First, links to the previous chapters: Part One | Part Two
by R.J. Anderson 2006
"Do you mind telling me exactly what we're doing here?" asked Wilson.
"Waiting," said House, his eyes intent on the windshield of Wilson's sedan. The sun had almost set, and the first stars were emerging in the darkening sky. A trio of shaggy-haired teenagers passed in front of the car and, with only a cursory glance at the traffic, sprinted across two lanes to the restaurant on the other side.
"I thought I was driving you home."
"You are. Eventually."
"We've been sitting here for --" Wilson glanced at his watch -- "fifteen minutes. Did it ever occur to you that I might have plans for this evening?"
House finished off his Slurpee with a last rattling suck and an exhale of satisfaction. "You don't, though. Do you?"
"...No. But that's not the point."
"Don't worry, you'll be home in time to watch Desperate Housewives." House set the cup down and leaned back against the passenger seat, shifting his weight a little to take the pressure off his bad leg. "It's what, seven-thirty now? Shouldn't be too much longer."
Wilson frowned out the window of the car. "What is this all about, anyway? Does Cuddy know you're staking out restaurants in your--" All at once he stopped and sucked in his breath. "Oh. Oh no."
House said nothing, only drummed his fingers idly on his knee.
"It's Cameron, isn't it? Tell me it's not Cameron."
"Okay," said House. "It's not Cameron."
"I can't believe this! You couldn't just ask her if she was dating Chase, you had to stalk her?"
"I'm not --"
"Wait, wait, I know. You're not stalking, you're observing." Wilson pinched the bridge of his nose, his eyes screwed shut as though silently praying for strength. "I forgot about your very special understanding with the English language."
"Look, all of this could have been avoided if she'd just given me a straight answer."
"Right. Because Cameron is so devious that way."
"She didn't use to be. She is now." House craned his neck to look past Wilson again as the restaurant door eased open and an elderly couple emerged, their faces pale and starkly lined in the wan lamplight. "I want to know why."
"Maybe she just thinks it's none of your business. Which, may I remind you, it isn't--"
"Shhh!" House waved him down. Across the street, the door swung wide again and Cameron stepped out of the restaurant, shrugging on her coat and flicking her long hair out from beneath the collar. Chase followed closely after, and they stood together on the sidewalk a moment, talking. Chase said something that made Cameron laugh, and for a moment House's eyes narrowed; but then the door opened for a third time, and a dark, leather-jacketed figure came sauntering out to join the conversation.
"So now she's dating Foreman too?" said Wilson.
"Wow," said House blankly. "And you think you know somebody. Though come to think of it, she did say once--"
Wilson gave him a pitying look. "You were wrong, House," he said. "Deal with it," and started the engine.
"No! Wait, you idiot--"
Cameron's head turned toward the sound, and her eyes widened. She edged closer to the curb, her forehead furrowed and her lips parted slightly, as though she couldn't believe what she was seeing. Then all of a sudden she stepped off the sidewalk, leaving a perplexed-looking Foreman and Chase behind, and began making her way purposefully through the traffic toward them.
"Pull out! Pull out!" House grabbed the dashboard, as though he could make the car respond by squeezing it.
"I can't, she's blocking my exit," said Wilson, with fatal calm.
House lunged for the wheel. Wilson barely managed to hold him off as Cameron leaned down and tapped on the tinted glass. Keeping House at bay with a well-placed elbow, Wilson pressed the button and rolled the window down.
"Are you both completely insane?" Cameron demanded.
"You'd better tell her, Jimmy," said House. "You can't keep on hiding the truth like this." Wilson shot him an incredulous look, and House went on earnestly, "I've tried to tell him this obsession has to end, but he just can't get enough of--"
"Right," said Cameron, folding her arms. "Wilson, get out of the car."
"You mean you love him too?" asked House in tremulous tones, opening his eyes wide and clasping his hands together beneath his chin. "Someone lend me a hanky -- I'm verklempt!"
"It's my car," Wilson protested as Cameron opened the door, but he got out.
"Thank you," said Cameron, sliding into his place behind the wheel. She slammed the door, rolled up the window, turned to House and said, "Don't say anything. I mean it. Just shut up for once and listen."
Ordinarily House would have made some sniping retort anyway, just for the principle of the thing. But there was a determination in Cameron's eyes that he had never seen before, and while he would hardly have called it intimidating, it intrigued him. He let his hands drop and raised his brows slightly, inviting her to speak.
"I'm not stupid enough to think you're stalking me for romantic reasons," said Cameron, "any more than I'm stupid enough to believe that Wilson is. In fact I don't even care what your reasons are. I just want it to stop. Now."
"I'm not finished." Her fingers curled tightly around the steering wheel, as though she were resisting the urge to throttle him. "Since it seems you must know, I am not dating Chase. I never had any intention of dating Chase. But since you jumped to that conclusion this afternoon and decided to beat me over the head with it, I figured it wouldn't hurt to let you be wrong for once." She took a deep breath. "So now you know the truth, dull as it is. Are you satisfied? Will you go home now, and let me have at least some semblance of a private life?"
"I don't care what you do with your spare time," said House. "If you want to take nude tango lessons with a guy named José or run a marijuana grow-op from your apartment, that's your business. But when two -- or three -- of my employees suddenly get all chummy and start meeting each other outside of work, you can bet I'm going to be curious."
"Why?" she demanded. "You think we're plotting mutiny behind your back?"
House screwed up his face in a grotesque leer. "Arr! I'd love to see you try, me hearties." He leaned back in the seat, stretching out his long legs. "You and Chase don't have the guts for it, and Foreman hasn't got the brains." He paused. "Or was that the other way around?"
"Cute," said Cameron. "But you know what? I don't believe you. Sure, you're nosy and suspicious and you hate change, and I wouldn't put it past you to spy on Chase or Foreman if you thought they were up to something that might spill over into the workplace. But the three of us have gone out together before -- for drinks, for dinner, even a hockey game once -- and you never batted an eye about it. Why start now?"
"I'd tell you that my spider-senses were tingling," said House, "but that would be geeky."
"You're right," said Cameron. "Except that's probably as close to the truth as I'm ever going to get." She sighed, and leaned forward to rest her forehead against the backs of her hands. "Would it mean anything to you if I asked you just to trust me? After three years of working for you, is that too much to expect?"
"I don't need trust." He spoke flatly, all pretense of humor gone. "All I need are the facts."
"So you can predict my behavior according to some screwed-up algorithm?" Her head came up again, anger rekindling in her eyes. "Sorry, I'm not going to help you out there. If you don't know me by now--"
"You will never, never, never, know me," warbled House sarcastically. "Any more lyrical clichés you'd care to spout? Because I totally rock at 'Name That Tune'."
"Forget it." Her mouth flattened into a hard line. "I don't know why I even bothered to try." She shoved the door open and put one foot out onto the pavement, obviously prepared to leave; but then all at once she stopped and turned back to him.
"You think I'm a fool for caring about people," she said. "For believing in them. For letting them get close enough to hurt me. You think I'm a bad doctor because I treat my patients like friends who need help, instead of puzzles to be solved." The spark had faded from her eyes now, leaving only weariness. "I used to think I might be able to impress you, to make you see me as an equal, but I know better now. No matter how much I learn from you, how many ways I prove myself, you'll never be satisfied until I'm just as bitter and paranoid as you are."
House did not reply. Cameron stepped out of the car, leaving the door open behind her, and after a couple minutes of uncomfortable silence, Wilson got back in.
"I see that went well," he said.
"Shut up and drive," said House colorlessly.
Wilson gave him a sharp look, but said nothing more. He turned the key, pulled slowly out from the curb, and they drove off into the night.
* * *
"I see that Chatty Cathy -- oh, sorry, Tirzah -- was readmitted last night," said House as he limped into the conference room the next morning and tossed the file carelessly onto the table. It skidded down the length of the smooth surface and jostled Chase's styrofoam cup, making the younger doctor leap up with an exclamation as the coffee spilled onto his lap.
"Oops," said House insincerely. He glanced around the room. "Where's Cameron?"
"Dunno," Foreman replied without interest, flipping the file open and looking at it. "Affected limb is now hot, tender, with increased swelling. Patient complains of persistent dry cough, low-grade fever, lethargy and malaise. Ultrasound results for axillary vein thrombosis were... negative."
"She's been taken off the heparin," said House, "since you were, as I predicted, wrong." He made his way over to the coffee machine, found it unplugged for the third day running, and looked around again in the vague hope that Cameron would materialize at his elbow and hand him a cup.
She didn't appear. Feeling an urge to punish her in some petty way, he pulled open the drawer where she kept her few personal effects. Usually it contained a pen or two, a tube of lipstick and a bottle of lavender-scented hand cream, her glasses case and a small but varied assortment of herbal teas. Now, it was empty.
"Uh-huh," said Foreman, apparently unmoved. "You want the biopsy results on our other patient?" He nodded toward a second file at the far end of the table. "Lab confirmed the presence of anti-GBM antibodies. Between that and the lung hemorrhage--"
"Goodpasture's Syndrome," said House. Cameron had been right. She'd also been the only one of his staff to make the correct diagnosis, though House wasn't about to let her know it: he'd lied about Chase coming up with the same idea, hoping to rekindle her sense of professional rivalry. She hadn't taken the bait, though.
Where was she, anyway? Usually she arrived to work early, or else right on time: not since the meth-and-Chase incident two years ago could he recall her ever being late. She rarely took sick days or asked for emergency time off, and when she did, she always called in first. But he could see his office phone from here, and the message light wasn't flashing. Besides, she must have come in to the hospital at some point this morning, even if only to clean out her drawer...
"All right, we've already got him on corticosteroids, start him on cyclophosphamide." House walked stiffly back to the table, hooked his cane over the back of a chair and sat down. "And schedule him for plasmapheresis twice a week. If we get on this fast, we might be able to save the kidneys."
"Got it," said Foreman. "You want me to go now, or you want to go over this other case first?"
"Go," House told him, waving him off. As the other doctor scooped up the relevant file and headed out, he added loudly over his shoulder, "and if you see Cameron, tell her she'd better bring me coffee. Or she's fired."
"I saw her talking to Cuddy first thing this morning," Chase offered helpfully.
House looked at him with a mixture of appreciation and distaste. "Are all Australians such rat-finks? Not that it doesn't come in handy, but I've wondered."
Chase looked defensive. "Hey, it's not like she told me not to say anything."
"Would it make any difference if she had?" Without waiting for an answer, House pushed himself back up to his feet and lurched toward the door. "Go spend some more quality time with Ms. Mighty Mouth. See if you can bend the conversation around to her travel history."
"What makes you think I'll have any better luck than last time?" demanded Chase.
House paused in mid-exit. "Well, if all else fails, gag her with duct tape and make her play Charades." He began limping forward again. "I'll be in Cuddy's office."
* * *
Concluded in Part Four