Cameron entered her apartment, throwing her bag to the floor. The first thing she did was change into her comfort clothes - big, warm and well-worn. Then she got a tub of ice cream from the freezer, turned the TV on to some pointless music channel and curled up on the sofa, opening the ice cream and tucking in.
Work was growing unbearable and she was beginning to feel like she'd had enough, that it was time to move on. Today had been particularly bad. She should have known when someone ran into the back of her car on the way to work that things were not going to improve. There wasn't a huge amount of damage but getting his insurance details had taken time, then someone had called the police, delaying her further as she gave a statement to them.
At work, House had berated her for being late and when she's told him she'd been in an accident he'd just asked if she was hurt. When she said no, he told her to watch where she was going next time.
With no cases, she'd begun research for a new article - an article that House no doubt would forget to sign off on - but the real trouble had come when a patient she'd seen in the clinic the week before for stress was rushed in after a heart attack.
Even now, Cameron believed she'd done everything by the book. She's prescribed anti-depressants, advised him to take a vacation then try to cut back on his working hours, and finally, she had referred him to a psychiatrist. He hadn't had time to fill the prescription and hadn't taken her advice. According to House this was her fault for not stressing the risks to his health enough.
Of course, she had defended her corner but as usual, House had the last word. She'd missed Foreman then, he would have defended her position. Chase, for the nice guy he was, was too weak to stand up for her, especially with House in such a bad mood.
House wasn't holding back on any barbs about Foreman either. If she was such a trusting person, maybe she should have trusted him, House, more and then Foreman wouldn't have had his "brain scrambled unnecessarily" and maybe she should consider a career as a vet because "there are less law suits when you brain damage a dog".
After work she'd gone to see Foreman, who was sleeping. The nurse told her he'd had a tough day. The disease had rampaged through his body while the biopsy rewired his brain. He was finding it hard to cope with the coordination problems and physical therapy.
The nurse had suggested waking him up, saying she was sure he'd be pleased to see a friend. Cameron had declined. She wasn't a friend, she was the person who'd done this to him, or at least part of it. And if she was brutally honest, she didn't want to face him after the day she'd had.
She wondered how the others put up with House and his comments. Foreman fought back and didn't take it personally. Chase just let it roll over him. But maybe being men it was easier for them.
Cuddy was the only person she could really ask, but after her comments over Foreman she didn't think she could just call up for a girlie chat and advice on why Cuddy didn't take House's comments personally. Maybe it was just that she had worked with House for years and she'd built up a thicker skin.
The relationship was different too. Cuddy was House's boss, but House was Cameron's boss; House could fire her but not Cuddy.
Cameron wondered if she'd ever become that indifferent. Maybe in a few more years, she thought. But then, it had already been two years and he could hurt her just as much now as at the beginning.
And none of this would hurt as much if she didn't admire House so much. He was the most brilliant doctor she'd ever met. And most of the time his actions were just honest, and did more good than harm overall.
She just needed to become tougher, take things less personally and make herself less of an easy target.
Cameron put the ice cream down, picked the phone up and dialled Jessica Alderson, her old college room mate.
"Allison? Is that you?"
"Long time, no speak. How are you?"
"I… I'm fine, I just wondered…"
"Stop hesitating and ask me. Worst I can say is no."
"OK. Please don't take this the wrong way but I want your help. I want you to teach me to be more… like you."
Her friend laughed. "You mean a bitch?"
"Yes, you did. Don't worry. I'm a lawyer, it's a compliment to me. Come on over this weekend, I'll see what I can do with you."
They continued chatting for a few minutes longer before Cameron hung up the phone. She and Jess had always been chalk and cheese, but somehow they'd become friends, if not bosom buddies. Jess was the closest thing she knew to a female House, she didn't mince her words, didn't take any crap or excuses and somehow managed to win every argument she entered into. If anyone could help Cameron, Jess could.
House walked into the Diagnostics Office to see Chase filling in the crossword.
"Four down is incumbent," he said, heading to the coffee pot. Chase filled in four down as House asked, "Where's Cameron?"
"Dunno. Haven't seen her yet."
House frowned. Cameron wasn't the type to be late, especially twice in under two weeks.
"Maybe she's getting her car fixed?" Chase suggested.
House grunted and threw a folder at him. "New case," he said, opening his Vicodin and swallowing one.
Chase looked around like a deer caught in the headlights. There was safety in numbers, and he didn't like the idea of working alone with House.
"Forty-five year old male, schoolteacher, presents with fever, fatigue…"
"Shouldn't I try and find Cameron first?"
"Difficulty swallowing and seizures." House closed the file and threw it on the table as he began to write the symptoms on the white board. "Differential diagnosis?"
"Already tested for it. Clean."
They both looked up as Cameron came in. Chase was speechless for a moment. She looked totally different, but aside from her hair being up, he couldn't really say what was different.
House could have listed the differences, but then, he paid more attention. Her suit was black, sharp and expensive, and she wore a turtleneck sweater rather than a blouse. Her makeup was slightly darker, her posture taller than usual and she was wearing heels.
"Cameron, thank you for joining us, eventually."
"You're welcome," she said simply, pulling the file House had thrown onto the table over to her and sitting down to read it.
"What, no excuses? No apologies?"
Cameron looked up. "Aren't you the one who says never apologise, never explain?"
"That only works when you're the boss."
"Okay. My alarm didn't go off then."
House glared at her.
"And I'm sorry," she said without sincerity. "Can we…" she pointed at the file.
House turned back to the board and finished writing the symptoms, no longer frowning but scowling.
"Ideas?" he asked.
"Drugs," said Cameron.
"Tox screen was clean," said Chase.
"They don't test for everything," replied Cameron.
"He says he's not on any drugs," said House. "Aren't you usually the one who believes patients?"
"Fine, get another tox screen," he told them, heading into the hallway.
"Where are you going?" asked Chase.
"You seem to have this covered, let me know when the tox screen comes back negative and we'll go from there. Maybe do another brain biopsy, eh Cameron?" He didn't wait for an answer.
"But if you don't think…" Chase began, but House was gone.
Chase looked from House's retreating form to Cameron who was back reading the chart.
"What was that about?"
"You." When she looked blankly at him, he continued. "Pissing House off."
"House doesn't play well with others. It's not my problem."
Cameron inwardly breathed a sigh of relief as House left. That had gone well, but she'd been nervous as hell walking in here. Especially late.
She's spent the weekend with Jess in the end as Jess said she needed so much work. First they'd done wardrobe. Her neutral colours were out. In were bold block colours. Jess had donated a few of her own, lesser worn outfits and they'd taken a brief shopping trip for a few more.
Next had been hair. Sharp, Jess said, but not too severe. Jess had looked a few styles up on the internet with directions on how to do them and gave them to Cameron.
Then came roleplay. Just like when she prepped a witness, Jess did her research, asking for common situations, examples of House's jibes and his general character and mannerisms. Then she wrote a list of retorts for Cameron to use and, taking on the House role, began testing her, coaching Cameron to make her replies more glib, sarcastic or disinterested.
By Sunday night Cameron was tired but pleased. During the last hour especially, the retorts flowed much more freely, almost naturally, off her tongue.
Her only doubt was if she'd be able to look into House's eyes, close herself off from the pain she saw in them and actively try to hurt him.
It was round one to Cameron, but she wondered if she'd be able to keep it up.
"She's being a bitch."
"You must be rubbing off on her."
"Oh," House grabbed his chest in mock pain, "you're so cutting."
"What did you expect? That she'd say thanks for all your sarcasm?"
"It's not like her." House popped open his Vicodin and swallowed two.
"To be honest I'm not surprised she snapped," Wilson said calmly. "You've been riding her too hard and she's been through a tough time."
"Not as tough as Foreman."
"No, but don't forget she thought she could have it too for a while. Foreman isn't an angel. She did what she thought was best and now, not only is she torturing herself, you're torturing her too."
"It's what I do best."
"What were you hoping would happen? Wait, let me see. You were hoping she'd say she was sorry, that she should have trusted you to find the cause and risk killing foreman."
"She left him brain damaged."
"You saw the choice as brain damage or death. Cameron saw it as life or death. She chose life. I would have done the same thing in her position."
House remained silent.
"Or maybe this isn't about Foreman and Cameron at all." Wilson said, leaning forward. "This is about Stacy. She chose life for you, leaving you disabled."
"This has nothing to do with Stacy."
"No. She's out of my life."
"Yes, she is. You sent her away. Why? Because you haven't forgiven her."
"Forgiveness is overrated."
"And now you're taking your anger out on Cameron instead."
"I am not taking anything out on Cameron."
"You keep telling yourself that. One day you might actually believe it."
"Thanks, Doctor Freud," he said, rising from his chair. "If we're done with the psychoanalysis, can I go now?"
"Not before you admit you want to sleep with your mom and kill your dad."
"My mom? Nah," he said, heading for the door. "Now your mother - there's a woman I could bang." House ducked out of the door as a good-natured paper ball headed towards him.
As he walked away, he tried to dismiss Wilson's words but found they kept bugging him. Perhaps there was some truth in what he said.
House stopped outside the patient's room and saw Cameron beside the bed taking a history. She didn't see him, so he kept silent and listened.
"I've had chest pain on and off for a few years."
"Any problems with your ears?"
"I get a lot of ear infections. My doc gives me antibiotics each time."
"Do they work?"
"Do you have pain anywhere else you haven't told me about?"
"Well, down here," the patient pointed to his sternum. "But I assumed that was related to the chest pain."
House walked away. She seemed almost normal with the patients, if a little colder than usual.