CHAPTER 18

"I wish," Cameron began, pausing to make sure House wouldn't interrupt her again, "that you could tell me there's no chance, no hope—"

House cut in. "There isn't."

"And that I could believe it," she finished. House looked at her with mild surprise. He didn't reply, so she guessed he was waiting to hear what she said next. Only to interrupter her again, Cameron thought ruefully. "I enjoy your company," she began. House raised an eyebrow and his face contorted in disbelief and Cameron let out a short laugh. House's eyes dropped to her shoulders, the movement from her laughter bringing back in vivid detail the sensation of her laugh on his skin at the drive-in. While her laugh was a treat to the ears, nothing compared to the sensation of how it felt.

Unaware of his thoughts, Cameron continued. "Okay, there are times when I enjoy your company," she qualified. "With the exception of our first date, when I screwed things up royally, we have a good time when we go out. There were moments when you would forget to be sarcastic and insulting and you were just…you. I've even seen glimpses of you as charming, carefree, maybe even a little happy."

House frowned at the idea of being described as carefree and happy. Cameron's heart dropped in sorrow as she saw how alien those adjectives were in describing House. "Last night, things just…clicked." She saw the hint of a sharp grin flash over House's face and spoke quickly. "I meant at the drive-in. But what happened afterwards.…" Cameron's eyes caught House's in a direct gaze. "That felt right, too." She waited a beat. "I don't want to give up on any of that. Not when it feels like there's potential for something…great."

House sighed and looked at the floor. He didn't have the heart for sarcasm at this point. Or the energy. He felt drained. "There's not."

"How can you be so sure?" Cameron pressed, a thread of anger lacing her voice. "Don't tell me you're not interested because I know that's not true. You may not like my outlook on life, but I know you like me. I know you're attracted to me, and I damn well know you enjoyed yourself last night. We have a good time together when you forget to be a jerk. So why couldn't we work? Why can't we have more nights like last night? Why won't you even try?" House didn't answer. "I have the right to know that much. The truth. Something I can believe." When House continued to remain silent, she added a soft "Please."

"Because," he finally answered. It took several moments for him to continue his response, and even then he didn't look at her. "I'm vindaloo curry."

Cameron stared at House in disbelief. Another metaphor? That was his explanation? At least it wasn't a sports metaphor, she told herself. Well, she didn't think it was, anyway. "What?"

"Vindaloo curry," House repeated. "I'm…it's very spicy and eating it tears apart your mouth and you get sick of it. It's inevitable. And even if you find yourself yearning for curry after a long while, once you have it again, it's never as good as your memory was making it out to be and you wonder why you missed it so much."

Cameron continued to stare, somewhat appalled by House's metaphor, and how he saw himself reflected in it. She didn't know how he got this idea in his head, but she sensed that her response to it was crucial. She wasn't sure how he expected her to reply, so she said the first thing that popped into her head. "You just don't know how to eat curry."

House looked up in surprise and Cameron saw something light up behind his eyes. It looked like something incredibly close to hope. Whatever it was, it urged Cameron on. "You're not supposed to gorge on it until it burns your mouth out; you eat it in moderation. You use enough to spice up your food, and your mouth; to make things interesting and to bring to life taste buds you didn't know you had. It's to be savored steadily throughout your life to remind you of what you have and to enjoy it."

She paused for a breath, and House's lack of response impelled her to continue. "If you're vindaloo curry, House, it's because you're like one of the hot spices of life that make things interesting. You're never boring. And because you help people to appreciate their lives and you bring to life parts of people that they didn't know they had. Literally." She waited a beat before adding, "Being vindaloo curry is what makes you so special."

House's gaze was locked onto Cameron's and a warm sense of satisfaction filled her. She felt like she had scored a touchdown, hit a home run, made the game winning three-point shot, and whatever other sports jargon amounted to winning the game. As she saw the hint of a smile on House's face, Cameron felt as if she had stood before the mighty Sphinx and correctly answered his riddle. She practically tingled with the anticipation of his response.

House looked at her in silence for a moment before speaking. "What a load of crap."

"Well, so was the damn metaphor," Cameron snapped, flushed with temper and embarrassment. House's head tilted back and he let out a loud shout of laughter. She opened her mouth, fully prepared to snap something rude before stomping to the door.

She shut her mouth quickly as he reached for his cane and stood. Cameron sat in a huff but stayed silent, too curious about House's actions to interrupt. She saw him go into the kitchen and pull something from the fridge before moving toward the pantry. After retrieving something from there, he made his way back into the living room, the unidentifiable items cradled in his free arm. He stopped when he stood over Cameron and dumped the items into her lap before turning to his piano.

Shock and confusion rose in equal parts as Cameron stared down at the items in her lap: an unopened package of strawberry Pop-Tarts and a corsage that looked very much like the one House had given her on her first date.

Cameron looked to House for an explanation. "Dinner," he said.

"The corsage?" she asked.

Ignoring her joke, he angled his head toward his entertainment center. "Top shelf," he said. "You can pick your movie."

More curious than ever, she set aside the corsage and Pop-Tarts and went to the entertainment center. Lining the top shelf was a DVD collection of silent films. Cameron's heart skipped a beat and she looked at House with an unasked question in her eyes.

He had turned to face the keyboard. "Your choice," House confirmed. He wanted to smile but couldn't quite manage one. Cameron's heart flipped as the thought that he was about to share something with her that he had never shared with anyone before.

Cameron scanned the titles before pulling out the Buster Keaton movie they had watched together the night before. She loaded it into the DVD player and muted the television as the movie menu popped up. Grabbing the remote, she went back to the couch and picked up her other items. Instead of sitting down and facing the television set, she walked over and sat next to House on the piano bench.

Without speaking she handed him the corsage box and waited for him to pin it on her. His eyes held hers and his fingers lingered. By the time he finished fastening the flowers, Cameron was flushed and smiling. Picking up the Pop-Tarts, Cameron opened the packaging and pulled one out. She handed the first one to House and pulled the second one out as her own.

House set his Pop-Tart aside without a bite. While Cameron took a small bite of hers, he grabbed the remote and started the film. He had only run his fingers over a couple of notes before Cameron put a hand over his and stilled it. When he turned to look at her, she hooked a hand behind his neck and brought him down for a kiss.

A short while later, House pulled back. "I don't much care for spicy foods."

Cameron smiled her response. "Shut up and play."

END