Title: In the Dark
Format & Word Count: ficlet / word count2992
Prompt: Prompt #3 - Serendipity
Warning: Spoilers - up through "No Reason"
Summary: House is having nightmares... he's exhausted...
Author's Note (if desired): Well, since I started back with my job, I'm sadly not having as much time as I had hoped to write! grr! Or read! Hopefully I will soon, b/c I'm dying to read everyones work! I haven't had a chance to work on as many prompts as I would have liked so far, so I feel like I've rushed this a bit. It started out as a drabble and turned out much longer! I always feel like I could still continue to work on a piece (especially if it has not been beta'd or I haven't spent weeks on it), and I feel that way about this one, as well as my first prompt. Would love to hear feedback! (I didn't want to sit on it any longer... and hopefully I caught all my typos and errors..b/c my eyes are tired!)!
In the Dark
Heaviness and darkness envelopes House every night as he crawls into his large, empty bed. Silence and throbbing pain is what his body feels as he lies against cool sheets. He tries to dull his mind with drugs and alcohol, silence his inner voices from dreams to attempt to encounter sleep, so his demons won't inspire themselves into nightmares, driving his subconscious mind into insanity. He tosses and turns, wakes in cold sweats and twisted sheets, gripping blankets and holding his breath, his heart racing and pulsating in ears, his teeth clenched, pupils dilated and eyes fighting back unnatural tears. And he's so tired, so tired.
The nightmares started after the surgery. He never remembers what they're about, flashes of pictures in his head that he does remember never make sense to him. The dreams empty from his mind as soon as he opens his eyes; but he fears these nightly terrors as soon as he becomes tired, or approaches his bed, becomes sleepy on his sofa or reclines anywhere.
But sleep is inevitable, he has to have it at some point. These dreams do not come every night or all the time, they're not predictable, but they shake him; they shake him so badly he wants to start drinking as soon as he wakes from them. Drink to black out so he can't dream and he can't remember the fear of these nightmares.
At first, he blames Stacy for them, just liked he blamed the surgery and the loss of his thigh muscles on her. These night-time battles were wars on her, attacks on her sleeping form during the night. He would wake confused, feeling her sleeping arm across his chest and it would feel like concrete crushing his lungs. He would roughly push her off of him, often waking her. At first she was concerned and empathetic (he hated it).
As the war in waking life increased between the two of them, she was less sympathetic, about the dreams that plagued him at night, and became increasingly angry and hurt -- emotionally and physically -- at how they affected her. A few times, he was so confused by her presence that he knocked her off the bed, she gaining a black and blue up her left thigh in her sudden wake-up call.
Everything at the end of their relationship finished in a confusing war. They never made real peace; it was no wonder things were so difficult and unclear between the two of them when she returned to the hospital and his feelings became tumultuous within him. Her reappearance inspired more frequent nightmares. It was better for him when he ended things between them, but the nightly torments remained the same.
It is summer. It is hot. He is exhausted, and the heat makes it worse. The week has been extremely long and trying. The patient case difficult and complex. House sits at his desk twirling a pencil, thinking absently. He watches as Cameron enters the adjacent conference room in a flurry, quickly gathering papers scattered on the table top, leaving in the same abrupt, whirlwind manner in which she entered.
She is on his mind, and has been for weeks. They have been dancing around each other, with words, with glances. They have been getting closer, talking more, talking more meaningful, at least from his eyes. He has to guess she thinks similar, besides her glasses are always more rosy-shaded then his. He would like to believe that she is wearing him down, cutting through his layers, but that's not true. He's letting her. Part of him wants her to. He doesn't know if it's just exhaustion wearing him out. He just doesn't know what he wants. But looking at her today, he knows she looks as weary as he knows he feels, and probably looks.
He knows this fatigue is making him weak, physically, mentally, and whatever spiritual sense he might claim to have. He wants to fall into bed and sleep, soundly and safely without the fear of dreams, without drug-induced stupor for once. He is aware that she's getting to him, or he would never think of these things. He prefers the drugs for the pain and the high, it doesn't help for the sleep, and he's so weary.
He eyes her body, her thin limbs, the curve of her back, and has been craving the feel of her against him. Or maybe it's the curiosity of the feel of her, and the smell of her. It's becoming harder and harder not to touch her. He knows how it will begin. Brush of his knees or legs against hers. Followed by his arms -- perhaps skimming her back. Once his fingers touch her (anywhere) -- even briefly, just a graze -- it will be almost over, his mouth will be close behind, searching to touch and taste her skin and her mouth. He is Pavlov's dog, salivating, just imagining her smell, and taste, the feel of her skin, the wisps of her long hair through his fingers, her breath closer to him.
For once, he's not being driven by just only sexual desire. It's not that he doesn't want her, because he wants her -- so badly -- but he wants her in such a different way. He just wants her with him -- in his arms, in his space, in his intimacy -- all the time. She has been comforting, she has been a relief. She has been all of that to him and more for a while. Especially since he was shot, and he awoke to her presence.
He was in pain, he was disillusioned and he was angry. He hated her. He tried to get rid of her. But nothing worked. Cameron sat by his bedside during all her free time, all her quiet time during the day; she never left unless completely necessary.
House hurled insults at her, tried to make her cry or at the least, go home, but she never budged. She got him whatever he needed, made sure he did everything he was supposed to do without being too difficult of a patient -- making sure he ate, took his required medications, made sure he stayed in bed and didn't tear his stitches. She rarely went home, basically living at the hospital, showering and eating there as well.
The bed next to him became hers. As the weeks went by, he began to joke that they were roommates, watching as the pillow on the bed become permanently indented with the outline of her head. The bed was a stage for some of her belongings -- a throw blanket, a book, a sweatshirt, long strands of her hair. He would examine them from afar when she wasn't there. Sometimes he would awake and watch her quiet sleeping frame. Privately, he realized that when she wasn't there, he missed her quiet presence, even if she was just sitting there reading a book, her quiet company was comforting to him.
As he was approaching the end of his days at the hospital, the nightmares returned. It made sense, Cuddy was weaning him off drugs and painkillers, sleep had to become less drug induced.
His roommate was woken by the sounds he was emitting by his night-time terror and she was quick out of her bed and at his bedside in her socks. He felt a cool hand on his head, and a calm voice coaxing him out of the nightmare, back to the reality of the hospital room. She quickly handed him a glass of water, her voice speaking soothing words he couldn't quite comprehend. She seemed to have many hands reaching out simultaneously, smoothing out his hair, his blankets, patting his chest, rubbing his arm, trying to calm him in his half-awaken delirium, she blowing a cool breath over his sweaty skin as she spoke. Before he even awoke fully, he drifted back off to sleep, no more nightmares that night. Though House vaguely remembered the incident the next morning, he and Cameron never spoke of it.
It was the first of many nightmares that continued to occur during his hospital stay. He started to realize that Cameron always seemed to soothe him back to sleep. She made it a point to be there every night, pulling her bed closer to his. She never mentioned the nightmares, though the following mornings, she always seemed to walk on eggshells as if he might awake in pain or with a bad migraine.
One morning, after a night of horrid dreams, House noted how tired Cameron looked. She was gathering her things to head to the locker room for a shower before her day of work. It was usually a quiet ritual, she never saying "See you later" and he never dispensing with "Have a good day" pleasantries. It just didn't seem right.
That morning House watched her carefully as she pulled her light pink cardigan tight around her body. She was swimming in her scrubs that she wore as pajamas. He took a deep breath. "They're not about the shooting."
She stopped and looked at him wide-eyed and open-mouthed. She took it in and swallowed. "Okay."
And that was it. Part of him knew right then and there that he loved her at that moment. Loved her because she didn't pry, because she accepted what he said. From then on, he started trusting her more, opening up to her more, and wanting to, not because she asked. Her simple acceptance of his statement was his knowledge that he would move forward with her, and that he wanted to.
He is able to catch her before she leaves the office for the day. He hates and loves the ability he has to call her into his office and that the fact that she will come because A) he is her boss and B) because he knows he has a hold on her. She has her jacket and bag with her, all set to go. He starts to pack to leave for the weekend.
"What's up?" She questions, tilting her head, the hair from her ponytail falling out in strands.
"Up for a drink?"
Hands on her hips, her eyes and mouth become a bit confused, her face suddenly crosses like a tic-tac-toe puzzle.
"C'mon, I owe you one," he starts, swinging his backpack over his shoulder. He walks towards her and boldly puts a large hand on her back, pushing her toward the door, "besides, it's been a long week, let's go."
House chooses a bar a few blocks from his apartment so he can walk home later. He knows he's tired enough that after a few drinks, walking will be difficult enough. Yes, Cameron is getting to him. He's thinking responsibly. He's also manipulative, because Cameron is also tired, and he has no idea how she'll get home.
After a few beers, they're both bordering on equally bombed. See, what lack of sleep can do! By closing time, he convinces Cameron to walk the two and half blocks to his place to sober up for a while. They'll play some cards or watch a movie, besides they've been having a good time tonight, right? She doesn't disagree with him.
They enter into his apartment, a place that she has been before; once when she quit, and once before House returned home from the hospital -- Wilson gave her the keys and she cleaned and went food shopping (he never thanked her, or said anything to her about it). He figures she probably had her fill of snooping too, if he taught her right. Quickly lighting the dark apartment, he offers her a seat on the couch while he goes to the kitchen to fetch more beer.
He returns with two icy ones in his hands. Cameron sits on one end of the couch.
"I thought the idea was to sober up?" She asks, accepting the cold bottle.
He shrugs. "Up to you."
He sits on the other end of the couch. Suddenly, everything feels like high school again. He should have predicted this. Awkward silence.
"Well, it's late, maybe I should call for a taxi and get a ride home."
He freezes. "You...you don't have to."
Cameron's mouth opens wide, as she looks at him curiously. "Huh?"
"Well, you can stay, I'm not kicking you out."
She blushes, "No, it's fine. It's late. Besides, I know we're both exhausted. I'm sure you want to get some sleep."
House laughs. "True, I do." He takes a sip from his beer. He looks at her, she is looking at the bottle in her hands, fingering the corner of the damp label with her nail.
"I had a good time tonight," she smiles, "thanks for asking..."
"Oh, you're welcome..." House replies, "but we don't need to do 'thank you's and you're welcome's,' do we?" He turns to her, arching an eyebrow.
"No," Cameron laughs, "you're right, we don't."
"If anything..." House coughs, "I should be thanking you for cleaning up this place, and the office, before I got back."
"It wasn't a problem, I didn't mind at all," Cameron keeps smiling. "Beside, we all work in the office..."
"Who knew blood would be so hard to get out of the carpet?"
"You know for a hospital cleaning staff, I'm surprised they didn't know how to just use peroxide to get out the blood. That's why I did!" Cameron says exasperated. They both laugh. They both start thinking of things that bring up a lot of crap they don't know how to talk about.
"So," Cameron starting to get off the sofa, "where's your phone book?"
Cameron sighs. She turns and looks at House, arms hanging heavy and loosely at her side, a slight frown on her face. "House, what are you saying?"
House takes a deep breath and stands. "I don't want you to go."
"What do you mean, you don't want me to go?" She demands, seemingly frustrated.
"House!" She puts her hands on her hips. "What are you saying?"
"Cameron! What don't you understand?"
She sighs. "House, I'm too tired to play any games with you tonight. What do you want from me? I don't want to try to decipher your words, so please," she begs, "be precise."
He puts the beer bottle on the coffee table, thinks to himself, now or never. House reaches out and puts his hands on her upper arms. "I want you to stay." He moves closer to her, his throat tight. He gulps. "Here, stay here, with me." He rubs his hands up her arms, and slowly brings them around her back, pulling her into an embrace.
She is hesitant at first. Stone being warmed by the touch of his fingers on her skin, and then through the thin fabric of her shirt as he wraps his arms around her, she succumbs, stumbling a step and then falling into him, her head tucking in neatly under his chin. She wants to resist, ask him more questions, demand from him more answers, but she is too tired. And she fits so well, fits too well into the curve of his body. She slowly wraps her arms around his back, running her hands soothingly up and down his T-shirt, inhaling his smell. She listens to the steady beat of his heart, feels his hand caress the length of her hair and put a tender kiss on her head.
Everything inside her is feeling light and high. She is in his arms. She isn't sure if she ever expected it to happen. She could never imagine how it might happen, if ever. But she is content with this. This feels right.
He is in heaven. Her warmness presses up against him, the beat of her heart, her hands on his back, the feel of her hair, her smell, the way his hand fits in the small of her back... he can't resist from putting a small kiss on top of her head. As much as what is going on at right this very moment has terrified him when he has thought about it, he is feeling so relaxed and so comforted at this moment.
He pulls away, taking her hand. She looks confused. "C'mon. Let's sleep."
Her eyes agree with him.
Although they're doing things out of order, this makes sense to them and for them. And they're so tired.
Almost like routine, they get ready for bed. House lends her a pair of pajamas that he thinks she looks incredibly sexy in. He crawls under the covers, as Cameron futzes in the bathroom. She lifts the blanket and curls in next to him, snuggling up against his body, and into the crook of his arm. The warmth of her feels delicious.
She looks up at him, "Good night."
"Good night," he stares at her intently, leaning down pressing his mouth gently against hers. "Sleep well." He pulls her closer. The dark surrounds them.
"Yes, we'll talk tomorrow," he sighs, "I promise. Go to sleep."
"Okay," she smiles in the dark. "Good night."
He awakes in the dark to a sharp, almost, choking breath, dilated pupils and sweat dotted across his body. Nightmare. He is confused; he feels something across his torso holding him. Cameron. Instantly, with the thought of her, his breathing calms. She isn't crushing him like concrete. Her presence is soothing and steady. He closes his eyes and pulls her closer, listening to her quiet breaths. He is able to close his eyes and go back to sleep, no more nightmares tonight.