Chapter 1: In Which Cameron Fails to Be Happy
House wasn't in his office. His shoulder bag sat on his desk, a witness to his presence in the hospital. His jacket, draped neatly over the back of his chair, corroborated the bag's story. Cameron stood at the door for a slight second before moving swiftly into the hall. Her heart hoped against hope that she was wrong, but her mind told her it was useless - she knew exactly where to find him.
Rain fell against the room window, casting irregular shadows on the walls and playing out a gentle, soothing rhythm. Rain that washed away the past, leaving a clean slate in its wake. Symbolic? Maybe. Hardly.
These were among the jumble of thoughts that ran though House's mind as he looked through the blinds into Mark Warner's hospital room. The picture he took in was oddly idyllic for its sterile, hospital setting. Husband and wife, lying side by side. Mark's hand gently tracing out patterns on Stacy's back. As the rain continued to fall, House continued to watch the heartbreakingly familiar scene, conflicted but outwardly expressionless. His reverie was eventually broken by a quiet, timid voice from behind him.
"Dr. House?" said Cameron, her voice breaking slightly.
House turned his head towards her, wondering how long she had been watching him. While he kept his expression perfectly neutral, he noted that her normally perfect complexion was pale. Her eyes were wide with sincerity and something else that he couldn't quite put his finger on. He gave a little inward sigh. Nothing good could come from this. He remained silent, but looked at her expectantly.
As predicted, she spoke first. "How's he doing?"
"Never better," he answered quietly, turning away to look back into the room. Cameron watched his face closely for a moment before moving just close enough to enter into his field of view. His piercing gaze returned to her. She looked strangely fragile. A brief, but awkward pause passed between them before Cameron once again broke the silence.
"I thought you were too screwed up to love anyone," she said, her voice filled with emotion despite her best efforts to remain calm. House continued to look directly at her as she continued with a hint of sadness, "But I was wrong. You just couldn't love me." She gave a brief, waning smile. "It's good. I'm happy for you."
She turned away quickly, biting her lip. House watched her retreating figure in silence until she was out of sight. Shifting his weight awkwardly, he again turned to look in at the woman that he had once loved, lying in the arms of another man. Henow recognized all too well the other emotion that he had seen in Cameron's eyes.
The next morning found the three young doctors at their usual spots around the table, but in uncharacteristic silence. Cameron stared vacantly at a paper from the New England Journal of Medicine. Chase and Foreman both had an impressive stack of paperwork before them, but were occupying themselves with exchanging looks and hand signals. This continued for the better part of an hour before Cameron finally looked up at them over the rims of her glasses.
"Stop," she said quietly.
Foreman blinked. "Cameron?"
She returned her gaze to the paper in front of her, idly tracing out the lines on a graph with a graceful finger.
Chase looked at her with a mixture of confusion and worry. "You know, he's just an ass," he began. Foreman shook his head vehemently in warning. Ignoring Foreman's pointed looks, Chase continued, "I just don't understand why you would voluntarily subject yourself to something like that."
The latter statement seemed to illicit a reaction from Cameron. Foreman, the more astute of the two male doctors, rapidly got up to move to the coffee machine.
"Chase," she said in an eerily calm voice. Foreman flinched, while Chase looked at her unsuspectingly. "Shut the hell up."
Foreman made a choking noise, then raised his hands apologetically when she redirected her gaze towards him. Chase, flustered and chastened, muttered something about mail and made a hasty exit. Cameron went back to her reading. The next hour was passed in a similar fashion before House's entrance shortly after ten a.m.
"Cafeteria coffee is a travesty," House said in lieu of a hello. He whispered loudly, "I've got a theory." He looked around the room in an exaggerated fashion before finishing, "The cafeteria poisons people, who then come upstairs for treatment. Cuddy collects money for both. Two birds with one stone, it's an administrator's wet dream."
Foreman snorted. Cameron remained silent. House, chosing to ignore both reactions, looked around for a few seconds before asking in a curious tone, "Wherever has the handsome Dr. Chase gotten to?"
"He had some mail to answer," came Cameron's emotionless answer, her attention still apparently focused on the same page from earlier that morning.
House looked at Foreman, who nodded his confirmation of Chase's whereabouts. House then nodded slightly in Cameron's direction and proceeded to make a series of cryptic gestures. Foreman also nodded towards Cameron and was forming some pens into a pattern when Cameron once again looked up. Both men froze mid-gesture.
"Seriously. Stop," she said. A brief pause, and Cameron returned her attention to the paper.
House shot a quick look at Foreman. Foreman merely raised an eyebrow.
"Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows," House said in a philosophic tone.
Chase chose that moment to walk in, unintentionally saving them all from any additional awkwardness.
House gave the group a tight-lipped smile. "Well then, now that Dr. Chase has seen fit to join us, perhaps we can begin?"
Foreman breathed a silent sigh of relief, while Chase cautiously eased himself into the seat next to Cameron's. She looked up at him, smiled and mouthed an apology, her eyes wide with sincerity. He nodded and returned the smile.
"Children!" said House, snapping his fingers in their faces for emphasis and unceremoniously throwing a thick file onto the table. "Start!"
The four began their time honored ritual of brainstorming around the whiteboard, and as the focus turned to their newest patient the tension was temporarily alleviated.
The afternoon found Wilson and House sitting in Examination Room Two, the examination table covered in empty pretzel bags and candy wrappers.
"She's happy for you?" asked Wilson incredulously. "Come on. No one is THAT nice."
"Partially correct. No oneshould be that nice. But it's Cameron we're talking about. It's pathetic...sickening, really," answered House.
Wilson shook his head. "I just don't get it," he mused. House raised an inquistive eyebrow, which Wilson took as encouragement to continue. "She's beautiful..."
"That's why I hired her," said House with a dismissive shrug, unwrapping a lollipop.
"...and smart," Wilson continued.
"That didn't hurt either," came House's answer from somewhere under the table.
"...and nice...What are you doing under there?"
Slowly easing his way up from the floor, House handed Wilson another lollipop. "Fell off the table earlier."
Wilson accepted the candy and continued while fiddling with the wrapper, "...and she's crazy about you, which is the only thing wrong with her, at least, that I can think of."
House smiled sarcastically. "Thank you, Dr. Wilson. Your words have made me want to be a better man."
Wilson shrugged off the sarcasm with an ease born of experience. "So everything's fine between you two?"
"It's really, really chilly in my office. Foreman has bundled himself up against the cold, but Chase isn't nearly as bright and is catching frostbite." House paused. "Can I ditch the ice metaphor now? It's so totally not working for me."
Wilson gave a small shrug. "Makes sense, I guess. Not even she can make it through an encounter with you unscathed."
House sighed. "Actually, they made up right afterwards. It was like she couldn't apologize fast enough." He shook his head in mock disgust and added, "Makes me want to hurl."
"So what's wrong with her?" Wilson narrowed his eyes. "Or better question - what's wrong with you?"
House sighed exasperatedly. "You damn well what's wrong with me."
"Stacy's gone, House."
Narrowed blue eyes looked up at Wilson's honest countenance. "I KNOW! This isn't about Stacy."
"Fine," conceded Wilson, throwing up his arms in helpless gesture. "But I'm just wondering...how can Cameron be happy for you ifyou're not even happy?"
House was left to contemplate these words as Wilson left the room.
Cameron leaned forward to rest her elbows on the table surface of her neatly organized desk. Her eyes closed and she let out a small sigh as she massaged her temples. She hadn't had a good night's sleep for the longest time, and the recent chain of events wasn't helping. Nor was the large pile of work awaiting her attention. Reluctantly, she opened her eyes again and was reaching for her glasses when she noticed someone standing in the door.
"Hello," she said, putting her glasses on and taking in the stranger before her.
"Oh - I'm sorry, I was looking for Dr. Gregory House," the man explained, looking at her curiously. "I'm Dr. Wolfe. Albert. From oncology."
Cameron flashed him a smile, standing and extending her hand. "Dr. Allison Cameron. I'm on Dr. House's team. His office is just next door. Feel free to go in make yourself comfortable, I'm sure he just stepped out for a second."
Wolfe walked into the room and took Cameron's proferred hand. "Thank you, Dr. Cameron," he said. "You've been very kind."
"She has that problem, yes," came House's voice from the doorway. Wolfe let go of Cameron's hand, and Cameron folded her arms. House appraised the two of them briefly before curtly nodding his head in the direction of his office. "This way."
Wolfe followed House into his office, and Cameron went back to work, feeling slightly ill at ease. The feeling hit her everytime she saw House, which was everyday. Working so closely with him was everything she didn't need and everything she wanted. She mentally berated herself for her stupidity. She had to let go. She had already let go. Having worked out this rationale, she refocused on her work. But she still couldn't stop herself from taking the long way to the elevators and looking into his office as she headed out for the night.