A/N: This was written for the secret santa fic-a-thon in the house_cameron community on LJ. This is for Cassandra_elise!
Lots of thanks to Pyewacket_1975 for looking this over for me in my late-night panic!
Due to this past week being finals, I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to devote to this. I hope that this isn't sub-par!
Unnecessary disclaimer: None of the characters appearing in the TV show "House, M. D." belong to me.
Abstract: When nothing he could say would make her stay, House began to self-destruct. Will one spur-of-the-moment decision change everything? House/Cameron.
Her words rang inside House's head as she walked away.
I loved you. And I loved Chase. I'm sorry for you both. For what you've become because…there's no way back for either of you.
He followed her out into the hallway. This wasn't the end… it couldn't be.
"Cameron," he called.
He saw her footsteps come to a halt. She turned slowly. "What?" she asked abruptly.
Cameron stood in place, unwilling to meet him in the middle. House crossed the hall. "Don't go," he said softly.
Cameron folded her arms protectively over her chest. "I have no reason to stay."
"It isn't true…" he began. "I'm not a lost cause."
"I wish I could believe you," Cameron responded with a sad smile.
"Don't go," House begged again softly.
She ignored his plea, but placed a comforting hand on his arm. "Goodbye, House," she said in a gentle whisper.
House watched her walk down the hallway, disappearing into an elevator and out of his life.
Cameron looked up from her laptop as the phone rang, checking the readout before answering. "Hi, Mom."
There was a long pause before she spoke again. "Merry Christmas to you too."
She toyed with her glasses between her fingers as she listened to her mother speak, rolling her eyes. "Don't worry, Mom, I won't be alone tomorrow. I'm having a couple friends over," she lied. She shifted the conversation away from herself. "Are you and Richard having a nice time in Puerto Rico?"
As her mom spoke, Cameron's thoughts wandered. Growing up, she and her brother had nothing. Her dad had left them before Cameron could remember, and her mom had worked long hours just to keep food on the table. Cameron had to pay for college and medical school on her own. She was still paying off those debts.
Not long after the two of them were out of the house, Cameron's mom found a wealthy bachelor and now played trophy wife. As annoyed as she was at the idea of her hardworking, intelligent mom being reduced to trophy wife, she was a bit jealous of her mother. She was happy, and no longer burdened by the troubles of their old life.
Cameron finally hung up the phone and let out a sigh. She hid the details of her life from family these days. They considered her such a great success, bragging about her doctor status. Little did they know how she had failed in every other way.
Tomorrow was Christmas day, one of many that she would spend alone.
House grunted, looking away from the television as the doorbell rang. "I'm not here," he called.
"I know you're in there! I can feel the loathing all the way out in the hallway," came Wilson's voice through the door.
House reluctantly set down his beer and answered the door. "What do you want?" he asked rudely.
"I just thought I would come by for a while since I won't be seeing you tomorrow," Wilson said with a shrug.
House headed back to his spot on the couch. "Beer's in the fridge."
Wilson, used to House's lack of hosting finesse, got his own beer and sat down next to House.
"I'm sorry I couldn't convince Lisa to invite you tomorrow…" Wilson began.
"Don't apologize," House barked back. "It's not like it's your fault."
"That's right, I'm not the one who made her hate me by breaking up her one relationship in the past decade," Wilson said, harping on House a little.
"Yeah, you should be thanking me," House grunted. "Now you get to tap that."
Wilson, unable to find a suitable response, stayed silent.
"I can probably escape for a while and come by tomorrow if you want," he finally said.
"You don't need to babysit me," House growled. "I'm alone all the time and I'm fine."
Wilson sighed. House wasn't fine, though he continually insisted otherwise. Since Cameron had left he began to draw within himself, becoming more acerbic than before. He lashed out at his team, especially Chase, who obviously didn't need it right now. And he had begun to pursue Cuddy single-mindedly, forcing a breakup between her and Lucas, which she still had not forgiven him for. Though she and Wilson were now tentatively dating, the anger had not faded.
"Are you sure you don't mind?" Wilson asked one more time.
"I like being alone! In fact, I would love it if you left me alone right now," House snarled.
Wilson shook his head. "Fine," he said, giving up. "See you later."
House gave no response as Wilson headed for the door.
House stretched out his legs in front of him, rubbing his aching thigh with a hand. Christmas sucked.
House woke up with a start. His beer had spilled on the floor, and the TV was still on, showing a repeat of Charlie Brown Christmas. He looked around him disdainfully. This was what he had to look forward to for the next 24 hours.
"Screw this," he said to the empty room. He didn't want to be here, and, despite what he had told Wilson, he didn't want to be alone. His thoughts, like they often did in his quiet moments, returned to her. She was probably alone tonight too.
He mulled over her last words to him. She thought he was a lost cause. She didn't trust him. And he wasn't reason enough to stay.
House looked around. He couldn't really blame her. What had he done since she had left? He'd made yet another person hate him, sulked in his apartment, and replaced his vicodin addiction with alcohol. He'd stopped seeing Dr. Nolan and moved back into his own apartment. There was still vicodin hidden here, and it called to him with its siren song of bliss. He hadn't taken any. At least he hadn't screwed that one thing up. Yet…
House stood abruptly, stopping his train of thought. This was why he didn't let himself have quiet moments anymore.
He was done with this lonely bullshit. This was the last place he wanted to be. He was leaving. But where to, he pondered.
House, after just a few moments of thinking, decided just to take the next open flight out of Princeton, as long as it was to somewhere cool and not, say… Yemen or Siberia or something.
He hopped on his bike and sped through the cold and dark streets. There were few people out at nearly midnight on Christmas Eve. The empty streets made him feel lonelier than ever. House accelerated harder, speeding on into the night.
"Sir, the next available flight is leaving for Chicago in about an hour."
Of course it was.
House sighed. Well, maybe this was an opportunity to get some answers. House paid for the flight, and attempted to nap in the uncomfortable airport chairs, trying to do anything but think about where he was going, and who he was going to see.
It was dark when they landed in Chicago. House's first stop was to a 24-hour IHOP near the airport. He needed information.
The man in the booth across from his had his laptop out. Bingo.
"Sir, I need to borrow your laptop," House said briskly, sliding into the booth next to the man. "Medical emergency. I'm a doctor," he assured him.
The man slid away from House with a disturbed expression, pulling the laptop with him.
"Okay, fine," House said with an eye roll. He waved a $20 at the man, who took the bill and silently pushed the laptop towards House.
House quickly looked up Cameron's address, and gave the laptop back to the man, who was grateful to be left alone. House munched on some pancakes with strawberry syrup as he pondered what on earth he was doing.
Would Cameron really let him in if he showed up at her house unannounced? He needed to give her a reason to. As the waitress walked by, House stuck his cane out in front of her, getting her attention.
"Where's the nearest animal shelter?"
Cameron was curled up in bed with a mug of steaming coffee and a medical journal when she heard the doorbell ring. She frowned as she climbed out of her warm bed and wrapped herself in a cream colored robe. No one was supposed to be here. She hoped fervently that it wasn't a neighbor taking pity on her lonely state this Christmas morning. She really did just want to be alone.
Cameron padded to the front door and opened the it cautiously, reminding herself to get a peephole installed soon. She looked up to see the one and only Gregory House towering over her with an orange striped kitten in his arms.
After a moment of shock had passed, she swiftly moved to shut the door again.
"Cameron, wait!" he said quickly. Against her better judgment, she did, opening the door just enough to see out.
"I brought a gift," House said, holding up the kitten to her. "Some lousy parents were going to give their kids this little guy, but decided he was too much work and abandoned him." He held the cat out towards her.
Cameron stared at him, unmoving. House pulled the cat back to his chest. "What are you doing here, House?" she asked.
"I was lonely. It's Christmas," he said simply. "Thought we could both use some company."
Cameron gave him a scathing look. "You have plenty of people who, for some ungodly reason, would love to have you over for Christmas. Shouldn't you be warming up Cuddy's bed or something?"
"No, that would be Wilson," House explained impatiently as a look of surprise registered on Cameron's face.
"Anyways, can I come in? It's cold out here," he added.
Cameron's look transformed into one of disbelief. "No!" She moved to close the door.
"Fine!" House yelled through the door as she shut it. "But I'm going to stay out here until both the cat and I die of hypothermia!" he said grandly.
Cameron closed her eyes and took a deep breath, leaning back on the door. This was not how she planned on spending her Christmas morning. In any case, House had already ruined it enough. She wasn't opening the door.
She was out of bed already; she may as well take a shower, she thought. She did so, letting the hot water finally warm her body. Chicago was a cold city, and it would take some time to get used to such cold temperatures again. She got out of the shower once the warmth had seeped into her bones.
She blow dried her hair and put on a slight bit of makeup. She selected a sweater and pair of jeans, wondering why she was bothering to get dressed at all. It's not like she was planning on seeing anyone today.
At that she remembered her earlier visitor. She went to her dining room window and looked out. She could see him still sitting on the porch steps, the kitten wrapped up inside his coat. She groaned. He wasn't lying.
Cameron stomped to the door and whipped it open. "You may as well come in," she said angrily.
"Don't mind if I do," House said cheerfully, whistling as he passed her and went inside.
Cameron closed the door behind her. "You're a real bastard," she said. "You would have killed that cat."
"No I wouldn't. I knew you would let me in," he said. "You always do."
Cameron, rage filling her, stormed past him and went to her bedroom. "Fine, you're inside. Eat my food, mess with my stuff, do whatever the hell you want, but please just leave me alone!" she yelled as she moved down the hallway.
She sat on top of the covers in her bed, trying to not allow anger to overtake her completely, when the cat came in and snuggled up to her. She softened, despite herself. She had wanted a cat, after all.
She pet the little orange guy, and he looked up at her with bright blue eyes that matched all too well another pair of blue eyes that she knew were roaming somewhere around her house.
She let her thoughts wander as she pet the cat absently with one hand. He snuggled her, rather calmly for a kitten, and gave her the comfort she needed. She felt her anger flowing away.
"I think I'll keep you," she whispered to the cat.
With that, Cameron finally felt ready to face House again. She should probably keep an eye on him anyways. Who knew what he could get into unsupervised?
She opened the bedroom door, and the smell of eggs and bacon hit her. House was in the kitchen.
Upon entering the kitchen, she was greeted by the sight of House at the stove. "I helped myself to the coffee," he stated, not looking up.
Cameron stood in the doorway watching House until he set a plate of bacon and eggs on the table. "Eat," he commanded, pointing at the plate. He looked at her with a critical eye. "You're too skinny these days. You look like you've been on the Karen Carpenter diet." Cameron rolled her eyes.
"I do not," she argued, but she sat down and began to eat. House joined her moments later. They ate in silence for several minutes.
"So why are you here, really?" Cameron finally asked.
"Fate," House said with a wink.
Cameron gave him one of her signature looks. "You don't believe in fate."
"I bet you do," House argued.
"I might have once, when I was younger and more innocent," she said, speaking freely with him. "I know now that nothing is preordained. Everything is random." She looked away.
"Aww, my little Cameron has become so jaded," House said jokingly.
"No one can keep their delusions, happy or otherwise, around you," Cameron said offhandedly, getting up from the table. House followed her into the living room at the back of the house. It was plain, but with comfortable furniture, a sparsely decorated tree in the corner, and large windows looking out on a snow-covered backyard.
"This place isn't really what I expected of you," House mused, looking around.
"Well, excuse me if I didn't really feel like decorating when I moved in," Cameron protested, falling into a chair.
House sat in the chair next to her silently. "So what do we do?" he asked.
Cameron looked at him disdainfully. "All I had on the agenda for today was feeling sorry for myself. Since you're here, I think we're supposed to talk about old times and discuss our feelings. That kind of stuff."
"So lets have at it," House said, ignoring Cameron's mood. "You said you loved me. Past tense. True?"
Cameron looked at him in amazement. House was so damn brazen sometimes. In spite of her better judgment, she answered. "I never stopped. You don't just stop loving someone because you want to. Love and hate can coexist, believe me," she said with a pointed look.
"Why so much honesty, today?" House asked, taken aback by how quickly she had answered him.
"It's too much work to lie. And, honestly, I don't plan on ever seeing you again."
House raised an eyebrow, but stayed silent.
"What about you?" Cameron asked, looking at him with piercing eyes. "You going to lie today?"
House shrugged. "Everybody lies."
"I have a new rule: no lying today. My house, my rules," Cameron said, feeling daring. She looked at House with probing eyes. "If we don't ever see each other again, will it really matter?" House stared off into space for a couple minutes, but finally nodded his consent. Cameron smiled, satisfied. They sat again in silence for several minutes.
House caught sight of the kitten coming in the doorway. "Why'd you stop giving me gifts when you quit? I think you owe me now," he said, gesturing to the cat.
Cameron held out a hand and the kitten walked towards her. She scooped him up in her arms. "I was distancing myself from you in every way possible. Why do you think I asked Chase out?" she said with a half-hearted smile.
"That was my guess, but I could never be sure with you," he admitted.
Cameron looked at him with a half smile. "I thought you had everyone figured out."
House shrugged. "Most people I could figure out exactly what they would do and why. I thought I had you figured out, but you always surprised me anyways."
Cameron's smile grew. "Hey, since we're being honest, I have a question," she asked suddenly. House cringed slightly in anticipation.
"Why did you ask me out to dinner when you came back to work after being shot?"
House looked away, thinking. "I… I felt like I had a fresh start with things. Like maybe now that my leg wasn't hurting, there was a chance for me to be happy. I wanted to be happy."
Cameron reached over to him, putting a hand on his arm. "I'm sorry, House. I thought you were just messing with me. It was so unexpected, and you had done so much to reject me that I couldn't think you actually wanted me. I was afraid to hope," she said simply.
House nodded. "I can't blame you. I was an ass."
Cameron snorted. "You're still an ass."
House shrugged, but couldn't suppress a smile.
"So, still want to fix me?" House asked brazenly.
"I never said I wanted to fix you. I did say I wanted to heal you," Cameron corrected. "Not that I would really expect you to understand the difference," she added quietly.
"Try me," House responded.
"I never wanted to make you something you aren't," she began. "Believe it or not," she added with an ironic half-smile.
"I just wanted to heal your pain," she said hesitantly. "Don't bother trying to deny it, but I can see that the pain you feel isn't just physical. I couldn't make your leg stop hurting, but I thought I could make your heart stop hurting." She paused. "I thought if I could get inside your head, I could do it. But all I did was learn that no one gets inside your head. Instead, you got inside ours." She stood, walking away. House stared after her in silence.
"It's snowing again," she said softly. She turned, and House could see unshed tears glistening in her eyes. "Let's be done with talking. Why don't we watch a movie?"
The movie ended, and they ate some lunch quietly, each in their own world of thoughts. Oddly, House's presence had become comforting for Cameron. She knew that today would reopen some wounds and had thought she wanted to be alone. Strangely, it seemed better now to have someone with her, someone who shared those memories, good or bad.
House had been oddly without sarcasm today. Maybe he had dropped the act, knowing that they planned not to see each other again. Or maybe he was hurting too much to try, just as she was.
Cameron was tired of the heavy atmosphere inside the house. "The snow stopped," she commented, looking out the window. "Want to go outside?"
House pointed to his cane. "Cripple here! I don't exactly walk so well on snow."
"Please?" Cameron asked. "I'll help you."
House hated allowing anyone to help him, but the look on Cameron's face made it impossible to say no. He rolled his eyes. "Fine, let's go."
The pair bundled up and headed out into the backyard, House walked with an arm pressing down onto Cameron's shoulders, her warmth radiating into his right side.
"Want to make snow angels?" she asked brightly.
"How old are we?" House griped.
Cameron gave him a look. "Like you ever act your age! Come on, it'll be fun!"
Cameron helped him down into a lying position on the snow, both of them too easily distracted by the nearness of the other. House felt all too well the cool air on him in the absence of Cameron's warmth.
She lay down beside him, creating her angel and then lying motionlessly, looking over at House.
"What are you looking at?" House asked, staring back at her golden-haired form with his piercing blue eyes, which shone brighter against the white snow.
Cameron got a determined look in her eye, but didn't answer. She began to sit up, but, instead of standing, crawled closer to him and leaned close over him.
House could see her pupils dilating. "No needle," she promised breathlessly as she moved in closer.
Their lips met, the warmth of their close bodies contrasting sharply to the cold snow around them. House wrapped his arms around her, pulling her tight to him. Cameron finally broke the kiss, staring at him breathlessly with her blue-gray eyes apprehensive but satisfied.
"I'm sorry, I had to do that," she said matter-of-factly.
House didn't answer right away, and when he spoke, all he said was, "We ruined the snow angels."
"Do you care?" Cameron asked.
"No." And he pulled her in for another kiss.
When twilight came, they became quiet, knowing he was going soon.
"You know exactly how I feel about you. It's only fair that you share with me," Cameron requested. "You can tell me. We aren't going to ever see each other again, remember?" she added.
"I kissed back, didn't I?" House responded.
Cameron smiled gently.
House turned away, staring out the window into the twilight.
"What if I want to see you again?" House said suddenly, his blue eyes on her meaningfully.
Cameron's eyes widened. "House…" she began sorrowfully. "Today was amazing. But my reasons for leaving haven't changed," she said gently.
House met her eyes, their blue clear and shining. "I can change."
Cameron's lips curled into a small half-smile. "You were the one who told me that people don't change."
Cameron turned to hug him. "I won't forget today," she promised. "Thank you."
House tentatively placed his arms around her as well, cursing the single tear that trailed down his cheek.
House left dejectedly, perhaps more depressed than when he came.
Cameron glanced up from the book she was reading when the phone rang. She didn't recognize the number, but she saw that it was from a New Jersey area code. She stared hesitantly at the phone for a few rings before giving in and picking up. "Hello?" she said tentatively.
"Allison? This is James Wilson," came Wilson's voice from the other end of the line. "How are you?"
"You can skip the pleasantries, Wilson. Why did you call?" Cameron said curtly.
"Well, I just wanted to thank you," Wilson said, sounding grateful.
"For what?" Cameron asked, puzzled, and a bit ashamed now of how she had snapped at him.
"You don't know?" Wilson asked in amazement. He quickly regained his senses. "Ever since… well, ever since you left, House has been in kind of a downward spiral. Not really taking care of himself, not being a good leader for his team, and lots more that I won't get into right now." He paused.
"Anyways, since Christmas, he's…" Wilson paused, at a loss for words. "He's practically a new person. He started seeing Dr. Nolan again and taking care of himself. He's cut down on the alcohol, and he's really working well with his team, not doing nearly as many dangerous and stupid things to the patients as he used to. He's really turned things around." Wilson paused again, trying to figure out how to continue.
"I know he went to see you at Christmas. I found the plane ticket in his backpack. Whatever you said to him, whatever you did, thank you. You may have saved his life. And probably a few patients too," Wilson said with a nervous laugh.
Cameron was speechless. "I… But… But I didn't do anything," she finally said.
"Apparently you did something," Wilson responded. "And it's changed his life. He's… he's doing good for himself now. Before this I was scared. Scared for him, scared for his team, and scared for his patients. But things have changed in a wonderful way, and I only have you to thank for that."
"Thank you for letting me know, Wilson," Cameron said gratefully, but still in shock.
"No, thank you, Allison."
Cameron hung up the phone, reeling. It seemed too good to be true. House always said that people don't change, but, from what Wilson said, it sounded as if House had completely turned things around. A person could change their life without changing who they are.
She wouldn't put it past him to fake this kind of thing just to get what he wanted…which, at the moment, appeared to be her. But if he was really doing this for his own good, her reasons for not seeing him were falling all around her.
She had to at least talk to him.
Cameron picked up the phone apprehensively and began to dial his number. She had it memorized even though she hadn't used it in such a long time now.
"Who is this?" came the gruff voice from the other end of the line. "I don't want any new patients—"
"House, it's Cameron," she interrupted him. There was a long silence, but she could hear him breathing on the other end of the line.
"House," she began again. "Wilson told me what you've been doing lately."
"It's nothing," House said, brushing her off.
"It's not nothing," she said gently.
There was another pause. "Why are you calling? Just to congratulate me on getting my head out of my ass?"
"No, it's…" she hesitated. She may as well go for broke. "I think… I think I'd like to see you."
The chorus of carolers sang in four-part harmony. "Troll the ancient Yuletide carol. Fa la la la la, la la la la!"
Cameron applauded enthusiastically while House stared with a sour look on his face.
They turned to go inside, Cameron bidding the carolers farewell. "Not a fan of carolers, hmm?" Cameron asked House as they walked back inside.
"They're cutting into my alone time with my girlfriend," House said, pulling her to him suddenly.
Cameron giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck, rising up on her toes for a kiss. Just as House's tongue slipped between her lips, Cameron pulled away.
House began to protest, but Cameron stopped him. "Presents first," she said with a grin.
House couldn't say no to that, so he followed her into the living room.
She sat down under the tree and handed House an envelope and a mid-sized box. He tossed the envelope aside and eagerly started peeling the paper off the box.
Cameron laughed. "I don't think I'd want to lose that envelope if I were you," she warned with a smile.
House, ignoring her, opened the box to find a couple new video games wrapped up with an antique medical text.
He examined all three items carefully. "Thanks!" he said to Cameron with a quick kiss.
Cameron picked up the envelope and handed it to him. House took it with a frown. "I hate Christmas cards," he said.
"Open it," Cameron urged him, unable to suppress her smile.
House ripped open the envelope to find two tickets to an upcoming Van Halen concert. "Oh, awesome!" he cried out. "I'll never doubt you again," he added, making Cameron laugh.
House put his gifts aside, and motioned for Cameron to come sit beside him, which she did. "Well, my gift seems kind of self-serving after all of that," he joked. "But it will have to do."
House reached inside his picket to dig out a jewelry box. Cameron wondered how buying her jewelry could possibly be self-serving.
He opened the box to reveal a diamond engagement ring. Cameron gasped.
"Are you… asking me to marry you?"
"I realize that I can't very well get down on one knee, but I thought, being a doctor and all, you were smart enough to realize what a diamond ring means," he teased.
"Are you sure—" she began.
House stared down for a moment before answering. "I…I'm tired of having to drive or fly here every time I want to see you," he began quietly. "I'm tired of sleeping alone. I'm tired of having to call you every time I want to hear your voice," he finished, the meaning in his eyes clear.
Cameron's eyes shone. "Okay," she said softly. House put the ring on her finger.
Cameron regained her senses, returning to her usual self. "Which one of us is going to move?" she asked. She glanced over to her cat lying on the windowsill. "Gatsby is settled here in Chicago, aren't you, Gatsby?" she called affectionately to the cat.
House rolled his eyes. "You and your cat."
"You can't complain about the cat, House! Technically you adopted him," Cameron teased.
"You should stop calling me by my last name if you're going to be my wife," House teased back with a facetious frown. "That just sounds silly."
"Oh, and are you going to start calling me Allison, then?" Cameron shot back.
House looked at her defiantly. "Yes."
Cameron grinned, and leaned in for a kiss. She had learned better than to expect perfection from anything, but, if she didn't know better, she would say that this was it.