On the morning of the 25th House was feeling extremely nervous. He had half expected Cameron to appear at his doorstep the night before, but she hadn't. And he was not quite sure if that was a good sign or a bad sign. At least she hadn't stormed over to throw the swan in his face, so he decided to be cautiously optimistic. All in all it looked like Cameron was not going to contact him before the dinner, and she was unlikely to throw things – or even words – at him with his mother watching.
His phone rang startling him out of his musings.
"Yes," he said to the phone.
"It's Cuddy, morning and Merry Christmas," Cuddy's voice replied.
"Merry Christmas to you, too," House answered suspiciously. "To what do I owe the honour of this phone call?"
"No need to sound so suspicious," Cuddy stated. "I just thought to ask you if you need another injection. Since you are spending big part of the day with your parents, especially your father, I thought I better check. I don't want you to ruin your Mother's Christmas with extra grumpiness."
"Well, I'm sure my Mother is grateful for your consideration, but I'm ok. It seems I am past the peak again, for a while." House reassured Cuddy.
"Are you sure?" Cuddy didn't sound very reassured.
"I think I can tell when I'm hurting without second opinion," House pointed out. "Why do you doubt me?"
"I just thought that the stress and all would affect you," Cuddy sounded a little evasive. "But if you are ok, then fine."
"This is about Stacy, right?" House asked. "You are buying into Wilson's theory that Stacy had something to do with the worsening of my pain the last time she left me, so you are now presuming I must be in pain again, since she went home last night."
"Well fine, I was concerned," Cuddy admitted. "But if you are ok, so much better."
"I'm fine," House stated. "Stacy has nothing to do with me or my health."
"Ok then, since you don't need an injection I get back to work," Cuddy said.
"You do that," House suggested. "And don't think that I didn't get you plan B, either."
"What plan B?" Cuddy had to ask.
"The one where you lure me to the clinic with promises of an injection and then draft me into seeing patients," House laughed.
"Drat, foiled again," Cuddy laughed back. "See you at your Mother's."
House had promised his mother to be on time, in fact he had promised to be there to greet the other guests. Normally he would have forgotten his promise without a qualm, but this was his mother, so he dutifully knocked on the door of his parents flat exactly on the time he had promised. His mother opened the door and greeted him with a hug and a kiss. He shook hands with his father, which was a bit awkward and stiff after the greeting he had given his mother, but it was the best he could do. His words were civil enough.
Blythe took her son to the bar and told him to get himself a drink and then give people what they wanted as they arrived. House asked if that shouldn't be John's job, but Blythe told him that John had more than his hands full with baby-sitting her. To which John complained that it was just impossible to get her to rest as Foreman had ordered.
"I feel fine," Blythe insisted. "I know that rest is important and the moment I feel like getting tired I will sit down. I will even go to the bedroom for a nap if need be, after all our guests are mostly doctors so it's not like they wouldn't understand. But I see no reason to rest just in case."
"Well, mother, I hate to rain on your parade, but resting for just in case is very advisable with MG," House had to point out. "Pacing your day and having regular breaks, even naps, is important in managing your condition, though I do agree that you have a very mild case of it so far. But if we want to keep it that way, so you need to follow the instructions you have been given."
"Not you, too, Greg!" Blythe moaned.
"Sorry, Mother," House didn't sound very repentant. "If you didn't want me to have an opinion about this, you should have stopped me from going to medical school."
"There you have it, Blythe," John told her. "Doctor's orders."
"Fine," Blythe relented. "I will start following them tomorrow. Today, you will just have to let me do what I want. Too late for anything else anyway." Blythe smiled at her men as there was a knock on the door.
The quests arrived very close to each other. Only Cameron was still missing. House got a little nervous again, though he was absolutely sure that Cameron would not stay away without calling Blythe to cancel. Since she hadn't called, she was coming. But she sure was taking her sweet time, and House wanted to know if his gesture was about to blow in his face or if it had gone as he wanted.
Cameron was sitting in her car outside the building. She hadn't sat there long, just a couple of minutes to make sure she had the courage to go in. She had changed her outfit at least five times, and she had done her hair in at least five different ways and she was nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. She checked her appearance one more time, the best she could with the small mirror she had, and then she stood out of the car and went in.
She walked to the door and knocked. Blythe opened it for her and invited her in kissing her on the cheek. John took her coat and she was told to go to Greg to get herself a drink. She greeted the other guests on her way to him, taking her time though she could feel his eyes on her.
House was watching her make her way towards him. She looked stunning. She was wearing a red pullover with a very wide collar which let her shoulders peak out and a wide black velvet skirt. On her neck she had the swan. Well, obviously she had accepted his peace offering, now it just remained to be seen if she read more into it than he wanted to. Cameron had finally reached the drinks table.
"Hi," she said to House. "Merry Christmas."
"Bah, humbug," House returned her greeting making her smile even wider. "What would you want to drink?"
"Some white wine would be nice," Cameron responded. "Unless you are saving it all for the Ghost of Christmas present."
"He doesn't drink so that is no problem," House responded pouring her a glass.
"How fortunate for me," Cameron said. "And thank you." She put her hand on her pendant to indicate that she was thanking him for that, too.
"You are welcome," House said, not meeting her eyes.
"I'm just curious about one thing," Cameron started.
"Please, didn't I ask you not to go mushy on me?" House pleaded.
"I'm not going mushy on you, I got all the mushy stuff out of the way last night when nobody was watching," Cameron insisted. "I just wanted to know if this means that you like me, after all."
"That is mushy stuff!" House told her. "And it means that I don't hate you."
"Isn't that the same thing?" Cameron wanted to know.
"Not quite," House denied. "I don't hate you means that I don't want to hurt you. I won't stop you from hurting yourself, you need to learn for yourself to stay away from the fire, but I was out of line... Well you know when, and you did not deserve that."
"But I was out of line with my accusations, too," Cameron reminded him.
"Yes, but that is not the first time I have been accused of something I haven't done. You weren't even the first to accuse me of that one, if you remember. I didn't punch Wilson so why did I ... punch you? You didn't deserve that. Words would have been quite enough." House explained with his eyes on the floor.
"So this just says that you don't hate me," Cameron wanted to know for sure.
"It also says that I'm sorry," House dragged the words out of his mouth with force. "And that I don't want you to quit because of my asinine behaviour. I've sort of gotten used to having you around. You are the one of my ducklings that keeps me from doing too outrageous things to my patients. You are the conscience in the team."
"So you didn't choose a swan for me because you think I could be one?" Cameron asked. House was not quite sure if there was disappointment in her voice.
"I think you could be one, in time, when you grow up," House stated.
"And what will happen when I become a swan?" There was certain kind of hope in Cameron's voice that House recognised, though he had very much wanted to avoid giving her any false signals.
"Swans don't live in duck ponds," House told her. "They fly away."
"Always?" Cameron inquired.
"If they know what is good for them," House nodded.
"But what if they come back?"
"Why would they?" House asked in turn. "To check up on the dirty old drake? Not going to happen."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, quite sure."
"You could be wrong," Cameron said.
"It has happened," House had to admit. "But it is very rare."
"So are some swans," Cameron stated with an enigmatic smile and walked away with her drink to mingle with the rest of the quests.
Cuddy was standing with Blythe watching the interaction between House and Cameron.
"What is going on there," Cuddy wondered as they were too far away to catch any of the dialogue.
"Possibly the beginning of something that may, in time, develop into something else," Blythe smiled.
"I know Cameron has been in love with your son from almost the moment she set eyes on him, but are you telling me that House, too has feelings?"
"Of course he has feelings," Blythe laughed. "But if you mean feelings for Dr. Cameron, no I don't think so. Not at the moment – except for the obvious ones, of course. She is a beautiful girl and he has red blood in his veins. But I think that she has it in her to capture him, when she grows into a swan."
"Swan?" Cuddy asked. "She is not exactly an ugly duckling even now."
"But she is still a duckling," Blythe said. "She is much younger than my son, but if she matures the way I think she will, the age difference will only be a good thing. But I'm just seeing the potential of what may come to be. Or it might not. Don't worry Lisa; I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to get together."
"I think that is a wise thing, since frankly, I really cannot see it happening," Cuddy stated. "Stacy was an independent, strong woman and she didn't last."
"They were in some ways too much alike," Blythe mused. "I don't think we can predict what will happen with Greg and Allison based on what happened with Stacy and Greg."
"I'm sorry, I really wish you could be right, but your prediction for Greg and Allison sounds so much like wishful thinking," Cuddy had to say.
"I know, and I am aware of it," Blythe said. "But I am a mother, and you can't blame me for wanting my son to be happy, to want him to be whole. To wish, that the wrong of the unshapley things could be remade."
"What was that?" Cuddy asked. "It sounded familiar."
"It was from a poem by Yeats: All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old/ The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart/ The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould/ Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart. / The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told; / I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart/ With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold / For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart." Blythe recited for Cuddy.
The Christmas dinner went well, all in all. House and his father remained civil with each other and all had a good time. Two days later Blythe and John returned home and House was able to breathe easy again, unlike the people who had to work with him, now that his mother's presence was no longer curbing the worst of his behaviour. The ducklings especially noted the return to normal.
Mr. Park had his final check up six months later. He was pain free and though his injured leg was still a little weaker than his other leg, it was fully functional.
Mrs. Simon got her divorce; her husband got some jail-time for embezzlement.
And here endeth the lesson.
Thank you all, especially BlkDiamond, for all your support with my little (ok, not so little in the end) story and especially all the questions that kept me on track. This has been fun, but I do have a living to earn, so I have to end this story and just get my fix with occasional one-shots.