Hit the Ground

"It could still be Lupus", Chase shrugged and gazed at him innocently, supported by Cameron's and Foreman's cautious nods. He looked back at them. Bored beyond belief.

"Yeah, right," he grunted and stared back at the giant flip chart where he had circled the words "butterfly erythema", "joint pain" and "proteinuria". It couldn't be that simple. Cuddy wouldn't have given him this case if she had been able to solve it herself.

"Any other suggestions or should we all take a few days off to meditate over this zenfully?" he barked at them sounding even more miserable than usually.

Three perplexed pairs of eyes stared back at him.

"It's NOT Lupus!" he yelled and Cameron flinched subconsciously.

"Well, even if it's not, it obviously is an autoimmune disease. CREST-syndrome, MCTD or Vasculitis affecting her kidney vessels, any of these could cause these symptomes", she replied.

"Well, then go, check her for that before her kidneys fly the coop", he ended the unnerving to and fro of that lame discussion. Was it them or was it just him suffering from the new old pain that seemed to hit even harder now that it was coming back ? It had been very easy to forget that never ending wrenching throbbing inside his leg, that went along with his heart beat day and night. But it was almost impossible to get used to it again now. It was there, constantly present, numbing his senses, eclipsing his sharp mind until everything around him including himself faded into the abyss of the pain.

He popped the lid from the familiar "Vicodin" vial and threw in a double dose of pills sucking on the bitterness of the medication before he swallowed it along with his rage.

And then he remembered that there still was someone he could carry his anger out on. Someone who was to blame for all this in the first place. Someone who had to know how much he hurt because it would make this someone even more miserable than he felt.

He knew he was lying to himself, had he himself asked her to inject him the Ketamine. However, it was good to know he wasn't the only one who cared about that pain that seemed to reach out for him out of every corner.

With fast, heavy and irregular steps he left the room and limped down the hallway in the same old House rhythm everybody in the hospital could tell apart from any other gait.

He barged into her office as usual. Hoping to catch her doing something compromising he might be able to tease her with for the next couple of days. He had never succeeded, so far.

As always he found her sitting behind her desk going through some paperwork.

Her job sucked ! Was that really what she had wanted ? Or had she only wanted to have those expensive Manolo Blahniks she was wearing and this had been the best way to earn enough money fast enough ?

His mind instantly took a picture of all the details in that office he had entered a countless number of times before. With and without her knowing...and as always he immediately found every irregularity in it. The new pile of files on the right corner of her desk, the warm black coat and the wine-red umbrella on the coatrack, even the new shades of pink and orange in the leaves of the tree in front of he window. And the scent of her fresh flowery perfume along with the smell of green tea.

Green Tea ? What happened to the strong and smoky flavor of fresh black coffee ?

She looked up from her desk, their eyes met and her whole body seemed to stiffen in defense momentarily.

He eyed her from head to toe. Her skin was as soft and perfect as satin, had the color of the warm brown sand on Long Island beaches in the summer. Her eyes forcefully pierced through reality, as if she could cut the world and its colors in pieces just by looking at them. And her hair curled around her face in dark brown silky waves, framing the perfect beauty of the thin lines drawing her delicate countenance.

„You look beautiful", he snapped skeptically, totally distracted from why he had come to her office in the first place. She lifted her eyebrows and gave him a puzzled look.

„I'd say thank you if it didn't sound like an accusation", she replied and he couldn't help but surpessing a smile. It was hard to make her speechless.

"What do you want, House ?" she asked annoyedly. Impatiently nodding towards the paperwork in front of her.

"Why did you give me the Ketamine ?" he asked and she shrugged her shoulders in surprise. It's been weeks again now, that life had been back to normal. And he had never shown regrets or frustration over the failure of the treatment. She had made herself believe that he might be stronger than she had thought, that he might just have accepted it. But she should have known better. House was – no matter what anybody else thought - extremely sensitive and vulnerable. That was his talent, that was the key to his legendary approach to unsolvable cases. All this cocky grumpiness was just his defense, his way of trying to hide this softness that actually lived inside his heart making him susceptible to everything that went on in the world, good and bad.

"Why do you wanna discuss that now ?" she shot back, standing up and closing the window in anticipation of the yelling she was about to hear from him.

She knew he was frustrated and she felt sorry. More than that. His pain hurt her, kept her awake, made her suffer, because she had wanted him to be okay.

And because she herself was vulnerable, easily hurt these days. She swallowed that thought and focussed on him, moving towards him from behind her desk, narrowing that comforting distance between them. She felt the urge to come closer to him but at the same time she was repelled by the look he gave her. She decided not to let him get all worked up about his frustration, about his desperate need to find someone he could blame.

"You wanted the Ketamine treatment. And it could have worked, but it didn't. That's how medicine works, sometimes. It is sad. But that's the way it is, House."

She sounded harsh but that was just her own incapability of dealing with the disappointment she felt as much as he did. Her voice softened as she grabbed his arm, the way she'd done it before. Back then he had turned away making her believe it all didn't mean anything to him.

"I am sorry", she said, shivering inside, feeling his pain as if it were hers. She gave him a sincere look that gave him access to her most inner self. He used that access to stare back at her with such violative frankness that she started freezing.

Any other person he would have called a hypocrite but he knew she was serious and that disarmed him. He felt stripped because he knew that he had just showed her how much his pain bothered him. He had wanted to play it down, if he showed the world that it didn't mean anything to him, then maybe after all it really would lose its power. But instead it had grown and taken over him and now it was all he could define himself by.

"Great", he moaned, "so, that's what you suggest ? That I get it over with ? Accept my inevitable fate, surrender to it with dignity and find a way to balance my Qi ?"

She pressed her lips together and looked down before she could come up with the strength to look into those sad, angry blue eyes again.

"That's pathetic", he concluded and also looked down.

She shook her head. "No, it's not. It's pathetic to wallow in self-pity for the rest of your life."

"Yeah, I don't know anybody who'd do that..." he barked sarcastically and looked at her accusingly, was she the queen of guilt and self-loathing, herself.

"Fine", she replied. "If that's what you want, go for it. But don't blame anybody else for your misery. It's not your leg that makes you miserable. It's your attitude."

With these words she turned away from him and returned to her seat behind her desk. Her gaze quite explicitly asking him to leave.

Obediently he turned around and hesitated for a second when he caught sight of a small vial of something that looked like vitamin pills poking out of the pocket of her coat. His mind started working like the insides of a clockwork. Without turning around again he left the office and Cuddy let out a silent sigh of frustration when the door shut behind him.

She wished she could alleviate his pain somehow, but she knew, only a case could do that job. Occupation of his mind was all that could distract him, at least, that was the only thing she had succeeded with. That, and involving him in the donor search for her IVF. He had loved that job to her own big surprise, he had even taken some of the files home. It satisfied his inner child to have that much insight into other people's lives. He had memorized all the facts about almost a dozen different men he had selected as 'acceptable and only minorily pathetic' donors. She had never told him which of these she had finally chosen. But two of them had failed already. The third one, the 'Parachute Pettifogger' as House had called him, was her last hope. If the In-Vitro failed again she'd have to try again the old-fashioned way. It was getting too expensive and too frustrating. Plus, it was an extremely undignified procedure, sex definetely was more fun. It had been a nice break from all her unpromising dates, though, but she felt, she was looking for more than just a baby. She wanted the whole package.

Still thinking of House and probably doomed to think about him for the rest of the day, she returned to her paperwork again and pulled a seal out of her drawer, wielding her power over the hospital knowing that in fact, she was a slave of her own life.

Three days later

"It's an easy boring case of growing things in places you don't wanna grow things. And since our patient's too old for puberty, it's has to be a tumor. And is that just me or does anybody else see the face of Holy Mary in my tea leaves ?" House asked, still indulging in the epiphany he had experienced while staring at the green tea leaves floating around in the hot water in his mug.

"We need surgery", he then added disappointedly as no one seemed to be interested in his Holy Mary of tea leaves and poured the green dimmish liquid in the next flowerpot, for the first time realizing, that there actually was a plant in this room.

"Yeah, absolutely. And why would anyone - the patient or the surgeon – give their consent ? The MRI showed nothing, the bloodwork revealed nothing more than a slight elevation of the CRP. There's no evidence that...", Chase resisted and House cut him off.

"And that's why we have the term diagnostic laparotomy: To even cut them open when there's no evidence we have any other reason for that than the pure simple sadistic fun we take out of it. Now get your Crocodile Dundee knife sharpened and do it", House replied annoyedly and set himself in motion.

"Where are you going ?" Cameron jumped up from her seat to open the door for him. She had got used to that, trying to help him wherever she could, making him feel even more disabled than he actually was. He gave her a condescending look and she stared back at him, apologizing without saying anything. His hand came to rest on the door handle, brushed her fingers as she herself pulled back.

"I'll get the O.R. ready", House simply replied and left the room surrounded by a hazy cloud of mystery.

"Why would he do that ?" Cameron turned around and the others just shrugged their shoulders. House never bothered taking care of arrangements he had ordered, so it was clear that he needed an excuse for something. Cameron sighed, since she was pretty sure that he once again had just disappeared to pop a few Vicodins on the roof or in the deserted bathroom on the fifth floor.

When House arrived on the Clinic floor he saw that Cuddy was not in her office. He took hold of a nurse.

"Where's Cuddy ?" he grunted sensing that something was wrong.

The nurse shook her head. "Last time I saw her, was twenty minutes ago. She was heading for the ladies' room."

House frowned and stared down the hallway towards the bathrooms. He decided to wait in Cuddy's office. Once again he checked it out in detail, trying to find a hint to what was bothering him so much. He looked around. It was her office but like every woman she had not managed to resist the temptation to turn this place into the home of coziness. He even spied a half-burned scented candle on the window sill and approached it.
The door flew open and he twitched, almost dropping the candle he had lifted to smell its scent. 'Magnolia with a hint of lime', he thought and looked at her, sheepishly.

"Will you ever stop stalking me ?" she cried and House noticed the shakiness of her voice.

"You look pale. Are you alright ?" he ignored her remark and advanced her.

She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail for the third time in a row today. And once again she wasn't wearing any jewelry, not even that pearl necklace, he hated so much. Again his mind started working.
They met halfway in her office and she nodded in reply to his unusually caring question.

"I'm fine. And you're kinky", she looked at him rebukinly like a mother, a thin angry line forming between her eyebrows.

House leaned in towards her and sniffed the air. She flinched.

"House !" But he came even closer, trying to figure out that underlying scent that couldn't even be covered by her perfume. Finally she placed her hands on his chest and softly pushed him away. "Will you please stop the Hannibal Lecter Show ?"

House smiled winningly. "Or what ? You're gonna handcuff me, Clarice ?"

She sighed, defeated and tired.

"Please, House. Just tell me what you want, I really don't have the nerve to deal with your childishness today."

House ignored her. "Only three days ago you looked like the incarnation of Venus and today you are as white as chalk. And do I smell the playful scent of 'Eau de Barf' ?"

Her mouth stood open in disbelief, she was completely taken aback, her cheeks blushed.
This man was good ! And that was exactly the reason why he still had this job.
She cleared her throat and tried to resist his piercing stare. But she didn't even have to answer him to confirm that he was right.

"Morning sickness, along with the vitamin pills in your pocket and the green tea you replaced your morning coffee with. You're tying your hair in a ponytail so it doesn't get in the way when you go praying to the china goddess. Is there anything going on down there ? Any of those swimmers finally found the oyster ?"

She gasped for breath and avoided eyecontact, letting her gaze wander through her room, trying to find something to hold on to. She felt dizzy.

"I gotta sit down", she answered weakly and moved towards the next chair she could grab. After a moment that almost seemed like eternity she looked back up at him. He had not moved an inch, surprised to see that he was right.

And surprised that he felt something, that this actually got to him.

"You are pregnant", he dug deeper and she nodded. Relieved that she could share the news.

"I just found out ten minutes ago." Her voice was soft and mild, almost steamy.

House's eyes investigated the expression on her face, he analyzed everything, from the way her eyes tried to avoid him, to her hand that held on to the armrest of the chair because she was still shaky.

"Correct me if I am wrong. But isn't that usually a reason to be happy ?" he asked, obviously confused by her unexpected numbness.

When she looked up again he saw tears glistening in her blue eyes, making them twinkle like sapphires. And for the first time in weeks his insane leg pain was overcast by a penetrating twitch he felt somewhere in his stomach. Seeing her that weak irritated him. She tried to hide the tears behind a bitter smile and shrugged her shoulders.

"Call it irony. Months ago I fell for the idea to have this baby all by myself. But I was completely ignoring how much of a self-deception it was to think that this child was all I needed to be happy. But a kid shouldn't be instrumentalized to mend together the pieces of a shattered life."

House was dumbstruck for a moment, obviously she had thought about this a lot in those ten short minutes. Then again, she was still a woman, after all. Thinking and caring were her hobbies.

"Yeah, you're the head of a number one teaching hospital, making more money a year than the whole Ethopian gross national product. Just by sitting on your pretty ass all day signing papers. And despite all the pain this job causes you day in and out you still look stunning enough to win donors for the hospital only by wearing push-up bras. You drive a nice German car and you grow tulips in your garden. You have handsome Mexican guys fixing your house and pretty Thai girls who clean it twice a week. The latter alone would make ME more than happy already. But I got it: Your life truly sucks."

Cuddy remained silent. She hadn't meant to sound as dramatic as it had turned out, but she was unhappy indeed, even though she knew her life was not 'shattered'. But for the first time she thought she could understand the misery that was mastering him.

"But all these things are not worth anything if you can't share them", she said.

"It's pure self-deception to think you can actually share feelings. Sharing pain doesn't alleviate it. You have to go through it alone anyway. You are always alone, no matter how many people there are in your life."

Cuddy shook her head and swallowed audibly once again stunned by his cynicism, the loneliness that spoke to her from it.

"It does make a difference. The magic of emotions is that they can be multiplied by sharing them. Just knowing about the pregnancy without having anyone to share this with, almost makes it unreal. It can never be as intense as it could be if there was someone else looking forward to the next ultrasound with you, feverishly awaiting the revelation of the gender, helping you pick names..." She paused when she realized how much she was talking about that idea of a perfect family her mother had implanted in her head years ago. Was she really falling for that stereotype picture she had always enjoyed hating and working against her whole life just to upset her mother ?

House looked at the pattern of the carpet on her floor. It was almost psychedelic in combination with the effects of his double dose of Vicodine. But he understood.
And still he shook his head, because women were just too much of an enigma to ever really figure out what might make them happy.

"Well, now you shared it with me", he replied innocently.

She closed her eyes and smiled with a quizzical look on her face.

"Not that I had a choice to decide whether or not to share it with you", she complained wearily. "You're not going to tell, are you ?" She almost sounded beseeching.

He frowned. "Why ? Are you scared they'll find out you're not a virgin anymore ?"

She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "No, it's just...I hadn't expected this to work, I need some time to get used to this idea, myself."

He nodded and moved towards her, suddenly and unexpectedly placing his hand on her shoulder. It felt strange. And tender. Warm. She took a deep breath and before she had the chance to react to this unusual sign of affection he had walked away leaving her alone in her office.

Alone with that tiny little seed of life inside her, alone with her fears and hopes for this unborn life.

Four weeks later

His cane knocked against the glass door before he pushed it open. He brushed a few brown dry leaves from his coat. These were the last days he could come to work on his motorcycle, soon it would be too cold. But for now he enjoyed the beauty of the autumn colors, because it was one of those fine tricks of nature that were not only smart, but also of esthetic value. Cuddy was standing in front of a desk at the nurse station, not noticing that he had just entered to fulfill his weekly clinic duty. They didn't have a case and he hadn't been in clinic for days so he had run out of excuses. However, three hours could go by quickly if he just found the right game to play today.

He had got tired of teasing Cuddy with baby names or nasty remarks about her growing breasts. GH was on reruns again and his gameboy broke a while ago. So basically, he was screwed. But then suddenly he noticed something that might be able to make his day, an irregularity that instantly bothered him.

"Top o'the morning, to you", he greeted Cuddy zestfully and came to a halt next to her. "How's the 'stomach bug' ?" he asked her imitating punctuation marks with his fingers in the air. She had asked him to remain silent over the pregnancy at least as long as she could hide it. But this was a hospital, everybody knew, that gastroenteritis usually didn't last for weeks. How naive was she ? Even the janitor knew she was pregnant.

When she looked up from the patient file she had written some notes into, he knew that he had indeed found something to occupy his mind with during the boring morning hours of clinic. He tilted his head and gave her an investigating look.

"What's wrong with you today ?" he asked and she shook her head.

"Nothing, I'm fine", she replied curtly.

"Yeah, and my leg doesn't hurt anymore, either ! It's a miracle !" he snapped back.

She grabbed a file, turned away from him and walked towards an exam room. He followed her until she stopped in front of the exam room door and sighed.

"House !", she pleaded turning halfway around to look at him seriously. His eyes narrowed. "You look uncomfortable. You're buckling. Your stomach hurts."

She sighed. "It's nothing, House. I am fine. Please concentrate on the 26 other patients in the waiting room."

"But they don't have your cleavage", he complained whining and she shook her head in annoyance before she slammed the door in his face, ready to distract herself by focussing on a patient with a nosebleed.

Five minutes later he left the patient he had tried to distract himself with and returned to the lobby. A middle ear infection was nothing that was really capable of distracting him. Plus, a screaming kid was the last thing he needed today since he was low on Vicodin. And giving people prescriptions for whatever they had was usually all they expected from doctors. That and sick certificates.

At the same time the door behind which Cuddy had disappeared opened, too.
And the room spat out an alarmingly pale Cuddy who obviously had to pull herself together not to join the line of lamenting patients in the waiting area.
House's eyes opened wide and he was to his own surprise scared to see her in that state.

"You look like crap. You should really see a doctor. Or a good make-up artist", he told her when she approached him and grabbed the desk to bend forward relieving the pain that seemed to have won her over, completely. She stared at the desk in front of her, concentrating on the numbers of a patient's chart, trying to breathe in and out normally.

It was striking to hear that there was not the slightest tone of sneer in his voice despite the words that were coming out of his mouth. He was apparently honestly worried. And that actually caught her attention and she looked at him.

He seemed serious and she didn't know how to deal with that, because it was new to her. And she knew him too well to trust him, for he could easily turn back into that nasty jerk within seconds.

However, the cramps along with the scattered bleeding she had noticed this morning urged her to take that chance, risking that he would let her down any minute.

It almost sounded like begging when she looked him in the eyes, hoping he would deal with this like a grown-up. "Okay", she gave in so quickly that it scared him even more. "But I need you to walk me to the OB/Gyn floor", she almost whispered. "I don't know if I can make it all by myself."

His heart stopped for a moment when he understood that she was seriously in trouble. And she was asking him for help. She was forced to rely on him, the last person anyone ever wanted to have as their back-up plan for troubled situations. Her honesty showed him that her wall of defense had collapsed facing the pain, while she was still trying to hide what was going on.

"Hope you don't expect me to catch you if you faint", he replied, knowing that his own disability didn't really make him the knight in shining armor she needed right now.
"I can page Wilson, if you want me to", he still tried to get out of this most discomforting situation, that scared him. Not as a doctor, but as the helfpless jerk he was in situations like these.

Another cramp seized her body and weakened her knees. The room started spinning around and she felt that she had to go if she wanted this to be dealt with quietly.

"Forget Wilson, can we just go ? Now ?" she asked grabbing his forearm and dragging him away from the desk.

She knew he was a coward when it came to things like that and she almost took strength out of his weakness.
She managed to walk all the way down the hallway to the elevators without showing any signs of what at this moment seemed to tear her apart.
House walked by her side, suspiciously observing her ready to do whatever needed to be done in case something went wrong. But her strength, her almost pathologic self-control made him feel completely useless.
Though, when they were finally alone in the elevator, she let go, turned around and reached for him while she was taking a deep breath in, not being able to hold back a heavy tear that ran down her cheek.
House took a deep breath and frowned uncomfortably.

"Pain's a real turn-off, we'll make out in the elevator another time," he said consolingly as her hand grasped his shoulder, clenching with another convulsion of pain.

He opened his vial of pills to help himself to some Vicodin.

"Tic-Tac?" he asked and offered her some of his pills. She slapped his hand away weakly and let go of his shoulder when the pain decreased.

"Shut up !" she hissed and rested her forehead against the cold walls of the elevator.

All he could do was helplessly looking at her. He knew what would have been the right thing to do in this situation.
Yet he didn't have the need to touch her or comfort her because he was annoyed and angry. He didn't want to see her like that and he just wanted this pain to go away. Her pain and his...

He exhaled a silent sigh of relief when the elevator stopped on the OB/Gyn floor and the doors slid open.
She didn't even notice that and he turned around towards her and tapped her shoulder awkwardly. She felt so much smaller than she always seemed to be.

"Hey, you wanna get out, or what ?" he said and flinched when she turned around, not even being able to look at him.

There weren't many things that were capable of making him feel his own heart let alone feel it break, but this did. He swallowed the lump in his throat and reached out for her elbow to softly guide her out.

Ten minutes later another door was slammed shut in front of him and he turned away once again. She had to go through this all by herself, it was none of his business, and even he knew when he had to step back. He didn't even want to know what would be going on behind that door, he hated OB/Gyn. It was too much blood, and too many hormones. And today it would be too many emotions.
He wouldn't be able to deal with that anyway.

When he pushed the button for the elevator to go back down to finish his clinic duty he understood that she was right. It was all about sharing. Now she was there all by herself, not being able to share it with anyone. Having no one who would help her get through that. Having no one who would suffer from that loss as much as she would. Having no one trying to cheer her up. And he was just a useless bystander, too.

Two days later

"You know what's wrong with Cuddy ?" Wilson asked him rushing to his side from behind.

He had been looking for House because it had not escaped his notion that there had been something going on between House and Cuddy for the last couple of weeks. He didn't even want to know what it was, but he wanted to know if it was House's fault that she was now sitting on the bench in that secret little backyard of the hospital, wiping her tears. And trying to hide whatever had hurt her so much that it had managed to break that invincible wall that usually guarded her.

House was evasive as usual.

"Well, scientists call it PMS", he replied and walked faster hoping that Wilson wouldn't follow him to the cafeteria. He wanted to be alone.

And suddenly Wilson did stop. House hesitated and turned around. Wilson looked at him angrily, accusingly as if it was his fault that she was miserable. House looked down, almost guilty even though in this case he was innocent.

"House, if that has something to do with you, you better go and fix it."

"You mean, I should care ? Isn't that usually your part ? I am not the heartbreaker of the two of us."

"In fact, you are, House. So if you know what's going on, then go see her. She's in the patio." His voice sounded harsh almost threatening, and for the blink of an eye House asked himself if Wilson cared for Cuddy more than just as a friend or colleague. But then why didn't he wipe her tears but made him do it ?

"I'll just grab a bite. Caring always makes me hungry", he gave in and vanished in the elevator, leaving Wilson behind.

A few minutes later he sat down in the cafeteria, placing his food tray loaded with fries, a hot dog, a cherry muffin and some orange juice in front of him. And then he suddenly realized how manipulative Wilson could be. His appetite was gone and, worse, he almost felt the urge to vomit at the sight of the perfectly golden fries in front of him. Guilt-ridden as he was he got up, put the muffin in his pocket and left the cafeteria.
All the way through the maze that the architects had turned this hospital into he asked himself why he did what he was about to do.
But after all, he was the only one who knew.
He was the one she had shared it with because once again he had been the first one to notice something was going on. Because he always watched every move she made. It was like an obsession.
But to him Cuddy in all her endearingly good nature was a never ending enigma, an open book written in a secret language. Understanding her meant controlling her, manipulating her. And by deciphering her he kept coming closer, constantly invading her private sphere way beyond the limits of discretion. It was like an intimate little game they kept playing and surprisingly she had never seriously tried to stop him, apparently because she liked his obsession with her even if she pretended to be crept out by it. Maybe because that was the only kind of emotion she could get out of him. And obsession wasn't even an emotion.

He accelerated. She could not be left alone with that now. Under normal circumstances he'd have given a crap about that, but this time he knew he had to be there.

The sun stood low already as fall had taken over this part of the planet, coloring the leaves in all shades of red, pink and yellow and lowering the temperatures to the high 50s.

Cuddy felt empty. She didn't even feel the need to cry anymore. She just felt cold and lost. But she knew she'd get over this eventually. She still could have a baby, maybe that was fate's way to tell her she should stick to traditions and try to find a man first.

She heard a door in the distance, followed by the unmistakable pattern of the "House stride". Even through the rustling of the leaves she recognized it. But she didn't turn around. She actually didn't even know if she wanted him to be there. She didn't want to talk about it, that's why she had come here in the first place, because no one would ever find her here. She only wanted to get over this, wanted to forget about it and focus on moving on.

House came to a halt behind her and only slowly decided to sit down next to her on the bench. When her only reaction was a tear-loaded look in his direction he decided to stare at the trees in front of them. If his presence was all that was needed, he'd be okay. The wind carried her perfume in his direction and its fresh springlike smell pleased him, flattered him. He looked at her sincerely, studied her face while she kept staring at the emptiness in front of her, the emptiness in her life she now felt confronted with. The golden light of the fall played with the red shades in her hair while the wind made her curls dance lightly. Her cheeks were rose-colored from the cold. But it was her eyes that caught his attention as usual. They said all that needed to be said when she finally looked at him, letting go off the emptiness, facing the present again. When she saw the expression on his face she felt her heart beating faster. He was obviously looking for the right words, trying to comfort her but her eyes told him to say nothing because all that she had needed to hear, she had already seen there, in the cold sad blue in his eyes.

"Some things are not meant to be", she explained and looked so beautiful that it was hard for him to focus on anything else than touching her, feeling her soft warm skin pressed against his cold palms. It was his own incapability of dealing with her vulnerability that was feeding these thoughts until they turned into true desire. Because he had never come closer to her than that one night, the only time she had ever allowed him to see her fragility. Everything about her promised passion, because whatever she did, she never made any compromises, always gave a hundred percent of herself. And that was why he was sure she'd find the happiness she was looking for. Somewhere with someone.
Following his intention as far as his own misery allowed him, he reached out for a curl that kept falling into her face and was driving him crazy more than her and tucked it behind her ear.
It tickled her and at first she seemed puzzled, her eyes looking for his but he avoided eye contact as if his eyes could give any of his thoughts away.
Realizing why he looked away she felt goose bumps rising all over her body and averted her gaze, too, when she sensed the uprising heat in her face.

He saw her blushing and muttered evasively: "It was a pretty pathetic idea anyway. After this, getting yourself knocked up by some JDate schmuck seems like an upgrade."

She smiled, more to herself, than at him and tentatively leaned against his shoulder. He gave her resistance and pushed his shoulder against hers, as if he wanted to start a competition. For a moment she stiffened but then she felt how warm and comforting it was, even though it was him, and even though this was awkward. Leaning against him like that she realized that this was exactly what she had missed about the conception of her child.

It was wonderful, yet disturbing that he was there. That he cared and that he hurt just because she hurt.

And for the first time she understood how much irregularities mattered. And why they always bugged him so much. Because irregularities showed that something was wrong, that the world was fragile. She didn't want to be reminded of that, she wanted him to be House, the annoying version she had got used to. She had found herself even fall in love with once in a while when there were no lawsuits being filed against him.

Suddenly she stood up but he didn't move, having found a break from his pain for the first time in weeks. But she seemed to be ready to move on.

"I guess we still got a job to do in there. You coming ?" she looked at him energetically and with a brave smile almost as if nothing had happened.
The traces of mascara and salty tears on her left cheek were all that was left of this moment of fragility.

"C'mon, you know hospital gossip. We can't go back in together, you go first."

When she smiled at him her whole face lit up like the sun, her eyes sparkled.
Unwillingly she lifted her hand and carefully stroke through his hair, that felt so soft and scrubby, moving down his neck and coming to a rest on his cheek. She could see the surprise in his bright blue eyes and decided to even go further.
Slowly she bent forward to place a soft, sweet and totally unexpected kiss on his mouth. His stubbles were scratching and tickling her lips and she could smell the musky scent of his skin.
He didn't kiss her back, nor did he draw back from her. He just closed his eyes, breathing in her warm creamy scent.
She finally pulled back and looked down at him until he would look back, with a peaceful and flattered glint in his eyes.

"Thank you", she finally said meaningfully, gently brushing his shoulder with the palm of her hand when she walked away from him, her steps rustling through the leaf-covered grass.
And he felt a smile curling his lips that still had her sweet bloomy taste on them.