PG-13 to be safe
Dr. Gregory House hated retirement parties. They were the weak attempts of socially pathetic professionals to amble around, get drunk, and act like they were all nice and chummy. Bullshit. House drained his glass of scotch and glanced around the joint. Music wasn't bad. It was jazz at least.
Dr. Bernstein was retiring. Normally, House wouldn't have cared in the least, but unfortunately Arthur Bernstein had been the one to first mentor Dr. House after his escape from medical schools as a duckling. So he was stuck.
House laughed bitterly and stared into his empty glass, rotating it ever so slightly so it glittered in the subtle lights. Poor fools. They thought he was crazy .Well, most at least. Pity, not even Winston was there to keep him mildly entertained. Yes siree, Winston was a good one. Goody two shoes, he had been a teachers pet even in elementary school.
But Winston wasn't here, stuck at home attempting to repair his shattered marriage. Poor guy. So Dr. House was stuck in a stuffy bar with the lights too low, and the music, God help him, the music had just turned to a weepy ballad. He shuddered. Gag.
He could see from here Cuddy's sympathetic glance every so often over someone's shoulder. He gave his best "look-at-me-I'm-drunk" face. Cuddy glanced away. House smirked.
"Dr. House?" a voice spoke to his right, questioning, concerned. He didn't move his eyes away from the glass, wishing it would remarkably refill.
"No, actually, it's Dr. Cuddy," he remarked sarcastically.
"Dr. House," the voice said again, and this time it was followed by a light pressure on his shoulder. "Are you alright?"
"Contrary to popular belief," House tapped the glass thoughtfully, "I'm not a stark raving lunatic."
She permitted herself a small smile. "I know." She motioned to the bartender, "Another two of what he was drinking please?"
"Don't they have to ID you?" House questioned dryly.
"Shh," she quipped, finally looking into his shockingly blue eyes, "Don't tell, I escaped from junior high."
House damn near let himself smile. No! Don't!
"Not having fun?" she asked brightly.
"No," he replied just as brightly. The bartender brought their drinks. She took a cautious sip, while he gulped his down.
"Oh, woe to be social," Cameron remarked dryly, feeling her pulse speed up and skin burn. Unfortunately, it wasn't the liquor's doing.
"No, just to be stuck in a place with horrid music and everyone hopelessly milling about in attempts to get laid."
She rolled her eyes and they fell into a comfortable silence. She played with the drink stirrer and debated flicking some at him.
Suddenly, a voice to her right startled them both. "Hey, sweetheart," a slightly-intoxicated man in a disheveled suit leaned over until he his nose was almost touching Cameron's shoulder. "Can I buy you a drink?"
"I have one, thank you," Cameron replied primly and swiveled a little in her chair so she was more facing Dr. House. House smirked.
"You're not," the man persisted, standing and trying to sling his arm around Cameron's shoulders.
She nudged it off and stared into her drink, not meeting his eyes. "And you're drunk."
"Aw, come on honey," the may swayed against her, his hand knocking into Cameron's arm. Her drink spilled down in an amber cascade, drenching her leg. She yelped and attempted to jump out of the way, but the man was still rooted beside her, breathing heavily into her ear. "Come on, let's just go."
"No!" Cameron protested indignantly, "Now get off me!"
He grabbed her wrist. "You remind me of a girl I know. She was feisty too once. I said," he twisted Cameron's arm menacingly, "Lets go."
Cameron's mouth fell open in pain. Her eyebrows shot up and she managed to gasp, "Ouch." She tried to twist her wrist back, but he was stronger. She glanced around the dim-lighted bar. No one was watching, and why should they be? House…
A hand reached out and tapped them man on his shoulder. The unsteady man turned around just in time to be punched in the jaw by Dr. House's oncoming fist.
As the man stumbled back into the barstools, knocking several over with a loud crash, Cameron was jerked back with him, nearly crying out with pain as she stumbled and slumped to the ground.
She rubbed her head indignantly, gingerly rotating her wrist. Not broken…good.
Cameron looked up to see Dr. House's twinkling eyes looking down at her. He held out his hand to help her up. Ignoring it, she got doggedly got to her feet. House was still staring oddly at her, she noticed.
It was then that she realized that the music had stopped, and the bar had fallen silent. She cautiously glanced around with a sinking heart. Everyone in the bar was staring at her. And it wasn't concern in their eyes either…it was just confusion and slight anger. Oh yes, she thought indignantly, be a woman and God forbid a doctor and you're just the cause of all problems.
"Come on," House muttered, taking (thankfully) Cameron's other arm, "Let's get out of here."
"Just let me swing by my apartment to get my car, and then I'll drive you home," House had muttered, limping determinedly down the sidewalk. Hugging her warm woolen coat around her, she had nodded dumbly.
Now, standing at the door of his apartment, he raised his hand to turn the key. Cameron was startled to see blood on his knuckles.
"Dr. House!" she sucked in her breath sympathetically and grabbed his hand. "You're bleeding!"
"No, actually, I'm just molting. It's what us old doctors do," House snapped. She was holding his hand still, not looking the slightest bit hurt as she examined his bruising and bloody knuckles. Oh, Jesus, she wasn't backing away yet. And if she kept looking at him like he'd done something amazing, well….well she just couldn't do that any more.
"You shouldn't have done this. Maybe you should have used your cane," she was looking up into his face now, gratitude shining on her features. He knew he should probably have taken offense to the cane bit, but with her lips tugging upwards like they were sharing a secret, he couldn't think of a single sharp retort.
"Come on," he said shortly, jerking his hand away and twisting the key to swing the door open. He tossed the keys on the table, taking off his jacket. He then looked around for Cameron, who had seemingly disappeared.
"Dr. House!" she exclaimed from afar. Sneaky thing, she had already slipped by him into the living area and was darting around like a deranged butterfly examining all his photos and strewn about files. He noticed thoughtfully that she was straightening papers and trinkets as she went, neatening up after him. Well I'll be…
"Last time I checked," he replied dryly.
"You have a wonderful apartment." She glided back to stand before him, her impossibly high shoes making her eyes only level with his chin. She carried herself very tall for her height, that must be the reason he'd never realized how small she was before. "It's so much like you," she continued.
"And that would be…" he prompted, frowning after he'd said it. Now why had he asked that? Did big-bad House care what people thought of him? Oh well, he'd just have to see where she went with it. He carefully lowered himself into his favorite blue armchair and propped up his leg on the paper-covered coffee table.
"Well," she began, carefully examining about the room, starting at his desk. "Well, it's a bit rough around the edges." As if realizing that that wasn't the best way to compliment her boss, she hesitated suddenly, and then hurried on. "But it's clean. And warm. And it's very homey. And it has a lot of care in it, although it is a little preoccupied with professional things."
She returned to the couch and lowered herself onto it, propping her head in her hand against the back. "How did I do, boss?"
He winced slightly. "Not bad. Take an interior design class somewhere down the road?"
"Yeah," she smiled wistfully, "In college once, for the hell of it."
"Figures," he shrugged. He fell silent, rolling his aching neck. It had been a long day. He knew he should probably hurry her out the door in hopes of dropping her off on her doorstep fairly quickly and still catching the end of Hospital 911. He checked his watch. From the looks of things, he'd be missing it.
Cameron's eyes wandered throughout the room. He had a wonderful setup here. She wished her apartment was as reflective as her as his apartment was of him. Fact is, she was hardly there. She didn't consider it home as much as she did the hospital. Truth is, it was lonely there. There was no bustle; no sense of being needed like the hospital.
Looking at Dr. House, Cameron saw that he was staring wistfully over her shoulder. She craned her neck and saw a bottle of presumably the same liquid as he had been drinking at the bar. Glancing around the room, she caught sight of a shiny black instrument and smiled delightedly. "Do you play?" she asked, as casually as she could.
House watched as Cameron rose and crossed to the bottle of scotch perched on the table by the piano. "Play what?"
"The trombone." Cameron rolled her eyes, and stood on her tiptoes to check the cabinet for glasses. None. She checked the one beside it, "The piano of course."
He watched as she took down to square glasses and filled each halfway with scotch. Disappearing into his kitchen area, he kicked off his shoes and frowned. Who knew where this night would go. It was already getting slightly more interesting than he'd expected. She returned only a moment later with ice in the two glasses of scotch, balancing a bag of ice and a damp towel over one arm. Handing a glass to him like she did his morning coffee, she set her glass down on the table and gently moved his free hand from his chest to his leg. Spreading the damp towel over the bruising flesh, she carefully situated the bag of ice on top and didn't, couldn't, look Dr. House in eyes. Then, as if she wasn't in her boss's apartment but her own, she sat on the couch, cradling the class between two hands propped up on one knee.
He took a sip and very literally twiddled his thumbs. "As much fun as this is," he pursed his lips infuriatingly and gave her a pointed wide-eyed look, "I don't think I invited you here to a slumber party."
She ignored that statement. "I'll go home. Just wanted to get you set."
But she didn't move, not yet anyways. House was glad for small favors. Somehow, as if he was in Wilson's company, and not in that of a very visually pleasing (and young!) doctor, he felt the words flow from his mouth on their own accord. "Since I was ten."
"The piano?" she made sure they were on the same page. She took his silence as a yes. "What do you like to play?"
When she rolled her eyes, he took a sip of his drink and elaborated. "Jazz, classical, anything really, except that contemporary bull crap."
She nodded, listening. She too had loved music. "I used to play too."
"I stopped," Cameron said shortly. It had been the only thing to do. Everything had gone to hell, and there's no place in an imploded world for music. Not to her, anyways.
"As the past tense implied, yes," House said sarcastically, swirling his drink and watching it settle. "Lets guess…you didn't like to practice so Mommy and Daddy called it a waste."
"Decided you were too grown up for it?"
"Piano teacher sued you?"
She frowned, her forehead scrunched up. "Again, no."
"How can you just give up music?" House questioned, somewhat more to himself than to her. He met her dark eyes, "If you loved it, which I'm assuming you did due to the anger vibes I'm getting from you, then how can you just stop?"
Cameron's teeth sank into her lip, which she was desperately afraid would begin to tremble. "I lost…someone…while I was making music. If I hadn't been…maybe…"
"So." House's sharp tone cut her off. "Just because someone kicked off while you were 'making music' instead of being with them naturally makes it your fault, thus music's fault, and therefore…very bad."
"Music is not productive," she cut him off, one hand rising to her forehead to touch the tightening headache that threatened there. "I'm trying to say that if I was productive and I was paying attention to him then it wouldn't have happened, therefore, music is too painful now."
"What did he die from?" House asked gruffly, the realization of who she was talking about hitting him like a hundred bricks.
Cameron swallowed hard. "SIDS."
"Ah." House cursed himself silently, seeing the crushed look on her face. Idiot, idiot, why did you bring that up? "Cameron. You can't prevent SIDS. Even if you had been there, there's nothing you could have done. Nothing."
"I can't accept that," Cameron said unsteadily. She took a larger sip of her drink and winced. "It's all in the past now, can't change it."
House noticed that she had almost finished her drink and sat up a little straighter, setting his glass on the table with a decisive click. "Why don't I take you home? You've had an exciting night. Lots of blowing stuff up."
A ghost of a smile flitted across her face. Ugh, moron, she reprimanded herself, now you've gone and opened up to him and now he wants you gone as soon as possible!
She got to her feet, taking his glass from the table and returning them to the kitchen. As he watched her retreating figure, House felt his heart constrict with the pain that radiated from her. It was harder to care then to be uncaring.
If you don't care, their lives don't matter. This was how he applied the notion of caring to his profession. Still…sarcasm could only get you so far. At the end of the workday it was still lonely and to come home to a dark apartment. You couldn't escape your mind's twisted workings. House sighed. Now, having her here, having the image of her curled up on his sofa, life alone was going to be a lot harder to take. He sighed again.
"Dr. House?" Cameron stood in the doorway, her lips pulled upwards in a serene smile despite her hammering heart. She should never have come here. Now it would be all the worse to go back to her empty apartment and try to hide from the past, the present. Cameron sighed.
House pushed himself to his feet. Cameron was by his side in an instant, steadying him and handing him his cane. She was looking at him with a deep concern but…weirdly…that admiring look was still there. Huh.
"Right…" he said, jutting his lip out in confusion. "Shall we?"
She scooped up her coat and shrugged it on, appreciating the warmth it circled her with.
He was already heading for the door, knowing that he'd do something stupid if he kept standing here looking in those big doe goo goo eyes. Just take her home, Greg, don't do anything, don't even look at her. Don't turn around. If you don't turn around, she can't touch you. She can't trap you, ensnare you, all the things that females do.
He turned around, his heart both sinking and leaping at the same time.
She came bustling towards him, handing him his jacket and giving him a caring smile. "Wear it. It's cold out."
Shit. He was stuck.
AN: SIDS Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
I will be continuing this with the quite possibly random progression of the Cameron/House relationship. Hope you like.