After breakfast the next morning, Maggie was sitting on her father's lap while he slept, looking through a book. When someone stopped in the doorway to her room, she looked up and said, "Shhh. Daddy's sleeping. He didn' sleep too good las' night."
A tall woman in a white lab coat came into the room. She had long dark hair and a kind smile. Placing a finger over her lips, she said, "I'll be quiet. How do you feel today, Maggie?"
"My name is Dr. Cuddy. I'm Dr. House's boss."
"I like Dr. House."
"That's something I don't hear very often."
"He's jus' grumpy. Peoples don' unnerstand him."
Maggie looked thoughtful. "Maybe he needs someone to make him not so grumpy...like a baby."
Cuddy looked surprised. "A baby?"
"Yeah. Daddy al'ays tells us that we're the bes' part of his life. Maybe Dr. House needs a bes' part of his life, too, so he can be happy."
"I think Dr. House was born grumpy, sweetheart, and being grumpy is what makes him happy."
"He's not grumpy to me...but he doesn' like Mommy alot."
"He doesn't like a lot of people, but he does like you."
Maggie's soft chatter and restless shifting as she talked roused Goren, who wrapped an arm around her middle as he sat up, looking around the room in dazed confusion. As the sleep cleared from his mind and his confusion receded, he tightened his arm around Maggie and studied Cuddy. Maggie turned toward him. "Look, Daddy...Dr. House's boss comed to see me."
She held out her hand. "Lisa Cuddy," she introduced herself.
He accepted her hand. "Bobby Goren. Sorry I was asleep..."
"No need to apologize," Cuddy assured him. "Maggie was sweet enough to explain that you didn't sleep well last night."
He looked at the perceptive child in his lap. "She did?"
Maggie looked at him again. "You hadda bad night, Daddy. But it'll be better soon, when we can go home. Mommy al'ays makes things better."
He smiled and kissed the side of her head. "Yes, she does."
Cuddy slipped her hands into the pockets of her lab coat. "I am sorry we woke you. I have heard that you haven't slept much since Maggie was admitted. I've heard a lot about this little girl, and I wanted to stop by and say hello before she goes home." She smiled at Maggie. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Maggie. Do you mind if I borrow your daddy for a few minutes?"
"Okay, you can borrow him." She looked at her father. "Can we play Battleship when you come back?"
Goren nodded. "Sure. Go ahead and set it up."
Cuddy smiled again. "I hear you're a very good checkers player."
Maggie nodded. "I like checkers. I played with Dr. House and Dr. Foreman. Uncle Mike won't play checkers with me now 'cause he says he can' win. But Daddy al'ays plays. He don' care if I win."
Goren set her gently in her bed and handed her the Battleship game. He kissed her head. "I won't be long."
She opened the plastic game case before looking up at him. "Okay, Daddy."
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Maggie."
Maggie smiled at her. "Thank you for coming to see me, Dr. Cubby."
Cuddy laughed and left the room with Goren. "She's a delight."
"I am the hospital administrator, detective, and I really wanted to meet Maggie before she's discharged. I also wanted to talk to you."
"They told me House does not intimidate you."
Goren laughed. "Very few people intimidate me, Dr. Cuddy."
"I also heard you punched him the day Maggie was admitted."
Goren looked at the floor as they walked. "I...apologized. Believe me, my wife read me the riot act on that one." He hesitated. "He accused me...of harming my daughter. I was already stressed out and...I-I lost my temper. I swear—I'm not usually like that."
"Dr. House is not known for his tact, and you are not the first person to lose your temper with him. The hospital will not press charges, and neither will he."
"I have heard a lot of good things about you since then: how you are with your family, the way you treat my staff with courtesy and respect, the fact that House actually respects you. He told me quite a story this morning, but to tell you the truth, I can never tell if he's being serious with me or not. Were your children kidnapped by a psychopath last fall?"
"Yes, they were."
"What a difficult thing for you and your wife to deal with."
"You have no idea."
"The stress something like that can place on a marriage..."
"Yes, Dr. Cuddy. I know."
"And then, to have this happen with Maggie...You have had a very stressful time lately, not to mention very stressful jobs..."
He looked at her. "My wife and I are fine."
"May I ask why you have been the one to remain here with Maggie?"
"Is that a problem?"
"Not at all. I am just curious."
"My wife understands me, and that is not an easy thing to do. I-I needed to be here with Maggie. I can't even begin to explain what condition I would be in if I wasn't. My wife handles this a lot better than I do. She would never have gotten to the point I did the other day when I hit the doctor. And a hospital is no place for a healthy toddler who likes to play on the floor. My son is lost without his sister, and he needs his mother. Sh-she can still function and make things a little easier for him. She can deal with him sitting in the closet waiting for Maggie to find him and looking under the bed, the couch and the bathroom sink trying to find her."
Cuddy laughed. "Your children are close to each other."
"Do they play well with other children?"
"Just wondering." She hesitated. "How is your health, Detective Goren?"
"My health? Fine. Alex and I both had physicals two months ago. We got a clean bill of health."
She nodded. "Do you have a social life?"
"I have a family," he answered, beginning to feel his anger well. "But if you must pry... yes, I do. We both do. I go out on Friday nights and she goes out on Saturdays. The rest of the week we are home with the children. My father-in-law watches them while we work and a couple of times a month they spend the night with my best friend so Alex and I can spend time alone. Does that satisfy you?"
She read the irritation in his voice. "I just want to be certain things are all right at home before we discharge Maggie."
He fought down a flare of rage similar to what he felt when House inferred he had caused Maggie's illness. He stopped and turned to face Cuddy, backing her against the wall. He placed his palm flat against the wall beside and just above her head. His voice was low, intense and angry. "For four months my daughter was terrified to let me out of her sight. She didn't want her mother or me to go anywhere without her. It broke my heart to hear her sob every time we left her. She had terrible nightmares and we spent hours comforting and reassuring her. We finally seemed to have gotten her past all that and this had to happen. But this has shaken my world, not hers. She's going to start school in a couple of months and I have to find some way to start letting her go. I-I don't know if I can do that, but my wife will make certain that I do. Now do you have any concerns I have not touched on, doctor?"
Cuddy could clearly see why few people intimidated this man, and she wondered yet again about House's sanity at not being more wary of angering him the way he did. "I am satisfied," she assured him, careful to hide her discomfort at his proximity.
He moved his face a little closer and she couldn't keep herself from trying to draw away, further into the wall. She wondered if he actually meant to appear menacing or if that was simply a by-product of his size and his intensity. His anger, she could tell, had dissipated. "God knows I'm not perfect, Dr. Cuddy. And I can't even begin to explain why my wife loves me like she does. I'm just grateful that she does. I know I love her more than I can ever show. I have made a lot of mistakes, but there is one thing in my life I have done absolutely right. I have loved my children and they have no doubts that I do. I had an uncertain childhood, but my children have all the love and security I can give them. They will question a lot of things in their lives, but how I feel about them will never be one of those things. If I never do another thing right, I have done that."
She watched him walk away, slowly releasing the breath she did not even realize she was holding. He was an intimidating man when angry, but he was also filled with a raw passion she rarely saw in the people around her. As she headed back toward her office, she could not help reflecting on what a fortunate woman his wife was to have him and she hoped she knew it.
Not long after lunch, Tommy came barreling into the room. "Dada!"
He dove at his father, who caught him in a bear hug. "Hey, tiger," he said as he kissed the baby's neck.
Giggling, Tommy turned to look toward the bed. "Maga!"
"Tommy!" She laughed back at him.
Eames came into the room, followed by Logan. As soon as he saw Logan, Tommy slid to the floor and ran to him, tugging on his jacket. "Unna My! Twinnie, Unna My! Pees!"
Goren gave Logan a quizzical look as Eames shook her head. Logan grinned. "I, uh, I made the mistake of introducing your son to Twinkies."
"What did you do that for? Aren't jelly donuts enough?"
"I was out of donuts, so shoot me."
"Don't tempt me." He pointed a finger at his friend. "When he wakes me up at four in the morning demanding a Twinkie, you are going to hear from me, and I promise you I am not going to be happy."
Logan lifted the little guy from the floor and set him on the bed. "Sorry, man," he told Goren. "I didn't know what else to give him. I offered him a carrot and he looked at me like I'd lost my mind." He took a Twinkie from his jacket pocket, unwrapped it and gave it to the baby.
Crushing the Twinkie in one fist, Tom crawled to his sister and announced, "Twinnie, Maga!" He held out the crushed cake and frowned at it. "Uh, oh..."
He hesitated for a moment before tasting it and then, convinced it was still a Twinkie, he held it out to his sister. "Bite!"
Maggie readily complied by taking a bite. Tommy laughed. "Twinnie!" he announced again with a giggle before shoving half the remaining cake in his mouth.
Laughing, Logan said, "You gotta admit he's cute."
"So when he's being cute and asks for a pony, you're gonna give him one?"
Logan narrowed his eyes at Goren. "I think a pony in the bathtub is just the touch your apartment needs."
"You're not funny." He shifted his eyes toward his wife, who was watching the children and not paying any attention to them. He frowned. Something was troubling her. "Mike," he said. "Watch the kids."
He gently led his wife from the room, tipping his head down to look at her as they walked down the hall. "What's wrong?"
"I've missed you."
"That's not what's wrong. It's been a couple of days. Come on, Alex...I-I'm sorry I was a little short with you last night. I...I hate that her nightmares have come back, and I...I wasn't okay. I just didn't want to get into it right then. You know how I get."
"It's not that. I understand that."
"Then what's wrong?"
"I'm not sure anything is really wrong...but I have no idea what you're going to say about it."
"So tell me and you'll find out."
It wasn't that easy, and this was definitely not the setting she wanted to discuss this in. So she led him out of the building and down the tree-lined street away from the hospital complex. Once the hustle and bustle of the hospital was behind them, everything changed. The late June sun was warm and there was a light breeze blowing through the trees. Large yards were blooming with fragrant flowers and the trees were in full leaf. This was a much better setting. She rested her head against his arm, and she could feel the tension in him. She knew how much he hated it when something was bothering her. She looked up into troubled eyes that became confused when he couldn't interpret her expression. "Tell me," he pleaded.
"Are you happy with Maggie and Tommy?"
"What kind of question is that? You know I am."
"So our family is complete?"
"I would say so. Why?"
"You told Maggie that she and Tommy were all we needed and there weren't going to be any more babies, didn't you?"
"Uh, yes...after Nicole told her we could always have more babies to replace her and Tom. Alex...?"
"Yeah, well, you're kind of going to have to revise that explanation, Bobby. I...I went to the doctor yesterday because I haven't been feeling well. I'm fine." She stopped and looked up into his eyes. "Perfectly healthy and perfectly pregnant."
He stared at her for a moment before he walked to the curb and sat down. Pregnant? She sat beside him and leaned into him. Absently he put his arm around her. Pregnant? He rubbed his forehead and propped his elbow on his knee. Turning his head to look at her, he quietly asked, "Pregnant?"
She nodded, uncertain of his reaction. She hated that he could be so difficult to read. "Pregnant," she confirmed.
"Um, how do you feel about it?"
"That's what I want to know. How you feel."
He laughed quietly, further confusing her. "I, um, I am with you every step of the way, baby. You know that. But I can't carry a baby inside me. That burden is entirely on you. How I feel is utterly irrelevant."
"Not to me," she whispered, annoyed at the lump that formed in her throat.
When his arm tightened around her, she pressed her head more firmly into his shoulder and felt his lips press into her head. His cheek rested against the side of her head and his breath whispered past her ear. "I'm fine with it. I'm happy. I could never be unhappy about having a baby, unless you are."
He felt her relax against him. She really had been worried about how he would react to the news. He kissed her temple as she said, "I'm happy, too. I just wanted to make sure you would be, after what you told Maggie."
He paused. "I suppose that was...premature. We really didn't talk about it, did we?"
"No, we didn't, but that's okay. You can explain it to her. I'll tell Tommy."
He slowly nodded. "Okay. I'll tell Maggie. You can tell Deakins."
"Oh, crap...How about I tell Maggie and you tell Deakins?"
"Not a chance, baby doll." He kissed her. "Not a chance." He kissed her again.
When they got back to the room, House was there, playing Battleship with Maggie as Logan kept Tommy out of the playing field. He liked to chew on the little white pegs. House looked up at them, his gaze resting on Goren. "I heard Dr. Cuddy came to see you."
"Irritating, isn't she?"
"I don't appreciate anyone prying into my private life."
"She's good at that. Sometimes I think she's nosier than I am. I assume you addressed her concerns."
"I suppose so."
"You didn't hit her, did you?"
"Of course not."
Goren frowned at him when Tommy giggled and repeated him. The child heard thousands of words a day, but that was the one he chose to repeat. Maggie said, "No, no, Tommy. That's a Daddy word."
Logan started laughing. Goren shot a glare in his direction, then turned it on House. "Oops. My bad," the doctor said. He looked at Maggie. "Why don't you tell Mommy and Daddy what we were talking about, Maggie?"
"Dr. House says I can go home now!"
Her parents looked at House, who explained, "There's no reason for her to stay until tomorrow. We're getting a couple of very sick kids in tonight and I don't want Maggie getting sick again. I already wrote the orders. You can take her home." He nodded at a gift bag near the door. "There is an outfit for Maggie to wear home. Cameron picked it out." He stood up. "Thank you for the game, Maggie. I suppose I had better get back to work."
He stopped near the foot of the bed and held a hand out to Goren, something he rarely did. Goren accepted it. "Thank you, Dr. House."
"Keep her away from those jellyfish."
"Count on it."
Maggie pushed the tray table to the side. "But I can still eat jelly, right?"
House nodded. "Yes, you can still eat jelly."
She stood on the bed and walked to him, throwing her arms around his neck. "'Member what I teached you. Don' be so grouchy. It's okay for peoples to like you."
He hugged her back, still certain he didn't want 'peoples' to like him, but finding himself grateful this little person did. She bounced across the bed to where Logan stood, holding her brother. House headed for the door, stopping before he passed Eames. "Have I shown enough interest for you now?"
"You're an ass, Dr. House," she said quietly, not wanting her son to pick up on more colorful 'Daddy words'. "But thank you for everything you and your team did. I don't think I have to tell you what would have happened if we'd lost her."
Her eyes strayed to her husband, who was helping Maggie to put the game away in preparation for going home. "You're welcome, Mrs. Goren. And yes, I understand. Take care." He paused in the doorway and turned back. "You can get her ready and her nurse will be in to discharge her. I'm certain the Wunderkinder will want to say good-bye, so I'll send them up."
They took the clothes out of the bag, finding beneath them a tow truck for Tommy and a doll for Maggie. Maggie took off her hospital gown while Logan sat Tommy at the foot of the bed and played with him and his tow truck. She pulled on the ivory-colored shirt with pink trim and then slipped on the pink denim overalls the doctors had given her. Eames put on her socks and tied her sneakers for her while Goren talked with the nurse and signed the papers discharging her.
As he finished signing the paperwork, the three doctors House referred to as his Wunderkinder arrived. Chase smiled at the little girl. "We're glad you're going home, Maggie, but I'll miss playing video games with you."
She smiled. "You play good, Dr. Chase. I had fun." She hugged him. "Keep practicin'," she said into his ear.
"I will, sweetheart."
Foreman accepted her hug next as Chase said his farewell to her parents. "Maybe you can come to visit after Daddy teaches you to play chess," he suggested. "I think it would be fun to play chess with you."
"Okay, Dr. Foreman. I'd like to play chess with you," she smiled.
Finally, Cameron stepped up to the bed. She held the little girl close. "I'm going to miss you. Make sure you take good care of Mommy and Daddy."
"I al'ays take care-a my fam'ly."
Cameron laughed. "I can tell that you do." She stepped back and examined the child in her new outfit, pleased she had gotten the right size. "Cute."
"Thank you. I like my new clothes."
"I'm glad. Good-bye, baby girl."
"Good-bye, Dr. Cameron."
Cameron said good-bye to Eames, then turned to Goren. "I know I don't have to tell you to take care of them, but take care of yourself, too."
"I'll try to remember that."
"I wish the circumstances had been different, but it really was nice to meet you and your family."
"Thank you. I, uh, I appreciate everything you did for Maggie. I really do."
She reached forward and lightly squeezed his forearm. "Take care."
Ten minutes later, they took Maggie out of the hospital where she had nearly died, active, happy and once again perfectly healthy. Once in the car, Logan, who was perfectly content to sit in the back seat squeezed between the two carseats, taught the kids annoying travel songs as they headed for home.
Goren rubbed his forehead and turned to look at his best friend after the fourth round of "Are We There Yet?". Both kids giggled and Logan grinned broadly. Goren's eyes narrowed. "Just wait, Mike. You just wait until your kid is a little older."
"He'll be singing the same songs, right along with these two," Logan answered.
Eames looked at him in the rearview mirror. "And who is going to protect you from your wife? You won't always be able to hide behind the baby."
"I was kinda counting on Bobby. She may love me, but she likes him more."
"You want my protection?" Goren asked. "Quit teaching my kids to be annoying."
"As if either one of them could ever annoy you."
Maggie looked concerned. "Do we 'noy you, Daddy?"
"Of course not, mouse. I'm just giving Uncle Mike a hard time."
She nodded, satisfied, and returned her attention to Logan and Tommy.
Eames held out her hand toward Goren, palm up. He looked at it for a moment, then placed his own open palm under her hand, drawing it upward so he could kiss it. She caught her breath when his tongue flickered across the sensitive portion of her inner palm. She met his eyes for a second before returning them to the highway. With the tip of a finger, he continued what his tongue had started, caressing circles and lines over her skin. When she closed her hand around his finger, holding it still, he laughed softly. He didn't miss the heat in her eyes when she looked at him again, and she knew from the satisfied smile on his face that he had told her the truth. He was happy about her pregnancy. She rested her hand on his thigh and smiled. It was going to be a great night.