Character/Pairing: House, Amber, House/Cameron
Summary: Lesson #1: Hallucinatees, like ghosts, come and go when you're least expecting them. This, he remembers. Sequel to apocafic, Same Time Next Week (which you kinda have to read first. Hehe). 1,920 words.
Note: A sequel because... Even in the end, Sydney lives in a house by the sea with Vaughn and their two daughters.
Don’t Be Late
For a second, House let himself be honestly scared. Just for a second; not more. Because he knew the men would pass him, as usual. They crashed everything that stood in their way; glass doors, glass windows, glass. But when they saw him?
It was like in a game show. They, the contestant; he, the million dollar question. And once he showed up, there would be the mindless stare, the monotonous “Uhm”, the shake of the head, then, “Hmm, I think I’ll pass this one.”
Guess the airline wasn’t lying when they confiscated his cane. It was a weapon.
It confused him, though, that they ignored her too. Shouldn’t these rioters do some things to her? Rip her cashmere cardigan? Tackle her Louboutin—or whatever they were—heels? Or at least whistle at her?
And then he remembered. Oh yeah! He was the only one who could see Amber.
As the hospital lawn came into view, House turned around and saw Amber smiling at him. Behind her, discarded cars occupied a left out street. Men jumped out of a broken store window, carrying TVs and VCRs in their hands.
House scoffed at the sight. What did they expect? Turning on HBO and finding, what? Nude people having sex?
No; these days, TV was Republican.
“Makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?” Amber asked a question, calling his attention. “All stations broadcast only news. And it’s getting old, anyway. What’s to report? Bombs? More bombs? Been there, done that! And yet,” she paused at that, pulling dusty air towards her hollow lungs, “there they are.”
House gave her no reply, frowning at her beaming feature instead.
She continued, “I guess it’s a good thing you hate people already.”
He watched her in silence as she chuckled at her own words. She was reading him again.
House looked away from her and restarted his trudging across the lawn. There was nothing there; a few scattered and fallen leaves maybe. But no volunteer, no truck, no vial, no box.
Sometimes when he was alone in the dark office, he could hear the sound of a vehicle approaching. He hurried himself to the balcony, hurting his thigh in the process, only to find nothingness.
It’s been days.
He reached the hospital’s front door at long last and stared back at his reflection in the transparent glass. Amber was nowhere to be seen.
He was alone again.
He still came to the hospital.
Practically, this was the safest place to be in. Policemen from all ranks guarded almost all windows and doors, hindering any effort from junkies who sought ways to break in and steal the ever decreasing supplies of morphine.
Of course the fact that the police paid no heed to the riot that occurred meters away from where they were standing amused him to no end.
So some decided to stay and call the hospital home, all in the name of protection. He was the only one who commuted.
He was the one that still woke up at 9 AM, took a Vicodin (Because their numbers got thinner too) and showered in his own bathroom. He was the only one that arrived at 11, each day with a new set of clothes. And he was the one who walked home at 5 PM, took a Vicodin and slept on his own sheets.
The only thing that differed was his patients. He had none now.
House passed a couple of police officers at the lobby, nodding his head to gesture his acknowledgement and receiving the returned favor. He headed for the stairs and took a deep breath, preparing his right leg for another set of venture. Because somehow the elevators still didn’t work.
Somewhere between the second floor and the third one he stood motionless. His knuckles went white from gripping the cane too tight. His heart knocked his chest in a rapid rhythmic movement. And he was sweating all over. He closed his eyes, inwardly counting down from 100 to 1. When he reached 50, he paused to rub his right thigh.
He remembered the hospital had run out of cappuccino.
“Are you hurt?” A female voice from behind made him jump slightly. He turned around to meet Amber, standing two steps down from him. A smirk was plastered across her face, betraying the sincerity of her words.
He had learned, though, that it was no use shrieking or throwing things at her. Well, he still did the later sometimes, if only to see his oversized tennis ball went through her stomach (100 points if it went through her breasts). Amber had, much to his surprise, been a great companion to him. He never wanted to admit it to her, of course; he was sure she knew already, after all.
So he replied her, gently. “I thought you’re gone already.”
The smirk stayed as she spoke. “Hallucinatees, like ghosts, come when you’re least expecting them. They don’t come when you call their names because that annoys them. Besides, that will spoil the fun.”
She stopped there and for a moment, they stared at each other in the quietness. But then she tilted her head back as she was thrown into a fit of laughter. “You should have seen your face just now!” she finished with effort.
He rolled his eyes, waiting for the amusement to entirely subside before he asked, “So what should I do to make them disappear?”
He waited for Amber as she massaged her ribs, hurt by the extensive act of laughing. When she eventually offered him the answer, she looked up at him and—oh, how he hated her when she did that—smiled. “You have to send them off.” As if it was that obvious.
House shrugged. “Okay,” he said. “Leave, please!”
But she merely laughed at his failed attempt. The way her hair fell on her shoulders was as real as it was the first time she stepped into the hospital’s auditorium, with a number stickered on her shirt’s front.
“I said, send us off! Not beg!” she said. “We go as we please, usually for the same reason we come. We don’t leave for the sake of being polite. We go because you want us to.” She took a moment of silence before continuing, “And I mean, really want us to.”
She moved on when House kept his silence. “You don’t want me to leave. You’ve lost everybody; Cameron, Wilson, Cuddy, your lackeys,” she said. “If I go, you’ll be on your own.”
He swallowed, listening to the echo of her last sentence. “So,” he said, finally. “If I can’t send you away, is there any way you appear naked the next time?”
She let out, as expected, another smile. “I can do something about it,” she replied. “But you can’t. You don’t like to feel guilty. Especially towards Wilson.”
He said nothing to that, nodding his head instead. “Right,” he sighed. “Well, I’ll just go to my office then. At least there I can sleep and see you undressed in my dream.”
“Of course,” Amber said while he pivoted and resumed his steps. Her heels clicked behind him; the sound was ringing inside his ears as she followed him upstairs. “I’ll just go with you and tuck you in.”
House could feel the evening sunset seeping through his closed eyelids, rashly waking him up. But he was reluctant, refusing to open his eyes and greet it.
He fidgeted on the reclining chair instead and shifted to a more comfortable position, clearing his throat all the while. The hoarse sound resonated through the empty office.
It took him some time to realize, the sound wasn’t coming from him.
Behind the sealed eyes, he could almost look at Amber leaping and clapping before him. He could almost hear her: Wakey, wakey!
“You’re still here?” he bellowed to the thin air.
He could feel his eyebrows knitted by confusion. And curiosity, too. He remembered a conversation with Wilson, right here in the office; it felt like yesterday. “I know I’m going to regret this,” he told Wilson back then.
So he opened his eyes.
He was indeed alone no more.
“Oh no!” he said, mildly shrieking. “You’re dead, aren’t you?”
The woman he addressed frowned at him from where she was sitting, next to his stretched legs on the foot stool.
“Why would you say that?” asked Cameron; bewilderment stretched across her face.
House looked back at her, mimicking her narrowed eyes. “Because lately,” he answered after a while. “The only person who wants to talk to me is a dead blonde chick.”
Cameron straightened up at her seat, holding his gaze all the while. “That makes me a ghost,” she pointed out. “I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts.”
“A hallucination, then,” House replied, abruptly. “Eether, eyether, neether, nyther.”
“How is that?” she asked him.
Cameron tilted her head to the side, as if her question could easily be answered just by looking at him in different angle.
“Hallucinatees,” he started, “like ghosts, come when you’re least expecting them. They don’t come when you call their names because that annoys them.”
Slowly, he sat up and leaned over, bringing his upper body closer towards Cameron.
He added, “They go as they please, usually for the same reason they come. They don’t leave for the sake of being polite. They go because I want them to. And I mean, when I really want them to.”
Like Amber before him, he emphasized his “Really” and widened his eyes at the same time, aiming for a dramatic effect.
But Cameron just laughed. Intertwining her fingers and putting her elbows on both her thighs, she scooted forward to mirror his position.
“Maybe,” she began. Their faces were merely inches away now; her breath managed to brush and tickle his nostrils. “You’re already dead, too. And this,” she moved on, “what death really looks like.”
“Ha!” he yelped, making Cameron blink in surprise. “You don’t even believe in the after-life!”
At that, she chuckled and sighed, defeated. “You got me,” she quietly confessed.
House observed her watchfully as she backed away from him. There was a little smile forming on her lips as she did so; eyes fixed on his in the meanwhile.
But she was suddenly on her feet. He looked up and studied the way the sunlight colored her hair tangerine. Towering there above him, she was as real as always.
Cameron was the first one to glance away. Staring at her toes, she seemed to be talking to no one in particular when she said, “I guess I’ll just let you back to rest.”
The carpet beneath her feet shifted as she crossed it, exiting the room in sheer silence.
He remembered they’ve been here before; more than once, in fact. He remembered she always left too early as well.
After Cameron was gone, House carefully propped his feet down the stool. He patted his right thigh, silently telling it to get ready. And once it did, he looked around him, trying to remember where he had put the cane earlier. He found it leaning on the wall, near the opened door that Cameron had passed before.
House stood up from the recliner, watching the hollow space by the door.
“Cameron?” he called out.
He waited. The moment lingered.
A figure popped up in the doorway. Burying both her hands inside the pockets of her jeans, Cameron looked baffled as she stared back at House.