A Shoulder to Cry On

Eric Foreman contemplated another cup of coffee. On one hand, he was bone-tired after staying up all night with a case. House too had stayed all night, but he sequestered himself in his office with a copy of Entertainment Weekly.

Foreman sighed and opted for tea and honey. The patient was out of danger, but had months of rehab ahead of him. He reached for one of the muffins stacked on a paper plate by the coffee warmer when he heard a muffled sniffle from the other side of the lounge.

He hadn't noticed Cameron in the corner, probably because it looked like she was trying to get inside her locker. He put his breakfast down and walked over to that side of the room. "You okay?" Knowing that she wasn't, but it seemed stupid to pretend that his co-worker wasn't sobbing into her lab coat.

He suspected that it had to do with House. Allison Cameron was talented, beautiful and smart, but she was also had an obvious crush on House. In Foreman's opinion only a masochist would invite that kind of misery into her life, but the heart wants what it wants and there was no accounting for taste.

"You know, if you want to talk about it, I'll listen." He sat down on one of the benches and sipped his tea.

She emerged from her locker looking somewhat soggy. She dabbed at her face with a tissue.

Foreman, brother to two sisters, could tell that this was serious man-trouble. "Go splash some water on your face."

Cameron went to the kitchenette and ran the tap. Soon she returned, drying her face on a rough paper towel.

"That's better; now tell Uncle Eric all about it." He patted the seat next to him on the bench.

"I don't know why I came back. It's all such a hideous mess and I f-f-feel ridiculous." She took a deep breath to calm herself and continued. "House insisted that I come back, and I thought that it was more than just my work. I hoped that it was. I made him take me on a date, and it was awful. He was so cold and mean." She stopped, again to regain her composure.

"Uh-huh," he urged her on.

"I just figured that he was incapable of being in love; or having affection for someone, or pretty much even compassion and I just chalked it up to the fact that some people are like that. I sort of told myself that if he could like anyone, that it would be me, and that made it okay." She again dabbed her eyes.

"So what changed?" Foreman asked kindly, inwardly thinking that Cameron must have led an incredibly sheltered life.

"I saw him with Stacy and you can just tell that…he's still in love with her." She had stopped hiccoughing and seemed to have calmed down. "So there's no room for me, and I guess there never will be."

"And now she's coming back here to work. That should be fun." He wished he hadn't mentioned that, because he realized from the shock on her face that she didn't know.

"Oh my God. Are you serious?" She sat up, like a person who has just come to the conclusion that they had just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

"Unfortunately, yes. As far as I'm concerned, it's just one more reason for House to be a complete dick to me. He's a tortured soul alright, and he's bringing the rest of us along for the ride. But you need to dry your eyes and get a plan." He offered her a clean tissue from a box that a pharmaceutical rep had left behind.

"A plan? What is this, high school?" She seemed slightly cheered.

"No. Not a plan to get you together with House. I like you too much for that. I'm talking about a plan to help you get over House." He took out a pad and a pen and began doodling down ideas. He smiled at the first one.

"What? What are you writing there?" Her curiosity was aroused by his intense scribbling.

He laughed, "Oh, this is too good. Okay, so first off, the three of us are going out for a big night on the town. Drinks, dinner, debauchery. I'll handle the first two; we'll leave it to Chase to handle the last."

"You want all three of us to go somewhere where Chase has played S and M games?"

"Absolutely. First of all, I'm curious as hell to know what kind of stuff goes on there. Secondly it will eat House alive for him to know that we're all out having that kind of an evening." He outlined the most important aspect of the plan. "The idea is that you ignore House as a person. To you, he's your boss, your mentor, your teacher. You act kind of cold and aloof. With us; we're the brothers you never had. Instead of standing apart trying to curry favor and one-up each other, we're going to stick together." He smiled thinking about turning the tables on House.

"So how are you going to bring Chase on board with that? You know how he is." Cameron had never had a high opinion of Chase.

"True, but he's young and rich. He's never had to think of anyone but himself. I think he understands that no man is an island. He needs us, and we need him. I'll speak to him, but you've got to stop looking at him like something you'd scrape off of your shoe."

"Okay, we'll all start with clean slates. This is fun." She managed a smile.

Eric rolled his eyes, "I'm not helping you paint your toe nails."

She punched him playfully on the shoulder, "I know."

"And if I can offer some advice?" He continued.

"Yes, please. Clearly what I'm doing is not…good."

"Guys in general and House in particular, do not like talking about feelings. Ever. Now, we'd have to be idiots not to see that there's something going on, but you're making it too easy for him. You're too available, you're too accommodating, you're too demanding. I think you should have taken that other job. Teach his cranky ass a lesson. If I can ask, why did you come back?"

She sighed, "I could kick myself. He asked me to. I know that deep down, that he likes me too, and I thought that if I could just be here, then one day he'd realize that he was missing out on a damn good thing. I don't think I can say no to him."

"You would get eaten alive in Compton, you know that? No girls I know would be vulnerable like that. He'll never respect you as a woman if you do everything that he says. Assert your independence. Oh, and don't make any big changes in your appearance, that's a dead give-away that you are trying to get his attention. What you need are some boyfriends. We'll work on that." He jotted that down on the list.

"Boyfriends? Plural?" She was scandalized.

"Plural. You are a beautiful young woman, you can have your pick of men. Try different ones out. Older, younger, handsome, rich. You never know, you might find one you like, someone who can appreciate you." He smiled, "we are so going to screw with his head."

"So is the idea to keep busy with other things in the hopes that I'll be able to stop feeling so…" she was at a loss for a word.

"Look all this drama is just a way to pass time. Time will pass no matter how you feel. I once read somewhere that when you look back on events in your life, you'll remember what you did, not what you felt. So if all you plan to do is sit around in your apartment playing Dido and reading magazines, what kind of memory is that? Wouldn't you rather have some other memories?"

She visibly cheered up. "You know, I would. When I look back on the past ten years of my life, frankly, I'm ashamed. I know that tomorrow is not promised and yet I keep living for the future. Screw that. I'm done with that. This is today, and I deserve to be happy. Okay, drinks, dinner and debauchery. What do I wear to debauchery?"

Eric thought about it, "Ask Chase, I'm sure he's got an idea or two."

"That's what I'm afraid of. But you know what, I'm tired of being afraid. I'm going to go find him right now." She turned towards him when she got to the door, "Thanks."

He waved at her, "no problem. I'm always here for you." As the door shut behind her he consulted the list again, "I wonder where she's going to put the tattoo."