It had been an easier than usual case, so House had yelled and ranted more than usual as a consequence. Cameron knew it was bad when Chase conned her into taking back the latest round of test results. Her colleague had unwavering instincts when it came to judging House's moods, as she realized on entering his office.
"That them?" House asked, glaring at her.
"Yes." She swallowed. This was angry, in pain House; she hated this House. Not like angry, sarcastic House; she...well...found him easier to handle. "You were right."
"And you've just come to bask in the glow of my satisfaction." Feet propped up on his desk, his right hand was almost absently massaging his thigh.
"I-" she began, feeling her words burn to ashes in the fire of his stare.
"Do you have a treatment?"
"Chase is starting-"
"And yet you're here." He pushed harder at his leg, digging his knuckles in deep.
"I thought you'd want to know," she said, taking half a step forwards.
"Well, now I know." She dropped the file on his desk and he stared at it. "What am I supposed to do with that?"
Her temper flared at his contemptuous tone. "You're supposed to be a doctor and read it." She turned on her heel and left the office without looking back.
One day, she'd learn to look at the caller ID before she picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Yes?" Her eyes were still fixed on the computer, distracted by the possibility of a referral.
"Doctor House hasn't arrived for his clinic duty."
"Oh?" Finally dragging her attention away from the screen, she heard the expectant silence. "Oh."
"I'm sorry, but we really do need someone down here." Judging by the background noise, Cameron didn't doubt it.
"Alright. I'll be there."
Downstairs, Brenda handed her a file without returning her smile.
"Doctor House should be here," the nurse said.
"Don't I know it." Cameron glanced at the file and called the first patient. She spent an hour or so with colds, sprains and cuts, and she was showing her latest patient out when she noticed that the door to exam room 3 was closed and the blinds shut.
She handed the chart over and started to ask,
"Sorry, hang on. Carly!" Brenda called to another nurse over, turning away. Cameron gave up and decided she'd earnt a five minute reprieve. Still curious, she went and put her ear to the door of exam room 3. It was silent inside and, not quite knowing why, she turned the handle without a sound and opened the door a crack.
The room was dimly lit, with the blinds pulled across both windows. House was sitting on the edge of the exam couch with his back to her, rocking back and forth over his leg. Apart from the whispering of the couch cushions as he moved, there was no sound. After a moment of indecision, Cameron pushed the door fully open and slipped inside. House looked round as the door clicked shut behind her. His face was a mask of agony and white as a sheet.
"Go away." His voice was rough and weak.
"You're in pain."
"Now you notice? Damn, I thought the cane was a dead giveaway."
"It's worse." She came to stand beside him, keeping her distance as from a half-tame animal.
Very carefully, she reached out and put a hand on his leg, between his clenched fists. He shifted a little, but didn't brush her off. Ever so gently, she pressed her palm into his leg, moving it in tiny circles. After a moment, one of his fists unclenched and he sat up a little. Encouraged, Cameron moved to stand in front of him, putting her other hand on his leg as well. As she moved with greater confidence, he put both hands behind him, leaning on them and tipping his head back.
The friction from his jeans was burning her palms as she increased the pressure and speed, still careful to keep the motion under control and trying to judge what was helping the most. House's eyes were closed, the dark circles underneath them standing out against his pale skin. They seemed to merge into the line of stubble, which she'd already noticed was thicker than usual. As she watched, paying attention to his face rather than the leg under her hands, she saw the tightness around his eyes begin to ease and the thin line of his lips relax. His mouth opened a little as he began to breathe more deeply.
She could feel the trembling under her hands and concentrated on pressing away the worst of the shaking. Through the thick denim, she couldn't really make out the detail of his damaged thigh, only a depression where muscle should have been. She tried not focus her attention on that, feeling her face reddening and shoulders trembling as her own muscles began to ache. She concentrated on the in and out, in and out of their breathing, in time with the up and down of her hands on his leg.
The immediacy of his need seemed to have passed and she watched as his expression moved from relief to rest. The angles and lines of his face seemed to smooth out and he leant further back onto his hands, shoulders lifting and head dropping forwards again. Cameron shifted, becoming aware of House's knee pressing uncomfortably into her midriff. She made her strokes longer, pushing further up towards his torso then down again almost to his knee. He sighed, just a little, and so she repeated the movement, up and down, pressing her thumbs into his knee at the end.
Whether it was this that acted as the trigger, or just a random twitch, she didn't know, but suddenly House's right elbow gave way and he slipped forwards off the couch. The force pushed Cameron backwards, slamming her into the cupboards so that she lost her own balance, falling to her knees on the floor. Momentarily dazed, she felt her hair slipping from its clip, the loose strands tickling the back of her neck. Trying to steady herself, she looked up into House's sardonic smile as he stood over her.
"Nice work," he said, assessing their relative positions. He'd retrieved his cane and was looming over her, a speculative expression on his face. "You know, while you're down there…"
She turned away from him, putting a hand on the cupboard to help her stand up. House made no attempt to give her more room. Instead, he leant his weight onto his cane and put a hand under her elbow to help her up. She could feel the warmth of him through her blouse and lab coat. She glanced upwards and, just for a moment, their eyes met. There was a flash of – what? Gratitude? Embarrassment? She was aware that he was still breathing hard, still in time with her.
"Should be more careful," he said, pulling the loosed clip from her hair and handing it to her. "Accidents happen."
"Things also happen on purpose, you know." She put a hand on the arm that was still clasping her elbow. "Do you-"
She closed her eyes in frustration as the pager at her hip began to beep. House released her, taking a step back and raising his eyebrows.
"Don't you think you should get that?"
Cursing under her breath, she pulled the pager from her belt.
"It's Chase," she said, grimacing. "I'd better go."
He nodded. "Then I'd better finish up the hours, I guess. Cuddy's going to find me eventually anyway." Limping across to the door, he opened it, then looked back at her expectantly. "Hadn't you better get going?"
Once she, Chase and Foreman had got the patient stabilized (again), Cameron headed back up to Diagnostics. It was seven-fifteen and many of the offices she passed were empty, lit only by the glow from the corridors. She'd noticed that each doctor at PPTH found their own way of dealing with the glass walls. Some kept the blinds closed all the time. Some fought bitterly over the few offices that had wooden doors. Some just lived with it, accepting that they had their uses as well as their disadvantages.
Cameron had always suspected that House liked the glass walls. He liked to have an audience for everything; she wondered if he'd be able to work without someone to show off to. Mostly, she suspected he just forgot about them, carrying on with whatever subject had taken his interest at the time, not caring who could hear him. Tonight, he'd also left his door open, so that his voice carried out into the corridor. She hadn't expected him to still be there, especially not sounding so…playful.
"You do so!"
She paused, clutching the file to her chest. The idea had been for her to go back and finish off the charting in peace, able to forget about what had happened earlier on. So much for that plan. The light was off in the conference room, and it looked like only a lamp was on House's office, but she could hear two voices joined in laughter.
"Oh come on. Debbie's looked like the cat that got the cream for the past two days. In fact-"
"You are not going to finish that sentence."
Wilson. Of course.
Cameron heard a dull thud and guessed it was House's cane hitting the floor. She took half a step forward, enough to peer round the side of the glass and just about see into the office. House was behind his desk, Wilson sprawled in the visitor's seat across from him. There was a lab coat on the floor, and they were throwing the soft ball back and forth as they talked. She realized the thud must have been the ball hitting something.
"I don't know why you assume I must have a date."
"Because you'll be single again soon, and you want the satisfaction of a little pre-divorce action before it's final. Julie had it, so why shouldn't you?"
Cameron blushed as Wilson swore fluently at House, who laughed. It was a mellow sound, so relaxed and happy. She'd never seen him smile like that before, so unlike the knowing, sly grin he'd given her in the exam room. Its warmth seemed to be spreading across her own face.
Wilson finished swearing and started to sputter.
"There is no date!" he said, throwing the ball with vicious force. House caught it deftly, juggling it between his hands as he looked across his desk. He was wearing his best 'oh, really?' expression as Wilson continued to protest. "We were going to do beer and sports, if you remember."
"Actually, I remember that you agreed to let me watch the L-word if I let you watch One Million Years BC."
"It's still a deal."
"Fine. But if you run out on me on Saturday night-"
"I'm not going to." Wilson spread his hands. "There is no date!"
"Okay. I believe you. Thousands wouldn't. Cameron doesn't."
She blushed harder as House looked past Wilson, directly at her. Wilson twisted in his chair, his own face reddening. Swallowing hard, Cameron came into the office, still hugging the chart which was now her shield and excuse.
"I came to finish this off," she said, not sure who she was apologizing to.
"Then go finish." House's expression was perfectly blank. "I'm not doing it for you."
"No. I'm doing it for you." If the words resonated with House the way they did with her, he showed no sign of it. She retreated out to her desk, feeling the eyes of both men on her. After a moment of muffled conversation, Wilson scooped up his lab coat and headed out of the door. Then House's light went off and he came through, bag in hand.
"The guy still getting better?"
"He wasn't but he is now."
"Interesting." House took his coat from the rack, looking at her curiously.
"What? According to you, I'm only interested in dying people anyway, so Chase is looking after him. And I do your charts because someone has to. It's Foreman's turn next week."
"Not that, although it was damaged people, not dying ones, just so we're clear." He tilted his head. "You didn't try to tell me his name."
She looked back down at the chart, apparently uninterested. "Would there have been any point?" she asked.
"Never, but it doesn't normally stop you. Interesting," he said again, coming over to her desk as he shrugged into his jacket. "Losing your touch?"
She lifted her head as he loomed over her, meeting his gaze, wondering if the double entendre was intentional. But House never did anything accidentally. What was she supposed to say? The conversation she'd interrupted had felt so personal, so intimate, even more so than her massaging away his pain. The comfortable atmosphere had surprised her and attracted her. Earlier today, she'd felt she knew exactly what House was thinking, what he was feeling. Now, he seemed far away, looking at her from a distance she could never cover. She wasn't going to make the mistake of trying to cross it.
Before she could speak, a flicker of movement caught her eye, and she was grateful for the glass walls.
"Your ride's here," she said. House turned and returned Wilson's nod before looking back at Cameron.
"Actually, I'm his ride. Shouldn't drink when you're on painkillers, and shouldn't drink and drive. Match made in AA. See you Monday."
She nodded, unable to look away as the two men made their way down the corridor, Wilson adjusting his strides to House's limp, worse than usual, but better than first thing this morning. They disappeared behind the wall, Wilson giving her a final smile as he stepped out of sight.
When she heard the elevator doors shut, Cameron got up and closed all the blinds of the conference room, telling herself that she wanted some privacy as she finished off. Shaking herself a little, she turned her attention back to the chart, trying to shrug off the image of House and Wilson sitting together in his office, an image that would stay with her longer than his face as she touched him. It hadn't mattered that they were still in the hospital, behind glass walls that turned private space into a goldfish bowl. The office had suddenly looked and felt like home.