Authors Note: This is the final chapter of Office Romances. I loved every minute of writing it and hope you've loved every minute of reading it. Sorry it took so long to post... It took forever to write and even longer for me to send it to my EXTREMELY busy beta...Hope you like it.
She'd been awake since the moment he'd covered her up. She hadn't intended to feign sleep but things had been tense and awkward between the two of them all day and she didn't want to risk making things worse. The idea that things could actually get worse made her nervous, and she consciously chose not to alert him of her awakened state. When she heard him speak it was clear he wasn't talking to her and she knew they weren't alone. She felt anger seethe through her system and almost blew the whole thing when she heard Stacy's voice.
They'd solved the medical mystery that was Mark's AIP and it was more than obvious to Cameron the reasons why Stacy was still here. And after a moment of listening to her talk, it was even more obvious why Stacy was specifically here in their living room. She fought the urge to roll her eyes and chastised herself for once again referring to House's home as her own. She wasn't sure why she had to keep reminding herself that she didn't in fact live here with him; that she was merely a guest in his home.
Still, she simply couldn't believe that Stacy had the nerve to beg the way she did considering her husband was still in the hospital. Cameron couldn't understand why Stacy couldn't see House wasn't hers to take back anymore; that he had moved on and that he was finally over her. Of course, that didn't mean that Cameron was naïve enough to think House was hers---he just wasn't Stacy's either.
Then, House spoke. His voice filled the apartment, his words echoed throughout the room and her breath caught in her throat. He was saying everything she wanted to hear. He was saying all the right things and suddenly there were tears. Wet, hot tears pooling in her eyes, threatening to blind her before trailing down her cheeks. No longer could she concentrate on what was being said, on what was going on around her. All she could do is replay his words in her head. All she could hear was his voice saying I do love her.
House stared at the closed door in shock. He'd meant everything he'd said to Stacy, even though he wasn't sure what had possessed him to tell her as much as he had. The only thing he had really needed to say was "I don't want to be with you. I don't love you the way I used to," and then ask her to leave. There was no reason for him to pour his heart out to her the way he did. Still, he had admitted out loud that he loved Cameron. He couldn't ignore how good it felt to have finally done so, to finally say what he knew he'd been thinking all along.
He turned his gaze away from the door and over at Cameron. He was expecting to see her still sleeping soundlessly, curled under the blanket he'd draped over her. He was startled to find her sitting straight up on the couch, watching him.
The look on her face, the tears brimming in her eyes, the slight smile her lips were forming, all told him the same thing. She had heard his confession. There was enough shock in her eyes to tell him she hadn't been expecting it, but he knew she wasn't the least bit displeased to hear it.
He'd be pissed at her for eavesdropping if he wasn't so mind numbingly scared of what her reaction was going to be. She wasn't supposed to be awake, she wasn't supposed to be listening while he explained his reasons to Stacy. She certainly wasn't supposed to know just how deeply he felt for her and Madelyn.
The maddening silence thundered throughout his apartment. All he wanted was for her to say something, anything at all. He'd gladly do it himself if he could just find a way to push oxygen through his lungs. The realization that he was still staring at her, his eyes locked on hers, washed over him suddenly. He dropped his gaze immediately trying to re-familiarize himself with the floor, unable to look at her again, not until she said something.
Cameron, on the other hand, never allowed her eyes to leave House. She could tell he was embarrassed she'd heard him; and in hindsight, she knew she should have pretended she hadn't. Honestly, she probably would have if her mind hadn't gone so blank after hearing him say those three little words. Those three little words she'd been wanting to hear for the last year. She didn't even remember sitting up on the couch, let alone seeing him turn around to face her.
She'd known things had been changing, had already changed, between the two of them. That much was obvious to everyone who saw the two of them together. She'd been hoping from the moment she'd realized how she felt about him that he'd feel the same way. Now, it appeared she'd finally gotten what she wanted and it was clearly making him uncomfortable. "Greg..." she whispered unsure of what she had been attempting to say.
House lifted his gaze immediately and waited for her to say something else. He'd said enough for one night, and he wasn't about to say anything else, especially if it had the potential to become an emotional moment; or worse, ruin the emotional moment already taking place.
Cameron understood what his silence meant. He'd poured his heart out already and now he was leaving it all up to her. She knew if she wanted to continue discussing his admission she was going to have to choose her words very carefully. One wrong word or poorly chosen phrase would send him running for sanctuary, and that was the last thing she wanted.
Silence hung in the air, the tension so thick House was worried they'd suffocate before they found their way out of the awkwardness that had enveloped the room. He could tell she was trying to work out the right thing to say, her eyes giving her away as they darted back and forth nervously.
Finally, Cameron knew what she wanted to say. She opened her mouth but a loud wail from the other room intercepted her. House let out a loud sigh of relief. "I'll check on her." she heard him say before he darted, as fast as his leg could take him, out of the room.
She'd sat there long enough, that much she knew for sure. She had allowed the silence to permeate the room, slowly soaking through everything, driving her crazy until she couldn't take it any longer. She mulled her thoughts over one more time before standing up resolutely. She strode over to House's room quickly before she could lose the small amount of nerve she'd managed to summon and opened the door. "House we really need to..." she started only to trail off at the sight on the other side of the door.
He was sprawled comfortably across his bed, Madelyn tucked safely and securely in his arms. Both appeared to be sleeping peacefully and she'd have left them both there, but Cameron knew with those two appearances often meant nothing. She knew that House would awake to leg pain, and she didn't want him to have to worry about the baby when he did.
She walked slowly and soundlessly over to the bed. Standing beside House, barely six inches away from the two people she cared about most, she couldn't help but imagine what it would be like, how it would feel, to do this on a more permanent basis. She sighed softly and squashed down the fantasy. Despite House's earlier proclamation, she didn't want to get her hopes up. She didn't think she'd survive it if she did and things didn't work out.
She reached over and gently plucked the still sleeping baby out of his arms. She froze when House shifted, his arms apparently realizing the loss. She turned swiftly and deposited Madelyn into her crib and turned back to see House's eyes pop open suddenly.
House looked over at his empty arm and then turned immediately in the direction of Madelyn's crib. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw her sleeping. He closed his eyes once more, trying to settle back into the slumber he'd jilted out of. His eyes were closed for less than a minute when the realization that Cameron had to be in the room washed over him. He opened his eyes again, this time seeking the brunette he'd been dreaming about only moments before. He quickly located her standing awkwardly at his door. Her back was turned to him and it was clear she'd been planning on heading back out to the couch.
He knew they needed to talk, and that he'd been waiting on her to approach him. He was sure the much-deserved explanation and conversation had been the reason she'd been in his room. "Allison..." he said suddenly, his voice sounding far less stable and steady than he liked.
Cameron turned towards House slowly when she heard him call her name. She cursed inwardly when she realized that everything she'd decided to say in the living room earlier was gone. Her brain had been wiped cleaned and she had no clue what to say. "Yeah?" she settled for asking.
House sighed. He'd spent over a year learning, memorizing, all of Cameron's facial expressions and mannerisms. Her nervousness was clearly showing him that she had no clue what to do or say next. He'd have to make the first move. Then again, given how strongly he'd protested his feelings for her, he assumed it was logical that he'd have to do so. "You don't have to sleep on the couch," he finally said.
Cameron shook her head. "I don't mind. The couch is really bad for your leg."
House groaned slightly and shook his head. "No. I mean...You don't have to sleep on the couch... you can sleep here..."
Cameron smiled slightly. "Isn't that the same thing?"
"With me." he added nervously.
Cameron's eyes widened "Oh." she said hesitantly.
"I mean, unless you want to sleep on the couch," he added thinking that maybe he'd crossed a line.
Cameron shook her head quickly. "No.. I mean, no offense but your couch isn't really all that comfortable."
House shrugged. "Well, I didn't buy it for sleeping, I bought it for sitting. Now the bed, the bed I bought for sleeping."
Cameron smiled again and moved closer to the bed. "Are you sure?" she asked when she was standing next to it again.
"It's not like we've never shared a bed before Cameron," he said smirking.
Cameron nodded and laid down on the other side of House's bed. "True."
Once again the silence enveloped the room. House's tolerance for the silence was nowhere near as high as Cameron's, and he broke it after barely a minute. "About earlier... you know.... what I said..."
"What you said?"
"To Stacy." He clarified sheepishly.
Cameron turned over to face him. She was shocked to see he had done the same and their eyes immediately locked on one another's. She could see the uneasiness rolling off his body, and she understood his nervousness. In all the time she'd known him, House had never exposed himself so completely in front of her. "Did you mean it?"
The expression of his face clearly said 'Huh?'.
"Did you mean what you said to her?" she asked again.
House nodded slowly. "Yes." he admitted almost inaudibly.
Cameron smiled happily. "Then we can talk about it tomorrow."
House eyed her warily. This time it was he who asked, "Are you sure?"
Cameron nodded. "That was all I really need to hear. Everything else will work itself out."
House nodded. "Okay." he said. Suddenly he was far less sure where they stood with one another, or at least he was until he felt the bed shift. Cameron curled against his side and he let out a contented breath as he shifted to a more comfortable position that included holding her against him. He drifted back to sleep, this time feeling infinitely better about where they'd left things.
Morning came and with the new dawn brought the realization to Cuddy that her hospital wasn't going to come out of House and Stacy's reunion unchanged; if for no other reason, her return had forced House to deal with his feelings for Cameron. Cuddy knew big and important changes were headed to her hospital; the first being Mark's transfer.
She'd immediately gone about locating Mark a suitable place to rehab once House had given him the all clear. Only, she hadn't mentioned it to Stacy yet, and she wasn't quite sure how she would even begin to broach the subject. She hoped Stacy would make the request herself and save her the trouble of having to admit she'd already done it.
Still, transferring Mark proved to be easier said then done. At first, her resourceful calls to places nearby to Short Hills seemed unproductive, as every facility appeared to be full. She began to think that maybe Mark and Stacy would have to stay here, and a small part of her hoped that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing.
It would be nice to have Stacy around again. They'd gotten along great and had been really close before House's infarction. Still, Cuddy knew that as long as Stacy was here, things would never go back to normal, and Cuddy drastically needed things to be normal again.
Finally, she thought to herself as she located an open spot at a facility that was close to the Warner home. She'd just hung up her phone graciously when she heard the door open. She looked up and winced when she saw Stacy enter. "Hey." she said hoping to sound casual. She dropped her eyes back to her desk and picked up her pen, pretending to be attending to business.
"Hey." she replied softly before crossing the office and dropping into the first chair she came across.
Cuddy looked up from her desk at Stacy's tone and frowned. House's team had cured Mark, she should at least sound a little happy. She looked closer at her friend and noticed how tired she looked. Last night should have been the most restful night for Stacy since she'd gotten here, and yet there were clearly bags under her eyes. "Are you okay?" she asked her concern outweighing her guilt.
Stacy shrugged and shook her head. "I had an unpleasant conversation with Greg last night," she admitted.
Cuddy nodded. She believed that. Ninety eight percent of the conversations anyone had with House were unpleasant, why would Stacy be any different? "About what?" she pried.
"I want to be with him," she said morosely.
"But..." Cuddy started.
"I know…" Stacy interrupted, "I know, I'm married, but it doesn't matter. I can't help it; it's just how I feel. I want him back, and he doesn't want me."
Stacy's declaration didn't surprise Cuddy. It was the reason she knew she had to get Stacy and Mark out of this hospital. "I'm sorry," she admitted.
Stacy shook her head sadly. "He's made it perfectly clear there's nothing I can do to change his mind."
Cuddy sighed. She didn't know what to say. She didn't know how she would have felt if House had wanted Stacy back, but she had a feeling she'd have been angry. Things were good here with House and Cameron. She knew the boat would be rocked if they did decide to be together, but with House and Stacy, the boat would capsize and she definitely didn't want that.
"Anyway, that wasn't why I was here." Stacy said suddenly.
Cuddy's eyes widened. "Oh." she said surprised. Considering their line of conversation, she'd thought for sure that Stacy had come for advice on how to get House back. She stood up from behind her desk and moved to sit in the chair next to Stacy's. "Then what can I do for you?" she asked curiously. She hoped the next words out of Stacy's mouth were 'I'd like to have Mark transferred.', but knowing her luck she wasn't holding her breath.
Stacy sighed. "I need a job."
"Stace..." Cuddy started. This was the exact opposite of anything she'd been hoping for.
"And I know for a fact that defending House forced your legal team into early retirement..." Stacy started.
"I can't." Cuddy said cutting her off.
"What do you mean you can't?" Stacy demanded. "I know you haven't hired someone else, and I was House's lawyer for years..."
Cuddy groaned. "Exactly. You want this job to be near him. Proximity isn't going to win him back."
"How do you know?" she snapped, "If he sees that I'm not going to leave him again then maybe..."
"Then nothing, Stacy. He's moved on. He's with Cameron, or at least he wants to be. And I know this isn't what you want to hear; but she wants to be with him too, so if they aren't already together, they will be."
Stacy nodded. "That doesn't mean they'll last. Greg will inevitably tear her to shreds."
"Just like he did to you?" she asked harshly. At Stacy's hurt face she backpedaled quickly. She placed her hand on Stacy's shoulder trying to be comforting. "I'm sorry it's just...you yourself just told me that he made it perfectly clear he wasn't going to change his mind. Why would you want to put yourself through this, Stacy?" Cuddy pleaded.
Stacy frowned and shrugged Cuddy's hand off her shoulder. "I can't believe you won't give me a job. What am I supposed to do while Mark recuperates?" she asked changing the subject. She had been tossing and turning all night long over what House had said to her, she didn't need to hear it repeated back to her again.
Cuddy winced and looked at the floor. Now's as good a time as any, she thought to herself. "I assume you still have a job back home?" she asked.
"Well, yes, but I don't want to drive back and forth from Short Hills all day." she pointed out.
"Which is why I've already made arrangements to have Mark transferred to a hospital in Short Hills." She rushed out before she could lose her nerve. She'd never been the type to be scared or nervous before giving bad news. As a doctor she'd delivered tons of it, but no one had ever looked at her afterwards the way Stacy was looking at her now.
"You did what?" Stacy demanded through gritted teeth.
Stacy took a deep breath and shoved all her fear and guilt deep down. "As soon as House signs the paperwork, Mark's being transferred." she said forcefully.
"Why would you do that?" Stacy yelled.
"Mark's been diagnosed, House's expertise is no longer needed." Cuddy answered diplomatically.
"You didn't even consult me," she hissed furiously.
"I know and I'm sorry." Cuddy said honestly. "But, I can't keep you here. I can't let you destroy what small amount of control I have over this hospital, over House."
Stacy stood up and strode to the door. "This is wrong on so many levels, Lisa." She snapped lividly before slamming her way out of the office.
Cuddy sighed as she heard the door slam behind Stacy. She moved back over to her desk, already exhausted and went back to work. She'd just have to worry about Stacy later.
Sun streamed in through his window, and House cursed at himself for not remembering to shut the curtains before climbing into bed the night before. He winced at the pain in his thigh for a moment before reaching for his Vicodin. He swallowed the pills and closed his eyes again, waiting for the relief he knew would come soon.
He opened his eyes and turned his gaze towards the crib. He felt a small smile tug at his lips when he realized that not once had he and Cameron been awakened by crying. He felt Cameron shift slightly and he let out a sigh of contentment. He pulled her closer to him, reluctant to release her, reluctant to leave the comfort of his bed and her arms. He knew eventually they would have to move; eventually Madelyn would wake up, or the alarm would go off signaling the start of another day. Still, he was in no hurry.
He stared down at Cameron and, not for the first time, he wondered how he ever got so lucky to have someone like her wanting to spend their days with someone like him.
Cameron opened her eyes slowly, not quite ready to leave the dreams that had transfixed her all night. She was terrified she'd wake up and find out that either she'd imagined what House had said the night before or he'd admit he really was kidding and didn't want to be with her. She was surprised when she finally opened her eyes completely to find House staring at her.
She shivered when his hand brushed a stray strand of hair away from her eyes, before settling to gently caress her cheek. She felt her heart race when he locked his eyes on hers. Her hand, acting out of own volition, reached out to return the gesture. His eyes shifted to her lips and Cameron once again felt herself tremble. She wasn't sure if the spine tingling was induced by fear or anticipation, and she quickly decided that as long as he kept looking at her the way he was, she didn't care.
He'd been trying to think of what to say when she woke up. Everything in his head sounded ridiculous, sappy, or both and he certainly didn't want to sound ridiculous or sappy. Still, he knew given the way he'd treated her before, she'd need reassurance. So, when she opened her eyes and he still hadn't decided what to say, he simply went with what he'd been wanting to do all along. He kissed her.
There was no hidden plot to annoy anyone, there was just his lips on hers. Cameron let out a sharp gasp of surprise for a fraction of a second before returning the kiss whole-heartedly. She felt the fingers that had been dancing across her cheek tangle in her hair. She smiled against his lips for a moment before moving to deepen the kiss. She wasn't able to suppress her frustration and confusion when House suddenly pulled away. "What?" she asked softly.
House released her hair and brushed his hand up and down her arm lovingly. "This could be a huge mistake," he admitted.
Cameron shot him a look of incredulity. She couldn't believe he could say the things he'd said and kiss her the way he kissed her and then turn around and change his mind. "It's not," she said defensively.
He smiled a soft, reassuring smile before leaning forward and catching her lips once more in a short, chaste embrace. "But it could be." he said again, "Still, there's no going back now is there?"
She shook her head. "No." she agreed before reaching out and entwining his hand with hers. "Things have changed between us."
He nodded briefly before leaning forward and catching her lips in his once more. The fluttering feeling in his chest, the one that told him this was exactly what he wanted, was back full force. It felt good to finally stop lying to himself, and as Cameron deepened the kiss he felt a pang of an emotion he'd long since forgotten, happiness. He pulled away when the need for oxygen was too great to continue ignoring, and fixed her with what he hoped resembled a hard stare. "Nothing changes at work," he declared. "There will be no hand holding, nothing couple-y. You can't play the girlfriend card, unless of course we're locked in my office and then by all means play the girlfriend card. If you want to play the girlfriend card topless then..."
"House." she interrupted playfully. "Hold that thought, finish the first."
House smiled as Cameron's smile lit up her face. "Right, like I was saying, nothing couple-y. I don't do office romances."
Cameron laughed lightly. "Whatever you say Dr. House."