A/N- Ah, the end. I'm sorry for the wait. I'm not too happy with the way this all panned out, I think it ended up going in a direction slightly different than I had originally intended. I really hope I haven't made it too fluffy anywhere, but I was having a hard time drawing things to a close. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated!
Having done this, I would however really like another stab at the characters, so any prompts are welcome if anyone's interested. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to read this story and I hope you aren't disappointed.
I want to know... Why?
She doesn't answer, and he becomes conscious of the fact he can hear his own breathing through the silence that falls over her apartment. He counts first to sixty and then to a hundred, waiting for her to say something. Anything. He is used to there being tension between the two of them- no stranger to receiving the silent treatment from her- but the circumstances at present are different, and he finds that without his usual cool, sarcastic comments to fall back on, the tension becomes uncomfortable for himself as well as her. He wants her to go back to the angry quips she had thrown him at the door- giving him something to work with- but she remains eerily still, her green eyes slightly glassy as they focus on nothing in particular.
"If you don't say something soon, I'm going to have to start singing to fill the painfully awkward silence, just so you know...Fair warning... Your move..."
He wants to lift some of the cloying tension- and lame threats seem like as good a place to start as any- though he hopes she won't force him to follow through. His words award him no response however; Cameron remaining despondently frozen, and, despite knowing it to be impossible for her not to be, he wonders if she's even breathing. He sighs and extends his hand- feeling awkward- letting it fall to her knee and squeezing softly. Her mouth quivers and she swallows audibly before bringing her own hands up quickly to cover her face. House retracts his arm as if burnt, rubbing his fingers subconsciously on his thigh as if trying to rid his fingertips of the lingering feel of her denim.
Her breathing is soft, and he can tell she is making a great deal of effort to keep it so, but he can still hear every hitch as her shoulders move up and down tellingly. He tries her name again, this time louder and closer, as he leans towards her, gently wrapping his fingers around one of her small wrists and trying to ease her hand from her face. She tenses at his touch, refusing to lower her fingers, leaving only a small crescent of her features visible from between her palms; the tip of her nose and a glimpse of her teeth which are clamped on her bottom lip painfully. He wonders if she will draw blood.
House pushes himself up from the sofa and moves to stand over her, the position uncomfortably reminiscent to that in which he had yelled at her earlier. He doesn't bother with his cane as he hasn't yet decided to go anywhere.
"Cameron, look at me."
He says it firmly, blue eyes boring into the crown of her dark waves. When she doesn't react he uses the foot of his weak leg to nudge her own; a step away from crowding her.
"Go away, House."
Her plea is tired. Quiet. Spent. He ignores it impatiently.
His own request is low. Firm. Almost harsh. He supposes it is for this reason that she finally complies. Force of habit.
She stands slowly, hands still covering her face. Without shoes, the top of her head is level with his mouth and he can smell the soft scent of her shampoo. He feels slightly light-headed and he tells himself it's the Scotch, not the pleasant smell that is so, well, Cameron. With a timidity that is entirely uncharacteristic, House gently moves his arms around her. She stiffens immediately at his touch; rigid in his embrace and he momentarily has the urge to step away from her small frame, unable to bare how uncomfortable she is making him feel. Instead, he tightens his hold on her- hugging her closer to him- tilting his jaw up slightly and resting his chin on her soft curls.
They stand like this for sixty-seven seconds. He counts them. Then she finally succumbs; relaxing her body and leaning her face softly into his chest. He can feel her quaking faintly against him, and the hard dig of her knuckles caught between her face and his chest. Without thinking, he drops a kiss on top of her head, before his eyes widen in horror at the act.
When she is sure she has her tears under control, she finally pushes away from him gently. She knows her eyes will be red- naked- but what's done is done and she can't spend the rest of the evening with her face buried into him or she may forget to breath. Her green eyes regard him steadily, despite the water they swim in, and she waits for him to tease her for being fragile. It's what they do. Surprising her, as well as himself, House finds himself lacking in sarcastic comments. Several weak jests at her expense come to mind, but he opts, instead, to rub the rough, calloused pad of his thumb across her left cheek to clean away a solitary droplet. Frowning, he traces the curve of her cheek down to her mouth, softly touching her lips as her eyes widen in something resembling curiosity.
"Your lips are chapped."
She runs her tongue over them, intrigued by the faint taste of salt he has left on her.
"You should put some Vaseline on them, or they'll bleed."
"They've been bleeding anyway."
"I want to know why."
"Why my lips are bleeding?"
"Your lips bleed because you're an idiot. I want to know why you've decided to become one."
"Your wording would imply that you had originally held me in high regard..."
"My wording suggests my opinion of you has only plummeted to new depths."
"Yes, you were quite clear on that earlier, I believe I may have retained enough of your opinion to skip the refresher course."
"Typical Cameron; always needing to be the star pupil... And yet refusing to answer the question. No gold stickers for you."
She sighs at him, placing her hands on her hips; slender fingers pulling the oversized hoodie into a multitude of folds at her waist. The sweater is ridiculously large, and House wonders how she keeps from drowning. She glares at him, before falling back down onto the sofa- exhausted- and running a hand through her long hair distractedly. When she answers him, her voice is a whisper, and he almost has to ask her to repeat herself.
"I didn't know what else to do..."
She shrugs, as if it makes perfect sense. House waits for her to go on, but she just looks up at him miserably.
"Well, the next time you are at a loss of things to do, may I suggest taking up a hobby? Joining a knitting circle is perhaps a better use of your time then-"
"-Shut up, House..."
It's soft, gentle, defeated. She leans forward, reaching for the bottle of Scotch and pulls a pained face as she chokes a large amount down. He plucks the bottle deftly from her fingers once more, setting it firmly out of reach before wandering over to her kitchenette to fetch her some water.
The first cabinet he opens turns out to be a pantry, and he smirks with his back to her at how perfectly its contents reflect their owner. Pulses, lentils, organic tinned tomatoes. No additives, no salt, no sugar. No indulgent stash of Twinkies hidden behind the dutifully sealed and pegged bags of nuts and seeds. Better yet, everything is in what looks suspiciously like size order. He retains a tiny glimmer of hope for her when he spots a small, single-serving packet of fruit loops, but on the whole he'd say she was a lost cause. The second cabinet provides him with glasses. Fingers dancing over a surprisingly eclectic miss-match of cups and mugs he opts for a blackened glass featuring the silhouette of Darth Vader and fills it with water.
"You didn't know what else to do..."
He prompts, taking a sip of the tepid liquid before handing it to her. She drinks it slowly, and he realizes she's opted to go back to her infuriating silence.
"For god's sake, Cameron! The cats out the fucking bag already, you may as well explain how it got in there! Or who put it in there!"
He growls the latter and it hangs between them. He worries it sounds too protective; it feels too protective. She doesn't seem hung up on his tone, however, but rather the semantics, as her jaw clenches visibly.
"For someone that doesn't even like me, you're being incredibly persistent."
It's a cheap shot, and they both know it. His irritation grows when he can't find a good retort. After all, the comment is cheap, but she is merely repeating his own statement made to her previously.
"You're here because of your fucking obsession with puzzles and I'm today's quick fix. You couldn't care less about what's going on with me, so long as you know what's going on with me!"
She hates the way that- despite it being true- saying it out loud makes her sound like a child. It's not fair. She has a right to feel like this, and she has a right to call him out on it, but fuck, does she hate the sound of her own voice as the words resonate between them. Her own frustration causes her eyes to prickle and well up with the water that has never really left them, and she brings her hand up and smacks herself across the cheek in annoyance. House reaches down and grabs her wrist quickly to stop her doing it again, his angry grip turning her skin white.
"What the fu-"
"You didn't want me!"
It's the first time she's raised her voice during this most uncomfortable of evenings and it comes out hoarse and broken. She looks at him- stunned at her own outburst- and from the expression on his face, she might as well have slapped him.
Fuck, he wishes he hadn't come here
"...I practically offered myself to you on a plate... I'm embarrassed... I-I don't... You didn't want me...You don't want me..."
Her eyes are trained on the floor as she mutters this last part quietly, and, with all the emotion in her voice, she may as well be informing him of the weather.
He wants to leave. He wants to stay. He wants to understand. He doesn't care about her fucking problems. He hates her for doing this to him. He hates himself for doing whatever he's done to her. He hates her for making him realise that he likes her.
House lowers himself onto the sofa next to her; careful not to touch her. He tries to comprehend what she's said.
"You passed out in my office because you were making yourself throw up..."
"No. I passed out in your office because I hadn't eaten anything. I only used the... That stuff... Once. I don't know why. I was going to use my fingers. I guess I knew we'd have it, and knew it'd be quicker. I'm not sure."
Again, that hateful, emotionless tone. She sounds almost bored.
"And you thought by doing that; by starving yourself, by making yourself sick, that... What? I'd want you?"
The idea disgusts him. It confuses him. She shrugs and he can feel his rage come thundering back. He turns to her, regarding her angrily; her dark hair, her stormy eyes, her pale skin and soft, slightly bloodied, lips. Her lashes are wet but she doesn't cry for which he is grateful. He hates that he can't figure her out almost as much as he loves the fact, and good god, is she beautiful.
"You... You think I don't want you because of how you look?"
"No... I don't know."
"You tried to.. What? Become smaller?... You thought I'd want you if you were smaller?"
The confusion on his face matches her own as she tries to search for an answer. He's wrong, but she supposes in some ways he's right, and that really doesn't give her much to work with. She struggles to find a word- a sentence- to explain herself. She knows, or at least guesses, that he doesn't find her unattractive- he's frequently said as much- but the fact that he doesn't want her makes her feel ugly. She doesn't believe he'd informed her of her many flaws on their shitty date to ruin her, but she feels ruined. It's not that she's someone that's used to getting what they want, it's more that she isn't used to wanting anything so badly.
She may hate the fact, but at her age and with life's experience she has simply accepted the fact that she will continually get walked over. Stepped on. Crushed. She is quiet and unassertive and it's her own damn fault, but that's usually ok!
It usually doesn't matter.
Only, this does seem to matter. House matters. She hates him for it. She hates herself for it. The things she has previously desired have been, for the most part, obtainable. Her interests ordinarily academic, she has always been 'good enough'. But not for him. For House she isn't good enough. She just wants to be perfect.
"I didn't know what else to do."
She repeats her previous sentiment, her eyes screaming there is so much more to say, but her lips refuse to let the words escape.
"You wanted to disappear?"
His question is quiet, and she's not sure if he's asking or musing. It's not quite right, and they both know it, but she nods slowly anyway, as she has no other way of putting it. House pushes himself up from the sofa once more and takes hold of both her hands, pulling her gently to stand before him again. He moves in on her, until their noses are almost touching, before hesitating for a brief second. Her eyes are wide, her breath shallow, but she doesn't give off any signs of wanting him not to, so he closes the gap between them and presses his lips against hers.
It's a soft kiss, but when she closes her eyes, he demands access with his tongue and she gives it willingly; letting it deepen and intensify. His lips are dry and hers are slightly bloody- the coppery taste mixing with the medicinal tang of her vodka- and he pulls one between his teeth gently. He lets his hands rest softly on her back, unsure of where and if to touch her. At this moment, she is like glass to him, and he realizes he doesn't want her to shatter.
Eventually, he pulls back so he can look at her. Her eyes are still closed, her lips slightly parted. The warm light of the room makes her glow, while simultaneously darkening the shadows thrown by her almost aristocratic cheekbones and the small nick above her eye. He reaches out a finger and brushes it lightly, making her shudder before slowly opening her eyes. He sees fear, confusion, pain and an unbearable hopefulness. He loathes the knowledge that she is seeing the same in him. She steps tentatively forward, closing the space between them again.
"I didn't want you because it would be a car-crash. I'd be nice to you for a week to secure getting laid, and then I'd inevitably be an ass, and you'd get upset and not know how to deal with it, and I'd have to hire a new immunologist and you know how much I hate change."
"Who says I can't handle it? I wish people would stop thinking I'm so fucking weak and defenceless all the time!"
"Weak? No. Defenceless?... You care, and, like it or not, it get's you hurt."
"I'm a big girl, House..."
"... No, you're not.."
He gives her a small smile, spontaneously running his hands up under her sweater to rest at her waist to prove his point. She allows him to keep them there and he can feel the vitality of her thrumming through the taut, soft skin beneath his fingers.
"When I said I wanted you, I never imaged we'd wake up in each other's arms, that you'd take me out, that you'd become someone else... I wasn't hoping to fix you... I just wanted you.. And, no, I don't know why... You may not like me, but unfortunately for you, it's not mutual, even though it would be so much easier if it was.. I'm sorry, House, but... I like you."
Her voice is calm and steady and he isn't sure what he'd expected but whatever it was, this is an improvement. She isn't crying into his shoulder. She isn't weeping for some idealic love lost between them. Her eyes are bright and she offers him a small smile to suggest there's no harm done. A ridiculous notion given the way she has been treating her body, but then he guesses there are parts to her he doesn't understand. He touches the strands of her hair that fall down her chest and they are painfully soft. She smells like vodka, vanilla and what he now realizes is cinnamon and her curls are silk and her eyes shine with intelligence and she's not crying, she's smiling.
"I do like you, Cameron."
She laughs softly at him; not wanting to hear it. She hadn't pegged House as the sympathetic type, but then this whole situation is pretty fucking weird.
"Hey, watch your language, I sign your paychecks, you know!"
"No you don't, I do!"
"In my name."
"And it's not, you know..."
"Bullshit... As much as I hate to admit it, your cunning, feminine wiles have bewitched me, and I find myself less prone to shuddering at the thought of your mere presence."
"You're just being nice to me so I don't poison your coffee tomorrow."
"You know, It's things like that which made me rethink my opinion of you... Nothing like an open death threat to set the mood!"
"What's a little murder between friends?"
"Woah, easy, I said I could just about stand to be around you, not that I want to buy matching gold necklaces."
"Shut up, House..."
She leaves him no choice when she covers his mouth with her own and gently runs her fingers up his shirt. She reaches the collar and lets her hands divide to push under the shoulders of his coat and shuck the leather to the floor. He guesses it's a little too late to lecture her, and pulls at the hem of her sweater. She takes the fabric from between his fingers and for a second he worries he's crossed a line, but she merely proceeds to pull it over her head, disappearing for a second, before reemerging in a shower of chestnut curls. She shakes her hair out and smiles at him timidly. She wears a thin tank top, sheer and flimsy and he can clearly see the black lace of her bra beneath.
She moves shyly closer and pulls his shirt over his head, stretching up onto her toes to reach and getting the fabric caught momentarily on his ear.
She shrugs, drinking in his taut stomach and sparsely haired chest. He wonders for what must now be the infinite time why a young woman is aesthetically drawn to a man of his age, but decides now is not the time to worry about such things. He smirks at the sudden darkness in her eyes and she bites seductively at her bottom lip.
"Hey, I have a face you know!"
She blushes prettily, but lets her eyes linger just a little longer before returning to his amused gaze. He extends long, pianinst's fingers to pluck at the delicate fabric of her top, all the while keeping his eyes trained on her face.
"You're sure this is what you want?"
He almost doesn't ask her, she has given him the answer repeatedly, but she is half his age and he needs to hear her say it now.
It's a whisper, but it's enough. She doesn't beg him or buck her hips into his or squeal at him to 'fuck her already' like the girls her age he has found easily accessible courtesy of the internet. The situation may be foreign but she is still Cameron as he's always known her and she smiles at him gently as he inches up her top, simply lifting her arms so he can pull it over her head.
She is small like he knew she would be. The pale skin of her ribs seems almost paper thin; the delicate bones softly defined beneath, throwing butterfly shadows with every breath. Her stomach is taut, but slightly concave; accentuating the fine peaks of her hipbones from which her tattered jeans hang just as appetizingly as he'd imagined. He studies her leisurely, while she watches his face intently trying to gage his reaction. He runs a long finger from the delicate point of her shoulder, along the crevasse of her clavicle, and down her sternum between the valley of her small breasts. Her breath hitches and her skin is like silk as he traces the underside of her left breast and strokes softly down the indents and curves of her ribs. Just beneath the dip where the stacked bones finish he finds a small cluster of scars; incredibly neat and accusingly straight. Some are old, but several of the thin lines appear recent. He doesn't comment on them, but merely presses the newest cut lightly before finding her lips with his again.
She cups her cold hands to his face and deepens the kiss, pressing her small body to his, mindful of his leg and the indication to his arousal pressing into her hip. Moving down, she peppers kisses along the stubble at his jaw, hands tracing light patterns over his back, making him arch slightly at the sensation. It isn't what he's used to, and it's almost too tender, but he doesn't want her to stop. Instead he runs his finger softly down her spine, causing her to shiver. The movement awakens him to the goosebumps freckling her arms and chest and he pulls back from her, frowning.
"You're too small..."
It's true, but not as bad as he realizes it could have been. She has always been small- always delicate- but the prominence of her bones is more pronounced than he cares for. She is slim, and as much as she hates the term, her very aesthetic screams 'fragile' but she is thankfully far from emaciated and he guesses it really was their date and the stress leading up to it that set her harmful actions into motion. His frown deepens as he wonders how long she would have carried them on had he not noticed the changes in her behaviour. He wants to believe this impossible; he is House and therefore incapable of missing something so blindingly obvious.
But what if you'd left to run tests when she fainted in the DDX room? What if she hadn't wounded the girl in the clinic? What if she'd just called in sick?
He suddenly pulls her into him- almost crushing her- and places a tender kiss on her forehead, surprising them both. Attempting to shake off the heartfelt gesture as nothing but raw passion he presses his mouth firmly to hers with almost bruising force. Nevertheless he feels her lips quiver as she smiles against his.
"Come on, show me where you keep the blankets grandma knits you before I can add letting you catch hypothermia to my current list of guilt on your behalf."
"My grandmother was a fighter pilot in the Air Force."
"Not at all, but if it makes you more comfortable, I believe I have a throw somewhere painstakingly crocheted for me by the mother of a young girl I saved from a dog that'd gone feral."
"Now I know you're messing with me... Really?!"
"It's a long story."
"If it involves you taking on Cujo single-handed, I have all the time in the world! Especially as I'm sure what you meant to say that this ordeal actually occurred during spring break while clad only in a bikini, the girl in question being nineteen, and 'throw' being code for hot, sweaty gratitude sex."
"Hmm...That's an entirely different story."
"Tell it anyway."
"Well, once upon a time..."
Cameron flicks the switch to start up the coffee machine lazily, expecting the other three to come filtering in shortly. She wanders absentmindedly over to the white board as the water heats and tests the pens scattered on their shelf below. Finding the blue to be worn to a fuzzy, ink-less mess, she tosses it neatly in the trash and fetches a fresh one from the supply closet.
The red light of the coffee machine turns green and she reaches up to the cabinet above the sink to retrieve mugs for the four of them. The crockery comes from a set bought on hospital budget and as such, is a cheap white ceramic; House's mug obnoxiously red amongst the others. For this reason, the light green addition to the regimented row is immediately obvious. She brings it down to study it, a warm grin touching the corners of her mouth as she traces the stooped figure of Yoda emblazoned on the front, and notices a post-it note stuck to the side.
Eat this, you will.
She pulls out the package that had been wedged into the mug and recognises it immediately to be the fruit loops from her pantry.