As Cameron packs up her things to go home, she pauses a moment to stare at the picture on her desktop. Her eyes are always naturally drawn to House, standing beside her, tall and handsome, a barely there smile on his face. The way she misses him still, seven months after his funeral, is a physical ache that sets her eyes to misting. She takes a moment to glance at Wilson too, and her heart constricts. He died last week; she only just got word.
With a sigh of regret, she closes her laptop and slides it into her bag. Sometimes she is plagued with all the things she should've, could've said to get through to House. But in reality she knows it wouldn't have made any difference. After she left, he never contacted her, probably never really thought of her much. She's just torturing herself with these thoughts.
Her brother, Josh, arrives unexpectedly, with her new nephew in his stroller and she smiles, pulling the baby out for a cuddle. He makes a nice distraction when she's missing House like this.
"Had Jack's checkup today, so thought I'd stop by. You want to catch some dinner," Josh asks, his eyes on his son like he's the most precious thing in the world.
"No thanks. I think I'll just have an early night. I'm really tired," she answers, kissing her nephew's soft, chubby cheek and smiling when he gurgles out a laugh.
"All right. I'll see you later." Josh winks at her and tucks Jack back in the stroller, strapping him in, and lifting his baby hand in a faux wave. "Say goodnight to Aunt Allison."
She laughs and waves back. "I'll call you tomorrow. Goodnight, Jack."
Trudging to her car, she is weary to the bone. The bag on her shoulder feels like it's full of boulders weighing her down so that she walks stooped, head lowered, watching each step her feet take. It's only by rote that she finds her own car, reaching to open it without an upward glance. The door handle slips from her fingers and the door slams shut again. In her peripheral vision she sees the rubber tip of a cane pressing into the metal.
Turning, she sees him, House, looking very much alive, real and touchable and inches away. A panic builds, like the thundering hooves of a hundred racehorses pounding beneath her sternum. She struggles to take a breath, dropping to her knees and clutching her chest.
"Breathe, Cameron," he orders, this ghost standing in front of her. His words only increase her panic.
He kneels down and faces her, tilts her chin up so she's looking into those eyes she never thought she'd see again.
"Deep breaths," he says, soothing her with his words and the worry lines on his forehead.
"But... you're dead," she manages to get out between gasps.
"You once compared me to God. Would you believe I've been resurrected?"
"House," she murmurs, palming his face so she can feel him, flesh and blood beneath her hands. Then without thought, she wraps her arms around him and she can feel his breath on her neck, stirring loose tendrils of her hair. "You're alive."
"Excellent diagnosis," he jokes. But he tightens his hold on her as if he's missed her.
"But how... why?" she asks, her breathing only just beginning to slow. She clutches him, hands roaming over his back in an effort to feel every movement, every living breath, to seek proof she's not dreaming, to keep him from vanishing into the ether.
"I couldn't go back to prison," he tells her, speaking the words against the top of her head. "I needed to...."
"You needed to say goodbye to Wilson," she finishes, pulling back just enough to search his expression.
His answer is a curt, somber nod, and she's sure there are tears in his eyes.
"What are you doing here?"
His gaze darts away and he stares into the velvet darkness before answering. She watches his Adam's apple bob as he contemplates his words. "You saved my life. Thought I should at least say thank you."
Confused, she just studies his face, her hands now clutching his shoulders.
He squirms under the intensity of her examination, but doesn't look away. Bringing his hands up, he strokes her cheeks, thumbs brushing lightly over her lips, fingertips playing with the hair along her temple.
He's not a ghost; he's the man she's always wanted, despite everything. He's damaged, bitter, hardened and cynical. Beautiful, fascinating, witty, charming, intelligent. Complicated. She can't remember a time when she didn't love him, even when he hurt her.
"What are you going to do now?" she asks.
"Depends," he says, distracted, fingers still moving over her skin. His touch raises goosebumps all over her body and she can barely refrain from closing her eyes in pleasure.
"Depends on what?" she wonders, breathless. The tarmac is digging into her knees and she notices her bag is tangled around her arm, but nothing matters except the man in front of her.
"You," he says. "I'm living under a false identity. I've got no future and very little money. All I really have is... hope." He puffs out his cheeks at that and then releases the air like a deflating balloon.
She looks at him sharply, and he continues.
"Hope you'll... give me another chance to tell you what you mean to me. How you saved my life. How much I've missed you."
Letting out a deep breath, she touches his jaw, feeling the growth of whiskers against her palm. "I've missed you too," she tells him, smiling while a few stray tears roll down her cheeks.
"Think you could ever love me again?"
"What makes you think I ever stopped," she says with a little laugh.
His eyes close for a moment, as if those words have a physical effect on him. And then he draws her in, slow and searching, and kisses her with such reverence it signals her unfallen tears to follow their predecessors.
"Thank you," he murmurs, his voice husky with emotion. Beneath her fingertips, she feels his own tears navigating the jungle of stubble on his beautiful face.
She pulls away, stands, and reaches out a hand. With a nod, he takes it, struggling to his feet.
She helps him to rise again.