Wonder
By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: Same old, same old. Don't make me cry about it again.

Summary: She pretends not to notice and spends the night in her own house, both of them knowing that he and his special mood would do very badly to be around her right now.

She takes a long, cold shower and pretends not to need him just then.

Rating: R, because where would this ship be without hard breathing and mindless clutching?

Author's Notes: If you have any wish to complain, please do so to leiascully, waffus, inkcat, and later blushingsigh. It's all their faults; they encouraged me.

The final installment of the series that actually began with One Fine Mystifying Dance and continued on with the prequels, Steam, Sneak, and now concludes with...

He's finding it more and more difficult to concentrate as time goes on. It's easier when they are involved in a case and he can focus on reasons why their (would have been) otherwise healthy patient has wound up on a respirator after what should have been a routine appendectomy.

It's hard to concentrate when all he really wants lately is to just stare. The round firmness of her belly (their boy) is akin to some strange magnet that draws him near whenever he is around her. So he avoids her in the best interests of them both because they are at work and it really doesn't serve any purpose to have what amounts to a giant neon sign above both their heads proclaiming, 'I KNOCKED HER UP AND IT'S A BOY! I AM THAT GOOD! I FUCKING PWN!' (complete with the grammatically incorrect and, yet, strangely appealing typo 'p' in place of the 'o.') for any and all to see.

So he avoids her and whenever he is forced to be in her presence for whatever work-related matters there happen to be, she will allow herself a smirk at his expense because she knows and thinks it's just the funniest thing.

Sometimes he wants to strangle her.

He should just get a big piece of cardboard and write DAMN YOU, CUDDY on it in black Magic Marker so he could just hold it up and be done with it. That would save so much time.

It's easier at night.

In the darkness of his bedroom (they're considering moving into one larger house for them all, but their discussions don't seem to get very far before touches and kisses take the place of words and everything goes to hell; it's really a mystery how either of them gets anything done at all) at some indeterminable hour, he'll curl himself around the roundness and whisper about how beautiful she is and she'll ask if he's hurting but it doesn't really matter at the moment because endorphins are marvelous painkillers and so he can ignore it and say it's fine.

But right now, he just sighs and fields another call from his mother, who he knows has just gotten off the phone with Lisa. He almost believes his father's old complaints about a "conspiracy" between him and his mother. If love is a conspiracy, then he supposes John House was right.

She tells him he's perfect and sometimes he's able to believe it. Rarely, though.

He thinks too much about everything and it's never helped much outside of work, but he can't turn it off.

He's dying of love and he thinks he might not mind. Yes, he does. And it terrifies him.

She's finding herself on the phone with Blythe House more and more often these days. It feels just a tiny bit wrong; after all, she's almost certain Blythe was never given warning about the maelstrom she gave birth to, but his mother is a godsend and a life raft in the tumultuous, impetuous, entirely unpredictable sea that is this man she loved more than she thought she could ever love anyone.

But if she is given a cheat sheet on How to Raise a House, who is she to refuse?

"He's never slept very much," Blythe tells her, the older woman's proper Virginian accent still dominant even after so many years of traveling and being around her husband's own militarized version of Ohioan gruffness. "We took him to his pediatrician about it when he was a baby, but apparently there wasn't anything to worry about. Or so he said."

Lisa, a former pediatrician herself, laughs softly at the implied quack she can hear in the older woman's voice and the resignation she's given over to after having dealt with a small child who couldn't settle down until well after midnight on the best of days.

"Well, since Greg's still a night person--which in his case means chronic insomniac--he can deal with the baby at three am if he wants to. He's always getting after me for working so late anyway. Hypocrite."

Blythe's breezy laugh at her words widens her own smile and she can tell they're both thinking of the odd and infuriating genius that peculiar and confounding boy became and just how much they both cherish him, even as he irritates the hell out of Lisa just to have something to do.

"He's such an ass," Lisa gripes, just because she feels like it and Blythe laughs some more. "Please tell me it's not a familial trait?"

Blythe's apologetic sigh at her words make her roll her eyes in trepidation. "I'm sorry, my dear. But surely that's not all..."

And Lisa smiles because she knows it's not. "No. But it's easy to forget when he walks up to a donor and makes some comment that has me itching to grab a hypodermic of Ativan and stab him with it just to shut him up. Bastard."

But her tone is affectionate and Blythe knows Lisa's not really angry. Sure enough, she sighs herself and remembers the Giles case and the incident with the DNR order that Greg blatantly violated. "I told him that I knew he was crazy when I hired him. I've known he was crazy for twenty years. He has a legal budget with his name all over it simply for that madness. He lives up to my expectations. Always has."

But her expectations aren't what the majority of the hospital thinks, she knows.

"I'm glad, dear," Blythe says and they both say goodbye and hang up, eloquent smiles on their faces.

She's been at his apartment more and more often these last few months. She reasons that it's easier because his place is smaller than hers and he doesn't have stairs everywhere. She tells herself that she's saving him the effort.

They take a joint day off and lie together in bed for longer than Lisa ever would otherwise. He walks his fingers up and down her body, sending warm little shivers through her. He ignores his television and says that he'll catch up on General Hospital later that night on the Soap Channel.

She watches him fall asleep and tries not to cry (damned hormones) as he sleepily mumbles love into her hair.

It's Friday night and, for some odd reason, he tells her to go to synagogue. He doesn't respond to her questions and ignores her looks of surprise and curiosity. He kisses her on her way out of the door and tells her, "Ani ohev otach."

She leaves, properly attired for service, and he feels a slight pang of loss. He's managed to ignore them for years now, every Shabbat, a tradition his mother had insisted upon ever since he was old enough to understand what was being said to him. This loss is compounded, he knows, because neither Lisa nor Jimmy--to his knowledge--feels this way. He drinks wine instead of whiskey, telling himself that a beautiful almost-summer night like this will be better if he's sober and coherent enough to enjoy it. And tomorrow morning with Lisa will be even better without small robots working a construction site in his head.

He recites Kiddush under his breath, while telling himself that it's only habit and those die hard.

He eats Challah only because it's good, after all, and who is he to ignore good food right there in the kitchen?

Lisa arrives home to find him asleep and is thoroughly taken aback because it's only eleven. She slides in beside him and is pleasantly surprised when his arms slide around her. She turns over and finds that she was wrong about him being asleep. There's a paperback on the nightstand beside him and he turns back over to pick it up.

She falls asleep with the quiet sound of his voice rolling and rumbling over her, deep through both of their chests.

On Wednesday, he takes her to Whole Foods and buys organic, kosher, and--therefore--pregnancy-friendly food for dinner. He cooks her vegetarian spaghetti with soy 'faker' meatballs and even consents to eating some of it himself, telling her it's 'not bad.' She smiles in silent victory over the absolute carnivore before her. Afterward, they play Jeopardy and she watches helplessly and in awe as he shuts her out, 45 to 6.

He watches powerlessly as she insists on going through every baby item they have, just to be sure they're prepared. They have two of everything because she's anal and they haven't decided about the moving situation yet. He finally manages to get her to bed after eleven and spends the rest of the night watching Steve run around the living room in his orange plastic exercise ball.

On Thursday, he loses his patient despite both he and his team having done their jobs to the best of their abilities. The perfectionist deeply ingrained in him by a drill sergeant father is aggravated and sullen. His hands shake as he leans on the handlebars of his motorcycle and grips them with, seemingly, all the (admittedly, slowly waning) strength in his lean body.

She pretends not to notice and spends the night in her own house, both of them knowing that he and his special mood would do very badly to be around her right now.

She takes a long, cold shower and pretends not to need him just then.

On Friday, he corners her in a freshly vacant Exam Room Three and kisses her deep and long, threatening to send her careening over the edge right then and there. "God, Lise," he whispers, his voice hoarse and pained. "What the hell am I doing here?"

I'm flying blind, his Marine pilot of a father would say.

And she's filling with fear, herself, because she's never heard him sound like this before. Plain scared.

And then he leaves as swiftly as he appeared and it takes her a moment to compose herself, but she does and then she leaves, as well.

That night she drags him to synagogue and resolves to force him to behave and not make snide comments or hobble away as they walk in. The service begins, though, and he's so quiet and so still that she would forget he was there if it weren't for the tight grip he has on her hand.

She expects, during the prayers and reading, to look over and see him rolling his eyes in exasperation and annoyance. Climb out of your holes, people! James said he yelled.

Instead, he's staring ahead, a forcefully blank look on his face. His eyes, though, are wrought with sadness and fear and it hurts to look at them so she turns back away.

Afterward, she takes him down the hall to eat something because she knows he most likely hasn't since that dinner on Wednesday and as much as she'd like to ream him out for it, it's useless at this point.

He resigns himself to drinking reduced-sin white cranberry juice, eating crackers and cheese (his father called him 'Mouse' because he was quiet and cheese was his favorite food and he's always hated it but it still makes him sad now), and refraining from making jokes or swearing.

Lisa tries to get him to talk to the rabbi, say anything, but he can't so they nod and he takes her home.

By the time they're home, she can no longer feel the tears sliding down her face.

He watches, morose, as she walks into their bedroom, rubbing her belly and sniffling quietly. He runs an angry hand through his hair and slowly follows her into the darkness of his bedroom.

"You won't talk to me," she says softly, and she hears his breath whoosh out of his lungs.

"God, Lisa," he murmurs, his voice cracking as he lowers himself down behind her and wraps his arms around her belly, squeezing her hands in his and nuzzling the back of her neck and relishing her moan and the way she reacts to him.

She gasps as he kisses his way across her shoulders and hisses as he rubs gentle circles along the side of her face and up to her temple.

"I'm sorry," he whispers and she moans again, heat beginning to flood through her. "I'm just...I don't..."

She nods, knowing what he's trying to tell her but can't. His hands shake as they trail down her shoulders and he lets his head dip to leave blowing kisses across her neck.

"Greg," she whispers, his name a sob on her breath and his heart breaks.

"I'm sorry," he says again, and their clothes are gone now and he's pressing her backward onto the bed and gently rolling her to the side before moving slowly to hover over her.

"It's alright," she whispers, her eyes opening to watch his. The clear, crystalline blue glows in the low light of the room and she wants nothing more than to feel him inside her, to comfort him.

"I don't want him to be like me," he says as he pushes steadily in, taking extra care so that he's kneeling over her and balancing his weight on the mass of pillows beneath them and his undamaged knees because this the only way they're both rather comfortable and reasonably painless given the circumstances.

"I know," she moans, the feel of him beginning to move and stretch her already proving to be too much and she's rapidly propelled toward her release as she reaches over blindly to take his hand in hers as she loses herself in a mindless knot of pleasure.

He follows soon after, her name a stream gushing forth from his mouth.

Afterward, he's noticeably more relaxed and teases her about working on the Shabbat. She sleepily reminds him that sex is allowed and he amends that it's between a husband and a wife. She asks when he started caring.

He resists the urge to tell her that in twenty years, he never stopped.

His parents surprise them by arriving from Okinawa the next day. He's at the whiteboard, striking diarrhea off the list for their new patient when his mother and father simply open the doors and stroll right in. He's tempted to beat the crap out of the security guards, but experience and the scars on his neck and stomach remind him that they can't be trusted any damned way.

Foreman nods a quick hello to them and tries to drag Cameron off to do their assigned tests, while Chase is marooned on the island of Having Met House's Parents Four Years Ago when he'd only just started his residency. House's mother calls him Robert and his father tells Chase he needs a haircut. Foreman finds all this terribly hilarious and goes through great pains to show him so.

Chase secretly fumes and vows revenge.

Cameron, of course, does all the pleasantries and is secretly grateful Foreman doesn't mention her stalkerish activities from a year before. She feels the shadow of House's hand on her shoulder and hears his murmured, I'm proud of you echo in her head.

House watches all this and makes his own secret plans to help Chase with his retribution.

He hugs and kisses his mother, greets his father in Japanese just because he feels like it, and sighs when his father rolls his eyes and says hello in English.

Chase has managed to edge out of the room, dragging Cameron and a gleeful Foreman with him.

His mother asks how James is and, more importantly, how Lisa is and he sighs and sits down at his desk. "He's fine. She's fine," he says and his mother frowns, her loving hazel eyes burning down on his blue ones like the embers from a fire melting ice.

"You're not," she says softly, taking his hand for a bit and gripping it. She knows he doesn't like to be touched for long, but the sentiment is all the same.

He shakes his head because he cannot lie to his mother.

"You will be," he hears her say and wants to believe her. He's afraid because he can't.

That night they have Jimmy over and watch That 70's Show on FX and Detroit Rock City on Starz Edge and Greg tries to explain various plot points to his mother, but she's too busy commenting on Ashton Kutcher's 'marriage' to Demi Moore to pay him much attention. He forgives her and counters her attack with a diatribe on how so many innocent children have the unfortunate burden of having to claim 'K-Fed' and Britney Spears as their parents and why the hell haven't Social Services removed those children from their home because no decent mother in her right mind would put her son in a position to get his skull fractured during a routine bottle-feeding. Lisa puts her feet on his left leg to shut him up and he rubs them, reveling in his father's open discomfort and the way his mother, Jimmy, and Lisa giggle at John House.

His father bets that Hyde, Jam, and every other 'little stoner idiot' on the television would have gladly been Greg's cohorts when he was a teenager. Greg rolls his eyes and enjoys it when Lisa leans back into his side.

He only pops one Vicodin and drinks a full glass of water because his mother asks him to. She humors him when he tells her to prepare for battle because he's reasonably certain Jimmy's finally ready to stage a coup and take over her position as his mother.

He goes to bed at three am, the dull ache in his leg keeping him awake until five.

Her water breaks at seven.

They keep him out of the operating room because it's obvious his anxiety level is through the roof. They camp out in the balcony above the theatre and watch Lisa's emergency cesarean section from above. He rubs his still-aching leg and pops another Vicodin, then spends ten minutes cursing the name of every obstetrician in the hospital and swears that if those bastards don't take proper care of her, he'll dissect them all with a rusty scalpel. His mother tells him to stop plotting murder and do something constructive to distract himself before he implodes. But he can't. So he settles for shutting up.

The operation goes smoothly enough and they spend the rest of their time down in Lisa's private room, watching her sleep while trying to save House from his boredom and themselves from him.

Their boy (Daniel Adam House, they've decided to name him--after Lisa's father and House's most favorite patient of all time--and will announce it at his bris in seven days) is a month premature and a little underweight at four pounds, nine ounces, but otherwise appropriately healthy. He scores a three on the APGAR test the first time and a four five minutes later, earning him a grand total of seven out of ten. He spends the first few moments of his life with his parents before he is rushed off to the NICU for at least the next twenty-four hours. House appoints Chase to keep an eye on things and to stab whoever looks at Daniel the wrong way. Blythe taps Greg brusquely on the arm and calls him by his full name. He flinches, but doesn't waver. Chase nods and goes to do (most of) House's bidding.

They go in two at a time to have a look at Daniel, who is in an incubator just to be safe. He doesn't need oxygen, which is good, but his pre-term status has caused a case of hypothalamic dysregulation that should go away in a few days. House and Blythe each put on thin paper yellow NICU scrubs and go in to see him. House repositions himself carefully, managing to equally divide his weight between his left leg and the cart that carries the incubator. He reaches in and trails one long pianist's finger down the side of Daniel's chest. Beside him, he hears his mother's sniffles and tries to tell himself that his own accumulation of mucus and tears are an allergy attack.

He almost manages to believe his own lie.

After John and James have each had their turns, they return to Lisa's room to wait for her to recover from the pain, anesthesia, and exhaustion.

Out of desperation, Jimmy leaves and returns with snacks and a battered pack of cards and the two of them and John play blackjack for money. They would play poker, but it's no fun with only three people and, besides, House has been beating his father at poker since he was ten. There's really no point. House cleans them all out, regardless of his anxiety, and when Evil Nurse Brenda comes by to heckle him, he calls her 'Nurse Ratched' and tells her to sit down and give him her money.

Brenda snorts and accepts his challenge, managing to retain a little over half the money she started with and agrees to let Wilson get out of payment if he'll do 'Billy Bibbit's' clinic duty for the next month. John doesn't see how that'll help anyone but Greg, but Jimmy gladly accepts, wanting to spare the rest of the hospital House's wrath if he can.

After a few hours, Foreman and Cameron drop by and Chase has showered and changed into fresh scrubs. The three younger doctors have all gone to have a look at Daniel and House can tell Cameron was crying a few minutes ago.

House gives Wilson the signal and several packs of Bic ink pens are passed surreptitiously along. Foreman makes the mistake of going to the snack machine down the hall and is too involved with his Chips Ahoy cookies to pay attention to the coat on the back of his chair. They received an extra time bonus for the minutes it took him to hunt down change.

Someone or many have broken said ink pens open and drawn an elaborate if hasty recreation of a male's reproductive system (complete with testes) as well as the lower gastrointestinal tract, ending with an emptying rectum and anus, on the back of Foreman's coat along with words in Chase's handwriting: BEING GASSY SUCKS; PEPTO-BISMOL WINS AT LIFE.

They made certain to label the fecal matter as such. It's all rather neat, considering, and the movie Memento comes to mind given their crude tools. There is a suspicious amount of ink stained latex gloves in the wastebasket next to the door.

It's another hour before he realizes that all of the snickering and suppressed laughter going around in the halls is directed at him. He changes from his soiled lab coat into scrubs and returns to devilish grins in Cuddy's room to give Chase a death glare.

"The Wombat is victorious," House declares, clapping a smugly grinning Chase on the back as his father cackles gleefully beside him. Wilson and Cameron try to smother giggles, but are largely unsuccessful. Cameron and Blythe are the only ones attempting to cut Foreman any slack. The rest know he doesn't deserve it and House reminds them so.

It's just after twelve when House finally gives in to his mother's wheedling and he unabashedly but gawkily slides onto the bed next to Lisa, his shoes clunking loudly on the floor next to the bed. He's asleep in a matter of moments.

When Lisa fully awakens, it's nearly four in the afternoon and she's rather surprised to find House curled up on the bed beside her, his left hand tangled possessively in her hair.

She blinks blearily and sighs in relief to see House's parents and James all napping beside them. Chase chooses that moment to walk in and smiles when he sees his boss's boss. He smartly disregards House's sleeping form, instead waving a bit and producing a Polaroid taken of Daniel that afternoon. His eyes are closed and he's sleeping peacefully. The sight of it takes his mother's breath away. Tears slide down and she gratefully accepts the Kleenexes Chase hands her.

She gasps as she wipes away the tears clouding her vision and he gives her an awkward approximation of a nod. There are little wisps of hair sticking out of Daniel's scalp already and Cuddy can see they are the same color as his father's.

"Four pounds, nine ounces," Chase whispers to her and she can't help but cry some more. She looks over at House and sees the utter exhaustion and worry etched into his face. She bites her lip and reaches over to stroke his eyebrows with her thumb and his features relax somewhat. Chase wisely ignores this.

"Look what we did," she murmurs to House's sleeping head, and he doesn't answer directly. He manages to scoot a little closer, winds his hand a little deeper into her hair.

She imagines that if House were awake right now, he'd be demanding they bring her some decent food. Or maybe just him. He's an ass like that.

She lies back and stares at the picture before her, ignoring Chase but not meaning to. She sniffled and looked at him.

"Thank you," she says softly, taking a Kleenex and wiping her nose with it.

"When you're ready, you can go right to NICU and see him," Chase says, a small smile on his face. He blushes when Cuddy smiles back at him. She watches with some amusement as he ducks back out. In his own way, Chase reminds her (a tiny bit) of what House was like when no one was around: awkward, very quiet, scarily bright, and curious; and, when there was an audience, willing to take risks on the not-so-off chance that he was right. She knows that once Chase manages to climb out from under House's shadow, he'll be a brilliant doctor and will perform better under pressure than many if not all of his colleagues. Particularly the overly-smug (the young man puts House to shame, really) Foreman.

She personally can't wait.

Laughing quietly under her breath, she lies back, closes her eyes, and bites her lip against a sudden wave of lingering labor pain. Against her will, a tiny moan slips out and her hand goes to her abdomen.

"Morphine would be really good right now, huh?" House's husky sleep-voice says, his own hand coming to gently cover hers. The next thing she feels is his stubble-covered skin coming to hover over the back of her neck and his lips on her skin. He obviously remembers the glass windows and everyone around them, though, because he behaves himself for once. He only kisses her once, feather-light and chaste for him.

"I didn't want to be drugged," she whimpers, trying to ignore the clenching in her belly that is worse than any cramps she ever had. "I'm trying to get over the anesthesia."

"It won't do you any good to see the kid right now if you're doubled over in pain. And I don't think he'd appreciate Mommy stealing the spotlight by having complications because she was so hellbent on not taking any pain meds when they're so clearly needed and will help."

"Pharmaceutical companies should hire you as a spokesman."

"Cuddy," he says, very low, his hand stilling on her abdomen: a heavy, calm weight that comforted her more than he'd ever know.

"You said something about complications," she said, trying to change the topic.

He paused, knowing that was exactly what she was attempting to do. For now, though, he let her. He was the same way. If the focus was on him for too long in most instances, he shut down.

"He will be fine," he said, removing his other hand from her hair and instead bringing her backward into his arms. "I was."

"You were--"

"A month and a half premature," House clarifies for her astonished ears. "From what my father told me about what little they were willing to explain to him at the time..." and here his voice takes on a definitively bitter tone that she's never heard before. One that has nothing to do with Stacy or his leg or anything else she's ever known him to worry about. "She developed preeclampsia at seven months, fourteen days gestation. My father remembers it like it was yesterday."

She can't help but flinch sharply as her eyes wander to the still-sleeping woman before her who had given birth to this man.

"Oh my God," she whispers, a sudden influx of terror filling her veins. "What happened?"

"My mother's idiot obstetrician kept her in active labor far too long. She was probably only hours from full-blown eclampsia by the time he wised up enough to send her to the OR for an emergency C-section. And then they fucked that up. Moronic son of a bitch. She and I both almost died. And meanwhile, my dad was sitting out there in the waiting room, clueless because no one would tell fathers shit back then. My mother described the look on his face when she finally saw him again as 'half-dead with worry and on Cloud Nine with relief.' He described her as looking as though she'd survived the wreck of the Lusitania."

His voice hitches, then, and Cuddy realizes with a shock that he is crying. She can tell that he is staring at his sleeping father, wondering.

"My parents never had any more children, obviously. I thought about my memories from when I was about four or so. I surmise that they managed to get pregnant again, but it didn't work out. Eventually, surgery put an end to that altogether."

She takes a deep breath, trying to keep from crying herself, but it isn't working out very well.

"So...I suppose I should tell you--you were probably able to guess--I was a nervous wreck today. I know things aren't like they were in 1959, but I couldn't get the idea that you and he might die out of my head. That our idiot obstetricians would take as horrible care of you as my mother's did her and I. Bastard."

His hand is in her hair again, twining, searching for something. She lets him, wanting him to have whatever hold on her he could manage. Whatever made him feel like they were all safe and sound.

"I never knew about any of it until I was fifteen. Mom was in the hospital, recovering. My father and I were both at home for a while, not enjoying each other's company in the slightest. We had an argument. Something stupid that got way out of hand. He grabbed my shoulder and I hit him. Punched him or scratched him or something. I don't really remember. I think it was a rage blackout. I was just so...I couldn't understand why someone as awesome as my mom had to be so sick. She contracted an infection in the hospital, after the surgery. She almost died--again--and she still tried to ask me about what I was doing. Fuck what I was doing. She was the important one, not me. To hell with me."

Cuddy breathes deeply, trying to quell her own tears. She lifts his hand from her tummy and gives it a tight squeeze.

"Maybe she was trying to distract herself," she whispers, trying to help him see a conclusion he couldn't seem to reach himself. "Maybe hearing about your day brightened hers."

She hears him snuffle a bit, shifting restlessly behind her. She reaches over and lays a tender hand on his right thigh, careful as always not to squeeze.

He stills a little, sighing and running his hand through her hair once more.

"Anyway, my dad and I had a fight about some damned thing and when my memory picks back up, he was sitting in his armchair and I was lying on my back on the floor. There was blood on the underside of his arm. The one with the big Marine tattoo. I scratched him up really good. Later on, he came up to my room and stood in my doorway. There was a white bandage on his arm and it took him a really long time to say anything. That was the first and last time he's ever apologized to me. But then he came in my room and asked what I was doing. He looked over my shoulder and saw that I was writing out the notes for Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. It was one of my favorite pieces to practice. The first one my mother ever taught me after she said I was good enough. And he was looking and he said, 'I was afraid to lose you in the very beginning and they saved you...only to lose you anyway.'"

His hand is stroking her aching, now empty womb.

"I wanted to ask what he was talking about, but I was still angry. I didn't want to talk to him right then. Well, you've probably figured out by now that my dad doesn't care about that sort of thing."

A tiny smile blossoms when she thinks about how he doesn't, either.

"He started to tell me about the night I was born at 21:25--9:25pm, the 21st of December, 1959, in Kaneohe, Hawaii, after my mother had been in premature labor with me for over thirty-six hours. How small I'd been. How they were sure I'd need oxygen, but were surprised when I didn't. Which is lucky, because they sucked at controlling the oxygen levels in incubators back then, as you well know. If I'd needed oxygen, I'd probably be blind right now. But I did have hypothalamic dysregulation, as well as--later--a lovely case of RSV. Fun-ness. Anyway, all this was interesting enough, but then he told me about how he sat in that waiting room for all those hours. How my mother hemorrhaged and it took so long to get it under control that they had to give her a blood transfusion. They were surprised my lungs were in such good shape. From the looks of it, if I'd been born only a week earlier, I'd've been screwed. How they thought I'd die because I was too small and not able to eat like regular babies did. They had to give me a feeding tube and IVs. I still have scars from both, as I'm sure you've noticed. And that's all par for the course now, but it freaked him out really nicely."

She stares at the wall opposing her, rather startled at the story House is telling her about himself and his family. She finds herself thinking about how if things had gone just a tiny bit differently she wouldn't have known him at all. The thought makes her ache not just in her womb, but in every inch of her being. She doesn't like having to imagine a world without him in it. She's been forced to do it too many times already.

"So I was worried today. And yesterday. And every day for the last eight months. And it happened, like I didn't want it to. But it's obvious that you had nothing to do with it."

She can hear the words he was thinking as though he spoke them aloud: It was all me.

She wants to turn over and tell him to shut up. That he's taking on the blame for something he couldn't possibly have a hand in. That he's being ridiculous. But it's his nature and she knows from experience that she can't convince him to believe something he doesn't want to. She'll have to ride it out and then prove him wrong.

She finally sees her son the next night. House's parents have dragged both he and James back to Greg's apartment to have showers and some sleep, reminding Greg that this is not medical school, that he is not on call, and that he will not subsist on junk food from vending machines, locker room showers, and one set of scrubs after another. She knows he made one last trip back to NICU before he was commandeered and forced into his father's truck, practically at gunpoint; he left his iPod docking station playing Miles Davis next to their child's incubator. And someone taped a picture of the trumpet player backwards to the cover, apparently so that he would know who was playing.

She laughs inside and strokes his tiny fingers, singing along to the melody of 'Black Satin.'

THE END