Chapter Twenty-Six: I Was Falling In Love

"I'm sure there was moonlight but I don't remember
I was falling in love
I can't recall was it May or September
I was falling in love"

They were going to be going home, finally. It felt as if House had imagined this moment, or maybe he had imagined everything that had come before it. Perhaps it was all the most vivid nightmare that he still hadn't quite awakened from, that he was still lying in a cold sweat after.

He was on a bus, and he wasn't quite sure how he had managed to get there. Beneath him was a hard plastic seat, covered with a half-assed excuse for a cushion. House shifted on it, trying to figure out if it was going to fall away beneath him and leave him back in Lucas' dungeon somehow. It wasn't as if he hadn't hallucinated before, whole scenes and whole answers and whole reasons. He'd hallucinated the beginning of his relationship.

House turned his head to the side and found himself looking, uncomfortably closely, at Amber. Her eyes seemed to be off somewhere else, like she was lost in thought. She was probably wondering, House figured, about Wilson and what his life was going to be like now. Maybe if the two of them could stay together through this.

House didn't know. After all, he had chased away Stacy after his own trauma, even though it was such a different kind that what Wilson had gone through. Wilson had never seemed the bitter type, though – House knew he had darkness in his past, like his brother's illness, and he didn't seem close to his parents, either.

At that, he found himself wondering if Wilson's parents would come up to see him. In all of the frenzy, he hadn't actually called them about this. Should he have? He wondered if this was what everyone meant when they reminded him he seemed to not know, or maybe knew but didn't care, about social cues and what they meant. When your best friend gets kidnapped, what exactly are the social cues? What are the rules? Is there a protocol?

House shook his head without realizing that he was doing it, and Amber looked at him with curiosity.

She opened her mouth and said to him, "So is it true?"

House stared back at her.

"What? Is what true?"

"Is it true that when Wilson said he was dating me, you said that he might as well have been dating you?"

House moved his cane back and forth from hand to hand, pausing only to stare at her some more.

"What kind of talk are we leading into right here, Amber?" he inquired. "Because I have a girlfriend. A woman friend. A Cuddy friend, and I'm not trying to come out of the closet or anything…"

Amber laughed.

"Now, I wouldn't be surprised," she teased. It was weird to hear that sound, the normal-Amber voice instead of that pursed, closed-lipped tone she'd been talking with ever since Wilson had vanished. It was now, too, that House noticed the color going back into her cheeks and into the rest of her face. When had she gotten so pale? House didn't know. He wondered vaguely whether his own features had changed the same way. Maybe Cuddy had noticed, or had she brushed them off?

He was struck by another odd thought at that – had Amber noticed the changes? What exactly was she getting at in this current conversation? She had always had a goal in mind in all the time he had known her; what was it this time around?

House rolled his eyes. He couldn't let Amber get to him. Not now, when it seemed as if just about everything would get to him. Every word, every noise, even the steady hum of the bus seemed to be willing him to fall into a full-blown panic attack, to fall off the seat, curl up into a ball and just scream until his throat bled, like that wasn't a weird reaction at all but a perfectly normal one.

"Listen, House…" Amber started. "We've been through a lot with this, and… Well, I'm feeling a bit like a whackadoodle… So try not to take this the wrong way."

House raised an eyebrow.

"Okay… Continue."

"But did you ever… think about me?"

House smirked.

"You mean, aside from what a Cut-Throat Bitch you were?"

"Were?" Amber said with a chuckle. "Don't you mean 'are'?"

House shrugged.

"I think we can both agree that Lucas was a lot more cut-throat."

"Not like he had a reason to be," Amber said, looking away. "He lost. Fair and square. That's all there was to it. He wasn't devoted, he was a crazy stalker."

"So that's what you call yourself? Devoted? Instead of cut-throat?"

Amber shrugged.

"I like to win," she replied. "But I love Wilson. I care about him more than you'd ever know. But…"

"But what?"

Amber looked out the window. There seemed to be a lot of things she wanted to say, but none of which seemed to come to the forefront. Other than what he'd figured out by hazarding a guess, House realized he didn't even know very much about Amber Volakis at all.

"I care about you too."

House cocked his head to the side.

"You're screwing with me, Amber. Listen – I don't think either of us need this right now. Things are… well, complicated, and we're both coming down off a lot of painkillers. Why don't we revisit this… whatever you're trying to say, when we're both not under the influence… Or…"

But Amber was already cutting him off by cupping his face in her hands, leaning in and pressing their lips together. House was vaguely aware that the bus driver seemed to be watching this from the bus' mirror, and he wasn't sure whether he wanted to break the kiss to tell him to mind his own business or to tell Amber that this was all a mistake.

He wasn't sure if he wanted to break the kiss at all, in fact.

And so he didn't.

* Erin Gallagher, "I Was Falling In Love"