Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is not mine. No copyright infringement intended. House M.D. and its characters are the property of David Shore, Bad Hat Harry Productions and the Fox Television Network. All Rights Reserved.
Author's Note: BotB is a one-shot. Period. I had-have plans on making it into a multi-chapter fic. I have the plot bunnies putting on puppet shows in my head. But I don't think I'm ready to handle a multi-chapter fic, yet. I'll finish off a couple more one-shots and get it out of my system before I start something long-term and exclusive.
Back to the fic. It's more pre-S5E2 Not Cancer, than post-S5E1 Dying Changes Everything. I was originally going to make it post-S5E2 Not Cancer, but I was having conflicted feelings towards Lucas because of S6.
The relationship between House and Wilson doesn't go any farther than friendship. So, no slash, but you can view it that way if you want to. The relationship between House and Amber is more complicated. They share, or shared, I should say, a mutual attraction for each other, a spark, but they both love, or loved, in Amber's case, Wilson far too much to let it go further than that. I wasn't planning on implying Huddy. Like with Lucas, because of my conflicted feelings towards her because of S6. But I figured, what the hell, a couple of sentences couldn't hurt. Besides, if I'm gonna believe the storyline stops after the S5 finale, might as well start acting like it.
By the way, this is my first completed fan fic. Cheers!
"I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
For all this
There's only one thing you should know"
-In The End
Gregory House couldn't believe how that word, or any word for that matter, spoken by him could contain such pain, such anguish. He couldn't believe how that word made him feel like his world has ended, all over again, each time he heard it. He couldn't believe he felt this much grief and loss, mainly since it wasn't his loss, or so he thought. He couldn't believe the fact that the crash was more than two months ago, and he still woke up in the middle of the night, crying out, drenched in sweat, banging his arm on the headboard desperately trying to stop his hand from slipping away from Amber's.
Truth to be told, House was surprised he could say anything at all. That's not usually how dreams work, or in this case, nightmares.
No one had noticed, yet. Noticed how further defined the dark circles under his bloodshot eyes have become, how he fell asleep in the middle of differentials regardless of how close he came to overdosing on caffeine, how he snapped at his team over seemingly negligible matters. They hadn't noticed, or maybe they had, and figured it would be easier to just shut up about it. He was relieved of that. It had given him time to deal with this himself. Obviously, he wasn't making much progress. Each time his eyes drifted shut, he found himself back on the bus, staring at and repeating the name of the main source of his grief, and guilt;
It was very little above a whisper, but House knew that was not why the blonde woman on the seat opposite to him hadn't responded. She was dead. She was dead forth the moment her heart stopped on the ambulance. Nothing they could've done afterwards would've been of any use. It didn't matter whether they shock her or froze her, she was dead, not dying, dead.
He sighed. She didn't have to die. He knew that. He also knew that repeating that in his mind as often as he did wouldn't make her any less dead. It's just that… she didn't have to die.
He remembered when he hired her, along with about 40 other fellowship candidates. He remembered her taking part in his every test, every game. He remembered the qualities that got her to the final round, and the qualities that got her fired, qualities he recognized as his own. He admired in her the same things he admired in himself. He disliked in her the same things he disliked in himself. He fired her because he saw in her the same fault he saw in himself. The only difference was that she could change, he couldn't. That difference was what made Wilson choose Amber over him. That difference was what made Amber's life worth more than his. Even to him.
He didn't like her. Or at least he thought he didn't, seeing as he didn't like anybody and had counted Amber into the category of anybody. But the truth was, he had been almost getting used to her, getting used to sharing Wilson with her, accepting her as a part of Wilson's life, hence his life. Not accepting in the way he accepted Bonnie and Julie, knowing there wouldn't be a happy ending, but not being able to bring himself to mess up the happy beginning for Wilson by telling him so. Accepting her, Accepting that, in all likelihood, this relationship wouldn't go down in flames, like the previous chains of them had, burning Wilson along the way, sometimes beyond recognition. No, This had been different. Amber had been different. She wasn't needy. She didn't need to be looked after. Wilson did. He could look after everyone else, his patients, his ex-wives, House. He couldn't look after himself. House had tried more than a few times to point out to him that he should look out for himself before looking out for half the world. But his point stayed invalid because he needed Wilson too much after his surgery, after Stacy left him with an emotional scar as deep the physical one on his thigh. He needed Wilson too much. Amber didn't. So her point, it stayed valid.
"You're dead" he wanted to say, just to hear her to confirm it, or deny it, he didn't know.
"You've changed" he wanted to say, just to let himself believe it, just to forget the times that he didn't. He smiled bitterly to himself as he remembered what he had said to Cuddy. "Alcoholics never take a drink as long as they live, it's only 'cause they didn't live long enough." Guilty as charged.
Guilt. He was feeling a lot of that these days. He wasn't unused to it. Being a doctor, it was inevitable. But he seriously doubted it was normal to feel pangs of guilt while sipping his coffee in the morning, or limping down the corridor with his team at his heels. Maybe it was because he knew Amber could never again be able to do these things. He didn't believe in rebirth.
"You're right" he wanted to say, not because she was right in any way, but because that was the highest compliment he could give anyone. And if anyone deserved it, next to Wilson, it was;
House sighed. He put his life on hold for her.
Two weeks he had spent without speaking. Because he couldn't remember how to.
Cuddy had been at his bedside every morning, begging him to speak, to say her name. 'Lisa' he had thought, looking at her grey-blue eyes streaming with tears 'Lisa Cuddy'.
And when he finally remembered how to speak, he remembered wishing he hadn't. Hadn't regained the use of the words that brought Amber out of his apartment onto her deathbed. Hadn't come out of it all untouched. But he had. Because he had nine lives. He wondered when the lucky day would come once he had used them all up.
He spoke only because he couldn't bear to see Cuddy cry anymore. Cuddy cried when he spoke too, but that was different.
Once Foreman officially declared that House had no cognitive impairment, or any other neurological defects, things he could have pointed out himself, he had been transferred out of the ICU into a regular patient room. Wilson had visited a couple of times, but directed the conversation onto strictly medical base. House didn't try and change the topic into something more personal. He didn't do well in those kind of conversations, he was sure to say something insensitive and probably hurt Wilson. And he didn't want to hurt Wilson, not when he was hurting already because of him, because of what he did.
Chase had told him in one of his visits to the ICU that Wilson had woken Amber up to say goodbye. His current team, who never claimed to give a damn about her, except Kutner he supposed, was apparently there too. He would've usually laughed at the show of hypocrisy, but he was surprised to find himself angry, on Amber's behalf, as was Wilson, though his recriminations were not unspoken, as his was. "No one in this hospital even liked Amber". The words sounded as poignant as it would have been, if they had been said about anybody else. But since it was said about Amber, it couldn't be any less untrue. They all simply wanted make sure that they parted with Amber on good terms. Like a few minutes of love simply erased all the months of hate. Like they actually cared for her, even a few seconds before they found out she was hurt. Like they weren't insulting Amber's intelligence by pretending that they were there for any reason other than to sooth their own conscience. "When you're dying, suddenly everyone loves you." He remembers saying more than once, he doesn't or doesn't want to remember when, or to whom.
All in all, he half wished he had a chance to say goodbye himself. Hallucinations don't count. Unless it wasn't a hallucination. But that would go against his view of the world, and the afterworld. He remembers saying to a lecture hall of Med Students years back; "Personally, I choose to believe that the white light people sometimes see, the visions this patient saw, they're all just chemical reactions taking place while the brain shuts down. There's no conclusive science. My choice has no practical relevance to my life. I choose the outcome I find more comforting."
But for the first time, he found more comfort in believing it had been Amber he had seen, rather than a hallucination due to all the chemical reactions taking place while his brain herniated. Found it more of a comfort believing in the irrational rather than the rational.
Even if he hadn't gone into a coma, he doubted Wilson would let him anywhere near Amber.
He blinked. Twice. Then remembered he was still on the bus, as always.
House wondered if she had cried, when she found out she was dead, because of him. He knew Wilson had. Like all the times on House's couch after each failed marriage, like the hours in his office with his head buried in his palms after his patients die, like the day he returned from his honeymoon to see his best friend's thigh muscle being taken out.
He wondered if she hated him, more than he hated himself that is, when she found out she was dead, because of him. He knew Wilson hated him, still not as much as he hated himself, but close. But he was not so sure about Amber herself. Maybe that's why he wanted to believe his hallucination wasn't a hallucination. Because, back on the bus, it was alright. She seemed safe and serene. She seemed content, if not happy. All the things she said to him there, were things she would've said, back in the realm of the living. But, on the other hand, the things he said were also remarkably alike to the things she said.
House sighed. This was giving him a headache, now. When he woke up, it will have turned into a migraine. Side effect of shooting lightning bolts into an already banged up brain.
Amber suddenly jerked her head down and sneeze into her cupped palm. She swore in annoyance and fumbled around her handbag searching for a tissue.
"Do you have a Kleenex?" she asked, turning her head towards him, her olive green eyes meeting his electric blues for the first time in this dream, this nightmare. Her gaze was in nonchalance. Granted, since she doesn't know she's going to die. House blinked back the tears stinging his eyes. He didn't have any right to cry, to grieve. She was dead because of him. She never should've gotten on the bus. She never should've come to pick him up. She never should've answered Wilson's cell phone. But she did, and died.
He swallowed. Twice.
"Amber.." His voice cracked. His vision blurred.
"Do you have a Kleenex?"
He shook his head. Amber turned back to her handbag, searching for the pills that killed her, or is going to kill her. Whatever. House couldn't imagine why this affected him so much. A tissue, or the lack of one, represented absolutely nothing. He exhaled audibly.
"I-I'm s-sorry" he choked on his words, chest heaving. The tears he tried so hard to keep at bay, trickled out of his eyes. The apology had nothing to do with him not having a tissue.
He regretted it all. Regretted going to a bar to get drunk when he could've just as easily gotten wasted at home. Regretted calling Wilson when he could've called a cab instead. Regretted that Amber answered his call when she could've just hung up in disgust. Regretted that he knew why she felt the need to make sure her boyfriend's drunk best friend got home alright.
Wilson loved Amber, more than he could ever love House. And that hurt. A lot. Wilson wanted to spend more time with Amber than with him. It was not that Wilson didn't want to be with him. It was that Wilson wanted to be with Amber more. So he got caught up in a sort of custody battle with Amber. He kept on fighting every step on the way, till he saw something that made him stop short.
Wilson was happy. He was happy with Amber, more than he could ever be with House. And that hurt. A lot. But House wanted Wilson to be happy. Wilson was happy with Amber. Simple equation. So House let him go, he let Amber give Wilson what he couldn't. He let Wilson be happy, even if it meant that he never would be.
Amber knew. She knew why he had stopped fighting. She knew why he was drinking alone that evening. House never told her, never implied it, but she knew, and that's why she came. It was not to thank him or to gloat, but to let him know he did the right thing. She knew that meant a lot to him. That's why she came, why she died.
"Amber.." He drew his forearm across his face, closing his eyes. The cool fabric of his coat felt almost comforting against his scorching eyes. It felt like the material Wilson's couch was made of. The one in his office, or what used to be his office. House hadn't been in there since the day Wilson left.
Wilson left. House would say, left him, if it didn't sound so damn sentimental.
House sighed. It hurt just to think about Wilson, without even adding the leaving to the equation. His hand left his face and he opened his eyes to Amber.
She wasn't fumbling around her bag anymore. She had found what she was looking for. She uncapped it, and tipped a couple onto her palm. House couldn't help himself, in some crazy notion that he could somehow change the past, he had to say,
She took no notice of him. He supposed it was because she couldn't hear him, which was not surprising seeing that he could hardly hear himself. But even if he screamed at the top of his lungs that a garbage truck is going to hit them and she was going to die, he doubted her response would be any different. Because she was already dead. Besides, he'd already tried that the first few weeks, without result.
Amber tilted her head back and dry swallowed the pills, thereby signing her own death certificate. House swallowed back the bile forming in his throat. It was the same way he swallowed his Vicodin. Only the Vicodin would kill him much slower than the flu meds killed Amber. Only Amber didn't know what the flu meds would do to her, he knew all too well what the Vicodin would do to him, over time. Only Amber had so much to live for whereas he had hardly any to begin with, now he was losing those as well, one by one.
He had come back to Wilson again. Like he always did, and was always welcome to-was he?
"We're not friends anymore, House. I'm not sure we ever were."
Almost 20 years of stability, security and sanity suddenly yanked out from under his feet like-like…
House winced. Did he just compare Wilson to a carpet?
It never mattered before. He called Wilson a fluffy, pink doormat, and Wilson in turn called him a miserable, egomaniacal pain in the ass. It was how they worked, how they used to work. House didn't blame Wilson for wanting more. He blamed himself for not expecting it.
As much as he hated to admit it, Cuddy was right. He was running away. Running away from the pain of losing a person he loved. The same thing Wilson was doing. Only, for some weird reason, it tends to hurt a lot more when you're losing that person because it's their choice to leave you, rather than from a option beyond their control, like death.
If anyone asked House a few months back, if Wilson would ever leave him, for any reason, he would have laughed at their faces. If they bet $100 that Wilson didn't care for him as much as he cared for Wilson, he would've made it $500, the only thing stopping him from making it more, is that he didn't want to be responsible for them not being able to afford a sandwich. If they asked if Wilson ever did leave, what would be the reason, he never would've answered it was because;
"You spread misery because you can't feel anything else. You manipulate people because you can't handle any kind of real relationship. And I've enabled it. For years. The games, the binges, the middle-of-the-night phone calls."
House winced. The middle-of-the-night phone calls. He never would've made any if he knew that one was going to cost him this much. Too much.
He stole a glance at Amber. Not that it mattered how discreet he was. She wouldn't notice, because she was dead. House sighed. He wanted more than anything just to grab her hand and jump out of this bus. But even if he tried, he knew it wouldn't save her. Because she was already dead. He sighed again. She didn't have to die.
He had gone way beyond his limits to try and save her, even when he didn't know it was her he was saving. She wasn't just another file to him. She wasn't any other patient. She meant something to him because she meant something to Wilson and Wilson meant something to him. She meant something to him because, in the days of tracking down her true motives for dating Wilson, House had seen a small part of him Amber's soft face with its sharp features. A small part, getting smaller and smaller by the day. A part before the infarction, before the pills. A part that didn't want to be miserable. A part that still cared. A part that wasn't afraid to show that. A part that recognized the love in Amber's olive green eyes, recognized the reason for that love, as his own. "All my life, I thought I had to choose between love and respect. And I chose respect. And with Wilson, I know what it's like to have both."
He knew Amber loved Wilson as much as he did, he simply wouldn't, or couldn't say more. He knew she would teach Wilson the same things he did. He knew that she would use techniques similar to his own to teach him those. But he also knew that she would treat Wilson better than he did. She wouldn't mock him, or insult him. She wouldn't hurt him, voluntarily or involuntarily. Because she wasn't in pain. She wouldn't feign ingratitude or apathy. She wouldn't pretend to take him for granted. She wouldn't push him miles away every time he gets an inch closer. Because she wasn't afraid of getting hurt. Not with Wilson. Because she wasn't scared of change. Not like him.
Even before he found out whom he was supposed to be saving, he knew that, that person must live, even if it meant that he mustn't. He came close to overdosing on Vicodin, did overdose on Physostigmine, all on top of a skull fracture and a brain bleed. Against Cuddy's voiced disapproval, he had gone straight down to Princeton General with Wilson, shaking off his heart attack, to bring Amber back to Princeton Plainsboro. He had held differentials, and given instructions throughout the case, as if the fact that it was Amber, wasn't affecting his judgment, as if his liability in the situation didn't change how he handled the case, as if he didn't feel like banging his head against the wall each and every time they got the wrong diagnosis.
Even before he found out it was all his fault, he knew he had something to feel guilty about. He didn't remember what it was, but he knew Wilson would never forgive him for it. He knew he would never forgive himself for it. He briefly considered the guilt a result of having an affair with Amber, but he dismissed that idea as soon as it had come to his head. He knew, even in a drunken haze, he wouldn't have done that, not to Wilson. He might've respected Amber, liked her up to a point that he had to admit was more than just social. But he wouldn't have done that, not to Wilson. Neither would've Amber. Somehow or other, he was certain of it. More certain of it than he was certain of everything that had happened in the past few months.
He blinked. Twice. Then remembered he was still on the bus, as always.
She was looking out the window, watching the blur of the street lights, blissfully blind of her death sentence, unaware of anything that happened, or is going to happen. Whatever.
The calm before the storm. Yes. That was it. The calmer it is, the harder the storm's going to hit. Right over the bus. He was close enough to get sprayed on from head to foot. But Amber was the one going to get struck by the lightning.
House studied her, for the lack of things to do while waiting for the garbage truck to crash into them. She wasn't bad looking. In fact, quite the opposite. Her blonde hair was warmer somehow, not cold like Cameron's, parted to the side by a hairclip. Her face was fair and soft, just a tinge of blush on either side. The scarf wrapped around her neck was a brighter red than the blood that was going to taint it. Her rosebud lips alongside her fair skin reminded him of cherry blossoms in the winter. Her expression was one of indifference, which was almost naïve in its innocence.
He sighed. She didn't have to die. But she did. And it changed everything.
"Almost dying changes nothing. Dying changes everything." It was what he had said to Thirteen about a few weeks ago. He didn't know if it had been something in his tone or expression. But she had understood. She had understood that he understood that he was going to lose his best friend that night, along with his will to live. She had understood, and that had somehow given him the strength to face the moment he had been dreading. The strength to walk into Wilson's office, and apologize. He didn't trust his own words, so he had used Cuddy's instead. The artificiality he heard when he said them, almost made him wince, but it didn't surprise him the slightest, he wasn't Cuddy. The sincerity of the apology made up for it, though. He had let his mask, his shield, slip for a few minutes, to find out if it was enough to stop his best friend from walking out the door. He should've known better. Known better not to trust in hope, in constancy.
He had almost died trying to save Amber. But that didn't make any difference. It changes nothing. He had risked his life, his mind, for her, for him. But it didn't matter. None of it mattered. Except for what happened, and his part in what happened. Amber had died because of him. Not because of the driver of the bus or the garbage truck, not because of the doctor who prescribed her the flu pills. Because of him. And that changes everything.
He did everything he should've done, and even things he shouldn't have done. He knew he probably would've done more, if he hadn't gone into a damn coma. He knew he would've bribed, blackmailed or even bullied every member of every transplant committee in the country, to get Amber a heart despite not being qualified. He knew he would've begged, stolen or even killed to get one. He knew he would've given his own, if he were a match. He would've given it, if Wilson asked for it, the same way he had asked for his life. Because it, like his heart, was Wilson's. It was Wilson's to patch up, to protect, to care for, to break. It wouldn't be more obvious to anyone if there had been a giant red sign pointing to his chest saying; 'Property of James Wilson'.
But it didn't matter. Wilson still left. Left everything that had once mattered to him more than anything. "I have no kids. My marriages suck. I have two things that ever worked for me. This job and this stupid, screwed up friendship. And neither mattered enough for you to give one lousy speech." House couldn't help whispering what he had quietly and honestly stated years ago.
And they did, and still do. One more than the other.
His cheeks felt as wet as his throat felt dry. He swallowed. Twice. Nonetheless, his cheeks still felt more moist than his throat did.
House wanted to save her, more than he had wanted to save any other patient. He was surprised at how little making the diagnosis, solving the puzzle comforted him. He was surprised at the amount of pain, sited nowhere near his leg, when he found out he had to tell his best friend that there was absolutely no hope for his girlfriend.
Ex-best friend, a not so small voice inside his head reminded him, not so gently, ex-only friend, ex-only person he trusted not to leave, even if everyone else did.
When, not if.
It took IPG probe into his ventral hypothalamus for him to realize that saving her had only been wishful thinking, a delusion, a nice one maybe, but a delusion, nevertheless.
He didn't regret it. The Deep Brain Stimulation. Not then, not now. Even though there was a little to no chance that it would help Amber, let alone save her, he found out he couldn't simply look Wilson in the eye and say no. He could never say no to Wilson. Not when it mattered. It just hurt that Wilson could look him in the eye and as good as say House's life was worth less than Amber's, albeit how true it was. He knew that Wilson would have never considered it the other way round. He still couldn't understand why his heart clenched at that memory, why his throat felt like it was closing up, why his eyes stung. Amber was half his age, physically healthy and emotionally stable, far more stable than he was these days anyway. And more significantly, capable of showing love and care. On top of it all, his life wasn't all that important to him. There was no reason for it to be important to Wilson.
No, he didn't regret the procedure, he regretted surviving it. Amber deserved to live. He deserved to die. If it were his choice, he would have happily traded places with Amber. Only it wasn't. And it was never going to be how much he wished otherwise. He wished he were dead, even though it wouldn't make any less of a difference to Amber.
He bit his lip, drawing blood. He shook his head at this, knowing that he'll have to send his pillow case out to the dry cleaners when he woke up. Again.
"Amber.. I'm sorry...I-I'm so sorry"
"I'm so sorry." That's what he had said to Wilson just before he seized. He doubted Wilson heard his words, let alone the implied meanings; 'I'm sorry for your loss', 'I'm sorry I couldn't save her', 'I'm sorry I killed her'. House winced. It was so wrong but it sounded so right, so simple, so-
His thought process was interrupted by the sudden appearance of headlights in a distance, right behind Amber.
The headlights magnified. He could just make out the profile of the garbage truck that was going to crash into them, any second now, right behind Amber.
She tilted her head towards him, raising her eyebrows questioningly. House got to see the last look in her olive green eyes before-
Headlights flared. Crash. Passengers screaming. Metal folded into metal, and glass exploded inward. The garbage truck. It had crashed into them, right behind Amber.
She was thrown forward, her eyes closed, her blonde hair flying behind her like a halo. A golden halo.
House instinctively squeezed his eyes shut against the raining shards of glass. He could hear the screams of the passengers. He could feel Amber on floor of the bus, by his feet. He opened his eyes to see her rolling towards the bus well. Every other passenger, including himself, was gripping their seats, or the metal pole next to them. Amber was the only one on the floor, for now.
He simultaneously tightened his hold on his seat, and cane. Both his heart and respiration rates sped up with the adrenalin rush. He could see Amber struggling to hold on to the metal pole, the same metal pole that he knew would later pierce her thigh.
The bus swayed, a lot. House wished it didn't. It made him feel sick. He turned his head to look at Amber, and immediately felt sicker. With guilt. She was on the bus because of him. She was going to die because of him. She-
House lost his grip on his cane, and it flew overhead. He didn't care. He couldn't, his eyes were on Amber.
The bus fell to its side, but it didn't stop moving. Passengers were screaming. Amber was screaming. He was probably too.
He was thrown against the window, as were more than half of the other passengers. His vision swam in front of him. When it cleared up again he could see Amber a few feet in front of him, blood clotted with debris on her face and tangled in her hair, her hand flailing out towards him, her olive green eyes wide with fear. Trusting him to save her.
House instinctively held out his hand to her from where he was, before he could collect his thoughts from where they were dropped off. Amber's dead. Wilson's left. The bus is probably in repairs. This was just a product of his sleep deprived, trauma-ridden brain.
Amber was reaching out towards him, wordlessly begging him to take hold.
'It wouldn't matter.' He wanted to tell her, yell at her, 'I won't be able to hold on. I won't be able to save you.' But he knew he couldn't look her in the eye and pull back his hand, not now, not when it was only a few inches away from hers, not in this nightmare, not in the next one.
He reached out a little further and gripped her hand. It was stone cold. Like the hand of a corpse, he supposed. He wouldn't know. He's never held the hand of a dead person. Maybe their wrists to check their pulse, or lack thereof. But never their hands. Wilson probably has. Multiple times. Not a subject that'll come up in a typical conversation. He'll never get to ask, now that they're not having any type of conversation.
And he then he was awake, crying out, tears spilling down his sweat-ridden cheeks onto the pillow, which had already been soaked yesterday, and will be soaked again, tomorrow.
Author's note: Just for the record, the repetitions are intentional. Well, most of them anyway.
If you enjoyed it, please review. If you didn't enjoy it, please review. I'm going rather overboard with the repetitions, aren't I? But seriously, tell me what you think. I probably won't change anything in this fic, unless, of course, it's a spelling or grammatical error. But I might change it in my next fic.
Anyways, thanks for reading.