"Why is it so quiet?" Cuddy looks around House's apartment, sees Joy's diaper bag on the end of the couch, a bottle on the table, but there's no sign of Joy.
House doesn't look up from the TV as he nods toward the bedroom. "Because she's sleeping."
"How can she be -- " Cuddy shakes her head as she walks toward the bedroom. "She can't be sleeping." Joy's been teething for days, her cries keeping them both awake. But Cuddy sees Joy in the middle of the bed, surrounded by pillows and blankets to keep her from rolling off the mattress. She looks at her, sees her breathing deeply, her arms flung out on either side of her head.
She walks back into the living room. "How did you ..." she starts to ask.
"Drugs," House says. He tosses her a container from the table. Cuddy recognizes the label from the hospital pharmacy.
"Lidocaine?" She rounds the couch, stands between House and his TV. "You doped my baby?"
"I'm surprised you didn't. Fifteen minutes of that screeching, and I was ready to take her out to the woods and let her be raised by wolves."
"You doped my baby," Cuddy repeats. She walks back into the bedroom, flips on the light to look at Joy more closely. Joy doesn't react to the light.
"Oh relax." Cuddy hears House's steps behind her. "I diluted it for her weight and size."
"You doped my baby," Cuddy says again. She sits on the bed, picks up Joy, and is relieved with she reacts to her touch and wakes slightly.
"You keep saying that as if you're shocked," House says. He walks back into the living room. "Maybe you should remember that the next time you dump your kid on me just because you have to work."
"I had to work," Cuddy says, wrapping Joy in a blanket, "because I had to clean up your mess and sweet talk a family out of suing us for fifty million dollars." She puts Joy's bottle in the diaper bag, slings the bag over her shoulder. She's wondering if she should take Joy to the ER and check her out, just in case.
"Yeah, well next time, ask Wilson to look after her." House sits on the couch again, watches the basketball game on the TV.
"Next time," Cuddy says, "I will." She holds Joy tightly and slams the door shut behind her.
"You let her play with your Vicodin?" Cuddy holds the bottle out, four tablets visible inside the amber plastic vial.
House snatches it out of her hand. "It's not my fault that you forgot to pack a rattle," he says. "I improvised."
Cuddy is waiting on the stoop outside House's building when she hears the high pitched sound of his motorcycle from a block away.
She has both hands clasped to her face when House pulls to a stop in front of her , turns off the engine and then puts a finger in front of his lips. "She's finally asleep," he says, and zips his jacket down a little further until Cuddy sees Joy's face sticking out from underneath the leather.
Cuddy slams her hand against the brick wall to keep from shouting. She'd hit House but he's too far away.
"What the hell were you thinking?" she says. She unzips the jacket the rest of the way, but Joy is tucked in securely next to House inside the Moby Wrap he must have grabbed from the diaper bag. She has to wait while he loosens it before she can take Joy in her own arms, hold her close.
"You said that if she's colicky to take her for a ride," House says. He swings his leg off the bike and takes his cane out of its clips.
"In a car." Cuddy feels Joy snuggle in against her, finding the familiar spot where the top of her head nestles up just under her chin. "With her car seat. Where she's safe."
"She was safe," House says, his voice still low and quiet in the early autumn darkness. "The only way she'd fall is if I fell, and I don't fall. She was safer with me than she is when you're texting on your Blackberry at 70 miles per hour."
"Once," Cuddy says. "One time. And that's only because you couldn't wait fifteen minutes until I got back to the office."
She doesn't realize that she's spoken too loudly until Joy squirms against her, lets out a slight cry.
"Shhh," House says. "You're going to wake the baby."
"This," Cuddy says, "is not going in her baby book."
"Why not?" House holds out the book, open to the twelfth page. "There's a space for it and everything."
"I don't care." Cuddy takes the book from his hand, puts it back on the shelf. "My daughter is not going to have a permanent record that her first word was 'shtup.'"
"Right, raise her on a premise of lies. That'll work."
Joy is in her bed, finally asleep after coming down from the sugar high created by House feeding her Froot Loops and candy corn for lunch. "Fruit and vegetables," he'd said when Cuddy saw the kitchen. "Very healthy."
Joy had spent the next twenty minutes running between the kitchen, living room and her bedroom on her chubby toddler legs, making random high pitched squeals that Cuddy finally realized was the word "shtup," over and over again.
"I'm just seeing to her cultural education," House says. "You should thank me."
"What have you done?" Cuddy stands just inside the door, looking down at Joy.
"Mommy!" Joy jumps up from the floor, and runs to her, holding out a drawing. "I made you a picture," she says.
Cuddy manages to take her eyes off of Joy's head, where her long blonde hair has now been cut in uneven clumps and is so short it doesn't even reach her shoulders. "That's nice sweetie," she says, holding the picture of a house with trees in the front yard and something that may be a dog. Or a cat. "Now go get your things."
Cuddy waits until Joy is out of the room. "What have you done?" She asks it in a whisper, but House cringes.
"Not my fault," he says.
"I ask you to watch my daughter for two hours," Cuddy says, "two hours, and when I get back ..." She waves her hand toward Joy, who's heading into the bedroom to get her jacket.
"If you ever let her have gum, she'd know that it's supposed to stay in her mouth instead of in her hair," House says.
Cuddy shakes her head.
"Wilson suggested peanut butter, but that didn't work either," House continues.
"So ... you cut it," Cuddy covers her eyes.
"It looked funny with just one part cut, so I evened it out," he shrugs, "kind of."
"She's supposed to be a flower girl at my sister's wedding tomorrow."
"She likes it short," House says. "Isn't it more important that Joy likes her own haircut, than that she conforms to some arbitrary rules about beauty?"
"She's three. She likes everything. Hell, she even likes you."
Cuddy sighs as Joy comes out of the bedroom wearing her jacket and carrying her pink backpack. Somehow her hair looks even worse than it did two minutes earlier.
"Are we going to go see Aunt Maggie now?" Joy asks.
Cuddy takes her by the hand, reaches into her purse for her cell phone and begins scrolling through the menu to find the phone number for the salon near her house, gets ready to beg them for an emergency appointment. "In a little while," she says. "We have to stop someplace first."
Cuddy stands just inside House's office, a half-eaten candy bar in one hand, and Joy's hand gripped tightly in the other.
"You taught her to steal," she says.
Joy peeks up at House for just a moment, then goes back to staring at the carpet.
"Who says?" House doesn't get up, but he leans forward, his elbows on his desk.
Cuddy raises her eyebrows and nods toward Joy.
"At least I didn't teach her how to snitch," House says. "That's all on you." He leans back again. "Besides, all I taught her was some sleight of hand, and the importance of keeping your eye on the prize and not being distracted."
"Which she put to use in the gift shop, while she was supposed to be picking up today's newspaper for me," Cuddy said.
If Joy hadn't been so excited about getting her hands on the candy bar, and opened it while she was still in front of Cuddy, Cuddy would have never known about it. As it was, she'd had a mouth full of chocolate when Cuddy had checked in with her to see if she needed help with her homework.
"Besides, your gift shop is the one that puts candy right at a kid's eye level. That's pure temptation." House points one finger at Cuddy. "That's entrapment."
"No," Cuddy says. She takes a few more steps into his office, tosses what's left of the candy bar into the trash. "That's a week without TV privileges for Joy, and six more hours of clinic duty for you."
"It's not my fault she got caught," House says. He leans down to face Joy. "The next time we'll work more on evading capture."
"Eight hours," Cuddy says.
House opens his mouth, but doesn't get a word out before Cuddy stops him.
"Want to make it ten?" she asks.
He sighs, leans back in is chair.
Cuddy leads Joy back out of the office, and can only shake her head as Joy lingers for a moment at the door. She thinks she sees House wink at her, but isn't sure, and pulls Joy with her out into the hallway.
"Homework," she says, "now. And the next time you need a baby sitter, we're calling your Uncle James."