Just want to take this moment to thank everyone who reads and supports my fics, especially those of you who take the time to leave comments or send me notes on Twitter. You guys truly keep me going. Lobe to you all.-atd
"You what?" House said, even though he had heard her perfectly.
"I lost the baby."
He swallowed hard, but found he couldn't make any saliva.
"Two nights ago."
He slumped into a chair by the phone.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I'm telling you now."
"Are you. . .okay?"
"What do you think?"
"I'm coming over," he said. And he hung up before he could hear her say, "Please don't."
He banged on her door. She answered, looking pale and somewhat birdlike in an oversized sweatshirt that seemed to swallow her whole. Her hair was pulled back and she was wearing no makeup. The first time, he noticed a tiny smattering of freckles across her nose.
As soon as he saw her, he realized he didn't have a clue what to say.
"Hi," he said, feeling like an idiot.
"Hi," she wearily.
"Can I come in?"
"I don't think so, House. I'm really tired."
This was unexpected. He looked down, fiddled with his cane.
"Cuddy, I'm so sorry," he said, finally.
"I am, too."
"Can you at least tell me what happened?"
It was clearly the wrong question.
"What happened? You know what happens when a woman miscarries, House. There was a lot of blood. And tissue. It's like giving birth except for at the end there's …death instead of life."
He stared at her, shocked.
"I'm. . .I didn't mean. . .I just don't know what to say."
"There's nothing to say. We both knew this could happen. And now it did."
"But why didn't you call me? I could've. . ."
"Could've what, House?"
He looked down.
"I don't know. I could've . . .been there for you," he muttered.
"I'm fine, House. Julia drove me to the hospital. I'm on some good meds and I'm feeling better. I should be back at work in a couple of days."
"And that's it?"
"What else is there?" she said.
"I don't know. You wanna. . .finish watching The Notebook?" he asked, lamely.
She laughed, mirthlessly.
"No House. I don't want to finish watching The Notebook. I want to be alone. You of all people should understand that."
"I'm just not sure that's a good idea," he said.
"It's not your call to make," she said. And she literally closed the door in his face.
She wasn't at work the next day and House moved around the hospital like a zombie, not talking to anyone, not even making eye contact. He downed half a bottle of Vicodin, but it didn't make a dent.
He felt like he wanted to scream, just to feel something, just to release some of his bottled up anger. But you couldn't go around screaming in hospitals, so he got into his car, drove as far away as possible, parked along the side of the road and screamed at the top of his lungs. It felt good, if only briefly, so he did it again. Then he punched the steering wheel so hard the horn sounded and then he hit the horn again, laid on it for an absurdly long time—just a mad man on the side of the road screaming and honking his horn— and then he drove back to the office, and tried to go about his day.
He kept expecting her to call, but she didn't. So he called her that night.
"Are you feeling any better?"
"A little," she said.
"Do you want me to come over?"
"No…I'm tired. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay. . ." He hesitated: "Cuddy, did I do something wrong here?"
"No, House. Not everything is about you."
And she hung up.
She was back at the work the next day, looking polished and impeccable, like nothing had gone wrong.
He was on his way to go see her (he had made up some lame excuse—a request for a liver biopsy that his patient didn't even necessarily need) when he noticed her leave her office and head up toward the nursery.
"Shit," he muttered.
He trailed her a bit, keeping his distance as he watched her staring at the newborns—tucked into their blue and pink blankets, with their little grandma-knit beanies, yawning and stretching and clenching their tiny fists and toes—behind the glass.
"Walk away, Cuddy," House urged, under his breath.
A young father came up to the window, grinning in a tired, giddy way and pointed out his baby to Cuddy. She smiled at first and then her face began to crumble and, before she lost it, she excused herself and darted into an unoccupied exam room.
House followed her.
When he opened the heavy door, she was sitting on the exam table, hugging her knees, weeping.
Seeing her like that, he felt physically sick, an actual lurching pain in his own gut.
He kept thinking: What would Wilson do? Wilson would console her. Wilson would hug her and tell her that everything was going to be okay. And that was exactly what House wanted to do, so badly. But it was more than that: He wanted to be hugged, by her. Instead, he stood there, stiffly, unable to will himself to act.
She looked up, saw him, and hastily wiped her eyes.
"Did you follow me?" she said sharply.
"No! I just happened to be in the nursery and . . ." He looked at his feet. "Yes, I followed you."
"Well stop it!"
He had never felt so useless in his entire life.
"Maybe you came back to the hospital too soon?" he offered. "Maybe you should take a few more days to. . ."
"I'm fine, House. I just needed a moment. I'm human. I cried. I know it's hard for you to relate."
"Maybe it isn't wise for you to be hanging around the nursery. . ."
"Why not? They're the only babies I'm ever going to get near, apparently," she said, brushing past him into the hall.
"Cuddy!" he called after her.
But she kept walking, briskly, in such a way that a crippled man could never catch up.
House was in a bad mood, so therefore Cameron was in a good mood.
House had been disgustingly happy these past few weeks—whistling in his office, encouraging the team's theories, not once calling them a pack of useless troglodytes—almost to the point of being unrecognizable. She knew it had something to do with Cuddy, and not just because of Chase's theory. She had witnessed the hug herself, not to mention their somewhat intimate tête-à-tête in the hall.
But now his mood was darker than ever. Even in his worst moments, House was an entertaining asshole, a pugilist with a blisteringly funny left hook. These past few days he had just been surly, uncommunicative, short-tempered, and he was rubbing his leg a lot, which Cameron knew was a sign of emotional distress as much as physical.
So whatever that thing was between House and Cuddy, it was clearly over. (Cuddy had been off work for a few days, too—coincidence?—and now she was roaming the halls of the hospital gloomily, looking like she had just come from a funeral herself.)
Cameron had steered clear of House for a few days—she wasn't that big of a masochist—but she needed to check on whether or not they were going forward with the liver biopsy. Besides, he could obviously use some consoling. An affair with Cuddy—however ill-advised, however brief—meant he was at least open to the possibility of dating a coworker. . .
He was sitting at his desk, kind of staring into space—not even in that active way where you could actually see him thinking, just kind of zoning out—when she approached him.
"Hey," she said.
She had startled him.
"What?" he barked.
"I, um . . . did Cuddy give her approval for the liver biopsy?"
"I didn't ask."
"But you were supposed to ask her yesterday!"
"I know. I . . something came up and I forgot."
"Skip the biopsy; he doesn't really need it."
She folded her arms and contemplated him.
"Are you okay?"
"Do I seem okay?"
"So you already knew the answer. Why ask?"
"I just. . .is there anything I can do to help?"
"I can think of one thing."
"You mean leave you alone," she said, getting it.
"It's like you can read my mind!"
"House, you don't have to handle everything by yourself, you know. You have friends."
"You're referring to yourself, I assume."
"You're not my friend Cameron. You're my employee. See the difference?"
"I can be both."
"And I can be a doctor and an astronaut. But I'm not. Now get out of my office, Cameron."
"No!" she said, petulantly.
He gave her a lethal look, then bolted up from his chair.
"If you don't leave, I will," he said, brushing past her as he limped by.
He had made it halfway down the hall, when he heard footsteps gaining on him.
He turned, expecting Cameron, but it was that other annoying woman in his life: James Wilson.
"Where are you rushing off to?" Wilson said.
"It's double coupon day at the SuperMart," House said. "I don't want to be late."
"Wait up," Wilson said, catching up with him easily.
"What's up with you?" Wilson said.
"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" House snapped.
"Gee, I don't know, House. Maybe because you've operating on the world's shortest fuse for the past few days and its affecting everyone around you."
"Then here's a bright idea. Stay away from me."
"House, I don't want to stay away from you. I want to figure out what's bothering you and help."
"Nothing is bothering me!" he shouted loudly, more loudly than he had intended.
"Does this have anything to do with that life or death decision you were talking about last month?"
For a second, House seemed surprised. Then he said: "No….that was just a hypothetical."
"It obviously wasn't a hypothetical and its obviously eating away at you."
"You're clearly not fine!"
"Why can't everyone just leave me the fuck alone!"
In a quick move, House turned and slammed Wilson against the wall. He had his hand around his friend's throat, nearly choking him.
"House," Wilson squeaked. "I can't breathe."
House looked down at his hand, in horror, then let go.
Then he limped away in a huff.
This time, Wilson was smart enough not to follow him.
"What the hell is going on with House?" Wilson said to Cuddy.
"What do you mean?" she said, only half-looking up from her work.
"I mean. He's been out of his mind these last few days. He just tried to choke me in the hall. You can still see his finger marks on my neck!" He pointed pitifully, but Cuddy couldn't see anything.
"That's. . .not like House," she said.
"That's an understatement. In all our years of friendship, he has never laid a hand on me. Not once. I know this has something to do with this life or death decision he was talking about a few weeks ago."
Now he fully had her attention.
"He called me last month. Was being very mysterious. Said he had a huge decision to make and it was a matter of life and death."
"And that was all he said?"
"What did you tell him to do?"
"I told him to make a list of pros and cons and go with his instinct."
"Huh. . ."
"So you know nothing about this?"
"Not a thing."
Wilson peered at her. Then he narrowed his eyes.
"I don't believe you. . ." he said.
"Between the two of us, House tells us everything. If I don't know, you must."
"I know nothing."
"Come to think of it, you've been depressed, too," he said.
"I have not!"
"Of course you have. I'm not blind." He folded his arms. "Spill it: What happened between you two?"
"Nothing!" she said, defensively. Then, more evenly: "I swear."
"Cuddy, for everyone's sake, make up with him, okay? Because he is operating on nuclear levels of toxicity. And you're not exactly Miss Congeniality yourself."
She was about to protest, but then thought better of it.
"I'll try," she said.
"Good," he said. "Both me and my jugular thank you."
House was slumped at the bar at Sullivan's that night, when Dex handed him a fresh scotch.
"I didn't order that," he said.
"I know," Dex said. "She did."
And he pointed to Cuddy, who had been sitting in a dark corner and was now approaching him.
"May I?" she said, gesturing to the bar stool next to him.
"Of course," he said, shocked.
"Martini, dry, three olives," she said. Then she gave a sad smile: "Thank God for small favors."
"How'd you know how to find me?" House said.
"I hired a private detective," she said. "Either that, or you're here four nights a week."
He shrugged, in a "good point" sort of way.
"How are you feeling?" he asked.
"Like shit," she said. "You?"
"Same," he said, smiling sadly.
"House, I owe you an apology."
"Actually, you don't owe me anything."
"Of course I do," she said. "I was upset. More than that, I felt like a failure. I felt like I. . .let you down."
"Cuddy, that's absurd. It's biology. Biology doesn't let people down."
"I know. It wasn't rational. But. . .I felt humiliated. Like I somehow wasn't a whole woman."
"Believe me, Cuddy. You're a whole woman. You're the wholest woman I know."
She gave a tiny laugh.
"Thank you," she said. "I think."
He peered at her out of the corner of his eye.
"You shut me out," he said sadly.
"I know. I think I needed to grieve on my own. "
"But . . .why?"
"I don't know, House. In those moments when I'm feeling most fragile, I guess I don't think. . .Greg House is just what I need right now."
"That makes sense," he said.
She eyed him.
"But it wasn't fair. I never gave you a chance to grieve with me."
"I don't have the best track record for consoling people," he admitted. "I just stood there and watched you cry yesterday. Like a schmuck."
"That was my fault. I didn't let you in. I didn't want you to comfort me." She reached over and took his hand. "But it was wrong of me. It was your baby, too. Your loss, too."
He had no idea how much he had needed to hear those exact words. To feel her hand on his. His eyes unexpectedly welled with tears.
"Thanks," he said, taking a big gulp of his drink.
She let him collect himself before she continued.
"I left you all alone in this and for that I'm sorry. At least I had Julia to talk to. I didn't even let you unload on Wilson."
"Actually, I did kind of unload on him," House said guiltily. "Just not quite in the way you mean."
"Yeah, he kind of told me about that."
"I owe that guy an apology."
She nodded. "He'll forgive you. He wants you to be happy. And. .. so do I. You've been nothing but a perfect boyfriend to me these last few weeks," she said. "Honestly, I couldn't have asked for anything more."
"Boyfriend?" he said, raising his eyebrows.
She looked down at the bar. "Boyfriend. Partner. Co-parent. Whatever we were to each other."
"Boyfriend works," he said, not able to suppress a tiny smile.
"I think partly I was embarrassed by how giddy I allowed myself to be. I knew I was high risk for a miscarriage," she said. "But I allowed myself to dream, to pretend that wasn't a real possibility. I think I liked playing house with you."
Then they said, in unison: "So to speak."
"I liked playing house with you, too," he said.
"I so wish it had worked out differently," she said.
"We can try again," he said, without even quite realizing what he was saying.
"We can try to accidentally get me knocked up again?" she teased.
"Yeah, but, you know, on purpose this time."
"I don't know, House. We got swept up, carried away with this. . .fantasy."
"But it was a good fantasy."
"I know," she said. "It really was."
And she put her head on his shoulder.
That extra bit of contact emboldened him to do what he'd wanted to do for days. He took her in his arms, pulled her close. When her back began shaking and his neck got wet with her tears, he felt a strange surge of accomplishment. She was taking comfort—in him. He kissed the top of her head.
"Shhh," he said. "I'm here."
Finally, they separated. Dex, who had a bartender's instinct for steering clear of important conversations, loped back over.
"Another round?" he asked.
Cuddy looked at House.
"Let's get out of here," he said, cocking his head toward the door.
"Good idea," she said.
She looked down. "I can't. . .um, you know… I mean, the doctors said that I shouldn't. . ."
"I don't mind," he said. "We can just cuddle."
When she woke up, his arms were still around her.
She realized that she had been a fool. She had been so afraid of being hurt by him, she neglected to notice that she was the one who had been pushing him away, this whole time.
She looked at the clock. 7 am.
She tried to wriggle out of his arms without waking him up.
"Morning," he said, sleepily.
"Shhhh," she said. "Go back to bed. I have to be at work by 8:30. You don't."
"I'll go with you," he said, stretching.
"Yeah?" she said. "You'll give your team a heart attack."
"It's good to keep them guessing," he said, climbing out of bed. The he looked down at his pajama bottoms and gave a sheepish shrug: "Sorry bout that. Touching you without touching you has been a challenge."
"You've been rising to all sorts of challenges lately," she said.
Then they said, in unison: "So to speak." And laughed.
They got dressed, drank coffee, and drove to work together. And of course, when they got to the garage, they bumped right smack into Cameron.
"Morning," they all said nervously.
There was no getting past the awkwardness and peculiarity of the situation. For one thing, even if Cameron hadn't seen them actually driving together, House's car was nowhere in sight. Also, it was 8:30, approximately two and a half hours earlier than House usually rolled in to work.
House looked at Cuddy, then back at Cameron. Then he took Cuddy's hand and led her to the elevator.