Disclaimer: Not mine-- Fox's:P

A/N: So... everybody is doing this, but, here's my take on it.
And, I just noticed that somebody else used the exact same title, oops! but I had this up on the FOX Message board over a week ago, and I assure you it is not the same story, nor did I steal the title-- just an odd coincidence.

Post- "Role Model", when Cameron leaves Houses' house. (tee-hee).


Unable to face her, House averted his gaze, fighting back the wall of pain rising from his chest. Her outstretched hand lingered in the air, untouched. House could feel the hurt radiating off her in waves. How could he take her hand knowing that he was condoning this? That it was goodbye? How could he tell her that if he touched her skin then, he might not be strong enough to let go?

He hated goodbyes— the last one had nearly killed him.

"Never again" he had sworn.

And now Cameron stood before him, dejected, broken, yet composed.

She had done him this favor— coming to him at home to tell him privately, in person, that she could pretend no longer.

She whispered goodbye, and as the door closed quietly behind her, something in him broke— he was a selfish bastard.

Even as she stood before him, hand outstretched in farewell, he couldn't steel himself enough to grant her final wish. He was a coward. He had failed her, just as he had failed her that evening. All her hopes, her gratitude, had been riding on him— one stupid speech and he couldn't rise above his own pride to deliver it and, in so doing, save her. He had crushed her— the one thing he'd promised her he wouldn't do.

But she had crushed him, just now. Did she know it?

Did she know how his heart longed to be honest with her? To stop her?

But he couldn't. Something inside of him was too afraid of the risk; the pain.

"I take risks all the time— it's one of my worst qualities".

The words rang in his ears.

He did take risks, with other people's lives.

Swallowing hard, he forced his eyes upward to gaze at the doorway Cameron had only moments ago passed through. She was gone.

He had done the right thing. He had hurt her, betrayed her, disappointed her, but he had saved her.

"She's so young..." he thought painfully.

He had saved her from a life with him in it— a miserable existence. He was a cripple— an emotionally debilitated, social ogre.

She was kidding herself, drawn to him like a naive nursemaid to a dying soldier. What happiness would she have ever found with him?

"But what about my happiness?" his brain tugged, stubbornly.

House shook the idea loose and sighed heavily. Retreating to his armchair he downed a handful of vicodin.

"I don't deserve that kind of happiness" he reminded himself painfully, "especially not at her expense".

Besides, once here infatuation had passed, he'd be left with the pain of losing her. Better to get it over with now.

Leaning his head back against the seat, House closed his eyes and breathed deeply, attempting to restore a sense of calm.

"There are only two ways I can deal with things. One is in my control--" He felt the pain in her voice-- pain he had caused, "that's to leave".

Yes, the second option was in his control, he knew that. It was for the best. He cared for her-- he had to admit it to himself now, now that she had shaken him to the core; now that she was gone from his life-- and because he cared, he had to let her go.

But he had driven her away! The one shining thing in his life; the first good thing since...

"It's all for the best!" his mind demanded.

He rose, making his way to the liquor cabinet. He tried to push Cameron out of his head-- her face, her smile, her laugh, her voice. The way her hair fell, so softly, over her narrow shoulders.

His mind drifted back to the evening they had spent together not so long ago: taking back the cotton candy, nudging him playfully.

"How could I have let this go on so long?" his mind screamed.

Unscrewing a bottle of vodka, House lifted it to his lips and drew in a deep swallow.

"How could I let her go? Why didn't I stop her!" his heart fumed, regret washing over him, flooding his senses.

"No" he barked loudly, breaking the silence of his empty home.

"She'll be fine" he said softly.

Silently, House berated himself for his own vanity-- as if she would shed many a tear over him, how ridiculous. He certainly wasn't worth it. She'd forgotten him as soon as she'd left his front step. She would fall in love: someone good and kind, like her husband had been.

"But will I be fine?" his thoughs pressed.

House shook his head and slammed the bottle to the counter, causing it to splash its' contents across the polished surface.

He would be fine-- he had always been 'fine'.

Lurking, deep inside him, was a pulsing desire to one day be more than simply 'fine'-- A selfish notion; unrealistic, weak and pathetic.

But... Cameron could have been it-- that 'something' that was missing in his cruel existence. Did her purity, her goodness, have the power to cancel out all that he had become?

"Maybe" he admitted to himself, quietly.

Turning swiftly, House grabbed the nearby phone. Her number? The operator- there can't be that many Allison Cameron's in Jersey-- he'd call them all if he had to.

House dropped, exhausted, into his arm chair and stared fiercely at the telephone in his hand.

What had she done to him? This... sniveling, innocent girl who had transformed him from the snide, miserable pit-viper he had been into the soppy, emotionally wrung-out ingrate he now was?

He threw the phone viciously against the wall.

"How did she do it?" he demanded of himself.

"What made her so different that she could break through where no one else had?"

Cameron's smiling face settled itself in his mind.

"Because no one else had tried..." came the answer.

Cameron had never feared him-- feared for him, perhaps; feared what he might inevitably become without...

Damn her! He was perfectly happy before...

Lies. He was perfectly happy with her...

House sighed heavily. Life, without her in it, in some capacity at least, was no life at all.

He was being selfish, but he needed her-- needed her goodness; needed to see her smiling at him, joking with him, arguing with him, reassuring him that he was still, despite all else, a human being.

"You do it because it's right".

It dawned on him that she had never condemned him for what he had done-- never blamed him for failing her, for 'crushing' her.

No, she had come for him.

House leaned forward and shook his weary head.

"Damn it" he breathed.

Somehow, he must get Cameron back.