house and all characters involved are property of david shore and
their respective actors. main title from mogwai song, mainly because
i was listening to it while writing. no infringement intended.
- a/n: story takes place in the span of one night and the following day, just for clarification purposes. thoughts appreciated but not demanded. hope you enjoy.
I Know You Are But
What Am I?
Like a spiral, she thinks, and pulls her coat tighter. The roof is empty and hollow, as if the platform exists alone and all those little lights are hundreds of miles away. She resists the urge to stretch out a hand and reach, and pull all those drifting places back within jumping distance.
He can't jump, she sighs, and shakes her head, imagining once again the spiral—so much easier to slide down than climb up, where you have to swing yourself over the side and pray your fingers don't slip.
She'd always been afraid of heights before, but after climbing up the side of that spiral, looking over the edge doesn't seem so bad anymore. She sighs, and watches her breath mingle with the air.
The pressure of the hospital is too much—the atmosphere has become too dense, too harsh and every wall screams and wails; it's everything she can do to keep from screaming back. So she escapes to the rooftop to watch the world spin out of control.
The door opens and she glances over her shoulder, relieved to see a fiercely clothed, cane-less being approach her. She smiles weakly and he smiles back, rubbing his gloved hands together.
'What are you doing up here? It's freezing.'
'I needed to breathe,' she says, and brushes the hair off her face.
'Yeah, it's… stifling in there.'
She smiles again, knowing he's completely lost. 'The tension,' she offers, and stuffs her hands in her pockets. 'It's so…' And she shakes her head again, words as distant as the buildings. 'It's so wrong.'
Chase looks at her, still confused but entirely sympathetic, and quirks an eyebrow. 'How do you mean?'
'It's just… You'd think he'd be the last person something like this would happen to, you know? Sure, he's no saint like the nurses perceive but he's still… a good guy.'
Chase nods, but doesn't state the obvious. Cameron is thankful, and steps slightly closer to show it.
'This isn't about Wilson, is it?' She looks up, slightly surprised. 'Why you're up here. It's about House.'
She starts to protest, but he shakes his head, bangs falling in front of his eyes. The action is soothing, as it reminds her of normality.
Inside the hospital, back down those flights of stairs and through a few doors, normality has ceased and everything has started spiraling.
'I get it.'
And she knows he means it, and she knows he gets it in the way it's supposed to be understood. Nonetheless, she explains, slowly and with many pauses.
'It's not like that… it's just… I mean, I don't still…' She stops and smiles; she isn't stupid. She knows how she sounds. 'I'm worried about him. As a employee or a co-worker, as a friend, or as anything else.'
Cameron sighs and looks out over the roof, and in her mind, spreads her arms to see if she'll fly.
'No one should have to…'
Chase doesn't know how to finish her sentence, but he catches the meaning and nods, swallowing the words he has for fear of harming the soft air around them. It's comfortable, but not too comfortable, and it's the first time she's really spoken to him about much of anything. He knows in the back of his head it's only because he's there, and had it been Foreman or Cuddy or anyone else who'd seen her go up the back steps, she'd be talking to them instead.
'Your mom—' she starts suddenly, then bites her lip and looks away.
'Yeah?' He prods, if only to show the question doesn't hurt him.
'She died of alcoholism, didn't she?'
He nods, and ignores the tight surge the word brings to his gut.
'Are you okay?' she asks quietly. He blinks, slightly startled and frowns. 'There was a lot of alcohol involved. I didn't know if you… Sorry.'
'No, it's fine. I'm fine, I…' He smiles lightly, and tosses the hair out of his eyes. 'Doing a round in the ER pretty much expelled any issues with the subject. They still pop up every once in a while, but for the most part… People are going to be stupid. And people are going to drink. And stupid people are going to do stupid things while they're drunk.'
'Like get into cars,' she murmurs and shakes her head again. 'I still can't believe…'
'It is pretty weird, isn't it?'
'He's not going to make it.' Her voice drops so low Chase had to stoop to catch it.
'House. If Wilson… House isn't that strong by himself.'
'He's a grown man, Cameron. I'm sure—'
'They love each other.'
Chase blinks away the mental images. 'What? You think that they—'
'Not in love, although I wouldn't really be surprised. They're best friends. They've known each other for God knows how long and… you can't just sever something like that. Especially with death. There's all the… residual effects that try to tear you apart.' Cameron sighs and brings her slowly dwindling voice back up to normal volume. 'It'd be like… it'd be like hacking off a limb.'
Chase nods, and looks away, off to the other side of the roof, and the door that leads to warm, sterilized air.
'C'mon,' he says after a long moment. 'Let's go in. Bad coffee awaits us.' His voice is tempting and smooth, almost posed as a question.
'You go ahead,' she smiles, and he closes his lips, trapping the protest inside. 'I'm going to stay out here a little longer.'
She listens to his footsteps and the opening and closing of the door, and when all is silent releases the air she's been holding, offering it back to the night much the same as how she took it.
There's no room to breathe on spirals, she thinks bitterly. Only room to fall.
After a last long look, she turns her back on the fading lights, and goes inside to face the screaming walls.
He hears the door open with a quiet hiss but doesn't look up. Even as she speaks, he keeps his gaze level with an insignificant spot on the wall. He ignores the fact that her voice isn't as strong as usual, and that she isn't really looking at him either.
'His blood pressure's still too low but we're monitoring it closely. He crashed once during surgery, but—'
'No pun intended, right?'
He looks up, keeping his face in a painfully smug, nonchalant expression that suggests amusement. Her shoulders stiffen, almost imperceptibly.
'I don't think it's funny.' She drops the file on his desk and turns to leave. 'Anyway, you can see him now.'
'Thanks for lettin' me know.'
She pauses halfway to the door. 'You aren't moving.'
' 'Your powers of deduction'—'
Cuddy sighs and let her hands drop against her sides with a dull slap. 'What are you doing, House?'
'I'm sitting,' he states. 'And you're being annoying. Now that we've got that clarified—'
'You should go stay with him.' Her voice is soft, softer than he wants it to be; his eyes narrow.
'Why? He's asleep,' he shrugs. 'Won't know I'm not there.'
'He will when he wakes up.' She waits, but he just raises his eyebrows and swallows all the things he really wants to say. 'House…' she exhales heavily. 'Go sit by your friend.'
'Is that an order, boss?'
'I can make it one.'
'Be still my twitching loins,' he mocks, and leans back in his chair casually. 'What crawled up your ass and—'
'You're scared. I get it. Hiding in your office isn't going to change anything.'
'I'm not hiding; I'm working.'
'Doctorly stuff.' He smiles at her condescendingly. 'You wouldn't understand.'
She glares but refuses to rise to the bait, just lowers her gaze briefly before looking him in the eye.
'You have two choices—you can either sit here, feeling useless and sorry for yourself, or you can go downstairs and feel sorry for him for a change.'
He blinks. 'Wow. Thank you, Dr. Cuddy. You've given me so much to think about—I may have to reevaluate my morals as a human being.'
'You should do that,' she says on her way out. 'Might be a reality check for you.'
House watches her move off down the hall, his interest only slightly peaked when Cameron and Chase step into the hallway behind her.
'Dr. Cuddy?' Cameron calls.
She turns, but makes no attempts at a smile. 'Yes?'
'I… how is he?'
Cuddy sighs and resists the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose. 'Stable, for the time being. But—'
Cameron swallows and shoots a fleeting glance at the glass office. 'I, um… I meant Dr. House.'
Cuddy pauses and considers her momentarily, then shakes her head slowly. 'He's… angry. And terrified.'
'Did he say something?' Chase prompts, also following Cameron's wayward glance.
'He doesn't have to,' she replies, staring over their shoulders at Forman, who approached the group briskly.
'Hey.' He smiles, and Cuddy finds it somewhat reassuring.
'Hey, Foreman,' Cameron offers, but her return smile dies without much of a chance.
'Why the convention?' He turns in the direction of two of three gazes and nods, noting silently that Cuddy's glance is fixated solely on the conversation at hand and not once does it waver to the man behind the glass. 'Ah. Got it. How's he holding up?'
'He's not,' Cameron answers, caught off-guard when she hears Cuddy's voice speak over her.
'For now, he'll be fine. He'll hide in his office until Wilson wakes up, or…'
There is an uncomfortable pause, and Cuddy looks as if she doesn't know where to rest her eyes. The three younger doctors shoot looks amongst themselves, silently deciding that Chase should be the one to break air.
She shakes her head. 'Nothing. I have to get back downstairs. Keep an eye on him. If he heads for the roof…' She trails off, and lets her statement hang between the three of them as she disappears down the hall.
Forman looks between the other two with a raised eyebrow, and despite his best efforts, slight apprehension seeps into his voice. 'Did she mean that literally?'
They tell her not to do it, but she goes in anyway, poking her head through the door between his office and the conference room.
She steps in with false bravado and again tries to smile.
'Oh, it's my lovely entourage. Come to bring me a present?'
She ignores the mocking tone and lifts the mug slightly. 'I brought you some coffee.'
'Aren't you a doll.'
She sets the cup on the desk and lingers, feeling as out of place as she did the first day. 'Do you need anything else?'
'Can you lap dance? Or maybe just some alcohol. Lots of alcohol, and—'
The muscles in his face tense. 'For what.' He doesn't phrase it as a question, and she tries not to feel like it's an accusation.
'Nothing. I'm just… sorry. That this happened to him. To you.'
House tilts his head. 'Were you driving?'
'Then don't be sorry.'
The silence that suspends between them swirls like dead air, and she focuses on keeping her fingers still. Nodding to the half-empty bottle on the desk, without bothering to hide her distain she asks,
'You don't think that's kind of sadistic?'
He follows her gaze and pours himself another glass. 'Sadistic? No. Maybe ironic. Maybe—'
'How much have you had?'
'Are you my mother?'
'I know you're upset, but it's not an excuse to get stupid—'
'Isn't that what you do?' He raises his eyebrows; she holds her breath, and tightens her slippery hold on the edge of the spiral. 'Just because your boyfriend's dying, doesn't seem like a plausible reason to haul off and marry the guy—'
'You're an ass,' she hisses, because she can't manage anything louder.
'Thank you,' he nods. 'I work hard to maintain this attitude.'
Cameron clenches her jaw and turns – 'Bet you do.' – yanks open the door and wishes it could slam behind her.