A/N: This is a round robin story by me and everytimeyougo, written as a birthday gift for our dear friend, jesmel on livejournal. Happy birthday, jesmel. Hope your birthday brings you fluffy, smutty House/Cameron dreams and all the other good things you deserve. :D
From the balcony, he watched and waited, leaning over the railing and wishing he'd saved some grapes from lunch to whip at unsuspecting passersby. Beside him, the familiar scent of Cuddy hovered like a rain cloud, something strong and floral-y. To House it was the smell of desperation.
"I have two tickets to a play in the city. Friday night," House said, one eyebrow raised in question as he turned to her.
"And you're asking me to go with you?" Cuddy asked, swiping an errant curl out of her eyes and giving him a flirtatious smile.
"No," he clarified with a roll of his eyes. "I'm asking if I can leave early on Friday. Got a hot date."
"Oh," she said, hoping her disappointment wasn't obvious, though with House there was little chance he hadn't noticed. "Are the hookers requiring dates before they put out now?"
"Ha ha. So Friday?"
"Why should I let you leave early when you're still behind on clinic hours?"
"Because if you don't, I can make your administrative life hell?"
"More so than usual?" she quipped, but her mouth snapped shut when she realized what a stupid question that was.
"I hope that was rhetorical," he answered. "Yes, I'm behind on clinic hours, but I'm also owed about a decade's worth of vacation time."
With a sigh of surrender, she replied, "Fine, take Friday off. Lord knows the rest of the staff could use a vacation from you as well. It'll be like a mental health day for all of us."
"Cute. I hear e-harmony is having a free weekend. You should sign up. When you're waiting around for the crippled bastard with the drug addiction to ask you out, you've got problems. " Leaving her with that thought, he limped off to the elevators in search of a brown haired immunologist.
He found her in the lab, hunched over a microscope.
"One of these days you're going to try and straighten up only to discover that thing has become fused to your eyeball," he quipped.
She jumped at the unexpected break in the silence and took a deep breath before turning around.
"I didn't know you were still here." It was a question thinly disguised as a statement, but since the question played into his grand plan, he answered.
"Had to stick around to talk to Cuddy about Friday."
"Friday?" she asked, curiosity colouring her voice. "What's Friday?"
"Day after Thursday. Day before Saturday. Often preceded by a 'Thank God it's…'"
She rolled her eyes and stood her ground, waiting for a serious answer.
"I've got tickets to a play in the city Friday night," he said, approaching and nudging her out of the way so he could peer into the microscope.
"Oh?" she asked. "And you asked Cuddy to go with you?" The sudden stiffness to the set of her shoulders would have belied her calm voice had he been looking at her.
But he wasn't and he didn't answer her question, his attention having been captured by the slide he was looking at. He drew back and inclined head toward the microscope. "Have another look at this, then meet me in the office when you've caught up to my thought process."
He limped quickly out the door as she returned to her earlier position, head spinning from the sudden change of subject.
She was just fiddling with the magnification and trying to figure out what she was supposed to be looking at when he poked his head back in. "I didn't ask her to come with me. I just asked to leave early. She gave me the day off instead. I would think, given that your boss won't be around, you should have no problem slipping out a little early yourself that afternoon." Winking, he left the room again.
Striding into his office, she dropped the lab results on his desk, the motion stirring up a breeze that caused two small slips of paper to float off to the floor. "You were right," she said. "There was something there." She stooped to pick up the fallen papers, as she continued, "His AST and ALT were high. I started him on chelation."
"Wilson's disease strikes again," he replied. "Unusual in someone his age, but then that's why they pay us the big bucks."
Looking down at the paper in her hand, she saw that she was holding two tickets to Phantom of the Opera. "These are hard to get," she said, eyebrows raised in surprise as she passed them back to him.
"I know," he answered nonchalantly, ignoring her outstretched hand. "Beautiful young girl torn between the dashing, handsome, young rich guy and the disfigured musical genius with terrible social skills. Figured it'd be right up your alley."
"You're asking me to go? With you?"
"Sure," he said, glancing into the conference room and swallowing nervously. "Unless you already have plans."
"No," she said, a little more abruptly than she intended. "I don't have plans. I mean, except work."
"Good, we'll get dinner first if you want. I know a nice place not too far from the theatre."
"Okay... So is this a... date?"
"It's dinner and a show. That's practically the definition of date," he responded, looking at her almost defiantly and then glancing away. "Hold onto the tickets. I'll pick you up at 6:00."
"All right. It's a date," she said, smiling. As she headed to the conference room to gather her things, she barely refrained from doing a happy little jig. She tucked the tickets into her bag and headed home.
Friday began on an off note when their Wilson's patient passed away from complications not even House had foreseen. They were there, all four of them, through Thursday night and into Friday. House finally started his day off shortly before ten, but prior to leaving, he cornered Cameron in the tiny kitchenette of the conference room.
"You should go home. Grab some zees before tonight." It was the first time he'd made mention of their date since asking her a few days earlier. Truth be told, she'd begun to wonder if she had dreamt the whole thing.
"But I have to fill in…"
"Forms can wait. Insurance companies can wait."
She tried again. "But Cuddy…"
"Can also wait. Go home. Don't you think you'll need to be fully rested and on your toes to spend an evening with me?"
He had a point. And so Cameron packed up and went home.
After stripping down to her underwear and making sure her alarm was set at an hour designed to give her enough to time to make herself presentable (okay, maybe a little better than presentable), she'd fallen into a dreamless sleep.
And, hours later, awoken to a faintly playing clock radio and a loud pounding on her front door.
"Cameron!" a familiar voice shouted. "Wake the hell up and let me in!"
She shot bolt up in bed, panic rising. "Just a min…" she began, getting tangled up in the covers and almost falling as she tried to get out of bed and to the door. "Just a minute. I'm awake!"
She rushed to the door and pulled it open, words twisting around her tongue and tumbling from her mouth as she tried to apologize and explain. "House, oh my god, I'm so sorry. I didn't hear the alarm. What time is it? I can be ready in five minutes…" She trailed off when she realized he wasn't listening and was instead staring at her with a slightly glazed look in his eye. "House?"
He visibly shook himself and a grin spread across his face as he made a show of looking her up and down. "I'm not sure I want to go anywhere now… Can I come in?"
That was when she remembered her choice of sleeping attire.
"Shit!" she mumbled, rushing back to the bedroom to grab her bathrobe.
He stepped through her door and slammed it shut behind him, still half-dazed from the sight of her in nothing but bra and panties. That sight would be enough to fuel his fantasies for some time, he was sure. "No need to cover up on my account," he called after her. "Hell, if you came to work like that, I'm sure patient morale would sky rocket. "
"I can't believe I overslept," she said, coming back out in a thick terrycloth robe that showed less skin than a nun's habit, much to his disappointment. "I'm so sorry."
"You should be. That's a terrible robe. Where'd you get that? Monks Robes 'R Us?"
Ignoring his remarks, she glanced at the clock on the microwave. "I don't suppose we'll be able to make the show now. I'm so sorry."
And he could tell she was. Not sorry for him, but for herself, for the lost opportunity, and he felt a twinge of disappointment as well. He hadn't known how much this date meant to her.
"Don't worry. My guy can get me tickets again. In the meantime, you're still tired. Hell, I'm tired. We can stay in, order greasy take-out and watch a movie. If you want."
"That sounds good," she said, smiling again. Passing him the phone, she continued, "Here, order whatever you want. I'll get changed."
"I liked what you were wearing before. Just lose the robe," he said, with a waggle of his eyebrows.
She smiled but didn't answer, shutting her bedroom door and dragging some yoga pants and a t-shirt out of a drawer and pulling them on. As she dressed, she took a mental inventory of him out there in a dark suit, crisp white button down open at the neck, shiny black shoes and his black cane. He looked phenomenally sexy, enough to tempt her to take him up on his command to just lose the robe.
Her stomach chose that moment to growl loudly, letting her know that any untoward ideas she may have should probably wait at least until after they've eaten. After stopping off in the bathroom to brush her teeth and run a comb through her hair, she went back to the living room, finding him just putting the phone down on the coffee table.
"I hope you're in the mood for Chinese," he said when he saw her. "I think I ordered enough for an army."
"Yeah, that's fine. Thanks." She went into the tiny kitchen and emerged with two bottles of beer, twisting the caps off before handing one to him.
"You clean up good," she commented, treating him to the same kind of once over he had given her earlier. "I'm really sorry about this, House. You have to at least let me pay you back for the tickets."
He waved aside both her compliment and her offer. "Forget it. What have you got for movies? And I'm not watching All Dogs go to Heaven."
"Right," she said, stifling a grin. "I don't have much, but they're in the basket under the TV. If nothing meets your high specifications, there's a video store down the street, or we can go all high-tech and get something from iTunes."
Mumbling something about making do under his breath, he pulled the basket out from under the TV and began rummaging through it.
She made herself comfortable on the couch and watched him, affection threatening to overwhelm her and make her say something stupid about how cute he was when making faces indicating his approval or, more often, disapproval of her taste in movies.
For the first time since the evening in his office when he asked her to the play, she allowed herself to wonder what this all meant. Why now, two years since their first disastrous attempt at dating, and long after she had given up hope of ever having a relationship with him outside of the hospital, had he asked her out again?
"Aha!" he said, holding up a DVD triumphantly. "If we can't go to the show, we'll bring the show to us." In his hands he held her copy of Phantom of the Opera.
She blinked in surprise at his choice. "If you picked that one for my sake... it's okay. We don't have to watch it. I'm pretty sure I've got Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in there. I can't believe you'd resist the lure of Angelina Jolie, barely dressed."
Rolling his eyes, he answered, "I planned for a night with you, me, Christine, Raoul and the Phantom, so let's just stick to the plan. Besides, once Angelina started popping out kids and taking in stray orphans, she lost most of her appeal. Or maybe it was when she started shagging that pretty boy, Brad Pitt," he added with a shudder.
Laughing, she took the movie from his hands and popped the disk into her DVD player. "Should we start it now or wait until the food comes?"
"Doesn't matter to me," he said, shrugging off his jacket and laying it across the chair in the corner.
The skies outside darkened and rain began sliding down the window pane in heavy streams. The room dimmed, becoming suddenly more intimate and House shifted on the couch as if nervous. There was a moment of awkward silence, and then Cameron figured if she was going to ask, now was the time, when things were already strained.
"Why did you ask me out again?"
"I don't know," he said, looking directly at her and then away again. "I don't know."
He'd been asking himself that very question for days and had only come up with vague ideas and more questions. Stacy had come and gone again, he'd been shot, regained the use of his leg and then lost it again. And through it all there was Cameron, still there, still... Cameron. But she was changing, becoming stronger, testing boundaries. When she'd taken drugs and slept with Chase... well, that had been a wake-up call. Despite the parallels, Chase wasn't the upstanding Raoul and House wasn't the murderous phantom, but Cameron still had a choice. And he wanted her to choose him, before it was too late. Problem was, he didn't know how to tell her, or if he even wanted to tell her yet.
So instead he added, "It was just…time. That's the best and only answer I can give you right now." He reached out and tentatively rested his hand on top of hers, not holding it exactly, but not not holding it either. He hoped it was enough.
And it seemed that maybe it was. "Okay," she said simply, turning her hand over and lacing her fingers through his. "Good."
His hand was huge, she noted, completely engulfing hers. And it was not an example of what she typically thought of as doctor's hands – surgeon's hands, pampered and coddled and soft. Hands like Chase's. House's hands were musician's hands- strong and roughened at the fingertips. The fingertips that were now lightly rubbing her knuckles. It was sexy as hell and she squirmed in her seat, far more aroused than the situation called for.
He glanced over, knowingly, and chuckled softly to himself. It amused him that he could still have that effect on her even after spending nearly four years in her acquaintance. It amused him and flattered him and made him think that maybe, just maybe there might be something to this after all. If he, in all his flawed and used up glory, could have the same effect on this beautiful woman that she, in fact, had on him, then maybe…
The doorbell saved him from anymore maudlin thoughts of fate and meant to be and he reluctantly dropped her hand and struggled to his feet, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet.
"Sit down, House. I'll get it," she said, rising and moving quickly for her purse, sitting on the counter dividing the living room from the kitchen.
A hand, large, strong, and rough in all the right places, shot out and captured her arm, drawing her closer. He leaned down until his lips were almost in her hair. "I promised you dinner and a show," he said, his best don't mess with me voice sounding low in her ear. "You may be providing the show, but I will be providing the dinner." He released her arm and walked the few steps to the apartment door, leaving her frozen in place.
One hand resting on the doorknob, he turned back. "Later, you have my permission to provide dessert."
She dunked the end of her egg roll in duck sauce and took a delicate bite. He watched as her tongue flicked out and caught some of the sauce before it dripped onto her shirt and his mind skipped like a needle stuck in the groove of a record. That tongue...
Turning to look at him, she asked, "Aren't you going to eat?"
"Yeah," he said, pulling apart a pair of chopsticks and digging into the garlic chicken.
Grabbing the remote, she pressed play and the story began. She watched the movie, while he watched her. And he wondered just what, exactly, did she see in him. He still stood by his assessment that he wasn't nice, he wasn't charming, he wasn't even good looking. He'd moved past the theory that she just wanted to fix him, so he was at a loss. For a brief time, he'd thought that maybe it was the standard good girls like bad boys phenomenon, but he was asshole enough to have sent any normal good girl running for the hills by now. If his antics with Stacy and then later with Tritter hadn't scared her off, well... he wasn't sure anything would. That thought was both frightening and reassuring.
Scooting closer, she distracted him for a moment, plucking out some chicken from his carton with her own chopsticks. She tucked her feet up beside her on the couch, which brought her even closer to him, her thigh touching his. He wanted to reach out and place his hand on her leg, stroke his fingers up the inside of her thigh. He was quite sure that desire was more than just sexual; it was the comfort of having a warm body beside you, someone familiar that you cared about and wanted to share affection with.
Outside the rain beat against the windowpanes more insistently than before and he was glad that she'd overslept. This was much nicer than a crowded theatre, he thought, as he set aside his food and placed his arm around her.
If his bold move surprised her, she didn't let it show, merely setting aside her own plate and melting into his side. He turned his head and pressed a soft kiss to her forehead before running a finger down the side of her cheek and under her chin, tilting it up so he could reach her lips. He watched her eyes drift closed, dark lashes flickering against pale skin, as he moved closer. The unfamiliar feeling of complete and utter happiness that washed over him the moment their lips met was something he was sure he would always remember, no matter how disastrous this thing between them turned out.
She made a low sound somewhere deep in the back of her throat, one he recognized as desire and his body reacted instantly to deepen the kiss. But before this went any further, he had to know. Reluctantly, he released her lips, keeping his arm wrapped tightly around her.
"It's my turn for questions," he proclaimed quietly, lightly running his fingers up and down her opposite arm. "Why did you say yes? After last time we went out, and after everything that's happened since, why give me another chance?"
"Are you asking why I like you?" she smiled. "Because I think we've had this conversation before."
He shrugged. "I never did get a satisfactory answer."
She looked thoughtful. "It's not an easy question to answer, you know. I mean, you have many wonderful qualities: you're smart, you have a great sense of humour, you're tall and, despite what you think, very good looking. But those are things I could say about a lot of people that I don't have feelings for."
He shifted uncomfortably at the word 'feelings', but she wasn't finished.
"I think maybe I can best explain it by telling you the moment I first realized how I felt about you."
He knew that one. "That's easy – when I took you to see Gravedigger, right?"
She shook her head. "No, it was before that. I saw you... reading from Yeats to our patient, Lucy." At his blank look, she clarified, "Our first patient with Wilson's Disease, originally diagnosed with Schizophrenia."
He nodded in recognition and she continued. "I know you didn't call child services on her son, but you took the blame for it anyway so that he wouldn't be mad at his mom. You didn't care about or even remember your own birthday, but you cared about those people. I knew then there was more to you than the misanthropic bastard you portray to the world most of the time. I guess it started then. "
"That's it? I read Yeats to a patient?" he asked, looking at her like she'd just presented another Freudian analysis of him.
Pausing, she took a deep breath and added, "And I saw you do an autopsy on a cat when you were detoxing. Even as sick as you were, you were determined to prove you were right. I admire that about you."
"So it sounds like you were basically stalking me," he joked, winking at her comically.
"Says the guy who read my personal medical file," she retorted with a roll of her eyes and a smile.
His expression grew serious again, and he said, "It doesn't make sense. You don't make sense... to me. I just keep wondering when you're going to get tired of my bullshit."
"It's not easy caring about you when you're so determined to be miserable all the time," she admitted with a sigh. "But I don't really have a choice in the matter. Can't you just trust me?"
As she waited for his answer, Raoul and Christine began to sing All I Ask of You.
He remained silent for a long time, his face bland, betraying no emotion. It was a look she knew well. He was trying to solve the puzzle, to diagnose the strange quirk of biology, or chemistry or fate that had caused two such dissimilar people as them to be so drawn to one another.
His fingers continued to trail softly up and down her arm. Even more minutes passed, but she wasn't worried. He was here.
When he eventually spoke, his voice was sure. "I'm not going to change, you know."
She nodded. "I know."
"I don't trust anyone. Not even myself. Especially not myself." He paused. "But I do trust you."
Breathing deeply, she smiled with relief, releasing a tension she hadn't been aware of until he said those last five words.
"Seems this…whatever it is…isn't going to go away just because I want it to. And the funny thing is, I don't even want it to anymore. So, if you want me, and all the bullshit that comes along with me, I'm all in."
In answer, she shifted position so she was resting her head on his broad chest, her arm wrapped around his middle. His hand came up to stroke her hair. It wasn't going to be easy, she knew, but she also knew he wasn't a man who did things in half measures. She knew now that she had his heart. And that would be enough to get them through the rest.
Anywhere you go, let me go too
Love me, that's all I ask of you