Disclaimer: I don't own House.

Ship: House/Cameron

Word Count: 1079



She kept her pens in their cases. There were so many different types of pens: gel pens, glittery pens, metallic pens, fountain pens, down to the ordinary biros. And they came in all different cases - the gel pens came in a plastic box with shiny labels and SPECIAL OFFER scrawled on them in fluoro sticker; the fountain pens in refined, official looking cases with shiny lids and padding on the inside. Each one of those cases were kept and used - not a single one had an empty slot in them.

It was inconvenient, she supposed, and the cases took up so much room. But when it came to putting the pens all together, she found she simply could not do it. The cases were part of the pens - they held them in place and contained them. And to throw the perfectly good cases away - even the gaudy plastic ones - seemed such a wicked waste to her. Even when they started to rip, she couldn't bring herself to throw them out.

She didn't have an obsession with pens as some girls in her class did when she was younger. A lot younger. She simply liked looking at them, and realising that each of them had their own colour, their own slot in the box, and that they were part of a group - a family, almost. She had always longed to be one of those pens, just to feel that sense of belonging that came so rarely. She would be the white pen, she decided one night as she sat at her desk in the office trying to complete the paperwork. She picked up the pen and ran a careful finger over it, feeling the cold plastic and thinking. The white pen - useless in a sense, just there to complete the set. But when it came to writing on black - though such occurances were rare, they did happen, didn't they? - it was the only pen who would retain its colour.

Or maybe she would be the black pen - the dark, useful pen that everybody used, but nobody really liked the colour of. Dull, boring and uninteresting - the words normally associated with it came to the surface of her mind. Pulling the black pen out of its place in the box, she looked at the rest of the colours, the array of tones and shades spread out before her. They were the neutral colours, she decided. Everyone always said that white was neutral ... or that black went with everything, but when it came down to it, they were the opposite ends of the spectrum: the dark and useful; the pure and useless.

She stared at the case, the empty spaces at either end of the box glaring at her. Fighting back a childish shudder, she replaced the pens in their slots and returned to her paperwork. The tap, tap, tapping of the keys on the keyboard filled the room with a tension that seemed unnatural and unwarranted. Outside the glass doors, the normally steady stream of people drained to a s l o w t r i c k le . . .

Tap, shuffle, tap, shuffle ... his awkward steps filled the room as the glass door creaked open. She didn't look up, concentrating instead on her laptop's keys. She wondered vaguely if he hated hearing his footsteps, and that was why he walked so quietly. But for some reason he didn't seem to be keeping his footsteps as quiet as he usually did. Of course they were the only people in the room.

"Cameron." His voice was harsh from disuse, and she looked up at him expectantly at the sound of her name. He started to speak, but was cut off by a sharp bout of coughs. She winced inside, but resisted the urge to say something sympathetic. There was nothing he hated more than pity. She looked back at her laptop, giving him some space and a chance to feel less awkward. In fact, she half expected him to leave.

His coughs weren't growing softer though – instead, they were getting sharper and more pronounced. She got up silently and filled a glass of water and placed it on the desk in front of him. Sitting down again, she watched him reach for the water and gulp down a few mouthfuls.

He wasn't a black or a white, she mused absently. He wasn't a bright gaudy pen either though … he was something subtle … like silver. Unconsciously, her hand reached out for the silver pen, twirling it through her fingers. Yes, that felt right … silver was a shiny colour that could be blatantly obvious when needed, melancholy when neglected and had an internal sparkle that its smooth ink sometimes concealed. When she drew a line in silver and held it to the light, it sometimes looked white and plain, but when she held it under the table, its vague sheen could only just be seen.

The clang of the glass on the table startled her slightly, though she barely allowed herself to jump. Working with House sometimes did that to you. He was looking at her twirling fingers through inscrutable, azure eyes, and she suddenly felt self-conscious.

She dropped the pen.

It teetered on the surface of the desk for a moment, before falling by his feet. She closed her eyes for a brief second, and the shadow of weariness flickered across her face, highlighting the shadows under her eyes and the twitch in her eyelid.

"Sorry," she murmured, turning back to the laptop. "It was a stupid fascination anyway."

She didn't look at him, concentrating instead on the words filling the screen and her fingers tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard, but she knew he was there.

And suddenly, he was behind her, pen in hand. As he placed it on the table beside her, he spoke.

"No, it wasn't," he said. And suddenly it was like he knew what she was thinking, and as she turned her head slowly to meet his eyes, she could almost see the faint twitch of a smile tugging at his mouth.

And there was a light in his eyes that she had never seen before – not even directed at Stacy – and she didn't know what it meant. But it was all for her and suddenly, inexplicably through the haze of weariness and loneliness she felt glad.

Tap, shuffle, tap shuffle.