Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own House or Hugh or any of them. Obviously.
Author's Note: Eeek, this was really hard for me to write! I am not in the least angsty, so writing someone so overcome with sadness was pretty challenging. It's also my first ever House fic, and my first story for over two years! So… be nice? Something like that. Also, I really believe the second half is better than the first, so please keep reading!
Dedication: To my darling Rosie, because every breath I take is for her, and to Chris, because he's always telling me to write and I actually decided to do what he said! I'm an obedient girl. Also 'cause he's such a good writer himself and I'm in awe.
Spoilers: Nothing major, but make sure you've seen Fidelity, I suppose.
It's a typical January day, of course, and the cold is strong and bitter; wet, icy snow on the footpath; heavy, grey clouds in the sky. She walks into the hospital, just glad to be out of it. January is freezing, January is harsh, January is lonely, January is today, today is –
"So glad you could make it, Dr. Cameron." comes that familiar voice, dripping in its customary sarcasm. She barely bothers to look up.
"Car trouble." She knows he won't buy it – everybody lies – but she doesn't care, and sits down next to Chase without another word. She doesn't look up to see those eyebrows raised skeptically, or that disbelieving smirk.
"Well, now that you're here, we can begin properly. We really weren't managing without you. I'm very happy your exhaust pipes allowed you to be here. So, suggestions…"
She knows he's still speaking, but she's become fixated by the window. The edges are covered in tiny, glistening snowflakes. They're geometrically perfect and melting; beautiful and fragile; brilliant and damaged by the sun's weak glare. She wonders what it would be like to be a snowflake. She imagines being made of something so brittle and sliding out of the shadows and dissolving in the light and – damn. She's never this poetic. She's never poetic at all. She's not even sure she likes poetry; all it does is turn something real into something flowery and fake. Doesn't it hurt a lot more to hear "Your husband's dead" than "Your partner in mind, body and soul has slipped away from this life into the next eternal realm"? She doesn't need poetry. She needs –
She looks up, surprised to feel the jolt in her stomach when she meets his eyes. She realises she has no idea what he's asking and she doesn't care. She does care. Her stomach twists again as he jabs her with his cane.
"I… Vasculitis?" She knows this is a stupid guess and she quickly drops his gaze, concentrating on the snowflakes, which are dripping even more. The light ruins them. They should stay out of the light. They belong in the cold. Great, beating a dead metaphor…
"Hmm, that's an interesting answer. What about you, Foreman – do you think Dr. Cuddy will accept that as my reason for not coming to the clinic today? I don't have any obvious skin lesions, but then, she hasn't given me a full body examination for a while…" he muses.
"Sorry. I was – "
"Thinking about the trouble with your car? Yeah, that's too bad. I think I know a mechanic – I treated him last week for something. What was it? Oh, yeah, Meningococcal, but he lost both his arms. Actually, I think he died… well, he won't be any help to you. I guess your carburetors will live to foil you again."
I hate him I hate him I hate him I hate him I hate today I hate today I hate today I hate him today.
"You can be such an ass sometimes." It's Foreman, speaking for the first time, and Cameron reminds herself to thank him later on.
"That's it! I'll tell Cuddy I'm an ass. The only problem is figuring out how to get her to believe it's the truth."
"I don't think you'll have too much trouble with that one."
"Ah, Dr. Cuddy! It's always such a pleasant surprise to see you. We were just talking about your precious clinic. I can't wait to get down there and treat some needy patients."
She watches them as they insult each other, wishing she could be as easy with someone as they are together. She used to be, once upon a time. When she was with… But that's finished now, and it's gone, and it's never coming back and it's over. She tries to swallow but she can't, and she thinks, is it really over?
She stares at the remnants of the snowflakes, now dripping miserably down the window until her eyes blur and her heart stings. No, it's not over, it's –
She looks up to see that Cuddy has gone and she realises he's staring at her, his gaze hard and focused. There's something in his eyes that she can't quite understand but she can feel, and the pain in her heart changes and intensifies. The last of the snowflakes have gone completely.
It is over. And instead of hating him, she hates herself.
At lunch time she sits, staring at her food, and she smells him as he walks past. They don't talk because she doesn't think she can and anyway, he's too busy watching General Hospital on his portable television. He complains loudly about the characters' actions and she knows exactly what he's talking about because she's been watching it too for the last six months. I hate soaps, she thinks and concentrates harder on the lettuce in her sandwich. I hate The O.C, and she can almost see the veins in the lettuce leaf.
When it finishes he leaves, and the air around her feels lighter, emptier. She throws away her untouched lunch and tries to remember what it feels like to be really hungry.
Before she knows it, the day is almost over and she's sitting in the lab, filling out paper work, and she realises she doesn't even know what their patient's name is. The thought would make her feel sick if she didn't already have the heavy weight of nausea at the pit of her stomach.
"Is he in jail?" It doesn't surprise her that he's there because she always senses him a split second before he makes his presence known, but his question causes her eyebrows to furrow as she looks up at him.
"The father – is he in jail?" Again, she doesn't answer him, and he rolls his eyes before continuing. "I'm guessing it was a crime of passion. Here's the set up. You're out on a date – something casual, something fun like bowling or mini-golf – and you're having a great time. Suddenly a guy approaches and looks you up and down – I don't blame him, mind you. I'm sure you were wearing some low-riding jeans and one of those tight, skimpy tops you insist on wearing around here – but your boyfriend doesn't like this. He 'throws down', as the kids say, and they're fighting, because gosh darn it, this guy was tainting your honour! Sooner than you can scream and beg them to stop, the other guy's in hospital with internal bleeding and a skull fracture while Mr. Chivalry escapes with a black eye. Now he's in jail for assault – it's not the first time, is it? You'd known about his indiscretions, but you'd thought he'd changed; thought you'd changed him."
She looks at him, disbelievingly, and this just fuels him.
"Now, here's the fun part. You're in a bit of a pickle, aren't you? Differential diagnosis time! Patient presents with the following symptoms: patient arrives late at work with a lame excuse about car trouble. This tells me that she doesn't care about what her boss thinks, and once this happens, she's depressed. Patient is sick and doesn't eat – patient is suffering from nausea. Patient is distracted all day – patient has heavier things on her mind. Patient spends far too little time on her work, and far too much time fiddling with her empty ring finger – patient is longing for the marital bliss she knows she won't be getting. Diagnosis? Patient is preg –"
"You think I'm pregnant to a violent guy who's rotting away in jail?" She's tired and she can barely muster the energy to play his game, the exhaustion evident in her voice.
"You tell me." He says, his eyes boring into hers. Her stomach squirms, and she doesn't think it's because she hasn't eaten all day.
"No, you've already got it figured out. Tell me – what sex will my vicious little offspring be?" her voice is hard and she swears he almost looks surprised that she hasn't broken their gaze.
"I think you know, Dr. Cameron, that I am hardly a qualified OB-GYN."
"And I think you know, Dr. House, that I am hardly 'with child'." She knows for sure now that he's surprised at the direction of the conversation. She would be happy to have caught him off guard if her eyes weren't watering with the intense stare and… No, I will not cry in front of him.
"I never said it would be human." So he's trying to beat me.
"You would know." There is a shade of a smile on his lips, and the fact that it's almost genuine is enough for the jolt in her stomach to soundly shake her. She's not going to let him win.
"I'll forgive you for that because of your hormones." He sneers.
"And I'll forgive you because you're a jerk." She's slipping, but she hasn't gone under yet. As long as they keep talking – is this an actual conversation? – the pain isn't so great, and the effort to remain intact is less. Maybe he senses something in her because there's a flash in his eyes and suddenly he says,
"I can't have someone on my team who's about to pop out a kid from an infected gene pool and won't even admit there's a problem." He stresses the word 'problem' and she sucks in his breath hard. I'm not fucking pregnant, she thinks, I'm just sad.
Aloud she replies "Believe whatever you want." But she's chosen the wrong word, because he doesn't believe in anything except that he shouldn't believe in anyone or anything. This time his smile is wry as he comes to the same conclusion. A moment passes – between us? – before she speaks again.
"Look, House, I'm fine."
"What makes you think I'm in the least worried about you, and not about the effort for me to have to replace you when you go off for seven years' maternity leave, or whatever it is you woman think you deserve these days?"
This is the part she hates, yet she relishes its familiarity; he pretends not to care about her, and she pretends not to care about that. Should she call him on it? On the obvious lie? Or is it better to leave it hanging? It is at this moment that she knows she'll never beat him, because he's been playing for too long, and doesn't care whether he hurts himself in the process. He probably sees it as an added bonus. She's not so masochistic – then why did I fall for him? – and she concedes defeat with a sort of weary resignation. She drops his gaze, her eyes watering.
"Eight years is a long time."
Her head snaps back up and maybe she hasn't lost after all.
"There's got to be a reason it – he, today – has such an effect on you. Is it survivor's guilt?" She should be surprised at his perception, and his honesty especially, but she's not really. For all his misanthropic pretensions, people fascinate him like nothing else. This knowledge doesn't stop her heart constricting painfully.
"So you read his file." She feigns apathy and tries to keep her voice steady, but she hasn't been this interested in anything for a long time.
"Maybe just a little. Needed to make sure you weren't undergoing this sudden personality change because of drugs. Track marks suit no-one."
"Or that I was pregnant?"
"That too. Stretch marks? Just as bad, and I'm sure your smooth, flat stomach doesn't need that kind of trauma. I haven't even had the chance to see you in that pink bikini I know you've got lying in the bottom of your closet."
She blushes instantly, but the subject matter of her dead husband is making her uncomfortable. He notices the slight reddening of her cheeks, of course, and a lecherous edge touches his lips.
"So, why are you still so shaken? Didn't you really like him all that much? Marry him out of pity after all?"
"I loved my husband." She spits back, reminding him of the lines even he isn't allowed to cross.
"Past tense, I see. You're feeling guilty because you don't love him anymore? That you're forgetting the love even on the anniversary of his death?" She hates the way he hones in on her pain and pinpoints its exact location. She hates that she can't seem to stop the tears that are forming in her eyes. She hates his ability to make her feel like this and more than anything, she hates that he knows her so well.
"Don't feel guilty for something you couldn't help. It's… it's stupid. And so like a girl." The softness in his tone surprises her, and then…
Suddenly she feels something around her shoulders. It's his arm, snaked around her form, patting her – doctor's hands – and it's gruff, and awkward and she can practically hear his head screaming at him to stop, but he doesn't. And for those few seconds she can feel the beat of his heart, erratic, uncertain and she knows, just knows, that the pumping in her chest is exactly the same, and everything feels so real and alive that all she can do is look at him.
With a brush of his stubble against her cheek – oh, God, never shave, please – he whispers in her ear "Don't tell anyone about this, and I won't tell them you've been rusting up the equipment again." An almost imperceptible squeeze of her shoulders and he's gone, quickly limping out of the lab without a backwards glance.
The beating of her heart continues, and it doesn't hurt.
It's a typical January night, of course, and the bitter cold tries to freeze her from the inside out. She steps into her apartment, just glad to be out of it. She sees a light flashing on her answering machine and presses the button, expecting a message of sympathy from her mother.
"Cameron. If you had been knocked up, you'd have to have called the kid Greg, you know." It clicks off and she starts to laugh.
She asks "What if it had been a girl?" and falls backwards onto her couch, still laughing. She doesn't even care that the laughter becomes tears because she can feel everything and she loves it.
It's been a good day.
Thanks for reading! Not to beg but… please review! Okay, I don't mind resorting to begging.