Title: What If (Chapter Four) - Damage is Done with Secrets and Lies
Rating: No big for this chapter. Just a little Teeny warning. First base and a half.
Pairing: House/Cameron, Cameron/OC
House had sat at his piano playing idle notes and thinking of her for the rest of the night, until the sun began to force its rays through the crack in the curtains. This is why he didn't get involved in stupid affairs of the heart. He hated his mind being preoccupied with anything other than an interesting medical case or General Hospital.
And now he was stuck with her on his mind, wondering what had made him do something as stupid as kiss her. It had been an impulsive action. He'd been intoxicated and that was his excuse. Of course, the hour she'd made him wait before she picked him up had certainly sobered him up and the impulse to taste those lips was undeniably strong the moment he'd caught sight of her in that blue shirt.
She'd looked exhausted, but now he was thinking that, bizarrely, it was a good look on her. Without make up and without her wits about her she was even more beautiful because she couldn't hide her feelings like she usually could. She was open and real, emotions – far too many of them – on display and ripe for the mocking.
Yet he hadn't mocked her. He'd kissed her. And she'd most certainly kissed him back. He could still feel the heat of her small hand pressing against his chest, tightening into a fist, as he'd found his way under that shirt.
He could still taste the coffee and cherry on his lips, a flavor he'd become addicted to the second he'd tasted it. Her skin had been so soft and warm he'd been sure he was running his fingers over silk. The tiny mewl of surprise she'd elicited as he'd lunged at her and claimed her lips had only driven him on further.
He was well aware that the consequences were going to far outweigh the benefits of his actions, but at that moment, it was the opposite way round and, in fact, consequences didn't exist. All that mattered was her and she was kissing him back.
As soon as he'd taken in what she was wearing, he'd immediately been struck by the image of her padding through his apartment wearing his blue shirt and nothing else, rather than her husband's blue shirt and sweatpants.
He'd chosen to ignore any aspects of her husband she was carrying – the ring, the shirt – and a dangerous sensation of jealousy had tightened in his stomach. That was partly what had induced the feral urge to kiss her. It was the primitive need to mark her, to claim her as his own.
He wondered how she'd be coping with the fallout and shook his head. When did he ever think of how other people were feeling?
Grabbing his cane, he unsteadily found his balance as he pushed himself to standing. Popping two Vicodin before dropping the bottle back onto the piano top, he limped toward the bathroom, intent on showering away these new thoughts and feelings he considered very unpleasant and certainly not welcome.
But by the time he was clothed again, he was craving the alcohol that had slowly detoxed out of his system. He'd sobered up completely as he'd kissed her, but now he needed the alcohol again to forget that horrified look on her face when she'd realized what they'd done, to forget the fact that she was someone else's, to forget her.
He was mumbling out loud to himself, humming along self-pityingly to the music in his head. He seemed to have a knack for this – first he'd managed to find reason to break up with Stacy. That was pretty easy considering the escalating rows they'd been having, and he'd felt a sense of relief wash over him as he'd sat alone in their empty apartment. His empty apartment now.
But it had taken him an evening of drinking to fully accept why he'd really broken up with Stacy. Ok, he'd been telling the truth when he'd said he didn't love her anymore so they should just quit whilst they were ahead.
But it hadn't been the whole truth. He wasn't in love with Stacy anymore because all he could think of was a certain young, beautiful (married) immunologist who had captured his imagination as well as his feelings from the moment he'd hired her.
For six months he'd watched her, toyed with her, and challenged her. And she'd responded by turning a blind eye, accepting his games and stepping up to every challenge he set. Yet there was a sad kind of melancholy hidden behind her bright, startlingly stunning surface. There was that something in her eyes that he not just wanted, but needed to figure out.
He found himself suddenly thinking about her at the most inauspicious, indiscriminate moments. He'd be asleep with Stacy in his arms yet he was thinking of Cameron, musing on whatever small incident had occurred that day and wondering how he could push her even further, wondering how far that line could be crossed before she'd snap.
But it didn't matter now if he thought about her, because Stacy was gone and he had endless lonely, drunken nights ahead of him. Songs reminded him of her and that was the one thing that drove him crazy, because he couldn't switch off if his mind was concentrating on something…someone. Music was his outlet, but if she inhabited even that private, segregated part of his life, he was in real trouble.
Because he simply couldn't have her. Not just because she was already someone else's, but also because part of him didn't really want to have her. If he could hold her at a distance – look but not touch – then he was safe. Or more importantly, she was safe. Just look what he'd done to Stacy.
Over five years he'd worn her down, broken her spirit and left her a far more bitter and cynical version of herself. Back when they'd first entered into a relationship – though neither had dared to name it so right away until everyone else did it for them – she'd been tactful and ambitious with all optimism and light shining from her.
But when she finally walked away from him, five long years later, she'd lost her spark. She was no longer the sweet – well, as sweet as a lawyer could be – and vivacious young woman she had been. She was almost as scathing with words as he was, she could slice at open wounds with the sharp end of what she'd say and not give a damn. He'd done that to her. And the thought of Cameron losing her nauseating niceness unnerved and deterred him enough to second guess his apparent need for her in his life. She'd be better off with that charming husband of hers than with him.
"Allison? Hey, Allison? Wake up, sweetie."
Cameron's eyes drifted open to find Andrew looking down at her with a concerned expression on his face. She blinked a few times, wondering when it had suddenly become so bright in the living room…and why she was asleep in the living room.
It took a moment or so before she remembered the events of the early hours and she immediately dropped her gaze to the floor, unable to look her husband in the face. But that only served to increase his worry.
"Al, you look like crap, maybe you should take the day off – ring in sick…why did you sleep on the sofa?"
She couldn't take everything in so soon after she'd been dragged out of a surprisingly restful sleep so she just nodded absently.
"Allison…are you feeling ok?"
She looked up at him and saw the apprehension in his eyes…and her heart broke just a little bit.
"Yeah…I'm just a little tired. Elle wouldn't settle until 3am so I was up with her, plus the shifts from hell I just finished. I sat down for a minute and…I guess I fell asleep."
She couldn't exactly tell him what had happened, and she was startled at how easily the lie slipped from her lips. He looked satisfied by her answer and leaned down, placing a tender kiss on her lips. It only served to make her feel guiltier than she already did.
Forcing a smile she hoped was convincing she slipped away from him with the premise of going for a shower. Once again he accepted it without question.
"I'll make you some breakfast. You'd waste away if I didn't make you eat, Al."
Locking the bathroom door, she let herself slide slowly to the cold tiles, her back against the door and her head in her hands, knees pulled up so she was as small as she could possibly be. If she'd just lied to him so easily…how far could this go?
He needn't ever find out what had happened less than three hours earlier, because there would never be a repeat of that forbidden kiss. Nor anything like it. She'd make sure she was on her guard around House at all times now…though she had to admit, sometimes she had no control over it when his intense gaze would leave her in somewhat of a daze, trying to straighten her thoughts before someone noticed. She'd always been very good at controlling her feelings and her vices. So what was going wrong now?
If this didn't stop right now, before it had a chance to really turn into something, then she knew it was only a matter of time until they were going to start spinning in circles. And she couldn't lie to Andrew again like she just had done. She'd find herself drowning in the lies before long, and she never had been a very good liar…until now at least.
Dragging herself wearily to her feet, barely any energy left, she switched on the shower and dropped to sitting on the edge of the bath, running a hand through her hair. She couldn't stop thinking about House and that in itself scared her.
Squeezing her eyes shut she tried to push him from her mind. That was the only way this could work. Denial was a beautiful thing. If she just denied to herself it ever happened then she'd find convincing everyone else that much easier.
Tugging off Andrew's shirt and kicking off the sweatpants she stepped into the shower and sighed as the hot water cascaded over her body, washing away the remnants of his touch still lingering on her skin. She stood perfectly still under the water for endless minutes, imagining that she could feel his touch and every feeling she had for him swirling down the drain with the water.
Her thoughts drifted back to their encounter yet again, no matter how hard she tried to eliminate it from her mind. She hated the fact that just by thinking about it, tingles swept right through her body, making her toes curl and tears of frustration prick her eyes.
A short, sharp knock on the door jolted her from these conflicting emotions and Andrew's voice drifted through the wood.
"Al, is everything ok in there?"
It took her a moment to find her voice.
There was a pause and she could hear that concern back in his voice again.
"Ok, well…you've been in there for almost thirty minutes now."
She swore under her breath and her eyes widened. She immediately shut off the water, hardly believing his words. As she did so, the cold instantly hit her body and she shivered, groping around on the rail for a towel and quickly wrapping it around her.
When she emerged from the bathroom, body flushed from the hot water and then the sudden contrast of cold air, she gave Andrew an uncomfortable smile. He had that look on his face. It was the one he'd worn for about a week when her behaviour had been quite irrational almost two years ago now. That expression had turned to utter delight when she'd revealed she was pregnant and that was the reason she'd been acting differently. If he knew what the cause of her change in behaviour was this time, she was sure it wouldn't be such a happy occasion for him. Or her. Or anyone.
"I made you breakfast. It's a little cold now."
With that he disappeared into their bedroom and she could tell he was trying to mask his concern. She hated that. They'd lapse into long silences where neither would know what to say to ease the awkward tension. Then there'd be a confrontation and things would go back to normal. They were used to married life now. After eight years of marriage they knew each other pretty well. And that kind of scared her. He could read her very well, could always tell when something was wrong. And she was terrified of him reading this, the something that she desperately needed to hide.
Hoping to successfully avoid any confrontation with House for at least a day, she took Andrew's advice and called in sick. She spent the day cleaning the apartment, taking her mind off the current situation she was in. Andrew was at work and Elle was in Daycare so she had the apartment to herself. Yet, for some reason she couldn't quite fathom, she was on edge all day.
Obsessive cleaning to relieve stress was a habit she'd picked up from her mother. Whenever she and her siblings would come home from school to find the house immaculate, they knew to keep out of the way. As she grew older and left for college, she found the stress-relieving cleaning ritual to be very effective.
Right now, the technique was really helping her to take her mind of it all and she'd managed to not think about House or what had happened for a good part of the morning. And every time her thoughts returned to him and what had happened between them, she came to analyze the 'incident' as quite minor, considering what indiscretions she knew went on in some marriages.
It had just been a kiss, and it hadn't been her fault. She'd pushed him away when she'd realized what was happening, so she couldn't be held responsible for House's actions. Especially when her boss had such a reputation for destroying people's relationships. Wilson and Cuddy were great examples of that. She knew for sure, even thought nobody had ever said anything, that Wilson's marriages had all failed because of something House had said or done, or he'd at least been involved in some way.
A knock on the door at just gone noon made Cameron's heart skip a beat and she almost prayed that it wasn't him. She couldn't face him yet, no matter how well she'd convinced herself she was not a guilty party in what had happened. She certainly couldn't face him alone.
At work, with Chase and Foreman around, she would feel a little better about being in his presence. After all, he wouldn't be trying anything in front of them. He was very careful to maintain his "I don't have a personal life so don't discuss it" façade, so he surely wouldn't blow that cover simply to make her squirm. At least, she hoped not.
Looking through the peephole, she saw someone she certainly hadn't been expecting to see and opened the door quickly in surprise.
"Wilson…what are you doing here?"
She wasn't even sure how Wilson had known where she lived, never mind the fact that he was showing up unannounced in the middle of the day. He looked awkward and not at all like his usual laid-back self stood there outside her apartment.
"Could I come in?"
She moved aside to let him in and he thanked her, stepping inside and commenting on the décor of the hallway. It was small talk, she could tell, but she thanked him in return nevertheless.
Really, she was intrigued by his presence and had a sinking feeling it had something to do with House. A horrible thought struck her and made her heart speed up a little. House couldn't possibly have told Wilson about the little rendezvous…could he?
"Can I know what this is about?"
She asked carefully, leading him into the living room and trying to keep her voice steady.
"Wait, before you answer that, do you want a drink?"
Wilson smiled a little and nodded; possibly grateful for the diversion too, she couldn't tell.
"A coffee would be great, thanks. Milk and no sugar, please."
She disappeared into the kitchen, calling for him to make himself at home and relieved for the few minutes to gather herself as she made both of them a coffee. When she returned, he was perched on the sofa, a definite tension in his shoulders. And she knew instantly it was about the kiss.
Handing him the coffee, she dropped down onto the comfy chair adjacent to the sofa and sighed, keeping her gaze trained assiduously on the coffee as she gently swirled it.
"I…think you know what I'm here about."
Her shoulders dropped and she knew that the conscientious effort to put it all out of her mind would be crumbling in a matter of seconds.
"He told you, didn't he?"
Wilson paused a moment before nodding and she ran a hand over her face in despair.
"He didn't turn up at the hospital this morning – which, ok, doesn't sound unusual, but Cuddy was furious – so she sent me around to 'fetch' him, as she so gracefully put it. He was barely conscious," at this news Cameron's eyes widened in alarm, "he'd drank himself into such a state that I could barely make out what he was saying. And I've become an expert at deciphering his drunken rambles after all these years."
He paused and took a sip of coffee. Cameron's hand was covering her mouth and she'd lost all interest in staring down her own drink.
"I-is he alright?"
She asked, concern laced with caution edging her voice.
"Well he's in pretty deep crap with Cuddy but he's sobering up as we speak. I took all the bottles of scotch out of his apartment – so if any cops pull me over I'm gonna have some serious explaining to do as to why I have so many bottles of the stuff in the trunk."
He smiled ruefully and Cameron almost laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. How had they come to this? She was scared of going to work to face him and he was drinking himself into a coma.
"Did he…say anything about why he did it?"
Wilson raised an eyebrow and she dropped her gaze very quickly to her drink. That was a yes then.
"What did he say? Do I want to know?"
Again, another pause from Wilson.
"He was babbling on about how he wanted you and it wasn't fair that you didn't want him, and how he would never have you if you were with "Andy-rew" – I'm assuming that's your other half - but your marriage was crappy as it was so what did it matter if he helped it along in falling apart. And he said he'd 'taint' you anyway, so you were better off without him as it was. I'm sorry for that, I thought I should apologize for him in advance, for whatever he says to you at work."
Mortified, she covered her face with her hands and shook her head vehemently.
"M-my marriage is fine. Or at least it was until he acted so damn selfishly and decided he'd ruin the only good thing that's ever kept me going!"
Her voice was high and she barely even recognized it herself. It worried her that she needed to defend her marriage so fiercely not just to Wilson but also to herself.
"Cameron, I'm not questioning your marriage. I believe you love your husband and he loves you, you don't need to defend it to me. It's none of my business. And I can't exactly talk, with my track record," he smiled regretfully and she felt bad for him, "I'm just here to let you know that if you need to talk about things…I'm not just here for House to vent to. I'm a pretty good listener, y'know. So…if you ever need to talk…"
She gave him a grateful smile, appreciating the offer of a friendly ear that she didn't doubt she'd be using over the next few weeks, if things in work were as tense as she expected them to be.
"Did he say anything else?"
She needed to know how to play it when she went back to work the next day. She'd feel more comfortable and less anxious about facing him if she had some kind of strategy.
Wilson looked distinctly uncomfortable and Cameron wondered if she really wanted to know what House had said.
Part of her wanted to plead ignorance and take back that question, warning her no good would come from knowing how House's mind was working right now, but the curious, doctor part of her was intrigued, as well as nervous about what that look had just meant.
"I need to know."
It seemed as though Wilson was weighing up whether or not to tell her and she knew that surely couldn't be a good omen.
"He was just…rambling."
"About the kiss, about…you in general. It's not exactly G-rated, Cameron."
She felt her face flush instantly and the part of her that had wanted to stay blissfully unaware was now whispering, "Told you so".
That was the only word she could come up with and she tried to find somewhere to settle her gaze, an uncomfortable silence settling over them. She had a feeling that wasn't what he'd been reluctant to tell her though, so she lifted her eyes to meet his again, and it didn't take him long to break.
"He told me…that you were the reason he finally broke up with Stacy."
Her mouth dropped open and she managed a few stuttered words ending simply with an expletive, before lapsing into silence. A thought suddenly occurred to her.
"H-he's not going to try a stunt like that again though, is he? No matter how he…'feels'…You two have made up, so he won't be calling me at 3am to pick him up again, will he?"
The alarm in her voice, the near panic, seemed to startle Wilson and he could see how much the little incident had upset her. Though he had a feeling it wasn't entirely to do with the effect it would have on her marriage or the fact that she'd been the reason he'd broken up with Stacy.
He sensed, underneath it all, there was something she wasn't acknowledging, some kind of hidden feelings she was keeping buried deep down and hoping nobody could see. But he was extremely good at reading people.
He'd known straight away when he'd first witnessed House and Cameron together that his best friend would be in over his head before long. Just the way his eyes would linger on her when she was oblivious, or when he leaned a little too close to her whilst looking at a file, or the way his features, usually so defined and severe, softened a fraction when she smiled at him. Little things really.
Nobody else other than someone who knew House better than he knew himself would have noticed these things. But Wilson was very receptive to them and he was almost absolutely, practically positively sure things were going to get very complicated before long, with so many feelings floating around, untethered and extremely explosive.