Title: And Unto Him She Shall Return (1?)
Summary: She would always return.
and I should have given you a reason to stay
given you a reason to stay
this is fact, not fiction
for the first time in years
"A Lack of Color" – Death Cab for Cutie
He knew it was her – even from a distance. The heavy grace in her walk. The reverence as she laid a bouquet of flowers next to the headstone. He waited and watched for what seemed like forever, and he was by no means a patient man.
He never would understand people and cemeteries. Nothing there to say anything to. You could talk to dead people at home, if you were so inclined to talk to dead people in the first place. He sighed, rubbing his cane softly, pushing "what if" from his mind. Cameron chose that moment to suddenly look around her apprehensively – no, expectantly. Damn her keen awareness, House thought.
Her eyes fell on him and her face was a mixture of sadness and…something else. Expectance. Still so easy to read, he thought, half disappointed. Taking a deep breath, he began to amble toward her, awkwardly making his way around the gravestones. She quickly glided toward him, no doubt to shorten his walk. When they finally came face to face, neither spoke. The stillness of the cemetery, even when punctured by passing cars, seemed to draw them both out of time. For a blessed beat, and then another, they shared a moment of being – a moment perfectly delicious in its lack of words. In an instant, House remembered all that he had missed about her presence and all that he loathed.
It was finally his curiosity that prompted him to say, "You don't look shocked." She looked frozen for a moment, and then she laughed. He was surprised at how unobjectionable he now found the glittering sound.
"It's been a long time," she said. He looked at her anticipatorily, still waiting for an answer. "I knew that, if you'd ever want to see me again, you'd come here to find me." Her effortless honesty never ceased to surprise him simply because of the sheer rareness of it in the world at large, and he seemed mildly pleased by the answer.
"Then it would seem that you make this annual trek either to satiate your curiosity as to whether I'll show up, or because you're hoping I'll do just that."
"Nice to see that your ego is as healthy as ever," she smirked. This was a little strange. Not that Cameron had never snarked back, but she had only ever done it sparingly, mostly unknowingly – and least of all with him.
"So, which is it?" He steered the conversation in his originally intended direction, reasserting his power for his own peace of mind. Now there was a slight trace of surprise on her face.
"Maybe I like visiting my husband's grave."
"Oh come on. No one likes visiting cemeteries. Besides, it's not like he knows if you're here or not."
"I don't come for him. I come for me," she said softly, and he was satisfied at finding truth.
"Damaged guy?" he said, cocking his head to indicate the direction she'd come from.
"You came all this way to be mean?"
"Wasn't that far."
"You had to fly. You hate to fly."
"I don't hate to fly."
"They do have a drink maximum, don't they?" Cameron balked, "You have to sit next to total strangers who want nothing more than to tell you their life story. Shall I go on?"
"Okay, so I hate flying. What's your point?
"Why are you here?" When had the conversation slipped into her control? He decided to give up some precious little ground as he devised a strategy to reclaim his rightful power. His meandering gaze wandered closer to her, resting on her gloved hand, her defiantly set chin.
"Don't know," he said, his eyes briefly meeting hers. Breathing a self-satisfied sigh that roused further suspicion in House, she said, "Follow me." And he did.
The café was small, intimate, and local. Cameron loved it. It was the perfect nook from which to gaze out at the world on a sunny afternoon. Or a rainy one, for that matter, she thought as she glanced at the sky.
She had decided the first time she'd been to the café that, if House ever showed his face, it was where she'd take him. The staff knew her and smiled warmly as she and House entered the jingling door. She could feel him wince behind her at the delicate music of the bells and a masochistic grin pulled at the corners of her mouth. What am I doing, she thought. A creeping sense of guilt burrowed its way into the back of her mind. The waitress innocently seated them in an intimate booth near the back, unaware of the sheer momentousness of the situation at hand. Stop me!, Cameron wanted to scream. But then, she'd never been that good at avoiding House. Hence the moving hundreds of miles away, she wryly thought.
She noticed House giving her a strange look from across the table, and stared back with what she hoped was a cheerful look of gumption. I'm not the same Allison, she made her mental mantra into focal point for her fluttering stomach. "Are you hungry?" she asked.
"I ate on the plane," he quipped. Making a face, she ordered a hot chocolate and recommenced their staring game. "Nice shoes," he said, finally breaking the silence, "New?" For a moment she smiled, wondering if he remembered or if it was mere coincidence. Yet the memory also brought with it a bought of pain, and her smile turned into a determined frown.
"Why are you here?" she asked again.
"Hey, you're the one that left me, remember?" She sighed loudly in exasperation, averting her gaze. "No Christmas cards, no Chanukah presents. I suspect Wilson gets a Chanukah present." She looked at him, startled, before she could stop herself. "Oh relax, Wilson hasn't been spilling any beans, I'm just incredibly smart. Now here I am, trying to make nice conversation with you…" House trailed off, shaking his head.
"Nice cane," she said, her voice level and smooth, "New?" House pursed his lips, as if in deep thought, nodding his head.
"Ooooh. Cold. Icy cold," House intoned. They both awkwardly looked away as the waitress returned with Cameron's drink. She blew on it gently and then sipped it as House pretended not to watch out of the corner of his eye. "How did you know I'd come to the cemetery? I mean, I could have just asked Wilson or Foreman – or better yet called a bunch of hospitals in the greater Boston area. It's not like I do much else." She smiled slyly, raising her left shoulder as if to dismiss his question. "You've gotten mean," he said, but there was a playful note in his voice.
"Maybe I've finally figured out how to be mean to you."
"Welcome to the club. I hear there are t-shirts. Modeled after the ones those girls at – say, does Boston even have a Hooters?" She couldn't help it any longer – she cracked a smile and a small, stilted laugh. Damn her for finding him funny. All the funny men in the world and his was the sense of humor that appealed to her. They should take away my medical license, she thought. Taking a deep breath, however, she decided to revert back to tactic number one, promising herself she'd keep on until victorious.
"…am I here?" he finished. Her eyes were serious and round now, her complete attention focused intently on him. She felt like she used to feel at the beginning of her fellowship: in awe of the great Dr. House, hell bent on absorbing every word, every syllable that came out of his mouth. Though it hadn't taken her long to realize how few syllables really meant anything, it had taken her a lot longer to stop listening to every morsel. Apparently not long enough, she thought ruefully.
"I'm here to offer you a job," he said slowly, his eyes meeting hers on the last word. She furrowed her brow in confusion.
"A job? What kind of job?"
"One where there would be patients and you would act as a sort of, oh, I don't know, doctor, and – theoretically – help them get well."
"I mean what department?"
"My department." She looked at him, both surprised and not surprised at his eternal ability to leave her speechless and in awe of his sheer capacity for audacious behavior.
"But the only people that work in your department are you-"
"And the people that work for me."
"Let me get this straight. You're offering me my old job back?"
"Now, now, old is such a relative term. Can't we call it new? A new job with new colleagues in a new – okay, well it's still the same old office, but you get the picture." He looked at her for a few minutes then, with that smug expression of anticipating agreement with whatever he'd just said. She both hated and loved that look, because, though he was a smug bastard, he was right most of the time. Not this time though, she thought.
"Are you insane?"
"Is that going to affect your decision to take the job?"
"I have a reputation here. It's taken me a long time to build that reputation – five years to be exact. And maybe it's not as illustrious as the reputation of the great – though standoffish and reclusive – Dr. House, but it's mine and I value it highly. And for you to suggest that I throw all that away to come back and obey your orders and sort your mail-"
"I thought you liked sorting my mail."
"I'm not taking my old job."
"It wouldn't be your old job. It would be your new job. Is there an echo in here?"
"And how exactly would it be different from my old job?" For some reason he wasn't interested in pursing, he found the crease in her forehead as she puzzled over his non-logic comforting. She'd always made an honest attempt at decoding him, even when the message was worthless.
"Well, you would work for me along with the other people that work for me. But you'd be like way cooler because you've done it before." She now gazed at him blankly. This had been easier the first time. He sighed before saying, "What do you want? Personal office? Ego-inflating yet meaningless made-up job title? A car?" Her only response was to cock her head to the side, a smug smirk on her face. Damn her, House thought. Why couldn't she simply take the job and not think about the 'whys'? "I'd offer a date, but we tried that once before and I don't remember it going so well-"
"I want to know why you're here," she said calmly yet firmly.
"Have you developed an unexpected learning disability in our years apart?" House reached into his pocket, retrieving a small white tablet that he pointedly popped into his mouth. When had Cameron grown such a spine?
"Why me? Why now?"
"You know, I always did have a soft spot for you. And I've simply been dying to see Boston in the fall," House said with false drama, fluttering his eyelashes.
"Know what I think? I think – and I'm just guessing here – I think you need to hire a woman," Cameron revealed her knowledge triumphantly. House immediately drew a mental list of people to kill. He'd use the plane ride home to figure out how to make each look like an accident. He wouldn't bother finding out which person on the list was the true culprit – that took time and effort. Much easier to do away with everyone.
He looked away, clearly pissed off, and Cameron felt that damn skip in her chest that she thought she'd forgotten. He looked tired, more tired than she'd ever seen him. Wilson had insinuated that House was gradually veering in the direction of deterioration, but she hadn't really accepted it until seeing him herself. Fun and revenge aside, she mused on how truly difficult asking her back was for him. She had to offer him hope. She had to. Before she could decide on her approach, however, House's gaze had found a path of retaliation.
"Interesting necklace. It's new." She felt her face pale then flush as her hand immediately covered the object hanging discreetly inside her unbuttoned shirt. A solid gold band with the largest diamond House had seen since Wilson's last marriage, the ring had caught his eye immediately after his gaze dropped from her face.
"You catalogued my jewelry?" Cameron said, trying to buy herself some time.
"Now that is either one hell of an engagement ring, or somebody's been taking the 'my right hand is for me' jewelry ads a bit too seriously." Cameron's eyes were wide and unblinking as she held his gaze. So, House mused, she thought that if she remained very still, and very quiet… Clearly, she didn't remember everything about him. "The real question is why it's around your neck instead of on your finger. Could be you haven't decided yet. But then, you're too nice to tease the guy by wearing it around. Perhaps you've accepted, but don't want your other boyfriend to notice. Hiding it inside your shirt though –"
"Once I lost it." She said, angry that she'd forgotten its heavy presence on her chest. "I wear it around my neck on days I work. Put it back on when I get home." As the cheap thrill of puzzlement faded, House found other, less desirable emotions creeping in. Emotions he neither wanted to deal with nor acknowledge. How the hell could Wilson not tell him this?
Cameron engaged. He'd never considered it. He thought she'd had enough of marriage, what with the dead husband and all. But of course – people would want to marry Cameron. She was clearly good looking and so damn nice. He suddenly wished they were in a bar.
"What's his name?" Cameron gave him a skeptical, "not in this lifetime" look and he balked considerably. "You don't know his name? Is that what turns you on?" Her look turned sour and annoyed. "What does the future Mr. Cameron do?" She rubbed her temples, trying to decide what morsels would satisfy his curiosity enough to shut him up.
"He's a doctor." As House's triumphantly smug look made her head throb she wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to pop one of his Vicodin.
"What kind of doctor?"
"Surgeon," she said quickly, racking her brain for a way to change the topic.
"What kind of surgeon?" House asked in exasperation, yet feeling he had struck a vein of some sort. She regarded him for a moment, gray eyes piercing his blue. He would find out anyway. He was House.
"Cosmetic." House's grin got impossibly larger and a small, rare laugh briefly rumbled in his throat.
"How did you meet?" House asked, and she sensed him newly appraising her body, looking for signs of recent "work." A flood of anger coursed through her. She'd developed a list of rules for herself concerning House after she'd left Princeton Plainsboro. Never letting him near her personal life again? Yeah, that had been pretty high on the list. I have to stop this, she thought, now.
"If I was your partner," she said abruptly. Still enjoying his inquisition, House was momentarily confused.
"That's the only way I'd consider coming back. If it was as your partner, on equal ground. Same level of pay, same office space, same privileges." She saw his mind reeling, saw she'd regained the upper hand for however brief a moment, and decided to take this as far as she could. "And you'll hire another doctor to take the job you tried to pawn off on me. A female." He looked at her strangely. This unexpected move had caught him embarrassingly off guard. She had changed. Quite a bit more than he'd thought.
"I'd have to talk to Cuddy," he said, and for a moment she saw the desire that had prompted him to come to Boston for her. It was that same desire in him that she wasn't sure he knew existed, the one that had always made her feel alternately desperately hopeful and desperately fearful – of what, she had no idea. She gently fingered the ring around her neck, searching for that feeling. She smiled a little at its absence even as she sighed in disappointment. House was starting to give her another strange look.
"Fine. But I'm not saying I'd come back for sure, even if Cuddy agreed to all that. I have to think about it."
"You'd have to discuss it with Mr. Cameron," he said, but the amusement was gone. They looked at each other for a few more drawn out seconds, each unblinking and not breathing.
"I should go," she said, and he could hear the fear deep within. Fear of him – or at least of her being anywhere in the vicinity of him. The fear was wrapped in her newfound confidence and snark, however, which was what really intrigued him. He nodded as she went on about having Wilson give him her contact information, and then she was gone. He stared across the table at the vacant seat, eyes resting briefly on the mug with faint traces of lipstick. At least he would have the satisfaction of Cuddy being pissed when he finally told her.