...and here it is... the last part of this story. I have really, really enjoyed writing it and working with such a different style from my usual. I'm very happy that it seems to have struck a note with a lot of readers, and I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks of this final chapter. Thank you all so much for your comments!
Rebecca Louise Wilson was born in the middle of the day in the middle of the week in the middle of the summer. Her first name was traditionally Jewish, and the second had belonged to Sarah's favorite grandmother and so the bestowing of it fulfilled another Jewish tradition. Renewed faith in marriage had gone hand in hand with renewed faith in God, for Wilson. You weren't sure if that was because he finally saw a sort of reason for all of his previous failed relationships or because he felt that his happiness had to be owed to a higher power. You yourself were still mired in a decided agnosticism despite your quietly contented home life.
You'd only placed your bet the week before, but you won the hospital's betting pool. Cameron wanted to know how you could possibly have guessed the date, especially since the baby was almost two weeks early. You told her that you'd noticed that Sarah was walking differently when the four of you got together for your usual weekly dinner, and you had been able to tell that the baby had shifted down into position. She gave you a smile that said she was amazed and proud of yet another of your weird skills, but she rolled her eyes as well. She'd chosen the following Thursday for her bet.
A week later and Wilson was walking into work looking more tired than you'd ever seen him. He also looked happier than you'd ever seen him. The sight made you happy too, but you couldn't resist telling him that he smelled like spit-up and looked like crap. Cameron heard you and smacked you on the shoulder before asking Wilson how Sarah was doing. You weren't sure when public touching had become acceptable, even if that touching only came in the form of playful hits.
You had always maintained that you were not good with children, but no one else seemed to believe that and you and Cameron became Rebecca's usual babysitters. The little Wilsonette was cute enough, and she was way too young to talk back, so you didn't really mind. She seemed to like you well enough and her warm little body fit snugly into the crook of your arm. You made Cameron take care of all of the diaper changes.
After your second gig, you finally asked her about her miscarriage.
The look on her face told you that she was surprised to hear you ask. The two of you were not the kind of couple who sat around reciting your personal histories. When circumstances warranted, you might relate a piece of the past, but that was it. You knew that she had a brother she rarely talked to, but you didn't know why. Her parents were both dead but you just knew that her mother had suffered a heart attack. She knew that your father had bought you your first motorcycle when you were sixteen, but she didn't know that he'd taken it away when you'd gone out for lacrosse instead of football your senior year.
She ignored your question for the rest of the evening, but when you got into bed and turned out the lights, she started to talk. You'd expected some tale about how she'd gotten pregnant just before her husband relapsed and had then miscarried just after he died, but that wasn't the story she told. Instead she talked about how she'd still been grieving six months after his death and had been stressed out with college and med school applications and all the people around her who had their happy lives spread out before them when she felt like hers was already buried in the ground. She'd gone out drinking.
No, she'd gone out to get drunk because she'd needed the release and she hadn't wanted to think anymore and when she'd woken up naked in her RA's bed, she'd barely been able to make it to the bathroom before throwing up. They'd agreed not to mention it again, and when she'd discovered she was pregnant, she hadn't told him. She'd been overwhelmed with guilt, because good women didn't go around sleeping with people six months after crying over their husband's coffin. Intellectually, she knew that her guilt and grief hadn't caused her to lose the baby, but you could hear in her voice that logic didn't always win when emotions were involved.
The whole time she was talking, she just stared up at the ceiling and somehow you knew that she didn't want you to touch her, because she was afraid of breaking. There were no tears, but when she finished telling you everything, she snuggled up to your side, which she never did unless you'd just had sex. You moved your arm so that it was draped over her shoulder instead of pinned to your side and when she asked you not to ever mention her baby again, you promised that you wouldn't. You wondered why you'd ever seen her as weak.
For the next few days, Cameron was a little bit quieter than usual, but by the weekend, she was back to herself again and you were able to let go of the thin thread of guilt you'd been carrying. You met the Wilsons for Sunday brunch and Cameron held and played with Rebecca just like she always did.
The days flowed on from one to the next with an almost monotonous regularity. You liked it. The patients continued to challenge your diagnostic skills at the hospital, and Cameron challenged you at home. You wouldn't have thought that you'd be the type to actually settle down with someone, but then you remembered that you'd really enjoyed your years with Stacy, aside from the fighting and then the whole leg-mangling business. Sometimes you wondered if she'd ever found a measure of happiness for herself.
Usually such thoughts came when you were playing the piano and Cameron was puttering around the apartment, the two of you creating the perfect snapshot of a normal couple, despite the fact that you were each far from normal. The thoughts were always followed up with deep gratitude to fate, karma, God or whatever other unseen forces had put the two of you together. After you'd pondered your way into a corner, you'd get up from the piano and pull Cameron into the bedroom just because you could.
Summer had almost completely given way to Autumn when Cuddy appeared in your office with a new patient file and a request.
"You know I asked Cameron to take Shaw's position up in Immunology," she said, one hand perched on her hip.
"Yup. She told me."
"So you also know that she turned me down."
"We do live together," you reminded her with a smirk. "We even talk sometimes."
She huffed out a breath in frusration. "Yes, I'm well aware of your living arrangements," she said. "I'm the one who had to keep the board of directors from going ballistic when they found out."
You grinned as you remembered that it had been an amusing couple of days seeing her slightly frazzled as she tried to convince the board that you and Cameron really worked well together and would continue to act professionally.
"I'm going to guess that the little trip down memory lane isn't really your reason for bringing all of this up," you told her, mind slipping back from your reverie.
"No, not really. I was hoping that you would convince her to take the job."
"And why should I do that? I like having her here. She's an asset to the department and I don't think you'll argue with that."
"Of course not, but she's also not needed here."
She must have seen you start to bristle, your hand tightening on your cane, because she quickly went on.
"You already have two other doctors and you can easily hire another. If I have to look outside the hospital for Shaw's replacement, it will take months and then months more before they get up to speed with the hospital's way of doing things."
"I don't want another doctor. I'm quite content with her, and she's quite content being here."
Cuddy stared at you and you got a pang in your stomach because you knew she was about to say something you didn't want to hear.
"She's wasting herself here, House. She could be head of Immunology inside ten years, but if she stays in this department she's always going to be just another one of your underlings. Now I know that you hate change, but I hadn't realized that she's the same way. If you don't push her out of the nest, she's never going to learn to fly on her own."
Your expression twisted into one of exasperation. "Is this our very-special-episode?" You asked, mockingly. "Because that flowery prose sounds like something direct from Lifetime television."
"I'm serious, House."
And you really hated her at that moment because despite your words you knew she was right. Cameron was an excellent doctor. She deserved more than second rate status in the smallest department in the hospital even if it was the department with the highest cure rate. Cuddy left, but her words lingered behind and you took out your frustrations by tossing your oversized tennis ball against the wall as hard as you could.
Cameron came by half an hour later to tell you that your patient was responding to treatment. She took one look at your face and asked what was wrong. You hated that she could read you so well. Of course your newly-foul mood wasn't exactly well-hidden.
"I think you should take that job upstairs."
"What? We talked about it last week and agreed that I should just stay here," Cameron said, her eyebrows doing that little wrinkling thing they always did when she was confused.
"Yeah, well we were probably too hasty."
You tried to make it sound casual, but that didn't work, and you ended up telling her about Cuddy's visit. She was upset because she'd thought that everything was settled and Cuddy was right, she hated change just as much as you; maybe more. She also didn't like Cuddy going over her head and the flash in her eyes told you that Cuddy could expect a visit from a pissed off Cameron in the near future. She seemed to be ignoring everything you said, in favor of pacing the floor and muttering her reasons for staying. When you said that you didn't want her throwing her career away just so that she could stay safe and comfortable, that was when she turned those flashing eyes on you.
Luckily, you'd been expecting that and you followed up with a few words about how she was too good a doctor to stay working for you and that she should be having other doctors learn from her. She stopped right in front of you and looked at you without saying anything, but her expression had changed from one of anger to one of pride. You realized then that you'd never given her so much direct praise at one time. She told you she was going to talk to Cuddy, and then she reached forward and lightly touched your shoulder before quickly leaving the office. An hour later, she came back and told you that she'd accepted the new position. You told her not to let the promotion go to her head and sent her to check on the patient and find out where West and Mason had hidden themselves.
Cameron transferred two weeks later and at the hospital, she handled the transition better than you did.
She easily moved into the Immunology department, strengthening relationships she already had with the other doctors and enjoying the different atmosphere. Dealing with a whole floor of patients was definitely a change from the one patient a week routine in your department.
You couldn't get used to not seeing her at her desk. During differential sessions, you kept looking at the seat she'd always occupied. You were sharper and even more sarcastic, and you went through fifteen fellowship applicants before finally settling on her replacement.
At home your roles reversed and she was the one who acted snipier and irritable. You were both used to bantering during the day and working out some of your frustrations that way, but now she was back to being nice all day long and when you tossed good-natured barbs her way over dinner, she shot them back at you with real annoyance. The big fight came a month later and was complete with stomping feet, shouting and slamming doors. You ended up storming out and holing up at the bar down the street.
She found you there two hours later and sidled up beside you.
You were still nursing your second drink.
"Come to yell some more?" you said snidely.
"No," she said and waved the bartended over so that she could order a disgustingly sweet drink.
"Then what are you doing here?"
"It's sort of a two-player sport. You have to talk too," she said. Her drink arrived and she took a small sip.
"You've been a real bitch," you told her. Not, perhaps, the best way to open the conversation.
To your surprise, she replied with, "I know I have."
With that admission from her, you felt you owed her a little something as well.
"I probably shouldn't have insulted your cooking," you said, and it was still hard to believe that one ill-timed remark had caused a fight of epic proportions.
"You were teasing. I overreacted," she said, staring down into the pink depths of her drink.
"You've been doing that a lot lately. So is it me or is it work?" You were hoping for a certain answer.
"Neither, really. It's just me. I got used to things being a certain way, and now it's taking me a while to adjust." She toyed with her straw for a minute. "Maybe the change at work has made me wonder if everything else is going to change too," she admitted.
"Do you want it to change?" you asked her, watching her face carefully for any revealing twitches or other unspoken signs. If she was planning on leaving, you didn't want to be the last to know.
"No I don't," she said, the words strong and definitive.
You nodded and swallowed down the rest of your drink. It burned a path down your throat that felt like relief.
"Good," you said, your voice slightly quieter than hers because big declarations weren't your style.
She only took a few more sips of her drink before hopping down from her stool.
"Are you ready to go home?" she asked you and you tossed down enough money to cover all the drinks and unhooked your cane from the edge of the bar.
"Yeah, I'm ready," you told her.
She slipped her hand into yours as you walked out the door. She'd never done that before. It felt nice.
Things settled down after that, much to your relief, but you looked at her slightly differently. Maybe it was because you didn't see her at work as often, but you appreciated her more at the hospital and at home. You made excuses to steal coffee from her department and paged her to go to lunch more often. When you were able to call her in for a consult, you knew that it would be a good case. You were still a snarky bastard to her most of the time, but at home, the bantering was congenial again. The fact that she could toss a sarcastic remark right back at you had always made your verbal sparring more fun.
You'd completely forgotten why you'd always said that a relationship with her would never work. Wilson liked to give you a hard time about that. You stole lunch money from his wallet for revenge.
As the nights grew cooler, dinner and television in front of a crackling fire became routine. You'd ordered Chinese food, and the boxes were still scattered on the coffee table as the two of you sat close together and watched the tv. You only gave some token grumbling when the show du jour was of the distinctly feminine variety. You usually concentrated more on Cameron than on the television when one of her shows was playing. You liked seeing her face when it was open and unguarded, away from the hospital where a professional mask was almost always in place. You'd memorized the number of light freckles across the bridge of her nose, and the tiny wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. They only really showed when she smiled. You loved her smile. You loved her, although you hardly ever said it.
She was pressed up against your right side, her thigh bleeding warmth into your scarred one. Over the previous winter, you'd made a remark about close proximity keeping the heating bills down and used it as an excuse when you needed to feel her close to you. Neither of you bothered with excuses anymore although you were still far from demonstrative outside the bedroom. Small gestures counted for more.
You shifted so that you could reach into your pocket, and she assumed you were pulling out your pills, and kept her attention on the screen. When you pulled her hand onto your leg, she just smiled and lightly curled her fingers around yours.
You had never planned on needing her. You hadn't even wanted her. Then, even after you had her, you'd always just been comfortable with the way things were, and content to have them go on that way for the foreseeable future. You'd never kidded yourself with thinking that what you had together was some never ending love. You still didn't believe that, but when you slipped the ring onto her finger, it felt like the most natural thing in the world and you watched it sparkling in the firelight and waited for her reaction.
She looked finally looked at you then, with her mouth half open, and a hundred unsaid words on her tongue. You uttered the same word you'd said to keep her from leaving a lifetime ago. Just one word. It was all you could think of and it encompassed everything you wanted from her.
"I wasn't planning on going anywhere," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. She looked like she thought she might be dreaming
"Consider this insurance," you told her, rubbing your thumb across the back of her hand.
"I'll stay," she said, and you watched the tears gathering at the corners of her eyes and reached up one hand to brush them away.
"Good," you said, ignoring the fact that your voice didn't sound quite as strong as usual.
Her arms came up to wrap around your neck and she kissed you deeply, thoroughly, lovingly, while you followed her lead and ignored the pain in your thigh in favor of pulling her onto your lap. When the kiss ended, she whispered that she loved you, and for once, you echoed it back to her. She closed her eyes, nestling her head under your chin, and you wondered what Wilson would say when you asked him to be your best man.