Athenae (mad_with_july) wrote in housefic,

Housefic: What Black Magic Can Do

Title: What Black Magic Can Do
Author: Athenae
Summary: "You collect us, don't you?"
Rating: PG-13, swearing, flashback sex, House/Cameron subtext
Author's Note: Major beta thanks to paradise_city. Title and sections, of course, from Jackie's Strength, which is a song about Cameron if ever there was one.

a Bouvier till her wedding day

The patient was twelve, blond and precocious, and reading The Hobbit. The same sentence, over and over.

But at last unexpectedly they found what they were seeking.

The patient's father sits at her bedside. That's what patients' fathers do. Patients' mothers. Patients' wives. Sit at the bedside, play cards, talk about nothing. Listen to the patient read The Hobbit. At last, unexpectedly.

The father looks up at Cameron as she smoothes the girl's too-short bangs back from her hot forehead. House sent Cameron here for a reason. She knows what to say when the father asks, "How long?"

"Long enough." Because that's what it is.

Her mother's wedding dress was a size too big, she carried a leather-bound Bible in lieu of flowers. For the recessional hymn, her cousin sang How Great Thou Art. They kissed at the back of the church. There was no photographer, just the memory of his hand, strong enough to press against the small of her back as they walked out under a clear blue sky.

Her normal, the father's normal: that every day you can handle a little more, that every day things become a little worse and you talk to yourself, like the old joke about the optimist's suicide. He jumped off a building and with every floor he passed he said, "So far, so good."

House throws the dry eraser across the room and knocks a cup of coffee off the table when Foreman contradicts him about the patient's fever. Chase looks at her and she realizes this is what's expected, that she go over and clean this up.

if you love enough, you'll lie a lot

Once, in med school, she tried to quit caffeine. On the third day, the headache felt like a hammer on her temples and she broke down, slugged a diet cola in one go. Stupid, to try to resist like that during exams, anyway.

She's making a fresh pot of coffee and House sits there, twirling his cane and looking at her. "You collect us, don't you."

The girl had been delirious an hour ago, and now her fingertips were blue with cold. Cameron had stood outside the room and watched as Wilson looked up from his examination, shook his head. And she saw, because she was watching for it, the way House's hand had tightened around his cane, but his voice had been steady when he dispatched Foreman and Chase to the lab.


"Hard luck cases." He's staring at her the way a disobediant child stares, just before he jumps on the couch you told him to stay off of. "Your last serious relationship was with a man dying of cancer. I'm a crippled old man with a cane. Either you have a martyr complex or you're just a masochist."

"You're the head of diagnostic medicine at one of the country's premier teaching hospitals," she replies, pouring water carefully. "You're hardly standing by the side of the highway holding a little sign that says, 'Will snark for food.'"

He gets up, paces to the other side of the room, stabbing the cane at the carpet as if the answers will arise in response to his poking and needling. "You're like a patroness of lost causes."

"That's me." She keeps her tone light, knows how to do this. On one level, anyway. "I'm a regular Joan of Arc."

"Saint Allison of the Suffering."

She shoves the coffee filter in and turns the grinder on, noting with some small satisfaction that its noise makes him wince. The acrid smell of the beans actually makes her mouth water. Not a good sign.

As the drip starts she looks at him, finally, shakes her head to clear it. "Baiting me isn't going to cure her."

He gets up and stalks out, the door swinging shut behind him.

so I turn myself inside out

But at last unexpectedly they found what they were seeking.

When the little girl dies House forbids them to take on any children for the next six months.

Foreman kicks a chair so hard it skids halfway across the room. She follows him out of the hospital and into the bar.

"I didn't know you smoked," she says, slipping into the seat next to him.

"I don't." He pulls on the cigarette. "I bummed this off the bartender."

"Want to get wasted and howl at the moon?"

He stares at her, that Foreman-stare he's good at, that coaxes people down off the stupid little ledges they strand themselves on with their secrets and lies. She has the feeling, sometimes, that he knows what they're all about and doesn't like the rest of them much.

Maybe it's to do with being black. She grew up in a rich white suburb, knows nothing about being the different, the other. She doesn't look at groups from the outside, or didn't, once upon a time.

He's not going to talk and so she does.

"I lost my virginity at 16," she says, ordering a strawberry margarita. Foreman's right eyebrow rises. "Billy Francis. He was 17 and had a this old beat-up Buick."

Foreman shakes his head, looks down. She wraps her hands around the icy glass when it arrives.

"We were making out. He'd parked the car in the lot at this abandoned factory." She tells him the story, about a group of young kids coming over to tag the car and surprising them in the middle, so that she could never look at Billy again without thinking of the kids' faces, or the way one of them, riding away on his bike, gave Billy a thumbs-up.

When they leave, they're both a little tipsy, and he's laughing. It's good, that he's laughing, that he doesn't notice she isn't.

she's still in recovery

On the fourth day after the girl's death he's still doing paperwork and chucking desk accessories at them when they venture too near him, and she calls Wilson.

They cross all sorts of boundaries around here, all the time. They lie to each other, to transplant committees and CEOs and to their patients and they lie to each other. They left the realm of appropriate workplace behavior in the dust ten miles back. They spend so much time together, that's part of it, spreads the contagion efficiently. Hospitals are full of diseases and they're all carriers.

She calls Wilson and he comes down and smiles at her before he walks into House's office. The lacrosse ball flies past Wilson's head and smacks into the wall, and then Wilson closes the blinds.

It's none of her business.

make me laugh, say you know what you want

She finds Chase looking over the girl's charts. Again.

"Blessed are the peacemakers," he says, but his tone is mocking, and she wonders that everyone seems to think their rage washes over her, recedes with the tide.

"Were you a middle child, by any chance?"

When she got here it couldn't have been more of a study in contrasts: House prickly and pushy and precise, Chase all laid-back cool; if he hadn't opened his mouth she'd have assumed California, and so pretty.

All the nurses fluttered over him. Fluttered the way they flutter over pretty people, too intimidated by the outside for real conversation. They've all adopted, to different extents, House's default method of communication, his black barely-humor. She thinks, I have got to spend some time with other people. People who don't sit up all night looking up eardrum infections on the Internet.

People who don't learn Portuguese just to torture their colleagues.

But at last unexpectedly they found what they were seeking.

He's staring at the charts and there's a pad of paper next to him with notes she couldn't read if he paid her; he's the rule about doctors' terrible handwriting. House's, while not fine, is legible. Chase's is chickens' scratching. Drunken chickens.

"Let it go, Robert."

"Shove it, Allison."

Here, at least, is someone she can put her arms around, someone who will lean in and not break away.

x-posted to housefic, house_cameron

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic