Fandom: House MD
Pairing: House/Cameron-established relationship.
Prompt: Lyrics to “Golden Ring” – Eric Clapton
Notes: Written as a wedding present for starhawk2005
Instead of smut, my sentimental streak and the prompt led me here.
Massive amounts of love to Beta Goddess Carol for helping me get to the emotional truth.
Summary: Cameron learns some painful truths on her way to the altar.
In honor of the nuptials, Cuddy had issued a general amnesty. House was free of clinic duty for a week, which meant that Wilson could find him without a protracted game of hide-and-go-seek.
He brought the file into the diagnostics office for a consult. Chase and Foreman looked up from their individual time-killing pursuits with hope in their eyes, which he was forced to crush with a quick headshake. Still no case, just some questions about which former co-workers and professional debt-collectors might try to crash the wedding with less than well wishes for half of the happy couple.
Wilson found House staring intently at his computer monitor. A quick glance failed to find images of naked women, men, animals or combinations thereof, just House’s iTunes list.
“I’m making a playlist to get rid of the freeloaders when I’ve had enough of them. Worst songs ever. Cat’s in the Cradle, Lightning Crashes, Sally Go Round the Roses…come on, what else?”
“I’ve Never Been to Me?” Wilson suggested, assuming it would earn a scathing look and possibly a rendition of, “You are so gay.”
Instead House turned around, grinning with the sort of admiration usually reserved for a brilliant diagnosis or an ingenious scam.
When could he stop waiting for the other Nike to fall and believe that House had really changed?
“So this thing is really going to happen?”
House shrugged. Just when you think it’s safe…
“You’re thinking of backing out? I swear, House, if you leave her at the altar, I will hunt you down and kill you.”
“What’s it to you anyway?”
“Cameron’s the best thing that ever happened to you.”
“Go down to the pharmacy and take a chill pill. I can’t deprive you of the chance to give that best man speech. You’ve been waiting for seven years.”
House might have mellowed fractionally, but he forgot nothing, certainly not the day he had called Wilson to come over, as he had nearly every day since he’d been discharged from the hospital, and Wilson went, expecting almost anything but House’s demand to be driven to a jewelry store.
“Does Cameron know about you and Stacy?”
“She knows I’m a pig. I screwed Stacy and dumped her. Not my finest moment, but not a big secret, especially here at good old Rydell High.”
“I mean before that.”
“Oh, everybody knows that story. Stacy crippled me by authorizing the surgery. I drove her away because I couldn’t forgive her. My bride-to-be can recite from the Gospel of House, chapter and verse.”
Wilson knew he was stepping into a classic House trap, but he went anyway.
“But it’s a lie.”
“Everybody lies,” House snapped, almost by rote.
“Not to the person they’re about to marry.”
“I’m sure you told Trish that you were already working your way through the nursing staff of Princeton-Plainsboro in alphabetical order. And I totally missed the part where you told Bonnie and Julie that you’d come running every time your favorite charity case called.”
“Just because I’m a hypocrite doesn’t mean I’m wrong. You should tell her.”
Cameron was in the clinic telling a woman with allergies about the flower arrangements for the wedding when her pager went off. She glanced down and smiled.
In a week, she was going to be married to House. Greg, she reminded herself. It had been hard to make the adjustment, but she had to learn to see herself as more than a lackey and using first names was part of that.
She finished writing a prescription for Seldane before making her way to the office, expecting to see the team assembled for a new case. Hopefully something complex enough to keep House’s professional interest without turning into a situation that could interfere with the wedding. It was selfish, but she’d been waiting a long time for this. Besides, Greg encouraged her to be selfish about certain things.
Her stomach growled with hunger, but she ignored it. There was no room in that dress for her to put on any weight.
No sign of Chase or Foreman. No new files on the conference table. That could be good or bad.
House actually got out of his chair to greet her with a kiss. Unusual, but not unheard of.
“We need to talk.”
Bad. House didn’t talk. Not like that.
“Is something wrong? You’re not calling it off, are you?” She immediately berated herself for exposing her insecurity. There was no reason to worry. She was the only woman he’d ever made this kind of commitment to. That had to mean something.
“Calm down. Nothing like that. Well, maybe something like that. Let’s just say it’s time for full disclosure. Sit down.”
Stacy sipped at coffee that had long gone cold and rearranged papers on her desk without really seeing them.
Why the hell was Allison Cameron calling her after almost two years, when she’d put Greg behind her and the last thing she wanted was contact with him or any of his lackeys? Better question: why had she agreed to see her?
Cameron’s behavior had been rude, verging on unprofessional, during Mark’s illness. Things hadn’t been any better while Stacy was working at PPTH. There’d been a few bristling confrontations, which were understandable. Being in love with Greg made women do strange things, sometimes even get high and sleep with their co-workers, yet Cameron had actually won, if James was to be believed.
Stacy reminded herself that this wasn’t a game and Greg was no prize. She was happy with Mark, a man who put her ahead of his job, his best friend and his own ego.
Maybe Cameron was learning the House rules the hard way. Stacy hoped she was a good enough person not to be too smug about that. She doubted it.
Her desk phone rang and Dr. Cameron was announced.
She looked tired, Stacy noted immediately. Still pretty, but not the ebullient bride-to-be she would have expected. Cameron had always looked vaguely undernourished and the red knit top and tight black slacks emphasized her slimness. Probably starving herself to make sure she could get into her wedding dress.
Things were immediately awkward. They weren’t hugging friends or hand-shaking colleagues. Stacy was thankful she had insisted on doing this at her office and not the house. Fewer chances for theatrics. She settled for a partial air hug and waved Cameron toward the chair opposite her desk.
“Thanks for seeing me. I’m probably the last person…or one of them.”
True, but no point in dwelling on it. “I hear congratulations are in order.”
Cameron nodded absently.
“You must be very happy,” she continued, getting annoyed at Cameron for calling her, sounding frantic, asking for time to see her and then leaving Stacy to carry a conversation that she didn’t even want to be having. “He’s a great guy…” She trailed off, knowing how false that had to sound.
“It should have been you,” Cameron said dully, at least rejoining the dialogue. Stacy shook her head, thinking about her indiscretion with Greg and its aftermath.
“Look. Greg and I had loose ends and that was it. I’m sure he’s completely devoted or he wouldn’t have proposed.”
“He proposed to you.”
Stacy toyed with her cross while trying to control the anger that roiled through her. Why should she explain herself to this little twit?
“Who told you that? Was it James? He had no business…”
“Greg told me. He said I had the right to know.” Cameron’s voice was rising in volume and pitch. Stacy stole a quick glance at the door, hoping no inquisitive co-workers were passing in the hall.
“You do not have the right to come here and ask me about it,” she answered emphatically, getting louder as well. So much for keeping the drama at bay. “I can’t believe you came all this way to ask me to relive the worst time in my life.”
“Worse than when your husband was dying?” Cameron had been learning from Greg all right.
“When Mark was sick, I had Greg trying to save him. When Greg was screaming in pain and nobody knew what was wrong….you try going through that and then come here with your attitude.”
She’d hadn’t changed that much. In the face of Stacy’s pain and anger, Cameron seemed to back down immediately.
“Please. I’m sorry. I love him so much.”
“Oh for god's sake. I’m telling you, he wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t feel the same way. He takes it seriously. That’s why he’s so rough on James sometimes.”
She stood up, needing to pace, to distract herself.
Fuck you, Greg, she thought, fiercely angry at him for putting her and Cameron in this position. ‘Everybody lies’ so why tell the truth when the lie was working so well for everybody, especially her?
“I was already planning to break up with him.”
That got Cameron’s attention.
“I thought you were in love.”
Stacy closed her eyes, remembering the late nights, the laughter, and, oh god, the sex. Presumably Cameron already knew about that. Even under the current circumstances, he was pretty amazing in that department. Shit! She still didn’t want to go there, but she hadn’t bought them a wedding present and maybe this would be more valuable to Cameron and Greg than a set of monogrammed dish towels.
“Do you know what Rita Hayworth said when she divorced Orson Welles?”
Cameron shook her head in what appeared to be utter confusion.
“She said she couldn’t stand his genius 24 hours a day anymore. That’s how I was starting to feel. He’d call me at work to ask who was the better Catwoman. He got cranky if I fell asleep while he was still up watching movies. I don’t think he ever accepted that I wasn’t going to memorize the cast of The Magnificent Seven.”
“Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn…” Cameron started reciting proudly.
“Fine. I get it. You’re going to do everything I couldn’t. Good for you. But I couldn’t breathe and I had to get out. I was just dithering about how to tell him. Being Greg, I figured he probably already knew and was just torturing me, so when he got sick…” Stacy’s throat tensed up, causing her voice to rise in pitch.
“No,” Cameron’s expression registered disbelief and maybe disgust.
“…I thought he might be faking to keep me from leaving him.”
She knew how egotistical it must sound, but Cameron hadn’t lived with Greg’s obsessive need to know about and cut down any friends, especially male friends, who might distract her from him.
“But he wasn’t.”
“Of course not. And he had no idea. The only thing bigger than his mind was his ego.”
“And you still had his medical proxy even though you weren’t in love with him any more.”
“I never stopped loving him!” Stacy yelled, before stopping to calm herself. “He’d love this, you know. The two of us fighting over who loves him the most. Better than GH.” Stacy wanted to tell her that she’d never survive House if she didn’t learn to lighten up. She sighed. “I did the right thing. I saved his life.”
“You don’t know that.”
Same old, same old.
“That’s the man you claim to be in love with. You should thank me for giving him to you.”
“When you crippled him or when you left?”
That was a good one. Right to the gut. Maybe Cameron could keep up with Greg.
“Both. I knew that he’d forgiven me. I almost wished he hadn’t. That would have made it easier. When he gave me the ring, I told him I needed to think about it, but all I could think was that I needed to leave. He’d gotten so dependent on me and I couldn’t stand it any more. The worst part is that I did it like a coward. I just packed and left while he was out at physio. He’s never going to forgive me for that, whether he admits it to himself or not.”
The patient had been admitted with upper respiratory symptoms and rapidly progressed to a severe case of “What the Fuck Is It?” leading neurology, oncology and obstetrics to reluctantly beg House for help.
He was conducting the differential while trying to ignore the fact that Wilson, while fetching in his own way, didn’t brighten up the office or make him smile the way Cameron did. Or was supposed to be doing.
She been gone for three days, last seen in New York at Stacy’s office, and hadn’t the lovely Mrs. Warner given him a painful earful, including jerk, bastard and what the hell were you thinking? House tuned out somewhere after “If you hurt her…
Of course he’d hurt her. That’s what he did to people until they left and if they didn’t leave he found a better way to hurt them until they did. And yet, he had a best friend who’d been willing to go to jail for him and a woman who’d seen him at his worst, taken torrents of abuse, and still been waiting when he decided to stop being quite so much of an asshole.
Unless he’d managed to screw it up with a little help from his friend.
He shot down ideas on auto-pilot until Foreman suggested a nice, juicy parasite.
“OK. You go stick a needle in her brain to look for that. Chase, you and Wilson go check her little grass shack and see if there’s anything crawling around.” If Wilson was going to take up space in diagnostics babysitting him while they waited for Cameron to show up, he could at least make himself useful.
Chase and Wilson looked at each other and then at House, clearly about to protest their tandem assignment.
“You look pretty together. Go!”
“Not as pretty as we do,” came a soft voice from the doorway.
Cameron stood, surveying the scene with quiet amusement. It was only the warning ache in his leg and maybe heart that kept him from running to the door and possibly crushing her in an embrace, heedless of the potential witnesses.
Leg and dignity remained intact.
“Dr. Cameron, you’re late. Like three days late.”
Wilson, Chase and Foreman did varyingly convincing imitations of not staring. Wilson’s was the worst.
“So write me up. Dock my pay. And then tell me you’ll forgive me.”
Now they weren’t even trying not to stare.
“For being late or for running off for three days and scaring the shit out of me?”
“Whatever I’ve done. Whatever I’m going to do. People hurt each other, House -- if you’ve taught me anything, that’s it. And I need to know that when it happens, we’re going to find a way to work it out.”
He’d heard that voice before. This was nonnegotiable.
“You three. Get out of here,” he said, releasing the audience. “Dr. Cameron and I need to talk.”
Cameron came into the room, making space for the others to file out. Once they were alone, he moved forward to kiss her, but she held him back with an outstretched arm. That was new.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you,” he said softly, almost choking on the words.
“That’s the easy part,” she replied, refusing to let him off the hook.
He’d actually apologized. Why wasn’t that enough? Who the hell knew what was going to happen? He could promise anything and play the “everybody lies” card if necessary, but he didn’t want to. Allison had seen his scars, external and otherwise. If there was a chance for an honest relationship, this was it.
“OK,” he said, feeling like he was opening a door and stepping out into nothingness. Well that wasn’t exactly how he felt, but it was the best metaphor he could come up with while promising something he had no idea he could live up to and immediately being kissed for it.
“Great,” she gushed, once that was out of her system. “Let’s get married.”
“First let’s figure out what’s wrong with this patient.”
“All right,” Allison agreed, picking up the file.
House had never been here before, but he was starting to like the view.