There was a dark, almost violent quality to her eyes. He could tell that what he said registered with her, that what he said hurt, but he only saw a flash of pain. Her shoulders sagged a bit and she wasn't smiling anymore. He almost didn't do it. It was her fault really, that was his honest interpretation of her motives. Maybe it was adrenaline. She was almost manic, emotionally stilted in a way, when she had come back to work, back to him apparently. She seemed to be studying the tablecloth, her head slightly bowed.
Their waiter was obviously a college student. He had the harried, red eyed preciseness of someone who had too many commitments and too little sleep. He effortlessly listed off the specials with a practiced smile, one that could only be identified as such by those who really watched. House always watched, always needed to see everything.
"Miss…" Fake Southern drawl, potent weapon in the service industry.
He shouldn't be focusing on that. He should try to focus on Cameron. He should maybe send the waiter away, tell him that they needed a few minutes because Cameron's eyes seemed a bit unfocused and her right hand was clamped to the edge of the table. Her knuckles were the color of alabaster. Her chest was rising and falling at an almost unnaturally fast rate of speed. Was she trying to have a quiet, dignified panic attack?
"Give us a minute," the waiter's eyes widened almost imperceptibly, that was the only visible reaction he had to House's somewhat gruff dismissal.
At the hospital no one would have batted an eyelash, but they weren't at the hospital. Had he broken her? She was digging around in her purse. He had expected a tear or two. They were in a public place and he figured Cameron would be able to keep it together. He figured Cameron would force herself to keep it together. Maybe he didn't think about the consequences. She finally found what she was looking for, she was holding a pill bottle and pointedly not looking at him.
"Cameron!" He finally broke the silence, speaking a little louder than he had intended to.
Her face was drawn and pallid. It was a far cry from the beginning of the evening, when her complexion seemed so warm and soft. Maybe the light was playing a trick on his eyes.
"Efexor…Vanlafaxine…I'm alright. I'm having a panic attack."
She choked the pill down with a glass of water and began taking deep, pained breathes through her nose. Around them, people continued to eat and drink, their conversations melding into a cacophonous din that House usually didn't hear, or just didn't notice.
"I'm having a panic attack. I acknowledge I'm having a panic attack. I took a pill and it isn't going to work right away, but it will calm me down and make me feel better eventually. I can't fight this," he could barely make out this mantra, she was gulping in air and trying not to, he could barely hear her strangled whisperings.
She went back to not focusing on him, presumably continuing the mantra to herself instead of out loud. Her normally ramrod straight posture was dramatically bowed, her head was almost on the table. It was fascinating in a way. She should have passed out, he had finally managed to get a horseshoes and hand grenades calculation of the number of breathes she had been taking.
"I'm sorry about that," she wiped at the corner of her mouth with a napkin, her cheeks were flushed and she had a profound look of dread tinged with embarrassment on her face.
"That wasn't in your medical records," there was mention of panic attacks in her anamnesis but nothing about drugs prescribed.
"House, I really don't want to talk about this," she was chuckling, he heard what sounded like affection in her voice, for him.
"I'm going to switch over to vodka tonics," Cameron motioned over to her glass and House realized that the waiter had returned, he smelled faintly of cigarettes, or really one of those disgusting male body sprays attempting to mask the smell of cigarettes, which was even worse.
"Do ya'll wanna order yet, maybe an appetizer to get things going?" God, that was annoying.
He ordered the ravioli, she ordered the puttanesca. They weren't talking, at all. It was unnerving. At least she wasn't a date that ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, although he never pictured Cameron as that kind of date. Topic, topic, he should just pretend like their earlier conversation hadn't happened. She could consider herself dismissed romantically. He should just get up and leave but he was worried that she would quit for real, and he didn't want her to quit.
"Did you know that puttanata means 'garbage' in Italian? Puttanesca was a popular dish among prostitutes because it was quick and they could eat it in between clients. You're getting hooker food."
"I like olives and anchovies," she seemed more timid, more in over her head now than when he first hired her.
Sometimes watching her at work was like watching someone frantically tread water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, all the while assuring the sharks and the sea gulls that they were perfectly fine, that they were totally in control. Where some people saw smugness, he saw bravado in front of the firing squad. He realized that he stopped well short of breaking her earlier, he could have made her pass out.
"When did you have your first attack?"
"House, please, I don't want to talk about it."
"No, really! Was it when you didn't get picked captain of the cheerleading team? Was it the first time your father raised his voice to you? Was it during your marriage? Should I really use the term marriage? You were basically just free hospice care," it all just poured out, like his rational disdain for mankind was overpowering his better judgment.
"I can't do this. I just can't do this," she shot up from her chair like it was on fire and quickly made her way out of the restaurant.
He paid the bill, didn't leave a tip, and felt bad. He didn't expect to feel the way he did. He did the right thing. He might have overdone it, but he did the right thing. He wanted Stacy back, that was what he really wanted, and Cameron's motives weren't pure. It would have happened eventually anyway.
He couldn't find Cameron. He assumed that she would call a cab and wait outside the restaurant. He needed to talk to her. He had to convince her, to bully her if necessary, to stay. He didn't want to deal with someone new if he didn't have to. He tried to deny it with every ounce of his being, with a million logical arguments, but he felt bad about what he said to her. He winced in pain as he climbed into his car. It was normal pain, wasn't it?
His leg hurt. When he said his leg hurt, he was essentially just generalizing. A sharp, intense pain radiated out from his thigh but it didn't stop there. His shoulder hurt on days when he was upright, walking with his cane. Sometimes his tension headaches were almost unbearable. There were days when everything hurt, there were days when his leg felt like a mass of exposed nerve endings and even the smallest movements were almost unbearable. Sometimes it made him nauseous, sometimes it would hurt so bad that it would almost freeze his entire body and he would contemplate just curling up on the floor, he would contemplate giving in. Climbing the stairs to Cameron's apartment was torture. He could hear his ragged breathing, it echoed in the stairwell.