Character: House, Cameron (House MD)
Spoilers: "Both Sides Now"
Summary: This is what people seem to miss: The truth is, he's just getting old. Set in immediate future, where House has left the institution and Cameron-- Is married. Still. 2,061 words. Written for enots' birthday :)
Note: I got a lot of help from the comments that were posted here; so, thank you very much, everyone! I've tried my best to do the facts justice. One more note underneath.
House likes to think it’s due to his curious nature. He likes to believe that it’s because he lives for puzzling. Because he has to witness for himself what’s there after the equal sign. Because he wants to understand the how to the why. Because he needs to know.
The truth is, he’s just getting old.
Either that, or because he’s just simply without profession now. But old people are jobless as well.
It started with an innocent one-day leave of absent in her first year. Although he should have known that when it comes to her, there’s nothing raw whatsoever.
When the second year came, it was the same request for the same date. Next year, he thought back then; he would wait one year and then he’d prove himself right. Instead, the following year she gave him a letter—not naked pictures. Afterwards, there was Amber (or there wasn’t).
This time, he sneaks into the ER and noses around the schedule. You see, old people snoop.
And now he has to admit he’s disappointed; well, sort of. Hours ago, he expected an adventure. He was even willing to vote for a sex escapade. All in all, anything more thrilling; anywhere further than this.
That’s what ran through his mind when he first planned this a few weeks ago, between piano sessions and dinner with Wilson. He thought about the same thing as he started the engine of his bike, watching in silence while her car left their (née her) driveway. He was being careful, letting her create enough gap between the two of them before he, too, glided away.
But when he found himself passing a familiar landmark, where patients in wheelchairs looked sullenly at college students playing football, he frowned. And amidst this, he lost her.
Old people lose things too.
Scanning the distance, he finally managed to spot the rear bumper of her old sedan. He maneuvered his bike then, chasing the coy tail lights that kept blinking, blinding him. He fixed his eyes on them all the same, if only to have something that guided him through this maze.
When she curved her way to a parking lot and he could finally see the tarmac before him, it was when he realized they already arrived. With a sigh, House took in the walls, glasses and pillars that had built Trenton Transit Center.
So he turned his bike to the opposite direction to look for a decent space to park, cautiously avoiding the handicaps lying sideways on the ground. But she was gone, long before he halted and took off his helmet.
And now he’s trudging the long road that brings him to the station building. His left hand grazes the pocket of his jeans involuntarily, searching for the feel of a friendly vial. It’s not there. Nowhere. His right fist grips the cane just a little bit tighter all of a sudden.
Old people forget.
As the glass doors come into view, so do the short and tiring steps that lead to them. He squints curiously before finally stomping his feet on them; his cane thumps the granite a little harder than usual. It’s revenge as he knows it.
But he gets through them nonetheless. Passing the double doors, he moves to pause at the center of the room. His eyes flicker through the bobbing heads and moving limbs around him, until he, in time, spots her sitting alone in a two-seat bench.
Did he mention that he was expecting this to be an adventure?
He limps over to her direction then, watching quietly as she stares down at her hands, folded neatly on her lap; a thin paper inside her grip. He wonders why she stays on her own; he asks himself if there’s actually someone he cannot see lounging beside her. But he remembers he’s not supposed to believe in those things; not anymore, at least.
Perhaps they’re afraid of her somber feature. Perhaps despite her enticing beauty, they’re terrified that her frowns would cross anyone who dares to step closer. Perhaps they are already walking closer when they notice the polished ring on her index finger. Or perhaps they just… Avoid her. Because avoidable individuals are supposed to sit alone or, when they meet their counterparts, cling together on the corner.
He sits next to her.
House sighs aloud, subtly signaling his presence. It’s slight, yet he can still feel a movement from his side as she turns her head and looks at his temple. From the corner of his eyes, he can even clearly see glimpses of her, glaring and frowning at the same time—and he’s tempted. Still, he waits.
He’s done waiting.
“Oh my gosh!” House wails. “What a small world! How long have you been here?”
She continues to glare at him instead, jaw dropped in full disbelieve. But she breaks the silence eventually.
“Did you follow me here?” Cameron says, accusation hardens her tone.
There’s a moment where he remains devoid of speech and is forced to look back at her. And it’s the familiarity that turns him shallow.
“Yes,” he says.
House’s eyes leaves her face out of his will, moving themselves downwards. Cameron doesn’t have to follow his gaze to know what he’s really staring at; the paper in her hands crumples even more as she tries to hide it behind her ten fingers and one ring. But from the meek way she claws at the document, even she knows it won’t do her good anyway. She’s too late, and he’s too fast.
“It’s a one-way ticket to Chicago,” he points out.
“I noticed,” she calmly answers.
The bench beneath them creaks as House shifts to look at the schedule board that hangs nearby and turns back to her. Her eyes are waiting.
“The train left 15 minutes ago,” he remarks. “At least.”
“You don’t say.” she nonchalantly replies.
House narrows his eyes; this, however, isn’t new. In the back of his mind, there’s a memory of something that Cuddy told (Wilson who told) him about a bride in a white dress, walking down the aisle, alone. Parentless. He wonders if Chase, now meddling with knives in a sterile room somewhere not too far from them, ever questions her or himself about this, whatever this is. And if not, why?
But then again, Chase is young. Old people, though, ask.
“Going home?” he inquires.
“Apparently not,” she retorts serenely.
“Ha!” he cries out. “So it is your home.”
At that, Cameron pauses, losing her poise. Her lips, meanwhile, draw into a thin line as she heaves a defeated sigh. She looks away from him eventually, as if she suddenly decides that the dull-patterned tiles are a better companion than him.
But House begs to differ. “Unless you suddenly realized that marrying Chase was probably the worst mistake you’ve ever had in your life and you just wanted to run away from him. If this is the case, the destination becomes irrelevant. You were probably doing eeny-meeny-miny-moe on your way here.”
He stops there, making way for her slight chuckle. “But then again,” he ventures on. “Why this day?”
House lets his last words linger on, giving them a chance to sink in. Her eyes, when they finally meet his again, turn nervous; uncertain. “The stars are lining in the right places at this time of day?” he finishes after some time.
She says nothing to that, holding his gaze instead. She’s bringing out her scale again; Allison Cameron, his very own blind goddess. He just wishes that whatever it is that stands on the other side, it’s losing.
Then, she takes a deep breath.
“It’s his birthday.”
The sentence flitters there above their heads; hanging, clouding. House stays silent, watching her lips opening and closing; gasping.
“Every year, since I first moved here, I would come to the station at this day and I would buy a ticket home. But,” she pauses then, biting her lower lip before moving on. “I would never get on the train.”
There, she turns quiet. She’s delaying, he knows that. He’s patient, though, letting her zigzag between phrases. But when she becomes too comfortable, he asserts. “Why?”
It comes out too soft to be coming from him. Yet, if the way she suddenly cringes is any indication, the question reaches her nevertheless.
“I,” she starts again. “Don’t know where he is.”
She’s chuckling again, brief and feebly sounded. From him, there are the furrowed brows and wrinkled forehead. Old people.
“I never made it to the funeral. I— Moved the day after he died, leaving everything to my husband’s best friend. “
The way she talks is fast and slow at the same time; she’s sorting and rushing all in one breath. Her eyes are unsettling, running back and forth between his and back to the tiles; sometimes, the ceiling. Most of the times, nothing.
“Joe never tells me anything because I never ask. I only send him money every 6 months, so he can give it to the caretaker. My parents—”
She takes her time again, deciding.
And then, she stops; she’s reluctant, he can see that. But he’s selfish, he’s always been. Because parents teach their children to always put the invalids and the elderly first.
So he tries once more, even though he’s getting rustier with each passing minute. “Why?” he asks, in repeat.
Cameron is quiet, though, biting her lower lip just like before. It’s self-punishment; her personal version of forty lashes. When it comes to this, she’s a downright saint.
“Because,” she begins nonetheless. “Going to the funeral means accepting. Going, means acknowledging the fact that I am here—and he isn’t. Going— Is agreeing to move on. It means letting go.”
Somewhere between this, her eyes are set back to his. And with that, she tells him, “You don’t let go.”
As the words leave them, they turn still, becoming silence again. He finds himself returning her looks, with nothing to rejoin, to react. He’s plainly, he just… He doesn’t know.
So he replies her, simple. “Oh.”
She smiles at that, somehow; the left end of her lips tucked higher like always, chiseling a dimple. A smirk that isn’t.
A question that isn’t, but something that demands an answer nonetheless. And it’s thrown from her end this time. And he’s taken aback, staying speechless while studying her face instead. She looks tired; he doesn’t know why he just realizes this now. And the light from the sky that seeps in through the glass windows is cruel, doing her injustice as it plays in her hair, crayoning it off-white.
“I—” he stutters. “I’m looking for a case.”
Cameron snorts mildly as she smiles again, almost grinning at his answer. House lets out a smirk, completing what she couldn’t just now.
He turns away from her after a while. Beside him, she’s following his gaze, settling her eyes on what lays before them. So he drops his shoulders, his fingers relaxing around his cane as it limps lazily between his legs. The train ticket, idle and wasted, still rests on her lap; Cameron’s fingers splayed over it as she, like him, looks ahead.
He knows he shouldn’t think like this anymore; “You’re cured,” they told him once. But at that very moment, he realizes that this view they’re observing at, all of this could be a figment of his imagination. Because the two of them might not be at the train station at all. The people bustling before them could’ve been nurses, or even doctors. The nasal voice coming from the speakers could have called a patient’s name, or a state of emergency. This busy room could’ve been the ER, with deadly flowers loafing freely. The glass doors and windows could’ve been the same ones installed in the laboratory, tears fogging the recently calibrated centrifuges. The information center could’ve been a nurses’ station and God, not House, had made trees. The bathroom door opens up to a clinic room, where he fails to interrupt. This bench he’s sitting on could’ve been his reclining chair and he had just lost the bet he won. And it’s also his Aeron chair, where he sips his coffee and watches a future bride walking down towards him.
Some things, they don’t get old.
Note 2: Happy birthday, enots! I'm kinda embarassed of this, actually. Hehe. As you all can see, I took some liberties with real locations and places. Hope everything is suitable.