Author: Carla, aka cali-chan.
Rating: PG-13, I think? A bit for some language, but I'm not too sure of this...
Genre: Romance. It starts out rather angsty, but towards the end it becomes a big ball of fluff with a generous topping of mush, if such a thing can be. Be sure to wash your teeth after you're done reading.
Disclaimer: I don't own House. But I wouldn't mind if anyone would like to give me Chase for my birthday ;)
Warnings: General spoilers up to and especially for season 4, mostly for episode 4.07, "Ugly." Oh, and I kind of forced myself to write this from Cameron's PoV mainly because I usually don't get her and I wanted to challenge myself with that; as a result, she may be a bit OOC in some parts.
Summary: 'If you chose me, then why do we keep having this conversation?' 'Because you keep bringing it up!' Chase and Cameron have a much needed talk. Post-Ugly.
Notes: Virtual cookies to whoever can spot a phrase from Robin Hood... no, make that two phrases from Robin Hood. And one from Everwood! For other comments read my notes at my fic journal, the address is girls-are-weird dot livejournal dot com (you can also find the link in my profile).
She watched him as he dug up his keys from his pocket, and moved to open the door. He hadn't said a word on the way back to his place, and he'd barely even looked at her since they got out of the car. She sighed. She knew what was bothering him: her big mouth, and how she'd made a right mess out of things.
Deciding that she'd had enough of the silence, she leaned nonchalantly against the doorframe as he focused on the task at hand. She directed a sly smile at him. "I know you think that pout makes you look adorable, but, you know, it really doesn't," she quipped, her tone teasing him, in an attempt to lighten his bad mood.
"'M not pouting," he all but mumbled, finally getting the bloody thing unlocked and walking in.
She stood there, about one foot shy of being inside, and looked around the living area. She'd always rather liked Chase's apartment, for some reason. Her own could better be described as a practical space, tastefully arranged (she'd decorated it herself, down to the smallest detail) and carefully taken care of. Yet at times, it seemed very... sterile. Maybe it was her own fault; maybe the shelves full of books and the framed pictures staring back at her always made her feel lonely. Whatever the reason, at times it felt like her apartment was an extension of the hospital and she wasn't sure how to take that.
Chase's flat, on the other hand, had a homier feel to it. He wasn't messy by any means; in fact, the place was very tidy, at least for a guy's standards, but it always had something... she couldn't quite place her finger on it... it just always felt like it was lived in. The style of the furniture, maybe-- some might call it a little artsy, some a little eclectic, some might plain say it's a repository of generic pieces (and they'd probably be right because Chase admitted to it being mostly a patchwork of things that he somewhat liked individually but didn't put much thought into as a full décor)-- that made her think someone sat in this sofa, or someone slept in this bed, or someone sat down to eat at this table. The lighting, colors and aromas gave it a kind of warmth that she really loved.
Or maybe it was just the memories it brought. It was a bit of a personal milestone for her, after all, that she sought him out, right here at his apartment, and started their relationship. Unprecedented move, really.
But it was mostly the warmth, she thought. It was why she'd rather spend their nights together at his place than at hers; she found it so much more comfortable.
However, no amount of warmth could keep away the flicker of annoyance that cursed through her at his continued dismissal. "Yes, of course. You're just smiling on the wrong side of your face," she remarked dryly as she stepped inside, hands in her coat's pockets, and closed the door behind her with her foot. There was silence for a heartbeat, and then a light crash as Chase dropped his keys on the table, his back still to her. That was his only reply. She sighed, frustrated. "Look, if you're still mad about what I said on camera, just... I don't know what else to tell you. I've already said I'm sorry about the whole thing," she finished, hoping that she sounded contrite enough that he might let it go.
"More like sorry that it slipped out and sorry that I found out about it," he muttered as he shrugged off his jacket.
However grave his tone had been, she heard it clearly. "What is that supposed to mean?" The answer to that question was so obvious, it was almost rhetorical, but in her aggravation she at least expected something out of him. When he decidedly dodged her question by physically dodging into his room, she almost let out an offended grunt. "Chase, this is getting ridiculous. I've told you a hundred times that I am over House!" she exclaimed, following him into the bedroom. "Why can't you just accept it?"
He not-so-gently dropped his coat on his bed and finally turned to look at her. And she absently wondered if this was it, if he was going to stop pretending it didn't bother him and finally let her have it. "How can I, when you keep doing stuff like this?" he exclaimed, and she knew, yes, this was it.
She cringed at his tone. He wasn't really yelling, although she half-wished he would; reacting to straight-up anger was much easier than doing the same when all his words reflected was deep hurting. "Yes, I know, it was the stupidest thing I could've ever done, but you have to know that it didn't mean--"
"I don't have to do anything. You've spent every free moment sticking your nose in House's business and mingling with his new posse. And then this. Just what am I supposed to think?"
She was at a loss for a second. This is when being too caring comes and bites you in the ass, she thought. Finally she opened her mouth, thinking that she might as well just say whatever. "I... just wanted to help." And it sounded feeble even to her, so she really couldn't blame him when his eyes hardened at her words.
He sat on his bed and looked straight at her. "Did you, really?"
Her heart contracted at his stony intonation. She sighed, knowing there was no way out of this one. He knew, anyway; might as well just let it out in the open. "Okay, so I miss it. It was a good job, and it challenged me. Diagnostics is way more exciting than anything that happens in the ER. And yes, I admit it: I love having an opportunity to one-up House. Is that what you wanted to hear?" His harsh gaze did not soften one bit. She took one step closer to him, now feeling very indignant under his accusing stare. "Well, you can hardly blame me for it! You've been doing it too!"
"It's not the same thing," was his immediate reply.
"Of course it is!" she dismissed his words just as fast. Yes, it was the same, if not worse. She'd only gotten involved when the applicants requested her help, really. And to help out Cole, and maybe a little with the betting pool, just for fun... and Chase had started all that, anyway. But she'd never deliberately gone in and confronted House, to rub it in his face that she could help even if he didn't want her to, like she knew Chase had done. She'd only done that to Foreman-- and that was Foreman, not House-- because she let herself be dragged in by the excitement of it all. And she'd apologized; that had nothing to do with Chase. This was completely hypocritical of him. She stared on, half in disbelief that he had the gall to actually say that. So his pride wouldn't let him admit any of this, but she knew just which buttons that Cutthroat Bitch girl had pushed to get him to help. "Why is it any different? Because you do it out of bitterness and I don't?"
"Yes!" he finally yelled out, getting up from the bed to pace in front of her. There it was, the anger. That was good; it meant she could, too, yell now, without feeling like an idiot because he was taking this whole thing in such a mature (even in her mind, the disdain at the word was palpable) way.
"I chose to have nothing to do with him anymore! Why are you using that against me now? I don't get to be mad!"
"He's a bloody bastard, of course you should be mad! Why aren't you mad?" He ran his hands through his hair tightly, almost pulling, and if she hadn't already known that he was as frustrated about this as she was, she would now, because that move would've been a sure sign. She was going to say something, anything, but he went on just as she opened her mouth. "You decided to stay. Why would you do that if you really wanted to get away from him so badly?"
Now this she wasn't going to take. "Because I like it here!" she snapped back, feeling like she'd said these words a thousand times. And she had, really; they'd already talked about this before. They'd agreed-- he'd agreed-- and she thought they were past it now. "PPTH is a good work environment for me, and regardless of any personal matters, Cuddy trusts my abilities as a doctor--"
"That is just bullshit," he said, suddenly laughing in a way that she knew had nothing to do with being amused. He crossed his arms. "You want to know why you stayed? I'll tell you. You stayed because you wanted to see if he still needed you. You needed to see it."
Cameron seethed silently. She hated it when people psychoanalyzed her. She had never pinpointed exactly why that was... maybe because it made her feel guilty, because she knew she did it to others but couldn't take the heat; maybe it was that she hated being so transparent; but mostly, it was because it forced her to think of parts of herself she'd forced herself to ignore. And she hated it most when Chase did it, because at those moments he seemed uncharacteristically cruel, and ultimately too much like House... and she never wanted him to be that way.
"But I chose you, didn't I?" she sentenced, now throwing the accusing stare right back at him. "And you know, I really think you should take a look at yourself, because, out of the two of us, the only one who really has House issues is you," she couldn't help but add in the end, just out of spite.
He didn't back down an inch, ignoring her biting last statement. "If you chose me, then why do we keep having this conversation?"
"Because you keep bringing it up!" Her tone was almost desperate by now. He noticed.
He walked towards her and for a second she thought he was going to walk out of the room. Instead he sat down again, leaning his weight on his knees. He was silent for a long while, they both were, and then he looked up... and his expression might have broken her heart, had she not been so angry. He sighed dejectedly. "I'm sure that... you chose me because, at that moment, you felt I needed you more than he did. How long will it take until you realize that he's even more messed up now... and you leave me?"
She stood there, looking at him like she didn't know him. The beat of her heart was a heavy boom in her chest, her throat, her ears. "You really think that of me?" she whispered. "That I'm just some sort of junkie who gets off on people's... defectiveness?" Her arms went up to cross together, though it seemed more like she was hugging herself. "Do you really think I'd be that insensitive? Chase, we've been together for months. I've changed."
Yet more silence, and this time it hung dense between them. Her gaze rested solely on him, his down towards the floor. Finally, with a deep sigh, his hands rose to rub his eyes. "I just... I don't know if you really understand this, Cameron." He tilted his head to the side, almost hesitantly, so he could look back at her. Blue met blue. "This isn't a game for me. I love you. You could really be it for me..." It seemed like he was going to add something else, but he caught himself before it came out. He quickly averted his gaze again, this time focusing on his intertwined hands. Strands of his soft blond hair fell over his face, and he embraced those shadows to hide his expression from her. It was only then that he finished what he'd been saying: "...if you're not already."
Cameron recognized that his words came dangerously close to being a proposal. She didn't know if she was ready for it, and couldn't say how she would have reacted if it had come up in any other circumstance, but at the moment she still felt too aggravated and too hurt... she didn't acknowledge it. "What would you do... if I told you I still had unresolved feelings for House?" She almost heard her voice echo down the hall. She knew she was being vindictive, but she felt she had a right to be: if he was doubting her, she might as well give him something to really make him doubt. "Would you break up with me?"
He did not answer that question. He didn't move a finger. She knew he wouldn't say anything. She also didn't know how to feel about it. She'd wanted him to open up-- it's what prompted her to start this conversation, she knew this had been eating at him for weeks-- but now she'd gotten more than she bargained for, and it was just too much for her to take right now. "I... I have to-- just-- I have to go." And gripped by a sudden need to just get away from him for a while, she stalked out of the room, out of the flat, and towards her own car with a certainty in her steps that she would later question.
She was halfway to her apartment when she realized that she couldn't leave things like that.
It was a good thing, really, that traffic at Princeton was heavy at this hour. Well, it was a good thing today, at least: it gave her ample time to ruminate about what had happened, without actually letting her get too far away, physically. And being alone inside her car for an hour without him there to say anything-- or not say anything-- allowed her to think about what they'd both said instead of just reacting to it.
And think she did. And she thought so much that at one point she had to remind herself not to over think. Embarrassingly enough, this particular piece of mental conversation with herself happened when she was standing still at a stoplight on Ridge Road, and she was so engrossed in her own conclusions that she never noticed the light had turned green. At least the honking coming from the car that was behind her was enough to jolt her out of her wonderings and kick her into action; she took the first street off that she could find and turned her car around, back towards Chase's place.
She hadn't yet figured out what she was going to say, but she knew she had to apologize... for what she said, for what he said, it didn't really matter at the moment... but they had to sit down and talk about this-- really talk, not argue-- and clean the air between them because it stung terribly that he doubted her and at the same time, she couldn't stand knowing that she may have, unintentionally, hurt him.
She found his door unlocked and walked in to find him sitting on his couch, staring at the television. Some game show was on, but the sound was muted. Everything was dark, save for the light coming from the TV set, and it reflected in his eyes when he looked at her as she came in.
In silence, she took off her jacket and hung it on the rack that stood beside the door. Then she turned back to look at him... anybody else would say she looked like a nervous teenager, standing there, hands behind her back and shifting her feet, but in reality she was gauging his expression, wondering if those two words were adequate enough to convey her feelings at that moment. She couldn't find any other way to put them, though: "I'm sorry."
He let out a sigh, his eyes softened. It took him a heartbeat more to reply. "I'm sorry, too."
She half-smiled at him and moved to sit beside him on the couch. As she settled her weight comfortably, he leaned forward, elbows on his knees, much in the same position he'd adopted earlier on his bed. "I was... way out of line--"
She signaled with her hand to stop him. "No, just... let me speak for a little while, okay?" She needed to tell him, needed him to understand. He frowned at her, a bit curious, but nodded. She took a deep breath. "You're right. I... do tend to fall in love with people for the wrong reasons, don't I?" Her smile shifted almost unnoticeably, her tone now self-deprecating. "I guess it's because I've always been... Allison Cameron, one-woman army, hell-bent on saving the world one patient at a time," she gestured widely with her arms.
Chase's eyebrows rose, just barely. "It's not an awful thing to be."
Her eyes twinkled gratefully at him. "I guess not. But it's not a good thing to base relationships on." She moved her feet up to the seat, wrapping her arms around her legs and resting her chin against her knees. "I guess that's part of what attracted me to House in the first place." She saw Chase visibly cringe at this, and so she hurried on. "I always thought that just helping people would make me happy. And it kind of makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, if ignoring the suffering of someone near you makes you feel guilty... then giving everything you can give to make sure that person doesn't suffer anymore should make you happy, right?"
She paused, frowning, maybe at her words, at her past self and how naïve she used to be. "Only, love doesn't work like that. Because there are people that just... can't be saved. There are people that don't want to be saved. House taught me that." She shook her head at the thought of her ex-boss, and how he seemed to like being miserable all the time. "And if you just keep giving and giving, without getting anything back... you think it makes you happy, because you're doing the right thing, but really it all just... drains you. And that person's still suffering, and you're suffering, and it's all just... pointless."
He pulled at one of her hands and squeezed it tightly in his. She paused to gaze into his eyes, letting him know that she appreciated the gesture. "I got so tired of all the pain. Of suffering with them... because of them. I loved them all, but I didn't want to be like that anymore." She closed her eyes for a moment, picturing so many life-altering moments that she'd gone through. "That job did tend to shake our foundations very often, didn't it? So I told myself... well, not really told myself; I don't think it was a conscious decision, and I certainly didn't think all of this before going down that road..." She rolled her eyes at her own babbling. "I told myself I'd be selfish. I wanted to do something that would make me feel good, for a change.
"That was actually where our whole... agreement came from." He nodded, a bit of a smirk on his face, surely remembering how she'd propositioned him and made it all seem so simple. "I thought that as long as I didn't hurt anyone, there was no problem, right?" She sighed, the corners of her mouth falling down. "But I hurt you. I used you. I swear I never meant to, but I was so confused, so... lost, somewhat. I jumped to the other extreme, and it was wrong."
He kissed the back of her hand to let her know that it was all in the past. She laughed. "That just proves my next point, though. Even if I hurt you, you obviously... saw something special in me that made you want to be with me. And I kept squashing down your hopes, but you kept trying, now matter how much I hurt you. It was... kind of amazing to see. I could tell you really meant it. And God, that just made me feel like a complete bitch!" She laughed some more.
The last ounce of mirth disappeared as she continued speaking. "When House fired you... I tried to rationalize it at first." She started playing with his fingers where they intertwined with hers. "At the moment I didn't want to be with him... as in, romantically... not anymore. But I think part of me was still fascinated by him, still admired him. I still put him in a pedestal of sorts. He is incredible at what he does, really. I thought-- still do, actually-- that there's always a reason for whatever decision he makes. But that day I realized that he may have had a reason to fire you... just one that only made sense to him. That was the first time, ever since I met him, that I felt his being a bastard overweighed his being a genius. And I just can't work for someone I don't look up to. It was then that I realized I had to let him go... for real, this time. And I did. And it was... easier than I thought, actually."
"And you..." she raised a hand to point at him, waving her finger lightly in front of his face. Her expression teased him. "You know, I've dealt with insistent guys before. I've gone through the whole flowers and gifts routine, but that was usually with guys that just wanted to get into my pants. You had that, and you wanted more. I just didn't understand!"
Chase laughed. "Mum did use to say that I could be annoying when I really wanted something."
"Annoying doesn't even begin to cover it!" she replied, swatting at his shoulder playfully. "You had just gotten fired, for God's sake, and there you were, asking me out for a drink!"
He was going to defend himself, but then thought better of it and simply conceded to her point. She nodded, letting him know it was the right answer. "And then the whole 'It's Tuesday' thing... I know you think it was silly, but it really meant a lot to me. Only I didn't realize it until I didn't have it." She squeezed his hand, much like he'd done to her before. "I'm used to being the one that keeps pushing, all unyielding determination, but I'd never been on the receiving end. And not only did I get used to it, I actually started looking forward to it."
He seemed surprised at this. "Didn't seem that way at the time."
She rolled her eyes at him. "Well, I could hardly let you know it was working, could I? I still thought getting involved in a relationship was a bad idea. But I did smile to myself sometimes, when you weren't around. I didn't get why you'd do it, if we had already been sleeping together, but it was sweet." She could remember being surprised at how much his actions delighted her. It wasn't a conscious transition, a defined line; she couldn't pinpoint exactly when her feelings had changed. It had been gradual... for a couple of weeks there, she was stuck in between righteous (not) anger and guilt. When that guilt turned into affection and sadness and oh, sometimes I wish I could love him, she didn't know. It unsettled her; she shouldn't have to be struggling not to love him. But suddenly, not loving him hurt, and that meant she could fall for him... so easily.
She dropped her head back, against the backrest of the couch, smiling. "And it was such a simple detail... just a phrase: 'I like you.' But it told me that you really care, that I matter. Not because you need someone, but just because I'm near, and you want to be around me. Just me. That you want me to know that someone cares for me, is willing to take care of me, make me happy. And that made me feel... amazing." She closed her eyes, as if savoring the feeling all over again. "No one's ever made me feel that way before."
He chuckled. "If I'd known it was so easy, I'd have tried that since day one!"
She straightened up, gasping rather exaggeratedly at his cheek. "Who are you calling easy, you jerk!" she exclaimed, reaching towards him, looking to mess up his hair. He dodged her hands, and soon enough it escalated into a mock wrestling match that lasted for a few minutes. Later on, as they both tried to catch their breath but failed (because they couldn't stop laughing), Cameron took advantage of the fact that he wasn't expecting it and ran a hand through his blond locks quickly. She had to have her revenge. There was more laughter after his affronted "Hey!," and especially because he just looked hilarious with random patches of hair sticking up on end like that.
"I really don't feel anything for House anymore. Pity, maybe," she continued later, leaning her head against his shoulder. "But I don't hate him... It's not in me to hate. I'm still grateful for everything he taught me, and I don't mind having him around, I guess. And I get involved in his cases because I'm--" she gestured uselessly with her hands, looking for the right word, "--nosy. And curious, and... just... me. I can't just not help."
He smirked at her. "Nosy, huh?" his tone told her that she'd just given him lots of ammunition for teasing in the future.
She rolled her eyes at him. "Sure, that's what you keep from that whole sentence." She poked him in the side, just to annoy him. "But I truly did choose to stay because I like it here. Moving was such an inconvenience. It really had nothing to do with House." He threw her a look that said he didn't believe a word, and she relented. "Okay, maybe it did a little, just to show him that we could function perfectly well, even without him. Because really, someone needs to teach him a lesson or two."
"Or just give him a good kick up his arse," Chase suggested, rather gleefully, using Cameron's own line.
She tried her best to keep a straight face after that comment. The phrase had become a constant around her, but it still threatened to make her laugh. "Funny. But seriously, when I said I loved him, I meant it like... like when I say I love my car, or I love chocolate."
"Wow, I should really be worried, then, because I know that you love chocolate more than you love me." He was sprawled, more than sitting, on the couch, body barely balanced on the edge of the seat, with his head cradled between the backrest of the couch and the wall behind it, legs stretched in front of him as far as they could. Cameron would've thought he was uncomfortable in that position, but given the fact that he was making wisecracks, he probably wasn't.
She grinned evilly at his wide-eyed expression. "Too true!" She laughed. "No, it's just a phrase. But when I say that I love you..." She lifted her torso off him, holding herself up against the couch instead, so she could look down at him. "I really mean it, you know." Her free hand went up to where he laid his head against the backrest, to move a few strands of his hair away from his eyes. "I've learned that it's okay to be a little selfish. I had to stop just doing what I felt I should do and... start doing what I wanted to do. And what I want is to be with you."
"So... I'm like an expression of your rebellion against yourself."
She glared at him. He was being deliberately obtuse. "No. And stop jumping to conclusions; I'm trying to tell you something here." He turned to the side so he could see her directly, but otherwise said nothing. She took it as a sign to continue. "I'm not with you because you're... damaged, or anything like that. I'm with you because you make me happy. And I don't feel guilty about it. And I know that it's really happiness this time, because it's not one-sided." She paused for a second. "At least I think you feel the same... You-- are happy, right?" she frowned at him, half-worried for a second there.
"I am," he interjected, before she could go down the slippery slope.
It was how quickly he said it that really registered with her. "Good. Because, you know, you'd better be. You're the one that started it, anyway."
Chase snorted at her weak attempt at a comeback. "Eh, yeah."
She glared at him for laughing at her. Now she'd lost her train of thought. "Look, I..." She finally gathered her scrambled ideas. He watched her intently, with a small smile. "I know that I can... give you all of me, and it'll be okay, because you'll treasure it, and you'll give back just as much. And when you do have problems, I'll be right here to help you-- not because I feel you need me to, but because I want to-- and I know you'll do the same with me." She ran a hand through her hair, frowning lightly. The words sounded weird to her ears. Too loaded, maybe? Like the whole conversation hadn't been heavy. "This is all very sappy, but I guess what I'm trying to say is... we're in this together. And I am serious about us. I..."
She looked deep into his eyes and hoped that he could see that she meant every word. "Rob, I really do love you. I do. Don't ever doubt that."
He didn't reply (was it even a question? What exactly was she expecting after that?), only stared right back at her. His eyes were warm, though, and deep-- the powder blue had become cerulean in the darkness of the room-- and half-lidded, like he was gazing at something divine. It made her feel like his world was her, and nothing else; it was a bit overwhelming, but his expression pulled her in, and she loved how, when he did let her, she could know exactly what he was thinking just by gazing into his eyes. It was why she didn't mind that he hadn't said anything... he didn't need to, not just yet.
Instead, he moved his hand to her neck, caressed her softly for a second, and then raised his head to meet her lips with his in a slow, deep kiss. One of those kisses that remained marked in your memory forever. One of those that said everything that needed to be said, without one word. She molded her mouth to his with a sigh, hands on either side of his face, holding him tenderly.
"I know," he said after they separated, his breath coming out in gasps and his voice husky from the lack of air. She loved it when he sounded like that. Girls love an accent, she thought, and it was true, but his especially went beyond sexy when it got heavy after he kissed her senseless. She actually had to tell herself to focus on what he was saying instead of on his lips. "And I shouldn't have."
He straightened up, stretching his back and neck as he did (see, she knew his previous position had to have been uncomfortable!). "Guess I'm just so angry at House that I blow everything out of proportion these days."
"I'm not one to be impressed by this type of Neanderthal territorial nonsense," she quipped, amused by the mere mental image.
He nodded, with a chuckle. "True." He scratched the nape of his neck lightly. "It's just..." He took a deep breath, and then looked away from her. "Sometimes I think I'm just so used to being dumped that I've started expecting it from everybody. I'm sorry."
Cameron felt the familiar tightness in her chest when confronted with someone in anguish. It was her curse, she figured, to always feel too strongly, even when the feelings weren't really hers. And she felt it especially with Chase, not only because they were involved, but because it was so distinct in him. By nature, he wasn't an open person; he wasn't one to volunteer personal information, much less admit he was hurting... especially if it had to do with his family. She had tried to push him in the beginning, thought it was unfair that he knew about most of her family life, yet she only knew bits and pieces of his. It took her a long time, and many an argument, to recognize that he didn't keep it to himself because he didn't trust her, but because he tried to avoid rehashing the memories. He saw no point to it. He just wanted to be happy in the present, to leave it behind. And she knew, theoretically, that it wasn't the healthiest way of dealing with pain, but she had her own topics that she'd rather not talk about, so she understood him that far, at least.
On the other hand, he was also very transparent. He tried to hide it, to make it seem like he was perfectly okay, but when he was thinking about his past, you could see it in his eyes, in his stance, from the tension in his shoulders. Someone else might not notice, with his continued reassurance that he was fine, and his determination to focus on whatever else he was doing at the moment-- avoidance techniques that he'd perfected over the years-- but she could see it. It was almost like sneaking a glance at him as a little boy, and a little boy lost at that, hurt and confused about his father's abandonment and his mother's death, and his boss's constant put-downs, and continued rejection from the person he felt the deepest for. It made her heart ache terribly, every time. She could feel her eyes growing humid.
And she was always left in an uncomfortable situation: aching to comfort him, as was her nature, but unwilling to say anything, for she knew he'd dodge her questions. So she settled, as she always did, for letting him know indirectly that she was always there in case he someday did surrender to talking about it. She rose to her knees on the couch and opened her arms wide before engulfing him in a big hug.
She knew the people around her sometimes regarded her as a bit of a joke when it came to things like these. House saw her as a freak of nature to avoid, the few times she'd pulled the move on him. Foreman and Chase had often joked around about it, Foreman once telling her that when she did this, it was almost like watching a cartoon. Barney-like, was one way she remembered he put it. It was strange to people that in response to someone's possible grief, what appeared foremost in her mind was "Do you need a hug?"
Chase still found it a little funny, she pondered as she rested her chin on the top of his head. However, he was clearly beginning to appreciate it, if the way he melted into her was any indication.
He wrapped his arms tightly around her waist and pulled her into his lap, burying his face in her neck. They stayed like that for a long while, wrapped up in each other, with their breathing as the only sound and her stroking his hair the only movement. It seemed like hours had passed when he finally broke the silence with a whisper: "But I am, though... damaged. We all are."
He raised his head to look at her, and she met his eyes without a doubt. Then nodded, with a teary smile. "We are." She leaned in and pecked his lips softly. "But that's not why I love you."
He smiled gratefully at her, embracing her tightly once more. "I love you, Al." She smiled back and tried to burrow closer to him, if that was possible.
He laid back again, against the backrest, pulling her along with him until she rested her head on his chest. His hand played with the ends of her long ponytail, half caressing the skin on her back as her shirt rode up. She nuzzled his neck with her nose, liking the sounds he made when she hit a particularly pleasurable spot. It was nice to just be like this, cuddling on the couch, completely relaxed-- and it was rare, too, given the great stress factor their jobs held and the fact that their hectic schedules often did not allow moments like these.
He chuckled out of the blue. "What?" she asked him, curious.
"I can assume you'll still be intervening in House's cases, then?" There was a glimmer of impishness in his expression.
She shrugged. "If I get roped into it, yeah, probably."
"Then I guess I'll have to just get used to it, right? You can't help it, you're..." He grinned teasingly. "...Nosy."
She stiffened in his arms, leaning back to look at him, mouth open in a half-gasp. He started laughing right off the bat. That made her glare at him, eyes narrowed. "I've changed my mind. I no longer love you."
That made him laugh all the more loudly. She continued to pretend to be affronted, even if she loved to see him laugh so carelessly, so freely, because it's part of who she is: hard to get, even when he's already got her. It was her way of teasing him right back. She got up from his lap to stand in front of him, arms crossed, glare still in place. "Don't be mean!" she exclaimed, lower lip sticking out a little. The pouting might not make him look adorable, but it sure worked for her.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he said, though he was still laughing. "I couldn't help myself. I'll stop, I swear. Come back?" He threw her a look, like the two feet of air and carpeting between them were going to be the death of him. He stretched out his hand to bring her back. She uncrossed her arms and grasped his hand, but remained standing. "I'll behave, I promise." He tugged at her.
She finally relented. "We'll come back to that. I may not want you to be well-behaved, later on," she declared in a suggestive tone, as she accommodated herself on his lap again.
"Really? Interesting," he said, the last of his laughter winding down. She leaned in to kiss him in a way that promised that 'later on' would be very interesting. Later, though. "It isn't wrong, you know," he told her after they broke up for air. At her inquiring expression, he clarified: "To miss it. I do, too. It's hard not to. It was a good job, just... one with a very shitty schedule and a jackass of a boss."
She chuckled at that. "Yeah, that's a good description. You really have to let it go, though." One of her eyebrows rose, marking her point. "It's not good to be so angry. The bitterness will eat you up. You have to forgive him someday."
He rolled her eyes at her and her rehearsed words, although he wasn't annoyed by it... he knew she actually believed them. "Yes, doctor. I'll try." Her other eyebrow rose as well, telling him she didn't appreciate his patronizing her. "No, really, I will," he repeated, making it convincing this time. "It's just hard. It'll take some time... especially if his minions keep pushing my buttons to get me to help. I really don't mind him so long as he's screwing someone else's life, so... I'll try my hardest. I know I'm better off now, I just have to get my brain to really wrap around that idea."
"He doesn't cringe too much at your input, though. Even looks for it, sometimes," she told him, contemplative. "I think it's his subtle way of saying that you're good at it, and he's glad for your help."
"Subtle? More like completely retrograde," he mumbled grumpily.
She heard it, but decided not to comment. "You know, I miss it, but sometimes I don't. I mean, when the cases get so intricate that word gets down to the ER, I do miss it." Her wistful smile turned amused. "But then I see the new applicants following the King of Princeton-Plainsboro around the whole hospital, and I'm really glad I'm not in their shoes."
"Don't let Cuddy hear you say that." They shared a laugh, just imagining what their boss's expression would be after hearing the nickname. "But that part is a nice change, isn't it? Not to be one of his lackeys?"
Cameron stretched her arms, staring intently, as if examining them. "Yep, no feathers here!" she concluded, with a big grin. He smirked at that; no feathers indeed.
She knew there was still one topic that needed to be brought up before this conversation was over. Might as well do it now, before she chickened out. "Hey." His blue eyes focused on her, attentive. "I just wanted to say... if I could be it for you, then maybe... you could be it for me, too. If you aren't already." Admittedly, she was a little nervous about his reaction to this. He'd almost always been the one to initiate any new steps in their relationship, true, but she could always be reading too much into his words. It wouldn't be the first time.
Once she'd innocently brought up the topic of them possibly moving in together; since she spent most nights at his place anyway, it seemed like the right thing to do. To her surprise, he hadn't agreed, explaining that he didn't feel comfortable living with someone when they weren't married, or at least engaged. To say she'd felt a little rejected was an understatement. She'd accused him of being conveniently Catholic-- and where was this morality when he'd slept with her when she was high on meth? She wasn't expecting the real reason behind his apprehension: he bluntly stated that his mother would turn over in her grave if that were to happen; it was the one thing she had never approved of. Shortly after his father left them, in one of her phases of sobriety, they'd been talking about an acquaintance of his, who cohabitated with his girlfriend. His mother told him that it was bad enough they were sleeping together, but living under the same roof without God's sanction? It was like flaunting it, and twice the sin, she said. The words had stayed with him to this day. Cameron still thought he should reevaluate the whole "some sins are acceptable, but some are overkill" mentality, but having him share a little bit about his mother effectively convinced her to not push the issue. And that was that.
This wasn't the same, though. It wasn't like she was asking him to marry her or anything; she was just... letting him know she wouldn't be adverse to the idea. Still, it was nerve-wracking. He'd never been particularly scared of commitment, but she sure didn't want him to start now.
She shouldn't have worried, though, for when she raised her eyes to meet his, she found them filled with a mixture of pleased surprise, some disbelief, and a great deal of excitement. He'd looked at her this way before, and it never ceased to make her breath catch in her throat. She had a feeling his had, as well. She knew she'd understood the meaning behind his words correctly, and so now he did hers. "Maybe?" he asked her, and she almost giggled at the ridiculously hopeful tone of his voice.
She smiled, a bit shyly, but surely. "Mm-hmm."
The emotions in his gaze softened, like he had finally realized that she wasn't kidding, and was filled with warmth all over. "Maybe soon, then."
Her smile widened. "I'd like that." She resisted for about three seconds, before gleefully throwing her arms around him.
He held her contentedly for the next while, as they talked about other, more inconsequential things. Cameron suggested maybe they should go to bed. Chase claimed to be way too comfortable like this, and his shift tomorrow started late, and couldn't they just stay there for a while and... not watch the tube? The waggle of his eyebrows had her in stitches. She finally conceded, so long as he didn't tune in to some Australian football match-- she'd never understood the damn sport.
As she laid in his arms, she thought back to this day, with satisfaction. It was good to get things out in the open, release some of the tension that seemed to pile up on them lately. And she felt relieved that they'd been open about their feelings... because there's a difference between knowing and knowing without a doubt. Now with many of their fears calmed down, their relationship could only get stronger. And the promises made tonight-- some unspoken, but the loudest in their hearts and minds-- would hold them up through the weeks to come.
She was truly happy.