Disclaimer: I'm snarky and I take pills daily. I am, however, not House. I do not own House. House is not in my bed right now (damn it.) I'm just borrowing him and Cameron and the roof of the Princeton Plainsborough Teaching Hospital. Everything will be returned when I'm done playing.
Spoilers: Major for Autopsy. Takes place a few weeks later.
A/N: A scene between House and Cameron that wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it.
"I'm going to run down to the cafeteria and grab something to eat. Page me if you get the results, okay?"
Foreman didn't look up from the microscope, just muttered his agreement as Cameron left the lab. When she reached the stairs, though, she didn't head down, but started climbing. Pushing the roof door open, she took a deep breath. The air was cool and crisp, filled with the smell of trees and leaves and just a hint of rain. A relief after the canned air of the hospital that she had been breathing for the last ten hours.
"Hiding on the roof from the cripple, now that's not really fair." Cameron started at the sound, turning from the view to watch House limp towards her.
"Maybe it was a polite hint?" she muttered sarcastically.
"Since when do I pay attention to hints?" House shot back. He stopped a few feet in front of Cameron. Leaning heavily on his cane, he used his other hand to reach into his pocket and withdraw a single white pill. With little fanfare, he popped it in his mouth.
Sighing, Allison turned away. The sun was beginning to set, and the fading colors lent a rosy glow to the Princeton Plainsborough campus. It looked almost like a Thomas Kinkade painting, full of peace and comfort. A beautiful illusion.
"How did you know where I was?"
"You never go to the cafeteria, which is where Foreman said you were when I checked the lab. You either bring food from home or don't eat. Usually the latter. After a day like today, I figured you'd want a little time alone, which drastically limited the number of places you could be. I added that to the fact that its twilight and you're a hopeless romantic. Poof, here we are."
It was strange that a man that seemed to actually work at alienating the people around him was also gifted with the ability to read those same people so well.
"This case is getting to you." It was a statement, not a question. House was standing next to her now, his wounded leg resting on the roof ledge. He was watching her intently, the same way she so often saw him study a patient. The only difference was the proximity; usually, he kept a dozen feet and a piece of glass between himself and who ever he was observing.
She could almost feel the skin of her neck tingle from his stare, and after a moment she was forced to abandon the view and face him.
"Yes, it is. Did you come all the way up here to tell me that it shouldn't?" She made no attempt to temper the tone of her voice, the anger, frustration and pain seeping out.
"It shouldn't," he agreed. "It's just a case, like any other case. But then, if you didn't get weepy eyed over a dying girl you wouldn't be Cameron, would you?"
She thought about turning and leaving. A handful of steps and she would be away from him, out of range of his voice. She wouldn't have to hear his pedantic views on not becoming emotional about cases, or his sarcastic comments about death. He would never catch up to her before she made her way down the stairs and out of the building. A half hour from now she could be in the familiar comfort of her cheery apartment. There was an open bottle of white wine in her refrigerator, and a Jacuzzi tub in her bathroom. For a little while at least she could forget it all, work and House and little girls who should be watching cartoons at home, not dying in
hospitals. Some inner voice whispered at her to stay, and for whatever reason she listened.
"There is nothing you could have done." His voice lowered, in volume and timbre, a sign that he was being honest and sincere. He was, in his own way, trying to comfort her.
"Do you think that matters? She's eleven years old, and I had to tell her that there was nothing we could do for her except dull the pain. I had to face her parents, who looked to me for assistance, and tell them that there daughter was going to die. Not in sixty years, but in a couple of days. So the fact that medically there is nothing I could have done differently is not a hell of a lot of comfort." She did walk away then. Not far, but enough that he was no longer close enough to reach out and touch her. Not that he ever would.
"You're angry," he noted, seemingly unaffected by her rant.
"Very astute, Dr. House. That certainly was a hard diagnosis. Cameron is angry," she mocked in a tone that sounded all too much like that of the man facing her. He wrinkled his brow, more bothered by her cold sarcasm then he would ever admit.
"I went to go look in on her a few minutes ago."
Cameron refrained from commenting on his unusual behavior. House rarely visited a patient, and never if there wasn't a medical mystery to solve.
"She's a lucky girl. Better off then us, I think."
Cameron could only stare. House, while often rude and always pessimistic, was not usually downright cruel. To say that a child dying was a good thing was unfathomable, and Cameron was at a loss for words. Silently she waited to hear what he said next. He too was silent for a moment as he settled more firmly onto the low wall, releasing his cane and resting it where he could easily reach it.
"Bethany," Cameron supplied. It suddenly seemed important that if they were going to talk about her they at least used her name.
"Bethany," he dutifully repeated. "How long has she been here?"
"Three days." He was perfectly aware of the fact, and Cameron was sure he was just trying to make a point.
"And in those three days, how many visitors has she had?"
"I don't know. A lot." The girl's room had a virtual revolving door ever since she had been admitted. Besides the ever present parents there were the two brothers, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, a minister, a couple of teachers, and half a dozen other visitors. Every time Cameron or one of her coworkers went to perform a test they had to shoo a bevy of guests from the room.
"Exactly," House said, as if her answer explained everything. From the perplexed look in her eyes, he could see that the point he was trying to make was still unclear.
"If it was you in the hospital, or heaven forbid, me, how many visitors do you think we would have?" Without waiting, he continued. "Not very many and I'm speaking from experience." Absently he rubbed his leg with one hand.
"So because she has people to watch her die, she's lucky?" She wanted to argue the point, but in a little corner of her mind she began to understand what he was getting at.
"That case, a couple of weeks ago. The girl with cancer. Andi," he added, before Cameron could supply the name. "Wilson came to my office before he left. Wanted to point out that the clot wasn't near the amygdala. He likes to be right, even more when it means I'm wrong. Annoying man. I hate people who always have to be right." Cameron rolled her eyes, but allowed him to continue without interruption.
"I pointed out to him that the only thing we had accomplished was giving Andi more time to die. A slow and painful death." He noticed Cameron stiffen slightly at his bluntness, but he refused to soft peddle the truth. It was one of the reasons he avoided patients. Not a major one, but a reason none the less.
"Then Wilson said something that bugged the hell out of me. He said that Andi enjoyed life more then I did, and took more from it. She lived, while I existed. Not his exact words, but what he meant." House slid off the wall, reaching to grasp his cane as he took the pair of steps required to close the distance between himself and Cameron. She was watching him carefully, and he could tell that he had thrown her off balance.
"This girl is the same, if the crowds of people are any indication. She's lived a life. Lived it big enough that there will be people to mourn her passing and flowers left on her grave long after her body turns to dust. Of course, if the choice were given to me I'd still pick a long miserable life over a short friend filled one, but hey, that's me."
"You had to ruin in, didn't you? For a minute there you sounded like a real human being." Cameron stuck her hands farther into the pockets of her lap coat, afraid that if she let herself she might reach out and touch him. Late at night, when she tried to puzzle out what it was that drew her to such a sarcastic, misanthropic disaster of a man it was conversations like this that headed the list. Moments when he opened up, however briefly, and she glimpsed the man behind the pain and drugs and bitterness.
"What can I say; I was afraid you were going to break out into a chorus of Kum Ba Ya. Now I'm going back inside. Are you coming? It's going to start raining soon."
"You can smell it in the air too?" Cameron could, that sharp musk that filled the air right before a rainstorm.
"Ah, no." He shook his head and wrinkled his brow. "I listened to the weather report on the radio."
"I'll be down in a minute." She watched as House limped away towards the roof access door. Turning back to the view once he disappeared down the stairs, she noticed for the first time that the weight she had on her shoulders was lighter now. Enough, at least, that she could face another day. Smiling, she looked up to the sky. A single raindrop landed on her nose.