"Doctor Cuddy!" Allison Cameron's voice was a clarion in the empty hospital halls.

Her visage careworn, Cuddy turned to face the young doctor. "Yes, Dr. Cameron?" Her tone and her listless eyes indicated that her subordinate should make this quick.

"How's the patient?" They walked side by side, Cameron in her purple scrubs and sneakers, and Cuddy in her low-cut blouse and miniskirt. They were an incongruous pair.

"Why do you care?" Cuddy was fighting for diplomacy, yet her voice came out short and strained.

"Well, I was the one who admitted him."

"He's doing great," Cuddy sarcastically replied. "House and his team have only misdiagnosed him three times."

"At least he's occupied." Cameron was referring to the relative lull the hospital had been experiencing lately.

"Yes. Thank God!" Cuddy's prayer of thanks was genuine. They both feigned smiles and then lapsed into an oppressive silence.

Cameron pushed a strand of her honey-brown hair out of her face, clearly hesitating. Was this her place? She didn't want to piss off her boss, but if she kept silent, she'd feel guilty for not even trying to help Cuddy. On the other hand, anything out of line could result in a severe reprimand at best and a job termination at worst. But what did she care if she lost her job? It would mean she no longer had to pretend to be interested in the silly patients in the ER who thought a splinter signified the end of the world. It would mean she'd no longer have to fight her strange, pulsating desire to solve cases with the new Ducklings. It would mean she'd no longer have to deny her feelings for him. She spoke her mind. "Could I talk to you about House?"

Cuddy let out an exasperated sigh. "Here it comes: the mandatory warning from one female to another. 'Don't fall for the bad boy, Lisa. You'll end up hurt and dejected.'"

"I don't know if I'd consider House a 'bad boy.' Selfish bastard, yes, but bad . . ." Cameron trailed off, her attempt at humor obviously lost on her tense companion. She licked her parched lips. "Listen. I know that House has this mesmerizing quality about him. The whole 'genius doctor nobody appreciates' bit is quite appealing. You think that nobody understands him like you do. You believe you can change him. But the truth is you can't. In order to change, a person has to want to change, and House likes who he is. In his own miserable way, he's happy."

"Is this going anywhere?" Lisa stopped in her tracks, her hands on her hips in challenge mode.

"Just . . . take care of yourself. This relationship can only end in one way: one of you gets hurt."

"I seem to remember having the same conversation about you and Chase."

"See how well I listened?" After a brief ignition of old sparks, Cameron and Chase's relationship had officially ended earlier that month, suspiciously around the time Cuddy and House had started their affair.

They had reached Cuddy's office, and Cameron could tell Lisa was eager to get inside and lock the door, but Cameron reached out and grabbed her arm. "Think about what I said. Please?"

Cuddy straightened back her shoulders, shaking off Cameron's grip. She looked more together and surer of herself now. "What if House has changed? What if he truly loves me?"

"Then I'm happy for you both. But I find it hard to believe that House could love you or anybody else as much as he loves himself." Cameron took a deep breath before continuing, "There was a time I thought he could love me.I even thought the kiss we shared meant something—"

"You two kissed?" The question came out in a shrill squeak.

Cameron forced a laugh. "Exactly my point. We shared this amazing kiss, and we haven't discussed it since. I thought the fact that he had responded to my kiss meant he actually felt something for me, when clearly he was only taking advantage of my feelings for him.

"So, you see, I don't want House to take advantage of you. If you have even the slightest doubt that his feelings aren't genuine, get out. It's better that you end it now than risk getting your heart broken like I did." Cameron didn't wait for a reply, but shuffled down the hall. There. She'd done it. Cuddy could completely ignore her advice, but at least now she was satisfied that she had done all she could about the situation.

****

Cuddy stormed into House's office only to discover the doctor sprawled out in his office chair, his feet propped up on his desk, his eyes shut. She tried slamming the door, an impossible feat since it swung smoothly on hinges. She decided to do the next best thing. "You kissed her?" she yelled.

House awoke with a start. "Thanks for the gentle wake-up call," he snapped as he blinked sleep out of his eyes.

"You kissed her?" The question was even more emphatic if possible.

"Yeah, and it was HOTT!" House steadied himself with his cane and rose. "Now, who are we talking about?" He limped over to the doorway where his lover stood in a blind rage.

"Cameron."

"Cameron?" House stopped in his tracks, trying to recall when his lips had ever locked with those of the young, beautiful doctor.

"Yeah, you know: thin, skanky blonde hair, works in the ER?"

"You think her hair is skanky? Personally, so do I, but I happen to like that 'desperate tramp' look."

"I bet you do." Cuddy paced back and forth, reminding House of a noisy, irritating metronome. The metronome stopped. "Any other tramps I should know about?"

"Is this a loaded question?" Before Cuddy could utter an unsavory reply, he added, "For Pete's sake, I kissed her two years ago!" He scrunched his forehead in contemplation. "Almost two years ago."

"So you remember the exact date? And when did we first kiss?"

"Are you talking about in this lifetime or back when we were kids in college and I seduced you?"

"Stop deflecting my questions!"

"Stop being paranoid." His tone was the one he used on his Ducklings when he was disappointed and annoyed with them. The only difference was the volume was amped up 30 decibels. He reflected for a moment that his shouting would give her an excuse to yell back. He would reason with her instead, something he hated doing in relationships. Why didn't the world just "get it" like he did? "The kiss meant nothing. I'm a sexual being. When a young, hot thing sticks her tongue down my throat, I'm going to respond."

Cuddy sank into his chair, pale and wide eyed. "There was tongue?"

"Well, duh!" He rolled his eyes, as if Cuddy was completely idiotic not to have assumed such a thing. House noted that she looked close to tears, for some infuriating reason. The last thing he needed was a weeping woman in his office. "It meant nothing," he repeated.

"Do my kisses mean nothing?"

House swung his cane around like a whirling dervish and slammed it down on his desk, scattering papers across the room. "So I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't? How is this fair? I'm sleeping with you, not Cameron. There are no similarities between her situation and yours."

Cuddy crossed to the door and said over her shoulder as she left, "I'm not so sure."

****

House was going to kill her, that is, if he could limp to the doctors' locker room fast enough. He succeeded. When House barged in, Cameron was pulling on her coat, examining her reflection in the mirror she had attached to her locker door. She didn't even have to glance at him to know who it was. "Good thing I was already dressed," she calmly joked.

"You can just forget whatever stupid plan you've concocted to break up Cuddy and me."

Cameron hoped he didn't notice her trembling hand as she shut her locker. "I don't know what you're talking about," she lied.

"Don't give me that crap." House sank onto a bench and banged his cane on the floor for extra emphasis. "You knew exactly what you were doing when you told her we kissed."

She crossed her arms, the only protection she had against the steely blue eyes boring a hole into her. "All right. So I knew what would happen, but I didn't do it for the reason you suspect."

He snorted in disbelief and popped a Vicodin into his mouth. That was his protection.

"You don't have to believe me. Just hear me out. I care about Lisa, and I didn't want her to get hurt."

"So you sent her over the edge with jealousy instead. Makes perfect sense," House sarcastically drawled.

"I don't have to explain myself to you." Cameron made for the exit, but House stood and blocked her way.

"Oh, no? You just ruined our relationship."

"It wasn't much of a relationship if it fell apart over one friend's advice." She stared at him, daring him to respond with some caustic remark, but he merely stared back unblinkingly. She managed to push past him, but his voice still followed her into the hallway.

"You expect me to believe your motives were completely selfless? That you—"

"That I what?" She faced him again. "That I wasn't trying to get you for myself?" She looked past his shoulder down the long, blindingly white corridor. "I'm over you, House."

"Strange how easy that is to say when you aren't looking right at me."

She took up his challenge and gazed directly into his eyes. "I'm over you."