Thursday, November 29

  • Nov. 11th, 2010 at 9:25 PM
Foreman woke up slowly, with a dry, sour mouth and a full bladder. Squinting his eyes open, the first thing he saw was the pile of suitcases, which brought back to mind where he was. He let out a quiet grunt, slightly put out as soon as he remembered he was going to have to spend another day--another two days, possibly--tiptoeing around and carefully not taking offense at anything that was said to him. And that included from Amber. Loving her wasn't much of a defense against her abrupt, thoughtless comments, that could hurt even when she didn't have her claws out. In fact, that's when it was worse; when Foreman knew she was angry, he battened down the hatches and rode out the gale. Other times, she could catch him completely off-guard.

Better to be prepared. Foreman had been joking about the tour last night, but now he realized he wasn't sure where the bathroom was, or how the Volakises would feel about him wandering the house in his t-shirt and shorts. Taking the cautious route, he got out his toiletry bag, pulled on fresh underwear, jeans, a t-shirt, and a Lions sweater. He found the bathroom on the second try, but fortunately for him, the first door had been a linen closet. Sounds from downstairs suggested the household was already awake or would be soon, so he took a lightning-quick shower, scrubbing down and shaving a lot less carefully than he ordinarily liked. He could take off the five o'clock shadow with his usual painstakingness before dinner. Once he'd taken a long piss, washed his hands and face and slapped on some aftershave, and brushed his teeth, he felt human enough to play his good guest role.

With relief, he found that breakfast was much less of a production than Thanksgiving dinner promised to be. The turkey was already in the oven, which left him feeling obscurely guilty; Kate had clearly woken up just to prep the bird and get it started. Chris was in the kitchen. He nodded hello to Foreman and pointed at the coffee maker. "As long as you get fed, I can promise Kate she doesn't need to cook breakfast," he said.

Foreman grinned, part of him relaxing to hear it. "Just some toast would be good," he said.

Chris told him where things were, and Foreman sat down across from him. "Everything all right last night?" Chris asked.

Foreman nearly choked on his bite of toast. Chris's dry humour was in full evidence, and Foreman had to force himself to answer courteously, as if it wasn't obvious that the whole family had heard them. Christ, he was never going to live that down. The first night he'd met the family. If he didn't know that he was just as much at fault, he'd be pinning the blame squarely on Amber for coming on to him in her parents' house. "Fine," he managed. "Just great. Good sleep."

Chris nodded. "Lions fan?" he asked.

Crap. That sounded like an even more loaded question than Did you sleep with my daughter under my roof last night? "Yeah," Foreman said, and hazarded a guess, "Packers fan?"

"Whole family is," Chris asserted.

Foreman had never heard Amber have an opinion on football before, but he suspected that family loyalty won against boyfriend loyalty in a case like this. "Gonna watch the game later?"

Chris gave him a smile that somehow reminded Foreman of Amber at her most shark-like. "Of course."

There was no more chance to discuss the teams, because Leila came in with a sleepy Madeleine, rubbing her eyes and asking for her stuffed ducky, which had apparently been left behind and only discovered at this moment when only a stuffed ducky would do. Leila tried her best to distract Madeleine with fruit and cereal, but she was still sniffling when Geoffrey came downstairs. "No breakfast?" he asked. "Let me whip up some pancakes."

"Your mother doesn't want the kitchen touched," Chris said phlegmatically, but Geoffrey waved him off.

"It's no trouble. Maddy loves pancakes."

Pancakes could have been the watchword for chaos. Geoffrey started opening cupboards and pulling out ingredients; apparently, it had to be pancakes from scratch, and a mix wouldn't do. Jude arrived halfway into the production and offered to make her patented scrambled eggs, as long as they were cooking. When Kate appeared, probably hearing the noise, she took one look around her kitchen, and Foreman felt like death rays would have been a kinder fate to all the breakfasters. He wished he'd gotten out sooner, so that he couldn't possibly have been included in 'people who touched an appliance without permission,' even if he'd only presumed so far as to use the toaster and not the waffle iron Geoffrey had found in the back of a bottom cupboard and was now dusting off. They were all herded into the living room, while Kate took over the pancakes and scrambled eggs both, all the while insisting that she'd planned a big breakfast in the first place, if they'd just give her room to work.

Just as they were sitting down to piping hot eggs and syrup-drenched pancakes, a knock came at the door. "That'll be Brian," Geoffrey said. "His timing has always been terrible."

"If I'd known he was getting a taxi, I could have cooked more pancakes," Kate fretted.

"You weren't planning to cook breakfast anyway," was Chris's daring contribution, which earned him a glare as Kate pushed her chair back to greet Brian at the door.

They were back a moment later, Brian grinning around the dining room, Kate with her arms crossed behind him. "Don't mind me, keep eating," he said, stealing a bite off Madeleine's plate with her fork. "Oh, no bacon?"

"Brian, your father was going to pick you up at the airport," Kate said.

"It was easier to just get a cab." Brian pulled in a chair from the other room and pushed in at the table. "Don't worry about me, Mom, I'll just help Maddy out a bit." He grinned at her, and Madeleine looked alternately like she'd burst out in a tantrum that he was going to eat all her food, and delighted giggles that someone had noticed her.

"You'll get your own plate!" Kate said. "You might as well have mine at this rate."

"I'll do the dishes," Brian promised. "You can take it out of my hide."

Foreman wanted nothing so much as to escape, but they were crammed in around the table since the leaves had been taken out after last night's dinner. Brian reached across the table and a pile of pancakes to shake his hand. "Eric? Brian. Good to meet you. Just like Amber to bring home--" The pause was infinitesimal, but unmistakable, and Brian's smirk said he knew it-- "a Lions fan." He took another bite off Madeleine's plate, grinning at her and mussing her hair. "God, after hours on a plane, I want to do anything but sit this afternoon. Dad, do we still have that old football?"

Chris nodded. "In the garage."

"Great. Four middle-aged guys trying to relive their glory days. Right, Eric?"

Foreman didn't know whether he wanted to strangle Brian or laugh, and from some of the looks around the table, it seemed like he wasn't alone. Somehow, Brian chivvied them all through breakfast, until mid-afternoon Geoffrey finally relented and said he'd go out and play touch, not tackle, two-on-two, if it would only shut Brian up.

Brian laughed and went out to find the football and get it firmed up with a bike pump. Foreman changed into sweats, keeping his Lions sweater as a point of pride. On the one hand, he couldn't believe he was going out to play football with Amber's brothers and father, and on the other, at least it would get him out of the house and doing something he was far more comfortable with than taking sides in the Volakises' long-established pecking order.

The back yard was fenced, but big enough for their purposes. Brian tried to cajole Geoffrey into letting Maddy play center, but Geoffrey said, "Certainly not," and already looked so out of place in the oversized sweater Chris had leant him that Brian didn't insist.

"All right, me and Dad, Geoffrey and Eric," Brian announced, holding up the football. "Averaging ages is only fair."

Foreman had no idea what was fair, but he let Geoffrey tug him across to their half of the lawn. "He is always like this," Geoffrey said, his face beginning to flush in the cold air, or maybe from competitive fury. "He thinks that some year I am going to let him win."

Foreman glanced over his shoulder. Brian and Geoffrey were both tall, but Brian was rangy where Geoffrey was solid and running to fat around his middle. "Is he any good?" he asked.

"You'll be receiver," Geoffrey said. "Man defense. I hope you can run."

Oh, God. What the hell had he gotten himself into? Geoffrey's florid face looked fiercely determined, and it was only a game of back yard touch. Brian had the manic grin of someone who had provoked a duel to the death just because he found the adrenaline of pistols at dawn refreshing. As for Chris, he had the air of an overlooked criminal mastermind who knew exactly what he'd unleashed on the world, and he was proud of it. Foreman lined up with the tree they'd chosen as the fifty-yard line, and looked around for someone to save him.

Nobody did. They took defense first, Brian lining up at center and Foreman starting as defensive lineman opposite him. Foreman expected the first snap to be light and easy, but he was disabused of that notion pretty much instantly. Brian shoved past him, and was on a breakaway to catch Chris's touchdown pass before Foreman had gotten his feet back under him.

Geoffrey yanked him back into their huddle after Brian had finished dancing in triumph. "Is that all you've got?" he asked. "I didn't want to mention Amber's standards, but..."

"Hey--" Foreman didn't know what to be pissed off at first, that Geoffrey's true judgement was based on how well Foreman could help him beat his brother in a game of football, that he was judging Amber based on Foreman's abilities, or that all of this was coming out in the place of his usual affable pompousness. Foreman clenched his jaw. If they thought they were the only competitive people in this yard, he'd show them.

After that, the game was a blur. Foreman shoved when he needed to shove and danced out of the way when he had the room. Brian was fast, but he committed to a route where Foreman was maneuverable. Which worked out, because Geoffrey's arm was shit. He couldn't get a pass within three yards of Foreman, and Foreman was forced to take dives, or leaps, and once he accidentally slammed into Chris, who he'd personally decided to keep his hands off for the entire game, since the last thing he wanted was to cause Amber's father to have a heart attack. But Chris just called the tackle, and took back possession as gloatingly as either of his sons.

Somewhere in the middle of it, after about their third TD, Foreman realized he was grinning with just as much fervour as Brian and Geoffrey, and celebrating just as loudly with each successful play. Geoffrey wasn't that bad, and they were up two majors, and Foreman might be sweaty, grass stained, and gasping for another breath of daggered, icy air, and he realized they were actually bonding. When he realized it, Foreman started laughing so hard that Brian slipped around his tackle (the two of them had given up the 'touch' rule pretty early on) and ran in for the score.

They were lining up for the next play, serious as the Superbowl, when Leila came out the back door. "Geoffrey, time's up. You know you're all going to need showers, and Kate wants us to sit down at seven."

"Of course," Geoffrey said instantly, standing up out of his crouch and walking off the field with as much dignity as he could muster, considering how badly he was hiding a limp. Foreman had an instant's dismay--he probably would have kept going until he'd collapsed--but a second later, he got it. They were ahead. Brian was already starting to protest, but by listening to Leila's summons as soon as they were given, Geoffrey was being mature and responsible, and in no way rubbing it in that he'd beat his little brother at football.


Foreman shook his head sympathetically, and reached out to shake Brian's hand, with a much bigger grin than he'd managed at breakfast. "Hey, good game," he said, and shook Chris's hand too, for good measure.

"It's the first year in a long time we've managed a real one," Brian said, the stormy look on his face slowly fading as he walked ruefully to the door. "But hey, as long as Geoff's feeling it to the bone for the next week, right?"

Foreman laughed. "I'm going to be feeling it for a week."

"You deserve it too," Brian said. "So will I, but I won't show it. That's almost as good as a win."

They headed into the house, Brian delivering one last slap to Foreman's shoulder, right where a bruise was coming up (he'd run into a tree during a victory lap; God, he hoped no one had seen that). Foreman headed up the stairs, already feeling the ache in his legs. The house smelled absolutely delicious, and he realized how starved he was. By mutual agreement, they'd decided that Chris got the first shower, and Foreman sneaked in next by dint of being a guest. For the next few minutes, though, all he wanted to do was collapse on the squeaky bed and feel every one of his complaining muscles.

November 28th, 2007 - Wednesday

  • Jul. 8th, 2010 at 1:52 AM
Amber eyed the small mountain her bags added up to. Part of her wondered if she hadn’t overdone it; this wasn’t the apocalypse. The rest of her new better: Thanksgiving with her family? Was worse. In those suitcases were provisions for all possible disasters, including a sleeping bag and extra bed sheets. Her mom would not accuse her of forgetting anything.

The salad, though, they’d get that in Worcester itself. Amber preferred to face last-minute Wednesday lines than bring six-hour wilted lettuce from Princeton-Plainsboro.

That ought to be it, though. Time to go. They were going to have a lot of traffic as it was since House had insisted they stay Wednesday afternoon despite the fact that they had no case—and also despite the fact most of the hospital had been gone since yesterday. House couldn’t actually be that lonely and bitter, not when she knew for a fact that Wilson had invited him to a full Thanksgiving meal cooked in his very own apartment. If House wanted to stay at the hospital to impress and/or to get into the pants of Cuddy—who would be working through the holiday, according to Amber’s sources (Cameron)— he didn’t have make them all suffer with him.

Amber got her cell phone out and texted Eric: Leaving now, be ready to go. He probably knew by now she would not spare him his life if he and his own bags were not waiting for her on the curb. He was rather inconsistent about when and when not to get into a power struggle with her, but for his own good and for her punctuality, she hoped he wouldn’t make a case of it today. Throwing her cell phone back into her purse, Amber began the wonderful journey of torture, starting with getting all her damn things down a huge staircase. First thing she’d do when she got back was get in the apartment management’s face about getting a damn elevator.

Monday, November 12

  • Jun. 30th, 2010 at 12:50 AM
House was disgruntled.

He didn't like being disgruntled. He'd rather be pissed off, or disgusted with somebody's stupidity, or even casually bored. Or, unsettling everyone's expectations about his stunted emotional life, happy as a clam in mud. Disgruntled was a stupid emotion, most of all because he couldn't do much about it.

All week, all weekend he'd waited for a sign that Samira Terzi had any intention of following through on his--admittedly rusty--flirtations. Okay, outright propositions. Well, she hadn't slapped him or kneed him in the balls. She'd smiled, even joked back. He'd almost thought he'd find her waiting outside the hospital ready to give his position a try. One or both. Really, either way he could hardly lose. Giving her a spot on the team would certainly lift the scenery quotient. And there'd be plenty of opportunities to close the deal if she was hanging on his every word and learning from the master.

But she didn't show. And House couldn't stop looking for her. He wasn't a moron; he didn't expect her. But he kept turning around to check over his shoulder anyway, and it was...


Monday rolled around with nothing interesting on the radar. (Wilson getting drunk and bowling a 300 game he couldn't remember the next day was becoming disgustingly familiar. House had stolen the trophy for his own collection of things Wilson had won that House obviously deserved more.) The case last week with the kid getting his surgery was old news. If House didn't keep Cuddy hopping with some kind of crisis his team was involved in, he'd probably have to work, which was a sad prospect for any Monday, but even worse today.

He was limping towards the clinic entrance, his shoulder already burning from his quick, rolling pace as he kept his weight off his leg, when he twisted into a double-take and nearly faceplanted on the wet sidewalk. Foreman. And the Bitch.

Canoodling, of course. Looking like quite the pair of lovebirds. They were standing near Foreman's car, foreheads pressed together, the hint of a man-eating smile just visible on the Bitch's face as they pulled out of a kiss. She looked like she'd forgotten everything else in the world. Like she'd forgotten being the best. Forgotten the game.

Forgotten House.

It was about time to show that he hadn't forgotten them. Oh, he'd left them alone last week, put up with the drip, drip, drip of sappiness in his differentials, ignored the little not-actually-invisible-to-the-rest-of-the-world smiles they'd had plastered on their faces, but that had been because he'd been biding his time. And it looked like Monday morning should come with with a rude awakening for somebody else besides him.

House altered his path slightly and headed for the doctors' lounge. An ambush in the locker room was just what the doctor ordered.

November 10

  • Jun. 20th, 2010 at 12:04 PM
As it turned out, House didn't comment on their tardiness or the fact that they arrived within minutes of each other. Amber barely even saw him: he didn't show up in the lecture hall nor in the clinic; she did run into him in the main lobby, but that was coincidence, catching him on his way out. He seemed distracted, gaze not focused on the people around him. Preoccupied, almost, though Amber wouldn't have known with what. He did sneer at her when he noticed her, so he couldn't have been too distraught.

It was another couple of slow days at work. Cuddy came in on Friday morning to push a case on them, but none of them were willing to hunt out House and force work on him, and anyway Kutner's guess of a diagnosis turned out to be right. Cuddy seemed miffed when she reported that fact to them and her expression was stiff with held-back anger as she reported them to the clinic, but what did Amber care? If Cuddy didn't like the situation, she could do something about it. Amber was playing by the rules.

And not having a case meant things were simple with the Dr. Foreman side of Eric. They couldn't forever avoid working together, and goodness knew how their future fights would get entangle itself in their relationship, but for now Amber was fine with being happy in love. Everything... just seemed lighter. The clouds seemed higher, the sky bluer, and sometimes, clacking along the corridors in her same heels and skirts, Amber felt like she was floating. It was impossible not to smile, to the point that one of her clinic patients asked her what was so damn funny about their eczema rash. And seeing Eric, smirking like they knew the world's best secret because they did-- that was the best.

Saturday rolled around, with them waking up together again in her bed, this time not thinking at all of time; they took their time kissing, wrestling in bed, fucking... by the time they were done, the late morning sun came in bright and strong and beautiful. Boneless and sated, Amber couldn't resist drifting off, curling in the light streaming over her bed. What harm could napping a bit do? They had the whole weekend ahead of them.

November 8

  • Jun. 6th, 2010 at 7:00 PM
Foreman grunted and shifted when Amber prodded him awake and led him to bed. He woke up enough to strip down to his boxers and slide between the fresh sheets with her, but hardly conscious enough to get smug that she'd invited him back into her bed. Definitely not awake enough to think through the implications--such as the fact that he didn't have any clean clothes at Amber's apartment, they still had to show up at work the next day even without a case, and Amber had a habit of waking up earlier than him, not only because she took more time in the mornings, but because she lived further from the hospital.

Falling asleep, once again with his arm tucked close around Amber's waist and her hips cradled in front of his, Foreman didn't spend any energy on a plan for the next day. When Amber's alarm clock went off, it felt far too soon, and Foreman groaned a low protest. Amber was warm, and though they must have shifted in the night, Foreman was still able to wriggle a fraction of an inch closer and press against her back again. He didn't want to wake up. Easier to ignore the alarm clock and nuzzle closer to the scent of Amber's nape, his mouth brushing against the juncture of her neck and shoulder.

He'd been dreaming. Something confused, fading already, although the effects of it were still apparent. A low thread of pleasure twined through his body, tingling, and keeping him very happily where he was. Foreman shifted again, all but unconscious, rocking his hips forward against Amber's ass in one slow, light press. God, she felt good. Foreman stretched, long and luxurious, rolling his shoulders and pointing his toes. Soon she'd disappear. Leap up at the bleep of the clock. Tell him to lay off and go slow. But until she pushed him away, he was going to see just where the boundary line lay. He couldn't possibly be held responsible for how she turned him on in his sleep.

November 7, 2007

  • Apr. 23rd, 2010 at 1:28 PM
The paperwork took a while. Between the four of them-- Kutner didn't do much-- they got through it faster, but there was so much to do that it still took hours. The conflicting treatments of interferon and steroids was tricky enough to justify-- though justify it Amber did, since she hadn't been wrong-- but there was Brennan's interference which couldn't be explained. Casey could sue the hospital, easy. Probably would, too; they'd risked her life when she'd only been dehydrated.

When going over the more mind-numbing parts of the papers, Amber worked through the past few days in her mind. She was crazy about Eric. That much she couldn't doubt. Seeing him again and again, even when it went against her better judgment; liking waking up next to him; bothering to stick around after their fights...

He'd stuck by her. Goodness knew why, but he kept coming back. The first night of this case, he'd come by with coffee. He'd then turned her down for sex, but he did say he had to work. A workaholic, that's who she was dating. She'd choose work over him any day, too. And this morning, chasing her after she'd run out of the department-- what an idiot. Amber smiled at the list of blood tests she was writing up.

By the time the to-do pile was reduced to nothing, lunch hour had long since passed. Amber collected the papers. "I'll pass these on to Eric," she said. Why not? Pretending to call him Foreman would only make them tease her harder. She didn't have anything to hide, by now.

"Have fun," Kutner half-jeered, half-saluted. Thirteen snorted, Cole raised an eyebrow, and... that was it. At least, in reactions to her. As she organized the papers into folders, Cole mentioned having to pick up his son, and Kutner offered to go with him. Thirteen, sneaky as ever, didn't volunteer any information, just saying by and leaving.

Amber walked the few steps over to the office. She raised the folders. "Look at what I've got for you," she said teasingly. "Bet you've been dying for these."

November 7 - Early

  • Feb. 15th, 2010 at 1:02 PM
The lights were off in the doctor's lounge. Foreman sat on the couch, a frown etched on his face, his hands clenched together. Light was starting to come in the window. He had no idea how long he'd been sitting here. It hadn't been worth the bother of flicking a light switch, or even moving. If he moved, he'd want to lash out. Punch a wall. As if he could solve anything with a melodramatic gesture.

His stomach churned with hunger cramps. His eyelids gritted every time he blinked. The headache he'd gotten yesterday hadn't disappeared, even though he'd swallowed four aspirin. Pain radiated in sharp pangs up both sides of his neck and throbbed around his eye orbits.

Casey had polio.

He still couldn't believe it. His thoughts kept circling back, and every single time he'd run up against a brick wall. Polio. It was fucking impossible, but the test results were there. Brennan had run them, and that alone should be enough of a tip-off that something was wrong...Foreman snorted. Like him. He'd been wrong. No matter how much he didn't want it to be true, it was there in black and white. Brennan might lie but the test didn't. And treating the girl with vitamin C, for fuck's sake. When she'd looked up, astonished, to tell them that her legs hurt--

He'd never felt smaller in his life. Useless. Moron. The insults followed on the heels of every thought. Thought he was so fucking amazing, only to have his face rubbed in the truth. Cuddy should fire him. The new fellows had figured out what he couldn't. Despite him.

He'd apologized. The words had stuck, heavy and hurtful, in his throat, but he'd done it. He'd said to Amber yesterday--yelled, maybe--that he was willing to admit it when he was wrong. And he had; he had that much pride, to acknowledge when he'd screwed up. But they didn't care about that, and why should they? Why should any of them listen to him, when he'd been holding back the diagnosis by cutting Brennan off the case?

Everything he'd prided himself on had been punctured. He'd swallowed down his denials and let them get on with whatever the hell they needed to do. If House came back, he'd reward them. He might not be able to get rid of Foreman, but he'd managed what he wanted to do last week--humiliate him into leaving. Foreman hadn't been miserable because he'd had Amber, but now, he knew, he wouldn't have her either. She'd doubted him, and she'd been right to doubt him. Why the hell should she apologize for going behind his back, when clearly they'd needed to do that just to solve the fucking case?

The thought of telling her that--of admitting it--he couldn't manage that. Not yet. He'd crawl home and lick his wounds in private. All of last week's happiness, and the frustration too, it was over. If he'd lost Amber's respect, if he'd lost her, it was his own damn fault. There was nothing he could do.

He didn't look up when the lounge door opened. What was the fucking point? He wasn't needed. Whoever it was could ignore him and leave him the fuck alone.


Chase. Foreman glanced over his shoulder at him and didn't say anything.

"Whoa. Problems?" Chase grinned. If he said one word about Amber, Foreman was going to show him just how much harder than House he could punch. "I heard about your patient. Polio!" He whistled for emphasis.

Foreman shrugged, locking out any reaction. "I got everything wrong," he said. And, even though five seconds ago he would have loved to smash Chase's face in for mentioning Amber, he said it anyway. "Amber went behind my back to treat her."

Chase shrugged, like he didn't see the problem either. Christ, why did Foreman tell him anything? "While you were screwing up? She did what she thought was right," Chase said. "Would you really rather she follow everything you say? You don't want a robot for a girlfriend."

No fucking help at all. Foreman retreated back into stony silence, turning away from Chase.

"Anyway, you can't have gotten everything wrong," Chase said, shrugging. "You're not that bad." He clapped Foreman on the shoulder and disappeared into the locker room.

Foreman snorted to himself. It had looked like heat stroke. Even House had thought it was a boring case--he wouldn't have left if he'd had the least interest in it. Anger tightened Foreman's shoulders, until his fists were clenched again. Everything in him said polio was impossible. There was no logical reason why vitamin C should cure it. And if Casey's blood samples from when she was admitted were still available--shit. Shit. Foreman pushed to his feet, ignoring the stiffness in his body from sitting so long. He might still be wrong. But he had to know. He had to check.

He headed for the lab with Chase's words still echoing in his head. She did what she thought was right. Amber had said the same. But what neither of them understood was that being right wasn't enough. If you were right, you had to prove it. You had to have a chance to prove it, instead of having everything you were trying to do screwed up by one false step. What was best for the patient--what was best for her was the truth, now. And what was best for her then was not for her doctors to be playing games with her treatment. He still couldn't forgive Amber for what she'd done, but if she was wrong now--fuck. Fuck. He didn't know why he was still thinking about her when they'd already had this argument. More than once. It was impossible, it couldn't be solved.

But he still cared about her. And he wanted her to get what she wanted. It couldn't be at his expense; he'd already fucked up everything for himself. There was nothing Amber could do to hurt him anymore. But he could still help her. Maybe--or maybe this would just give her one more chance to laugh in his face, to tell him he was playing the martyr.

Foreman turned into the lab and went straight to the fridge, checking first that they had a vial of Casey's blood from her initial blood tests. It was there. It was one test. Once he knew he could say anything he damn well wanted. He pulled on a pair of gloves and started working.

When he sat back, the assay results in front of him on the computer screen, he felt numb. He tapped the print button and stripped off his gloves, still unable to take his eyes away from the screen.

He was an idiot. He knew it. But he took out his phone and texted Amber anyway--Path lab. Something to show you.

November 5, 2007 - Morning

  • Jan. 5th, 2010 at 5:33 PM
Lonely: that was Amber's first drowsy feeling to waking up alone. It was still dark and her alarm hadn't gone off. She'd woken up this way countless times, perhaps most of her life, and yet it felt wrong not having someone in here with her. Someone to make muffled but satisfied sounds as she climbed onto them, kissing and being held back. She missed Eric and it hadn't even been more than half a day since they'd parted.

Despite how keenly she felt his absence, Amber couldn't help smiling into her pillow. She'd become conditioned to having him in her bed. The space seemed pointlessly immense without him hogging half of it. Well, there was an easy solution: get him in here soon. Luring him back shouldn't be a problem; Amber could think of half a dozen ways to convince him and that was without trying.

The only reason he wasn't there as she stretched, working out the lasting soreness from their basketball game, was because they both had lives to get back to; Amber had house chores, as probably did Eric, and her reading wouldn't get done through sheer wishing. If it weren't for that, Amber would've been happy to spend another weekend afternoon with him, even after all the ups-and-downs on Saturday.

Still, she'd see him today at work. That was reason enough to make her spring out of bed earlier, so as to pretty herself up all the more. Eric would notice and appreciate her effort; it'd make up for how disgustingly casual she'd been around him this weekend.

The fact that she'd worn his Colombia hoodie to bed... what he didn't know wouldn't hurt her.

Her mom had called Sunday, pointedly asking if she should expect only Amber or plus one for Thanksgiving. "Just me, mom."

"Hmmm?" she'd intoned, judgment and curiosity rolled into a single package. Amber just hoped there wasn't a dash of hope mixed in there. "Broke up already?"

"No," Amber replied with more vehemence than necessary, thinking back on how instantly tense Eric had become at the mere mention of the visit. With his mother's disease, his brother's imprisonment, and his dad's who-knew-what, it might actually be because it was too hard for him to face anyone's family and not because he was scared to meet hers specifically. "It's barely been a week. We're still getting to know each other."

"A few days ago it sounded like you were about to marry him, has it cooled off already? Are you bored with the sex?"

It was the bit about marriage that made Amber sputter softly. Yeah, keeping Eric away was the wisest course of action. "Everything is fine, mom. We're still together and, no, not bored with the sex." There definitely was nothing wrong with their sex life-- in fact, the very opposite. For all that Amber fretted that they were drying up into a drought, Saturday night had been sweetly intimate, in an orgasm-filled way, and Sunday morning they'd tried out the lazy morning sex she'd been anticipating so much. Turned out it was every bit as delicious as she'd imagined.

Aside from that and having to hear her mom describe in minute detail her Thanksgiving plans (arranging rides to pick up her brothers at the airport, finding accommodation for non-immediate family members, shopping for the cheapest yet best food, and on and on and on), Amber's Sunday had been pretty quiet. Just her, her journals, and an endless supply of coffee.

Monday Amber took the time to blow-dry her hair and apply a more careful, if still absolutely professional, layer of makeup than she usually bothered to for work. It made her feel good all morning long, through breakfast and the drive. But as she stepped into the parking lot, the same way she'd started so many other days at PPTH, reluctance overcame her. Things were different here. It'd been so easy to forget once Friday rolled around and they'd fled the hospital, but she had bigger things to think about than "them." She had a career, a purpose. He had his. His partially consisted of keeping her under control; hers, stomping all over him as the occasion called.

It'd keep their sex lives interesting, Amber mused as she shut her car door.

It wasn't just how different their relationship had to be, though. There were other people to consider as well. House, who needed to keep his nose in his own business; her pathetic colleagues, who already looked at her askew for sleeping with the pseudo-boss; and who knew who else decided they had the right to an opinion about her personal life. Ignoring them all would have to do as a policy, Amber decided; that and hunt down anyone who dared try to make her miserable.

Despite the extra time she'd spent in the bathroom and her unhurried breakfast, Amber still arrived before anyone else. A nice change of pace, compared to the previous week. Content, Amber chose an aisle seat in one of the middle rows and settled down with a more recent edition of JNEN.

November 3, 2007 - Morning

  • Dec. 7th, 2009 at 8:58 PM
Foreman had been right about one thing: when he finally woke up, his whole body felt like he'd run a fucking triathlon the night before. He opened his eyes slowly, a smile already curving his lips. Saturday. No work, no obligations. Last weekend he'd thought that he'd fucked up completely with Amber. This morning, here he was, grinning half into his pillow at the sight of her hair, tangled and fanned out across the sheets. So he hurt; that was no different than the morning after a lot of workouts. Some stretching and he'd be fine. If that was the only price he'd pay for last night, he'd always choose to do it again.

They'd finally made it out of the bath when the water was cooling. Fingers and toes pruned, shivering because they'd both fallen asleep, towelling off vigourously to warm up again. Foreman hadn't bothered waking up beyond the most basic functions. He'd gotten his teeth brushed, pissed, hauled his boxers on, and fallen into Amber's bed all without engaging any higher mental faculties. He didn't even remember falling asleep.

Looked like he was the first one to wake up this morning. Usually his body woke him up after eight hours whether he needed more or not. Affection poured through him at the sight of Amber, still sleeping. This way he could admire her before she realized that her hair wasn't in place, and it made the feeling sweeter, somehow, that she didn't know. To let her sleep herself out, Foreman tried to keep himself quiet as he climbed out of bed. He eased out of the bedroom after he'd hauled his trousers and hoodie on. Amber's keys were next to her purse, near the door, and Foreman ducked out for a quick, shivering trip to his car. He came back in with the bag he'd packed yesterday without running into Murphy or any of the other tenants, thank Christ. It didn't take him long to sort out things that he could leave here--deodorant, shaving stuff, cologne, toothbrush--along with a few clothes, more comfortable stuff so that he wouldn't be limited to suits on the weekend.

He showered about as quickly as he would on a weekday, not lingering once he'd gotten clean. He dressed in a pair of battered jeans and a clean sweater, before heading for the kitchen.

He wasn't a great cook, which Amber knew by now. When he was a kid, Mom had let him and Marcus into the kitchen for baking only--to lick icing off the spoons, or to dump too much flour in the bowl, making a mess with the ingredients and then burning his tongue crunching through the resulting--usually rock hard--cookies or cakes. But she'd also considered the kitchen more or less her domain, and she'd swatted their rumps with a dishtowel if they'd gotten in her way when she was cooking the big meals. Not that it was her fault he'd never learned. If he'd ever shown a real interest, rather than sprinting through and grabbing at whatever was sitting out to stuff into his face while Mom was in the middle of preparations, she probably would have taught him. He'd been an ungrateful teenager, he'd expected his meals to be ready for him, and he hadn't paid much attention except when they weren't. What he did know, he knew from disastrous experiments when he was in college, and certainly Claire had never stooped to cooking for him when they both had the same punishing hours at the hospital.

But there was one dish that he was terrific at. It was Claire who'd taught it to him, actually, after he'd complimented her effusively one too many times and given her his best wide-eyed, hopeful look when it seemed like she might be about to make breakfast. Denver omelette, egg whites only since he was trying to keep himself in weight training trim. He'd seen all the ingredients he needed in Amber's fridge last night. Peppers, onions, even some bacon. Cheese, maybe. He'd have to check. He could even set the table this morning since he'd reuse the clean dishes from dinner last night. It wasn't that he always expected to cook, but in this one case, he knew what he was doing, and damn, he already knew Amber could be astonishingly grateful for a simple meal. The omelette, maybe some toast, and fresh coffee--God, who knew how she'd want to thank him next? Grinning, Foreman set to work, far more confident than he'd been about the stir fry.

November 2, 2007 - Evening

  • Nov. 20th, 2009 at 9:05 PM
The next couple of days passed by without anything remarkable. Amber spent them as she had most of the rest of the week, combining clinic work with hunting down a new patient. It shouldn't be that difficult to find a new case, but even so, she was able to name the problem of a complicated patient within twenty minutes. Frustrating, that she couldn't prove herself, but at least the rest of her competition wasn't doing any better. Thursday night, she went ahead and took care of the chores she knew she wouldn't be able to on Friday-- and Saturday and Sunday, just in case she and Eric stayed together the whole weekend.

All in all, Amber was glad when five pm rolled around on Friday. It felt like she'd spent two days waiting for this moment when she pushed the door open into the Diagnostics office, ready to go do whatever she would with Eric. Before coming here, she'd taken the time for a few extra preparations: retouched her make-up, brushed and pulled back her hair with a clip, put on dangling gold earrings. She could do better-- become a real knock-out-- but not with the resources in her locker, and not at the risk of overdressing for the night.

Amber stepped into the office, eager to see Eric again; to get them out of here.

November 1, 2007 - Morning

  • Nov. 19th, 2009 at 7:48 PM
Foreman hadn't seen Amber again on Wednesday. And instead of missing her, getting dopey and distracted by thinking about her, he got the questionable pleasure of stewing over every word House had said. How Foreman was only good when he was miserable. How demeaning they both knew the job was--where Foreman was nothing but a figurehead, where he only had a job at all because of Cuddy's sufferance.

Work was better than thinking about any of it, so work was what Foreman did. He plowed through House's mail, most of it consult requests, most of it solved with five-minute phone conversations. He checked the charting on House's patients, all of them scratched with a dozen or more doctor's signatures, all of them written too illegibly to make out. It was mostly guesswork, but at least the cases were interesting. Foreman found himself gauging himself against these so-called candidates of House's, and for the most part, his guesses were better, or at least as good as, theirs.

That, he didn't get done by five o'clock, but he wasn't about to make a late night of it. Why the hell should he push himself when everybody knew he was only there to stand accountable for the administrivia?

Foreman first went home, found a second sports bag, and filled it with his usual things. A change of clothes, workout gear, hygiene stuff--and then drove most of the way back to the hospital to go to the gym. It was out of his way after going home, but he needed the chance to move. Run until he was gasping and lightheaded, work his core until his muscles burned, add another ten pounds to the bench press, keep pushing until he was aching and exhausted and he'd exorcised House right out of his head. It left him sweaty and sore, but with his anger worked out, he felt like he could breathe again, and still be happy, no matter what fucking garbage House spewed at him.

Amber had been right--he needed this night alone just to deal with the fact that they'd probably be spending more time together in the future. Foreman grinned when he got home and saw Amber's shampoo and conditioner in his shower. She'd be back, and he'd leave some things at her place. After that...

Foreman went to bed with thoughts of 'after that' running through his mind. Already the bed felt emptier without Amber beside him, and it had only been a few nights they'd really spent together. Picturing her beside him left a warm thread of tugging at his breastbone, as if he could physically feel the fact that she was too far away tonight. Stupid, but. He'd promised he'd be thinking of her, and he was. Hand low on his belly, thumb rubbing idly against his stomach. Thinking of her was the easiest thing he'd done all day. Finally he had a chance when no thoughts of work or House could interrupt. Foreman was already nearly half-asleep, but he let the images flood his mind. Amber crying out when she came. The shiver she didn't even try to repress when he kissed his way down her body. Her hands, cradling him to her breast as he sucked and licked at her nipple.

It wasn't long before Foreman slipped his hand under the waistband of his boxers. Rubbing himself lazily, he shifted, spread his legs, let more and more memories slide through his mind like physical things, like they had texture and weight and warmth. God. Yeah. Amber. So easy, thinking about her. Nothing to hold back, he could go the pace he wanted, but Foreman wanted it slow, so that he could focus on the conjured sight of Amber above him, her hair drifting over her shoulders, her hands palming his pecs as she rode him. Felt good, even if she wasn't here. None of that electric immediacy, but even in his mind she could make him so horny. Foreman panted lightly, pleasure building heavy and delicious in his balls, echoed in the long, squeezing strokes of his hand along his cock. Amber might ask him if he'd done this. If he'd really thought of her. Foreman could picture the exact shade of blue her eyes would darken to when he whispered that, yeah, he'd thought of her, jerked off for her, that he was--fuck--coming for her. His orgasm came on strong and shuddering, semen smearing between his knuckles and over his boxers. With a deep, humming sigh, Foreman groped for the tissues on the night stand and cleaned himself up. He could shower in the morning.

As easily as he'd drifted to sleep, Foreman woke up to his alarm. On time, for the first morning in too long. He even managed breakfast, though it wasn't more than toast and coffee--it was sitting down at his own dining table. It wasn't long before he was on his way to the hospital. As he was passing a convenience store, Foreman remembered what day it was and grinned. There wasn't much he could get for Amber--not much in the way he would get her, without making some big deal out of something that wasn't. But, yeah, he could do something.

Foreman headed for the lecture theatre when he got to the hospital. Cuddy had made it clear that he was to get involved in any case from the beginning. Foreman wouldn't be able to sit with Amber and talk with her, not with the other five watching, but it would still give him an opportunity to offer his gift. He headed in the doors at the bottom of the room. Everyone had more or less taken up their usual seats, and Foreman kept his face neutral to let them know that he wasn't going to be giving any orders this morning. As he passed Amber's seat, Foreman took the bag of sunflower seeds from his coat pocket and left them on her desk. With no more than a smile, he kept going, to the back of the theatre, where he settled himself with his newspaper, ready to wait for House.

31 October 2007 - Evening

  • Nov. 19th, 2009 at 3:13 PM
Amber chucked her purse and winter coat onto the sofa. Her day hadn't improved any: after hitting all of the hospital's departments, she'd come out empty handed. Either one of the other game players had already been there (and found nothing), or there were no strangely ill patients to be collect. In the clinic there'd been one wailing kid baffling everyone, but turned out he'd swallowed a pen cap. No mystery of the week there. At least Amber had gotten in the workout she'd meant to, making up for yesterday's lost yoga class. She was vaguely sore all over, but that ache symbolized the one thing she'd accomplished correctly today. That, and turning off her hallway door light; it was her apartment building's convention for warning that trick-or-treaters would not be welcome. She was in no mood for brats, in costume or not.

Next off were her heels, though she took the effort of storing those away, together with the rest of her outfit. She hadn't seen Eric again. It was probably for the best. If Amber saw him now-- she didn't know how she'd react. Just thinking about him, and House's conversation, made her close her eyes, hand on the closet door. She'd want to know how much of what House implied-- and said-- about Eric was true. More than that, she'd want to not care. A little too late for that, though. )

31 October 2007 - Morning

  • Nov. 8th, 2009 at 3:23 PM
Shrill blares pierced Amber’s mind, tearing her from absolute unconsciousness. At first she didn’t even know what to make of it, what the fuck it could be, and what the fuck she herself was to be bothered by it. Instinctively she threw an arm out, fumbling, finding by sound only. Her hand wrapped around an object, squeezed it; by pure habit her thumb pressed down on the snooze button, and once the noise was gone, she retracted, coiling her arm into her chest, curling into herself.

It was impossible to ignore what was out of her, though. Sunlight insisted its way through the curtains, through her eyelids. Amber groaned, covering her arm with her eyes. Why. Her head hurt. Her eyelids felt huge, her mouth, foul. She ached everywhere, shoulders, back, thighs, ass-- even her vagina was sore. Like she’d overexerted herself.

Or, Amber realized, feeling the heat near her, like she’d overdone the fucking. Pieces came back to her: the crying (oh, god, the crying, why, no wonder her head throbbed), the “baby,” letting Eric—- she flushed. Was surprised by another wave, soft, almost undetectable, of pleasure, as if she were still riding the aftershocks. Amber groaned, covering her face. Sat up, closing her thighs together. Inside, she could feel the memory of his shape, even if she hadn’t been very aware of much at the time.

It was light, too light for when she should be waking up on a weekday. Why? Amber opened her eyes blearily, glanced at the clock. Seven. The time she’d set it for, on Sunday, the last time she’d set her alarm. She hadn’t come home last night, fucking, again, Eric, in his own apartment. “Fuck,” she said, and sprang out of bed, fully alert, trained from years of being on call. “Eric, wake up,” she called out, heading for the bathroom. “I set the alarm too late, we've got no time.” They’d have just about enough time to clean up, get dressed, and maybe grab food to eat on the way. Why did this keep happening? Amber normally woke up well, not brain-dead, spent her morning before work relaxed. It seemed that she always woke up confused, after fucking him. She left the bathroom door open; they wouldn’t have time for separate showers.

October 30, 2007 - Evening

  • Oct. 19th, 2009 at 9:00 PM
For the rest of the afternoon, Foreman found himself chuckling at odd moments. He'd be in the middle of the monstrous pile of paperwork, his back cramping from leaning over, his eyes aching, and all of a sudden he'd realize he was grinning like an idiot. He'd glance up, glad that there wasn't anyone to catch him at it, and think of Amber suffering horribly down in the clinic, and shake his head before going back to work. She'd be tired after a long day, and if her reaction to the usual run of mild complaints was anything like his, she'd be too tired to do much tonight other than go home and collapse. Foreman could spare some compassion then: he'd offer to cook, or at least, to order something in. Hell, even massage her feet if she wanted. The fact that he was going with her--that she'd invited him again, and that he already had all the things he'd need waiting in his car--buoyed him up, even when the stack of consult requests only seemed to get stupider the deeper he delved into them.

By twenty to five, Foreman had sent form letter replies to as many idiot doctors as he could without losing his faith in humanity. He'd go down and let the candidates off early, be magnanimous for as long as he could afford to be. He needed to ingratiate himself with them somehow, even if was only by knocking fifteen minutes off their drudgery. Cuddy could hardly complain: she'd been underusing six of the most talented doctors in the hospital for most of the day, and, Foreman knew--since they had to be sharing Cameron and Chase's old salaries among them--for a pittance. House was a bastard, but days like this were ones Cuddy probably counted as a win in their perpetual battle.

Foreman turned of the computer, turned off the lights, and grabbed his coat. He wouldn't bother with his briefcase tonight; he wasn't planning on sucking up to Cuddy any more than he'd be compromising with House. If he'd gotten his own office and his own staff like he'd asked for, then she could think about making him stay late trudging through House's paperwork.

He arrived in the clinic five minutes later. The first person he saw was Brennan, who only gave him a mildly disgruntled stare when Foreman gave him permission to go. He snorted, but he seemed glad enough to go and tell the others that they were off the hook.

Foreman checked the board to see which exam room Amber was in with her last patient, and, leaving his coat at the nurses' station, he went and knocked on the door. He was already sure that everyone in the whole hospital was well aware of what was going on between him and Amber. That didn't mean that he had to confirm all their suspicions--but he could also take a few liberties that he might not have if they were still being 'discreet'. Feeling pleased with himself, he opened it just enough to stick his head in and said, with as much seriousness as he could muster, "Dr. Volakis, could I have a word with you?"

October 30, 2007 - Midmorning (Amber)

  • Oct. 13th, 2009 at 10:00 PM
Just another day at work, Amber reminded herself. Just another day.

She strode through the entrance hallway, her clacking heels contrasting satisfyingly against the soft morning noises. She stepped all the harder, to be louder than the coughs, casual chats, and wheelchair squeaks. But as much as she tried, Amber couldn't keep Eric's last sentence from echoing in her mind: I do want this.

What a joke. He wanted whatever false image he'd carefully built of her, of a woman that wasn't a bitch through and through. She'd show him. She'd prove beyond the shadow of a doubt who she was and what she stood for. Then if he decided to repeat stupid phrases, I like what I've gotten into, he'd be saying them fully informed. He'd know what he was talking about. She’d be able to believe him.

And this had nothing to do with making him hate her. Nothing.

To top it off, her stomach was killing her and she hadn't gotten her coffee.

She was late as it was. House wouldn't be there, he never was, but the others could and would report her tardiness. She'd do them the same favor. So this was one strike against her-- unless House decided to interpret it as proof she had the balls to work for him, whatever. Amber preferred not to push her luck, which meant not stopping by the cafeteria. There were other ways of getting what she needed, though.

Tons of interns hung around the classroom area, scuttling around like bugs just waiting for god to finally get around to crushing them out of their miserable existences. Amber scanned the lot streaming along: a little miss perfect who'd probably suffer a nervous breakdown before the end of the week, a butt-ugly boy who looked like he'd been shoved into med school by his overbearing parents, instantly forgettable members of both sexes, and... Amber grinned. Perfect.

The red-head had been eyeing her since the day she'd gotten here, from behind his clipboard. He'd have never deigned approach her, and with good reason; she'd have torn him apart. But today was his lucky day. She let her grin mold itself into an alluring smile as she approached him, laughing at how his incredulity grew in direct proportion to their proximity. "Hey there."

For a moment he seemed to forget the appropriate response. "Um, uh, hi. Hi!"

He was almost cute, in that excruciatingly awkward way. At any rate, she didn't need to butter him up much. She sighed. "I don't know about you, but my day's been awful so far."

His eyes widened. Probably didn't know if he should talk about himself, or if he was just meant to sympathize. He tried both. "Me too, I've got all these--"

Amber could care less, and she had no time for whatever it was he had. She touched his shoulder; his jaw dropped. "But I think you could help me out."

"I-- me?"

"If I could just get a coffee, or a bagel..."

He stared at her hand on his shoulder, and then her face. Amber knew he saw all kinds of promises there; she'd practiced a damn good sincere expression. "I-- I could pick up--"

Amber beamed, though not just for the reasons he might've thought. "Could you? That'd save my day, I swear." Before he could reconsider, she pointed to the doorway she was about to go through. "Bring it to me there, okay?" The kid nodded and skedaddled, trying to hold on to his papers as he ran off. She hoped House would be there to see him make the delivery; it'd probably impress him.

Considerably cheered by the prospect of breakfast and the fun of screwing around with someone, Amber opened the theater doors. She was just getting started.

October 30, 2007 - Midmorning

  • Oct. 11th, 2009 at 9:27 PM
Going to the lecture theatre was out of the question. Foreman didn't care if House was waiting there with a case, bright-eyed and eager to work. His job had changed, and he'd act like it. He took the elevator up to the Diagnostics office instead, hanging up his coat carefully. Standing there, with it still in his hands, he remembered the dry-cleaning and fresh shirt he'd left in the back of his car. What a wonderful idea, to go straight to Amber's place after work, to spend time with her and ignore distractions...Jesus, maybe they were kidding themselves. If they couldn't make it through a car ride without arguing, what chance did they have to spend a whole evening together? It couldn't possibly work out if they switched between sex, no matter how fantastic, and fights that didn't have any resolution. He grimaced and spun on his heel, determined not to think about it. He'd make a pot of coffee, read the paper, scrounge for breakfast. He'd ignore House until Diagnostics had a case. He'd check in with Cameron, work his clinic hours, and he'd organize the department. He wouldn't get ahead of himself and start thinking about tonight.

Yet Foreman still wanted to go. He felt safer with Amber when his two worlds, the personal and the professional, weren't intersecting. They'd had a real conversation at the restaurant, both before and after the situation had devolved to something more shameless. They could talk. Just not about work. The most important thing in both their lives--leaving it aside wouldn't give them much of a range to discuss.

Time. That's what it took. Foreman opened a packet of coffee grounds and started the machine. Time was unlikely to fix the things he and Amber were arguing about, or soften either of their positions. So Amber was the cut-throat bitch? Foreman had been called his share of names for being ambitious. He'd thrown friends to the wolves before, too...he'd known, he'd known all along that Cameron would wait for House to read her article, while Foreman just shoved the papers under his nose and barked, "Sign this." House had glanced up, eyebrows raised, gaze turning evaluating, about to start picking. "It's an article," Foreman said. "I'm submitting it. You're signing off on it, because you know that I wouldn't send in anything sub-standard, and if you wanted to peer-review you would, so no, you don't need to read it first."

House had actually--for one moment in his fucking life--not said anything, but reached for the pen Foreman thrust at him. He signed with a flourish, offering the pages back to Foreman with a mimed air of wounded innocence, but Foreman hadn't missed his smirk. House had known, just as well as Foreman had, that Cameron's article was still sitting on his desk. House had signed because it was a joke to him to play them off each other. Foreman had won; Cameron had tried to scold him, as if that made him a bad little boy. No. Not going to happen. He wasn't guilty. It didn't matter. He'd won.

Wasn't that what Amber did? Wasn't that the side of herself she put out for the whole world to see? Foreman had told Cameron they weren't friends. They weren't friends. But that made it easier, didn't it? That mitigated his responsibility.

I don't hide myself behind false niceties, opening doors just to make people like me.

Foreman didn't either. Amber just didn't know that yet.

Shaking his head, Foreman poured himself a cup of coffee, fixing it the way he liked it. He'd promised he'd ask Cameron for cases. He still wanted Amber to trust him, and this was part of his job. There was probably nothing. After he'd confirmed that, he could retreat to the conference room and work on House's backlog of paperwork all he wanted, and avoid the candidates as long as he liked. He left the office on the way to the elevator, coffee in one hand, stomach rumbling.

30 October 2007 - Morning

  • Oct. 5th, 2009 at 4:01 PM
A harshly loud, repetitive noise tore Amber from her sleep. Her first conscious thought, after the firm decision to destroy whatever was making that racket, was of the terrible crick in her neck. God, that hurt. Had she fallen asleep on a couch at the hospital? No, not with the breathing next to her; more like she'd fallen asleep on someone.

Someone. Eric.

Amber jolted, eyes opening wide to the sight of an equally sleep-addled Eric. It all came back to her. Approaching him after work. Fucking at the restaurant. Fucking him here-- or not. Amber covered her hand with her mouth. Jesus Christ, just how stupid could she be? Panicking like that, what was wrong with her? And worse, so much worse, falling apart, getting vulnerable and telling Eric those, those-- those things. That she liked him so very much and that she was a control freak and that she'd learn. She’d apologized all over the place and basically begged him to be patient with her. She'd handed Eric a big bowl of crazy an expected him to eat it up with a giant spoon and smile. He'd probably want to dump it into the sink.

And she'd done this over a man who could get her fired.

It was like she'd drunk an entire vat of wine and gotten down with her loser, sensitive side. Yeah, that was what last night had been about. One long losing streak. When had she gotten so off her game? Most women, when they had a few too many, had sex a little more liberally than they would otherwise, lived life a little more intensely. Amber, she got weak. God.

But, shock-rigid muscles relaxing, she studied Eric. She couldn't help the affection that glowed in her when she saw his face, a bit befuddled and tired and so very him. Couldn't help the feeling that pulled her to him, wanting closeness. She couldn’t resist him. During the night she'd cuddled up to him, hugging him. No wonder her neck and back were killing her, she wasn't used to sleeping around another person. He smelled of his dried sweat and her shampoo. "Hey," she said tenderly, her hand reaching out. Their first morning together, she'd climbed and kissed him without hesitation, taking it for granted that he'd want her. Now, she gauged his reaction. Last night he'd made vague promises; now she got to see if they didn't crumble in the light of day.

October 29, 2007 - Evening

  • Aug. 20th, 2009 at 7:55 PM
Nothing around here works the way it's supposed to work.

Of everything their John Doe--Robert Elliot--had said when Foreman had been with him, that was what rang the most true. It was stupid to think that talking with a patient with Giovianni's syndrome could change anything, least of all how he saw himself. The guy wasn't psychic; he was only picking up on the cues that Foreman had dropped inadvertently. Changing because of that was worse than stupid. It would imply that not only was Foreman ignorant about his own feelings and what he wanted, but also that he was spineless enough to act differently because of a stranger's neurological disorder. Foreman made his own choices. He wasn't looking for any advice, whether it was his own reflected back at him or not.

After the day's humiliation, Foreman had been more sure than ever that Princeton wasn't the right place for him. Less than an hour later, Chase had come up to him, clapped a hand on his shoulder, and laughingly asked if it was true.

Foreman fixed him with a furious stare. "I didn't know she worked here. And I didn't have to beg her every day for weeks."

Chase, far from being offended, just grinned wider. "Once a week. Anyway, I heard Amber was the one calling the shots."

Foreman didn't bother pointing out that Cameron walked all over Chase on a daily basis. "I have to run a biopsy," he said, turning to walk away, his shoulders hunched as he pushed his fists into his pockets.

"She seems like just your type!" Chase called after him. "Did you ever consider lightening up and enjoying yourselves?"

Fat chance of that. Not with the whole hospital in on the joke and watching. For what it was worth, Foreman didn't have to work with Amber directly for the rest of the day. Both of them were too busy running cultures and keeping the patient alive. Foreman let House do whatever crazy thing entered his mind. He didn't have any illusions about being able to stop him today, and Foreman was more interested in keeping his head down. In thinking about how to get away.

But when House sidled up to him with a job offer from Mount Zion, Foreman's first thought wasn't to jump at the opportunity. It wasn't even to suspect that House was having him on, dangling the possibility with every intention of yanking it away the second Foreman seemed likely to believe it was real.

His first thought had been, I can't go yet.

That had surprised him more than anything, made him stop and frown once he'd finally shaken House off. After having his affairs aired in the middle of a differential like a choice piece of gossip he couldn't believe that there was any reason not to take up the job hunt again. Farther afield, where the hospitals wouldn't have heard of him, or had their diagnostics cases redirected to Princeton-Plainsboro, so that they'd only know House by his reputation, not by personal experience. Maybe as far away as California; Foreman still had contacts there.

But he didn't want to go.

Partly it was the medicine. He'd felt in the thick of it again today. Working against the clock to solve a case. Challenged, following the clues from one to the next. He'd always loved that, even if he hadn't been happy working for House. But partly, Foreman knew, it was Amber, and he didn't know what do about that. He'd been shot down enough, rejected enough, that he should want to stay away from her just to avoid any more scenes like this morning's. Even so, he couldn't stop thinking about her. Wondering what she really felt and whether the attitude she'd shown in front of House was all there was.

Well, it didn't matter. He wasn't going to ask. Once the case was solved, all Foreman wanted to do was gather his things and escape. It was late, and dark, and he headed for the doors slowly, already knowing he wouldn't have the same luck he'd had on Thursday. Nothing worked out the way it should.

29 October 2007 - Evening

  • Jul. 25th, 2009 at 10:16 PM
Amber refused to spend the weekend moping. Friday night, when she got back home, frozen and light-headed from the cosmopolitan she'd practically inhaled, she just stripped off her clothes and climbed into bed. She'd been running low on sleep, from days of solving a case and then staying up all night fucking Eric, so she went out quickly.

Saturday morning came with a low-level headache. But she plowed on anyway; an idle moment could lead to reminiscing and regretting what hadn't ever come to be, and Amber wouldn't put up with self-pity. There was plenty to do: laundry she'd been meaning to get around to for embarrassingly long, grocery shopping to replenish her emptying shelves, and a more thorough cleaning of the areas of her apartment she'd normally ignore. Chores kept her thankfully busy all day.

She'd hoped House would page her with a case that couldn't wait until Monday. That'd keep her mind off melodramatic woes. However, no urgent message of a diagnostic emergency came in to save her from her thoughts.

Sunday was worse. With her apartment spotless and all errands she could imagine done, Amber was taskless. Normally she’d appreciate a free moment to read or watch TV, but… it seemed too lonely, whiling away her time in her apartment. She took with her a number of medical journals—leaving behind any related to neurology—and spent a few hours at a café. Though she was still alone, at least she was surrounded by chatter.

By the time Monday rolled around, Amber hadn’t let herself indulge in thinking about Eric, even though her brain hadn’t cooperated. Eric might’ve been surprised to discover he’d become a pink elephant: he was a banned subject, but she couldn’t help remembering him. Everything seemed to lead back to him, even the soap bars she’d picked up at the supermarket (he’d had the same scent, after they’d showered together).

Amber walked into the classroom with a heavy heart. Normally she loved her work, with its constant promise of new challenges to conquer, but-- he’d be there. And—she just had to act cool. That was all. She was sure he’d do the same. He’d have no reason to tell everyone what had happened—unless he wanted House to fire her. But he wouldn’t do that, would he? Or maybe he would. It wouldn’t be out of line, from what she knew of him. If he was willing to string her along for a weekend just for his own fun, why wouldn’t he drop a few words that’d get rid of the unpleasant presence of an “ex”?

She sat primly in the center of the front row, not talking to any of the others. They made no effort to talk with her, either. Fortunately, House came in almost on time; he seemed unusually focused, introducing their new case as soon as he came in.

Listening carefully to every word out of House’s mouth, Amber wondered when Eric would come in.

October 26, 2007 - Evening

  • Jun. 30th, 2009 at 1:03 AM
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.