DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Shore & Co.'s.

A/N: 7 MONTHS! Unforgivable, I know! I'm sorry it took THAT long for a measly 6.9k-word chapter. Things got really busy in school with all the programming and stuff we had to complete. One of the important subjects was a prerequisite for Software Engineering (Thesis!)- really important. Proud to say I'm on my fifth and final year of college this incoming school year! :) Depending on what I'll be doing in my internship, I might have more time to write. I make no promises, though!

Thank you to my ever-awesome whiteboard/beta Penelope S Cartwright! She has a new oneshot out, you guys! It's called "Deep Breath", and it's CRAZY good! :)

Things in Absence land will get worse before they get better! I'm not going to rush this important phase, don't worry! Hope you guys like it! This chapter picks up from where 42 left off.

Not a very easy chapter to write or read, but I hope you guys bear with me!


ABSENCE


CHAPTER 43: GRIEF

.

He'd been parked in front of the house for an entire hour already. She had stirred on the way home, but she never woke up.

He reached for her hand, which had fallen to her side, caressing her palm with the lightest of touches. He gazed at her as she slept, the most heart-breaking pain and sadness etched on her worn face—a mother's sorrow.

He couldn't believe how the tables had turned. It seemed only weeks ago they were happier than they have ever been. Happier than they ever thought they could achieve to be.

Never in his life did Gregory House imagine that he'd lose his firstborn child. He couldn't believe how it was eating him up inside. The grief, the loss, the pain, and the guilt for not being able to do anything other than watch as their daughter died.

Nothing had ever struck him as hard.

His head dipped down, staring at their intertwined fingers, hoping this tragedy wouldn't sever what they had, and what they could still have, together. He had never been an optimist, but he was more than open to try and be just that, for them. He couldn't bear the thought of losing her as well.

"Cuddy," he whispered throatily, squeezing her hand gently. She shifted in her seat, but didn't wake up. He felt her forehead, feeling her temperature. He sighed. He wished she didn't have to be sick; she was already weak enough from everything they'd been through.

He exited the car and shut the door as quietly as he could. He went to the front door, unlocked it, and pushed it open.

He walked back to the car, opened the passenger's side door and unfastened her seatbelt. Carefully, he extricated her limp form from the car and kneed the door closed. As he carried Cuddy to their home, he felt her bury her face in the crook of his neck. He dropped a delicate kiss on her forehead.

He settled her in bed, pulling the duvet up and under her chin after having removed her shoes.

He brushed her hair from her worn face before getting up from the bed and leaving the bedroom.


House sat down heavily on the living room couch, running a palm against his jaw.

He was just as lost as Cuddy.

Breathing deeply, he tried to think of anything that could distract him from their situation. But his mind wouldn't let go. It couldn't.

He still blamed himself—how could he not? He was supposed to save his daughter. They had silently vowed to do everything for Sofia, but they ended up doing nothing but argue about their options. He couldn't blame Cuddy; he would never blame her. She had only been trying to protect their daughter from the risks because she was afraid that the procedure would end up taking their daughter instead of reducing the bleed.

He abruptly stood from the couch and made his way to the kitchen. He pulled the fridge door open and pulled out a bottle of water, uncapping it. He drank until the bottle was empty.

He fisted his hands after disposing of the bottle, taking long and deep breaths to try and calm himself.

Once more contemplating how useless he'd been, his fist retracted from the granite countertop before loudly crashing down onto the surface with force.

He hated himself then.

Everyone had told them they couldn't have done anything, but deep inside himself, he knew he should have tried harder to search for anything that could have helped Sofia. He was supposed to stop at nothing to cure his daughter.

He grit his teeth as he fought with himself. The part that insisted he was to blame for this tragedy grew stronger even as part of him reminded himself that there had been nothing they could have done.

Nothing could have saved Sofia, even if they had all the money and resources in the world.

It took him more than twenty minutes to calm down, but even then, his thoughts were still driving him mad, voices and emotions warring within him.

As he made his way to the living room once more so he could sit, his eyes caught sight of his piano.

Peace suddenly seemed attainable as his eyes roamed over his baby grand, music pushing the thoughts threatening to unglue him into the back of his mind.

A hand caressed the sleek instrument while the other lifted the lid. His heart's beating slowed as his fingers started to glide over the pristine keys.

Only when he played did he find peace.


Everything was as silent as the night, save for the most melancholic of melodies mystically floating across the rooms of the house.

It was the heartbreaking melody of a man, beaten down by life's tragedies. The melody was the heart of a man who had lost someone. It was House's music, stirred from within the depths of his being by the loss of his daughter.

What he could not show in actions, what he could not speak in words, and what he could not express through tears, he let spill into his fingers and onto the pristine keys of his prized piano. His music floated around him, enveloping him in a cocoon of mixed emotions led by the grief and blame he thrust unto himself. The music gave him peace, but his melody mirrored his emotions.

The emotions he could not allow himself to feel just yet, he let flow from him and into his music.

He was a man who had to remain strong no matter how much he wanted to revert to his old ways—drink himself into a stupor, become detached, self-destruct, and damn everything else.

He had and was going to stay with her faithfully, he had promised himself that. He had promised her that. Promised her he would never leave again.

Everything hurt and he just wanted the pain to stop. He wanted her agony to be ended. But all of that was just wishful thinking. The unfortunate reality was inescapable.

All they could do was try and go against the looming darkness, hoping they'd survive the cataclysm of the death of a child, their own daughter, had caused.

Cuddy's eyes opened to the darkness and emptiness mirroring her heart. The only light was one she could not see but hear.

His own heart, his soul, poured into and translated through music only he could create.

She closed her eyes and squeezed them shut, taking in his emotions—the things he could and probably never would say. The feelings he would probably do his best to hide, to try and be strong for her, for them both. She knew he was also hurting, but instead of going out there and comforting him, she allowed him his privacy for a while. They would talk and comfort each other later.

Her eyes opened once again and a tear escaped her left one.

For all the strength she knew she was capable of embodying, never in her lifetime did she think she'd be as lost as she was at that moment.

Another warm tear caressed her skin as she squeezed her eyes shut once more, her own heart strangling her.

She didn't know where to go from here.


It was an hour or two, later, that she found herself waking up to her hateful reality once more. As she pulled herself up from their bed, she could not help but feel empty.

She went out of the bedroom and made her way to the kitchen. She watched him as he quietly moved about, preparing dinner. Her heart pounded against her chest as she tried to keep herself from running towards him and wrapping her arms around him.

"Hey," he quietly murmured, having the feeling that she was right behind him.

She let out a quiet "hi" back before taking a step forward to stand directly behind him. She couldn't help herself from wanting to feel his warmth engulfing her. She told herself that at least she hadn't run towards him. Slowly, her arms crept up and curled around his waist. He stopped mixing the pot and settled his hands atop hers.

"I wish she hadn't—," she whispered shakily, still unable to accept what had come to pass.

"I know," he gently cut her off and took hold of one of her hands. He held it up to press a soft kiss on her knuckles. "I know," he repeated with a sigh, turning in her arms to wrap her in his embrace.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, kissing her hair.

That was the moment she sobbed, unable to contain herself and her overwhelming emotions. It was an unstoppable influx of every hurtful and suffocating thing she felt laced with sadness and despair. She cried against him, allowing him to anchor her, carry and lift her through the raging waves.

An hour had passed before her tears stopped. He was able to convince her to eat, knowing that he had only been successful due to her not having eaten anything in almost twenty-four hours. He knew she was nowhere near having any appetite to eat, but he was partially glad she had acquiesced.

She was taking her time in eating, taking minutes upon minutes until she took another bite. He was watching her, wanting to make sure she was at least going to eat enough.

"I was thinking—" He had only started talking when Cuddy quietly cut him off.

"Not tonight," she said in a whisper, looking him straight in the eyes.

"I need it to be quiet," she explained, almost shyly. There was a spark of desperation behind her sapphire gaze that made him speak no further.

"Okay," he conceded, brows knitting together.

When they'd finished eating she took charge of the plates and he allowed her, knowing she was just instinctively (and ineffectively) trying to keep her mind off of… things. She headed to the bathroom afterwards, not speaking a word to him.

House made himself as comfortable as he could on their couch, turning on the TV but putting it on mute so he could hear her if she called for him.

She watched as the water slowly started filling the tub, lost in her own thoughts. The heat the water was giving off was so inviting that she could hardly wait to soak herself into it.

A blind hope that the heat of the water could warm the chilling cold she felt rose within her. The moment it entered her mind though, she knew no scalding heat would be able to bring back the warmth she had felt just a few weeks earlier. That welcomed warmth that had usurped her body and soul as she held and gazed at the life she and House had created together.

She feared that warmth would forever be gone from her.

She sat on top of the covered bowl, eyes fixated on the tub before her. She watched the water escaping the tap, busying her mind with anything she could think of, and observed how it melded into the waiting water below. She looked on, as it seemed to flow and swirl gracefully along the inside of her tub before her eyes.

She was only pulled from her thoughts when the sound of the first splash of water spilling onto the tiled floor of their bathroom entered her ears.

"Plan on making the bathroom a swimming pool?" House's voice flitted through the room and her head whipped towards him. She would have glared, she knew, but she didn't.

But the first smile since before Sofia died graced her lips. Okay, he thought to himself, it wasn't a smile. The right corner of her mouth had tugged up the slightest bit. He took that as a positive sign that things could and would get better.

He knew it was going to take time, but he was not going to be impatient. He wasn't going to rush her. He himself needed time to heal as well.

He was relying on her just as she was relying on him for hope that things wouldn't fall apart. They were two pillars leaning on one another for support. If one caved, the other would fall as well. They were both hanging by a thread, and neither wanted to fall into the darkness and misery waiting to claim them.

"Want to join me?" she asked softly, their eyes meeting.

"You sure?" he asked just as delicately.

Cuddy only nodded.

"Sure," he accepted the offer, the need to be near her growing within him.

House closed the bathroom door behind him before approaching her.

The reason for her turning her back on him would probably forever be a confusing thought to ponder for them both. They had never been hesitant of letting each other see their nudity. In fact, they had used to love studying each other's bodies.

Delicately, she undressed herself, her back facing him. House did the same, eyes trained on her, his mind confused as to why she had turned from him.

When they'd undressed, House began to get settle into the water first. But he had barely gotten a foot in when he pulled back and almost fell on his ass from the scalding water his foot had ventured into.

"Are you trying to burn your skin off?" he almost shouted, wondering why she would want to soak into practically boiling water.

Her forehead creased and she walked towards the tub. As him, she pulled her hand from the water instantly after having dipped two fingers in.

"Oh." She murmured.

"Oh?" House asked in confusion.

"I wasn't aware it was that hot," she answered timidly.

House sighed before running a bit of cold water into the scalding water, never mind that the tiled floor was being graced with more water.

When House felt the water wasn't going to skin him alive, he shut the tap and settled himself into the warmed water. Cuddy carefully got in and she almost naturally leaned back into his broad chest. As her skin touched his, she felt at home for the first time since she woke up.

"What was with the turning thing?" House asked her.

"Nothing," she answered, eyes closed.

"You've never done that," he pointed out.

"It was nothing," she stressed in a firm whisper.

He knew there was a reason. He felt it in the way her form had tensed a little.

He snaked his arms around her waist and held her to him. But the moment he had touched her stomach she sat up rigidly.

"What's wrong?" he immediately asked, running a hand along her spine.

Her eyes were screwed shut and her breathing slowly started to accelerate.

His touch burned her with the beautiful yet painful memory of the moment they'd been in the same position months ago, when they had agreed to name their daughter Sofia. Her happiness had consumed her body, mind and soul that night. She had told him that he made her happier than she ever hoped to be.

Cuddy wasn't aware that she had begun to cry until she felt him wiping her tears away.

She turned her head and curled herself towards him, burying her face against his neck.

It was too much.

Everything served to remind her of the daughter they had lost. She couldn't even allow herself to be comforted the way he knew how without recalling a moment he had done so during her pregnancy.

As she cried against him, her emotions clouding any other thoughts, she couldn't help but lose herself in her tears. Tears she thought she wouldn't be able to cry anymore.

It was only the sound of his voice that was able to pull her out of her hole.

"I'm here," he reminded her. He was not good at being there for anyone but her.

"Come on, water's getting cold," he said about fifteen minutes later, gently nudging her.

They got ready for bed and House went out of the room to check that every door and window had been locked and bolted properly before returning to the bedroom.

She was already asleep by the time he joined her in bed.

He watched her sleep for a while until his own exhaustion washed over him by surprise.

He pulled her to him before he allowed himself to succumb to a restless sleep, fingers carding through her hair until his mind and body surrendered to it.


August 29

House turned to drowsily drape an arm around Cuddy, but his limb only met with the soft comforter covering the mattress. His eyes shot open, feeling awake almost immediately.

He glanced at the digital clock on her nightstand and was surprised to see that it was only a few minutes past six in the morning.

He tried to listen to his surroundings, checking for any indication that she was inside the house: running water, the sound of the TV or radio, even the smell of something cooking or brewing. Nobody was inside the house, he was already around fifty percent sure of that. She could be sleeping on the couch in the living room or the nursery, or she could be sitting on the couch reading or whatnot. She could even be staring at a distance for all he knew.

He sighed heavily before sitting up in bed.

He got up off the bed and headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth, wash his face and relieve himself before he went looking for her in the house.

A couple of minutes later he found no Cuddy.

She could have gone to work, he thought. He knew she always took solace in the fact that there were always a lot of things that needed to be done at work so she could have a reprieve from things she did not want to have to deal with. But her car was in the driveway, parked in front of his.

To be certain though, he called the hospital to check if she had gone in.

A few rings later and an answer to his question, he started to be more concerned.

He thought for a while before an idea as to where she could be entered his mind.


"You could have left a note," House told Cuddy in a whisper.

Cuddy's head whipped back to look at him, surprised that he was there. Quickly, she wiped the tears from her face.

"Sorry," she mumbled before looking back at their daughter's grave.

"S'okay," House assured her, moving to stand behind her. Tentatively, he wrapped his arms around her, bringing her against his chest and pulling her against him. He made sure to not brush against her abdomen, remembering her reaction to it the night prior. She still had that fever, he noted with concern.

"House," Cuddy suddenly whimpered, his presence rendering her unable to contain her sadness. She was aware that she had to let out what she was feeling or else she would breakdown completely. House's arms tightened around her and she hooked her hands onto his arms, clutching him harder against her aching chest.

They stood together in silence, mourning their daughter for what would be always.

The tears House could feel dripping onto his arms made him feel so useless. He knew there was nothing he could do other than be present, but it didn't make him feel better.

It was minutes later when her crying had ceased, but her trembling continued. She never let go of him, not knowing how to because he was the only thing keeping her upright.

"Let's get you home," House whispered when her trembling subsided, pressing his lips to her temple.

Cuddy was too tired to object. She had only wanted to visit Sofia.

Together they made their way back to the car.

As House led her to it, Cuddy couldn't help but look back.

House gently pulled her closer, arm cinching up and around her shoulder. Subtly, he was leading her forward, knowing that, despite everything, they had to move on.

It was easier said than done, House knew that, but he also knew that they had to take at least even the smallest of steps towards that direction sometime. Staying stuck in the past would only serve to hurt them more. They were going to have to take it one day at a time.


When they arrived home, Cuddy got out of the car and made her way into the house. House could only watch as she walked away.

He wondered why and how she went from needing him to having to be away from him in different and confusing intervals.

He parked his car properly before following her inside.

"Hey," he greeted when he found her in the kitchen, a glass of water in her hand. "Did you take anything for the fever?" he asked her.

"Yeah," Cuddy replied before drinking the rest of the water in her glass. She moved to the sink and washed her glass.

"Did I do something?" House then asked her, eyes fixed on her almost mechanical movements.

Cuddy's head shot to him, eyebrows drawing together. "No," she told him, "Why?"

House shrugged before looking away. He took a deep breath and met her eyes once more, hands on his sides.

"You're giving me the impression that you'd rather not have me here," he told her sincerely. They already had a lot on their plate. He didn't want to add more to it, but he wanted to know if he'd done something wrong.

Cuddy approached him, placing a hand on his chest. "I'm sorry," she started, placing her forehead to where her hand was. She sighed, "You didn't do anything."

"Then why are you pushing me away?" He asked, wrapping his arms around her.

"I'm not," she shook her head as she looked up to fix her gaze on his cerulean stare. "I wouldn't. I just... I don't know." She sighed heavily, closing her eyes and burying her face in the crook of his neck.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, "I'm just so tired."

House ran his hand up and down her back as he placed a gentle kiss on the crown of her head. "I know," he said.

"What do you want for lunch?" He asked her as he led her to the living room. When they were seated comfortably on the couch he reached for the remote and turned on the TV. Cuddy draped herself over his torso, head on his chest as she thought.

When Cuddy couldn't think of anything, she told him, "Anything will do."

House frowned.

"You haven't been eating properly for days, Cuddy," he stated, stroking her elbow and hoping she didn't get mad.

Cuddy rolled her eyes, sighing. "I wonder why that is," she murmured, eyes on the screen. He'd stopped at The Discovery Channel.

"You're a doctor," he told her pointedly, "You're sick. You know you need to eat properly to get better."

"What's the point?" Cuddy wanted to mumble, but she bit her tongue. He only wanted to help.

"I know that," she chose to say instead, "I just don't feel like eating." She shrugged.

"That's why I'm asking you to tell me what you want. I'll make it for you," he told her.

"Can't think of anything," she told him honestly. There were too many things in her mind as of late.

"How about..." House thought for a while, mulling over his mental archive of Cuddy's food choices. He smiled slightly upon remembering something.

"How about New York Steak and then Chocolate Mousse for dessert?" he asked. He waited for her to lift her head from his chest to look at him upon remembering.

"Why does that sound familiar?" She suddenly smiled as she picked her head up from his chest and met his eyes.

House could not help but return her smile, one of his hands coming up to cup her cheek. It came rarely these days, her smiling that way.

"Does it?" he asked, smirking playfully.

"Yeah," Cuddy breathed, remembering that beautiful night many months ago.

Brushing a few stray locks of hair from her face, House asked her, "So? Feel like having that for dinner later? I'll think of something else for lunch."

"Hmm," Cuddy hummed, placing her head back on his chest, one arm wrapped around his torso. "Sounds good," she said, smiling fondly at the memories of their reunion blocking the painful memory of the past few weeks. It was a welcomed recollection, because for the first time in weeks, she was able to remember something that did not cause her chest to constrict.

A couple of minutes later, House dipped his head down to check if Cuddy had fallen asleep. He brushed her hair from her face and pressed a feather-light kiss to her head before carefully setting her down on the couch. He stood up and made his way to the kitchen after turning off the TV.

He checked the fridge and the cupboards, wondering what he could make for lunch.

After scouring for ingredients he could use he decided to make spaghetti. He would run to the grocery later that afternoon to buy what he would need for the steak and dessert for dinner that night.


August 30

As he stood behind her, House wanted to ask Cuddy if this was what her new morning routine would be- leaving the house at six o'something without leaving a note and heading to the cemetery where Sofia's remains were buried. He did not dare open his mouth. He was only upset that she couldn't spare a minute or two to write about her departure so he wouldn't be left guessing where she'd gone.

Just like yesterday, she hadn't driven her car. He stood by, watching, and waited for her to be ready to leave.

She was still sick, he recalled. He had checked her temperature around four in the morning. He hated not being able to help her get better. He hated how she wouldn't allow him to.

More or less ten minutes later she stood to her feet and turned to look at him. She walked over to him, hooked her arm around his, and whispered, "Let's go."

Together they walked to the car and House drove them back home.

Cuddy still glanced back, sadness in her eyes.


August 31

Moving forward seemed impossible. The first thought that entered her mind when she woke up was that that day marked the first week since Sofia had passed.

Her chest tightened and she rolled to face House. He was fast asleep, his chest rising and falling. She wanted to move closer to him, but she didn't. He looked so peaceful in his sleep she didn't want to rouse him from it.

Carefully, she left his side and changed into something she could wear for her visit to the cemetery. When she finished dressing she quickly scribbled on a piece of paper, left it on the nightstand closest to him and made her way to the kitchen to get a glass of water before she left.

On her way to the front door, she heard House call to her. She turned and saw him hastily tying his shoes on bended knee. She would have smiled fondly at how cute he looked like, tying his shoelaces hurriedly, if her mind hadn't been so preoccupied.

"I'm coming with you," he told her, choosing to not remind her that it's been a week already. They both knew what day it was.

"Well, hurry up," she crooned, offering him a small smile which he gladly returned.

"Come on, I'll drive," House said, taking hold of her hand as he moved past her. He quickly noticed that her temperature had gone down, feeling slightly relieved.

They locked up, got in the car, and House drove to the cemetery.


No one should have to bury their own child.

Cuddy couldn't stop thinking about how unfair the world had been to them.

Sofia had only been twenty-eight days old, why couldn't she have been given more time? Why were they denied the privilege and happiness of knowing and raising their daughter?

She would have gladly given her life if it meant Sofia would get hers to live.

It didn't matter what she thought or how much she hated what happened though. Sofia was gone.

A tear slipped past Cuddy's defenses. She let it.

It had been a week and she had yet to talk about it. Her emotions were bound inside her, unable to confide even in House.

She feared that letting go of those emotions, even the slightest bit, would be her undoing.

Together, House and Cuddy stood quietly, alone amidst the quiet sanctuary of the dead.


3 PM

"How are you and Cuddy doing?" Wilson asked the moment House answered the phone. He wanted to call earlier, but had wanted to give House and Cuddy time to themselves. The last thing they needed was someone smothering them with questions like, "Are you okay?" when they weren't.

"How do you think we're doing?" House answered wearily, brows drawing together.

"Sorry," Wilson apologized. "Cuddy?"

"Asleep."

"It's three in the afternoon," Wilson stated. "She still sick?" he asked. He recalled Cuddy being sick during the funeral. He felt utterly sorry for his friends. They didn't deserve what happened. Sofia didn't deserve to die so young and defenseless.

"Low fever, loss of appetite."

"Do you think—no, never mind." Wilson shook his head on the other side of the line, slapping himself at the thought.

"What?" House asked, his curiosity getting the best of him.

"It's stupid." Wilson told him, cursing himself for even thinking of what he was going to suggest.

Sternly, House spoke into the phone. "Wilson. What were you going to say?"

Wilson sighed. "I was going to ask whether you think it would do Cuddy some good to go back to the hospital. She could—"

House cut him off, saying, "No. You were right, it's stupid."

"Yeah."

"She needs rest. LOTS of it, Wilson. I don't even know how to do this," House divulged, his tone seemingly disappointed at himself.

"You're doing well, House," Wilson assured him, "Just be there for her. And keep your mind off of dark thoughts."

"Got it."

They were silent for a few seconds before House almost hesitantly told Wilson, "Thanks. For checking on us."

"You're my friend," Wilson said, "I was concerned. Let me know if you guys need anything."

They talked for some more, Wilson telling him that his team was doing fine on their own at the moment, and Cuddy's Temp making no attempt to stage a coup. Their conversation lasted for less than ten minutes before they hung up and House headed back to the bedroom.


September 4, Sunday, 10 PM

A few days had passed, but they were still walking on eggshells around each other, cautious to not remind the other of things that would only hurt them further.

Sunday night, while they were in bed with House leaning back against the headboard and Cuddy on her side, facing away from him while she browsed through her Blackberry, Cuddy could not help but bring up something she knew House wouldn't quite agree with. At least not at the moment.

"I'm going into work tomorrow," she informed him plainly, eyes affixed to her mobile device.

House tore his eyes away from the book he'd been reading to stare at the back of her head. "Talk to Wilson?" he asked.

Cuddy frowned, "No."

House was still staring.

"You're on leave," House reminded her.

"I can go back whenever I want," Cuddy replied nonchalantly. She would have shrugged if she could.

House closed the book and removed his glasses. He rubbed the bridge of his nose as he told her, "You're still sick."

Cuddy sighed before finally setting her Blackberry on the nightstand and turning so she was facing him.

"I can't just stay here. Everything reminds me of her," she told him quietly, looking into his eyes.

"You remind me of her." She was unaware that she had actually voiced that thought out loud, until she noticed him recoil, his eyes wide open. House stared at her, speechless. A moment later he got off the bed and walked out of the room. Cuddy sighed and lowered her head into her hands, letting out a breath. She hadn't intended to tell him that.

Unsure of what she should do, she closed her eyes and hoped sleep would claim her quickly.

Unfortunately, sleep did not come for her at all.

She sat up in bed ten minutes later after having decided to find him so she could apologize. The guilt ate at her, her insides knotting uncomfortably the longer she did nothing to tell him she was sorry.

Slowly she made her way to the living room, thinking he went there to clear his mind. She tried the kitchen when she didn't find him in the living room. He wasn't there either. She frowned. She hadn't heard the front door open or close. She walked towards the nursery, wondering if he was hiding out there, but he wasn't.

Cuddy had no doubt then that she had hurt him deeply.

Walking to the front door and opening it, she stepped out of the house and checked if he was outside. She wasn't surprised to find that he wasn't.

Cuddy sat down on the doorstep, leaning back against the door she'd just closed. She stared out into the darkness hoping to see him walking back home to her.

Mindless of the tears framing her face she sniffed, hating herself for having pushed him away. She hadn't meant to say it aloud!

She felt even more terrible for what she'd done.

It was true, he reminded her of Sofia. Everything in their goddamned house reminded her of their daughter! He was the father of her child, why wouldn't she remember their daughter whenever she saw him?

Briefly she wondered if it would have been harder if Sofia had had House's eyes.

She sobbed quietly into her knees, her tears gliding onto her pajama pants as she hugged her legs to her chest.


When House had walked out of the bedroom, he quietly grabbed a pair of running shoes, putting them on and tying them as quickly as he could. He didn't care if he looked like an idiot running at night in pajama pants and a tee.

He had quietly left the house and started running.

A few minutes into his run, he couldn't help but chastise himself.

He shouldn't have left her home alone.

She wasn't well. She was vulnerable.

The memories in the house would start haunting her the moment she knew she was alone.

Maybe she fell asleep. Maybe she didn't.

He ran as fast as he could.

Anywhere.

The wind was blowing against his face, cooling the sweat dripping off of him. It was a welcomed sensation.

Faster.

He sprinted towards the park more or less seventy feet before him.

Her words cut him like a jagged, rusted knife. Her five words slowly cut through his armor, making him unable to compartmentalize what emotions he had to be strong enough to support Cuddy and what emotions he had to push to the background because it would only weaken him.

Breathe.

It was okay to feel. It was okay to hurt. But he wasn't like the others. One wrong thought, one insidious thought, and he could go back to his old ways. He could self-destruct like he'd never done before. He couldn't afford that. Not when Cuddy needed him now more than ever.

He slowed to a fast jog, settling with doing rounds around the fairly large and empty park.

Yes, there had been moments when they eased into a comfortable silence like before, but now they also had their moments when they were walking on eggshells around each other. Sometimes she held herself back from leaning on him for support. He would tell her he was fine when in truth he was a mess inside.

House and Cuddy were too afraid to hurt any more than they'd already been. They were too afraid to confide in one another because it would only bring back the memories of Sofia's death. To them, it was coping when in fact they were pushing each other away by cultivating their fears and hesitance.

House knew they should talk. He knew it was important for them to talk. However, he didn't want to pick at wounds that were still so raw and fresh. He himself was still reeling from everything that had happened. He was far too afraid to face their past just yet.

It was integral to moving on, but neither he nor Cuddy was ready.

He stopped jogging and hunched forward with his hands on his knees, panting. He sat back on the grass before lying down on it. He ran a hand across his face.

You remind me of her.

He was still reeling from those words. At first he was upset and mad that she had told him that. She reminded him of Sofia, too, but he'd never tell her that. It was okay, normal even, to feel that way. It was another thing to use it as an excuse to go to work so she could escape being with him even for a few hours.

If she only knew just how much she reminded him of their daughter. Whenever he looked into her eyes, he saw Sofia's. She was the mother of his firstborn. The mother of the child forever lost to him.

He would always be reminded of that.

He would never tell her like she'd unintentionally told him.

He sat up and breathed in the fresh air of the night, his body cooling down.

He knew he had to go back to her, check if she was all right.

House stood up and brushed off the hurt he felt from her words. He felt the same way, but he would never make the mistake of telling her that and allowing it to come in between what he felt for her and what they could still have together.


Pathetic could not describe how Cuddy probably looked to her neighbors, she thought as she wiped at her eyes with an arm. She didn't want to go back in. She didn't want to be left alone with the ghosts of a past she wished had never happened.

She didn't regret having Sofia—she would never regret bringing her into the world.

She regretted not having done everything in her power to help her get better.

She blamed herself just as much as she blamed House sometimes.

She always thought, what if she had agreed to the VP shunt? What if she had let House give the go signal? What if she had trusted in him enough to allow their daughter to go through the risks just so she could have had a chance to get better?

Her tears were relentless, each tear and each ache and constriction in her chest a punishment. Motherhood wasn't meant for her.

It seemed only yesterday she held her newborn daughter against her chest, her heart ablaze with utter happiness. Now that memory was accompanied by Sofia's demise. It had been a truly heart wrenching tragedy.

At night when she closed her eyes all she could see was her baby fighting for her life while her parents argued about what steps to take. Dreams of the memory of seeing her employees trying to revive her daughter—her trying to revive her daughter haunted her each night since she'd left.

Cuddy jolted, pulling herself from her thoughts, when she felt a sweaty hand fall on the back of her head. She lifted her head up and was met with the eyes that never failed to anchor her when she was drifting away in a sea of emotions.

"I'm sorry," left her lips immediately as she wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly as she buried her face where his neck met his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," she cried hoarsely, quietly, squeezing her eyes shut. She felt his arms wrap around her trembling frame, not saying anything.

"House—"

"Shh," he gently said, pulling her closer.

She wondered if he was still upset—stupid question. Why wouldn't he be?

Getting a whiff of him, Cuddy commented in a watery voice, "You stink."

House chuckled gravelly.

"I'm so sorry," Cuddy repeated, gazing into his eyes.

House shook his head, "It's fine." He rubbed her arms gently with his hands.

Cuddy sighed, eyes drawing together. "It is not fine!" she whined. "I shouldn't have said that. I—"

House pressed two fingers against her lips.

"It's okay," he said. "I forgive you," he told her just so she could stop feeling guilty for how terrible she'd made him feel. He wanted them to move past this.

Cuddy nodded in resignation.

"Come on. I need to shower and you need to get some sleep if you want to get to work early tomorrow," House stated, leading her inside the house.

"You're okay with me going to work?" Cuddy asked curiously.

"Yes. Just be sure to take something for the fever. Don't stress yourself," House said, closing the door behind them. He locked and bolted it before they headed to the bedroom.

"Okay," Cuddy agreed. It wasn't like she wanted the fever sticking around.

House nodded.

"Good, now get some sleep," he kissed her temple before heading for the bathroom.

Cuddy followed him to the bedroom a while later. She buried herself under the duvet, hoping that going to work the next day would actually be beneficial to her.