Title: A Little Tenderness
“Let’s get out of here and really celebrate,” Wilson said after Cuddy left the office. “I think we’ve all had enough of this place for one day.”
“Where do you want to go?” Foreman asked.
Everyone looked at each other and shrugged, but no one spoke up.
“Well, there’s a nice piano bar near my place. We can get drunk and make Chase sing karaoke.”
“I actually like karaoke,” Chase retorted amid chuckles as he stood up and got ready to go.
The three were standing at the door and all looked expectantly at House. “Are you going to join us Greg?” Wilson finally asked.
“Huh?” he said, looking at the three of them in confusion. He’d been thinking about something and completely ignoring the rest of the guys.
The other three exchanged glances. “We’re going to head to a piano bar near Foreman’s place to continue our celebration. You coming?” Wilson explained.
“Oh, um, sure,” he said, grabbing his cane and getting himself ready to leave.
“Do you think one of us should call Cameron and tell her the good news? Hopefully she’ll be able to come back now,” Chase said as they were walking out the door.
Everyone looked to House for a reaction or response.
“What? Why are you all looking at me?”
“Do you want to call Cameron?” Wilson asked, a teasing note in his voice.
House glared at his best friend as he shrugged. “Doesn’t matter to me.”
The others shared a glance that said they didn’t really believe him, but no one pushed the issue and they headed for the bar.
After several rounds of drinks, everyone was pretty rowdy and they were passing around the song book trying to pick songs to sing. Everyone but House. He seemed to be getting more and more morose the longer the evening went.
When he finally left the table to use the facilities, Chase commented on his attitude.
“He’s really bummed out about the Cameron thing, isn’t he?”
“Sure seems like it,” Foreman agreed.
Wilson squirmed uncomfortably. He didn’t want to say too much, but he knew how House felt about her and knew that he was devastated by her quitting.
“I have her number, I think I’ll call her and ask her to meet us here,” Chase said, looking for approval from his colleagues.
“I think that’s a great idea,” Foreman encouraged. They both looked at Wilson.
He sighed. “I don’t think it could make things any worse.”
Chase left the table to go outside where it was quieter to make the call.
“Hey, do you know this one?” Foreman asked Wilson, pointed to an entry in the song book.
Wilson looked up at him with a grin. “Actually I do. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Foreman nodded, barely suppressing a laugh.
“What’s so funny?” House asked as he came back to the table. “And where’d Chase go?”
“Nothing. And I’m not sure. Are you okay?” Wilson asked to cover their devious plot.
“I’m fine, I just need a refill.”
“I’ll get it,” Foreman offered, grabbing House’s empty glass and heading for the bar. He had a small piece of paper in his hand, but House failed to notice it.
Chase came back in and sat at the table, a satisfied grin on his face. He nodded imperceptibly to Wilson who smiled in return. House was so absorbed in his self pity that he failed to notice his friends plotting against him.
They’d consumed a few more rounds of drink when she suddenly appeared next to their table. They all stared, wide-eyed, because they’d never seen her in tight jeans and a halter top.
“So, you managed to get rid of the bastard, huh?” she commented casually, ignoring the way her colleagues were ogling her and directing her attention towards House.
“Thanks to Wilson and Cuddy, yes,” he answered, his calm voice belying the emotions that were churning inside him. He shot a glance at Wilson and knew somehow that he was responsible for her presence.
“So what’s a girl got to do to get a beer around here?” she asked innocently.
Foreman, Wilson, and Chase all jumped out of their seats and asked what kind of beer she liked. She smiled and requested a bottle of Miller Lite. Foreman was closest to the bar, so he went up to get her drink, offering refills to the rest of the table. Chase grabbed a chair from another table and squeezed it between himself and House so she could sit down.
They both pretended not to notice when her leg brushed against his as she took the seat, but he felt his stomach do a few more somersaults.
“Hey Foreman,” he called. “I do need a refill. Scotch on the rocks.” Chase and Wilson exchanged smirks, glad they had made the decision to call Cameron.
Foreman came back to the table with her beer, House’s scotch and a drink for himself. “I think we need a toast.”
“I agree,” Chase said.
“To Dr. House, for standing by his principles, even though we all almost lost our jobs,” Wilson toasted, holding his glass aloft. They all clinked and took a drink.
“To Dr. Wilson, for being willing to get fired for me,” House countered. They clinked and drank again.
“To Cameron, for quitting so I wouldn’t get fired,” Foreman offered his own toast. They all chuckled, but clinked and drank again.
After a few moments, Chase regarded Cameron. “So will you be coming back now that Vogler is gone?”
She considered the question before answering. “That will depend on if I can get my job back,” she finally answered, a sideways glance at House.
“I never wanted you to quit in the first place,” was his response.
Everyone at the table noticed a shift in the atmosphere at the table. If there had been any question in Wilson, Foreman or Chase’s mind about House’s feelings for Cameron, the tone of his voice when responding to her statement answered them. Even Cameron felt her stomach do a flip at the tone in his voice when he made his comment. She was suddenly very aware of how close they were sitting.
Just then, the MC got their attention. “All right, we’re ready to get started with the sing along portion of the evening,” he said. “First up are Erik and James.”
House, Cameron and Chase watched as Foreman and Wilson made their way to the microphone near the piano.
“This is dedicated to Greg,” Wilson said before the music started.
He raised an eyebrow as the music started and groaned as soon as he recognized the song.
Ooh she may be weary
And them young girls they do get weary
Wearing that same old shaggy dress, Foreman began, surprising them all with his smooth singing voice.
But when they get weary
You gotta try a little tenderness, Wilson joined in with the harmony.
House glanced at Cameron, who seemed to be engrossed in the music and not really paying attention to the lyrics. He looked over at Chase, who was watching him with an amused grin on his face.
You know she's waiting
The thing that she'll never, never, possess, no, no
But while she's without it
Go to her and try just a little bit of tenderness
Cameron finally looked away from the two that were singing and caught House’s eye. There was a twinkle there that made him realize she knew exactly what Foreman and Wilson were up to.
Oh, but its one thing
It might be a bit sentimental yeah, yeah
She has - her grieves and care
But the soft words are spoken so gentle
But, oh, that makes it, makes it easier to bear, yeah
Their eyes were locked now, both realizing they felt the same way. And not only that, but all their co-workers saw it to. Cameron swallowed hard, suddenly attacked with a bad case of nerves.
You won’t regret it
Them young girls they don’t forget it
Cause Love is their whole, whole happiness Yes, yes, yeah
And it’s all so easy
Come on and try
Try a little Tenderness
Just keep on trying
House was already regretting this whole night. He hated being forced to confront feelings he wasn’t prepared to deal with and he hated that he had to do it in front of the few friends he actually had. He had half a mind to kill Wilson when all was said and done.
Then he felt Cameron’s hand on his knee.
You've got to love her
Don't tease her Make love
Hold her tight
Just, just try a little tenderness
That’s all you gotta do
You’ve gotta hold her tight
His leg felt like it was on fire with the heat from her hand. He looked down to her hand and then up to meet her eyes. He could see that she was nervous about her bold move. His breath caught as he realized just how beautiful she was. He smiled slightly to put her at ease and placed his hand over hers.
One more time
You’ve got to love her
hold her Don't tease her
Never leave her
Make love to her
Hold her, man
Try a little tenderness
Just one time, God have mercy now
‘Love her?’ He thought to himself with a start. He was pretty sure his feelings wouldn’t be classified as love yet. But he thought they could eventually evolve to love. And that scared him, because he was pretty sure that he was not good for her.
He started to pull his hand away, uncertain that he was truly prepared for this shift in their relationship, but she had laced her fingers through his and it just felt so right. He looked into her eyes again and saw that she was not the naďve girl she occasionally pretended to be. He swallowed hard, but realized that she knew exactly what she was getting herself in to by getting involved with him.
Foreman and Wilson finished the song to great applause. Reluctantly, House and Cameron pulled their hands apart to join the crowd in applauding their friends.
They had big grins on their faces as they made their way back to the table.
“You guys were amazing,” Cameron said. “I would have never guessed that either of you had that kind of talent.”
“I’m a man of many talents,” Wilson commented, a touch of suggestiveness creeping into his voice. He slid a glance at House and saw something in his eyes that instantly made him regret the comment.
Foreman noticed the slight tension and broke in. “You up next Chase?”
“After that, I am having doubts about my own abilities.”
“Aw, come on,” Wilson encouraged. “You know we won’t get House up there. How about you, Cameron?”
She considered for a moment before reaching for the book and flipping through purposefully. She apparently found what she was looking for because she grabbed a piece of paper and wrote something down, folding it in half so no one else could see what she’d requested. She took the paper up to the MC and re-joined her table.
They gave her a questioning look, but she refused to say anything. Chase bought another round of drinks and they mocked some of the people who sang. No one seemed to be able to top Wilson and Foreman’s performance.
“Allison, come on down!” the MC called. She slowly made her way to the front.
Turn down the lights, turn down the bed
Turn down these voices inside my head
Lay down with me, tell me no lies
Just hold me close, don't patronize - don't patronize
House felt a lump forming in his throat as her eyes met his across the room. He knew that she was singing for him.
'Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't
You can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power
But you won't, no you won't
'Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't
“Wow,” Chase said softly. Foreman and Wilson both nodded in agreement, unable to form coherent thoughts.
I'll close my eyes, then I won't see
The love you don't feel when you're holding me
Morning will come and I'll do what's right
Just give me till then to give up this fight
She closed her eyes then and House felt an aching in his chest. He wondered if she really thought he only wanted her for sex. Did he really come across as so bitter as not to be able to feel any love?
'Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't
you can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark, in lonely hours
I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power
But you won't, no you won't
'Cause I can't make you love me, If you don't
Their eyes met again as she finished the song and received a standing ovation. He felt paralyzed. Never before had he felt such overwhelming, crushing emotion. She made her way through the crowd and got back to the table where Foreman, Chase, and Wilson were still standing.
“Damn girl,” Foreman said. “You have one hell of a voice.” Wilson and Chase voiced their agreement.
She shrugged, glancing at House to gauge his reaction. He met her gaze but was unable to find any words suitable to express his current feelings. Instead, he struggled to his feet and grabbed his cane.
“It’s been a lovely evening,” he finally spoke. “But now it’s time for me to go home.”
Her face fell. She somehow knew that she’d crossed the line with her song and that she’d effectively ruined any chance of any kind of relationship with him. She jumped when she felt him take her hand.
She looked up and saw the unspoken question in his eyes. She gulped, but nodded slightly and grabbed her purse from the back of the chair where it hung.
“Night guys,” she said to the others as she followed him out of the bar.
Stunned by this turn of events, Foreman, Chase and Wilson just watched them walk away, hand in hand.
Outside the bar, House stopped suddenly and she nearly ran into the back of him. He turned to face her.
“Are you sure you want this, Allison?” he asked, his tone very serious.
Her heart jumped at his use of her first name, but she kept her voice steady as she replied. “Yes, Greg, I am sure.”
He smirked at the fact that she called him Greg, but didn’t comment. He walked to the curb to hail a taxi. Within moments, a cab pulled over and they climbed inside.
“Where to?” the driver asked, looking over his shoulder.
He looked at her, allowing her to make the decision. His eyes widened a bit when she gave his address, but he didn’t say anything, just put his arm around her. She smiled as she rested her head against his chest. They rode the entire way to his house in comfortable silence.
When they got to his house, he paid the driver and followed Allison out of the cab. She waited for him to get his bearings and followed him up the front walk to his door. He fumbled with his keys, the effects of the numerous scotches he’d consumed starting to catch up with him, but finally managed to open the door and escort her into his living room.
They stood awkwardly in his living room, neither quite sure how to proceed now that they were alone.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked, deciding he couldn’t go wrong with the polite host routine.
“Sure, as long as it’s non-alcoholic,” she responded. “I had a few too many beers at the bar.”
“Make yourself comfortable,” he said, indicating the sofa as he headed for the kitchen.
She glanced around the room. It had surprised her last time she had been here how nicely decorated it was. He didn’t strike her as the type to live in such a classy place. She sunk into his overstuffed sofa and kicked off her shoes, giving her cramped and aching toes much relief.
She took a few deep breaths to steady her nerves as she waited for him to come back. The last thing she’d expected when Chase called her earlier was that she would end up here. But they were technically not co-workers anymore so she didn’t feel too awkward about things. She would like her job back now that Vogler had left, but she’d rather have Greg and find a job somewhere else.
“Penny for your thoughts,” his voice startled her because she hadn’t heard him come back into the living room.
She smiled as she took the glass of iced tea he offered. He looked around the room, trying to decide where to sit. She patted the seat next to her and he smiled and took it.
“I was just thinking that this is the last place I expected to end up this evening when I left my apartment,” she responded to his inquiry honestly.
He considered that. “I certainly wasn’t expecting to even see you tonight,” he admitted, “let alone have you end up here.”
She watched him carefully as he spoke. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”
He sighed. “Honestly? I have no idea. I was just so swept up in everything and it feels right.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “But I don’t have any idea what we’re doing,” he admitted.
“Neither do I.”
They looked at each other then and both felt hit by waves of something. Deciding that talking wasn’t getting them anywhere, Allison decided to make another bold move and she leaned in to press her lips against his. She kept her eyes open as she did it and maintained eye contact with him. She saw a flicker of surprise that was quickly replaced with something more intense as he kissed her back.
He was impressed that she’d taken the initiative to kiss him and after a few minutes, he began to delicately probe her mouth with his tongue. At the more intimate contact, she finally closed her eyes and met his tongue with her own.
The kiss grew deeper as his arms found his way around her, one hand stroking her hair and one holding the small of her back. Her hands went around his neck, holding the back of his head to keep him in the kiss.
After what felt like an eternity, they finally separated, both breathless.
Allison laughed. “You’re a man of many words.”
He shrugged. “I… really have no idea what else to say.”
“I know what you mean.”
“What are we doing, Allison? I still don’t understand why a young, attractive woman like you would be interested in a bitter, cripple like me.”
She kissed him before responding. “Maybe because I see that there is more to you than a bitter cripple, despite your best efforts to hide that.”
“Damn and I thought I was pulling off the bitter cripple so well.”
“You had Vogler convinced.”
He cast his gaze downward. “Allison, I… well… I’m sorry that I screwed up with that speech and didn’t just go along with what he wanted to save your job.”
She took his hand. “Greg, it’s okay. I know that you wouldn’t have been true to yourself if you had done it. I figured it was just easier if I quit anyway because of… well… because of all of this.”
“Well, I’ll go to Cuddy tomorrow and get you re-instated if you want.”
“Are you sure? I mean, don’t you think that us working together could complicate things?”
He shrugged. “I never do things the easy way.”
She laughed. “I would love to have my job back. But I’d rather have this, whatever it may be.”
“I don’t see why we can’t have both. I think we’re professional enough to keep things separate.”
“But Wilson and Foreman and Chase all know.”
“They suspected anyway.”
“We don’t seem to be getting anywhere with this talking thing,” he mused. “I think I enjoyed the kissing better.”
He leaned in and started to kiss her again. She allowed him to do so and reciprocated, but pulled away after a few minutes.
“You want to talk, huh?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. “I guess I just want to make sure we’re on the same page so neither of us gets hurt.”
He nodded. “Okay, here’s the page I’m on. I like you. It’s fun to kiss you. I’m guessing it will be more fun to do more than that and I wouldn’t mind finding out tonight. I want you to take your job back because I like working with you and you’re smart as hell. I don’t care what Wilson or Chase or Foreman or Cuddy for that matter thinks about us having a personal relationship. I’d be jealous as hell if you went out with anyone else but I’m not ready for you to move in.” He smiled. “How’s that?”
She stared at him in shock. “I like you, too,” she finally stammered.
“I know, you told me the other day.”
“And I want my job back because I like working with you, too.”
“And I have no plans to go out with anyone else.”
He smiled. “So it sounds like we’re on the same page.”
She smiled back. “I guess so.”
“So,” he said thoughtfully. “Want to have a sleepover?”
She giggled. “Are we going to get any sleep?”
He waggled his eyebrows. “Probably not.”
They both stood up. He took a few steps toward his bedroom and then stopped and turned around to face her again. He tossed his cane down and gently took her face in his hands and kissed her briefly.
“What was that?”
He smiled wryly. “I was trying a little tenderness.”
They both laughed as they headed for the bedroom.