Disclaimer: I don't own House M.D. or its characters. The recognisable dialogue is from the episode 'Kids' in series one.
Not So Easy.
It was Monday morning - the week before she was due to start work at Jefferson hospital; nine days and twelve hours after she had walked out of House's apartment - when the knock came on the door.
She had been on the treadmill, jogging again, the rhythm of her feet pushing any but the most superficial worries clean out of her head. At first she thought she had imagined the sound of wood knocking on wood, but then it carried on. It continued until she had stepped off the treadmill, walked across the floor and pulled open the door where her eyes confirmed the sound of his cane knocking on the door. He stood, cane in hand, poised for another knock and she swallowed subtly at the sight of him before her. God, had she forgotten how blue his eyes were? She brought the yellow towel in her hand up to her mouth to hide her gasp. House let the cane drop before he spoke.
"I saw the light on."
Cameron shouldn't have been surprised, but she was. Just because she had been going crazy for the last week and a bit, didn't mean he had even thought of her at all since she left. She hadn't really expected him to.
"It's daytime." If he could be casual, so could she.
"Yeah, it's a figure of speech. Always so literal." Did she imagine the slight fondness in his tone as he said that?
Cameron sighed, already needing the few seconds it gave her to collect herself. Her eyes fell to the cane by his side.
"Got a new cane."
"Yeah. Guy in the store said it was slimming. Vertical stripe..." He allowed the sentence to trail off and Cameron sensed it was time they both addressed the elephant in the room.
"Why are you here?" Blunt, direct question. He should be proud.
"Vogler is dead."
A sharp shock in her chest. "What? What happened?" Cameron watched House leaning on the door frame waiting for an answer. He had seemed healthy enough. She might not have liked the guy but still, if somebody died, she was sorry for that.
"Again with the literal translation." Cameron relaxed at the words. At least no-one was dead. "Vogler, the idea," House clarified. "Mr. Destructo, Mr. Moneybags, bow down before me. He is gone from the hospital. Things can go back to the way they were." Okay, now Cameron knew she wasn't misreading the hope in his eyes, but she needed him to understand her position.
"The way they were was kind ofweird." Hands on her hips, she kept her eyes fixed on him, and was disappointed when he couldn't meet her eyes.
"Weird works for me," House said after a moment's hesitation. Cameron sighed again. She didn't want to jump to conclusions. He needed to be clearer. She had made herself perfectly clear to him so many times, now it was his turn.
"What are you saying? Literally."
"I want you to come back." So simple. And it was what she wanted, too. But she something inside of her held her back. Weird might work for him but she couldn't go back to the way things were.
"Why?" She wasn't even sure why she asked. Maybe to give herself time to think, but if she was hoping on some level for a declaration of his feelings, she was let down when his pager broke the moment. Her eyes flew to his pager and some reflex made her stiffen. The steady beeping automatically shifted her into doctor mode and she folded her arms.
"Please unclench. You're not on the clock and when you do that I clench and then it's this whole thing..."
"Could you look at your pager?"
House took it out of his belt and stared at the small screen.
"It's no big deal. Some sort of epidemic. Not my area." Cameron was ninety-nine per cent sure he understood that if the hospital was paging him it was a big deal but still she felt the need to urge him.
"You should go. It's important." The selfish side of her screamed at her not to let him go when it had been over a week since she had seen him and now finally, finally, he was here, and looking at her with those intense eyes and her heart was beating so fast, and it had nothing to do with the treadmill....
"What I'm doing now is important."
"Why do you want me back?" She reminded herself that she hadn't yet got the answer she wanted.
"Because you're a good doctor."
"That's not enough?"
"Not for me." She wished that were enough. It had been such a struggle to stay away so far and now that she knew he wanted her back, it was bound to become so much more difficult. Right now, she needed him to go and do his job, and she needed time to think and get her head together. Three minutes with House and she was all over the place. "Go deal with your plague." The anger and frustration at the whole situation came out in her tone and she fought to keep herself from slamming the door. Instead she closed it in his face and leaned against the wall, closing her eyes and leaning her head back. After a few seconds she heard his uneven footsteps walk away down the hall.
The nervous energy continued to build inside of her and she walked back over to the treadmill, stepping up and beginning to run. Her mind was full of the conversation with House. Why was she thinking about this? She had accepted a new job. She was going to work at Jefferson in a week. Then again, a fellowship with House was a coveted position and it would be great for her career if she went back to him. Not to mention all the things she'd learn...
She wasn't even fooling herself. She admitted that the main reason that she wanted to go back was for him. It wasn't good for her. But it was good for her career and she could be an adult, a professional. They all could.
On the other hand, she hadn't been lying when she said things weren't working for her.
Cameron turned the treadmill on higher and ran faster.
Cameron stepped out of the shower that afternoon a little clearer.
She wasn't fully committed to Yule so she had a choice. While the hope inside of her diminished slightly when House had said that he had wanted her back just because she was a good doctor but she refused to let it die completely. There were plenty of good doctors in New Jersey. But he had shown up at her door, asking for her back. Her, specifically. There were plenty of good doctors who would be desperate for this job. Desperate enough to put up with his moods and his sarcastic, biting comments, and yet it was her door he had appeared at.
He would be back as soon as his 'plague' was over and it wouldn't be easy to make him go away again. If he had his way, she would return to Princeton Plainsboro and Cameron knew that if he pushed hard enough, she would give in. After all, it was House asking (or doing something that passed for it) and she would never be able to say no to House. As long as he didn't know that, she could negotiate the terms of her return.
She wouldn't ask for more respect. House being who he was, asking him to be more polite was like asking a dog if he could drive you to work. It wasn't going to happen and when he noticed that she wasn't walking out, despite his rudeness, it wouldn't take long for his brilliant mind to deduce she would stay no matter how he treated her.
A raise maybe? But it wasn't as if she needed it. Despite her brother's concerns she was living quite comfortably. Her old salary was more than sufficient for a single woman living alone.
She could ask for fewer clinic hours. Cuddy would need to agree to that condition. Although Cameron had no doubt that if House pestered her long enough, the Dean of Medicine would give in to get some peace, Cameron honestly didn't mind clinic duty all that much. She didn't tell House that, or she'd have ended up doing all his hours as well, and she didn't like it that much. Anyway, she wouldn't feel comfortable with the preferential treatment. She'd rather her co-workers didn't hate her.
She knew what it was she wanted to ask for, but House would never agree to it.
When it came down to it, she wantedto go back to him but she didn't need to. She had another job, a perfectly respectable job, lined up at Jefferson.
House had come to her, not the other way around. It might be that he genuinely missed her, it might be that he just didn't want to go through the painstaking business of interviewing all those prospective fellows, but he had come to her. She had the power, if only for a brief moment. As much as she wanted to go back to Princeton-Plainsboro and in particular Gregory House, it would hurt to return to the status quo. She had to ask. She had to try.
She would ask him.
When the knock came again that night, she was ready. She closed her book immediately, getting up to open the door. She took a deep breath to prepare herself before twisting the knob and swinging the door open.
"I don't want to interview anyone else."
"You're interviewing? I thought you'd just have them send a headshot along with their CV." Her hair tickled her shoulders and she resisted the urge to push it back or play with it like a teenage girl.
House gave a small, fake laugh. "That's good." Cameron was pleased that he looked like he meant it. "And why I need you around. To keep me in my place."
When House leaned forward and tried to look behind her into her apartment, Cameron closed the door a little so that she was blocking his view and he had no choice but to look at her.
"I can't come back. I told you that." She wanted to. But she couldn't accept going back to the way things were.
"I wasn't listening."
"Right." She leaned forwards, a smile on her face. Maybe he would get the point now. She needed him to try harder. To give her more.
"You want me to listen to you more? I can do that."
Cameron inhaled sadly. It looked like he would never offer what she really wanted of his own accord. It really was best to leave him.
"Right. I already accepted a position somewhere else."
The look in his eyes took her breath away. Staring at her, unblinking, she read more in his eyes in that moment than he had ever let her see before. He was trying to catch her in a lie, wanting to believe she was lying to him to protect herself. He was worried that she thought she had found something better. He was, for the first time, scared that she would not return just because he asked her to.
"Yule. At Jefferson."
"Unaccept it," House said easily, as though it was that simple.
House swallowed and Cameron waited.
"Because Yule is boring. He's pedantic and preachy. Because he's short." Cameron laughed humourlessly and looked away, as the last pieces of hope began to fall away. "Because I want you to come back."
Cameron straightened, slightly more heartened and realising that with nothing else to lose, she might as well tell him exactly what she wanted. He would never offer it otherwise.
"Not good enough."
"Want more money? A car allowance? Better parking space?" His breathing was shaky, like he anticipated what she was hinting at but was reluctant to face it.
"Dinner," Cameron said with a smile on her face. "And not just a meal between two colleagues. A date." She forced herself to stay silent after that and let him absorb it.
House was looking at her with disbelief and something else that she couldn't quite put her finger on. Whatever it was, the intensity of it sent a flush of heat through her body and she had to force herself not to blink and look away. She'd dreamed of having House look at her that way, what was wrong with her now?
It seemed like an eternity passed around their motionless bodies before he spoke.
"You'll come back to work if I go out on a date with you?"
God, it sounded so juvenile when he said it. And he had stressed the word 'date' like it was a curse word. No matter how he said it though, that was the long and short of her request.
The handshake they exchanged seemed oddly formal following their agreement but no other gesture would fit in the silence either. Something was changing between them and it would never be quite the same.