House told me he was moving to New York.
The morning is not the greatest time to make announcements, especially when it's told to someone who has just barely woken up. I rubbed at my eyes, still languid from slumber, and gazed at him.
A smirk spread across his face as he leaned over me, practically daring me to choose between kissing him or deriving a clearer explanation. I'd gotten sufficient amounts of the first over the past three weeks; the latter was what seemed slightly more important now.
I cleared my throat from its morning croak. "Are you mocking me?"
"At the moment, no. I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to do that later, Jimmy."
"As usual. So what's this about New York then?"
"Cuddy is sending me on missionary duty. I have to give some lectures at some rather disturbingly important hospitals." House sighed in parodied vanity. "Being famous just isn't what it's cracked up to be. How can I stay home and waste time if Cuddy's sending me on tour?"
"How many hospitals?"
"The schedule was three pages of terror. I stopped reading when I realized I didn't have a choice anyway."
"Three pages?" I repeated, puzzled. "How long do they expect these lectures to be…?"
"Well, it's a week's worth of lectures."
"Oh. That's not bad."
"And another three weeks of some group-study in New York City."
"Yeah. They've got doctors from all over the planet, getting together to rehash some unsolvable cases that are unsolvable for a reason: They can't be solved."
I rubbed my forehead. "How much time off of clinic duty is Cuddy giving you for this?"
House grinned smugly. "She's practically giving me a blank check."
"I guarantee you that one might bounce."
"Have a little faith." House considered kissing me for a second, then apparently thought it was better to leave me waiting as he rolled out of bed. He was halfway out the door when he peeked his head back in. "Oh, by the way, I'm putting you in charge of the ducklings. They'll need some looking after."
I had a strange, comical vision of us adopting the interns. "Well, I'll try to keep the three in line."
"The two," House corrected.
"Yep." He retrieved his cane from beside the piano bench. "Chase and Foreman. Cameron's coming to New York with me."
I followed him out into the living room and kitchen, where the light seemed ridiculously bright against my sleep-drowsy eyes. "Cameron's coming?" I repeated.
"Is that an insulted tone I hear?" House asked. He sighed, lips pursed, as he leaned back momentarily and regarded me with one of those blunt stares that never quite meet the other's eyes. "Well, I certainly couldn't take you."
I must have balked. In fact, I'm sure I did.
House shrugged a laidback shoulder and rummaged through the fridge like he was actually looking for something. "The hospital's paying for the hotel room, so if for some reason I'd get particularly distracted there it's not money out of my pocket."
I flushed, which House took as a compliment. On some level, we both knew better than to bring any further distractions to work—and further opportunities for rumors.
We hadn't quite worked out all the kinks of this new relationship yet. There was always the coming out part, and I highly doubted even a brilliant white board brainstorm would help us with that.
All in good time.
I conceded half his argument, but only half. "Why not Foreman or Chase?"
"Well, let's see. If I wanted to be one-upped in everything I did, I would definitely take Foreman. If I wanted to be brown-nosed in everything I did, I would definitely take Chase."
"And you would definitely take Cameron if…?"
"If I wanted to make you jealous. I find your reaction extremely interesting, Jimmy."
The plane tickets were spread out on the kitchen table like self-content sunbathers, just recently excavated from his wallet. He'd had them for a week and hadn't told me, correctly assuming that—had I'd known—I would've figured out some way to join him in New York. Control is something House doesn't take lightly.
The coffee maker gurgled its commentary as he passed the cream to me, in exchange for the sugar. I'd noted the parallels between how we'd made our morning dose of caffeine—sugar and cream, separate and yet even better together. He accused the whiskey for making me gloppy and sentimental. I'd agreed, but still found the comparison relative.
He was still stuck on the Cameron discussion, mostly because I wasn't about to let it go, either. Steam from the coffee swirled in gray-white calligraphy in front of his face as he took a scalding sip, musing, "Think of it as a test: avoiding temptation."
I raised an eyebrow skeptically, wavering in more confidence than I wanted to reveal. House caught the look but was hardly anxious to assuage my fears.
"She's too whiney to be attractive. And all those moral hang-ups…" House shuddered for show. "No, I think not only will we have separate beds, but separate rooms may be in order. You don't think she snores, do you?"
I knew when the conversation was going nowhere. As a last result, I perused the newspaper offhandedly, trying to look less concerned than what I felt. Phillies lost again, big surprise. House put a finger on the top corner of the Sports section and snatched it back an inch, prompting me to look up at him again.
He narrowed his eyes in melodramatic concentration, his forehead furrowing with wrinkles. "I expect you to behave, too."
I laughed a bit. "What am I, two?"
"I'd be less worried about a two-year-old. The worst they can do is color on the walls. You, on the other hand…"
This was the last time in thirty days that I'd see him. Being glib just didn't seem like proper tone to wrap up our departure. Lightly, I touched his wrist.
"House," I said seriously, my voice low and carefully measured. "I would never hurt you."
Sarcasm faded from his face. It was almost a genuine expression, but not exactly. Then it wouldn't have been House.
"I know." He paused. "But you might."
I drove him to the airport though he said I didn't have to. Usually, when he said that, he meant he'd appreciate if I did. Cameron was there, too, dressed spotlessly in flaring, manila-colored pants and a blue, tight-fitting sweater she wore over that white, floppy-sleeved tunic.
I'll never understand women's clothing. Much too complicated. According to House, I can't even identify shoes correctly.
I know this much: She wasn't wearing Prada.
I also know this: She looked stunning, even at seven o'clock in the morning.
She pretended like she wasn't watching us carefully, but when you distract yourself with every fake plotted plant in the lobby, you're obviously very curious about what's happening right in front of you. I likewise wondered what House would do—I half-expected some overdramatic, mouth-consuming kiss, just to see what kind of rise he could get out of the crowd gathered, and out of Cameron especially.
He did nothing of the sort. He offered a professional handshake to me, which made me feel uncomfortably like a doctor (never thought that would be a problem). It lasted a second too long, though, but if you weren't paying ridiculously close attention, it wasn't catchable.
Cameron was paying close attention. To the fake plotted plants, at least, and so, consequently, to us as well.
I watched them shuffle out through the terminal, until I lost them amid the stream of other passengers.
There was less traffic on the way home, but it seemed to take much longer to get there.
I considered my plans for the next month. Or week, yes, maybe that would be more practical and concise. Or just today. Yes, most definitely. Honestly, I had no idea what to do with myself, at least after work.
Poker wouldn't exactly be fun without House. Then again, he claimed it wasn't fun with me, either—I could see through him diaphanously. The slightest flash of blue-green in his eyes, or the quirk of an eyebrow, or the tilt of his lips…even the way he breathed sometimes—it all corresponded to his hand.
He was getting used to losing, and at some point had conceded me that much of an ego boost.
So, considering I didn't especially want to call up his friends from the bus stop and the unfortunate soul who's condemned to do his taxes, Poker was out. Baseball was an option, but if there's no one to talk strategy with, TiVoing the game just doesn't seem worth it.
What the heck had I done before moving in with House? I had to have done something constructive, or at least remotely fun, in my spare time. Now, though, the apartment would be empty, lacking the sarcastic tinge that strangely brought me so much relief.
Empty, yes, but clean at least. And food would not be confiscated.
I was in the middle of parallel parking when I saw the figure loitering on our stoop.
The blouse was new, a buttoned-up shade of aqua-gray. The haircut had changed too, being cropped shorter. She'd gotten bangs as well, which she hadn't had in years. But the face was the same. It had once been ingrained in my head, and now resurfaced frantically like one drowning, flailing for attention.
Her eyes flashed with relieved recognition as I stepped warily out of the car. I thought she looked strange, unfamiliar, and it wasn't just the outfit or the hair. Then I realized she was crying.
I could do nothing but stare at her dully and wonder what had just happened to my organized life.