Title: Bluebells in the late December
Author: Jo (formerly Lyssanick)
Summary: She didn't want kids, really. It was just a desperate craving to make an imprint on the world she knew she would soon leave.
A/N: This is what I do instead of writing final papers. It's a one-shot posted in two parts and set a few years in the future focusing on Hadley processing her imminent mortality. It takes place in the same 'verse as my other two stories in House, "Tis the Season" and "Anticoagulation." (You should really, really read Anticoagulation). A Kutner/Hadley romance was supposed to be touched upon in that one but ended up being cut. And if you read it you'll get the ending of this one, but you should still really read this one.
She doesn't like kids—really. She never wanted them. Even before her diagnosis, the idea of raising children frightened her in the vague way that thunderstorms and large spiders still did: There wasn't a reason, but they just sort of freaked her out. But now, now that her stupid biological clock has kicked in at the same time her disease went from a vague-future-occurrence to reality, she wants them in the way anyone wants something they can't have. A desperate craving to make an imprint on the world she knew she would soon leave, that's all.
She'll sometimes walk past the nursery—slowly, so she doesn't trip over her dragging feet—and hold a palm to the window. She'll try as hard as she can to hold it steady, mentally counting, thinking this is how long I could hold a baby for without dropping it. She can usually make it to forty or so, if she tries hard and it's a good day. Then the spasms will start, almost always (she doesn't know why) in her index finger, then travel down her hand. She'll watch in fascination before slowly dragging (literally) herself away. She doesn't need a walker yet, but she will soon.
So when she's sitting with Cameron, Wilson and House at lunch one day (they were the only people she liked in the cafeteria; Kutner was working and Chase, who is always preferable to his wife, was in surgery as well. The hospital has become a noticeably lonelier place since Taub and his wife moved to Florida and even Foreman left for Boston.) and House is mocking Cameron's new, pregnancy-induced boobs and Cameron is ignoring him and telling Wilson about an awful teenaged babysitter who actually gave Elizabeth aspirin from her purse, she gets an idea.
"If you need someone to sit sometime," she offers, "Kutner and I can do it."
The table quiets, because everyone knows she's never shown an interest even in child patients. "Have you seen her hold a pen lately?" House snarks first. "She tends to drop it. Like how she drops most things."
"Elizabeth's three in four months," Cameron says. "She bites anyone who tries to pick her up."
"No, she just bites everyone," House says, despite the fact that everyone knows he enjoys the hell out of the blond devil-spawn.
"Just you. and only when you cheat during Cane Limbo," Cameron says, brushing House off quickly. Remy wonders what Cane Limbo is and realizes she probably can figure it out. "You sure? I mean, I think she's a fantastic kid, but obviously I'm biased."
She shrugs. "Yeah sure. Kutner's good with her." Kutner hasn't actually spent much time with the toddler, but he just would be.
A few days later Cameron finds her in the clinic, because that's where she is most of the time these days. It's easier to work in the clinic than it is to give a lumbar puncture. "Memorial Day weekend is … kind of an anniversary for Chase and me," she explains. "We want to go out to dinner on Thursday night. Would you and Kutner be able to watch Lizzie?"
She thinks through their schedules. "Yeah," she says slowly. "That should work. What time were you thinking?"
She chooses to tell him about their new source of extra income as he's doing her rehab. "Baby-sitting?" he said. "You didn't get enough of that as a kid?"
"I was an emo high shooler," she replies. "Nobody wanted me babysitting their spawn."
"Maybe it was the referring to their children as 'spawn,'" he says, deadpan, as he stretches and massages her leg.
"It could have been that too, yes," she replies, wincing slightly. "But I already told Cameron we'd watch Elizabeth on Thursday night. Apparently it's a big-deal anniversary for them."
"What anniversary isn't?" he asks. He looks straight at her and she gets the uneasy feeling, the one that only he can give her, that he's mentally untangling the complicated knots of her thoughts, uncovering the motives behind this seemingly altruistic gesture. He squeezes her thigh and says, "OK. She's a pretty simple kid, right?"
So at 20 till seven on Thursday night he drives to the Cameron-Chase house, because she lost her driving privileges six months ago when she nearly drove the car through the garage door. He also snagged the pill box before they left, which is good because she's got at least three to take in the time it will take for Cameron and Chase to go to dinner, go to a movie, and pick up an ice cream.
Despite Cameron's remark that Elizabeth won't let anyone pick her up these days, she's cradled comfortably against Chase's side when he opens the door. He's wearing jeans and a light sweater. Remy sees Elizabeth at least once a week when she's walking into the hospital with her parents, but it's striking how ethereally gorgeous this baby is—mostly she looks like Cameron, but with blonde curls Remy suspects come from Chase (it took her two years to realize Cameron was actually not a natural blonde). She's almost luminously pale, with doll-bright blue eyes, and is dressed in a mint T-shirt and cotton-candy-pink capris with cute white Keds. "Come in," he says. "Al—Cameron's still getting ready so I was just giving Lizzie dinner. Lizzie, you wanna say hello to Dr. Kutner and Dr. Hadley?"
Remy didn't know it was possible to feel judged by someone under the age of three, but it is. "Hi," she says warily before suddenly wrapping her arms around her father's neck and whispering something.
Chase laughs at his kid, and it's cute, how obviously he loves her. Her heart pangs once, twice. "She says you're pretty, Dr. Hadley. I don't know why she's shy all of the sudden. But come in. We're in the kitchen, you guys remember the house, right?" Cameron and Chase had purchased the place about two years ago; had thrown a housewarming party that Remy remembered had served great tuna towers.
He leads them back to the kitchen, which is huge like the rest of the house, and yells, "Allison? Kutner and Thirteen are here! Also," he says, in a much more conversational tone, just to them, "we're cutting it close with the reservation."
"I know, I know," Cameron says, coming into the kitchen from behind. "I had to try and fit into some of my regular clothes. Shoot me."
"Lemme guess," Chase says, not turning to face his wife. "You went with the dress with the big belt around the middle that's all flowy and purple and Egyptian-style." He's right: Cameron's in a lovely, deep purple tunic-dress with a black belt above her bump and gold around the neck and hemline. Despite being massively pregnant, she still doesn't look huge, which honestly isn't all that surprising.
"I know, I'm predictable. Imagine that, I don't want to waste money on the pregnancy wardrobe when there are two coming this time," Cameron says.
"Still look great, Ally," he volleys back, and she blushes a little. It's a weird side of Cameron to see, this "Ally," and it makes Cameron and Chase make more sense.
Chase somehow situated Elizabeth in front of a plate of chicken nuggets, carrots and celery when Remy wasn't watching, and Elizabeth's now dubiously dipping everything in ranch dressing. "She doesn't eat vegetables unless there's ranch," Cameron says. "But make sure she eats all of them," she turns to Chase. "Her lunch box came back with all the vegetables in it today." Chase rolls his eyes in mock-abject horror. "Seriously, Rob. The daycare's overcrowded."
"Of course it is, it also happens to be in the hospital," Chase says back. He turns to her and Kutner then. "Okay, so we're going to Christie's for dinner, and then a movie, and then possibly dessert."
"The numbers for all the restaurants and movie theatres are on the fridge," Cameron says, motioning to a stainless-steel refrigerator covered in "art" done by Elizabeth. "You have our cellphones and pager numbers. If anyone from the hospital calls tell them it's an anniversary and then if they still need us—it'd be Chase probably—have them call the cellphones. Her room is the second door on the right upstairs, the bathroom is the third door. She usually goes to bed around 8:30."
"She requires at least two stories," Chase throws in. "Do the voices; you'll win points."
"Her pajamas are on the rocking chair, too," Cameron adds. "A couple of her favorite DVDs—I'm really sorry, but she's in this Barbie Princess stage right now—are on the coffee table in the living room. And there's a swing set outside. Since she didn't eat all her vegetables at lunch no I-C-E cream tonight."
"That should be it," Chase said. "Can you think of anything else?" Cameron shakes her head. "Alright, we're out. If you need anything … just call. Seriously, anything. We should be back by 11:30."
"Goodbye, my beautiful girl," Cameron says, hugging Elizabeth, and Chase kisses her forehead. "Be good, m'kay?"
"Yeah," Elizabeth says, sitting quietly as her parents leave. She must be used to this, Remy realizes, because they're always dropping her somewhere. As soon as they're gone, Elizabeth holds up a chicken nugget. "You want one? Daddy cooks them good."
"No, thank you," Remy says. They usually eat later so they'll order after she goes to bed.
"Ok. I'm done then," Elizabeth says decidedly. House has mentioned that the girl is smart, with a big vocabulary, but Remy is still surprised. She wonders what a normal two-year-old would be like. She wonders for a second what her two-year-old would be like, maybe even a two-year-old with Kutner, but banishes that thought because it can't belong.
"You sure? You were supposed to finish your celery," Kutner says uncertainly. He's scared of Cameron, she can tell.
Elizabeth shoots them the look that Chase reserves for stupid people. "Mum doesn't know I didn't," she points out.
Kutner—and Remy, too—is slightly taken aback. "They leave her with House too much."
"You know House!" she says excitedly. "He comes to take me out of daycare when I'm bored. He taught me a new word last week. It's called moron."
"You shouldn't call people that," Remy tries.
"House says I can call Wilson and my dad that," she says. "He knows other cool words, too, like ass, but I'm only allowed to call him that, Dr. Cuddy says. I don't know why."
That's a story to ask her parents, obviously, but to Elizabeth the conversation is closed. "Let's go play outside. You can push," she tells Kutner. Remy trails, a little uncertain about touching the girl. Her chorea have been manageable today, but they're sneaky little bitches right now, stopping and starting with an awful randomness. She dashes out the back way, and Kutner darts after her so she doesn't get lost in the waning spring twilight.
By the time Remy's put the plate away, Kutner has her strapped in a swing. Remy takes a seat in Elizabeth's view and grabs fistfuls of grass before letting them trail loosely in the wind.
"So are you two married, like Mummy and Daddy, or are you like Dr. House and Dr. Cuddy?" she asks. "And why don't you come over? You're doctors. Daddy says."
"We're like Cuddy and House, sort of," Kutner says. They'll never been as over-the-top ridiculous as those two, fighting in front of five or six people or House openly joking about their sex life. "And we're very busy at work, too."
"So are Mum and Daddy. That's why I go to daycare," she points out, in an obviously tone. "Do you have kids, like me? Mum and Daddy are having more kids. They're girls, like me, and it's why Mum looks like she ate a ball right now. There's babies." Her eyes are remarkably intelligent, and Remy wonders again if it's normal for two-year-olds to calmly process pregnancy.
"Nope, no kids," Remy says carefully.
"Too bad. They could go to preschool with me," Elizabeth says. She slows in her swing and comes to sit with Remy. "Are you pulling the grass? Why are you pulling the grass?"
"I … don't know," Remy says honestly.
"Oh, ok," she says, getting up. "Let's go watch Barbie Princess, OK?"
Even watching a movie with her is somehow exhausting, and when 8:30 rolls around, Remy signals to Kutner that she can't handle the bedtime madness right now. The chorea are beginning to pick up, and while it's been fun and fascinating playing with their kid, she doesn't want to fuck up bedtime by not being able to turn the pages. It's awful, bitter medicine, but babysitting is a bromide against the desire to have a child. It's a reminder of how physically impossible it is, and she wonders why Kutner, who is fantastic with Elizabeth, is wasting his time on her halfway-there carcass.
So Kutner tucks in Elizabeth, and Remy can hear them laugh, and she sits lengthwise on the couch and reads old copies of JAMA underneath a giant candid of Chase and Cameron from their wedding.
Kutner finally bounces downstairs. He lifts her legs and slides underneath them so her calves are in his lap, and starts massaging them almost unconsciously.
"You're good with her," she murmurs, not quite ready to look him in the eye.
He shrugs. "She's an easy kid to get along with. Considering her parents, it could have been so, so much worse."
She laughs, and he says, "You want to order?"
"Sure. What are you up for?"
He shrugs. "Indian?" he loves cheap, crappy Indian food, for some reason. Maybe it's because he grew up on hamburgers and spaghetti. They've been together nine months and it's one of the most curious things about him.
So they order food and raid the freezer for Chase's ice-cream stash, before also raiding the DVD collection. They fool around during the first movie but she makes him watch another because Cameron apparently has the same taste in movies as she does. "This babysitting thing is pretty easy," she comments as he brings popcorn from the kitchen. "I wish I'd gotten in on the deal earlier."
"So you have fun tonight?" he says. Now he's not looking her in the eyes.
"Worse ways to spend a Thursday than with you," she jokes, knowing she avoiding his non-question. But then her heart shifts and she bites the bullet, asking the question that is at the root of this adventure in babysitting. "Do you want kids? You're really good with them."
He's been rubbing her thigh with an almost-unconscious motion, and his hand stills. She knows the answer. She wonders, again, why he is with her, why he is wasting this year or these two years to take care of her. Soon her memory will begin to dissolve, soon she will be in a wheelchair. But she suspects he will still be there and she needs to know why.
He shrugs, looks away, looks back. "I … haven't really given it much thought. I guess eventually, though, I think I've always thought it might be something that I would like."
She takes a minute to process the loops and twirls in that sentence, then nods. She's inexplicably angry. She knew that would be his answer—either that or he would like to say no, and that would upset her more—but it hurts have it verbalized. Because she can't, and for the first time she might want to.
She nods, and he reaches for her hand. "Remy …" he starts, but she pulls back, rolls her arms away to put the magazine back on the table. The DVD is in the background but if you asked her she couldn't identify the actors or even recall the name.
"No, no, I'm … fine," she says. She lifts her legs from his lap and gets up, walks towards the kitchen. A spasm shoots through her back but she stays steady. "I'm just going in there now." She turns in the doorway, willing her own bravery. "Please," she says, and his eyes cloud and his shoulders slump, but he nods and settles back onto the couch.
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