A/N: Part one of what will probably be three chapters. Reviews are hugely appreciated as always!
"Girl Scout cookies!"
House bellows as he raps his cane insistently against the shabbily painted door. He supposes yelling at her through the thin wood is not the best way to begin his apology to Cameron, but decides he doesn't care, knowing full well that no matter how pissed she is at him- he himself can't entirely recall what he's supposed to have done- she's going to have to open the door at some time to avoid complaints from the neighbors.
Normally he wouldn't go out of his way to apologize to the young brunette at all- or, in fact, any of his bemusing fellows- and Cameron's chosen way of dealing with his bullying is more often than not to just avoid him; a coping mechanism he's entirely in favor of. It's not the sweet young doctor's feelings he's here to patch up and kiss better, but rather, he is banking on being able to offload the departmental presentation- sprung rudely upon him by Cuddy- onto her.
"Let me in, little girl, or I'll huff, and I'll puff and I'll- well good evening, Dr Cameron!"
She moves herself into the wedge of light created within the doorway, arms folded inhospitably across her chest. Despite her efforts to seem disinterestedly hostile, he can tell from the way her eyes flicker towards his that she is deeply curious as to what he is doing at her apartment. She is still dressed in the same capped sleeved shirt and funny little waistcoat she'd been wearing that afternoon, and her thick hair is pulled back from her pale forehead by her glasses. He catches the faint aroma of putanesca sauce and vaguely wonders if it is homemade or shop bought. Knowing Cameron, he guesses it's homemade, but the idea of anyone bothering to create pasta sauce from scratch only to eat alone is just about too pitiful to consider.
Pitiful, but almost certainly true. In fact there are probably several containers of left-overs rapidly cooling in her freezer. Muy depressing.
House snaps back to the present as her words infiltrate his thoughts.
"What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd pop by."
Her eyes narrow suspiciously, green boring into blue. He sighs and makes to move past her into the inviting glow of her living room, forgoing any further conversation as it will all eventually lead to the same conclusion. She will let him in. She's too polite not too.
"I need to talk to you."
His shoulder brushes hers as he slides past her and she instantly shies away from the contact as if scalded. House is too used to the brunette's bizarre mannerisms when in his presence to pay her reaction any mind, and simply limps into the pleasant warmth of her apartment. He takes a seat on her slightly threadbare sofa and instantly clocks the empty bottle of wine that rests on the coffee table beside a glass a sip away from the same fate.
Cameron eyes House warily as he goes about making himself at home, pushing her front door shut behind her with a hollow click. Her living room has just the one sofa and she is unsure what exactly to do with herself as he takes up a large expanse of it. She is positive he is spreading himself out on purpose. Unwilling to make a wrong move and land herself on the receiving end of witty ridicule she wanders into the kitchenette and pours herself a glass of water she doesn't actually want.
"Are you doing drinks? Mine's a bourbon on ice"
He watches her intensely as he speaks, for the simple reason he knows it makes her squirm. She surprises him, however, by disappearing behind her kitchen island to root around in the lefthand cupboard, quick to return with a bottle of red label Jim Beam. He offers a curt nod of approval, unwilling to allow his face to convey his unlikely respect for her poison of choice. Pulling a squat tumbler from the cupboard above her sink- followed by a second after a moments hesitation- she frees a couple of cubes from an obnoxiously blue ice tray into each and splashes them with a healthy dose of amber liquid. The ice crackles and hisses temptingly and House reaches forward to take a deep sip when she places it before him on the low coffee table.
"So. What do you want?"
She hovers at the opposite end of the table, her reluctance to sit making him feel all the more awkward.
"I wanted to come say I'm sorry."
He continues to study her and frowns as she gives a small quirk of her mouth that could almost be mistaken as a sign of amusement. She takes a drink from her own glass before cocking her head to the side, returning his gaze with newfound ease as the Beam settles warmly in her stomach.
"Ok... what is it you're sorry for?"
House rolls his eyes irritably. He should have known she'd do this.
"I'm sorry for whatever it is I did that caused you to storm off into the bathroom for a suspiciously long time and then disappear home the minute your shift was up without a word to anyone... I mean, I get it, I'm an ass, but the boys missed their goodbye kisses..."
"...And I solemnly swear to never do whatever it is I did again for as long as I live. Maybe."
Cameron circles the rim of her glass thoughtfully with her index finger.
"Well, I'd almost be inclined to accept your lame apology, but, as unbelievable as this may sound, it wasn't actually you that I was pissed at"
"- I know, I'm almost as shocked as you are! There's always next week though, I'm sure you'll think of something."
She offers him a shy smile and he can't help but return it with a smirk of his own; her timid sarcasm strangely endearing. He takes another sip of the deliciously cool drink in his hand and raises an eyebrow quizzically.
"So if you weren't angry with me..."
"Chase. And Foreman."
"Ah! Were the big, mean boys playing too roughly with you?"
"Something like that."
She shrugs in attempt to drop the issue. The fact that periwinkle blue eyes continue to burn into her skin doesn't really come as a surprise, and she gives him a measured look; calling him on his insatiable curiosity.
"It's nothing, it was just something stupid I found out today, that's all."
"Took you long enough, I've known known those two were stupid for the better part of two years now."
"I didn't say they were stupid... just that they can do stupid things sometimes."
"Well, you tell your Uncle Greg all about it; I need my kiddies to play nice with each other."
She grimaces at the name, offering him a burlesque shudder which amuses him. He briefly considers patting his knee and requesting her to take a seat, but decides he has better material and discards the creepy-father-figure bit. Instead he simply waits her hesitant silence out until she sighs and runs a distracted hand through her dark hair; cheeks pinkening slightly.
"They had this bet ... Chase told Foreman he could get me drunk before the time of the Christmas party and...well... the ultimate goal wasn't exactly professional"
Her phrasing tickles him, although he can't help but feel a stab of irritation at not being offered a cut in the stakes. He doesn't suppose Cameron is the sort to be persuaded into feeling flattered rather than grossly degraded so he forgoes attempting it.
"Well, Chase is an ass. At least Foreman bet in your favor?"
"Uhuh, he also offered to double the wager if Chase managed to, uh, 'bed me sober' ..."
House laughs wickedly at this; the words sounding beautifully foreign coming from his youngest fellow's innocent lips. She scowls at his reaction and he offers her a shrug of his shoulders which are still encased in black leather.
"Well, I suppose I can't blame the Wombat for trying..."
His notion is crass but there's no real malice to his tone and the salacious wiggle of his eyebrows when met with her furious glare is so exaggerated she softens a little. House graciously pretends he doesn't notice the fact that she's blushing furiously.
"Men are pigs, especially when surrounded by pretty girls... but hey, at least we're still friends it would seem"
"Mmm... a bold statement coming from a man that claims he doesn't even like me"
"Ah, but you like me, Dr Cameron, and that's a start"
She rolls her eyes but finally moves to perch on the far end of the sofa. House meanwhile makes a mental note to himself that the Ozzie is going to be finding himself elbow deep in STI related clinic cases.
"So what was with the snow queen act at the door then, given that I'm innocent in all this?"
"Because you simply 'popping round' is about as likely as me bedding Chase. What is it you want?"
"Hey! I make social calls!"
"Hookers and Wilson don't count..."
"You're so picky"
"And you're stalling"
"Ok, ok, Cuddy wants you to get together a short presentation for the departmental conference next week"
"I see... It sure is funny that she wouldn't rather the head of the department work on something like that"
"Couldn't agree more... but... you know... women"
House gives her a long-suffering look and she throws him a mock scowl before sighing and leaning back into the sofa.
"Fine; I'll do the presentation"
"Just like that?"
"Are you going to leave me alone until I agree?"
"And are you going to make my life a living hell if I say no?"
"That does sound like me"
She shrugs and sighs dramatically, downing the last of her drink with surprisingly well-practiced finesse. House grins, following suit, and places his empty glass on the table before them. He looks back at her with an expression that is deadly serious; eyes wide and large, calloused hand resting on her skinny knee.
"I've told you I love you, right?"
She blushes crimson, but shakes her head despairingly and makes a shooing gesture with her hand, sure that he is looking for an excuse to leave with his mission now being accomplished.
"Must have missed it"
House takes in her crooked grin with well-hidden amusement and pushes himself off her sofa, offering her a peculiar little nod in farewell.
"I'll see you Monday, Dr Cameron"
"What the hell?"
Cameron leans over her kitchen counter, stretching up onto her toes to get a better view of the parking lot outside her building. Below she can see House bathed in the warm glow of the streetlights, and from the sounds of things he appears to be murdering his bike. She feels a little as though she is watching a silent movie as House throws his hands up in irritation and grips the throttle once more. Again, that horrible, piercing shriek of a tortured engine shatters its way through the glass of her kitchen window and she winces, urging him in her head to stop.
Eventually he does, slamming a gloved fist on the shiny body of his bike. He pulls his key from the ignition, and shoves it angrily into his pocket, pulling out his cell in one fluid motion. He scrolls through the lists stored in the phone to no avail and in the end just calls for a general operator and asks to be connected to the nearest garage. A brief pause and he's talking to some idiot who seems to be under the impression that if he repeats the words 'starter engine' and 'fuel ejector' enough times he may fool his clients into thinking he has the faintest clue what he's on about. Only once he gets to quoting a price for a late night service call does he seem sure of himself. House promptly tells him where he can shove it and disconnects the call.
"From your use of language, I'm guessing you'll get a better deal if you call in daylight hours"
House whips round, startled, and takes in Cameron's small form standing hesitantly in the entrance way to her building. He growls something about her being damn right and fishes in his pocket for his key.
"It's not going to work, House"
He ignores her irritably and gives it another shot. The resulting noise is horrible, and he can't keep it going too long, no matter how stubborn he's feeling.
He sighs, but decides it'll be easier to search for a mechanic who is less of an asshole in the comfort of the young doctor's apartment. Removing his helmet, he stores it back in the bike's hold-all and limps over to where she waits patiently in the flickering glow of the small entrance hall.
He grunts as he brushes against her accidentally when getting into the elevator; her soft hair directly under his nose, accosting him with the rich smell of honey. He shakes his head distractedly and takes a step away, waiting impatiently for the doors to spring open, feeling suddenly a little claustrophobic being in this small space with her when his means of escape is compromised.
Cameron seems not to notice, or at least not to let on if she does, and simply takes a polite step to the side as the door finally springs open to let him walk out first. She has left her apartment door wedged open, and he limps in without being told. She follows quietly, aware that his mood has plummeted in the last five minutes, and taking care not to fall into any habits she knows irritate him.
She hands him her house phone, muttering that it will save him the expense of calling on his mobile, but he leaves the clunky black phone monstrosity untouched on the kitchen island before him as he tries the operator once more on his cell, hoping for a more favourable result.
She busies herself washing up their glasses, her back turned to him as he swears loudly at another extortionately high roadside recovery fee and hangs up, muttering to himself about his idiocy when it comes to insurance. Throwing together a few choice curse words to finish on, he heads for the door and informs her he'll just damn well walk.
"Don't be an ass, House, it's like an hours walk to yours"
"You say that like a woman in the know, should I be worried?"
"That you live two minutes from the park where I go running? I don't know, you tell me"
"Smooth cover, but I'm going to stick with my stalker theory"
She blushes prettily and offers him a shrug that she hopes appears completely natural and effortless. She keeps her voice light, almost disinterested, and valiantly ignores the thudding beat of her heart in her throat.
"Why don't you just stay here for the night? You could get someone to look at your bike for half the price in the morning..."
Blue eyes pierce her intensely and she just prays that her cheeks aren't ridiculously flushed. An uneasy silence falls between them as House searches her face for clues to her heart, and she can do nothing but stand there uncomfortably until he rewards her with an answer.
"Are you proposing we have a sleepover, Dr Cameron?"