It's been a few days since your encounter with Doctor Cameron on the balcony. A few days since the night you've allowed yourself to be alone with your thoughts again. Fortunately, a new case came in and you've been working tirelessly with the team to diagnose the patient's disease, effectively giving you something else to think about. It was a temporary distraction that you welcomed.
You haven't been thinking much about your conversation with Cameron since it happened. It was over and done with, and didn't need to be dwelled upon any further. Things go on as they were before. Your tragically shortened life continues.
Then comes one evening, right after work, as you are gathering your belongings in the locker room, more than ready to head home but most likely going to stop by a bar on the way. It was a long day, and even though a weight has been lifted off your shoulders for having solved your case with the team, a part of you is still craving for that burning sensation of alcohol going down your throat. You shut the locker door and turn to leave — only to see a familiar face coming into the room. It wasn't one that you particularly wanted to see at the moment.
There is a slight pause as your blue eyes met. "Doctor Hadley," she greets politely, after she re-composes herself.
You adjust the strap of your bag on your shoulder self-consciously and give the ER attending a short nod. "Doctor Cameron," you nearly mumble. You avert your gaze and walk forward, planning to move past her and out the door.
Unfortunately, she doesn't even let you get that far.
She stops you just as your hand touches the cool metal of the door's handle. Caught in that position, you aren't sure if you want to turn around or not.
She must have taken your slight pause as an indication that you are willing to wait and listen.
"I just..." She sounds a little nervous. "I just want you to know that...if you ever need anyone to talk to–"
"Thank you for offering Doctor Cameron, but that won't be necessary." You struggle to keep your tone polite, but you can't say that it's working. You stare down at your own hand, now clutching tightly at the door handle. But before you could even begin to push it, the voice behind you spoke again.
"Look, I'm just...letting you know that my door's always open." Her voice was noticeably shaky. You feel a little bad that speaking to you seemed to scare her so. You sigh audibly, almost exasperatedly, and turn around to face her.
"Cameron, I really appreciate you going through all this trouble..." You pause a little as you think about the other night. "I guess it was my fault for bringing up issues that do not concern you." You could have kept your mouth shut. You could have just said 'goodnight' and left her alone at the balcony. But you didn't. Instead, you've let it slip what a complete mess you are.
Your eyes grow hard and you look away. "I apologize for offending you that night. Your life is none of my business, as mine is none of yours."
And with that you leave the locker room.
She doesn't stop talking to you. For a while, you thought that you've successfully managed to ward her off. You thought she'd listen and leave you alone, like any normal person would do.
You couldn't have been more wrong.
You see her approaching you out of the corner of your eye one day. You were in the doctor's lounge, pouring yourself a cup of decaf when you heard somebody enter the room.
"Doctor Hadley... Hi."
The moment you hear her voice, you groan internally. But you promised yourself that you'd be respectful. Or at least try to be.
You turn around and give her a short nod. "Doctor Cameron."
Your eyes meet for a brief moment but you look away and pretend to be occupied by your mug of coffee. You silently watch as she comes up to your side to pour herself some as well. You stand there, listening to the light clinking of her spoon as she stirs in the milk and sugar.
"So how was your day?" the blonde asks. You knew she was going to say something. If you hadn't made that promise earlier, you would have already been halfway out the door.
Play nice, you tell yourself. "It was fine," you offer, despite a little dryly. Of course, having responded, it was now customary for you to reciprocate. "How was yours?"
She looks up at you and both of you know for a fact that you weren't genuinely interested – that you would much rather leave than stay and chat. But she doesn't let you off the hook quite that easily.
"It was good. The ER hasn't been as bad as last week." She blew at her coffee a little before taking a small sip. She looks over at you; you notice her pause for a second in contemplation before resuming to speak. "Did you hear about the guy who came in with his hand stuck in a blender?" she asks with a bit of amusement in her voice.
You raise your eyebrow and couldn't hold back a small smile. It's a horrible thing to laugh about but the mere stupidity of some people just baffles you sometimes. "How many fingers did you manage to save?"
The blonde shrugs. "Surprisingly, all of them."
The two of you stand together in silence for a while, lost momentarily in fleeting thoughts of previous hospital encounters that stood out in your memory, many of them unbelievable and mostly ridiculous.
"Thirteen," she eventually calls your attention. "Do you like working for House?"
You think for a few seconds, then respond without hesitation. "Yes." You wonder briefly why she asked that. "Do you miss working for him?" you counter.
You watch as she stares into her cup before responding with a quiet, but resounding, "Yes, sometimes."
Your eyes are glued onto the profile of her delicate face as you try to read her expression. You can almost hear the cogs turning in her brain.
"Thirteen, why did you become a doctor?" she asks all of a sudden.
You smile knowingly and close your eyes in a prolonged blink. "I think that's enough conversation for today, don't you think?" You open your eyes and turn to meet hers boldly. "At least enough for two people who are merely colleagues working in different departments."
You've caught on to her and she knows. Her look of realization shows it.
"It's normal for colleagues to talk and get to know each other," she argues. But you already begin to walk away.
"It's normal for colleagues to talk about work, or patients, or the weather," you respond. Before leaving the lounge, you look back at her one final time. "Please, Cameron, save your breath. None of this is worth your time."
You leave her once again.
But that was definitely not the last you have seen of Doctor Allison Cameron. The one thing you have discovered in the past few weeks is that the woman is unusually persistent. It's not that she refuses to take a hint – it's that she blatantly ignores all the warning signs altogether. You find that she can be as stubborn as you sometimes.
She follows you into the supply closet one evening when you were grabbing something for your patient. Despite her going through the motions of searching for some equipment, you know for certain that she's there to speak to you. But you don't indulge her. You swiftly grab whatever you need and turn to leave.
There it is. You were practically waiting for it.
You slowly, almost reluctantly, turn around. You can't resist the urge to shoot her a look. "Yes, Doctor Cameron. How may I help you?"
"I was wondering," she begins hesitantly. "Would you like to have lunch with me tomorrow?"
You blink a couple of times as you try to process what the blonde has just said. You frown at the thought that it sounds as if she wants to ask you out.
"Cameron..." You begin as your thoughts try to organize themselves. "What exactly are you trying to do here?" You know fully well how painfully direct you are being, but that doesn't matter too much to you right now. The other woman, however, is clearly affected by the cold tone of your voice.
"I..." she mumbles, obviously taken aback by your bluntness. "I just thought that it might be nice to have lunch with a colleague."
You look straight at her, watching her eyes flicker up to yours for a millisecond, before snapping down to the floor again. "Cameron, you are a horrible liar. I hope you know that."
At that comment, her eyes snap up and you can almost physically sense the irritation radiating from her body. "Thirteen, I have never met anyone as frustrating and unrelenting as you are."
"House?" you suggest, raising a slender eyebrow.
"Even he has a best friend he talks to," she stresses with overflowing exasperation. "I really don't understand your aversion to conversing with the people around you!"
"We're talking right now," you retort cheekily.
"Yes, but this isn't half as civil as it is supposed to be," she says with a weary exhale, slumping her shoulders a bit in defeat.
You can sense her exasperation building up, and you can say for certain that yours is as well. "Look Cameron, I'm not stupid. I know that your innocent proposition is just another way of getting me to open up. But as fun and inviting as that sounds, I really don't think I'm in the mood to be doing that anytime soon," you answer bitingly. "So please. I beg you. Let. It. Go."
After shooting her a final look, you turn around and finally leave. You noticed that she had a very upset look on her face, and you were almost sorry you had caused it.
You haven't spoken to each other again ever since that heated encounter in the supply closet, and it makes you glad that the ER attending seems to have finally dropped the topic altogether. You knew that it was a matter of time before she gave up entirely. It pleases you to know that you have won this fight.
You do occasionally see her around the hospital though, when your plans to avoid her somehow fail, but she never approaches you like she has done before. Once or twice you make eye contact when you happen to pass each other by, but you look away almost instantly. Not a single word has been exchanged between the both of you for over two weeks.
Which makes her sudden appearance one evening all the more surprising.
You watch the woman skeptically as she enters the lab you've been working at, probably having learned from your colleagues or House that you were the only one left behind to do blood tests for the patient. You frown at that thought, but console yourself in the fact that you probably won't have to take the night shift the day after. You swear you'd make someone else do it.
"Are you busy?" The familiar voice interrupts your thoughts and you suddenly remember that there's someone else in the room with you.
You look away from the equipment and take a brief glance at the blonde. You have no idea what she's doing here, and you're not sure if you want to find out. But you answer her anyway with a mere shrug.
"Just waiting for some test results."
You watch out the the corner of your eye to see her figure move slowly across the room. She walks over to the other side of your station, examining the tools and instruments that she once used. You can't help but observe her curiously. Her casual clothes say that she is off work, but the pace at which she moves says that she's in no hurry to leave. She turns and adjusts a microscope directly opposite of where you're sitting. You watch her quietly but cautiously through the gaps of the shelves.
Both of you are waiting for her to start.
And eventually, she does.
"Can we grab coffee together sometime?"
You blink. Did she really just ask that? You really thought that she had given up on this plan of hers. Coffee doesn't mean coffee. It means talking.
"Cameron, I told you–"
"It won't do any harm," she interrupts. "It's just coffee."
Her eyes meet yours, and you can tell that she's more determined this time around.
"Look, Cameron, I already have a therapist. I don't need another."
You look back into your microscope irritatedly, but even then, you hear her footsteps approaching your side.
"I never said anything about a therapy session, Thirteen. It's just coffee."
You pull away from the device and shoot her a look.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Why are you being so difficult?" she counters.
You heave a frustrated sigh. This is all becoming so redundant. "I'm not being difficult. I just don't need your help."
"All I'm asking for is coffee this Saturday. It doesn't have to be a big deal."
"You're wasting our time, Cameron." You turn back to your microscope even though you know fully well that there isn't anything you haven't seen already. You just want an excuse to look away – anything to divert your attention from the blonde. You notice that she's standing very still, and you half expect her to eventually give up and walk away.
The sound of your first name caused your eyes to snap up instantly. You notice a subtle change in her expression as she takes another step closer.
"I know I can't fix you...but let me try."
Her voice sounds so frail. So vulnerable.
You stare at her. There is a sense of distraught and a hint of fatigue in her features, something you failed to notice before. When you finally meet her eyes, the intensity of her gaze almost startles you. And that is when it finally dawns upon you... this was not pity, or plain sympathy. She needs this. She doesn't want to help you – she needs to. It's part of who she is. The part the keeps her up at night... The part that allows her heart to be battered constantly and voluntarily for the sake of others. The part that's so intrinsically her that she can't do anything about.
And both of you know that as much as it would be healthy for you to establish a connection with a person you can talk to, Cameron would be getting something out of this too.
She needs to be needed.
In a way, it was as much a favor to her as it is to you.
Breaking away from her gaze, you look to the floor. You can't believe you're about to say this.
You're almost afraid to look up at her, but you go ahead and do it anyway. When you do, you see the faintest smile on her lips, one you would have missed if you weren't looking for it.
"Would that be alright with you?" she asks softly.
You give her a quick nod, still a little uncertain of what you had just agreed to.
But as she had said, this doesn't have to be a big deal.
It's just coffee after all.