Disclaimer: I do not own House M.D. or any of the characters from the series.
A/N: I created the dialogue at the end of this chapter while playing street ball outside in the rain. On a rusty goal, on a dreary street, in the middle of a desolate downpour. A crack of lightning; then another. I heard the sirens, and I closed my eyes. And for a moment in time, I lived it. I felt it. The words just flowed from the darkness around me. It was every writer's dream.
Chapter 16: Redemption
Neither knew how long it had been, and neither of them really cared. Minutes. Hours maybe. A lifetime. It couldn't have possibly mattered. Because Redemption was on the way. And they both had to hold on for as long as they could until Redemption could hold on for them.
Somewhere along the way, the midday heat had settled down and the sun had called off its torture. Only rays of light - like a shaft of faraway hope - now glistened through the rusty fence. It poured streaks of shadow across their faces, and checkered the court with a pattern.
(He held on like he knew nothing else.)
It melted two mountains of powdery pills that lay in tiny heaps behind him.
(He could always use them later. If Redemption never showed up.)
It was the waiting game now - and as lawless as it was, they both played like they knew the rules. Hugging and squeezing and holding on tight. They were saving each other from a Cut and Paste that never really could be Undone. Death was forever.
Or maybe not. In which case, they were both in trouble.
His arm on the cement, his face on Cameron's shoulder, his legs beyond the knowledge of location. The pain just blended together now - it was physical, it was psychological, it was whimsical. In his thigh and in his heart. In his every everything. He was wrapped around her and wrapped around something he never even thought he could hold. Something he for sure couldn't touch.
An idea, maybe. A dream. A breath. A breath he couldn't hold forever.
They were lying on the pavement - the way the should have been - but breath continued to come. No little, white pills had been ingested. That door remained closed for now. Bolted and locked with a red-lettered sign. Beware. Of the danger. Warning. Keep Out. So few do follow the rules.
Cameron let him hold her like the end was near. War of the Worlds on her brain, and House was the only man left. They were a team now, and their mission was clear. She kept her nails in his the skin at his back and her head on the blacktopped pavement. Both of her legs around one of his and she didn't even know which one. His left arm was draped across her and his fingertips were linked with the fence. His knuckles were white and his body was tense; her own body was tense against him.
Sirens and dogs barking. A basketball bouncing. A car speeding by on the street. It was obviously afternoon now. The innocence of the morning had passed. Three teenage boys came swaggering toward the basketball court, only to see a man and a woman lying lifeless up next to the fence. They turned and swaggered away, wanting nothing to do with any trouble there would be if the cops showed up to investigate. The ball was heard bouncing all the way back down the street, until it finally faded and blended with the sounds of the neighborhood.
It wasn't until his body denied him further strain that House allowed his muscles to relax. He unclenched them slowly, one by one, and softened against Cameron's shoulder. And that was the moment that he realized . . .
They were going to be okay.
It was the first time in six years that he felt that. The first time in six years that he knew it.
He had jumped off a cliff, and three-fourths of the way to the bottom, he began to wish that he hadn't. When the ground is just below you and you're speeding toward it - when there's nothing you can do to stop it - suddenly life, and all of its burdens, are trivial and insignificant. All of those problems that couldn't be fixed - they are all just a meaningless whisper. A passing breath, a fading thought. A stupid decision of blindness. And none of it really matters.
Because the ground is there, and you are here, and death is a millisecond away.
But as House opened his eyes and unclenched his muscles, he realized he hadn't hit the ground. Something had stopped him. Something had saved him. Here he was, holding on for dear life, when life was already his. Redemption had come, and he hadn't seen it. Because he was too busy cringing to look.
"Unclench," he whispered to Cameron. Her eyes were closed and her muscles were tight. But she had felt House loosen against her. She wanted to loosen as well. She wanted to know that she wouldn't fall if she released her grip from his shirt. "It's okay," he whispered again. "Just let go."
Let go. It was the one thing she couldn't do.
House felt the blood as it dripped to his ribs. There was something about it that was cleansing. Cameron's nails were imbedded so deep that his skin wore badges of her pain. And he would keep those badges forever. Touch them every night as he fell asleep and remember how Redemption found him.
He untangled his fingers from the metal fence and let his hand drop to the pavement at Cameron's back. And he waited. He breathed into her neck and waited. He couldn't do this for her. Cameron would have to let go on her own.
"I'll fall," she whispered shakily.
"No you won't. I promise." He cupped his hand at her back and stroked his thumb on her spine.
"But I deserve to." Her words were muffled by the closing of her throat and her respiration became more aware.
"No . . ." House mumbled into the flesh at her jaw. "We don't deserve to."
"I can't live," she shook her head and the tears rolled down. They soaked into the concrete and moistened it with salt and regret. A regret that she still held onto. A regret that she shared with the ground. "I can't live up to that teenager's future. I can't be her legacy for her." Her voice squeaked as the salt spilled over, as it soaked the ground even more. "I can't bear the burden I was left with."
House remained still, and his thumb stopped stroking. He remembered that night, and what Rachel had yelled at them right before the car sped away. That was why Cameron was hurting. That was why she couldn't let go. "When she said 'Change the world for me', she didn't mean 'Win the Nobel Prize and prevent global warming'." He sighed and closed his eyes to let his words flow pure and untainted. "She meant live. Live for her. Be happy in a place that she couldn't."
He buried his face even deeper into her shoulder, as he felt her muscles unclenching. "What Rachel did - it wasn't self-sacrifice. It was common sense. She was meant to die, and you were meant to live. All she did was be okay with it. All you need to do is let her." Cameron's fingernails were slowly retreating from their bloody holes in his back. "The disease took her life." His thumb once again began stroking. "She didn't take your place."
"She killed herself . . ." Cameron squeaked out in a strangled breath.
"A day before the disease would have killed her." A leg became soft against his. An arm gradually loosened from its death-grip. "It's not your fault," he whispered. "It's not your fault."
"So . . . what? We just forget?" she breathed. Every muscle was finally loosened. Surrendered.
"No. We remember. We think about it - every minute of every hour of every day. And then we remember this day."
The pills behind him were soggy now. Soggy and forgotten. Replaced.
A single teardrop ran from his eye and soaked into the ground with Cameron's. They were drops of salt and remembrance. They were drops of a pain that would always be there, but a pain that was finally beautiful.
A pain that was worth every second of the fall. Every second of the beautiful rescue.
They were drops that would free them. Drops that would heal them.
They were drops of Redemption.