He wakes up, and all the world is wreckage. The noise of screaming sirens, the memory of a dimly lit room, cold as this current night outside lying on damph asphalt, and crying, astonished faces all around. A light shines on him, distracting all these recollections. He has the vague impression somehow that he is hurt, but he does not care. He walks towards the light.
The light becomes the blinding light of another place entirely. A familiar white room appears before him, full of nostalgia and half-repressed feelings. Before him sits The Answer: a gorgeous, clever figure, who speaks in riddles and yet does not lie. He questions The Answer, but she disappears before his eyes, replaced by an altogether different girl, blonde and shy and quiet. She smiles, and he gapes.
He knows this girl, knows suddenly that this place is not right, is not a place he should be at all, yet he cannot bring hismelf to feel fear in her presence. She knows him. She is perceptive; her compassion alerts her to his deep feeling of wrongness.
"Are you all right, House?"
The room vanishes. The next scene is all the less pleasant. It is his own diagnostic office. Things would be washed by the overwhelming sense of normalcy as they always had been, but a man is there in the room. The man is disguised by a smattering of cheap make-up and a wig, a nurse's outfit, yet his gaze remains intimidating nonetheless, full of fathomless emptiness and a deep, startling intellect.
The man has a gun.
The gun is shot, and House topples over, too stunned for pain, too shocked to comprehend what wrong he has committed, what reasoning could compel anyone to seek out revenge, this vendetta, against himself.
The man is taking off his hospital mask. House suddenly wishes he would keep it on. Underneath, covering the face, lies a sight far worse even than those bottomless black eyes: the scarred visage of a man who wallows in blood, who kills for pleasure, who smiles at the misfortunes of every other human being who has ever been and is and will be. His vision begins to go out. This seems the last sight he will ever see.
He is wrong. With a jolt he comes awake. Quite oppositely, the smiling face of Amber is there to greet him. Amber, one of those few people for whom he can feel true respect; she is attractive and brilliant and undoubtedly daring, unafraid to pursue all things she desires. At this moment she looks at him with tender love and care, but he cannot remember when he has asked her to come and live with him.
He stands up, prepares for work, and turns, the images before his eyes suddenly overlaid with the sense of blood and death. Amber lays on the floor, gore-ridden and dying. In the next instant, he can hear her again, the real Amber, inquiring:
"Are you all right, House?"
There seems to be no proper answer to this. And besides, suddenly the mood is different. She is standing before him, all dressed in red, the color of passion. Her body presses against his as he sits unmovingly in his office, her breath warm beside his ear.
She pulls away without warning. There is for the first time the spark of something deeper than her usual sardonic playfulness in her eyes. They glint with a predatory gleam, the confidence of successfully taking down one's prey. She says only that the mood needs a completion. A bottle of sherry is poured between them, and he remains contemplative of this look in her eyes that is at once unfamiliar and yet uneasily, vaguely reminiscent of something he has seen in someone else.
Perhaps he was only imagining it. He can remember the more gentle embrace of her throat against his shoulder, her beaming smiles while they ride the bus home together. She is trusting of him, so absolutely and thoroughly. There is no warning spark to be found in those warm eyes, no personal vendetta or grudge.
He glances to her again, and finds himself shocked that he did not note the resemblances before: the tilt of the chin, those imploring blue eyes, her silken blonde hair. She is so very like the blonde girl, this same girl who is in front of him again. He cannot reach her, all alone in her little white room, he cannot see The Answer anywhere in sight around her this time, and so he searches for her, pushing at last through the large white doors in an effort to gain her attention.
The girl looks up. For just this moment, she appears unspeakably sad, regretful though without losing any of the same trust in Amber's eyes. Then she looks down, as if he has already been forgotten.
But he has not been. He sees the picture fall, fall through the light parchment until it twists around the dark and spiraling staircase and reaches another destination entirely. The man with the Glasgow smile, staring darkly out the window--into a window. Familiarity: the window of his own office. Surprised, House looks up and meets his gaze.
Amber too has felt this shock, has looked into her own mirror only to turn suddenly and find the looming figure of this dark and scarred man, speaking calmly, politely to her in his light tenor voice. House notes the widening of her eyes, and speaks to calm her down, for in her home, where nothing bad has ever happened and surely nothing ever will, he does not see the man. He tells her nothing is there. She turns her gaze away, smiling, though he cannot decipher whether the upward quirk to the corners of her mouth are quite from the same sense of trust or the beginnings of a smirk.
She does not believe him, does not forgive him. He stares unseeing, and so she will make him watch. The nearest scalpel is grabbed from the table; blood runs in torrents down her arm. He is gripped with a nameless horror, though why he cannot say: he knows blood, has seen blood nearly every day for the past twenty years in his professoin. He is beyond the squeamishness that accompanies the life of a doctor. This is different. This is self-defacement, and the blood itself strikes a fearful recollection into his mind that he refuses to let come any further.
He must get away from this blood. He runs, runs swiftly and surely without his cane, because so long as he is running, the worries of the world cannot catch up to him. So it seems, as long as he ignores the intent gaze of the masked man in the fountain, who tilts his head with the focus of a small bird and does not let him out of his sight.
Something seems desperately wrong with Amber. The blood that had streamed down her arm instead mats in clots and patches across her face. House sees himself reflected, briefly, in this same manner, but then he is only gazing at her speechlessly through the blur of background. Seeing her like this, bruised and broken, something in him breaks. The background becomes clearer, and yet moves darkly and emptily while the moisture at last emerges from behind his eyes and all the way down his face.
And she is still wrong. The brief impression of a bottle of pills, his or hers, and she is standing in a room of people the two of them together have never seen in their lives. He cannot sense himself, can only see her standing with a lean grace and the same predatory, haughty look to her eyes.
And she regards the scarred man without fear, watching him approach, staring at him equally.
He needs relief. The feeling of being watched crashes down upon him, the reminder of a revenge being sought for against him without explanation, and ignoring it will not relieve this gripping sensation, nor will running it. He reaches for his pills, his alone, but he cannot reach, and Amber stands mockingly at the side.
He would not recall why he has ever cared for her at all were it not for the impressions of long nights, laying on the bed, kissing fiercely--
Something breaks again. Something vital. These pictures which have been flashing by, which he has been both living and watching, suddenly no longer make sense, and he screams without sound in the agony of futility. Someone hates him, someone who is making him live through this pain and these painful moments, be it God, or Amber, or the unknown, shattered man with his scarred face.
Consciousness fades, and for the first time memories seem to reappear slowly. They come viscous and slowly, like honey, different from the scenes he has simply been watching play out like a movie, for they are blurrier and full of static, refusing to clear. They are real, but they will not come easily. Nothing is clear now, except the flashing views of the ony people he has ever cared about:
Cuddy stares in a slow groan of disappointment, of hurt against all the things he has ever said to her simply to make her sad and never meant.
Wilson, whose practical advice has been irreplaceable all these years, refuses now to speak, and stares on in disappointment.
The Answer is there, beautiful as always, smiling with her knowledge, but she is nothing if not silent and elusive.
And Amber--Amber is there in lazy, victorious pleasure, cynically enjoying herself even as her form is briefly glimpsed in the holes of his tattered memories, and there she simply look anxious and worried as he is sure she once did.
Waking comes. The sharp pain in his side alerts him that he has a gunshot wound in the side, but the hospital bed beneath him fills in the fact that he must already have been treated, that he is feeling nothing more than the sharp, mind-numbing pain of the stitches. The scarred man is there beside him, always smiling, never pleasantly.
"Are you all right, House?"
At last he finds words, if only one. "No."
"Why not? You don't understand yet, do you? I must say, I'm disappointed. I would have thought that by this point you'd have figured it out, yet it seems you haven't."
Silence. Then, a hesitant: "You shot me."
"And therein lies the misunderstanding. I didn't."
"You did." The familiar flash of certainty comes at last to House's blue eyes, for he is in pursuit of nothing but the truth in life, and that is the one thing he must have.
"I did not. You just don't see. You don't want to see. All these things that happened and are happening to you, it's not because anyone else did anything to you. Quite the opposite, if anything."
"Can't you see, your friend is trying to show you? I know you want the truth. I'm how you get it."
House regards the man and his Glasgow smile. There is no resemblance in the least to The Answer.
"Truth isn't always the answer. Not if you can't find it. You had to look around this time, see. I'm here for a reason. Amber's been here for a reason. The very same one."
"No." The sudden fear returns, crushing the air out of his lungs while he stares blankly from his hospital bed. He does not want to hear that Amber has all this time hated him too, has wanted revenge through his blood and pain. He does not want to hear of the people he has alienated into hating him.
"Don't you want to know why?"
No sooner has the word left his lips then the memory breaks free--a real memory, this time--sharp and clear and true. It is not what he wanted to see, but it is what happened all along: the sudden shattering of thousands of shards of glass against Amber's skull as the bus, the bus they were supposed to ride home together, comes to a screeching hault; the impact of the collision from bus and truck is enough to send all passengers flying through the air; screams and blood mix indistinguishably as people continue to fly, and Amber is hurt and screaming for him, but he cannot reach her.
It was his fault she was on that bus.
"Oh, yes. See, I'm not a monster. And I don't hate you. I didn't shoot you out of any underlying sociopathic grudge, nor attempt to fulfill questionable motives of revenge. This is all your hallucination."
"No..." His voice is losing conviction. It has been impossible, as with dreams, to tell what is real and what is not, up until the arrival of this one shining, agonizing memory which erases all illusion. Hallucination indeed.
"You hallucinate because you hate yourself. Because you killed her. You killed the other girl, too."
There are no words.
"I complete you; I'm just a part of your hallucination. You are the one who shot yourself. You are the one who wishes you were dead. You are the only one who holds such a personal vendetta against yourself."
He wakes up, and he knows this man was right all along, and he remembers Amber's death and fears this hallucination he has had. And more than that, does not know how to comply with either side of this vengeful vendetta.
Listening to: Naihi Shinsho
Watching: True Blood