Title: Succumb (25/25)
Summary: We have to succumb to the feelings we can never face.
Author's Note: Thanks so much for the reviews, guys. I really really adore them. So this is it, for now. I may or may not attempt a sequel at some point, but don't hold me to that. I hope you enjoy the ending.
It was only really the third time House had actually spent the night, and it already felt like a habit.
Cameron was awake, lying on her side, surveying House's sleeping form in the dull moonlight. They were too tired to do anything but sleep, and the deep lines that defined his face had lessened slightly, making him look younger and more vulnerable.
She smirked faintly when she considered what he would say if he knew she was watching him. He'd been acting sort of strange since that afternoon, and she wondered if it was because she had left early, forcing the three guys to deal with their new patient alone. He understood her obligation to Brooklyn, so she couldn't imagine why that would piss him off.
And it wasn't as if he was acting in a way that suggested he was angry. He had stayed, after all. There was just something… off, about him. Getting him to admit to it, on the other hand, was virtually impossible.
She sighed, rolling on her back, staring at the shadows as they made familiar shapes on her ceiling. When she was a little girl, the shapes would have frightened her, but now she found their measured movements comforting. She was almost lulled to sleep again when a small, plaintive cry echoed down the hall.
She shifted upright, frowning as she heard the sound again. Brooklyn.
She slid soundlessly from the bed, striding barefoot across the carpet and down the narrow hall. Brooklyn's bedroom was only two doors down; close enough so that Cameron could hear her if she was needed.
She was hunched in her bed, covers tucked up to her chin, staring wide-eyed at the door. Cameron gave her a reassuring smile as she stepped through the threshold, walking over to the side of the bed.
"Did you have a nightmare, sweetheart?"
She sat on the edge of the mattress, and Brooklyn immediately snuggled against her, murmuring something sleepy and nonsensical. Cameron smiled down at her, brushing the hair tenderly out of her eyes.
It occurred to her that if she hadn't left Princeton, the circumstances the led to Brooklyn's birth never would have taken place. Brooklyn had somehow managed to become the catalyst for all of the good things in her life. Her independence, her self-worth… House.
"Go back to sleep," Cameron soothed, softly stroking her forehead. She watched silently as Brooklyn closed her eyes, drawn gradually back into slumber.
She would never regret leaving, because of that. Never.
She sighed, watching her for a little while longer before carefully rising to her feet. A tiny blue nightlight near the floor cast the room in a calming glow, and she found her way easily to the door.
She knew getting back to sleep now was going to be impossible, but for some reason she didn't really mind. For the first time, she could step back and really evaluate where she was… and she realised she was happy. Maybe for the first time ever. She was still imbued with her normal doubts and fears, but the emotional angst she was so accustomed to was noticeably absent.
Maybe because she finally had everything she wanted.
She tucked her long hair behind her ears, nudging the door to her room slowly open. Her eyes lifted when she realised there was no reason to be quiet.
House was awake; head propped up under one arm. He was watching her silently.
She swallowed, gazing at him in the darkness. It was so difficult not to linger in the past sometimes, not when she was surrounded by it. She took a moment, responding in a soft voice. "Brooklyn had a nightmare. I was just helping her go back to sleep."
He nodded, still quietly observing her. The shadows concealed his face, making his expression difficult to make out. She reached the end of the bed, crawling on her hands and knees until she reached her pillow.
She glanced down at him uncertainly. "What?"
House shrugged, looking at the door, where she had left it craned open a fraction. "You… listed me as an emergency contact."
She frowned, confused at first, until she realised what he was talking about. Okay. So that was what had him acting so strangely.
She was caught off-guard, and answered cautiously. "Uh, yeah."
She opened her mouth blankly. "You seemed like a logical choice. You're my boss, and Brooklyn knows you."
"That's the only reason?"
Cameron remained sitting. She eyed him dubiously. She couldn't quite decipher his tone. "And because we're… involved."
He nodded silently. His eyes were still roaming the room, tracking random shapes in the dark. She didn't understand his preoccupation. "House… if you don't want to be… I understand. She's not your responsibility—"
"What am I to Brooklyn?"
That stopped her. His low, gruff tone often indicated some deeper, hidden emotion, and she wondered if that was the case this time. His eyes tracked over her face now, and she could feel their weight. She swallowed, folding one leg under her. "I… I don't know," she answered hesitantly.
She'd never actually thought it was something he would want to consciously discuss. And certainly not this early. House frowned. "A lot of people seem to think I'm yenning for the role of surrogate Daddy."
She cleared her throat, and her brows creased together. "Well I… I don't expect you to be. You can be whatever you want."
House scowled impatiently. He sat upright, wincing only a little from the pain in his leg. They were at eye level now, and his scrutiny was surprisingly intense. "Cut the crap, Cameron. What do you want me to be?"
She was starting to get annoyed. "Why do you need a definition?"
"Well, if I'm getting confused, I can only imagine what she must be thinking," he said sarcastically.
Cameron narrowed her eyes, and scrambled back off the bed, establishing some distance between them. "You mean what everyone else is thinking, right? You're so worried this will sully your reputation as the hospital jerk?"
House gave her a look that could only be described as exasperated. "I don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks. You of all people know that."
"Then why are we talking about this?" she snapped.
He sighed. "You really think I'm equipped to be anyone's father? The hospital jerk with a heart? Come on. It doesn't work that way. I don't work that way."
She blinked at him. She could tell this had been bubbling for a while now, but she couldn't believe she was hearing it. "I told you, I don't expect you to be Brooklyn's father!" she said loudly.
He scoffed scornfully. "Now why don't I believe you?"
She huffed disbelievingly, shaking her head. Slowly she turned and stalked down the hall. She couldn't deal with this right now.
Of course, House wasn't done. When she reached the kitchen, she heard his distinctive three-legged walk behind her, and he drew to an abrupt halt at her back.
"So I guess the running thing still works for you."
Cameron whirled around, so her back was pressed against the cabinets. In the silvery moonlight, his features were pale and intense. His loose track pants skimmed the floor around his bare feet, and his Rolling Stones t-shirt left his muscular arms exposed, also illuminated in the muted light. She couldn't believe they were having this argument, in the middle of her cramped kitchen, at three o'clock in the morning.
"Do you really think I would expect you to do something like that, after everything that's happened between us?" she hissed. "I never wanted you to be something that you're not. I never expected you to do anything you didn't want to. That's just what you thought. Remember?"
"Uh-huh. So according to that logic, you have no expectations about this relationship?"
Her face twisted angrily. He was using her words against her. Like usual. "That isn't what I said!"
"Sounds suspiciously like it to me."
She groaned. Her heart was starting to increase in tempo, and her stomach was twisting under his sudden, unexpected machination. "God," she exclaimed angrily. "You are so frustrating! I don't understand what you want from me."
House lifted a steady eyebrow. "What do you want? That's all I want to know."
She frowned. She let her arms fall against the counter, gaze wavering over his. He had to do this. They were content, and he had to disrupt it. "Obviously it doesn't matter what I want," she said quietly. "You've already made up your mind."
He pursed his lips, and she shook her head. "You would be nothing like your own father, House," she said evenly, reading shrewdly into his doubts. She wasn't stupid. He liked to think he was unreadable and unpredictable, but he wasn't. Not to her.
She allowed the conviction to seep into her voice, and fixed her gaze silently on his as she spoke. "I know that. I don't have trouble believing that. I don't know what you want to hear, but if you want the truth— you're the only person I've been able to trust with Brooklyn since I've had her."
Wordlessly, she strode past him, brushing his side on the way. The fact that he had so little faith in her hurt. A lot. She moved back down the hall towards her bedroom, because she was tired of appeasing his wounded ego.
She didn't expect him to follow.
House clenched his jaw, closing his eyes and leaning against the counter she had vacated moments ago. He could practically hear Wilson's voice in his ear, scolding him on how he had just handled that situation.
This was how he handled Cameron's show of trust. By picking a fight.
He didn't know why he had pushed her. It was far too early in their relationship to really consider his role in Brooklyn's life, but if he was honest with himself, it was because he was already fully invested in this… thing with Cameron. He had worked it up in his mind for so long, it felt natural to expect her to be on the same page.
He sighed deeply, feeling exhaustion seep through his body. He had hurt her. That look in her eye had been unmistakable. He knew she was still trying to tread carefully and consider his feelings and insecurities, which was such a typical Cameron thing to do. Consequently, it made him feel like twice as much of a bastard.
He rubbed a hand over his eyes, hesitating only a second.
Then he started down the hall, keeping his footsteps light so he didn't wake Brooklyn.
Cameron wasn't in her bed. Light from the bathroom spilled over the rumpled covers, and he frowned, closing the door silently behind him, striding towards the small adjoining room.
She had her back to him, with her slim arms resting against the sink. The water was running and she was staring down at it, watching it dully as it was swallowed up in the drain.
He surveyed her from the door, blinking against the brightness of the light. His feet connected with the cold tiles and she glanced up, meeting his gaze in the mirror.
She was so perfect and understanding, and he had thrown it in her face.
Quietly, he stepped up behind her, so his front was brushing her back. She kept her eyes down, shutting off the water. He slowly lowered his head over her shoulder, grazing her smooth skin lightly with his chin.
She swallowed, saying nothing, staring at their reflection. He allowed his blue eyes to connect with her green ones in the mirror, conveying what he couldn't say in words. He turned his head and pressed a soft, lingering kiss against her cheek. She closed her eyes, and he felt her shudder against him. He lifted his free hand and stroked his fingers softly against her side, attempting to soothe away all of the pain he had caused her with his touch.
Cameron slowly wilted against him, leaning her cheek against his. He could feel his stubble bruise her soft skin, and he kissed her again. "I'm sorry," he sighed. He was. Apologies weren't generally his thing, but he figured if anyone had deserved one over the years, it was her.
Cameron sighed, keeping her eyes firmly closed. "Yeah," she said quietly. "I know."
Just like that, she forgave him. She always did.
"You still trust me," he remarked wearily.
She opened her eyes to glance at him again, nodding slowly. For someone who didn't believe in God, she sure had a lot of faith. "Yeah. I do."
"I think your judgement skills are debatable, just so you know."
She rolled her eyes, but she didn't look offended. She slowly swivelled around, until she was pressed between him and the sink. She kept her gaze focused on the front of his shirt, slowly tracing the band insignia with her thumb. "Believe what you want."
House lifted his hand, steadily tilting her chin upwards with his warm, calloused fingers. He lowered his lips to hers, kissing her softly, with more conviction than he could remember.
Cameron responded to him immediately, opening her mouth under his ministrations, allowing his tongue to slowly, carefully trace hers. She clutched the front of his shirt, unconsciously hugging him tighter. He caressed the side of her cheek, letting his hand slide down to her upper arm, supporting her against him.
When she broke away for breath, he nodded his head back into the bedroom. "Come on."
She released his shirt, following him voluntarily, and he switched the light off in her wake. She moved over to the bed, scooting over the edge of the mattress, and he deposited his cane carelessly nearby, climbing carefully over her, avoiding contact with his bad leg.
He gazed down at her for a long moment, letting the strength of his gaze sear into her eyes. He traced the line of her shirt with his palm, smiling faintly as she curved against his touch, and he lowered his mouth to hers again, instantly savouring her taste.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had to agree with Cuddy, for once in his life. He was lucky. Because the only person who could screw this up was most definitely him.
Cameron rolled onto her side as she slowly opened her eyes, wincing as she rubbed away the last vestiges of sleep.
She glanced at the space beside her, which was dishevelled but empty, carrying House's familiar, unique scent. She allowed a soft, minute smile to touch her lips as she recalled his behaviour the night before. Even if he never told her, she could never doubt the way he felt about her. He had always managed to convey so much more through his actions.
She took her robe from the armchair in the corner, combing the hair out of her eyes. She assumed his need for Vicodin was the reason he was up before her. She padded out into the hall, again becoming accustomed to lively cartoon music filling her modest living room. Apparently House and Brooklyn had developed their own morning ritual.
She knew his feelings of insecurity and inadequacy were the real reasons he had pursued the subject so intently last night, even if she hadn't been able to acknowledge it at the time. The fact that he had made the first move and apologised imbued her with a strong sense of reassurance.
She was greeted with something a little unfamiliar as she entered the room. The unmistakable scent of pancakes assailed her nostrils, and she tilted an eyebrow, taking note of House positioned idly behind the kitchen counter, obviously having no qualms about raiding her cupboards.
Brooklyn was perched on the carpet in front of the TV, and Cameron gave her a fleeting look before striding over to House.
"I thought you said the cooking was a once off thing?"
He glanced at her as she neared, shrugging nonchalantly. He looked too domestic, in his rumpled t-shirt and slightly askew hair. She concealed a warm grin.
"That was before Brooklyn gave me the puppy-dog eyes of doom," he replied tartly. "She could teach me a thing or two in my dealings with Cuddy. You have her trained well."
She smirked. "Well, yeah, obviously this was part of my master plan."
"Obviously. Domesticate the male in some twisted, futile attempt at role reversal."
Cameron rolled her eyes, but when she stood beside him he casually held out his free hand, and tugged on her robe, pulling her directly in front of him. It was his silent way of assuring her that things were okay between them. He kept his palm resting against her hip as he flipped the pancakes with the other.
"Also, your kitchen needs a serious upgrade," he grunted, gesturing pointedly with the spatula. "It's begging for it. I'll almost beg on its behalf."
She remained pressed against him, ignoring his gruff tone and focusing on the rare intimate gesture, allowing her gaze to wander over Brooklyn on the floor. Her young daughter looked typically enthralled with the television, oblivious to the two adults, and the pivotal role she had played in their new relationship.
When Cameron noticed that House was making quirky shapes out of the pancake batter, she didn't bother hiding her smile.