Characters: House, Wilson, Amber
Spoilers: Post episode for "Wilson's Heart." Between seasons.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Nope.
Summary: House prefers to call it "surveillance." Stalking sounds kind of creepy.
Author Notes: This is my first House story. Feedback is much appreciated.
He’s always been good at watching. For someone who doesn’t like people very much, he could spend hours around them, just watching and listening. Smelling them. Mentally dissecting nerves and sinew and marrow. People reduce easily. Their parts are more interesting than the whole. House couldn’t give a damn about the big picture.
But it’s never been like that with Wilson.
A slow morning. House is parked in the usual place, sitting behind the wheel of the rented Cutlass, plotting strategy while he waits for Wilson to come out of Amber’s apartment. Even though he still regards Tritter with nothing but disdain, it turns out that stalking someone is harder than it looks. House prefers to call it “surveillance.” Less creepy that way.
All the same, he’s getting better at shadowing Wilson. House suspects it’s an acquired skill. When Wilson is driving his car instead of walking, it’s even harder to tail him. House has to stay close enough to make sure he doesn’t lose Wilson at a light or in traffic, but at the same time, he can’t give himself away. Fortunately, Wilson is an insufferably cautious driver and usually stops on yellow, never mind red. Even so, House is careful. Since Wilson won’t even pick up his phone, it’s most likely he wouldn’t take kindly to a stalking. The last thing House needs is a restraining order.
But House can’t lose this. Despite what Amber might think, House sometimes gets what he wants.
Right on time, Wilson steps out of the apartment building and heads down the sidewalk. House waits until he’s at the corner before he turns the key in the ignition.
Wilson isn’t driving today, which probably means that he’s heading for the park. This makes House’s job a lot easier. He can circle the block while Wilson gets his coffee at the local cafe. The pretty barista confirmed that Wilson is back to his old standby -- a large cup of regular coffee. While he was with Amber, Wilson had taken to ordering a large non-fat latte, extra foam. It's an honest relief that some things are getting back to normal.
House manages to stop at every light, so he can stay behind Wilson. He puts up with the indignity of driving like an old man, because he really doesn’t want to lose him. Sure enough, Wilson stops at the café. House takes the Cutlass for another spin around the block. There’s usually a line at this time of morning, and it’s not like he’d find a place to park. Yesterday, he went ahead and called the rental place to reserve the sedan for another week. He hates this car. It’s everything his motorcycle and Corvette are not. Blending in, not calling attention to itself. It’s everything that House is not. It’s perfect.
Cuddy’s been asking him why he rented it. She’s still coming to see him after work, bringing meals and complaining when he doesn’t eat them. He still makes her nervous, but she doesn’t lecture him for what he did to himself. Cuddy handles him gently, like he still might break. It works in his favor and gets him another week off. Wilson’s still out on bereavement until the end of the month. House isn’t planning to come back to work until then. Someone’s always got to keep an eye on Wilson.
But it’s taking too long. He’s almost afraid that Wilson’s got away somehow without him seeing. House has already circled the block three times, before Wilson finally comes out with his coffee. He’s got a white paper bag in his other hand. Good. Wilson needs to eat.
Heading for the park. Taking his familiar route. Even when utterly destroyed, Wilson is a creature of habit. House drives as slowly as he can so he doesn’t get too far ahead. Probably wouldn’t matter. Wilson never sees.
The park is a block away and is well situated next to a street. House pulls over, close enough so he can still see. Needs a clear line of vision. From here, it’s always the same. Wilson is trying to choose where to sit. There are only two empty benches, but he almost seems torn between them. This indecision concerns House as much as anything.
Wilson is depressed. Depression makes everything impossible, even choosing where to sit down. House knows for a fact that Wilson is no longer taking anti-depressants, which is ironic considering he wasn’t really depressed back when he was taking them. He stopped after he started seeing Amber, something Wilson let him know at the time, still hoping to convince House that Amber was good for him.
House would try to get Cuddy to prescribe something, but he knows she would say, “Of course, Wilson’s depressed. His girlfriend’s dead. That doesn’t mean he needs medication.”
As a doctor, Cuddy should know there’s a difference between ordinary grief and clinical depression. And Wilson has plenty of symptoms.
He’s having trouble sleeping, for one thing. He’s spent plenty of time outside Wilson’s bedroom window making observations. The insomnia seems to be getting worse. The lights in Amber’s apartment are being turned off later and later. Last night, they didn’t go out at all. House spent the night in his car parked outside, just to be sure. This isn’t good, because Wilson needs his sleep. Even as an intern, he could hardly function without at least six hours. House wishes there was some way he could slip him an Ambien. Drugging his friend used to be a whole lot easier.
He’s also not eating. Wilson loves to eat. Even when he’s worried or tense, he eats to make himself better. The white bag most likely holds a poppy seed muffin. Even if Wilson feeds half of it to the birds, it’s better than nothing.
Wilson finally chooses the bench that’s closest to the copse of trees, away from the path, away from people. House smiles a little. Good for him. Wilson needs people, but that doesn’t mean he likes them any more than House does. He and House have that in common, even though Wilson bothers to keep it hidden. It’s something nobody really knows about him besides House. He doesn’t think Amber was around long enough to figure it out.
This is the boring part. Wilson sits and sips his coffee and stares into space and House watches him. However, boring is not always bad. Boring gives him a sense of distance. Distance bequeaths perspective. And perspective, when it comes to House, is everything.
The paper bag remains unopened, on Wilson’s lap. Still not eating. Opportunistic pigeons mill around, waiting for it to tumble to the ground. The wind’s picking up, cold for this time of year. Wilson didn’t bring a jacket. He’s wearing the McGill sweatshirt. Wears it almost every day. House told Amber to give it back to Wilson, but he’s pretty sure she kept it, just to spite him. Probably smells like her. Even from where he’s sitting, House can remember what she smells like. Along with the smell of coffee, it’s a memory from the bus that lingers. She smells like rain.
But House has to keep his focus.
Wilson is rubbing his neck again. His back must be killing him. House can tell by the slouch. He wonders if Wilson is sleeping on that damned perfect mattress. Amber would be so pissed if he wasn’t using the mattress after all the trouble she went to. Wilson had been so happy – so very, very happy - that she left the choice up to him.
“She wants me to take care of myself,” he’d confided to House, even though Amber wouldn't have wanted House to know.
Of course the right choice turned out to be hers, but she let him think he made it himself. House had to hand it to her. She managed to give Wilson the delusion of free will and get away with it. Not for the first time, House really, really wishes that Amber had lived.
He still sees Amber from time to time. Chase keeps telling him that spectral hallucinations can linger, one of the ongoing effects of hypnotism, not to mention electroshock therapy. It’s a sign that there’s trauma still healing, but not necessarily brain damage. Chase calls him every other day to check up, and House lets him, because it makes Chase feel better about almost killing his former boss. In the meantime, he waits for Amber to show up. Surprisingly, he’s not in much of a hurry to heal.
When she comes around, House reminds Dream-Amber that she’s actually a result of neurons misfiring, but just like Real-Amber, she doesn’t usually listen. Instead, she narrows her eyes and tilts her head back. They spend much of their time together arguing and goading each other, just like they always did. Sometimes, he talks. Sometimes, she listens. He tells her that he’s sorry he couldn’t save her.
“You never wanted to save me,” she reminds him. “You were only trying to save Wilson.”
“Same difference,” he tells her, and she smiles coyly. They have no reason to lie to each other.
On overcast days, Amber sometimes joins him on surveillance. She sits behind the wheel, because House usually takes the passenger seat. He read on Wikipedia that it’s helpful to look like you’re waiting for someone to show up while tailing someone. Amber’s good at shadowing. It’s likely she did her share of stalking during her short stint at life. They have even more in common now, watching Wilson. House likes her better every day.
But Amber hasn’t shown up this morning. Either House is getting better, or she’s busy haunting Wilson. It wouldn’t surprise House, control freak that she is.
He’s still having problems with tenses, when it comes to Amber.
A haunting would explain some things. For example, when Wilson seems to be talking to himself. Other times, he looks like he’s leaning on an invisible shoulder when he cries. House once thought he knew everything there was to know about pain. He watches Wilson and knows that he was wrong.
House has a lot of time to think these days. Most of the time, he thinks about the accident. About Amber's death and how he could have stopped it from happening. Like it’s a puzzle with a piece already missing, House spends hours working away at it, knowing it will never really be complete. He studies the pieces in front of him instead.
Getting drunk in the afternoon. (Honestly, House still can’t remember why.) If the bartender hadn’t taken his keys, maybe he would have only gotten himself killed. Dial-a-Wilson. Amber’s exasperated voice on the phone. His dismay at her plowing through the crowded bar, oblivious to the stares. He really wanted Wilson instead. A sneeze. A red scarf. The forgotten cane, and the bus punctuated by white light. The pills in her hand. Too late, too late. The halo around her shoulders. Amber as an angel – what a joke – but House isn’t laughing.
She was beautiful, wasn’t she?
(That’s what Wilson kept saying at Amber’s funeral. House only knows this, because Cuddy told him.)
House doesn’t believe in fate. Doesn’t believe that everything happens for a reason. And yet, it all feels so inevitable, like some not so benevolent deity is out to get him. A ubiquitous Greek tragedy. For the first time in his life, House wishes he believed in something bigger than himself. He’d like nothing more than to shove the blame for this onto someone else’s shoulders.
Grasping for epiphanies. Pathetic. Wouldn’t be surprised if Chase’s last extra volt did some lasting damage.
Ah, but he’s forgetting his assignment, losing track of time. Fortunately, Wilson is still on schedule. He stands up from the bench and stretches. Yawns. Maybe, he is back on anti-depressants after all. Still hasn’t eaten his muffin but disappoints the birds by throwing it away. It’s not like Wilson to disappoint anyone. Still in his own little grief-riddled world. House scowls at the profile of his friend against the landscape. It’s all so pleasantly pointless. It would be foolish to believe that Wilson finds solace in this ridiculously perfect day – the cool air, the cloudless sky, the leaves fluttering in the wind like a refrain, saying please don’t hate me, don’t hate me.
House isn’t sure he can keep this up much longer. And Wilson’s not getting better.
He turns the key in the ignition. He has time to follow Wilson back to Amber’s apartment and make sure he gets in all right, but then it’s time he goes home. Cuddy will be coming over, and he needs to take a shower after being up all night. Last night, she said she might bring Foreman. The last thing House needs is to be admitted for psychiatric evaluation. The last time he saw Amber, she said he was looking somewhat deranged.
They’re all worried. Cuddy and Foreman. Chase, Cameron, the new ones. Once they found out that Wilson refused to see him, they’ve been worried about what House might do. They think they know what he’s capable of. He doesn’t tell them not to worry. Likes to keep them on their toes.
It’s taken this much, but House finally knows that he’s not suicidal. Amber’s life for his was a fair trade. His life for nothing is just that -- nothing. He’s not willing to just toss it in. You never know when staying alive might come in handy. Wilson might still need him someday.
This is what it comes down to. House doesn’t want Wilson to hate him. He wants his friend back. But Wilson is heading around the corner.
“Better get going if you don’t want to lose him.”
The taunting of the undead. He doesn’t even have to look over his shoulder. She’s back. Honestly, he’s glad for the company.
Before House pulls away from the curb, he reaches over and cranks up some Jagger for both of them, the acoustic version this time. In the back seat, Amber sings along.