She knew that, even at 42, she could go further in life. She was only a department head now; she could easily move up to chief of staff or even dean. But for Allison Cameron, M.D., being Chief of Diagnostic Medicine for Princeton-Plainsborough Teaching Hospital was quite a satisfactory position.
Fifteen years earlier, when she had begun at PPTH, she had never dreamed of becoming the Chief of Diagnostics. Greg House had held the position back then, and it seemed that he favored Robert Chase and Eric Foreman over her for advancement.
But time and other jobs had drawn them both away from PPTH. When House was promoted to Chief of Staff of the hospital, Lisa Cuddy had offered Cameron the position, and she had readily accepted.
Fifteen years had taken its toll. House was still House – all snark and wit. However, the with time, the pain in his leg had continued to worsen to the point where Vicodin couldn't control it, and when he had a second infarction in 2012, he had reluctantly made the decision to allow his leg to be amputated.
Cameron had herself performed the primary part of the surgery, because House hadn't trusted anybody else to do it. Afterwards, he had been fitted with a prosthetic that allowed him to have an almost natural gait – almost, Cameron reminded herself. He did still have to walk with a cane, but it was his "bitchin'" flame cane.
His hair and scruffy beard had long since turned completely white, but for all that, he still looked young for his age. Cameron's body had also played well with time – she was still fit and trim and still with, as House had remarked upon not a week prior, "An ass to kill for." The only thing that had changed was her hair, which was almost completely gray – strange for a 42 year old – but she was in good health, and still got appreciative looks from men half her age.
In the seven years that she had been Chief of Diagnostic Medicine, she had had nine fellows – she was now in the first year of her third set of three, Drs. Erin Coleman, Marcus Bellamy, and Andrew Melvin. When she had first seen Dr. Coleman's application, she had done a double-take, thinking it said "Eric Foreman", but Dr. Coleman was just about as different from Foreman as one could possibly get – a fair-skinned red-head, with green eyes and the "only ass in the hospital better than Cameron's", again, according to House.
Cameron sometimes wondered how it was that House still worked for hospital. One would think he should've been fired for sexual harassment years ago. But just like Cameron, Dr. Coleman laughed it off and took it as a compliment. From time to time, Dr. Coleman would even flirt with Dr. House – who was 35 years her senior! – and when House flirted back, Cameron would occasionally feel a flash of jealousy – she found it completely irrational after all these years, but it was still there.
Maybe it was what had happened between her and House just after her promotion. He had taken her out for a congratulatory dinner, followed by a drink, and then, as the Sublime song said, one drink turned into three or four, and then they went and got into his car… and then they drove away someplace REAL far.
Well, maybe not real far. They only went as far as her apartment, and if there was any lack of consent, it was on House's part. Eventually, though, he couldn't resist the charms of an attractive 35 year old woman who REALLY wanted him. That night had been passionate and intense, and had left Cameron wanting more – but not only had the possibility never occurred again, House had never even MENTIONED it again. It was as if it had never happened.
But that was neither here nor there. What was here was the fact that a page had just sounded in the implant in her right ear. "Dr. Cameron to the clinic, please."
The computerized voice was followed by a far different voice, saying, "Dr. Cameron to the clinic, please… we are in need of a tight ass and a snarky demeanor."
She laughed aloud, following it with, "Shut up, House."
And the voice in her ear did – but only momentarily, as he then said, "You do realize that if anybody heard you, they think you're crazy now."
"People think I'm crazy anyway. It's nothing new. Besides which, this has been an issue ever since Bluetooth technology exploded fifteen years ago."
She rounded a corner, and there was her boss. "Just like you, Cameron," he snarked, "always taking the fun out of an argument with reason and rationale."
"Yeah, whatever," she muttered. "So, who's the patient?"
"Seventy-four year old male. Presented with shortness of breath and heart arrhythmia. Brain function is normal – well, as normal as can be. He also has a relapsing-remitting course of multiple sclerosis."
"Family history of heart disease?"
"None," House replied. "However, he was in a high stress job for eight years, which probably did some damage to his heart. In addition, he was treated 'under-the-table' by his wife for several years for his MS, so we don't have a complete medical history on that."
"Under-the-table?" Cameron replied. "Is his wife at least an M.D.?"
"She was, yes," House replied. "She died last year, though, so I can't really ask her about it."
At that point, something clicked in Cameron's head.
Seventy-four. Relapsing-remitting MS. High stress job for eight years. Illegally treated by Doctor Wife who passed away last year.
"House…" she started, "is there something you aren't telling me about this patient?"
"Like what?" he replied, the innocent look on his face barely able to hide the smirk that lay beneath.
"Like, for example, was this patient, oh, perhaps, leader of the free world from, say, 1999 till 2007?"
"Hmmm…" House said, evading. "Oh, nearly forgot. Your patient's name is Josiah Edward Bartlet."
Cameron stopped dead in her tracks. "Josiah… Edward… Bartlet?" she squeaked, even though she had already figured it out. "As in President Bartlet?"
"No, as in Jed Bartlet, host of Wheel of Fortune," House replied sarcastically. "Yes, as in President Bartlet."
By now, they had reached the clinic. Cameron didn't even have to ask the duty nurse which room – she identified it by the two men in black suits standing outside the door. She approached them tentatively, and when she got within about five feet, the one on the left spoke. "May I help you, ma'am?" he asked, in a voice that simultaneously conveyed politeness and "don't mess with me, I could snap your neck with my pinky."
"Yes," she said. "My name is Dr. Allison Cameron; I've been assigned the President's case."
The other man stepped forward. "Raise your arms, please." Cameron did so, as the Secret Service agent patted her down, making sure she wasn't concealing a gun under her lab coat. "She's clean."
The first agent spoke again. "You can enter."
Cameron stepped forward and grabbed the doorknob. She took a deep breath, then turned the knob and opened the door.