The apartment was quiet. House sat brooding at his piano, an untouched glass of Scotch in his hand. He briefly considered Ezra Powell and then dismissed him. His duty was to the living.
He could have let it slide, let Cameron sit on the sidelines. Or let her believe he only wanted her to agree with him. It was the chance he took by pushing as he did. He could have broken her instead, caused her to quit or taken an easier job, like dispensing cold medication in a clinic somewhere far away. His honesty to himself and to those he considered his responsibility forbade it. That clinical detachment didn't always work but hopefully she would learn a balance of somewhere between the two.
He remembered saying to Foreman about another doctor: He sleeps better at night. He shouldn't.
House downed the rest of his scotch and stood up, preparatory to going to bed, when someone knocked on the front door. He grimaced. Someone. Hopefully it was Wilson. He looked through the peephole and sighed. An old Yiddish proverb flitted across his mind as he unlocked the door to stare at Cameron.
Man plans and God laughs.
Clinically, he gauged her mood. She stood there, eyes rimmed with red but clear, her expression still a jumble of confusion and anger and grief. With maybe a touch of resignation?
"Agreeing with you was never the issue, was it?"
Cameron pushed past him and walked to the glass of scotch sitting on the piano and knocked it back. House removed the glass from her hand.
"I wouldn't get drunk now if I were you."
"Why?" she challenged. "Afraid I might try to kill you?"
House pulled a face. "I thought Chase was the drama queen. Get—over—it." He grabbed her arm and pulled her to the couch. "Since you're not going to take yourself off, let's do this here. You did your job. You didn't like it? Tough. It's hard. It's crap. It's what we sometimes have to do. And I'm wasting time telling you what you already know. You want to be coddled? You came to the wrong door."
There was a silence. Cameron kept her head bowed as she sat there, hands tightening on her knees. "I don't know what to feel. I don't think I feel anything, and I'm afraid—" she lifted clear eyes to his, "I'm afraid I'm going to stay that way."
"How do you know?"
House leaned forward and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, noting her stillness at his touch. "I know."
"I don't." Cameron stood up. "I know I did the right thing. I know it was my decision. But it's all tangled up inside."
"I've told you everything I can."
"Is that all you can do for me, House?" Blue eyes stared into blue unwavering. The tip of her tongue brushed her upper lip.
"Go to bed, Cameron. Take tomorrow off." House turned away from her and headed to his bedroom, silently cursing at the sleepless night ahead of him. He leaned on his cane inside the room, waiting for the sound of the front door opening and closing but instead felt arms snake around his waist and heat press against his back.
"What are you doing?" He pulled free and turned to face her.
"I'm doing what you told me to do, I'm going to bed." Smiling thinly, she began pulling off her sweater.
"I don't want to."
"But I do."
She froze, hands poised midway between her white satin bra and the button of her jeans.
"This isn't—you're not thinking clearly," House said with a frustrated gesture. "This isn't equal."
She nodded slowly. "I guess it isn't. I'll always be your subordinate, won't I?" She buttoned her jeans and pulled the sweater back on. "I should have just gone to a bar, it would have been less embarrassing. I'm sorry, House."
"Wait—" he held her arm. "Go home, Cameron." She nodded but he wasn't convinced. "Go home alone."
"There are some things even you can't dictate, House." She sighed at his expression. "Don't worry. If I go to a bar I'll make sure I'm not drunk before fucking some guy's brains out. The gym would probably work as well but it's closed now."
His grip tightened. "Then you know I can't let you go."
Cameron laughed without humor. "Poor House. Stuck babysitting." She shrugged. "All right, I promise to go straight home alone. Okay?"
"No, I'm not."
He eyed her, considering. "Maybe you're not. Going to call the Wombat? That would let you keep your promise."
She flushed and jerked out of his grasp. "Stop it, House."
"I can't." He slammed the bedroom door shut with his cane and glared at her. "What do you think I am? You think you can show up, fuck me, and make yourself feel?"
She dropped her eyes. "No."
His knuckles turned white as he gripped his cane. It would have been easier to give her what she thought she wanted but he refused to settle for less than complete honesty, even in sex. This was too important. She was too important. "Get out." He reached for the doorknob and managed to open it a few inches before Cameron slammed it shut.
"I want you, House. That hasn't changed. And now, I—I'm on that side of the fence. Your side. I know it's necessary but I don't like it. How do you live there by yourself?" She trembled, palm flat against the door, head bowed, and whispered, "I still want you and I can't make that go away and now I'm becoming you. And that's a good thing." Slowly, she raised her head, pain and anguish warring with the inherent kindness that still cried from her actions.
He froze. Being told that he was a good thing was never—he wasn't—he didn't—
Cameron touched his face and he flinched. "You do what's necessary and it leaves you scarred. I thought I was scarred before but I wasn't, not really." She took a deep breath. "I was wrong to come here and try to use you like this and I'm sorry." She tried to smile. "Fucking me isn't in your job description."
He stared at her and she straightened her spine. "I'll manage, House." Her eyes became luminescent with unshed tears. "I'm not your responsibility."
"No, you're not. And yes, you are." He pulled her close but she resisted.
"You don't want this and I don't want you to hate me later. Let me go find someone who doesn't know me. It's safer that way."
"It won't help." His voice was gentle and Cameron almost capitulated and then inwardly laughed at the irony of her protesting now that House was willing. She shook her head. "What will fucking me prove to either of us?"
"You're not done yet."
Cameron looked at him, perplexed. "I don't understand what you mean." His fingers clamped onto her hips and she sucked in a breath. "House."
"You're close, Cameron," he whispered. "Close to crossing over. And it hurts." She jerked back but he held her in place. "You're not there yet." Confusion clouded Cameron's face and he leaned forward until their foreheads touched. "You're almost there. You did your job. But you haven't caught up with yourself yet." His mouth thinned. "You should have gone to someone safer but you're with me now." He pulled her body tight against his and she gasped. His tongue filled her mouth, stroking hers, wet and hot, while she quietly moaned. He lengthened the kiss, massaging her back until she softened and ran her hands up to his scalp, raking her nails across lightly.
They separated, breathing erratically.
"Get into bed," House said over his shoulder as he limped into the bathroom. He waited a few minutes, wanting to give her time to choose, to make sure the decision was hers without coercion. Deep breaths, he reminded himself, turning back into the bedroom.
Cameron was already under the covers, her clothes neatly folded on a chair. She was sitting up, knees tenting the blanket, and her breasts, small and erect, peeked out. She stretched a little and the blanket slid down farther.
His mouth went dry and Cameron smiled. "See anything you like?" Her doubts and fears, if any, were well hidden.
House smiled faintly, proud of her courage, and stripped. He sat on the side of the bed and pulled himself under the covers to join her, reclining against the pillows. He tore the foil off a condom to roll onto his cock before pulling her on top of his body. Cameron braced herself on the mattress with hands on either side of him.
"Getting straight to business?" Her forehead creased slightly.
House smiled impishly, thumbs pressing into her spine with a long, languorous movement, and her grin faltered. "Is that what you think?"
"I don't know what to think."
"Still feeling nothing?" His hands massaged her ass, pressing her into his erection, and she sucked in a breath. "Well?"
"I feel you," Cameron murmured, moving sinuously over him.
House held her still. "Not good enough. What are you feeling?"
She stared in disbelief. "You want to do a differential of my feelings while I'm naked on top of you?"
"Come on, Cameron, how hard is it to answer the question? What are you feeling?"
"I don't feel anything, damn you." She tried to move. "Let me up."
"Too late. You came for the cure, now you're going to get it all." He kept his expression pitiless, inwardly willing her to accept everything between them.
"I came for a quick fuck. You owed me that much."
"Why? Because I made you face yourself? Do your job? Help a patient die?" House held her down tightly. "Stop fighting, dammit."
"I don't know how!"
"I'll help you." He pressed her head down to his chest and stroked her hair, ignoring the tears of pain, betrayal, and reluctant acceptance dampening their skin. The full realization of what the term doctor really meant struggled within her, tangled in a maelstrom of confusion and lust.
House waited until she was calmer and tilted her face to his, rubbing his lips gently over hers until she opened her mouth again. He lightly touched her tongue with his, willing her to focus on him. He wanted her distracted while her heart caught up to necessity, using his body as the epidural.
His hands directed her and she sat up, still straddling him, as he slid down until his face lay between her thighs. Cameron stiffened and gasped as his tongue pressed inside, licking and nipping, heat on heat. She trembled and leaned back on her hands, feeling his tongue making her drip into his mouth.
And when she came, his finger rubbing her where she needed, his mouth working that spot that made her want to split in half, her sobs fought with gulping air and surviving the experience.
House moved, dragging himself up again and pressing her body to his as she shuddered in the aftermath. He was in pain but he could wait—a little. This pain was going to get release and he waited, gritting his teeth.
Finally, Cameron stirred, her hands running up his chest, legs parting to receive his cock as he gripped her hips and entered her in a sensation that couldn't differentiate between pleasure and pain. Cameron kept her mouth fused to his and rode him desperately, rolling her hips and keeping him deep inside as she rubbed against his belly in counterpoint.
Then she stiffened again, a hoarse cry reverberating into his lungs, and she slumped as he continued moving, finding his release and sinking back into the mattress, allowing his muscles to become lax and pliant.
Cameron felt cocooned by his warmth, soothed by his hands running up and down her back, her body winding down. She felt calm, happy, even. House's words echoed in her mind: You haven't caught up with yourself yet. She tested the feeling behind the words and smiled in relief. She felt the regret and the pain, but also the joy and healing that made her alive. It would still be hard at times but not insurmountable. And she had absolutely come to the right person to help her cross that bridge. She gave a little stretch and contracted around him again, soothed and sated.
House wanted to stay like this, him still inside her, but gently and firmly moved her up and off, removing the condom and tossing it into the wastepaper basket. He sat up with a grimace and limped into the bathroom while she lay there, legs spread wide, arms dropped to her side, eyes staring up at the ceiling slightly unfocused.
When House returned, it was with a warm, wet washcloth in his hand and he gently ran it between her legs before tossing it after the condom so as not to damage the wood floor. Then he pulled the blanket over them both and gathered her close and kissed her forehead. He felt her slight resistance in his arms and welcomed it, the knowledge that she'd never be who she had been again, never be so easy to manipulate, finally, finally becoming his equal, filling him with satisfaction. There would be bumps ahead, arguments and hurt and pain. But, as in the lesson he forcefully made her learn, it was the price of growth, both hers and his. He waited in the peaceful silence, knowing they would talk, and argue, and fuck (hopefully not in that order) and move, inexorably, into the future.
Now they could begin.