Disclaimer: I own none of this. Just borrowing.
A/N: I've tried to write at least four different stories in the past couple of months. This is the first one that's made it this far. I wanted to get it posted before something else freakish happens on the show that screws up what I've written. This is going to cover the course of at least a couple of years, but it starts with the big event that I am looking forward to in a very unhealthy way – the exit of Stacy. Please let me know what you think!
A tall, rather disheveled man with a cane stood behind a ficus tree in the lobby of Princeton-Plainsborough Teaching Hospital. The visitors to the hospital who saw him there thought that perhaps he had gotten loose from the sixth floor where they kept the "special cases." They shook their heads in pity as they quickly turned away from the man who was peering through the branches. The other people, the ones who had had to deal with him all too frequently, shook their heads and chalked it up to an overdose of painkillers.
House wasn't exactly sure how he ended up here. Normally, the only time he hid was when Cuddy and the clinic came calling. He knew he looked ridiculous, but the alternative was being out in the open where he would not only see but be seen. He hadn't suddenly developed paranoid tendencies, he had developed a bad case of wimpy-ness. His sudden interest in low-light plants was a direct result of the appearance of his ex-girlfriend, who was not twenty feet away from him, her arms loaded with a box of office-type stuff.
He scoffed, earning another pitying look from an uninformed person. That wasn't true. It wasn't just the fact that it was Stacy – he could handle her just fine, thank you very much. The problem was that on her way out, she had run into one of his staff members coming in. He could also handle said staff member. Sometimes.
The real problem was that rather than nod politely and move on as they had been wont to do for the past several months, Stacy, box and all, had stopped Cameron and appeared to be trying to have an intense and seemingly one-sided chat with the younger woman.
Handling both of them at the same time was not something he had any desire to do.
Besides, it didn't take a differential diagnosis to figure out what – or who – the topic of conversation was, which as far as their tree-covered observer was concerned could not be a good thing. It was for those reasons that Greg House had decided that there were times when one faced one's probable demons and times when one hid behind decorative foliage.
"What the hell are you doing?" James Wilson was more than a little confused by the sight of House behind a tree.
"I've taken up botany. Lovely green leaves aren't they?" House didn't turn around to look at Wilson. Instead, he kept watching the interaction of the two women. Cameron was looking embarrassed and impatient. Stacy had the "convince the jury" look on her face.
"Are you sure you're not hiding from the two ladies over there, who are probably not discussing the evils of HMOs?"
"Of course not."
This time House turned around and glared at Wilson. Then, like a little boy who can't back down from a dare, he limped around from the back of the plant and, with one final look at the other man, he started toward where the two women had been standing.
He would never admit it to anyone, but he was more than a little relieved to see that they had suddenly ended their conversation and that Stacy was headed out the door and Cameron was headed toward the elevators.
That certainly changed things. Cameron he could handle. Well, he could handle her better alone than with Stacy, anyway.
Wilson and House had made it to the elevator just as it arrived to take Cameron up to work.
Cameron saw House's face as he hobbled into the car. She sighed. He had seen them, damn it. It was all over his face. Wilson's, too.
She nodded politely at both men, and then kept her mouth shut. She was not going to feed him anything. She had no idea how much he had seen, and she was not going to give him more information than he already had.
"What was that all about?" he asked.
"What was what all about?"
"Oh, good answer. Try again." Why was it that when he wanted her to be quiet, she insisted on talking, and when he wanted her to talk, she acted like she was guarding state secrets? The look on her face wasn't just guarded, though, it was angry and a little guilty. It didn't take a genius to figure this one out.
"I assume you saw me talking to Stacy?"
Oh, this was even more annoying. Now she had turned on the indignant and haughty face. What fun.
"Yes, I saw you talking to Stacy, and I want to know what it was all about."
Cameron was never so happy to see an elevator door open in her life. She walked out, without speaking again, and headed directly to their department. She was stalling for time and for a good strategy. He really didn't want to know what Stacy had said, and she really didn't want to tell him.
Cameron glanced at Foreman and Chase, who were sitting at the table in front of the white board. They looked way too relaxed to be in the same room as her and House right now.
Allison had never warmed up to Stacy and had been excited to learn that the woman would finally be leaving. (How the hell long did it really take for Mark to go through physical therapy anyway? Weren't there other PTs in New Jersey?) Anyway, when Stacy stopped her to recite a top ten list of the reasons Cameron should stay away from House, Cameron had decided that she liked her even less. And now he wanted her to tell him what had been said. Yeah. Like that was going to happen.
"Tell me." His voice was becoming increasingly insistent.
Foreman and Chase looked up at the tone and realized that there was something going on that might be more interesting than medical journals and crosswords.
"There's nothing to tell."
"Stacy stops you in the middle of the lobby and keeps you there for however long but doesn't say anything."
"Stacy's still here?" Chase jumped in.
"She had to meet with Cuddy one last time," supplied Wilson, who shrugged when House shot him a questioning look.
Cameron tried for a flippant response. "Fine. She wanted to share her oatmeal raisin cookie recipe with me. She didn't want the boys here to be deprived." She waved her hand in the general direction of Foreman and Chase.
Wilson choked back a laugh, which earned him a yet another glare from House. "Sorry. I know that I for one would feel very deprived." He grinned.
"Stop egging her on," snapped House. "Tell me."
"It's really none of your business."
"It's about me. It's my business." He was impressed that she didn't try to deny that he had been the topic.
"Do you seriously want to go into this with everyone here?"
"Why not? Aren't we one big, happy family?"
This time it was Foreman and Chase's turn to chuckle, although more derisively than Wilson had.
"Leave her alone, House," Foreman threw in, "she doesn't have to tell you anything."
"You know what, I can handle this on my own," snapped Cameron. She felt a little regret immediately, but she really didn't want to be defended by anyone at the moment.
"Cam, he's just trying to…" Chase trailed off as Cameron jumped back in.
"I have my very own big brothers, thank you very much. I really don't need two more." She turned back to House. "I'm not going to tell you a damned thing because, frankly, it'll just put you in a worse mood than you've been in for the past few days. I'm sick of your pouting, and I'm not about to add fuel to it."
Secretly pleased with the shocked silence in the room, Cameron pushed away from the counter and continued bravely, "You're a smart guy. I'm sure you can figure out why Stacy would deign to speak to me and what she would say."
She dared a look at her boss and had to force herself not to flinch. Oh, he was mad. Well, in for a penny… "If you can't figure it out, I'll just have to claim attorney-client privilege." She gathered up the contents of a patient file from the table and shuffled them together. "I'll be taking care of labs if anyone needs me." With that, she exited the room with all that haughty dignity that House disliked so much.
The silence she left behind was intensely uncomfortable. House had been a beast for the past several days, just as Cameron had said. His mood had started when Stacy had informed him that she would be leaving today, and it wasn't as if he had tried really hard to cover up his feelings. Although, no one, not even Wilson, was brave enough to say it at the time, Cameron's little performance had probably not helped matters one bit.
Wilson looked at the Foreman and Chase, who were no longer enjoying the show. He sighed. He supposed it was time for him to jump in. "Let it go, Greg. I think we all have a pretty good idea about what Stacy said to Cameron. Is hearing it repeated really necessary?" House was staring at the door that Cameron had just exited through. He didn't respond to Wilson's question, but Wilson knew it didn't need an answer.
Chase, of course, was not as savvy when it came to dealing with his boss, which Wilson found ironic given the fact that he had worked for House longer than Cameron or Foreman. "I assume we all think she was warning Cameron away from you?"
Foreman groaned and Wilson rolled his eyes. Both braced themselves for a nasty retort, but were surprised when House simply walked out of the room.
"Well, that was brilliant," sniped Foreman.
"What? I just got tired of beating around the bush," Chase replied defensively. "It's not like we haven't seen him like this before."
"Excellent reasoning," muttered Wilson. He was a little concerned because House had turned toward the general direction of the labs. He told himself, though, that it was a big hospital. Turning right didn't mean that he was headed after Cameron. He wrestled briefly with himself, deciding whether to follow or not.
He stopped in the doorway for a second, shook his head, and headed to the left.
Cameron had her head bent over a microscope trying to look at a slide. She had been like that for several minutes – actually much longer than necessary, but she couldn't concentrate. She knew as sure as she was sitting there, that he was not about to let her get away with walking out on him. Now she was more anxious than angry; however, she also knew that as soon as he made it down here, he would push her right back up to angry really quickly.
He was the most exhausting person she had ever encountered.
She stiffened a little when she heard the swoosh of the door opening and then the unmistakable gait of her boss.
He didn't say anything at first and Cameron didn't either. Stubbornness kept him leaning against the counter opposite Cameron, and it kept her eyes pasted to the lens of the scope.
After at least three minutes of that, Cameron gave up – or in – she didn't care which. She suddenly just wanted to get this over with.
"You haven't cornered me down here in a while." She turned around on her stool to face him.
"Haven't needed to," was his brief reply.
"Oh, and now I've been a bad girl again."
"I'm just really curious as to why you won't tell me what you and Stacy talked about."
"And I'm just really curious as to why you feel the need to know." He didn't say anything, so she continued. "She's not here any more. It's not likely that any of her loved ones are likely to need your expert advice again. You'll probably never see her again. Or, is that what's bothering you?" Allison didn't know where that came from, and judging by his reaction, he didn't either.
"That's none of your business."
"So why are you here?" She threw her hands up in the air. "I think Stacy made it my business when she lectured me on the evils of Greg House right in the middle of the lobby. You make it my business by not letting it go."
"So it was about my evils," he stated matter-of-factly.
She wrinkled her brow at him, her own confusion evident. "Of course your evils." Her eyes opened wide as it suddenly hit her. "What did you think, that she was trying to get me to take pity on you, to ask you out again or something?"
"Oh, God you did, didn't you?" She laughed, strained. "No wonder you were so worried. God forbid that should happen again, right?" Why was she feeling embarrassed and stupid? Tired. She was so tired. Of all of it.
He had no response. He just stared at her, his face inscrutable.
"Well, don't worry. She presented a long list of reasons why I should avoid any entanglements with you altogether." She wasn't in the mood to deal with labs anymore. Maybe there was some nice, boring paperwork to do somewhere. She stood up from the stool and started straightening the work area. "You will be happy to know that Stacy gave poor little pathetic me a very stern lecture about all the reasons why you would be, quote, very bad, for me."
He was a little surprised by the self-deprecating tone in her voice; he had come in pretty much prepared to bat away flying microscopes. "Not like you needed to hear that again," he stated cautiously.
"No." She turned back toward him, her arms full of files and a test-tube caddy. "I certainly didn't need to hear that again." She stared at him just long enough to make him want to squirm. "No," she repeated, "I don't need that at all."
A second later, House was left standing in the lab alone, the breeze from the swinging door brushing his face.