A/N Oh, well, hello there. Fancy seeing you all here again after all this time… So for reasons completely unbeknownst to me there's been a recent resurgence of interest in this story and because of that, you guys pushed this story up over three thousand reviews! And to show my thanks, since that was a milestone I never even dreamed to reach I dusted off the House muse and cranked out this chapter :D
Cameron was just getting out of the shower and was toweling herself dry when she heard the pointed knock, if a knock could in fact be considered pointed, on the front door. She assumed it was the boys, home with the groceries and unable to reach keys to let themselves in. Not wanting to go to the door in a towel, but not wanting to take the time to actually get dressed, she snatched a pair of House's boxers and an old worn in button down off of the pile of clean clothes on the bed that she hadn't gotten around to folding yet.
As she padded to the front door, only buttoning the second, third and forth buttons, she remembered fondly the discussion she had with House the first time she had done his laundry. Apparently he had never heard of a little thing called fabric softener.
She had a wide smile on her face as she swung open the door, ready to make fun of House for actually helping with the groceries.
"Did Jimmy actually make you help carry a couple ba-" however the words and smile died at her lips as soon as she spotted her visitor.
It was not in fact House on the other side of the door, as she had been expecting. Nor was it Wilson, the other person she had been anticipating. In fact if she had to pick a person she least likely would have expected to see, it still wouldn't have even occurred to her to pick the woman who was currently staring back at her with equal shock and confusion.
"You're not Greg," Cameron finally said, regaining her voice.
"Neither are you," Stacy countered. "What are you doing here?"
"I should be asking you that question," Cameron returned, crossing her arms across her chest and leaning nonchalantly against the door jam, making no effort to invite the other woman inside.
Stacy didn't say anything for a long moment as she evaluated the younger woman. She looked very comfortable lounging in the doorway of the condo that she had called home for five years, wearing the shirt she had bought Greg the last Christmas before the infarction, her wet hair dripping onto it, causing it to stick to her lithe frame. She was a small woman in stature so the shirt was long enough that she wouldn't have been able to even tell that she was also wearing a pair of Greg's boxers had she not neglected to button the last three buttons. But the thing that really grabbed her attention was the large diamond ring that was barely visible as her hand poked out of the oversized sleeve.
"So it's true then," Stacy said resignedly with a pointed look at her left hand.
"How did you hear about it in the first place?" Cameron replied, not confirming or denying anything, unsure of how House would want to handle this.
"My associate Nick Jacobs-"
"Nick is a partner," Cameron interrupted one eyebrow arched, "if you are working in the same firm now, wouldn't that make him your boss?" She wasn't sure why she was being so vindictive, (actually that was a lie and she knew it) but it sure felt good.
Stacy continued on as if she had never been interrupted. "He mentioned that he was in New Jersey visiting his old friend that worked at the same hospital he knew I used to work at and I asked him who, and he said you. When I asked him how you were doing, he told me that you had gotten married to one of your coworkers. I assumed he meant Dr. Chase, but he informed me that it was in fact Greg that you married."
"And you just had to see it with your own eyes," Cameron drawled sarcastically, her expression cool and collected, while inwardly she was already mentally composing the fit she was going to throw at Nick the moment Stacy was gone and she could get to a phone.
"I suppose I did," Stacy returned in a similar tone.
The two women simply eyed one another for an interminable span of time until they were both distracted by the frustrated slamming of a car door.
"I swear to god, the next time you decide you want to go to the grocery store for the ride, either Allison can take you or you're waiting in the car," Wilson declared exasperatedly as they came up the walk way.
"Yes Dad," House replied sarcastically before they both saw what was happening in the threshold.
Wilson was the first to spot their visitor and stopped cold in the middle of the sidewalk causing House to walk into his back.
"Cripple here, lets give a little warning," he snarked angrily as he regained his grasp on the bag of groceries he almost dropped and looked to see what had made Wilson freeze. "Well, this is unexpected," he proclaimed once he noticed his wife in the entrance way engaged in some sort of interaction with his ex.
"Yes, I think that is the consensus of the situation by everyone involved," Cameron replied with a wry smile.
House simply shrugged and walked around a still gobsmacked Wilson and made his way towards his front door as if this sort of thing happened everyday. He walked right past a stoic Stacy and leaned down to greet Cameron with a kiss to which she unconsciously rose to her toes and lifted her face to meet.
"I find this new look of yours very appealing," he said lowly, but loud enough that both Stacy and Wilson, who by now had recovered and was right behind House, could hear. "I must insist that you wear this more often," he continued, sliding his cane hand, as it was not carrying groceries, underneath what was his own his own shirt and against her hip.
With a hitch of her breath Cameron stepped aside and opened the door all the way to let House and Wilson in and Stacy took advantage of the situation to let herself into the condo as well.
Astounded by the nerve the older woman had to just walk into someone else's home uninvited regardless of the fact she had lived there in the past, it took Cameron a moment to recover and close the door.
"Here Jimmy, let me take those," Cameron offered holding her hands out to take the eight bags Wilson was carrying.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "They're heavy."
"I'm stronger than I look," she half joked taking the first four from one hand and then snagging the last four from the other. Before taking them into the kitchen she leaned in and muttered, "She's your friend. You go talk to her and figure out what the hell she is doing here."
Wilson just nodded and went to go sit with Stacy on the couch while Cameron followed House into the kitchen where he had gone directly with the three bags he had been carrying.
Cameron set her bags down on the counter next to the fridge and grabbed a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch to put away, she turned around and jumped slightly to find House standing right behind her.
"What is she doing here?" he asked.
"I'm going to murder Nick the next time I see him," Cameron replied. "I guess she just started working at the same law office that he does, and he just happened to mention that he was visiting me and my new husband. And he just happened to make sure to drop names. That little punk did it on purpose too," she spat, the irritation clear in her tone and on her face.
"What do you mean on purpose?" House asked suspiciously. "How would he even know who Stacy is?"
At this question Cameron's eyes darted nervously down to the box of cereal in her hand.
"Honest answer?" she asked.
"No, I want you to lie to me," he retorted.
"Everyone does…" she muttered still looking at the box. "Well you know by his reaction to Chase and Foreman, that I use Nick to vent to about things going on in my life and things that happen at work. So I might have used to rant about my boss and his ex-girlfriend and how much I disliked her, well loathed is probably a more accurate verb."
"Why did you hate Stacy so much?"
Cameron looked up from the cardboard box with a look that told him just how stupid of a question that was.
"I didn't really confirm what Nick told her one way or the other," Cameron said, bringing the conversation back to the situation at hand. "I wasn't really sure how you would want to handle it or if you wanted her to think the whole married thing was real or not or if you would want her to know what actually happened in Vegas."
"Why would I want Stacy to know what actually happened in Vegas?"
"I dunno," Cameron shrugged, breaking eye contact and glancing down at her pink pedicured toes, "you get weird when it comes to her."
House leveled Cameron with a long evaluative stare that he usually reserved for his more recalcitrant patients.
"You thought I would want to tell Stacy that we got married on accident and that this is all an act, so that I would be free to try to get her back," he concluded. "That's what you thought, wasn't it," he pressed when she didn't say anything and kept her eyes cast down.
"Something like that," she mumbled.
"Allison, look at me." He pinched her chin between two fingers and lifted her face to his when she was reluctant to do as he said. When she finally did look up at him from beneath her lashes he saw the vulnerability in her eyes. "That is the stupidest thing I've heard since Chase tried to rap last week," House replied. "And that was tremendously stupid, so you know where leaves you on the idiocy scale right now."
Cameron couldn't help the relieved laugh that escaped her, as the tension she had been carrying since she answered the door leaked visibly drained from her body. "That was pretty nightmare inducing."
House nodded his agreement before sweeping her up in a lingering kiss before whispering in her ear, "Why you would think I would ever want to go back to her when I've clearly traded up is beyond me."
The conversation closed as far as he was concerned, he broke away and began rummaging through the plastic bags that were littering the counters for the cold items that needed to put away.
Meanwhile Stacy and Wilson were sitting in the living room pretending not to be watching the couple conversing quietly in the kitchen. From the angle they were at House's back was to the pair, but both could see the look of irritation in Cameron's eyes turn to concern and almost worry from where they sat.
"So how the hell did this happen?" Stacy asked after a moment.
Wilson just shrugged. "I honestly don't know. They went to a conference in Las Vegas two and a half months ago and came back married. Everyone was in shock since we didn't even know they were together."
"How long have they been together?" Stacy asked taking this all in as watched Cameron's expression change from worry, to reassured.
"I think Cameron told me that they first got together last December, so almost a year ago. But they were extremely secretive about it. Even I had no idea that they had been dating eight months before they announced they had gotten married. To be honest at first I didn't even believe it," Wilson relayed sincerely. "I thought it was all one of House's scams, but after seeing them together day in and day out, I've come to realize that there is no way that this can be anything but real. You would think that they've been together ten years. They really are perfect for each other."
Wilson knew that this might be a bit hard for Stacy to hear, but it was the truth and he didn't want her to get any wrong ideas about the two of them and their seemingly sudden and random marriage.
Stacy on her part didn't respond right away, but continued to watch the younger woman's expression now change from reassured, to amusement as he said something to make her laugh, to pure joy as House wrapped his arms around her waist and he enveloped her in another kiss and then whispered something in her ear.
Back in the kitchen Cameron clearly did not know what to make of House's actions and he was clearly in not any hurry to explain them.
"Are you helping?" she asked dubiously.
"Do you think you're getting a UTI?" he countered instead of answering.
"What?" she shook her head as she tried to find the leap to that non sequitur.
"Craisins, fresh cranberries and cran-apple juice," he said pulling all three items in question out of their respective bags. "That's a lot of cran."
"I just like cranberry," she retorted snatching the juice from his hand so she could put it in the fridge. "Why are you helping?" she asked again. "Cereal goes in the pantry," she directed when he picked up the Cinnamon Toast Crunch she had left on the counter and tried to put it in the cabinet with the canned goods.
"I'd rather be in here with you than out there with her, even if it means helping," he said simply.
"That's almost sweet," Cameron grinned. "No, veggies go in the left crisper, fruit in the right."
House sighed and pulled the celery out of the right drawer and shoved it in the left. "I'm not sweet."
"Of course not," she agreed. "Why are you putting potatoes on top of the fridge?"
"I don't know where you want them," he replied as if that fact was her fault. Which considering the fact that between her and Wilson nothing was in the place it was before they moved in, it kind of was.
"So stashing them completely out of my reach was your answer?" she questioned, seriously not getting the logic of that one. "You know what, you're in the way. This will take ten times as long with you in here and I need to get dinner started soon if we're going to eat before midnight."
"But she-beast," he whined dropping the spuds on the island.
"I have full confidence in your ability to get rid of her," she said shooing him out of the room.
Banned from the kitchen House reentered the living room plopping himself down in the empty arm chair effectively halting the low conversation that Stacy and Wilson were having of which he was obviously the topic of. None of them attempted to begin a new conversation however, which suited House just fine since he had no qualms with simply staring at Stacy until the hardened lawyer couldn't help but fidget under his inscrutable gaze.
"So why are you here?" he finally broke the awkward silence.
Stacy opened her mouth to answer although she wasn't entirely sure what that answer was going to be, but was saved by the ringing phone.
"Greg, can you answer that?!" Cameron yelled from the kitchen as she continued to busy herself bustling around the kitchen.
House rolled his eyes, but reached out and grabbed the handset that was sitting on the coffee table.
"What?" he barked as soon as he hit the talk button.
Stacy and Wilson watched silently as House's expression changed from irritation to confusion then back to irritation.
"That's fine," he said brusquely before hitting the end button with out any other kind of good bye. "Allison!" he called looking towards the kitchen.
"What?!" she called back.
"Would you mind explaining why one of us has to be here between the hours of eleven and four tomorrow?" he asked accusingly.
"And would you mind explaining why I don't remember putting marshmallows on the grocery list yet here they are in my kitchen?" she returned in the same tone as she came to stand in the archway connecting the two spaces, the bag of offending marshmallows in her hand.
"I asked first," House replied obstinately.
Cameron rolled her eyes but explained anyways. "We're getting our new mattress tomorrow. I can't take the one we have now anymore, it's as hard as a rock. I don't know what you were thinking when you picked it out, who honestly likes a bed that firm?"
"I didn't pick it out," House replied, glancing at the woman sitting next to Wilson on the sofa.
"I did," Stacy said plainly. "And I happen to like a firm mattress."
"That figures," Cameron snorted, opening the bag of marshmallows and popping one into her mouth. "I got us one of those Tempur-Pedic mattresses that you liked so much last time we were at the mall-"
"You went to the mall?" Stacy blurted out in shock.
"She got me Dairy Queen," House defended himself and his reputation.
"Anyways," Cameron continued, ignoring Stacy's outburst and House's retaliation, "you have such a hard time sleeping through the night as it is with your leg. I really thought a better mattress could help. For one it will just be more comfortable so you wont be tossing and turning so much trying to get comfortable-"
"And we can put a glass of wine on the bed and jump up and down without knocking it over." House being the one to interrupt this time. "Although I'm not much for jumping these days," he continued, knowing exactly what Cameron was doing and playing along.
"Well even if you can't jump up and down, the other point of the new mattress is so I don't disturb your leg when I move around at night either," she continued, taking silent pleasure in watching Stacy shift uncomfortably in her seat at this line of conversation as she popped another marshmallow into her mouth.
Deciding that dinner preparations could wait, the steaks needed time to marinate anyways, she crossed the room and perched comfortably on the arm of the chair he was sitting in. When he looked up at her, she leaned in close since she could tell by the look on his face that whatever it was he was about to say, it wasn't going to be nice.
"You're not going to take the high road and be a good hostess and invite her to stay to dinner are you?" he said with a remarkable amount of restraint for him, in not saying it aloud to everyone in the room.
"God no," Cameron replied quickly. "Not unless I'm serving buckthorn salad with castor oil dressing as her appetizer," she added in a whisper.
House didn't bother to try to restrain his laugh at the fact that she had just suggested they serve his ex nature's Ex-lax for dinner. "I don't think either of those were on the grocery list."
"An oversight on my part," Cameron smirked as she popped another marshmallow into her mouth before offering the bag to House.
"Are you staying for dinner?" Wilson asked Stacy, unaware of the topic of the couple's hushed conversation.
"We only have three steaks," House interjected through a mouthful of sugary confection.
"We can make pasta tonight and have the steaks another day," Wilson countered.
"Allison already has them marinating," House replied, sensing more than seeing her nod of agreement out of the corner of his eye.
"They'll keep," Wilson informed him.
"But I really want the steak tonight," House insisted.
"I already have dinner plans tonight," Stacy interrupted before they could go on. It was a lie but no one was going to call her on it. "But thank you for the offer James," she added with a glare at the unrepentant couple who were sharing the arm chair that she had picked out.
"Oh no, what a shame, well don't let us keep you, we wouldn't want you to be late," House said dryly, not bothering to stand as Wilson walked Stacy to the door.
"Thanks for visiting, it was so nice to see you again," Cameron added with a plastic smile. "Call first next time and we'll be more prepared for guests." And by that she meant they would make sure they weren't home.
Stacy didn't reply to either of them as she swept back out of their lives as quickly as she stormed in. She clearly did not belong here anymore and there was no reason for her to stay a moment longer.
"Ugh," Cameron groaned once the door clicked shut. "That woman. Also too many marshmallows, now my stomach hurts."
House chuckled and took the bag from her and rose to put it in the kitchen, Cameron sliding off the arm of the chair into the now vacated seat. "I don't feel like cooking anymore. Do you want to order a couple of pizzas?"
"Fine with me," House replied, already dialing the phone.
"I thought you really wanted steak tonight," Wilson said wryly, one eyebrow raised.
"They'll keep Jimmy."
A/N And there we have it! I'm super rusty since its been years since I've even seen an episode but I hope you all enjoy it just the same… I want to say thank you again for everyone's continued support on this little story and this chapter is for everyone who's ever taken the time to review, it really does make my day (and guilts me into updating apparently ;P)