Disclaimer: I'm just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world… and I don't own HouseMD
Author's Note: So Hector, this is awkward… Haven't spoken to you in two months. How dare I even deign to show my face around these parts again?! Well, simply put, it was the urge to keep on writing this story, plus the fact that you seemed overwhelmingly supportive of that plan. If you're still out there, accept my humble apologies for taking so long with an update. New job; you know how it goes. Not all of us can deal addictive substances. So without further ado, the story! One promise: family and compromising sleeping arrangements in chapter fourteen.
Chapter Dedication: humongo and ginormous props to the one and only Oracle Phoenix, who has become my faithful beta reader! THREE CHEERS FOR PHOENIX!
...x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x...
Allison Cameron stiffened reflexively at the sensation of cool fingertips alighting on the exposed skin of her lower back, but immediately forced herself to relax.
Don't flinch, don't flinch, don't flinch… She instructed her muscles firmly, but this was fast becoming a tall order as those questing digits began to walk lazily southward. Staring vehemently at the sneaker she had been re-tying, Cameron had to consciously remind herself to breathe.
Greg House, owner of the hand in question, smirked as his fingers continued their waltz. He had her again!
Some ten minutes ago, that being the ignition point that lead to the current situation, Cameron had decided that she had to stop for a bathroom break. House, being House, had called attention to similarities between his immunologist and a puppy, and complained that she should just wait out the last hour of driving.—"Has anyone ever mentioned that many of your most defining traits are comparable to those of a cocker spaniel?"—Despite all of that; here they were outside some sleazy fast-food restaurant with even sleazier patrons milling around.
Still, House thought with a grin. The unwanted break had certainly handed him a golden opportunity…
After using the bathroom, the younger doctor had been walking back to the car when she noticed a dragging shoelace. Typically, she had set one sneakered foot atop the nearest picnic bench and bent to remedy the problem. That had been her big mistake. Some moments later, a certain grouchy diagnostician had poked his head out of the car to shout at his traveling companion---"What could possibly be taking so long?! Have you got some sloth genes mixed in with those lap-dog bloodlines?"—but the jab had suddenly died on his lips as he caught sight of the woman in question... with her back to him, hunched over, ass in the air. Oh, it was just too good.
Oh God oh God oh God… She thought incomprehensibly, trying desperately to discern a way out of the current situation without further indebting herself to her employer—he had already caught her out twice: once with a wet kiss on the back of her neck as she leaned to dig through the glove compartment for a roadmap, and again with an unexpected wandering hand that had alighted on her upper thigh as she drove. They had nearly crashed into the concrete highway divider. Damn, did she really already owe that infuriating man twenty-five dollars?!
"You ready to go, Allison?" House's voice broke through her whirling thoughts, and the tone was aggravatingly, sing-song-ingly innocent. That fake. Even as he spoke, graceful digits did a pirouette along her spine. Oh God, indeed.
"Allisonnnn," he wheedled again, the smirk in his voice evident. "Something wrong, sweeeeetheart?" The diagnostician was fully enjoying the fact that he seemed to be able to play her like a fiddle. He resisted humming "New York, New York" as he let his fingers dance the Can-Can towards the low-riding waist of her jeans. He totally had her again. Make that forty-five dollars for G. Hou— "OOF!"
One pair of electric blue eyes shot open in surprise and pain as one sharp elbow arguably displaced one unsuspecting kidney.
"So, you ready to get this show on the road?" The question came innocently as the woman before him straightened and readjusted her shirt. The smirk that accompanied it, however, was anything but.
In his current state of sudden agony, House considered himself many things—but 'ready to get this show on the road' was not among them. His upright stance now reduced to leaning heavily on the picnic table with the other hand clutching pathetically at his offended side, the sound that came out of his mouth next wasn't so much of sharp retort as a pained mumble. "Y-you... you..."
"What? Didn't catch that," Cameron replied cheerily as she began walking back towards the car. "C'mon, Greg, Beantown's still an hour off!"
Still grimacing, the gruff older doctor sent a long, meaningful glare at the receding back of his surprise attacker before finally consenting to follow her towards the parking lot. Well that plan had certainly backfired—one minute he's enjoying a comfy position of power, and the next he's being assaulted by the more knobby bits of his immunologist! He muttered darkly to himself all the while. Well, at least there was the consolation prize of another twenty bucks... Her unpredictability would come at a price.
By the time House reached the car where she was waiting, Cameron was once again stooped down—finally retying the sneaker she had originally set out to. This time, however, she had made quite certain that her shirt wasn't riding up, and that she hadn't left herself in an obscenely vulnerable position. Even so, he watched her crouched form for a moment longer than absolutely necessary before speaking.
"You're digging yourself quite the hole there, Allison," he began with as much of a sneer as he could muster while still favoring his left side. Damn, that girl had a vicious right hook, for a pipsqueak!
She startled a bit at his words, but merely shot him a mildly questioning look as she got to her feet. Reaching up to grab her bottle of water from where she had set it on the roof of the car while opening the door, Cameron hazarded a glance in his direction as he sidled up. Observant of his expression as always, it was all she could do to keep the rising feeling of concern from showing in her own face as she noticed his apparent discomfort. "I'm what? Digging..?"
"Debt. You're officially up to forty-five in the big book of I.O.U.s."
The smirk that crept across her face wasn't exactly the first response he had been expecting. Neither was her simultaneous response. "How do you figure?"
One of House's eyebrows rose sharply at the seemingly inane question, and his words followed suit. "Uh... Have you been having an out of body experience for the last five minutes?" he asked slowly.
Cameron's returning expression was devious and totally guiltless. "No. Why do you ask?"
He had to offer up a crooked half-smile, even as he rolled his eyes. God, she was annoying! "Well..." he drawled. "I seem to have a rather distinct memory of a little PDA going irrevocably—"
"If by 'a little PDA' you mean 'flagrant molestation', then yeah, I think I was there for that," she interjected with a challenging eyebrow raise of her own. What a jerk! Was her first thought, but it was, nonetheless, punctuated with an internal chuckle.
For his part, House snorted, but otherwise chose to ignore the interruption, continuing on with a dismissive wave of his hand. "So as I was saying—"
"Right. Do continue."
"Well I would if you would stop interr—"
"Sorry. Go on."
"I'll just be quiet, then."
At the fourth interruption, a bit of color rose into the diagnostician's cheeks, and he visibly stiffened. Opening his mouth as if to yell, Cameron held her breath for a moment before being surprised as a gruff laugh substituted for what she thought would be a sharp comment.
She's... not bad. He decided, squinting one eye at her in appraisal as he attempted to stare down his pretty underling. Insufferable, maybe... but not too bad.
The young immunologist stood her ground under his scrutiny and grinned back defiantly, doing her own bit by looking him up and down. Maybe it was the warm glow of the late afternoon sun that was softening him... She thought with no small amount of growing contentment. But for the first time since she could remember, Dr. Gregory House, even while doing his level best to loom over her, didn't seem as intimidating as he once did.
To passersby, the pair of them looked both ordinary and ridiculous at the same time—a mismatched pair even in their heights, engaged in some sort of staring contest in the parking lot of a highway-side Dunkin' Donuts. To passersby, those who did not know of their impossibly dichotomous personalities, they could have been anything— relatives, or lovers. Friends, or enemies. But that was just to random passersby.
Standing on asphalt somewhere in Rhode Island, hands on respective hips, two doctors from Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital locked eyes, exchanged small, quirky smiles, and understood one another just a little bit better.
Gregory House inclined his head towards the driver's side of the car, and Allison Cameron nodded a thankful assent, passing over the keys. They climbed into the vehicle without further conversation, and if there had been any random passerby, they would have been left none the wiser.
...x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x...
"Mmph. Hmm? What?"
"You're not falling asleep on me, right? What are you, five?"
Cameron stifled a yawn and straightened from her slump against the door.To answer his question, yes, she had been falling asleep. "No, I was just… Looking for something in the side-door pocket." A skeptical look was the reply. "For a CD. It's too quiet in here," she clarified, but from the expression on his face, he wasn't convinced.
"Well, I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure that one doesn't go about looking for something with her eyes shut," House explained with a shrug, before removing one hand from the steering wheel to slap it dramatically to his forehead. "OH WAIT! I am a doctor!"
"Oh shut up, Greg House," the immunologist grumbled, twisting in her seat to readjust her spine after slouching like that. Ouch. Double ouch. "Why do you care, anyway?"
He seemed to contemplate that for a moment, as if he needed a minute to remember why he had spoken her name, before answering. "Mostly because we're going to be there in a half-hour and I don't want you to be all groggy and embarrassing in front of the fancy hotel people… but also because I wanted to re-inform you of your impending debt to me. You know, if you wanted to substitute sexual acts for monetary compensation, I wouldn't be adverse to that payment plan— although, I should warn you: the exchange rate is rather in my favor—"
"Hold up and rewind," she cut him off, her head spinning with this latest diatribe that had somehow gone from the subject of hotel staff to sex.
"To which part?"
"How about the part where I understand what the Hell you're talking about?" she suggested wryly, and received an indulgent grin.
"You owe me a lump-sum of forty-five bucks, Lovey. I was just suggesting the fact that you may be running low on cash, and considerately offering you another method of repaying that debt."
"Right… Well, I think, Lord help me for being able to follow your thought process, I sort of understood that part," Cameron admitted, before continuing through his evil laughter and proclamations of 'I've got her now!' punctuated by melodramatic hand-rubbing. "The part I'm still hazy on is how you got to the number forty-five. Last I checked, it was twenty-five."
"That was before you possibly…probably ruptured my left kidney with that spiky excuse for an elbow." Turning his eyes back to the road after a meaningful glance, House tapped his fingers idly against the steering wheel. "Please don't tell me you forgot the rules of the wager— I went for PDA, and you went for the jugular. You owe me another Andrew Jackson."
"Hah! Sweetheart, what have I told you about confusing 'harassment' with 'affection'..?" the female doctor exclaimed sarcastically, before doing her own bit of explaining. "And hey, don't tell me you forgot the rules!"
"What are you talking about..?" the diagnostician asked somewhat warily. Uh-oh… she definitely had that annoying, knowing look about her…
"Well, the bet was to remedy the fact that we don't behave like a convincing couple.
"So… the parking lot scenario included you violating me, and me putting you in your place for it. Here's the kicker: I challenge you to find anyone who knows you that wouldn't expect even your girlfriend to belt you one for that kind of move. In fact, I'm pretty sure they'd applaud." Having finished making her point, Cameron grinned smugly, waiting for his response. She was right, and she knew it.
"I—You—" he stuttered after it all sank in, but realized in the same moment that, crap, she was right. A loophole. Damn her.
"You—I— what?" she teased his graceless retort.
"You suck." Well it wasn't exactly a good comeback, but it was all he had.
"I've told you a million times… Not anymore! I only did that for a few years to pay my way through Med School, and you know it!"
House glanced over at her, surprised by the quip, before snorting and shaking his head. "You do know that you'll be hearing about that one for the next twenty-some-odd years, right?"
Pausing, Cameron dropped her gaze to her lap before nodding somewhat mournfully in agreement. "…Yep."
...x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x...
"So Cam, you know what…" he began, only to trail off upon glancing over to confirm that the woman he was addressing was curled up against the window, fast asleep. Emboldened by the simple fact that she couldn't hear it, House allowed himself a soft chuckle and a shake of the head. Huh, looking for CDs indeed—in fact, was that..? The short jag of laughter grew in volume as the diagnostician realized that Allison Cameron was, in all of her slumbering glory, drooling.
Cameron shifted a bit at the noise, and he quickly stifled the outburst to prevent her from waking up fully. The truth was, he sort of had to admit, however reluctantly, that when she wasn't concerned with how he was viewing her, she was… cute. Oh, he had always found her attractive—what red-blooded male in his right mind wouldn't?—but this was something completely different. This was cute. The kind of cute you'd think would look just as appealing wearing flannel pants as they would wearing low-rider jeans. The kind of cute you wanted to kiss on the forehead sometimes, instead of on the mouth. The kind of cute you could wake up next to, even if it did include a bit of saliva on the pillowcase.
With one hand draped over the wheel at the wrist and his mind wandering, the gruff diagnostician didn't realize the course his thoughts were taking until it was too late. Oh shit. There was a reason he avoided thinking things like that! Swallowing hard and force-focusing back on the skyline of Boston rising up to meet them, he turned his thoughts to the weekend ahead.
Nearby, Cameron snuffled gently in her sleep and the seat squeaked as she hunkered down further. House sighed, a noise softer than both of the others. This could get… complicated.
...x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x. .x.x.x.x.x...
Mmm...wha—? Hazel eyes fluttered open, gradually revealing a close-up vantage point of smudged window glass. Blinking in sleepy confusion, Cameron's first thought was to her current location. Where the Hell..? Oh yeah. The car, apparently stuck in Boston traffic by now. Wait… what was—? Immediately following that idea was one that questioned what it was that had awoken her.
"Few times I been around that track, so it ain't just gonna happen like that…"
Twisting in her seat to view the source of a gravelly baritone mixed with a punk-pop alto, the pretty, young immunologist immediately began to snicker. Apparently, she thought to herself with no small amount of amusement, Gregory House 'wasn't no holla back girl'.
"Somehow, I get this feeling that the next thing you're going to tell me is that 'the shit is bananas.'"
House, startled from his absent sing-along, immediately shot his now very awake companion a somewhat sheepish glance. "Oh. You're awake," he mumbled dully, quickly flicking the power knob on the stereo to kill the music.
"Yeah—apparently someone saw fit to interrupt my nap with some impromptu teeny-bopper karaoke," she teased, reaching across the center console to nudge him playfully. "Wonder who that could have been…"
"Shut up. There wasn't anything on the radio."
"And the fact that you seem to know all of Gwen's lyrics… Just a coincidence?"
"Yeah, well, you drool in your sleep. So there," he shot back with a smirk at her suddenly mortified expression. A hand went to her mouth, and upon finding a trace of moisture on her chin, Cameron's cheeks turned a pretty shade of pink. "Oh yeah. I'm pretty sure me and Gwen have nothing on you and Jerry Lewis."
"Shut up, I—"
The playful banter was cut short by the shrill ringing of a cell-phone. Both doctors glanced towards House's backpack, from which the noise was emanating, before Cameron unceremoniously scooped it up and began to unzip the front pocket. The diagnostician eyed her rummaging with mild interest for a second before clearing his throat.
"What're you doing, Allison?" The first names came easier now.
"Trying to find your damn phone—what did you pack in here, rocks?" she groaned, lugging the knapsack fully into her lap.
"Just the essentials," he waved airily, "and why are you trying to find my phone?"
Cameron paused in her search for a moment to fix him with a bit of an incredulous stare. "So you can answer it…?"
The ringing continued, seemingly louder as if to prove her point, but House still made no indication that he cared. Just the opposite, in fact.
"What makes you think I was planning on doing something like that?" Her only reply was a continued stare, so he smirked and began his explanation. "Listen, there's only three people who could be on the other end of that annoying ring-tone: Wilson, my cousin, Linz, or Cuddy. Option A: if it's Jimmy, I don't really feel like dealing with his ridiculous questions along the lines of 'have I scarred you beyond repair, yet?'; Behind door number two, we have Linz, whom I usually don't avoid talking to, but in light of the fact that the last time we spoke I dropped the G-bomb—" A mouth opened as if to ask what that might be. "—Girlfriend—she's probably going to have that same annoying inquisitive quality out on parade, too."
House paused here for a moment, drawing a breath, much to Cameron's amusement. "And last, but certainly not least,option number three is our delightful Dean of Medicine, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Two words: Hell. No."
By the time his explanation had run its course, it didn't seem to matter anyway—the phone had long since stopped ringing. Suddenly replacing that noise, however, was the sound of snickering. It started unobtrusively enough, but began to grow until soon enough the chuckles had become full-fledged, gut-busting laughter. The diagnostician, now guiding the car slowly through the packed streets of Beantown, could only spare his hysterical companion a somewhat baffled glance. What the Hell..?
Allison Cameron was, by no exaggeration, laughing her ass off. Tears forming at the corners of her eyes as she was racked with quaking hilarity, the immunologist could do nothing to stop herself. The whole situation was just completely ridiculous—riding in a car with misanthropic genius, Gregory House, on the way to a wedding where she would be posing as his girlfriend and he would collect money..? What exactly did they think they were doing?!
Despite initially viewing her with a certain amount of skepticism, House couldn't seem to stop the smile that had begun creeping over his own features. Maybe it was because he was realizing that he hadn't actually ever heard her laugh before, or at least not like this, and it was kind of nice. Contagious, at the very least.
He was hyper-observant—that much most people could agree on—and now, he was noticing the tiny crease that formed between her eyes, and the way she tilted her head back slightly so that she was laughing at the ceiling. Hazel eyes shut, lashes dark against pale cheeks—it was only the beginning of the summer, after all—and lips parted in a slightly ludicrous grin. Pretty soon, if only to ignore the other warm feeling in his chest, House was chuckling too.
"Haha—ohh… owwowow—haha s-stop—my ribs are k-killing m-me…" she gasped through her laughter, and the fact that she was even trying to talk just heightened the hilarity. Luckily, it was at that point that another phone began to ring. "Damn—oww—w-wait—!"
Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, Cameron wiped the tears from her face before pulling out her phone and glancing at the display. "It's… Wilson," she confirmed, and House, still trying to wipe the smile off of his own face, nodded knowingly.
"Figures he'd run to you next. Just ignore—"
"Hello? Oh, hi Dr. Wilson."
Blue eyes blinked in surprise as the diagnostician came to the slow realization that she had gone and answered the phone. Wait, hadn't he just made a very good argument as to why they shouldn't take the call..? Coming to, a short sound of dismay left House's mouth as he tried to snatch the phone from her.
Despite his efforts, however, Cameron merely leant away from her companion to keep the device out of his reach. "Cut it out and drive!" she laughed, before realizing that she was speaking directly into the phone. "Oh, oh no, not you, Dr. Wilson—Sorry."
"What're you, nuts..?" House mouthed in an exaggerated fashion, rolling his eyes when she merely responded with a wink and a smirk before going back to her conversation. "No, actually it wasn't off—yeah, he heard it ringing... Guess he just didn't want to talk to you—something about you nagging—Excuse me? Oh, oh yeah, I'm still alive, obviously—Barely, uh-huh…" The diagnostician strained to hear what Wilson was saying for the first bit of conversation, but after only narrowly avoiding the second elbow jab of the day as he leaned closer to his companion, he resigned himself to the compromise of not knowing what was being said, but keeping his person from sustaining further bodily harm. Meanwhile, Cameron seemed to be enjoying her chat with Wilson—or at least, she had a smile on her face as she fielded his questions.
On the other end of the line, James Wilson leant back in his chair and clicked his pen absently as he settled the phone into the crook between ear and shoulder. It figured that House wouldn't answer his phone—although surprising that now Cameron was answering hers. It begged the question of why he hadn't stopped her..?
"So," he began, still wondering at the obviously jovial tone the young woman was using—she couldn't possibly be having a good time… she'd been stuck in a car with Gregory House for the past four hours! "Now that I know you haven't been spit-roasted, or at the very least left on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike… How are you and our favorite way-faring misanthrope doing?"
"Oh, we're good—you know, a few pit-stops and some definite whining binges, but other than that it's been fine."
"And when you say 'fine'… you mean not including screaming, bleeding, or other such things usually associated with slasher movies?"
Stopped at a red light, House allowed himself to look over at his passenger—and was gratified, if a bit surprised, to find her rolling her eyes.
"Yes, that's usually what's meant by the word 'fine'… No, seriously, it's been okay—well, why not? Sure, I know that he's House, but—" Allison Cameron, it seemed, was getting a first-hand example as to exactly why James Wilson's calls were typically ignored by one Greg House. The diagnostician smirked.
"Told you so… Annoying, isn't he?" he gloated for a moment, before noticing that the traffic signal had changed to green. More than that, he could see their hotel—the Fairmount Copley Plaza—just a few blocks ahead.
Meanwhile, the immunologist continued her now futile attempts to convince Wilson that she wasn't in harm's way. Funny—she had thought House was Wilson's best friend! "Listen, Dr. Wilson, it's really fine, and to tell you the truth we're just about—SHIT! HOUSE—!"
Just as he had moved his foot to the gas pedal, a driver in a silver BMW had seen fit to swerve in front of them. Alerted by Cameron's sharp shout, House had slammed on the brake just in time to avoid rear-ending the asshole. Fucking Bostonians! He thought heatedly, and was about to let out a long strip of curses to vent—
"WATCH IT, ASSHOLE!" Cameron beat him to it; yelling angrily as she reached across the center console and punched the horn sharply. Taking a breath to calm herself, she shook her head in reproach. "Fucking Bostonians."
House just stared—keeping one eye on the road, of course—at his immunologist in shock. Of all the people he would expect to display a bit of road rage... Well, it didn't really need to be said that Dr. Care-Bear wasn't at the top of that list. Then again… he mused. It seemed like he had spent a large portion of the afternoon considering 'lists that Allison Cameron shouldn't have been at the top of'… but was. Maybe he simply didn't have her so figured out, after all…
Cameron, however, was only just remembering that she still had Wilson on the phone—and that she had sworn very loudly directly down his eardrum. "Dr. Wilson? Oh, oh I'm really sorry—there was an ass—I mean, some guy who cut us off… No, we're fine. Yes. Actually, we're just now arriving—hm?" The car pulled smoothly up to the curb in front of their destination. "The name of the hotel? Oh it's um…" she glanced up at the elaborate signage above them. "The Sheraton Boston."
The diagnostician gaped. They were most certainly not at a Sheraton—and she had just looked straight at the words "Fairmount Copley Plaza"!
"—Right, so we're going to get checked in—oh, you want to talk to him..?" The frantic 'No, no, absolutely not's being mouthed weren't exactly subtle. "Sure, he's right here, I'll just—Oh—Wa—Tunnel—I'm Lo—sing—Y—Ilson? Doc—Bad—Co—tion—!" Cameron exclaimed brokenly, before simply shutting the phone.
If he had been gaping before, well, now he was double-gaping. She blinked innocently at him. "What? You were right; he wouldn't stop with the stupid questions…"
"Did you just fake a broken connection so you could hang up the phone on Wilson." It was really more of a statement than a question.
"And did you deliberately lie to him about which hotel we would be staying at."
"I figured it'd just be one more place he'd call—"
"A simple 'yes' or 'no.'"
"Then… Okay. Yes." House didn't speak again immediately, and Cameron found herself stealing a glance at him. Was there actually a problem..? She had just done exactly what he would have, she was sure of it!
As they sat there, a young man dressed in a traditional red doorman uniform approached the car and opened the driver's side door with a flourish. "Welcome to the Fairmount Copley Plaza, sir, may I take your car for valet?"
House nodded, climbing a bit awkwardly from his seat and standing. Grimacing at the way his leg was aching after being confined for the afternoon, he discreetly popped a few Vicodin as Cameron rounded the vehicle to stand beside him. She handed him his cane without speaking.
"A bellhop will be out straight away to collect your luggage, and we do hope you will enjoy your stay with us."
Wordlessly tipping the probably college-aged boy who was smiling a bit too widely, the diagnostician waited one more moment before turning to his companion. "So… About that stuff you said to Wilson…"
Oh no. Here it comes… she thought, bracing for one of his renowned displays of displeasure. Against all odds, however, it was a crooked smile that graced his scruffy face, rather than a scowl.
"…You're learning, Al. You're learning."