Rather lengthy author's note: Hi all. Just need to give you a quick intro for this. I finished up writing House and Chloe at the wedding chapter for a couple of reasons. One, the angst was wearing me out! Two, we'd got to a point in the story where I knew the next thing that had to happen was for them to have their baby and I didn't feel up to the challenge of writing that. Lets face it, a dramatic birth is the greatest cliché of medical drama and it's so hard to do it in an original and interesting way. Also, House is the least likely character to be holding someone's hand and saying "breathe, honey," so it's really tough to find a way to write it and keep him in-character. (Well, as in-character as he can be, given that he's married and having a baby…hehe.) And with House and Chloe's story so far, you just know that any child of theirs was going to have to make its entrance into the world in a very dramatic and angst-y way.
But the Fox Forum OC challenge this month for "Vacations" made me start thinking about House and Chloe again. And thinking that they'd probably really like to take a "babymoon" – which, if you haven't heard of it, is the latest trend for wealthy about-to-be parents to take a break before their baby is born. (Google it to find out more about some of the amazing packages you can do.)
So, here you go. House and Chloe, now married, are about to have a short vacation before the birth of their baby. And, of course, being House and Chloe, that won't be without a fair amount of drama and a good splash of angst. Enjoy and let me know what you think….
"They do not have cigar tasting sessions!" Lisa Cuddy threw the glossy brochure down on her desk and looked over at Chloe with disbelief.
Chloe chuckled and adjusted her thirty-four-week pregnant belly into a slightly more comfortable position on Cuddy's office sofa. "Oh, yes they do."
"And he still said no?"
"Yep. You know how much he hates vacations."
"Yeah, but a babymoon vacation package on a private island in the Florida keys? Couples massages and cigar-tasting sessions for the dads? Honestly, how could he say no?"
"Easy. N. O." House sauntered into the office, overhearing Cuddy's last comment. "I wondered where my rotund wife had got to and I figured you girls would be somewhere together complaining about me."
"I'm not complaining." Chloe held her hands up in defense. "This weekend will be perfect. All I wanted was somewhere to sleep for twenty hours a day, and that's what we'll get, so I don't care where we are."
"Yeah, heading to the middle of nowhere with a woman in her third trimester is such a peachy idea," he sneered.
Chloe sighed. She knew he was going to complain and complain right up until they got to the mountain retreat. She knew it, but that didn't mean she had to like it.
"Greg, you know I've taken care of everything. There's a hospital just a forty-minute drive away. It takes us that long to get here from home if the traffic's bad. We're only going for three days. And there's still six weeks until the baby is due."
"That idiot Edwards has revised your due date three times now – it could be anywhere between three and seven," he argued back. "And there's the plane flight on one of those tiny little planes."
"Which we will be on for exactly thirty minutes. If I can manage to give birth in half an hour I think I would be celebrating." A different idea occurred to her. "Are you scared of the flight?"
No one but Chloe would have read the flicker across House's eyes that told her she was close to the truth. But she knew her husband well enough to know not to let him lose face in front of his boss.
"Of course not!" he said loudly. "But if you give birth at twenty thousand feet, see if I'm gonna care. I'm not even going to tell you to breathe."
She smiled at him. "You wouldn't know what to say anyway. It's not like you've attended any Lamaze classes." She looked over at Cuddy and saw her roll her eyes – she and Lisa had lamented together on House's public lack of interest in the pregnancy, even though both of them knew it was a complete ruse. Chloe had even told Lisa about the night she'd found him rearranging the toys in the baby's room and then snuck back to bed so he wouldn't know she'd caught him.
"Ah, ten years of med school says I kind of know what I'm doing," he pointed out, not for the first time.
"Uh-huh." Chloe had given up on that particular argument. "It doesn't matter anyway. We're all packed. A car will be here in five minutes to take us to the airport. I've made special arrangements with your boss so you will be completely work free for the next three days. No phones, no computers, no television…"
"Wait, wait…" House froze. "No TV? You didn't tell me that."
Chloe put on a mock-innocent face. "Oh, didn't I? I was sure I mentioned it."
"No, no, no. Now we definitely can't go. There's a Flyers game on tomorrow and I need to see it."
"I set the Tivo."
"Oh." House seemed momentarily deflated, but she could practically see his mind working on other excuses. "No phones? I'm pretty indispensible around here you know. What if someone needs me?"
Cuddy stood up from her desk and made her way around to the feuding couple, an indulgent smiled on her face.
"House, this is not negotiable. You're going. Foreman is on call. The bases are covered. Go. Have fun. Do whatever it is that 'babymooners' do."
House began to speak, starting to explain exactly what it was the babymooners did.
Cuddy held up a hand. "I don't want to know. Just go. Have fun."
"Thanks Lisa." Chloe gave her a warm smile. She and Lisa had become quite close friends in the months since House's surgery. Perhaps it was going through that experience together, or even Chloe's pregnancy, but both women suddenly realised that their friendship was worth enough to both of them to work at it – and to work around their respective relationships with House.
"Help me up?" Chloe reached a hand out to House.
"Hey, I'm the cripple here. I've only just got back to my cane from the crutches. And now you want me to potentially damage my rehabilitation by helping fat chicks from the sofa?"
Cuddy sighed. "Here, let me help you." She helped Chloe stand. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" she asked, seeming to suddenly understand that Chloe was really going to be very alone with her husband, who apparently had no interest in being of any assistance to her.
"Yes, I'll be fine, seriously." Chloe gave Lisa's hand a squeeze. "Thanks."
"Take care of her House." Cuddy turned to him and gave him a stern frown. "When the baby's born you're going to have to start thinking about someone other than yourself. Maybe now's the time to start."
"Are you insinuating that I'm selfish?" He put a hand on his chest as if he couldn't believe her words. "Moi?"
"Come on you big lump. Lets get out of here." Chloe decided to intervene before Lisa and Greg got into one of their customary slanging matches.
"Listen sweetheart, I don't know who you're calling a big lump, but have you looked in the mirror lately?"
"Oh, I love you." Chloe reached up to peck a kiss on his lips. "But you are an annoying asshole. Come on. Time to go."
House chuckled and gave her a slap on the rump as she walked past him to the door.
Chloe had organised a driver who helped them with their luggage all the way to the check-in, neither she nor House being particularly capable even with just the two small overnight bags she'd packed. She was right, he was nervous on the flight, but she distracted him, talking about all sorts of stupid things until he laughed. And then told her to be quiet. Another driver met them at the small country airport and loaded their bags into a large SUV. Chloe had his number on a card in her purse – just in case.
The drive from the airport was peaceful, the driver played classical music and they both sat in the backseat. Chloe indulged herself in holding House's hand as the car wound its way up the mountain, the beautiful scenery unfolding in front of them in the late afternoon sunshine. House didn't seem to feel the need to speak, but he held her hand back, which was comforting.
When they reached their home for the next three days Chloe couldn't help smiling as House grumbled his way to the door. From the road, the house looked much like the small shack she'd told him it would be – timber walls, a door, one window. Not much to see at all. But Chloe knew from the website that the mountainside dropped sharply away from the road and the two-level home – well, mansion was a better word really – was filled with beautiful furniture, a huge stone fireplace and breathtaking views from every window. Including the circular, two-person Jacuzzi that Chloe definitely wanted to make use of. With the water at an appropriate temperature and no jets on. Oh yes, she'd read up on it all.
"Come on, I want to show you something." She led him by the hand into the living room, a huge expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows revealing the sun just starting to kiss the mountain tops, the sparse puffy clouds beginning to tinge with pinkness.
While she paused to take in the beautiful room with its plush carpets, leather furniture and warm colors, House seemed uninterested. She sighed at his stubbornness. He was going to have a great time, but there was no way he was going to admit it.
"Look." She pointed, not at the view, but at the massive plasma-screen TV mounted into the chimney above the fireplace – with a fire set ready to be lit.
House let out a low whistle.
"It has cable and will definitely be showing the Flyers game tomorrow. But wait, there's more," Chloe said, putting on her best home-shopping-channel voice. "Look."
She pulled him over and opened a sliding door that revealed a well-stocked library. She pointed at the telephone. "Landline, because there's no cell-phone reception. And Cuddy has the number. Just in case."
House nodded and she could see he was relieved – not having phone access had been worrying him. Not because of work as he'd protested earlier, but because of her. Her heart tugged – it was so wonderful that he was so concerned about her and their baby. She still felt blessed for every day they had together – she had come so close to losing him.
"And one last thing." She pointed out the desk with a latest model PC on top.
"Broadband internet," she said, pulling him over closer to it. "You can download as much porn as you want to, sweetie." She kissed him on the cheek. "But it had better have pregnant ladies in it."
"Oh, kinky." He waggled his eyebrows at her.
"You betcha. Why do you think I wanted a babymoon?" Chloe asked, giving him a seductive look which she then spoiled by yawning. "Kinky and sleepy. I'm gonna conk out on the sofa for a bit, okay?"
House started to pull out the chair under the desk and turned on the PC. "Okay."
For the last week or two it seemed Chloe could only sleep for a couple of hours at a stretch. She figured it was her body's way of preparing her for getting up to a crying infant, but it was still draining. She'd found the only way to cope was to go to sleep whenever – and wherever – she could. That's why her maternity leave had been brought forward. When one of the senior execs found her sleeping on her desk, it hadn't mattered how much she'd protested she could work right up to the birth.
So the babymoon was her way of trying to get some sleep. At home there was phones, traffic, neighbors, noise. When she tried to sleep during the day she was always interrupted. And the babymoon was also a way to get some time alone with her husband. Since his illness there'd always been things to do – rehab to go to, work to be done, appointments to keep. The months since their wedding had flown. She wanted a little quiet time, just the two of them.
But mostly she wanted some sleep.
House got up from the PC once he realised that it was dark enough to need lights on. He went into the living room and, finding some matches on the fireplace, carefully knelt down to light the fire. It didn't take long before the kindling caught and there were plenty of split logs nearby to keep them warm all night.
He didn't bother with any other lights and sat down in one of the large leather recliners next to the fire and looked around the room. He had to admit, it was a nice place. Very nice. The windows were dark now and reflected the shadows cast by the flickering fire. Chloe was still sleeping on the over-stuffed sofa, one hand cradled under her cheek. He checked his watch – she'd been asleep for over an hour, which was a good thing. She'd been starting to get so tired over the past few weeks. Her brunette curls tumbled around her shoulders, her pale skin looked almost pearlescent in the firelight. Her full, pouting mouth called to him, making him want to kiss her, but he didn't want to disturb her sleep.
The word still felt weird in his brain. Four, nearly five months married and he still wasn't used to it.
He also still wasn't used to the rush of emotions it provoked and the intense, almost animalistic feeling of protection that consumed him when he looked at her. Especially as her pregnancy progressed and he could see their baby growing inside of her. He wanted to wrap her up in blankets and never let her leave the house. He didn't want anyone near her in case they had some virus she might contract if they coughed. He didn't want anyone touching her – not even the exceptionally patient Tracey Edwards, their OB, who had agreed to keep Chloe as a patient despite having been warned off by every other OB in the hospital.
He'd never thought he wanted children. Well, he had decided that was what he thought since he figured he was never going to get the chance anyway. But now he was having a hard time concealing from everyone how thrilled – how supremely awed – he was that it was happening. And how terrified.
The horrendous responsibility. He wasn't sure if he was up for it, and not just because he lacked a suitable role model from his own family. He'd been living with himself for nearly fifty years now, and he knew himself well. He was flighty. Novelty-driven. Abrupt. Not able to suffer fools. How could he change a baby's diaper for the fourth time in one morning? How could he teach a child to spell? How could he discipline a teenager who got drunk? And that was all apart from the fact that he had a bum leg and was not going to be playing ball with anyone any time soon.
He took a deep breath in and let it go in a rush. He'd been down this path before and knew it never got him anywhere good. He'd decided to do the only thing he could do. Take things one day at a time.
In the kitchen he opened the refrigerator and blessed his wife down to her cotton socks. She'd really thought of everything. The fridge was packed with ready-made food, salads and snacks and even had a substantial supply of his favourite beer. She was really going all out on this vacation. He had no idea how much it was costing, but he decided he really didn't care.
He pulled out a lasagna and read the label affixed to it, putting it in the oven and setting the temperature. He moved carefully these days, a bit more slowly than he had before the osteomyelitis. His leg didn't hurt that much more than it had before, it was just that he felt less secure with it, less trusting of its strength.
"You? Cooking?" He turned at Chloe's surprised voice and saw her standing in the kitchen door.
"Me. Reheating. Lasagna."
"Ah, that's more like it."
He walked over and enveloped her in a hug. "Sleep well?"
She hugged him tightly back, as close to him as her belly would allow. "Yes. How long was I out?"
He checked his watch over her shoulder. "Nearly an hour and a half. Feel better?"
"Yeah, but my back is killing me. That plane seat was really uncomfortable. I probably should have slept in the bed."
"Ah, we'll have plenty of time in bed," he said, suggestively.
"Speaking of which…" Chloe's hands started roving over him in a way he recognised. "How long will the lasagna take?"
"It says half an hour."
"Enough time?" She pulled back to smile at him.
"Oh yeah, baby." House wasn't taking any chances she might change her mind. He grabbed her hand and started pulling her towards the bedroom. "It's been, what? Two weeks? I'm sorely in need of marital relations."
Chloe woke with a groan. She already desperately loved the baby inside her, but it didn't stop her cursing it when she woke up uncomfortable and still tired. She squinted at the clock – two am.
After their entirely satisfactory 'marital relations', as House insisted on calling it, they'd eaten their lasagna and then cuddled up on the sofa, watching the fire and talking about nothing. Then they'd watched a late-night movie and gone to bed. She'd not even been asleep for two hours and now – of course – she had to go to the bathroom.
She got up as quietly as she could, leaving House sleeping. In the bathroom she was suddenly surprised by a wave of nausea that had her quickly running for the toilet. It was something she should have been over, but it had happened every now and then throughout her pregnancy.
Her back still hurt and she was too awake to go back to bed, so she pulled on a sweater over her nightgown and padded out to the living room, grabbing a glass of water on the way to rinse out her mouth. Embers from the fire were still burning on the grate and she pulled a small log out of the pile and put it on top, bringing the fireplace back to life.
Chloe wandered into the library and grabbed a trashy romance novel, thinking she'd try to read for a while and then go back to sleep, but lying on the sofa to read wasn't comfortable. Instead, she got up and walked around the room, pacing along the windows, absorbed by the almost impenetrable darkness outside.
She heard a noise and turned to see House walk out into the living room, naked, rubbing his face with both hands.
"Can't sleep?" he asked, stifling a yawn.
"No." Chloe grimaced and rubbed her back. "This is definitely your child. It rates a ten on the annoyance factor."
He looked at her and narrowed his eyes, watching closely as she paced back and forth in front of the windows, pressing her hand into her back.
"You're in labor," he said.
Chloe scoffed at him. "Don't be ridiculous. I think I'd know if I was in labor. I've just got a sore back. I've had a sore back for weeks now."
He shrugged. "Okay. Mother knows best," he said sarcastically. He grabbed an afghan from the sofa and curled up on the recliner near the fireplace, pulling the blanket over himself and closing his eyes.
Chloe smiled at him. She walked over and pressed a kiss to his forehead and then settled into the sofa, lying back and trying to feel sleepy again. She watched the flames crackle in the fireplace and enjoyed the silence, broken only by House's slow breathing, the fire and her own occasional grunts as she tried yet again to find a comfortable position. She hated the fact that she could no longer move without grunting.
Just as her discomfort had got to the point that she was starting to think she'd need to get up and move around again, House spoke without opening his eyes.
"Okay, so that's the third time in half an hour you've groaned in pain. And the groans just happened to be ten minutes apart."
Chloe had a sudden sick feeling, the memory that she'd already thrown up dinner bringing little relief.
"What? How do you know?"
Again without opening his eyes, he pointed to the wall on the far side of the room where a large railway clock hung on the wall.
Chloe clenched her fists, her frustration with his seemingly omniscient powers of observation warring with her rising feeling of panic.
"Does your back still hurt?" he asked.
"Yes." Chloe's voice was quieter now, she could even hear the fear in it herself.
"Try getting on your hands and knees. The baby's head is probably against your spine."
Chloe could feel her fear turn into anger, conscious that it was a defense mechanism, but unable to stop it.
"Yeah? How would you know? It's not like you came to any of those stupid fucking birthing classes with me." Despite her angry words she moved from the sofa and tried to position herself as he had advised.
Wisely, this time he refrained from reminding her about ten years of med school. Instead, he got up from the chair and, once she was on the floor, put firm pressure on her lower back with the heel of his hand.
"Ooh. That's better."
They both stayed still for a moment, each taking a moment for the reality to sink in.
When the pain had passed, Chloe moved closer to the sofa, using it to hoist herself up to standing again. She looked at him in a mixture of fear and disbelief.
"Fuck, Greg. What are we going to do?"
He laughed at her. "I love the potty mouth you've suddenly developed. And I believe it was you who insisted on a babymoon in the middle of nowhere…"
"Not helping," she said warningly.
"What are we going to do?" he asked her back, still half laughing. "I have no idea. But I'm sure you have it all planned out."
Chloe breathed a sigh of relief. He was right. Of course there was no need to panic, she had made all the arrangements just in case something like this happened. All they had to do was call the driver to pick them up and take them to the hospital in the nearby town – and they already had her records because she'd asked Dr Edwards to send them through. From when they made the call to when they got to the hospital would be an hour – worst case. And at three in the morning? Easy. Now all she had to do was worry about pushing a seven pound baby out of her.
Suddenly her anxiety returned.
"It's too early, isn't it?"
He shrugged. "Well despite what that idiot Edwards says, I think you're at least thirty-six weeks, so it should be fine. And the baby doesn't seem to think it's too early."
"I don't think I can do this," she said in a small voice.
"Geez, we've got to that awfully fast," House replied. "Normally you'd have been trying to push the thing out of you for a couple of hours before you get to the I-can't-do-it stage."
"Again I say: not helping."
"Of course you can do it," he said mockingly.
"Say it like you mean it!"
He looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath, breathing out slowly before looking back at her.
"Let's just wait a little longer to be sure they're not Braxton Hicks and then we'll call the car guy, okay?"
Chloe just looked at him with a funny expression on her face until she finally reached out a hand.
"Give me that rug, will you?" she asked calmly.
House frowned but grabbed the cotton throw and passed it over.
"What…" he began, before seeing that Chloe was using the rug to wipe the inside of her thigh. "Ah. So not Braxton Hicks then."
House got up from the sofa. "Car guy's phone number?"
"In my purse, the left-hand pocket. His card has a picture of a Mustang on it."
"And he couldn't have picked us up in that?" House complained, grabbing her purse and heading into the library to the phone.
"What do you mean he's still not answering?"
Almost an hour – and at least twenty-five phone calls – later, House could tell Chloe was starting to really panic.
"These contractions are painful," she informed him, her voice just this side of screechy as she kept up her pacing in front of the windows. "And it's not some imaginary, fluffy, all-for-a-good-cause pain that the midwives described in class. This is real, honest-to-God, it-fucking-hurts pain. That breathing stuff is bullshit. I need drugs."
"I told you the Lamaze classes were a waste of time," he said, but under his breath, so she couldn't quite hear.
"I need to get to the hospital…" she moaned, doubling over as another contraction hit.
"Stop walking around!" he said sharply, realising that he was starting to feel a little anxious too. Rationally, he knew that ninety-nine per cent of births were completely straightforward and as long as things were sterile there was really barely any reason to go into hospital. Unless, of course, you were a woman with Chloe's medical history who shouldn't even be pregnant in the first place.
"But it hurts less if I walk," she said, pouting and on the verge of tears, and he immediately felt bad for yelling at her.
"I know, but you'll make it go faster. And that's probably not a good idea right now, yeah?"
He started doing a mental inventory of what he might need if he had to do the delivery. Scissors, towels, a sharp blade…
"You can deliver the baby if we have to can't you?" Chloe asked him, as if reading his mind.
He shook his head, not quite ready to answer the question.
"I mean, you're a world-famous doctor and all…" she tried to joke.
"Which would be fine if I was a world-famous obstetrician. It's been twenty years since I did OB rounds."
"But you delivered a baby a couple of years ago – you told me about it."
"Yes, with an OB looking over my shoulder and every piece of medical equipment money can buy at hand." He looked at her, trying not to make her panic further by telling her that he really, really thought she needed to be in hospital to have this baby. Even just for the pain relief if nothing else, because she was obviously experiencing back labor. "I'm not some mountain country doc who can deliver inbred babies with one hand and suture shotgun wounds with the other. I'm a city-hospital doctor who likes MRIs and monitors and all those other machines that go ping."
He saw the tears welling in her eyes again and felt both helpless and irritated. That animalistic desire to protect was blaring sirens in his head, sending adrenaline through every muscle fibre in his body. He was coiled, tense, ready to do… something. He just didn't know what.
"Here. Let me see if I can feel how the baby's head is positioned. I know it hurts to lie down, but I'll be quick."
Just as he was helping her to lie down on the sofa, the phone rang, its noise at once startling loud and absolutely welcome.
"Shall I get that?" he asked, pretending to pause in thought.
"Answer the fucking phone," she said, her voice a low growl.
He limped quickly to the library, calling over his shoulder. "Good one, honey. You sounded just like the chick in Poltergeist then."
The driver explained he was a heavy sleeper, but the last call had woken him. Seeing the multiple missed calls, he realised what must be going on and had dressed and was on his way. Would only be another five minutes.
House had dressed, gathered up a few of their things and when the guy arrived he helped Chloe as best he could into the car, this time thankful it was not a mustang. Chloe's contractions weren't even five minutes apart yet, so he knew there was no longer any need for panic. They'd get to the hospital in plenty of time, and soon enough they were speeding along the winding mountain road, House just barely restraining himself from telling the guy to drive more carefully.
"I don't know why you folks didn't just call the paramedics," the driver grumbled as they drove along. "They would have been here in twenty minutes. Maybe thirty."
Chloe looked at House wide-eyed and clapped a hand to her mouth.
House smacked himself in the head. "Paramedics," he echoed. "Yeah, we'll remember that for next time."
Chloe started giggling. Uncontrollably.
House stared at her. How could they have been so immensely stupid? He figured both of them were such city slickers that they simply assumed that anywhere without mobile phone reception couldn't possibly have paramedics. He couldn't believe he'd actually been considering delivering the baby himself.
Her laughter was infectious. Then the two of them started howling with laughter, gasping for breath as tears ran down Chloe's face.
"Ow!" She gasped, her laughter suddenly coming to a halt and her face grimacing with pain.
"Take a breath in and count it out," the driver called from the front seat. "Come on. One, two, three, four…" Chloe whispered along with him, slumping back into House's arms when the contraction faded.
The driver made eye contact with House in the rear-vision mirror. "Three kids," he explained. "You never forget those Lamaze classes."
"Uh, yeah, sure," he answered, squirming a little. Thinking, maybe he should have gone to at least one class…
"Chloe, you need to listen to me." The doctor was trying to explain something and Chloe knew she should be listening, but the cloud of pain enveloping her seemed to stop things from getting through. Chloe felt the doctor pulling on her legs, but she had no energy left to help him.
She could vaguely hear House ranting at someone in the background and part of her realised she should try to stop him, that these lovely people in the tiny country hospital wouldn't know how to deal with him. He'd been pretty much making a pest of himself since they'd arrived and, as her pain had worsened, Chloe had been spending less time monitoring him. Finally she heard the irate tones of a nurse.
"Doctor House, if you don't get out of my way…"
"Greg," she reached out a hand to him. "Please…"
He clasped her hand and sat down on the edge of the bed next to her.
"The fetal monitor's ten years old and there's no full-time anesthetist," he said angrily.
"I don't care. I just want you to stay with me. Please?" She closed her eyes, overcome with another wave of pain.
He didn't answer, but Chloe felt him wipe her face gently with a cool, damp cloth, still holding her hand tightly.
The pain wasn't like contractions anymore. The contractions had been easier to deal with; brief, intense spurts of pain followed by enough time to catch her breath and get ready for the next one. Now it was constant, a burning, ripping agony that just went on and on and on…
Chloe figured she must have blacked out when she realised that the scene had changed without her being aware of it. There was a lot of activity going on around her now. And Greg was yelling again. They'd probably call the police to lock him up. That'd be right. She'd give birth and then have to crawl out of bed to bail him out.
"Don't get arrested…" she said, realising as the words left her mouth that it was a rather absurd thing to say.
As soon as she spoke, House came back to her side, although he didn't stop yelling. "Do you want a moment to go look up shoulder dystocia on the internet?" he asked someone. "'Cause we've got plenty of time," he added sarcastically.
Chloe knew what that was without looking it up on the internet. It was the scariest thing they talked about when they covered potential birth complications in her Lamaze classes.
"Is the baby okay?" she asked. Her fear for the baby and for herself broke through her haze, allowing her to focus. She put her hand out and grabbed House's arm, trying to draw his attention to her.
He grabbed her hand and leaned down to talk to her with a serious expression. Chloe vaguely registered that he was wearing scrubs.
They'd talked about this. About what she'd want if things went wrong. She'd insisted that he tell her everything, be completely honest about the situation. Right now she wished she'd asked him to lie, to tell her everything would be okay, to put off the bad news as long as possible.
"No, the baby's not doing very well, Chloe."
Chloe didn't think she possibly had the energy for it, but she began to cry.
"The baby's shoulder is stuck and it's getting distressed. We've tried to move it into a different position, but it's not working, so you need to have a caesarean right away. And you're going to have to have a general anesthetic because there's no one here qualified to do a spinal block."
Chloe registered the tone of derision in his final statement, but couldn't bring herself to care. If it got her baby delivered safely, it didn't matter. Nothing mattered as long as the baby was okay.
Chloe had begun to get vague about who else was in the room, but she recognised the lovely, grandmotherly nurse in the crocheted blue cardigan who'd greeted them when they first arrived and who had coached her through the first couple of hours of labor, before things had started to go bad. She gave Chloe a reassuring smile and a pat on the arm.
"You'll be right, love," she said.
Then the other doctor said things that included the word hemorrhage and the next thing Chloe saw was a black mask being lowered over her face. She only had a few moments before she sank into blackness, but she wished she had enough time to talk to Greg, to tell him she loved him, to ask him to look after their baby. All she could do was squeeze his hand as hard as she could and hope he understood.
Chloe felt hazy and fuzzy and it took a long time for the room to come into focus. The first thing she saw was House sitting in a chair near her bed, still wearing scrubs. He had his head down and she thought he had his eyes closed. Whether he felt her gaze on him, she didn't know, but he suddenly looked up and, as soon as he saw she was awake, he smiled. A beautiful, wonderful smile.
He got up from the chair and only then did Chloe notice the small bundle of white blankets tucked in his arm.
"Chloe…it's…he's…our son." His voice caught on the word.
He leaned over, showing her the tiny pink face, screwed up and almost grumpy-looking. He was fussing quietly, his little fist waving haphazardly.
The door opened and the grandmotherly nurse from earlier walked in.
"Oh, you're awake love?" she said in her soft English accent, fussing around the bed. "Good. You've met your little man?"
Chloe was trying to take the baby from House's arms, but she felt too weak and was worried she'd drop him.
"I can't…" she said, almost sobbing with the disappointment.
"Come on then to me, sweetie." The nurse scooped the baby from House with a practiced arm. "Go on Doctor House, you deserve a lie down too."
Chloe realised that she was in a larger-than-normal hospital bed, and House walked around to the other side of her and lay down and stretched out with a grateful groan.
The nurse encouraged Chloe to lie on her side as best she could, and after strategically placing a few pillows, lay the baby down in the crook of her arm. It wasn't quite like holding him, but she could feel his little body pressed against her and it was wonderful.
"Thanks Margaret," House said, watching.
Chloe frowned at him. Thanking a nurse? Wait a second – knowing her name? Had he been arrested after all and this woman had bailed him out?
"Well, love, shall we try to give him a feed? He's going to be starving," Margaret encouraged. She tilted the head of the bed and then sat down next to Chloe and helped her with her first breastfeed. Chloe needed both House and the nurse's help to hold the baby to her breast, feeling too weak from the birth and the anesthetic, but apart from that it was far easier than she had expected. She mumbled something to that effect and the nurse gave her a smile.
"Well, you deserved something to come easily after that labor," Margaret said cheerfully, gently burping the baby and then lying him down again on the bed between Chloe and House, who'd stretched out again, rubbing his leg.
"What happened?" Chloe asked, as pieces of memory floated back to her. The yelling, in particular. "Did you get arrested?"
"What?" House twisted around to lie on his side facing her. He seemed honestly surprised by the question. "What for?"
"All the yelling. The abuse. I was sure they were going to call the police to get you removed."
House started to sputter a defense when Margaret interrupted.
"Oh no, love," she said. "Our Doctor Martin was right pleased that your husband was here. Not often he sees a birth like yours."
"I was just doing Gordon Ramsey to his apprentice chef," House said. "I think he kind of liked it."
Margaret chuckled. "Well, don't tell anyone I told you this," she said in a confiding whisper, "but he went straight out afterward and called some friend of his to tell him all about it."
House put a hand on Chloe's arm. She turned to look at him, pausing at his serious expression.
"Chloe, there won't be any more babies," he said gently. "You can't do this to your body again. You barely survived this time."
Chloe smiled sadly, but she wasn't upset. "I didn't think we'd get this one. One miracle is enough for me."
"And what is the little miracle's name?" Margaret asked. "I need one for the crib. Or will 'Baby House' do?"
Chloe smiled at her husband. "Christopher James," she answered. It was the name they'd chosen if it was a boy. Lucky in a way, because they still hadn't agreed on a girl's name.
"Christopher House," Margaret repeated. "Lovely."
She bustled around a little longer, giving Chloe a check over, seeming satisfied with how she was doing. Chloe felt vaguely unsettled lying in bed with House while a stranger fussed around them, but figured after what had happened in the last several hours, she pretty much had no dignity left anyway. Eventually Margaret left the room, encouraging them both to rest.
Chloe looked over at House. "So much for our babymoon."
He smiled. "Yeah. Good idea of yours, that was."
Chloe felt like giving him a playful slap, but even thinking about moving her arm was too much effort.
"It would have been a good idea if Christopher hadn't had other plans," she said instead.
House yawned. "If the idea of it was to get some sleep, then it failed miserably."
"Have you been awake the whole time?"
"Yeah. He just screamed when they put him down, so I've been holding him. He obviously missed his mommy," he said, nodding at the now deeply asleep infant lying on the bed between them.
"Oh." Chloe felt overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. Sadness that she'd missed out on the first few hours of her son's life. Incredible gratitude that his father had been there for him instead.
"He looks kinda grumpy," Chloe said, running a finger down Christopher's cheek – the softest skin she'd ever felt and the most beautiful grumpy face she'd ever seen.
"So would you be if you'd been through what he has. It's not much fun to nearly die before you're even born."
"Oh, God," Chloe whispered, starting to cry again, her tears a mix of fear and relief. "I can't believe we nearly lost him."
"And you," House said quietly.
Their eyes met and Chloe saw how exhausted he was. His eyes told her things she knew he would never say: how scared he'd been, how hard he'd worked to make sure that they both made it through.
"But hey, he's here isn't he?" House said, brightening. "Just as stubborn as his old man."
House reached out to hold her hand. Chloe remembered how it had felt when she'd nearly lost him to the osteomyelitis. She suddenly felt vulnerable, knowing that her heart and soul belonged completely and absolutely to the two people lying in bed with her.
Chloe and House both watched their son sleeping between them for a long while, and when their eyes met they smiled and they both had tears in their eyes. House carefully leaned over Christopher to give Chloe a soft kiss.
"Get some sleep," he suggested, lying back and closing his eyes, still holding her hand in his.
"Okay," Chloe replied, but she knew she wouldn't. Not yet anyway. Not when she had the two most important people in the world to look at.