eric_foreman: (Default)
eric_foreman ([personal profile] eric_foreman) wrote in [community profile] alwaysright2009-06-30 01:03 am

October 26, 2007 - Evening

Most of Foreman's summer had been downtime. He'd been job-searching even before he left Princeton, but House's sabotage had made damn sure he hadn't made it through an interview without some sort of interruption. That was, if he managed to keep the appointments he'd set up at all without House cancelling on his behalf. Foreman had gotten fucking pissed off with the constant waiting. Waiting to hear about job postings. Waiting to hear back from interviewers. Waiting to hear if he'd interested the people he'd met with enough that his qualifications--more like black mark, since that's what working for House ultimately was--had put him over the top and into their consideration.

Foreman needed structure. He liked to know how his day was going to go before he got up. Without a job to go to, he'd filled his time as best he could. Since he was starting on Monday, he was stuck again.

He wanted to see Amber. Knowing they had a set date, a time to look forward to, made the hours pass even more slowly. Foreman went home to grab his gear and headed for the gym, where he upped his reps before swimming thirty laps, coming out of the pool shaky with the effort. Middle of the day on a Friday, there wasn't anyone around worth pulling into a pick-up game with his old basketball, so Foreman headed home. He showered, then went out again, this time for food for his apartment--still bare after his second move in under a month--and some preparations for the evening. Then it was simply a matter of working through a few hours, going over articles he wanted to submit and double-checking his research, before he checked the time and started to get dressed. He wore casual slacks and a light sweater under his leather jacket. Nicer than most of Shank's patrons favoured, but hardly fancy. A good compromise.

It was about ten after six when he showed up outside Amber's apartment. Not early, or on time, to make Amber think she was the only highlight of his day, even though she was, but not late, either, as if he'd forgotten her or didn't think she was important. Foreman grinned as he glanced out to her front bay windows. There was a light on inside, and he might have even seen her shadow cross in front of the curtains. God, this. This was what he'd been waiting for. A distraction, but not only that. She interested him, challenged him, and Foreman could do with a little of both. He was already getting in over his head, and that was stupid, dangerous, but Foreman couldn't make himself care.

He picked up the yellow rose he'd bought on his way here. It was damn cheesy, but Foreman found, as he jogged up Amber's steps to buzz her apartment, that he didn't mind in the least.
amber_v: Smug Amber is smug (smug)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-06-30 08:50 pm (UTC)(link)
The day went as Amber expected. House apparently decided he’d done his fair share of work that week and didn’t show up once in the classroom. Cuddy did make a cameo appearance, asking if they knew where he was or what nightmares he was creating. All of the candidates proclaimed cluelessness, though none of them would’ve ´fessed up if they’d known. You don’t tatty-tale to mom when your older brother will beat you up for squealing.

Kutner kept tapping his feet like he was impatient to bolt but didn’t dare to. Probably seeking to ward off his boredom, he struck up a conversation with Brennan about basketball. Thirteen opened up a book from the get-go, snobbishly ignoring them all.

Amber slid up to Cole, asking in sincere, concerned tones if it wasn’t hard, raising a child all by his lonesome. Didn’t he lose a lot of time with his son, working these strange hours? She asked him if it wouldn’t be better if he got a more stable job. The way House did things, he might one day make them commit a—well, another—crime, and what would his son (and what was his name, by the way?) do when his daddy was in jail? Amber admitted in a hushed voice that she was terrified of the thought of getting caught, and she had no children to take care of!

It’d seemed like a good angle, hitting him where it’d probably hurt the most. But Cole stared at her rock-faced the whole time (tough audience) and eventually told her to give up because he wasn’t falling for it. He then got up and joined Kutner and Brennan, whose discussion had somehow swerved towards the questionable ethics of competitive sports. Must’ve been Brennan’s doing.

She’d have to be more subtle, next time.

Taub didn’t even let her start. She’d tried to sit next to him, after failing to fuck with Cole, but before she could open her mouth, Taub told her, “Don’t bother.”

She had to be way, way more subtle.

But she was sure the opportunity to ward off the competition would present itself.

Amber stayed for an hour before slinking out to the clinic, working there for the rest of the day. House had pulled this vanishing act before and hadn’t expected them to keep waiting for him; at least he was decent about that much. He’d page her if he wanted to show up, as he had in the past. For a second she remembered strolling down the hallway and seeing that jolt of blue, the stench of charred flesh—why her? If it had to be a stranger, none of the doctors in the hospital would’ve let him die, no matter what grudges they held. Strange. Really strange.

And you’d think House would want to keep on his team someone he could trust to revive him!

The clinic was the same old drudgery of not-so-mysterious rashes and colds. This was exactly the kind of thing she’d hoped to escape by getting into diagnostics. There was no triumph in identifying a by-the-book case of laryngitis, nor any human connection in talking to a patient for five minutes before seeing the next one. In diagnostics, she could get to know the people they treated and, better yet, get the awesome victory of figuring out the problem. But even if Cuddy couldn’t stop House from beating them up, she did have access to the cookie jar of job perks. And Amber did like cookies.

She left precisely at five. Upon entering her home, Amber was struck by the physical reminders of last night’s pleasures: the jar with her single carnation and her clothes piled up by the wall. She laughed, remembering how impatient Eric had made her. She hadn’t been able to wait to reach the bedroom! Would it be that way tonight? Or would they go slower? Either way was fine; she just hoped he’d keep on finding her “amazing.” She blushed lightly, smiling, at the memory. That was the word he’d used, “amazing.” Amber knew she was, but it was marvelous to hear it from someone she thought was pretty amazing himself. It almost made up for his sudden and short burst of coolness in bed that morning.

Amber tidied up quickly and then got dressed: hair down with a couple of clips at her forehead; tight jeans; sandals; and a long-sleeved purple shirt that showed off all her curves. She grabbed the leather purse she tended to use when going out for a casual outing and sat herself in front of the TV, flipping through channels as she waited for Eric. What was taking him so long? It was past six! She’d pegged him as someone who’d be neurotic about being on time. It seemed she still had a lot to learn about him.

Finally the buzzer rang and she answered his call. “Hi!” she said, not hiding her excitement. “Come on in.” She pressed the button to open the front entrance and unlocked her door, eager to see Eric again.
amber_v: Amber in spring! (glow)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-01 02:27 am (UTC)(link)
Amber accepted the kiss and flower with a smile. "Pretty," she commented, admiring the rose. The yellow shade was lovely. Still-- she didn't mean to ruin the moment or lessen his gesture, but she didn't want to not tell him. If she didn’t, the next thing she’d know, it’d become a big deal, and she’d never be able to tell him. It’d suck if they somehow stayed together another twenty years and he still didn’t know—about this, and whatever else she got into the habit of hiding from him.

"I'm more a sunflower kind of woman, but I'd never say 'no' to a rose." She held it up to her nose, inhaling its subtle scent. Amber was pretty sure she'd mentioned the bit about preferring sunflowers yesterday and again, for the second time in a few minutes, she was surprised by him. She'd have thought he'd make a point of remembering a small detail like that, since offering the perfect flower was a typical "gentleman" thing to do.

Inviting her to Shank's, arriving late, getting the "wrong" flower... maybe she'd been wrong about him. Honestly, she'd be relieved if she were. She'd take a real, human Eric over any assiduously created persona.

"Better that than the worst. And, trust me, I wouldn't wish those hot wings even on my enemies," she replied. "Let me just find a place for this." Her carnation from House was in a vase on a living room table. It'd be easy enough to put the rose there, but it didn't seem right. It'd be like she was mixing work and romance. Two great things, but they should be separate. So she fetched a new vase, placed it on the table facing her front door, and slipped the rose into it. There. This way, it'd be the first thing she'd see, returning home. “Okay! Let’s go, then.” She hooked her arm around his.
amber_v: Smug Amber is smug (smug)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-01 10:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Ah, there he was, opening the car door for her. So not necessary. Amber knew how to grasp a handle and pull. Perhaps Eric was still stuck on the notion of being The Perfect Date. But it wasn’t up to her to undo all, or even any, of his chauvinism. If they became a serious couple, a notion she was carefully letting herself consider, then she’d ask him why he felt he had to open doors for her. If they talked about it, perhaps he’d see how silly it was. For now, she just climbed into her seat and buckled herself in.

"Urgh, don't remind me," Amber groaned. "The last time a kid threw up on me, I had to throw away my shoes. And from the sound of it, something similar happened to you." It was one of those inevitable downsides to being a doctor, getting doused in bodily fluids. “But, no, House didn’t show up today. We were left to our own devices.”

She watched him drive, smiling lightly. He looked as sharp as she remembered, and just as handsome. He wasn’t perfect, no, but he was intriguing, fun, smart… she felt good, being with him. “I’m glad to see you again.”
amber_v: Amber can has a naughy idea (smirk)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-03 01:39 am (UTC)(link)
Amber arched an eyebrow, smirking with amusement. "Isn't that flattering." Eric’s comment told her two things: one, that he'd been looking forward to seeing her; two, he thought about work a lot. That first item she’d already figured out, from his warmth and eagerness upon greeting her this evening. Even without seeing him, though, she’d have guessed as much, from the way he’d wanted to see her again so soon. That second item came as no big shock, either. Something about him screamed “workaholic.” He was too serious, too dedicated, to not be heavily invested in his career. That was good. He’d understand her own drive to excel. And neither one of them would be upset the other was working too much, since they’d both be busy with their jobs.

“JNEN, huh.” Amber hadn’t read ever that journal, since it wasn’t directly related to her specialty, but with the sundry cases her current employment threw at her, she might have to browse some of its articles someday. Maybe she should start reading it now, since there was no telling when expert knowledge on neurology and neuropathy could come in handy. A key fact at the right time could knock House’s socks off. Maybe Eric could lend her some of his copies. “Are you coming up with a secret plan to get into it? Or will you go the tried and true route of submitting articles?” She wondered what articles he'd submit. For as work-focused as Eric seemed to be, she knew next to nothing about what he did. Or would do, since he was starting a new project on Monday. Tonight would be a good opportunity to find out, though she wouldn’t want to spend the whole night talking shop. “What would you write about?”
amber_v: Smug Amber is smug (smug)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-03 03:43 pm (UTC)(link)
"You could slip the peer review team anesthesia," Amber suggested with a grin. "And I'd give a hand, if you'd the same with JRCR. Ooh, better yet, you could help me brainwash House into firing the others!" She was only half-serious... but if she'd believed in brain-washing, she'd have been willing to give it a shot. It’d certainly get priority over publishing anything; House didn’t care about articles, all he wanted were the right answers. She could start thinking of writing once she had job security.

Half-laughing, enjoying herself, Amber suddenly wanted to touch Eric. So she did, laying her hand on his thigh. She was glad he admitted, so cheerfully, to his rejected articles. He could admit to failure. (Not that she herself could. Then again, she didn’t allow failure, so that was different.) "Be careful with what you show me, I've got a vicious red pen!"

Amber’s eyebrows shot up as Eric described the case. A woman with the bubonic plague and surviving on bouts of microsleep was strange, and yet... it didn’t feel unheard of. She felt like she’d come across it before. But before she tried to remember when and where, Eric was offering to show her the MRIs, and she wasn’t going to let an opportunity like that pass her by. She squeezed his thigh. "Sounds good."

What other insider info he could get her? Most people would think it shameless to call in favors from the man she was sleeping with, but she thought it was fair. She’d do the same for him.
amber_v: Amber in spring! (glow)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-04 03:16 am (UTC)(link)
Amber turned her hand in order to clasp Eric’s. It was silly, absolutely silly, but holding hands like this, it sent a rush of warmth through her. Like she was some teenager with her first puppy crush. She was getting ahead of herself, again. But there was no helping that. She'd already decided to see where this... thing with Eric went. If it kept on going well, great. If not, she'd deal with the consequences when they came. No point in fussing over what had already happened. At least his smile was just as wide as hers. Maybe she could afford a bit of lightheaded giddiness, with him.

"You’re inviting me to play against you? Seriously? Because I won’t have any qualms with kicking your ass.” Her tone was light, but it was also a warning. While Amber didn’t have much predisposition to physical activities, she did make a point of working at a skill until she got it down just right. A group of college acquaintances, who’d been becoming her friends until her competitive streak got to them, had taken her mini-golfing and regretted it. Instead of relaxing and hanging out, as had been their intention, she’d spent the whole time perfecting her strokes. She’d returned to the mini-golf course several times until she was satisfied with her technique. It’d been a while since she’d last played, but she was willing to bet she’d at least give Eric a run for his money. “Or are you secretly an award-winning tournament player?”
amber_v: Amber in spring! (glow)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-04 07:27 pm (UTC)(link)
When Eric turned off the car, Amber unbuckled herself and opened the door automatically. It was what she always did. It wasn't until she saw him walking around the car that she remembered how he'd insisting on opening the door for her. She hadn't intended this gesture as an indirect message, but maybe he'd get the point that these old-fashioned courtesies weren’t necessary, with her.

Amber rose to her feet, shutting the door behind her. She swept her hair behind her shoulders and offered him her arm. “Shall we?” And there she was again, smiling in anticipation of a small touch. Not that it wasn’t fun, getting caught up in the moment. “Now here’s the question: drinks before or after mini-golfing?”

It’d been a while since she’d here. She preferred higher-class bars when she went out cruising, not interested in the kind of crowd she’d find at Shank’s. And she’d taken to spending more of her evenings either working or reading, especially lately, trying to get the House gig. As they approached, the lights and the voices coming from the bar grew stronger, and Amber found herself glad to be back. A game of mini-golf, beer, and being around other people kicking back, it’d be a good way to unwind. Better yet, there was the strong prospect of sex, afterwards.
amber_v: Amber in spring! (glow)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-06 04:54 pm (UTC)(link)
"About as straight as a curve," Amber admitted. A (second) date probably wasn't the best time to let out her competitive side, but she could never step down from a challenge. She'd have been willing to drink beforehand, to loosen up the game, but not if it’d give him an unfair advantage.

She opened the doors herself—Eric did take the hint, thankfully—but pressed in closer towards him, and not just because there was less space inside. She looked around, wondering if anyone had noticed them. Eric was company she was happy to be seen with, gently guiding her through the crowd and tables. But everyone seemed to be caught up in whatever they were doing, drinking or playing or watching TV. Oh well. They’d be here a while yet, someone would notice eventually.

Amber wrapped an arm around his back, again for reasons than beyond the loud, cramped environment. “You’re on.” She hadn’t trained at pool the way she had mini-golf, but she had plenty of experience and more of a knack for it. She’d want to win no matter what, but depending on the results of the golf game, her attitude would be different: determined to prove herself, if she’d lost, or indulgent towards him, if she’d won. And if she didn’t win either time—there were plenty of rematch opportunities here.

At the bar she requested a couple of putters—no drinks—and handed Eric his. From his relaxed demeanor, she knew he just wanted to have fun, hanging out with her, and didn’t care so much about proving himself the world’s best mini-golfer. But in Amber’s opinion, no game could be fun without stakes. “The loser can pay for the drinks.” She wriggled her eyebrows, grinning.
amber_v: Smug Amber is smug (smug)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-06 11:24 pm (UTC)(link)
"I think I can remember that far back into the past." While Amber had never played at Shank's before, she'd been to enough mini-golfing places to spot the usual course tricks. And even if she hadn't, she'd watched a couple of games here, smugly thinking to herself how the players were messing up.

She shrugged off her coat and folded it over her chair, laying her purse onto its seat. Amber stretched her arms and legs; while putting wasn't a strenuous activity, the more warmed up you were, the better. “Watch and learn,” she advised Eric with a wink. Part of her wondered if she couldn’t convince him down more than one beer; if this were work, she’d already be pretending to drink to encourage him to imbibe more, falsely lulled into security. But there were other forms of flirtatious distraction she could use to her advantage.

The first hole was one of those spatial riddles, trying to fool you into taking several hits when one would do. Amber positioned herself, her back to Eric, bending her knees and angling her ass for his optimal viewing.

It might be hard to concentrate, with the loud murmur of multiple conversations and the lights, but she’d long since learned to focus in the most tumultuous environments, during her rounds. A crowded bar had nothing on the panic of a patient crashing.

Just the right strength in her tap, and the ball went rolling straight into its target. “Hole in one,” she smiled at Eric, pleased to have gotten off to a good start. “Not that first-graders couldn’t get that one.”
amber_v: Smug Amber is smug (smug)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-07 03:01 am (UTC)(link)
Doing so well on the first round was reward enough, but then Eric wrapped his arms around her and that only boosted Amber’s good mood. She leaned against him, smiling to be surrounded by in his warmth. "Oh, you can teach me perfect positions," Amber purred into his ear. "I'm always up for constructive advice-- and not just at mini-golf." She kissed his lobe, in case he needed an extra hint to catch the subtext. This playing with a date thing was great. She got to flirt, satisfying her own impulses, and, at the same time, distract her opponent. Two of her very favorite things combined into one!

Amber didn't know whether to be elated or disappointed at Eric needing two hits to get his ball in. On the one hand, winning was never bad. Never. On the other, she'd expected more of a challenge from him. She hoped he wasn't humoring her, or not taking the game seriously.

Focused on studying the next hole and determining the best strategy, Amber spoke absentmindedly. “I’ve got two brothers, one older and one younger. And they teased me plenty, but never for mini-golf. Actually, they’d make fun of me for playing.” Her brothers had been big on rough-and-tumble sports, nothing like the plastic delicacy of mini-golf.

This required more hits than the first hole, to head up the ramp and then around the spiraling curve. Even though she’d already figured it out, Amber made a show of squatting to get a closer look at the set-up, arching her back slightly. She smirked, trying to imagine Eric’s expression as he watched. She then got to her feet in a fluid motion and knocked her ball once; it travelled up the ramp just fine. But the harder part came next: she’d never been good at calibrating the right amount of energy to knock into a ball to make it through a spiral smoothly, and she was out of practice. The set up was simple enough, though, that she just barely made it. “Yes!” she exclaimed.

Amber sashayed away from the hole, giving the space up to Eric. But before he could start to putt, she hugged him from behind, squeezing his arms with her own. She pecked him on the cheek. Ahead in the game, she felt affectionate. “So who teased you about your mini-golf?”
amber_v: Smug Amber is smug (smug)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-08 03:05 pm (UTC)(link)
"Making a point of beating a nine-year-old? How so very twelve-year-old of you." Kids were kids, Amber had enough experience to know. She'd never missed the opportunity to kick her brothers' asses, no matter the age gap, just as they'd tried to prove themselves better whenever they could. To this day they still competed. She'd fallen a bit behind, quitting her old job, but if the gamble paid off and she got hired by House, she'd consider herself ahead. Though what yardstick could compare the careers of a doctor, a lawyer, and an engineer?

Amber had taken Eric's short anecdote as a fond memory, something he could be teased over. But then his expression fell as if he were contemplating something less pleasant than childhood antics. She wondered if it was a memory or a current concern. She’d have liked to know what thoughts were overcastting his mood, but the middle of a mini-golf game in a sports bar didn’t seem like the optimal moment. Maybe later. She was certain the topic would come up again, if it mattered to him. For now, she hugged a bit tighter and offered another tidbit from her past: “I never let Geoffrey win, and he was two years younger than me. He still complains about that! But what was I supposed to do, give him a false victory?”

She let him slip out of her hold to putter and nodded to herself when he expertly knocked the ball in. Now they were talking. It’d be no fun, if he didn’t offer a challenge. “I’m not worried,” Amber said. “In fact, I’ll be extra-nice and let you take advantage of your good streak: you play next.” She didn’t mention her ulterior motive. She wasn’t familiar with the next hole, and while she was certain she could figure out its scheme, she wanted to see how Eric played it. From his attitude, he seemed to be familiar with the course. And even if he wasn’t, she didn’t want to let him crib off all her moves.
amber_v: Hiya, lips. Why so sad? (lips)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-08 10:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Times like these, Amber sincerely wished she could read people's minds. Or that she’d at least known Eric for longer than a day, in a more informative environment than bed. Five pipes, four unknowns. He'd chosen one that brought his ball near the pipe, so that much was at least a possibility. But was there a trick? Something she should know hidden in that pipe? Was one of the other pipes a better hoice? Eric had been pretty casual about the game so far, but he'd mentioned catching up, and he did seem to be a perfectionist. Would he go easy on her, just because she smiled pretty and might give him mind-blowing sex again?

Unfortunately, she didn't have much choice but to believe in him. She had no idea about the contents of the other four pipes, and for all she knew, they'd bring her ball to the beginning, or even further back. Of all the holes to not have paid attention to! She’d have to follow Eric’s lead. At least his way she'd seen proof the ball would make it out the other end.

Amber imitated his stance and stroke as best she could, to perform exactly as he did. Picking the same pipe as him, she was losing the chance of maybe doing better. But she was happier doing exactly the same rather than accidentally doing worse. Her ball made it through, darting a bit beyond Eric's. She wrinkled her nose. She’d ended up at a terrible angle from the hole. “There’s a better pipe, isn’t there.” Maybe she should think again about getting him to drink.
amber_v: Smug Amber is smug (smug)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-09 03:56 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks to the way the ball fell out of the pipe, it took her two more shots to get the ball into the hole. However, she refused to get upset. It was just a setback. "No sorrows," Amber said firmly. The game wasn't over and they were tied. She could still win.

"That was pretty sneaky," she chided without any sternness. While she preferred it when she was the only one pulling the backhanded tricks, she respected opponents who were willing to bend the rules. It meant they were serious about reaching their goals, a worthy way of life. "I didn't expect it of you-- I figured you'd be more of a stickler for Wrong and Right." She smacked his ass and grinned at him. She knew that’d probably remind him of last night and how he’d let her push his barriers. She wondered if he was at all (physically) sore, and what new things they could try together. "Glad I was mistaken." She loved that he was scheming, not letting any notions of gentlemanliness hold him back. Even if it did mean she’d have a harder time winning.

At least he was drinking again, without her prompting him.

The next hole wasn't at all about strategy, only skill, so Amber had no need to crib. And anyway, Eric had proven to be a terrible person to copy off of, intentionally misleading her. “I’ll take this next round,” she said. The set-up started off with a steep ramp, the kind an inexperienced or bad player would get frustrated over, unable to find the right amount of force to get their ball up. After that was an inclined fall, a sharper rise, and a softer descent, with the hole away a foot or so away from the base. Depending on the player, they could get stuck here for several strokes, their ball unable to make the climb or skidding far away from the hole. She doubted it’d be a problem for Eric, though.

Amber took longer than she needed to putty, bending for her best shot, both in appearance and mini-golfing. She was glad she’d worn these jeans. They’d accentuate her ass and legs in the most flattering way possible. She gazed intently (at the course), licked her lips, tilted her head… But before the act grew old, she made the stroke, and her ball mounted steadily. It then fell suavely, rebounding a bit at the base of the next rise. She turned to Eric, eager to see how he’d do.
amber_v: Aw, man, don't pout at me (lean)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-11 12:43 am (UTC)(link)
"Mmm," Amber murmured, kissing back. This wasn't a distraction, it was a blatant invitation to ditch the ball game and find themselves some privacy. She'd take Eric up on it, if they weren't fucking tied. Just one point ahead, that'd have been enough to leave her with the sense of victory and therefore satisfied enough to abandon their mini-golfing. But she wouldn't cut the game short as long as she wasn't number one. Amber Volakis didn't play that way.

She sighed as Eric cupped her ass, his grasp firm and welcoming. If she didn't remember what he was capable of, that one caress would've been enough to tell her. But Amber wouldn't be deterred. And if that's how he was going to be, Amber could be far, far worse. She curved into him, her pelvis pressing up against him. The rest of her body followed, her breasts flush up against his chest. "Me? Distract you? Never," she breathed, her lips millimeters from his. Hugging him, her arms around his shoulders, she fluttered her fingertips along the back of his neck.

This was an admittedly dangerous strategy, possibly sacrificing her own concentration, but Amber was pretty sure she’d be okay. She could control herself, and it was Eric’s turn to putt. “All I want is a nice, fair game of mini-golf. Is that too much to ask?” she gazed into his eyes with as much innocence as she could muster. Still, the corners of her mouth quirked up in a mischievous smile.
amber_v: Smug Amber is smug (smug)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-18 01:46 am (UTC)(link)
Eric untangled himself from her as if he were dousing the two of them with a bucket of cold water. Amber pouted, clasping her hands over her waist. "You're no fun, you know that?" Had she overdone it? One of her most valuable tactics, and now maybe she couldn't do it anymore. That'd be a big, big pity. But she could get by without flirting, if she had to. She had more skills up her sleeve, including actual ability at mini-golfing.

Seemed like he was becoming as serious about the game as she was, at any rate. That was almost a pity, as well; it'd be easier to win if he didn't care. But victory would be oh so much sweeter, if it came with a fight.

With Eric managing to hit about as well as she had, they remained at about an even score. "Why do you think I want the job so much?" Amber asked, stepping up to her ball. "It's not for the pleasure of living under the threat of being fired." She paused for a second, thinking. "Though I do like getting the competition out of the way... but, mostly, working for House, I get to do anything and everything. It's fun."

Amber studied where the hole was and, concentrating, hit her ball. It skidded up the slope and rolled gently downwards into the hole. Nice. She hadn't been sure she could get a birdie. She'd have celebrated, but she wanted to get back to the subject Eric had raised. “You’ve been at the hospital for a while. Got any dirt on House that could help me out? Any secret information to give me the edge?” She grinned at him. “If I get hired, I get to stay at the hospital—which I think might to your advantage.”
amber_v: Aw, man, don't pout at me (lean)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-24 01:00 am (UTC)(link)
Eric had turned pale; his gaze shifted, refusing to meet hers. Even his posture fell, slumping. Amber could understand the disappointment at being bested, but he was far more stricken than mini-golf could ever warrant, even by her own standards. It was something else, it had to be. Amber recalled her last few words: was he offended by her wheedling him for trade secrets? Maybe—she wouldn’t be surprised if he had such integrity that the slightest hint of cheating angered him. But whatever he was feeling, it seemed turned inwards. Guilt, then? Or worry?

The clash as his putter hit metal resonated in Amber's chest, even with all the bar's clamor. "Okay," she was calm, as if they were discussing routine paperwork, rather than a radical change in his behavior. "We can get one towards the back." It was quieter there, away from all the games and televisions. They could carry a proper conversation, speaking at normal tones. Whatever it was Eric wanted to talk about, it seemed serious. She wanted to hear him carefully, without yelling and mishearing every other phrase.

She refused to let herself worry much. Who knew what was bothering Eric. It could be a simple problem. Maybe he had a terrible piece of House history to impart to her; or it could be something unrelated to work.

Amber leaned her putter against the curb and walked towards the back. She didn't reach out for his hand. Under most any other circumstance tonight, she would've, giddy for his touch. But this didn't feel like a hand-holding moment.
amber_v: Hiya, lips. Why so sad? (lips)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-24 09:28 pm (UTC)(link)
Eric seemed to grow smaller by the second, contracting into himself. He was so miserable Amber couldn't bring herself to be annoyed over the abandoned game; she hated to leave projects undone, but she knew when to put playtime down. And when her partner did a one-eighty, with the air of a much more humiliating defeat than losing a mini-golf match, that time had come.

Sitting down, Amber caught the gaze of a waiter, nodding at him. He waved his hand, indicating that he'd be with them shortly.

Amber wracked her brain for what could've aggravated Eric this much. Was it about House? He could get under people's skins, challenging and even destroying carefully constructed worldviews with a few words. But would Eric have been so crumbled by House? Up until now, he'd acted aloof upon hearing House's name. If she remembered correctly, he hadn't even given her a proper answer that morning, when she'd asked if he'd met House. She hadn't thought much of it at the time, being so distraught over Eric's sudden need to flee her company.

Huh. Eric turning to panic twice when House's name came up. A coincidence? House wouldn't think so. (She almost smiled at the irony of how quickly her thoughts jumped to his cynical rationalism.) And Amber wasn't inclined to think so, either.

The waiter arrived, filling up Eric's glass. Amber herself requested a cosmopolitan; she had a hunch she'd want a drink during this conversation.

He reached out to her and she thought for a moment. She didn't especially feel like holding Eric’s hand right now, neither literally nor figuratively. This was all too strange, and she wasn’t sure if he was seeking pity or sympathy. But she covered her hand with his, anyway, squeezing for a second. She’d give him the benefit of the doubt. “So, what’s up? You have a deep, dark secret to tell me? Did you kill a man over mini-golf?” She joked to put him at ease. He certainly needed it.
amber_v: How daaaaaaaaare you (suspicious)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-24 11:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Amber listened. Let Eric blurt it all; the less she interrupted, the more she’d know. A pang of wistfulness flitted through her when he called their night together “amazing.” As much as she thrived on compliments and success, any happiness she might have felt was dampened by the inevitably upcoming “but.”

Three years. Eric had worked for House for three years. She flushed, embarrassed and indignant at being kept in the dark. From his remorse, she didn’t think he’d meant to make a fool out of her, but she felt like one anyway. They’d kissed and showered and eaten breakfast together, and not once did he get around to telling they’d had a boss in common? He didn’t want to share any observations about the man she was desperately trying to impress enough into hiring her? What was so awful about having once worked for him that he couldn’t tell her before?

He explained further. “Oh.” Her hand curled, her nails pressing against her palm. She gazed into Eric’s eyes, processing. They weren’t just distant colleagues; they worked in the same department. Her eyes widened. “Are you taking up one of the slots?” For the first time in years she’d found a guy she liked-- really liked, enough to dare hope for a future with him—and he was her competition? Losing to him at mini-golf would’ve been better!

“You mean, you'll be my boss.” Was that the worst of it? He’d be in charge of her. “So what? Far as I can tell, the hospital doesn’t care much if its employees date. I heard House and Cameron slept with each other, before she quit. We could still—“

No. The worst of it wasn’t that Eric had stolen her spot, or that he’d be her superior. It was that he was acting as Cuddy’s agent, to undermine House. She pulled her hand away without thinking, dropping it into her lap. “I can’t go out with you again.” She spat the words out bitterly. This wasn’t fair. Why, of all people, did it have to be Eric? “Not if you’re Cuddy’s puppet. If House ever knew we’d slept together—he’d fire me, thinking I was helping you manipulate him.”

And there was more, she realized. “You knew this. You knew we couldn’t stay together.” He hadn't bothered to inform of him of this slight "detail," stringing her along, making her think he was as into her as she was him.

This. It was because of things like this, men treating her without due respect, that she’d given up on dating. She should've known better than to think it'd be any different this time. “Why didn’t you say anything? Was it fun, playing with me?” Her voice rose dangerously high. Damn it. She didn’t show how upset she was, not when he’d been the reason for her humiliation.
amber_v: Aw, man, don't pout at me (lean)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-25 02:41 am (UTC)(link)
Great. Fucking great. All these weeks working her ass off to stay in the running, bumping off the others, and someone waltzed in out of nowhere and robbed one of the prizes. And Eric didn’t even appreciate what he had! He hated having what she longed after.

How quickly his guilt turned to anger when she hit what seemed to be a sore spot, turning the blame to her. Yeah, she’d gone for a real winner of a guy. “You said it yourself: you’re keeping an eye on House for Cuddy. You’ll be running her errands. Isn’t that what a puppet does? Or do you prefer to be called ‘lackey’?” She was going too far, lashing out too hard. They’d be working together, it’d be better to maintain some grain of civility between them. Amber couldn’t help it, though. He’d hurt her, and she wouldn’t let an attack go unreciprocated.

Being on Eric’s bad side probably meant she’d be golden in House’s eyes, anyway.

“That’s sweet. Except that those few days came at my expense. And what does that even mean? Did you think this weekend is some magical limbo that protects us from real-life consequences? The more we drag this out, the worse it’ll be.” He’d probably interpret her last statement in light of her job, and she meant it that way, too. But the damage to her career was already done; another few days of enjoying each other’s company wouldn’t make any difference, to House. No, what she mostly meant was that she’d grow more attached to a man and relationship she couldn’t have. She wouldn’t tell him that, not explicitly. Amber had her pride.

The waiter arrived with the cosmopolitan she’d forgotten ordering. She downed the red drink. She’d been right, she had ended up wanting it. But the cherry flavor was too sweet, artificial; the aftertaste clung unpleasantly in her mouth.

Eric subsided after his outburst. Hearing his defeated tone, the base of Amber’s throat tightened. She’d wanted to see him, too. She’d wanted a whole lot more than a few days. But she wouldn’t have, not if she’d known he was capable of such deception. “You should’ve told me,” she said, shaking her head. Her voice lowered. “I had a right to decide if we got these ‘few days.’”
amber_v: How daaaaaaaaare you (suspicious)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-25 06:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Amber met his gaze back steadily, her mouth shut so tight her jaw ached. His apology wasn't at all satisfying. If he'd refused to own up to his mistake, then she could've vented more at him, gotten some of this anger and embarrassment out of her. But he'd said he was sorry, and now it really was over. This conversation and anything they could've been, as a couple.

Eric suggested he leave. "No." Amber stood up, grasping for her purse before she remembered that she'd left it on the other side of the bar. "I'll go." She couldn't stay here, imprisoned to her seat, watching him go. This hurt enough as it was, she didn't need to watch him actually leave her, unable to do anything but feel fucking sorry for herself. "I'll pay my half at the front." No way she'd let herself him owe her anything.

She looked down at Eric, unable to resist studying him one last time, to try to understand what was going on in his head. Coiled, frowning, looking about ready to erupt, Amber understood, on some level, that he hadn’t meant to hurt her. But the fact was, he hadn’t stopped to think how she’d feel. “Maybe House screws around with everyone, just to get what he wants, but you know what? At least he’s honest about it. He makes it perfectly clear he can’t be trusted.”

She then turned around, flipping her hair. Immature, to want to leave with the last, stinging word, but she was too upset to care.

The soles of her sandals pattered on the tiled floor as she made her way back to their original table. The bar seemed unbearably loud, the beeps and clangs from the arcade games ringing in her ears. As she paid, a group burst into clamorous laughter as they passed behind her as she paid, and she burned with envy. Amber held on to that. Envy was good. Better than all the other things she could be feeling right now.
amber_v: Hiya, lips. Why so sad? (lips)

[personal profile] amber_v 2009-07-25 11:34 pm (UTC)(link)
It was chilly outside. Amber clutched at her coat to close it tighter, walking briskly. Genius, going in Eric's car. Now she'd have to take the bus. Where was the stop, anyway? It'd been years since she'd taken public transportation. Maybe to the left--

She almost wished Eric hadn't told her, not tonight. Her throat tightened again. She hadn't been wrong, it would've been worse to drag out their inevitable separation, but if he'd waited until Monday morning, they could've--

What was she missing so much, anyway? She barely even knew him (as had become painfully clear). They'd had one night of fantastic sex, some of the best she'd ever enjoyed, and a game of cut-throat mini-golf. And some flirtatious conversations. That was it.

Amber shivered in her coat, her shoulders hunching. There'd been more than that, between the lines. He'd been smart, fun, capable... someone she could really respect. And he'd tried so hard, too, to be courteous and considerate. But what good did pretending to be a gentleman do, if you were going to undermine it all by being a huge, selfish liar?

No. She wasn't going to cry in public. She wasn't going to cry at all, not even at home. This short fling didn't deserve it. She'd been perfectly happy before meeting Eric, and she'd be fine without him.

Turning the corner, she found the bus stop. Amber stood waiting, trying not to think about how she'd have to see Eric practically every day, from now on.