It is only when they reach her apartment building that it suddenly dawns on Cameron that she's left her keys in the pocket of her coat still hanging in Chase's closet, and she swears extensively beneath her breath. Coming to the same realisation; House fights back the innate urge to smirk at her. Pulling a credit card from the wallet in his jeans pocket, he jostles the plastic expertly within the thin gap between door and wall at the front entrance, until a telling click grants them access.
"I'm going to hazard a guess you didn't learn that little trick with the boy scouts?"
He looks back at her; taking her sarcastic tone to be a good sign, but decides it may still be too soon to enquire if she herself had been a girl scout; the image of Cameron in pigtails and a little neckerchief only too plausible.
"I'm hoping you have a spare key for your apartment, Dr Cameron, as the inner doors are all dead-locked, so that fancy little trick is off the table from here on out."
"I do, and can I voice my concern that you have clearly given breaking into my apartment some thought?"
"Who said it's only been a thought?"
She rolls her eyes at him, and he doesn't miss the fact that her gaze is still a little brittle, despite her participation in their familiar back and forth routine. That said, he also doesn't miss the fact that she hasn't yet given him any form of dismissal, so he follows her curiously into the elevator; smiling inwardly at the feel of his own leather jacket brushing softly against his arm as he stands beside her.
Neither of them look at each other as the elevator ascends slowly, and House can't help but wonder what he's doing following her to her front door. His leg provides him with an easy answer; the traitorous limb voicing a stern refusal on walking back to his own apartment in the freezing cold. It is a refusal he hopes Cameron won't make him admit out loud.
She turns her back to him as she goes about locating her spare key from amidst a collection of potted plants, and he has to resist the urge to peek over her shoulder; both out of curiosity, and simply to irk her. With her mission accomplished, she opens the door with a flick of her wrist and walks blindly into the darkness of her apartment. House hesitates for a second, but the door remains open in invitation, and after some rustling from inside her flat, the hallway illuminates with a spilled yellow glow as she finds the light switch. He moves to stand at the threshold and sees her reaching up into the cupboard above her sink to grab a mug. Two mugs.
Her back is still towards him, and that singular word is cold; almost indifferent. House simply nods, before realizing she's oblivious to his actions and verbalising in the affirmative. He takes a seat on her sofa; feeling suddenly awkward. Cameron tends to alternate between feverish, nervous energy, and her own- strangely endearing- attempt at smugness when around him, and this sudden brittle indifference is unchartered territory.
When she finally brings him the steaming mug of coffee, he realizes he's seeing her face for the first time since leaving Chase's in the light, and her expression is strained and unhappy, although she's doing her best to keep it neutral. She hovers above him; seemingly undecided on whether to sit, stand or run away. The coffee is strong though, and laced with just the right amount of sugar- just the way she knows he likes it- and he drinks deeply; savoring its sweet warmth.
She gives him a measured look, but after a moment's pause moves to sit rigidly on the sofa beside him; the large expanse of no-man's land she leaves between them not going unnoticed. The small hiss that comes from her smudged lips brings his attention back to the bloody scrapes at her knees, which in the bright tungsten light of her apartment appear ugly with dirt and grit. House frowns and places his mug on the coffee table, getting up without a word and limping over to her bathroom.
He returns with a small first aid kit found- predictably- inside the medicine cabinet over the sink, and takes a seat on the coffee table opposite her. Cameron feels her heart beat mutinously faster as a strong, calloused hand cups the back of her calf and brings one leg up so that her heeled foot dangles over House's leg, giving him better access to the broken flesh of her knee. Wordlessly, he skims his hand up her thigh- pretending he doesn't notice the muscles twitching beneath his palm- and unclips her stocking; rolling the thin, ruined nylon gently down her leg till it collects loosely around her lower calf.
The silence is tangible as he selects a pair of needle-headed tweezers and goes expertly about extracting the sharp little shards of grit that have embedded themselves into her flesh. He smiles slightly as the muscles surrounding the affected area quiver sporadically at the intrusion; the funny little tick this results in oddly mesmerizing. He tears open an antiseptic wipe with his teeth and rubs the area with reluctant roughness, all too aware of the tiny noise that escapes her throat before she can help herself.
Crystal blues study her face as she grits her teeth, and remain intently focused on her as he presses a small gauze patch to her knee and simply holds it in place for a moment with a warm hand. She returns his gaze for just a second- eyes bright like glitter- before dropping her attention down to her knee to watch him gently fasten the white square in place with medi-tape.
He releases her leg and motions for her to replace it with the other, repeating his actions with her bloodied stocking; eyebrows furrowing slightly as he examines her left knee in the brightness of her overheads. He had thought the fall was a simple scrape onto the pavement, but a small gash at the top of her shin bone is open red and deep. It doesn't demand the need for stitches, but forgoing them will leave a sure scar. He rubs at the cut thoughtfully with a fresh wipe, before spying a pack of steri-strips in amongst the plasters and helps himself to two of the small, white makeshift sutures. He gently works the broken skin together with his fingers; applying as little pressure as possible as he fixes it in place with the bright white strips, patching up the injury with another square of gauze.
It's just a murmur, and he almost decides he's hearing things, but he knows better than that. Blue eyes flickering up to find shimmering green he offers a small nod.
"Let me see your hands."
He realizes he's never noticed just how small her hands are, but then, it may just be that they look that way when held, palms up, in his own. They remind him of delicate white birds- white robins he supposes- with the matching swatch of raw flesh reddening the base of both palms. He tears open the last of the antiseptic wipes and rubs the damaged flesh gently; the battered skin showing only superficial scrapes. She watches his hand as he repeats the same soft strokes to her palms over and over, and in turn, he studies her; smeared makeup and tired eyes. She still wears his jacket, and it engulfs her; showing just a sliver of white from the hem of her dress. Her hair is mussed and unruly, and the red lipstick that had angered him so back at the party is now just a ghostly tinge on soft lips.
Like a kid that got into mommy's make-up bag...
His tone is low and bitter, and when she looks up at him with surprised hurt in her eyes he growls at her, but keeps her hand held in his.
"You could have gotten yourself seriously hurt walking off alone like that... You should know better."
She makes a small noise of indignation, but can't help feeling slightly sheepish. Personally, she thinks he's being a little over-dramatic, but the fact still remains that without House, she would still be standing outside her apartment in nothing but a wisp of a dress in the early hours of the morning. House however, feels he's being just the right amount of dramatic, and glares at her; angry that she doesn't seem to grasp the seriousness of what could have happened. He wants to pretend he doesn't care; that what she did was simply stupid and childish, and if she can't see that, then she's a fool. He knows she isn't those things though, and he knows he pushed all the right buttons to get her to do what she did. She's an idiot for putting herself in the situation she did, but he can't help but think part of the reason he feels so angry is guilt driven.
If I hadn't heard Wilson yelling down at her she would have walked off alone... If something had happened to her...
He tries to shake this train of thought, but he knows full well that if anything had happened to her- he could tell everyone else otherwise- but a part of him would have felt responsible.
He didn't have to physically push her out into the street to be playing with fire.
And she had been burnt.
Frowning, he moves to stand before her and watches as her eyes cast down under his scrutiny.
She does as she's told; standing just a foot away from him and waiting in that ever patient way he has become so accustomed to. The way that suggests she trusts him to do whatever he needs to do and she will simply go with it. She will always just go with it. House places his hands on her shoulders; a hand on either lapel of his jacket, and gently opens it up to reveal her costume beneath, scolding himself as his own breath mimics hers as it hitches audibly at the gesture. Her eyes find his and she regards him quizzically as he continues to push at the jacket until it falls heavily to the floor at her feet. House keeps his eyes locked on hers as he takes a step back from her, before allowing them to stray down her body silently.
Cameron watches him curiously, resisting the urge to pull at the hem of her dress which feels obscenely high- is obscenely high, she corrects herself- and self consciously hiding her scraped palms behind her back. There is nothing she can do about the slightly mismatched gauze squares at her knees or the comically bunched white nylon at her ankles, but House's mouth forms a small smile as his eyes reach these flaws and she remains perfectly still.
"It really is a good costume on you... visually anyway."
He takes her silence as a cue to go on and he nods as if she's made a particularly good argument.
"Of course anything looks good on you... It's pretty...But it doesn't suit you."
"So you've said."
"And I stand by it; what's interesting though, is that I do believe you agree?"
"I didn't want to wear it... I knew that as soon as I got back home... But, I just... Everyone thinks I'm so... Boring."
"They don't think you're boring; they like you."
"But you do."
"...I don't think you're boring... Insufferably nice? Sure. Painfully sweet? Humble? Pathetically naive? You're all those things, but I don't think you're boring... I shouldn't have said what I said back there. I was angry... I was angry because of all those things I just said you were... Those things that you are. All those qualities drive me crazy sometimes; it's like you walk in some proverbial ray of sunshine while the rest of us shelter from the rain, and it irks me. It irks me like I'm a kid who finds himself constantly in the same room as a porcelain vase, and I want to touch it and study it and play with it but I know that if I do, there's a good chance I'll break it. I don't want to crush you, Cameron. I don't want to spoil you, but like any little boy, I see something pristine and I can't help myself from dirtying it, simply out of spite... When I was a kid I used to break things just to see if I could put them back together again. I don't want to break you only to realize you're something I can't fix... But you make it hard to resist trying sometimes."
Cameron simply continues to watch him silently. She is crucially aware of the magnitude to House's confession; aware that she is being let in further than she has ever been allowed before, and more than she probably will ever be allowed again. Her heart drums rapidly in her chest with a force that makes her feel a little faint, and his words- mixed with the copious amount of wine drunk throughout the evening- make her feel as though she is on fire.
The part of her that is innately 'Cameron' wants to close the distance between them and envelop him. She wants to feel the muscular planes of his body press against hers and breathe in his scent and look up into blue eyes and say simply and quietly 'I love you'. But she knows by now that love hurts. Just as she knows the words would be wasted... he knows her heart and who it belongs to, and although he uses his words often to spite her, he has never used that particular knowledge against her as cruelly as she knows he is capable of. He hasn't crushed her.
Instead of doing any of those things, she offers him a small, cautious smile.
"You could have just told me I looked nice..."
House stares at her incredulously, but the lilt of her lips is kind, and her eyes show the understanding her words fail to communicate. After a long while, he nods at her; knowing he has left them both with nothing more to say on the matter. Nothing more that needs to be said. His eyes remain fixed on hers, his tone absurdly serious.
"You always look nice."
With that he turns to leave.
His leg has warmed up considerably, and, while still painful, the vicious bite to the familiar agony has eased down. He refuses to entertain the idea that part of the wretched ache had had anything to do with the night's events; negating to believe the fact that the waters between himself and young brunette being once more relatively calm and his leg feeling suddenly better are anything but coincidence.
There is something in her voice as she utters that one word that he has never heard before, and he turns back towards her curiously. She moves slowly towards him, her face unreadable until she stands with her nose almost pressed against his. Without word, she closes that gap too; cold tips touching, before warm lips find his.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he wonders if he should push her away; not to hurt her, but to avoid doing so. As her kiss intensifies, he banishes the thought. Her lips are firm on his, almost authoritative, and through them he can feel everything; her anger and hurt at the way he insists on treating her, her understanding of the fact that it isn't out of unkindness but necessity, and her love for him regardless.
He realizes, as her tongue slips sweetly to find his own, that it isn't any sort of love he has come across before. It isn't the hopeless soppy kind; she doesn't swoon over him and lie awake picturing some ghastly wedding day and wake up hoping for roses. It's much fresher than that. Much simpler. Primal yet innocent.
And, when she begins to slowly back them towards the only room left unexplored, he lets her guide him wordlessly. There is nothing he can tell her- warn her- that she doesn't already know.