Three Years

A soft tinkling filled the small tiled bathroom as Allison Cameron set her wine glass down on the counter. It was a sound that she usually associated with parties filled with smiling people, but instead of enjoying a drink with friends, she was alone. Celebrating her three-year anniversary as a fellow under Dr. Gregory House, she'd long ago learned not to expect anything from her co-workers.

Perhaps it was because she was a woman or simply because it was her nature, but in the beginning, she'd have expected flowers, a cake, or something along those lines. After seeing various birthdays and other occasions go by with barely a mention, she'd learned to accept the fact that her co-workers just didn't care like she did. Cameron had wiped away a few tears when the men around her ignored different holidays, but she'd toughened up and realized that it didn't mean that they didn't care about her.

Lighting a few candles that she'd set around her tiny bathroom, Allison smiled slightly as she realized that she was proud of herself. Proud of not having cared that no one realized she'd been there for three years. Proud that she hadn't shed a tear. But mostly, she was proud of the changes that she could feel deep in her soul. Some may have seen them as changes for the worse, but she couldn't help but feel stronger for them.

With the glow of a few tea lights casting dancing shadows over the tiled walls, the woman reached into the shower, twisting the handle slightly to keep the first drips of water from spraying everywhere. With the chilly water flowing in a steady stream, Allison turned it all the way to the left and let it run for a few moments to flush out the cold water. Pulling the elastic band from her hair and examining her reflection in the mirror, Allison turned her head from side to side, examining her complexion.

Whether she liked it or not, the face that looked back appeared to be slightly older than she remembered. There were no lines of age, but there was a look that came only with experience and heartache. The most surprising thing, however, was that she didn't seem to care. There was a beauty that one could gain with age, and she was ready to embrace that because it meant she was no longer the naive child that so many perceived her to be.

Slipping the soft pink robe from her body, Cameron stuck one foot into the stream of water that was pouring forth from the showerhead. As soon at the scalding water made contact with her tender flesh, she pulled it out, scrunching her toes in pain. Cursing softly under her breath, the woman reached behind the stream of water to turn the temperature from boiling to warm.

Once again testing the waterfall with a weary foot, the woman slipped into the shower, pulling the curtain behind here. Three years of her life had been spent within the walls of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. She'd saved countless people from everything from the mundane cold to the most life threatening diseases. She'd even saved a few souls along the way, their weary bodies slipping softly into the welcoming arms of death.

She'd begun to feel parts of herself corrode and wash away as the day's stresses mixed with the streams of water that had marked her dry skin. As House began to work away at her spirit, pushing her as much as he possibly could, she'd begun to struggle to hold onto the parts of herself that she valued the most.

In the end, he'd managed to get under her skin and crack her spirit. A death to anyone else, it had caused her to become stronger.

As the steady stream began to lick at her skin, stripping off the grime of the day, she couldn't help but think back on her first days in the Department of Diagnostics. It had only been Chase and her at the time. The position that Foreman would later occupy was still vacant.

In those early days, she had chosen her words well, not daring to speak up or out of turn for fear of what her co-workers would think. Looking back, she had been so meek and self-conscious that she barely recognized that person anymore, and she was glad of it.

Working the tips of fingers through the deep chocolate strands of her hair, Allison relished the feel of the hot water slipping over her tired skin, caressing the lines of her spine and the gentle curve of her hip. Under House's tutelage, she'd learn to speak up for herself and be strong. She'd even learned how to slyly manipulate those around her, a skill that she was strangely proud of.

For this, she had one man to thank. Dr. Gregory House.

Reaching for a small sponge and her favorite bath scrub, she smiled to herself, relishing the feel of the warm water flowing over her curving lips. The first moment she met him she loved him. Plain and simple. It was silly and childish, but she couldn't help it.

Squeezing a bit more soap than she normally would onto the pouf, she squeezed it a few times coaxing the tiny bubbles to come out of the mesh. Pressing it to her soft skin, she thought about the man who haunted her soul.

House was nowhere near Prince Charming, and she would be the first to admit that. She also didn't try to kid herself, saying that she could tell that there was some soft beneath his rugged exterior. He was rude and abrasive, and most of the time she could barely stand him or what he stood for.

Somehow, she'd managed to love him just as he was.

Running the loofah over the muscled plains of her stomach and twisting to rinse the velvety bubbles away. A soft echo of something that he had said years ago ran through her mind. "What I am is what you need. I'm damaged." He had based his entire opinion of her on the fact that she had married a man who was dying of cancer. He had decided that she only cared for the 'damaged,' and that, therefore, her feelings were merely the product of silly fantasy.

At first, this may have been true, but after all of his pushing and pulling, after all of his torment and abuse, she still loved him. She was trying to get over it, trying to be over him but deep down, knew that she never would be.

No matter how much she lied to herself.

The peach-scented bubble swirled around her feet, popping gently and tickling her toes. Three years ago she had walked into the Diagnostics office at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital and had shaken the hand of her future boss, mentor, and love. She'd been quiet and shy, naive to the point of being silly and altogether damaged. That day was long gone, and now she was a corroded version of her former self.

Stepping out of the shower, she wrapped a fluffy lavender towel around her lithe body before wiping one long hand over the foggy mirror. Staring into the mossy eyes of the person looking back, she realized that the new version of herself wasn't so bad. Parts of herself that she had held near and dear had been stripped away, but their loss had revealed other layers.

Those qualities had been there all along. They had just been waiting for someone to wash away the corrosion.

Cillian Chase's Chart

- This was originally written for the lj community "wetakefive".

- Katie – Thank you so much for all of your help. Without your constant support of my snaily-ness, this wouldn't have gotten finished.

- Reviews are LOVE.