Warnings/Spoilers: no real spoilers
Summary: Wilson and Cameron had an indulgent weekend, but now it’s time to face House.
Disclaimer: not mine
Notes: This is a sequel to my first fic What Wasn’t Secret, but don’t let that put you off ;-) I’ve done away with the dreadfully ill-advised second-person perspective in this one.
It hadn’t made a difference that what she’d needed was House. Need is need. When you can’t get the real thing the craving only worsens; you need the substitute even more. Being a second choice matters if you want to be chosen for love. It was too inflexible an emotion, Wilson found. But need – much easier. There’s a simple threshold, need me enough, and beyond that no ranking.
Cameron was a martyr to fidelity, though, even when the vows were unspoken, given voice only inside her head. Her need was useless to him, but no less compelling for it, so that he was forced to subsist on their smatterings of conversation.
“Dr Wilson,” with the accompanying nodded greeting, sometimes a smile, as they passed in the passageway.
“House needs you for a consult,” her hand on his door, neck curving towards him, body half in, half out.
It became intoxicating, the presence of this need that was at once tangible and completely inaccessible. Except that one morning Wilson walked into the Diagnostics conference room, chipped in as the team threw around ideas, and suddenly saw that it was gone. There was nothing really determinate he could say was different about her, but it was clear enough. For some reason the image he found before his mind’s eye was that of thin glass vial, snapped in two; never going to hold water again.
It was that week that she had started to look at him. Generic substitutes made no sense to her, so she’d had no reason to see Wilson before. Now she saw him. What confounded him, was that he still took the care to notice. She had no use for him, didn’t need to wring out sympathy or drum up jealously. She didn’t need Wilson, just wanted him. The thought terrified him. Before he’d even caught her, she could escape. But he couldn’t look away.
Now, he’s here, holed up in his office, and he would be working out his next move if he even knew what he was moving towards. Just walking to the cafeteria and back he would bump into at least a one woman whose need he’d let seduce him into thinking it meant anything, but he’d long since shrugged off any kind of workplace embarrassment over it. He’s hiding from Cameron, though, because the things she says are so much harder to avoid than his own thoughts.
There’s a sharp sound from the door to the balcony. Wilson turns to see it being opened with the rubber-capped end of a cane and sinks back into this chair resignedly. House comes in, flops down on Wilson’s sofa and gives him a quizzical grin, head slightly to the side.
“Not a nurse,” he announces.
Wilson sighs and steels himself for questioning. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s not a nurse?”
“You don’t go to ground like this just for one of your nurses. But since you’re cloistered away in your office it has to be someone in the hospital. Another patient snared you with her feminine wiles? Bald girls are so hot.”
“House, just get out. I’m tired.” Wilson can think of nothing to placate his friend’s curiosity. He can’t seem to think about much of anything at the moment. To his surprise House boosts himself up from the sofa and makes for the door. Wilson lets out a breath of relief a beat too soon.
House flings open his main office door, limps out into the passage and finds his team, come looking for him.
“The LT came back–” begins Foreman, but House has started shouting theatrically.
“I demand to know what heartless wench has left Dr Wilson pining in his office.” He sweeps his gaze up and down the corridor, seeing nothing but the odd startled patient and a few nurses rolling their eyes.
“A mystery for another day,” House concedes, looking back at Wilson, who’s now standing in his doorway, seething.
“The LT came back negative,” Foreman perseveres, ignoring the scene. Chase gives Wilson a puzzled look.
“Cameron, I need you to speak to the patient and–” House turns his attention to her, and notices the faint blush just fading from her face. He stares at her, his whole body stiffening, then makes an about-face and heads for his office.
“What the hell?” Chase looks down the passage after him. Foreman just sighs, before the three of them follow House.
Wilson closes his door and falls back heavily into his chair. He pinches the bridge of his nose. Surely House had noticed that Cameron jumped overboard the Good Ship Gregory months ago? Certainly he’s perceptive, usually to the point of discomfort – he can’t actually have missed it; but that’s not really the same as allowing it to be true. House is honest. But he is arrogant first, dedicated seeker of truth second. Avoidance isn’t lying, just cowardice. Wilson pushes his palms hard against his temples and gives a short laugh. The cowardice of avoidance. He might know a little about that himself.
The worst thing was the look he knew had been in his eyes when she turned towards him, as they lay there together on his sofa last Saturday morning. He’d seen it in her surprise that turned into warmth. They both got partially dressed again, he in his boxers and pants, her in her underwear and shirt, but didn’t budge from the couch – just lounged there for hours watching television and chatting idly. There had been a moment right after they’d had sex when Cameron stood up hesitantly, clearly wondering if she should leave. But he caught her wrist and pulled her back down next to him. Her eyebrows went up slightly, questioning, but Wilson was too scared to let himself even think the answer.
Cameron had left at about six for dinner with friends. They kissed goodbye and the soft warmth of her tongue sliding along the edge of his own made him struggle to let go of her waist, clasped between his palms, when they finally broke apart. Neither had said anything about was going to come next.
Two days later, and the only fully-formed conclusion Wilson had so far come to was that he was going to spend as little time outside the safe confines of his office as he could manage. It was a plan with little long-term potential, but he’d stick to it for now, in lieu of something better.
House is standing behind his desk as his team walk into his office. His voice is quiet, but too controlled for it to bode well. “Chase, go speak to the patient. I want a completely new history.”
“But Cameron was going to–”
“Cameron is busy now.” House’s tone is ominous.
“I’m going to…” Foreman begins, but House isn’t looking at him. All his attention is focused on Cameron. Foreman makes an exasperated gesture and leaves with Chase.
There she stands, just across the desk from him. So trusting that she’s even followed him in here for punishment. House glances down at the handle of his cane for a moment, then looks straight at Cameron.
“You think you’re different.” His voicing rises as he speaks and she glances behind her, but there’s no-one around outside the office. “You’re different; you’re the one that’ll stick!” He’s almost shouting now.
“First you try to tame the heart of the curmudgeonly old cripple, as if you’ll get to skip off into the sunset with him like some goddamned Little Lord Fauntleroy; and when that doesn’t pan out you start working on your next project, teaching the troubled divorcee how to love.”
“You’re not different.” House’s voice has dropped now, but it’s completely hard and devoid of feeling. “You’re exactly like every wife, every nurse, every doe-eyed patient before you. And exactly what happened to them is going to happen to you.”
He sees tears start in her eyes. He did that to her. Cameron’s hand twitches and he grips his cane tighter, bracing himself for the slap, almost welcoming the idea of her lashing out at him and taking away some of the guilt that’s suddenly drowning him. But her hand stays by her side.
“You’re wrong,” she says, but she’s looking down and talking so softly that he can hardly make out the words. “You’re the only one who’s not different.” She looks up and holds his gaze then, until he can’t take it any more and drops his eyes to the floor, before she walks out.
House hurls his cane across the office and collapses back into his seat.
Wilson is again contemplating cowardice. He hasn’t spoken to Cameron since the scene outside his office and he’s avoided House like the plague. His friend he isn’t about to bring himself to speak to, but he knows he can’t wait much longer to talk to her about this. He wipes his hands across his face and picks up his keys from the table by the door of his apartment. May as well see her now. She might not be there, but he doesn’t feel up to speaking to her on the phone.
Standing outside her door, the protection of being a few miles of phoneline away suddenly seems appealing. Still, he raps his knuckles on the door and waits.
“Wilson.” She’s surprised for a second, but she knows why he’s there. “Wine?”
Thanks.” He’ll take a little Dutch courage to help him through this. “Mmm, nice,” he remarks as he takes a sip and examines the bottle’s label. Cameron sits on the sofa and motions for him to join her.
“So, House knows?” He tilts his head and looks sideways at her as he asks.
Cameron looks for a second as if she’s going to say something. She opens her mouth to speak, but no sound comes out, and as she closes her mouth again tears start sliding down her cheeks. James shuffles over and puts an arm around her. She makes no sound, just cries silently, wordlessly, as he holds her. He bends his head down to hers, his lips on her hair. What the fuck did you do, House?
House is sitting next to his door when he arrives home.
“Thought you might be out all night.”
Wilson gives only a curt nod in response. House heaves himself up to his feet, as Wilson unlocks the door. For a moment Wilson thinks of slamming it in his face, but he leaves it open and lets House follow him in.
“Why are you back so early?” House asks, glancing up at the wall clock.
Wilson aches to punch him, wipe away the reason why that question prompts such rage. He could hate House at this moment, for once again zeroing in on precisely where it hurts. There’s never any wound so raw that it’s spared.
“Bored of her already?”
“God, House, you did nothing but humiliate her when you could have had her! You don’t even want her; you just don’t want me to have her. You can’t bear the thought of us having lives that don’t involve you, that aren’t controlled by you.” Wilson took a breath and continued more quietly, “I care about her.”
“Then why aren’t you with her?”
Because she really didn’t need him. He’d felt that familiar lull come over him as he held her and let her cry. But once it was over, she was composed again. She could be perfectly happy without him, and he had never wanted anyone like this, someone he’d have to step out into empty space for without the safety-net of her dependence beneath him.
“Why aren’t you?” Wilson finally replied. He didn’t feel he owed House the truth right now.
“Fine, I don’t want her,” House spat out. He was directing his comments at the opposite wall. “But you’re still going to hurt her.”
“You’ve already hurt her!” Wilson snapped back. “Now my duties include comforting the women you leave in tears.”
House recoiled from his words. He stood up and moved quickly to the door.
“I’m a bastard; she’s better off without me. But you break this one, there’ll be far more than tears.” House let himself out, leaving Wilson trying to puzzle out what he meant. He gave up on it, too drained to think, and dragged himself off to bedroom to sleep alone.