Not Quite Strangers on a Train
He sat at the window seat on the train. The heater that ran the length of the side of the carriage warmed his damaged thigh and kept its complaints at the hours of stillness behind and ahead to a bearable throb. Or ahead and behind considering he was sitting backwards; he always sat backwards on a train. It just felt safer to him when you took into account the physics of a head-on collision. He'd rather be pushed deeper into his seat than sliced in half by the table. Glinting up at him with garish colors and vulgar truth was a whole host of medical paraphernalia littered the potentially lethal table; exhibit A in his case to the hospital administrator that he'd actually participated at the conference. Oh how he despised that word, par-ti-ci-pated. He wasn't a naturally participating person. It just didn't suit his steely competitive nature. Perfectionist, yes; participating, no. If you want something done right then you have to do it yourself; something passed on to him from his father and he despised that in itself even more than he did participation. This conflict left him constantly floating in limbo, lost between loneliness and quasi-friendships.
He sighed resting his head against the window, the juddering train making his head shake against the glass until the carriage came to a stop at the last train station on the edge of New York before the forty minute long blast to Princeton. Closing his eyes he wished away the bodies on the bustling platform waiting to pour onto the already brimming train, but that didn't stop the rabble stomping onwards with bundles of luggage and grim determination. He pulled his collar up around his chin and thought horrible thoughts trying to ward off anyone who'd dare take the empty seat next to him.
As the train pulled out he thought he'd succeeded but only seconds later he could feel a presence and a warmth over him, he could hear the rustle of coat and slip of a laptop from a bag and the scent of something sweet and feminine. With a peek beneath his still drooping lids he appraised the slim form before him as she tried to put her bag in the overhead compartment with a slight grunt of vertically challenged difficulty. With her body stretching up on to toe he had a view of everything from the shoulder down and what a view it was; taught thighs, slim hips, pert chest and a wisp of gentle auburn hair curling down her neckline.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have this creature perched beside him for the next forty minutes or so he thought as his gaze settled on her hitched shirt and the hint of creamy skin exposed by her lithe struggling stretch.
Hearing a gentle sigh of relief from his prey he shut his eyes completely once more and felt warmth to rival that of the heater sitting at his opposite side, warmth that culminated in his chest and made him wish he could take off his own jacket. There was a whirr of her laptop booting up and the gentle clack-tap-clack-tap of swift efficient typing.
Educated he thought slightly shrewdly, that meant his "charms" would be either hit or miss. Less intelligent women were more easily befuddled and bamboozled (sometimes into bed) by his words and the simple fact that he was a doctor. This one might ask questions. Oh well he thought, he had an hour to kill so a challenge could be fun.
He peeked at her again. Through a curtain of hair he could see designer specs resting on her nose and the soft curve of her cheek. The clacking paused as she flicked a band from her wrist and drew back her hair in what seemed like an oddly familiar motion to him. As her wrists and fingers twisted and tied expertly, everything about her was suddenly familiar. His gut twisted, his throat became parched and, though he refused to acknowledge it, his heart skipped a beat. That motion was familiar because he'd watched her do it so many times so long ago.
Closing his eyes once more, he sucked his tongue until the moisture returned and breathed deliberately to keep from throwing up or passing out. Eventually his mind and body calmed. He wondered for a moment how best to declare his presence or if he should do so at all. With no obvious conclusion springing to mind he decided to rely on cliché.
So with head still resting on the window and eyes still shut he murmured, "Long time no see."
"Jesus Christ!" she exclaimed with a startled jolt and drawing a hand to her fast beating heart.
"Has it been that long that you can't remember my name?" he said with mock hurt, his eyes meeting hers for the first time in over five years. Such a long time and yet those years seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, though with that slight ache in his chest he knew it could have been an eternity since they'd last met.
"House." Cameron growled.
A tangible silence filled the air, gazes locked and dancing more dangerously than either would admit around the line of passionate hate and loathsome love. The two business men at the other side of the table glanced at the pair for a moment, before hastily returning their gazes to work at the behest of House's vivid blue glare.
The clack-clacking, tap-tapping resumed beating down a nervous rhythm.
"So how ya been?" House said in an overly girlish and conversational manner, sprawling over the table resting his elbow on the pamphlets and his head on his hand.
"What'cha been up to?"
"Still got a thing for authority figures?" He said in a gossiping stage whisper.
The business men at the other side of the table raised curious eyebrows and instantly lost attention in their work awaiting the answer, no doubt as short and succinct as the previous.
It was a disappointing answer to all listening parties.
"Aw come on Allie-Bally." he teased. "Your new boss not as sizzling as me?"
"Shut up!" She hissed turning to him angrily. "Just shut up! God, you're such a child, not five minutes has gone by and already you're really pissing me off! This is why I left. So sit there shut up and we can get through this horrible coincidence as painlessly as possible."
Their audience across from them jolted back to their work afraid of her seething wrath.
"Who are you working for? Really, I'm curious." He murmured leaning back, making their conversation more private. He'd known that wrath and been at the other end of it; he was unafraid but insatiably intrigued as to why it was still there and still so vivid.
She glanced at him slightly sceptically but with a shake of her head she turned back to her computer.
"Cameron." He murmured in an even deeper melodic tone.
She sighed in acquiescence. "I'm doing research in New York."
"Vague but we're getting somewhere. Guess you don't want me checking up on you then?"
"I spent these five years trying to step out from under you shadow, your name follows me everywhere when all I've wanted to do was forget you. You don't have to check up on me to piss me off." She answered, thoroughly aggravated. "Working for you was one of the worst things I ever did." She finished ruefully.
"Just because the simpletons you work with ask about the legendary Doctor House?"
"No." she said after a moment of thought and turned back to her computer. "And stop making yourself out to be some kind of hero. Legendary?" she scoffed, "Ha! You're not. And you know it."
"True... but there was a time when you believed it I'm sure." he answered back.
"I grew up. Santa's not real and you're just a man. And a fallible man at that. What the hell is the point of this conversation anyway?" Cameron asked staring him down.
"No point just ... making conversation." he answered simply.
"You never just make conversation." she shot back daringly.
"Maybe I've changed." House suggested.
"You never change." she said with a laugh and turned to her laptop.
House gazed at her.
She glanced at him and did a double take. Something in his eyes made her look again. Something really was different.
"Ah now that would be telling." He said grinning and unbuttoning his overcoat shaking it from his shoulders and making a show of trying not to touch her and yet intentionally grazing her breast at the same time with the back of his hand.
She glared at him incredulously.
"Be a doll and put that up with your bags will you? Bum leg and all." He said smiling saccharine sweetly.
Huffing she stood and put up his jacket giving him yet another opportunity to watch her stretch, this time it was far more obvious and unashamed. God she was rather beautiful he had to give her that. He'd always given her that. Five years had done little damage to those delicious curves and defined features. Her eyes were still warm and kind but ever so slightly dull from the wicked cynicism and tiring truth of the world but hope lingered there still, otherwise there was little difference. Except...
"What happened to the blonde?" he asked, his gaze focused on her swishing hair.
She sighed and slumped back down into her chair. "Why do you care?"
"Because the blonde made you look like a hooker... I liked it." He replied succinctly.
"I remember." she said, her tone revealing it was anything but a fond memory.
"Is that why you changed it?" He asked. There had always been a lot of things she didn't do just because he wanted it, several more things that she did do because it pissed him off.
"No." Cameron replied her focused on her computer.
But House could see it was becoming more and more difficult for her to concentrate on her work.
"Then why?" He pressed.
"I missed this color. I wanted to be me again." She murmured and gave in closing down the file she'd been working on.
"So the blonde you wasn't you?" He'd already suspected as much; it was all a facade, like pulling on a costume to better aid a performance.
"No kidding." Cameron sighed, resting her head on her hand and opening up a game of solitaire.
"Oh thank god!" He said stealing her laptop and pulling it over to his lap. "My PSP died on me and I've been game-less for the past two hours."
"Sure no problem. Go for it." She said disgruntled and unsurprised. "You know that laptops can make men infertile."
"I froze a stock of swimmers four years ago." He replied off-handedly and began playing four suit spider solitaire, "Peak condition, no Vicodin for a month; it sucked."
"Why the hell did you do that?"
House glanced over at her and went back to his game. "No reason." He murmured and worked his way through the game.
"No." she stated surely.
"No?" he asked not taking his eyes from the game.
"What do you mean no?"
"I mean no it's impossible that there's no reason as to why you did that."
"Okay maybe there was a reason or two." He answered his eyes fixated on the screen. This was not where he intended for this conversation to be going at all. And it was quite clear that Cameron sensed that too, making her push harder. He needed a distraction. He needed...
"I need a slash, get up." He ordered putting the laptop on the table and turning to her.
She sat there staring at him with determination in her eyes and her arms crossed defiantly.
"You know I could just pee on your shoes if you're not going to move." He said leaning forward putting him almost nose to nose with her.
Cameron stood swiftly, whether it was his proximity or his threat he didn't know. But he certainly wanted to find out. Standing himself he stood close to her with the excuse of the dismally narrow aisle supporting his close proximity.
"Do you mind?" she snapped.
"Not at all." He said stepping around her carefully, his crotch brushing her hip slightly. "Pass me my cane."
She sat down resolutely. "You get it." She said taking possession of her laptop once more.
With his left leg taking all his weight he put his right hand across the back of her chair and stretched across her to reach his cane against the carriage wall. Consciously he could feel his lungs breathing deeper, drawing her in, drawing in that sweet subtle scent that he'd never thought he would have missed as he did. He smirked as he glanced down at her watching her chest and breathing hitch. His fingers clasped his cane. The smirk was wiped from his lips at the sweet breeze on his neck from her lips.
Well crap, he thought. Now he had another reason to be legging it and caning it as fast as disabledly possible it to the bathroom.