Title: Long Time Coming
Summary: Cameron Speaks
A/N: In order for this to make any kind of sense at all, you'd have to read this Death & Obsessions: This is one of the first fan fics I ever wrote, way, way back in 2006. Slightly less a long time ago, I was having terrible writers block (still am) and asked for suggestions on missing scenes/continuations from my fic list. Athousandsmiles LJ asked for a continuation when Cameron speaks. And so, she does.
He isn't coming. It's the 16th, and the nurse has wheeled her into the solarium for his visit. He isn't coming. She knows it, by the quality of the light. If he were coming, he would have been here when the light streamed through the windows and made the dust sparkle like diamonds. But now, the room is cast in shadows that steadily creep their way toward her. They won't reach her; the nurse will come and wheel her back to her room before she can be overtaken.
The shadows never reach her.
He pauses before he walks into the solarium. It's been…months. Months, since he last was here to visit her. Things have been, well, complicated. He misses their visits, misses her. Life has been harder than his normal miserable existence allows for. His leg, the drugs, Wilson and…he taps his cane on the ground a few times, and Amber. Both Ambers, the real one and the one in his head. He's been out of the hospital a month now, and he isn't really sure he wants to be here. He wants to see her, talk to her, but he isn't sure he's ready for her not to talk back.
Then again, he thinks maybe this is exactly where he needs to be. She won't judge him; she won't pester him to tell her things that are none of her damn business. She never did, not really. She'll sit and listen to him talk, even if she says nothing at all. She'll just be there. And maybe he's taking advantage of her condition, but maybe not. She can hear him in there, he's sure of it. He's seen her cry and try to smile before. She's aware. And if anyone is in a position to understand what he's gone through, she is.
"Visiting hours end at eight, Dr. House," a nurse says from beside him. He nods, but doesn't move. "I'd like to say she's missed you, or showed any signs that she's even aware you've been away, but…"
"Yeah, no change, I got it the first time," House tells her. The nurse just nods and walks away. He forgets her immediately and walks into the room.
He's here. He's not saying anything, just sitting, but he's here. She can feel him, smell him. He's changed his aftershave, but he still smells like House.
He's been away. She isn't sure how long, or how many visits he's missed. She can't really track the passage of time, since every day is exactly like the day before. Long enough that she's noticed. She's missed him. His visits are painful, terrible. They remind her of what happened, of what she did. They're the only thing that seems real to her anymore.
She waits. For him to speak, for him to go, for death to finally come and claim her. She has nothing else.
There's something different about Cameron today, something that wasn't there before. A light in her eyes, a spark of recognition or no, not that, but something new. No change at all my ass; he thinks that nurse he saw when came in must be even more idiotic than he'd originally thought
"Doing something new with your hair?" He winces. That was awful, he thinks, like something Wilson would say. "It's been awhile. I thought maybe you'd call, invite me over for a chat." He hasn't found it so hard to talk to her since he asked her to go see monster trucks. It shouldn't be any different; she's still Cameron, Allison, who tried to kill him and went insane.
"I went a little crazy. Or a lot crazy. I guess it depends on your perspective. Scared the hell out of Wilson and Cuddy…but comparatively speaking? Is it worse to talk to dead people, or not to talk at all? Personally, I'm a little disappointed with the whole experience. I thought the crazies got the good drugs; I had to give up mine. Bastards."
He looks at her. He doesn't know what he expects, a flinch, a smile, a tear. Something. But instead, she simply stares vacantly. He sighs; he doesn't know why he thinks a few months in the loony bin would give him the power to make her speak.
Still, she's a puzzle he longs to solve. And one day, he'll find the right combination of words, the ones that unlock her tongue and start her talking again. His shrink says he needs something to keep his mind occupied; she's as good a puzzle as any he's likely to come across.
The shadows are touching them.
The shadows aren't supposed to touch us. Well, maybe the shadows can touch him. But definitely the shadows aren't supposed to touch me. They've never let the shadows touch her before.
She doesn't like it. The shadows scare her. They change things, distort them. They cast angles on things that should be soft, and they blur edges that should be hard. She has enough shadows inside her, hiding things she doesn't want to think about. She doesn't want the outside shadows touching her too. Not unless it's The Shadow. The one she's been waiting for. The one that she dreams about. The one that never comes.
He looks different in shadow. Softer, and older. Sadder. They make her miss him; the him she used to know. The him who yelled and demanded things of her. The him she loved; the him she needed. They make her want him back.
They're not the right shadows.
The talking gets easier once he gets started. He swears she reacts when he tells her about rehab. Real rehab this time, not what she saw him fake his way through before. He thinks it's probably his imagination; he's fooled himself into thinking too many things in the past to trust all his judgments now. He tells her about his hallucinations, all of them, even the ones he kept from Wilson and the shrinks. Who is she going to tell?
He tells her about his therapy, in a manner of speaking. He doesn't really believe half the crap his shrink blabs at him, so he spares her the retelling of it all. He supposes that if the shrinks here are still working on her, she probably hears enough of it herself. But he tells her the stuff that makes some kind of sense.
And then he does something he hasn't done in a very long time. He stops telling her stories and just talks, like he would to Wilson. Ever since she came here, ever since it happened, he's talked to her like a patient, like she's withholding a clue or a puzzle piece that he wants. And she is, but before this she was, well, his friend. Sort of. Insomuch as he could have a friend.
He tells her about his day, the idiot nurse at the desk, the cafeteria worker who couldn't make change from Wilson's twenty. He asks her questions and then proceeds as if she'd answered. He carries on a conversation with her, like she is anyone else he might talk to.
He talks a long time, far longer than visiting hours should really have allowed. When he's finally run out of things to say, he feels better, better than he has in he can't ever remember how long. Better than a man his age in his condition really has any right to feel.
She did that, he realizes. Just by being here, she makes me better. Holy shit.
He wants to run, limp, the hell out of here as fast as his leg and a half will carry him. All this time he's been denying her, accusing her, pushing her and she's been right. She could make him better without making him do anything, without analyzing or poking or prodding and damn it all to hell he hates being wrong.
"You sneaky bitch," he whispers.
He takes her hand in his, his fingers cling to hers and he hopes she knows he means that in the best possible way.
She doesn't want to believe him. He's lying to her; maybe he's been lying to her the whole time. He wouldn't go to rehab, not him. He would never. She knows him.
She knows him.
After what happened, after everything he's told her in these years that he's come to visit, she knows him better than anyone else. Better than Wilson. Better even than his mother. She knows him and he wouldn't change. Can't change.
But he has. The years she has been here, she has remained unchanged. Never moving, never evolving, never growing…simply waiting. She waits for death.
But he isn't waiting with her. His world is not static, and she is no longer privy to all its subtle nuance and shade. He has a life, in a manner of speaking, outside her mind and he lives it. It isn't good and it isn't pretty, but it is. He is.
She is nothing. Here in this hospital, in this chair, in her own mind, she is nothing. She is but a specter, a shadow, a soul as yet unclaimed.
She never considered death would be so unwilling to take her. But now, when faced with a House who is no longer the man she knew but someone altogether different, she considers it.
She feels something; a warmth that has been missing since she came here is seeping into her fingers. She doesn't recognize it, but she feels as if, in the haze of the life she knew before, she remembers it. She remembers it, but from so long ago and she is so out of touch now with that life, this feels new.
She flexes her fingers.
House stares in absolute wonder at their clasped hands.
She squeezed back.
She knows this, now. He's holding her hand. No one has held or touched her in years. Oh, certainly, the nurses and aides touch her daily; to move her into and out of her chair, to dress and bathe and feed her. But no one has touched her, held her, just for the sake of simple human contact since the day she became a patient here.
She cries silent tears.
How can she have forgotten this?
She turns to look at House, really look at him for the first time in forever.
He looks older; he's cut his hair very short, it's flecked with gray and she can see through to his scalp in places she couldn't before. How long has she been here? Or have these years really been so hard on him?
"Allison? Allison? Nurse!" House shouts. She's squeezing his hand and now she's looking at him. Not through him, as is her norm. She's looking at him.
"Cameron, you can hear me. I know you can. Give me something. Some sign you know what's going on. Something," he's demanding, and he knows it's the one thing they told him never to do with her. But she's squeezing back and he needs to know it isn't a mistake. Or another hallucination. "Please."
As the nurses come into the room, anxious and looking for whatever the emergency is, she clears her throat.
"I don't have anything left to give," she whispers.
The nurses gasp; one breaks free and sprints out of the room, House assumes she's gone to find one of the facility's doctors.
"Bullshit," House laughs. "You've got exactly what I've been looking for. Answers, all locked up in that pretty head of yours. Now I can get started on figuring you out."
Her tremulous smile is all the more sweet for its long disuse. More silent tears leak from her eyes.
"What the hell have you been waiting for?"
"I've been waiting for death."
"Decided he wasn't your type? I don't blame you; I'm far better looking," House quips, because he is himself and can do nothing else.
"Got tired of waiting. Death was a long time coming," she says. He smiles and squeezes her hand tight, content to let the psychiatrists and nurses swarm over her and gently pry them apart.
He'll be back, and she'll be here. And maybe now, instead, she'll wait for him.