Fandom: House MD
Challenge/Prompt: 100moods, 026. Determined
Word Count: 2560
Spoilers: 4x04 Guardian Angels
Summary: Amber sometimes gets the feeling that 13 is playing a completely different game from the rest of them.
Author’s Notes: I love writing House femslash, and as Cameron is being so fucking annoying and Cuddy is having lovely UST with Foreman, I had to resort to abusing the newbies. Not that it’s any great hardship :) I like my femslash bitchy, and these two definitely qualify as bitchy.
Amber sometimes gets the feeling that 13 is playing a completely different game from the rest of them.
Then she gets worried that that’s exactly what 13 wants her to think, and she hates that she’s allowing herself to get caught in the trap that’s been set solely for House.
13 isn’t interesting; she’s just determined to make House think that so he’ll hire her, and won’t figure out until the last minute that actually 13 just found a different way to play the system. Or maybe he already knows and is trying to see exactly how far 13 can carry on this mystery schtick before she cracks.
Amber thought she had House all sussed out – predictable in his unpredictability, is that some kind of oxymoron or is it just interminably dull – but now she’s beginning to realise that the game she thought she’d come up with to see her through is being run by a new master.
Namely: House will give her just enough rope to hang herself. And if she slacks off, at all, then he’ll fire her. So she’s got to keep pushing and playing her stereotype role, because if she stops then she’ll have backed out and she won’t get the job. Although, really, it’s not about the job any more. It’s not even about winning any more. In truth, Amber isn’t entirely sure what it’s about now; if any of them know. The only thing is that they can’t turn back, not now. It’s a war of nerves but no one can remember who they’re fighting against: each other, House, or themselves.
“Is it always like this?” she asks Chase, catching him between surgeries.
“I’m not talking to you any more,” he replies smoothly. “Go get a How To Cope With Gregory House For Dummies book. Or, you know, a life.”
Amber gives him a look that makes him flush and glance away; because they all know how well Robert Chase managed getting himself a life.
“He won’t hire you,” Chase tells her.
Amber bites the tip of her tongue, and doesn’t reply.
Anyway, she researched it: daddy issues, bleeding heart beyond what was healthy, minor criminal record. House likes his fellows with gimmicks, with catches, with issues. He likes puzzles, and he likes pushing people until they bend. He doesn’t like it if they bend too easily; and he doesn’t like it if they never bend.
House is an asshole. And he knows it, and he’s probably been told it by everyone from his ex-girlfriend to his mother to his best friend to his boss to his patients.
So now, he wants something new.
And that’s ok; but why does 13 know what it is and Amber doesn’t?
She has grave mud on her shoes, and if that weren’t bad enough, she has grave mud in her goddamn hair and under her fingernails and all over her clothes too.
Amber can’t figure out if this is all part of House’s testing procedure, or if it’s always going to be like this. If winning the game is just going to result in her spending the rest of her life doing things that are simultaneously illegal and really really gross.
Also, the way the guys all kind of got into it was pretty worrying.
They trail back into the hospital, leaving mud everywhere, and all Amber really wants is a shower. Anything to get the dirt off, which smells sort of cold and clammy and this wasn’t meant to be the game at all.
She’s alone in the too-shiny shower room, peeling off filth-incrusted clothes, and telling herself that the ground above a coffin that had a dead guy in it is in no way the same as ground that touched the dead guy itself, and that shrieking like a girl is a surefire way to show she’s cracked and should be fired. Her eyes are itching, and Amber decides that at least she wasn’t the one breaking into the coffin and taking brain samples from a dead guy; cut-throat bitch she might be, but there is a line she’s going to draw.
Of course, House is more than willing to erase that line, but he is Not Here. He is probably at home playing his guitar or indulging in that distinctly unsettling relationship he has with Dr Wilson, while the rest of them play at being grave-robbers.
In all honesty, Amber has had more fun evenings.
13 walks in as Amber gets started on the buttons of her shirt. They stare at each other for a long second, an acknowledgement of the fact neither of them are going to back down and that they might have had a shared experience of coffee and doughnuts over an open grave, but that won’t ever make them anything less than vitriolic. Besides, 13 knows that she’s winning, and that’s just plain maddening.
For once, though, Amber has an ace up her sleeve. Dropping the right hints around Irene, and she’s got the patient seeing Stark. Maybe, if she can induce a breakdown in the frustratingly unflappable 13, she’ll either get the woman to quit, or she’ll get a corner of the jigsaw puzzle. Win-win all round, and it might be cruel, but Amber isn’t good at playing nice. Playing nasty? She’s not bad at all.
“So,” she begins, needing a shred of neutral territory to cling to, “You grew up around here?”
“Is this where you get me to give away enough that you go to House and tell him all about me in a futile attempt to get yourself hired at my expense?” 13 drawls. “Or is this where we try and become BFFs, ‘cause the girls have got to stick together in this?” She takes a step forward; Amber doesn’t flinch. “Although you’ve already proven that you’re pretty crap at the whole girls stick together thing. Which didn’t matter at all, in the end, ‘cause the guys-”
“It didn’t matter because you killed the patient,” Amber points out, raising her chin. She’s not breaking because she’s been told to, she’s come too far to slip up now, just ‘cause she’s tired and she spent a good hour or so trying to fill in a grave so that no one would notice and start asking uncomfortable questions. Ending up in prison just ‘cause you wanted to win an ambiguous competition; so not in Amber’s plans.
“Is this what this is?” 13 asks, voice still calm, but her mouth has gone thin. “Seeing who has the bigger balls here?”
Amber shrugs. “I think you and I both have the edge over the guys in that department,” she points out.
13 cracks a smile. “Okay,” she murmurs.
Amber swallows, and forces her fingers to the buttons of her shirt again. She wants a shower before she does anything, and they didn’t tell her about this at medical school. Possibly because no one thought this sort of thing would factor into the diagnostic process; digging up corpses to pull their heads apart and search for answers.
They strip in silence, and it’s not like the guys’ locker room where you all compare cock sizes in sidelong looks and misplaced snickers, if only because Amber knows exactly how big 13’s tits are already, and it was never that kind of game. Besides, she really doesn’t care.
The hot water is a blessing, waking her right up and smoothing the mud away. Amber is more than willing to get her hands dirty; just not that kind of dirty. And she’s careful not to hum in case that’s some kind of sign of weakness or at least, of a girly shallowness that can be used against her. Even if 13 doesn’t give a damn, Amber doesn’t trust House not to have bugged the women’s locker room on a whim. He does things like that.
Amber opens her eyes to find 13 standing in the doorway of the shower, one hand on a bare hip. She’s soaking wet and completely naked, and Amber’s mind can’t compute that for one long, long second. 13 is unblushing, as though it’s perfectly normal for people who barely know each other to wind up naked in showers together.
“What is it?” Amber asks, and mentally awards herself a galaxy of gold stars for the way her voice doesn’t shiver.
13 shrugs. “I need shampoo,” she replies easily. Not asking, Amber notes; not giving a single shred away. It’s almost comical, the way they don’t trust each other at all, not even slightly.
“Okay.” Amber turns to reach for her shampoo, and she realises that 13 has stepped under the spray as well. Her skin is flushing; with a sense of admiration that she can’t shake, Amber realises that 13 takes cold showers. Another kind of power play?
“You want to know so much about me,” 13 whispers, and she’s close enough to touch but not quite close enough for contact – neither of them are that stupid. “Do you want to know a secret?”
Amber says nothing.
“I play to win,” 13 tells her, a satisfied smirk running across her face. The water trickles down her cheeks, plastering her hair to her head, and Amber is resolute in not following it down the rest of the way. She keeps eye contact.
“Liar,” she responds, sharp.
“Believe that,” she says, “If it makes you happy.”
“Get out,” Amber tells her, cracking first and therefore losing by default. She pushes the shampoo into 13’s hands, telling herself she won’t start shaking. Not just yet.
13 blinks, smiling, water caught on her eyelashes. She raises the bottle slightly. “Thanks.”
Amber waits until she’s back in the other shower before mumbling you bitch.
The first thing she does when she gets back to her apartment is put the peony between two medical textbooks. Proof of another battle won, even if it’s all meaningless in the end.
Her phone starts ringing. She picks up, sighing.
“Trying to drive me crazy, that’s a new one on me.” 13 sounds almost amused. “Pity you overplayed your hand; you nearly had me going there.”
“How did you get this number?” Amber asks.
“Come on, invasion of privacy was the first thing we learned when House took us all on,” 13 replies.
“Why are you calling me?” Amber sighs, sinking into her couch. “Decided we should be BFFs after all? Want me to come over for a slumber party?”
“He’s never going to hire you,” 13 tells her. “He just wants to see how far you’re willing to go.”
“I’ve played this tune with other people,” Amber replies. “If you’re trying to push me out, it’s not going to work.”
“Give me some credit,” 13 replies. “If I wanted to get rid of you, I’d do it better than this.”
Amber thinks: I may actually hate you, which is irrational because she’s not supposed to form any sort of emotional connection with her competitors. Sure, she might end up working with them for about the next couple of years, but she’s worked with animosity before and it’s really not an issue.
“So you’re trying to screw with me ‘cause I screwed with you?” Amber suggests. “Look, don’t take it personally.”
“I won’t,” 13 replies. “You’ve screwed pretty much everyone over so far in this game, and I’m sure you’ll be back tomorrow with yet new ways to try and eliminate the competition.”
“So it’s bad to be ambitious?” Amber demands.
“I just don’t know why you’re so determined to win,” 13 tells her. Amber can almost hear her shrugging. “Why is this job so important to you?”
“If I can survive House, I can work anywhere,” Amber replies. She’s surprised at how genuine she sounds.
“That’s a pretty lie,” 13 murmurs. “Very pretty.”
“I refuse to be lectured on lying by the woman who won’t tell anyone her real name and prefers to be known by a number,” Amber tells her, voice brittle. “Do you have a really hideous name? Is that it?”
“I’m not playing this game,” 13 tells her firmly.
“So which game are you playing?” Amber responds. “At least I’m upfront about what I’m doing.”
“Which is why you’re currently called Cut-Throat Bitch and no one trusts you,” 13 points out. “And what would you say if I said I wasn’t playing a game?”
“Then I’d say you were insane,” Amber shrugs. “Which would actually explain a lot.”
13 laughs quietly. “I’m not insane,” she says eventually.
“You’d be a dead cert if you were,” Amber decides.
“So it’s still all about getting a job,” 13 mumbles.
Of course it isn’t. But Amber won’t admit it, not ever, because that’s really all too complicated for words.
“All about getting a job,” Amber agrees. “Because I don’t want to have wasted all that damn time to be sent home in disgrace.”
She thinks she hears 13 laugh again.
“Fine,” she says. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
Amber’s fingers curl tight around the handset and she tries to work out if this means she’s lost. Probably, because of course 13 has a whole different agenda with brand new rules. A game unrolled to trip House up, and Amber’s gotten herself involved for reasons she can’t even remember now.
“Yeah,” she agrees, non-committal.
There’s silence, because neither of them is going to crack and put the phone down first. Like teenagers cooing no, I love you more down the line while they refuse to hang up, only this time something indefinable but nonetheless important is at stake.
“Is there a problem?” 13 asks. Her voice is sugar-sweet, and it’s frustrating.
Amber thinks about 13 walking naked into her shower, and 13 ringing her up late at night for a superfluous conversation – though they could probably psych each other out if they tried hard enough – and decides that the stakes of the game have changed slightly, and she can still win if she pretends she hasn’t noticed this.
War of nerves against everyone in the vicinity. But she thinks she might be up for it anyway.
“Count of three,” 13 suggests.
“One… two… three.”
Silence, and the line crackles.
“This is stupid,” Amber decides.
“So hang up,” 13 pushes.
Amber thinks about it, and reasons that ending the conversation on the ground of it being childish might give her the slightest trace of the upper hand. Everything’s too calculated, and she had no idea that getting hired would be this hard. She honestly thought she could out-play everyone, and didn’t realise her naïveté until it was too late.
She hangs up on a screw you and tells herself not to spend the night psychoanalysing just what she did or didn’t do wrong.
Still, Amber has never been one to back away from a challenge, no matter how great or small, and if she can figure out 13 and get herself a job then it’s just about possible she might have earned her place. If not; well, at least she gave it a damn good go.
Her cellphone buzzes on the table; she picks it up to find a text message: try not to spend the whole night thinking about me naked x
She responds with overinflated ego much?
But the damage is done. And she sighs.
“Damn, you’re good,” Amber mutters.