Synopsis: Aftermath to 5.23, Sequel to Hang(over). House comes home from the mental institution with Cuddy.
A/N: Final chapter! There's room for a sequel to this one too, but I may want to start another story altogether. Let me know. Thanks for reading/reviewing! Enjoy!
* * *
Indefinitely turned out to be three weeks and three days.
* * *
It had been an accident, one that Cuddy hadn't foreseen, but such was the nature of accidents.
* * *
House was almost docile at work. His mouth was loquacious as ever, but he gave the board no signs of erratic behavior they so keenly expected to see.
* * *
House and Cuddy had fallen into an easy living pattern, strange, yet completely comfortable and acceptable to them both.
They began sharing a bed the evening he agreed to live with her. He watched her get dressed for work the next morning, but she never made it out of her bedroom. He undressed her slowly and they made love. They were both late for his first day back at PPTH.
It was the first time Cuddy could remember not giving a damn, and it felt wonderful.
She smiled at him, the bed sheets twisted around her waist. "Happy?"
He leaned into her, his eyes filled with her, his voice tinged with mirth, "Only with you."
She kissed his shoulder tenderly, realizing that his own personal demons would never truly cease; but if she could give him some glimmer, some frame of a life, the rest may eventually fade into a distant memory.
Hope is so easy when you are in love.
* * *
And he was good with Rachel. Cuddy didn't press him on the matter, because she knew he would never admit to it, but she could tell he had an odd, yet real affection for her daughter.
He would talk to the little girl like she was an adult, read her bedtime stories from medical journals, and watch everything from soap operas to Baywatch with her.
Cuddy almost put her foot down with Baywatch. "She is a baby, House."
"Ew, don't insult her like that."
So Baywatch stayed.
* * *
One night, when Cuddy got home late from the Christmas hospital fundraising meeting, she found House and Rachel stretch out on her sofa, totally engaged in Wrestlemania. Rachel was plopped on House's lap, sucking her thumb and twirling House's beard.
Cuddy shut the door quietly and didn't interrupt them.
She went back to her bedroom, and shed her work clothes. She took an indulgent bath, using the soaps and scents she knew House loved. She brushed her hair and smiled to herself, unable to get the image of them out of her mind.
She actually had a family.
She walked back into her living room, ready to join them. Wrestlemania had changed to an episode of NCSI, and the volume was elevated.
She didn't see Rachel.
House was passed out on the couch, and she didn't see the baby. She didn't see—
"House! HOUSE! Where's Rachel? Where's—" House jumped at the shrillness in her voice. His hands went to his chest, immediately missing the weight of his TV companion.
He looked in Cuddy's frantic eyes, unable to speak, unable to offer an explanation.
"RACHEL!" Cuddy yelled, running frantically around the room, turning all of the lights on as gunfire rang out from the TV screen. "Why weren't you watching her, House? She's a baby! You have to watch her!"
"Goddamn it, House! I can't believe I trusted you—"
Underneath the coffee table, Rachel was fast asleep, not a care in the world.
At the same time, House and Cuddy reached for her, but Cuddy glared at him. "I've got her."
* * *
They went to bed that night but didn't touch.
"I'm…" He tried again, miserable at apologizing.
"No." She kept her back to him. "I wasn't thinking."
* * *
In the middle of the night, Cuddy padded into the kitchen, finding House sitting at the table, staring at an empty coffee cup. She had trouble falling asleep next to him, and now that he was gone, she still couldn't sleep. She went straight to the stove and turned on the eye. "More coffee?"
He nodded, watching her precise movements. She was more beautiful to him like this, disheveled, raw, no make-up. He would never tell her, but he actually liked morning now, spending time with her and Rachel.
God. He had screwed up.
"House." Her voice was heavy; her head was down.
"This isn't gonna work," he said before she could.
She froze, and for a moment, he thought she was going to fight him. But she exhaled and nodded. "We tried."
House stood up, trying to stop the knot in his chest, trying to keep breathing, self-protection kicking in. He said lightly, "And as the fallen say, what now?"
Going straight to business, she said quickly, "Nothing has to change at work. I would never…"
House tried to laugh but couldn't. "Don't make promises you can't keep, Cuddy."
She touched his arm, gripping his wrist possessively. "I want you in my life."
"You can't always get what you want." He didn't know which one of them he was talking about, but he knew he couldn't stay. They would hate him one day, and no amount of happiness was worth that.
They kissed until they felt the early morning light hit them, the hangover gone, replaced by the soberness and harsh reality of day.