The cafeteria had the same gumshoe smell that occupied the municipal gymnasiums of Allison Cameron's childhood. A kind of swabby, rubbery odor that came, partly from the food, partly from the underarms of the workers who prepared
the food. She milled through the line, sliding the confetti-baked tray along the guide rail, her thoughts everywhere else but on the selections.
She had come in early that morning, as she had done for the past five (was it five? Eight, nine, twelve) mornings, to relieve either Foreman or Chase of their post at House's bedside. She preferred the morning shift. The window of House's room was east-facing and she didn't need to turn on the halogen to read by. If she read at all. Usually she'd get three sentences into a journal article (the office was full of them already, but Cameron had subscriptions) and then she'd catch a glimpse of the oxygen read-out, or the heart metronome and she'd lose her place and not be able to find it again.
And still he slept.
And still she
needed to eat, so at eleven thirty-three exactly she left her post to the on-call nurse and went down to the cafeteria to placate her grousing stomach. She'd smelled vulcanized rubber the second she walked in. Chicken Florentine.
She would have yogurt. She kept a small jar of clover honey in the bottom cabinet of the diagnostics lounge, away from snooping fellows and stooping bosses. She might have a spoonful. Lord knows she needed the energy.
She reached for a plain yogurt and brushed the back of a white sleeve --
-- "Oh!" she said, and drew her hand back like a skittish rabbit, "Dr. Wilson...do you?...no, go ahead." She laughed because it was awkward and she was now awkward because she had laughed.