Cameron heard it one chilly morning, the first day back to work after Thanksgiving, as she walked through the lobby towards the elevators. Christmas music. She surveyed the lobby and saw two receptionists assembling a fake Christmas tree next to the front doors. A nurse hung garland around the nurses' station while humming along to the carols being piped over the PA system.
Shit, she mumbled under her breath, and wondered how Christmas had snuck up on her this year when she was least expecting it.
There was a time in Cameron's life when she loved Christmas. The lights, the music, the cheerfulness of strangers as they passed in the mall on their way to find the perfect gift for that special someone. It all held a certain appeal to her inner romantic.
But after working with House for two years, after putting up with his grumpiness every damn day, after being forced to work so intimately with such a beautifully difficult man… well, forgive her if she just wasn't in the holiday spirit this year.
Plans were made. Cameron would take the Christmas Eve red eye flight to Chicago. Spend Christmas Day at least with her family. She missed every other holiday, every birthday, had missed the last four Christmases, but this one would be different. She would have a full 24 hours with the strangers she called Mom and Dad.
She thought about House, the man who had come to know her better than any other person in the world, yet still knew so little about her. She wondered what he would be doing on Christmas Day. In her mind, she saw him sitting alone at his piano, switching all the carols to minor keys and playing them like dirges while he slowly sipped his scotch.
She couldn't very well show up empty-handed, could she? So she went to the mall, parked all the way in the last row of the lot and looked with disdain at the other shoppers fighting for close parking spots.
The first, exploratory, lap around the department store revealed the sad truth to Cameron: she didn't know her own family at all anymore. Every item she considered seemed inappropriate, but she didn't know why. Didn't know which color her father would prefer, or if her mother liked floral patterns more than stripes.
She found herself in the jewelry department. As she passed the men's watch section, something caught her eye. A chunky silver watch with a thick black leather strap. It was simple, and similar to the brown leather and gold watch House normally wore, but there was something about it that gave it an edgy and subtly sexy look. It immediately commanded her attention. She asked the salesperson to remove it from the display case, and as she held it in her hands, she imagined it wrapped around House's wrist. She saw his graceful fingers twisting the dial on the side of the face to adjust to the correct time. Saw the silver clasp pressed against her forearm as their fingers interlaced, the leather strap becoming supple and pliant as it warmed from their combined body heat.
The sales clerk asked her if she would like the watch gift wrapped, but she declined. She'd rather just leave it on his desk when he wasn't looking than make a big production of it with wrapping paper and a silly bow.
Plans were cancelled. A huge snow storm hovered over Chicago, blanketing the city with over 12 inches of broken promises. O'Hare was a parking lot. Cameron phoned her parents from work on Christmas Eve, assured them she would make it up there sometime in the spring, when the weather was more predictable. Her mother said not to worry, she understood, a phrase she had grown accustomed to repeating ever since her only daughter had been accepted to medical school.
Cameron sat alone in the conference room and wiped away a tear. Not for the missed opportunity to spend time with her family, but for the realization that she would be alone for the fifth Christmas in a row, and that this certainly wouldn't be the last time.
On Christmas morning, Cameron slept in until 10am, as good a gift she could hope to receive as any. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she walked to the bathroom and pulled her long, dark hair into a ponytail, examining her thin face in the mirror. She washed her face and brushed her teeth, then shuffled into the kitchen and ate a breakfast of store-bought German biscuit cookies shaped like reindeer while standing over the sink. They were buttery, flaky, full-fat and full-calorie. Exactly the thing this day called for.
After a long soak in the bathtub, Cameron curled up on the couch with the quilt her grandmother had made, and managed to read the first three pages of a novel before falling asleep.
She awoke to the sensation of a heavy weight pressing down on her feet. Groggily, she raised up on one elbow and blinked her eyes open. A gasp escaped her lips when she saw House sitting at the end of the couch, not having bothered to scoot her feet out of the way before plopping down right on top of them. He had already removed his leather jacket and tossed it on the coffee table, and was staring at her wide-eyed and with a stupid grin, like a little boy on… well, on Christmas morning.
"Did Santa come last night? Can I open my stocking now?" he said with feigned excitement.
"House, what the hell?" Cameron extricated her feet from underneath her surprise visitor and sat up facing him.
"I brought movies to watch. Not sure what genre you'd be in the mood for, so I covered pretty much all the bases," House said as he dug through his backpack and began removing DVD cases one at a time. "Christmas Vacation if you like the funny Christmas movies, It's a Wonderful Life if you prefer the sappy ones, which I'm sure is right up your bleeding-heart alley," he added out of the corner of his mouth with a lighthearted wink.
Cameron stared at him in shock while he went through his movie inventory. House was there, in her apartment, on Christmas Day, letting her pick a movie for them to watch together, like it was the most normal thing in the world. And he was in a cheerful mood. She actually pinched herself to make sure she wasn't still sleeping.
"I got your classic action movie here with Die Hard, and classic sci-fi with the original Doctor Who. And since you're a chick through and through, I figured I'd throw in some icky romantic comedies, so here's Bridget Jone's Diary and Love Actually. Oh, and you really shouldn't hide your spare key under the doormat. Some weirdo could find it and sneak into your apartment while you're sleeping on the couch."
She rolled her eyes at his last comment, then picked up Love Actually and tossed it to him.
"Should've guessed," he said knowingly as he walked over to the television.
While he slid the disc into the DVD player, Cameron removed her ponytail holder and quickly combed through her hair with her fingers. She probably looked a mess, with no makeup on and her curls flattened from sleep, but it was the best she could do with no forewarning. Honestly, she didn't know why she even cared anymore. House had told her himself that he didn't like her, and he was probably only here today because he felt sorry for her.
House sat back down, again on the opposite end of the couch, and Cameron tucked her legs underneath her and wrapped the quilt tightly around her shoulders. As the previews came on, she looked over at House. His long legs were stretched out in front of him. One hand bounced his cane on the floor while the thumb and index finger of his other hand lightly pinched his bottom lip. She recognized the signs immediately: he was thinking about something, trying to figure something out. Suddenly, his head turned and their eyes met. No words passed between them, but she knew he could tell what she was thinking. He always somehow just knew. You're the only thing I really wanted for Christmas, anyway.
The moment passed, as it always did, and they looked away from each other, focused instead on the movie. As the scenes played out on the TV screen, and the characters' stories began to weave together, House somehow ended up closer and closer to Cameron's side of the couch. Cameron readjusted her position just as House stretched, and then suddenly their legs were touching. Again, their eyes met. Cameron shivered from the intensity of his blue gaze.
"Cold?" he asked softly.
"It's not that, I just-"
"Here, this will warm you up." He reached for the corner of the quilt and drew it over himself, and she instinctively leaned into him. His body was warm and solid and as he wrapped his arms around her, she had to remind herself that this was really happening.
House looked down at her, brought one hand up to tilt her chin, and leaned closer.
"House, what are you doing?" Her voice was barely a whisper.
"What I should have done a long time ago."
Cameron could feel the puff of his breath on her skin just before his lips met hers. She opened to him, and his tongue glided across hers languidly. They kissed slowly and lazily, until she couldn't hold back any longer, and she slid her hands under his t-shirt and dug her nails into his chest.
House groaned and leaned forward, guiding Cameron to her back. His lips wandered across her face and neck, and when he lifted her shirt over her head, he immediately drew the tight bud of her nipple into his mouth, making her moan.
They undressed each other quickly and greedily, eager to feel skin-on-skin contact. House hovered over Cameron, moved between her parted thighs, but she stilled his movements with a hand on his shoulder and locked her gaze with his. He looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to speak.
"House, I… I thought you didn't even like me. You said so yourself, I mean I asked you and you – "
"Everybody lies, Cameron," he said softly, almost sadly. "And that was the biggest lie of all."
He waited a moment for her to take in his words, waited for her smile of realization and acceptance. As she kissed him with tears in her eyes, he entered her, swallowing her moan. They moved slowly at first, savoring this moment, learning each other's rhythm. And then their pace increased; they had waited too long already, had waited years for this. House buried his face in her neck and inhaled her scent, and then they were coming together, holding each other as they rode out the waves of pleasure.
"Best Christmas ever," Cameron sighed as she stretched languidly underneath House, who also stretched and pulled the blanket over them.
"So you got what you wanted?" he asked her with a smug grin.
"I think that's safe to say," she laughed. She pressed a lingering kiss to his lips, then whispered against his mouth, "I'm glad you came over."
"I'm glad too," House said, returning the kiss. "Even if you did make me watch a sappy chick flick," he chuckled.
Pulling her body more closely to his, House nipped at Cameron's neck, eliciting a breathy sigh. "Now can we watch Doctor Who?"
"Only if you get the box of German biscuit cookies while you're up."
They kissed once more and settled in to spend the rest of the day watching movies until they fell asleep together on the couch. Another Christmas gone by, but for the first time in a long time, they weren't alone.