Amber," Chase scorned. "Did you kill and injure the rest of the people in that bus too? I mean had you not got on that bus it might have reached the accident site a few seconds sooner and the truck would have missed it and just hit a wall."

"Don't be facetious Chase," House told him tiredly. "I'm not claiming responsibility for everything. Just of being instrumental of putting Amber in harm's way."

Chase gave up with a sigh. He realised that there really was nothing he could say to make House feel any less guilty: "Fine, if that is how you see it, there really is nothing I can say. But you still shouldn't go out of your way to punish yourself. You shouldn't push away your friends."

"What friends?" House asked arching an eyebrow. "There was only Wilson. Yes, there are people that I'm friendly with, but friends… no, not that much. Which is probably a good thing considering that I seem to end up hurting them every time."

"Since when have you been into self-pity?" Chase asked.

"So I'm branching out," House shrugged.

"From what?" Chase frowned.

"Never mind," House shook his head. "Not important."

"Ok," Chase didn't think he would get an answer even if he tried to push. "Anyway, you might have more friends than you realise. Cuddy has hardly left your side. If she isn't with Wilson she is with you."

"Yeah, yeah," House sighed. "I know. I've tried to tell her that I'm not going to kill myself, but she still insists on keeping a suicide watch."

"That is not what she is doing," Chase stated almost angrily. "You are very dear to her; both you and Wilson. I wouldn't be surprised if she saw you two as her best friends."

"I'm sure you're right about Wilson," House agreed. "But there really is no reason for her to like me."

"You don't always like your friends," Chase reminded him. "But they are still friends."

"Maybe," House made a small concession. "But you can still tell her that had I not decided to live I wouldn't have come back."

"Back from where?" Chase wondered.

"From…" House paused before he said too much. "Back from coma."

"You can't decide something like that," Chase doubted.

"Ever been in coma?" House asked. Chase shook his head. "So how would you know what you can or can't decide when in coma?"

"Very well," Chase nodded. "You obviously know more about it. And there isn't much point in going on with this conversation since you just trump me every time. But I still need your key to get you your clothes."

"I'm not coming to the funeral," House said. "Wilson has enough…"

"I don't care," Chase nearly barked. "You are coming to that funeral if I have to hire a posse to take you there. You owe it to Amber to pay her your respects."

House stared at Chase for a moment with somewhat startled eyes, and then he nodded.

"So where is your key?" Chase repeated.

"Cuddy has it," House sighed. "You can ask it from her or you can just go and get my clothes. I mean, since when have you needed a key to get into somebody's flat?"

"Fine, I'll just tell the cops that you gave me permission if they arrest be for breaking and entering," Chase smiled.

"I promise to confirm your story if it comes to that," House replied with maybe the tiniest glimmer of a smile of his own.

"I am so reassured," Chase muttered as he walked out of House's room.

Chase made his way into Cuddy's office where Cuddy was doing some necessary paperwork.

"House says you have his key," Chase opened as he walked in.

"Yes," Cuddy nodded. "I wanted to make it as difficult as possible for him to just leave the hospital."

"He hasn't even tried," Chase pointed out.

"I know," Cuddy replied clearly worried.

"He assured me that he isn't suicidal," Chase ventured.

"Maybe not," Cuddy agreed. "But I'm not sure he is really alive either."

"He said that he chose to live," Chase revealed. "That he fought back from coma because he had decided to live. He may be subdued right now, but I think we can trust him. He isn't going anywhere."

"Are you sure?" Cuddy wanted convincing.

"Yes," Chase stated – though he did lie a little. "Recovery will take time, though. But he is coming to the funeral tomorrow so I need to get him suitable clothes."

"He is?" Cuddy was surprised. "I… He told me he didn't want to."

"And I told him that he owed it to Amber," Chase shrugged. "He agreed with me."

"I see," Cuddy frowned a little because she really didn't, but she decided to ponder on that later. She reached into a drawer and took out the key. "Here. You can give it back to him when you take him the clothes. I really cannot think of any valid reason to keep him here after the funeral. Not if you're sure he isn't suicidal."

"I'm sure," Chase stated.

"Ok," Cuddy accepted. "I'll talk with Wilson later and update him on House and all that…"

"Good," Chase nodded. "Cameron's going to be with him tomorrow morning before the funeral. During it and after Foreman and I will try to be around too."

"Good," Cuddy said in her turn. "There are plenty of people who want to keep an eye on him. I'll keep an eye on House, too, and his new team can help. From a distance, though. Don't want to irritate House unduly."

"It might actually do him some good," Chase remarked as he took the key and left Cuddy's office.