A/N: Thanks to Sharp2799 for acting as beta on this story. I agonize over every draft so she really was very patient with me. Additionally, Kate J showed extraordinary generosity and insight as she read drafts and provided commentary and advice. Finally, Jovsg read an early draft and edited that draft, and a few others read drafts and helped me stay sane: Notably, AThousandSmiles and IWouldBeGood.
Also, to all who have added me to their favorites list, thanks! It's a compliment and I appreciate it. I do love to get comments and hope if you like this you'll consider letting me know in a review. Blue button, bottom of page.
This story is for Naika7 and IWouldBeGood for providing me with episodes of "Lost." Thanks, you two. And it's a belated birthday gift for my good friend Houseluvr.
For the curious, the title of this story is a reference to a Ryan Adams song.
The Picasso looks like a couple entwined, although it's far from figurative. House reads into things – even without factoring in those last few inches of bourbon.
Analyze this, Picasso says.
Anything to get his mind off Cameron and the overwhelming question (oh do not ask what is it): Is she positive or negative?
Slouched on the piano bench, his eyes make the rounds, scanning the wood and leather décor of his place, pausing to consider his objects d'art and all the personal touches that make these rooms his home. On the walls: Goldenrod paint. In the kitchen, above the state-of-the-art range: A set of copper pots. Artfully arranged and mounted: A series of black and white landscapes. The Picasso.
At the hospital he has his lobby art: Her name is Cameron.
His home could use a little something three-dimensional, he thinks sometimes.
The word "home" brings her to mind. Someone so caring should be homely, not beautiful enough to suck the air from a man's lungs and render him speechless. Yet she's an open door, a welcome mat, a hearth to arrange his furniture around.
That's on the one hand. That's House the aesthete.
Pain-driven House, dark House who seeks relief? Well, there's nothing he can do to quell his belief that if he could part her, fuck her, know her, in one long steadfast thrust of his hard cock, he'd find home.
He'd make his connection.
Open your legs. It's what he wanted to say to Cameron today during HIV guy's differential. There was something in the way she sat, knees together, ankles primly tucked beneath her, wearing that ridiculous jumper that made him want to grab her by the hips and ass and raise her up against him.
Which is sexier? Her eyes on his, reading his mind and spreading her legs, offering him a view of her purple thong, or him grasping her knees, pulling them apart, yanking off her panties and ramming himself inside?
It's merely semantics. When their fingertips touch, he feels it in his gut and lower.
The air between them crackles.
Tonight he feels it still, a phantom memory. House rubs one hand over his heart; his other hand traces his cock through his jeans, tracing the evidence of something like love.
Where is she tonight? Somewhere in the darkness, nursing a drink of her own, contemplating mortality as she replays HIV guy's blood flying into her face?
I'm infected. I'm not infected.
He never even touched her arm. He never looked her in the eye. He offered her precisely nothing in her time of need.
To kill the sentiment that rises to the surface, he swigs more bourbon; ice a formality he's dismissed on this jag. Why bother? It'll melt. And baby, it's cold outside.
Shapely painting, this Picasso. It puts him in mind of an hourglass, as curvy and voluptuous as Mae West, but blurry at the edges.
Why he bought the print, he can't recall. Inexplicably, it stirred him. He thought he could puzzle it out. So far, it has refused to be solved. He favors it with something like a smile.
It could be anything: a twisted paperclip, an "and" sign, bodies writhing. Tilt your head, look at it sideways and voila, a page from the Kama Sutra. Could be a disease to diagnose, a figure eight, lopsided and embellished, or the landscape of her body.
He shakes that one off.
Maybe it's the Maker's Mark. Or maybe he just needs to get laid, needs a distraction. He's got hooker #1 with her maraschino cherry lips on speed dial, but Cameron on his mind. If you say her name out loud in rapid succession it starts to sound like urgency in another language.
Damn the Hippocratic oath: Do no harm. Sometimes love hurts. It can be good. It would be with her. With Cameron, his little I-can't-touch-that.
House's tongue flicks across his lips. The gesture's habitual. Beneath his ass the bench is hard wood. He likes her eyes on his eyes, truth be told. If only it could stay like that.
He's dark tonight, gets Wilson on the line.
"What's more pathetic? An empty chair, a tree without leaves, or a single chopstick?" He delivers this Zen puzzle with his characteristic bite, forgoing hello.
For a moment it's quiet, then Wilson's carefully modulated voice weighs in: "A single chopstick. House? Are you drunk?"
He ends the call without an answer, stares up at the Picasso. Analyze that.
Tonight it's the black t-shirt and jeans, cane at ease against the baby grand. From the blinds raised at half-mast, a full moon lights the sky. A neighborhood dog gets crazy. Another one howls a reply. The psych ward will be loony tonight, he thinks.
If they kissed, would she close her eyes? House hates himself when he gets like this. Hates her.
Do you … like me? I have to know.
Maybe so. But do you really need to ask?
And come on.Like? Is this junior high? I like you. Do you like me? This scrawled childishly on a slip of paper, folded into a triangle, and passed a row up and to the left. Like is rated G.
You asked the wrong question. I don't like anyone.
The thought of you wasted with AIDS? Immunologist, I am not immune to you.
House takes a drink, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.
It's not enough. The alcohol, the pills. They aren't enough to kill the pain in his thigh. Tonight it's like a nuclear reactor exploded. There's an orange glow. It's not enough to quiet the rat maze of his brain.
That corsage was a slip up. Renowned diagnostician solves beautiful young immunologist. You don't love. You need. But he had worn the sky blue shirt, chosen the corsage, and handpicked a restaurant that whispered romance.
He hadn't fooled her.
Blue veins stand out on his pale hands as they span the black and whites. House finds the chords to "A Shot in the Arm." Jeff Tweedy pre-treatment center. Jeff Tweedy on the dark side.
Something in my veins, bloodier than blood.
It's needle time.
She's a blur in the darkness, a speed demon, twitching at sounds, imaginary and real. The click of her heels on the cement, the chatter of sparrows in the barren branches, and in her eardrums, the beat of her telltale heart rap-rap-rapping at record time. Cameron bats at a snowflake, stops walking just long enough to raise her arms and offer up her palms to the spirals of new snow christening the streets of Princeton. I am poetry in motion. I am a whirligig.
This is fun. Is this fun? Would she even know? She passes a nightclub and the people in line check her out. Her faded jeans fit so well you can see the gap between her thighs. The green of her sweater vest salutes the color of her eyes. Her hair is loose. Her hips sway as she passes the crowd, sway in spite of herself, as she looks their way: They're beautiful. Every man and woman is decorated for the night out, each a Christmas tree, a carefully wrapped gift. A slender blonde raises a dark eyebrow at Cameron, a question mark in her eyes. Cameron shakes her head no. She can only break one rule at a time. Tonight it's danger, drugs, do me. Just a few more blocks and, Jesus, what is she going to do with him? I am your secret sin. I am your 'one need in the night.' House.
I am a jagged edge. I am the end of the line. I am a new beginning. I am a little white lie.
Streetlights look like stars swirled, red-edged. Her mind is a heavy metal drummer. Her thoughts are like rush hour. Signs materialize: Caution. Stop. Beware. The crosswalk gives her the green light and she keeps walking. I'm so ahead of myself. She's stuck on a refrain that repeats itself with slight variation.
You are my never say never. You are my guilty pleasure. You are my sooner or later. You are my one way or another.
I am your maybe someday. I am your better luck next time. I am your only lonely. I am your now or never.
Who knew blood moved so fast? Her toes and fingertips tingle. I feel good. I knew that I could.
After six blocks the words crowding her mind are replaced by sheer physical need. Purity of heart is to will one thing – his touch in the dark. Just to rub against him like a crazy Siamese. She has turned into something singular: Desire.
The throbbing in her clit begs for release. For six blocks, the snug jeans have massaged her, transforming her walk into something sinuous and knowing. If he won't touch her, she'll touch herself. How fast can you get your pants off and your hand between your legs? If he sees her fingers making urgent circles on top her black lace panties, will he come to her? Lay his body over hers, spread her open? At the word "spread," blood rushes to her face, then lower.
She arrives breathless at his door.
House. Open up.
And the thing is, he does. A tumbler dangles between his thumb and forefinger; his other hand grips the cane.
Ordinarily, she'd pause to admire the pale hands with the blue veins. But that seems insignificant when six foot two inches of House straight up, no chaser is close enough to touch.
Blue jeans, black tee. It's déjà vu. The same clothes he wore when she came to give notice during Vogler's reign. She came to set him free, but House wouldn't have it. He'd have done anything to get her back … to work.
Stop thinking. She orders herself to stop thinking and feel.
House squints down at her, face inscrutable. He's a locked door, she thinks, waiting to be picked.
House states the obvious when he sees Cameron standing on his stoop, jittery as a junkie awaiting a fix. She bites a fingernail, shaking her head. Negative? Affirmative? It's hard to tell.
Running his thumb over the head of his cane House imagines her thumb brushing over the head of his prick: All this while searching her eyes. It's as if someone squeezed a drop of black ink into each iris, the pupils are pools.
Fine lines web the corners of his eyes, a glaze overlays the blue. Is it the alcohol or his throbbing thigh?
"You're in pain," her brow wrinkles at the thought. "Is it bad tonight?"
He sighs. Only Cameron could be revved on meth and caring at the same time. "It's never good," he replies, terse, and without a trace of sarcasm.
Her long chestnut hair falls around her face, which is bare, except for a swipe of lip-gloss and a hint of an emerald liner that accentuates her eyes. Sensuality mixes with the intelligence and inherent kindness that shapes the features he's memorized.
"Crystal meth. Not your style. Copped it off of our patient?" His tall, lean frame blocks the doorway.
"You're surprised," she states simply.
He seems bigger than life. His pectorals push against the cotton t-shirt. She feels as if she's Alice shrinking under his watchful gaze. Fidgeting at his scrutiny, she twirls a strand of hair, stares at the hollow of his throat, and moistens her lips with the tip of her tongue.
"I'm not surprised," he contradicts. "Given the circumstances. Guy spewed AIDS infected blood in your face. Might as well jump out of an airplane. That's a metaphor, by the way."
"You're not going to ask me why I'm here?" Cameron sidetracks.
House knows how meth affects the libido, notes the signs of arousal. Cameron's face says, try me. Her body says, fuck me. Her eyes say,love me … if you dare.
To be young is to be high, is to be sad, House thinks, reading her mind. She's here to roll the dice, risk it all. She's here to live a little. She's here for the antidote to death: Sex – with her favorite mistake.
"Don't need to. Besides, ignorance is bliss."
"That's naive." She raises her eyes to his, looks at him from under long lashes.
All he can think of is her lower lip between his teeth. Mostly that.
"Last time you showed up you … quit. A noble gesture. Totally selfless. Don't do it again. It will only lead to me having to go to extraordinary measures to get you to come back, like agreeing to a date. Dinner." House throws her own words back in her face while making the prospect of dinner sound like one of Dante's Circles of Hell.
Her laugh is on the maniacal side. "Blah, blah, blah. I'm high."
She says it like it's a prize she won at a raffle.
"What comes up must come down," House says, pithy. He rolls his eyes, opening the door wider to let Cameron in, but she reaches for him and, instead of seeking the warmth of his living room, she tugs him outside. A feminine finger traces his bicep and he shivers. "You ... inhaled. Where there's a drug, there's a side effect. How does it feel?"
"You've never tried it?" she asks. "It's like someone turned up the volume on … everything. The physiology of it is pretty amazing. Didn't know my heart could beat this fast. Ever hear about Supernova 1987A? It was among the best and the brightest of all stars and it when it died it caused the most violent stellar explosion seen in modern times – an inferno brighter than 100 million suns. After the first toke, it was better than sex, better than the best I've ever had."
"And now?" He regards her face, rapt and glowing as she attempts to gather her thoughts.
And now you lay your hands on me. And now it's all I can do not to cover you like a tattoo. I am indelible ink. You can never rub me off. I am your 'what good is it anyway?'
As if he didn't know. He looks at her as if to prove the point.
Tonight Cameron's unbridled. There's crazy in her eyes. Her hair is a cloud. He takes in her profile, the white temptation of her throat as she gets off on the sky. An unfettered joy crosses her face and then whooshes off into the darkness like a falling star.
She's a firecracker, all lit up. Words fly out of her mouth like sparks: Staccato.
"Ever feel like you can't get close enough? Like it's not enough to look at the constellations, you want to be up there burning? Ever want someone so much that you know just one touch won't be enough? A kiss will burn and when you come together you'll cry because it'll be so right. And even when it's over and you pull apart there's still something between you. Leftovers that never get finished up. But none of this matters because you can never get close enough."
Is she talking to herself or to him? House finds that she's circled his wrist with her hand. The friction in the air as he pulls away is unsettling.
His voice sounds loud in his ears as he responds. "In case you haven't noticed, I like distance."
She moves closer to him, so their frosty breaths mingle, so her legs touch his. Her forehead rests for a moment on his chest.
And then she begins to pace.
House surveys the dark night. The moon has vanished, a magician's sleight of hand on an epic scale. In the glow of the lamp thick flakes of snow twirl down from a black sky in mesmerizing patterns.
The cold air sobers him; her warmth crosses his threshold.
This is the woman who breaks his heart and puts it back together again. She always looks smaller in street clothes, without the lab coat to make her official.
Tonight she's a queen in faded jeans and a simple sleeveless v-neck, a leather jacket over top. Her breastbone begs for his fingertips and the little mole above her left breast always fucks with his resolve. Those clothes on that body are visuals that reach out and touch his cock as if they were hands. He watches innocence and experience play across her face like a pair of dragonflies.
Tearing her eyes from the wonders of the sky, she considers House. God, her clit throbs. She finds herself uttering the first thing that pops into her mind. "What would you say if I told you that I'm on the job tonight? That I'm turning tricks to supplement my salary, and you're my next John, Greg?"
Her insouciance knocks him off-kilter. His first name is a punishment.
"I'd say, 'less talk, more tongue.' What would you say if I told you that you have about the same chance of pulling off a role as a prostitute as Julia Roberts?"
"Oh, House. Give it a rest. Just because I'm high doesn't mean that this isn't real, or that I'm not me. You should know that better than anyone. Don't be a buzz kill." With an effort she stands still.
"Okay … You came to me because you think you might be HIV positive. You're afraid."
She laughs it off distractedly. "You know why I'm here? I came here to tell you that you're right."
He sips the bourbon for warmth.
"Me. You said I don't love, I need. And you were right." She takes a deep breath. Her mouth makes a perfect 'oh' shape as she blows out the air like a smoke ring into the cold. She puts a hand on his chest to steady herself. Her voice is quiet, low. "I need you."
He sidesteps her confession.
"You should know better than to believe what I say. I lied. Of course you love. I've never met anyone more capable of love," A flicker of warmth in his eyes reminds her that he said he wouldn't crush her. "Need is what makes us human. Right now your brain is telling your body that you need to get some. For once you may have come to the right place. But in the interest of full disclosure you should know that you're wrong."
"Me," House says matter-of-factly. "You said the things I do, I do because they're right. You said that's what you … liked about me. The things I do, most of the time, I do because I want to do them, no matter what the consequences. Still need me?"
Cameron shrugs, helplessly. "Need you. Want you."
She takes the bourbon from him and drinks it down, tossing the Waterford tumbler into the bushes. Gripping a handful of his shirt, she raises herself on tiptoes, brushing her lips across his mouth.
They're so warm, those lips, on his. She has infiltrated his space at his own invitation, he thinks. Don't tell her that she's come to the right place – don't tell her that the things you do, you do because you want to do them, no matter what the consequences – if you aren't prepared to see it to the finish. If she needed drugs as an excuse to fuck, she should have gone to Chase. He wouldn't have hesitated.
Bob Dylan telling it like it is, he thinks. It's not me you're looking for.
He tolerates the kiss, but stands his ground, tight-lipped, resisting an overwhelming desire to close his eyes and lean against the doorway, to pull her into his arms, give in, and save both of them some time. She smells like the winter night with after notes of a simple French scent barely discernible. He wants to taste her, to find the warmth of her mouth, to shut off his mind and give in to pure sensation.
As her hands move to his face, he grabs her shoulders, steering her toward the warmth of his living room.
"When …Freud wrote about the pleasure principle, he must have meant that it was just another form of hedonism, like, if it feels good, do it, even if you shouldn't." Cameron laughs. "I'm all ID tonight."
"If you're coming in," House orders, "leave Freud at the door."
He shuts it behind them.
Once inside, Cameron pins him up against the door. She can't stop touching him. Her hands explore his chest, his stomach, his face, and he allows it, listening to her rapid-fire monologue.
She can't stop talking. It's a disease he can't treat unless he kisses her quiet.
"Ever think about what our bodies go through when we have sex? Pupils dilate, arteries constrict, core temperature rises, heart races, blood pressure skyrockets, respiration becomes rapid and shallow, the brain fires bursts of electrical impulses from nowhere to nowhere and secretions spit out of every gland, and the muscles tense and spasm like you're lifting three times your body weight. It's violent, it's ugly, and it's messy, and if it weren't unbelievably fun ... the human race would have died out eons ago. Too bad men can have only one orgasm."
She grips his face, forcing him to look at her, to look deep. Beneath the desire there's fear, a great recklessness brought on by anxiety. Am I infected? House softens at the sight of it.
In her time of need she came to his door.
"I've made myself come eight times in a row, not that I was counting. Did you know that women could have hour-long orgasms? Have you ever made anyone come like that? If you did, you'd feel like a god. Oh. That's right. You already feel like God. Right now just … anything could set me off. If you start me up I swear I will never stop."
She pauses for breath, managing to look winsome. "Help me off with my coat?"
He recognizes her jacket. It's the one she wore to the Monster Trucks rally. He remembers the astonished, delighted expression on Cameron's face at the sheer fun of the preening drivers maneuvering the caricatured trucks, the din of the motors, the Roman coliseum spectacle. What could be more normal than pink and blue cotton candy, sharing a sugary confection on a stick?
What if she gets sick? He's not like Wilson. His patients seldom die.
House reaches for her collar, easing the coat off her shoulders, surprised as his fingers brush the warm naked skin of her nape. This is a mistake. The petals of the corsage roses weren't nearly so soft.
His eyes travel the length of her, sightseeing. Her small breasts swell under the soft sweater, and the stiffened nipples proclaim she's not wearing a bra.
Her ankle high boots squeak as she walks past him and into the living room. His eyes follow the shape of her ass, noting the way her hair swings over her shoulder blades. A thought of taking her from behind stirs his cock, making him oblivious to anything but the need to feel her sweet rounded ass beneath his palms, to rub up against her hard.
There's a tightening in the front of his jeans as his prick bulges, brushing against the cotton of his boxer briefs. It's an angry erection, jutting hard against his inseam.
This is happening.
But not tonight. Not like this. The state she's in, she'll do anything for his hands on her skin. He thinks about clinic duty, the idiocy of the patients, the shriveled up yanks of the geezers and the gaping vaginas of the old wizened hags. Anything but the open offer in front of him.
He tosses her coat over the back of the couch and contemplates broaching the subject of the anxiety he spied in her eyes a moment ago. Takes a pass.
Without a word, she reaches for the snap of her jeans. There's not much need for talk: Her intentions are written in her eyes.
House is an inanimate object, a soldier, a statue, as she steps toward him, placing a hand on his heart, and tracing the outline of his erection with slim fingers. He swells beneath her touch.
He loses his grip on his cane, but he stands his ground. He won't for long.
"You … want me." Cameron's hands move up and over the sensitive skin of his stomach, and then dip into the waistband of his jeans to grasp the evidence.
House sucks in his breath. "Who wouldn't? Like it or not, you're beautiful, a work of art."
"As art you'd put in a lobby, I … work for you. You can look but you're afraid to touch."
He will touch her. His hands are already roving over her body, molding her to him, working the green sweater off of her pale freckled skin.
There is a pause and she pulls her hand from his pants. He can feel where her fingers touched his nakedness. Before he speaks, there's a pause. For a moment, in the room, except for the sound of their breathing, it is quiet.
"I'm not afraid," he says, finally. "You are. Of getting tested. Of getting the results. Because if you're sick, who's going to do for you what you did for him? For your husband?"
Balling her fists, she hits him, ineffectually, in the chest. "You can be a real bastard. What you really want to know is if your theory is right. Yes, House. I'm afraid. You happy now?"
"Far from it. You're a doctor. You know as well as I do that everybody dies. If you came to me because you wanted to hear that everything's okay and you'll be fine, you came to the wrong man, but I can get Wilson on the line," House reached around her for his phone. "The facts are these: You were exposed to the HIV virus and although the odds are against it, you could be infected. You … need to be tested. Did you really think that meth would be fun while you were eyeball to eyeball with Mr. Death? Gotta save the good stuff for when you're in your happy place."
"I don't have a happy place." It's a whisper.
His eyes on hers, he processes her confession.
And yet she rebounds with alacrity. "And neither do you. What hurt more, House? Losing the use of your leg or losing Stacy?"
When he remains silent, eyes circling the room, she answers for him.
"For you, they're inseparable. There wouldn't be one without the other. But I'm curious. Did the leg just speed along the process? From what I hear you were miserable before the infarction."
"I told you. I'm damaged," he says, unflappable. "If you want to know more, I suggest breaking into my therapist's office."
Cameron laughs. "That would be poetic justice if you had a therapist. Unless you meant Wilson." Her laugh fades to a mere smile. "Of course I could always torture him until he talked. But you know, the way you reacted to your father when he visited? You'd have done anything to avoid seeing him. I'd say it took more than muscle death and a bad break up to inflict that kind of damage."
"Don't try to pick me apart," he says, a warning edging his words.
The meth along with a dose of indignation speeds up her response.
"Don't tell me what to do. With you, there's always a double standard. You tell me how it is with me, why I chose to marry, and what I'm capable of in terms of loving another man." She steps up closer to him, arms folded across her chest. "You tell me I don't love, I need. And yet for sex, all you can manage is hookers. Anything else would be … personal. You say you're complicated. I say you're afraid. You want to talk about fear? Then tell me. What are you so afraid of?"
He lets out a breath of air he didn't know he was holding. He looks at her small, lithe body. When she comes on strong like this it's in contrast to vulnerability he observes in the birdlike bone structure and intrinsic sincerity of her face. This verbal volley isn't a game to her.
"If I told you, you wouldn't believe it."
She cocks her head at him, considering.
"You know what the lawyers always say in those courtroom dramas? Never ask a question unless you already know the answer. I know what you fear." Her voice goes low, as it's wont to do. "You fear your feelings … for me. You fear this, and how it makes you feel."
Linking her hands behind his neck, she pushes her lips against his, the gentlest imaginable kiss. Sliding her hands down his muscular back, she pushes up against him as her mouth moves to his jaw line.
Her clit throbs.
Now that her mind rests, laziness overtakes her limbs and she offers the love she has for him in tiny little kisses. Now his cheekbone, now the corner of his mouth, now his forehead where he's always tense.
It's the gentleness, the deliberation of her every move that hurts him. Actions don't lie. Not as much as words. He feels the love behind her movements so when he brushes his knuckles between her legs, it's in spite of himself.
Cameron wraps a leg around his ass, squeezing so her clit makes contact, and rubs herself against him, letting out a little cry of frustration when that doesn't prove to do the trick.
"Look, House. You know where I'm coming from tonight. My body's calling the shots. If you don't ... if you won't ... get me off, I'm gonna do it myself."
He feels her hand move down between her legs and she touches herself through the faded denim.
"If I have sex with you all night -- and believe me, on meth that's what it's going to have to be -- you'll hate yourself in the morning. You'll hate me." Her body against him fits. It nearly undoes him.
"I hate you now." She pushes him away and then contradicts herself by yanking him back and kissing him hard on the mouth. Her cool palms find the rope of his spine under his shirt.
Don't kiss back.
But her tongue traces his lower lip and she parts his mouth with its tip until, driven by the insistence of his pulsing shaft, he responds. Her hands move over his erection and she pulls up his tee, twirling her tongue around his naval, and then his nipple.
How does she know to do that? That it makes him want to shred her shirt with his bare hands, make her naked and pull her onto his hard thick cock?
This has to stop.
He grasps her by her upper arms, and then regrets it. Her skin is a silk scarf; a whisper in the dark, and touching could be habit forming for a man like him.
Clinging to him like cellophane, she proves to be stronger than she looks. In an effort to physically pull her off of him, he slammed her into the wall, harder than he planned. He hears the sound of her skull against the wood and the little gasp she makes as she lets go of him. The Picasso, mounted on the wall above them, trembles at the impact and comes to rest on a slant.
He stumbles away from her, trying to catch his breath, and watching as she leans her head back against the plaster, her eyes wide with comprehension.
In his eyes she reads regret and, yes, he's complicated. I am your 'I can't go for that.' There's nothing he wants more than to have her, nothing except a healthy leg – she can see it. And what's more, she sees that this time, holding back is a real sacrifice. You are my 'maybe someday.'
For a moment they stand there. The furnace clicks and heat warms the townhouse. Off in the distance, the insistent sound of sirens. Her faded jeans with the snap undone remind him of how lovely her body is and the promise of its gentle curves and hollows waiting for him just beneath her clothes. Still hard, his erection is discernible under his jeans and she notes that fact, her eyes traveling up to his neck, which she's neglected to kiss, and the mixed message of his face.
Finally she pushes herself off the wall. "I'll get my coat," she says quietly, turning toward the couch.
He grabs her arm. "Take my bed," he says, lightly running his hand over the back of her head to make sure she isn't hurt. There's no bump. "Don't want you walking home in the dark feeling the way you do."
Limping toward his bedroom, he tucks sheets, blankets, and a pillow from his linen closet under his arm so he can make up the couch for himself. A pair of drawstring pajama bottoms and a clean white t-shirt to sleep in, he decides, opening a drawer. As an afterthought, he digs to the bottom of the drawer until he finds the garment he's looking for wadded up and shoved in the corner. Pulling it from the drawer he unfurls it, tossing it to Cameron.
Shooting him a quizzical look, she lays the size small tee on the bed and smoothes the blue cotton, reading the words printed upon it: Lawyers do it on a Trial Basis.
Glancing up to meet his eyes, a shadow of a sad smile crosses her face. "Doctors do it for Life."
House's mouth curves slightly upward at the irony of her words. "Keep it. Or toss it." He sizes her up. "It'll be a little big for you."
But you'll grow into it. You'll outgrow it.
"From what I hear Wilson always gets the couch," she remarks, plopping herself down on the bed, with Stacy's old tee crumpled in her lap.
"You're not Wilson." His eyes move from her face traveling the length of her body and leaving her with no doubt about the strength of his attraction, the deepness of his desire, or the nature of his feelings. "Get some sleep," he mutters, staring down at her small form on the big bed.
He'd like to hold her, touch her, to fuck her all night long.
Instead he limps out of the room with his bedding. "House?" she calls softly after him. "No harm done."
Without House to focus on, her mind races, producing a mishmash of facts and images. It is as if she's a remote control and someone keeps changing the channels.
A hummingbird's heart rate can reach up to 1,260 beats per minute and from the way her own heart has pounded since she smoked the Crystal into her quicksilver bloodstream she knows how it feels.
There's a buzzing in her ears like the sound of a hummingbird's wings flapping up to 80 times per second or thereabouts. The tiny iridescent creatures are capable of sustained hovering. She can relate after hovering around House for the past two years.
They eat up to 50 of their own body weight, depending on whom you ask – hummingbirds. Tom would have known – oh, Tom. Don't think of your dead husband at a time like this, even if he was the king of Trivial Pursuit – but he metastasized so quickly and House was right about death. It's never dignified.
At any given moment hummingbirds are only hours away from starving. Now that's a metabolism that a supermodel would kill for …
House was close tonight. He looked at her through the glass like he does sometimes and then he shattered it. Did they take a step forward or a step back? Where is Wonderland anyhow? Oh, Alice, and all your nonsense. Drink me. Eat me.
Competing with her fragmented thoughts is the need to touch her swollen aching clit and she strips off her jeans and panties, pulling the v-neck over her head and foregoing Stacy's t-shirt.
I will never wear it.
Pulling the duvet off the bed, she flops on top of the cool cotton sheets sweating from the meth and sticks a hand between her legs. Despite her deft finger work, she can't get off, and still the desire won't abate.
Rolling onto her stomach she pictures his face looking up at her on the bed, feels his phantom cock as she grinds herself down on it. Remember the ridge of it through his jeans beneath her fingertips and the taste of bourbon on his mouth.
It's no use.
Finally her heart slows and her mind quiets and she stops thinking of his flawed body stretched out and probably in pain in the living room and remembers the feeling she used to get as a girl sitting in the back seat of the family car looking up at the clouds through the back window. It was a sixth sense that appeared only to vanish but as it passed over her it was this: the absolute knowledge that out there somewhere was another person who would know her the way the minister said God would. He would look at her, and she at him and something would pass between them that could never dissolve. Who knew they would get so wounded on their way to one another she wondered as she drifted off into the welcome oblivion of sleep.
In the still of the night House wakes.
It isn't a gradual drifting-up-from-a-dream return to consciousness. It's an immediate alertness honed after years of medical school, residency, and being on call. Any small noise in the night can slice sleep from its counterpart. Sometimes it's Steve McQueen giving his wheel a spin, or the neighbor's high-strung yippy dog opining about a scent caught in the wind.
Tonight it's nothing that wakes him.
There's nothing like the concept of nothingness to suck you out of the brief comfort of sleep, he thinks, rubbing his hands over his face and sitting up, clutching his pain-riddled right leg. The couch groans under his weight as he shifts, easing his legs around so his feet touch the cool wood floor.
This is his punishment for studying physics along with the grueling pre-med college curriculum: To wake up in the middle of the night aware of a pressing stillness like the force of what physicists call dark energy, particles no one can see but which nonetheless push apart the universe at an ever-accelerating rate of speed.
Every second there's more and more nothing, he thinks, but it beats a God who crushes people as if they were insects, who creates cancers and perpetuates car wrecks and allows child abusers to thrive while infants die before they can be diagnosed and treated. It beats a God who could conceive of infecting someone as caring as Cameron with AIDS.
In the darkness of his living room, it's palpable, the stillness. There's so much silence it hums.
A swath of light from his bedroom cuts across the oriental carpet.
Cameron sleeps in his bed.
The remnants of his right quads remind him that he's overdue for a dose of Vicodin. A bottle of pills is where he left it – on his bedside bureau. Hunched on the couch, cane between his legs, he sits thinking.
He could grab tablets from the pocket of his sports coat. It's draped over a kitchen chair. Pushing himself off the couch leaning heavily on the cane, he heads in the opposite direction, toward his room and Cameron.
She's draped on top of the bed, deeply asleep on her stomach, he sees once the darkness settles. Streetlamps cast a dim light through the room, bathing her naked form in blue. Her skin is glossy, damp like morning dew. As an adjective, 'beautiful' seems too worn for her lovely limbs and lissome frame. She possessed a willowy shape that bewitched him. Drawing up a chair beside the bed, he watches her sleep as his erection stirs, surveying her with the intensity of a cinematographer bent on recording every curve.
Her legs are slightly spread and he can see the gap where her firm and rounded ass slopes down into her sex. One arm is crooked beneath her head, cradling it while the other arm stretched out toward the edge of the bed. Her small hand curls like a seashell and he looks at her slim fingers and the little knuckles, resisting the impulse to trace the metacarpals. That same hand caressed his scruffy cheek, traced the shape of his cock through his jeans, reaching beneath the waistband of his pants and touching it. He imagines her hand circling his engorged prick, sliding slickly up and down his shaft and over the head.
A strand of hair has fallen into her face and each time she exhales, it puffs out. He watches her for a while, watches her rhythmic breathing, struck by how dark her hair looked against milky skin.
You may look but you musn't touch, his mom had reminded him whenever she took him to museums in the places where his father was stationed. Standing in front of a sculpture of a goddess, regarding the cool marble of its surface, he lifted his hand and touched the rounded breast, trailing fingers over the sternum, slope of belly and the inner thigh.
His curiosity has always been tactile.
Slowly he lifts his hand and brushes her hair back from her face so it spills over her neck and pools at her nape, his knuckles gently skimming her cheek. Stroking the shining mass of hair with his palm, he marvels at how soft it is - like cashmere. Leaning his head down to hers, he breaths in her smell, the clean botanicals of her shampoo. He can hear her even breathing.
If she gets AIDS? He closes his eyes. All death is without dignity but to die like that, shitting your pants, your flesh stretched over your bones, your unbelievably beautiful eyes sunk in their sockets? If this were the fate in store for Cameron, a woman who wed a terminal cancer case so someone would be with him in his final days, so someone would remember him and preserve his name …
You going to spoon feed her broth, wipe up her sweat with a warm washcloth, clean up her vomit, wipe her ass when she has diarrhea in her hospice bed, hold her wafer thin hand, and press her skin and bones body to your own to try and keep her warm?
And before she's symptomatic, are you going to give her a life, Christmas trees decorated with candy canes, a single pearl on a silver chain, sex on every conceivable surface and deep mind blowing orgasms, or just rub cinnamon oil on the pads of her feet, up and over her metatarsals, and between her toes? Will you take her on dates? Let her find out what makes you tick?
Think I can do that.
Cameron is already immune deficient. Caring too much will have that effect. Let your guard down and you open yourself up to whatever come what may.
Her shoulder blades are like wings; her bones are fine and delicate. He looks at her on the bed and the desire to climb up beside her is nearly insurmountable.
Instead he slowly and deliberately reaches out and touches the soft bare skin of her back, so warm beneath his fingers, so alive. From the nape of her neck to the soles of her slender feet, his hands mold her shape with a possessiveness that surprises him, fingertips lightly touching the silky skin between her shoulders, moving over the curve of her spine dipping into the small of her back where he rubs his thumb over the dimples right above her ass. He loves the little hollow that curves up into the smooth flawless skin of her taut rounded buttocks.
For a moment he hesitates, and then he cups her ass with his big palms before continuing to lightly touch the velvety skin of her inner thighs.
Or maybe she'll be fine, he thinks, his hand resting on her thigh as he watches her. A moment passes, and finally he pulls a blanket over her nakedness.
Tomorrow when she wakes he'd like to be there to see her open her eyes.
He isn't going anywhere.
A/N: So I'm considering writing a follow up to this. What do you think? Want to read more?