A/N: I don't own any of this... House, Cameron, the show, the songs I use... Trust me, I have no money. I just do this for fun. I love reviews - a big thank you to those who have been so kind so far! I hope to keep hearing from everyone. Thanks to Jay for pointing out my little continuity problem.
Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills my mind
You and I collide
Howie Day - Collide
It wasn't supposed to be this way. This was date number two. Number three if you counted the monster trucks, which he had begun to do. Their first date – the non-date – was the best kind of date. Its classification as "everything but the date part" allowed them both to enjoy themselves without further pressure. Or so he told himself. He wondered what went through her head that evening. He had been surprised to find himself actually being himself that night. Genuinely laughing. Enjoying the wonder in her eyes as she watched the mammoth vehicles seemingly deny physics as they launched themselves over obstacle after obstacle. Stealing her cotton candy, tempted to kiss her undoubtedly oh so sweet lips. One moment in a day in a week in a year in a lifetime that wasn't filled with snark. Just laughter. When had he laughed like that before?
The second date: something to prove. She to prove they could make this work, her childish ideas of romance and relationships. He to prove just the opposite. He had credited himself with the win until she told him she loved him. Not then. Not then and not in those words. But soon enough.
"I thought you were too screwed up to love anyone. I was wrong. You just couldn't love me."
He watched her walk away. Always watching her walk away. Evaluating. Re-evaluating. Over and over and over. And over. Always a puzzle. Even now. Especially now.
"You just couldn't love me."
His gaze turned from her to Stacy, but he didn't see Stacy. He saw words. "You just couldn't love me." Scrawled in black across a white board. Stealing his markers. Marking her territory. "You just couldn't love me." He imagined, dreamt, heard the unsaid. Addendum. Footnote. "The way I love you."
Real date number two. House date number three. He still didn't know why he did it. Just asked. Two days after Alfredo was discharged. Lying on the couch in his office, facing the glass wall so he could watch her. Eyes poring over her, brain trying to tear her down, build her back up. Failure. Data does not compute. Who is Allison Cameron? Weak, strong, naïve, battered, afraid, fearless. None of the above. All of the above. Blue eyes so like his.
So like his.
Lazily dragged himself off the couch, meandered over to the doorway. Quick glance: Foreman, Chase, gone. Eyes back on her. Wondered why she changed her hair color. He had liked it before. Not sure he liked it now. Changing her hair, changing herself. "I've jumped on the bandwagon. I hate you, okay?" Okay.
He hears "I hate you" and decides to ask her on a date. Staring, again, from the door, those words reverberating in his head. Hate. You. Hate. You. The metronome of his subconscious.
He wonders at his own change. Thinks of how he treated her this last case, harsh, mean. Thinks of weeks earlier, a cup of hot tea wordlessly placed in his hands. She did many things wordlessly. He wasn't sure who was crazier: her for putting up with his cruel words, for allowing herself to fall in love with him; or him for treating her like hell, for not allowing himself to fall in love with her.
Blue eyes finally rise followed by two perfectly groomed eyebrows.
"Do you want to have dinner tomorrow?" He's amazed he's still looking into her eyes. He's suddenly filled with… what? Fear? Not House. Never House. Surprise? Possibly. Ah, concern, that's it: she'll say yes, she'll say no, he'll be happy, he'll be sad.
A moment's hesitation. A blink. "Fine."
Eyes fall back to the computer screen. "Fine."
No corsage this time. Had to bring something. A single rose. Almost made himself late, knowing that each color held a meaning. Definitely not red. Nor pink; too close to red. White was for weddings. And gardenias. He wondered if she dried the corsage, placed it among others from her past. Settled on an obviously genetically engineered cyber-rose. Was nothing sacred? Fiery sun at the stem fading to summer peach.
She took the flower, breathed in its scent, and offered him a quick, almost sad smile. Walked to the kitchen to put it in water. He let himself in, watching her move. Flower in perfect bud vase in perfect placement on the coffee table.
"I'll just be a minute."
Watched her walk away, confusion on his face. What could she have left to do? She looked beautiful. Sky blue camisole under a see-through cream-colored button-down cashmere sweater. Form-fitting gray slacks with matching blue pinstripe. House in khaki and a long sleeved black v-neck sweater. Not his usual attire, but Wilson had talked him into it, saying it "showed off the guns."
She emerged moments later, hands in her hair, a clip in her mouth as she gathered up the curly mass.
House watched for a moment as she worked to gather every strand.
"I like it better down."
Her eyes fixed on his, a slightly bewildered expression on her face, as her hands froze in position. Slowly she lowered her hands and combed her fingers through her hair. She consulted a mirror that hung in her living room and tucked her hair behind her ears. She was surprised her face wasn't on fire from the warmth she felt at House's gaze. He liked it better down.
She wished he'd told her sooner.
She turned to face him. "Let's go."
"Better offer? Find a boss willing to sleep with you? Must not have been that difficult…" Something in her eyes halted his usual snark, his immediate defense to uncomfortable situations. Fuck. She was serious. "Right. Vacation. You could use a break."
"No. Not vacation." Her tone. Sadder than it had ever been before. He was drawn to her eyes, but there weren't tears there. Only a steely resignation he recognized from the last time she had said she was leaving. But she had come back. He had brought her back. "A leave of absence. Already had it approved by Cuddy."
Damn. Eyes down. Left. Right. Anywhere but on her. If I can't see you, it can't be true. Approved by Cuddy?
"Isn't this usually the kind of thing your supervisor should approve?"
"I knew you wouldn't, so I went to Cuddy."
Yes, something definitely was wrong. A fog, a buzz in his ears. Cameron, his Cameron, didn't go behind his back like this. He reached into his pocket and popped one, then two Vicodin. Close eyes. Swallow. Breathe.
Hate. You. Hate. You.
"Well," en garde, "Oh ye of little faith! I guess you'll never know what I would have said!"
She eyed him levelly. "House."
"No, no. I see how it is…" Snark in full force. On the offensive. "You think because we shared cotton candy you know everything about me."
"Stop it. This is not an episode of General Hospital." She kept her tone even, low, cool.
Shit. Well. Not the reaction he was hoping for. He wanted her angry. Wanted her to yell and scream and tell him what a bastard he was and that she was leaving him for another man – a pediatrician with a flourishing practice who wanted to marry her and have a dozen children with disgustingly cute names like Hunter and Dakota and probably even Cameron, after their dear mommy, the new Mrs. Dr. Perfect.
"I am well aware of that. If this were General Hospital, I would be called off to the ER STAT to save the town's richest but most evil villain – but not before I declared my undying love for you and then confessed that I once slept with your best friend who is actually your mother!"
Slammed her fist on the table. Finally. Now, to the pediatrician.
She stood. His eyes followed her. He couldn't help it. And there she was, hand outstretched toward his. "Goodbye, Greg."
He had been surprised at her hands the first time he touched them. He had expected perfectly smooth skin, baby soft, assuming she spent hours every night maintaining her perfect body. But they had been real – soft to the touch, yes, but not unused. Slightly calloused, slightly raw from the incessant hand washing that took place at hospitals. It had made him appreciate her even more.
Ignoring her hand, he grabbed his cane and stood, forcing himself to stare into her eyes. "Let's get out of here."
"I don't think…"
"Come on, Cameron. Sounds like this will be the last night we have together. Let's make something of it."
Cameron studied his face, trying to read what was behind his eyes. She didn't see any of his usual defenses, the usual distance he kept there to ensure he wouldn't get hurt. If she didn't know better, she would have said he looked upset, sad even. She nodded slowly. Only then did he take her hand, holding it as they walked out of the restaurant.