House slept badly, and it was past 11 by the time he made it into the hospital the next morning. He had no idea what to say to Chloe, what to offer her. He needed to find out what she wanted from him. Was she expecting him to play nursemaid for her recovery? Was she going to want some kind of more permanent relationship from him now? He dreaded the inevitable conversation about whether or not they could or should be parents, her need to grieve over a baby neither of them had ever planned.
He didn't know what he wanted, but he did feel like he owed her something. Not that it was his fault, but it took two to tango, and so far she'd been the only one paying for it. Physically anyway. After lying in bed awake for hours, at 3am he had decided that at least if he knew what she wanted he could make decisions from there.
Out of habit he walked straight to his office. His team was in the meeting room, patient files spread out on the table. They looked up when he walked into his office, then hastily averted their glances and tried to nonchalantly look busy. Damn, he thought, they know. Well, it was probably just a matter of time.
Dumping his bag at his desk, he walked through the balcony door of his office and hopped over the dividing fence into Wilson's office, barging through the door. Wilson was on the phone and looked up, startled at the interruption. Seeing it was House he nodded and indicated with his eyes for him to take a seat opposite the desk.
Wilson finished up his call in time to watch House down the last of his coffee.
"I really should be used to that by now," Wilson muttered, nevertheless annoyed at losing his caffeine. "So, how's Chloe doing?"
"Physically she's OK. She was pretty upset last night…" he trailed off.
"Yeah, I saw you holding her, figured she was crying."
House looked at Wilson questioningly. "What were you doing in OB?"
"Well, I kind of headed the trio off at the pass while you were in with her. I'm sorry, House, I had to tell them, they were about to rush in and demand your presence. I just didn't think you needed that."
"I figured they knew from their reaction this morning. They left me alone. I suppose it was inevitable, no one has secrets in this place."
"That's true. So did you and Chloe get a chance to talk after…?"
"Not exactly. I figured her crying was partly due to the post-op pain, so I upped her morphine. And then she fell asleep." House told himself it was the truth.
"R-i-ight," said Wilson tentatively. "So how is she this morning? Calmed down at all?"
House looked a little abashed.
"So let me get this right. You did the right thing by comforting her when she was crying. But then when you couldn't work out what more to do, you basically drugged her and then when she fell unconscious you went home. And even though it's almost lunchtime you haven't been to see her again since then." Wilson blustered. "House you're unbelievable."
House began to get defensive. "She needed to rest, she doesn't need people hanging around trying explain the unexplainable."
"No, what she does need is someone there so she doesn't feel like she's all alone in this. She's been through a big loss in the past 24 hours."
"What loss? She had surgery. The fact that this was a pregnancy makes no difference whatsoever," House's voice was rising. "She could have had her appendix out as far as I'm concerned!"
"House! If she'd had her appendix out, you'd be being much nicer to her!" Wilson's tone rose to match House's. "You wouldn't be all freaked out in here instead of with her. You'd be relishing the opportunity to sit in someone's hospital room and watch soaps all day with a legitimate excuse!"
"I am not going to pretend to grieve for a non-existent baby!" House spat at him.
"Who said you had to?" Wilson shouted back.
House sat back in his chair, seemingly stunned into silence by his friend's outburst.
Wilson sighed, gathered up some papers on his desk and got up to put them into a filing cabinet. He sat back down and looked at House.
"What are you going to do?" he asked House simply.
"Wilson, it was six dates." House said heavily. "We were having fun. I was even enjoying having her in my apartment. It was all just…" he searched for the right word, "…unfolding. I didn't really have plans past where I might like to take her for dinner the next time she was in town. Let alone thinking about whether I might want to marry her or have kids."
"So, this has skipped you forward a few steps. That's all. Maybe you can go back to where you were before. Maybe you can't. But isn't it worth seeing what unfolds next?"
"So what, do I offer for her to come and stay at my place while she gets better? Do I just sit like an idiot and hold her hand while she cries tears I don't think are warranted? Do I go buy an engagement ring?"
Wilson realised despite his phrasing, House wasn't asking rhetorical questions. He really wanted advice on what to do next.
"Why don't you just go see her and ask her how she's feeling?"
When House walked into Chloe's room she was pacing slowly, holding tightly to the IV stand, watching her feet carefully as if she needed to coax them to move.
She looked up briefly when he walked in.
"They told me I had to get up and walk," she said gruffly.
"Yeah, that's what they say."
"It fucking hurts," she stated bluntly.
"I imagine it does," he said dryly.
She looked up at him and their eyes met. In that instant they realised that they were mirror images of each other: him, leaning heavily into the cane grasped in his right hand, pain and a bad night's sleep etched on his face; her, supported by the IV stand in her left hand, pale face, eyes smudged purple.
They held each other's gaze for a long time, trying somehow to communicate feelings that couldn't be fitted into words.
She was the first to break away, moving back to the bed, shifting herself on to it. The movement hurt and she groaned.
"I'm sorry," he said. He'd meant it as an expression of sympathy for her pain, but he knew as the words left his lips that they were much heavier than that; weighed down with meaning.
She looked up at him as he spoke, heard the emotion. Nodded.
"So," she asked, looking away, "what happens next?"
House took a deep breath in and his next words came out exactly as he intended. Crisp, professional.
"Well, you'll experience some pain and bleeding for a couple of days. You'll most likely be discharged tomorrow, but you'll need a follow-up ultrasound to make sure everything has healed properly." He swallowed, the doctoring veneer faltering slightly for his next statement. "There'll be some impact on your fertility obviously…" he trailed off. "Otherwise you should be fine."
"Yes, well, that wasn't quite what I meant. Dr Wright has already gone through all that with me." Chloe remembered the white-haired Doctor Wright's gentle explanations earlier that morning. And Dr Cuddy's reassurance after he'd left, that things would turn out for the best. She really wanted to believe that.
"I know." He turned to look out the window.
"Look Greg," Chloe started. She done a lot of thinking after Cuddy had left her room that morning. She knew that she had to take the lead. She couldn't wait for him to muddle through it, messing things up.
"I know that this is a bizarre situation. We've only known each other for a few months and I haven't even decided if I can stand you for longer than a weekend, let alone for kids and a mortgage," she tried a little laugh, but it was hollow.
House turned to look at her, hearing the echo of his words to Wilson just minutes ago. He gave her a sad, serious look and then a small, crooked smile. Realised she was letting him off the hook.
"You don't even know if I can do the dishes." House joked.
"Yes I do: you can't." Chloe smiled sadly. She leaned back on the pillows and stretched her legs out on the bed carefully. "I made a call this morning. My sister's flying in to pick me up tomorrow. Taking me home." She was matter-of-fact. "I'm going to do my follow up there."
"Oh." House nodded, as if approving a particularly practical plan. "That makes sense, I guess."
"That's what I thought."
House stood awkwardly at the end of the bed, momentarily lost for words. He felt both relieved and cheated. He'd gone through hell, prepared himself to walk in the room and have one of the most difficult conversations of his life. He didn't know exactly what he'd been prepared to offer, but knew that he didn't want to stuff things up for a change. Whatever that meant. And then she'd taken the decision away from him. No, House thought, no you don't.
He was filled with uncertainty, but he'd been honest when he spoke with Wilson. He was happy with how things had been unfolding. If they could just pretend this had never happened… He worked up his courage and spoke hesitantly.
"A few years ago I went for a drive, just needed to clear my head. I didn't have any particular direction in mind. So I found myself heading out of town on this back road, and there were just warehouses and factories all around. Then I saw this neon light in blue saying 'Yianni's Greek Food'…"
Chloe interrupted him, looking confused. "Is this a metaphor?"
"No, a dinner invitation. The next time you're in town."
Chloe took a deep breath. She could see the vulnerability on his face, uncertain whether he should have put it out there that he wanted to keep in contact with her. She wanted to make everything alright for both of them, but knew it never would be.
"Thanks," she said. It was the best she could do, and she tried through her eyes to let him know that.
They shared a sad smile before Chloe looked away to the window.
House took a breath, aware now that there would be grief for him, whether he wanted it or not. He walked toward the door but paused after a step. Shaking his head as if to clear it, he turned and walked back toward the bed. Once again, their eyes met. He leant down, putting a hand under her chin and she lifted her head. Their lips touched lightly.
He turned and walked out of the room.
Thanks so much to everyone who has left comments and given encouragement, particularly Gypsy71, JuliaBohemian, Sans Amoure and Sokerchick. You have encouraged me to keep writing and I have a new story which will be posted soon, hopefully.
I hope you have enjoyed the final chapter and like the way it concluded. I have re-written the ending about four times (which is why it's taken a while to post) with scenes ranging from sappy through to harsh: I hope this is a bit of both. It feels right to me anyway, even with the corny kiss ending. Look forward to hearing your comments. Cheers.