allison " the girl in the white coat " cameron (tartestgrace) wrote in willingtoliefor,
allison " the girl in the white coat " cameron
tartestgrace
willingtoliefor

Who: Allison Cameron and James Wilson
What: Wilson didn't call, Cameron cares, and there is much hand-wringing over House.
When: Tuesday afternoon, the day after the PPTH barbecue of doom.
Where: The Lab, Wilson's car, a restaurant, and Wilson's apartment.
Rating: PG-13 for language and a fade to black cut.

It wasn't that Allison Cameron was angry: quite the contrary --- she was perfectly calm. Her heads were steady as she calibrated the centrifuge in the lab, happy to (temporarily) be away from all of humanity. After dropping by the Diagnostics lounge to see if there was a new patient --- there wasn't --- and failing to tempt House with a fresh case --- "infection, broad spectrum antibiotics, boring, next" --- she'd departed to run tests for Dr. Rowan, the head of Immunology. It wasn't so much for 'suck-up points' as it was that she didn't have anything better to do: she'd covered her shift and House's in the clinic, she'd answered all of House's e-mail and her own, she'd scouted for cases and found nothing of interest, and then she'd spent a few minutes awkwardly starting at her hands as House watched his soap opera. Deciding that doing someone else's work would be more productive than dealing with the disaster that their relationship had become since the barbeque, she'd departed for the lab.

She stood still for a moment, waiting, then slipped off her gloves and re-styled her hair, pulling the ponytail still more tightly. Somewhere else, it was lunchtime, but Cameron felt no particularly inclination to move. Since his "tutorial" Thursday afternoon, Wilson had been curiously hard to find, almost as if he'd been hiding. Despite wearing her hair down at the barbecue, not to mention a fairly casual skirt, he'd ignored her; consequently, Cameron decided, she wasn't the one who had to make the first move. If he found her, fine, and if he didn't, well, then, the nurses' gossip was probably true. That settled, she snapped on a fresh pair of gloves and went back to the task at hand with an atypical vengeance.

It wasn't that Wilson had ignored Cameron. He'd just been extremely busy with work, even going so far as to fall asleep in his office one night before he could manage to make it home. Then at the barbecue he'd looked for Cameron but he'd only caught sight of her once, and that was in the middle of a conversation he couldn't step away from. It hadn't been long after that single sighting that he regretted telling House that he'd cover for him if he drank, because suddenly he'd actually had to. At the end of the day, he'd gone home in a foul mood and decided it would be better to wait until the next day to talk to Cameron, after he'd had some rest and recovered from the hectic weekend.

His growling stomach reminded him that it was time to eat and a glance at the clock told him House must be in some kind of mood, otherwise he would've been breaking and entering about a half an hour ago to insist that Wilson buy him lunch. He rubbed at the back of his neck as he got up from his desk. Now would be a good time to find Cameron, he thought. See if she'd already eaten. If not, maybe she'd agree to let him buy her lunch as an apology for having to put her aside for so many days. Someplace away from the hospital, of course, not just because they wanted as little gossip as possible going around, but also because a cafeteria lunch wouldn't make up for it by half.

It didn't take any searching to find Cameron at all. Wilson happened to notice her in the lab as he passed it on his way to Diagnostics. Doubling back, he poked his head in and offered a little smile. "Hi..."

"I'll be done in a few minutes," Cameron replied brusquely without turning around. She wasn't aware that she was speaking to Wilson; she assumed the voice belonged to one of the lab-monkeys who now wanted the facility back. If so, whoever it was could wait---Rowan had a six year old with unexplained seizures and internal bleeding, and surely that took precedence, even if the tests were certain to be inconclusive. With her back still to the door, she set about starting another test, tapping her fingers on the counter as she waited. Realizing that she hadn't heard any departing footsteps --- she could have just been immersed in her work, but better safe than sorry --- she spoke again, in the same slightly annoyed, mostly disinterested tone: "Don't you have somewhere else you can go while you wait? I'm sorry for the inconvenience, truly, but I need this equipment right now. You're welcome to use anything else, but you'll have to wait to use the centrifuge." Her voice softened as she talked, but her body remained tense.

"I was waiting for you, not the equipment," Wilson replied. He stepped all the way inside and let the door close slowly behind him. "I wondered if you'd eaten anything yet..." She looked beyond tense, and Wilson really wanted to touch her and try to make her relax, but something told him that might not be the best idea at this exact moment.

At Wilson's first phrase, Cameron pivoted sharply, afraid for a moment that it might be House. "Oh. It's you," she said, the invisible man lingering in her mind and inflection. "I haven't eaten, but I've got some gels to run after I finish this, and I'd like to do that before someone tries to kick me out. Rain check?" she asked, with a tinge of something like sarcasm.

"I..." Wilson began, but he wasn't sure where he meant to go with it, so he trailed off briefly. "Sure," he said eventually. "I'm... Are you okay? Everyone seems to be in a mood today."

At Wilson's voiced question and the implied one --- why is everybody picking on me? --- Cameron softened slightly. She sighed, then said as calmly as she could: "Wilson, I'm fine. Honestly, I am. If you wanted it to be a one time thing, then that's okay. I just wish you'd said that. You know" --- she paused, thinking of what to say --- "nevermind. I wish you'd had the guts to be up-front about it. You know the kind of rumors House spreads, you know how they get picked up by the nurses. I didn't put much stock in them, so I believed you before, but---it's just better to be honest. I thought you'd be honest, that's all."

She turned away. "I have a lot of work to do for Dr. Rowan."

"But I don't want it to be a one time thing," Wilson replied, sounding almost petulant. He rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. "Things have just been hectic, Allison. You're a doctor, too; you know how it gets sometimes. I haven't been avoiding you."

"And I don't want to wait three days for an MRI, but I have to, so I do," Cameron replied evenly and somewhat enigmatically, still focused on her work. She laughed a little at Wilson's excuse, half-smiling as she checked the timer. "Yes, and my life is hectic as well. But this isn't a contest over who has it worse. You can't---nevermind," she said again. I'm not one of your wives. I know you. Five minutes to go. She went back to drumming her fingers on the countertop.

"I'm not trying to make it a contest. I'm just explaining the situation because you have it all wrong." Wilson crossed the room to stand near Cameron. It was closer than he would have stood normally, but anyone passing would assume he was just there looking at whatever she was working on. "I was looking for you yesterday, too, but the only time I saw you was when I was talking to Popp from neurology about a case we're on together and I couldn't get away. By the time he'd finished, I couldn't find you, and then I had to cover for House because he was on call and had been drinking."

Cameron shifted slightly to the left and away from Wilson as he moved closer. "You misunderstand my meaning," she replied, "but I suppose that's largely irrelevant. I don't want to have this conversation. I don't want to discuss the details. You have---just nevermind," she finished, the last word spat out savagely. "I understand the situation you were in, Wilson, and I'm not angry, and right now, I really need to do this work, so I can't have lunch with you, and I'm very sorry, but we'll have to reschedule." She exhaled and then added, tired and much more kindly, "Okay?"

Wilson's brow creased into a slight frown at Cameron's 'nevermind' and pushed his hands into the pockets of his lab coat. "Sure," he murmured, resigning himself to the prospect of a lonely lunch over which he could contemplate exactly how he'd managed to royally fuck up again, like always. He thought about tacking on a 'Talk to you later' or something, but in the end he kept his mouth shut and just headed for the hallway again.

"Right," Cameron muttered, still focused on the test. At the sound of Wilson retreating, she turned around again. Hands on her hips, she called after him: "You're still misunderstanding."

Wilson turned around and tilted his head a little. "Then explain it to me," he said, turning his hands palms up like he was preparing to receive something.

"Okay," Cameron replied, voice strained. "I don't want a competition over who's the busiest. I don't want to hear your excuse about being a doctor and tending to House, because, fuck, I'm a doctor too and you have no idea" --- she laughed without mirth --- "about problems with House. I don't want your excuses. I'm not---I'm not one of your wives, Wilson, and I'm not trying to sound harsh. You didn't owe me anything. It was a mistake, which I have no problem accepting. If you'd said it was a mistake, that would have been fine, but you didn't, so now you're here with excuses and I don't know what I'm supposed to say. And now I want to work, because I need to do something." She exhaled for a long moment, her hands sliding into her hair as if she were pulling it back, then down to the sides of her body as she relaxed from her rant. "Okay?" she asked, half-pleading.

"I didn't say it was a mistake because I didn't think it was..." Wilson's frown deepened and his hands returned to his pockets. "I wasn't here with excuses. I was here with a lunch invitation because I 've been trying to find time for you for days and this is the first time consequences didn't conspire against me. If you think it's a mistake ... well, okay, I guess. We didn't make any promises. We just said we'd see where it went."

"I don't know what I think," Cameron said bluntly, looking surprised at the fact that the words had come out. "I---oh, God, this is petty," she muttered, but kept on. "You said you were going to call, you didn't, I assumed it was because you didn't actually care. That's all. This is just . . . I've had a long week, and I apologize for taking it out on you." She put her hands in her labcoat and tried to offer an apologetic smile.

Wilson smiled a little in return and brushed it off like a pro. Years of sticking by House had taught him how to take some real abuse. Cameron mistaking his business for uncaring and getting upset about it wasn't on the list of the top ten most difficult things he'd ever had to deal with. "Don't worry. You could make it up to me by letting me help with running those gels and then having lunch with me," he suggested.

Cameron looked at him quizzically. "You still don't get it," she said, sounding tired. "You don't understand. I don't want this if this is how it's going to be --- I don't want to hear 'I'll call you' and then have nothing come of it. I don't want you to come in here five days later and tell me you were 'busy,' that you're a 'doctor.' I'm not. . . . I'm not one of your wives, Wilson, I don't want excuses. Am I making any sense at all?" Somewhere behind her, the timer went off. "Fuck," she muttered, and turned around to deal with the equipment, waiting for Wilson to speak.

"If that was how it was going to be, I wouldn't even be here now. I came looking for you in hopes that we'd be able to go someplace away from here and spend some damn time together without looking over our shoulders and worrying about what the nurses are going to be saying or about when House is going to show up and stick his nose where it doesn't belong. I'm trying to make up for having to put this off for as long as I have, and I don't intend for it to happen again, but you have to give me a second chance here, Allison," Wilson said, half rambling. "Be fair. I can't prove anything if you shut me out."

"Right. Yes." Cameron ran her hands over her hair, attempting to make her ponytail tighter yet again. She stared at the ground through Wilson's rant, trying to think of something to say that wasn't "Could everybody just shut up for a minute?" "Okay," she managed after a few moments of silence. "Let's go. We'll talk. All right?" She smiled, albeit not widely, at Wilson and tipped her head. "Where are we going anyway?"

"It's about a half an hour drive," Wilson replied, motioning with his head for Cameron to fall in with him as he headed for the door again. "It's a family-run place that my niece really loves. All homemade food, and the best pie in the whole universe, I swear." He paused and glanced over at Cameron as they walked. "I am sorry, you know. For not calling."

"Right," Cameron said, nodding at Wilson's apology and then quickly moving on. "Pie… sounds good, actually." She smiled genuinely for the first time since they'd met up and followed him down the hall for a few moments before stopping abruptly. "I should go get my purse," she muttered. "It's over at the office. I'll meet you in the parking garage?"

"See you in a few, then," Wilson said with a nod as they parted ways.

It took him a little longer to get to his car than it normally would have, since he had to duck into a room or two and take the long way around a nurses' station to avoid people he knew would try to talk to him. But he still made it before Cameron. He tossed his lab coat into the back seat and stood leaning against the car with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ground in thought.

Where exactly was this going? Where did he want it to go? The sinking feeling in his stomach when he realized Cameron was actually angry with him and the further twisting when it looked like he might not get a second chance had been a surprise. Part of it, he knew, had something to do with the fact that he considered Cameron a friend and he didn't want that to be ruined. But he was also fairly certain there was more to it than that. Or at least there was starting to be. House would call it a rebound, but Wilson had never really been the rebound type. Contrary to popular belief, he wasn't casual about relationships of any sort. So was it possible that he was already starting to--

The sound of footsteps heading his way shook Wilson from his thoughts and he looked up to see Cameron coming toward him. "All set?" he asked with a smile.

At the sound of Wilson's voice, Cameron looked up, turning away from her thoughts. She'd walked out of the hospital with her head down and as quickly as possible, desperately trying to avoid placing herself in Cuddy's line of sight. It'd taken her longer to grab her purse and shed her labcoat than on an ordinary day---she'd waited until she was sure House was out of the office before stepping into the Diagnostics lounge to take her things. Unhappy as she was with Wilson at the moment, having lunch away from the hospital provide a temporary respite from the situation, and there was almost something genuine in the smile she flashed him as she approached the car.

"I'm ready if you are," Cameron replied, then took a look at the automobile Wilson was standing by. "Nice car," she managed after a moment, just a little impressed. Guess the alimony payments haven't hit yet, she thought darkly.

Normally, Wilson would've commented about fancy cars attracting women, but it absolutely wasn't the right moment. Besides, he didn't drive expensive cars with the intent of impressing anyone else; he just liked nice things. So instead of making a smart remark, he just muttered a 'Thanks,' hit the button on his keychain to unlock the doors and motioned for her to hop in.

Driving gave Wilson something to keep his mind on other than the fact that he perhaps ought to be a little nervous, so he wasn't. The conversation was refreshingly simple and woe-free, and there had even been a laugh or two by the time they reached their destination. Inside the restaurant they were greeted by a woman in her mid-sixties who knew Wilson by sight. She called him 'Jamie' and scolded him for showing up without 'Miss Molly.' Wilson laughed and looked bashful, introducing Cameron as a friend from work. The woman, Mabel, smiled warmly at Cameron and said she hoped she'd see her again before grabbing the arm of a young waitress walking past and telling her to take special care of these particular customers.

Once seated with their menus, Wilson gave Cameron the same bashful smile he'd given Mabel before. "Molly's my niece," he explained. "Mabel's rather fond of us..."

At Wilson's explanation, Cameron dropped the eyebrow she'd arched and smiled in spite of herself. "I was wondering," she replied, shoving aside images of a lithe blonde graduate student---the thought of Wilson taking his niece out for meals was far more appealing and rather charming. "How old is Molly? How often do you get to see her?" Cameron asked, looking at Wilson as she unwrapped her silverware.

Somewhere in the back of her head, she knew she'd have to tell Wilson about what had happened with House---he was House's best friend, after all, so he had a right to know. Still, a part of her was hoping Wilson would bring it up first and spare her the trouble of launching a deep conversation, and beyond that lay the wish that Wilson knew already, freeing them both of what was sure to be an awkward conversation. She fiddled with her napkin, then tucked a loose piece of hair behind her ear as she looked at Wilson, keeping the previously-genuine smile going.

He'd known the mention of Molly would've gotten him in trouble without a proper explanation. Having a reputation had never been a real problem in the past, but suddenly it really really really was and for a moment Wilson wanted little more than to punch House in the nose. It was all his damn fault.

"Moll's twelve," he replied, letting his mind go back to more pleasant things. "I don't get to see her a lot because I'm always working and her parents keep her pretty busy with piano and soccer and dance, but we email back and forth a lot. She's ridiculously bright. Makes me laugh a lot."

A natural charmer, Wilson had to make a conscious effort not to flirt with the waitress when she came by the table. He settled on a burger -- the fries that came with it were amazing and Wilson could never get Mabel to tell him what kind of seasoning she used -- and a Coke, and then waited for Cameron to place her order.

Cameron quickly ordered a turkey sandwich --- no mayo, please --- and an iced tea before turning her attention back to the conversation. "That's really lovely," she said, relaxing slightly as they continued with a safe topic. The image of Wilson charming his niece was rather frighteningly charming, and Cameron looked down for a moment so that Wilson couldn't catch her grin.

The waitress returned with their drinks in a moment, and Cameron set about tearing apart a few packets of artificial sweetener. "You ever want---have you ever thought about having kids?" she asked with a forced casualness, knocking the long spoon against the side of the glass as she stirred her drink.

What was with people asking him that lately? "Um." Wilson looked down at the table, rubbing the back of his neck as he fumbled for words. "I like kids. Molly, obviously. And I... Well, if I'm honest, I can get pretty attached to some of my younger patients. And kids seem to like me. But I've never really put a lot of thought into having my own." This wasn't strictly true. He'd thought about it pretty seriously from time to time and decided that he was too busy and didn't want to be an absentee dad. He didn't feel like getting into that with Cameron, though, at least not right now, because he didn't feel like trying to come up with a reason why he didn't want to be an absentee dad but apparently had no trouble being an absentee husband.

Bad question, Cameron thought, watching Wilson. She carefully removed her spoon from the glass and shook off the excess moisture, then set on the table. "Well, there's still time," she said lightly. "You never know. Anything can happen." Platitudes were easier than actual conversation and as she couldn't think of anything else to say, she settled for sipping her drink. It was delicious, much better than the cafeteria's version. Wilson had good taste, if not good sense.

With a soft sound of agreement, Wilson looked across the table at Cameron and found himself wondering what would happen if-- The thought was so startling that he pushed it away before it could finish. In the entirely unlikely event that she'd even be able to stand you long enough for the circumstances to arise, you'd just better pray it inherited her looks, he told himself, prodding the ice in his glass with a straw.

Time for a subject change, definitely. And things seemed to be moving toward more serious topics, anyway, so he figured anything was game. "Can I ask, were ... or are ... you that upset with me, or is there more to the reason why you were hiding in the lab?"

"We're going to have to have this conversation at some point, so I suppose it might as well be now." Cameron smiled ruefully and picked up her iced tea, swirling the contents with her straw before taking a long drink. "I'm not---upset with you. I was disappointed and hurt," she explained, putting the glass down and looking at Wilson evenly. "But---I went to see House Friday night, and then---there's a lot going on." She sighed. "It'd be best for everyone if I wasn't . . . around House for the next day or two, I think, which was why I was in the lab. And I still think what you did was a little bit thoughtless, but I'm not livid, if that's what you're asking."

Hurt was worse than angry, and the way his eyes shifted away for a moment said so. The way he avoided the subject also spoke volumes. "I figured House had something to do with it, because you told me I had no idea about problems with House." Wilson paused and snorted softly. If you thought about it, that was a really ridiculous thing to say. He knew about problems with House better than most people did.

Cameron flinched, slightly, after Wilson's snort and all that it implied. "Well, obviously, you do have quite an idea, as the --- girl who was leaving thought I was 'Wilson,'" she said, trying to keep her voice as even as possible. "You know what happened next, I'm sure." She laughed and toyed with her napkin. "I'm sure House couldn't wait to give you the gory details. 'Oh, Cameron came over and tried to save me again, what an idiot.'"

Another sore topic. Wilson frowned, his facial expression flickering for a moment to something like anger with a bit of hurt added in. Somewhere along the line, he'd lost his best friend's trust, and he hated it. "Actually, I didn't hear a thing about it. He hasn't been telling me anything lately, even when I ask."

"Oh," Cameron replied, surprised. She stared at her hands and twisted the napkin more tightly. This was . . . awkward beyond expression. "Well, perhaps it's for the best," she said, forcing a false lightness into her voice. "I think most of our conversation consisted of him throwing things and screaming at me to 'get the fuck out,' so I can only imagine what his rendition of the scene would have been like." She stared at a spot on the wall for a moment, then muttered, "I really screwed up."

"Don't blame yourself," Wilson said quickly. "I may not know the whole story, but I don't have to tell you it's his damn fault. Lately he's been..." He trailed off, absently waving one hand a little as if he was actually groping in the air for the right word. "I can't even think how to phrase it, but you know what I mean. He's not himself. And I didn't think it was possible, but he's getting worse."

"I know," she said softly. "I was there---he'd been drinking, then he kept on, and he was taking Vicodin. He was throwing things, angry. . . . I was worried. I didn't want to leave, but he was pretty insistent." Cameron looked down and traced a meandering shape on the table with the tip of her index finger. "I went to Cuddy," she murmured. "And I told her why. I didn't know he was there. It's . . . not good," she finished lamely.

Their food came then, giving Wilson time to consider if he really ought to say what he wanted to say next. When the waitress left them to their meal, he picked up a french fry and prodded the others with it to stall for another few moments. "Are you sure it was just the vicodin he was on?" he asked.

"You mean, you think there might have been something else in the bottle?" Cameron asked, rearranging a tomato slice on her sandwich. She shrugged and held her hands out, as if to say Who knows? "When I arrived, he'd just finished with the --- professional, and he was pretty well past drunk. He took a few more Vicodin throughout the conversation, but I suppose it could have been something else." She shook her head and picked up half her sandwich. "I wish he would just talk to her about it and sort it out, you know?" she said before biting down.

"Talk to..." Wilson blinked at Cameron and frowned, leaning forward a little bit. "Wait a minute. What? Explain this to me like I have no idea what's going on at all, because ... I don't think I do."

"Oh, God," Cameron muttered, or that's what the words would have sounded like if not for the sandwich still in her mouth. She chewed and swallowed, set the food down, and took a long drink of her tea. "Um. This is awkward." It took her a moment to gather the words together, and then she said, carefully, "I think House is in love with Cuddy. I don't think he can deal with that. He was talking about leaving and how getting away from 'her' and 'her issues'. . . . When I offered that theory, he got abusive. I told Cuddy what I thought at the barbeque, but House was in the room at the time. I didn't know he was there, obviously," she continued, the words tumbling out now, "and now . . . well, you can imagine what's going on now."

Wilson pinched the bridge of his nose and rubbed slightly with his thumb. That made things more complicated with the morphine situation, too. His food was getting cold, so he ate a couple of the fries before he fixed Cameron with a serious look. "Listen, if I tell you something, can you promise not to say anything about it to anyone? I mean it. No talking to anyone about it, no trying to do anything about it yourself..."

"Um. . . ." Cameron considered Wilson for a moment and took another bite of her sandwich. "Yes," she said after she'd finished eating. "But then you can't tell House what I told you. Because as soon as you let on that you know, he'll know that I told you, and this will be so much worse. I'll keep quiet if you do." She laughed a bit. "Maybe we should get a codeword and jackets: The Society To Preserve The Sanity of Gregory House or something."

He couldn't help smiling a little at that. "Okay, well... Then for now we'll agree to keep our mouths shut. But we may end up deciding to corner him at some point." Wilson took a bite of his burger and chewed thoughtfully, trying to figure out how to put what he knew into words. Being blunt seemed like the best choice at the moment, he thought. "He's got a stash of morphine. I didn't let him take any while I was there, and I took what I found with me when I left. But that may not have been all of it, and if it was, he's likely gotten more."

"Oh, God," Cameron muttered, quickly glancing up at the ceiling to keep Wilson from reading her expression. She was too shocked to speak for a moment, although past the shock, there was a numb sort of realization that this wasn't altogether entirely unexpected: after what she'd seen at House's apartment, really, nothing could be entirely surprising. After a moment, when she felt certain her eyes weren't wet, she looked at Wilson again. "This isn't good," she said tiredly. "But. . . . Maybe you should tell Cuddy. She knows about everything else. If she knows about the morphine too, maybe she can convince House to get help. It's certain he wouldn't take the suggestion for me." She snorted. "And it doesn't seem like you're having any luck either."

"I was planning on telling her," Wilson said with a nod. "She helped last time. Remember when she bet him he couldn't go a week without his vicodin? That was actually my idea. The two of us plotted together." Back to the fries; poke, poke, poke, he chased them around his plate with the biggest one left. "But now that there's this extra wrench in the cogs of their relationship I don't know if it would be helpful at all."

Cameron's eyes widened slightly and her mouth turned into a rather pristine 'O'. "That---that was your idea?" she spluttered. "Oh, Christ. . . ." She picked up one of her own fries---and, damn, they were good and probably going straight to her hips, but that was tomorrow's problem---and pointed it at Wilson as she spoke. "I appreciate the intent, but I'm not sure that was the best idea. He's in pain. He has to take the drugs. And he nearly had a meltdown last time. Granted, this is entirely different, but. . . ." Here she decided to eat her food, unable to think of the next move.

"Last time, he was claiming he wasn't an addict. At least he figured out that he is. It was a small step forward. Really small because he refused to do anything about it. But at least he became a little more self-aware..." Not that it had really helped matters much. Wilson sighed and sat back in his seat. "Sometimes..." This was going to sound pathetically emo. "He claims nobody actually cares about him -- it's part of what we fought about last week -- and sometimes ... I wish he was right. It'd make things a lot easier."

"Maybe he isn't an addict," Cameron replied. "Or wasn't. But the morphine. . . ." She pushed her plate away and bit her lip, thinking. They ought to have taken House along with them to this lunch for all the relaxing they'd done. Even without him present, he was there. She leaned forward a bit at Wilson's confession, voice low but slightly strained. "Listen, it's not your fault. You know that. He's just . . . he can't accept help. From anyone, but . . . well, you know what he thinks of us. We have to keep him from killing himself without . . . you can't let him destroy you too."

Wilson's thoughts drifted to his brother and he nodded a little. He stared down at his plate for a few moments -- the fries had disappeared but half of the burger was left -- and then announced, "I definitely need pie. And then before we go back to the hospital, I need to swing by my apartment for a couple of things." DVDs. A couple of comfort movies. House was emotionally draining, even when he wasn't physically present. "And we definitely need a new topic of conversation for the time being. House is stressful."

"Sounds good," Cameron said, smiling a little. She pursed her lips and tried to come up with a more comfortable conversation topic. Her mind flicked back to a dating book she'd received as a Christmas gift a few years after --- well, it was a terrible idea for a present anyway, but now it seemed useful. "Have you read any good books lately?" she asked while scanning the room for the waitress.

Wilson chuckled at the subject change. Pointless filler conversation, but it worked well enough, he supposed. "Molly bought the PostSecret book behind her mother's back and let me borrow it," he said after a moment's thought. "There were some pretty good ones in it. But I don't have as much spare time for reading as I'd like." When they finally caught the waitress' eye, Wilson ordered a slice of coconut creme pie and a glass of milk to go with it.

"I. . . have no idea what you're referring to," Cameron said. She scrunched her nose as she tried to remember ever hearing the phrase "PostSecret." "Of course, the last book I finished was Advanced Principles of Microbiology, so, y'know." Sitting back in her seat a bit, she folded her hands in her lap, waiting. "Where are you sta---living, if I may ask? Because you know Cuddy's going to kill us when she finds out we're playing hooky. And insulting the cafeteria food by eating elsewhere, which is, I think, the same as insulting her cooking in her mind."

"There's already been one burnout in Oncology recently; Cuddy's been cutting us all a little slack since then. Enough that going out for lunch and having you along with me won't be a problem," he said with a fair amount of confidence. "My apartment is only a few minutes out of the way on the way back, though. 'Close to work' was one of my criteria when I was searching."

Cameron nodded and traced a spiral on the table with her pinky finger. "That makes sense," she offered. "And as for Cuddy . . . I had to beg Dr. Rowan for the work, so I think I'm in the clear. You're the one who needs to worry." The waitress returned then, breaking Cameron's train of thought, and set down desert. Cameron stared with rather wide eyes and a look of undisguised anticipation. "What were we talking about again?"

Wilson raised an eyebrow. "Hypnotism," he replied, very seriously. "We were discussing whether or not it works, and I offered to demonstrate to prove my point. Obviously, it was a success..."

"Mmph," Cameron said around a bite of pie, then swallowed. "Honestly, you don't need hypnotism. You're more than welcome to bribe me with this" --- she gestured with her fork. "In fact, I encourage it."

"And now you know why I come here often enough that the owner calls me by a nickname," Wilson chuckled. "Thanks, by the way, for ordering something more than a salad, and not turning down dessert." That'd always been a bit of a pet peeve for him. Wilson liked food and thought it should be enjoyed thoroughly. It could always be worked off later, in one way or another. As that thought floated through his head, one part of his mind carefully extricated another part from the gutter.

Cameron wiped a bit of meringue from her mouth with her napkin and laughed. "Eh. You've seen me in the Diagnostics lounge at four in the morning when I'm running on Chase's idea of 'coffee' and no sleep. I assumed you wouldn't find my eating unduly traumatizing after that." Despite her flippant tone, she was smiling shyly. "How did you find this place anyway?"

What an absolutely fantastic smile... Pointing vaguely toward the east side of the restaurant with his fork, Wilson managed to remember to answer the question. "My parents live about ten minutes away. Next door to Mabel's daughter and her girlfriend, actually, so there was no possible way this place would escape my family forever." Tragically, Wilson's pie was gone, so he washed it down with the milk, careful not to leave a moustache, which he only did when Molly was around, on purpose, just to make her giggle at him.

"I didn't realize your parents lived so close," Cameron replied. "That must be nice---do you get to see them often? Well, there's no often when you're on-call, but you know what I mean." She put her fork down on her plate, scrutinizing what was left of her piece. "Do you want this? Or should I take it back to the hospital for a pick me up later? Or perhaps a bribe to Cuddy to get out of clinic duty. . . ." She smiled again. "Thanks for, uh, insisting on this. Much as I love to run gels, this was far more fun."

Wilson nodded and smiled. "Mm-hmm. My whole family is in the general area and we all get along fairly well, so it's nice to be able to see them as often as I do. It'd be near impossible if we lived very far apart." He glanced at Cameron's leftover pie and it was a little tempting, but he shook his head. "Save it for yourself. If you give it away, you'll never forgive yourself later," he said gravely before flashing another smile. "And I'm glad I'm more entertaining than gels, at least." When the waitress came back with the check, Wilson handed over his credit card and they asked for the pie to be boxed up. On the way out, Mabel caught them for a few minutes and ended up giving Cameron a hug and a kiss on the cheek and amended her earlier hope that she would return some time with a 'You'd better come back and see me some time.'

Cameron followed Wilson out into the parking lot and sun, a small Styrofoam box held in her right hand. "You really didn't have to pay for me," she said for the third time. "I owe you one now, all right?" She leaned against his car, closing her eyes and tipping her head up to enjoy the remarkably good weather. A smile spread across her face and she finally relaxed completely. "That was really, really nice," she said after a moment, opening her eyes and turning to face Wilson. She waited for him to flick the automatic unlock on the car door, then opened the door and sat down. "And Mabel is a sweetheart. We have to do this again---only you have to let me pay next time."

With that, she closed the door, and then they set off for the city again.

Wilson grinned a little at Cameron's insistence at paying next time. He didn't protest at the moment, and he might even let her some day, but he didn't see it happening any time soon. He knew he could be awfully persuasive and he liked paying for things; it was another way of helping and giving, and people didn't usually question it.

Like he'd said, Wilson's apartment wasn't far out of the way. He parked in front of the building and glanced across the street at it. "Are you going to come inside and scold me for living like a single man, or would you rather wait here?" he asked. Not that Cameron would be able to find much to scold him for. He thought he might've left his towel on the bathroom floor that morning and there was a little bit of clutter, but he was generally pretty tidy.

Cameron laughed at Wilson's question and turned to look at him. "You're kidding, right?" she replied, one hand already on her car door. "Do you think I would really pass up this chance to see how the other half lives? Not that I mind waiting here if you'd rather I not come in," she added hurriedly. Not that she really intended to turn down Wilson's invitation---it was the perfect chance to look around casually and collect information. It wasn't that she was a snoop with boundary issues---okay, well, that was part of it---so much as that she was naturally curious, and working for House had taught her that a person's home revealed far more than a conversation. She'd be almost . . . remiss in her duties as House's disciple not to take Wilson up on his offer.

"I wouldn't have offered if I didn't mean it," Wilson said, beckoning with a jerk of his head as he started to get out of the car. "Come on."

Wilson held the building door open for Cameron, ushering her inside with a little bow and a playful smirk. They took the elevator to the third floor and when they stepped out Wilson brought a hand to rest at the small of Cameron's back to guide her to the left. He unlocked the door and as he pushed it open he murmured, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Great insight on how he viewed this place...

It was small, consisting of just a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living area, which made it that much easier to keep clean. Wilson glanced around the living area nervously, wondering what exactly Cameron would think. "Not much," he said, "but it serves its purpose." Scratching the back of his neck, he moved into the room toward his DVD shelf and picked a couple from it -- requests one of his younger patients had made.

At Wilson's touch, Cameron shivered slightly---an involuntarily reaction, of course. She looked around the living room, taking in the motley assortment of furniture: a relatively inoffensive couch, a truly appalling plaid armchair, and a few side tables of varying colors, likely each a remnant of a different colour scheme. Definitely didn't spring for a decorator, she thought with a pang of sympathy. "It must be odd to live alone again," she said not unkindly, then bit her lip, unsure of whether or not to continue.

Luckily, the DVDs Wilson was pulling down provided a distraction. "Alice in Wonderland?" she very nearly squealed. "Oh, I adore that movie. I actually bought a copy for my niece for her birthday. We're all mad here! Maybe that should be the hospital's motto. . . ."

Wilson made a vague noise in reply to the comment about the strangeness of living alone, but Cameron's enthusiastic reaction to Alice in Wonderland pushed the subject from his mind and he laughed. "It would be a good motto for Princeton-Plainsboro, wouldn't it?" he asked, shaking his head a little. He ran a finger along the titles on the shelf. "I have a pretty ridiculous number of kids' movies... I use my patients as an excuse, though. I'd probably still have a lot of them anyway."

"It would, but Cuddy would kill us for saying so," Cameron replied as she took a few steps forward to get a better look at Wilson's DVD collection. Her eyes scanned over the titles: a plethora of Disney movies (including the sequels, unfortunately), some more adult choices (Fight Club?), and a still larger assortment of films she'd never seen. "You have. . . a lot of DVDs. Enough to start an in-house Blockbuster," Cameron said, laughing a bit as she kept scanning the shelves, not even close to finished. "And, sadly, I think the only titles I recognize are the kids'."

"I like movies," Wilson replied, almost apologetically. He stepped back a little to give Cameron room to move in front of the shelf as she studied its contents, and peered over her shoulder. "There are some you'd probably really like. Some time we'll have to watch Besieged. And if you ever want to see me cry, all you have to do is make me watch What Dreams May Come. I hate admitting it, but it brings a tear to my eye every time, so matter how many times I've seen it," he admitted.

Cameron crouched down to peruse the bottom shelf of items. "I don't think I want to see you cry," she said, a bit more seriously than was intended. "But if you ever want to do a marathon of Disney movies, I'm your woman." With that, she stood up and turned to face Wilson. "So. Why are we here again? Not that this isn't nice, but. . . I'm sure you have something to do other than explain your DVD collection to me."

"Needed to get these," he said, holding up Alice in Wonderland, Big Fish and The Last Unicorn. "Also..." He moved over to a shelf of books and pulled down a decent-sized hardcover book that had a cover which looked like something that had come in the mail wrapped in plain brown paper. The PostSecret book. "This is a quick read, since it's just a lot of short postcards. Molly won't mind you borrowing it, and it's pretty interesting."

"Oh, thank you!" Cameron replied, already opening the cover and checking out the book's contents. She stood still a moment as she read over the project's premise. "Interesting idea. You ever submit one of these?"

"No, but I'd be lying if I said there aren't quite a few that I really identify with," Wilson said. "That's why a lot of people like these. It's nice to see that other people think about the same things... And some of them are actually pretty funny. 'I waste office supplies because I hate my boss' always makes me chuckle. I always picture Chase dumping sugar packets down the drain and stealing House's paperclips."

Cameron covered her mouth with her hand, laughing too hard to speak for a moment. "More like his pens," she gasped after a moment. "Haven't you ever noticed the teeth marks he leaves on writing instruments, like he's marking his property? I'll pick up a pencil off the table to jot something down and realize it's been chewed to critical status. . . ." She shook her head. "Ah, but enough about Chase. What's your secret?" she asked, her tone falsely light.

He made a noise at the back of his throat that was something like a chuckle. He didn't want to tell her his secrets, because then she'd know him, and he wanted her to like him, dammit. "If I told, they wouldn't be secrets anymore," Wilson said. He couldn't help reaching out to touch Cameron, letting a hand come to rest at her side.

"That's an excuse, not an answer," Cameron replied, voice soft and with a small smile to let him know it wasn't a real criticism. At Wilson's touch, she looked away and dropped the book onto a nearby table, then brought one hand to rest over his. "So. . . what are we doing here again?" she asked.

"Um..." Wilson shook his head a little. He wasn't sure exactly what they were doing anymore, but he slid the DVDs he was holding onto the shelf and then cupped Cameron's cheek as he leaned in to kiss her. There was still the faintest hint of the taste of pie on her mouth. Just before he pulled back, Wilson caught Cameron's bottom lip and nibbled lightly. "You still taste like pie," he murmured, grinning.

Cameron responded in kind, placing a hand on Wilson's chest, just under his collar, and another at his side as she gave in to the kiss. She shifted a bit closer to him and laughed lightly at his words, her breath moving across his cheek. "So do you," she whispered, then kissed him again, some small part of her brain wondering if this contained calories or burned them.

Still tastes good, too, he thought to himself. He pressed closer to Cameron, making her take a step back against the shelf and the hand at her waist slipped under her shirt, fingertips brushing lightly over her skin. "What are we doing here?" Wilson asked, mumbling against Cameron's neck as he kissed a line toward her collarbone.

The DVD shelf was rather uncomfortable pressed against her spine, but the rest of the situation was. . . rather nice, actually. Cameron's mouth opened into a small o and she tipped her head back slightly, clearly enjoying herself, minus the hard edge digging into her back. As her fingers moved toward Wilson's collar, undoing the first button, she replied, "I. . . . I think I'm getting shoved into a shelf, here, but otherwise. . . ." She brought her head up and kissed Wilson's jaw, sliding her mouth down the bone and toward his neck. There, that answer should suffice.

"Sorry about that," Wilson apologized, tugging Cameron toward him and away from the shelf. "We could ... find someplace better to do this." Or they could stop and go back to work like they were supposed to, but that wasn't on the top of Wilson's 'To Do' list at the moment and he really hoped Cameron wasn't going to suggest it, either.

(It wasn't.)
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