Even though she was sure Cameron hated her for leaving House after the infarction, the young woman was still insanely nice to her. Cared about her enough to ask after her, and Mark, even though she was angry because she wanted House, and Stacy had had House once and had walked away, Cameron still smiled at her.
It was amazing.
"Morning," Cameron said, with that candy smile, "he's not here yet." She gestured to the office.
"That's fine," Stacy said, "you do most of his paperwork anyway."
"And I've gotten better at forging his signature." Stacy laughed. "What do you need?"
"I've got some forms that need filling in this week if he doesn't want to lose his medical licence or get sued." She handed Cameron the file and in place the younger woman gave her a mug of coffee. "Oh, thank you." She hid her blush by taking a drink.
"I'll do these, don't worry about it."
"Thank you Dr. Cameron."
"Allison," the young doctor said, smiling again. With House, she'd barely seen this woman smile, but within the last five minutes she'd see nothing but that sweet smile.
She was an idiot, Stacy thought about herself, sipping the coffee that was made just how she liked it. She was feeling something for this woman that she couldn't figure out, may it be the connection to House or just something purely physical. She was screwed, as melodramatic as it sounded to herself, which in turn made her feel even more idiotic.
So did Allison Cameron's smile.
She liked to work with her office door open sometimes. Partly because she didn't want any of the doctors to be scared of her, when they needed her advice, so an open door, gave the impression she too was open. And she was, with legal advice at least. Partly she liked to leave it open because she liked to see the world go by, or at least the hospital. She wasn't positioned anywhere particularly exciting or busy, but there was enough traffic for her to feel part of the hospital and part of the world. Made her feel freer while Mark was starting to make her feel a little cloistered because he couldn't go anywhere without her just yet.
She looked up to take a glance at the passing medical world and saw Cameron standing in the doorway, poised to knock. She had an arm full of files and when she made eye contact with Stacy, dropped her arm and smiled, walking into the office and closing the door behind her.
"All done and even signed by the man himself," she said.
"Already?" Stacy asked, eyes wide. Cameron continued to smile at her, dropping the files onto the desk.
"I've gotten House figured out when it comes to paperwork at least."
"You do it and bribe him to sign it," Stacy guessed with a harsh laugh.
"Pretty much," Cameron shrugged, "we don't have a case, so there's nothing else for him to do."
"Because of course he's not in the clinic."
Stacy couldn't quite figure out why the young woman had started being so nice to her, when before today, she'd been hostile, almost bitchy, whenever she had to deal with the lawyer. Actually, Stacy thought, bitchy would've been nice compared to Cameron's attitude. She wasn't going to waste this change of heart, not when her own heart seemed to be pulling her towards the young woman.
"Do you want to go and get some coffee?" she asked. What am I doing?
"Er, I, sure?"
"I was about to go out for a break, if you want to join me?" It was casual offer, come, don't come, as if Stacy didn't care either way. She hoped her face said the same.
The coffee shop was quiet despite being almost full. The conversations were hushed, people had their heads together, coffee between them. Everyone taking a break from work in the afternoon just like Stacy and Cameron. The older woman placed their drinks on the table and sat down opposite Cameron. They weren't far from the hospital, but far enough for Stacy to be able to relax a little and try work through what she was doing.
What she was feeling.
"I was pretty sure you hated me," she said quietly, blowing on her coffee and avoiding making eye contact. She hated this side of her, this nervous side that only made itself seen in front of people she loved.
That terrified her, and she was so rarely scared in her life. She'd been threatened, as a lawyer, as a person. She was not a withering flower like she suspected Cameron was, or could be, but she was a little scared. Of this. When she was scared, people were dying. Her mother, House, Mark.
"Ditto," Cameron said with a smile, "and maybe I did hate you."
"Really?" Stacy liked that she'd been honest about it.
"You had House's heart once, and I, I'm never going to get that, get close to that."
"You love him?"
"I don't know," she said. "I like him."
"Well, isn't that always the way it starts. Liking the most unlikable man in the world." Cameron smiled. "I never hated you," Stacy said into the silence, taking a sip of her too hot coffee, frowning at it as if the expression would force the liquid to cool down. "Even if you were a bitch."
"Sorry." The young woman reached across and laid a hand on Stacy's. "Really, I was a bitch, I thought you were messing with House's head. His heart."
"I was, and he was messing with mine."
Cameron nodded, thinking about that. Stacy wasn't sure the young woman would understand the complex and fucked up relationship she and House had.
"Did you sleep with him?" she asked.
"Yes," Stacy could be honest too.
"But you stayed, with Mark?"
"Yes, it's not, House is not who I want. House isn't the man he wants either, if that makes sense."
"Yes," Cameron frowned at her. "So now what? You keep working with him?"
"I'm thinking about getting a new job, moving back to the Short Hills."
"Really?" Stacy hoped that was disappointment in her voice. Though she suspected, now she'd confessed her infidelity as well, it would be too much for Cameron's moral fibre for any further friendship.
"Tell me about your husband?"
They hadn't gone out for coffee again, the two of them, but had found themselves sitting next to the only working coffee machine on two floors, late at night. Stacy had started to pass her feelings off as a crush, a passing attraction to a pretty girl in insanely tight pants.
"How did you..."
The shock was sweet, the naivety of it. Surely Cameron knew how the entire hospital gossiped, she thought, how everyone knew everything.
Her surprise was more than adequate this time but then maybe Cameron hadn't realised that Stacy avoided House. nurses talk though, the rest of the legal team.
"He was dying when you met him," Stacy said, veering off the hospital gossips.
Cameron's attitude was bordering on bitchy again, but Stacy knew it was only because she was hurting still. Made her want to reach out but she stayed still, sitting side by side on the padded bench, facing forward, staring at the glass walls rather than through it.
"You loved him straight away?"
"I think so."
"You think so?" Stacy hadn't quite expected that answer.
"The memories have faded a little."
The confession had her close to tears, drops on the edge of her eyelids. Stacy shifted closer, the space between them becoming an inch instead of a foot.
"Love at first sight?" Cameron smiled at that.
"If you believe in that sort of thing."
"I'm sure you certainly do." Cameron nodded. "And House?"
"What?" Stacy laughed.
"Something Foreman said when he first started."
"Sounds appropriate." Cameron smiled again, the tears still in her eyes.
"What about you and Mark?"
"A very slow courtship."
"I like that word."
"It describes what Mark and I did very well. He wooed me." Cameron laughed, the tears falling with the crinkle of her face and she quickly wiped the tears away. "He was very sweet."
"And you like that?"
"House is not sweet."
"No, but I didn't mind Mark's attitude to dating. It was a nice change."
"Mark is a change from House," Cameron said, Stacy nodding in agreement, "seems like a lousy reason to love someone."
Stacy hadn't thought about it like that but knew Cameron was probably right. Which scared her again. Mark was sweet, and so was Cameron, but that wasn't the reason she liked the young woman next to her. She liked Cameron for being her.
She downed her coffee and stood up, stretching out and dropping her empty cup into the trash can next to Cameron.
"Do you believe love at first sight?" Cameron asked looking up.
"Yes, if you believe in that sort of thing," she smiled, touched Cameron's shoulder for a moment before walking back to her office.
Stacy was good at avoiding House. During those post infarction days, she'd spent hours working away, avoiding him even thought they were in the same room, backs turned to each other. The way they had been, the way their relationship had crumbled still hurt her hard. House was the one, he was that guy, but Stacy had no idea what was going on with Cameron and the flutter of her stomach.
Cameron was good at finding House, the young woman knew him well and Stacy hated that the only reason their lives really intersected was because of him.
"Where is he?" she asked leaning into the diagnostics little conference room.
"Avoiding clinic, I'd try the oncology lounge," Cameron said looking up from her laptop.
"Is everything okay?" Cameron asked as she turned to leave the room. She paused, hesitating. "You seem a little flustered," the young woman added when she turned back.
"It's just House."
"I've seen you deal with House, he doesn't fluster you until you're face to face."
"Things have changed."
If Cameron didn't believe her, she didn't call Stacy on it and she was grateful for that.
"Do you want me to find House and send him to you? Save you the trouble of searching the hospital for him?"
"It's no problem," Cameron said, already getting up.
The young woman simply smiled.
"Go and get a coffee, this could take a while."
"I thought you knew where he was?" Stacy asked, letting her pass her into the corridor.
"I do, but convincing him to come see you is another matter."
"Tell him I'll advise Cuddy she should have him pay his own legal bills from now on."
Cameron tried to hide a quick grin but Stacy could hear her laughing as they separated.
"Cameron is my lap dog, not yours," House grumbled into Stacy's doorway, eyes boring into her, trying to rattle her. Or set her on fire.
"She's no ones lap dog Greg," she replied trying to keep calm. House couldn't make her flinch, he could only anger her. "She offered to chase you down."
"I'm sure she did, she's nice like that," he sneered and Stacy sighed. He walked into the room and rocked forward on his cane.
"You're about to be sued, again, do you want to fight it or try and settle?"
"What does Cuddy want to do?"
House smirked at that.
"If they want to settle, settle," he said, "I'm bored of court."
"If you weren't...you, then you wouldn't end up there so often."
"Are we done?"
"If they won't settle, we'll need to talk again," she said, tone sharp.
"I heard you were leaving?" he asked.
"I'm considering it."
"Nothing to stay for," he said.
"Maybe," she shrugged.
"I still have friends here."
"You have friends there too. Nothing changed that."
"We're done Greg, you can go."
"So why would you want to stay now?"
"After you fucked with my head? Oh I don't know, to fuck with yours?"
"Revenge was never your thing Stacy."
"Just go Greg."
"And why is Cameron being nice to you at all. I thought she hated you because she loved me."
"I thought so too. Apparently not."
"You two talk? About me?" His surprise seemed genuine.
"A common ground for women Greg, the men they love and the men they hate."
With that he left, the door shutting softly behind her.
"Do you believe love is blind?" Cameron asked coming to sit in her office, later that day, much later judging by the cleaning crew that were making their way past her office. The young woman stretched her arm back and rubbed her neck.
"House?" Stacy guessed.
"He's been...more cutting than usual today. Cutting, slicing, chopping right through m..." she trailed off.
"That was my fault, sorry."
"No, it's fine," Cameron smiled, but the stress was well defined on her face. "I can handle it, it's just,"
"Tiring?" Stacy cut in. Cameron nodded.
"Are you still thinking about leaving?"
"Mark and I talked about it last night. He's keen."
"We should have dinner before you go."
"We don't have to wait until them," Stacy said, smiling, "nothing is set in stone anyway."
With plans made, Stacy felt a little paranoid, a little wary of Cameron's intentions. That the younger woman was just going to use her to hurt House, because it was pretty much a given that anything related to Stacy pissed the man off. Especially that the two had talked but when House didn't seek her out the next day she relaxed a little over the matter.
And tensed up over the fact she was having dinner with Alison Cameron instead.
It was ridiculous really. Half of her was planning her return to the short hills, with her husband and back to a little practice on Pine away from doctors. The other half was hoping Cameron worse a dress to dinner. She'd considered wearing a skirt herself, just briefly, but she'd never had the hips to pull a skirt off, to make it look sexy.
Not that it should matter, she had to reminded herself, Cameron had simply shown interest in being her friend, nothing more, maybe someone to share the stress of being connected to House.
Which made Stacy angry, that maybe that's all the girl wanted. But it didn't make her angry with Cameron, just House, because he had this affect on people.
In the end, she stood outside the restaurant, a black jacket wrapped around a tight red shirt and black pants, leather gloves warming her hands a little as she played with an unlit cigarette. She saw Cameron walking across the parking lot towards her, and was glad to see that, despite the cold, the young woman was wearing a light green skirt, the rest of her hidden under a long thick coat.
"Hey," Cameron greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. "You didn't have to wait out here for me."
"I wanted a cigarette."
Cameron flashed her an angry look, one that said 'cigarettes-are-bad-for-you', and Stacy waved the unlit cigarette at her.
"I changed my mind."
"I didn't realise you smoked."
"I used to."
"House that bad?"
"No, I'm just, frustrated..." Stacy sighed.
"Lets talk about it inside," Cameron said, grabbing her arm and pulling her inside. Stacy couldn't help put laugh and let the younger woman take the lead.
When they were sitting at their table, coats hung up and wine poured, Stacy relaxed again, that urge to smoke dissipated and she could breathe again. Cameron was watching her, smiling.
"Two rules," the young woman said, taking a sip of her wine.
"Yeah, call me Allison and don't let House find out we had dinner."
Stacy laughed, more stress lifting.
"I can do that, but Greg finds out everything."
"Doesn't mean I can't try," Cameron said with a grim smile. "Tell me why you're so frustrated," she said, picking her menu up.
"I'm not sure I want to talk about it."
Cameron smiled at her, and Stacy almost loved that she didn't immediately probe and poke at her for more details. House always had, still did, Mark too, though less recently, seeing as their relationship was strained. Cameron was willing to let her be, it was nice. Left her to breathe and think about her dinner. Except she still needed to talk.
"It was easy to move back to Princeton," she blurted out, "Mark needs, needed the support, but to move away again?"
"You've settled back in again," Cameron said.
"Yeah a little..." Stacy shrugged. "I have more reasons to go, than to stay."
"But something is holding you back," she said, putting her menu down.
"You've decided already?"
"Uh-huh." She grinned. "I love this place."
"It wasn't open when I lived in Princeton."
"Well, I suggest, either this," she pulled the menu back and pointed to an item, "or this," she added, point at another, "my Italian pronunciation is terrible." She was blushing and it was cute.
She was walking Cameron to her car. It was parked on the street a little down the road from the restaurant, Stacy had taken one of the last spaces herself. She'd insisted on walking the younger woman to her car, her excuses weak, and her real reasons hidden. She just wanted to prolong the evening as long as she could. It was cold and dark, clouds hiding any stars and the moonlight, and Stacy tugged her coat tight, adjusting her gloves again.
"So what's keeping you in Princeton?" Cameron asked, every word followed by a puff of white breath.
"I don't know," she muttered, shoving her hands into her her pockets.
"Well, that sounded like a lie."
"Yeah," Stacy laughed, stopping.
"Is it House?"
They'd barely spoken about his during dinner, like it was another rule Cameron had put forward, a rule they had both put forward and now his name hung in the air like it always did. Damn that man, but it wasn't him this time.
"I mean, we all know he..."
"What do you know?" Stacy interrupted.
"You two slept together, House screwed you over."
"Something like that," Stacy said, sighing, "but it's not him."
"Then..." Cameron tried to coax.
"You're not going to like the truth."
Stacy hesitated, feeling for the full packet of cigarettes in her pocket.
"It's you, actually, you're the reason I want to stay," she said.
Cameron looked completely dumbfounded, the puffs of white breath quickening for a moment, then slowing again as she controlled her breathing, eyes closing as she composed herself.
"Allison, sorry, I shouldn't have said anything."
"I don't understand."
"We're friends, I know, I just feel something else too."
"Stacy, you're married."
"I know," she sighed. "Didn't stop me sleeping with House did it?" she said, laughing at herself. God she was a terrible person sometimes.
"I am not sleeping with you."
"I didn't mean it like that," Stacy frowned, "just means, doesn't stop me from having feelings for you."
"I, I'm sorry Stacy, I'm..." she trailed off, trying to find some words, starting to walk towards her car.
"Do you feel anything?" Stacy asked, walking after her.
"No, I, I just want to be your friend." Cameron paused a moment, looking at her, then carried on walking to her car. Stacy didn't follow, everything had ended in a sudden rush of cold air and colder words.
She shouldn't have been surprised when Cameron brought her coffee the next day, she thought, walking into her office with a sad smile on her pretty face, closing the door behind her. She put the drink on her desk and sat down with her own, her whole body tense and stiff.
"About last night..." she started.
"It never happened," Stacy said, "we had dinner, made some bad jokes about House, went home."
"He knows already," Cameron said, with a sigh that didn't release any tension, but Stacy was mildly happy to know that the tension wasn't all her.
"How does he know half the things he does," she said with a shrug that did release some tension, sinking into the chair a little.
"Well, it doesn't matter," Stacy said, "I'll be gone soon and he'll have to find something else to bully you about."
"You're leaving?" Cameron looked around at the office, the empty boxes in the corner waiting to be filled. Another things that made the young woman so different to House, sometimes the details escaped her attention. She didn't know everything, and neither did Mark. It was heaven to have some secrets from the people she cared about. Loved.
"Mark and I talked again last night when I got home."
"So that's it, just up and leave back to the Short Hills?"
"You didn't have a problem with it yesterday," Stacy said. "House hates me, I'm pretty sure I hate him. You don't have any feelings for me. It all screams Short Hills to me."
"It doesn't matter what feelings I have though, you're married," Cameron said quietly.
The younger woman stood up, gripping her coffee a little too hard and squeezing it, the warm liquid splashing over the side and staining her hand but not burning. She released her grip a little. She didn't reply and Stacy came around the desk and took the drink from her hand, putting it down before she turned Cameron's head gently towards her and kissed her. She was elated when the young woman kissed back, hands hovering close to her body, lips moving over her own. The elation was ripped away from her when Cameron pulled away with a jerk when she flicked her tongue over the young woman's lips, taking a deep breath with a shake of her whole body.
"Have a nice life Stacy," she said in a whisper, leaving her coffee and Stacy with a strange heartbroken feeling she'd never felt with House.