Title: All I Want for Christmas
My Secret Santa 07 recipient: bex81385
My Challenge 07:
1. House and Cameron first Christmas together
2. holiday traditions
3. spiked eggnog
Disclaimer: I always forget this part. But I've never forgotten that I don't own the characters of House, nor am I making a profit off them.
Author's notes: I wrote this a year ago for a Secret Santa fic exchange at the House/Cameron LJ community. So if you follow my fic at LJ, this will be a rerun for you. I (hopefully) made a few improvements before posting it here. Feedback makes me smile. Oh, and beware all ye fluff haters. Here be fluff.
That's what House was thinking as he sat in his dimly lit office and cursed the fact that it was completely dark at 5:00 in the evening, that it was bitterly cold outside, and that Wilson had ditched him to spend Christmas Eve with the future ex-Mrs. Wilson the fourth.
He wasn't the type to admit that he actually loathed being alone on Christmas, and it was probably something no one that knew him would guess. After all, he was a master at projecting an I don't need anyone attitude. But it was the one time of year when the solitude made him restless--when his thoughts betrayed him, making him rethink his penchant for pushing people away.
He saw Cameron gathering her things in the conference room and took note of the downturn of her mouth and the lines on her forehead. There was a lethargy to her actions, a reluctance that seemed to hinder movement. It suddenly struck him that her life might be just as pathetic as his own. Someone like Cameron should be with loved ones, roasting chestnuts over an open fire and all that other sappy stuff that people sang about this time of year. But her entire demeanor seemed to say, well, Christmas sucks.
She wrapped her scarf around her neck and stepped into his office, pulling a brightly wrapped package from her bag and laying it on his desk in front of him.
"Merry Christmas, House." She spoke quietly, giving him a weary smile before turning to leave, not even bothering to wait for his reaction.
"Sooo, you wanna come over for dinner tonight? Chinese. It's tradition." He had spoken before giving himself time to think about it, surprised at himself for wanting this so much.
She turned back to him, clearly confused. "You're... asking me out for dinner?"
"No, I'm asking you in for dinner. Although technically we'd have to go out first," he said, waving toward the window. "Wilson ditched me for some pharmaceutical rep." He glanced at her, then looked out into the hallway. "If you already have plans...it's no big deal."
"No I...What time should I come?"
His first instinct was to tell her to come now, but he didn't want to seem too eager. Besides, he realized his apartment was anything but festive and he had a sudden urge to do something about that. For her. "Seven thirty work for you?"
She nodded and smiled again with much more enthusiasm than before and he felt his heart give a little jump at the idea that he was responsible for it. "See ya then," she said, and he watched her walk toward the elevators with a swing in her step.
House gathered his stuff and left in a hurry as he had a lot of sudden last minute things to do.
He arrived home an hour later with a scrawny pine tree that he practically got for free because of the last minute-ness of the purchase. He dragged it through the door, leaving a trail of pine needles in his wake and set it up beside the piano.
It listed a little to the left and looked rather sad and pathetic, with no lights or ornaments. He realized then that he didn't have any of those things. Never had really. Stacy had decorated for the holidays, and when she left she took all that stuff with her, with his blessing. He'd never missed it until now.
He snatched up his cell phone and dialed Cameron's number, tapping his fingers impatiently as he waited.
"House?" she answered tentatively, like maybe she thought he was going to cancel on her.
"You should bring some Christmas lights and some ornaments," he blurted.
"You know. For the tree," he said slowly, like he was talking to a small child. Or an imbecile.
"O-okay," she stuttered with a laugh. "Anything else I should bring?"
"Probably an overnight bag. S'posed to snow tonight. Wouldn't want you driving on bad roads." He held his breath, puffing his cheeks out, because he couldn't believe he'd just said that. There was an awkward silence on her end and he didn't know what to think.
"House, it's not supposed to snow tonight. I just saw the weather report."
He huffed derisively at that. "Who you gonna believe, those idiot weather guys or me? The leg says snow and it's never wrong."
She laughed again like she could see right through his bullshit. She usually did.
"Fine," she agreed. "I'll see you in a bit."
Grinning, he hung up the phone and made his way to the kitchen. Wilson had stocked his fridge and cabinets in a guilt induced attempt to make up for abandoning him on Christmas Eve. He pulled out the eggnog and added a dash or ten of Scotch to it, wondering what Cameron was like when drunk. Wondering if he'd find out tonight.
She arrived with cheeks rosy from the cold and a sparkle in her eyes, looking like Christmas in the flesh. Her arms were laden with boxes and bags, which he took from her and dropped them right where they stood.
"Eat first. Tree later," he muttered by way of greeting, waving his hand toward the cartons from the Hunan Kitchen sitting on the coffee table.
"Hi to you too," she laughed, shrugging out of her coat, revealing black jeans and a red v-neck sweater beneath that made him think of the red dress she'd worn to the oncology benefit.
That was the night that red became his new favorite color.
"So why aren't you celebrating with family?" he asked, around a mouthful of sesame chicken.
"My brother lives in Japan. We rarely see each other," she said, with a nonchalant shrug.
"What about your parents?"
"My mom died when I was fifteen," she answered perfunctorily, but if she knew him at all, she knew he wasn't going to drop the subject.
"Well, unless you were a product of immaculate conception, I assume there's a father in the picture somewhere," he said, with an impatient sight, urging her to spill the rest of the story.
She glared at him, but continued anyway. "My dad...he fell apart after my mom died. Crawled inside a bottle of whiskey and never came out again. He lives in a home, where he's taken care of."
He paused to study her, his chopsticks poised halfway between his carton of chicken and his mouth. "When was the last time you saw him?"
"Seven years ago tonight."
"And?" he prompted. "You'd still be visiting him unless something happened to make you stay away."
She spoke to the inside of her box of fried rice, her voice strained with emotion. "Last time...he didn't know who I was. He was drunk and...mistook me for my mom," she finished, clearing her throat and setting her food down.
"What'd he do, grope you?" House joked, and then regretted it when the look on her face confirmed that, indeed, that's what had happened.
"Excuse me," she choked out, rising and practically running to his bathroom, her eyes all watery.
"Shit," he muttered, wondering what to do for a moment, before getting up and going after her.
He knocked once before opening the door and entering uninvited. She was on the floor, her knees pulled up against her chest and her face buried in her arms. Dropping down on the closed toilet lid, he began tapping his cane against the tile floor and studying the uneven part in her hair.
"You really know how to bring the Christmas cheer," he quipped.
She looked up at him and swiped her arm across her tear streaked face. "Sorry," she murmured.
So typical of her to apologize when she hadn't done anything wrong.
"Yeah, yeah," he muttered, dismissing her apology with a roll of his eyes. "If I'd known you were a weepy drunk, I'd have never spiked the eggnog."
He was relieved when she let out a soft snort of amusement and he felt that the worst was over. Crying females had never been his specialty.
"C'mon," he said, inclining his head toward the living room, "you've got a tree to decorate."
She followed him out and looked toward the window, shocked to see fat white flakes falling straight down from the sky like they meant business. Snow, the kind that made school kids everywhere rejoice and dared you to drive in it without your snow tires, was piling up on the streets and sidewalks rapidly, as if in direct defiance of local weather forecasters.
"I can't believe it," she exclaimed. "It's actually snowing."
He flashed her a smug smile. "Of course it is. The leg never lies."
"Right," she muttered sarcastically, but she was grinning affectionately at him, her tears drying on her cheeks like Christmas glitter.
He lit a fire in the fireplace while she untangled a string of lights and began wrapping them around the tree.
Pointing out the outlet where she could plug in the lights, he settled himself on the couch again, throwing back another glass of eggnog. He watched with a lewd grin as she crawled across his hardwood floor to reach the outlet, almost laughing when she threw him a flirty look over her shoulder and asked him if he was enjoying the view.
"Hell yeah," he answered with a smug smile.
He didn't offer to help and she didn't ask, but she seemed quite content with the task, even humming a Christmas tune so softly he almost didn't hear it. When she saw him staring, she stopped her humming and smiled at him like she was genuinely happy.
With a grunt, he hefted himself off the couch and went to his piano, playing one carol after another as she continued to make his pathetic tree into something not so pathetic. He was pretty content--even almost happy as he accompanied her.
When she finished with the tree, they returned to the couch and tuned into the 24 hour marathon of iA Christmas Story,/i watching in comfortable silence. The only lights came from the fire, the tree, and the television screen.
Firelight cast shadows over Cameron's face, as if it couldn't resist touching her skin. He liked sitting like this with her more than he thought he would. When she was relaxed and not peppering him with a million annoying personal questions or lecturing him about the latest ethical dilemma at work, her company was rather enjoyable.
Ralphie's father was cursing out the furnace when Cameron broke the silence.
"You wanna open your present?" she asked, her fingers playing with the hem of her sleeves like she was nervous.
He stood and retrieved the package from his backpack, stopping at his desk and pulling out a small box from the drawer, which he tossed at her from across the room.
He had barely sat back down when he began to tear into the box, tossing the bow and wrapping paper on the floor with abandon. Inside lay a flat binder made of the softest leather he'd ever felt, Gregory House engraved on the cover. He darted a glance at her and then opened the binder to reveal sheet after sheet of fine grade staff paper, just waiting to be filled with musical notes.
"I know you write music sometimes," she said with a shrug and an uncertain smile.
He merely nodded his thanks in her direction, stuck for the appropriate thing to say when inappropriate was more his style. She always threw him off balance with her inherent kindness, when most people treated him with disdain at best. But this was even worse. She had chosen a gift for him with great care and thought for the things he enjoyed and it left him squirming with a mixture of discomfort and gratitude.
"You gonna open that?" he asked, once he found his voice, waving toward the small box in her hands.
She smiled and surprised him by ripping off the paper as carelessly as he had, tossing it on the floor to rest beside his. Opening the small velvet box, she brought her hand to her mouth at what was revealed within.
"House, it's beautiful," she murmured, plucking out the antique brooch carefully and examining the aquamarine stone surrounded by tiny diamonds. She looked at him, opened and closed her mouth several times and then simply said, "Thank you."
And he was relieved. If she'd made a big deal of it, he would've regretted the whole thing. Someday he might even tell her that it once belonged to his Oma, or that the stone reminded him of her eyes. But not tonight.
She pinned the brooch to her sweater, letting her hand linger over it. He was instantly reminded of the way she'd pressed his corsage to her dress on the night of their date and he knew he'd made the right choice in giving it to her.
They resumed watching the movie in contented silence, Cameron's hand straying to the brooch every now and then as if making sure it was still there. At some point she had moved closer to him on the couch, their legs brushing against one another, and he snaked his arm around her back and watched her out of the corner of his eye.
The movie was ending again, when House reached for his cane and stood. "I'm going to bed," he declared.
"Oh...well, if you have an extra blanket and pillow..." she patted the couch.
"Yeah, I wouldn't sleep there if I were you. Wilson peed there."
Her eyebrows shot up at that and she laughed in disbelief. "What? Wilson peed on your couch?"
"Wilson has bladder control issues. Why do you think his wives divorced him?" he responded, his mouth quirking up at the corners. "Wet sheets are such a turn off."
"Come on," he commanded. "Bed's big enough for both of us and I promise to be a good boy," he said with a waggle of his eyebrows.
She bit back a grin, grabbed her bag and followed him, passing him by as he pointed her toward the bathroom with his cane and told her, "You can change in there."
While she was changing, he lowered the heat in the bedroom and grabbed an extra blanket from the closet, dropping it on the end of the bed. He changed into sleep pants and a clean t-shirt and crawled beneath the covers, waiting for her.
She entered the room wearing cotton pajama pants, striped like a candy cane, and a long sleeve red henley.
"Damn, I was hoping for something lacy," he joked, as she scrambled across the room and under the covers beside him.
"Keep dreamin'," she muttered, and the minty smell of toothpaste wafted toward him. He grinned at her and turned off the lamp, adjusting his pillow and tugging the covers up over his chest.
In the darkness she grew brave. "Why did you invite me here tonight?"
He had been expecting that question all night and was only surprised that it took her this long to ask.
"You're pretty screwed up," he said, turning to look at her. "But you look like everyone's favorite homecoming queen. It's...interesting."
"I suppose that's a compliment coming from you," she responded, shifting on her pillow.
"Interesting is always a compliment," he returned, noting the way the darkness seem to blur and soften everything in his bedroom and wondering if it made him seem softer to her as well.
They didn't say anything more, and eventually he heard her quiet, even breathing and knew she'd fallen asleep. He was on the edge himself when he felt her curl up against him and wrap an arm around his abdomen. Suddenly he was very much awake, all body parts and nerve endings standing at attention, present and accounted for. When he adjusted his body to fit around her, she woke up and blinked at him.
"I knew you'd end up all over me," he teased, pleased with the way he felt, so right at home, with her touching him.
She moved away, leaving a gap between them. "I..I'm sorry. It's just so cold in here." And she shivered as if to emphasize her point, and curled into the fetal position.
He grinned into the darkness and reached down for the extra blanket, drawing it across their bodies.
"Yeah, something wrong with the furnace. I gotta get that fixed," he lied, and pulled her back to him, smiling when she molded herself to him.
His hands began wandering over her back and down the curve of her behind. She drew in a sharp breath and murmured, "House, what are you doing?"
"I thought you were cold. I'm just trying to warm you up," he answered, matter-of-factly, and slid one hand up under her shirt, skating his fingertips across her vertebrae.
She moaned and sought out his lips with her own, her fingers clutching at whatever part of him they could reach. Before long he was unwrapping her like a gift, tearing her clothes off as carelessly as he'd torn the paper off his earlier present and spreading her beneath him, learning every curve and plane of her body.
They tangled together like the string of lights from the tree and she lit him up just as easily. His thoughts turned irreverent. She fit him, like the baby in the manger, like the swaddling clothes wrapped around the Christ child. And when they came together, he was reborn.
Eventually they floated back to earth like the snowflakes outside the bedroom window. "Merry Christmas, Cameron," he murmured against her skin and she whispered it right back to him.
Before long she was asleep again, her warmth spreading through him like a hit of Vicodin. He was pretty sure he didn't want to spend another night without it. Locks of brown hair, smooth as satin Christmas ribbon spread across his bare chest, tempting his fingers to glide through it.
Christmas so doesn't suck, he thought, before succumbing to sleep as well, a small smile on his face.