Fandom: House MD
Challenge/Prompt: 100moods, 070. Optimistic
Rating: NC-17 (mildly, anyway)
Copyright: Title is a Kaiser Chiefs song.
Summary: If the first time [the stoned time] was a bad idea, this is worse.
Author’s Notes: Vague spoilers for most of House s3. This is a Chameron OTP fic. It’s not entirely fluffy, it’s not entirely angsty, but it features them trying, and managing, to make it work in spite of faults and misgivings. If that doesn’t tell you why this is a Halloween costume of a fic, then I can’t help you :) It was more fun to write than it should have been, actually… I like my style in this.
My Lyric Prompt:
All the music of life seems to be like a bell that is ringing for me!
And from the way that I feel when that bell starts to peal,
I could swear I was falling, I would swear I was falling,
It's almost like being in love.
Love's Not A Competition (But I'm Winning)
If the first time [the stoned time] was a bad idea, this is worse. This time they are both horribly, damnably sober, and no one’s taking advantage, and Robert is beginning to get a headache formed entirely of confusion. As far as he can gather, the reason Cameron knocked on his door at somewhere around two a.m is that House got shot in front of them a week ago and the shaking hasn’t stopped yet.
Cameron’s rose-coloured lace bra is actually on the lampshade next to his bed, and Robert has to stare at the general cliché for a moment, resisting the urge to burst out laughing. Cameron is flushed, a toned thigh on either side of his hips, and he should have figured out she’d like it on top months ago. She hides all sorts of things behind that compassion and those liquid blue eyes.
As though realising Robert isn’t paying as much attention as he ought to be, Cameron does something with her hips that has him gasping and then she leans down to capture his mouth, a deep, warm kiss that has Robert sliding his hands up her ribs and cupping her – admittedly perfect – breasts in his hands. Her dark hair shivers a little as she exhales sharply against his lips, pressing into his touch as he twists her nipples between his fingers.
It’s early in the morning and House is in rehab and yet this will still be halfway around the hospital by lunchtime. Cameron’s tongue runs across the roof of his mouth, and Robert thinks that, if nothing else, it might almost be worth it.
Their fingers brush over a mug of coffee and Robert thinks he’s the first to pull away. When he looks back, Cameron is staring uncomfortably at her own caffeine fix.
“This doesn’t have to be awkward,” he tells her. A tired smile spreads over her lips. She’s had her hair cut; sometimes Robert thinks she’s had her personality cut too, all the bits that made her weak and miserable pruned away. She’s like stone, these days, these endless summer days with too much glass and not enough right answers.
Behind the wall, Foreman is jotting down symptoms in red marker pen on the whiteboard. Sooner or later the differential diagnosis will begin; but none of them are good enough. It’s laughable that they even try; that Cuddy is still letting them try.
“We’re co-workers who screwed a couple of times,” Cameron murmurs, “Why would it be awkward?”
“Try looking me in the eye when you say that,” Robert says, and when she does it makes something indefinable catch in his chest.
He slides a hand into her hair, pulls her towards him and she consents to kiss him, mouth tasting like black coffee, eyelids fluttering closed.
“This can’t happen again,” she whispers against his lips.
For a few months, apart from a few too many looks and some moments when Robert’s fingers actually hurt, he wants to touch her so badly, that’s it.
There’s snow in Cameron’s hair and she’s laughing a little wildly.
“You’re so easy,” she says, cold fingers fumbling with the zipper of his jacket. It’s cold and things are cracking again. Not a lot, but nothing’s ok and they’re in the elevator on the way up to his apartment.
“And you’re unbelievably mercenary.” Robert catches her wrists, and Cameron looks up at him, red mouth open slightly. “Are you sure there isn’t a better way to do this?”
“What, do you want me to buy you dinner?” Cameron’s eyes are dilated but the smirk on her mouth is sensible enough. “I didn’t have you down as a romantic.”
The words are like a slap to the face and Robert knows that this is the time to walk away and put a stop to this. Instead, he pushes a leg between Cameron’s thighs and her arms wrap around his neck.
The name ‘Allison’ tastes funny in his mouth and he chases it down with a martini or two, while the woman in question tilts her head thoughtfully to one side and doesn’t say a word about incipient alcoholism because if that is the case then it’s all her fault anyway. She’s wearing black stilettos that have to be hurting her feet, but she hasn’t mentioned the pain and Robert is considerably more interested in the plunge of her neckline and the way she’s twisting a lock of hair around the fingers of her left hand.
They’re not speaking, not as such, because there isn’t much to say. Longer and longer days with a sociopathic boss rule out their worklife, and their relationship really isn’t much more than sleeping together and occasionally going for a drink beforehand. Robert has seen his life fall apart repeatedly over the last few years and he thinks this could be the beginning of another mistake.
“Allison,” he begins. She turns to look at him fully, all dark hair and pouting mouth.
“Cameron,” she corrects him, a sharp edge to her voice. “I told you, I don’t want any strings.”
Robert might be slightly drunk.
“Oh, and using your name is a string now?” he asks, probably too loudly. She – whatever the fuck he’s meant to call her – sighs.
“I’m leaving now,” she says, voice steady, “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
He watches her leave and contemplates the idea that he’s really screwed himself over on this one.
House tells them that they’d have beautiful children. Well, those aren’t his exact words; he says it in a completely disgusted tone of voice, and phrases like “drowned at birth” are used, but still: the sentiment is there. He’s taken a couple too many Vicodin again, Foreman is rolling his eyes at the whiteboard and Cameron shivers as though the whole idea is too close to home for any sort of comfort.
“I’m on the Pill,” she informs Robert later, when they’re in the lab testing useless samples, as though he’s somehow sitting there mentally trying to impregnate her.
“You won’t even let me call you by your first name,” he reminds her mildly, “I don’t think we’re quite at the having children stage yet.”
Cameron turns to look at him, expression faintly worried.
“We won’t ever be at the having children stage,” she informs him in a tight little voice.
Robert just shrugs, and watches something close to blind panic pass across her face.
Robert decides that he’s in love at three a.m, watching Cameron sleep in his old university t-shirt. His eyes itch with exhaustion, and he knows he’s in for another day of watching Cameron be smug because she’s getting laid, holding him up like she’s won some kind of prize (for all he knows, she has. Robert is fairly certain that he’s lost, been booby-trapped into something he never intended), while House and Foreman and Wilson and Cuddy and everyone else in the vicinity all just look pained.
He’s watching her sleep and he thinks: fuck it, I love you. He opens his mouth to tell her, because she’s dead to the world and it might make it easier on him if he said it aloud; but something holds him back and instead he snaps off the light on his nightstand and consigns himself to worrying all night. Who needs rest anyway?
“You’ve got it bad, man,” Foreman tells him on a coffee break, when Cameron’s in the clinic and House is off stalking someone (the fine details don’t matter; he’s always following someone around for incomprehensible reasons).
Robert makes a noise of mild interest, hunting around for a packet of sugar in the illogically organised drawers beneath the sink.
“The patient isn’t infectious,” he responds blandly, playing dumb just to piss Foreman off. “I don’t think I’ve got anything.”
He can hear the frustration on Foreman’s face in the ensuing brittle silence, as he finds an abandoned box of animal crackers, five incongruous teaspoons, and several insurance forms House was probably trying to hide from Stacy, judging by the dates. He resolutely does not turn around.
“I’m just trying to-”
“No.” Robert sighs, gives up on the hunt for sugar, gives up on cream, and takes the coffee straight black and so bitter he nearly gags. “What you’re trying to do is torment me in a frustratingly passive way. Like you always do. Remember Cameron and the imaginary butterflies in her stomach that you went on about for weeks?”
“She fell for House,” Foreman points out, leant against the table with an expression that’s a cross between irritation and amusement. “She deserved everything she got.”
“And what’s my crime?” Robert enquires, struggling through another scalding mouthful of filter coffee.
“Being at least as naïve as she was,” Foreman tells him simply, and Robert wants to reply but is nonetheless relieved when his pager goes off.
Allison closes the door behind her, heading home for a shower and maybe she’ll come over to his apartment tonight and maybe she won’t. It’s never been in Robert’s hands and he’s getting unsettlingly used to it.
“There is no one in this hospital who isn’t laughing at you behind your back,” House remarks, tossing Robert one of his oversized tennis balls. Robert is about to ask why House can’t just go and torment Wilson when he remembers the strain they’re all pretending doesn’t exist. A friendship on the point of wearing out but shush – don’t say a word about it if you value your life.
He can’t work out if House is worse after his downward spiral of recovery and regression, police officers and medication, or not. It’s not like he could conduct a survey anyway.
“I’d rather be humiliated than pitied,” he responds idly, throwing the ball back. House catches it, wry smirk on his mouth. Robert turns to leave and then turns back.
“What, no comeback?” There’s an unhealthy amount of suspicion in his voice but working for House does make you irrevocably paranoid.
“You looked so pleased with yourself,” House responds. “I thought I’d give you a few moments’ happiness, since Cameron is going to dump your ass the minute she figures out that she’s thinking sex for the next few months and you’re thinking permanent white picket fence.”
“She won’t,” Robert says. But he knows damn well that she will, and House’s expression tells him that he isn’t fooling anyone.
House’s idly-made prophecy comes true all too soon. Allison unceremoniously informs him that she’s not doing this any more, because his emotions are getting in the way of her enjoyment of their non-relationship (she puts it more eloquently but with a certain degree of frustration in her eyes), and Robert takes it because he doesn’t have a lot of choice.
Three-quarters of the way through a bottle of something that burns on the way down but makes his brain feel like it’s full of lights, Robert comes up with an excellent idea. It involves Tuesdays.
Allison is damaged but not fragile. It’s taken time for Robert to figure this out but now he knows that he won’t underestimate her again.
“Most people,” he remarks over a biopsy, “Would be happy to hear ‘I love you’. It’s generally regarded as a good thing.”
“You don’t love me,” Allison snaps back, all edges. She’s being almost ludicrously defensive, and Robert would laugh at her if it weren’t all so painful.
“How do you know?” he asks, genuinely interested. He’s certainly managed to give a good enough impression of being lovesick, regardless.
Allison sighs, and her face crumples. “Why do you have to spoil everything?” she asks eventually.
On one of his Stalker Tuesdays (as House has charmingly nicknamed them; sometimes he takes popcorn into the office and amuses himself by cackling at the tension in Allison’s shoulders), Robert brings Allison carnations. She stares at them for a moment, and then stares at him.
“These are my favourite flowers,” she says faintly. Robert smiles.
It was, he has to admit, a truly impressive piece of stalking to find that out – he tracked down some of Allison’s friends on Facebook, emailed them, and managed to persuade them to tell him enough information for him to formulate a plan to win her back. Robert thinks even House would be impressed by this invasion of privacy – but of course House must never ever know.
“You might as well keep them,” Robert suggests, watching Allison finger the petals, wondering if she’ll give them back or just chuck them unceremoniously in the trash. Whatever it takes to prove to him that she’ll give up her own happiness just to prove a point.
Allison sighs, arms full of pink flowers.
“I guess I should be glad you haven’t bought me jewellery,” she murmurs eventually.
“But if I had, I bet you’d have really liked it,” Robert tells her, twisting a knife of indefinable origin that nonetheless makes her wince.
Allison doesn’t reply, as though she knows he’s got a point.
“Can we not do this?” she asks, helplessly on another Tuesday.
“Not the way it works,” Robert replies simply, with a bright smile.
“Why do you still-” Allison looks tired, frustrated, but there’s something almost affectionate beneath the irritation in her eyes when she looks at him. She puts the paperwork down on the table, they don’t have a patient and Foreman is doing his best to escape (and who knows; he might. If anyone can make it, he can). Things are all strange and slipping and sooner or later everything’s going to shatter. “I don’t love you,” she mutters, not looking at him.
“You’ll crack eventually,” Robert tells her peaceably, turning over a page of his newspaper.
“Ok.” Robert turns another page. He’s heading for the crossword, but pretending as hard as he can that he gives a damn about the news before he gets there.
“I won’t,” Allison repeats, now sounding anxious.
“Fine.” Robert picks up a pencil from the table in front of it and slides it between his teeth. He acts as though he is fascinated in whatever the hell fourteen-down is, and does not pay attention as Allison repeatedly darts worried glances at him.
“It’s not going to work,” House says on Thursday. He looks tired – apparently self-indulgent self-destruction is exhausting, who knew? – and Robert is not going to get caught up in this game.
“Yeah, it will.” He shrugs into his leather jacket. “You’re not the only one who knows how to manipulate people around here.”
House makes a face at him but there’s something there. Like he’s realising just how much Robert has learned in the last three or more years.
Robert walks in one morning to find House with a glossy magazine spread over the desk, Foreman laughing in a way he hasn’t in months, and a seriously blushing Allison with her head in her hands.
“Question four: what did you do on your first date?” House reads blithely. Foreman replies, equally cheerfully:
“Crystal meth sex.”
“That’s not option a), b), c) or d),” he says. Robert has an extremely bad feeling about this.
“What are you doing?” he asks cautiously; that’s always a dangerous question to ask in diagnostics, because you never want to know the answer.
House holds up the magazine, showing Robert the bright pink heading stating Are You Made For Each Other?
“Oh,” he says, and then: “And?”
“It’s not paying off because you and Cameron are abnormal,” Foreman explains. The sadistic expression on his face is distinctly worrying and Robert reflects that it’s probably just as well he’s handed in his notice (though it may be too late to undo the damage – Foreman is now House, right down to the sneakers).
“When did you become teenage girls?” Robert asks, then sighs. “I’m going to the clinic.”
House starts leafing through the magazine (Robert really, really doesn’t want to know where he got it).
“Wait!” he orders. “I need to know your starsign!”
Robert pushes back through the door and does not turn around.
Allison stops him, holding her hand up to bring him to a halt. It’s raining outside and nothing in the world is going ok.
“I don’t-” she begins.
“Fine.” Robert pushes a box at her. “I brought you chocolate anyway.”
Then things get a little crazy, and his depressingly desperate persistence becomes the least of his troubles.
Robert has no job, Allison has no job, Eric has a job somewhere that is not anywhere near here (apparently, anyway. He’s probably just as unemployed as the rest of them, just quieter about it). Robert wonders idly if Cuddy is having an aneurysm, back at PPTH. He doesn’t care, though; not the way he thought he would. He knew he would never get out of the emotional deathtrap that is the diagnostics department unless he was pushed. So the axe finally fell. It doesn’t matter. House took all kinds of things and it’s only now, looking back, that Robert realises how long he’s been living cowed by some mix of fear and resentment.
He decides to give up. Either Allison will give in, or she won’t. He’ll just wait it out and see if anything changes.
It’s not a Tuesday when Allison makes up her mind. Her bra is cream, with a ribbon bow right between her breasts, and she doesn’t tell him that she’s sorry for holding out so long.
Her breath comes out shaky when Robert pushes two fingers inside her, half a glass of warm red wine on the nightstand (his apartment and it’s far too early in the morning to define what is actually happening).
“You never give up, do you?” she mumbles, mouth against his jaw, words a little thick when he presses his thumb against her clit.
“Not when I know I’m right,” Robert replies, directly into her ear. “And I was right, wasn’t I?”
“Smartass.” The word breaks in her mouth when his fingers curl upwards.
Robert laughs, then, giddy with being chosen for once. And feels Allison smile.
[Whatever passes for an epilogue]
They haven’t even ordered the wine, when Allison puts down her menu and sighs.
“Hand it over,” she orders, reaching across the table. Robert did try to do this properly, but reaches into his pocket, extracts the small, distinctive black box, and places it on her palm. She opens it; and he sees that in spite of herself, she’s impressed by the tasteful cut of the diamond.
“How did you know?” he asks.
“You called up Wilson, you took me out for dinner. You’ve been twitchy for weeks.” Allison’s expression is slightly pitying, but Robert decides to ignore that in favour of getting some kind of answer.
“So?” he asks.
Allison takes the ring from the box, slides it onto her finger, and snaps the box closed.
“I suppose this was inevitable,” she says, but she doesn’t look entirely displeased. More neutral than anything else, and Robert can deal with that. He’s good at neutral.
“Hmmm, ‘inevitable’,” he repeats. “Probably shouldn’t ask you to write your own vows, then.”
Allison smiles at him, radiant as ever. “I said ‘yes’, didn’t I?”
“Well, actually,” Robert begins, since she hasn’t technically said anything yet, she’s just stolen the ring, “You-”
Allison picks up her menu again, abruptly cutting him off.
“I think I’ll have the linguine,” she says calmly. “What about you?”
Robert almost smiles, but doesn’t look up, and focuses on the wine list as though his life depends on it.