House of Cards
Disclaimer: Yeah, not mine. I bet you're all as devastated as I am… :P Just kidding.
Notes: Follows Crush and Bad Ideas. Love all you reviewers. You make me happy. This one's an episode in four parts, so keep an eye out. J
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
It's not warm when she's away
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And she's always gone too long anytime she goes away
James Taylor, Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone
When he found out she was going to live, he didn't know how to react. Foreman and Chase allowed for an embarrassed man-hug and shied away from each other directly afterwards. Wilson leaned his head back against the wall and let his whole body sag. The surgeons looked at each other in relief and congratulations.
House went back to the morgue to finish the post-mortem on the kid, and when it occurred to him that someone had very nearly had to do this to Cameron he had to call the whole thing off and just go home.
At least, that's what he thought he should do; what he ended up doing was meandering around the ICU until one of the orderlies asked if he wanted a cot to stay overnight on. He decided then that it would be prudent to get some rest, to let Wilson, who had stayed with him, go home to his wife, and to quit giving what was clearly the wrong impression. Bedside vigils were not his specialty.
He made a mental note to call Cameron's parents in the morning; they were sure to be on file somewhere. They would want answers… Cameron would want them to have answers. He didn't like dealing with people, but this was clearly within his duties as a doctor, as someone who had seen what had happened, and as someone who cared about her.
He wished he could have discounted that last reason.
Sleep did not come easily, not that this was a new affliction. Instead he sat at the piano, fingers caressing the keys, not really playing anything in particular. He tried composing something, but just as it had happened before, the minute he tried to remember what he was playing, the tune faded. That night he lay in bed staring at the ceiling and wondered at what point his life had made the turn from bad to worse, and why he'd driven himself there.
Fear seemed to be the only answer, but then fear was the answer to a lot of life's greatest mysteries. Fear of change, of bereavement, really. Almost anyone and anything you liked could be taken away from you. He'd lost the ability to run, to play lacrosse. He'd lost Stacy days later. After that, everyone had looked at him differently because he had looked at everyone else differently. That was why he liked monster trucks and soap operas, not people; that was why they made him happy. He could pretend his life was normal for a little while as he watched them. Wilson was the notable exception to this rule on the basis that Wilson had gone through a lot of changes before House had his infarction- two wives, two divorces- and their friendship hadn't changed much except for the amount of lip Wilson had to put up with. It was constant, comforting.
It wasn't enough.
House had learned two things from the day's misadventures. First, he had learned that you could not make a conscious decision whether to like someone or not, despite all of his experiences with the morons in the clinic that pointed to the opposite.
Second, he had learned that his fears were well-founded, but not productive. Being afraid of something wasn't going to stop it from happening. Somehow, he didn't find that thought very comforting.
He made sure Chase was there when she woke up, because he couldn't bear to release his anger at her just yet; he'd received a copy of her letter of resignation on his desk that morning and didn't think he could face her without making an accusation.
Chase had said she looked terrible. That wasn't what House needed to hear and it sure as hell wasn't something he needed to see, so he stayed away for as long as possible, dealing with paperwork and other administrative details.
It was a New Jersey area code, somewhere out in the country. "Yes, this is Dr. House calling," and hey, that was almost a pun, almost funny- "May I ask who I'm addressing?" He was purposely, painfully polite.
It was Cameron's mother.
"Mrs. Cameron, are you sitting down?"
And now, he knew, she was sitting, waiting for the bomb to drop, waiting for the floor to fall from under her feet. He knew what that felt like.
"It's Cameron- Allison-" Strangely, he'd never considered that Cameron had a first name before, and he stumbled over the idea- "she was attacked late last night. Stabbed. She's out of danger. No, we expect her to make a full recovery. Oh. Room number? Three-sixty-one." He didn't even look at the file, and he'd never been there. "I'm very sorry. You're welcome. Good-bye."
When he hung up the phone, it was with a curious and self-derogatory frown. What an impersonal way to contact the loved ones of someone you had known for so long. He wondered if they would come to visit.
He knew Wilson was at the door without looking up from his Gameboy. "If you've come to ask me for a consult, this is a bad time." Stupid, stupid space monkeys.
Wilson said nothing until House gave in and looked up, at which point he crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall. "Cameron's asking for you."
Shit. Now he had guilt. But he couldn't go see her. He never saw patients on principle. Anyway, he was angry. Right. "I'm famous. Renowned, even. Half the country is asking for me."
"First of all, that's infamous. Secondly, you don't have a moral obligation to half the country." Wilson frowned at him. "Listen, she knows you were there. You're her friend, you're supposed to be there for her."
Friend. He wasn't sure if that was the problem or the solution. "Did she hear from her parents yet?"
"They're coming up tomorrow, so be on your best behavior." Wilson reached across the table and plucked the Gameboy from his hands. "Lab coat, stethoscope, impeccable bedside manner: the whole concerned savior act. Now get going."
House grabbed his cane reluctantly and went the long way around.
The blinds were drawn around her room, a fact for which he was grateful. He could see her silhouette through the window, nothing more than a series of lifeless shadows, barely moving. He was sure he couldn't go in.
Then Chase emerged from the room, shaking his head and laughing, and House had the irrational urge to hide somewhere. Usually only Cuddy could inspire that kind of fight-or-flight response. Chase, either because he was a sadistic bastard or because he wanted to cheer Cameron up, or maybe a little of both, apparently felt the need to announce his presence. He poked his head back into Cameron's room. "You've got a visitor," he said, and left with a very pointed look in House's direction. It said, quite clearly, Don't screw this up.
It was an impossible request. Don't screw up. He'd done nothing but screw up his personal life for over six years; that was why he didn't have one anymore. But he would save the disappointment for later.
He hobbled lamely inside with what he felt was probably barely-concealed dread, hoping to keep his eyes away from her, but by the same token hopelessly drawn.
"You look like shit." A voice from the half-light, sounding more tired than she probably would have liked.
House blinked once, grabbed the wheeled stool in the corner and slid himself closer. "Didn't get much sleep last night. You're looking stunning as always."
Cameron, who in fact looked like she was recovering from multiple stab wounds, laughed weakly. "You mean all I had to do to get you to be nice to me was get mugged? I should have tried this ages ago."
In that moment, House was unsure if he was fiercely proud of her or deeply ashamed of himself. Nonetheless, her comment disarmed him, or rearmed him, depending on how one looked at it. He started to remember part of the reason he was there. "Don't push your luck."
"I think I've done enough of that for a few days." Hazy eyes. Unaffected words, slipping lazily off her tongue like honey from a comb. Morphine drip, he realized, and that explained why she wasn't quite herself.
Still, she definitely had a point. Then again, so did he. "You quit," he said, and it didn't sound quite like an accusation, not like he thought it would. It sounded lonely, vulnerable, betrayed. Lost. Helpless. Abandoned. It sounded like you left me here alone. Out loud he would have added with these morons, in an effort to sound less pathetic.
Cameron turned her head away from him. "We needed to do the MRI and the EKG and the rest of it. And you knew one of us had to go anyway."
Uh oh. More coherent than he had anticipated. "I would have thought of something. I was buying time--"
"You were going to fire me anyway," she snapped, looking at him with narrowed eyes. Then, gentler, "It was easier this way."
Misdirect. "You need to get over your fear of confrontations," he told her coldly.
It wasn't until she smirked that he realized how that must have sounded, coming from him. Maybe it was time to set the record straight. "I fired Chase."
That got her attention. Cameron's mouth dropped open slightly. "What?"
"I tried, anyway," he explained, suddenly unaccountably frustrated. Or perhaps very accountably frustrated. He should have known she'd have questions he didn't want to answer. She always did. "Vogler said to choose someone else."
She wasn't saying anything, whether it was because it was a good strategy to keep him talking or because she didn't believe him.
"I never got the chance to choose someone else." House hated confessions, especially when he was the one making them. "Anyway, Vogler would have made me fire you."
He thought very seriously about lying to her, or walking away from her awkward questions. "Because he wants to make me miserable." He hated that anyone should know him so well, especially Vogler.
Mixed response on that one- the hint of a smile played about her lips, but her eyes were serious, if cloudy. "Got a bit of a head start on you. And you said you didn't even like me."
Yeah, this was about his cue to leave. He forced himself to his feet and reached for his Vicodin. He was halfway out the door before he stopped to answer her.
"Everybody lies. I thought you knew that by now."