DISCLAIMER: Not mine. None of it. Not that damn bunny, or the ornery diagnostician . . . Well, okay. Jake's mine. Everything else belongs to others. Don't sue, 'kay?
A/N: Well, I fully expected that last chapter to be the last. But then all my wonderful readers clamored for more, and I found that I just had to comply. I'm sorry that it took me so long to get this out, but I hope you enjoy the finished result. And now, without further ado . . .
The thing about Cat Scratch Fever is that it tends to pop up on you when you least expect it. A rare disease in its own right, you generally don't know that you've been infected until you begin to show symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms are minor, if they appear at all; other times, the disease has such a monumental effect that the immune system changes drastically. When this occurs, the individual is left with a choice. Either fight the disease with antibiotics, or do nothing and allow it to run its course. The problem is, the infection may not respond to the individual's defense of antibiotics. Occasionally, it runs its course no matter how stubbornly the individual attempts to fight.
It is these times that he must succumb and take what is given to him.
Six months after he'd finally gotten the Wicked Witch of Princeton Plainsboro off his back (Boy, had it been fun rubbing that successful diagnosis in her face), Gregory House found his life had drastically changed. Case in point, the woman who had just entered the kitchen and was staring at his backside in mild shock.
"You're making breakfast?" she asked, her tone grateful yet surprised. As always, the sound caused his pulse rate to increase just a bit. As always, he chose to ignore it.
"I was hungry," he said simply, flipping an already blackened and rather crisp pancake in the griddle. "The pancake mix was calling to me. Greg, Greg, come mix me. Who am I to ignore breakfast food?"
"Who indeed?" Cameron replied, sneaking up behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist. A shiver ran down House's spine as she placed a soft kiss on the back of his neck.
"Wouldn't want to upset the Breakfast Gods," he said, attempting to hold onto his composure yet leaning backward into her arms. "They might smite our food supply, and then where would we be?"
"Wouldn't want that," Cameron agreed, placing yet another kiss against the base of his spine.
This second kiss proved to be too much to handle. Turning the burner off, House turned around and fixed her with earnest eyes. "Morning," he said gruffly, locking gazes with the woman standing before him. His stomach knotted at the smile she gave him, and he marveled not for the first time how much his life had changed since she had returned. Not just finding out he was a father, or opening his heart when he'd vowed never to do so again. But asking them to move in, beginning to act like a family . . . Everything had changed, and he had never been happier.
With this in mind, he leaned down and brushed his lips against her cushiony mouth, causing her to sigh and wrap her arms around his neck. Yup, this was definitely the way to wake up. Maneuvering his own arms around Cameron's waist in order to pull her closer, he slipped his tongue inside his fiance's mouth and tasted her early morning flavor. Musty, with a slight trace of salt.
There was no telling how long the kiss might have lasted had a certain child not chosen that moment to enter the room. Ever since he had been moved into a Big Boy Bed, he had foregone all normalcy of schedule and begun to walk in on his parents during the most opportune moments. House was beginning to wonder if it was sign that he was his son. Now the two-year old stopped inside the kitchen and grinned. "Kissy!" he cried, his chubby cheeks dimpling at the corners.
House groaned as Cameron broke the kiss with a smirk and turned toward their son. "Morning, honey," she said, still leaning against House's chest. "Are you hungry?"
"Hungry," Jake agreed, stepping over to a nearby chair and climbing up into it. He shot his parents an impish look, and House couldn't help but smirk back. Yup, the kid was definitely his. No paternity disputes there.
And as he served the slightly charred pancakes and sat down with his family to eat breakfast, he reflected once again on how much he liked the idea.
"Miss Natalie," House greeted her in a mock cheerful tone. "You're looking rather chipper today. Trying some of that new embalming fluid?"
"Balming?" Jake asked, craning around in his stroller and blinking at his father through innocent eyes.
"Just as charming as ever, Doctor House," Miss Natalie replied tightly, glaring at the diagnostician before turning to the little boy. "Are you ready for school, Jake?" she asked, and House was mollified to hear the gentle edge to her tone. It had taken a good deal of begging to get his son back into nursery school – something that House wouldn't soon forget, leading to many more witty barbs directed toward the teacher – and he was glad that she had at least calmed down toward the kid.
"Ready," Jake chirped, and Medusa – Miss Natalie – unbuckled him from his stroller and lifted him to the ground.
"I'll see you at five?" Miss Natalie asked, her dislike for House still clear upon her face.
"No, actually," House replied. "You'll see Doctor Cameron. Wouldn't want you to overdose on the pleasure of being near me or anything. You're already living on borrowed time."
"And what a pleasure it is," Medusa said dryly, shooting him a tight-lipped smile. She glanced at Jake, who was toddling over to the bookshelf, before quickly heading back into the heart of the nursery and away from House.
When she was gone, House took one last look at his son, who was curled up with his favorite book. "Bye, kid," he called, raising his hand in a gesture of farewell.
"Bye, Dada!" Jake called back, flexing his little fingers and grinning happily. That smile still had the affect of warming the diagnostician's heart.
Coming out into the hall, House was graced with the presence of Wilson, leaning against the wall and smiling smugly. "What?" he asked, glaring at the other man. The shit faced grin his friend was wearing told him that he wasn't going to like the answer.
Sure enough: "You're so neutered," the oncologist stated, his grin becoming more pronounced.
"Jealous, Jimmy?" House replied, narrowing his eyes. "Because I'd be happy to cut it –"
"Never mind," Wilson said, making a face and interrupting. Then he grinned again. "Any more story hours in the future?"
"Yeah, actually," House returned, striding toward a particular destination and leaving the other man to fall into step beside him. "I just purchased the cutest little jester hat for you, too. Meet me in my office at four."
"Right," Wilson said, keeping up with House's hobbled jaunt. "That should give you plenty of time to change into the clown suit."
Ignoring the comment, House segued into the next order of business. "What are you doing here, anyway? Oncology department too boring, so you decided to come annoy me?"
"Well, that," Wilson replied, "and I have a patient that I wanted you –" He paused then, apparently realizing that they had passed the elevators, which would lead them up to the diagnostic's department. "Where are you going, anyway?"
"I figured if I kept walking, you might get the point and go away," House said, finally stopping in front of a doorway and fixing his friend with a smug look of his own.
"Uh-huh," Wilson returned, glancing at the sign above the doorway with arched brow. "And this has nothing to do with the fact that you've just stopped in front of Rehab."
House shrugged. "Well, you know," he said, his expression stoic, "Kid to keep up with and everything. Figured being able to walk might help with that."
The expression that broke out on Wilson's face now made House regret his confession immediately. "Good for you," the other man said, beaming. "It's about time."
"Yeah, yeah," House waved him off, turning around and opening the door. "If you don't mind, I have an appointment to keep." And with that, he headed inside the Rehab office, leaving Wilson behind with that annoying smile on his face.
Yeah, things had definitely changed, he reflected after he'd given Nurse Nosy his name and appointment time. If someone had told him a year ago that he'd be waking up early to make breakfast for Cameron and their son, or that he'd be sitting here in this office now, he would have seriously suspected them of taking off with his vicodin and started whacking them around the shins with his cane. Now, however . . . He found himself inadvertently smiling as he thought about The Velveteen Rabbit and how it held true to his own life. Like he'd suddenly become real, as damn sappy as that sounded. And as he'd read time and again in Jake's favorite book, 'When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.' And he found that he didn't mind being made 'real' in the least.
Let the sap fest begin.