This is the Final chapter of this story. Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing. It has meant so much to me!
Chapter 69 In which Time Passes In the Blink of an Eye
House stood looking out the window of his office toward the Daycare building that over the years had become known as "House's House". He didn't want his name on the place and he certainly didn't want the ceremony that everyone insisted that he needed to attend. Most of the kids that House had initially cared for would be there…all grown up. Many now attended the university and some even sat in when Cuddy forced him to do guest lectures. Some of the older children, including Henry, Alex, and Jackie were in med school doing their internships and residencies at PPTH.
Twenty years had passed since House began working at the daycare and although he was dubious about beginning his punishment there, it had made him a better man. In his bleakest moments, it might have saved him. If House could love a place, he loved that place best of all. Elizabeth Story bequeathed the building to him and put her money in a trust to support the running of the facility at her death. When House chose to retire, Henry and Rachel would care for the place or sell it. Amy now lived in the studio apartment that Elizabeth had left behind. The school was once again a teaching facility and aspiring teachers learned from the best how to care for the children that working parents entrusted to their care.
House and Cuddy married when Rachel was three. An unexpected, but very welcome pregnancy convinced House that it was time to give up his bachelorhood and marry Cuddy. He adopted Rachel then, as well. About the same time, Henry's father found a lovely woman and Henry found himself in a loving, intact family once again. House missed the hours that he had previously spent with Henry, but they had a "boy's night" about once a month and that helped. What never changed was Henry's devotion to Rachel. He remained devoted to her in grade school and Jr. High and no one messed with her without Henry's knowledge or input. Rachel was always livid at his interference but quickly forgave him. Up until the time Rachel turned twelve, the two referred to each other sometimes as friends, but mostly as brother and sister. Once Henry turned 15, all sibling references stopped. Rachel was becoming a beautiful young woman and he didn't want the confusion that connotation could evoke. House saw what was happening, too and Henry started to look less like a son and more like competition for his daughter's affection. Rachel remained oblivious to the changes for a few more years. It wasn't until Henry started looking seriously at colleges out of the state that her true feelings came into focus. One night, House heard Rachel sobbing as though her heart would break, and for a moment, he considered calling Cuddy to deal with the angst. Instead, he chose to see if there was anything he could do to help, since Cuddy had already gone to bed.
"Daddy," Rachel howled, "I think Henry must hate me! Why would he go to schools that are so far away?"
House was still House and, at first, didn't catch the seriousness of the matter. "It probably has to do with zit on the end of your nose."
"Daddy!" House didn't think the bellowing could get any louder, but it did.
Rachel continued, and as she spoke, the picture became clear. "I've never had to live without him and I don't ever want to! I know this sounds ridiculous, but I've always loved him! I always knew that I would marry him! Now what if he goes away and finds someone else?"
House held Rachel close and told her the truth. "You will survive. You might meet someone else, or not - but you will survive. Mom and I will help you through it the best we can. You will be strong and beautiful on your own. You will become the person that you were meant to be regardless of Henry's presence in your life, because that is who you are. Rachel Cuddy-House waits for no man. Your mother didn't and neither will you." House smirked and looked Rachel in the eye. "If he does find someone else, I promise to castrate him for you, because I'm counting on him as a son-in-law. There is not enough testosterone around here!"
Rachel laughed a bit and the storm clouds started to clear. "Oh, Daddy, you might want to wait on that! What if he changes his mind? Don't you want grandkids?"
"I can't even go there with you, yet, young lady. This conversation is officially over." The last thing that Rachel heard as her father walked away was his voice saying "I lobe you, Baby Doll."
"I lobe you, too, Daddy"
House wiped a tear, from his cheek wondering why the memory always did that to him. He chuckled as he realized that their wedding was a short six months away. Henry would be 25 and Rachel 23. It really didn't seem possible that the kids were that old, yet evidence indicated that they were. House was nearing seventy and Cuddy; well he'd been instructed to stop counting her birthdays when she turned fifty. He pretended to stop keeping track as her birthday present. The baby that caused the "shotgun wedding" as House liked to call it, was named Sara. She would be graduating from Princeton this spring. House kept telling his daughters that once they were out of school he intended for them to get jobs that would keep him in the manner to which he would like to be come accustomed, but they would laugh and remind him that Uncle Jimmy was already doing that job!
House felt a familiar hand touch his shoulder. He turned to see Cuddy smiling at him.
"We need to go, House. Everyone is waiting on you to begin the dedication."
"But Cuddy, I don't see why I have to be there! It's just a damned plaque!"
"…with your name on it! House, these people love you! You made a lasting impression on their lives! Some of them are becoming doctors because of your influence on them. Some are becoming teachers for the same reason and you need to be there to accept their thanks."
"I don't want their thanks. I was only there because you made me go!"
"For the last time, House, I made you go for a MONTH! JUST A MONTH! You made the choice never to leave and now it's been twenty years. You spend more time there than in your office."
"If you recall, it's been Foreman's office for the past year."
"Yes, and sometimes you let him use your desk. Isn't that him sitting at the table in the conference room? Why don't you move your stuff so he can finally have this office?"
"He might screw up and then who would bail him out?"
"He's older than you were when he became your fellow. I think he can handle the job."
"I'm not so sure…" House started to continue in the same vein, but Cuddy stopped him.
"Quit stalling. We need to go."
"Don't Mom me, Gregory House! As far as I'm concerned, aside from walking your daughters down the aisle, this is the last thing that I will ever make you do."
"Can I have that in writing?"
House finally allowed Cuddy to take his arm and lead him out of the office. He knew that this ceremony wasn't only about the Daycare, but it was about his retirement as well. All of the adults in his life managed to keep the secret, but the little ears of the children that overheard the conversations had little heads, and thus little mouths connected to them. These mouths couldn't be silenced and so House knew what was going on almost from the beginning. He was glad. It had taken him every minute of that time to get his brain around what would be happening to him. His mind was still sharp; but in recent months a couple of small strokes, TIAs, had occurred and House decided that while he still had his wits about him, he would rather retire and fight with Cuddy at home. She had retired a year ago and easily passed the mantle to a very competent Martha M. Masters, who knew as well as Cuddy how to keep House in line. House and Cuddy had seen her giftedness while she was in her early twenties, in med school. Although in her youth she was awkward and often abrasive, she had developed into a woman very much like Lisa Cuddy. Chase headed up the Diagnostics II Team at PPTH and Cameron headed up a diagnostic team that traveled the world demonstrating the unique process of the differential as developed by House and his team.
House insisted that He and Cuddy walk to the Daycare rather than make the short drive. Lisa knew that he was stalling, but she knew that this was difficult for House and that the walk would give him time to collect his thoughts. House sigh deeply as they approached the little daycare and saw how much trouble people had put into this celebration. He didn't want any part of it. As House looked around, he saw people that he hadn't seen in years. Most of them he didn't like and he wondered what compelled them to attend this fiasco.
"House, trust me. This isn't going to be as bad as you think it will be." Cuddy had seen the negative emotions flitting across House's face and was trying to fix his attitude before he encountered anyone.
"Just look, Cuddy, it already is! Look at this freak show!"
Cuddy sighed. All she could do was hope for the best and pray that this was a mask for all of the feelings that he had been experiencing over the course of the past few days. House needed to retire. His health was fine but his leg was becoming increasingly more painful and roaming the halls of the hospital exacerbated his condition. Cuddy also knew that House was yearning to spend more time at the piano, reading and writing. House didn't know that Cuddy had seen the memoirs that he had started writing in his spare time. He would doze in front of his computer and Cuddy would see them as she walked by her sleeping man. He wrote as well as he did everything else. Cuddy was constantly amazed at the extent of his brilliance.
House reached into the pocket of his sport coat and brought out a small notebook. "If I have to do this, it's going to be on my terms. Got it?"
Cuddy nodded silently. Whatever had been planned was now a distant memory since House had decided that if this was going to be his party, then he would be running the show. She tried to help him up the steps of the stage to the podium, but he glared and her and shook her off. The twinkle in his eye, gave away that this attitude was part of the show and that he was going to have fun as long as she was determined that he was going to go through with it.
House cleared his throat loudly into the microphone, getting the attention of the audience that had gathered outside the daycare to celebrate the "ousting of House". He smiled to himself as he considered the phrase and decided that he liked it. He wondered if he could sneak it in somewhere. Those people who knew him well saw the mischievous look play across his face. Those who didn't cringed as though they were sure that whatever happened next would not be pleasant. House began.
"I'm here today to speak to you because my former boss and my wife, Lisa Cuddy made me come. I don't need the plaque or the attention, but it seems that some of you think I do. For that, I will seek my revenge.
"Since this marks my retirement as well as the ridiculous misnaming of this facility, I wish to speak to the team that I am leaving behind. The rest of you may talk quietly among yourselves.
"Foreman, you are that now, the foreman of the team, the Head of Diagnostics. I'm taking the chair and the desk. Get your own.
"Chase, you are still a wombat. Find a woman settle down. You aren't young anymore. You might be a good doctor someday. Keep trying." The smile playing around House's mouth belied his words. "I knew Foreman was going to toss you the minute he got my job. It's a good thing that Cuddy's last act was adding to the diagnostics department so that you could keep your job.
"Cameron is traveling the world sharing her expertise. That means I can move on to other things since she isn't here to belittle.
House looked across the crowd and saw a woman in a wheelchair and suddenly felt very sad. He wouldn't have figured that Remy Hadley, Thirteen, would be there but in the back, accompanied by a nurse, she held her head high. The disease might claim her body, but it would never claim her spirit. He stared directly at her as he spoke, "Thirteen, I'm glad that you could come. I always keep my promises. I haven't forgotten the one I made to you." Thirteen's head jerked forward in an awkward nod. "If you've changed your mind though, I understand. You always did go both ways!" Thirteen laughed as did the rest of the team that got the reference.
"Taub, what you lack in stature, you make up for in the size of your… heart. I'm sure that all of your wives would agree.
"Masters, you remind me of Cuddy in her youth ALL those decades ago. I know that you will miss my presence in your hospital. I've tried to keep it exciting for you.
House sighed deeply and looked at Cuddy. She thought that he was about to address her but instead moved on to the people at the daycare.
"Amy, you sized me up that first day I walked into your classroom and I knew that I would like you. I don't like many people. You allowed me to stay after my six weeks was up and for that I thank you. The children of the PPTH Daycare enriched my life beyond my wildest imaginings. I couldn't imagine what Cuddy was thinking when she sent me here but it was truly a gift.
Henry, Son, I'm so proud of who you are. Rachel, when your mom adopted you I thought that she was crazy. She had me! Shouldn't that have been enough? But then as you grew, you grew on me. Apparently, you grew on Henry, too. Although neither of you are my biological children, I'm proud to be your father. Sara, because of you, I had to marry your mother. That makes you the best mistake of my life. If you hadn't come along, Cuddy and I would probably still be living in sin and your grandmothers would still be making excuses for their degenerate children."
House looked around the crowd. Wilson had come to the ceremony late and sat beside Cuddy as House had been talking.
"Wilson, my friend." It seemed that House either couldn't say more or felt that he didn't need to."
"Cuddy, my ex-boss, my wife, my…." again House seemed to be at a loss for words. "How do you…." He quit trying to say what his heart was too full to say. Cuddy and Wilson knew how he felt about them….at least he hoped they did.
House looked around one last time. He took his time and made eye contact with the first children he had met when he started working at the daycare - Jackie, Alex, Sheila, and her sister Sara, Claire, Chance, Buddy, and most of the others. They were all sitting together. The children that House had as students now were getting restless and House knew that it was time to move things along. So he concluded:
I love a few of you.
I like some of you
I dislike most of you.
And you know who you are.