*wipes away a tear* I am sorry guys, but I guess that's it. I had to hurry getting this story finished because there's other things out there we all have to focus on every now and then. However, I really hope you've enjoyed this little trip back to this version of our favorite couple.
Stay tuned for more one shot fics in the future!
VI. SIX YEARS
Six years later
The air conditioning had broken down and everyone in the hospital was holding on to something that might function as a fan, waving files, clipboards, books, even napkins, to get some relief from the summer heat.
Cuddy herself could hardly breathe, her feet hurt, her dress no longer felt light and breezy, but like a hauberk with a floral pattern.
She was talking to the maintenance team in the entrance hallway, that had just arrived to fix the air conditioning system.
She got distracted when a tiny but familiar figure appeared in the doorway of the hospital main entrance.
"Sophie! What are you doing here?" she walked over to her daughter, leaving the maintenance team alone. Cuddy looked around for anybody who might have had accompanied her child. "Did you come from school all the way by yourself?" she softened her voice when she noticed that something was wrong.
It was the second week of school, Sophie's uniform was still brand new, nevertheless it looked wrinkly and was missing parts.
"That's okay, I took a cab", Sophie replied and looked at her Mom, waiting for her reaction, knowing she was in trouble. But she didn't care since her whole life had been trouble ever since her parents had made her go to school.
"Where's the rest of your stuff? Where's your jacket? And your bow?" Cuddy asked, trying to put all the questions popping up in her head in the right order.
"This heat is messy. I changed the dress code", her daughter simply replied.
She returned her mother's surprised stare with a look in her blue eyes that seemed to sum up all the worries a child at the age of six could have.
Cuddy almost had to smile at the sight, wishing for the worries of a six year old to be her only ones, too.
"What's wrong sweetie?"
Cuddy took her hand to take Sophie to her office.
"Are you feeling sick?"
She touched Sophie's forehead to check her temperature and then gently caressed her by letting her hand glide through Sophies soft hazel curls.
"Then what is it?"
* * *
Three minutes later the glass door to House's office flew open and in came a miniature version of Cuddy followed by the original. Both of them looking miserable.
House looked up from the file he had been going through.
"School sucks", the miniature version of Cuddy stated.
"Fix this!" Cuddy hissed.
"Why me?" he retorted.
"Because I can't. I never had this. I loved school", Cuddy helplessly said. "Plus, I have to have this A/C fixed. It's killing me. And the rest of pretty much everyone in this hospital. Except maybe for Vijay, the janitor who seems to be from another planet."
"Yeah, a planet called India", he retorted, but before he could continue he got interrupted by his daughter.
"Dad won't make me go to school either", Sophie promised stubbornly and House smirked.
"You don't wanna bet on that, your Dad can do a lot of things", Cuddy replied with a pleading look in House's direction.
House leaned back in his chair. This kid was challenging him. And he liked challenges. Especially when they included blue eyes and brown curls framing a freckled face.
"That's right", he agreed with Cuddy and continued when Sophie showed no signs of surrender.
"See that wrinkle between Mommy's eyebrows?"
Sophie turned around, checked her mother's face, where she indeed spotted a thin line she had never noticed before. With wide eyes she looked back at her Dad, who nodded self-sufficiently.
"I gave her that", he proclaimed.
"Yah, but I gave her a bruise on her shin last week", the little girl entered the challenge.
"And I gave you Sleeping Beauty Barbie's Castle, so watch your tongue, Sophie", Cuddy sharply interrupted the game and the girl looked at her grimly. "Now I know you're upset, but since you're not willing to talk to me you will have to put up with your Dad. Unless you have decided to return to school. In that case I'm more than happy to drive you."
Sophie pressed her lips together in rebellion.
Cuddy nodded wearily. "I thought so."
With that she looked at House who was enjoying the scene more than he was willing to admit.
"Do something about this. Please", she begged and left the office.
Half an hour later House opened the door to Cuddy's office with a victorious smile on his face.
"She'll go. Today she wanted to tour the morgue. But tomorrow she'll go", he announced.
Cuddy jumped up from behind her desk. "You have not let her down to the morgue again. I told you she was too young for this."
"Sit down. She's with Wilson. Took her to the Pediatric Oncology ward."
"I don't want her playing with all those sick kids either", Cuddy replied and sat down again.
"Why not? Gives her a grip of reality."
"Or a depression at age 15. So. What did you tell her?" She gave him a curious look as he took a seat, too.
"Told her that she was right. That school is boring. And that most things in life are boring. But that it's about the accessories in life that make it less boring."
Cuddy snorted. "Like drugs and motorcycles?"
"Like sex with you", his voice trailed off and Cuddy noticed the usual increase in her heartbeat at the sight of the predatory glint in his eyes.
She chuckled hoarsely. "And you told her that?"
"No. I told her that only a good foundation in manners, education and culture would make her a decent person. And that only those would be successful in life. Successful enough to be able to afford the good stuff."
"Like drugs an motorcycles."
"Like Tofu and Manolo Blahniks."
Cuddy rolled her tongue in her mouth thoughtfully.
"You really think that of me?" she then asked, openly, not afraid of his answer, because he was the only honest person she knew. And she had got used to that.
"I wasn't talking about you", House deflected and they both indulged in the comfortable silence of a couple that had already fought every battle possible between to individuals.
"So?" She finally broke their moment of Zen.
"She'll go. Trust me", he replied, got up and headed for the door. Before he left he turned around and looked at her. "And you should wear that dress more often. Looks hot. Inappropriate. But hot."
Cuddy gave him an unimpressed look but smiled to herself the moment the door had closed behind him and he was out of sight.
* * *
The next morning a familiar car horn honked and broke the elusive peace of a family sitting at a breakfast table.
It had been one of those nights where House had stayed at her place. After which he always got up first to make breakfast for the two women in his life, a most unhealthy breakfast, but individually designed to meet each one of their needs: Vicodin, Alka Seltzer and a pop tart for him. Another poptart and cocoa, so thick the spoon could stand in it for Sophie. And strong black coffee and scrambled eggs with bacon for Cuddy. That she never ate the bacon would also never keep him from putting it on the plate, just to annoy her.
"It's Nan!" Sophie jumped from her seat at the sound of the horn and grabbed her lunch bag from the kitchen table.
"Nan" was their male nanny, who would take Sophie to school, pick her up from it and who cleaned the house and did the laundry in the meantime. Cuddy would never get used to the fact that all this lay in the hands of another person, even worse, a man. But then again, she had no choice. Her job was what made her a whole person. That was another one of the few things she and House had in common.
She got up as well and followed Sophie to the door, making sure she would take her gym sack with her.
After a kiss and a hug goodbye she let Sophie go, ignoring the sting in her heart that would hurt with every separation from her child. Probably for the rest of her life as a mother.
She was surprised to see that Sophie was smiling as she waved at her before getting in the car.
That moment she knew something was fishy.
Back in the kitchen she could no longer hold herself back.
"Now, will you please tell me how you tricked her into going to school, happily", she asked and picked up her coffee mug from the table. Leaning back against the kitchen sink she looked at House.
"I bribed her", he replied casually and got up, too, taking the bacon from her plate to wrap his Vicodin in it. Cuddy watched him in mild disgust.
"How?" she asked when he had finished his 'breakfast'.
"Doesn't matter how. As long as she's going. After a while she'll get used to it. And once she realizes she kicks the other kids' asses in school she'll love it."
"You think?" Cuddy asked in disbelief, wrapping her hands around the warm coffee mug.
House, who had put Sophie's plate in the sink behind Cuddy, hesitated and looked at her.
"She's our child, isn't she?"
"Yes. I guess she is", Cuddy replied thoughtfully and watched him leave the kitchen to get ready to go to work.
"Oh. And by the way", his voice sounded from the hallway. "You'll play the hen in the annual Thanksgiving play."
Within the wink of an eye Cuddy was with him in the hallway, shoving herself between him and the door.
"What are you doing?" he asked her innocently.
"That's what you bribed her with?" She sounded hilariously shocked.
He shrugged his shoulders. "You know, children with parents involved in school activities usually like going to school better than those with parents who simply mind their own business."
Cuddy let out a laugh and headed for the phone behind him.
"You can't quit. They're probably already printing the festival program", he tried to hold her back.
"Oh, I'm not quitting", she retorted with a manic tone in her voice, her fingers dialing a number she had just memorized days ago.
"Then what are you doing?"
"Checking if the role for the rooster is taken."
He smirked and walked over to her. With a sophisticated twist of her arm that made her turn to him he had won the phone over, put it away and wrapped his arm around her waist.
"Care for a stubble rash on your you-know-what?" he mumbled in her ear with a throaty voice. But she freed herself from his embrace.
"Pig", she chastised him. "I've got a 9 am with Foreman. You know that."
"Speaking of pigs. Why are you still employing this moron?"
Cuddy leaned in towards him, while picking up her bag from the sideboard. "Question is: Why am I still employing you?"
She left him standing in the hallway and proceeded outside.
"Now that's easy to answer", he said, following her into a hot summer morning. "Because I'm sleeping with you."
Cuddy subconsciously looked around if anybody in her neighborhood might be listening.
Then she locked the door and turned away from him with a secretive, victorious smile.
"Well, a woman has her needs and you have to admit you have been in better shape before...", she teased him.
"Oh, come on. I know Foreman's not…" He frowned at her smile. "Are you trying to make me jealous?"
"No need to. You already are", she playfully declared and walked to her car which was standing right behind his motorcycle.
"No, I'm not", he played along childishly and put his helmet on. "And I've never been in better shape."
When she opened her car door their eyes met again and she smiled at him, the lightness of their banter already being forgotten.
"You've done well. Greg", she said slowly, holding her breath in the end, resisting the urge to blink not to break eye-contact.
House returned her look sincerely.
She only called him Greg when it was important that he understood the message lying underneath.
His throat went dry and he tried to deflect.
"Well, it was the usual roll in the hay. A little fondling here, a bit of tongue action …"
"With Sophie", Cuddy interrupted him forgivingly and he lowered his gaze.
"We're both doing okay, I guess", he then added a moment later and their eyes met in the silent dance of two complex souls for a last time before they parted.
Each one of them going their own way in the same direction.
('I know of only one duty. And that is to love' - Albert Camus)