Pairings: House/Cameron (mentions of Cameron/Chase)
Summary: "It was funny, absurd even, how of all the places in the hospital, she ended up here. Déjà vu, or a full circle – at this point she didn't bother mulling overwhat phrase to use." S6 spoilers, set after Lockdown. One-shot
Disclaimer: House and all the characters of the show belong to FOX, David Shore, etc.
It was funny, absurd even, how of all the places in the hospital, she ended up here. Cameron looked around, spotting the same place she had been sitting several years ago. Déjà vu, or a full circle – at this point she didn't bother mulling over what phrase to use. Unlike the last time she had been here, however, tonight there were no tears in her eyes. Just a scratching sensation in her throat and hollowness somewhere inside. Cameron would have laughed at the paradox of her ending up in the chapel, but after the time spent with Robert in the exam room, she felt too drained to master any emotion.
It would have been more fitting if Robert came here, not her. For all intents and purposes, she should have left Princeton the moment lockdown was cancelled, right after parting ways with him. She should have taken a taxi, which would have driven her straight to the airport – an evening flight now fitting perfectly into her disrupted schedule. There had been no reason for her to stay any longer, no valid, rational reason.
Yet it was Cameron who leaned on the bench, tracing the cracks in the dark wood with her fingertips. It was she, who took a shuddered breath, thinking about guilt and absolution. While the former applied to both of them, the latter had been given to Robert, she saw to it today. Later she might even find it amusing how she, an atheist, tried to grant him an indulgence of sorts. Not the absolution for what he had done with Dibala- that one was up to Robert's conscience. Rather the atonement for their failed relationship.
"You can't conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God."
A familiar voice broke the silence of the chapel. Cameron didn't turn around, knowing all too well who was standing behind her. If House was surprised to see her, he didn't show it. Not that she expected him to. She couldn't help recalling an evening three years ago, with just a few words and one small squeeze of her shoulder, House had managed to give her support she had desperately needed. Today she knew better than to expect the same: too much had changed, too many moments had been lost. She herself put some of them to words during their last meeting in his office.
"Never knew you liked Graham Greene." She felt herself start clenching, the desire to fold her arms protectively over her chest almost unbearable.
"Borrowing a smart opening line doesn't equal emotional attachment." House said, leaning on the bench near her, a little too close for her comfort. Cameron didn't turn to look at him, preferring to keep her eyes on an empty pulpit in front of them.
"But that's what your problem is – you're bringing feelings into everything."
Cameron knew he was pushing, trying to see what it'd take for her to break this time. Once she would have thought that there was more to it, not just the behavior of a five-year old testing a toy. But that time was gone, at least she hoped for the sake of her own sanity that it was.
Belatedly, Cameron realized that he was still waiting for her answer.
"Waiting for Chase?" House's voice was sarcastic as usual, though she could detect a certain interest. There was nothing personal, though, just the way he worked: he would push further out of sheer curiosity, simply because she happened to be near and he could.
She bit the inside of her cheek so as not to laugh nervously when House's next words proved her right:
"Is he confessing all his deadly sins now, so that you two can live happily ever after?"
"Three one-word answers in a row - Chicago is clearly harmful to mental capabilities. No wonder you came back."
"I'm not back."
"Then what are you doing here?"
She finally turned around and looked into his eyes. He seemed disheveled, the lines on his face were a bit more pronounced, and a tight set of his jaw told her better than any words that the day had been hard on him. Something must have happened, something that had shaken him, though he did his best to hide it. Belatedly Cameron realized that she still tried to read between the lines when it was about him, which was anything but a comforting revelation.
"Could ask you the same."
"But I asked first."
She took a breath, her mind racing back to the events of a few hours ago. Her own voice sounded strange to her ears as she quoted the words she hadn't heard in years:
«Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat; et ego auctoritate ipsius te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis»
She didn't know whether she ever loved Robert…
«et interdicti in quantum possum et tu indiges»
...not in a way that could have worked... She was a mess.
«Deinde, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen»*
She was unfixable, not him...
Just like this, simple really. No one could accuse her of lying: it wasn't a lie per se, if she didn't know how she felt and preferred to tell Robert what he wanted to hear. At least one of them needed to find a way to get over guilt and live under a delusion that everything that had been done was justified. So what if she choose Robert to be the one?
Cameron closed her eyes for a minute, not caring if House would interpret it as a sign of weakness. She was done thinking about his reaction, his everything. Today was exhausting enough as it was, no need to add insult to injury.
"In Latin and by heart. I always knew you lied about being an atheist." It wasn't a statement, though, rather a question put in a round-about, House-ian way.
"Some knowledge and habits stay here," Cameron suddenly put her index finger to his temple, sensing House tense at the contact. His skin was warm, his beard scratching the inside of her palm, when she accidentally brushed his cheek. "Whether you want it or not."
She lingered for a moment, and then removed her hand - the close proximity was a double-edged sword, she needed to regain her personal space before this impulsive move would start affecting her. Then she whispered, not daring to look at him: "Semper fi, of sorts."
Cameron knew perfectly well what she was doing when she threw a marine motto in the conversation. Judging by House's gaze she caught when she finally gathered the courage to look up at him, so did he. Not that she wanted to hurt him by bringing up the memories of his father – she still cared for him too much to hurt intentionally. But it was the only way to make him understand what she was trying to explain without actually saying it aloud.
Apparently, her plan worked. House didn't answer right away, just tilted his head to the side, and kept looking at her, as if seeing her for the first time. She could tell that he was trying to decide where to place this new piece of information on his already established picture of "Cameron".
When the silence became insufferable, House put his chin on the handle of his cane, making a face as if he was thinking about a case and a revelation had just dawned on him. "I guess religious ramblings are a new STD."
In spite of herself, Cameron felt her lips twisting into a faint smile. He was always good at making a joke to move on from a sensitive situation, and this one certainly was. House continued sarcastically, again in his element:
"Of all the quirks you could've picked up in this marriage of yours… A few more years, and… "
Her fingers involuntary traced the folder with divorce papers that was lying on her lap.
"We ended it just in time, then."
Cameron almost faltered under House's penetrating gaze. It was too intense, too real, too exposing - as if he could see right through her, as if he really wanted, needed to do it. She felt his hand cover hers, and shuddered. Well, if this was his payback to her for invading his personal space a little while ago, it definitely worked. Not tearing his gaze from her eyes, he took a hold of the folder and tugged it to him.
He didn't open it, contrary to what she expected. Just glanced at it, his expression unreadable, and then chuckled.
"You cost me fifty backs, you know that?" Sensing her surprise, House waived dismissively. "We had a bet going. Should've known Wilson has radar for divorces."
One of the most valuable lessons House had taught her was to turn the tables when the things start getting uncomfortable. It was just the right time for her to follow it.
"What are you doing here? You never answered."
Cameron didn't imagine that he would be honest, that's why his suddenly guarded, weary voice almost startled her:
"A patient died."
"Oh, please, don't start this Mother Theresa bullshit. You didn't even know him." House snapped. "Not my patient anyway. Just an annoying, prying old..." He trailed off, as if recalling something, and then muttered, this time more quietly: "Not my patient."
There had to be more to the story. Cameron suppressed the urge to reach out for him, for it wasn't her place. The thought still stung. Nevertheless she wanted him to find peace with whatever happened today, and hoped that Wilson, or whomever House would let in, would talk to him about it. Cameron guessed that right now he needed to be on his own, it must have been the reason he came to the chapel: it usually was deserted at this time of the day. Not a deep soul-searching conversation, not a condolence, but simple solitude – funny they had been looking for the same thing in the same place.
For a reason she didn't want to analyze, Cameron wasn't sorry that her wish had been disrupted. This accidental meeting with House might have even been just what she needed.
She rose from the bench, though. House still needed to be left alone, at least she thought so. Plus, her time was running out – she didn't want to miss another plane. She barely took a step, trying to get past House to the entrance, when he put his cane in front of her, the tip of it resting on a bench in front of them, blocking her way. He looked up at her, and asked without a hint of sarcasm:
"So what's next?"
"I have a job."
Maybe it wasn't an answer House was seeking, but that was the only one she could give. Cameron didn't have any other certainties so far.
"You weren't planning on coming back. From the very beginning." His tone was almost accusatory, as if he hadn't expected it, as if it had been she who lied, leading him to believe that she would be back eventually. He rose, slightly wincing in pain as he did so, and now was hovering over her, making Cameron tilt her head up to keep eye contact.
"You thought I was bluffing?"
"You cried wolf three times, who knew that the fourth would be for real." House shrugged. For one fleeting moment Cameron thought that she could see some vulnerability in his expression, but it vanished before she could analyze it. "When are you leaving?"
"Tonight, I guess." She brushed her hair behind her ear, trying to hide sudden agitation.
"Goodbye sex?" House suggestively raised his eyebrows.
"Had it already." She shrugged indifferently and smirked at his shocked expression. If he wanted to embarrass her, he was a few years late.
Trying to pay no attention to House, who still stood in front of her, blocking her path, as she buttoned her coat preparing to finally go outside and catch a taxi to the airport.
"I'll miss you."
Her fingers stilled at the last button, when she heard his unusually quiet and serious voice. In all honesty, she didn't expect him to say it aloud, had stopped hoping a long time ago. She wondered what prompted him to open up, surely not her leaving in itself, because they had been through this a few times and never had he admitted that he might miss her. Maybe he was making an effort - it might have been Mayfield, his therapy, or something else that had happened to him. It was a pity that she'd never know for sure.
House quickly added:
"Just don't get too mushy about it, all the other ducklings suck at charting, that's all."
"Wasn't going to." She smiled, and for the first time in a while it was entirely genuine. She rose on her tiptoes and quickly touched her lips to his cheek. "Good luck, House."
He stood still, deep in his thoughts, pretending to observe a reality rather than participate - he always did so when things between them were too close to blurring the lines he had set out all those years ago. If Cameron wanted to leave, it was her best chance, she knew that much. She carefully slid past him, forcing herself not to look back.
His voice stopped Cameron in her tracks, when she reached the door:
"Gravedigger will be appearing in Chicago in June."
"And?" Whatever House was up to, he chose the worst possible timing. Then again, it was very him to take drastic measures when it was almost too late.
"I'll need a place to crash, though. My shrink doesn't want me to be alone."
"A lot can happen by June."
"Unless you're planning to tie the knot for the third time and get a picket fence and all…" House made a disgusted face, and she couldn't help smiling at his behavior.
"I'll figure something out."
"Good, Gravedigger never disappoints."
A.N: Latin phrase Cameron said is a part of the absolution form, usually pronounced by a priest.
It's translated as:
*May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication
**and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require.
***Thereupon, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen